Friday, January 28, 2011

Please, don't read (the book, not the blog)

So, I once read this book that I believe haunts me. It's called, "Love and Respect" and it's very popular among young Christian couples. But, I hate it. I think it is the worst read. The whole premise for the book is that women need love and men need respect and this is what it takes to make a healthy relationship.

I agree with the book's premise, at a very basic level. What I don't like is that this author has left me thinking that if my husband is not acting in a loving way, then I was disrespectful somehow to him. It has left me feeling guilty many times and striving to figure out how to fix problems that I cannot trace and when he is asked, he cannot either.

So, in conclusion, if anyone is thinking about getting a healthy marriage guidebook. I do not recommend this one...unless you like guilt trips, which I experienced this morning, 3 years after reading the book. This book was not the most helpful book for us. I would recommend a different book, except I only read Harry Potter, Dan Brown books, art journals and popular magazines and even that is a stretch of a statement, and really not marriage guidebook material. I guess this is not much of a conclusion. But then again, this isn't a very relevant post either. Thanks for reading my mumbo-jumbo.

I would be interested to know though...has anyone ever read a book that haunted them?

Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm going a bit crazy

So, I just got an e-mail from the FAFSA office and there is a problem with my FAFSA application. I am sure that it has something to do with the translating my tax information. It was all a bit confusing when I was filling out the paperwork. Anyway, I missed the deadline to begin classes in January and so I am hoping to get started in the April session. I am worried though. If I don't get student aid, I can't attend school.

I'm so ready to be a student again. I am ready to make some things happen for myself. I'm already starting to feel a bit stuck in Beijing. Matt and I would never leave Beijing without having something lined up. Our life is comfortable, which is satisfying at times and unsatisfying other times.

I created an art piece about a month ago and I know it is good. This piece in fact has had me revved up for a while. I believe that it is show-worthy. I talked to the school today about purchasing some of their paper. I love this paper. It's not great paper for what we do with the children, but it's great for me. Anyway, I'm going to start doing some more art. I mean, if nothing else, I can just beef my resume by sending some work out for shows...I guess.

I like that idea. I do. I just really want to go back to school. I am one of those people that always needs a project, or my restless spirit takes over. I've been in shows before, not that you can really be in too many or anything, I want to do something new, I guess. Well, that is what has been haunting's time to make something happen for myself. More than just an application and an acceptance letter, I've got to get started or I'm going to go crazy.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

American Dream

I can't help but feel annoyed with the American Dream. I've been trying to figure out why I have such an issue with it. So I have been researching, "what exactly is the American Dream?"

Most Americans would say that the American Dream is having the security of owning your own home and then starting a family. Why does that piss me off so much?

I now know why I have such issues with the American Dream. I have wanted to flee from the American Dream mentality because it is confining. I find it to be a formula and I find it incredibly uncreative. I want to be clear though. This is not an attack on any home-owners. I'm not even opposed to being a home-owner one day in my life or having a family. I, in no way, look down on anyone that owns a home, just as I don't look down on anyone who eats meat, or who isn't a Christian. I am a vegan Christian with a problem with the American Dream and I don't believe that you should be everything that I am, just because I am. However, I would be curious to know how many people out there feel burdened by their debt and by the responsibility to home up-keep?

Anyway...our Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal" and that they are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." So, I have to ask, "Why do we assume that all Americans would fulfill their right to life, liberty and a pursuit of happiness in a 30-year mortgage?"

All this to say, we (Matt and I) really pride ourself on the fact that we're a little bit a-typical. We don't want to fall into the American Dream trap just because a lot of people that we know have the American Dream and love it. Also, we certainly want to feel like we can act on a whim, just like when we moved to China, or bought our car in the States, or traveled to Thailand, or bought his wedding ring, or took a roommate in our first year of marriage. All of which are decisions that we have not regretted, and are opportunities that we are glad that we took.

But still, there is a sense of guilt. It is easy to feel conflicted. Sometimes, I will break down and tell Matt that we need to be thinking more seriously about settling down. Why isn't it that I can accept that we are pretty settled and what exactly does it mean to settle down? The other day, Matt and I, collectively took off our wedding rings and just held them and stared at them. Our goal was to see these rings as symbols of something greater and more meaningful than the first step in the American Dream. It worked. Sometimes, I flip out. I think, "Oh my God, Matt. We don't have a plan for our future!" But on this day, we took off our wedding rings and looked at them and said, "well, we don't have a plan, together. And it feels right."

This is really a pretty personal blog for me. A lot of them have been. I don't normally share a whole lot of information with everyone out there, but I think this one is specifically important. Maybe you'll read it and think twice about making us feel bad for not knowing how long we'll be in China or if we'll ever have children. This isn't public information, but still I feel like I have to share it so that you'll know why I don't want to share our future plans. It's none of your business, but yet we owe it to you when we break the mold. I believe that some people think we're radical, and that part doesn't bother me. It's the discomfort that people feel in the fact that we don't have a plan. The only discomfort we feel is being reflected off of others and it shouldn't be like that. We're doing just fine. In fact, I would say that Matt and I have achieved the Real American Dream, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

That, however, leads me to another lucky we are to be Americans. I never really realized how patriotic I actually am, but the Chinese people may never feel the same freedoms that we are so lucky to possess. But, I'll save that for another blog post, another day.

Friday, January 7, 2011

performance appraisal

When I feel good at my job, it makes working so much more enjoyable. I know that I am usually pretty good at my job, but sometimes I can feel like things are not going well if I don't have my hand in some sort of leadership or innovative something or other. I have no idea why it is like this for me. Perhaps I am insecure. I have no idea, but I know that being recognized by others makes me feel good about myself and it is quite motivating. But I guess it is probably like that for a lot of people.

Quite a while ago, a book came out, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I never read it, but I know that it talks about people's tendencies to give love and receive love. The five categories are, gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time and acts of service. Without a shadow of a doubt I receive love by words of affirmation. Although I love the others, I know that I feel the most love when people affirm me with words.

With all of this being said, I had a pretty good day today. First of all, I am the only one who I work with that is qualified to do my job. As stupid and silly as it sounds, it makes me feel special. The best part is, is that I felt like it was recognized today. I actually felt appreciated a few times today, so it was a really, really good day.

Here's the catch though, I can only take so much. I have a friend who compliments the heck out of me and I often feel so embarrassed. Today I went to dinner with two friends who are both at least 40 years my senior and they both just kept complimenting me. I didn't mean to, but I finally said, "shut up"...I seriously couldn't take it. I didn't mean to say it but the words just fell out of my mouth. I wanted them to stop as quickly as possible. It's a good thing they are friends, no feelings were hurt and I'm glad for that.

Although, now that I am writing this, I am realizing that perhaps it wasn't so bad to be over-complimented because I am still considering this to be a really, really good day. I guess it didn't affect me too much to be over-complimented. However, I do need to find a way to self-regulate a little better and feel good about the work that I do without the help of others. Any ideas anyone?

Monday, January 3, 2011

makin' it happen

I recently made a decision to make some new things happen for myself. When things are the same for too long I get a little restless and that is how I am feeling. So, I applied to grad school and I applied to work at a summer art program in Michigan....well I got both. As exciting as that is, it came with stress.

For grad school, there is finance stress...the worst kind of stress. I have to fill out the FAFSA again...suck! It's pretty complicated too this time around because I am applying for U.S. financial aid based of my Chinese taxes (which I cannot read) for an Australian school that may not accept U.S. financial services.

The U.S. offers a lot of support for students going to college that I never realized wasn't available other places in the world. I had no idea that foreign schools may not even have a financial aid office...which is my case. There is no one to ask questions to except for the general agent that I have been assigned to. So, really, this hasn't been an easy process. And you know governments, it's hard figuring anything out from their websites. I think I may have it figured out though. The finance office at my work has been helpful and I think that the U.S. will defer my existing student loans from undergraduate school while I am a grad student...great!

I also applied to be the sculpture teacher at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan. I guess it is just north of Muskegon and I will be at the camp for 10 days in the summer. I was really feeling unprepared to work at a camp like this because I thought that I would have to come up with these ingenious projects since the students may be gifted in the arts and may have had previous experiences with every material that I can think of. I looked at some pictures of the previous summer and realized that these kids are still kids...for goodness sake Kate, they're Jr. Highers, not professional sculptors. I'm not really sure why I was so worked up.

Anyway, today was a great day! I received the pictures of camp and got my Chinese taxes all figured out for the FAFSA. On top of that, we went to Hot Pot. Hot Pot is great! It's boiling broth in the middle of the table. They bring raw vegetables (and meats, which I don't eat), to the table and you cook them in the broth, just like fondue, but with chopsticks. Then you have a dipping sauce. I generally do a spicy broth with cabbage, tofu, and golden mushrooms. For dip, I use a sesame sauce with cilantro and scallions. It's delicious! I have been asking people to do Hot Pot for quite some time, well I guess today was finally the day. Wonderful!

If hot pot sounds interesting to you, here is a great website so that you can make it at home.

Anyway, I really feel like things are coming together...the work has paid off. Love that!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year, New Plan

Its the first week in January and I made a New Years resolution. I've tried to do New Years resolutions in the past and my stats are against me. This year is going to be different though. That may be because I am committing by putting this out there via the world wide web and I'm committing to anyone who may read this that I will be successful in my resolution.

My goal is to be more green. I have been on a kick about this for quite some time. In high school I was a vegetarian and I could feel the healthy affects of being so, but I was young and did not know enough about general health to do a good job. Needless to say, my commitment to being a vegetarian eventually fell through. But, here I am seven years after the fact and a successful vegan.

I started my veganism after reading about the health benefits as well as animal welfare concerns. I have never been really into animals, but here I am in my mid-twenties not getting any younger, wanting to commit to good health and slightly bothered by the idea that I was consuming animals that died in agony for me to consume unnecessarily.

I have now been a vegan for one year, and I can feel the effects of it. My skin is clear, my body is more regular in every sense of the word, and I'm actually happier. Happier? Who would have known that the food that I eat could actually affect my mood. I now believe that the animals that died in agony left a mark on me when I consumed them. I know that sounds maybe like karma or perhaps something really new-agey...but whatever, I've experienced a dramatic shift in my emotions and I'm a believer.

So, back to my resolution. I want to be more green. You may be asking what does all of this have to do with being more green? Last year I became a vegan, and this year I am going organic, but really this is all in attempt to be more ethical.

One of my major concerns is rainforest clearance. Rainforest clearance is driven mainly by demand for wood and the desire for land to grow crops such as soya that is mainly used as feed for the meat and milk industries, as well as palm oil which is found in a wide range of products. These Clearances have been responsible for an estimated 300,000 species that have been rendered extinct in the last 50 years. But people have also suffered, and usually the poor. There are now more environmental refugees than there are political refugees, forced to leave their homes as their food sources become less and their water becomes polluted.

Besides rainforest clearance, the production of feed crops and the farming of animals uses an astonishing amount of water. This is not as big of a problem in the U.S., but again the poor is the ones that are being affected. Many third world countries are running dry on fresh water as it is.

Then there is all the manure. Much manure is finding it's way into rivers and streams which leads to acid rain.

I also really believe that when God created the heavens and the earth, he didn't leave us with a particularly hard job. He wanted us to be stewards over the plants and animals and we're really messing things up.

So, here is my plan for 2011. I will be trying to make (and if I can't, then I'll buy) all organic household cleaning products as well as health and beauty products. So far, I am off to a slow start with this. I tried making shampoo and I did not like the finished product. So, I'll be trying a new recipe and then I'm moving onto laundry detergent.

The environmental risks associated with chemicals found in cleaning products as well as health and beauty are slight. But, last April, we lost a dear family member to cancer. Matt flew back to the states and I was left in China for a month to do some soul searching. I really began to think about the way that we treat our life. So often, we take for granted our health and never think for a second that the small decisions we make, such as the shampoo we use, could be affecting us. Here I am, 24, and I have always bought whatever shampoo was on sale. Never, taking into account the ingredients, which could possibly be carcinogenic. I don't drink my shampoo, but I'd be a fool to think that none of the ingredients could possibly have entered my temple through my pores, and I have a responsibility to take care of myself for my friends and family.

Mostly though, I feel driven by a responsibility to take care of our earth. Really, it's such a beautiful gift, and the other people on it deserve to enjoy it too. I am bothered by the social injustices that I have contributed to in the past. I will not consume of our planet in a such a haphazard way anymore. I will take into account the affect I am having on God's creation. This is my plan.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

it is what it is

I have been awarded such unique opportunities in my life and at times I feel disappointed with ideas that my my life is exceptionally ordinary, always leaving me with the pressure to make it something more. I know that these thoughts are not true and that it is just my demons, but I can't help but listen to them. This blog is a record of the things worth remembering, and a tool to confront the feelings of my unsettled spirit. There is no set theme for this blog, somedays it may be a funny story, others an inspiring picture. Whatever I post, this is my attempt to feel is what it is.