“Wow. I can barely draw stick figures.”

As an artist, If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I think I might have my student loans paid off by now.

Let me tell you a secret… I couldn’t always paint/draw/(insert whatever craft you have never tried or haven’t tried since middle school here) like this. In fact, I am STILL learning how to be a better artist and teacher.

Want to know some things I can’t do? I can’t play the piano. I can’t play sports. I can’t do certain artistic things, like blowing glass and carving wood. But that’s only half true. It’s not really that I CAN’T do those things, it’s that I choose not to spend the time doing them. It doesn’t really matter if I’m not “gifted” in a certain area – if I spend enough time working on that skill, chances are I’m going to improve. I might want to do certain things, but do I really want to take the time to learn them? I wish I could play the violin… but not really. What I want is for the violin fairy to visit me and sprinkle me with Juilliard-worthy skills – with absolutely no practice what so ever on my part.

Do you know how many hours it takes to be an expert in your field? 10,000 hours. HOLY guac. That’s 20 hours a week, for 10 years. I’m just guessing that I’ve spent 2,000-2,500 hours painting, drawing, and doing other arts. I might have spent a little more or less time, but I’m just estimating here. To put it into perspective, one of my favorite paintings series of 6 pieces took me about 150 hours to complete. That’s a lot of time, a lot of learning, a lot of messing up. It’s a lot of critiques, a lot of late nights, a HECK of a lot of coffee.

On top of all this time, did I also mention that I PAID to receive quality instruction to teach me how to become a better artist? What if you visited your dentist and told him, “Wow, you did a great job on my cleaning. I can barely brush my teeth.” It sounds silly, right? You expect them to be good at their job. They went to school for 8 years, so they’d better know what they’re doing. Sure, you could be a dentist. But do you really want to be a dentist?

What is something that you have you spent 1,000 hours practicing? Do you feel qualified to teach others about this topic? Do you still feel like you have more to learn?

You don’t need to downplay your own skills when you compliment others. It doesn’t make me feel better when you tell me that you aren’t good at things, and it won’t make you feel better either. It’s okay to not be good at something. That’s why we’re gifted in different areas, because no one can truly excel at everything. But if you have a desire to get better at something, practice.

How many hours have you spent drawing and painting? Would you like to spend more? Then do it! What’s stopping you? I’d love to teach you.

Zaanse Schans – Windmills Galore!

I was so excited to visit the small town of Zaanse Schans – a community just outside of Amsterdam with working windmills! I had been there as a child and I have very vague flashbacks of seeing these huge windmills and thinking they were the most beautiful things that I had ever seen. 18 years later, I was not disappointed at our return!

My dad was visiting us at this time, and so he and I took the opportunity to scope out various windmills and snap a few pictures, while we left Jason to take his time with the “real pictures.” Although, I have to say I am pleased with the shots that I got, even on my rinky dink phone:) It started out a little bit dark, but by the time we left the sun was shinning and it was the most beautiful day ever!

IMG_5648

IMG_5601

IMG_5557

IMG_5597

IMG_5620

Tips for those wanting to visit Zaanse Schans:

– Some windmills are free, others are around 4 euro to enter and tour.
– Parking is 9 euro for the day – you pay as you are leaving.
– You could spend at least a half day here, more if you went into all the windmills, shopped around, and had a meal.
– Stroller and Wheel Chair friendly, but you won’t be able to climb the windmills.
– There are several restaurants and shops with food for a fairly inexpensive price.
– If this is your only trip in the area, splurge and buy some hard cheese. If you are going to be traveling around in other places, there are much cheaper cheese shops that you can buy from.
– You can also buy pigment from the paint mill, and spices from the spice mill. Other popular purchases include wooden shoes, chocolate, and you can’t miss out on a slice of apple pie with a cappuccino!😀

Burg Eltz – Now THIS is a Castle

After our trip to Burg Eltz today, I think it has moved up to my #1 favorite castle, followed very shortly by Reichsburg Cochem. I still haven’t been to Neuschwanstein, so maybe after that trip my rating will change again! I hear she is quite a looker too. Since my dad is here visiting Jason and I this week, we are making it a point to go to a few new places.

For anyone who wants to visit, Burg Eltz was pretty easy to get to. We used Apple Maps to get to it, and that takes you straight to the parking area. Parking is 2 euro per car, and from there you can either walk down to the castle (fairly easy and short 10-15 minute walk, and gorgeous view of the castle on the way down) or take a shuttle bus (2 euro per person each way). The castle itself costs 9 euro for adults for the tour (they have both English and German tours), which lasts about 30-45 minutes. There are also 2 restaurants at the castle, and free restrooms. One drawback for anyone with disabilities is that it’s not very wheel chair accessible, and I don’t really think there is any way that you could get a wheel chair on the tour because of all the stairs.

I really loved the walk to the castle, and I would love to come back when it’s a little warmer outside and hike some more. There were a few other trails around the castle that you could take, and we just took the shortest route because of the weather. The castle was quite lovely, looking at the outside was my favorite part. The inside was pretty interesting too and the tour ticket also includes entrance to the treasury – a small museum filled with interesting artifacts from the family that owns the castle.

For more information, this is the website for the castle: http://burg-eltz.de/

Here are a few pictures to enjoy!

IMG_0179

 IMG_0176

Here’s one of Jason and me, and one of dad and me! So glad he is here to share this with us!

IMG_0191

Right inside the castle gate – dad was getting camera happy!

IMG_5472

The view of Burg Elz as you walk up to it from the road.

IMG_5506

Another view looking up at the castle.

IMG_5500

One view from inside the courtyard looking up at the buildings.

IMG_5496

There is tons of lovely wrought iron in a variety of designs all over the castle, this is just one example.

IMG_5427Looking down at the castle from the road as we were walking down from the parking lot. So beautiful, even on this cloudy and rainy day.

My Thoughts on Raising a Gender Neutral Child

Yep, I’m going there. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the issue of raising a child without gender bias has been steadily growing over the past several years. Basically, it means that you allow your child to be what they want to be – whether that is a girl or a boy. For instance, there are some schools that allow children to go to whichever bathroom they feel like they can best identify with. This has become quite the controversial issue as of late, and I see more and more articles posted about parents who want to raise their children to be gender neutral. Some parents even refuse to reveal their child’s gender identity to the public until the child is old enough to decide what gender they want to be for themselves. I have thought about this a good deal, and I wanted to share in writing my beliefs on this topic.

First of all, let me start out by saying that while I am a Christian, and I do have a Christ-centered viewpoint on this issue, I do not write this blog as a way to throw judgment on parents who believe differently.

Secondly, I do want to clarify a few things before I get too much on top of my soap box and loose you completely!

  •  I don’t have any real problem with a child wanting to play with toys that are generally associated with other genders. I am 100% all for the little girl that loves Lego’s or dinosaurs or trucks, or the little boy that likes to play house or play with dolls. They are toys, meant to spark imagination and teach kids about how to live in the grown up world. There is nothing inherently evil about that – a thing in and of itself cannot be evil.
  • I don’t have any problem with a girl wanting to wear clothes with dinosaurs on them, or a boy who decides he wants to wear pink shoes (these are merely a few examples).
  • I don’t have ANY problem what-so-ever with a little girl who wants to grow up and become an engineer, a nuclear scientist, or president! I don’t have ANY problem with a boy who wants to be an artist, a fashion designer, a nurse, or a hair stylist (again, these are merely a few examples).
  • I DO NOT have children, but that does not mean that I know nothing about children. I have a degree in Art Education K-12, I have taken multiple classes on child behavior as well as seen and worked with that behavior in action in my student teaching. I have babysat children of multiple ages, I have worked in my church nursery since I was in middle school, and I now substitute teach at an elementary school. I want to be a parent in the next several years, and I do have a knowledgeable opinion on this subject.

Thirdly, you are more than welcome to disagree with my point of view. This blog is all about my point of view, and I don’t expect everyone else to share it. If I did, I wouldn’t really need to write a blog post about it. You are more than welcome to share your thoughts with me, but I expect you to do so in a respectful way – just as I have tried to write this blog post in a respectful way. I do hope that you will think through what I have carefully written out in this post, just as I have thought through what others have carefully written out in their blog posts on the opposing opinion.

With those things being said, let me begin to explain what I DO believe about this issue, based on what God has told me.

  1. Gender is not debatable. I don’t believe that gender is something we get to decide. It is a choice that is made for us before we are born, and it’s a good and perfect choice. Is it crazy for me to say that I believe there is a reason and a purpose that I was born with the anatomy that I have? I don’t think so. There are a lot of assumptions that are made when we make statements like, “I was born into the wrong body.” You assume that you know more than God – you are assuming that you know the plans for your own life, and you are 100% sure that God made a mistake when he formed you in your mother’s womb. There is this whole idea of gender identity, which to me boils down to something quite simple – You proclaim that you are whoever you want to be, not who God made you be.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. – Deuteronomy 32:4

  1. I believe in raising my children to be Godly men and women. Gasp! How dare I say that I want my child to become a certain way. Am I not stifling their individuality? What about creativity and allowing children to develop into their own person?

 The notion that you can effectively raise a child to become their own person without any influence from you as the parent is preposterous.

Yes, I just said that. And I hope that you will stop, go back, and read that sentence again and let it sink in. The whole point of raising a child is to influence them. Otherwise we could just put them in a box and drop them off in the middle of the jungle and call it quits. That’s what many animals do in the wild! We are created differently than animals for a reason, and we are supposed to tell our children about our beliefs and share our thoughts with them. Of course I don’t want my future child to become a copy of me. I want them to have their own interests, and even their own individual thoughts that might differ from mine. I want them to be their own person, and to be able to stand up against the world when they are old enough to leave my house. If I have a little girl that loves sports (when I really have no idea what’s going on at all in ANY sport), that is fine by me. But I would be lying if I said I hoped I would not influence their belief system. It would break my heart to have a child who grew up to believe that they had to work to achieve God’s grace, or who believed that Jesus was only a prophet – not the Son of God. Whether you want to or not, you influence your children every single day. If you are a gender neutral parent, then you are  influencing your child in those thoughts and ways of life too.

So with that being said, what kind of person DO I want children to become? I want my future daughter to one day be a loving wife to a husband, a man. And I want my future son to one day become a loving husband to a wife, a woman.

  1. I believe that homosexuality is wrong. HEAR ME – I did not say that I hate gay men or lesbian women. I did not say that it is okay to persecute gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or transgender. What I am saying is that I don’t agree with this lifestyle, and I cannot in good conscience, allow my children to live it.

In the world we live in today, I know that I’m not supposed to say this. I am supposed to be tolerant and accepting. But… Jesus was not tolerant or accepting of sin. He called people out, made them uncomfortable, he lost friends and followers, and HE DIED because people hated him so much for his beliefs. He was killed so that I could be free of my own sins – and I will not compromise what I believe and pretend that I’m okay with something that I believe is wrong. But wait, isn’t Jesus supposed to love everyone? Yes, and he does. In fact, his love for us is the very reason he is so intolerant of our sin. He loves us so much that he wants us to be free, and he wants good things for us. This is why he can’t stand it when we do things that tear us away from him.

This is not the time where I will explain why I believe homosexuality is wrong – in this post it is enough for me to say that I do believe it is wrong. It is no less and no more wrong than lying or stealing or cheating – in God’s eyes sin is sin. All sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2).

What does homosexuality have to do with raising a gender neutral child? If I believe that homosexuality is wrong and my goal is to raise my children to become loving husbands and wives, how can I teach them that it’s okay for them to choose their gender? If they think that it’s right for them to choose their gender, then there is nothing wrong getting to choose the gender of the person that they decide to love. Both things are wrong, and lead to a lifestyle of believing that God makes mistakes and his ways are not perfect. 

In the same way that I don’t want my children to grow up to think that stealing is okay, I don’t want them to believe that homosexuality is okay. I will reiterate my earlier statement: I want my children to know that God had a purpose in creating them, and that he did not make a mistake in any aspect of their creation.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

I have many more thoughts on this topic, but to write them all out would take much more space and time than I am sure you would indulge me.

           

Bucket List, Check! Ireland in November of 2014

I am pretty behind on my travel posts, so I think it is high time that I catch up and post my favorite trip from this year – Ireland. Originally, Jason and I weren’t planning on going to Ireland at all this year until I spoke with my friend Megan. Megan was my RA for a year at Anderson, and since she was studying abroad this year in Spain we decided that we should try and meet up at some point. And what better place to meet up! At first I thought it would be way too expensive, but we started working the numbers and found that we could afford it! Jason and I were so excited.

So we landed in Dublin, and to be honest I won’t really spend much time talking about Dublin. It was okay, but that is not where the real magic of Ireland lies. On Thursday and Friday we went to the Guiness factory, Trinity College, and saw some beautiful churches – but none of it was anything to sniff at in comparison to the beauty that waited for us on Saturday. If I ever go back to Ireland, I will spend my time on the other side of the country.

We had decided to rent a car while we were there in order to take a three hour trip from Dublin to the other side of the island. Our first stop was the Cliffs of Moher. These cliffs are absolutely incredible. They are not the tallest in Ireland, and they are a bit “touristy” but this did not diminish their beauty.

I am grateful that we arrived when we did, because we had about half an hour to skip over the fence and stand on an “illegal” part of the grass before we got kicked out! We had a much better view from there and were able to take some good pictures in that time. Yolo.

You will probably just glance over these photos and think, “Well.. There’s another picture of some cliffs.” BUT seriously… you do not understand how amazing it was to be there. We stayed there for 3 hours. Staring. Taking pictures. Staring more. We were freezing cold, and it rained, and still we stayed there.

Again – please remember that you can view these pictures larger if you click on them.

IMG_3540

Jason taking pictures off the “illegal” portion of the cliffs. We were so tiny…

IMG_3533

The spray from the ocean hung suspended in the air because of the vacuum from the wind created in that corner. We got wet not from the rain, but from droplets of water that literally floated upwards towards us. Sometimes you could see the water droplets dancing in mid air for several seconds before they evaporated or hit the rocks.

HDR_7118

On our flight over, we saw a competition in a magazine to take a picture of yourself reading that magazine on your trip! This is the picture Jason took of me for the competition:)

IMG_3538

The sun was so bright and the water was so blue that it was hard to get a good picture of the cliffs without them being entirely black. But you can still see how immense they are and how long they stretch. I did enhance these pictures (of course…) but the water really was this blue.

IMG_3537

See that tiny dot on that last bit of land jutting into the water? That’s a lighthouse. Yeah.

IMG_3565

Watching the rain come in over the cliffs was very interesting. We could see it crossing the water and coming towards us, and we were able to get inside just before it started raining hard.

983820_10205275672911475_9059440389932204128_n 10382814_10205275672391462_7767936479067570032_n

And of course, Jason took some of the necessary photos of Megan and I in front of the Cliffs. Gotta have some selfies! Megan took some good ones of Jason and I as well, but I haven’t taken those off Jason’s computer yet. I’ll have to save those for another post:)

After leaving the cliffs, we headed towards another area of the coast called the Burren. Burren comes from the Irish word “Boíreann” which means a rocky place. Basically it is this vast stretch of land covered with rocks and not much else. Sound boring? Far from it. We found a great spot to take pictures just as the sun was setting, and again we spent at least an hour to an hour and a half there in awe of the beauty. This is why I love to travel.

IMG_3599

Sunset over the Atlantic ocean on top of some crazy cool rocks… yes please.

IMG_3595

The waves crashes so violently into the rocks making it too dangerous to get close up to the water. We watched someone from another group walk right up to the water and get smashed in the face with a wave. Maybe if it would have been warmer and we had a change of clothes… but it was freezing cold, and windy to boot.

IMG_3576

Every where you looked it was this barren expanse that looked so peaceful and ragged at the same time…

IMG_3584

There was also a herd of cows… They walked around us and kept grazing while we took our pictures. We tried not to make any sudden movements and stayed away from the big guys with horns… There have been several people killed by cows in Ireland when coming upon them with no warning!

Eventually we moved to a second location, but it was just too dark for  me to take any good pictures. I snapped this one with my phone and then all the rest of the pictures I took are too grainy.There were a bunch of sheep at the second location, so that was interesting!

IMG_3606

There are not many places in Europe that I can say I would spend money to go back once we come back to the States, but Ireland is one of them. If we don’t get to go back while we are here I know that I will find myself there again. It is too beautiful to stay away.

Musings on Good and Evil

Adolf Hitler. Ted Bundy. Joseph Stalin.

Mother Theresa. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ghandi.

Can we agree that there is both good and evil in the world?

If we can agree that there is both good and evil in the world, a question comes up. Where does our sense of good and evil come from? Why is that we know with absolute certainty that the Holocaust was wrong, and the actions of Mother Theresa are good?

Some people would say that this sense of right and wrong comes from society – we have laws that tell us not to do certain things, and we grow up being told not to do certain things. Naturally we must conform to those same patterns of thinking. But I don’t think this is the whole story. Can you remember hitting someone as a child or hurting a friend? I can. I remember an instance where I bit my brother when I was younger. I had never been told that biting was wrong, but somehow I knew it was. My brother was in pain, and I felt guilty before I got into trouble and my parents told me it was wrong to bite others.

Some people would say that this sense of right and wrong is just instinct, but I’m not convinced this is right either. If you are walking across a busy street and you hear the sound of honking horn, instinct says that something is wrong and you need to move quickly out of the way. But if you hear that horn and see a child in the way of a car, something else inside of you tells you to fight against your instinct and run towards the danger to save that child.

Whether we realize it or not, we all have this certain something inside of us that communicates a standard – a line drawn in the sand of what is acceptable and what is not. Granted, as we learn more about the world we find out that some things are not as clear as others. Violence is not always wrong – what if someone is attacking your family and you need to defend them?

Even with these “grey areas” as they are often called, there are still many things that we can know for certain and that every society can agree upon:

Murdering innocent people is wrong.

Is this just an opinion? No. An opinion is much simpler. You might have the opinion that ice cream is the best dessert, but you won’t go to jail for eating a pint of rocky road. When has a serial killer ever been set free from jail for having a different opinion on murder? Certainly they can hold that opinion, but they are horribly wrong. No – this is not just an opinion, it is a belief. In the same way, if I believe our sun is freezing cold, or that water is made up of nitrogen and sodium atoms instead of hydrogen and oxygen, I am wrong. No matter how strongly I believe or how much I try to prove my point, I will always be wrong. I am not right simply because I want to be.

There are certain things that are true, and always will be no matter what we believe. For a long time the earth was believed to be flat, but that belief doesn’t make it true.

Perhaps you are confused because I am using the word “beliefs” in places where you feel like I should use the word “facts.” Fair enough. Facts are not exactly the same as beliefs. Facts can be proven with hard evidence. We know that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen because we can now see it under a microscope. We know that the earth is round because we have traveled around it and have seen it from above, among many other things. A fact is not a belief. But, sometimes a belief can be a fact… if it is the right belief.

            A true belief is a fact.

This seems like an ambiguous statement because it is hard to find facts to prove our beliefs. Often times our beliefs are intangible – love, hope, and faith can’t be seen with the naked eye. If I believe in love, how do I know that my belief is true?

Truth exists. No matter how hard you have to search to find it – it is not lost. We can know for certain that some things are true, and others are false. And no matter what you believe – the truth will not change. By its very nature it cannot.

Do you really know that what you believe is the truth?

I challenge you to dig into your beliefs. Yes, those that you have held true since you were a child, and those beliefs that you have just recently started following. Find out the truth. Don’t just search for the answers that line up with what you believe – that’s not looking for truth. Truth is there whether you believe it or not… and it might look a lot different than you think.

Switzerland, Thanksgiving 2014

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about Ireland! I have so many pictures to go through that it is a much more daunting task, so I decided to start with Switzerland first.

Jason and I visited Switzerland this past Thanksgiving with our friends Aura and Michelle, along with Aura’s son Vincent. It was a really laid back trip and we enjoyed just walking around and seeing what we could see.

My favorite part of the trip was a short walk we took in some mountains near Basel. Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment.

IMG_3720

First of all, there were llamas. I really wished my friend Lilly Allemond was there because I kept quoting The Emperor’s New Groove and no one thought it was funny! “A Llama??? HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE DEAD!”

IMG_3724

Black Llamas, white llamas, brown llamas, every where a llama llama.

IMG_3729

It was really foggy at first, but the higher we climbed the more we could see!

IMG_3742

The fog added to the beauty of the mountains, and I ended up being glad that it was there. It was so mysterious, and it made the weather much more bearable. While we had been wearing coats, gloves, hats, and scarves at the bottom of the mountain by the time we reached the top we were sweating like pigs!

IMG_3799

In this picture you can see the Swiss Alps far away in the distance. Another trip for another day! But it was really neat to get to see them even from so far away.

IMG_3800

Plus, who can deny the beauty of this fellow here?

IMG_3767

As usual, Chloey was more interested in a belly rub than having her portrait taken with the Swiss Alps… Well, here’s her portrait with some Swiss dirt.

We stopped for some really delicious Gluhwein before heading back down the mountain! It was my first experience having Gluhwein and it was very good. Gluhwein, for those of you who don’t know, is hot wine that has a variety of different spices in it. It reminded me of hot apple cider, but was much more hearty.

We were very hungry when we came down the mountain, but we didn’t realize that a lot of restaurants would close early for dinner! Thankfully we found a small coffee shop with a bakery where we were able to get hot drinks and a pastry. Not quite a full lunch, but it was enough to tide us over.

That evening we hit up the Basel Christmas market. It was few too many people to handle with a puppy dog, and poor Chloey got stepped on😦 We were a little stressed after that, but after a delicious meal of pizza at a local restaurant we were refreshed. I went back to the room that evening with Chloey while Jason went back out on the town to take some more photos. All in all a pleasant short trip to Switzerland!