The Random Writings of Rachel: July 2013

Where Civilization Meets The Rainforest


There's many a time recently that I've thought that life in Malaysia could be well described as life at the exact point where the rainforest and civilization meet. Sometimes you err a little into the jungle side, and at other times, you have both feet planted firmly in a man-made city, but the two often appear so close together that you see elements of both at the same time.

I believe that thus far in this trip, our experiences at Lost World of Tambun showed most clearly how thin that line between jungle and civilization sometimes is. Lost World is new since my last time living in Malaysia, I believe it only opened 2 or 3 years ago. When my Dad told me about it, I was intrigued by the idea of a waterpark that was also a home to tigers, so I agreed we should have an outing there during our trip.

Lost World really is a one-stop shop for entertainment.  Very interesting concept--combine a water park, zoo, a hot springs spa, rides from a county fairground, a cave, and a historical lesson on the importance of tin mining to the Malaysian economy, and you get Lost World.

But none of that was the most exciting part of our day there. The Lazy River is a key part of any water park experience, right? We rented three tubes, and 7 of us headed on into the Lazy River, soon coming across a sign floating in the water (it was not supposed to be in the water, it had fallen off of its post) that boasted that the river was 660 meters long. We didn't know just how long that 660 meters would seem until we rounded a bend, and my younger sisters, in the the tube ahead of Angel and I, started yelling, "Snake! Snake!" 

I thought they were just being goofy until our tube also rounded the  bend and I saw a skinny black snake swimming towards one of the walls of the river. Instantly I maneuvered my body so that no part of me was touching the water, and I started yelling at Angel some sort of garbled message about you never know when tropical snakes are poisonous so you better paddle and get us away from here!

But Angel was too busy laughing to paddle. My Dad's tube rounded the bend, and he had the presence of mind to gesture to the snake, now sticking to the nearly vertical wall of the river, and shout to a nearby waterpark attendant, "Ular! Ular!" (The Bahasa word for snake).

The waterpark attendant didn't seem alarmed, he waved at us and said, "It's okay, wait 5 minutes."

That advice confused us greatly, I had no intention of waiting 5 minutes, but it was hard to paddle away from the snake's location when I was refusing to touch the water. About a minute later, we realized exactly why the man had told us to wait 5 minutes, because the wave machine started--we guessed that he figured we were wondering when the waves were coming. 

The very first wave had the effect of knocking the snake off the wall and much closer to our tubes, and that effectively startled Angel and Dad into action to make sure that we were moving faster than the snake. I'm pretty sure every one of us girls screamed every time we saw the snake at the crest of a wave, and I'm quite sure that the waterpark attendant, who never saw the snake, must have thought we were utterly crazy.

We eventually saw a wave knock the snake back onto the wall, at which point it slithered back into the jungle. Then we relaxed, until about 50 feet later, when we saw a 2 foot lizard sunning itself on top of the river wall.

After we completed the 660 meters, we decided that was the least Lazy River experience we'd ever had, and we also agreed not to tell Mom, who had opted out of the River, about what we saw till after we left the park. 

I told you, it's the point where the jungle meets the man-made world. You can build a Lazy River running through a beautiful water park, but you can't stop the snakes and lizards from wanting to get in on the fun.










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It's Not Comfortable Here

Surprise!
 
From Angel's first trip to visit my family in 2010: His first time trying Nasi Kandar
 
I'm not in America, and I haven't been for two weeks now. I've been hinting at a trip home for a while, but never too specifically, because I don't believe in giving the internet precise information about my exact location.
 
 
However, Angel is now back home in the U.S., protecting our homestead, so I felt safe to share with you that I've been on vacation for a while, and I will be for some time to come. So if you have noticed/do notice any slacking as far as blogging--that's why.
 
 
This trip home has been dreamed of since I last set foot in an airplane in August 2010 and left to come back to the U.S. and get married. I love the little home Angel and I have created together, but really, many aspects of American culture still make me feel like an outsider, and deep down, I'm always longing for my home.
................................................................................................
 
 
We saved for a long time, we were finally able to figure out work and school schedules, and we bought plane tickets for this trip at the beginning of 2013. And since then, plans for this trip have been pretty much all we could talk about with my family on our weekly Skype calls. They've been emailing us lists of things they want us to buy for them (stain stick, benadryl, candy, all 3 seasons of Gilligan's Island), and I've been emailing them calenders filled to bursting with all the activities I want to accomplish during our trip, including what I wanted to do for my 22nd birthday earlier this month (eat cheesecake, visit my favorite mall, and play charades, of course!).
 
 
On one Skype call, in the midst of excitedly making plans for the trip, my Mom stopped the conversation and asked me, "You do remember that life isn't comfortable here, right?"
 
 
Isn't that the truth.
 
 
I do remember, though after three years, it's easy to forget and to let your memories become vaguer. It's true that I tend to look at my home life through rose-colored glasses, but I do remember the uncomfortableness. I'm not shocked that my home is not nearly as convenient as America.
 
 
Yes, you have to remember to bring toilet paper with you wherever you go or else expect to go without when using a public restroom (I neglected to inform Angel of this on his first trip to visit because I thought it was too delicate of a subject to speak about with my fiance--he was not very happy.)
 
The better public restrooms provide toilet paper, but often on one communal roll in the middle of the bathroom, if you want it, you have to be bold enough to go grab some and bring it with you into the stall.
 
 
Ninety degree and ninety percent humidity can sometimes make you feel as if any physical exertion is literally impossible. Even many restaurants are outdoors--as long as there are fans, in my opinion, any heat is bearable, but when the electricity goes out and even the fans don't work...now that's hot.
 
 
My family lives in an apartment that is about half the size of the house that Angel and I share in America--half the size, and 4 sisters, 2 parents, 1 Angel and I have been sharing it. The floors are all tile--perfect for the hot and humid weather, but hard on feet that are used to carpet and wooden floors.
 
 
My family owns one car; if you need to go somewhere when the car is already in use by someone else, it's a 15 minute downhill walk to the bus stop. That's not bad--it's the 15 minute uphill walk on the way home that will kill you. We walk much, much more here than we do in the United States. Angel and I have been walking to market to buy food in the early mornings. What does take some getting used to for me is being able to walk past the creeks that carry garbage out to the ocean and the shops where they butcher chickens without vomiting. I don't handle smells very well, I never have. However, I think my holding my breath skills have gotten a little rusty.
 
 
I expect to be startled at any given moment by a cockroach running across the floor or a gecko jumping out of the kitchen cabinet I just opened. My family has always cleaned their house very diligently (mopping all the floors was a daily chore when I was growing up) but little critters are everywhere. We also see 6 foot monitor lizards on the beach...on the jungle trails we walk...sometimes on the street or in the parking lot of our apartment building. One time we saw one climbing the gate of our neighbor's house. They basically look like small dinosaurs. I'm glad we've never had one in our home.
 
It's really not comfortable here, but it's home, and I love it, and I don't ever want to leave.
 
During the next few weeks while I'm still on vacation, you may expect to see several more scheduled posts that I wrote from the U.S., but if I get some time to spare, I'd love to write about our current international adventures, too. Is there anything any of you specifically want to hear about our trip to my hometown?

Also, I'm sure Angel would appreciate suggestions of how to fill his free time during his weeks of wifelessness. I was going to suggest washing all the windows of the house, but then I remembered that I'm not supposed to be evil.
 
 
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My Fashion Inspiration

I'm fond of claiming that the way I dress is not heavily influenced by the trends of each passing day in fashion. However, that doesn't mean that I don't allow anything to influence the way I dress. I get my fashion inspiration from a number of sources, just like everyone else. Here are some of my primary sources:
#1 Zebras/Dalmatians/Dominoes: Don't misunderstand--I'd never actually wear Zebra print itself, but I'm very fond of black and white prints. This is the favorite of my 5 black and white print dresses.

#2 Clowns and/or Rainbows: More colors = better, and no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise.


 #3 Baby Sister Sarah: Sparkly, brightly colored, jingles whenever you move--I'm cool with that! (And yes, I also have a coordinating set of bangles for every sari I own, but Isaac didn't give me enough time to find them when he was taking my picture).




#4 Black and White Movies: Anything with Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, Gregory Peck. If Angel dressed for dinner every day in a three piece suit, I would be okay with that. But since he won't, I'll just wear my pencil skirts and keep searching the internet for an *affordable* petticoat to give my full skirts the 50s fluff.

Never Have I Ever...

 So, there's a lot of things I haven't done, but that doesn't mean I've never broken a rule in my life. Apparently, I once trespassed for the sake of taking a picture. While wearing a swimsuit and a jacket. Very scandalous indeed.

...Traveled to Europe. {And Angel doesn't want to go there, so I probably never will.}
 
...Been to a wedding with a date. {The last wedding I went to, I was only 16, so that explains why. People need to get married and invite me.}
 
...Watched a legit scary movie. {People tell me that "Ernest Scared Stupid" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles" don't count. I don't care, they were too scary for me.}
 
...Smoked a cigarette. {I do, however, burst into spontaneous fits of severe coughing as soon as I catch a whiff of cigarette smoke. It definitely doesn't agree with me.}
 
...Not wanted my picture taken. {you know those people who are like "Ahhh!!, don't take my picture!!"? Yeah, that's never me. In case you hadn't already guessed}
 
...Willingly eaten sushi. {I once had my mouth pried open and a concoction of seaweed and rice stuffed into it. Thanks, friends. I thought you loved me.}
 
...Ridden a motorcycle. {One of my baby sisters did when she was only two! I guess I'm sheltered.}
 
...Gotten a tattoo. {and I have no intentions of ever getting one.}
 
...Colored my whole head of hair. {peekaboo blue highlights are as crazy as I'll go.}
 
...Broken a bone.  {I was a rather safety-concious child}
 
...Met anybody famous. {I usually add, "....except myself" just to confuse people.}
 
...Wanted to study French. {No way! I'll take on learning 5,000 Chinese characters and the entire Japanese grammatical system before I try to twist my tongue into making those extremely difficult sounds!}
 
....Put a contact in my eye. {you would understand why if you had seen the eye doctor trying in vain to put eyedrops in my eyes}

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Why I Won't Read That Blog

I'm not going to mention poor spelling or crazy designs here. If that is a blog's only fault, I think it's too small of a fault to completely drive away a reader like me.
Too many giveaways.
...of stuff I don't want. I won't enter a giveaway just to enter. I will enter if I already really like that particular blog or that prize being offered and if I perceive the giveaway as possible to win (i.e., not already 26,000 entries). But if a blog is all giveaways, that's just overwhelming--give us a couple funny stories to read, that's what I want!

Too trendy. 
This is a case of like attracts like. I'm not interested in constant mentions of 'popular' tv shows, celebrities, 'the latest' in summer fashion, and 'desireable' brand names in real life, and I'm not interested in such things on the internet, either. I'm not a trendy person, that's all.

Too distant.
As much as we claim that blogging is about quality writing--it's also about personality of the blogger. If I come across a blog which has great content--and I read, and read, and read, and comment, and comment, and comment, and join a link up or two, and the blogger never responds to a comment, I'll probably lose interest eventually, because the blogger is so unresponsive that I can't sense that I'm getting to know a real person behind the blog.

Too boring/whiny.
Funny how those are so often the same. "Being real" and writing about something really hard that you're going through is completely different from an overarching theme of "poor me" and angry bitterness. If I come across a blog that consists primarily of complaining about in-laws, spouses, jobs, money, children, etc., I won't be inclined to read it. I'm sure such blogs have an audience, but I personally don't find constant complaining either relatable or entertaining, so I don't read them.

Too much like a product review blog.
This is probably a given. I don't trust product recommendations from people I don't know. I probably will trust the rare product review from a lifestyle blogger that I've been reading for a while, because I feel that I "know" that person well enough to have a little faith in their opinion. Blogs that are purely or primarily built on product reviews don't entice me because I don't feel that I know the blogger well enough to care about their opinion.

What do you think about lifestyle bloggers writing product reviews? What will cause you to decide not to read a blog?

A Cross-Cultural Life

Well, don't we just make the cutest little cross-cultural family?
 
Angel and I don't necessarily appear to be in an interracial relationship. He's Mexican, with tan skin and black hair, and I'm 100% mixed up brunette white girl. I've actually been told by a few people that we resemble each other.

But it's quite obvious, to us anyways, that our marriage is definitely cross-cultural. I believe that every marriage is the uniting of two different cultures to some extent, because every family has its own culture, but it adds a whole new level of complexity when your native language is different from your spouse's native language.

There are definitely challenging aspects of a cross-cultural marriage. I'm a white girl who speaks Chinese who grew up in Asia as a homeschooled kid in an English-speaking large family. Angel's a Mexican who grew up with two brothers in a Spanish-speaking household in California, went to public school and Mass.

The biggest obstacle to overcome is language. Angel and I speak English together, with random phrases and sentences in Spanish thrown in. You're guaranteed to hear Spanish spoken in our home every day, but never for long or deep conversations. Angel's family speaks Spanish together, so when we visit, I tend to be a little quiet. My Spanish is at the level where if I sit there quietly, I can understand the vast majority of the conversations going on around me, with occasional questions to ask Angel what a word means. But speaking is harder, so I'll either answer any questions asked to me in slow Spanish or in English--his family understands English, they just don't typically speak it when they're together.

I'm not a touchy person. I don't like to be touched and unless I'm really close to someone, I don't like touching them. Angel's family is completely different, they hug everybody, and they expect people like me to hug them back. (Angel himself hugs my own family way more than I do.) This is still something I'm learning--to be okay with and enthusiastic about hugging people, even people who I've never met before.

Those are two of my biggest challenges in this cross-cultural family: the language barrier and the hugging. Angel doesn't have a problem with either because he's been learning English since 1st grade and even though my family doesn't hug very much, he just hugs all of them anyways and they think that's a little eccentric of him, but they aren't offended by it.

There are definitely some questions that come up that you have to make a decision on together if you are in a cross-cultural family. For example, questions that apply to our situation are:

Will we give our kids Spanish or English names?
We've decided on English names that are easy to pronounce/sound good in Spanish.
What language will we speak at home/what language will we teach our children?
I think we'll always speak English for deep conversations, but we want our children to grow up bilingual, so we foresee gradually transitioning to speaking more Spanish at home in years to come.
What church will we go to?
Angel and I are Protestant Christians, but we will go to Mass with Angel's parents when visiting them, and Angel will try not to argue theology with his father.
What food will we eat at home?
We eat mainly Indian, Chinese, and Mexican food at home, with hamburgers, fried chicken, and spaghetti thrown in on random occasions.

I love my little cross-cultural marriage, and even with the really hard moments--I wouldn't trade it for anything. I like  that we get to take the good things from both of our cultures as we create our own little family culture that's different from either of the families we grew up in. It's us!
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A Happy Ending

Remember this tragic tale? Well, now it has a happy ending

If you were around when I told the story of my distress over losing my favorite green jeans, you will understand the significance of these pictures.

Now, it must be noted that the green jeans that I'm wearing in the pictures are not the same pair of green jeans that disappeared from my life months ago. I still haven't found those, and I'm thinking they might be a lost cause.

However, I was at Kohl's in the children's section, buying clothes for my little sister when I spied this pair of jeans hanging from the 70% clearance rack, with a price tag reading $10. They were a girls' size, but they were on the large end of  girls' sizes, so I decided it couldn't hurt to try them on, but I wouldn't get my hopes up.

And they fit perfectly! I think, perhaps, jeans sized for children aren't meant to be worn quite as skin-tight as Junior's sized jeans, and that extra generosity in sizing made these jeans a very comfortable and flattering fit for me. I couldn't believe that I'd found jeans in my favorite color, that fit me well and that were only $10.

I had to buy them, of course, even though I wasn't meant to be shopping for myself on that outing, you don't turn down a jeans miracle like that. And I have been happily wearing them since. I love my green jeans, I don't ever want to without them again. And if my original pair does turn up someday, I'll be happy to have them back, too!

The jeans actually are just a hair shorter than they probably should be--but oh well, I guess I'm tall for my age.

My Man

 I was the sneaky wife wandering the park and taking pictures of Angel while he played basketball...

The man who calls me at 10 pm from playing basketball at the park and says, "Hey, I'm going to go out for drinks and dinner with the guys." and that doesn't get much of a reaction from me so he adds, "Actually, we're going to get drinks and eat at {this man who I don't know}'s house and since I can't drink and drive, I'm just going to sleep over at his house." And then, as I'm spluttering that no, you have a home, you don't just randomly sleep at random people's houses for no reason...he pulls into the driveway.
 
He does it just to fuss me.
 
The man who wears running shorts and sleeveless shirts--when I respond to such outfits with, "What are you wearing? Where did you even find those clothes? I hate those clothes!" 
He laughs and says, "I love you. You're so honest. You never pretend to like something if you don't like it." 
 
He understands my personality the way no one else does.
 
We both have our eccentricities--and man, we're good together.
 
Happy 29th birthday, my Angel!
 
 He always says I never let him drink alcohol, so I bought him a margarita for his birthday to prove he's only mostly right.
 
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The Best Party Game Ever

If you've never played the modern version of a scavenger hunt, it's about time that you get on that. A picture scavenger hunt is the perfect game for the digital camera age. Such a scavenger hunt can be played on a grand scale--I once played an island-wide photo scavenger hunt with a grand prize of a ride in an airplane. Or you can have a smaller scavenger hunt--one New Year's Eve, it was dark and freezing cold outside, so we had a scavenger hunt that extended from the basement to the second floor of our house.

This most recent scavenger hunt was medium-sized. Teams were allowed to drive somewhere else and leave the property if necessary, but none of them chose to.

Basically, what you need to do to host a picture scavenger hunt is to create an impossibly long list of picture ideas for each team to accomplish. Set a time limit, and set some rules. (i.e. No destruction of property, No driving in cars without seat belts.) Give each team a camera, allow them to run rampant till the time limit is over, and at the end, hook up your camera to the television, to allow the pictures to be scored for creativity and adherence to the rules of the game.

It's pure chaos, and it's pure fun!

Let me show you some pictures that came out of the game, along with the picture assignments they were meant to fulfill.
 
 "Sleeping" (note Angel's sleeping pose)

 "Pyramid"

 "Fighting with Weapons"
 "Sledding"

 "Eating Something that Shouldn't be Eaten"

 "Entire Team inside a Car"

 "Jumping"

"Working on a Home Improvement Project: More Tools, More Points"
 
Other photo assignments included: Cow, Fish (one team tried to convince the others that the tadpole they caught and photographed was a fish), American Flag, Unicorn, Grandma, Different colors of Flowers, Handstand, Riding Bicycles, Tractor, Outhouse, and for ten points extra credit, either team could choose to film a video of themselves doing the hokey pokey.
Have you ever participated in a photo scavenger hunt?
 
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Do You Sleep With A Teddy Bear?

Personally, I think this is the best (funniest/creepiest) bear picture yet. According to this, I sleep with two.
 
Well, do you?
 
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FAQ

 

 {Funny Story: I wanted to go on an evening adventure, so Angel took me to the "nature center" in our town that we heard of for the first time a few weeks ago. Just as we were beginning to walk up the trail, a lady driving by yelled at us, "Not a good idea!!" We have no idea what she meant. We wandered a little farther, but there were mosquitoes, and we decided to return for further adventuring not during mosquito season.}
 
All but one of these questions I've actually been asked, either in real life or on the blog. If you have a question to add, ask in the comments, otherwise, enjoy this random collection of info.

Questions I've really been asked:
 
How much do you weigh?
(This was asked by an 85 year old regular client of mine who comes in every week for her shampoo and set, which makes it slightly more forgiveable. She startled the truth out of me, but for the rest of you:) None of your business!
 
How many languages do you speak? 
Fluently, only one, English. I am awesome at English. I speak Spanish and Mandarin Chinese at probably an equally conversational level, but I can read a lot more in Spanish than I can in Chinese (obviously, the shared alphabet helps). I read katakana and hiragana as far as pronouncing the words, but I understand almost nothing of Japanese. I understand quite a bit of Bahasa but I'm extremely rusty as far as coming up with any sentences of my own accord. (Clearly, I've taken a 'jack of all trades and master of none' approach to linguistics. That's what happens when you don't start learning any foreign languages till your late teens). Angel is fluent and educated in both Spanish and English, but knows no Mandarin, despite my best efforts to teach him.
 
Do you regret getting married at a young age?
Umm, no. My parents told us a long time ago that we could get married whenever we wanted or wait for them to come and be present at the wedding if we wanted to get married in 2014. Obviously, we didn't choose 2014, and I have no regrets about not choosing 2014--just look at all the marriage I would have missed out on! I've done just about everything in my life at a "young age" (seeing as I'm not yet 22), and I strongly believe that young people should never believe that they "can't" accomplish something just because they are young. Besides, I'll still be in my 30s when we celebrate our 20th anniversary, and think that's fun!
Are you a vegetarian?
(asked by workmates who see the salads, fruits, oatmeal, and frozen veggies Angel and I consistently eat for lunch) No. Angel eats healthy lunches as an exercise in self-control. I, especially lately, seem to have a sensitive stomach so I just try to eat things that I know I can literally feel good about eating. No, neither of us are on any particular diet but we do aim for a fairly healthy, natural, fresh fruit and veggie-filled style of eating.
 
Why is your cat named Morphine?
I have to admit, it sounds ridiculous when Angel is standing out in the field, calling "Morphine! Morphine!" when he wants to find the cat. If you couldn't tell, I'm not really a person who enjoys doing normal stuff, like, say, naming a pet "Fluffy." We decided from our first cat, that we would name all future pets using terms from Angel's knowledge of medical words. So far, we've had Amoxicillin (Moxi), Penicillin (Penny), Clindamycin, Piperacillin-tazobactam, Narcan, and Morphine. And in a geeky way, we're proud of ourselves because Narcan is the medical antidote to Morphine.
 
What camera do you use?
(hahaha, okay guys, this one is suppose to be a joke, there's no way anyone asked me this, it's just that I always see this question on blog FAQs so I had to include it) My beloved brother-in-law and sister-in-law gave us a point-and-shoot camera for Christmas last year. It's 16 megapixels crushed my 2008 era 8 megapixel camera, so now we use that one.  
 
What made you decide to go to beauty school?
I don't talk about this. Let's just say it's all been a learning experience.
 
How many siblings do you have?
 I have five sisters and one brother, Angel has two brothers. We're both eldest children--Angel ended up with a sister-in-law 23 years younger than him (my baby sister Sarah) which I find kind of hilarious.  


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Black and White: Dr. Scholl's® For Her High Heel Insoles Review


This dress is an old favorite, I've had it for 6 or 7 years, and it's probably still one of the most beloved pieces in my wardrobe. The shoes on the other hand, are a much more recent purchase, and not a very good one.

I was beguiled by their bows and their polka dots. They are very cute, but they are excruciatingly painful when worn for more than five minutes at a time. In the last Influenster VoxBox I received, a pair of Dr. Scholl's For Her High Heel Insoles came in the box, and these were the first shoes I thought to try them out with.

And what's the verdict? Well, I made it through church without limping! I don't think these heels are ever going to be comfortable shoes, but with the insoles, I definitely noticed a difference. My toes still hurt from being molded into the pointy toes of these shoes, but the insoles provide much better support for my arches than the shoes do, so while I didn't feel like I was wearing a pair of comfy walking shoes, I also didn't feel like my feet were completely going to fall off by the time church was over--and for these shoes, that's certainly an improvement!

So, if you have a pair of extremely cute but intolerably uncomfortable high heels--you may want to try Dr. Scholl's insoles, they just might help you get a little more use out of a pair of shoes you already own!

*I received the insoles for free through the Influenster VoxBox product review program. The opinions presented in this post are mine.

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22 While 22

Most of my life, people have thought I am older than I am. Since I've been in cosmetology school, lots of people have thought I am younger than I am (probably because the average student at my school is fresh out of high school). Regardless of what people think, I will soon be 22.

Growing older by the day
Therefore, here are my goals of what I want to accomplish while 22:

1. Get my cosmetology license.
-Sept. 19
2. Get a job.
Got hired to begin working as an English teacher in ShenZhen, China, in August.
3. Write more. Find new magazines/websites/publishers that will accept my work.
-Edited Grandpa's book.
-Published articles on Quite Magazine's website and the Post Calvin
4. Go on at least 5 overnight trips.
-July 16-August 16: Malaysia
- August 24-26: Flint
-September 26-28: Indianapolis
-October 26-28: Flint
-November 25-30: Flint
-December 19-29: Texas
-January 7-26: Flint, Kentucky, Florida
-February 7-9: Flint
-February 17-22: Texas
-March 4-5: Chicago
-April 13-15: Chicago
-May 9-10: Muskegon
-May 21-28: Texas
5. Adhere strictly to my fashion rule of ONLY buying articles of clothing that I am in love with and/or are essential building blocks to an unusual wardrobe. (Therefore, no 'practical' clothes purchasing whatsoever. Unless my job requires it.).
6. Go somewhere (state? country? museum?) I haven't been before.
-Kellie's Castle in Ipoh
-Millenium Park in Chicago
-Indianapolis
-Perot Museum of Science and Nature in Dallas
-Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
-DisneyWorld
-Navy Pier
-San Antonio
7. Watch a movie in a DBOX theater.
-December 13, The Hobbit
8. Speak Spanish or Mandarin with a client/friend/relative.
-Spoke Mandarin with Malaysians.
-Listened to a lot of Spanish when visiting Angel's family.
9. Take 3rd anniversary pictures in our wedding clothes.
- Anna took them with Dad's camera
10. Meet my first nephew. 12/20/2013
11. Try a new food.
-I think the traditional Korean BBQ experience counts. Rice tea, anyone?
-Tamales. Sorry, I'm not a huge fan, but I did finally try them.
12. Watch a Korean drama.
-Lord of Drama and Coffee Prince
13. Learn a new sewing skill (Quilting? Knit fabrics?)
-a little girl's dress with flannel.
-a doll quilt
-wristbands
-Invisible zipper
-Skirt with lining
-Tulle
-French Seams
14. Still be driving my '96 Chevy by the time I turn 23.
15. Make money from my blog.
- CleverGirls campaign for Just Dance 2014
16. Join a church ministry/team/project.
17. Finish the painting and flooring in my dollhouse.
18. Not kill any of our pets.
19. Plant a garden.
- No garden, do to our unexpected move but I planted a Venus Fly Trap indoors and also kept a Christmas Cactus and a Rosemary plants alive in pots for months.
20. Go on an adventure with at least a few of my siblings.
-Took 4 sisters to an arcade.
21. Watch a movie in Mandarin and one in Spanish.
- An American in China had a decent amount of Mandarin in it.
- Kung Fu Dunk
- What Women Want (Chinese version)
- Spanglish
- Certain episodes of Psych are partially in Spanish 
22. *This one is secret, but trust me, it exists. You'll find out what it is when I accomplish it.*

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When Serving Stops Being Fun

In marriage, or, really, in any close relationship, service plays a key role. Being willing to sacrifice, to serve your spouse, to work together and help each other out is important for creating a strong relationship. And most of the time, when you're not really facing any major struggles in life, that whole serving each other thing is pretty easy.

I mean, when you're newlyweds, and everything is right in the world, all it takes to serve your husband is to get dinner made before he gets home from work. And all it takes him to serve you is to offer to wash the dishes afterwards. Nothing too challenging.


But it's when the times get a little tougher, and the acts of service get a little more challenging, that your willingness to serve your spouse gets challenged--and the very foundation of your relationship can be either strengthened or weakened by how you respond to opportunities to serve on the bad days.

Most of the time, my husband and I have it really easy. But recently, we had one of those days where it wasn't quite as easy as we're used to. My car needed two new struts. So, my husband drove me to school,  telling me that he'd have my car fixed by the time my shift was over, and that he'd make me a smoothie for dinner when I got home. My husband has changed struts on a number of different cars, and he knew that it shouldn't take eight hours to change two struts. Eight hours later--the car still wasn't fixed yet. My husband had put everything back together, and thought he was done. He tried to drive my car, and it was quickly apparent that something wasn't right, as far as he could tell by the horrible noise coming from one of the struts he'd just changed. So, even though it was getting dark, after picking me up from school, he needed to get back to the car and see if he could fix it in time for me to drive it to school in the morning.

One more problem. My husband was hungry. That's usually more of an expected event than a problem. After all, husbands usually are hungry. But I had just worked a late shift at school. We didn't get home till after 8 o'clock at night. I'd had a long day at school--I was falling sick, and had been in pain, taking the maximum amount of pain killers that the bottles prescribed all day long. I'd been expecting to come home to a fixed car and a smoothie. But husband was still working on the car, and, what's more, he told me that he was really hungry, that he wanted meat for dinner.

I couldn't just scramble some eggs in five minutes and be done with it. I determined to make spaghetti--I thought I had a package of already cooked ground beef in the freezer that would speed up the process--when I opened it, I found that it was actually pre-cooked ground sausage. At that point I nearly cried. I was so tired. I wasn't even planning on eating a full dinner--eating a big meal that late at night makes me sick. I'd been silly enough to wear my non-practical shoes to school that day, so my aching feet just added to the rest of the physical pain that I'd been enduring all day long. I really wanted nothing more than to lie down and maybe eat a little popcorn before falling asleep for the night.

But husband had also worked on a very frustrating project all day long, and he was hungry, and it was not unreasonable of him to want a real dinner. That's what I reminded myself as I got the raw ground beef out of the refrigerator and put it in the frying pan ( did I mention that browning meat is my least favorite cooking job?). 

I buzzed around the kitchen, using my rather good cooking skills to keep an eye on the boiling pasta, the sauce, and the meat at the same time as blending up a smoothie and popping popcorn in our air popper. My husband came in the house--thwarted in his purpose of fixing my car by the darkness outside.

That night wasn't a stellar night for either of us. It wasn't my husband's best mechanic job. I ended up having to get a ride from my aunt the next day in order to get to school on time, because Angel had to leave for work two hours before my school opened. Nearly crying over a ziploc bag of ground sausage because I didn't feel like I could bear to stand up long enough to brown a pound of hamburger was definitely a weak point in my career as a housewife. Nevertheless, that night, I was proud of us.

I was proud because, even when the going got a little tough, even when serving each other--using our skills to help each other out and meet the other one's needs, wasn't fun any more, we still did it. If I would have been single, I would have come home from a hellacious school day like that and dropped straight into bed. But marriage requires being willing to serve, and to serve past the point of what's still enjoyable.

That test we faced was just a tiny one. By the next day, both of us woke well-rested and well-fed. My car was still broken, but Angel would fix it the next day he had off of work. That challenge barely lasted an evening. But I'm grateful that our relationship is built on a strong foundation--that even during a not-so-good day like that, we were able to think about each other's needs and keep on going. Evenings like that encourage me to have peace about whatever trials we may face in the future. I'm quite certain that we're going to face tough times that will last weeks or months, rather than an evening--but I also know that evenings like that one are excellent for teaching us how to be faithful and how to serve in the bigger tests that will come.

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Easy Ways to Support Small Businesses



I found the artistic perfection of a strawberry. I swear, it looks like a fake strawberry, it's so beautiful.
 
We recently spent an hour picking nearly thirty pounds of pesticide-free strawberries and black raspberries at a farm down the street from our house. I know, 30 lbs. of berries sounds slightly excessive for two adults of regular appetite, but we enjoy making berry smoothies all year long--so we figure that by stocking up while berries are in season here, and freezing them, we'll have a good supply to last us well into the winter!

Supporting small/locally owned businesses is something important to Angel and I. I've had plenty of family members and friends who were farmers or small business owners, and I've had enough entrepreneurial dreams myself, that I have a soft spot for putting my money towards supporting small businesses rather than huge corporations when possible.

Here are a few easy ways that we use money we would be spending anyways to support businesses in our town:

1. Like I mentioned above, instead of buying large bags of frozen berries picked in faraway states from Sam's Club, we stock up on fresh berries picked from small local farms in season, and freeze them for later use. Where we live, roadside produce stalls spring up everywhere all summer long. Nearly six months out of the year, we can buy cheap onions that were too ugly to sell to the grocery store from the onion farmers down the road, and we buy other produce when it's in season.

2. When we want a pizza, instead of popping a frozen pizza from the grocery store in the oven, we run down to the local ma'n'pa pizza shop for their $6.95 large one-topping special.

3. When traveling, instead of staying at Motel 8--hundreds of rooms and a complimentary continental breakfast, we like to stay at B&B's. If you do your research and call for specials, you can usually find a B&B with competitive pricing (the three we've stayed at have been around $70 a night). B&Bs might only have 4 or 5 rooms, and are often owned by one family or one couple--you can usually expect to have your breakfast cooked by the owner of the place! It's a much more personalized and fun experience than staying a night at a typical budget hotel!

4. We buy meat for our steak or carne asada tacos from an itty-bitty specialty butcher shop and grocery store, instead of buying frozen, packaged meats. This means Angel has to buy the meat because I haven't yet figured out what our favorite cut is called in Spanish. (Actually, I'm not sure Angel knows the term either, but he's good enough at describing the meat in Spanish that we end up getting what we want.)

5. I've been boycotting all fast-food chains since I was old enough to cry, "No, Mommy and Daddy!" every time they tried to take me to McDonald's. Angel and I like to eat out, but we especially like exploring the small, family-run restaurants in our area instead of spending date night at restaurants that are international chains. I swear, the food is better when it's not standardized from one franchise to the next.
To me, choosing to buy from small businesses is a win-win situation. The local economy is supported, and, I often get much more personalized service and higher quality products. This system works well for us, largely because we live in a farming community. Other cities have completely different local resources, I'm sure. How do you support small businesses in your everyday lifestyle?
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