28 February 2016

How We Made a Song Parody (Or, Doing Cool Stuff Even When You Don't Know How)

I have a long-standing love for clever parodies and spoofs. We've periodically discussed making some sort of song parody music video, but the idea has always been summarily dismissed as too complex for us because I don't know how to mix music and we don't have recording equipment and we'd never be able to make something as cool as everybody else does.

On Friday evening, we went out for dinner and Rebekah said that she thought it would be cool to make a parody of Tangled's "I See the Light" using the phrase "It is Lunchtime" as the new title, and make it a whole story about the long wait for lunch every morning. I agreed that it would be cool, but the fact remained that we had no idea how to make music videos.

I woke up early on Saturday morning and started simultaneously researching copyright as regards song parodies, looking for software that could mix musical tracks, and writing new lyrics to the song. I discovered the apparently well-known existence of Audacity, open-source, free software that can do all sorts of audio related things, found out that parodies can be protected under the "fair use" area of copyright law, as long as they are truly parody-ing, that is, ridiculing, the original work to some extent. In my way of thinking, turning a romantic love song into a love song about lunch makes perfect sense as a parody.

Writing the lyrics came easily--I always knew that would be the easiest part. I'm not a professional as many things....but I am a professional hairstylist and writer, so I trust myself in those areas. I sent the lyrics to my family, and we made a few adjustments. Then we were away most of the day on Saturday, involved in various projects from 9:30-3:30 p.m.

Once we got home, we got back to work. Rebekah was chosen to be the singer (because you don't want to hear me sing), and we spent a solid 2 hours turning mom's bedroom into a silent recording studio, having her learn the song and sing it properly to the music. A good chunk of the two hours was spent trying to get Audacity to do what I wanted it to do with the audio tracks. Google is very helpful in those cases. We finished that project in time for dinner.

On Sunday, we went to church, went grocery shopping, and then everyone was in a lazy mood, so I took the younger kids swimming and let my music video "star" rest. We started filming at 4:30 and finished at 6, just as the rest of the family began eating their dinner, we took a couple shots with the food that others, not so distracted by filming, had made.

Right after dinner I edited it, and that's how we made a song parody. What do you think? Have you ever decided to make a music video just for the fun of it?

When was the last time you just decided to do something, even though you didn't know how to do it? Why not today?
24 February 2016

Marriage Is Easy {According to my Husband}

Many years ago, I was squished into the messy backseat of Angel's 2-door car while he and our friend J. took the captain chairs in front. We were eating the food we'd just picked up from the drivethru while parked in the McDonald's parking lot because it was really cold outside and we'd arrived at McD's just after their dining room closed for the night.

{Such an old picture but I still love it.}

During my freshman year of college, the 3 of us were usually together. A senior nursing student, a senior engineering student, and a freshman Mandarin Chinese major. I was innocently munching away on my hamburger when J. declared, "Who ever said marriage had to be hard?"

The guys really started going off on this topic--the main idea being that every message that we young people get these days is that marriage is one of the hardest things you'll ever do and you'll have to really work for it and you better be 100% sure you're not making a terrible mistake when you take those vows because marriage has the potential to ruin your life. Their conclusion that night, the boisterous opinion of single college seniors in their early 20s, was that marriage could be easy. There seemed to be no reason, in their minds, why one had to approach marriage as if it would be a difficult challenge, a hard burden to bear.

I sat there, giggling in the backseat. I take a rather more complex view on the topic--being married to terrible people, criminals and murderers and abusers and selfish ingrates, obviously makes many people's lives and marriages very hard indeed. That evening, though, I giggled as I heard these two friends of mine declare, without any experience in the matter, that it was completely possible for people to be married and to find that an easy relationship to navigate.


The funny thing is, Angel still sticks to that idea once hashed out in the parking lot of McDonald's all those years ago. To this day, he'll still say that his only experience of marriage is that it's "easy."

Granted, this is the same person who can move to two countries in two years, making a major career change and lifestyle shift and be like: "no big deal." Oh, he also doesn't think nursing school is nearly as hard or overwhelming as everyone acts like it is. And he was a nurse specializing in burn care for 5 years and didn't always think the schedule was a lot of fun or hospital policy changes, either, but the actual work wasn't hard--so he says. So, take his opinion knowing that he doesn't see any challenge he's ever faced as a challenge at all. He goes through life seeing himself as spoiled rotten with the awesome education and opportunities and wife he's gotten, and thinks he doesn't deserve any of it. Some people are proud of themselves for what they accomplish in the face of adversity. Angel isn't proud of himself and doesn't think he's ever faced adversity. Most people who knew his story would say that he has, but it doesn't occur to him to view his own life that way.

I've long found this an interesting and attractive quality. In a world where people are proud of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps--where they declare boldly that they are self-made--where people are offended at the mere suggestion that they had rich parents and a privileged lifestyle, and that contributes to their education and success as adults...I'm intrigued by this guy who, if you ask, will never claim that he's worked hard for all the good things in his own life. He sees life and everything in it as an an unmerited gift, and would see it as sheer ungratefulness to look at the good marriage he's been gifted with and call it anything other than "easy."

My thoughts haven't changed too much from the thoughts I had back then, as a 17 year old. I'm not nearly as confident in the ability to say "Marriage is easy" like it's some kind of fact. Because much of the world doesn't experience the marriage relationship as easy. The logical side of my brain doesn't allow one marriage to be a proof-text for such an outlandish statement.

And while I am not naturally the sort of person to ignore my own accomplishments, I appreciate the goodness and grace in refusing to dramatize our own little difficulties and sufferings. When I don't act like my own immense strength of character has helped me through countless trials, I can actually acknowledge the source of my strength and fortitude (for me, that source is the grace of God). It would be terribly arrogant of me to look back on 5 years of marriage, recall the handful of times that Angel has aroused my feisty Irish temper and nod knowingly to other wives, saying: "Marriage is hard work, guys."

It's from Angel I've learned to remain humble (to some extent, humility is a more challenging concept for me than it is for him), in the face of our mini-challenges, and not over-dramatize my accomplishments in the face of adversity. From him I've learned the beauty of being oh-so-grateful for a love-filled life that I did nothing to earn, rather than trying to stand on my merits and claim that I deserve everything I've ever gotten and more.

So while I remain unwilling to state it as if it were some kind of universal fact, I will say, "Our marriage is easy." In fact, the past five-going-on-six years together have been a piece of cake, flavored with long walks at the cemetery and shared grocery shopping trips, frosted with feelings of homesickness swirled with the after-effects of pranks that make me laugh so hard I think I'll never stop. It's got sprinkles of impatience and uncertainty but there's a great big dollop of head-over-heels, never-though-it-would-happen-to-me kinda love to top it off.


{Postscript: I had Angel read this post before publishing. His response was that he thinks the reason he views marriage is easy is because he's married to me, and anyone would find it easy to be married to me. I'm still convinced that this whole "Marriage is Easy" thing is much more about the kind of person he is and the way he views life than the actual marriage experience...but I'll take the compliment, nonetheless. Which, in turn, proves that my journey of learning humility is still in progress.}

{P.P.S: Also, because "Marriage is easy!" is pretty much the only advice Angel would ever give on the topic, I'm also linking up with #LoveBlog today. I'm not claiming it's the most helpful advice in the world...but hopefilled, it is.}

What do you think?
23 February 2016

Why I Don't Buy Cheap Shoes

It was the second time that I was supergluing the pair of sandals that I got for Christmas back together when I exclaimed in dismay, "This is why I don't buy cheap shoes!!!!"

They were a cute and actually fairly comfortable pair of red sandals, purchased for about $9 USD, and a Christmas present, so something I ought to be grateful for...but it's hard to remain grateful the second time the same pair of shoes breaks while you're walking.

Shoes break, such is life, but twice in less than two months of regular wear? That's ridiculous!

I often err too much on the side of being thrifty. After all, I read "The Complete Tightwad Gazette" when I was 8 years old, for the fun of it. But shoes have become an area where I'm more likely to spend a little more for a trustworthy brand, ever since I got married and Angel opened my eyes to the existence of brand-name shoes that are actually worth buying because they hold up over time. That was a brand-new concept to me.

And that's why my shoe rack is now populated with real Chacos and Clarks and Converse instead of sub-$10 clearance Walmart shoes. I still sometimes cringe at the prices, but thus far I've yet to spend somewhere between $50-$100 on a shoe and be disappointed.

I used to think shoes ought to cost well under $20. I've since changed my tune, and have gone for the longer-lasting, pricier shoes. (Granted, I do realize that when talking about shoes, $50-100 is definitely on the low end of pricey, but I'm talking about pricey as befits a normal small budget, not pricey in comparison to a multimillionaire, right?) I like having reliable shoes and wearing the same pairs for years before they break down. The Keens Angel bought me for our honeymoon in 2011 are nearing the end of their useful life, but I'll squeeze a few more months' worth of muddy hikes out of them, and 5 years isn't too shabby for a pair of sandals worn in rough conditions and washed countless times.

Of course, there's always moments when you hit the best of both worlds, like when I stumbled into a clearance sale of Converse and scored this pair of beauties for $20. My pink sparkly Converse were purchased 5 years ago and I'm not even close to thinking about retiring them. I expect to get just as much use out of these. The function-less zippers on the heel are what makes them so awesome.

What's your priority in shoe shopping? Functionality, look, price? What makes a shoe worth buying for you?
21 February 2016

My Family: Special Skills and Fatal Flaws

 I have a lot of family, from my large quantity of cousins to Angel's entire circle of relations, but for the purposes of this post, I'm just talking about my parents and all these siblings I grew up with:

  {2013. In the years since, #6 has moved up to 2nd place in the stairsteps, putting me, #1, next to #7}

Things my family does well:

- Looking exactly like everybody else in the family. Nothing like being mistaken for your mom and your sisters...all the time.

- Following Dad in airports. He knows where he's going, and we don't. It's a good strategy.

- Demolishing mountains of food. I always used to think our family ate so much because there were so many of us. Turns out, yeah, there are a lot of us, but we also have excessively large appetites. I'm shocked at the small amounts of food people eat when I eat with people I'm not related to.

- Speaking our own language. From invented words to random Bahasa and Chinese vocabulary to statements that would sound way too harsh when taken out of context--you have to be an insider--and even then, they're a little harsh.

- Quickly executing spontaneous plans. I've never met another large family that can move from the idea to go to the beach to being in the car on the way to the beach in under 10 minutes. I'm not exaggerating. We're fast. There's one slow one among us (*cough* Rebekah *cough*) but we usually threaten to leave her behind so it's all good.

-"Adopting" people. I can no longer count the people who claim to be part of my family who weren't technically born into it. But family is more than blood, isn't it? Totally normal that more often than not (literally) the people in my family's house aren't actually my siblings, right?

- Standing together to defend any one of our number. Professor refuses to make accommodations for hearing-impaired sibling, thereby breaking the college's own policies? He's going down. Sorry, prof. Next time, don't mess with one of us.

- Cooking. There is not one person in my family who can't cook. Maybe I'm exaggerating slightly, because I'm pretty sure my dad's skills are limited to boiled eggs and spaghetti--but even that's something, because I've heard some people don't even know how to boil eggs (which boggles my mind). Sarah isn't allowed to use the stove yet, but she helps with food preparation and dish washing, and the other six of us kids could prepare a dinner party for dozens without even consulting a recipe.

- Gaming. It comes in different forms. My brother is a computer gamer. Most of my family is really into various board games and strategy games. I prefer party games or games of knowledge, like Trivial Pursuit or Outburst.

- Fixing Stuff. Our parents went to engineering school and then owned a 100+ year old house. DIY is in our blood. I was 12 the first time I worked on a roof--I've worked on a good dozen roofs since then, and have only fallen off once. I put my high-school math skills to work the year I graduated figuring out how to cut each piece of vinyl siding to the correct angle when we sided our house. Angel fixes cars, so he fits right in. We're surprised when people don't know how to use a drill or a circular saw. Isaac's the computer fix-it guy. I'm the mender/alter-er of clothing. If something's on its last legs, chances are that one of us can figure out how to make it function for a little longer.



Things my family does poorly:

- Agreeing with the average opinions of the rest of the world. We find it too boring to be the 'same' as everyone else.

- Dressing casually. Unless there's a very pressing reason (i.e. working on a roof), it's heels and dresses and lipstick galore. You won't see a pair of yoga pants in our house.

- Remaining stoic, calm, and tear-free. Angel likes to say he's convinced that tears break out once a week in my family's home. This shocks him, because he and his brothers aren't big criers. I think the once-a-week estimate is definitely an understatement. None of us ladies are afraid of tears, and there are a total of 7 of us females, so...crying is normal. Happy, sad, angry, whatever. Tears.

- Playing Sports. The closest to actual sports any of us get is swing dancing. Somehow the talent for dribbling or kicking or batting or running didn't get into any of us. Plus, we pretty much all think exercise is boring unless it's purely for fun or social reasons. We'll play ping-pong with our friends, but only with friends who can wait while we go pick up the ball off the floor a couple dozen times.

- Agreeing on one activity that is fun for everyone. About the only outing that I can think of that everyone participating in willingly and with approximately equal enjoyment in recent years was a family trip to watch "The Lego Movie." And, oh yeah, eating food. But even with food there are lots of strong opinions (Korean food! No McDonald's never! No mushrooms! Yes mushrooms!). We have an odd mix of introvert homebodies whose idea of fun is not leaving the house and not seeing any people they aren't related to, and adventurous extroverts who constantly want to try something new just for the sake of trying it. It's pretty rare that we're ever all together, and when we are, we typically don't actually all do the same thing. A family fun night might look like half the family playing one board game while another contingent watches a movie or plays on the computer while another group plays cards. Sometimes we have 'mandatory events' that everyone is required to participate in, like last summer's 25th anniversary trip (hence all the '25' t-shirts) or the "Family Olympics" we staged.

Case in point for situations when we can't agree: When we're trying to decide on an idea to use for making our next video together. We usually disagree so heartily that we had to make a video about all the ideas that nobody wants to actually use:

Linking with #LoveBlog today!
18 February 2016

Things to Do on Leap Day

It's not all that often we get an extra day in the year, so it stands to reason we ought to do something, anything, to make it memorable. May this year's Leap Day be just one of the reasons why your 2016 is epic.

1. Take a jumping/leaping picture. Notoriously difficult and silly-looking and yet we all attempt it once in a while. Might as well try it on this year's extra day. Alternatively--stage a long jump/high jump competition and take photos.

2. Wear your favorite clothes.* 2016 gives us an entire extra day so it's not like we can complain there's not enough time to do the laundry.

3. Find someone whose birthday is on Feb. 29th and wish them a Happy Birthday! I don't personally know anyone, but it just seems like if you only get a birthday once in four years you ought to get an excessive number of birthday wishes, including wishes from strangers, when it actually happens, doesn't it?

4. Discover why we actually have Leap Year, if you don't already know. If you do already know, explain it to a kid who doesn't yet know about it.

5. Write down some goals you want to accomplish before the next Leap Day comes around. Four years ought to be enough time to get some big stuff done.

6. Go to an indoor trampoline park (like this one) and leap as high as you can!

7. Do something, anything, that you always claim you don't have time for! Read a book, sew a skirt, write a letter to your grandma, have your friends over to play a board game. Today, you have extra time. Use it wisely.

*Is "wear your favorite clothes" my suggestion for every holiday/celebration as well as life in general? Yes, yes it is. How astute of you to notice! At least I'm consistent.

How will you celebrate Leap Day?
16 February 2016

Minimalism Beyond Reason

I have natural minimalist tendencies--I don't find myself interested in minimalist lifestyles because I want to curb any sort of shopping habit--it's more as if minimalism fits my natural desire for clean counter tops and empty cupboards (but what, oh, what is the purpose of an empty cupboard, I might ask? That I do not claim to know.).

My naturally minimalist self has become ever more so since moving overseas. Something about having to give up nearly everything you own makes you very reluctant to expend time, energy, and money acquiring things all over again. In America, I had a normally-stocked kitchen with all the normal appliances and cans that had been in the cupboard so long I couldn't even remember putting them there. The appliances were mostly wedding gifts and the food...I still don't know how it got there.

Now, I've been living the minimalist kitchen lifestyle for more than a year and a half. In China, we bought the groceries we needed for the day on the day itself--or else bought enough for two days at a time. That's what you'll do if you live across the street from the grocery store and have to carry anything you buy up three flights of stairs...and have a kitchen that isn't quite big enough for two adults to stand in at the same time.

Here, we buy more food at once, since we do have a car, but our kitchen remains noticeably bare. We have two knives, 6 pans (I only bought two, but then was given hand-me-downs, hurrah!), and a fridge and a stove, but gradually have almost forgotten that specific appliances exist to do the things we've found other ways of doing. 

We held off on buying a microwave because they take up so much counter space, and at this point, I've found that heating up leftovers on the stove just seems normal. After all, that's what everyone did before microwaves, right (although we can't take that line of reasoning too far or we'll be trying to convince ourselves that we can live without refrigerators). Some things don't heat up as well as others, I'll admit (ever tried heating cold mashed potatoes in a frying pan?), but overall, I don't notice the inconvenience--Angel does, but that's because he dislikes washing the pot after he warms up his food. All of our plates are metal, so we'd have to get new microwave-safe dishes if we bought one, anyways, so I'm happy without one.

If we want toast, we 'toast' the bread in the frying pan--works just fine. Who need an entire appliance to satisfy random toast cravings? Pretty much everything goes in either the soup pot or the frying pan. I have tried experiments that were only semi-successful concerning trying to make hot hoagies in a frying pan (a baked sandwich is usually baked in, you know, an oven? That baking thing?). Turns out, frying pans don't make the best ovens. Who woulda thought? We still ate the frying-pan-baked sandwiches.

Angel got a blender for Christmas, so now we have smoothies. Our parents might occasionally regret giving that gift, as we used to make all of our smoothies at their house, using their blender, and then we shared with whoever was around. Now we keep them all to ourselves. 

Minimalism has taught me that a frying pan can be a microwave and a toaster in a pinch (though not quite an oven...), but it's also taught me that sometimes it's plain old worth it to spend the money and devote the counter space to the really useful appliance that will make life better and easier. There is a point when minimalism goes beyond reason and functionality, and it's important to stop it before it gets to that point. We have a rice cooker and a slow-cooker, an electric tea-kettle, a blender, a stove, and a fridge, all of which certainly add to our quality of life. For now, a toaster wouldn't because we go weeks at a time without buying bread, let alone wanting to toast it. The blender is cool. I'm not sure if I could go back to sharing my smoothies, although sharing is better for my character than keeping it all to myself in my naturally greedy way.

The 6-appliance kitchen works for us. Many people have fewer appliances than we do, others have many more. Ideally, those of us who are naturally minimalistic won't let the desire for nice clean empty spaces deprive us of perfectly useful modern conveniences, and those to whom stuff-accumulation comes naturally will have the self-restraint to realize when it's not worth devoting counter space to an appliance used once every two months. It's very possible for minimalism to be taken beyond what's reasonable, and it's important not to view minimal belongings as the goal, but rather as a tool by which some of us find it easier to live a peaceful life.

What appliances are worth buying and storing in your kitchen because they add to your life? And which do you wish you could just get rid of already?
14 February 2016

What's Your Signature?

I've been thinking lately about 'signatures.' Those little things I do for no other reason than because I am myself and it's just the sort of thing I do. Sometimes we choose habits or accessories purposefully and they become a 'signature' part of our nature...other times it's more accidental, perhaps we don't even realize we have these signatures until other people point them out in some way.

What are my signatures? I've figured out a few habits of mine that have held pretty consistently over the years.

- Wearing lots of rings. The exact number varies, because sometimes I lose a ring that didn't  fit very well. It's currently 9 rings. All of my rings are silver and free of stones except my wedding set, and I wear them all, all the time. I wear them on six of my fingers, four on one hand, two on the other.

-Only choosing 'novelty' earrings. I do have some normal earrings, because people give them to me, but I'll never pick out a pair of earring because they are nice and look pretty. In my collection I have paper clips, safety pins, forks, zipper pulls, spoon handles from actual spoons, bumble bees, robots, nesting dolls, origami birds (those are what I'm wearing in the photo, although there's no close-up shots)...and while I do break out the normal earrings on occasion, I prefer my forks.

- Writing with colorful pens. There's these Pilot G-2 pens that are very practical and come in all sorts of colors. I use them for just about all my handwriting, from written letters to grading papers to writing in my planner to making grocery lists for Angel. I currently have lime green, purple, turquoise, and a light blue. At some point I decided to stop reaching for any old black pen when I needed to write something down and use a colorful one instead--now these are the pens I keep with me and automatically use.

- Short hair. At this point, I can't even picture myself with genuinely long hair. I toy with the idea of growing out my hair periodically but hair that's actually past my shoulders is LONG for me. Right now I'm considering going back to a long pixie but I haven't actually made the cut decision yet.

-Tying a sash around my waist in a big bow. You've probably seen this on the blog dozens of times. I have three sashes I made myself in different colors.  When I get a sewing machine again, I will doubtless make more.

What are some of your 'signature' habits or styles that have become a part of you?
11 February 2016

Playing Baseball...Well, Sort Of.

Once upon a time, we found my Dad's childhood diary. It read something like this:

"Today was a good day. Got to play baseball."

"Today was not a good day. Didn't get to play baseball."

I'm not even exaggerating. We thought it was hilarious. Dad has loved the sport for as long as he can remember--playing it, watching it, even becoming a collector of baseball cards.

Somehow, he ended up with 7 kids who aren't terribly good at any sport, let alone baseball.

Nevertheless, we used to get out the baseball equipment and play with our friends fairly regularly when we were all still living at home. Dad even brought over from the USA in luggage a collection of balls, bats, and gloves--some from his own childhood, others purchased more recently. He even got me my own lefty glove. Perks of being lefthanded? Not having to share your baseball glove with anyone!

Last Saturday morning, for once we had no social obligations to fulfill, and we decided to take all the baseball equipment to the park and play a game.

Only we didn't really play a game, mostly we just practiced pitching and batting and throwing and catching until we got hungry and went out for an Indian food breakfast.

We even invented a makeshift tee once we figured out that Sarah couldn't hit anything pitched at her, no matter how slowly.

Once she got bored of batting, she went to play on the swings, and just happened to pick the one swing that had been terribly mended with a piece of rusty wire, and fell off. Mending a swing with a tiny bit of wire is a really bad thing to do. Better to just leave it broken so that people won't get hurt!

A few gutter balls were hit. If you didn't know that "gutter ball" is a thing in baseball, it's when the ball manages to get through the fence and lands in the gutter outside. Not really a good thing.

And the guys burst the seams on the only softball we have. There's nine baseballs, but we prefer the softball, for obvious reasons (easier to hit).

I'm proud to say that I had a batting average of over .500 when pitching a softball to myself (throwing it up in the air and hitting it). Angel decided to tempt disaster by filming while sending over some really slow balls to me, and even caught me hitting one--a clip that obviously made it into the Youtube video!

When's the last time you played baseball? Or, if baseball isn't it, what's the sport of choice in your family?
09 February 2016

Little-Known Facts About This Blog

1. This isn't my first blog. In high school, I had a blog that was probably quite different from what one might normally think of when one thinks of high school blogs. It wasn't emo at all and had very little writing. Mostly, I just posted photos from our little daily adventures for far-distant family and friends on the other side of the globe to see. This was obviously pre-Facebook.

2. The Random Writings is named after the book I self-published after my freshman year of college. It's still available as an ebook, and I even have a few spare leftover copies from the printing in my cupboard here.

3. I absolutely love my header, it was made by my blog friend Angi who doesn't currently blog (as far as I know). What my readers may not realize is that each of the funny little symbols at the top is clickable and leads to a corresponding label of my blog. So, for example, if you're ever in the mood to peruse all past "Bear With Me" photos, just click on the bear's head. The tiny angel with a halo links to all posts marked "Angelisms," and so on.

4. This blog is not the only place I write, though it's probably the most consistent place I write. Unfortunately, my story-telling talent is not nearly as marketable as, say, a talent for actual practical informational writing. In addition to randomly contributing articles to online or print magazines, I've written 4 manuscripts for children's picture books...and sent out countless queries, but have never yet managed to convince agent or publisher that my stories are as funny as I think they I just read them to kids I'm teaching. Tentative titles: 10,000 Bananas; Goodbye, Toes!; The Royal Wedding; and Fred, the Frog who Blinked. They are all awesome and all the kids who I read them to agree with me. (One could argue that they have a vested interest in agreeing with me since they'll never get rid of me but never mind that). Let me know if you happen to love my style of writing and also happen to own your own children's book publishing company. That would be an awesome coincidence.

5. Only once have I been 'recognized' in public by a blog reader--that was at one of Angel's races and I might have been wearing a stereotypically Rachel-ish outfit, making myself easier to recognize.

6. This blog is heavily influenced in the background by my family. I probably wouldn't have kept blogging so consistently for so long if it weren't for their complaints when I neglect to post or when I dare to consider stopping, and they regularly suggest blog post ideas--some of which I use and some of which never quite seem like the perfect fit.

7. I love reading my own blog and when people ask what I 'do' in life, blogging is almost always part of the answer. It's fairly well-known among my 'real-life' community that I'm a blogger.

8. I'm an outfit repeater. Actually, if you've read this blog for any length of time, you almost certainly know that. My wardrobe is very colorful but not very large and you'll see the same pieces come up again and again, usually in slightly different combos, though. Last time I wore this tablecloth-turned-shirt (through the magic of a sewing machine and a self-made pattern), it was with green skinny jeans.

What's something I don't know about your blog?
08 February 2016

Funniest Marriage Moments

1. When Angel had a dream that I was going out on a third date with another guy and he was pretty upset because one, or even two dates, he could understand, but three dates in a row was just too serious of a relationship. He wasn't okay with the third date.

2. When my uncle passed us going the opposite way while we were driving, and later complained because he waved and waved but we didn't even see him because we were just looking at each other (not recommended when driving).

3. This story that's too embarrassing for me to even type again. If you're curious and want a laugh, read it. If you don't want to embarrass me further, don't read it. Up to you.

4. That time a nice young man asked me out at a New Year's Eve dance I attended with my family and I responded with "Thank you, but I'm married." and he said, "Oh, where's your husband?" and I said, "He's at work." and then we had a nice conversation about where Angel worked and the crazy schedules inspired by hospital shifts.

5. When we went on a date and Angel locked the keys in the car, and my grandparents lived ten minutes away so we ended up calling my grandparents to rescue us from the restaurant so that we could drive home in their van to pick up the spare keys. It's really weird to be married and to get picked up from a date by your grandpa.

6. The birthday when Angel wrapped up a whole bunch of stuff from around our house like they were birthday presents and gave them to me. He thinks this is hilarious. I think I'll finally come around to thinking this was funny in about 5 more years. I don't mess around when it comes to presents.

7. When, a year after we got married, I turned in a final paper for sociology class with my maiden name on it and later my professor called me over to talk and said he was going to deduct points because I forgot my own name. This was only funny when I realized he was joking.

8. When my cousins told me they were scared of Angel because his big teeth looked like shark's teeth.

9. That time there was a bat in our house and Angel videotaped himself catching it and then he brought it over to show it to me, which resulted in piercing screams, forever memorialized for posterity in the form of a video.

10. When I woke up screaming "Mommy!! Mommy!! Mommy!!" at the top of my lungs when Angel walked in the bedroom after midnight, getting home from a late shift at work. Hey, it's really scary when some guy just walks into your room in the middle of the night like he's supposed to be there!

11. All the times we went sledding with our cats Narcan and Morphine. Angel claimed they loved it. I'm not completely convinced.

12. When I came back from a trip to Malaysia, hadn't seen Angel in a few weeks, and he tried to disguise himself at the airport by wearing a hat and growing out his beard--knowing that I can't see very well when not wearing my glasses. I did find him in spite of his disguise, but not immediately.

13. When Angel utterly has always utterly despised the idea of costume parties or couples' costumes (even though I think they're awesome), and then bought a mascot-style bear costume on eBay.

14. First morning of marriage. Angel wakes up early and vacuums up all the glitter our relatives had sprinkled inside our car during the wedding. We get in the car to head out to breakfast. It's a sunny morning, so he puts the visor down, instantly dousing himself with a shower of glitter. I spend the rest of the drive holding the passenger seat visor tight against the ceiling so that I won't be similarly glittered.

Linking up with #LoveBlog because there's no better time to laugh about the funny stuff of marriage than during National Marriage Week.

What's your funniest marriage story? Or top 14 funniest? The more funny marriage stories, the better.
06 February 2016

The Random Blog Awards, Part II

A little over two years ago, I published a grand post honoring bloggers in a number of categories with Random Blog Awards. These blog awards are completely random, contain no monetary value and no real bragging rights, either. I am the sole judge of these awards. After over two years, and because a good percentage of the bloggers I named are no longer blogging (*sob*) I figured it's time to have a second round of awards:

Best Houseguest: Beka. Granted, she's the only blogger who's ever stayed in my house, so perhaps I haven't given the rest of you much of a chance, but still, she clearly wins this category.

Funny Bloggers that are Not Me: Michelle earns this award for the second time! Amazing! Incredible! Fantastic! Also, Jenny. She's the kind of person who reads her own blog because she thinks it's hilarious, and that's exactly the same way I am, so obviously I appreciate that.

Most Traveled Blogger: Chelsea. I mean, 7 continents last year. It would be pretty hard to beat that, so there's really no contest here.

Makes Biking for Exercise Actually Sound Exciting: Ali. I'm sure that's what she wants to be famous for. Search her blog for "Northern Lights" if you're wondering what in the world I'm talking about.

Best Closets Full of Vintage Clothes: I have a not-so-secret love for vintage clothing and retro styles, in spite of a wardrobe full of green and purple skinny jeans. Suzanne and Jessica both have enviable vintage collections, if I were the envying sort. I'm not, but I am mighty glad that all those gorgeous dresses exist out there somewhere!

Blogger Who I Wish Blogged More Often: Miss Nutralicious. Sorry, it's just that I'm fond of funny random stories.

Best Command of the English Language: Amanda. Automatically. I think editors are cool people.

Most Memorable Blog Name: For The Love of Tuna. I don't even like tuna. Actually, I'll refuse to eat it. And yet somehow I'm drawn to this uniquely-named blog.

LoveBlog with Belle Brita
04 February 2016

A Lifetime of Valentines

The first time I remember having anything to do with Valentine's Day, I was about 10 years old and my great-grandma mailed Valentines to all of us kids. I kept her little card for years.

A few years later, I was approximately 15, and we were at church sometime around Valentine's Day and I coordinated with several friends to leave an anonymous love note on my little sister's chair. We used all the tricks in the book--bizarre phrasing and heavily disguised handwriting, along with an alibi so that I was obviously in another part of the church when the note got placed on her chair. She believed the letter might actually be from an anonymous admirer for about 10 minutes, which I consider to be a highly successful result.

Several years later, I was a much more mature 17 year old in college, far from family, and I made Valentines for all my siblings and sent them across the ocean without pretending to be an anonymous admirer.

When I was 19, I celebrated my first Valentine's Day with my husband! If I remember correctly, he bought me several mystery novels. On Valentine's Day itself, he went to work his 7pm-7am night shift, and I went to a Valentine's party with a bunch of college friends, where we had a blind Valentine's card exchange (hilarious!) and decorated cookies and voted for the winning cookies. I voted for my friend's cookie--he'd made it look like a broken heart.

In 2014, I had plans for an adventurous Valentine's Date, when they fell through because my parents called and said we needed to help them load all of their stuff (and some of our stuff) into a U-Haul. They were selling the house we lived in, and we had plans to move out soon, so everything had to be moved. So, instead of playing paintball for the holiday, I lost my beloved bed to storage.

In 2015, we were vacationing in Malaysia and I hosted an amazing Valentine's Day Party, complete with cookies to decorate, card supplies to make cards with, and silly games. All the best of Valentine's, rolled into one party. And then we played the Newlywed Game at another party and LOST because Angel was positive we got married on December 5th (we didn't).

This year, my 5 sisters and I made this Valentine's Day video while brother Isaac utterly refused to be involved because he refuses to acknowledge the existence of the holiday.

And then my sister gave me a "Malaysia, Truly Pineapple" and claimed it was for Valentine's Day. Isn't that cool?

Every memory I have of Valentine's Day is awesome. What's not to love? I don't know exactly what we will do for it this year--I think it's a little late to start planning a party on the scale of last year's, but whatever it is, it'll be fun!

Linking up with #LoveBlog today!

What's your best Valentine's Day memory?
02 February 2016

A Day in My Life (on a Tuesday)

6:08 a.m. Wake up. Head sleepily to the computer. I would shower first, but I don't want to wake up Angel with the lights from the bathroom. So I check Facebook and email and blog email and respond to blog comments and send messages to siblings or friends.

6:40 a.m. Shower, brush teeth, comb hair.

6:55 a.m. Bible time! I challenged the youth group I volunteer with to read their Bibles everyday for a month and if I challenge other people to do it, I better be prepared to do it myself. Today, I finish Nehemiah, chosen because I decided to spend the Bible reading challenge on obscure books that I'm not very familiar with.

7:10 a.m. Breakfast: cornflakes with chia seeds and The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio.

7:22 a.m. Final preparations for preschool, making sure I have all the supplies for any planned activities and making sure the right books are out and any books we aren't using are put away.

7:35 a.m. Chop up vegetables for lunch. I always try to get some food prep done in the morning before the kids come so that when it's time to actually make lunch, it's a quick job. Today we're having chicken tacos, and I've chopped a zucchini, an onion, a couple tomatoes, a couple cloves of garlic, and a bunch of green onions to cook up with my chicken later.

8:05 a.m. Kiss Angel goodbye as he leaves for work and start taking down the laundry and folding it and putting it away. However, I'm not able to immediately finish this job because...

8:10 a.m. The first kid arrives and we start the day with reading practice and then learning new spelling words. Later, while he copies spelling words, I attempt to finish the laundry task but am unable to put everything away because there's one sock leftover. This is ridiculous. Leftover socks happen to other people, not to me. I own a total of 6 pairs of socks that I bought in America in 2014 before we moved and they ought never to be separated. I have yet to discover the answer to this mystery.

8:55 a.m. The little girls arrive and group class begins with group storytime. We talk about what we do at different times of day and practice telling time. This week we're focusing on the letter W, so we make paper watches. Various sorts of educational activities progress over the next few hours.

12:04 p.m. The last of the kids gets picked up and I start cooking lunch. Staying in the kitchen while cooking during the dry season (when it's extra hot!) is unthinkable, so while the chicken, veggies, and spices cook on the stove, I clean the bathroom mirror and counters and put the new set of sheets on the spare bed. Never mind that the robot ended up upside down, at least the bed now has sheets that aren't on their last legs.

12:33 p.m. Angel gets home from work! Earlier than normal. He sets about making a banana, cinnamon, and orange smoothie while skyping with his brother on the laptop while I finish up lunch.

1:00 p.m. We sit on the couch for lunch paired with an episode of Castle from Iflix. The past few days have not allowed time for TV, so this was really fun. After I finished eating, I worked on a coloring page till the show was over.

1:45 p.m. Angel doesn't have any afternoon classes, but he has lesson planning to do for his 6 hours of class time on the morrow, so I leave him strictly alone so as not to encourage procrastinating. My early afternoon is not terribly productive. I even curl up to read more of The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio again.

2:30 p.m. I head downstairs to my parents' apartment to talk to mom about plans for some upcoming events. I'm surprised by an eerily silent house as the littles are napping and the big kids are all doing schoolwork. Tranquility!

3:00 p.m. I turn on a dance routine tutorial from Youtube--my preferred way to exercise, because y'all know I don't run. Then I do a little computer work, including email and updating this very blog post. I wonder why I didn't decide to do this 'day in the life' thing yesterday. Yesterday afternoon was way more exciting. We celebrated Shiloh's 5th birthday with Frozen-inspired activities, including building a snowman (pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey style) and making fake snow. See?

4:15 p.m. I get ready for my afternoon student to show up. Morning is preschool, but afternoon is high-school level analogies, writing exercises, and SAT vocabulary study. How fun!

5:45 p.m. Angel's done lesson planning for the day and heads out for a run with my sisters.

6:07 p.m. My student leaves. My sessions always seem to run slightly long. Her family gave me a bag of treats for Chinese New Year!

6:30 p.m. Angel heads off to night market with Rebekah to get dinner for everyone after taking orders from those too lazy to pick up their own food. For me? Roti canai. Others order wan tan mee or chicken rice. Angel goes because he loves the pearl tea. I stay home, upload these photos, and get a little computer work done.

7:00 p.m. I call Angel to ask if I can finish off the lunchtime smoothie (isn't it a sad surprise when you come home and find out that someone else has eaten the leftovers you had in mind? I wouldn't want him to be surprised). I gulp down the smoothie, and wash the blender and cup. We never have a sink full of dishes--both of us just wash whatever we use when we use it to avoid that dreaded phenomenon. Then I go back to my book.

7:30 p.m. Angel's back with my roti canai, and we sit down for dinner. Angel got himself a bowl of fruit, jellies, and ice instead of the usual pearl tea. He spent a total of 10 RM for the two of us  (about $2.50 USD). Roti canai is really cheap, and that's only one reason why I like it. Who wouldn't like fried bread? Then I keep reading my book and Angel reads the news--I'll never understand why anyone would do that for fun.

8:30 p.m. To bed. Early tonight, because we have no nighttime appointments, and we're early-birds anyway. Plus, we always talk ourselves to sleep, a habit picked up from hour-long phone conversations before bed back in courting days, one that we've never dropped.

It occurs to me, upon reflection, that my days seem to involve a large number of books and nearly as much food. Every day has a slightly different schedule--on this Wednesday morning, Angel won't be home from work till 6 p.m. or so. But every day is awesome in it's own tiny way.