As 2016 comes to a close, I want to share some of the best reading discoveries I’ve made during the year. My next post will talk about a few of my favorite books. In this post, I wanted to take a minute to also talk about some of my favorite blogs.
Post Secret describes itself on the site as “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.”
This site already has a huge following, and for good reason. I’ve been fairly absent from the blogging world (and from social media in general for that matter) for large gaps of time throughout the last six months. And yet, this is one blog I never miss. They post new secrets every Sunday (Monday for me here in China), and at the beginning of the week, I wake up bleary-eyed and not wanting to get out of bed and then remember that it’s Monday and the first thing I do is reach for my phone and jump onto my WordPress reader to see if the secrets have been posted yet. Yes, I know it’s pathetic, but I’m addicted to this site.
There are all kinds of secrets that are sent in. Each week is an eclectic mix of the tragedy, exhilaration, embarrassment, and boredom of human experience. The odd thing is that even though people send in secrets they feel they can’t share with anyone, so often it seems like many of them are the same, just stated with different words. And yet when the sender is forced to condense their experience into an artistic compilation of images and words the size of a postcard, it’s fascinating to see the variety of expression. Sometimes a three by five inch rectangle can be more telling than 5000 words. It’s a fascinating blog to follow.
I have a pretty strict personal policy to not “like” or comment on blog posts that are political in nature. My need to remain moderate, to try to find the good in both sides, and to always play the devil’s advocate no matter my own personal opinions doesn’t really help me gain any friends during conversations about American history or politics.
And yet, during the recent presidential campaign, election, very surprising outcome, and the resulting emotional turmoil felt by much of America, I found Regie’s blog to be the only one talking about what was happening in a voice of calm moderation.
The first post I read by him was “President Trump” and, unlike all the other bloggers falling apart at the seams and embarrassing themselves, I actually liked what he had to say. So I went to his website and read his post “10 Things I Learned This Election Year” (which he wrote before election day), and I liked it even more. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve told people on the far left, the far right, and everywhere in between that they have made the mistake in assuming that government can save us—that the problem was not with government but with us—our corrupt hearts and our sinful nature—that government cannot be our savior and should never be made into a god. When I was reading Regie’s blog and nodding my head at the end of every paragraph, I read his line when he said, “Maybe the saddest part of this campaign for me has been watching how many people have made politics their religion …their life …their savior …their everything.” And I wanted to reach through cyberspace and embrace the man and thank him for being willing to write truth about politics in such a heated political climate.
I started following his blog. When he posted “Hate” I read and loved that one as well. And then “The Roman Lesson” and loved it even more. Rather than calling names, he was calling people out for their name calling.
I found myself, at the end of each post, wanting to shake his hand and say, “Thank you, Regie, for expressing all the thoughts I had in my head, but doing it so much more eloquently and thoughtfully than I ever could.”
His several posts since my initial discovery of his blog have all been interesting. I especially liked his thoughts on how exactly an artist should (and shouldn’t) make political statements in their work (The Big PS).
His posts always contain excellent writing and intriguing ideas. This one is definitely worth browsing and following.
I first discovered this blog when a missionary friend shared a post Amy Medina wrote on the website called a life overseas; the missions conversation. Amy’s post on that website—“Missionaries are Supposed to Suffer . . . So Am I Allowed to buy an air conditioner”—talked about having a domestic helper and her refusal to share that bit of information with her American friends. Even though I’m not a missionary raising financial support, I instantly felt solidarity with her. Living in China is a unique beast that my American friends cannot possibly understand. And even though I’ve (for the most part) managed to understand its fickle moods and predict when the beast is about to snap, it hasn’t been without help. My US friends, not understanding the nature of China, don’t really understand the challenges, so when they hear “domestic helper” they think I have a cushy life and sit around eating bonbons all day long while someone else cleans my kitchen. Sometimes it’s easier to keep quiet rather than try to make someone else understand your reality.
This guest post led me to Amy Medina’s personal blog which I started following. Sometimes she posts reviews of books and movies that are always compelling enough that I add them to my reading or watch list.
Her stories about being a family living in Tanzania have been interesting for me because of the special connection I have to her host country. My husband worked in Dar es Salaam several years ago and has been wanting to move back ever since. We were trying to finalize a position in Arusha when he received a job offer in Beijing that he then decided to accept. Life would have been very different for us had we ended up in Tanzania rather than China. Reading Amy Medina’s blog piques my imagination as to what it could have been like. And who knows, if my husband gets his wish, maybe my family will end up in Tanzania someday after all. Until then, I’ll be reading Amy’s blog with much intrigue and interest, whether she is writing about Christmas traditions or organic food.
What I’ve most appreciated, though, have been her posts about international adoption. She is clearly well-informed on the topic with both personal experience and ample research, whether she is talking about the whats and whys of international adoption reform or writing a seven part series about the corruption found in international adoption and the need for change and awareness. (Here is Part 1 of that series.) She is another blogger to whom I wish I could reach through cyberspace and say thank you.
One of my most valued mementos from my ten years in Korea is a watercolor painting I purchased from an artist I knew while living there. A basket weaver sits on the floor and prepares the fibers for weaving, his face is turned downward at his work. He wears simple clothing. Behind him sit baskets—some finished others not—and a wooden chest.
I framed this painting and hung it above the mantle in my living room. Several months ago some guests came to my house. Among them was a Korean lady who had been living in China for the last fifteen years. She pulled me aside and held my arm with one hand while pointing at the painting with the other. “I feel like I am home again,” she said, “Where did you get this?”
Such is Melissa Enderle’s work. Though she works with several different media (pastels, colored pencils, watercolor) and creates images of different types (buildings, landscape, people), all of her art transports you to a different place. Having lived in several countries, her work captures the culture from six very different regions of the world.
When I was preparing to leave Korea, I had the privilege of going to Melissa’s home and seeing several of her pieces and hearing some of the stories behind them. My favorite pieces always seemed to be her images of people. Her work makes it clear that whoever she is painting, she sees them. Really sees them. And when you look at her work, somehow, it’s like your looking into someone else’s soul.
This is a brand new blog, but I can’t help but to mention it. A personal friend of mine who I knew in Korea started writing. When I read her first posts, it kind of reminded me of how I felt as a teacher when I would watch my students perform in a talent show. I would watch my students on stage and see them in this totally new light and I’d think, “Man! I knew I taught talented kids, but I had no idea they could do that!”
Even though I know this writer and a bit of her story, I had never read her essays before. I knew her as a gifted teacher and an adult third culture kid, but I had no idea she was also, as she refers to herself on her blog, an artist at heart. She is willing to share a level of vulnerability in her posts that infuses her essays with emotion that few writers know how to express. Her posts about being a stepmom and struggling with infertility and growing up as a third-culture kid will offer a rare sense of comfort to those grappling with the same issues. Sometimes we need to know we are not alone in our experiences. Her writing makes you feel like you are having coffee with her and she is sharing with you as a close personal friend.
I am curious to see how she builds this blog in the months and years to come.
What about you?
Do you have a blog that you love? One that makes you smile every time you see a new post pop up in your reader? What about a particular post that you can’t forget? Use the comments to share the link and explain why you love it so much.