Sunday, January 4, 2015

Puerto Rico: Day 3

Between newly purchased earplugs and having figured out the air conditioning situation, we slept much better the 2nd night! We woke up early Christmas morning (this time, the roosters were actually helpful!) so that we could get to the ferry terminal to buy tickets to Culebra (a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico). We were in line by 6 am. Ticket sales were supposed to begin at 6:30; they actually began after 7 (who can blame the employees; I'm sure they were not happy to be spending their Christmas morning at work). We had our tickets by 7:30 (they sold out within an hour) and headed back to the apartment to make a quick breakfast before walking back to the marina.

The 90-minute ferry ride left around 9 am. When we arrived at Culebra, we caught a $3 shuttle to Flamenco Beach (ranked on Trip Advisor as one of the top five beaches in the world). It is indeed a beautiful beach with powdery soft white sand. The water is crystal clear and gorgeous. We camped out in the shade of a palm tree and I quickly fell asleep while Dave read a book. Later, we ate a picnic lunch and spent some time jumping in the waves. That was fun! Again, we have no pictures; we didn't want to worry about leaving our stuff on the beach so we didn't bring anything valuable with us. It probably would have been fine to bring at least a phone, but it's nice not to worry. :)

Around 1:30 pm, we were ready to do some snorkeling so we took a taxi to another beach (Tamarindo). We had bought cheap $10 snorkeling sets at Walgreens the day before. This ended up being a fantastic decision (although the snorkeling masks were, unsurprisingly, pretty bad and pinched our noses). When we first got in the water, we spent about ten minutes swimming around with only sand and unimpressive sea grass to see, thinking to ourselves, "Meh -- I guess that was a waste of 20 bucks." Finally, Dave noticed a cluster of snorkelers that seemed to be looking at something. We approached and were delighted to see two sea turtles! We literally just floated and stared at the turtles for 20 minutes. So cool.

After that, we continued exploring on our own and encountered several more sea turtles. My favorite sea turtle looked like it had a white stripe down the back of its shell. Upon closer inspection, it was actually a nice-sized sucker fish going for a ride. It was really kind of adorable. Anytime the turtle was feeding, the sucker fish hung out on its back. When the turtle would swim the fish would detach and swim tucked under the turtle's belly, basically using the turtle as protection! The turtles are endangered so you can't touch them, but they must be used to humans because they swam quite close and didn't seem to mind our following them around.

We eventually encountered a "baby" coral reef, which was also fun to explore. We didn't see a ton of fish, but there were enough to ooo and ah at.

So, snorkeling ended up being another magical (and tiring) experience. When we got out of the water it was around 3:30 pm and we figured it was time to find our way back to the ferry terminal (the ferry was to depart at 5 pm, and if we didn't make it we would be stranded with no place to stay). We decided to try walking back to town by way of several beaches. In the end, we found ourselves at the end of a long private drive where a grumpy old white guy refused to let us pass through his private property to get to the public beach. Dave wanted to cut through it anyway, but I didn't want to risk getting caught. I'm sure we would have been fine. But instead, Dave indulged me and we headed back down the road to Tamarindo Beach.

By this time it was 4 pm and I was beginning to panic about getting back to the ferry on time. Tamarindo Beach is small and there weren't many people there. Also, being Christmas, there weren't extra taxis hanging out around this part of the island.

We decided to walk back to the main road and see if we could hitch a ride. Sure enough, we were able to flag down a friendly tourist driving a golf cart. He gave us a ride back to town, refused to take any money (just told us to pay it forward), and we made it back to the ferry terminal with time to spare!

We enjoyed some caribbean sherbet (helado) while we waited to board the ferry. The ride back was a bit unpleasant because the air conditioning was blasting, ugh. I wrapped a semi-damp towel around me, which helped, but we could not wait to get off that ferry!

We were home, cleaned up, and cooking dinner by 7 pm. We sauteed some onions and bell peppers to eat with our leftover arroz con gandules and cheese. Not bad (but homemade beans and rice would have been better!). Plus sweet plantains for dessert. After that we just enjoyed a relaxing night in.

The biggest accomplishment of the day? Neither of us got sunburned!!! A Christmas miracle. ;)

Puerto Rico: Day 2

The first night was rough.

When I lived in Puerto Rico fifteen years ago, I remember falling asleep to the soothing sound of coquis (small frogs) chirping outside my window. This time, in Fajardo, the sound of coquis was not very loud...but there were several roosters and dogs making themselves known! Not long after we first fell asleep, the roosters began crowing (about 5 or 6 hours too early by my estimation, lol). I had brought ear plugs, but Dave had not. It was not a restful night for either of us (I kept pulling out the ear plugs in my sleep). Once the sun dawned, we finally figured out how to get the air conditioning to drown out the neighborhood sounds without freezing us, and slept for another several hours.

The positive take-away from this experience was that in a single night we were able to completely adjust to the time difference (3 hours ahead of Utah time), something we had failed to do prior to our arrival in spite of having spent the previous weekend on the East Coast (2 hours ahead of Utah time).

When we finally pulled ourselves out of bed, it was a glorious morning: sunny and warm! (In fact we enjoyed perfect weather our whole week -- blue skies and highs in the eighties everyday.) We made breakfast, packed a lunch, and sprayed ourselves down with bug repellant before heading out.

We drove towards El Yunque (the only tropical rainforest in the US), stopping at a bakery for pan sobao (Puerto Rican bread with a taste Dave compares to challah) along the way. The drive from Fajardo to the entrance of El Yunque is not long (30 minutes?), but it took us quite a while (an additional 30+ minutes?) to arrive at our trailhead because of narrow, winding roads within the national forest. There is a visitor's center near the entrance, but it requires an entrance fee (whereas there is no fee for simply entering El Yunque itself) so we just proceeded into the forest without stopping at the center. It would have been nice to have a more detailed map of the park, but we survived with the existing signage along the road.

By the time we arrived at the trailhead we were hungry (it was nearly 1 pm) so we stopped for a picnic lunch (deli sandwiches on our sobao bread). I did note that there were food vendors open along the road within El Yunque (even on Christmas Eve), but we enjoyed the lunch we had brought.  Mmmm that bread!

We spent the next couple hours hiking to the peak of El Yunque and back down. The route was about 5 miles roundtrip, with an elevation difference of about 1500 feet from trailhead to peak. The hike difficulty is described as moderate to challenging; compared to our Utah hiking experiences, it did not feel challenging at all! It was a beautiful hike, with the biggest payoff being the views from the top.

The trail to the peak of El Yunque.
Looking southeast from the top.
Looking north to the coast.

Obligatory selfie at El Yunque peak.
After completing our hike, we left El Yunque and stopped at the Luquillo Kiosks to find some dinner. Since it was the evening of Christmas Eve, the pickings were slim by 5 pm. But we enjoyed some pinchos (barbecued skewers of meat), tostones, and fresh coconut water. The shrimp pinchos at Kiosk #35 were to die for! I also tried to order some rice and beans to go (as a back-up accompaniment for dinner the next day), but in the end there were none of my beloved pink beans to be found and we took home some arroz con gandules (pigeon peas), a typical Puerto Rican rice dish. Not my favorite, but better than nothing.

In hindsight, I just should have brought my own recipe for Puerto Rican beans and made some from scratch the next day. But how authentic is that -- when made by a Utah girl like me?!

We got home around 6:15 pm, quickly changed into swimsuits, and headed out again. We had made reservations for a kayaking tour of the nearby bioluminescent bay (Laguna Grande) which was to begin at 7 pm. Incredibly, in spite of spending one year and two additional Christmases in Puerto Rico, I had never done any biobay kayaking. It. Was. INCREDIBLE!!

Dave and I shared a kayak (one of about 15 in our tour group). We started kayaking in a marina, and then paddled about a mile through a mangrove-lined channel before arriving at Laguna Grande. What makes Laguna Grande special is that it is inhabited by plankton that glow in the dark when the water is agitated. Somehow we managed to pick just the right night: the moon was a sliver (making it nearly pitch black at times) and it was low tide. The significance of low tide is that the mangrove channel itself was also filled with the bioluminescent plankton (apparently, you can usually only see them in the bay when it is high tide? At least that is what the tour guide said). Needless to say, we spent the entire kayaking trip splashing our legs, cupping sparkles in our hands, and skipping our paddles over the surface of the water. Magical.

No pictures, unfortunately, because we didn't want our phones/cameras to get wet. Smarter tourists brought their phones in plastic bags. :)

We finished the kayaking trip enchanted, exhausted, and starving. This is a must-do while visiting Puerto Rico, but should probably be planned ahead of time. We made reservations at the beginning of December and barely managed to find available tickets since most tours were already booked up for the holidays!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Puerto Rico: Day 1

We flew out of Orlando around mid-day and arrived in San Juan at 4 pm local time. After we retrieved our luggage, we called the car rental agency (Europcar) who told us to wait outside for their van. Once we got outside, we weren't sure how they would find us -- we were just two among a crowd of people waiting for rides, and Europcar hadn't told us to wait at any specific spot.

We noticed some men in orange vests helping direct traffic, so when we saw the Europcar van approaching in an outer lane we asked a man in orange what we were supposed to do next. He waved over the Europcar driver and we got into the van. Afterward, I asked the van driver if the men in orange vests were employed by the airport. It turns out they are not; they actually pay the airport a small fee to be able to work there, and then they are paid in tips. Oops. I guess next time I'll know that if we ask the men in orange for help, we'll pay them for it!

We got to the rental agency and it was a smooth process to get the car. The employees gave us a map and made various recommendations about things to do during our trip; it was reassuring because most of the things they suggested were already on our planned itinerary. When they handed over the vehicle, it took 5 minutes just to point out the dozens of pre-existing scratches and dents, haha! Not long after we started driving we realized that the car also had the absolute worst shocks of any car we've been in before. And it was a fairly new car with only ~30,000 miles.  The bad shocks made much more sense to us after 5 days of driving over speed bumps and pot holes. :)

Although we'd expected to have access to data (4G/3G) during our trip, our phones were initially unable to access it (more on that later I'm sure). Fortunately, we'd pre-saved google maps of Puerto Rico on our phones and between the maps and GPS tracking were able to navigate to our accommodations without much issue.

The drive to northeastern Puerto Rico (<1 hr) was easy and the scenery beautiful. Even though it was rush hour, we got on the road after Carolina so it was moving along just fine. I love Puerto Rico's lush, hilly countryside. Dave had been warned about crazy driving but found that the driving style matched his own; he was completely at home on the roads!

We had rented an apartment through Airbnb that was on a hill near the ferry terminal in Fajardo. We arrived in time to see a gorgeous lookout over the ocean. The apartment was clean and spacious and really a wonderful place to stay.

The view from our street.
After checking in, our next priority was FOOD! We had passed a Pollo Tropical (a Puerto Rican fast food franchise) on the way to our apartment. Although I guessed it would not be the most delicious option, I knew I had to eat there at least once for nostalgia (it was my favorite place to eat-out 15 years ago when I lived in Puerto Rico). So we headed to the Pollo Tropical, and ordered a chicken breast with rice and beans, tostones (twice-fried starchy plantains), and amarillos (fried sweet plantains) to share. It was a good way to start the trip, since it was not bad at all and we knew the food would only get better from then on!

Next stop: the grocery store. We knew that food options might be limited for the next couple of days due to the holiday (Christmas Eve and Christmas), so we made sure we had enough food for breakfasts and lunches. We also grabbed a bottle of Puerto Rican wine (who knew!). I told Dave we couldn't buy bread though; that we would have to get later at an actual bakery.    

We returned home, poured ourselves some wine, and went outside to enjoy it on the back porch. It was dark by this time, but still a comfortable 75 degrees or so. It was a great first day.

The [daytime] view from our back porch.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Chain of Events: Continued

Yesterday I was scheduled to travel to Switzerland, but here I am one day later, still at home in Salt Lake City.

I would have been 9 weeks pregnant today, but on Saturday I had a miscarriage. Needless to say, that was unexpected. It was sad, scary, painful, and stressful (since I also had to figure out how to deal with international travel plans that were to commence less than 24 hours later). I'm feeling incredibly fortunate that I miscarried on Saturday, and not 24 or 48 hours later while flying (!) or in a foreign country. I can't even imagine what I would have done!!

I'm sad to miss out on traveling with my friend. I'm disappointed that Dave and I will not be having the spring baby we were preparing for. I am surprised to find myself, such a newbie to the world of trying to conceive, already joining the [rather large] sisterhood of women who have experienced pregnancy loss.

It is a complex mixture of emotions. Although being pregnant seemed unreal, now not being pregnant seems unreal too. It felt a bit anticlimactic to have my first ultrasound today, only to confirm an empty uterus. A nearly back-to-normal empty uterus!! As if the pregnancy was all just a dream. So strange. But the memory of what I saw and experienced on Saturday stays with me, and unfortunately, it was not a dream.

I'm grateful for husband, sisters, mother, mother-in-law, and friends who supported me this weekend.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Chain of Events

In one week I'll be in Switzerland on an adventure with my good friend Stacey! We will be renting a car, a manual car, and I will be doing all the driving.

Me & Stace at my wedding last year.
Since driving in Europe scares me, just a bit, I figured it was time to finally get glasses. Having been advised by an eye doctor four years ago that I might find them useful for night driving.

So I got a new eye exam. It turns out that, 4 years later, I really need vision correction when driving at night AND during the day. I ordered some glasses online.

I received them Friday, but found the frames a bit broader than expected. They looked...huge. Unless I lifted my long scraggly hair into the shape of a bob... Somehow that made them fit my face better.

So Saturday morning I chopped 8 inches off my hair. Of course I haven't worn the glasses since, but at least I feel more like myself with a bob! I don't know why I ever try to grow long hair when I was clearly made to be a short-haired girl....

And then I continued reading more about driving, and decided I should probably get an International Driver's Permit too, just to be on the safe side.

Looking like a smug criminal in my International Driver's Permit photo.

Next time I'll probably smile for the photo.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

For People who like Chia & Coconut

I eat chia in some form almost every day. I like the texture and the taste, and I'm always looking for ways to add a little extra fiber to my diet. I tried a variation of this recipe the other day. It was okay, but a little bit...meh. Maybe because I used peanut butter instead of almond butter. But I've continued tweaking the recipe and today the result was a tasty chia-coconut pudding I will for sure be having again.

Tomorrow.

And probably the day after that too.
Coconut-Chia Pudding 
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp shredded coconut, unsweetened (cuz that's what I have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond beverage (from TJ's. It's our preferred milk these days)
Shake ingredients together (in a sealed container) and chill for a couple hours. It's got a nice kick of coconut, and pleasant tapioca-y texture.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Reflections on Social Cohesiveness

I was raised in a community with a wonderful sense of identity and cohesion. Throughout my youth I assumed that cultural identity, and I enjoyed the fellowship of peers who shared my convictions and my perspective. It truly felt wonderful to belong to such a well-integrated social structure.

But such a sense of community, I later learned, comes at a cost. It came at a cost when I was unable to follow the expected course of action (e.g., marry young, start a family) -- I paid a price in terms of self-confidence and self-worth, and in my sense of individual purpose. The cohesion also came at a cost when I began to disagree with specific tenets and values upon which the community was based -- the cost of continued fellowship meant a continued attack on my self-respect, my integrity. 

But choosing instead to seek after those values: self-worth, purpose, integrity -- came at the cost of the good favor of my community. Suddenly, in the eyes of my people, all the good in me was corrupt; all my successes were invalid -- or at least in vain.

You never see your community quite as clearly as when you begin to separate yourself from it: such anger, such vitriol! Manifested by those from whom you've come to expect love and respect and compassion. It is a disappointment. But by their fruits...

I recognize the great benefit that a strong social structure can be for so many people, but I am proud and excited to be able to give my children a life without such structure. It will require greater effort for me and for them to acquire social support, to build our own community from scratch. But more effort is not necessarily a bad thing. And I would hate for them to feel, as I once did, that the path has already been laid out for them. That their individual desires are merely for the subduing. That social love and respect depend upon unity and conformity.

I hope I can allow and encourage my children to approach life as a journey, a path of discovery. I wish for them to be safe, certainly, but I do not wish for them a life of "safety." I want them to take risks, to struggle, to be curious and skeptical, to disagree, to make mistakes, and to learn. And I hope most of all that I can love and accept them for who they are, and not just to the degree that they meet established standards or expectations -- especially mine. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Lately

It is finished: Dave successfully defended his dissertation and is now a doctor with a PhD in physics! I am so proud. And hopeful that eventually I'll make it to the day of my own dissertation defense as well!

Light in the darkness: Finishing grad school means re-entering the adult world of early mornings. Boo. Dave has to be at work at 7, which means waking up a couple hours earlier than we're used to. So I finally did it: I purchased one of these (for me, so that eventually I can more successfully get out of bed with him. Or at least...not long after him.). Used it for the first time this week, and I was pleased with the experience. I think waking up in the winter just got a whole lot easier! Time will tell.

Hemp hearts: A year or so ago, my sister introduced me to a breakfast cereal sold at Costco called Qi'a which included chia seeds, hemp hearts, buckwheat, etc. Then, as quickly as it appeared at Costco, it was gone. Since then, I've incorporated chia seeds into my regular diet. But I waited a bit longer to purchase some hemp hearts (also from Costco) because I wasn't sure what to do with them. Turns out I needn't have worried; hemp hearts are delicious all by themselves! I like eating spoonfuls of them for a snack.

Taking advantage: After we enjoyed several fantastic hikes last week during Dave's parents' visit, Dave and I finally bought an annual pass to Millcreek Canyon (the nearest canyon to our home). Last Saturday we hiked Grandeur Peak -- and wow. It was tougher than I expected. But beautiful. Both of which mean we need to get up there more often. We're looking forward to enjoying the hiking around Salt Lake a bit more since our time here is certainly limited. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Worth It

Dave and I are always happy to take advantage of a good deal. Of course, often those deals come with strings attached (or implied). This was the case when we took advantage of an offer for a free wine tasting at Honig Winery in Northern California a couple years ago...

The wine tasting was fantastic. Great service, generous pours, and lip-smacking good quality. The best [dessert] wine I've ever tasted was a sample of Honig's Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. OMG. As the woman serving it said, it's the kind of wine that would taste delicious drizzled over ice cream. It also costs $70 a bottle.

So after sampling easily $30+ of wine (between the two of us) for FREE, we felt guilty walking away without making a single purchase. Of course, this is the point of free tastings. So we bought the cheapest thing we could find: a half bottle of cabernet sauvignon for around $25. Definitely more than we typically spend on a bottle (to say nothing of HALF a bottle!) of wine; we're college students. :)

Well, we finally drank the cab this week. The verdict? Totally worth it!! It was fantastic. And just the right size to enjoy with our meal for two. It also paired superbly with our meal (Italian meatballs on a bed of sauteed peppers and onions). Next time we are in Nor Cal, I'd definitely stop by Honig  Winery again. Even just to snag another half bottle of cab.

But someday, that Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc will be mine.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Instagram

I joined Instagram about a couple years ago, when I got my first smart phone. Thus far, I have attempted one instagram post. Well, actually, I tried to get Dave to do it for me. We were driving to Oregon for Thanksgiving (2012) and we saw an amazing rainbow. Dave was fumbling for a camera to capture the beauty and I, though driving, thrust my phone at him -- "Here, use instagram to do it!"

But it turns out that you can't take photos and post them to instagram until you've actually set up your account. So while Dave was obliging me by clicking through various icons, we kept on driving and... Long story short, we missed the rainbow due to some technical difficulties. It was a sad moment.

More recently, I have been going through blog withdrawals. True, people have been weaning their audiences off of blogs for years now...but it's finally starting to hit me. The joy of stalking blogs of friends and friends' friends seems to be going the way of VCRs and cassette tapes. Which brings me to Instagram.

I'm finally getting it. It's a new way to get updates on friends and friends' friends. The posts are brief, but always with pictures! Woohoo!

However, since I've waited this long to post anything on my own account, there's a lot of pressure to make my first post something special. So I'll keep stewing for now, until I come across something so wonderfully unimportant to the rest of the world (like a half-eaten breakfast burrito? Or my chia chai?) that I won't be able to stop myself from taking it public...

Watch out, social media.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chia Chai

A frivolous post about my newest discovery.

When I lived in Taiwan I learned to love "chunky" drinks: Boba drinks with tapioca of various sizes. Mung and azuki bean and barley (?) drinks. Milk tea with globs of gelatin. All sorts of drinks with unknown chewy things in them (and, of course, plenty of sugar)! Taiwan had such a variety of interesting drinks!

So this morning I wanted some chai tea for breakfast, and I thought...I wonder what it would be like with some chia seeds?

Turns out it was DELICIOUS. And wonderfully nostalgic. My recipe:
  • 8 fl oz hot chai (Bigelow Spiced Decaf)
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • .5 Tbsp coconut butter (for a touch of sweet and richness)
I let the seeds soak for a bit as the tea stilled and then I downed my delicious and very filling tea with breakfast. It may become part of my morning routine!




Tuesday, June 17, 2014

1 year (plus 3!)

Dave and I recently celebrated the first anniversary of our wedding. Although we loved our wedding last year, we didn't do anything special to mark the occasion this year. I think both of us count March 6th (the anniversary of our first date) as our "real" anniversary. After all, we've pretty much been a couple since that date in 2010!

I love sharing my life with Dave. He is kind, thoughtful, sensitive, loyal, responsible, clever, fun, forward-thinking, etc. etc. ... And to top it all off, he puts up with me! As Ben Affleck said speaking of his marriage, "It’s good, it is work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with." That's exactly how I feel.

Dave is graduating with his PhD this summer and I'm so very proud. He has earned it! And he's taken a job in Salt Lake so that we can stick around here while I complete my PhD too. That means more to me than I can say!

I once heard an elderly man speak of being more and more in love with his significant other as time passed, and it is sweet to get to experience that myself. I love Dave more and more each day. I love feeling so in sync with this other incredible human being; it feels too good to be true to get to share and build my life with him.    


Sunday, May 18, 2014

33

We spent my birthday at Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod with Dave's parents. We biked and threw rocks at the beach. We ate chocolate and fried bay scallops. For dinner, there was a delicious steak with mashed potatoes, golden beets (perfection!) and a divine cabernet. Beautiful scenery. Good weather. Great company.

Thankful for another year!


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Peanut Soup

A couple years ago Dave's mom introduced us to African Peanut Soup. I don't know how African it really is, but it. is. AMAZING. And flexible.
  • The soup begins with mirepoix (diced carrots, celery, onion) + diced red bell pepper. Saute in oil of choice.
  • After the veggies soften, add some chicken broth and a bit of chunky peanut butter (~1.5-2 tbsp per cup of broth) and bring to boil.
  • Add some diced chicken, diced fresh tomatoes, and cayenne pepper to taste (adds a great kick!). 
  • Simmer another 20-30 minutes.
I'm purposefully leaving out proportions, because I like chunky soups with lots of veggies, and also because I've varied amounts of veggies and broth/pb and it still always tastes good. (Okay it's really just because I'm lazy and I feel like if I make this post an actual recipe I need to include a picture but I'm no food blogger.)

It works without chicken too...what is it about peanut butter and veggies? I never would have guessed it is such a winning combination.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Messages about motherhood in "The World"

So I just read this quote:
"I know the world sends mothers and women messages that motherhood is boring, thankless and is for women who aren't educated enough to do anything else with their lives."
Quotes like this really, really get under my skin. What "world" is she talking about? Who is going around telling women that motherhood is stupid and reserved for the uneducated?

NO ONE that I know. In fact, most parents I know -- regardless of religious affiliation or employment status -- suggest that being a parent is one of the most rewarding experiences of life. I do know a handful of people who have decided not to have children, which I think is just fine. And for the record, not one of them gives me the impression that they think they are smarter or less boring than those who opt to procreate.

Now, the whole "thankless" thing -- well, I think the woman who wrote those words is delusional if she doesn't acknowledge that parenthood is occasionally mundane and thankless. I'm not even a parent, but as a child and an aunt I'm pretty sure this is true. And yet I am [ultimately] not swayed from planning to be a mother by the prospect of thankless work.

It just gets under my skin when people talk about "the world" with such assurance, when many of their ideas about said world come not from reality and experience but from ignorant hearsay.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dedicated to Grandpa James

One of Dave's favorite authors is Kurt Vonnegut. Early on in our relationship, Dave started reading one of Vonnegut's books to me. I remember being sometimes amused, sometimes bored, sometimes annoyed by the occasional crassness. We never finished the book.

But several years have passed since then. Tonight, I decided it was time to give Vonnegut another try, on my own time and in the quiet of my own head. I selected "Breakfast of Champions" because it is supposed to be among one of Vonnegut's more well known works. I think. By accident, I began reading the preface. I almost never read prefaces, but once I started this one I was completely drawn in.

And then, I experienced something almost sacred. I read these words of Vonnegut, but I felt like I was reading words that my grandpa might have spoken, with that sardonic and self-deprecating tone that others might have called sacrilegious. And I thought: it is fitting that I married a man who reminds me of my grandfather, and that this man finds wisdom in books that perhaps my grandfather read (?) or might have liked.

Even before finishing the preface, I read a passage I loved. I think Grandpa would have liked it too:
I think I am trying to clear my head of all the junk in there...I think I am trying to make my head as empty as it was when I was born onto this damaged planet fifty years ago...The things other people have put into my head, at any rate, do not fit together nicely, are often useless and ugly, are out of proportion with one another, are out of proportion with life as it really is outside my head.
There's something about this passage that I find delightful. There is a sentiment that resonates with me. I look forward to finding out what else this book has to offer.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

My experience as a Mormon Woman

In response to this article, I wrote this comment:
As a Mormon girl, I was given a great sense of value and capacity -- but within very limited constraints. To be successful was to stay pure, marry a Mormon man, and raise happy and dutiful Mormon children. I selected my undergraduate institution and course of study specifically to prepare for motherhood. When I graduated from college still single, I was completely lost, adrift! I didn't know what to do with myself.
I served a Mormon mission; I found gainful employment; I continued my education. But regardless of my secular successes, I felt like a failure. My single status only made me feel more and more undervalued in the religion of my upbringing. Though I considered myself a worthy and attractive partner, at 28 I rarely dated, had never had a boyfriend, and my prospects looked increasingly dim.
Ultimately, as an adult woman, I came to question the value of a faith that [I felt] measured my value and potential in terms of my marital (and parental) status. I disagreed that it was better for singles like me to live a celibate life than to seek companionship outside of my faith. I left the church. I pursued my "heretical" dreams (like a PhD and - gasp - a career!). I came to feel empowered to seek after happiness and meaning, with or without a man. I met and married a partner who considers and treats me as his equal.
Now, together with my husband, I look forward to raising children who will not be limited in their aspirations by their gender.
I imagine that most Mormon women who join the conversation will have a different spin on their stories. But this is my story, and I think it is worth sharing.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Thoughts on "Gender Diversity" in Marriage

Today I perused an article in the Salt Lake Tribune about Utah's brief against same-sex marriage. A photograph depicted an artistically-crafted sign that read:
Marriage means a mother and a father for every child.
Um, no. No it doesn't.

It doesn't matter how beautiful the calligraphy, the message is a false one. While marriage is often considered a prerequisite to having children, having children is NOT a requisite of marriage. In the United States, marriage represents a formal, legal bond between consenting adults. There is no stipulation about child-bearing. Otherwise, why would we allow adults who are infertile or past child-rearing age (or who don't intend to have children) to marry?

Perhaps what the sign-maker wanted to promote was an ideal about parenting, not marriage. But parenting "quality" is a separate issue; except in cases of abuse or neglect (etc.), the US government usually does not intervene. People parent...with or without marriage. Adults raise children ...with or without spouses...and with or without the involvement of other family/friends.

My grandmother lost her mother to illness when she was 3 years-old. Her father eventually remarried, but his new wife was no "mother" to Grandma (at least not in Grandma's eyes). Gender "diversity" of parents does not guarantee love and proper care.

Evolution has mandated that conception require both a biological mother and biological father, but human history has been marked by diverse definitions of families and "marriages." Let's be honest about that.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Whirlwind Epiphanies

Recently I decided to submit a research proposal that was due by the end of the same week. The motivation was there (if the proposal is accepted, I will receive funding for the research!), but successful completion of the application materials required several pages of insight into my research goals/plans for the next year.

Of course, next year is the year I intend to begin work on my dissertation. Which means: I gave myself less than one work week to hatch a plan for my doctoral dissertation. !!

It was an intense week. I couldn't have done it without my adviser's help and feedback. And Dave's patience. And fortunately I wasn't starting from scratch; thanks to my participation in a few other research projects, I had an idea or two floating around. In the end, the experience was so rewarding! Regardless of whether I receive the funding or not (fingers crossed), I came away with vision and clarity about my own personal research interests. It feels GREAT.

And this is what I realized:

1) I believe science literacy is critical for empowering individuals to make informed decisions.
2) I want to promote the development of science literacy among today's learners.
3) I am particularly interested in how science literacy can be developed in the context of increasing access to [fragmented, erroneous] knowledge.

I especially love that last point. How can we (and our children!) develop effective reasoning skills with imperfect information and sources? Because that is the great challenge we face, everyday. I am hopeful that the variable quality of information we encounter can in fact work to our benefit, and I intend to learn as much as I can about how to make that possible!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Citizens of the World

Recently Dave and I had a small gathering with some of our grad school friends (plus a neighborhood friend). It was a multicultural event, and almost everyone brought a dish that reflected something of their origins. We ate Persian delicacies ashe-rashteh (a thick veggie-bean-noodle soup) and kuku sibzamini (potato fritters), Chinese tang yuan (glutinous rice balls filled with bean paste and coated in sesame seeds), Belgian oliebollen (apple-filled donut holes), Puerto Rican tembleque (coconut custard), warm German potato salad, layered guacamole dip and veggies and dip.

What a mix of flavors! What a mix of cultural backgrounds and experiences! Oh how I loved it... I want to fill my life with friendship and diversity and shared, new experiences. Can't wait til our next potluck party.