Showing posts from 2012

In the kitchen

I've spent a lot of time in the kitchen the past  few days. We knocked out two batches of jelly this weekend (a chai apple jelly, and a rosemary mint lime jelly- recipes courtesy of this book) , and I whipped out some cranberry sauce and a chocolate peanut butter pie for Thanksgiving tomorrow.

Cooking always seems to settle me, and I think it's less because I enjoy it and more because I can feel my mother's presence in the kitchen. Most of my memories of her are of time we spent  in the kitchen...making endless batches of  oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, washing dishes, and her supervising as I tried out recipes from the Klutz Kids Cookbook  and the Mandie Cookbook .

I'm not a good cook....neither was my mother. In fact, I cook a lot like she did - I'm a recipe cook, who's unafraid to try new things. Occasionally I can pull together a meal by throwing a bit of this and that into a pot, but that's far more the exception than the rule. I measure carefully, an…


A while ago, one of my favorite bloggers wrote a post about how peaches make her feel rich. And it made me realize that my garden,such as it is, makes me feel unbelievably wealthy and privileged.

That's a snapshot after watering a few weeks ago... We're lucky to have this small space on our covered porch where I'm able to keep a handful of plants growing.  It may not look like much....but some days, I have the luxury of being able to step outside, and pick what's for dinner.

Glossy green spinach malabar  quickly becomes "spinach" white bean soup.

Or a round mauve eggplant

becomes homemade baba ganoush.

These are  moments I savor- when I'm able to just step outside the door, take something growing, and turn it into something that nourishes us. To eat food that you've grown yourself feels like both the greatest accomplishment and the greatest indulgence. When you're a pair of busy graduate students living in an apartment in the city, those feelings …

A letter.

Dear Scott,
I didn't dream about you last night. After all of the dreams about our conversations, about you, the weird metaphorical dreams about your death, this one was about the rest of us- your friends, your grandparents, your sister, trying to sort out your death. Stringing together our memories of you, keeping odd tokens to honor you in our lives, trying to figure out what went wrong and how it could have been different. It was a strangely painful dream, because it's been the story of my waking life since the moment I got that phone call. And I'm not the only one.

I don't know if you know this, but there are a lot of people still missing you. There's a young blond woman in Louisiana who drops flowers in a stream every year on your birthday. There's a curly-haired young man in South Carolina who still dreams about you, and still wonders about that call he missed from you days before you died. There's a redhead who can't pass a single life milestone …

A year ago today

This time last year, I was in the middle of prepping for a colonoscopy, 24 hours before a diagnosis that would change my life.
It's been a year, and I don't think about it every day.I usually manage to remember a good 2/3 of my meds, and I've figured out how to actually afford both my medicine and rent. I'm slowly learning how to feel comfortable in my own skin again, my marriage hasn't completely fallen apart and I haven't dropped out of school.
I'm grateful to have come this far, to have survived and lived the best I could have.
I don't know what to say...
I am still so fearful of so much. If a day goes by that I don't think about colon cancer and the possibility of having my colon removed, it's the exception.
But I am here, and have come this far. There are more years to live, with a disease that is far from predictable. There is grace, and hope, and fear and pain.
It is life.

Qualifying Exams and Homemade Champagne Jelly

I survived my doctoral qualifying exams. And, apparently, now I make jam...and sometimes jelly.

We took a quick trip for our anniversary weekend (the beginning of July), and after getting back , I spent between two and eight hours a day studying, up til the exam. And then, it was two six hour days of sitting in a freezing cold computer lab typing as fast as possible. It sounds worse than it was. Or not....

At any rate, I decided that the best way to unwind from the exams was to indulge in my latest hobby- canning. I'm still figuring this out, but thanks to the internet and a couple books, I seem to be managing. I have fallen deeply in love with Liana Krissoff's book Canning for a New Generation . The recipes are creative and delicious (and I love that they rely on pectin from green apples, rather than commercial pectin).

What struck my fancy upon the conclusion of my exams was the recipe for champagne jelly. This starts with a green apple pectin stock.

 Take 3lbs of Granny Smi…

About A Severed Wasp

I've been re-reading A Severed Wasp in small chunks around studying for my qualifying exam. I love Madeleine L'Engle, so much. I know she's been accused of being pompous and unrelatable, and maybe what draws me to her, and her work is those same unlikeable traits in myself.  But why am I apologizing for my taste in literature on my own blog?

It's very possible that A Severed Wasp is the only one of L'engle's adult fiction novels that I've read-I tend to take long soaks in her nonfiction, and her young adult novels.  Not too long ago, I discovered that it was the sequel to A Small Rain, which I'll likely pick up in the future. And I was intrigued to find that Suzy Davidson in A Severed Wasp was once Suzy Austin, who I rather liked (possibly because I find Vicky Austin to be the absolute most irritating character of L'engle's that I've ever encountered).

One of the things that draws me in is the Cathedral setting, with its musicians, priests, …

Things NOT to say to someone with Crohn's, part II

(Because mocking wellmeaning people on the internet is better punching them in the face)

1)"Well, at least you're thin. That's so stylish"
WTF? Not even going to comment on that.

2) Not a statement, but seriously the WORST gift imaginable for someone with Crohn's: Wraparound Pants. Yes. Do you even want to imagine how that's going to work out when I'm running to the bathroom 10x a day?

3) "I read this book about someone who cured himself from Crohn's, using diet and natural remedies. He's not undergoing any medical treatment- you should check it out." I strongly respect everyone's right to make decisions about their own treatment. However, consistent medication use is linked to lower rates of colon cancer (and, since 1 in 5 Crohn's patients develop colon cancer, that's a big deal). Crohn's is a disease that can look radically different from one person to another- I happen to have a great GI, who specializes in inflammator…


I'm sitting at my desk, hands clenched around a mug of rooibos tea, trying desperately to make my heart stop racing. One month from today I'll be in the middle of my doctoral qualifying exam, and right now I really want to strangle Pierre Bourdieu. I'd rather do anything than study....and, after trying to work out how to pay for next semester's tuition, I'm inclined to run away screaming.
I won't.
I'll take a deep breath, brew another cup of tea, and brace myself.

Because the green paint on my office wall is the same color as the shirt I'm wearing today...because the paper lanterns from my wedding are dangling overhead....because the woman who's the closest thing I've got  to a parent is just a few doors down the hall, and she believes in me....because my officemate is working on her dissertation a few feet away, proof that this can be conquered.
This too shall pass. And I will breathe, and write about social capital.

When the bubble shatters

I think many of us start life in a bubble- protected by the love of our family and friends, seeing nothing but wonder and beauty in this world.  I always picture this bubble a sort of rainbow glass shield, encompassing grassy fields, flowers, oceans, sunsets and puppies, and laughing children. The bubble is warm, safe, peaceful, and happy, but what I remember most about it is the moment it shattered.

It was one of the first afternoons in February, 1996, sunny and glorious, like many afternoons in Arequipa. I was just lately eleven, playing in the back yard with our doberman, when my sister came running out to tell me  there had been an accident. A car accident late at night, on a winding mountain road with our family's best friends. Details flowed in slowly...desperately needed, and terrifying. Uncle Wade and Marcus were comatose, and not expected to survive. Aunt Nancy and Marcus were being airlifted to the States, Josh's injuries were minor. A horrible hush set in as we crie…

On making room

I've said this before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: We Anglicans need to learn to acknowledge each other, and to come to terms with the fact that our unique movements and perspectives are all a part of the Church of England. I want to see a ceasefire between the Continuing Anglican movement, ECUSA, and the growing ACNA. Each Sunday we say the same prayers in church (or rather: the sentiment behind them and their meaning is the same, regardless of whether your English is 1928 or 1976 or whatever the AMiA is currently putting together). Christ is not limited to the Bread and Wine in our own enclave- He is present with all of us.

At the same time, I find myself grateful for that diversity, because it doesn't exist in other faith communities - e.g. the Latter-Day Saints, or the Roman Catholic Church . However, Election Year Madness is upon us, and it's becoming clear that the lines that divide our politics run through our churches too. Two of my favorite bloggers ha…

Coming out of the closet....

The other day J and I had a get-together at our place. An old friend of mine came- one who I went to high school and then college with (then, I finished college and went on to grad school, while he dropped out, and eventually tried to complete his bachelors degree at another small Evangelical university in my new city. Yeah, there's a little more to the story.) Anyway, he was talking with grad school friends, and questions came up (like "how did you survive high school?" which might be a topic for another post). He mentioned that lately, he'd been solidifying his beliefs on evolution and women in the church and the crisis he'd faced realizing that there was more than one Christian perspective on these issues.

Now, evolution and women in the church, or gay people in the church, honestly, are not hills I'm willing to die on just yet. Partly because I think that HOW we treat other Christians who disagree with us is far more important than what we actually think …


I can't tell you how old this man is....all I can tell you is that I seem to see him once a week or so during the school year. He stands silently in front of the student union with  his shaggy hair and  long beard. He carries signs, and pamphlets, with things like "Yahweh is the way" "Do not be persuaded by false gods," and scripture verses from Romans. He drives an old grey truck, covered in bumper stickers that say the same thing- I saw him passing through my neighborhood as he was leaving campus one day.

At first, when I saw him, it made me scared and uncomfortable - I've had more than my fair share of bad experiences with Christians, especially the Evangelical and Pentecostal flavored ones. So I'd duck my head and  make a wide, cautious circle around him to avoid any chance of being handed a pamphlet
 One day, it dawned on me. "He must really love Jesus, to stand here, every day, holding this sign." I quit walking so far out of my way to a…

A story of home

In the sixties, my great-grandparents purchased a few acres in Colorado, with a house that's smaller than my current apartment, and a good barn. This corner of land was named "The Pea Patch." My mother and sister went to college not too far away, and spent their weekends with grandparents. The barn was famous for sleepovers and family dinners, and grandchildren brought home many friends who had no where else to go for weekends and holidays. My great-grandmother served everyone on styrofoam plates, and loved them like family. However, if you defaced your styrofoam plate, you would face Grannie's wrath - after each gathering, she carefully collected the styrofoam plates and washed them in the dishwasher (without the drying cycle) to reuse.

 In honor of my great-grandparents' 80th birthday, their friends and family came together for a huge party- and brought recipes. This became the first edition of the Pea Patch cookbook. Time great-grandfather died, …

Another home project: The beaded lampshade

When I moved to my first apartment after college, I didn't have a lot of stuff. My priest at the time decided to send out a call to parishioners who had old furniture they were willing to pass on. One of those pieces is a large green and blue striped lamp that I absolutely adore. In the course of moving to my present apartment, the lampshade got demolished.

Unfortunately, because this lamp is probably older than I am, finding an appropriate new lampshade was easier said than done.

This was what we picked out at Lowes, as a starting point. The next step was to make many beaded tassels.

Here's a closer view. These are pretty basic- 24 gauge wire, threaded through sz 11/0 seed beeds, with a bicone bead at the end.

Then, I stitched the tassels to the lampshade, and hot glued some ribbon in place.Note: I've always used a low-temp hot glue gun because I'm clumsy, and don't want to burn my fingers off. However, I've been getting frustrated with how quickly the glue co…


Come, ye faithful, raise the strain
Of triumphant gladness!
GOD hath brought His Israel
Into joy from sadness
Loosed from Pharaoh’s bitter yoke
Jacob’s sons and daughters;
Led them with unmoistened foot
Through the Red Sea waters.

 'Tis the Spring, of souls today;
Christ hath burst His prison;
 And from three days’ sleep in death,
 —As a sun, hath risen.
All the winter of our sins,
 Long and dark, is flying
From His Light, to Whom we give
Laud and praise undying.

 Now the Queen of Seasons, bright
With the day of Splendour,
With the royal Feast of feasts,
Comes its joy to render;
 Comes to glad Jerusalem,
Who with true affection
 Welcomes, in unwearied strains,
Jesus' Resurrection.

Neither might the gates of death,
Nor the tomb’s dark portal,
Nor the watchers, nor the seal,
 Hold Thee as a mortal:
But today amidst the Twelve
Thou didst stand, bestowing
That Thy peace, which evermore
Passeth human knowing.
-St. John of Damascus

Why I love messy liturgy

Now, let's be clear: There's a difference between "messy" and "sloppy" liturgy. For the sake of this post, I'm defining "sloppy" liturgy as liturgy that is poorly written, unrehearsed, or otherwise lazy. It's what happens when we're not careful, when we don't plan. I'll throw out the first Sunday of Lent about three years ago as an example....I was attending a new Anglican church, meeting in a museum auditorium, and at the close of the service, they flashed up a powerpoint slide that had alleluias. I gasped, and the guy in front of me muttered something dismayed. His girlfriend or wife shushed him, noting (accurately) that Sundays are always feast days. But still- this was sloppy. It was unintended, inappropriate, and distracting. (Seriously. I've attended another Anglican church where they had a service to BURRY the alleluias at the start of Lent).

But things don't always go as planned. Sometimes a four yearold shouts …

One of those days....

Deadlines collided this morning, which left me with two papers to write....which led to me getting 3.5 hours of sleep. I bribed myself to leave the house with the promise of oatmeal at a favorite coffeeshop, and made it to class about 15 minutes late. Met with a research participant, met with my boss, brainstormed ideas for FINDING more participants, shuttled+walked home, dropped some stuff off at post office, currently prepping for a guest lecture tomorrow.

Somewhere in the sleep deprived state, it clicked: I'm grateful. Grateful to be a research study coordinator- this is a pretty small study, but I'm good at this and it excites me. Grateful that I can teach, and I love it. Today I got to talk about ovulation, cervical fluid, and sperm....tomorrow I get to lecture about infant mortality. Three writing projects are in various degrees of progress right now- one about fighting HIV/AIDS through promoting gender equitable beliefs, one about promoting low-technology cervical cance…

Greg Mortenson, Take 3

As this piece points out, it's been 10 months since the news of Greg Mortenson's alleged fraud broke. I've written about this, here and here. It's a hard thing.

At the end of the day, it matters, and why and how matter. I don't think Greg Mortenson intentionally set out to get rich off of schools in Pakistan. If so, that's an entirely different matter, and downright criminal.

But. What he did was irresponsible, dangerous, and thus, completely inexcusable. He built an organization around his story- not the stories of people who's lives he was trying to change. I'm sure Mortenson thought no one knew the community he was working with (or his mission or his contacts, or whatever) as well as he did. All of us think that way, and Mortenson had more reason than most. But still....this is pride, pride at its worst. I can't think of a more dramatic example of how our sin can affect others. And it lives in us all.

Madeleine L'Engle wrote about this in A C…

It's worth saying again.

This is why I'm getting my doctorate: .

Incidentally, it's also why I support Planned Parenthood.

I've done a good bit of writing this semester in support of low-technology cervical cancer screening, and given the realities of the developing world, I don't know why more people aren't on board.

And I should say something snarky about Republican shenanigans related to women's health, but I'm too sad and angry to manage words anymore.

Bokashi compost and apartment gardening

We had a big day here in our little household today. It was time to empty our bokashi bucket! To backtrack quite a mother's people grow things. Her grandparents retired to a tiny farm in Colorado they deemed the Pea Patch, and hosted giant celebrations in their barn. My grandmother still lives there, and up til a couple years ago, she and my grandfather were still filling a freezer each winter with veggies from the garden. When my mom was in high school, she and her dad experimented growing chrysanthemums under fluorescent lights in the winter, and when my mother moved to Peru, she brought zinnia seeds. I can't not grow things- it's just in my blood somehow. Unfortunately, graduate school doesn't lend itself well to acquiring plots of land, and I'm limited to what I can fit on a porch. In addition to the gardening and tea drinking bugs I've inherited from my grandparents, I also can't stand to throw things out, particularly when I know they coul…

Saul Alinsky, Frances Butterfoss, and Advocacy for Christians, I

I never like to be too specific here...because the last thing I need is for a potential committee member or employer to stumble across my attempts to explain the universe, faith, sickness,hope, and change to myself. In this particular conversation, there are things I'm trying to leaving out, because they would make me too identifiable, and if these musings are a bit more scattered than usual, that's probably why.

I'm a Dr.P.H. student. In theory, a Dr.P.H. is different from a Ph.D. Bluntly put,a Dr.P.H. is not supposed to lead to jobs in academia. The accrediting agency for schools of public health has been tweaking the requirements for the two degrees, so that they're more different. Parts of these changes have resulted in a number of schools of public health (including mine) launching courses in public health advocacy, in order to better prepare Dr.P.H. graduates for community work.

Conversations about change, advocacy and leadership, in public health (at this unive…

Apparently not giving up politics for Lent.

Although it might make a huge difference for my sanity. Some fights you don't choose, they choose you?

Rush Limbaugh on Sandra Fluke's testimony:

All I have to say is that if Ms. Fluke were my child, I'd be incredibly proud.I'd be That Mother...the one who sends her kid a ginormous bouquet of flowers, and won't let a single mail clerk, officemate, or grocery bagger escape an encounter without hearing about my offspring.  Heck, I imagine that if I did have a child, he or she would be much like  Sandra Fluke.

And just because:

If you find Rush Limbaugh's comments offensive, disgusting, or otherwise inappropriate,  there's a petition to have Speaker Boehner and Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor denounce them . If you're not a Democrat, you'll proba…

Invalidated wedding reflections? Part 2

See part 1: We disappointed people.

Part 2: Our values were different (from the values of those around us).
I knew this from the moment my sister got misty-eyed as I was drowning in a pile of tulle. In many ways, I'm a placard-waving freak,while my husband sits in the background, commenting on the typography and grammar of my placard. And ultimately, I bought a dress with an emmotionless click on Ebay ("Ooh. Ivory vintage Harry Kaiser cocktail dress that one can actually move in! My measurements! $176 plus shipping! It wasn't made by abused seamstresses in China, and I can actually afford it!").
So, we started planning our wedding in a way that was frugal, respectful of others, and socially/environmentally conscious. This quickly turned into tiptoeing through a minefield. I'll also add that we were paying for this wedding out of savings, primarily funds left to me by my deceased grandmother, so it's not like we were taking other people's money an…

Non-academic projects (AKA Hobbies): Decoupage bookshelf

I'm one of those lucky people who get to do what they love. This is why I stayed in grad school, honestly. People should think long and hard about their reasons for getting a doctorate...I'm not sure I thought enough, but I knew that there wouldn't be terribly many other opportunities to get paid to do what I love, get better at doing what I love, and live in the same city as my husband.
That being said...when I watch movies, when I read the news, when I eat, when I walk across campus, I'm in public health mode. It doesn't turn off- it's a part of me. This is why I'm good at what I do- because it's who I am. It's also what makes me crazy sometimes. So projects and conversations that *aren't* directly public health related, while often challenging, are often deeply restorative. 
Last week, we decided to move a bookshelf that was taking up room in a narrow hallway into an empty spot in the living room. When we made that decision, the bookshelf looke…

Two things

1) NOTHING sets my blood boiling like people who state in passing that emergency contraceptives and IUDs are abortifaceants. Medically, biologically, a pregnancy is defined as beginning when a fertilized egg has attached to the uterine lining. If you're going to disagree with the medical community's working definition, the burden is on you to explain why. And if your explanation is "fertilized eggs have souls" my next question will be whether you think all women of reproductive age should have their menstrual cycles monitored, to be sure that all fertilized eggs have the absolute best chance of implanting, because that seems like the next reasonable step to me. Followed by causing women to take pregnancy tests daily, so we can monitor and investigate extremely early miscarriages. Because otherwise, I'm not so sure that you're serious about sticking up for fertilized eggs.

2) I'm officially off my maintenance meds. Took the last pill Sunday (Feb 12) Accord…

My right to (sexual and reproductive) health.

(Every time I log into Facebook, one of my friends has posted something infuriating. I need my blood pressure down, and I need to not engage in pointless flame wars. So I'm going to say quite a bit here, both today and probably later)

A few weeks ago, a blog post on the right to decide when and how to start a family caught my eye. This is something my husband and I are pretty serious about. Between two doctoral programs, the assortment of jobs we juggle between the two of us (I think we might be down to just two jobs each now. Maybe), and a newly diagnosed autoimmune disorder, now is not the time to get pregnant. (When you have a whacked-out immune system that likes to attack your own tissues, there's a definite possibility it will recognize a fetus as foreign and just try to get rid of it). If you walked through our house, you'd find my pack of birth control pills in the kitchen, condoms in the nightstand by our bed, and emergency contraception in a drawer in the bathroom…

On image and constructing identity

I'm starting my third year in grad school, and this has prompted a number of reflections, about things both serious and frivolous. Things are different now, and one of the fastest ways to know things are different is to look in the mirror or open my closet door.

I was a biology major in college, and school and work were my life. My standard uniform was a beaten up pair of jeans and a grey t-shirt, or a green button-down with sulfuric acid holes from TA-ing chem lab. I also didn't shower all that much (because, if showers take ten minutes, and you go a week without showering, you've just saved yourself an hour, and those hours add up.). It's also fair to say that especially my last two years, I was carrying a pretty big chip on my shoulder, and the yuck probably resulted in fewer verbal "screw you"s being dealt out.

My first job after graduation was interning in a molecular tox lab. So I added showers into my routine and phased out the cruddiest of the jeans. …

Invalidated wedding reflections? Part 1

In the last few days of break, I've been wrapping up some of the leftover odds and ends from our wedding. I've blogged about it before, and not terribly long ago, our wedding was featured on my favorite wedding blog.

It's interesting to me...that in all the note-writing,photo-album building,and smiling acceptance of congratulations,there are only certain reactions that are acceptable. When you talk about weddings,it's acceptable to lightly dance over the stress of planning,but to suggest that anything was difficult or unpleasant about your wedding? Well, that makes you a bridezilla, unless your wedding included some you-tube worthy disaster, in which case you're allowed to tell the story to a room full of people simultaneously laughing and cringing. To say "my wedding was really hard,and I don't think I'd do it again" isn't allowed. That's considered the height of selfishness. I find this even more intriguing after reading a recent column …