The Liebster Blog Award

I finally got around to pick up my Liebster award. Thanks to my friend blogger, C.L. Sostarich at It’s Real To Me, who nominated me. At first, I didn’t know a bleep about the Liebster Blog Award, and if you google it, all you get are just a bunch bloggers nominating other bloggers. It looks confusing, but I was able to find the following small piece of information.

What is the Liebster Blog Award? It’s an award given to blogs with fewer than 200 subscribers by a blogger who feels they deserve more recognition.

The word liebster sounds German, doesn’t it? Does it come from the German language? I don’t know. If anyone knows, please tell me. Then there’s the word liebe, which means love in German. So putting all together, what can I conclude in my own uncomplicated mind? Simple. Love me, I guess. 😉

Thank you, C.L. Thank you to all my readers, followers, supporters, friends. This blog wouldn’t have lasted this long if it weren’t for you all. Ich liebe dich. I know, corny. *nose wrinkled, head tilted* On second thought, cross that. So unlike me. Don’t want to ruin my image here.

Like any other award, it comes with rules.

1. Mention and link to the blogger who awarded you the Liebster.
2. Mention 5 other blogs with fewer than 200 followers you think worthy of the Liebster. Let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award to your blog.

I, therefore, nominate the following bloggers and their accomplishments:

1. Sharmishtha at Earth in Black and White.

2. Corey at Clown Rhymes.

3. Elise at Everyday Goddess.

4. Norma at Poetry & Ice Cream.

5. Catlas at Catlas Crosses the Internet.

And I thank the internet for allowing me to finish this post today. With the copying, pasting, opening links, and so on, I’m surprised it was completed without me having to waste any flowery word from my vocabulary today.


A Mad Knitter?

Knitting came to my life about 8 years ago. People usually don’t believe me at first when I told them that I learned how to knit at work. The place where I used to work was a program for children and adolescents who come into the U.S. unaccompanied and without a proper documentation. These children came from all over the world; pretty much almost all continents have been represented. I probably can’t be too specific in this blog regarding their country of origin, but needless to say, I’ve come across languages that I had never heard of previously. And yes, they’ve had kids from my country too, not plenty, but there have been some.

Group cohesion is a challenge in that environment due to many factors. To come up with group activities that children of all ages and from a variety of cultural background would enjoy is often more challenging than people think. To make things more complicated, there is a limited space at the shelter for a large group activity. Playing high-energy level games are often impossible. It turns out that arts and crafts activities are something that almost every cultural group has an interest in, so they do drawing, crocheting, knitting, jewelry making, friendship bracelet making, and many more activities.

Almost all adults, staff and volunteers, have been involved in the arts and crafts activities with the children. How could we not? It is the best way to get to know the children, to enter their world. And the children take it as such an honor if any of the adults joins them. Many times we, the adults, don’t even know how to do the activity, and the children happily teach us. One day, I sat down with some of the girls who were knitting. I was watching them teaching and checking each other’s knitting project when one girl asked me if I knew how to knit. I said no, but then she handed me her project and progressed to teach me, like it or not. Looking back at it now, it was quite humbling actually. I remember thinking at that time how interesting it was that the roles had been reversed; I became the student and she the teacher.

After work that day, I went straight to a bookstore (or was it an arts and crafts store?) and bought my first book of knitting, titled (surprise, surprise) How to Teach Yourself How to Knit. All I learned from the girl was how to do three basic things: casting on, how to knit and purl, and casting off. These are really the three basic things about knitting. I’ve been learning the rest of knitting techniques on my own ever since. Lots of ups and down, though, I can tell you that. Many unforgettable frustration times, unfinished projects and leftover yarns. Ask my husband, Mike, and he can happily share with you his recollections of unfinished projects, or stories of how he found yarns in every room, every closet, every corner of the house, even in the bathroom or kitchen sometimes. You name the room. Oh, although he may actually forget all about this (one place where denial can be a blessing), I did make a sweater for him one time and it was so enormously huge that it just swallowed him. That was the last time I made him a sweater. I should have known not to do that because I was too new into the whole knitting experience that I failed to pay attention to one thing, how to use gauge. Yeah, big mistake!

Gauge in knitting or crocheting is crucial, especially when following a pattern, because every knitter pulls yarn to make stitches differently; some make tighter stitches than others. Often you’re also not lucky enough to find the exact yarn that was used to make the model project in the pattern, and using a different yarn can mean either a larger or smaller finished size if you fail to take into consideration the gauge size.

So, a lesson to all new knitters, or those who are interested in knitting, the fourth most important technique to learn in knitting is how to use gauge. Remember that!

I’ve been enjoying knitting so much that I think I’d be lost if I can’t knit anymore. There have been times when one of my arms, or both, became so much in pain because of the constant repetitive movements. This usually happens after knitting for so many hours in more than two or three days (those days have long gone). I probably experienced carpel tunnel syndrome without even knowing it. Ever since I went back to school, the schedule has been so crazy and constantly changing that I haven’t been able to do knitting as often as I would like. Attempts to include knitting into my schedule require me to work on small and easy projects so I can bring the project with me anywhere I go. I’ve knitted on the train, during my lunch, or while in a group supervision/meeting in practicum site. I can even knit without looking at the project in my hands, as long as it requires no fancy stitches, to the point that I would now knit while watching TV at home.

No time a wasting!

I think I can just knit and knit nonstop, even if it means that in the end I have to unravel the whole project again because I run out of yarn. Of course I’d be happy to see a finished project, but I knit not firstly because I crave for an end project, rather the knitting itself that satisfies me. I read an article one time in a knitting magazine (yes, there are such things as knitting magazines) about two types of knitters, the product and the project. The product knitters are those who knit with the goal to accomplish an end product. The project knitters are those who enjoy the making of a project or the process, the longer the better. I’m in the latter group, obviously, as evidenced by the large amount of unfinished projects in the house. When I say large amount, I mean, a lot of them. Hence, my nickname (courtesy of my husband), the mad knitter.

I have also experienced a sense of “knitting withdrawal” whenever I didn’t touch knitting yarns or needles in days, especially in weeks. I’ve had times when the first thing I touched in the morning as soon as I woke up was my knitting project (Scary, I’m actually using the language of addiction). I’ve even knitted first thing in the morning sometimes as a way to wake up. Knitting allows me to warm up my hands and clear my head to help me focus. But most importantly, what I love the most is the feeling of yarns in between my fingers. I love the tactile aspect of the whole thing. I’m a ‘touchy’ person it seems. I love to touch things and feel them.

I think I know why I enjoy knitting so much. It’s the solitude that it gives me. It allows me to be free with my head, with my thoughts. When I knit alone without anything else around me, no TV, no people, I can get so deep and lost in my thoughts. Because it allows me time to think and solitude, it’s also a form of stress releasing. And the tactile feeling when touching the yarns and needles, forming one stitch at a time, looking at the stitches, all of those can be very hypnotizing at times. It’s like falling into a spell; I’d forget about my surroundings and get lost in my head. It’s wonderful, actually. Try it sometimes. Just don’t try it with me, because I’d be so lost in space and not be a good company. Kidding.

Actually, I’ve held a women’s group at one point in my previous practicum placement where I taught the women how to knit and then they used the group as a process group while knitting at the same time. Knitting, I believe, is so versatile and almost anyone can knit. Long time gone now is this whole image of knitting as something available to and should be done by older women only. Knitting has come back as something stylish and hip now. Ever heard of Stitch and Bitch? The name sounds awful, but it’s a group of women around the nation; it functions as almost like a support group for women to socialize, support each other and knit.

If knitting has a downside, it is the high cost of yarns, especially specialty yarns. Also, knitting yarns, even the thinnest sports-size yarn, can still be too thick sometimes for summer clothes. Therefore, people who live in much warmer climate countries would not right away view knitting as appealing. However, knitting has so much potential. I will definitely incorporate it more in my future work somehow. Don’t think that I’ll abandon my needles and yarns any time soon. The only thing that will stop me from knitting is when my hands finally give up on me due to health related reasons, which will break my heart. I just hope that I can find a new hobby when that happens, but I truly don’t think anything can replace knitting. Won’t you think so?

On Blogging 2

It’s been about a week now since I decided to test the water (see my very first blog). How do I feel now? I feel good, comfortable. Actually, I’m feeling excellent about my blogging so far. I’ve been enjoying this very much and can actually say that I have found a new hobby.

After writing a few times and allowing myself to be vulnerable and transparent, I started to get used to the action. What helps right now is that I have a choice on who to invite to my blogging website, in which case I have to continue due to privacy issues related to work. Because I work as a therapist and be exposed to clients with a variety of background, some more questionable than others, I have to guard my privacy on the internet for my own safety.

I love the idea of sharing a part of my self to my friends through blogging. It is a self-disclosure that brings satisfaction to me because I hope to become emotionally closer to my friends through my writing. By allowing myself to be transparent, I am inviting my friends to my life, to know me better as a person, and it’s been very rewarding. To be vulnerable also sends a message to me and others that it is okay to make mistakes or to be imperfect. There is a perfectionist part in me; well, I guess I have to have it in order to make it in school and do well. Unfortunately, any strength when is done too much can turn into weakness, so this is my attempt not to allow my perfectionist side to run over me. It is my way to balance it; so the message is, be vulnerable and continue to write.

I definitely have a lot in my head already on what to write. I’d like to write something about my country and about living in two different cultures, about my other hobbies (knitting and cooking), about baseball, and so on. Also, more on politics, more on what’s going on in the world, conflicts, psychology, and oh goodness, the list can go on and on…. What am I waiting for?

A Day in Chicago

All of these pictures were taken on a hot, muggy, summer day at the end of July 2009 in Chicago. I just came back from a picnic with some refugees from one of the refugee resettlement agencies in Chicago. The picnic took place at the Montrose Harbor, by the lake (lake Michigan), and on the way home I thought it would be a nice day to take a walk by the lake, so I did. While walking to the next bus stop, I took some pictures. So I started walking from the Montrose Harbor and sightseeing…

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and I kept walking….
a person can do a lot of thinking during moments like this….
…and without even realizing it, I ended up at the Belmont Harbor.  Here is a proof for those of you who are familiar with Chicago street numbering system, this is pretty damn close to Belmont Harbor.
I didn’t even realize how far I walked.  I also saw something cute, though, a beach for dogs to play.
And all of this walking was done using my sandals, which was (not) a smart move on my part.

But in the end, I gave myself a reward. After all, I think I did about 3 miles of a walk (and with those sandals?).

Aaahhh….it’s just another beautiful day in Chicago, and this is one of the ways to enjoy it while it lasts.  Pretty soon, it’ll be winter.  Did anyone ever tell you that Chicago only has two seasons?  Winter and construction (construction =  warmer weather).  I’m thankful for another construction season.

On Blogging

I’d like to start by saying that I am still slightly apprehensive about this. This, meaning blogging, putting my thoughts in the air for others to read. I have always considered my thoughts as personal, private, not for others. So, you may start wondering at this point, why then did I decide to blog, to actually get an account in google e-blogging and even have my own name as part of a website, an act which in itself sounds foreign to me.

About 2 months ago in June, I made new friends in Washington, D.C. I was there as part of an advocacy work, but it was more of a journey for me (and less work). It was advocacy for torture survivors from countries around the world, including the U.S. It was part of a Survivors Week that has been held for 13 years in Washington D.C. by a group called the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition (TASSC). More information about this group can be found in their website, One of these days I may share my reflection about my journey in D.C. and my involvement so far with TASSC. My new friends asked me at that time why hadn’t I tried to blog or share my writings online. I remember making a lame excuse about how I wasn’t comfortable sharing my thoughts. I held on to that lame opinion for a while too. Before I met those friends in D.C., I have heard a similar question from other friends, and I continue to hear the same question from more friends. And the impact of all these “friends and questions” on me? Well, genius, what do you think?

Anyway, regarding these friends that I met in D.C., many of them do not share my background in clinical psychology. Instead, the majority of them are activists and journalists. Translation: they are used to the idea of writing for the public. Heck, the whole point of their job is to get their writings to be read by the public. In contrast, clinical psychologists are not used to that kind of writing. Translation: it is the kind of writing that is difficult for other professions to read due to its jargons and psycho-bubbles (Hint: that was a joke, and you know that must be a lame attempt if I have to explain myself). On a more serious note, one might also ask if there is a slight truth to it. I would like to think so. I was an amateur in advocacy work, evidenced by my lack of understanding of the importance of writing and speaking up. By the time most psychology students in many doctoral programs finish their study, they are not ready to do advocacy work. The idea of writing something other than psychology papers is probably foreign to them, just how it is also foreign to me. But then again, it could also be just me. At my school (Adler School of Professional Psychology), we are trained to do advocacy. There is a class specific for advocacy and public policy that we all have to take. Although the class doesn’t necessarily make me more ready to blog, my argument becomes weaken here. Perhaps I am the one who is not comfortable to blog and share my writing on the internet for others to read.

I think the idea of blogging is a challenge for me because it is about taking a risk. Taking a risk in life, however, should not be new to me. My life thus far has been about taking risks. You can’t say coming to the U.S. alone as an 18-year-old girl or leaving a full-time job to go back to school as not about taking risks, right? You would think that I should be familiar with this feeling of vulnerability. Yeah, well, here I am feeling it, and can’t say that I’m enjoying it. I feel like I have surgically opened my brain and allowed myself to be judged (Note to myself, ought to blog on this topic: fear of judgment). I feel like I’m losing a level of privacy. But then, privacy on the internet sounds like an oxymoron anyway.

I see blogging as a new, or more recent, phenomenon. Blogging without the internet is pretty much journaling. Journaling has always meant to be private. Hence, journal books used to be sold with a lock. With the existence of internet, however, the journaling activity now has a choice of becoming public. It can be a form of communication among family members and friends, such as to share news about the newest member in a family, starting with pregnancy, child birth, all developmental milestones, first birthday, all the way until the blogger pretty much lost interest or time to continue. Blogging, to be honest, can be much more fun than the traditional book journaling because it can include photos, graphic pictures, videos, sounds, and it can also invite comments. You can say that it is also a newest form of scrapbooking.

I have discovered that blogging can also be a tool for making a statement; it contains a potential or a spirit of activism, of encouraging, of spreading news, of educating. Nowadays, many journalists have even participated in blogging. It is a form of editorial, of sharing an opinion or an analysis. People don’t need to have a degree in journalism or experience as an activist to blog, though. Anyone can do it. There are no blanket rules in blogging, yet. At least, not that I know of. Each blogging network creates its own rules and regulations. Perhaps this is the part that also concerns me a bit in the beginning. I have always considered writing as a task that carries profound responsibilities. I am sure many writers, responsible writers to be more precise, would understand what I meant in that statement. Writing has its own ethical responsibilities. True, we can’t always control how people comprehend our writing, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t write responsibly. Therefore, my concern is that, to the best of my knowledge and effort, I don’t ever stop considering the impact of my writing on other people.

Now that I have listed my concerns and decision-making process to join the blogging world, what more can I say? I guess you may say that I am testing the water. After all, didn’t a wise person once say that life is about testing the water? Who knows what will happen. So here I am, blogging, putting my thoughts out there on the internet for people to read and allowing myself to feel vulnerable (Scary, what crazy people would do things like this?)

Lastly, I would like to thank all of my friends (I feel like I’m on stage at the Kodak Theater) who have influenced me to blog. You know who you are. Thank you for sharing your stories, thoughts, opinions, and courage. Your courage, really, was the one factor that finally made me realize what a waste it was to hide my thoughts and stories since I have a lot to offer. I just hope I can do it responsibly and make the experience gratifying.