Showing posts from 2012

A Closet Full of Sunday Clothes and Nothing to Wear

Okay, so today is pants-to-church day, which is, what? a movement? an outward expression of ideology? A cold-weather referendum? I'm not sure. But I do know that I feel a little bullied into it. If I don't wear pants, am I an anti-feminist? Or am I someone who just bought a wool pencil skirt from Goodwill this week and kind of wanted to wear it? Can I claim ignorance on this thing or is it too late? I wonder if my relationship to Mormon feminism or feminism in general isn't perhaps a little strained. I like to think of myself as heartily 3rd-wave, not old-school feminism. I recently read a book by an old-guard feminis t, which I mostly agreed with but her philosophies (everyone is out to get us) and methods (a print magazine will solve the problem) seemed a little off-putting. I love Julia Kristeva's f eminism, a feminism that isn't essentializing, and in many ways, what bothers me about many so-called feminists is that they want to re-make the female experienc

No Good November

It wasn't all a wash. I passed my prospectus exam, but after tears and frustration and several frantic morning writing sessions. I had a lovely interlude of 2 weeks on a cruise/in Italy where I didn't have much stress or frustration. But over all, November was not good to me: (1) My computer gave up the ghost (fortunately, I back up all the time) (2) My brand-new computer, which I bought to fix this one, was stolen out of my hands (a class J felony). Fortunately, I back up all the time. And didn't get knifed when I chased after him. And everyone, as I told the 15th customer service representative, has been nice. Yeah, he said, everyone but the guy who stole your laptop. (3) Aforementioned prospectus stress (4) My flight to the exceptional vacation and vacation exception was delayed hours and hours, I missed my connection flight, spent 6 hours in the Heathrow airport and then only got 6 hours sleep in my hostel (where I arrived at midnight) and 3 hours of walking aro

In Defense of Going Through the Motions

I thought that the lesson in Institute was going to be on health, so I studied that this week. This week has been a bit of a spiritual trough: nothing testimony shaking, just meh. Prayers are okay, scripture study was okay, even going to the temple on the anniversary of me turning in my mission papers (missionverary) felt just okay. So let's combine these two ideas, the physical and spiritual health, and here's a breakthrough I've had: Going through the motions is a necessary method of developing yourself. It's true that it would be better if going to the gym I went full force, with love and passion, and it's likewise true that my prayers and obedience would be better, but not eating a cookie out of conviction and not eating a cookie out of habit cause similar results. I suspect --and realize that this is a nascent line of thought-- that when I am obedient or worshipful out of habit, I am also getting  benefits. Sometimes going through the motions gets a bad

We are the exception

I've been reading about the Byzantine Empire in this excellent book , and since my mind tends towards disaster and ruin, I was realizing how much we have taken our security and safety for granted. Do you know how long it's been since we've had a drafting war? Fifty years. Do you know how long it's been since we've experienced a pandemic? A hundred. The last time battles were fought around the homes of our civilians? A hundred and fifty. That's pretty remarkable. It used to be that massive government overthrow, ruinous droughts and breakdown of order were pretty regular occurrences, but we haven't had to worry much about any Hun or Bulgar or Mongol swooping in and raping and pillaging. I, as a scholar, don't have to sit at my perch, listening, praying for really terrible weather. In the margins of a 9th century manuscript, one scribe, maybe studying, maybe transcribing, wrote out this poem: The wind is rough tonight tossing the white combed o

Sumthun pumpkin 5-6

 Pumpkin Molasses Cookies Pumpkin oatmeal with yogurt

Sumthin' Pupkin #3-4

Pumpkin Oatmeal: with greek yogurt, nutmeg, allspice... mmmm Thai onion soup: 1/2 cup coconut milk, 4 cups broth, yellow curry, cumin, 1/2 large onion, 1/2 cup pumpkin

Sumthin' Pumpkin #2: pumpkin smoothie

I saw this smoothie on Pinterest, but when I made it this morning, it wasn't as wonderful as I hoped. It would probably be better with brown sugar added or a flavored yogurt. Still, it was pretty good and this bird seems to like it. Pumpkin Smoothie; 1/2 cup pumpkin 1/2 cup greek yogurt (I'd go with vanilla in the future) 1 frozen banana 1 cup almond milk pumpkin pie spices Blend it up, drink it own.

Sumthin' Pumpkin #1: Pumpkin Ice Cream Chocolate Pie

Confession: I made this pie in September, because I couldn't wait for "Sumthin' Pumpkin Month." It's still really good. Pumpkin Ice Cream Chocolate Pie Step 1: melt chocolate bark and coat the bottom of a premade chocolate pie crust (I guess you could make it yourself if you wanted) This is important, because it keeps the crust from getting soggy. Step 2: mix 1 cup of pumpkin with a quart of vanilla ice cream (I made my own ice cream with fat-free half-and-half, but that's a little excessive). Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice to taste (I like it spicy!). Freeze. Step 3: coat with Cool Whip, freeze and drizzle with more chocolate. When you serve this, make sure to get it out around 20 minutes before serving so the ice cream isn't too hard. This is so good for a party or event when you can prepare it ahead in several steps in the days before.

Not a Pumpkin

In order to kick off Sumthin' Pumpkin' month, here are several pictures of food I have around the house which are not pumpkins. Bell pepper, you are not a pumpkin! Persimmon, you are not a pumpkin! Oh, dear, sweet melon, I'm sorry, hun, but you are not a pumpkin...

Sports, games and physcial play

I never really went much in for sports, even when I was a kid. I might play a little recess soccer, and I did do both rec league soccer and modern dance, but I wasn't much in for going out for sports. Not wildly competitive, maybe. Recently someone asked me why I work out and I made some lame response like that I need to work out to be healthy and look good. But then, that's not all of it. It's fun to play physically. A hike, playing tennis, kayaking, these are fun. Well, duh, you say, but let me finish--the motion itself is fun. Some people like competitions and games and achievement, and I love these things as much as the next person (I love a box to check off, you know, and Ieven play a running video game on my runs), but motion itself is fun. I remember when I was first learning how to play racket sports like tennis and racquetball how strange it was to make a swinging motion and have my reach so extended. I was hitting around a ball the other day and the sensati


Well, it's high election season, which means SNL's Weekend Update is slightly more tired (did all of the good political jokes already get drilled for and burned up at The Daily Show and The Colbert Report?) and the leader of the free world has to divide his time between ensuring the safety of our embassies and shaking hands with vetted blue collar workers. Do I like this season? *Sigh.* Maybe? Politics is a term that is, like rhetoric, almost always used in a derogatory sense by lay thinkers. There's something down-and-dirty about the idea of having to go out and ask for people's votes, appealing, some say, to the lowest common denominator, that is, when the politicians aren't already appealing to the extremes of their own party during a primary. There's a lot of mucking around with broadly painted stereotypes, isolated incidents being expanded into character insight, hate and fear wielded like bludgeoning batons. It becomes like that old cynical saw about s

The Fifth Me

So they say that your cells are constantly being replaced, different cells at different rates, but the schoolyard estimate is roughly every seven years, you are a new person. Which means that on this, the eve of my 28th birthday, I'm am heading into my fifth iteration of Mary. It's a little bit like different Doctors on Dr. Who.  Everyone is different and the same. They have different companions. They have different quirks. Some of them have leather jackets. So what are the Classic Marys? Here's how I see mes. 1) 0-6. Not much to say, but I've seen pictures. Got to be Rapunzel when placing with friends, got all my hair chopped off. Preferred X-Men to G. I. Joe when playing with the boys because who wants to be Scarlet every time? A lot of barefooting it over to the Cowles' and around the neighborhood in general. A little pet of her siblings, except her closet brother, for whom she is probably a pet peeve. I have a handprint I made in preschool somewhere, and

Yeah, I made that

I can be freakin' crafty when I need to celebrate an administrative assistant.

Half-Way Point

I've just come back to Austin from a family semi-reunion at my sister's house with a little bit of time before school starts. This is familiar. Two years ago, my parents drove me down to Texas, left some boxes in my apartment, then we had a semi-reunion, after which I bought a car, they bought me some Ikea furniture and took me to Costco and then they drove away. Now, I've been here two years. The big, double-bag box of Quaker Oats my parents bought me is almost empty. Ditto with the enormous bottle of two-in-one shampoo/conditioner. My Ikea bamboo is, miraculously, still alive. (Okay, one stem of it.) I have a different roommate, and a different pet than when I moved here. The first roommate is married and a mother, the bird is dead. I have outlasted a pair of senior Institute missionaries, the grad students in my cohort who just wanted a Masters degree and the departmental secretary.  I have run a half marathon; gone to Fun, Fun Fun and SXSW festivals; kayaked the

Late Afternoon

Man, late afternoon is such a hard time for me. I'm so up-and-at-em in the morning, I frown at the sluggards coming in 10 minutes late to work, I'm focused like a razor, I'm crossing things off my list left and right.... Then 3 o'clock comes around. I like to think I was conditioned from elementary school days, but maybe it's just plain old blood sugar cycles, but I become essentially useless from 3-5 ish. My eyes gloss over the page. I open and shut Word windows. I type a few lines. But I'm not top of my game. To compensate for this, I try to schedule classes (teaching and taking) during this time as well as any hourly or on-call work I need to do. That way I'm doing something without having to self-motivate. Unfortunately, I think this makes me just a little more stupid and slow in my classes. There was a time when I would have Monday Afternoon Movies and just give up on my afternoons, write it off and get back to work in the evenings, but that feels

Proven Mary Happy-makers

I handed my co-worker a torn tab of paper. "Look," I said, "easiest study ever--all you need to do is answer some questions about your mood and they pay you." The email and phone number were from the university. "All you need to do is not be clinically depressed." "Oh," she said, and handed it back. I am a happy person. I don't take credit for this: I'm lucky enough to not suffer from crippling chemical imbalances, I have a strong network of family and friends, and I haven't even encountered any major disappointments or setbacks in my life (knock on wood). But sometimes I think people think I'm faking it or over-the-top, but I really do walk around with a smile on my face all the time. I generally love my work, my friends, my life. That's not to say I haven't had rough times: I've have "off-days" and "down days" and when I first moved to Austin I was definitely less than chipper about the life

Let's Be Cool, Guys, Let's Be Cool

[A fetching young woman, MARY, pulls out a soap box and climbs on] Hey, everyone, let's be cool about relationships. Let's be cool about dating. It's just a date. It's a 1-3 hour commitment. It's dinner, which you have to eat anyway, or it's a show, which you'd like to do anyway. It's a walk downtown and a $2 ice cream. It's not that much of a commitment. You could date every week, every day, and I'm not convinced it would be that much of an impact on your time or resources. Let's be cool about going out. Sometimes people go on more than one date with a person. Sometimes they step out together. She's not wearing his letterman jacket, he's not putting her in his phone as his emergency contact. Their parents aren't mentioning the datee by name in prayers. It's okay. Let's be cool about being in a relationship. It's not marriage. It's not eternity. It's just trying things out, taking things as they go, hav

Arithmatic of humanity

Between this (we knew him, but didn't like him, even before) and this (made what should have been happy, tragic), a bunch of my friends keep thinking, "man, humanity is sad, sad, sad." I want to restore faith in humanity for them, but how? Does it require big acts of kindness to counter-act big acts of violence and hate? Or is the quiet, well-lived life that keeps plodding along trying to to its best, enough? Today on the radio, the old-timey radio station was commercial- and pledge-free because of "a friend in North Austin" and a bunch of my friends are pitching in to buy diapers for low-income mothers.I want to do grand acts of kindness, but I don't know if I can, right now. Does that count in the balance? Is faith in humanity a series of bank transactions, deposits and withdrawals, so that acts of cruelty and callousness must be counter-acted by well-meaning patsies who have to try to buoy up humanity well enough to keep Q (or almost any alien) fr

Let's Get Personal, Statements

In the summer, in the writing center, we see a lot of personal statements. Lots. In this world on fill-in-the-blank and bubble sheets and searchable resumes, the personal statement becomes this one little nugget of, well, personality. You get to write for them, even if just a couple of pages, and you get to write about what's important to you. There are a lot of cynical views about the personal statement: it's just a way of keeping out the riff-raff who can't pay to have their writing vetted by a professional; it's just a way to increase the diversity of the school without out-right asking about race; it's just another hoop to make people jump through. All of those things are probably true, but, still, think about the core of it: Personal. Statement. Chills, I tell you, chills. And the very same things that make me hate writing a personal statement are the same things that make me love reading them, and helping other people write them. Why are you the way you ar

Why I like Kayaking So Much

This summer I bought the "10 punches for the price of 8" punchcard at my local kayak dock. Why? Because I love being out on the water, especially along the shore, watching the cranes and herons startle up, the turtles sunning on the logs, the dragonflies skimming over the water. But also because I like the company. Each punch I've been getting out with someone that I've been meaning to talk to, someone who I see in passing at church and always intend to invite to chat about something, but rarely see, or someone that I only ever see in large groups. Kayaking, though, offers the perfect one-on-one time. Consider: * It's an event. You can invite someone kayaking, but if you invite someone, say, on a walk, it seems like snoresville. * It's semi-active. You're paddling around and can feel good about yourself for getting out and getting some fresh air and exercise. * It's Austin-y. Some of the people I've been going out with have never been kayakin

This is My Brain

Last week I saw an advertisment on the UT listserv asking for right-handed, native English speaking research subjects willing to get an MRI. Heck, yeah! So I go down to this itty bitty shack at the East Pickle Research campus and wait (I'm there early) for the nice young grad students to let me in, administer a short survey and release form, and hand me a pair of scrubs to change into. I keep trying not to fall asleep. Far from my days of high school claustrophobia, here I have a big cozy blanket on, a dark room, earplugs (the MRI is noisy) and essentially pjs on. One of the grad students is cute. I try to think about the cards that they flash above me and make my responses on a multiple-choice answer box taped to my thigh. I really want to impress the team looking at my brain in their cubicle outside the room so I try my very best, and I think I'm quite good at the memory games. After 2 hours, they let me change back into my clothes and remind me to come again on Mo

10 Things I Have Always Liked and Anticipate Continuing to Always Like So Don't Even Try to Stop Me

1. ghost stories 2. red clothes 3. Paul Simon 4. Russian language & culture 5. ice cream 6. late-night, small-group talks on How to Save the World 7. service activities 8. writing my own creative work 9. mad schemes and plans that I probably won't implement, but like to think about 10. making lists

10 Things I Was Too Darn Stubborn to Appreciate Until I Got Talked into Trying Them and Consequently Enjoy (Or: Things I've Changed My Mind About)

1. small talk 2. Jane Austen books 3. the color pink 4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer 5. Capt. Kirk 6. distance running 7. universal health care 8. shooting guns 9. "sweet" people 10....appropriately enough: flip-flops

Summer Livin'

I have discussed, on more than one occasion here on this blog, my deep and abiding love for summer work. I think I have been conditioned from the summer school field studies, and camps that summer is not the time for relaxation, but for different and creative endeavors. This week marks the first full week of Real Summer, which comes after all my roving and traveling is over. (Although here are some exciting pictures from my roving and traveling: ) These are are besides the point because now it's time to SUMMER WORK! Zany schemes! New effort! Last summer was lovely because I read around 70 academic books for my field exam, mostly in the pool. This summer I get to work 20 hours a week mostly planning the training, administration  and research of the writing center. Additionally I'm working out and losing weight (what, you forgot about that post?), volunteering at the Bishops' Storehouse, meeting with my advisers, finishing my research project, and learning

Nature Red in Its Abundance

I came home and slept in my childhood room and the first night I heard all the stritchy-stratchies above my head, I thought, "Got to be birds, please not rats, just birds." I opened my window that morning and dried grass fell in at the frame. Birds. There was a nest. Not just a nest, but baby birds above my head, in the attic, and they had to go. We had to kill them. The second night, after all this had been ascertained, I slept in the basement. I went for a run in the mountains the day we had to take them out. I didn't want to be in the house. And isn't that funny? I'm not a vegetarian. I know that animals die, sometimes not even out of strictest need. We're just one generation removed from the time when kittens were thrown into the river. Have we gotten squeamish? Ought we to have? I'm not too sensitive to know that there is a lot of death involved in life, but I want to be far away from it. I don't want to push out the nest myself. I don'

Coming Out (At the Seams)

My name is Mary and I'm  overweight. For some reason, that's like coming out of the closet to write (and publish) but it's obvious. I mean, you see me and, while it might not be the first thing you notice, it is a thing you notice. It's a distinguishing characteristic, even, but to talk about to it people makes them feel awkward. Here was a conversation I had with my friend, Size 4: Me: I want to try Crossfit this summer, but I'm worried that as a heavier person-- 4: You're not a heavier person. Me: Well, as a larger person-- 4: No, you're not larger. You're just fine. Me: No, [Size 4] I am, and I know that, and it's okay. For some reason if you say aloud what everyone can already see, then they're worried that you have self-esteem issues or loving your body issues or something. I don't. I'm just overweight. I am above the government determined range of healthy weights for my height (which is a pretty generous range anyway) and

Camping and hiking and friends and husbands

I like being outdoors. I have a 10-punch card for kayaking. I own two pairs of lightweight khaki pants, boots, and Tevas. I subscribe to a magazine called Outside . I do not, however, spend as much time outside as I would like. Maybe it's a safety thing. My folks didn't like the idea of me hiking Y mountain alone, or backpacking Europe, and it's not just a girl thing--everyone's been told about the importance of the buddy system and many S&R reports start out with someone going out by themselves. At home I would sometimes go trail running with my dog on the expectation that this counted as a person, and maybe he would go for help. I think that might be expecting a lot from a guy who continues to be flummoxed by a frisbee. But I think a lot of it is a momentum thing. Being outdoorsy takes some effort: you need to reserve the campsite and pack the GORP and plan the route and drive to the park. It's hard to do that for just yourself and it's even harder to do

Sunday morning moment of panic

Fact: If I've worked hard on Saturday, I enjoy Sunday immensely. Fact: If I haven't worked hard on Saturday, Sunday makes me a little anxious. I should have worked on revising my article more, yesterday. Then I'd feel better about coming back to school from Spring Break, not with everything done that I need to/want do, but just with at least one project completed. Especially because next week is a half week and I go to a conference. So much time slipping through the cracks. I need to meet with my adviser and revise my prospectus outline (perhaps drastically) and finish revising my article and transcribing my research and all the stuff that I kind of thought I'd be able to do with an entire week cleared of work and classes. Really, though, I think a lot of my anxiety right now comes from not doing much Saturday work from Monday to Saturday. Even if I were to go full force, I wouldn't finish everything I'd like to. Things just take more time than you anticipate;

Visiting the Coptic Church Day

Yesterday I went to the Coptic Christian Church more or less blind because the internet had failed to prepare me adaquately. There was a humorous exchange of clergymen talking about what to wear, but nothing for women, so here's a guide for you, should you choose to visit: 1- bring a headscarf. Like Eastern Orthodoxy, you'll need to over your hair during the service. A small scarf will do. 2- wear comfy shoes and clear your schedule. The entire service is around 3 hours long. Most of that will be standing (although you can sit during the sermon). 3-don't take communion. Only baptized members are welcome to communion, which you'll notice that they do shoeless, like Moses did before divinity. 4-dress nice-ish. There's a wide range of clothes--some folks (guys and girls) are in jeans, while some are dressed in suits. Pants are okay for women to wear, but it's probably better to stray on the side of formal and modest. No one wore shorts or very short skirts. 5-be co


Well, February was a wash. It wasn't all wrenching heart-ache, although there was some of that and it wasn't all nerve-straining stress, although there was a little of that, too. I've always tried to make the best of the month, but it never quite turns out. It's nice when you get Presidents' Day off (UT doesn't) and I do like my mom and her birthday quite a deal, but still have a difficult time with the month. I'm bored of it being cold, and if there's snow (there isn't any here), it's all slush. If there isn't snow, the days change so rapidly. But March! March is always green calendars and kites in my mind, which is probably the result of years of construction-paper die-cuts from childhood. It's little tiny white flowers, and whole sprays of yellow ones. It's "nature's first green" gold and waking up to birdsong and a cool breeze through a warm day. I like March. I like things beginning, like spring, or the school year,

Mary and the End of the World

So it's 2012, which, if you believe some Mayan conspiracy folks and a terrible disaster movie, portends the end of the world. Naturally, the end of the world has been on my mind lately. I read World War Z, which is a great zombie book, in one day on my brother's insistence. The other book I read over winter break was A Distant Mirror , which eerily mirrored not just World War I, but also World War Z. Both of these books remind me of Holocaust books, especially Schindler's List, which are gripping and painful because (a) people are incredible skum-balls and (b) people are incredibly noble. And most disasters--from ice storms to ends of the world like the the plague-- equally impact the good and the bad. In other words, we're all in this together. The rain and nuclear fallout descend equally on the righteous and the wicked. It's a fact that I noticed when I was reading 3rd Nephi concurrent with World War Z. Those people that Christ heals when he comes in glory? Many

New Year's Posters

For my New Year's resolutions this year I made a series of propaganda posters to motivate me...