Friday, December 24, 2010

Reflections on the Christmas Season

I have had more time this year to reflect on the Christmas season. One reason is because I don’t have InterVarsity end of the quarter stuff to do like I have for the past 6 years and two, because my church has been going through an advent series on Sundays. First I will start with my frustrations with the season. Many Christians including myself feel very conflicted during this season with the hype and extravagance of presents and spending. Some words or phrases that come to mind when I think of popular culture’s image of this season are: money, presents, angry shoppers, last minute deals, the economy, Christmas bonuses, Santa, sweets. The nativity scene is present but only as another decoration equal to Santa. I often feel overwhelmed with the consumerism of the season and pressure to spend a lot of money. I could go on about how burdensome I feel during this time, but this year I stopped to consider why our culture responds to Christmas in this way. There are a lot of negative reasons why but I would like to consider some positive reasons why our culture responds to Christmas with such elaborate extravagance. When it comes down to it I think we do really honor the tradition of celebration. We want to celebrate the end of a year and all the work that we have done, be able to take a break from it and party. We want to celebrate our families. We want to give them gifts to show how much we love them. Even the idea of Santa, we want kids to celebrate how they have been good throughout the year. And I think that this tradition of celebrating and wanting to show care for our families is a good thing. We are not a culture that is good at celebrating throughout the year like African or Latino cultures. So I am glad that we still have this season where people want to do that. Many Christians feel like our culture has lost all sense of meaning of Christmas but I disagree. Even if they are celebrating something different from what Christmas was originally intended for, to have that tradition rooted in our culture is not all bad. I believe that God can still redeem this season. As much as this season is a time of family, for many it is a time of loneliness. It can be a time where people see that they so desperately need something bigger than themselves to help them. As people find a need to Jesus in their life, I hope that our culture will translate that extravagance onto honoring Jesus. In my bitterness in the materialism I have lost the sense of celebration for this season. I do not prepare, anticipate, and celebrate the birth of Jesus the way that our culture celebrates “Christmas.” I think that I should come into the season with the same kind of passion and energy. Of course the actions of how I celebrate should look different but I think that reckless devoted attitude can be the same.

I am also thankful that our culture still has traditional “Jesus” Christmas songs on the radio and playing in malls. What other time of year do we get the message of Jesus pumped in radios and malls. This year I have noticed the richness in the words of these Christmas hymns that have really stuck with me. Here are some lines that caught my attention this year.

“God and sinners reconciled. Joyful all ye nations rise. Join the triumph of the skies.” This is a huge reconciliation that is happening. People now have direct access to God. We should be celebrating like when slaves were emancipated, only a lot more!

“Hail the incarnate Diety. Please as men with men to dwell”. God made himself human to come and live with us. To understand us, relate to us, to experience everything we experienced.

“Long lay the world, in sin and error pinning. Till he appeared and the spirit felt its worth. The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.” I feel like this just so describes our culture. We are caught in sin and pinning for something better. We are a weary world that needs to rejoice that we have a God that can rescue us from all the crap we are in.

“Truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease.” Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we. What a message of justice. What encouragement is this to people in the city or anyone in oppression.

“Go tell it on the mountain. Over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain. That Jesus Christ is born. “ I need to do this. I do not shout and declare that Jesus has been born. I need to go and tell it everywhere.

Another thing that has helped me connect with Jesus’ birth during this season is preparing for the birth of my nephew. I’m not going to lie, I am more excited about him coming into the world than Christmas this year. I am feeling the anticipation, hope, and excitement building. And I know when my nephew is born there will be rejoicing and celebration. He will finally be here and we will get to see and hold him and take him home. I can connect with the birth of Jesus that everyone was waiting for in anticipation. I feel like I can also connect more with how loved and adored this baby was. People came and worshipped him and brought him gifts, and he did nothing yet. Of course my nephew is far from Jesus but we love him so much alright and have all these gifts for him and he hasn’t done anything. He’s just sitting in my sister’s stomach, and upside down at that. But we absolutely love this kid who we have never met. It just teaches me how God loves us just because we are his. There is nothing that we have done or haven’t done that makes him love us. He loves us like I love my nephew, just because we are his.

I’m so excited to be Auntie Megan!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Favorites

Every year after Thanksgiving passes I go into hating the holiday season mode. The consumerism overwhelms me and I become depressed about the commercial nature of the season that has overshadowed the birth of Jesus. I avoid malls and Christmas music. Then at some point every year in Dec there is a shift for me and I love the holidays again. I am still saddened by how material things become obsessive but I allow the bitterness to subdue to enjoy the holidays for what they are. Here are some of my favorite Christmas things

· Favorite Movie: Elf

Favorite Elf quotes

o “Son of a Nutcracker”

o “I love you, I Love You, I LOVE YOU!”

o “I just like smiling, smiling’s my favorite.”

· Favorite Candy: Andies

· Favorite Family tradition: Opening the boxes every day in Dec until Christmas

· Favorite gift received- Mini handheld TV as a kid. It was so small and so hard to get any channels. I don’t know why I wanted it so much but I did.

· Favorite gift given- So last year I tried to be creative and kingdom focused with my sister’s gift. I got her a punch of little rubber duckies which I wrapped up individually. So as she was opening them, she’s like why are you giving me this? Then the last present was from World Vision. I bought a duck that would be given to a needy family in her name. Get it?

· Kids Christmas Song: Must be Santa by Raffi

· Classic Christmas Song: 12 days of Christmas

· Jesus” Christmas Song: Go Tell it on the Mountain

· Modern Christmas Song: Merry Christmas Happy Holidays by Nsync

· New Discovery Christmas song: Donde esta Santa Claus?

· (Ok so I like a lot of songs. As Buddy says, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is sings loud for all to hear)

· Favorite part of the Nativity story: Joseph’s conversation with the angel.

· Character in the Nativity: Sheppards, no no I mean Jesus, yeah.

What are your Christmas favorites?

Monday, December 13, 2010


This is the clay mask at made at Creativity in the Classroom. His name is Sloppy. He is a street dog that lives off scraps from the dumpster. He’s so colorful because one day someone dumped a bucket of paint on him while he was in the dumpster. Since there was no one to wash him, the paint stained his fur. Sloppy is a very sweet mellow dog who dreams of one day getting to be one of those dogs they bring into hospitals to cheer up sick children.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Creativity in the Classroom Part 3

This is my final reflection on my training with Creativity in the Classroom. The last day went out with a bang! We started the day with a memory visualization exercise. I was really excited because I have done this before in theatre and it has always been really powerful for me. We did a much shorter version this time than I have done in the past. We started from a relaxing place and then were told to let a memory come to mind. It could have been from years ago or days ago. She had us pick a pleasant memory. She asked us so notice what we saw in this memory. Really take time to see everything that is going on in that moment. Who is there, what’s around. Then she had us notice all the different sounds in this memory, then the smells and even the tastes. Then we noticed how we felt in the memory both physically and emotionally. After we left this memory she had us write down as many words as we could think of about this memory. Not phrases or sentences, just words. The she had us put those words into 3 categories. One column for all words pertaining to the environment, another about the action or what was happening in the memory, and a column for words related to the emotion or what we felt. Then we circled a few words from each column that we felt really captured the memory. Then we picked words totally 5 syllables from the first column, 7 from the second, and 5 from the third. See where we are going with this? We made a Haikou. I never really liked writing Haikou but this process made it so easy to write and connect to because it was based off a memory. Then we shared our Haikou with a partner. Our partner then found a musical instrument to play while we read our poem to enhance the tone of the poem. Then we presented the poems to the class by reading them and having musical accompaniment. I really enjoy how there is always a build to a performance and it involves several types of art forms.

Then we got to see our clay masks that we had glazed in our last session. It was really cool to walk around and see how everyone’s turned out. She then had us spend some time with our masks and pick a name, a time period this mask was from, an occupation, and a dream. Then we wrote a letter from the perspective of this mask’s character. Then we walked around the room in the mode that this character might walk. Then we came up with what gesture this character might have. Then we came up with a movement sentence. A movement sentence combines several different types of movements that can be repeated. Then we got into groups and picked one mask from our group. Someone read the letter from the character, another did the movement sentence, and two others played instruments. Another build up to a performance. This activity had creative writing, drama, music, visual art, and dance. So cool!

In the afternoon we did an intense session of scriptwriting. It was quite an adventure. First we started with coming up with an environment. Then we picked characters that we wanted to be in our story. A few of them were from the masks that we had created and we added in some new ones. We named our characters. Then we came up with the basic frame of what we wanted our story to be about. This took the longest time. We may have spent 1 ½ to 2 hours on this. With everyone’s different ideas it was hard to come to consensus. Once we got the story down we were running out of time so we split up into 3 groups and each group wrote lines for the beginning, middle, or end of the story. Then we quickly cast roles. Our teacher brought out simple things to make costumes and set pieces. We put on costumes and came up with a simple set and performed the play. That last part was put together in about 15 minutes. It was quite amazing. I don’t know how we pulled it all together so fast but we did. It was so much fun to see all these adults into it with outrageous hats and prancing around. We were pretty proud of our play so I wanted to share what it was about.

The Legend of the Bayou Swamp

Pierre and Pietra are newlyweds who have come to the Bayou swamp in search of Moonie’s legendary moonshine that promises to give a perfect life. Pierre hires Triton, a ship captain, to take them on his boat to Moonie’s hut. Drecamus, a pirate king who catches people’s dreams to make them come true, also come along for the ride. As they travel down the Bayou, Pierre is bitten by a Mosquito named Zzzt. They must take Pierre to the Shaman to be healed. While Pierre is unconscious from the mosquito bite, Drecamus sees Pierre’s dream of having the perfect life with Pietra and worries that they are chasing after a fake solution. While the shaman is healing Pierre, Pietra hijacks Triton’s boat and continues on to find Moonie to pursue the dream of having the perfect life. Pierre awakes and sees that Pietra is gone. Xavier, the shaman’s guardian owl, offers to carry Pierre to save his love. As Pietra approaches Moonies hut, an alligator named Alaster bites a hole in the boat and it begins to sink. Xavier, Triton, Drecamus, and Pierre swoop down to save Pietra just before the alligator is about to eat her. Pierre and Pietra

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cooking Risks

I was recently criticized for not being adventurous enough to try to make a Thanksgiving turkey for our church Thanksgiving feast (see previous post). This person didn’t really know me, but for those who do know me… this is a ridiculous request to make if you are wanting something edible. That being said, I have come a long way in my cooking journey in the 3 months that I have lived here. Because my roommates and I cook for each other, it has forced me to delve into a world I have avoided most my life. Although I am not at Thanksgiving turkey level, I would like to acknowledge the strides I have made in my cooking.

When I did the Los Angeles Urban Project, we lived on a fixed budget for food. However, I probably ate a lot better on this mission’s trip than I did normally. My most absolute favorite dish that we made was what I call the cabbage dish. Whenever one of my teammates has people over for dinner I always beg him to make the cabbage dish. I was afraid for so long to make it, convinced that I could never make it like my teammates. But recently I decided I would take the leap and try it. I probably asked my friend a million times what the steps were to make it. And miracle of all miracles it turned out well. I made it for my roommate and she really enjoyed it. Then I made it for my sister who said it was, “bomb.” Coming from someone who is convinced all I eat is French fries, this was quite a compliment. Looking back it’s really not hard to make at all, I don’t know why I was so hesitant.

After cooking I ventured into the world of baking. I have never baked anything in my life, even cookies, no joke. My mom makes the most bomb pumpkin bread in the WHOLE WORLD. I look forward to it every thanksgiving. I wanted to make some to give to our neighbors as a thanksgiving treat, so I asked my mom to show me when she came up to LA to visit me. The first attempt was a bit of a painful experience. It took probably 2 hours. As we were cooking my roommate in the other room could hear me exasperating such phrases as, “I’m so over this.” “It’s takes an HOUR just in the oven.” “This is soooo not worth all the work.” My philosophy in cooking is that if it takes longer to cook it than it does to eat it, it’s not worth making. So this was quite difficult for me. But I made it. And my roommates loved it! Then I made it again without my mom! I still had the supervision of my roommates but I was very proud of myself. And I have decided because this pumpkin bread is so delicious, it is worth the time put in to make it. Although I would not make it every week.

So I may not be able to cook a Thanksgiving turkey but I have taken some major risks for myself personally in the world of cooking. I successful created my favorite LAUP dish which only took me 4 years to get up the courage to try and went into the world of baking through pumpkin bread.

This is not a cooking blog so I will not post the recipes but you can contact me if you would like either.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Earning favor with kiddos

I got a chance to babysit for a 1 year old whose parents are in the small group I started going to. As you can imagine, this was very exciting for me. I’m working my way into the babysitting circuit. Wohoo! He did very well having not known me at all previous to this. We bonded over piggy snorting noises and fire engine sound effects. At the time that I watched him he was walking with the assistance of a hand but not on his own.

A week later when I went to small group he was taking steps on his own. This was the highlight of the evening as we all cheered that enticed him to walk toward different people in the group. Now, I was told that this baby particularly only likes going to men. The women in the small group were trying to bride him with different toys to walk over to them but he kept going to this one guy in our group. But after a little while he walked straight to ME!!! You can imagine the elation in my heart. He SUPPOSEDLY only likes guys but he came to ME! He then walked with me all around the house. Even his mom said, wow Megan he really likes you. That’s right we bonded! Although I absolutely adore children, I wouldn’t say I’m a kid magnet. They don’t flock to me like they do my little sister. So when I earn the favor of a young child, basically…. it makes my day, maybe my week. I’m trying to not find my worth in children’s love. Hahah, jk. Oh the simple joys in life.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holistic Family

Last week I went to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with the church I attend. Somehow we had the entire church into one house. Going in doubted that it could be done but it was far less chaotic than I anticipated. It was a great environment to meet more people from a church. I don’t think I have seen so much food in my life. We probably had over 50 dishes, no jokes. The food just kept going and going. I also got to watch the kiddos for a bit which we all know is where my heart. I played beauty salon with some 5 year old girls and I got my hair done. It was really nice to see one of the Dads come in and play along with his daughter as well.

I have never really experienced the church family thing. I would consider myself a believer in Jesus for 15 years and a follower of Jesus for 6 1/2 years. But the church experience I have always been an outsider to. InterVaristy was definitely an amazing family to me but they were mainly all my peers. To be in a church with babies and kids and teenagers and Dads and Moms and peers is a new thing for me. It’s outside my comfort zone. It feels more holistic to learn and receive from all these different types of people in the city. Although I am still an outsider in the church they are making me feel welcome quickly. I am only an outsider because it will take me a while to open myself up completely to them and let them become family to me. I am excited to experience God in this new community and let him heal me through this new experience of family.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Riding the Bus

A friend from church needed someone to help drop her car off at the auto shop to be fixed. This meant I would drive her car there and take the bus home because the auto shop was only open when she was at work. I was excited about this opportunity to experience life without a car and how a lot of people travel. I not only wanted to experience what it was like to not have a car (for like an hour), but to talk to people who’s daily reality is waiting for the bus. I gave myself the challenge to have at least have one conversation with someone either while waiting for the bus or on the bus. Being the very organized person that I am, I looked up which buses to take and when they left. The website is actually makes it very easy to plan a bus route. My first busing adventure came and went uneventfully. I failed in my challenge to have a conversation with anyone. Fear, language barriers, and not knowing what to say prevented me from stepping outside my comfort zone. Luckily I had a chance to redeem myself because I had to take the bus back to pick up the car the next day. I was determined not to fail in my challenge this time. I even decided not to look up the buses or times to force myself to ask people. This wasn’t much a risk because I just reversed the buses I took before. But I did have a conversation with one woman who was waiting with her 1 year old son. I engaged her about babies and how my sister was pregnant. Even if I can’t relate to having a kid, at least I can relate a little through being an aunt. Thank you sister for being pregnant so I can have things to talk about with people! It wasn’t an amazing conversation, but I tried.

But what I learned more about the bus journey was the conversation with my friend I had afterwards. To take the bus in LA it cost $1.50. I had to take 2 buses to go less than 5 miles. So if I was taking the bus to my job every day, I would be spending $6.00 a day round trip. That’s $30 a week. I definitely do not spend that much on gas week. But then I thought, I’m sure the monthly bus pass is a lot cheaper. But I found out it’s not. My friend told me that her monthly bus pass cost more than gas! How are people supposed to afford this? And what about families that ride the bus, even more expensive. Here is a perfect example of structural injustice that keeps people in a cycle of poverty. The structures in society make it so difficult for people who are already in poverty to pull themselves out. I could go on but I told myself I would make this a shorter blog post.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Creativity in the Classroom Part 2

In this training day we did sculpting and THEATRE!

In the sculpting class, we took a slab of clay from a pug (which is a block of clay) and made a mask. In a later training day we will paint our masks. This session I didn’t feel like we learned new teaching techniques about sculpting but rather how to find materials you already have to sculpt clay with. For me it was a relaxing morning of being able to get lost in creating and expressing myself through my hands. I was coming into the day feeling a lot of heavy burdens. It felt freeing to have that space to make art. I am learning more and more how I am a very kinesthetic learner. I experience and learn a lot better when I am either doing something with my hands or physicalizing it with my body. This is probably why performing art is more appealing to me. More on that in a later blog.

Afterwards we did a debrief of the experience by putting in on a chart what materials we used, how we used them, what we learned, and how we felt. We talked about how it’s so important to practice reflecting with children on how they feel while doing art. Because I have trained so much to be a reflective person, I forget that kids don’t have that same framework and need to be taught how to identify their feelings and acknowledge them. Can you see why this gets me excited? Teaching skills for life, not just art!

The theatre lessons were amazing of course. I would expect nothing less. I would say about 2/3 of the exercises I had already played before. What was most helpful was learning the sequence in which to introduce these games. I learned the “emotional scaffolding” to build up to performance and story ideas. Since none of the games were fundamentally new to me, the rest of this blog will be my reflections on how I implemented them with my students. I combined what I learned in the workshop with games I have used in the past with kids.

In the training, our leader suggested that we start the class by laying out the behavior expectations for the students. I decided to try this out with my class because sometimes it can get bit chaotic, as theatre often leads to silliness. I had each student agree to three expectations for the theatre class: respect, focus and participation. Respect means you respect your own body and others’ bodies. You are not going to do anything to hurt anyone else or yourself. So I would ask the kids, is running into the wall respecting your body? No. Focus: that means we are going to listen to the directions and follow them. If someone else is performing we are going to focus on them and show them respect. Participation: this means you are going to be a part of the activities we are doing and participate. I knew my kids would have the hardest with respect because they are always touching and crashing into each other. Before we continued I had them all think about the 3 expectations and shake my hand that they were agreeing to these. I always start each class with warming up our bodies, faces and voices. Usually with bodies we just stretch in some way. In the training I learned a new exercise to warm up our facial muscles. I had them all hold out their hand and picture that they were holding an apple. Then instead of taking a nice polite nibble of the apple, we took a huge bite, chewing with our mouth open, using every muscle in our mouth to chew that apple. I think my kids liked making the loudest sound to bite the apple rather than using their face. Then we used our whole body to physicalize biting the apple, chewing, and swallowing it. In my class almost every activity ends with falling on the floor. I don’t know why but that is their response to everything, making it difficult to get back up and continue with the next exercise. Then we did Name and a Movement. In this exercise you have to say your name is a non normal speaking voice and then you do an action with it. The whole group repeats the name and action. My kids are great at speaking in a different voice; they do that without me prompting it. They got a little silly with the action but it’s ok. Its their time to express themselves and I am trying not to limit them to much. That was the end of our warm ups.

In this lesson today I wanted to focus on movements and shapes we can make with our bodies. So I first talked to them about different types of lines. Luckily some of them had taken art classes before so they were able to identify straight, curvy, swirly, diagonal, and zigzag lines. I wanted to them to physicalize these lines with their body but I knew I had to remind them of safety. We talked about how everyone has an area around their body that they don’t want anyone to enter into. I called this our space bubble. So we showed each other with our hand where our space bubble was so that we would know to respect that space. We talked about not bumping into anyone else’s space bubble. (I hoped that this would alleviate bodies crashing into each other). Once we established our space bubbles, I told them to walk around the room normally. We practiced walking around the room in different lines. Straight, curvy, zigzag. Walking quickly turned into running so I turned those into slow motion lines to settle them down. Then I tried to have a discussion about them with different shapes we could make with our bodies. In the dance training workshop, we had somehow made different shapes and then were able to name the shapes we had made. I think I skipped some steps because as I was leading this discussion with my students, I realized I didn’t know what shapes we were making. This was a lesson for me to make sure that I review the shapes and know how to build up to teaching this. So that part didn’t go so well but live and learn. I ended the day with playing rain. I loved this game in high school and it’s a great cool down game for kids. Basically, using different hand motions like snapping, clapping, and stomping you can create this build of what sounds like rain. It’s kind of hard to understand until you play it. It sounds really cool when everyone is quite and follows the pattern. We had to practice this game several times for them to learn that they don’t change motions until I come by them. We also had to practice not talking because you can’t hear the rain until everyone is quite. They said they could hear the rain but the game would work better with more students. So that was all day 1.

Day 2.

I decided to start the day with going over the 3 expectations again because there were some kids who were not there the previous day, plus my kids could use the reminder. In our warm ups I did the new Big Black Bug tongue twister I learned from the training. It goes, “The big black bug, bit the big black bear, and big black bear bled blood.” The Koosh game is a good focusing game, similar to the game zip zap zop. In the koosh game you make eye contact with a person, say their name and then toss them the koosh ball. I didn’t have any balls so I used rolled up socks. Works just as well. Then that person throws to another person until everyone in the circle has been thrown the ball. Then you do this again but always throwing it to the same person. After they have some focus with this, you add more balls into the mix. I only added 2 socks since we were a small group. They were actually able to do it with multiple balls for a while. I was impressed. It got a little silly at the end, but to be expected. Then we played Food and Movement. I had them think of a food that they loved or hated. And then I asked them to think of an action to show us whether they loved or hated that food. The tone of how they said the food would also show us if they liked it. The group repeated the name of the food and the action. Then I went around and asked them based on how someone said the food and showed the action if that person loved or hated the food. Maybe this was too simple of a question because they thought it was funny to always say the opposite response. That was our warm up games and led into what I wanted to focus on for the day.

In this day I wanted to focus on showing emotions in our faces and bodies. I had them all remind each other of their space bubble again. Then I had them walk around the room and think how might you walk different if you found out your best friend was moving away, how might you face change, how might your body change. (Again end result for them is falling on the floor). Then how about if it’s your birthday and going to Disneyland, now if you came home at night and all the lights were off and no one was home, how about if you are trying really hard to do this one math problem and you keep getting it wrong. With all of these suggestions I asked them how their face and body would change as they walked around the room. Afterwards I had them name the emotion that they would have been feeling in those different situations. This method is naming what you have done vs doing what you have named. If I told them walk around as if you were happy, sad, angry, they would have had a more stereotypical responses. They were very good at naming the emotions that felt. Then I reviewed just the facial expressions we would use for those emotions. The next game is called the Gibberish. Basically two people talk in gibberish and you should be able to tell what they are talking about by their expressions. Instead of having the kids come up with gibberish, I told the first kid only to say 123 and the second kid could only say 456. So we practiced having a conversation just saying those three words. After their gibberish conversation I asked the class what they thought the conversation was about. Then I asked the actors what they were thinking about when they had the conversation. That ended Day 2.

Day 3

We did our regular warm ups. I did a warm up with them that is good for kids to get their sillies out. I call it Shake Out. You start by shaking your hand 5 times while counting to five. Then you do the same with your other hand and each foot. Then you shake and count to 4 with each hand and foot. You keep going this until you get to one, each time getting faster. It’s pretty fun because there is an exciting build to the 1,1,1,1.

What I wanted to focus on today was characters and pantomime. We started with a mirroring activity. I was very hesitant to try this game because I anticipated it would turn silly really fast and they would go at lightning speed. So I told at the beginning that everything had to be in slow motion. They actually surprisingly did pretty well. They liked to mime punching each other but because they remained in slow motion it was ok. To them it felt like a fight scene in slow motion so they were happy. Even when I had them move in their feet and hold the mirroring they were able to keep it pretty well. Then we played pantomime tug of war. I tried to model and explain this well because I anticipated that every kid would just pull the rope to their side to win. They did better than I expected on this too. I have one kid who really got into it. I did the tug of war with him and his face was into it and he got the leaning down pretty well. I wanted to move them from thinking about emotions to characters so we were again reminded of space bubbles. I started them walking normally and then asked them to walk around like their grandparents move. Somehow this meant to one kid hurling himself on a table. So I had to stop and ask him, “Luke, do your grandparents hurl themselves on tables when they walk?” “No.” “Ok then lets respect our bodies and move how they would.” Then we I asked them to walk as it they were two years old. Natural response: you guessed it, on the floor. So I told them two year olds can walk, so show me walking two year olds. Then we walked like ninjas. They were very loud ninjas so I reminded them that ninjas were quite so that they didn’t get caught. Then we moved like aliens. I had them come up with alien voices. They all had pretty different movements and voices with this so that was cool to see. After this we debriefed and talked about what a character is and how we can move our body like different characters. I ended the day with their favorite games. It’s called Killer. I know I shouldn’t promote killing but it’s a secret death not an assault death. They already play mafia at the program so I figured its ok. In the game, they all put their heads down and I secretly choose someone to be the killer. Then everyone opens their eyes and are at a dinner party. They are supposed to meet everyone at this dinner party by shaking their hands. The killer slyly will scratch the hand of the person they want to kill while shaking their hand. The victim will then shakes 2 other peoples hand at the party and then dies a dramatic death. It just occurred to me right now but there is a lot of falling on the floor as people die a dramatic death. No wonder this is their favorite game! Everyone at the party has to figure out who the killer is. I challenged them this time to be one of the characters that we talked about when they were at the party. They didn’t really take that suggestion. They get all giggly and try not to shake each other’s hand. But they love it so I can never go wrong with Killer. Hurling yourself on the floor, always good times.

So I know, super long blog post again. I don’t know how this happens. I just get going and this is what comes out. But especially these art ones are more for me to remember and learn from.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Job Searching and the Oregon Trail

I was going to use the analogy that job searching is like a rollercoaster. It has its ups and its down, and it can be all over the place. But now that I have been job searching for about 2 months (which I realize is a very short time compared to most people) it’s more like playing that computer game Oregon Trail as kid. It’s a long tiring journey. There are a lot of disappointments along the way, but there are those moments of hope and accomplishment as well. I am already making this sound depressing, but I’m actually feeling pretty good about it right now.

Oregon Trail vs. the Israelites in the Desert

If job searching now in LA is like the Oregon Trail, job searching 2 years ago in Irvine was like the Israelites wondering in the desert with Moses. I have noticed a significant difference in my approach to job searching from when I just graduated 2 years ago to now. After I graduated I felt very anxious about it and after 2 weeks I was majorly depressed and convinced I would never find a job. I was moping and complaining like the Israelites, “Lord why did you bring us out here to die?” This time around it has been a lot more enjoyable. Another difference is that it seems there are a lot more opportunities available in LA than there were in Orange County, especially working with children. Although I’m not finding a ton of full time work there is a plethora of part time jobs at afterschool centers working with kids.

Killing the Buffalo- having enough food for now

If you have played the Oregon Trail game, you remember that you often stop to hunt animals to get food. Killing a buffalo was the best because it gave you the most food that would last you a while. So in job searching I have found a buffalo and have some food source, for a while at least. I have part time job, yay! I am working at an afterschool Korean program. I help them complete their homework and correct additional academic work they have as well. The last 45 minutes they have a fun activity if they have completed all their work. Thankfully I have been able to do theatre with a few students during that time. The job was painfully stressful at first, but by the grace of God it has gotten significantly better and I can now say that I am enjoying it. It’s very easy for me to fall in love with any child so I quickly latched on to loving these kids. I am working 20 hours a week so it’s some money flowing in which is good, but not enough to sustain me in the long run so I continue in my hunt.

Casting the seed wide

I can’t think of a good Oregon Trail analogy for this part. My philosophy is job searching is cast the seed wide. I apply for as many jobs as I can. I apply for jobs I am not qualified for, don’t pay enough, maybe are too far away. I’m just trying to throw my resume out as much as possible and see what bites. I have about 10 different templates of my resume that I have for various jobs that I modify a little with each job. The job categories that I grouped my resumes into are teaching assistant, theatre teacher, after school teacher, nanny, events coordinator, volunteer coordinator, and office assistant. So I basically almost all the jobs I apply for fit into one of those categories and I tweak my resume accordingly. I am also very organized about how I track the jobs I have applied for. I have a whole spreadsheet which includes, name of the company, position, email, phone number, contact name, salary, location, when I applied, when I followed up, which resume I used, and where I found the job. So far I have sent my resume to over 100 different jobs. I use a variety of search engines including Craig’s list, Monster, Career Builder, Idealist, Nonprofit jobs coop, Jobing, Indeed, Opportunityknocks, Arts for LA, facebook marketplace. You get the point.

Disease on the Oregon Trail

So you know you’re going along the Oregon Trail and then some member of your party gets struck with some strange disease. Well in job searching you have to beware of job scams that can slow you down. (I know the analogies are becoming a bit of a stretch). I have gotten a ton of job scam responses, most of them are administrative assistant ads on Craig’s list. I even had one send me personal check for $3000 that I was supposed to deposit into my account. Cost me $7.84 to send in certified mail back so I made sure they didn’t think I still had the check. I also applied to a lot of secretarial jobs that turned out to be a secret shopper job. Now secret shoppers are not a scam but it is certainly not a secretary job. Completely misleading add. I had a father respond to me about tutoring his kids but he worked from London. He was going to hire me without ever having met me and send me checks from London for tutoring his kids, way sketch.

Almost crossing the river

In the Oregon Trail you occasionally come to a river and lake that you have to cross. I forgot what factors play into whether you can cross it or not but I think it has to do with how many animals you have and weight. A lot of times you see your little wagon come so close to crossing it but right before it reaches the end, it sinks. I have had those moments in job searching. I came so close to getting this one job and then just didn’t get it. I found this really great job that I was perfect for and was pretty much my dream job for where I am at in my life right now. The job was teaching theatre in public schools. The program was a nonprofit that would go around to different school and work with a class for 3 weeks to put on a one act play based off inspirational biographies. The program was really cool because in teaching theatre they also fostered literacy and wisdom through learning about inspirational people from history. I had done something similar to college where I would create a play with a class based off what the students were already learning. I felt really qualified; I went into the interview really prepared. I read all 5 plays that they produce. The whole process of applying, interviewing, and hearing back from them was about a month. And then in the end they hired someone who had been volunteering with them and spoke Spanish. Nothing I can do about that. So close to crossing the river, and then just drowned at the tail end. Oh Lord please let there be more jobs like that.

Randomness of the Game

So the job searching on the Oregon Trail is chugging along. Some weeks there is a lot of response. One week I had an interview almost every day. And other weeks there is silence and nothing to apply for. I am learning how to trust God to be my provider. I am also seeing that as much as I would like job searching to be a formula, it is not. In the Oregon Trail, even if you are an expert at playing the game, know how to budget your food, and kill the animals, you might still get struck with some strange disease or get hit with some bad weather that will end the game. It’s a bit of a game of luck in some sense. Job searching does require work and preparation, but ultimately it is God who provides and there is nothing I can really do to make someone hire me. I have applied to over 100 jobs now since I started in late August. I have researched and prepared for every interview I have had. But even in the midst of all that it does not guarantee me a job. This has been hard for me because I like to feel like my hard work should produce something. I like to see the results of my labor. But unfortunately God does not always work like that. Yes, he does call us to be diligent and faithful but it does not guarantee the results we want. I am trying to be thankful for this extra time I have right now and see it as a blessing from God. I know I will miss it when I go back to working full time. But the workaholic in me is getting very antsy and wanting to fill up my time. I am always desiring to be productive in some way, it’s always hard for me to just “be.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Creativity in the Classroom Part 1

This is a really long post, but its more for me so that I can remember what I learned.

As mentioned in my previous blog posts I am hoping to pursue teaching theatre here in LA. I have been looking into different organizations that would help me pursue that. One such organization that I found is called Inner City Arts. I was looking into volunteer opportunities with them. This facility that they have is just phenomenal. This is probably the best funded arts program I have ever visited. They have a wide range of arts that they teach from including animation, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, dance, theatre, video, photography, I mean the list just goes on. What they mainly do is have teachers come with their class to the facility to have art classes. Teachers will come for a 3 week series on a certain art disciple. The hope is that the teacher will continue what they learned in the series in the classroom. They also have a lot of teacher training about how to incorporate arts into the classroom. I was invited to attend this training as part of the orientation to become a volunteer. This training was incredibly amazing. I was sitting there just trying to soak in everything the leader was telling us. They had amazing teaching philosophies and principles about creativity that you could clearly see had been developed over time and with experience. The training is a series so we just learned how to introduce two disciples at this session, drawing and dance.

First we started the day by talking about what is creativity and what things hinder creativity. A few things that hinder creativity, especially with children are too much surveillance, reward systems, evaluation, competition, restricting, pressure, and over control. Although these things make sense when you talk about them, they are hard to implement in keeping control over a class. We also talked about how behavior “problems” are actually an invitation to learn about a child in how they function and what way they need to learn. We were led through several exercises that you could lead students through.

We started the drawing class by talking about lines. We drew straight lines, diagonal, vertical, curvy, continuous, etc. Next, we did this exercise where we crumpled up a piece of paper. We visualized an ant walking around the perimeter of that crumpled up paper. Without looking at our drawing paper, we drew the perimeter and followed the ant on his journey around the perimeter of the crumpled paper. This was to help keep a continuous line and focus on the detail of the curves. Our next exercise was drawing a portrait of the leader without looking at the paper and keeping a continuous line. This exercise was to help break our fixation that drawing should be about making it look exactly like what we are drawing. Then we were given an object in a paper bag and told just to feel the object without looking at it and draw what we felt. This exercise was really helpful for me in drawing 3 dimensional objects because I could feel the curve of the line that sometimes just looking at it I couldn’t see. Feeling the curves helped my brain connect visually to what the line was. We talked about how people learn differently and how some people are more kinesthetic learners and they have feel and experience things to learn. Really interesting. We then each took a toy dinosaur and were told to study it for about 2 minutes and notice all the details on it. Then we put the dinosaur under the table and were told to draw everything that we remembered about it. Once we were done with all of the exercises everyone was told to pick one drawing from the day. We put all the drawing on the wall and did what was called a non judgmental critique. This was a great experience too in learning the language to use with art. She asked us what things we noticed about the different drawing, what similarities and what difference they had. How did the drawing make us feel and why did they make us feel that way? Kids have a tendency to say, “I like that one”’ or “I don’t like that one.” She talked about how we can rephrase that language to, “I see that you are drawn to this drawing, why is that?” Rather than, “I like that drawing.” All of it is to affirm the creativity and not place judgment on it. So incredibly helpful.

In the afternoon we learned about dance. We first started by doing some physical stretches and warm ups. And then we named the moves that we did, such as stretching, reaching, jumping, and bending. We talked a lot about how to introduce art vocabulary. Name what you did instead of doing what you named. It’s easier for kids to grasp the vocabulary if they have already done it and can name what they have done. We then did a mirroring exercise where you mirror the movements that your partner does. (We do this a lot in theatre to create unity and trust with your partner). We then did an exercise where we moved around the room in different lines . So we walked in a straight line and changed directions. Then in curvy lines. After that, we did an exercise where the leader played some music and on a piece of paper we drew lines based of how we thought the music sounds. Did the music have long curvy lines or short straight lines? Did the lines change throughout the song? Then she played the music again and this time we drew the lines in the air with our finger. She then asked us to draw the lines with our whole hand, then with our shoulder and then with our whole bodies. So then we were able to move around and just draw lines with our bodies based on the rhythm of the music. I loved this exercise because it almost tricks you into dancing. We are not dancing, we are just drawing lines with our bodies. A lot of what we did in all the exercises was building up to a performance so that you don’t just throw kids into a scary performance setting. They call it emotional scaffolding. It really does help you build confidence in your movement and not feel like you are being judged as a “dancer.” Everyone is going to draw lines with their body that look different and that ok. We also discussed how in our culture communal dancing is so associated with sexuality. There isn’t really a space to dance communally in an affirming and celebratory way like there are in other cultures. Then we were put into groups and told to come up with a short “dance” but really it was more based on movements that we had done in earlier exercises. You had to include 3 of the movements we had talked about earlier. Then as one group performed the other groups were the musicians and poets. The first time the dancers performed it was silent. The musicians all had an instrument and thought of how they could use their instrument to help accompany the dance. The poets wrote down a word on how the dance made them feel or what they thought of in the dance. Then the dancers performed a second time and the musicians included their instruments as they performed. The poets all wrote a second word about how this time with the music the dance made them feel. Then all the poets brought their words together and arranged them in a way to tell a short poem. Then the dancers performed a third time, this time with music and poets reading their poem throughout. So it combined a lot of other art elements as well.

I hope to be able to continue this series and learn more about other forms of art and how to teach it well. I think I have said it enough, but hey once more for kicks and giggles. This training was AMAZING!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

LA Critters

Crawling critters

Ants-I knew that ants would maybe be a problem. But since my roommates are pretty clean I thought maybe we would be ok. (I’m clean to when other people are clean. My cleanliness tends to match the people around me). But no, first week we got here a lovely line of ants appeared in the bathroom. I Raid attacked them, which seemed to work. But then I left a banana peel in the trash can in my room which was a mistake. So now as I am sitting at my desk, I see one crawl over my keyboard and smash it. While I am sitting on my couch watching TV one will crawl on my arm and I flick it away. So basically we just sit and pick ants off ourselves several times a day. It’s not like a line of them and we don’t know where they are coming from; it’s just one here and one there. It’s getting better though. Word on the street is that they go away with the heat.

Cockroaches- Yes, we have had some cockroach spottings. My roommates first spotted some babies in the kitchen when we turned on the lights at night and then they all tried to scurry away. It became very precarious to come into the kitchen at night because you never knew what kind of crutch you might find under your feet. Bare feet became a dangerous option for me. We found a couple in the bathroom as well which made me fear putting my clothes on the floor while showing. But we got some roach motels which they seem to be happily settling into. No longer nomads wandering the kitchen and bathroom, but settled down into a nice motel for a lifetime stay, hopefully.

Feathered critters

Rooster- Well who says you can’t have the best of the country in the city? Our neighbors have a lovely rooster that is our morning wake up call. Only this alarm clock is in need of some new batteries. Sometimes he crows at 5, sometimes 8, sometimes 10, and sometimes not at all. Maybe the lights in the city confuse him for the sun. Well I guess I better stick to the electronic alarm clock for now.

Bird/ Pigeons- Oh the birds are very lovely here. I hear them on my roof and telephone poles making very interesting noise. They are also very very generous bird. But truly they follow the teaching of Matthew 6 and do their generous deeds in secret. They particularly like to leave their gifts on my car. We have learned that parking your under certain trees are more prone to surprises than other places. The above picture is my car with the plethora of presents left by the birds. And I am too lazy to clean it so it just stays like this.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Here is a picture of the outside of my place. The way that a lot of places work in LA is that old houses are remodeled and split up into different apartment units. My place is split up into 4 units, hence the ½ in my address. Because of this converting, a lot of the layouts are pretty non conventional. In my apt when you go down the hallway you first hit my bedroom, then our kitchen, then another bedroom. This was actually one of the better layouts we looked at. One had no living room at all, and another you had to walk through the bedroom to get to the other bedroom.

I am living with two other women, both that I knew through InterVarsity. They are exceptional roommates (And I am not saying that just because they read this blog). More about them later. Our apt is a 3 bedroom and 1 bathroom. Because of the interesting set up as I mentioned above, one of the rooms is attached to the living room and does not have a closet. Because we didn’t want to make anyone stuck in that small room and walk across the apt to get to a closet, we decided that two of us would double up and we would turn the awkward room into a prayer/art/guest room. So far it has worked out really well. I really enjoy having that extra space to get away from my computer and just settle in with God. Our apartment is very old fashion looking with wood paneling. (See pictures below). We also have these great built in shelving units in the living room and one of the bedrooms. We have a little porch that we share with our neighbor.

My roommates and I all moved to the city with similar reasons, to be part of the neighborhood and care for the poor. So we are trying to make the place that we live welcoming to visitors and have community with each other. We have decided to do our groceries communally and cook for each other a few nights a week. Those of you who know me well know that Megan does not cook. My motto in cooking is: If it takes longer to cook it than it does to eat it; it’s not worth making. So my food tends to be pretty simple and from a box. So far my roommates have stomached the food I have made. Hopefully I will be able to learn how to cook more from them. I think they are going to force me to eat healthier which will make some members of my family very happy. They have tried converting me to whole grain bread, but I am holding out on my white bread for now. Funny thing though, when I was shopping, I accidentally bought wheat bread for myself instead of white, I think the Lord is slowing forcing me to the wheat world, no,…its gross! I’m just being real. But it’s really nice to have meals together and talk about our days. It’s weird to have time to make and eat dinner. Being in InterVarsity so long where everything happens in the evening, I am used to microwaving something and eating it on the way to an IV event.

The neighborhood is really nice. We have met a few of our neighbors but looking for more opportunities to have longer conversations with them. They all seem really friendly though. I have never felt unsafe. My roommates and I are being cautious though, we call each other when we come back late and watch each other walk in. So far everything is working out great. Here are a few pictures of the place.

Here is a picture of my room, notice the orange walls, (Came that way, I didn't paint them that color)
Here is one of the built in units I was talking about. This is the one in my room.

This is our living room. Fake fireplace and everything.

This is our prayer/art/guest room for all who come to visit.

And this is our teeny tiny kitchen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Health Clinic

I felt like I got a real authentic LA experience when I went to the health clinic. I needed to get a TB test for a job working with kids. I looked up TB test sites and went to the one closest to my house, which was in downtown. I waited in line for about 20 minutes. When I got to the front, the receptionist took one look at me and said, “You don’t live in downtown do you?” (I love how just by looking at someone you can say, you don’t belong here.) I told her I lived by USC and this was the one closest to my house. She said you have to go to the one assigned to you and it’s not based off which one is closest. She helped me find the correct clinic to go to. So I go to the other health clinic around 12 in the afternoon and they tell me that it’s too late and I will need to come back the next day at 8am to get the TB test. I thought maybe I should get there a little before 8am since at 12pm, they already had enough people for the whole day. So I come back and get there around 7:35am and there is already about 15 people in line. By 8:00am there were about 40 people in line already. It seemed like this clinic was just to get shots, it didn’t look like people were even seeing a doctor. So they let us in at 8 and we get a number. (This experience reminded me of when I volunteered at People Assisting the Homeless. The homeless would have to get in line at about 5am in the morning in order to be one of the first 15 people to see a case manager to help them get into a transitional housing program). Once I got a number I waited about another hour to get the TB test. The scene of the health clinic reminded me a lot of a scene from the movie, Save the Last Dance. There is a scene where Sarah goes to a health clinic with Chenelle and her son. The waiting room is packed with people. There are people complaining, babies crying, and nothing seems to be moving along. That’s kind of what it felt like. While waiting, I started talking to this young guy who told me that he recently got evicted from his apt and he was living in a halfway house. He told me how they were pretty strict and didn’t let him leave the house very much. He said it was his birthday in a few days and he wasn’t sure what to do since he thought they wouldn’t let him leave the house.

What I learned about this experience was the bureaucracy of the health care system. Very inefficient, very time consuming. It was ok for me, because I am unemployed and have all the time in the world, but to people who have jobs, how do you have time for this? It also felt good in a way to be with the people and be experiencing it for myself, as opposed to usually being on the outside, helping the people who were experiencing the system. But this time I was with the people experiencing it myself. Although I was the only white person there, I was with them, and it was the first time I felt a part of the neighborhood. Even though it was a short and simple experience it was very significant to me in being here in the city.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why I moved to LA

Moving to LA was a big decision but something that has been in process for about 4 years now.

First, caring for the poor: In 2006 I participated in a 6 week internship in South LA called the Los Angeles Urban Project. This experience taught me a lot about poverty in the city and systems of injustice that are present in schools, health care, government, housing, etc that make it almost impossible for people to pull themselves out of poverty, especially minorities. I also learned that are dark spiritual forces and powers in the city that have a very deep hold on people. “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 Because of this experience, I felt called my God to be in the city and care for the poor and combat the spiritual forces that trap and enslave people. I am not sure how God want to use me to care for the poor. I do not know how to combat the spiritual forces. I know I am not here to fix the city or come in and be the solution to these problems. Right now I am here to build relationships with my neighbors and care for them the best I can. I expect more to learn from them and care for people as God leads me.

Second, children: I have always loved children. I think growing up around my 15 younger cousins I have always loved caring for and being with small children. As I worked with different types and groups of children throughout college I have found that my heart just melts for every child I have a relationship with. In the preschool that I worked at, I loved singing songs and reading books to the 2 and 3 year olds. I even loved the ones that threw tantrums and would never take a nap. When I taught theatre in a second grade class I saw these kids just be hams onstage, still young enough to not be too self conscious. When I was in Ghana teaching a 3rd grade class I loved the children’s energy and desire to absorb everything. I have worked with all age levels, many ethnicities, many socio economic backgrounds. My heart easily melts for all of them. During the two years after college that I worked at an insurance company, I went through withdrawals without children in my life. I really missed them so deeply. I would go into bookstores and read children’s books to myself. I would sing Raffi songs to myself in the car. When I would see children I would almost want to cry because I missed having them apart of my life. So I have felt for a while that in some capacity I need to be working with children.

Thirdly, theatre: Many of you know that I was a drama major in college. Although I love the performing aspect, right now I feel like pursing acting for myself is not something that is beneficial for myself or the kingdom of God. That could change later in life, but right now I don’t feel like I want to audition in LA or anything like that. However, I do love to teach theatre to children. In college I was a part of an organization called Artsbridge America. In this program we would be assigned an elementary school classroom for few months and we would take theatre and bridge that to a subject in school they were already learning about. I really loved this program. Love how theatre and art gives kids a voice and the freedom to express themselves in a creative and unique way. I also spent a summer working with a program called When Justice and Peace Kiss in which we helped youth write their own poetry, spoken word, monologues, music and dance that we incorporated into a performance. There was one girl in the program who was really hesitant to be there because she was a bit older than a lot of the other students. She had an amazing voice. On the day of the performance she really didn’t want to be there and didn’t want to perform. We encouraged her that she was going to do great. After the performance, she was GLOWING. She absolutely loved it and wanted to perform again. I can’t fully capture the moment in few short sentences but it was an amazing experience to see this girl really be given a voice and be excited to share a part of herself through music.

S o to sum that all up, I am in LA to pursue those three things: social justice, loving children, teaching theatre (hopefully they all overlap). Why LA? It was the least scary city to move to in my mind because it was the closest, I have lived here for 2 summers, and I had people I could live with. It’s also a city full of art and a lot of opportunities for me to learn. That was a really long explanation to why I moved here but I feel like God has a lot more to teach me about why I am here. I am hoping that this blog will be a way for me to reflect and share more of why I am here.

Starting a blog

I have thought for a while about starting a blog. I had one back in college, in the days of xanga, which I guess is not cool anymore, I’m not really sure. I rarely wrote in it and when I did write, most of it seemed meaningless. I don’t know if anyone really read it. So with that experience, I have always thought it’s not worth it to start another. I will run out of things to talk about. It won’t be interesting or funny. No one will read it. But since I have moved to LA I felt that there is a lot to reflect about in my transition and much that I want to record about my experiences here. Although nothing crazy has happened, I want to record the lessons I have learned in moving here. But first I have to let go of what this blog will not be about. This blog will not be about getting virtual attention from others through people’s comments. I must admit I am prone to that on facebook. This blog is not about trying to be funny or super insightful. It’s more about my own reflections for myself as I think about what I am learning here. So then I thought, if it’s just for me, then why don’t I just write it in a journal, why put it online in a blog? However, I think a lot of my family and friends are still unclear why I moved to LA and what I am really trying to do in living here. I thought people might be interested in what I am learning. I also thought putting it online would force to reflect often and really be able to articulate what I am learning in the city. I think when I journal I kind of just ramble and don’t fully formulate my thoughts. It’s my little accountability for myself. So this is why I have decided to start a blog.