The Random Writings of Rachel: September 2013

How Does Fashion Blogging Affect your Wardrobe's Emotional Well-Being?





I don't think that this is an issue that has been sufficiently addressed in the blogging world. There are fashion bloggers everywhere, and there are lifestyle bloggers who do fashion posts and there are humor bloggers who mock fashion posts, but has anyone taken a few minutes to consider about the emotional toll that fashion blogging takes on the individual wardrobe?

It's inevitable that certain wardrobe items are simply more bloggable than others. Everyone has their favorite pair of shoes, their best party dress--but only in fashion blogging, in which what we wear is recorded and broadcasted on the world-wide web, it's quite obvious which are our favorites and which aren't.

I mean, seriously. My glittery pink Converse and my red high heels have both shown up in multiple outfit posts, while other pairs of shoes I own have never once been featured. How does inequality such as that contribute to wardrobe harmony?

I've even written posts with in-your-face titles like "My Favorite Dress" and "The Outfit I Don't Like," leaving no room for uncertainty about my true feelings concerning the clothes in my closet.

This is an issue I'd like to raise awareness about, because I truly believe that all clothes deserve their chance to shine. If there's anything you'd like to do to help my cause, let me know!

I believe that even ugly clothes should have an opportunity to be blogged about, as long as they have an interesting story to tell. If they're ugly and boring...then maybe we need to ask why are they in our wardrobe at all?

Already Accomplished

This is a long-ago published post, from 2013, linked up in April 2015 to Kiki's The Circle Linkup. I added a few more items to the list to bring it closer up-to-date with reality.

Item #18: Songkran Festival in Hat Yai
So here's the Bucket List of great, funny, and life-changing experiences I've already had:

1. Swim in the Indian Ocean.
2. Have articles published in magazines.
3. Get my Bachelor's degree before the age of 21.
4. Live in a Jellystone campground in a motor home for over 2 months.
5. Swim in 2 of the Great Lakes.
6. See world landmarks: Mount Rushmore and the Petronas Towers.
7. Get lost while hiking.
8. Survive a natural disaster: 2004 SE Asia Tsunami
10. Hitchhike.
11. Obtain a cosmetology license.
12. Celebrate Chinese New Year.
13. Be a bridesmaid. 
14. Go to a drive-in theater.
15. Own a dollhouse.
16. Get married before the age of 20.
17. Get paid to act in a commercial.
18. Participate in the Songkran Festival.
19. Work on the cast of a TV show broadcast on my college's channel.
20. Study (official classes and lessons) 4 foreign languages: Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, Bahasa.
21. Sew a dress for myself that actually fits.
22. Ring in the New Year while dancing on the beach of the Indian Ocean.
23. Win 1st place in a high school-level International acting competition.
24. Take ballroom dance lessons.
25. Color my hair fuchsia, purple, and blue.
26. Own a yukata, qipao, sari, baju kebaya, and salwar kameez.
27.Visit National Parks: Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Cave, and Yellowstone
28. Ride the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world: (June 2000: The Millenium Force)
29. Watch a midnight movie on opening day: Pirates of the Caribbean 3
30. Complete a "Chinese Fire-Drill" (Sorry, I don't know the PC name. I don't think this is a very PC activity)
31. Get locked out of my car, twice.
32.Visit Mall of America
33. See a Major League Baseball Game: #1 Tigers, #2 Rangers
34. Own a pet (unwillingly, but still)
35. Attend a blog conference
36. Get lost while hiking (and found after several hours)
37. Ride on an overnight train.
38. Teach a VBS class.
39. A Star Wars marathon of all 6 movies.
40. A LOTR marathon with all 3 movies.
41. Go tent camping.
42. Stay in a stranger's house (thanks, Airbnb!)
43. Visit DisneyWorld in Orlando.
44. Go kayaking
45. Attempt to ride a unicycle.
46. Get a "real job" (English teacher)
47. Live in China.
48. Visit Hong Kong Disneyland.
49. Be interviewed for a segment on the local TV news channel.
50. Hike 20 km in one day (for a non-athlete, this is supposed to be a good thing)
51. Self-publish another book, this one specifically an eBook.
52. Get my TEFL certificate.

If anything on this list sounds particularly interesting, go ahead and ask, I'm happy to tell the story!

Have you written a list like this?

An Anonymous Letter

Sometimes, I think I run across a few more anonymous letters than the average person might expect to. I'm guessing it's because I lead an unusually exciting life.

This new anonymous letter is a little different from my last experience with Mr. Anonymous. Yesterday, we went downtown to explore because there's currently an art festival going on which means that there are random bits of interesting art and sculpture all over the downtown area.

I went to the bathroom, as I tend to do, and was slightly startled to find this envelope perched on top of the soap dispenser:


Now, I'm not really one to question such an address. I like mail, and there were no other "yous" in the bathroom, so I figured I might as well take it. Once outside the bathroom, I showed the mysterious envelope to Angel and he opened it right away.

Turns out, this is part of a random love letter project that is one entry into the art festival that is going on (our art festival is known for its broad acceptance of what qualifies as art--basically, it could be anything from a puppet show to a makeshift village to a stained glass window to a gigantic metal pig).


Honestly, the wording seems a little bit flowery to me. Not even at the heights of pre-marriage amorous bliss would I have written Angel such a lovey-dovey epistle. My practical nature and my slightly toughened heart are a bit uncomfortable with such a passionate declaration of affection...and yet there's a big part of me that thinks it's pretty cool that I was the one who happened to stumble across this random little anonymous love letter.

The letter made me smile, and I think that's the mission it was intended to accomplish.

Have you ever come across an anonymous letter, for good or for evil? Have you written one?

WBBE: How to be my favorite client

 (One other way to be my favorite client is to be related to me. I always love my clients who are actually my family.)

How to be my absolute #1 most favorite client in the whole wide world:

She's a little elderly lady who you can tell is bubbling over with joy from the first moment you meet her. She comes in saying, "My hair looks like such a mess, I'm so happy that you had room for an appointment today!", and after I make two cuts, she's already gushing about how much better she feels now that her hair is looking better. She has an easy haircut. No trouble spots. She comes in every four or five weeks, and I barely even take half an inch off her hair each time. I can do her haircut in fifteen minutes, but most of the time, I take a little longer, because she's in no rush, and I'm not either. She's simply fun to be with. By the time I'm finished with her haircut, she tells the teacher what a difference I've made. "You should take a before and after picture," she says, "You wouldn't believe how much better I feel now!" She leaves, but not before leaving a $5 tip (the hair cut only costs $5).

She's the one thing I miss about beauty school.

Big Dreams

Most of the time, I can't really remember my dreams when I wake up. But a few dream memories stick around for a long, long time.

One of the rare times that I slept while Angel was awake.
 
To this day, I distinctly remember, when I was about 7 years old, I dreamed that I interrupted my mom while she was speaking with someone, and she promptly took me by the hand and led me down into a secret dungeon where she kept her other hundreds of children who had all also made the mistake of interrupting her. She locked me up with them, in spite of my tears and requests for forgiveness.

When I was 9, I dreamed that our house was surrounded by wolves and the whole family had to hide in Mom and Dad's closet to escape from the wolves.

When I was 18 and newly engaged, I had a dream that it was my wedding day and my parents told me that Angel didn't want to marry me, but it was okay because they'd found another great guy to replace him, and I could just marry that guy instead. Distraught, and not thinking clearly, I agreed to go through with the wedding. After the ceremony, I saw Angel at the reception, and I went to speak with him. He had wanted to get married after all, my parents had tricked me! Angel was upset, but I followed him around trying to explain that I wasn't really married, after all, we hadn't lived together yet, and I would just get the marriage annulled and marry Angel instead.

And a few weeks ago, I dreamed that Angel and I woke up to find my uncle and grandpa in our backyard with a lion in the back of their truck. Angel grabbed the gun from under the bed, and I headed out the door with him to see what was going on. Once we were outside, I saw a tiger in our front lawn. Angel told me, "That's not a tiger, it's just a little mountain lion." And I was like, "No. I know a tiger when I see one." I made a bolt for the car, trying to get to safety, but the tiger attacked me and I woke up from my unconsciousness in a hospital room, together with Angel and a nurse. I thought Angel was being altogether too happy and chatty with the nurse considering that his wife had just been viciously attacked by a tiger in our own front yard. He said she was his coworker, but that didn't make sense to me because we weren't in the burn unit, we were in the tiger attack unit.

I'm sensing a theme here. Apparently, wild animals appear often in my dreams, and usually my parents or  my husband play the villains.

Have you had any particularly lucid or memorable dream recently?

An Almost-Tragic Tale of The Perfect Dress


Can you believe Angel took this picture? It looks like...artistic or something...

"This dress is so perfect, it's like it was made for me!"

Well duh, because it was made for me, by me. This is my 2nd attempt at sewing a dress for myself, and it almost ended in tragic disaster.

Because I bought the wrong pattern--I bought the pattern that only included the larger set of sizes, not the size I needed.
 
We live 40 minutes from the sewing store...there was no way I was going back to buy the right pattern, even if it only cost $1....so I just decided--I'm smart, right? If I just cut all these pattern pieces smaller on every side, they'll be the same shape and the right proportions and my dress will fit, right? 

I have a feeling that my haphazard way of shrinking a pattern is not really the right way to go about it, but my some miracle, it worked! Throughout the project, I was never sure that all the pieces would fit together the way they were supposed to....but now, I have a dress! The sash was not part of the pattern, but such a dress simply cries out for an unnaturally large turquoise bow, in my opinion.

Also, this dress was started a long time ago....like June, I think. It would have been finished a long time ago, but then my sewing room had a hole in the wall and then I was overseas for a month. Excuses, excuses. I'm glad I finished it, just in time for Skirtember!

What Beauty School Taught Me


 My graduation flowers: chosen because I was elected "Most Colorful Hair and Clothes" at my school. Seems appropriate.

I'm licensed.

I've completed my state board exams and all required hours of training as well as far more than the minimum number of times that the state requires for each individual service. (By the time I got out of school, I was nearly 600 haircuts in).

What have I learned? My Grandpa always taught me not to let any year of my life go by, not to let any difficult experience pass, without learning something, for if I didn't learn anything, that time that I spent, the pain that I went through, had been for naught.


Since September 2012, I have learned plenty.


I've learned that 1500 hours is significantly longer than it sounds.

I've learned that if I ever own a business, I will make treating my employees and clients who pay to keep my business going with grace and respect a top priority--this would include providing employees and clients with clean restroom facilities. Pinching pennies and making an extra buck wherever you can is not worth making everyone who knows the way you run your business hate you.

I've learned that a strict dress code is just another word for "cruel and unusual punishment." But that's just me. I know lots of people in the world live with dress codes and enjoy their life but, man, that's gotta be tough. Wearing all black is cool once in a while, but 4 days a week for months on end wears me out.

I've learned that when you work in a service profession, some of your clients are going to treat you very poorly, and other clients are going to act like you're the the best part of their day. Sometimes the mean ones will give you really good tips, and sometimes the good ones won't leave you any tip at all, but you don't mind because they are a pleasure to serve. People are funny. The good ones make up for the bad ones, and the interesting clients are the best of all.

It's the experiences that stretch you, that get you out of your comfort zone, that you will be most proud of. I recently had a client who didn't speak a word of English. They assigned her to me, because I understand Spanish better than any of the other cosmetology students. I quickly discovered that my cosmetology-related Spanish is not that great, and that her Peruvian Spanish sounded slightly different than the Mexican accents I'm used to. But I did manage to understand what she wanted, and I was able to let her know that I understood. She left happy, and I was proud--that experience taught me that even though I might not be fluent, I was able to handle a Spanish-speaking client and give her the haircut she wanted. Hurray!

I've learned that I really, really love writing. My passion is for working with words. I never get enough of it. During slow times at school I'm constantly jotting down ideas and outlines for blog posts or magazine articles that I want to write, and when I get home, I can't wait to get on the computer and start typing away. Funny how it took beauty school to teach me that.

I also learned how to perm, cut hair, change its color, and give an enjoyable facial, manicure, or pedicure. I've also learned that I never, ever want to go to a salon to get my hair permed, colored, or higlighted, and that I will never get acrylic nails or a pedicure. Learning about all those chemicals and the negative impact that they have on the health of your hair and skin was an eye-opener for me. Add to that everything I learned about salon prices and sanitizing procedures, and I'm even more likely to stay away. This doesn't mean I won't put crazy colors back in my hair--I'll get Angel or Lizzy to help me do that at home someday. And I'll keep painting my own nails and toenails. But you probably won't catch me in a salon unless I'm working!

Furthermore, I did NOT learn how to wax eyebrows. I simply refused. I'm not a fan of hot wax + skin.

Homeschoolers are Weird

Long, long ago, in a land far, far away--I was a homeschooled kid. I've thought for a long time about writing a post against unjust homeschooler stereotypes, but Angel tells me that I'm not the best person to dispel the "Homeschoolers are Weird" myth, because, well, I'm Rachel.

 At my high school graduation party.

So I figured, instead of dispelling it, why not embrace it? Homeschoolers really ARE weird because:

1. Unlike many kids/teenagers/moms given the opportunity to stay home all day with no outside responsibilities, homeschoolers might just wake up at ungodly hours of the morning, get dressed, and immediately open up math textbooks. Very often I'd come to the breakfast table at 7 a.m., claiming, "I've already read my chapter in my history textbook and I've done math for today and tomorrow." Sometimes there would be a little competition at breakfast over who had already completed the most amount of schoolwork. This competition happened because we had no set school hours--we were finished with school for the day whenever we were finished. Depending on how diligently we worked, that could be 11 a.m. or it could be 8 p.m. Weird.

2. Homeschoolers don't really understand the concept of "spring break", and sometimes, they don't even know what a "summer break" is. Some homeschoolers do school all year round, and they often  take breaks for random vacations in mid-October or early February, when everyone else is stuck in school. Crazy.

3. Homeschoolers don't learn at the publically accepted pace. Some  study Latin in elementary school, some graduate high school at 16, and some take two years to finish third grade because they need the extra time to really get a firm grasp on the basic concepts of language and arithmetic. How strange.

4. Standardized tests are unfamiliar to homeschoolers. Sure, sometimes they go into an ACT or SAT exam after having paged through an exam prep book and score in the top 1%....but standardized tests tend to be fairly foreign to homeschooled kids (except in those states that require yearly standardized tests). That whole page of circles that you have to fill in completely with a #2 pencil? We think it's bizarre.

5. Homeschoolers don't have classmates who aren't related to them. They might have classmates 5 years older and 3 years younger--someone available to read them a practice spelling test, and someone to go through a round of multiplication flash cards with, but they don't go to school with anyone their own age. Of course, they may have Sunday school classes, children's church, youth group meetings, and after-school drama club or gymnastics lessons or mission trips or a community soccer team....but they never truly experience the socialization that comes from spending 5 days a week in a room with 20 other children, so homeschoolers are most definitely not typical.

6. Homeschoolers dress weird and come from large families and get married off before they're even grown up. Well, I do. Actually, from what I've seen, this does not apply to most homeschoolers. Lots of them dress normally, some are only only children, and plenty don't get married until they reach a respectable age. So maybe homeschoolers are more normal than I might lead you to believe, but let's ignore that for the moment.

Homeschooling isn't for everyone, and that's probably a good thing, because you wouldn't want too many weirdos running around the world. By the way, if anyone is concerned about academic preparation, the homeschool experience has led my younger brother (a sophomore) to say, "Either homeschool was really hard, or college is just really easy."

Odd.

A Noise in the Night


 My only fast food weakness is Five Guys. Apparently, I'm human.

The Situation: In the dead of night, we hear an ominous sound. A crack, a rumble, a screech, something of that sort.

Her thoughts: Well, the house could be falling down. Or it could be a robber. Or a bat or a cricket inside the house, or the cats fighting. In the case of any of those, I really don't want to know, and I especially don't want to deal with such situations in the middle of the night so I'll just wrap up a little tighter in my blankets and close my eyes and go back to sleep.

His thoughts: Either the house is falling down, there's an intruder, or something is attacking my cats. I must do something to solve the problem!! *Jumps out of bed and runs out of the room, grabbing a flashlight on the way*

Forgettable

It's so easy to forget. Angel and I began courting in March 2010, and there's been no question of our togetherness ever since, but our relationship came into being through little questionable moments during the 2008-2009 school year--moments that, though so precious to me, are all too forgettable.

Our only picture together from that school year: at his graduation.
In May 2009, Angel pleaded with me to go with his family on a trip to Chicago to visit their relatives, because I was leaving for Malaysia in two days and he wanted to spend as much time with me as possible. And I said no because 1) I'm pretty sure my parents would have not given me permission (for the record, I was 17 and he was 24) and 2)it's really weird and awkward to go along on a guy's family trip when you're "just friends" and it might make people suspect something that was not true.

He told me the night before I left that he was praying for thunderstorms so that my plane to Malaysia wouldn't leave, so that I could stay.

One cold winter's night, Angel dropped me off at my car in our college parking lot after an outing with friends, only for him to tell me that it's very bad to drive immediately after turning on your car when it's below freezing temperatures. So he told me to sit in his car and stay warm while the engine in my car warmed up, and then he gave me a 5 minute lesson in how to drive a stick shift while we waited in his car. I've never heard gear-grinding quite that loud but it didn't seem to fluster him.

In January, he told me he was so happy I finally had my driver's license so that now I could give him rides instead of him always having to give me rides.

Once, Angel didn't hang out with the rest of us and play games on Friday night because he was going on a date instead. How annoying.

He woke me up in the middle of the night with a somewhat incoherent phone call, saying, "You never really gave me any guidelines or parameters....are you going to the International Graduates Banquet?" I said, "I thought that was only for seniors." "No, anyone can go," he said, "Jeffrey and I are going, you can ride with us." I bought myself a ticket. Turns out Jeffrey didn't go--he said God told him not to, and who can argue with that? Angel and I still drove together because I didn't know how to get to the banquet hall.

Angel joined the cast of the on-campus tv show that I worked on--being in front of a camera isn't something he likes to do at all.

About a half-dozen times, while studying together, he proposed that we go get some dinner. I'd ask, "Who else is going?" and he'd say, "Nobody." and I'd say, "Sorry, I can't."

One night, Angel, Jeffrey, and I wanted to eat dinner together. Jeffrey didn't have any money, and Angel and I had little. Angel and I split the cost of an $8 pizza for the three of us to share, and Angel bought himself and Jeffrey each a bottle of pop out of the vending machine. I had enough money to buy a bottle of pop, but I was cheap, so Angel said I could share his.

One Saturday evening he called and asked if I wanted to go do something, I said that my little cousins were over and we were playing board games. Did he want to come? Angel came over and spent one of his last few evenings as a college student playing dominoes with my little cousins and I.

Angel took this selfie on MY camera when I wasn't around. Is that not a 'bad guy alert'?

I remember thinking, "Man, if I was Angel's girlfriend, I don't think I'd let him spend  this much time with Rachel."

One day he walked by my studying table and said, "I have to buy gifts for our Bible study leaders and I'm really bad at picking out presents, can you come with me quick to the bookstore and pick out something cool?" It's an errand, right? That sounds legitimate. I went. We listened to Rich Mullin's "If I Stand" on the way.

He told his landlady all about me--what exactly he said I don't know, but it was enough to make her seek me out at his college graduation and sit with me, asking periodic questions about the gifts of the Spirit and theological matters of that sort.

I remember glancing toward the parking lot to see if his car was parked next to mine, and smiling when I saw that it was, because once he found out where I always parked, it usually was.

Once he called me at 10:00 pm and said, "I'm just leaving campus and I saw your car in the parking lot. Are you okay? Are you still studying this late?" And I told him, no, I was fine, I was at a ballroom dance lesson.

I didn't have any money on me, and he bought me a taco when a group of us went out to Taco Bell. I made sure to pay him back with a dollar the next time I saw him, and he was happy to accept it.

...........................................................................................................................

It's a good thing I did leave in May 2009. These are the moments when we began, but Angel wasn't actually ready for me back then. He liked me, sure, he wanted to hang out. No commitment, or anything of that sort. He was kind of a bad guy. After I left to Malaysia, I squashed any blooming hopes that had started to spring up in my heart and told myself that I was silly, I was mistaken, none of these little moments were anything other than just friendship with a cheeseball of a guy. When I moved back to Michigan in the fall, Angel wasn't there, and I was fine with that. In March 2010, he came back, and I was fine with that too.

2010 was the year for us--but it wouldn't have happened without the friendship, the suspicions, the tears, the laughter, the adventures with friends, and the one unexpected kiss of 2008-2009

What About Personal Style?

Lizzy and I are both brunette. We're close in age, and have similar face structures, skin colors, and figures. She's two inches taller than me, but for the moment, let's ignore that. According to the typical magazine fashion advice column, we should probably wear similar colors and silhouettes, in order to best look 'fashionable' and 'enhance our natural beauty.'

However, we seem to have gone our own very different paths in collecting our wardrobe. We decided to make an experiment in dressing up the other one in a signature outfit of the other's for the fun of it, to see what it felt like to be in costume.

I chose to make Lizzy wear my favorite purple jeans over turquoise tights, red flats, and a pink t-shirt under my multi-colored dress. She said she felt like a clown. But if you've been reading for any length of time, you know that this outfit is one I'd wear with love and joy!



She tortured me. She didn't take it easy on me at all. My outfit was this funny brown lacy tunic and a HUGE belt and HUGE boots. I'm generally okay with experimenting with different styles, but I felt like a hobbit. Lizzy said I looked just like a 'wood elf' which is the look she generally goes for. I'm still thinking hobbit.


The lesson here is that you might still look good wearing something that's totally not your style....but if you still don't like it, don't feel obligated to wear it longer than it takes to snap a couple of silly pictures.

Do you like to try different styles, or do you stick to what you already know you love?

Pretending to Be a Princess







In 2006, somebody gave me this dress. It had belonged to her granddaughter or niece, someone who had worn it already and didn't have use for it anymore. It's hard to come up with uses for beaded, shimmery pink ballgowns, I must agree.

In the years I've had it, I've worn it to an extremely fancy wedding reception and as a Ginger Grant costume at a costume party. I've lent it to a cousin to wear to a school dance. There isn't a huge demand for pink ballgowns in my life, and sometimes that's a little bit of a sad thing. This gown is bigger and shinier and more beaded than even my wedding dress, it's definitely the fanciest thing in my closet. With each passing year it becomes a little more outdated, though in today's world of everything 'vintage' being cool....it might just always be in style.

My idea for participating in Katie's photoshoot link-up this month was obviously to don my extravagant pink ballgown and drag my brother out to the field behind my house for a few pictures. Like all pretty pictures on the blog, these were taken by Isaac. If you're not related to a photographer, you should start convincing one of your siblings or cousins to marry one. Because having a photographer in the family is at least as useful as having a medical professional in the family.

Also, I figure it's a good thing to prove every once in a while that I actually can do my own makeup and hair. Then, I got lazy and just did my makeup. Those windswept curls are the actual result of having curly hair and being outdoors. I have no idea how to create fake windswept curls.
(In this shot, I'm holding down my hair because it was attempting to go from windswept curls to I've been living in the wilderness curls)

Obviously, I'm also claiming that this totally counts as a dress for Skirtember, though I've been wearing significantly more casual dresses every other day of the week. For example, I wore this dress on Tuesday and this dress today. Other than that they're all blending together, but I promise, it's been a different dress every day!

Unmerited Love

During the last few days of my trip to Malaysia, my Auntie wanted to take me on an outing. She had a plan all lined up: Dad would drop me off at her house, we'd walk to my favorite restaurant for breakfast, and then we'd ride the bus to Little India to do some shopping.

I first  met Auntie when I was 13 and she was my neighbor. In the last nine years, she's become a part of my family, and I've become a part of hers. Today, I don't want to tell you about her life, the hardships she's lived through, or her habits and traditions, I just want to talk about her love.

 The same day of this outing, Auntie's daughter decided I needed yet another pretty dress, and gave me this sari.

Auntie has several children of her own, as well as two small grandchildren, but that hasn't stopped her from deciding long ago that all 7 of us kids were also her children. She hasn't met most of our relatives in America, but she can recognize nearly all of them in pictures, and she asks about our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins by name. Auntie has always cared for my siblings and I just as if we really were her children, and her love is one I can barely understand or explain.

Auntie is not well-off. I know that when she takes me out, she's going to want to buy me presents. I got a little nervous on our outing, and I told her not to spend too much money on me. She did not listen. Once we got off the bus, she took me straight to a grocery store where she bought me 10 packages of Indian sauces and 4 packages of papadam. When I said I didn't need so many, she said, "That's okay, give whatever you don't need to Isaac."

Then she took me to the dress shop. I knew that there wasn't any way she'd let me out of the shop without buying me an outfit, so when she told me to pick out a salwar kameez pattern to have custom tailored for me while we ate lunch, I complied. Together, we picked out the pattern that I thought was prettiest, and I stood awkwardly getting my measurements taken by the tailor while she chatted with him and insisted that he remember all the details we wanted for the tunic.

When we walked out of the clothes store, she handed me a bag with a purple and blue silk sari in it. I don't even know when we were apart long enough for her to choose and buy a sari, but my Auntie was smart enough to know that I would offer excuses if she asked me first about buying the sari, so she bought it without my permission.

We had 90 minutes to kill while my outfit was being sewn, so we headed to the jewelry store where she bought me bindis and henna. I said I didn't want any earrings, so she bought ten pairs of earrings for me to give to my aunts and cousins in the U.S. We went to a restaurant for drinks, and I told her there was no need to spoil me so. I told her that I didn't want her to spend so much money on me. She said, "Rachel, why should I work if not to be able to buy good things for my children?"

In my lifetime, I've been spoiled rotten by people in my family and among my friends who consistently treat me with love and generosity. When I think of my Auntie, I sometimes try to wonder what I've done to deserve the care that she shows for me and my family--and my only conclusion is that I've done nothing. I simply don't deserve to be loved the way she loves me. It's a love beyond reason, a generosity outside the bounds of common sense.

Jesus once spoke highly of a woman who dropped two small copper coins, all she had, into the temple treasury. She wasn't generous out of the excess of her possessions, she was generous when she had no excess. For the last nine years of my life, I've had the privilege to be called her daughter.

 Auntie doesn't like to get her picture taken, but I found this one of her with her granddaughter, my honorary niece.

Has someone in your life shown you a love and generosity that humbled you?

Skills I Lack



Riding a Unicycle.

Surfing.

Speaking most languages in the world.

Quilting.

Singing.

Backflips.

Parallel parking.

Driving a stick shift.

Watercolor painting.

Swallowing swords.

Driving a motorcycle.

Using a jackhammer.

 Fencing.

Preventing my face from showing what I really think.

Knitting.

Juggling.

Starting an IV.

 Piloting an airplane.

Swimming 110 miles in a row.

Taking off my nail polish in a civilized manner.

Baking pies from scratch.

Playing polo.

Playing tennis.

Playing volleyball.

Playing any sport involving a ball.

Burning cds.

Sticking out my tongue far enough to touch my nose.

Changing struts on a car.

Using Photoshop.

Doing the splits.

Playing the violin.
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There. I feel highly unaccomplished right now. And now that you are all feeling so good about yourselves for being able to do things that I can't currently do--what skills don't you have? {insert evil grin}

When The Parents are Away....

Sometimes people ask me what it was like to grow up in a family with seven kids. Somehow I think they expect sob stories about not getting enough attention from my parents....or never being able to go to the bathroom....or of starving when we ran out of food.

Well, the running out of food part did happen. During the peak few years when my parents had the highest number of teenagers and the highest number of kids living at home....the pots and pans we owned weren't really big enough to cook quite enough food as we would have happily devoured, and if you didn't eat fast, you didn't get seconds. But you always got firsts....as long as you were at the table when dinner started, that is.
 2007. Approximately what we looked like when adventures like this were taking place.

But you won't hear any sob stories from me about growing up in a big family. Once I was a teenager, my parents would leave all 7 of us home alone when they went out on dates or went to meetings...and those days of being left home alone were the foundation for some of the greatest adventures of my childhood.

It's not so much that when my parents left we would do bad things....it was more that when my parents left, we would do things that they probably wouldn't have said "yes" to if we'd had to ask them.

One day, we decided to get creative and perform a science experiment we'd found in a textbook: use newspaper and cardboard and tape to build a container around a raw egg, drop it off a balcony, and see if the egg cracked or if it remained whole.

It's an educational activity, what could go wrong? We lined up on the 2nd story balcony, and dropped our egg packages. Only, Someone, didn't drop theirs. Someone threw their egg package. Someone threw it so hard that it didn't land anywhere in our (admittedly, very tiny) yard, and instead landed  on the other side of a cement wall, in our neighbor's yard (it's the very same cement wall with metal bars sticking out of it that you can see in the background of the group photo above).

We stared at one another in shock, and instantly ran back into the house. I was all for simply forgetting this incident, but Lizzy insisted on being responsible, trying to get the neighbors' attention to apologize and get the egg package back. Isaac and I hid inside the kitchen and peeked through cracked windows as Lizzy went outdoors and jumped around and made noise till she got the attention of the little aunty who lived next door. She tried to ask the aunty to hand the paper package back over the fence, but the aunty didn't speak much English, so first she gave Lizzy a couple of limes from their lime tree. And then some curry leaves from their curry leaf tree. Finally, she saw the newspaper package, by this time oozing with egg, and picked it up and gave it to Lizzy. "Feed your dog?" the aunty asked. 

Flustered, Lizzy said, "Umm, yes! Thank you! Sorry!" and ran back inside, where Isaac and I were rolling on the floor, cracking up at the ridiculousness of the whole exchange.

Have you ever performed this particular experiment?

Me?? At a Blog Conference?


 This isn't even our cat, but I think this is in the top 10 strangest pictures of Angel. It brings out so many "Whys?"

So, this is crazy, but I'm going to the Influence Conference.

I know, I know. I don't really seem like the type. Trust me, I don't really feel like the conference-going type. But my mom recently told me that I shouldn't be afraid to invest into blogging and actually work to learn more about the writing industry and where I would best fit into that industry.

A few days after that, Angel told me, "You know, you can go to a blog conference anytime you want."

I didn't even know he knew blog conferences existed. I didn't even know that I would be interested in going to one if I thought it was a possibility.

A few days later, I read about the Influence Conference. I found out that it was in Indianapolis, just a medium-sized roadtrip from home, and I noticed that Angel had the days of the conference off of work. From my research, it was clear to me that my dreams of being a voice of truth, of speaking grace and joy and passion for life--of being a Christian writer in a non-Christian writing world--lined up with the goals of the Influence Conference. I asked Angel what he thought about it, and he said, "Let's go!"

This all took place within the first week of September, and now we're headed for the conference at the end of September. We're good at quickly switching plans around and adjusting to changes. I'm excited to spend a little time in Indianapolis, a city I've never stayed in before.

Honestly, I don't know what to expect. I'm looking forward to meeting people who actually have experience at the game of writing and getting published. I'm mentally preparing myself not to take the easy route out and glue myself to the wall for safety the entire time, because that's basically my gut response to the sight of a large room full of people.

I may not seem like the prime candidate for the Influence Conference. For one thing, my husband is going with me (not to the actual conference, but he has big plans of watching TV in hotel room most of the weekend). We're not staying at the conference hotel, but at a significantly cheaper one in the same general area, and I'm glad to have him as driver, bodyguard, and roommate for the weekend. I'll probably be wearing Doc Martens and studded leather bracelets the whole time because they are my happy accessories. I'll be the one with the weird business cards because the combination of my lack of graphic design skills + reluctance to spend unnecessary money means that I'll be handing out itsy-bitsy folders filled with handwritten information instead.

This is a grand experiment, we shall see what happens!

Hey, different is good, right? And you really can't beat $9 for all the supplies needed to make 90 funny little folders. Leave it to me to not be able to resign myself to a normal rectangular business card....

Wearing Dresses




Never in my life before coming across this dress had I ever wanted to adhere to the shopping advice: "If you like it, buy one in every color." But I did love this dress so much I wanted to buy it in all four colors it came in: dark turquoise, mint, pink, and gray. However, that would be irresponsible, so I didn't. My little sister convinced me that mint was the one to choose. I still miss those other colors...

I'm doing the Skirtember challenge this month. In Michigan, this is the perfect time to do it. I see this as one last fling with all my skirts and dresses before the world freezes and they get packed away for months. In winter, my main priority in getting dressed is not freezing to death. I plan to wear a different dress or skirt every day, and I'll see if I can go without any repeats for the whole month. No guarantees on pictures of every single outfit, though. That could get excessive. And annoying.

A few other outfits from the previous week:

























*The outfit with the blue polka-dot dress and grey polka-dot leggings was christened "The Chicken Pox Outfit" by Angel. Also, he hates that floor-length skirt nearly as much as he hates my high-waisted pencil skirt. And that's why I rarely wear it.... Thank you, Angel.

We Are Weird

 At the beach, just before it started raining.

Sometimes, I just look at our lives, and our history together, and think, man, we are really weird. Of course, I also think that most lives seem strange when looked at from the inside.

Proof?

  • When we were first courting, Angel told me that he had decided he wouldn't love me until after we got married. And I was okay with that. (Though, to be honest, I didn't really believe him)
  • We got married on a Saturday afternoon. Saturday night, we opened all of our wedding presents. Sunday morning and for most of our first day of marriage, we wrote all of our thank you cards, and they were mailed out on Monday. If that isn't dedication to politeness (and a strange set of priorities), I don't know what is.
  • We rarely go to the beach, and when we do, only when it's storming. Once we got pulled over on the way home from the beach, and the policeman acted as if we must have been up to no good when he asked where we were coming from and Angel answered "The beach." Because there was a slight thunderstorm at the time... 
  • We really like going shoe shopping, together. I know that traditionally shoe shopping is fun for girls and torture for guys....but it just so happens that Angel really appreciates shoes and we like exploring all the shoe stores in the mall together in pursuit of the perfect pair of work shoes (for him) or winter boots (for me). Seriously, he instigates shoe shopping expeditions. My sister recently wrote to me, "I heard the phrase 'Shoe love is true love' and it reminded me of you and Angel." Appropriate.
  • We name our cats after medicines and come up with medical-sounding acronyms to serve as code words for use in everyday life. (Medical people have so many acronyms!!!)
  • There's the whole bear costume thing, of course. That's simply bizarre.
  • One time, I woke up, and the room was completely dark, I couldn't see what time it was, and I just shook Angel and asked him, "Did you set your alarm before you fell asleep?" He said, "No, I'm not even going to work today." "Umm, yes, you are, it's Wednesday!" "Are you sure?" he asked, slowly climbing out of bed and going to the kitchen to take a look at the calendar. "What? I have to work?!" It was merely 20 minutes till he had to be on his way, but he got ready and made it out the door on time. This is the result of a constantly changing work schedule and a wife who is abnormally alert even in the wee hours of the morning.
  • And the other day, we had to return a movie at the library, pay my car insurance, and go out to eat using a gift card someone gave me. Angel suggested that we bike to all three places. The distance wasn't far, MapQuest estimates nearly 7 miles round trip, but our home is separated from civilization by 55 mph country highways with no sidewalks, and we typically avoid those and stick to the dirt roads around our house when biking. But we braved the highways and set out on our adventure. I'm no athlete (can you tell by the striped dress and purple jeans I chose to wear for a bike outing?). We had no unfortunate run-ins with automobiles, and we even went to the dollar store and bought a few fireworks. You might be thinking that I'm highly recommending such an outing to you all as an inexpensive date.....but no. Six months worth of car insurance is no joke, people. This is no cheap date, rather, a very labor intensive way to accomplish an expensive errand!


Are there ever moments when you look at your life and think, "Man, this is weird!"?

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And! I just launched a brand-new sponsorship program with an introductory price of $5 for a 200x200 sidebar ad plus plenty of tender devotion from me! Read all about my advertising program, and get a spot for your blog. Only 3 available at a time, so make the decision to invest in your blog a quick one! :)

Welcome Home*, Lizzy!



 The angle of this picture really makes me look like the abnormally short sibling. Or maybe that's true...

*For lack of a better term, Home in this context means the address on your college tuition statement.

After all the times I've been to Chicago, I finally made it to the Bean in Millenium Park. We had a day trip to Chicago on Labor Day to pick up my sister and bring her back to Michigan after her summer adventure of living in Israel (In case you're not up to date, my younger sister, Lizzy, spent the last three months working as a nanny in Israel). We planned to meet her and my aunt at the Bean at 12:00 pm. To me, it felt a little bit like a blind date--well, at least the part about meeting at a set time in a public park and making plans to go out for lunch afterwards. Obviously, I knew I would recognize my aunt  and cousins and my tallest little sister, so that part wasn't like a blind date.

We ate at The Cheesecake Factory and there was much hugging and exchanging of gifts and stories. Us siblings are often separated, but we feel right at home when we get back together.

This Chicago day trip went significantly better than our last road trip to Chicago. Isaac, Lizzy, Angel, and I have some history of experiencing car trouble when we're all together, so we were most excited to successfully survive a trip with all car parts intact.

It must be admitted that spending a couple months living in Israel should be among the most exciting travel adventures possible, so I asked Lizzy to let you guys in on a couple of the highlights from her trip:


 At the Sea of Galilee

1. What was the most exciting experience you had?

 I’d have to say that the new baby was the most exciting, but that’s a given, what would be more exciting than a new born baby? Taking a beginner's Hebrew class was also very exciting, as well at getting to and from class on my own. Seeing the sites that I'd read about in the Bible! Sometimes I just had to stop and breathe and try to take in where I was and just how amazing it was to be there. AND! Catching a baby porcupine that at first I thought was a hedgehog. 

 2. What was the scariest experience? 

There was a “bomb scare” on the train I was taking home from Hebrew class. There are guards who walk up and down the trains looking for suspicious things. On that night, they found something and started yelling at all of us to get off the train. So we got off and walked. I was only about a 15 minute walk away from the bus stop I was trying to get to . But that made things feel very real. My friends who I met in Israel all had their stories of forgetting bags on the public transportation only to recover them after they had been shot up by bomb squad robots. 

3. Most culturally shocking? 

Probably when a European guy kissed me on the cheek when saying goodbye. haha! 

4. What will you miss the most? 

I’m going to miss my kids! The family I was staying with and nannying for was awesome. I’m going to miss the food and wearing middle eastern/hippy style clothes and feeling normal.

5. What were you looking forward to when returning to America? 

My siblings!! Yay Rachel and Angel and Isaac! I missed these guys too much. I’m also looking forward to seeing my buddies at my Bible study group. I miss you guys! I am not looking forward to going to college again...haha.

DoorbellPhobia

 
 You will be wearing pajamas and in the middle of making Christmas cards when someone knocks on your door.

Are you, or is anyone you know affected by DoorbellPhobia, the fear of unexpected visitors? This is a strange syndrome, striking most severely when a knock on the door occurs in the middle of an elaborate craft project, or when the sock basket is dumped all over the living room floor. Its impact is also felt when one’s hair has only barely survived a long day of housework with little of its dignity still intact. As yet there is no known cure for individuals affected by this strange fear. 
Always, always at those most inopportune moments, the doorbell rings. And it’s the pastor. Or your Great-Grandma. Sometimes it’s just the UPS guy or Girl Scouts, but you won’t know until you open the door, so when the doorbell rings, you don’t know if whoever is it expects to be invited inside, or if they’ll be satisfied by a frantic left hand stuck outside for a quick signature and a grab at the cardboard box.

Sometimes, the best choice is simply to run. That’s usually what I do, if Angel’s home. We don’t have a doorbell, so unexpected visitors usually rap on a kitchen window. When I hear that knocking, I’m hiding in my bedroom within seconds, calling out to Angel as I run, “Answer the door, someone’s here!” Usually I stay in my room until the visitor is gone, or until it’s been determined that it’s someone who’s not scary at all. Like my cousins. 

I know it’s irrational. Even though I understand that most likely, the people who rap on my window are people I love, it always seems like a risky thing to open the door to just anyone. In my defense, one time I opened the door to the electric meter reader, and he totally hit on me, even asking for my phone number and if we could be friends. That's the only time anyone has ever hit on me in my life. See what can happen when you open a door? That’s why I try to leave it to Angel. And I know I’m not the only one who’s instant reaction to a doorbell is “Where is the closest hiding spot?” My family gets unexpected visitors nearly every day, because they live in a large apartment building, and every day, most of the family will instantly disappear whenever they hear the tinkling of the doorbell, leaving some unfortunate sister to open the door and greet the visitor of the moment, the rest of the family not appearing from behind closed doors until they’re sure the coast is clear.

Do you find that a doorbell has the ability to inspire terror?

Know it All


 Our expressions crack me up.

Did you know that if you have a laptop so new that it doesn't have to be plugged in every second or else it will die, it will stay alive for hours while you type away on it in the car? Fastest drive to visit my grandparents ever.

Did you know that Frontera salsa is addictive? Angel and I discovered it in the Chicago airport, of all places, and it easily outpaces all of my other previously favorite salsa brands. Too bad it's expensive. Why is all the good stuff expensive?

Did you know that high heels are really uncomfortable? Oh wait, of course you knew that. Everybody knows that. I'm really starting to wonder whether they are even worth it. Ever. So, the latest trend for fall and winter is sneakers and boots with dresses, forever and ever, so shall it be written, so shall it be done.

Today, I'm over on the QUITE Magazine website. So you may go read that if you'd like. Backstory: This article was inspired by a couple I read about who'd been married 50 years and were still attending marriage retreats. I think if I'd been married 50 years I would certainly be arrogant enough to think I knew it all....but maybe it takes age and experience like that to humble you enough to realize that you'll never know everything there is to know.

Steps to Getting Dressed for a Date




 In only 8 simple steps, you too could be well-dressed and on your way to a $3.50 movie!

1. I was wearing this black and white polka dot sundress around the house because it was hot, and I was wearing my fork earrings because I'm in love with them.

2. Angel said, "Let's go see Now You See Me at the cheap theater!"

3. I must civilize my outfit. I tie on my light blue, anchor-patterned shirt to cover my shoulders.

4. I add a blue flower to my hair. 

5. Dr. Martens and Pink Sparkly Converse were considered as possible shoes, but nude sneaker-wedges made the final cut.

6. I look at myself in the mirror. "Eww. This looks preppy. And randomly patriotic."

7. What's the cure for unintended preppiness and patriotism? A black ribbon choker and four leather studded arm bands, of course. 

8. Success.
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P.S. In case you didn't know, I'm joining in Skirtember. First link-up is next Monday!

P.P.S. Well, this one you obviously know already, if you've ever been here before. There's been a blog transformation, courtesy of Angi. She's good at what she does and her prices are suitable for the non-millionaires among us. And seriously, I think it was Tuesday when I contacted her first about a blog design. Less than a week and it's already here? Take a few minutes to check out features like the non-obnoxious "Pin" button when you hover over my photos and also my brand new "Search" box on the sidebar. I revamped all the blog pages in honor of the new design, so go check out About and Best Of and Advertise and Questions? and tell me how glorious they are. This is the new look of The Random Writings of Rachel, and I am okay with that.