Thursday, December 13, 2012

NFS Thank You!

To all who have supported me and bought a bow tie with proceeds going to Not For Sale, 


This is for you :)

Keep up the fight.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

State of Things

As in, the State Fair. And all that entails (read: fried food, games, rides and animals).

 I wrote earlier that I took a photography class one evening after work, and well, I am in the process of taking another one. I have read Ashley Ann's blog for a while, and her photos are always so beautiful and real. She just adopted a beautiful baby girl from China, and of course, that strikes a chord with me. She offers an online class, and it is currently running! She encouraged us to share links to blogs where we post our photos, so I thought I would share a couple photos with you all. Those of you coming from the SnapShop, Hi! and Welcome!

A little background. Stacy, in the first photo, is a friend from high school in China. We hadn't seen each other in about four or five years. It was SO GOOD to catch up and hang out and talk into the wee hours of the morning (ok, wee hours for me). We went up to the State Fair and had a blast.

I took lots of photos from the weekend, and tried to pick the best. Check it out:

Stacy and Barkley on the back porch

Abraham (merger or lines?)
I just love this photo of Aaron

Some interesting gourds
This makes me thankful for indoor plumbing.

A little creative cropping?
I don't remember what he was explaining, but I love his expression
I like the composition of this one, but I don't think I did it deliberately
Last food item of the night. (poor cropping of the hand)
I didn't take this one, since I'm in it, but I wanted to give you an idea of how the night finished off!
To sum up the night:
  • Rides: Check (The swings, and the centrifuge-like one)
  • Games/Prizes: Check (standing up a bottle; we weren't successful, but we won a prize any way- see large stuffed lion above)
  • Hog Races: Check (and goats and ducks!)
  • Food: Check (turkey leg, funnel cake, blooming onion, fried cinnamon roll, fried Koolaid and kielbasa)
All in all, a successful Fair. 

SnapShop friends, I played with my settings some-- I didn't take any of these in automatic, but I had it in aperture priority mode. Any critique, suggestion, question or comment is welcome!

Until next time!

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Remember this post? And this one?

Or this smart little number?

Well, I made a commitment to donate 60% of the sale price of this bow tie to Not for Sale Campaign. (That percentage allows me to continue making these ties once the ones online have been sold)

Guess what? I've sold THREE of these Glasses Help You See ties. Huzzah!

So, being true to my word, I have gone and made a donation.

Let's run the numbers.

Each bow tie is priced at $30.

60% of $30 is $18.

$18 x 3 = $54

First, I went to the Not for Sale Campaign home page (found here), and the first little tab link at the top says "Donate". I clicked on that and selected the option to make a one time donation. That brought me to this page:

After I filled in all the information (billing address, money, DOB... just kidding about the DOB), I hit "donate" and voila! donated. Brilliant.

Seconds after, I received this nice little email:

So the donation has been submitted.

To all who purchased this bow tie-- THANK YOU. I hope that you enjoy your tie and that you can spread awareness about human trafficking every time you wear it.

As Not For Sale said, "Your partnership empowers us to fight modern-day slavery in the United States and across the globe."

Keep shining that light.

Monday, October 8, 2012


I made a list of things to do before I turn 25. As I learned all through my middle and high school careers (This is for you Mr.'s Johnson, Tovar, Luedtke, Frerking(s), Ms.' Gertz, Chandler, Henderson, Smith and so many more!), that goal setting was the thing to do. Because goals give us something to work toward. Now that I don't have someone setting an outline of those goals for me, and less tangible milestones (ie. passing an AP exam), I can see the benefit of having goals.

Now, coming back to my little list. I thought I had relatively few things crossed off (translation: one), but it turns out, I had actually begun work on a few and finished them!

So without further ado, my self-made dress.

There are many tutorials online about how to do this. I didn't really follow any of them. I kind of read a few and just winged it. Except for when it came to pockets. I used a guide for that.

Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of the process because I wasn't even sure this was something that was going to work. All I knew was that I had some beautiful batik fabric that I hustled sweetly asked for and received from my aunt. And I had a green top that I didn't wear very often because it shrank and was too short to really be decent/modest/attractive/flattering. But I didn't want to give it away because I'd only worn it twice.

Here are my attempts to show you the elements that I was working with after the finished product.

There are plenty of tutorials out there on how to make dresses out of old t-shirts and tanks and other things. I improvised a little, blending a few. My shirt had an elastic bottom, so that had to be worked in. I learned how to place a gathered fabric onto something with a set length and pinned away. Then I sewed away.

Then I tried it on. And it sagged. The little green shirt that was meant to have some flow was pulled out. Not so attractive. Essentially the elastic in the shirt was too weak to hold up the weight of the batik fabric. My solution? Buy heavier elastic and just sew that sucker on.

It kind of worked. The dress fell in the right places and all that was left was to add pockets. I followed this tutorial, but I altered the shape of the pockets to be deeper.

Then I was done!

On to wear my little dress and check that item off the list! :)

What do you think? What items can you rework? Ever made a dress?

P.S. The first time I wore it out and about, I noticed that the skirt it a little wonky. Meaning off centered. Not obviously, but the pockets are a little... locationally asymmetrical. Oh well. Something to work on next time I get a hankering to recycle my clothing. :)

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Photography is wonderful. There are images that can make you laugh, cry or become angry.

I've always liked to take pictures. Pictures that show beauty, that tell a story. But I'm no pro, and my experience is limited to my own tinkerings. So, I put it on my list.

Then I started looking for a class.

I found one place associated with a museum. But as I looked through the instructors, I wasn't overwhelmed with them.  Some were beautiful, but so glamorous. I want to take pictures of real life. See the beauty in the everyday. So I held off. The price point also gave me pause.

So I kept looking. And I found a class that met in single 3 hour classes and was an affordable rate.

I registered to take an "Outdoor Portraiture" class.

The instructor was very kind and personable. Most of the attendants seem to have taken classes previously, but I was pretty clueless.

I got into the flow quickly and learned some things. We shot a model outside for a while and then went inside to talk about what we learned. I learned a little about flash, about camera position and about lighting.

I enjoyed it. There's a lot of skill (people and technical) that goes into it. I enjoyed being in a learning setting again, especially about something that I enjoy so much. I would really love to get more into photography. Good thing it's something I can work at in my own time.

So be prepared if I start asking for models!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


A little while ago, I shared an issue that weighs on my heart.

I mentioned that I had a couple ideas of how to contribute to eradicating slavery.

Well, one of those ideas came to fruition! As you may know, I have an Etsy shop. Right now, I sell earrings and bow ties on there.

So I thought, why not use the things I enjoy doing as a part of this process? So, I scoured the web, looking for a perfect fabric. I found one that I think to be not only an attractive print, but also meaningful.

Allow me to introduce my first trafficking fundraising bow tie. Glasses Help You See.

Glasses to open your eyes.

The print, as you can see, is composed of various spectacle (glasses) frames. I chose this print because one of the biggest issues surrounding human trafficking is awareness-- most people don't know that it exists or how widespread it is.

This issue is one that is hard to confront and contribute to, and it's so big! But I wanted to do something. I want to help people open their eyes to see this issue. To look around their own lives and neighborhoods and places they frequent and to become aware. So, I hope that in some small way, I'll help a few people put on their own glasses to see human trafficking. Because if you don't or can't see it, how can you help fight it?

This fabric was bought from Spoonflower, a place where you can design your own fabrics and buy from other people who have unique designs. The fabric is 100% natural, the ink eco-friendly and water based. I tried to find information about the working and wage conditions of the workers actually producing the source fabric, however, that information was not available and indeed, the fabric industry has very few standards and measurements concerning fair trade. I was told repeatedly that although there is some slight movement to creating standards and checks, nothing is widely recognized and adhered to right now. Knowing that, I chose Spoonflower for being local and for its support of individual, independent designers.

I have designated 60% of the sale price to go to the Not For Sale Campaign, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting slavery. They don't know I'm doing this, there's no agreement, I'm just going to write a check.

And guess what?! I've sold two already! Whether because of the cause or because of the print, I've made two sales, so the count thus far is $36.00 to go to Not For Sale.

I hope that those who have bought these ties will use it as a conversation starter, or even just as a reminder when they wear it, that they can open their eyes to see human trafficking.

I hope to add to this and I have a few more ideas, so stay tuned!

UPDATE: I have sold 3 of these ties! You can read all about it here. (10/18/12)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

a good feeling

Do you remember that list I wrote a while back? Do you remember how many things I've checked off that list?

None. I started part of one.

And guess what? I got to cross that one off the list! Weeeee!

How, you ask?

Well, one night I came home to a sweet little email, who's important contents I've screen-shot and included below.

Needless to say, I was enjoying that good feeling.

This is not the first bow tie I've sold, but it is the first I've sold to a complete stranger! Huzzah!

Who else gets a good feeling from crossing things off a To-Do list? *raises hand earnestly.  

That is pretty much all I wanted to share with you today. I know it's shorter than normal, but it's a nice change, no? :)

P.S. There are some new things in the store, so if you'd like to check them out, they're right here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


I've written about lots of things, mostly concerning myself. I wrote for a couple weeks straight on my travels to China and India, places that are beautiful and wonderful. I've written about crafts and foods. New things I'm trying. Things I would like to try in the future.

But I'd like to take a minute to write about something old. Ancient. Dark. Insidious.


It is an institution more ancient than China and more detestable than centipedes in your apartment (take my word for it). 

And it still exists today (a modern definition of slavery).

It may not be as obvious as a bent over man or woman in a field, picking cotton, with stripes on their backs and their families scattered against their will--no, it has gone underground. Away from the light and sight of those who would act if they knew. Out of sight, out of mind. 

The issue of human trafficking is one that I began learning about in college and towards the end of my college career, spent one night a week for a whole semester learning, discussing and seeing images of human trafficking (slavery). Women, seated in a room on riser levels behind a glass window--like pets in a pet store. For sale.

We would discuss it's entrenchment in society, and in some places, its integration into the very culture.

Maybe numbers will help paint a picture. (source)

There are an estimated 20-30 million slaves today, worldwide. (that ranges from the combined populations of Shanghai and New York City to the combined populations of Shanghai, NYC, London and Taipei)

Trafficking is the 3rd most profitable crime industry (behind drugs and weapons), grossing around $32 billion annually (some variance in it's placing, but it's solidly in the top 3).

To bring it a little closer to home-- an estimated 14.5 to 17.5 thousand victims are trafficked across US borders every year. That number does not include domestic trafficking where no international borders are crossed.

Of the numbers of global child sex tourists (individuals who travel to locales specifically for child sex), an estimated 25% of them are American. This percentage increases in certain countries. In Cambodia, 38% of child sex tourists are American. In Costa Rica, 80%. (source)

The numbers are big and hard to comprehend. I've read articles upon articles. The facts and stories would fill so many books. Over all the nuances, depravity and forms that it can take, the fact remains that slavery exists.

Did you know about it? This breach of human rights is unacceptable. I've wanted to do something about it for a while, but I'm not entirely sure what. I have a couple of ideas, so if and when they materialize, I'll let you know.

I just wanted to share this bit of my heart with you.

What you do with it is up to you :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I have a reason

I will exalt you, LORD, 
for you lifted me out of the depths 
and did not let my enemies gloat over me. 

LORD my God,  I called to you for help, 
and you healed me. 
You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said,
"I will never be shaken."
LORD, when you favored me, 
you made my royal mountain stand firm;
but when you hid your face,
I was dismayed.

To you, LORD, I called; 
to the Lord I cried for mercy:
"What is gained if I am silenced,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; 
LORD, be my help."

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and
not be silent.
LORD, my God, I will praise you forever.
Psalm 30

There is so much brokenness in this world. Senseless. Relentless.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about suffering and human nature. How we're bound to to hurt those closest to us no matter how much we don't want to. So why should we even attempt to build those intimate relationships? How can we open ourselves up to the possibility of being hurt?

I don't know if my words that day were helpful, but it's been something I've been thinking over. I'd like to get it down in words, if you'll bear with me.

I've been hurt before. Deeply betrayed by someone from whom this was least expected. Pain, shock, disbelief and anger ensued.

When I was alone, I cried out to my Jesus in desperation because things were falling apart and I had no control. The gaping emptiness seemed too big to be real, but the pain reminded me that it was. I cried out to my God because I was too weak to face it. Too broken. Confused. Sad. Sad because how had things gotten to this point?

I don't know if I have all the words to describe what I felt then. Even thinking back to that moment takes my breath away still. But. My friends, I'm not here to talk about how Satan's work caused brokenness. That's old news. That's news that's been happening for ages.

Instead, let me tell you what happened in my moment of utter fallen-apart-ness. Peace. Inexplicable joy. In that moment I had no illusions of what this world has to offer and I knew, with complete certainty, that this quiet, still Voice, was there.

"Things are going to be hard, Michelle, but I AM. It is not your responsibility, but Mine. I have taken it."

I remember that time, the provision that God gave me in the form of a few close friends who held me when I could not stand. Who cried with me. Who spent time with me in silence. Just being there. What an amazing treasure. I will be forever thankful.

I have a distinct memory of walking with one of these friends one day, and we were walking down a street we had walked down countless times. Yet that day I marveled and rejoiced in God's creation. I felt delight in His work. In the trees around me. The air, the light-- despite the pollution, it dazzled me. Looking back, that seems to be a surreal and out of place moment, given the circumstances. But it was a sweet gift. The brokenness was not magically removed, but I had invited God into it. And He has made all the difference.

After time had passed, the rebuilding of relationship was (and is) still a process. Frustration in the midst of the aftermath was often present. I still had strong feelings of anger and hurt. I still cried out to God about it. How could this person be so blind? How could this person be so insensitive? How could this person be so seemingly unrepentant? Do they not see the consequences of their actions? I raged at God. I don't want to share my heart. I don't want to open a vulnerability to this person. I don't want them to have power to hurt me ever again. I don't want to trust anything this person says. They've lied before. How can you ask me to forgive when I know that this person will just repeat their actions and hurt me again? 

"Because that is what I did for you, beloved."

Stillness. Truth. My rage dissipated. My will submitted. 

I placed my trust not in this person, but in Jesus. Who, after all the things I've ever said and done that betray and hurt him after he has taken my deserved death punishment, loves me with an everlasting, open love.

Yes, we will be let down, hurt and betrayed by those with whom we have intimate relationships. We are human and sinful, so that is inevitable. But fearing that possibility, avoiding certain relationships because of that possibility, is not seeming wisdom or self preservation. If you have placed your life in Jesus' hands, it is a lack of trust in His sovereignty and a disregard of what He did on the cross. Jesus' eyes were wide open from the beginning. He knew the depths of our darkest betrayals. He knew, and he went to the cross any way. He opened himself to the deep, cutting wounds of our willful imperfection. 

And he has redeemed those wounds. His light has pushed out all darkness. 

As for me, it's still a process. After that moment of stillness, I can't say that I forgave completely and trusted implicitly. I'm still striving for it. Forgiveness is a choice. There are many times I don't handle things as I should, but the rage I harbored no longer has a place in my heart. The process of rebuilding trust takes much longer. Patience. Perseverence. All things are made new in Him. 

Sure, I might not have gone through so much pain if I hadn’t chosen to stay in on this relationship and had refused to be vulnerable, allowing the possibility of further pain. But I also wouldn’t have seen God’s redemption at work. I wouldn’t have a changed perspective on humanity-- one much more aware and less judgmental of our failings. I wouldn’t have the same response to other’s suffering, even feel it as my own sometimes. We’re so averse to hurt and pain in this world. But it is the hurt and pain that tells us there is More.

While I would never ask to go through this again, I can say some of my sweetest moments, feeling a tangible presence of the Spirit and inexplicable joy that can come only from Him, came in some of those darkest times.

I have a reason to be Thankful. To Rejoice. To Praise. Even in the suffering that may come.

Monday, July 16, 2012

longing for Home

A handmade quilt and pillow made from an old T-shirt.
Have you ever felt homesick?

Have you ever felt that ache radiating through your core for the familiar? For those who know and love you and whom you know and love? For street signs that you’ve seen over and over? The voices and sounds from the places you frequent? For the warmth of being utterly at ease, knowing you are home?

As a TCK, “home” is a relative term. It could be where my mom and dad and brother are physically living. It could be the place I spent the most time. It could be where my extended family lives (and each side is on an opposite side of the planet). It could be where I went to school, college. It could be the permanent address on my driver’s license. When I'm traveling, it generally means where my suitcase has made its residence. 

For anyone who knows a TCK or has had conversations with one or is one, you know that hesitation and internal struggle when someone asks, “Where are you from?” These days, it’s easiest to say where I graduated from (I wrote about it here and here). The most recent location is just the simplest most recognizable. If that person is actually interested, I’ll let them inquire further. The actual answer is too long and let’s be honest—most people are confused by it.

I read a couple articles lately (found here, here and here), describing the difference between Asian Americans and TCKs. I had never thought too deeply about the difference and had indeed found myself most comfortable with a group of Asian Americans, here in America. But there is a difference (the articles do a good job—take some time to read them, if you can) between the two groups. These authors essentially say that Asian Americans feel a tension in cultural identity and have a desire to be viewed as belonging—of being viewed as any other American. After all, many were born and raised here; why should they be perceived as foreigners ("Where are you really from?")?

A TCK often feels no desire to be seen as American but instead understood for their experience of having lived internationally and having perspectives that have nothing to do with assumptions associated with the way they look. One of the authors mentions how, in America, he is expected to be different because he looks Asian, and how, as a TCK, he doesn't rebel against that perception because he does indeed feel different.

Yes, my very oldest and dearest stuffed animal is a moose. 

I have often felt the opposite. While I was in China, from all appearances, I was the foreigner. Here, from all appearances, I am a native. Yet I often feel different, not having grown up here but instead having lived in a country not my own for the majority of my life. You would never guess it by looking at me, and I've come to learn that it's easier to give a simplified answer than try and go through the whole explanation with most people.

Living internationally, coming to the States for college and traveling between two continents, time has shown its effect on the places I call home. As one of the authors of the articles mentions, even when he goes home, nothing is exactly the same. Places, people, home... they are transient and the changes are all the more stark when you've been away for a while. This is no less true for me. Most of my high school friends no longer live in Shanghai-- they are scattered around the world. Going to Shanghai doesn't guarantee a big reunion.

Though my passport tells me that the United States of America is my home, is it? I've come to learn that I will forever be missing one place or another, not just for the physical place and the delicious foods, but for the people with whom I shared life with in that time and space. I read an article the other day that touched on how young people of this day and age are so preoccupied with their lives and their doings that it's easy to lose sight of the Kingdom of God-how they have no desire for Heaven. I think that one product of being a TCK is that I am very aware of the flaws in our definition of "home."

I long for Home. For that place where there are no more goodbyes. For that place where I can be with my family as well as my college friends as well as my high school friends. For that place where distance is a non-issue. For that place where time is a non-issue. For that place that has foods of all cultures and I don't have to pay an arm and leg for it. For that place where all those who love me and whom I love are in one place. For that place where locational tensions no longer exist. For that place where I can be utterly at ease, knowing I am Home.

For this longing, I am thankful. It reminds me that this world, these places, are not the end for me. This ache, will one day be no more. One day, I will no longer have to long for Home, because I will be there. Until then, I'll keep sharing life with people and places, growing my love for the diversity of this world and hopefully, spreading a desire and longing for Home to those around me-- there's plenty of room!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I know it’s been ages since I’ve posted. Chalk it up to not very much to talk about. That and after writing for days on Singapore and India, I might have been out of words. You wouldn’t know it from reading this blog, but usually I’m a woman of fewer words. I guess they flow more easily when I write. There’s less pressure to have coherent thought.

Back to this post. Remember when I posted a list of things that I’d like to do before I turn 25? Well I haven’t gotten very far on it. Meaning I’ve crossed a grand total of none of them off the list.

Well, here is the first step in my attempt to cross one of them off the list.

I opened an Etsy store! Eep! 

Photo is courtesy of Grace; Abraham and Lucky, the duck.

What is Etsy, you may ask? Well it’s like an online mall of storefronts that sell handmade, vintage and supply items. (You can read all about it on their website-- this is a description in my own words) It is a global site, and you can post your own creations on the site and sell them.

What am I selling? Well, I would love for you to stop by and check it out for yourself. Basically I am going to sell stuff that I like to make. That’s pretty much it.

I’ve had great support from family and friends. Abraham is always brimming with ideas of what I can make and sell; he was the original reason I made my first bow tie, and my friend Grace from Quote Life Photography (check out her awesome work here) blew me away with the first round of photos that you’ll see on the Etsy site (seriously, some beautiful photos).

So, without further ado, here is my shop! Hybridized Bamboo on Etsy.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

pani puri

Do you ever get cravings for certain foods? Deep down in your gut, past your stomach, into your very soul? No? Well I do. Every now and then. Sometimes it's because I miss home, sometimes it's because I'm tired of chain restaurants and sometimes it's because I'm blue and certain foods comfort me. Sometimes it's because that food is just so gosh-darned good that just thinking about it makes me salivate.

Usually that food is of the Asian variety, and today is no exception.

Well, Indian. I have cravings for Chinese and Singaporean dishes all the time, but after going to India (see tab above for a full listing), I've added to my mental list of delicious, crave-worthy foods.

So you might remember my gushing drool over this dish: pani puri.
Photo is courtesy of my friend, Nikka, on our unbelievable India trip

Well, I wanted to try and make it. I went to an Indian food store, but they had no shells. *insert sad face.

So I dejectedly walked away, leaving my dreams of savory and tart, crunchy and satisfying pani puri behind.

UNTIL, I was walking through a Korean supermarket and behold, what is sitting on the shelves?! You guessed it. Boxes of pani puri shells. Did I do a little jig and dance in the middle of the aisle? No. But you betcha inside me there was a hallelujah party going down. Can you guess how fast I snatched at those boxes even though there was no one else in the aisle? I think I qualified for the Olympics.

Ok, now that I have the shells, time for the other ingredients. After much emailing with my trusty friend, Anu, several questioning looks and confused head scratches, I went back to that first Indian food store and a kindly gentleman showed me the way of all things pani puri. He handed me a box of spices that had a picture of fruit on the front (I tried to conceal my American white girl ignorance confusion of why the box labeled "pani puri" was the incorrect box), and a box of green juice concentrate.

More internal dancing ensued.

At this point, I had pretty much all the ingredients to make the pani puri, but no earthly clue as to how to do it. Enter Anu. Again. She sent me a video, but it confused me and it was long. So I kind of decided to just wing it.

Here is what I came up with:

Puri (shells)
Pani (green juice)
Chat masala (spices for the potato-garbanzo deal)
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
Tamarind-Date chutney

To Create:
1. Peel potatoes (cut them down to size--they cook faster. I only cut them in half after I figured this out, but you could cut smaller) and put in boiling water. Chop cilatro after.
2. Add in garbanzo beans when the potatoes are starting to feel soft. (Sorry I don't have a time on this, I just sort of gauged when the potatoes were almost done by cutting into them, then added the garbanzo beans so that they would be heated)
3. Once boiled, cut potatoes into whatever size you like. I made them smaller so that they would be easier to load into my shells. Efficiency, I say!
4. Season with the chat masala and cilantro. You can use as much or as little as you like- it really depends on your preference.
5. Prepare the green juice by adding water. Less water=more salty
6. Crack shell, insert potato mix, lob on tamarind-date chutney, drizzle some green juice and send that sucker to become best friends with your taste buds (don't worry, they're kindred spirits).

the spread.

watch where your drool lands.

Oh goodness. The sigh of satisfaction.

This was a pretty easy to put together, so no fear! As long as you get the spices, it's all good! And the shells. If you try it, let me know!

As for Abraham? He approves this message.

Tell me about your comfort foods! Which ones are default? Sweet? Savory?