Sunday, June 27, 2021

These United States

It's always seemed to me that the hip thing in travel is to travel abroad -- to go to places that none of your friends have been to and have a dalliance with someone who speaks another language and who is incredible-looking. And tan.

When I was young, though, my dad said something about how big and amazing the United States is. He told me there was so much of our own country to see and that most Americans will never see it all. I'm sure his perspective had something to do with the fact that he was scared of flying over the ocean, but also, I think my dad sort of . . . resented the fact that most people don't explore their own backyards, so to speak. "Resented" may be too strong a word, and maybe it was more like sadness. I think he was proud of America. Having been born on the heels of World War II and served in the Marine Corp in his twenties, he fits the bill of a proud American. But . . . He also has the personality of a man who understands that the most important travel is in the mind. Perhaps he knew he wasn't destined to do anything grand, and he knew that most people in this world aren't either. He knew that he could learn what he needed to learn through reading and being well-informed and that if he had the chance, he could at least explore his own country in small doses. As a result, he traveled to all 50 states over the course of his lifetime, and I think he loves the rolling plains of Oklahoma as much as he loves the mountains of Idaho. He loves that this country has a little bit of everything: beaches, forests, flatlands, desert, mountains, and valleys; small towns with mom-and-pop shops and big cities with sidewalks for miles. He definitely instilled a love of American geography in me, and I'm happy to say that at almost 40, I've visited about 75% of the states. (That's 11 more states than the last time I checked! See Adventurous.)

To be sure, I think international travel is great; I just like that my dad liked America and wanted to see all of it. I want to see all of it, too. It's a beautiful country.



Thing I'm thankful for: my papa bear



Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Look-Alikes, Pt. 2

While I was at the dentist this afternoon, one of the hygienists said, "Weren't you my patient last week? You look just like Gwyneth Paltrow!"

Honestly, it was a nice compliment to get, since it's been a while. I mean, I've gained some weight this year (Thanks, COVID.), I don't have a nice golden tan anymore, and I haven't dyed my hair bright blonde since graduate school. AND I almost always wear my hair in a ponytail and/or bun.


Still, it was kinda cool to get that comparison. I'm still not sure what it is about us that is similar, but I'll take it! (Though she and I are rather different in our approaches to health, fitness, and alternative medicine, I don't mind looking like her.)




Thing I'm thankful for: a cool new husband by my side!

Every Human Emotion

I'm nearly five years late, but in this case, late really is better than never. That is, I just started reading -- listening to, rather -- Born A Crime, the autobiography of Trevor Noah. I'm only into it by a couple of chapters, but it's one of the best nonfiction books I've read/listened to in . . . well, maybe my life. Noah had me crying and laughing at the same time. It's truly gut-wrenching content, but he adds just enough humor to let his words sit with you a while in wonder.

If you only read one chapter of one book this year, let it be the first chapter of this book. It's called "Run," and it'll make you feel every human emotion.

That is all.


Thing I'm thankful for: comedians, who, incidentally, my dad once said were some of the most intelligent people on the planet. I quite agree.


Saturday, May 01, 2021

Rachel Hollis: A Case Study in Un-intentionality

I know, I know -- you're probably thinking, "Who are you and what have you done with Sara?" In other words, WHY am I writing about an "influencer?" Well, I'll tell you why: 1) She has caused a small kerfuffle online, and I read about it in The NY Times (Girl, Wash Your Timeline), and 2) Her brand (her personality?) have been directly at odds with mine recently.

So. What's all the fuss about? Well, in short, Rachel Hollis posted a photo on Instagram in 2015 that went viral. Since then, she has created Hollis Co., a lifestyle brand that sells products (e.g., journals, jewelry, water bottles, etc.), organizes inspirational conferences, and cheers women on by saying things like, "Girl, you got this." She has also written three best-selling books all about intentionality and confidence and believing in oneself. Her audience is largely white, middle class, Christian women, and they are devoted to her. After a series of missteps last year, however, and one big misstep about a month ago, several thousands are un-following her. They've started to question the person they've been following since 2018.

Well, here's what I think: They're right to question. I listened to her most recent podcast on the topic, and I've gotta say . . . It smacks of arrogance, and quite frankly, it's filled with thoughtlessness and carelessness. Essentially, she said some derogatory things online, and while trying to "own [her] mistakes" in this podcast, she instead shifted the blame:

  • "I wish that I hadn't had to go through something like this. I wish I hadn't had to hurt people [. . .]"
  • "I'm appreciative of what God and the universe put in front of me to learn."
  • "When this thing happened to me [. . .]"
Uh, what??? "Things" did not "happen" to her, nor did she "[have] to hurt people." The kicker for me, though, is when she hands everything over to "God and the universe." I'm so tired of people refusing accountability for their choices by handing everything over to "God" or "The Universe," and this is particularly egregious when that person is Rachel Hollis, who uses phrases such as "Be intentional," "Own your mistakes," and "Manifest your destiny."

Someone I know recently texted, "I wasn't ever intending on doing [this thing], but I guess the universe had other plans." My first response was to roll my eyes, but my second response has . . . been building over the last year and a half or so. Talking about God or The Universe in such a way is seductive -- what better way is there to ignore accountability? To avoid guilt? To get a pass for bad behavior?

Rachel Hollis's approach to an apology is a slap in the face to true intentional living; it's also an insidious message that says, "Here, let me teach you how to live an authentic life without actually taking accountability for my actions."


Thing I'm thankful for: my parents. My honest, loving parents who taught me what a deliberate life looks like.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Geometry!

I just did one of my most favorite things today: solved geometry problems. Specifically, I helped Akos with his geometry homework. It wasn't anything as fun as proofs, but it was still a little thrilling. I showed him how to find the volume of a triangular prism, and then we worked on solving a word problem with a rectangular prism. It was the highlight of my day.

I remember being in middle school and struggling with math. My older siblings would say, "Just wait until you get to proofs!" I suppose my expectations of difficulty were so high that they couldn't be reached, and it turns out that proofs were easy for me. (Either that or I am a genius at Euclidean geometry.) I'm pretty sure I even scored a 100% on the proofs test. I can brag about it now because it was the last time I scored perfectly in a math class. (Algebra II is my scholastic nemesis.)

At any rate, what I'm trying to say is . . . If your kid needs geometry help, send him or her my way! :)


Thing I'm thankful for: good friends from long ago, especially those Emory-area folks. You know who you are. I love you.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

It's Easy To Be Duped

I read this today on LinkedIn, of all places:

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." -- Aristotle

It struck me for a few reasons:

  1. It seems true.
  2. Aristotle said it, so it's probably true.
  3. The wording doesn't sound like Aristotle, though. Would he really say "to be able to?" A better way to phrase this might be, "It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it."
  4. Wait . . . I should probably use Google for this . . .

Sure enough, it seems to be inaccurate. Here's a blog post someone wrote about it: Nope, Aristotle Did Not Say, It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without . . .

The gist of the post is that Aristotle said something about the "mark of educated people" in Nicomachean Ethics, but it wasn't the above quote. The crazy thing is that I have read Nicomachean Ethics! I read it in an intro to philosophy course during my first year of college, and I still was led astray. The person on LinkedIn who posted the quote seems to be a smart and well-read man, and with Aristotle's name at the end -- well, I figured it must be accurate. It's a good thing my Spidey sense kicked in (or my knowledge of grammar and ancient philosophers or something else entirely) because it would have been a little embarrassing if I had misattributed the quote as well.

This tiny moment puzzles me, though . . .
  1. Does it matter that this quote was misattributed? At the end of it all, perhaps what matters is the sentiment of the quote itself -- do I believe it?
  2. It's so easy to be duped. Again, I've read the very work that this adage seems to be referencing, and I have a strong grasp of the English language. It still took me more than several minutes to finally use Google. How do we keep from being duped? Do we have to look everything up before we believe it? That would be a LOT of time and effort!
I don't know the answer to these questions, so I put it to you, readers. What do you think?

This might not seem like a big problem, but I would argue that it's the biggest problem plaguing the world today, especially America. It's hard to know what is true and what is false, especially when people can publish virtually anything they want to on the internet and especially when the country's public is, in my opinion, alarmingly partisan.


Thing I'm thankful for: Lily

Friday, February 19, 2021

On Christian Support of QAnon

For several months, I've been mulling over -- and extremely concerned -- about the misinformation that abounds in the world today. I'm sure many of you have been concerned right along with me. As a Christian, however, and as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I'm particularly concerned with the misinformation that abounds in Christian churches throughout The United States. I fully realize that what I'm about to say will anger many people, but as I've considered writing this post, I've come to the conclusion that I want my family, friends, and associations to know where I stand. I want my posterity to know what I believe. I also want to write my thoughts down to solidify them and to . . . put them out in the universe. I dunno . . . I just feel impressed to share them.

I'll start by offering an insightful news story from NPR Morning Edition: New Survey Shows 3 In 5 White Evangelicals Say Joe Biden Wasn't Legitimately Elected. I heard the last half this morning as I was dropping the kids off at school. If you know me, you most likely know I don't support QAnon or Donald Trump, so it should come as no surprise that I would recommend this news story, but something about it was different. It struck me much more intensely than so many political articles have these days. It struck me because an evangelical pastor put into words so many of the things I've been pondering.  The pastor is Jared Stacy, previously of Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He spoke with Rachel Martin of NPR:

MARTIN: QAnon started to coalesce after [2016], amplifying false ideas about an evil liberal agenda and casting Donald Trump as their savior. Jared Stacy was afraid of what he saw taking root in his church.

STACY: And so I was sitting there as a pastor saying, you know, OK, this is not just about pitting particular issues against each other anymore. This is about a wholesale view of reality, like, what is real? What is true?

MARTIN: Did people you know in your own congregation, were they elevating the idea of sex trafficking of kids, even if it was overblown and being appropriated by QAnon?

STACY: Yeah. Yeah. Sex trafficking, pedophilia, like, globalist or Democrat pedophilia, these are things that . . .

He goes on to say that people are "being given a co-opted Jesus [. . . ,] a Jesus who believed in Q, a Jesus who believed in deep state, a Jesus who automatically voted Republican."

And that was the kicker for me. Because I agree with him. In countless associations, I can see that many protestant Christians and members of my church assume that Christ is a Republican -- that he has conferred truth and justice and power to Donald Trump, who is the savior of our country and the leader who will see us through the evil of the world around us. Quite frankly, it's sacrilegious. It flies in the face of the gospel of Christ. It's wrong.

It's also alarming. According to multiple national surveys (See Tennesean.com, Ipsos.com, and Newsweek.com, and ReligionNews.com.), there is a sizable portion of Americans who believe in QAnon and by extension, believe that Donald Trump is the rightful president. It's not a fringe group, and it's not just the loner who is making it on his own in the plains of Oklahoma or the remote stretches of Montana. It's the smart, kind, and friendly folks we know and love. An American Enterprise Institute study showed that 27% of white evangelicals -- the most of any religious group -- believe in QAnon conspiracy theory.* How can this be? How can so many people supplant Jesus Christ with Donald Trump? What is going on here???**

I have some ideas, and I think they center around the myth that the world is full of evil people who are trying to overthrow Christian ideals. There's a definite Us vs. Them mentality . . . I'm still sorting it out in my mind. In the meantime, I wanted to let people know where I stand.


*I wish I had data on Latter-day Saints. My hypothesis is that the percentage is about the same.

**For the record, I don't think every Trump supporter is also a QAnon follower, and I don't think every person who voted for Trump in 2020 is misinformed.


Thing I'm thankful for: cats curled up on laps

Monday, December 28, 2020

One Year Down

Yesterday marked mine and Daryl's first wedding anniversary! I woke up to a nice note and a fancy pair of earrings and then more notes hidden around our bedroom/bathroom. It was really sweet, and I just kept thinking how happy I am to have married such a thoughtful person.

Friends have asked me how the last year has been, and honestly, it's been great. I have zero complaints! All my expectations of marriage have been met, and as far as Daryl is concerned, they've been exceeded. It helps that we are both in our late 30s, have stable and well-paying jobs, and know what it's like to feel lonely. I think, though, that even if it weren't for those things, we'd still be pretty happy because he's so thoughtful and kind and affectionate and open. Also, we're very well-suited to each other, and since I'm a believer in the birds-of-a-feather-flock-together idea of love, I think our similarities bode very well for a lifetime of love.

My oldest step-son was saying something today about "following your heart," and I told him that wasn't always the best idea. (He was trying, at that particular moment, to annoy me.) Then he said, "But you followed your heart when you married dad, didn't you?"
"No, I didn't actually."
"You didn't?"
"Well, maybe a little bit, but 90% of my decision had more to do with following my head."

Our conversation ended at that, but it's true. Most of my decision to marry Daryl was based on my interactions with him and the indicators he implicitly gave me. I knew, for example, that he was a good employee and a smart one based on meetings we had both attended and work conversations I overheard. I knew that he was generous with his money and time, based on the gifts he gave his family and the group lunches he paid for. And I knew that he was a good parent because he talked often and fondly about his children. There were smaller indicators, too -- he listened to similar music, he asked me out on actual dates and always walked to my door (I've had men honk their car horns!), and gave me well-worded and detailed compliments. In several small ways, he always, always, always made me feel like I was worth spending time with. It seems obvious, but in my experience, that is the most common failure -- and best indicator at future behavior -- when it comes to healthy relationships.

There's so much more I could write about Daryl and how I made the decision to marry him, but for now, I'll simply say that it was the easiest decision I've ever made in life. My brain determined what my heart rarely does: that this is the way to go in life; this is a person you can create a great life with.


Thing I'm thankful for: ganache truffles