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


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.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Evidence-Orientation and Effective Learning

I read a fascinating article* this weekend. It suggested that students' self-reported disposition towards evidence can predict learning outcomes.

Summary of the Study
So the study authors assessed students' evidence orientation by asking them to rank their responses to the following five questions (where 1 = Strongly Disagree and 6 = Strongly Agree):
  1. I never change what I believe in - even when someone shows me that my beliefs are wrong.
  2. People should always consider evidence that goes against their beliefs.
  3. It's important to change what you believe after you learn new information.
  4. People shouldn't pay attention to evidence that contradicts their strongly held beliefs.
  5. To decide what is true, you often have to ignore your emotions and stick just to the evidence.
Then, the students were asked to write an essay about a science topic, using several provided resources. Students were assessed on the scientific content of their essays as well as through a true/false test. Analyses showed that there was a significant relationship such that the more students valued evidence over belief, the better students performed on both learning outcomes (essay and knowledge test)**.

On the one hand, this is not totally surprising. Effective learning often requires modifying or updating previous conceptions in order to integrate new information with previous knowledge and form a coherent mental model. But this finding is important because it suggests that, apart from reading skill and prior knowledge (which were also accounted for in the study), some students approach learning differently (and learn less) simply because of beliefs about the value of evidence. Wow.

This study was conducted with learning materials from science. I think it would be interesting to explore this effect within other domains (e.g., history, English, etc.). Also, this research begs the question: how can we help students gain greater respect for/value of evidence?

*Griffin, T.D., Wiley, J., Britt, M.A., & Salas, C. (2012). The role of CLEAR thinking in learning science from multiple-document inquiry tasks. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education. 5(1), 63-78.

**It's important to note this was based on correlational analyses, not on randomized experimental manipulation (which can establish causation).

Monday, December 23, 2013

The One Mile Challenge

I love reading about research on High Intensity Interval Training. I think it is a fascinating idea that short bursts of intense effort can potentially do more for the health/fitness of the body than lower-intensity effort that is sustained for a much longer period of time. It's not surprising the idea is appealing to me -- HIIT sounds like a short-cut! 

Unfortunately, whenever I try to implement the HIIT strategy into my own workouts, I hate it. I hate high intensity exercise! Lately though, doing any exercise has felt high intensity (and demotivating). Which has caused me to considerably lower my expectations of myself. And that, in turn, has helped me to hit upon a workout plan that motivates me. For now.

And this is it: Every other day, I run 1 mile. A single mile. Because no matter how out of shape I am, I can always do 1 MILE. When I finish the mile, I keep walking until it has been 20 or 30 minutes. It may not sound very impressive, but so far it feels like a sustainable habit. I use our treadmill to control pace and watch TED talks or episodes of Chopped to distract me. I am keeping a log to track my speed, and I also make notes about how I feel during and after the run.

Interestingly, that record keeping is actually part of what I find motivating. Because this time, instead of aiming to extend my distance, I'm conducting a[n exploratory] research study on myself. If I run one mile every other day and incrementally increase my speed as I feel comfortable, how long will it take before I can comfortably run at a 9 minute mile pace again? If I keep working on this limited distance, can I get my pace under 8 minutes per mile (something I haven't been able to do since high school, even when I was regularly running 6 miles at a time)?

I am honestly curious if a sub-8 minute mile is an attainable goal for 32 year-old me.We shall see!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thoughts on Education

Yesterday was the last final exam of the last required course of my doctoral studies. Hooray! It felt anticlimactic though, because I invested very little in (and got very little out of) the course. Once I realized, earlier in the semester, that the exams were testing my knowledge retention (could I simply reproduce the content of the lectures?) rather than my synthesis of ideas (could I integrate what I learned with what I already knew, and apply the learned information in new, meaningful ways?) was over. I stopped caring. Because if there's anything I can do well as a student, it is cram. And if that's what an instructor asks of me, that's what I will do.

This is not something I am proud of, and in my opinion it is not a desirable learning approach. But this is my pragmatic reality as a student. Indeed I think it is the pragmatic reality of many students.

This is something I would like to address in my research. How do we modify instructional practices in order to facilitate student knowledge construction (meaningful learning) and stop rewarding superficial learning strategies (like cramming), which derail our students from meaningful learning?

I feel like one of the assumptions of traditional instruction is that students don't like to learn, or don't like to apply themselves (i.e., are lazy). I strongly disagree with these assumptions. Humans are natural learning machines. We are learning all day, every day, oftentimes without even noticing. So why doesn't this capacity translate in many classroom settings?

I believe that just as we are learning machines, we are masters of energy conservation. It's not laziness; rather, our survival depends on it. Students are incredibly adept at identifying "real" instructional objectives and achieving those objectives in the most efficient way -- even if it means missing out on opportunities for personally-relevant learning. For example, in many instructional settings, students quickly learn that mistakes are "the worst thing you can make" (see Sir Ken Robinson's excellent TED talk). Yet mistakes can be quite useful in the learning process.

I hope that my research can serve to help students, like me, stop playing to their audience and tap into their natural affinity for learning.

Disavow: to deny any responsibility or support for

Disclaimer: Clearly, I am angry about this issue. You may well see the matter differently, and I respect your right to your views. But meanwhile, I will be honest and vocal about what I perceive as red flags raised when a culture that claims divine authority leads its people astray.

Today I listened to a really infuriating radio show about the Mormon Church's history of racist policy/practice/doctrine (take your pick), spurred by a recent church-approved essay on the issue. It was infuriating to me because most of the interviewed experts, while wholeheartedly acknowledging the harm and error of certain teachings, still sought to rationalize the institutional racism. Yuck. One interviewee (the author of a book about Mormonism's progressive roots on the issue of race) even suggested that the Mormon Church membership wasn't ready for a complete disavowal until NOW, 2013. Clearly this was his own opinion, but still. How many others of his faith have/will come to the same conclusion? I was a bit shocked (and offended) at this claim. How little does he think of his own people?

Large numbers of people have recognized and opposed racist practices for at least hundreds of years. Not necessarily a majority, but a significant minority. I think it's fair to expect an institution that claims to have a fulness of the truth to be ahead of the curve on such a fundamental issue of right and wrong. Certainly you would expect a people who claim to love truth to be receptive to it.

And yet, the sacred texts of my youth actually encoded some of these racist philosophies. I was taught as recently as just over a decade ago -- over the pulpit, by ordained Mormon leaders -- abhorrent ideas from which the Mormon church is just NOW beginning to distance itself. To me that is unacceptable, in light of their truth claims.

One of the most liberating realizations in my life was the recognition that I could trust my own moral compass more than I could trust the moral compass of those who set themselves forward as wise men, and leaders. What policies/practices/doctrines will they discontinue in another 50 years? Will they take responsibility then for the harm they have done? Or will they just...disavow?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"I can do more than this"

Tonight I had a really wonderful, sacred experience. I attended a TedxWomen event. I have been a fan of TED for several years now. TED speakers have given me food for thought many times over. But there was something extra special about participating in this event by women for women with women. It was not only inspiring, it felt truly empowering. 

One of the first speakers talked of a teen who demonstrated promise and innovation in spite of less-than-ideal circumstances. When she (the speaker) acknowledged and praised him for his achievements, he said to her, "If you sponsor me, I can do more than this."

The words moved me, deeply. I thought of my adviser and mentor, who is not much older than me. She has been a sponsor to me. She has listened, believed, and encouraged as I've communicated my own yearning to do more. She has invested time and energy and opportunities so that I can follow through with that yearning.

I can do more than what I once believed possible. I can do more than what others expected of me. I can learn more, achieve more, give more.

Sometimes I feel angry; I feel that for so many years I was shortchanged. But tonight I was reminded that it's not too late. I'm privileged to understand that the past does not have to dictate my future. I can do more than this. And someday, I hope I can be the sponsor for other girls and women, so that they can do more, too.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Visited by the spirit of the macarena

This really just happened:

I was laying on the couch, silently reading this mentalfloss article about websites from the 90's. Dave was sitting on the other side of the couch, turned toward me, playing Candy Crush on his phone. We hadn't talked for a while, and he couldn't see my screen, so presumably he had no idea what I was reading. Facebook or blogs, most likely.

So I came to a section of the article that said, "When the Macarena made front-page news." I started scanning the associated screenshot to find the reference to the Macarena.

But before I could find it, Dave suddenly started singing aloud...the words to the macarena.

I definitely think that we use body language to communicate far more information to people around us than we think we do, but I still can't figure this one out. I'm pretty sure the likelihood of such an occurance is less than 5%, making it statistically significantly weird! I laughed so hard I cried.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Walking to work on a cloudy day

It is an overcast morning. My hair is damp but I tuck it in my hood and I'm winning a battle. Like I have resources on my side. I put in my headphones and turn on a favorite Pandora station, "Get Lucky." And no one hears the beat but me, but as I plod my way to work I am really dancing. My heart is dancing.

I feel fierce.

Because I am a pattern seeker. Because I hear words, but I see behaviors. Because truth can be tested. Because things that seemed beyond my understanding are now within my grasp. Because my life has meaning and direction and rich relationships.

I am alive, and it is good. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

What Lehi (and Nephi) Got Wrong

I am an atheist, but the rich religious texts of my youth form part of the foundation of my worldview. I do not agree with many orthodox religious conclusions, but still I think in principles, in allegories and metaphors.

Something struck me last week, as I reflected on a narrative that figured prominently in my early understanding of what it means to feel joy and to share joy.

In this narrative (the Tree of Life allegory), Lehi (and later Nephi) is led to a tree, where he partakes of the sweetest fruit he has ever tasted. This fruit is understood to represent the love of god. It is so wonderful that he wants to share it with his family. He calls out to them, but two of his sons do not come and partake. He is sad, because they will not come. Throughout his life he continues to invite, and they continue to refuse.

As a youth, this narrative (and others like it) led me to conceptualize joy as something outside of me, something to obtain, something to consume, something to possess. It also led me to see the world as made up of two camps of people - those who would do whatever it takes to attain that joy, and those who would not (whether due to pride, laziness, or other obstructions). I felt profoundly sad for those unwilling or unable to partake.

I no longer see joy as something outside myself, and certainly not as something to consume. The greatest joy I have ever known has come, quite simply, through human connection. Through hearing, and being heard. Through seeing, and being seen. Through caring, and being cared for.  For me, joy is experienced through a rich interplay of mutual vulnerability.

Lehi found joy in a message of love. Lehi had an experience that made him feel heard, and seen, and known, and valued. Yet, he missed the point. He failed to hear, see, know, value. He did far too much talking and far too little listening. He failed to connect.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Pumpkinman

After Dave and I competed in the Tsunami Triathlon back in June, we mostly took a break from training until returning from Europe in mid-August. Then it was back to work.

We signed up for the Las Vegas Pumpkinman and started training again. We trained pretty consistently until the beginning of October, when we received notification that the government shutdown could result in our event being cancelled (since Lake Mead, the location of the swim, was closed during the shutdown). Dave was disappointed; I was slightly relieved. I pretty much stopped training.

And then, late on October 16th, the shutdown ended and the race was suddenly back on! Dave was elated; I was depressed! On October 17th we picked up our wetsuits and on the 18th we drove down to Boulder City, NV, where we met our friends Scott and Emilia. Scott would be competing in the Half-Ironman and Emilia in the sprint, like me.

On the morning of October 19th, we made our way to Transition 1, on the shore of Lake Mead. It was then that I remembered that my tire could not be pumped up (the knut had broken off last time we pumped it up). Oops! We attempted it anyway...and with a loud whoosh the tire completely deflated. "Oh well," I said to Dave. "Since I can't ride, I'll just cheer you on!" But of course Dave would have none of that. He found the bike mechanic, who replaced the tube for free. I was back in the race.

The swim was the most difficult swim of my life. In a pool I am a pretty comfortable, average swimmer; but this swim was not in a pool. It was my first time wearing a wetsuit (for a race), and my first time racing in open water. I hate swimming freestyle in open water, but I still didn't expect it to be as difficult as it was. Between my nerves, the cool temperature, the murky-water induced panic, and the constriction of the wetsuit, I was short of breath for nearly the entire race. No matter how slowly I stroked, I couldn't sustain the front crawl because I never felt like I got enough air. I ended up swimming the breaststroke most of the way, with an occasional turn on my back! Crazy! But I wasn't alone in my methods, that's for sure. I was surrounded by people doing whatever they could to just stay afloat and make it through the swim.

The bike was also the most difficult triathlon bike ride I've ever done. From start to finish there was a pretty continual incline (elevation increase of over 1500 feet). It reminded me of years ago when I would train by riding up my parents' hill. It felt great to get to the top and look back at the gorgeous view of the lake. I made it through the run by downing the most delicious gu I've ever tasted (a Montana Huckleberry Hammer gel). When I finished my run, I was choking back tears. It felt awesome. It took me over 2.5 hours to complete the triathlon, an hour more than my slowest previous tri! Emilia finished right about the same time as me.

About an hour later, Dave crossed the finish line, having completed his first olympic tri. He did fantastic! He had the opposite experience in the swim; felt comfortable and swam his fastest 1500 meters ever. I'm so proud of him! Later, just after Scott completed his Half Ironman (so impressive!!), I was pleasantly surprised to run into my old friend (and distant cousin) Josh. He had also completed the Half Ironman (in a crazy fast time).

That evening, Dave and I made the 7 hour trip back home. And that's how we learned that we will never drive 7 hours on race day again.

It was a great, challenging race. We're already looking for another one to sign up for!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Not Okay

It is not okay to conflate the desire to have a career with an aversion to or unwillingness to or [and especially not] an inability to fulfill one's role as a parent. I wish I could get far, far, far away from this line of harmful and manipulative thinking.

I'm looking forward to raising children in a home where both parents participate in the nurturing and the providing, and the contributions are not markedly gender-defined. I've seen the fruits of such homes (I'm married to one), and they give me hope.