Saturday, October 25, 2014

In Which We Went to the Mountains without STORES

or Baby's Day as Related By Her Aunt (In Supposed Baby's Own Words) (authors note: Quoting as much from our conversation today as possible)

I woke up exhausted, you know, like bored.  My dreams were about some princess that got married to some guy but I didn't know her name and since I was with my daddy and I couldn't ask her,  I woke up because then I could go play.  But Mommy told me it was too early so I went downstairs and turned on the lights and turned on the fan and then went back upstairs with my dolls to play with Grandma.  Then she got tired so I woke up Mommy and Erin and then we skyped with Aunt Lanie from N-O-R-W-A-Y.

Mommy dressed me in my Ever After Dress and I ate pumpkin bread for breakfast and then we left to go to the mountains.  It took forever to get there!  We were gone so long that I got homesick for home and wanted to go back.  It must have been the longest day ever though because it was still light when we got to the mountains and they told me that we couldn't go back for a long time.

We stopped to eat lunch and I absolutely insisted we go to the Public House.  In the restaurant, I played with Raven and her new friends, the talking fork and the Malt vinegar bottle named Eric.  Then I tried to give Raven curly hair and it got all twisted and Erin said I had made a really big knot and that we'd have to cut her hair!  NO!  So I apologized and Mommy and Erin worked on fixing it.  Erin said a miracle happened because Raven's hair is perfect now.

After lunch, we drove up to a mountain.  It was really bright and sunny and there was this really boring rock that Mommy and Erin insisted we take pictures at.  They suggested we go on a short hike but that was boring.  Where were the stores? Wasn't there a Target anywhere?  Mommy told me that we were in the mountains to enjoy nature and God's creations.  We went on a hike and I was the best hiker.  We hiked the trail two times!  At the end of the second hike, we saw a real wedding!  A man and a woman were getting married on the mountain!  I stopped and watched the whole thing.  They even kissed!

We went back to the town and saw a man walking his dog on the street!  On the street!  He should have carried his dog across the street.  Mommy and Erin told me to stop talking so loudly about the man walking his dog and that dogs are allowed to walk on the street.  We stopped for ice cream and I had pumpkin and chocolate chips.  Then I got full and ate some of Mommy's chocolate ice cream.

I fell asleep when we drove back and when I woke up it was dark and we were back close to home.

Baby watching the wedding - so intent and yet so respectful

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Walk Collegiate, Talk Collegiate

I reread Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell today.  When I read that book, I can't help but imagine my freshman dorm room, a small little rectangle that barely fit two beds and two desks.  When Cath's roommate asks if they want a couch in their room, I'm nodding my head in complete agreement when they agree that it won't work; is the couch going to take up the narrow walkway between the beds?

Freshman year was an awkward affair.  I found myself staying up later than my social roommate, very non-socially working on homework, while girls ran up and down the hall, giggling or whatever it is people who had friends and lives did in halls, late at night.

Then I joined a rugby team, my own sisterhood.  I made a friend with a boy who made me laugh and never studied and stumbled into a friendship with the girl next door who gave me courage.  And life got better.

Reading Fangirl took me back there, to that awkwardness, to that loneliness, but also to the thrill of learning and studying and making friends and spending evenings doing silly, harmless things that made college worth remembering.... and I missed it.  I really miss it.

I ache to realize those days are gone.  Even if I were to re-enroll in college courses, I won't be going to the dorms or eating every meal in a cafeteria, although I'm really ok with that.  Really.  

Ach, it's hard growing up.  It's hard realizing that you don't get to do it over again.  It's done.

I think I'm mostly pausing because I'm facing a new start, a new step and, frankly, it's freaking me out.  My first real job where I have to do real engineering and NOT mess up.  I have to focus on making a career and eking out a living.  I have to dress professionally and commute to work and be an adult who...I don't even know.  What do adults do?  I have to make friends and find ways to make my life meaningful and memorable...when I really just feel like that freshman girl who wandered around campus feeling lost, and small, and insignificant, and alone.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Captions Included

The middle of Virginia, as seen from the train

Gwiyomi all ready to go; where to go is the question
 (please note that her bag is coordinated with her outfit)

What can I say?  17 makes everything better - 
even the amazing soda machine at Noodles and Co.

The sweatshirt makers clearly didn't anticipate actually using the hood; 
the shoulders are inches above her actual shoulders..and we couldn't stop giggling

Photo of me, taken by Baby. 
Apparently, I'm sitting on her teddy.  Oops.

Look at this face?  So innocent, right?
I have to say, I love the oreo crumbs and Baby's headband that looks like flowery skiing goggles.  They add a certain touch of je ne sais quoi.

Just wait until I strap her in.  (She demands that you do, actually)
Picture taken by Baby.

With her carseat facing backwards, she's never actually seen anyone drive a car before.  
But somehow she acts like she knows exactly what she's doing.  Sneaky, sneaky.
Also taken by Baby.  

Baby clearly doesn't want my advice..or me taking a picture of her.

This was my view of yesterday, while I lazily checked average temps for Boston in Nov.
I'm in for a climate shock, I just know it. 

Baby's pig spider.  I love it!  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Rant

I just read a novel in Chinese.

I thought that I would note this accomplishment in a somewhat official capacity.

It was lazy reading - I didn't look up every character I didn't know.  The advantage of this is that I was able to read without interrupting the flow of the story.  The disadvantages were such that I never actually knew anyone's names, and it took me a longer time than normal to figure out basic details in the story, such as the fact that you take a boat to the airport when you are in VENICE and that you spend significant time talking about clothes and making clothes because you are a CLOTHING DESIGNER.

I consider these disadvantages minor, but perhaps knowing more of the details of the story would have helped create better empathy with the story and its characters because, by the end of it, I was thoroughly frustrated with everyone.  Although I kind of doubt that.  Seriously!  I didn't understand all of the details of that rubbish story about how roses are red because nightingales bled on them but it certainly would not convince me that I wanted to date anyone, much less that itinerant clothing designer mentor that the main character dated twice, TWICE!

As you can tell, missing the details didn't prevent me from forming strong opinions about the story.

I can't comment on the literary merit of the book - I didn't get the details after all - nor can I even really place this book in any kind of context, it being the first book at the library that I pulled off that had traditional characters.  So, instead of a book review, I'm doing a book rant.  Here are some issues I have with the story:

(1) Fate - It's a popular topic in Chinese media.  I only own like two Chinese movies and one of them is so iconically about fate and two people living parallel lives and just missing each other that by the end of the movie, when the guy puts his head down and prays to the heavens to just give him a miracle, you're crying along with him.  "Put us out of this misery, PLEASE."  As fate would have it, they end up together through an earthquake.  This book doesn't beat you over the head in the same way as that movie but it lays it on pretty thick.  For instance, the guy the main character has liked for years but for whom the timing has never worked out, is looking through some of her stuff and finds a picture of her as a child in the park with her parents with him in the background!  The main character knows things will work out eventually - it's fated to be!  The thing I dislike about these scenarios is the lack of choice.  In both of these, love feels like something out of our hands.  In one case, it would send me into fits of despair - why can't we ever find each other?!  - and in the other case would make me brazenly hopeful - who cares that he has a girlfriend?  he was mine first!  Yes, I do realize that love doesn't always come when we choose and in the way we choose but we do choose to love and denying that, I think, is a mistake.  In the book, there were significant times that I felt characters didn't communicate or act because I felt that they decided to just let fate handle it.  In most of my experience, fate is quite ok just never handing you certain opportunities ever again.  In my life, "letting fate handle it" is just a way of saying, "I'm going to be ok if this is the end."

(3) Careers vs Relationships - In almost every circumstance in this book, the characters put their careers ahead of their relationships.  Move to Germany for three years without actually involving my husband in that decision?  Been there.  Move to New York for a year without actually communicating it with that guy I was about to start a relationship with?  Yep, done that.  Move away permanently from Hong Kong without considering with your boyfriend what that means for the future of 'us'?  Old hat.  The thing I don't get about it, is why on earth are we subscribing to this philosophy?  Careers are important, yes, and sometimes it does require being separated but should that be our go to?  And why can't we at least talk about it, make sacrifices and figure out something together?  Life is messy -  I get that.  We're all trying to achieve some balance and find happiness and fulfillment in many different aspects of our lives.  Maybe I'm too much of a romantic but am I the only one out there who thinks that, in the prioritization of life, people matter more than my job?  At least those people that I intend to have a lasting relationship with.  Then again, maybe those international moves are just a really passive way to giving someone the brush off.  Which, just, ugh!  There was just one, ONE!  time when the girl is in Paris and exploring her options for expanding her branch to Paris and everyone tells her that it will require her to live for an extended period of time in Paris and she realizes that it comes down to choosing to prioritize her career or her relationship and she chooses her relationship.  I actually cheered then.  But then her boyfriend got all self-conscious about her making a sacrifice for him and eventually they break up anyway, which leads me to my third (and take heart, final) rant.

(2) Men and women as equal contributing partners - This is less a commentary on the book and more a commentary on society in general but it made me very sad.  The main character is in her fated relationship with her guy and is also a successful clothing designer, even expanding her Hong Kong business overseas while her partner is a TV new reporter.  When they realize their apartment is just not big enough to hold their stuff, the girl offers to get a bigger apartment but the guy refuses because his salary can't afford a bigger apartment, even though hers clearly can.  She doesn't see why they can't use her income for housing but he refuses to touch her money.  Also, as outline above, when the girl turns down expansion to Paris, he tells her he's holding her back, eventually leading to their breakup.  You could argue this is just a personality thing but the guy makes several comments about flak he's getting from colleagues and friends about not being a good provider, and in some moments, he admits he is afraid she will leave him because (at least financially) she doesn't need him, which makes me think it's not just about him being stubbornly independent.  Which brings me to the question: why are men expected to be more successful than their female counterparts?   Why do we put that pressure on men?  And put that pressure on women?  That somehow achieving their potential in some way diminishes the potential of her partner?

Take heart, the rant is over.  Next time, I'm going to be more careful in choosing a book in  Chinese to read.  But at least I know now I can read a book in Chinese.  Success!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Erin, Do You Know Where You're Going?

Baby: My teacher says I'm not supposed to say 'yeah'; I should say 'yes' instead.  Why?
Me: 'Yeah' is informal.  That's what you can say to your friends.  But you should use 'yes' with adults.
Baby: I can use 'yeah' with you then.  You're not a real adult.  

Baby: That's a good hiding place!  I want to hide there next.
Me: But you can't climb up there by yourself.
Baby: Then you can put me there.
Me: Then I'll know where you're hiding.
Baby: You can forget!
Me: In 30 seconds?

Baby: I like the five of us together.
Sister: Five of us?  Only four of us live here right now.
Baby: Oh, I'm counting Riley [the cat] as a person.

Baby: I'm not supposed to say this word at school but my friends like it when I whisper it.
Me: If you're not supposed to say it, then you shouldn't be whispering it either.  What's the word?
Baby: (softly) Belly button.

Baby: Erin, are you going to marry Hase[be]?
Me: No.
Baby: Why not?
Me: Uh, because he doesn't like me.
Baby: If he doesn't like us, then we don't want him!

Baby: Here is one of my mommy's books!
Me: It's a good book too - Little Women.
Baby: Read it to me.
<after two pages>
Me: Are you bored?
Baby: Yep.

 This is Baby's favorite song to listen to when I'm in the car with her:
Twinkle by TTS (SNSD)

And this is Baby with makeup like Merida, complete with freckles:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

God Speaks

I woke up this morning with a cold and my niece laughed in my face.  "You should have asked God to keep you from getting a cold."  I smiled at her indulgently.

She continued, "My mommy and I pray to God to not let us get colds.  That's why we don't have them and you do."  Baby ran out of the room, exultantly laughing at my congested state.  I glanced at her mother, not quite sure even how to put my thoughts together.

My sister smiled at me, "She makes it sound so simple, doesn't she?"

I nodded, chuckling.  My niece does make it sound so simple.  One night this week, over dinner, my niece had announced to me that God needed me to be a Savior.  I shook my head.  "That's what Jesus Christ is."  Baby was not convinced.  "But God does need you to save people."  And then leaned over to me conspiratorially, "God knows your number."  I looked at her with some confusion,debating a quip about how God is omniscient, of course he knows my number.  She threw an arm around me and whispered into my ear.  "I told God your number and so now he knows it."  I stuttered in surprise, as she calmly went back to eating.

Let's be clear on one thing; my niece doesn't spend all of our conversations talking about God.  In fact, out of all of the time we've spent together, the number of times she's mentioned God or Jesus Christ, I can count on one hand.  But when she does, she expresses a bold, straight-forward confidence in God.  This resurrect-er of beings, this granter of good health, this friend in confidence - He's someone I find myself marveling at, and wanting to believe in.

The faith of a child.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


"Nature can be both majestic and dangerous. We need to live with both faces.” - Fumie Tashiro regarding the recent explosion of Mount Ontake in Otaki Japan which killed 47+ people,
from In Japan, Fear and Panic as a Revered Peak Explodes, New York Times, Oct 1 2014 <source>

"It was a mistake. They dropped the ball." - Dr. Anthony Fauci, on belated reactions regarding the first Ebola case in the United States in which the man diagnosed told a nurse he was recently in Liberia and that information was not transmitted to other caregivers,
from U.S. Ebola Case: Searching for Contacts,, Oct 2 2014 <source>

"If I had the same face as Uchida, I would definitely get a few more headlines in the newspapers." - Shinji Okazaki on the cult status of Atsuto Uchida and Makoto Hasebe in Japan,
from Kagawa, Okazaki Head Up Japan's Bundesliga Boom, Associated Press, Oct 2 2014 <source>

"I think I speak for most students from the mainland when I say, 'Wow.'" - Tony Cong regarding the recent peaceful, political protests taking place in Hong Kong regarding changes in elections that Beijing is implementing,
from Mainland Chinese Tourists Get a Glimpse of Rebellion, New York Times, Oct 1 2014 <source>
I am absolutely fascinated though by all of the comments in this article because (1) something like this would never be allowed in the rest of China (2) a lot of these guarded responses show both loyalty to Beijing and a fear of censorship from Beijing and (3) I'm intensely curious how this protest will play out given the two system government of Hong Kong. For an explanation on the reasons for the protest, please read this article.

"We know what they can do but we are not afraid to die, we are not afraid to fight." - Botan, a YPG fighter on his feelings about resisting ISIS, 
from Could an ancient tomb's future decide whether Turkey will fight ISIS?,, Oct 2 2014 <source>

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Book of Heroes: Book Review

One-line blurb:
After discovering through a talking book that her missing brother has been possessed by the evil King in Yellow, Yuriko goes on a quest to capture the King and find her brother.  

One-line concluding message: 
The ends do not justify the means and there is a fine line between hero and villain.  

-- I read this book after reading and loving Miyabe's children's book Brave Story.  
-- The book opens with this fact: you know that Yuriko's brother brought a knife to school and stabbed two kids, killing one and leaving the other critically wounded, before disappearing.  This book maintains a delicate balance of approaching some serious subjects without being either grim or flippant.  

To start, I'm afraid the one-line blurb doesn't quite do the book service.  It's not just a quest to find a brother - it's also a journey to find out why Yuriko's brother did what he did and if his actions were justifiable.  It's not just a battle against an evil king because the King in Yellow AKA the villain and the Hero AKA the hero are described as two sides of the same coin.

As with all questing books, Yuriko picks up a number of companion travelers.  One is a dictionary named Aju who Yuriko turns into a mouse, for easier traveling.  Of course!  (Books can be heavy and bulky)  One is a servant she names Sky who is devotedly loyal to her and who I can't help loving in spite of the fact that everyone in the book tells me not to.  One is a man named Ash who serves as an undertaker in his own world and as a 'wolf' who hunts down the King in Yellow to trap him in all the other worlds.  Ash is the voice of reason in the group and he's that kind of dark, broody character who actually has more emotionally invested in the outcome than you first realize, which means that yes, I loved him in spite of himself, too.  The companions don't quite fit together and in many instances don't get along but in that sense, there is realism - circumstances bring unlikely people together to accomplish what they need to.  Aside from knowing it's a quest that deals with the issues I've before mentioned, I stop the summary here to avoid spoilers.  ;)

Instead of giving you spoilers, I give instead two remarks about the ending.
(1) When all is said and done, the crime at the beginning of the book is still a crime at the end of the book.  I expected more of a happy ending regarding that event, confidently anticipating that an adult or circumstances or even time travel was going to swoop in and take away what Yuriko's brother did or make it better.  But that didn't happen.  I was shocked with myself to realize how much I was expecting it.  Here I stand, now re-analyzing my views of justice and mercy and morality.
(2) I once heard that Japanese authors give their readers all the pieces of the puzzle but expect them to put the pieces together themselves.  This is no exception, especially on an emotional level.  I needed some time to figure out how I felt about the story and the characters and the quest.  It's a cathartic process.

Here is the thought that remains with me: It's not heroic if you're pursuing a virtue through un-virtuous means.  What you do matters just as surely as how it turns out.  That's a powerful lesson.  One I hope I remember for a long while yet.  

Do I recommend this book?  Yes.  If you're looking for a book that is entertaining and keeps you analyzing the rules and structures of a different world while questioning the rules and structures of your own world, this is a good choice.