The Random Writings of Rachel: June 2012

Separation

Right now, I’m staying with Isaac and Lizzy, and I haven’t seen Angel since Tuesday. I am aware that that is only three days, and that three days isn't long at all. I do know that--in my mind. However, three days and nights is the longest we’ve been apart in a couple months, and I miss my husband! I'm also not quite sure yet when I'll be able to go home, so I miss being able to for sure count down the days till I'll see him. (I love countdowns!)

 Before we got married but after we were together, the longest we went without seeing each other was three months. I think that was when I occasionally wondered whether Angel actually existed or whether he was an invention of my imagination. Actually I still wonder that, sometimes, but everyone I know reassures me that they can see him, too.

I’m grateful that Angel exists. I’ve already mentioned some quirks of his that I’ve come to love, like the fact that he takes way too many bad pictures, or the fact that he can’t remember how old he is. Just for fun, a few outtakes from our photo session a few months back: 




 Future family picture sessions are sure to be interesting, with both children and Angel to keep an eye on. Here are a few of the reasons that I’m grateful to have Angel:

1. He always fills my car with gas. I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve put gas in my own car since we’ve been married. He always makes sure I have enough to get where I need to go. 

2. He likes buying me shoes. Apparently, Angel once read a book that said something to the effect of: “the way to a woman’s heart is to buy her some shoes.” I have no idea what kind of book would say that, and perhaps it oversimplifies things a tiny bit, but I love that my husband takes me out to shoe stores at intervals to buy me another pair. It doesn’t hurt that he has good taste in shoes, either!

3. He doesn’t make me call people on the phone. I really don’t like making phone calls—I’ll pretty much do anything in order to not make a phone call to a stranger: write an email or even a letter! Angel, without complaint, makes calls to schedule any and all dentist or doctor appointments for me, and only rolls his eyes when he notices that I write down his phone number on all forms that I have to fill out. I love that you do this for me, Honey!

4. He shows an interest in all of my projects. What with sewing, jewelry making, scrapbooking, and writing—that’s a lot for a man to keep up with! I appreciate the fact that he’s always interested in updates on everything I make or write.

5. His muscles. Nice to look at and useful too! A rare and valuable combination.

6. He knows how to fix cars. The times that we’ve been stranded and had to call a tow truck (twice since we got married!) would have been so much scarier and so much more expensive if I didn’t have Angel who knew what was wrong with the car and how to fix it.

7. He wholeheartedly believes that I'm beautiful, and tells me so everyday. It's always nice to live with someone like that!

Since seven is the number of completion, I'll stop here. As you might imagine, thinking about all the things I love about Angel didn't really help me miss him any less. Not the best strategy, there.

Pretending to be a Model

My brother and sister decided that they wanted to use me as a practice model for expanding my brother's photography portfolio. Since I unabashedly love pictures of myself, I was happy to oblige. Here's a sneak peek from the shoot; I'll send you to his photography facebook page when he finishes editing the pics.

By the way, the reason for the nearly constant presence of the random rose prop is because my Angel gave me a dozen roses earlier this week. That doesn't happen often, so we decided to get as much use out of the roses as we could!



An Ignoble Boycott (or Six, or Seven)


I boycott many things. For no good reason, really. I know that most of the time boycotts of certain companies occur for noble causes or just because a certain group of people dislikes the morals or practices of a certain business. I also know that boycotts are not very effective when only one person is involved, however, boycotting things is so much more fun than simply disliking them, so boycotting is what I do.

I boycott McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, and Burger King because I don’t like any of their food. I’m sure there are more noble reasons to boycott fast-food chains than that, but oh well. My boycotts of these restaurants throughout my teen years was quite an inconvenience to my family, as it meant that I would either refuse to eat anything when we all went out to these restaurants, preferring to go hungry, or else, very maturely beg, plead, and scheme to convince my parents to take our family out to eat elsewhere. Oh, what a wonderful teenager I was! My strong-willed devotion to boycotting these restaurants left such an impact on my parents that even after I’d been out of the house for years, my Mom would very gently suggest to my other sisters, “Is it okay if we eat at McDonald’s today?” To which they would respond with “Of course!” because they actually like Mcdonald’s.

I do not boycott Subway or Papa John’s, however, because their food is delicious! I think I must have rubbed off on Angel after hanging out with him so much because he currently boycotts Jimmy John’s. I’m not entirely sure of his reasoning but it seems to be simply that he thinks Jimmy John’s sandwiches aren’t as good as Subway’s. Still, a couple weeks ago Angel was forced to eat a free Jimmy John’s sandwich at a lunch at his work, and, as he reluctantly admitted to me when he got home later that day—it was a pretty good sandwich. So I’m not sure how long his boycott of Jimmy John’s will hold up.

I also boycott Target, mostly because everyone seems to like it so much. Again, not a very good reason. And Walmart, because there aren’t any Walmarts close to where I live.

And these count even less as boycotts in the normal sense of the term, but for your info, I also boycott cake and icing, mangoes, papayas, maxi skirts, coffee makers, vampires, and cardigans. I used to boycott skinny jeans, but I’ve since come over to the skinny side.

Boycotting things may not be the most productive hobby—but it probably saves money and gives me a healthier diet, simply because it limits, to a certain extent, places to shop and eat fast food. So I plan to continue with my boycotts. 

Do you have anything you boycott for less-than-noble reasons?

On Cutting Boards

I must confess, I don't understand all the fuss that is made about cutting boards lately. Nowadays, we have wooden cutting boards, glass cutting boards, plastic cutting boards, and even cutting boards made of bamboo! Everyone and their mom has a cutting board! Chances are, if you ask your grandma what you can do to help with preparing Sunday dinner, she'll first ask you to chop potatoes and after that, she'll get out a knife and a cutting board for you to use.

It's true, even I have a cutting board. Two, in fact; one of glass and one of bamboo. They rarely see the light of day, however, stashed as they are beneath my stack of wire cooling racks and cookie sheets. When I need to chop an onion, a tomato or some thawed chicken breasts, a plate is a good enough cutting surface for the likes of me! I feel no need to take the extra steps involved in digging up a cutting board and, after cutting the food into appropriately sized pieces, washing and drying an extra dish which is as wide and long as my entire dish rack.

No, a plate works perfectly fine for me. I understand not wanting to cut directly on your counter--that is a very wise thing to do. It's easier always to replace a plate or a cutting board than a countertop. Still, why do we have this cultural norm that the "safe" and "normal" way of ingredient-chopping takes place on a cutting board? While a cutting board may be convenient in some homes for some food situations, it is hardly the catch-all answer for everyone who's ever wanted to slice an apple or a cucumber.

The other day, I was chopping up sweet potatoes for a casserole using my large chopping knife and a plate, as is my habit. My cousin was spending the day with me and she eyed me nervously as I chopped the first potato, "Umm, Rachel, don't you want to use a cutting board?"

Noticing her clear discomfort with the situation, I gave in to her wishes, dragged my cutting board out of the depths of the cupboard and finished chopping my potatoes on that. The use of cutting boards is such a deeply ingrained cultural norm that those who have grown up under it's influence are very uncomfortable when they see this rule being flouted. However, I say that this norm need not persist! There is no reason why we should be confined to cutting solely on cutting boards purely because membership in society dictates it. Fellow vegetable choppers, throw off the chains society has placed about you! Be free of the cutting board standard! Dare to chop differently! Be free!

Note: I haven't cut myself while vegetable chopping since May, at the very least. And that one was only a flesh wound.

A Berry Reminder


There happens to be a large patch of wild black raspberries in the woods behind my house. You should be jealous. Angel and I enjoyed picking and eating them last year during late June and early July, and we’ve been impatiently waiting for them to ripen over the last few weeks. 

 A too-early trip to the patch. No berries yet!

Today was the first time I managed to harvest any berries. Not many, the berries are just beginning to ripen, and there are few black berries compared to all the red and green ones, but I couldn’t wait any longer, and picked a couple of handfuls for an afternoon snack. There weren’t enough to save for a berry smoothie to share with Angel, so I thought I might as well eat them all before he comes home from work. I’ll pick some more in a few days and then we’ll have smoothies.

As I braved the thorns, briars, giant weeds, and bugs in our little wild berry patch, I thought about what my mom says every time she peels an orange or a banana. “You know,” she says, “Fruit reminds me of God.”
Then she’ll explain. Fruit is a tasty, serving size snack. The wrapper is either biodegradable (banana) or edible (apple). They’re full of vitamins and, although they’re sweet, the sweetness doesn’t do the same kind of damage as processed, refined white sugar or high fructose corn syrup. For variety, there’s different kinds in different seasons and different parts of the world, so you’ll never get bored. Man really hasn’t invented a snack that can compare to the simple fruit.

I sometimes laughed when Mom went through her “fruit as a reminder of God” speech countless times over the years, but today, as I was picking black raspberries, I was reminded of God too. I did nothing to earn or deserve these sweet berries. It just so happens that I have access to a whole bunch of bushes bearing these, and I can pick them for free whenever they’re ripe. Angel and I have all the food we need. We just came home from the grocery store yesterday with a full cart of groceries. We don’t actually need black raspberries. These berries are just a little extra, and they are a wonderful extra—almost like an “I love you” note from God.

Thank you God, for all the extras in our lives, among them, wild black raspberries.



Why is it that vegetables don’t remind us of God?

21 by 21


I’m turning 21 in approximately a month, which, I hear, is typically considered a milestone birthday. I thought I’d make a list of what I want to do this summer—preferably before my birthday, but I’ll be a little lenient—as long as these all get done by early August, or, generally, during summertime, I’ll consider that I did well! After all, you typically spend the first couple weeks of the new year of your life trying to remember that you are, in fact, a year older, so they really hardly count.

      Fun Fact: Angel doesn’t know how old he is. Ever. When he was 26 he regularly told people he was 28—he wasn’t trying to be deceptive, he just thought he was 28 years old. A few weeks ago he couldn’t figure out how old he was until a friend asked him his birthday and year and calculated his age for him. Usually he just asks me, because wives always remember. 
  1.  Go to a country music concert 
    1. June 23: Small Town Son and Jana Kramer
  2.  See Mac McLean perform “The Screwtape Letters”
    1. June 23
  3.  Go to Mall of America
  4. Go kayaking
  5. Go to a fair
  6.  Get a horizontal driver’s license
    1. July 23
  7. Have a party  with friends and family
    1. July 21--Game night with pizza sandwiches cooked over the fire
  8.  See fireworks
    1. July 4: of course!
  9. Go to a water park
  10. Go mini golfing
    1. July 13
  11. Buy Angel a birthday present 
    1. July 7: It's a secret!
  12. Ride my bike, multiple times a week
    1. July 23: Two rides in the last two days.
  13. Scrapbook all of the pictures that I have printed
  14. Sew a new project
    1. July 8: I finished my first shirt made from a pattern!
  15. Submit an article to a magazine
    1. July 12: Two articles for Devozine
  16. Wash all the floors in my house (I just need to write this one on some sort of list so that I'll do it)
    1. July 18
  17. Write every day, something: blog, book, article, story
  18. Try a new recipe
  19. Finish reading Watchman Nee’s The Normal Christian Life
    1. July 20
  20. Harvest vegetables from my garden
    1. July 11: Green onions count, right? Because nothing else is growing!
  21.  Go swing dancing
    1. July 3: We did the waltz and cha-cha too! So fun!
    2. July 10: Hurray! More swing dancing!

What I Wore

 Shirt: A thank-you gift for applying to a college. You can tell how much I treasure it.
Jeans: I've had them since high school.
Shoes: Steel-toed work boots that my dad bought me.
Not pictured: My most important accessory for the week, my wrist brace!

Last week, I called my brother Isaac to find out if he and my sister Lizzy could join Angel and I for an outing to an amusement park the next week. He said he couldn't, because he would be working on a missions project with his church during that time.

As soon as we knew about the missions project, we knew we had to go. Angel didn't have work scheduled for the first three days of the project, so, while we wouldn't be able to stay for the whole thing, we could stay and work for a good chunk of it. So, we were going. That is, if the people in charge would let us. Since, ya know, we didn't fill out any forms ahead of time or get signed up during the appropriate time period so that they could accurately plan on how many volunteers they were going to have.

Thankfully, the man in charge was happy to have us, even though we blatantly ignored all the deadlines and rules about signing up. This church is located in the inner city, and they host a yearly week-long work project for the purpose of doing mini home-makeovers for homeowners in their neighborhood who don't have the resources to do the necessary work on their house. This year, the church took on projects for about 8 houses--including several roofs, repainting jobs, and drywalling projects.

This was our house after the first day:

At this point, we had torn down the rotted railing and stairs for the porch, and begun rebuilding. We had also scraped and painted all the windows on the house, done some stucco repair, and chopped down all of the vines and shrubs that had taken over the backyard. Yet to be done was finishing and painting the porch, painting the house, re-roofing the porch, and painting the eaves.



After hours of rolling and painting, we officially renamed stucco "yucco." Christians that we are,  we weren't thinking too charitably about the inventor of stucco by the end of the third day, when we decided to call the paint job good, even though there were, inevitably, a number of stubborn pink spots that our brushes and rollers hadn't been able to reach.

This is the house when we left, so the rest of our team still has a lot of work to do by the end of the week:




 The homeowner was out working with us during the afternoon of the first day, helping paint windows. He was excited about all the work that was getting done on his home, but during the afternoon he shared that his only son had died just a few months before. He had been murdered, shot at his own 18th birthday party. I couldn't even imagine what that father must have been going through. Here we were, helping fix his house, but we couldn't help at all with the fact that he'd lost his son.

I am so glad we went. Many of the volunteers working on this missions project are retirees--they work eight or nine hour days in the hot sun, just so that they can give some of the people in their community a slightly better living situation. Their strength and ability to work shamed my weakly 20 year old body that was ready to quit hours before they were. Angel and I will be back next year, and next time we'll hopefully submit the right forms at the right time and I'll be in better shape!

Opposites Attract


 He took this picture of himself the first time he got a hold of my camera, back when we were "just friends."

Angel
  • Born in the early 80s
  • Mexican
  •  Native Spanish Speaker 
  •  Grew up Catholic
  • Grew up in California
  • Public schooled
  •  High School Cross Country team
  •  Nurse
  •  Non-perfectionist
  •  Had never heard of courting before Rachel told him about it.
 Me exercising the skills I've learned as a Mandarin Major.
Rachel
  •  Born in the early 90s
  • Approximately Dutch, Irish, Welsh, and a few more
  •  Native English speaker
  •  Grew up Protestant
  •  Grew up in many places, none of them even remotely resembling California
  •  Homeschooled
  •  High School Theater Club
  • Has no fondness for anything medical
  • Perfectionist
  • Had been told from the cradle that I wouldn’t be allowed to date until after I was married.
It’s when I think about this that I’m even more amazed and impressed by God. He took two people with hugely different backgrounds and made us perfect for each other. It’s a strange story behind why both of us separately happened to choose a college that one wouldn’t have expected either of us to attend, and there we met. On paper we look very different, but on all the things that really count, we have the exact same dreams and ideals: on children, on faith, on finances, on family. We have our differences—I’m a little too energetic and ambitious in my planning and scheduling, while he enjoys just vegging out on the couch and watching TV (how boring!). We’re not the same, but God made us right for each other, and our differences are an important part of that.

America's Problem


There is a worrying problem which is becoming increasingly prevalent in America. This is a matter that I feel very passionate about, and one that I hope will not take an increasing hold on our society and culture.

The problem is how Americans (in general, not each and every American) pronounce the name of the capital of China. I’m not even talking about tones here, just the simple pronunciation of the letters.

Go ahead, say the name of the capital of China.

Did you say bey-zhing? You are one of the offenders. However, don’t feel too bad. Besides other Mandarin-speaking Americans, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a native English-speaker pronounce Beijing correctly. Even most news anchors on major network news television shows don’t pronounce Beijing correctly.

The Pinyin romanization system for the Chinese language is not at all easy to understand for native English speakers. Many of the letters make completely different sounds than what you might expect. I would not be surprised if an English-speaker looked at Chinese words like “xian zai” and “yi qian” and didn't know how to pronounce them. However, Beijing happens to be one of those Chinese words which really is pronounced exactly the way someone who only knew English phonetics would naturally try to pronounce it. Js in Chinese make exactly the same sound as Js in English do!

And yet, Americans inexplicably and consistently try to “frenchify” (at least that’s how I think of it) the name of the capital of China. The sound that most Americans use to replace the j sound in Beijing doesn’t even exist in Mandarin Chinese. J in jing sounds just like the j in Jack, Jim, or jalopy. 

So now you know. Everyone gets the first syllable right, no need to worry about that. You just need to remember that the j makes a normal j sound. Say it with me: bey-jing. Now go out and spread the word, and hopefully use of the correct pronunciation will become more widespread.

Oh, and just for fun (okay, it’s probably only fun for me, because I’m a little obsessed)—I’ll tell you a little extra info about the name of China’s capital city. Beijing literally means “northern capital,” which makes it the direct opposite of another city in China, Nanjing, which means “southern capital.”

And the way Chinese people spell their own capital’s name is:
北京

I wouldn't blame anyone for not knowing how to pronounce that! My, I was so very educational today, could it be that I’m already missing my college classes?

New Glasses



On Thursday I went to get a new driver’s license, and was dismayed to find out that, even though I was wearing my glasses, I couldn’t really see the letters they were asking me to read for the vision test. I squinted and guessed, and got them all right, so I passed. I had known that something was wrong with my glasses for some time now, but I don’t like wearing glasses and, unless I’m driving, watching a movie, or trying to read a chalkboard, I don’t wear mine. I’ve been trying to put off buying a new pair because I knew it would be expensive, but my driver’s license vision test confirmed that something needed to be done.

Angel and I went and got glasses that afternoon. I actually got two pairs—I got my first pair of prescription sunglasses, which is very exciting! It’s amazing to wear sunglasses and still be able to see at the same time! I never thought I’d have a pair of prescription sunglasses, but the place we went to had a buy one get one free deal, so it worked out to buy a pair of glasses and get the sunglasses for free!

Deciding on the glasses was a challenge. I was very amused at the comments and analyses of the man who was helping us pick out a pair of glasses.  

“The bridge of your nose is too small for this style, that’s why the glasses won’t stay on.” And

“These frames are way too wide for your face, because your face is very thin.”

I was amused because I’ve gotten similar comments when shopping for other accessories:

When looking at rings: “You have such tiny fingers! I’m sorry, this ring style can’t be sized down small enough.”

When getting links taken out of my watch so that it fits: “Your wrist is so small!”

When getting sandals: “Your feet are very slender, so the straps on this shoe can’t adjust tight enough for the shoe to fit.”

My deduction is that, basically, every part of my body matches all the other parts, which seems normal.
I did get the perfect pair of glasses—Angel picked them out. I still will only wear my glasses when I have to, but at least now when I do, I’ll be able to see.