Friday, December 21, 2012

The Way We Get By

It's one week later. 

Since the horrific event in Connecticut last week, I've worked pretty hard to try to avoid learning more. I honestly just feel like I can't think about it. It kills me to imagine innocent children put into the situation they were put into. It kills me to think that the children who survived will have that memory forever. It kills me to think that school, a place that I loved as a child, could be scary for children. My mind can't process the terror of the situation or the pain of the parents who went to the fire station and didn't find their children. 

What a privilege it is for me to not have to think about the situation if I don't want to. How lucky I am to not have to mourn a child I loved.

It's a coping mechanism. If every day we thought about the struggles we and others face, we would be stuck in place, unable to move. Unable to progress. Unable to go on living our day to day lives.

I have friends who are in very difficult situations and sometimes I wonder how they can live every day with the pain or fear they carry around with them. But one of these friends told me "If I thought about it every day, I would just shut down. I have to keep going."

I'm not saying to forget the victims, in fact, I think that in living our day to day lives, we are remembering them. We are living lives they will never have the chance to live.

And this is what I wish for the families affected by the shooting. I hope that they will soon be able to keep going. That they will find the strength to continue living their day to day lives.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Little Honesty

Hello friends... I know I've been pretty quiet lately. I've neglected this here blog. But trust me, some wonderful things have been happening which I'm sure I'll tell you about at some point (spending more time with my husband, being really productive at work, cuddling with Bronx, and my two week vacation that started yesterday afternoon, to name a few).

My cuddle bug. Just a preview of what's to come!
But today I wanted to write honestly about something that's been on my mind and honestly has been part of the reason I haven't been blogging much lately. It's something my sister and I have been talking about quite a bit lately and my sister wrote a little about it in her blog as well.

Frankly, we've become a little disillusioned by the blog world of late.

So many giveaways. So many posts about sponsors. So many guest posts. So little of our actual voices and actual lives. Where's the authenticity? Where's the honesty?

When I started blogging last spring, I didn't do it so I could win a giveaway or so I could be pimped out by another blogger who honestly didn't care about me or my blog but had to pretend to because I paid $10 to have my button sit on the side of her blog.

Have I sponsored blogs before? Yes. And after one mistake, I vowed to only sponsor blogs written by people I truly believe in and truly respect. I've only sponsored one since then.

Have I been part of a giveaway before? Yes. In fact today, you will find me as part of a huge giveaway from Nicholl at The Chiffon Diary. But you know why I did that one? Because Nicholl reached out to me personally, even though I wasn't a sponsor of hers, because she likes my blog and wanted to help me reach more readers. She's using her (very large) platform to help the little guys like me. I can dig that.

My point is that instead of forging fake relationships with people simply for business reasons or to gain more followers, why don't we do more to develop new relationships with people who can relate to us and share with us and help us to grow?

And once we develop our own huge platforms of followers, why don't we help the little guys in a more organic, authentic way?

Let's work on reminding ourselves of all of the reasons we started blogging in the first place and all of the reasons we've continued. It wasn't for the number of followers (although I'm not saying it isn't nice to see that little number tick upwards), it wasn't for the amounts of giveaways we could win or host, it was for the community, for the creativity, for the outlet blogging provides.

Let's work on our authenticity. If that means a few less followers, so be it. And if it means meaningful connections, even better.

Monday, December 17, 2012

I love SH... part II

I know it's been weeks since I posted my first post about Shanghai, but I've been crazy since I got back from China. I've barely had time to breathe. In some ways it feels like Shanghai was just yesterday, but when I look at the calendar, I realize that it was almost a month ago that I returned from my amazing trip so it's about time I share with you the rest of my pictures!

My trip was divided into two parts. First, I was a co-leader for a site visit to our study center in Shanghai. This meant leading several study abroad advisors from all over the US around the city of Shanghai as well as where our students study, live, and take classes. When I left you last, I had mostly shown you the pictures from the first half of my trip. Most of the pictures below are also from that time because the second half of my trip was spent mostly in my second hotel, attending the conference that my company was hosting.

One of the days we spent at East China Normal University (when the word Normal is in the name, it's usually a college that is famous for teaching), where we have our study center. The campus is absolutely gorgeous.

This is a huuuuuuge Chairman Mao statue. There aren't too many of them left around Shanghai, but this was definitely the central part of campus.

We also visited a dorm room where I saw these awesome bootleg Nike sandals.
Close enough...
I also saw these great signs:
To me, this one said you can't play your trombone in the rotary, but LoLo pointed out that it probably means you can't honk your horn. Well come on! That's no fun! I like the trombone interpretation better.

Another favorite sign of mine. I don't even know what to make of this one. I'm not quite sure how you carefully scald boiling water, but I enjoy the sentiment.

We also had some time to do some more cultural things. Here's me in the Yu Garden which was gorgeous.

And this is the table at a tea ceremony we attended with some of our students. This was in a market full of stalls where they would have tea ceremonies and sold hundreds of types of tea. This table was made of a tree stump.

Finally, we went to see an amazing performance that is a very typical Chinese art. This performance is called Face Changing. Basically, the man is wearing a costume that with very slight movements and without actually touching his face, he changes the mask. I took this picture of one of his masks:

When I was trying to explain the performance to my family, I showed them this video. I wouldn't recommend you show it around children because to me, it's a little creepy!!

So there you have it, my trip to Shanghai! I seriously was bitten by the travel bug after this trip. When I found out I was going to China, I wasn't super excited, but after getting there, I couldn't believe it was real. I learned so much and had so much fun. I can't wait for my next trip!

Oh and p.s. At the end of our conference, my company announced that in 2015, the conference will be in RIO DE JANEIRO!!! I can't wait!!

Monday, December 10, 2012

New York, New York

Last week on my facebook page, I wrote that I was missing New York. Something about this past week has made me miss it.

Then I heard the song, "New York, New York" and it made it worse at first.

See, I have a funny history with that song. I used to hate it because they play it at the end of every Yankees game and I'm a huge Red Sox fan.

Now I actually love it. New York was my first "adult" home. New York was where I challenged myself and became someone I was/am really proud of. New York was the place where I met my husband.

And since it was the place I met my husband, I made "New York, New York" the last song at our wedding reception. When the song came on, people gathered in a circle with us and with arms around each other, we all did the chorus line kicks and sang our hearts out.

If you know me, you know I hate corny dances (the macarena, electric slide, cupid shuffle, etc. were all banned at my wedding), but because this happened naturally, I loved it.

I felt so much love in that circle and I'll never forget it. So when I'm sad about missing New York, sometimes I just play this song and remember the love.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Word from the Grinch

I have a confession: I'm a total grinch.

I hate Christmas. I hate the music. I hate the lights. I hate the trees. I hate the decorations.

I don't know when I developed the hatred for Christmas, but I do have a theory for why: the stress. I hate that a time that is supposed to be happy has turned into being all about stress.

And the music...ohhhhh the music. I hate little jingling bells. I hate really high pitched chipmunk voices singing in unison. And most of all, I hate songs about kissing Santa Claus. In general, I'm not a fan of the elderly kissing at all.

The lights... annoying. One of them goes out and it's all over. Blinking lights, flashing lights, singing lights, colorful lights...ANNOYING! It all just seems kind of tacky to me. Check out this house that was in our neighborhood in the Bronx.

COME ON!! This is out of control. They play music too. People used to pass by the house and throw money over the fence to help them pay their electric bills. This is the height of Christmas annoying.

And finally, the idea of black Friday. I think this ecard says it all:

I hate shopping with other people and I hate shopping when there are crowds. So basically, I hate shopping from Black Friday until after New Years. I also hate feeling guilty that I might buy myself something (come on, there are some great deals out there!) because I should be buying things for everyone I ever met. And it's all Christmas's fault.

If there were a fast forward button in life I would push it until I got to December 25 because I happen to love my family's new tradition of eating crepes (our version of crepes is really thick fried dough) on Christmas and then being lazy all day.

I'm also really on board with the week I get off between Christmas and New Years, so that can stay.

The 25th also signals the end of annoyingness related to chipmunk voices and fat elderly men kissing people's mothers. And that's something I can look forward to.