Friday, November 25, 2016

Arcadia Beach-- a place my dad would have loved

It is coming again. 

December 10th. 
His death day. 
My dad's death day. 

Usually, anniversaries do not hold much importance for me, but this is different. 

This day marks the before and after of my life. 

December 9, 2012 my family was complete. 
We were in crisis, but we were whole. 
December 10, 2012 we were not, and life has never been the same again. 

Not for me. 
Not for my mom. 
Not for my brother. 

Today, I felt our baby move for the first time.

Today, I took Bubu on a walk.
I imagined my dad meeting him. 
My dad adored dogs.
Every single one. 

These are the things I will never get to share with him. 
These are the things he will never get to experience. 

Over the last four years, I have come to terms with his death.
But not a day goes by that I don't wish things had turned out different.

And some days, there is nothing I can do but feel sad. 

If I was home, I would go somewhere beautiful to feel connected to him.

To the mountains.
To the forest.
To the beach. 

So instead I look at some beautiful photos of home because I see my dad's soul in them. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

teaching tolerance

The day after Election Day, I was feeling sick. My stomach was twisted in knots, and my heart was too. I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed and use one of my maternity leave days so I would not have to face the day ahead. 

The questions. 
The conversations. 
The arguments.

But then I imagined my 8th & 9th grade kiddos sitting in our classrooms, and I got out of bed. 

You see, I love my kids. 
I want to spend time with them. 
They are these incredible people. 
Really, truly, they are. 
I see so much goodness in them, and I want to do my part to cultivate that goodness. 

Frankly, that is my most important job. 

Sure, I find some sick pleasure in helping them understand the difference between coordinating conjunctions used to form compound sentences and subordinating conjunctions used to form complex sentences, but that is not why I've been an educator for nearly a decade. 

Some parents, if they knew what happened in my classroom, would probably object. 

I talk morality. 
I talk values. 
I talk humanity. 
I talk responsibility.
I talk critical thinking. 
I talk empathy. 
I talk tolerance

Because, frankly, what actually matters more than those things?  

Many parents, especially in America, do not believe that is a teacher's job. 

Rather than have their children develop a broad understanding of the world and its strikingly diverse humanity, many parents want mini-me's who live in the same narrow world that they do-- whether it be political or religious. 

The day I am told I can no longer teach my kids how to walk in another's shoes or why it's crucial that they do so is the day I leave the classroom forever

In class, we have been reading The Diary of Anne Frank. We've been talking about the Holocaust. I've shared the ladder of prejudice with them to help them wrap their minds around how that atrocity was tolerated. In social studies, we learned all about Islam as a component of our Middle Eastern studies. I shared with them many current event articles about Islamophobia.
It is no secret why I do those things. 

I want my students to be aware of the world they live in.
I want them to be aware of what their fellow human beings are dealing with.
I want them to wonder: what if that was me
I want them to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. 
I want them to recognize injustice when they see it. 
And most importantly, I want them to feel compelled to act when they do.

I don't think my agenda is a secret to them.
I hope they become allies and helpers and advocates. 
I hope they become a voice of tolerance in the future.

Our literature should make that clear: The Outsiders, Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, and The Diary of Anne Frank.

Our literature forces them to walk around in the shoes of poor people, black people, disabled people, Jewish people, and people fighting to promote knowledge. Our literature showcases what closed mindedness and ignorance can do to a society. It showcases people who choose to do the right thing even when it is the hard thing.

I freakin' love our literature units!

On Wednesday, before we began our dramatic reading of Anne Frank, I opened up an opportunity for students to talk about the results of the election.

Many students were floored at how wrong the polls were, so we talked about it. Even more could not believe that half of Americas did not vote, so we talked about that. Some didn't understand how Hilary lost when she won the popular vote, so we talked about the electoral college. Some wondered if American Christians were trying to create a theocracy, and all I could do is admit that I wondered that too.

I could see the look on many of their faces: they wondered what a Donald Trump presidency would mean for international relations, especially with China. After all, the whole China-Taiwan thing is a major issue for them, and under past presidencies, China had been warned that if it made a move on Taiwan, America would intervene to protect Taiwan's democracy.

Before we started our reading, I told my students one last thing:

Voting is a privilege.

When they are old enough to vote either in America or Taiwan, they should think of more than just themselves and their immediate communities. They should think of all the others who will be affected by their vote, and their decision should be for the greater good of all, not just themselves.

Because that is what makes a society a decent place to live.

Friday, November 11, 2016

one month with Bubu

 Everyone, meet Bubu.

He is our adorable dog that I am head-over-heels in love with. Bubu is almost two years old, and he is half black lab and half Formosan mountain dog.

We have now had Bubu for a little over one month.

It has been an interesting month.

While we both had dogs growing up, we still were totally unprepared for getting a dog of our own. But I kinda think that is just how dog rescues go.

Bubu is a living creature with his own quirks and desires and needs and issues.

When we first got him, he walked around with his tail in between his legs for a whole week. He was clearly terrified of us. In the mornings, sometimes it was like he forgot who we were and he would growl at us.

All of that is over and done with now.

Bubu is head-over-heels in love with me, and he basically likes Sean well enough. They are still working on the foundation of their manly relationship.

Our first month together went something like this:

When we first got Bubu, he did not poo for nearly three days, and then when he started, he never, I repeat, never went potty while out on a walk. He would only use the dog training pads we bought and put in our apartment.

It has been a long journey, but he finally started peeing outside. We are still waiting patiently for the miracle of a #2 to happen while on a walk.

What a weirdo.

When we first got Bubu, it was clear he had never been given a toy in his life. He had no idea how to play with the ones we bought him, and even more, he was actually afraid of them.


Well, I got home today to find that he ripped off the legs of the most recent toy we bought him. Suffice it to say, he definitely figured out how to play with his toys!

Further, when we first got Bubu, it was obvious he had been taken on very few walks in his life. His foster mom lived in rural Taiwan and had a fenced in backyard. That's how Bubu experienced the outdoors. When he took him out, he was afraid of his collar and leash and of everything outside.

Now, he loves going on walks! His tail wags and he just loves to play in grassy areas covered with fallen leaves. Just about every time I take him out, people laugh out loud while watching him play. It's the cutest thing in the world.

When we first got Bubu, he would bark and growl at anyone who came in the door, sometimes even us.

Now, he lays on the couch and could generally careless if someone comes over. He is still super shy, but I am okay with that. When I come home, though, he bounces happily all over the house because he is just so excited to see me. That is one of the best things in the world.

Bubu still needs a lot of work, but we have found a trainer who speaks English who will come to our place over the weekends and help us get the basics down.

Bubu has been such a joy in my life over the past month, and I am so excited he will be a part of it for a long time to come!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

an Oregon coast road trip: Nehalem Bay

This summer, we drove 5 hours from Bremerton, Washington to Manzanita, Oregon. There, we met Sean's family for a weekend of camping at Nehalem Bay State Park. This is a family tradition for us. Since I was 17 years old, I've been camping here with Sean's family. We always enjoy the unpredictable Pacific Northwest weather, strolls along the perfectly sandy beach, s'mores over the camp fire, and a lot of fun and games.

This summer, our weather was rather dreary. It rained a lot, so much so our tent began to flood in the middle of the night. It was also windy and cold. That did not stop us from having a good time though. We went on many walks, skim boarded, hung out in the cute little town of Manzanita, and drove to Seaside, Oregon to watch a movie when the weather got really bad.

Luckily, on our second to last day, the weather cleared and Sean took me to a bunch of beaches I had never been to before. We also tried to find the Lewis & Clark trail we walked 5 years ago, but our Smartphoneless selves could not find it.

In the end, it was a perfect way to spend time with Sean's family-- including the dogs-- before heading back to Taiwan.

And we cannot wait to go camping this summer with baby! Although, we will definitely look into renting one of the yurts at the state park. If only Bubu could come with us too.

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