Sink plant

This morning I got up and went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. As I turned on the water, I noticed this:

It's a plant. Growing out of our sink. Probably rooted in a ball of hair. I think we need to clean a little more often.

Chris thinks we should let it grow and see what it turns into - a tomato previously stuck in someone's teeth? Who knows. It kind of looks like a tomato seedling.

Maybe I'll transplant it into a pot.


teaching nutrition

I'm teaching a new class this quarter - human nutrition - and it's difficult. Not only is this new material for me to learn as well as teach, but the subject of nutrition brings out strong opinions. A few of my students are really struggling with their weight as well as with body image issues. Every time we look at HHS nutrition guidelines and something mentions obesity as the 2nd biggest risk factor for preventable deaths, or see an emphasis on weight control rather than simple good health, I cringe a little.

The good thing is that my students are pretty vocal. A couple of them debated for a few minutes in class today about whether it's okay to feed McDonalds food to children. The "no" side thought it was morally wrong to feed children junk food if it's having obvious effects on their bodies - i.e. they're getting fat. The "yes" side was giving examples of kids who had fast metabolisms and could eat anything without changing their weight. I think it's interesting that people think it's okay to judge peoples' food choices if it's having an obvious effect on their appearance, but no one calls anyone else immoral for feeding their skinny kid ice cream, even though skinny people get heart disease and arterial hardening too. I'm trying to emphasize in my teaching that nutrition is not simply a matter of telling people how to eat, they become able and motivated to eat that way, and they look like a fitness model. There are lots of factors that play into what we eat and why.

I think I'm going to try to incorporate some Health at Every Size stuff into this class. I really feel for my students- one of them was telling me he had gastric bypass surgery 4 years ago, and now his stomach is so small that he has to eat 5 small meals a day and take supplements, as it's impossible for him to get all his nutrient requirements from food because he can't eat enough. He's still got severe body image issues and eats very unhealthy food, partially because he feels bad about his body and how he looks. In class today, he said "They did a bypass on my stomach, not my brain." Another student volunteered his info when I was showing them how to find personal calorie and food group recommendations on the MyPlate (replacement for MyPyramid) website. It popped up with a message that said something like "You are outside the weight recommendations for your height. To see recommendations for a healthy person of your height, click to continue." I don't think anyone who is seriously overweight in the United States doesn't realize that they are outside the weight recommendations. I don't think that guilt tripping people or simply giving them nutrition facts is going to help them improve their health. I feel for my students. This is going to be a tough class to teach.

Sleep Talk

I tend to sleep very deeply. Sometimes I talk in my sleep. Sometimes people wake me up after I talk in my sleep, and after falling back asleep I have no recollection of ever being woken up. I forget entire conversations.

Once I was babysitting my neighbor's kids late at night, and went to sleep on their couch after the kids were in bed and the doors locked. When my neighbor returned, she woke me up and asked whether I wanted to stay the whole night. Apparently I said yes, but I woke up in the morning not knowing why I was still there or whether my neighbor had ever returned home.

Last night I went to bed before Smurf, and spoke to him when he came into the bedroom. He transcribed the conversation, repeated it back to me, and apparently I laughed for about half a minute. This morning I didn't even remember him coming into the room. Apparently my sleep talk went like this:

Sarah: I poured good master gel into beakers instead of tortillas to recognize if they land at your place to attack them.

Smurf: Why attack them?

Sarah: So you can gain experience.

Roses and thorns


I am finally making enough money to pay all the bills and save a little. Soon I'll be able to give Annie (my car) the maintenance she deserves.

I like my job. Teaching college level biology is a lot of fun, allows me freedom to try new things, and I am fond of my students. My job seems to like me, as they are continuing to offer me classes.

I have a new patio table, and sat out on the porch working on course preparation this afternoon, surrounded by sun and plants and tea. Picture! My potted tomatoes have fruit on them. My basil has finally decided to grow.

I have been feeling creative lately. I want to build planter boxes for next year's garden, now that we know we're staying here. I want to paint neighborhood maps of all my favorite places. I want to pick blackberries to make pies and freeze some for the winter.


While I like my job, I am constantly feeling like I ought to be doing *real science* instead of just teaching it. I don't want to give up on a science career for a purely instructional one, and every time I get another teaching job it feels like I'm moving farther away from that path. I am definitely a better teacher than I am a scientist, and that is part of the problem- I would grow more as a person from a research job (though I definitely hope to do both research and teaching long term).

I have mixed feelings about weddings and marriage, despite knowing that I want to spend my life with this person. There are ways to make wedding traditions and promises less problematic, but marriage has (and still is, in many cases) a pretty fucked up institution that privileges some people over others. Weddings themselves try to combine the seriousness of a lifelong commitment with a big fancy party. It's the one chance you have to interact with everyone you care about in one day- but everything has to be absolutely perfect, so you can talk to everyone for about 3 minutes each while freaking out that something will go wrong (lots of older people I know can't remember their wedding days because they were so stressed out at the time). And of course, researching weddings makes one feel like "OMG! If you're not spending every spare minute working on this giant checklist of ridiculous planning expectations, your wedding will be a failure! Oh, and be sure to spend at least $15,000." There are people who spend more than $5000 on the wedding dress alone. As a frugal, clumsy person who is bad at dressing up and not fancy at all, this doesn't speak to my value system.

I really need to learn some self-discipline. Every time I have a break from work that is not filled with vacationish things, I spend too much time surfing the internet and watching stupid online videos.

Smurf is at a funeral without me this weekend, as I have to teach a GRE class. I wish I could be there for him.

Vegan cooking

I have been extremely busy teaching a biology class lately, and while I can't say my students are perfect, college students are so much easier to work with than kids... I've grown rather fond of them and will miss them after Thursday's final.

Since I am the one working part time, I've been taking on most of the dinner cooking responsibilities around here. I'm planning meals out ahead of time for once-a-week shopping to save money, and keeping a OneNote file of the recipes I try and how they turn out. Since Paff is vegan, I've been surfing vegan recipe blogs and library cookbooks for ideas. I haven't cooked as much in the past few weeks because of my schedule (and Smurf has been wonderful at filling in with no notice), but tonight I had a break and went grocery shopping and cooked. I figured I'd share some of my favorite new vegan recipes.

Tonight's dinner was a curried rice salad with cauliflower, mango and currants. Smurf and I think it's delicious, and Paff (who has weird taste) isn't sure yet. Here's the recipe: Link!

A few weeks ago, I made this cilantro lemon orzo salad with toasted almonds. It kept in the fridge for about a week and the flavors kept soaking into the orzo and making it better over time. It's from the always excellent vegan food blog Sweet Beet and Green Bean: Link!

Smurf loved this veggie pot pie with quinoa-based filling, though it takes a bit of time to make. I made too much to fit in the pie crust, and the flavors were so delicious that I was eating spoonfuls of extra filling while waiting for the rest to bake: Link!

I've made this slow cooker vegetarian chili a few times now, as it's delicious, makes a ton of food, and keeps well. Plus, it's awesome to throw some stuff in the crockpot in the morning and come home to a house that smells like food. I usually serve it over crunched up chips and sprinkle cheese and sliced avocado on top: Link!

If you try any of these, let me know how they turn out!

kids and *isms*

I work at an elementary school tutoring K-5 kids in math and reading. With one other tutor, I work with 12-15 kids each day for about an hour; we each supervise a group of 6-8 kids. Due to the location and nature of the program, most of these kids come from low income families and are non-white.

Most of the children I work with don't know anything about racism, sexism, or cissexism, but they frequently use language that promotes all of these. Some seem to be genuinely ignorant and curious about the meanings of words like c*nt, g**chie, and motherf**cker. Others play games where they'll corner another kid and ask "Are you straight or curved?" followed by the reveal of "haha, that means you're gay!" A few days ago, one kid implied that he was gay, and the teasers paused before saying "You aren't supposed to say that. You're supposed to pick the other one. Are you really gay?" in kind of a laughing way, like it was a joke and there was no way this kid could *actually* be gay. Today, four older kids surrounded a Vietnamese first grader. Three of them tried to steal her money, and later the fourth, M, started talking in a fake Asian accent to tease her. M frequently insults all the girls at tutoring based on their appearances, calling them 'snaggle-tooth' or saying "Uh oh, here comes the big girl."

I am in charge of too many kids to be capable of stopping all conversations to address every incident as it comes up, but I don't want to imply that these things are okay. These kids are ignorant of issues surrounding prejudice, and it's practically impossible to talk about human rights to a kid who has no moral qualms about stealing from a kid three grades younger than them. I tried to have a conversation about respect recently, and all they were interested in was whether I would bribe them to act more respectfully. It also provoked a string of name-calling by M, who doesn't seem to care about anything or anyone, followed by a slew of tattle-telling by kids yelling out whatever supposed insult M had just said in attempts to get him in trouble. M really needs some one-on-one help and discipline, as none of his teachers know what to do with him. He is frequently suspended and sent to work in the hall, and told me his absence yesterday was because he did something wrong and had to go to court. Add his behavioral problems to the tendency of police to disproportionately target young men of his race, and I'm worried he'll be in jail when he reaches his teens.

The question I really want to address is how to teach kids about prejudice. Adults seem to shy away from talking about difficult issues with children, and expect someone else to do it for them. No one is explicitly given the responsibility to educate them in these topics. I only have an hour a day with them, an hour which is most often frantic and involves my hopping from child to child to correct mistakes and teach them concepts they missed a few grades back, so I can't give them historical background or go into much depth, but I need to do something.


Old cars are expensive.

-found a reliable repair shop in a new city
-employees are friendly and explanatory and don't act like I know nothing about my car
-they looked at all my records to make sure they didn't recommend maintenance that has been done
-the main relay has been replaced, meaning my car should no longer have trouble starting when the engine is warm

-my brakes need to be replaced (cost to fix: $652)
-2 tires need to be replaced (cost: $150-$300 depending on quality of new tires)
-a bunch of hoses that keep the engine from overheating are brittle and could easily pop off while I'm driving (cost to replace coolant and bypass hoses: $474)
-preventative maintenance costing another $500ish ought to be done. There are lots of little oil leaks.
-I am earning approximately $700 per month except when I have GRE classes to teach, which adds $480 per class

And they said the car's actually in pretty good shape for its age and mileage.
Sigh... poor Annie...

Pi day

Marie Callenders just hugely increased their reputation with me by sending out this pi day flyer with offers of free pie.

Incidentally, Smurf and I will both be in Portland this weekend, so if any of you over in P-town want to celebrate pi day (this Sunday) I'm game.

Today at work

I work at a local elementary school, tutoring kids from low income families through a government program that pays for their tutoring. The fourth graders are doing a biography project, where they research someone they admire and do a presentation where they dress up and act like the person. One of my kids is Wayne Gretsky, another is Albert Einstein.

Today I asked Einstein kid if he wanted to be a physicist when he grew up.

Einstein kid: Yeah! I want to be as smart as Einstein! I even searched for Einstein's brain on last night to see if I could buy it, but they didn't have it. Einstein was born in Germany and he made the plans for the first atomic bomb and then had to escape from the German government because they wanted to build the bomb and blow up the United States.

Wayne Gretsky kid: Why did they want to blow up the United States?

Me: This was during World War II, when Adolf Hitler was Germany's leader and the Nazis were in power.

Wayne Gretsky kid: Who's Adolf Hitler? Who are the Nazis?

So I ended up being a 4th-grader's first introduction to the concept of racial purification and Nazi Germany. If this state of historical knowledge is common, I wonder how enduring Godwin's Law will prove to be.

Sunstone NW

Last weekend I attended Sunstone NW, a symposium put on by the Sunstone Foundation, an independent organization that encourages free and open discourse in relation to Mormon scholarship, literature, and social issues. They try to provide a community that is faith-promoting but where people can discuss controversial issues in an intellectually honest way. This sometimes feels subversive in a church that whitewashes negative aspects of its history in official lessons, discourages exposure to media that contains any profanity, violence, or sexual content, and asks members to avoid contact with anyone or thing that might be considered "anti-Mormon." I was especially impressed by Margaret Young's talk on Mormon Literature, and by the closing Pillars of my Faith session. I plan to post summaries of the talks in the near future.

Overall, I was impressed at the openness and honesty of the speakers and attendees, and their acceptance of the paths others choose despite their own commitment to the church. If I still believed and accepted the church's major doctrines, these are people I would definitely be hanging out with on a regular basis. It's wonderful to have a community that supports both faith and intellectual honesty in a church that sometimes acts as if they cannot coexist. The talks addressed some of the problematic aspects of church history, the expectation that Mormon authors should avoid some subjects, speculations about the resurrection, new research on the Old Testament, and how to believe in the LDS gospel in spite of all the problems.

During the Pillars of my Faith session at the end of the conference, three bloggers who write for By Common Consent shared their heartfelt testimonies about the purpose of the church and the meaning it brings to their lives (two of the three speakers posted their talks from the conference online, here and here). I felt what I've always called the Spirit strongly and teared up a little at the end of these powerful talks. Experiences like this always make me wonder whether leaving the church was the right decision, as I was taught to place so much emphasis on the influence of the Spirit and its power to manifest truth. Walking home, I thought about all the times I've felt the spirit (or whatever it is) recently, and they include Alex Steffen's inspirational talk on sustainability and challenge to make Seattle the first carbon neutral city, heart to heart talks with Chris and close friends, and times when my parents shared meaningful experiences with me. I think as humans we crave community, and we respond to inspirational messages that make us believe we can be better than we are now, that we can change our communities and our world. None of what I heard at Sunstone makes the LDS church any more true, but some of it gives me hope for the church's future and for the people who find meaning in its teachings and in their connection to a worldwide community of believers.

Attending Sunstone reaffirmed to me the complexity of people from all walks of life. Sometimes it's easy to simplify people based on the groups they belong to and the labels they wear. One of the things I admire most about my Dad is that he rarely judges anyone before thinking through possible motivations for their behavior or beliefs, even when he strongly disagrees with their position. I hope someday I'll be as open-minded.

And I'll end this before I get too sappy...