I See You.

This is for all my monolid brothers and sisters out there.

photo via onsugar.com

I see you, even if society would rather not.

Coming to Taiwan, I expected entirely different standards of beauty. Given my exposure to Kpop and Cpop, I knew the prevalence of surgery and the prestige of whiter, brighter skin. However, living in the culture is entirely different.

Out of many Asian countries, Taiwan probably puts a lot less pressure on getting double eyelid surgery. However, I would say there is a stigma against 小眼睛 or those with 單眼皮as seen by the ridiculous posters for sketchy eye surgery on Luodong street corners and humongous eyes advising going under the knife in Taipei. It seems like everyone wants to look a little wider, to see in a different physical way, to look a different way.

So this is for all you monolids out there. I just wanted to say, my, my, you look fantastic. I mean, look at you. All that fantastic lid space, those gorgeous peepers. Why do you wanna see in standard when you can see in HD widescreen, baby? ;D Alright, alright. Sure, you can’t always pull off three different eyeshadows and maybe you long for more contour, but no one else can look that cute with just a little bit of eyeliner or barefaced. Not a one.

This is for every single man or woman who has or is considering eyelid surgery because they feel inadequate, ugly or out of place. This is for those who American ads ignore and who Asian ads ignore as well. This is for all ya’ll that have used eyelid tape, glue, clips (really?) or other terrifying appliances to create an extra fold and achieve bigger eyes. This is for everyone who has ever been told they have saggy lids, ugly eyes, small eyes or squinty ones. This is for those whose eyes puff in the morning, puff when they’ve cried too much or just have eaten too much ramen at night. I see you for who you are and…

You. Are. Beautiful. Never forget that.

This is for you because too many things are against you. If it’s not a negative stereotype, it’s still an equally derogatory “positive” one. Yellow fever, etc. You are more than what people think of you, more than what they say about you. It’s not just skin deep just because they try to make it about that.

Once upon a time, I hated my eyes. I hated how my classmates would tug at their eyelids to make fun of my almond shape, the way I struggled with eye makeup, the way I couldn’t ever really achieve a so-called “wide-eyed look.” Older, wiser now, I’ve thrown away the eyelid tape, the glue, the circle lenses. I don’t try to “find my eyelid socket” to contour my eyes (what?!). I look at myself and think of my history.

I come from a line of strong woman with monolids. Women present at the Rape of Nanking. Women who stood at TianAnMen Square. Women who fought, resisted, struggled and won. Erasing my face, becoming like everyone else, is forgetting my history and where I come from. I have had a revelation and am proud of my genesis, so don’t try and rewrite me.

You are more than you think you are. You are pleasing to a perfect God. That’s all that matters.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 139: 14-16 ESV via biblia.com

Haters, keep drinking your haterade. Lovers, overflow with love.

You do you.


I’m single-lidded and lovin’ it. ^____^

Love from Luodong,


Adjustments & Addendums

Hello pretty people of the internet. Long time no talk. I’ll soon fix that. If you miss me more though, you can always follow me @mintmiss on Instagram. ;) Once I finished my practicum with Ellen, life trickled into the responsibilities Fulbright intended for us to have. Far fewer pretty swing nights in Taipei enjoying the bright city lights.


Since our very long goodbye last post, I’ve been settling into my new schools, Cheng Gong Elementary and SanXing Junior High. Let me tell you, school here is no joke. When one of my LETs (Local English Teachers) led me around the first grade classrooms, I saw 3 out of 5 teachers disciplining their first graders. Wow. My LET told me first graders experience extreme “culture shock” when entering the higher grades, especially when they essentially get to do anything they want in kindergarten. I mean, the kids have a ball pit on school grounds, for goodness sake. So, when they enter the hallowed gates of first grade, the teachers berate them into the good model citizens they mean to be. Perhaps berate is not the right word…more like scold or lecture to death. It might seem harsh, but most students here are incredibly well behaved and prone to respectfully addressing others, a far cry from the crazy kids in my classes back home. I teach mainly 1st and 5th at my elementary, though I do have cultural exchange programs in every grade, 1st through 6th. Hmm…need to get on that.

IMG_1509 IMG_1518

School days in Taiwan read quite differently than my elementary days in the States. At least two class periods are devoted to cleaning classrooms and hallways. Students also take turns serving each other lunch (ridiculously cute). This past week of school, I didn’t do as much as I hoped to. The principal introduced me to all the kids, so now they’re a bit more cautious in the hall when they see me. I love it when they say, “Hello, 教師” if they happen to run into me.


My LET Joyce will be in Thailand for another week, so the days have been slow with only my two 1st grade classes. Instead of letting my free time run rampant, I work on creative classroom rule posters. They let me infuse a bit more American pop culture into my lessons through well known TV series like Adventure Time and movies like Monsters, Inc. One of the 5th graders has already accused me of tracing my artwork instead of creating it. I’m not sure if I’m flattered or annoyed just quite yet…oh, well.

IMG_1529 IMG_1521

In terms of future progress, hope to develop more of my guided reading lessons and focus on cultural exchange topics. I’m thinking dance lessons might be fun, or at least showing American dance clips through the decades. I’ve promised my very eager 7th graders an exclusive Beyonce lesson the next time I see them. I happened to stumble into the class elective assembly when I first scooted to SanXing. Theresa, my LET, ushered me last minute into the crowded gym into a bunch of wide eyed junior high students. I blabbered something in English, but my translator (as they want to pretend I only speak English) basically told them I would teach them about Beyonce…great. I actually said I would teach a bunch of popular music, including Sam Smith, Beyonce and Lorde. Lost in translation, for sure. Anyways, they swarmed me for Q&A and the rest is history. I love how eager and hyped up they are about the elective. It really surprised me how quickly the space filled in my class. At SanXing, students must stick their number onto a board for the elective they want to take. Imagine the ensuing angst and chaos.


After the whirlwind of a quiet English elementary classroom, a dip into the madness of junior high and hectic poster making, my LET Joyce gave me a surprise break Friday with a trip to the Asian Rowing Junior Championships in Yilan County. Barry, Albert and I found ourselves accompanying our LETs to the Shangrila Hotel in Dongshan where a hoi polloi of rowers from all over the world gathered. The locale amazed us with the crystal clear Dongshan River and the gem that is Shangrila.

IMG_1595 IMG_1593 IMG_1587 IMG_1589  IMG_1573 IMG_1550 IMG_1619   

We managed to attend the special Welcoming Ceremony which featured some amazing Er Hu elementary school players and a Hakka dance troupe. The rest of the ceremony involved quite a bit of pomp and circumstance which I did not find that interesting. Fast forward an hour later, and we said our goodbyes in the twilight. I scootered home on my pretty bike, only to find out later I had my brights on. Whoops.IMG_1477

This weekend, we partied hard at the Fulbright welcoming party. More on that, and our Taichung trip last weekend, later. Otherwise, this will be another one of those TLDR; posts you never read.

In brief, I’d like to introduce a little subtopic I’d like to call..

How to  Survive School in Taiwan

1. Try to become friends with at least one other teacher that is not your LET. Otherwise, you will find yourself very lonely at lunch and eating really quickly to avoid the awkwardness.

2. Do not, I repeat, do not lie to the students and tell them you only speak English if you also speak Chinese. Sure, the other teacher will probably want you to lie, as will the principal. I’m not a fan. Instead, just insist in speaking English in the classroom. That’s all, keep it simple. No sneaking or two-faced teaching involved.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for an all-access pass to the supply room to up your teacher game. Once I got up the courage to ask for supplies, I could make any colorful poster my little heart desired. With my artillery of oil pastels, markers and endless reels of pastel papers, my imagination knew no limits.

4. Get to school early to know the area. I’ve had the opportunity to walk around and find hidden breakfast places in the morning. If I didn’t get to school so early, I would have never found my secret handmade Bao Zi place found on a side street just past the school entrance. Noms.

 5. Pack toilet paper. Lots of it. None of the school’s squatty potties will have any. Did I mention the squatty potties? Better strengthen those leg muscles. Also, try to #2 at home, your body will thank you if you’re not used to the smells and acrobatics of squatty potty dynamics.

6. Make mistakes but learn from them. This goes for all of life, but especially as a teacher. You do the wrong TPR motion? It’s alright, just make sure the students learn from your mistake. Make sure to spell things right together if you or your LET do it wrong the first time. Better yet, correct it with the students so they learn as well.

7. Make time to de-stress. Teaching is hard. Co-teaching is harder. Set aside some alone time to just breathe and adjust yourself. Life will not end if your lesson plan is not as creative as you want it to be.

8. Practice your scooter, train or walking route. No one wants to get lost or be late on their first date, especially if you’re the new foreign teacher.

9. Befriend your Soldier Boy. Elementary schools often have alternative soldiers working for them as security guards. These guys are usually chosen for their English skills, so be sure to find ways to get to know them and the local culture. They are awesome! We just barbequed with our soldier boy friend James tonight for Mid Autumn Festival. 

10. Have fun. So much can get lost in translation or the stress of planning. However, if you know how to have fun and get others to do the same, you’ve won half the battle.

Hope your classrooms weren’t empty like this the first week. My academic dean kicked out all the kids because my LET wasn’t there the first day. I was so very lonely.IMG_1502

Here’s to love, life and lots of mango ice. Noms. Here’s a treat from the Luodong Night Market.


More posts to come on Taichung and Taipei (Fulbright edition)!



Stranger Places & Beautiful Faces

Ello there, beatufiul people. Yilan has been treating us wonderfully these days. Well, kinda. They weren’t lying about the rain. If the sky in Chicago cries, then the sky in Yilan is having a mental breakdown. Wonderful, I tell you. It’s quite beautiful though. Perhaps I’ll take a video sometime of the downpours, scheduled so that they always happen to interrupt our Luodong scooter practices. Anyways, the ETAs finally found out our school selections, so without further ado…my schools are…


Cheng Gong Elementary School and San Xing Junior High! Joyce is the lovely and hilarious lady right above. Though she’ll be working in Thailand the next few months, she’s given me an awesome assignment setting up the school’s first blog! I’ll also be creating special country cuisine lessons for the upper grade students. Awesome! I’m pretty pumped, especially since Cheng Gong has one of the nation’s top calligraphy artists as an artist-in-residence during the academic school year. There also happens to be a lap pool there. What? San Xing is a bit more of a mystery, but junior high should at least be mildly entertaining, right? That, or I’ll just be exhausted by all the youngsters surrounding me each and every moment. 

My iPhone has been my main source of photography these days, basically rendering me into an instagram aficionado. So, instead of gabbing at you endlessly, I’ll let the photos do (most of) the talking.

We finished up the last of the school visits with a series of frantic bus and train transfers.



One of the beautiful Nan’ao schools sponsors a traditional Atayal cultural summer camp for children. We listened to a craftsmen play his freshly cut bamboo pipe and admired their recent ventures into fabric making. All the colors and sounds left us a little dazed but happy about our crazy school visits.

 Also…I should mention…


Say hello to the new boyfriend. Barry. Yes, our names rhyme, I know. Sherbear x Barrington Bear, you know, all the cuteness.


Am I right? ;)


IMG_1362 There’s this noodle place by our flat that doubles as an early morning noodle shop. It’s dumplings are meh, but in the case of the storm munchies, we go for volume rather than flavor. We chowed down on nearly 100 dumplings, plus Kenya’s soup, the first time at the little storefront. The second time, we all tried the Ma La La Mian (Numbing Spicy Ramen) which left us full and flushed with food baby bliss. All the carbs, I say.IMG_1357 IMG_1355

For some reason, you can get a ton of waffles in this country. Oh, but they are ALWAYS out of strawberries. Apparently they’re only in season in the winter? Who knew? We get spoiled in the US by all the berries year round…

The coffee at Bubble Pop is also quite impressive, especially their crazy detailed cappuccino art. I have never seen a human hand craft anything so intricate out of milk foam in my life. Until now.


strangersimage via Barrington Hwang

We met this amazing grandma (ahma) by the free blue line shuttle last week. Taiwan Bank provides a free shuttle that takes us from our apartment all the way to the Luodong Train station and back again. One day, as we weaved our way back home, a little elderly lady helped me find the blue line stop. Before we knew it, she had welcomed us into her home just a few stops from ours. She fed us endless mounds of pink guava, purple dragon fruit (isn’t it gorgeous?), noodles and steamed meat buns, just because she likes to hang out with young people. Apparently, this is pretty typical for Taiwan, as the people just happen to be incredibly hospitable and sweet as honey. 

Her grandson shares the same nickname as my brother, Maomao. He also enjoys soccer and has a mouth full of braces, just like my little bro at home. Makes a sister homesick. 



Xian Ming Elementary invited a few of us to pick rice with them. A sweaty but fun activity, we endured the heat as the kids snuck glances at us all. We ended up on the local news and actually got to visit the most famous organic Asian pear farm in the county. Because of the amount of care and labor required to produce each luxury pear, each one costs nearly $7 USD. However, because of our little publicity entourage, the managing farmer decided to reward us each with one as a delicious souvenir. So surreal, it was such a fun day. 


We’ve been downing insane amounts of iced things. This is shaved passionfruit ice, a special treat after a long day. We’ve also had other varieties involving mango, strawberries and kiwi, all mouthwatering and a cooldown during our escapades. Douhua is another specialty here, often covered in custardy or saucy goodness of questionable origin. Imma ice monster, remember? There’s no beating my bottomless stomach.


10507067_10202346821101504_5497544246009855141_oimage via Barrington Hwang

One of our flatmates’ parents invited us out for Taiwanese Father’s Day. We had really fresh seafood in Su’ao, including these rather unfortunate (but still amazing) crabs. It really made me miss my parents, but also reminded me about how close all the delicious seafood was.


We stumbled upon a dumpling shop just a block from our place that sells every variety of dumpling imaginable with the best dressings–seaweed strips, green onions, a bit of cabbage, bean sprouts, and doused with hot pepper oil. Holy canoli, they are the best.


Latest adventure at the water park. Acupressure stone paths aside, the slides and attractions left us laughing, wet and exhausted from all the shenanigans. Sun drunk and tired, we spent the last few moments listening to a Peruvian band blow us away with their skills.



I am really enjoying my introduction to Luodong via boba, smiling faces and ridiculous adventures with my newfound family here. Even though the ETAs have only been here a few weeks, I feel really close to them. Here’s to taking new paths and finding new, beautiful faces in strange places.


Tour de Yilan

There comes a time in a young person’s career when choices must be made. Important choices, choices that matter immensely and can change the course of your life. I would argue that this choice both is and isn’t what school you get assigned to in the process of narrowing down a school you want to work in as a Fulbright ETA.


Okay, sure, you want to find somewhere that suits you and where you can help out the most, but anything can happen in a year. Typhoons, co-teacher relationship problems and disputes with students may influence the experience of an ETA in a Taiwanese school. Touring locations is kind of like buying a house– the framework is there, but you never know what might happen in the house, and it’s completely up to you to make the house into a home.

We toured over 20 schools in under 3 days, which gradually just blurred all the schools together despite all of us collectively taking extensive notes. We also listened to hours of school presentations, made with care and accompanied by lots of complimentary snacks. However, once you visit a school, it kind of speaks for itself. You see exactly what it lacks and what it offers, its vibrancy and its small town charm.


 Will you ever know if a school is the right fit, right off the bat? No, not exactly. You might prefer local to aboriginal, or short commute to a long one, but that can mean jack squat if you fail to connect with your students. What I began to really pay attention to were the LETs, the co-teachers ETAs must work year-long with. Unlike the students, ETAs usually get to meet the LETs in advance, allowing them a short trial of their teaching philosophy and preferences. Within every presentation and side conversation, personalities bubbled to the surface. Some were fun, others creative and some just a bit mean. It comes out even in a short 10 minute school tour. Instead of taking notes explicitly on the schools, I began focusing on the teachers and how they cared for their students. This narrowed my choices down immensely.

I wanted to single out one particular school for their earnestness. It won’t be named just yet, but I just wanted to show you what they showed us—namely, their phenomenal students.

It’s never about the gifts or the attempts to woo, it’s really only about the students. Do you care about them enough to sacrifice your time, money and love? Can you live selflessly and teach without worrying about making a fool of yourself? Can it not be about your comfort and more about an impact? 


It’s never really about me, or us. The whole program centers around the differences we can make. In a reaction, a catalyst only sets to change things and shake things up, often quickening processes. ETAs share that trait, somehow invigorating local schools. However, by ourselves, we can do nothing.

“Words without action are worthless.”


Regardless of what we ETAs decide, I hope we can make a difference in the moments we have with students.



Imma Ice Monster (A Romp Around Taipei)

Why hello there. Our first weekend in Taiwan left us sundrunk and sore from endless walking. No regrets of course, and no empty bellies to say the least.

We spent Saturday gallivanting across Luodong’s endless street corners. One particular stroll led us straight into the doors of the famous dumpling chain Ba Fang Yun ji (八方雲集). Among the five of us, we managed to sample five dumpling styles–veggie, Korean, curry, pork and some other delicious concoction of seasoned meat. (After hours on Adobe and various Googling, finally figured out how to save edits. Freaking Lightroom, how I loathe to love thee).

We set off to meet the other Luodong ETA’s at a nearby Starbucks. Unbeknownst to us, as we walked by one of the Taiwanese Valentine’s Day installments to take photographs, we immediately passed up the elusive location. Foiled again. At least we look cute?



We ended up aimlessly wandering the streets of Luodong for our friends, only to circle back to Starbucks with the help of a few friendly strangers. On the way, we managed to grab some delicious boba.


After a short siesta in our apartment in the early afternoon, we decided to explore the Luodong Sports Complex just outside our door. Really, just a space filled with impossibly beautiful sights and scenic walking paths. Did I mention there was a water show? And ridiculously artsy bridges? And “a-rock-nids?” My best pun ever on a rock formation that looked like a spider statue. Bahahaha…








Mosquito-bitten and drenched in our own sweat, we began wading through the humidity back towards our apartment. We ended up eating at a “Zidong Huguo” place, which was not actually hot pot, but an all-you-can-eat steak place. Still, not bad. My favorite were these custard-y butter-filled buns they gave us as a not-so calorie-conscious starter. Fantastic. The rest of the food was just okay and not that pretty to photograph.

We wrapped the night up with night market ventures. Due to the extreme crowds and copious amounts of stinky tofu stank wafting in the air, I neglected to take pictures and opted to use my hands for fanning, defense, and cutting across endless waves of people. All I remember is a sign that said, “Wow! Frog eggs!,” sampling grilled octopus and weaving into stores for some AC. The best part of Saturday came in crashing on the bed after a full day of adventure.

The next morning, we woke up early from jet lag and heat to the promise of a day trip to Taipei. We met up with the other Luodonians for brunch at this little niche brunch joint known fondly as Shark Bites Toast.




I wanted to order strawberries and vanilla ice cream waffles, but they were out of strawberries and they only serve waffles in the afternoon. So they changed my order to mango french toast with ice cream. Completely not what I craved, but pretty spectacular. Look at it…drool…



Washed down with a side of Papaya milk, and it was the perfect carbo-loaded sugarbomb that I wanted it to  be.

We headed down the street to the bus station, grabbed our tickets, and spent the next hour hurdling through mountain tunnels to Taipei. Once, there, we walked the 27+ block stretch of City Mall, an underground shopping extravaganza reminiscent of Mong Kok in the brevity of cheap paraphernalia available to the laymen. I bought a copious amount of hair ties and a peplum top, all in polkadots or stripes (typical, I know). The mall hosted a Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival topped with red lanterns and otaka-ed locals galore. A bit hectic and super-kawaii.



We ended up meeting with Kevin, one of Emi’s new introductions at the MRT entrance. After an unexpected downpour, we ate at a Shanhainese style restaurant, complete with amazing pork buns, before moving to the main event. Snowflake ice. Behold.




Glorious, am I right? No photoshop on this one either. Giant mounds of awesomeness, pure condensed milk and fruit awesom
eness. Anyways, we topped off these ice monsters from the Smoothie house and went happily off to explore Taipei 101, bellies bursting at the seams. All the while, we had to fend off some interesting photobombers, including one that managed to sandwich herself into 2 of the 3 images I took in front of the LOVE sign. Sigh.


Funnily enough, we saw some very unfortunate people posing on the wrong side…pity. The view was great all around though.


We made our way across Taipei 101 to what we thought was a cafe renovated from the remnants of a military base. Unfortunately, it was closed or condemned, gorgeous location aside.






While we managed to catch a few breaths at another undisclosed location, we made complete fools of ourselves due to soon-to-depart bus. We scrambled out of the restaurant, laying down a few apologetic bills for the confused owner before bolting. Despite our hasty exit, the twilight ride home left us all feeling more settled.

After our weekend of first successes and disasters, we made it all in one piece back to the Yilan Teaching Center. These past two days we’ve been touring schools to figure out which one we might be best suited to. Monday was mostly Yilan and other northern schools while Tuesday covered everything south from Luodong to Su Ao. With 6-8 schools each day, it was madness. We shuttled every 15 minutes to survey another location.

Stay tuned once I get my act together for le Tour de Yilan! I have extensive notes, pictures and video clips for you. Touring and choosing schools for an ETA is no joke, even with a little luck of the draw.

However, we did get to have a bit of fun at the beach, which I’ll leave you with until tomorrow.



See you after our first scooter practice!






Lowdown on Luodong

After approximately 16 hours on a plane with a 4 hour layover in San Francisco, we finally made it to the beautiful township of Luodong, Yilan. Despite not sleeping consistently for about a day, we managed to get our phones/SIM cards, our first paycheck (“allowance”) and apply for our ARC residency cards. Oh, and take some very hilarious photos at a shop near the teaching center. Of course, the first three of us are Asian, so the photographer kept telling us to open our eyes wider. I kept laughing which made my already small eyes smaller, so I had to take nearly 6 shots before he let me go. Adventures for sure.


Our apartment is pretty nice, a 3 bedroom flat on the 4th floor of a two-tower, 20+ floor building in the fringe of Luodong, a good 20 minute walk from the nearest train station. It’s definitely not city, but not really off completely into the boonies either. There is a really cute ice cream and cake shop right near the lobby of our flat, called Kiki’s (Studio Ghibili, anyone?). I was really tempted last night to grab a bite, but our heft dinner at a nearby restaurant stopped me.

Otherwise, pretty eventful and hectic first day. We landed at 4:30am or so and it was already 81 degrees…so…that bodes well. After waiting a bit, we got picked up by a giant blue bus through numerous mountain tunnels. About an hour later, we had drawn lots for flats and flatmates. My roomies are pretty awesome and our rooms are pretty generously sized. The important thing, of course, is that each room ensures major AC action, plus de-humidifiers left by the previous ETAs. We’re supposedly only staying a month before switching it up, but I’m pretty moved in already, so we’ll see about that.

A quick box lunch accompanied by a info rundown and photo taking session left us closer from all the tired, bumbling mistakes we made. We then made a trip to the supermarket and spent our first NT dollars on household amenities and food. Bedsheets are ridiculously expensive here, but you learn to deal. I had to take a major detour away from the bakery because it smelled so amazing.

After shopping, we went to dinner a few blocks down from our place. I tried Mu Er juice, this gelatinous, brown jelly substance which was surprisingly alright. The dishes were your standard Asian fair, with plenty of green onions, tofu, meats in savory sauces and vegetables galore. I found myself peering suspiciously at fried shrimp covered in mayo and…sprinkles. Yep, that was definitely the most creative dish of the night. We polished the night off with a long talk amongst the ETAs in the building which left s all feeling a bit closer and more at home.

Excited for the weekend, which heralds in Taiwanese Valentine’s Day and the rest of ghost month. Still on the search for a church, but haven’t been too successful just yet. Might have to book it to Taipei next weekend if I really want to go.

Excited for more adventures!



Happiness is the Best Revenge

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” -Albert Camus, L’étranger

This, from one of the darkest existential novels I read in Dr. Kinnan’s AP Lit class way back in high school. It’s true though.

(image via tvrecappersanonymous.wordpress.com)

What is the trouble with getting wrapped up in grudges and bitterness? It makes you a prisoner to your own captive heart. All you think about is how the other person treated you or failed you. Soon enough, your life becomes a memoir to broken relationships and a testament to all things dreadful. 

Is life unfair sometimes? Sure. Do we have days where we want it to thunder and rain acid on all our enemies? I suppose. Is it okay? No, not really. 

This last spring, I told you about #100daysofhappy. While I didn’t get a physical reward from the challenge, after 100 or so days, I noticed how my outlook on life started changing. It wasn’t always doom and gloom anymore. I began documenting things I learned in small group, little DIY projects, or walks on the quad. It was enjoying the small, peaceful moments in between the spastic craziness and perpetual loneliness that was my last semester in college. One little snap of my phone a day, I grew more and more optimistic. The funny thing is, all it took was one little, positive thought to change an entire day. How crazy is that? 

(image via famzee.com)

I remember my good friend in high school, Hannah, told me how much pessimistic people irritated her. We agreed that it takes a lot of courage to banish negativity to embrace a more joyful outlook on the day. Sometimes, it’s not about conquering but just surviving the moments.

All of us have love and lost, won and failed, tried and given up…but if we just got up one more time than we got knocked down, we will still be standing. 

I’ve never been in a successful relationship. Many of the ones I have been in, I was cheated on or the terms were so unclear that the whole thing just unraveled. I’ve said horrible things to my loved ones and done even worst things. I’m guilty of gossiping, resentment and lying, just to name a few. But you know what? Today, that can all change. I’m not the person I used to be. Each day, with new mercies every morning, I’m learning to be a little more selfless and a little less self-pitying, a little more helpful and a little less fed up. Day by day, thought by thought, action by action, we can pray to become more like Christ. Before you know it, you’re no longer victim to your own guilt or anger. That, my friend, is freedom.

(image via craftbakesewcreate.blogspot.com)

“Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 ESV

You see, it’s not really about making ourselves happy. It’s letting joy overflow when our hearts are too full to hold it in. It’s something to be shared, to give out and to live out.

(image via doctorwho.tumblr.com)

Let out your inner happy.

IMG_1554 (1)



It’s Not Over

Jessica Keener Photography


From this picture, you’d think I was always happy-go-lucky and confident. Not so, friend. Not so.

Today, I decided to be brave and share about my story within God’s story. It’s been a long and winding journey, but I’m happy to say that I’m here before you today, trusting in the Lord.

I’m not sure why I’ve been reflecting so much recently, but I think it’s perhaps because of some of my more recent mistakes and encounters. However, instead of reacting, I grew numb. It was quite alarming. That, coupled with a strange, empty desperation made me remember how good God is in my life.

Forgive the post-work messy hair and second take puffy/teary eyes. Please just take a moment and let me explain…

If I had given up at 13, I would never have:

  1. learned what love is not.
  2. learned who love is.
  3. studied abroad in Hong Kong.
  4. gone to Hungary and work with amazing refugees
  5. gotten a Fulbright scholarship.
  6. heard Spoken Word.
  7. fell in love with lindy hop and dance culture.
  8. written for Buzz and Hyphen
  9. become Yelp Elite.
  10. lived and let live.

“Never, never, never give up.” That’s what one of my favorite pastors on campus said to me at a moment when I needed to hear it the most.

If you’re feeling down and need help, please don’t hesitate to ask someone or seek resources.

When I felt out of sorts, I consulted:

“You are not the answer. You are not the problem.”

Never, never, never ever quit. Even with your car alarm, smoke alarm heart, your too quick wit and your endless mistakes. You are not a mistake. You are created.

You are the type to last and to love and to create.

You are art formed by the Divine Creator.


“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~Isaiah 41:10

Love, love and more love,


(image via oneofthehoraios.tumblr.com)