Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Get Thee to An Asian Market!

I just got home from a monster grocery trip. Daryl wants to try making ramen, and we've been into Mediterranean food lately, so I had to go to three grocery stores! Here's how I did it:
  1. Macey's -- typical American fare
  2. Trader Joe's -- tahini paste and the best granola around
  3. Orem's Asian market -- all the weird stuff that I can't even begin to pronounce
But let me tell you something: I LOVE grocery shopping! I probably did too much today because now my back hurts from standing so long, but good grief! I love it! I especially love the Asian market. It's like treasure-hunting or playing Where's Waldo because I have zero idea what I'm looking for. Nori! La-yu! Mirin! Bonito flakes! It's just a bunch of nonsense until I look it up on Google . . . Thank goodness for Google. Phew!*

Here's what, though: As I walked around the Asian market, I gained an appreciation for immigrants. It's such a challenge to make your way around something as normal as a grocery store when you don't speak the language. I felt mentally tired from trying to make sense of Japanese and Chinese, even though I had the safety net of being in America. What must it be like for immigrants? What must it be like to know that you have to learn a new language for the basic necessities of life? And that when you walk out the door, you still won't really know what's going on? Additionally, the foods you're used to aren't in any of the regular, you-can-find-one-anywhere kind of stores; they're in out-of-the-way specialty markets. What a headache!

I'm sure any of you who've lived abroad or served an LDS Church mission know these feelings all too well, and maybe you're even laughing at me a little. That's fine, but . . . I want you to remember those feelings, especially now, when international travel is severely stifled. Remember what it's like to be new, to be out of your element, to be confused.

It's important, I think, to experience those feelings every once in a while -- even in your own country. It forces you to be grateful for a home or to put yourself in someone else's shoes. It forces you to grow.

What a crazy, wonderful, diverse world we live in. I love it!

*No, it's not the first time I've been to an Asian market, but it's the first time I went to buy a long list of unfamiliar ingredients.

Thing I'm thankful for: the almond cookies I found at the Asian market. I hope they taste just like my best friend's mom's cookies I ate as a child! (She is Taiwanese.)

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Murder of Mary Phagan

I don't remember my parents talking to me about race or racism. It's probable they did; I just don't have a memory of it.

What I do have a memory of is The Murder of Mary Phagan.* My mom watched a lot of miniseries when I was young, and this one was on NBC in 1988. It's the story of a Jewish man in Atlanta who gets wrongly accused of murdering a 13-year-old white girl in 1913. I don't know why that story stuck with me all these years, but I was 7 when I watched it. It was the first time I understood that people generally don't like "otherness." They also don't like unresolved stories.

I suppose that's what's at the heart of racism to me. At the heart of a lot of things, really. Uncertainty doesn't sit well with people, and there's a lot of uncertainty in life: an unresolved movie plot, a new day, an expansive future with countless paths to take, or an unknown person. When we encounter someone who doesn't look like us, we have no reference for behavior. What will this person -- this person unlike any other in my own community -- do? How does this person think? What does this person care about?

That's the essence of "The Murder of Mary Phagan." It's a story of a community that doesn't understand the ways of a Jewish man from New York. Rather than outright ask him, they simply let uncertainty take over their minds until it seductively says, Resolve me. Make me an answer. Imagine the worst, and let me run wild. And run wild it did. The townspeople weren't satisfied with a guilty verdict and life imprisonment; they wanted him dead. And so, in 1915, Leo Frank was kidnapped from prison by a group of armed men and lynched in Marietta, Georgia.

I never forgot that. I never forgot what uncertainty is capable of. Perhaps that's why I ask so many questions when I meet people. Perhaps that's why I know many of my friends much better than they know me.

I don't always get it right. I judge and make assumptions and work off of stereotypes. It's the way the human brain works, after all. Still, I remember that miniseries from time to time and think of Leo Frank, who was just unknown to the people around him.

*It's available to watch on Amazon.

Thing I'm thankful for: good conversation

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

On Reading

Rather than write a long diatribe about what's going on in the world today, I will simply endorse reading. Reading, you ask? Why reading?

Here's why:

There are a lot of people who have been posting comments on social media that go something like this: "To all my black friends: What can I do to improve things? How can I understand how you're feeling? How can I teach my kids about racism? How can I help?"

And then, a typical response: "It's not our responsibility to educate you."

I tend to agree with the response. On a number of things, actually.

My mom says that abortion is the greatest evil in our world today. I'm sure some people would say racism is. Some people would say sexual exploitation is. The list goes on and on and on, and yes, there are a lot of dark and evil things in this world. I would argue, though, that the greatest evil is ignorance, and I don't think it's a coincidence that people are reading less literature and long-form articles now. (See The Long, Steady Decline of Literary Reading.) Rather than pick up a newspaper, people read only headlines on their Facebook feeds. Instead of looking up a definition in a dictionary or encyclopedia, they ask Alexa. And instead of spending an hour or two during the week reading a critically-acclaimed and age-appropriate book, they read the latest young-adult novel that involves a teen love triangle.*

What happened? Was it Twitter and its 140-character limit? Was it the unending scroll of social media feeds? Was it 24-hour TV? All-you-can-eat miniseries on Netflix? I'm at a loss.

I am happy to know, however, that one message I'm seeing over and over again this week is that people need to pick up a book and read. Read! Learn! Educate yourselves! It's important!**

Thing I'm thankful for: my grandma, for teaching me to read

* I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with young-adult fiction -- even young-adult fiction with love triangles, for that matter. I do find it odd that many adults read young adult novels exclusively. I liked Harry Potter just as much as the next person, but I'm 38 for goodness sake. If I can't understand or be entertained by a book that's written for an older audience, maybe I should re-think the focus of my life.
** I used to be more articulate. See Reading and Travel . . . Travel Through Reading?

Friday, May 22, 2020

Poker Face!

Well, we're teaching the kids how to play cards -- Texas Hold 'Em, to be exact. The boys LOVE it! They love it so much that we decided to buy real chips rather than continue to use candy. We've told them they CANNOT play in real life, and they've seen scenes from movies where people lose thousands and millions of dollars, so I think they'll take our advice to heart.

Last night, Akos said, "I like that we play poker as a family," and not many things have ever sounded so sweet. (After all, my secret love is card-playing.) I took the picture above just as he was going all in with a full house, I think.

Anyway, it's been a fun couple of weeks -- learning something new together. (I'm really still just a baby at poker.) I think they like to see that I'm learning along with them.

Thing I'm thankful for: a smart husband!

Friday, April 24, 2020

On Diversity

Lately, I've seen friends delete friends on Facebook over differing political views. I've heard people say that they only read news from their political persuasion. I've also read story after story about how people live in echo chambers today, especially on social media.

I'd like to suggest that you keep the friends you disagree with, that you read news from sources you normally wouldn't, and diversify your friend group––whether that's in-person or online.

From the most selfish perspective, this kind of diversity would allow you to see how "the other side" feels about you or organizations you belong to, and you'd be able to formulate rebuttals and counterpoints. There's an even greater benefit, though: You might actually learn something about yourself and others. You might learn that you are wrong about something. You might learn that you are right about something but that your delivery is wrong. You might learn that someone from another perspective has a valid point and you shouldn't discredit everything he or she says. You might learn something about the other person's feelings and fears and get a better understanding of why they think they way they do. You might learn to see the world in a nuanced, inclusive, and loving way, rather than a black-and-white, us-and-them, sometimes-hateful way.

It's just a thought.

It's something I try to do, and I think my life is richer for it.

Thing I'm thankful for: dark chocolate cake!

Friday, April 03, 2020


Well, everyone, I'm sure you've been dying to know what another one of your non-epidemiologist friends thinks about the pandemic we're in, so I'll satisfy your impatience and tell you: It stinks. What's more, I don't think the United States government or high-level executives at large corporations have done a good job at helping anyone out. Let me explain:
  • My friend who's an epidemiologist said that public health workers have known about an impending pandemic for at least a decade. They've been talking to government officials and corporations about it for years. They've explained what they know and what they've learned from other public health threats and emergencies and discussed ways to be prepared. It doesn't seem like many organizations took them seriously.
  • My mom and friend recently posted this article on Facebook: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus as an agent of emerging and reemerging infection. It's a microbiologist's research published in 2007 that supports my first point above, which is that this pandemic was not a curveball from the universe. It was a known problem. Sure, infectious disease experts did not know the exact time that this pandemic would happen, but they knew within the last decade to expect it.
  • I just received my copy of Spillover in the mail today. Here's the sub-heading: "Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic." The author is Dan Quammen, an award-winning science, nature, and travel writer. In 2012, even he knew a pandemic was looming in the near future.
These are are just some of the things that point to negligence and irresponsibility on the part of our country's top leaders and corporate executives. Because of my friend, I know for a fact that public health agencies held conferences for CEOs and other corporate executives to talk about pandemic preparedness. I know for a fact that microbiologists, immunologists, and epidemiologists have been following this pandemic trail for years, as evidenced by that 2007 study. And I know for a fact that this impending pandemic was so anticipated that a popular science writer wrote an entire 500+ page book about it. What happened to our country's government and business leaders???? They didn't heed the warnings from experts, and now they don't know how to lead the country.

None of this is to say that people––even government leaders and CEOs––shouldn't ever be forgiven of their faults or oversights. It's not to say that they are horrible, awful people. I certainly wouldn't want to be the president of a country.

What I am saying is that we need to start electing leaders who lean on the knowledge of experts. I'm saying that we need to start holding large corporations accountable for frivolous spending, especially when they get huge tax credits.

That's it, I guess. That's where I stand.

Thing I'm thankful for: eating ice cream sandwiches in the sunshine

Monday, March 30, 2020

I Like My Husband

Recently, I've seen lots of online articles with titles like this:
  • Ways to Stay Married Amid Coronavirus Concerns
  • How Not to Tank Your Relationship in Quarantine
  • How to Work From Home with Your Partner Without Killing Each Other
I know I've only been married for three months, but . . . I never want to kill Daryl. We've been working from home and homeschooling for two weeks now, and I'm still not tired of him. In fact, I don't really like to be upstairs when he's downstairs. I like to be in the same room, if possible, and I even like working with him. I realize that the being-in-the-same-room deal may not last forever, but I guess what I'm saying is . . . I like my husband. I like being around him. We get along swimmingly, and it makes me sad that other people don't have a similar relationship with their partners. :(

Thing I'm thankful for: jogger pants!