Saturday, September 27, 2014

On an Orange Squash

Note: Here's a little piece I wrote for my creative writing class recently, inspired by 19th-century essayists like Lamb, Chesterton, and Beerbohm. It's meant to be sarcastic, even if it doesn't manage to be funny, so please don't take it too seriously.

Over the last few years, the fall season has brought with it a new crisis: the Pumpkin Wars. Everyone must take a side; either you love pumpkin, or you don’t. And if you’re on the “don’t” side, then you must not only pass on seconds of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving; you actually must take a strong stance against all things pumpkin.

Of course, this isn’t about pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie, we all agree, is a harmless, unimpressive Thanksgiving staple. Even the pumpkin lovers aren’t necessarily that interested in pumpkin pie. It’s the other pumpkin things that spark debate. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin muffins. Pumpkin cheesecake. Pumpkin butter. Pumpkin chocolate, hot cocoa, air freshener, candles, coffee.

I must admit I’m on the pro-pumpkin side of the argument. I’m the nut who waits for pumpkin all year long and then attempts to drown in it for the three months it’s available. I roast and puree my own pumpkins and keep bags of puree in my freezer. I try to sneak pumpkin into every possible dessert and, hey, even breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

(A couple weeks ago, I read on a food blog that in fact it’s not the flavor of pumpkin itself that people like, it’s the spices that tend to come with it--cinnamon, cloves, allspice. I am so determined to disagree with this notion that I adamantly refuse to even consider it. If I’m wrong, I’m happy to cling to my ignorance.)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Why we need to stop praising the early pregnancy announcement.

Have you heard the news? One of the infamous Duggar kids, from the show "19 Kids & Counting," has announced her pregnancy early, before the typical 12-week wait.

In general, people seem quite proud of her. Some pro-lifers have declared that she is making a bold step toward recognizing the life of a fetus as a real human and not just a ball of cells. Some have simply lauded her ability to be optimistic and enjoy the pregnancy.

In the face of all this praise, I feel like it might be appropriate to talk about the other side.

When I was in my first trimester of my current pregnancy and had only announced my pregnancy to family, a dear family member told me about a friend of hers who had always announced her pregnancies right away because she didn't want to diminish her own joy by being pessimistic. This family member meant well by this story, I'm sure, and she didn't outright say that my husband and I were doing the wrong thing to wait, but I was a little hurt by the implication that announcing early is better.

The fact is, miscarriage is real and extremely common; it's estimated that a third of pregnancies end in miscarriage. A third. I know many, many women who have suffered miscarriages. If you can't think of anyone you know who has had a miscarriage, they probably just haven't told you about it.

Of course, we all hope for the best. Of course, we all believe as hard as we can that the pregnancy will work out. But we can't know for sure--and pretending that miscarriage can't happen to you is not going to make any difference.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Pretty in Pink?

Well, the information is out on the Internet now--I'm pregnant, and I'm having a girl! 

Doug and I were eager to get to Babies R Us to start our registry. We certainly don't expect to get all our registry items as gifts, but it was exciting to finally spend time gazing longingly at things our baby just might end up using. 

Since we found out we're having a girl, I've been avoiding things that are aggressively girly. In fact, I've been avoiding pink altogether--not because I have anything against it, but because I'm sure we'll get plenty of pink clothes, blankets, etc. from other people, and I want to be able to go through our daughter's first year without being constantly bombarded by pink. And I think it's strange--supposedly pink is for girls and blue is for boys, but baby boy clothes are not always blue. In fact, I would hazard a guess that they're mostly not blue. Yet, people feel the need to dress up their daughters as pink princesses every moment of every day. 

But I didn't feel that strongly about it. So people like to dress up their little girls in pink; so what? 

But as it turns out, it doesn't end there. It's not just frilly pink tutus parents of girls are expected to buy; it's pink everything. Pink carseats. Pink crib bedding. Pink bath towels. And the worst part? The bottles. Yes, the very bottles your baby will drink from must either be pink or blue. Why?? This makes absolutely no sense to me. 

It's not just a practicality issue (that if/when I have a boy, I'll be able to use this stuff again). What I don't understand is why, from their infancy, we have to divide everything our children use by gender. 

Don't get me wrong--I believe firmly in gender differences, and I believe women should be proud of our femininity. But I don't know that buying pink bottles for our daughters is the way to go. A color doesn't teach someone true femininity and womanhood. Being a woman isn't about being pretty in pink all the time. It's about finding power in our inborn feminine traits and using that power as a force for good in the world. 

What does pink mean in our culture? Think about it--if you knew a woman who wore pink every single day, what would you think about her? Possibly pretty, ditzy, delicate, perky, ignorant. (Think "Legally Blonde"?) I'm not saying pink is totally defined by this kind of image, but if we didn't have certain ideas surrounding pink in our culture, then it wouldn't be such a "girly" color. 

Like I said, I have nothing against pink. Ultimately, it's just a color, and it'll help strangers know what gender my baby is for the first year or so. I'm happy to dress my daughter to look feminine and cute. But at some point, I want her to realize that femininity is about more than just being pretty and cute--I want her to see beyond the pink. And if I want her to see beyond the pink, then I probably shouldn't smother her with it. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I'm bad at some things, and that's okay.

Last year, I worked for four months as a hostess at a restaurant. It was all right. I liked my co-workers and my managers, but I got pretty fed up with the job itself.

It was a stressful job, and I didn't cope well with it. I felt like there were a million people to please (my bosses, the servers, the customers) and it was impossible to do it all. I often felt like I was crumbling under the pressure.

I hated that feeling. Most of my life, I had been used to the idea that if I worked hard and tried my best, I could do well at anything I put my mind to. That's the way I'd always been with school, even with the most difficult subjects. Yet, here was a job where I just couldn't seem to do well. I wasn't terrible (I think), but I certainly wasn't excelling. I never felt confident. I floundered.

It took me a while to be okay with this. Not that I think I ought to be good at everything--I know I'm not--but this was a minimum-wage job that (I thought) almost anyone could do. It didn't take education or intelligence to do this. Why was it so difficult for me? It didn't make sense. I didn't think it was normal to struggle in a job like this--especially when I was trying so hard.

Eventually I realized that it's not just okay to be bad at some's actually a good thing. I don't want to work in food service. It's absolutely not my goal, and it never was. So why do I want to be good at it? Why do I feel any kind of need to be good at it?

Moreover, it was silly of me to think that minimum-wage jobs are supposed to be easy. They don't have special requirements, which is why anyone can try to do them, but they are usually difficult, stressful, and unfulfilling. It was good for me to see and experience that, so that I don't take my life and my education for granted.

And I had to remind myself that I can do hard things. I've cultivated an ability within myself to deal well with pressure--but not all pressure is the same. The pressures of food service were too much for me, but I've successfully dealt with many tough assignments and impossible deadlines at school. Once I had to write an entire draft of a paper in one day, and then about an hour before it was due, I lost it all due to a computer malfunction (on a school computer--even more frustrating). Somehow, I managed to rewrite the entire thing before it was due. This wasn't a measly opinion paper--it had an annotated bibliography. I still have no idea how I did that. I remind myself of that experience sometimes, to remember that I can deal with hard situations and make it out okay.

So I discovered that I'm not good at everything. That I can't deal with every kind of stress. But you know what? I do have skills. I do have strength. I can do hard things. And ultimately, I made it through those months I needed to work in food service, and I'm stronger for it. And now I can focus on bigger goals than just a paycheck.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why my work is disappointing (and why I'm still not giving up)

I’m not really a quote person. I can’t remember a favorite quote for the life of me, even though I certainly read a lot of wonderful sentences and phrases that I wish I could remember two years later (or--let’s be honest--two days later).

But when I saw this Ira Glass quote on Pinterest, and actually took the time to read it, I was struck. Something snapped together in my brain and I realized that this exactly describes what I’ve been going through.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


As a student, a lot of my life happens somewhat suddenly. As soon as I think I'm settled down in Kansas, suddenly a tornado whisks me off to who-knows-where.

A week ago, I thought I was secure in my current apartment for at least another month, maybe more. (I know, a month really isn't that much time, but it felt like enough--we don't have enough possessions for packing and moving out to take forever.) We'd decided to look for a new place, but there was plenty of time, I was sure. Maybe we'd start dabbling around for a few weeks, see what the rentals in the area are like, and then get serious several weeks down the road.

But when Doug and I saw an ad for an apartment that looked promising and immediately called the owner, we were suddenly lifted off the ground by a whirlwind that hasn't stopped since.

That was only four days ago. Since then, we've seen several apartments (ironically, we never saw the original one we called about) and we've found one we think is perfect for us. We start moving in less than a week.

I'm excited about the prospect of moving. We've lived in our current place for a year and a half, and the apartment--which was never particularly impressive in the first place--is getting stale. We'd need to move out by December eventually anyway, and this is the most convenient time, so it all makes sense. I'm excited to have a new place and new neighbors, to organize a new apartment, to welcome a new kind of life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Pot of Gold

Have you heard something like this before?
As human beings, we're always looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We want everything now and we have such a hard time living in the moment. The true struggle of humanity is finding joy in the journey.
I disagree.

Of course, I do think there's wisdom in trying to live in the moment and find joy in the journey (and I probably need to try harder than most people). What I disagree with is the assumption that enjoying the journey itself is so difficult and unnatural for us.

I think the concept of "being on a journey" is quite natural and even desirable to us. We love journeys.  Sure, we're not always good at enjoying them, but deep down, we crave them. In fact, we're constantly looking for new journeys to take.

That's why we run marathons (if all you wanted was to run over a line, you could do that without the 26-mile part). Read books. Watch TV shows with constant cliffhanger endings. Make New Year's resolutions (and then consistently break them). Join new clubs or groups. Take vacations.

And it's not just we 21st-century folks that are so fixated on journeys. Look at the literature our civilization is built on. Biblical accounts of Israelites wandering in the desert for years upon years. The Odyssey, Iliad, and Aeneid. The Thousand and One Nights (a metaphorical, infinite journey). A Pilgrim's Progress. We love journeys.

The problem is that we don't want them to end.