Monday, April 29, 2013

To Flexitarians, Vegetarians, and Vegans

After a few years of being a flexitarian, or semi-vegetarian, as Wikipedia calls it, I've noticed something: I'm tired a lot.  Especially around that time of the month.  And also around that time of the month, I crave red meat like nobody's business.  (Please, readers, read on!  I promise I won't get any more personal than that!)

But here's what:  This month, I've had more energy than ever, and I didn't feel lethargic once.  And I was never ravenous for red meat.  I wondered and wondered about it until it hit me:  I ate lots of meat this month -- mostly in the form of New York's finest USDA Prime.  Thanks to a surprise visit to see my sister and a couple of posh steakhouses, I had more red meat than I usually have in two months!  Add to that a few fish filets and some burgers in Austin, and I got all the iron my body could want.  "It still doesn't make sense," I thought.  I eat so much spinach.  SO much spinach.  And beans, too!  And hummus, too!  And fortified cereals!

It all came together on Saturday, though.  I felt like a medical detective.  I was talking with my pregnant sister about her low iron count and how that was not good for the baby, and one Internet search led to another, and I found myself on this gem of a page: The CDC's Iron and Iron Deficiency.  Let me tell you what I learned.
  • Iron from meat, poultry, and fish is absorbed two to three times more efficiently than iron from plants.  So even though there is twice as much iron in soybeans than in ground chuck, for example, the body doesn't use all of it.  Unless . . .
  • You eat certain types of food in the same meal.  What are those types of food?  Iron-rich meat, poultry, and fish AND foods containing vitamin C!*
  • Some substances, such as polyphenols, phytates, calcium, and some drugs, can reduce the amount of iron absorbed at a meal.
  • Iron is so important in infant motor and mental function, that if a baby can't drink breast milk for some reason, he should drink iron-fortified formula.**  At 4–6 months, the CDC recommends feeding babies pureed meat!

Basically, the takeaway lesson is this:  If you don't eat much meat, and your main source of iron is plant-based, make sure you drink orange juice with your meal.  Or have some cantaloupe.  Or broccoli.  Or a Kakadu plum, which is found in Australia.  All of these foods are rich in vitamin C.

(I sometimes wish I had finished my bachelor's degree in biology.  I'm forgetting the things I held so dear once upon a time—how ion channels work, how to read an EKG, or what happens in the Krebs Cycle.  Just the other day, a friend was telling me about RNA, and I was sad I couldn't follow along as well as I would've liked.  I think I'll buy a biology textbook before the semester is over . . .)

*Someday I'm gonna make a greeting card for my future husband that reads, "We go together like iron and vitamin C!"
**See?  Sometimes processed foods are necessary!

Thing I'm thankful for: natural scientists

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An Afternoon Trip

He fluttered into the automatic doors along with the rest of the customers.
I saw him while I was on my way to the DVDs, to look for "Rocky."
He wandered through the dollar section, searching, perhaps, for a tin of generic popcorn
Or a box of leftover Easter candy.

Had he come for that?
For food?
Or did he mean to meander to the outdoor furniture and sip soda through a straw
As he leaned back on his wings and crossed one stick-leg over the other?
Or maybe he meant to flip through the stuffed animals to steal a shirt or a hat or a scarf.

A fellow shopper and I laughed together as we watched our dark brown friend get lost in the maze of shelves.
"How strange!" I said to the man.
He smiled and continued to peruse the aisles.
But our feathered friend—
He made his way to the shopping carts
And danced among the wheels.

I followed him while I looked for someone in khakis and a red polo.
"Someone needs to know he's here," I thought.
And then I decided to shoo him myself.

I walked closely behind, herding him to the exit.
The double doors opened as we neared.
He took a few quick steps and spread his wings wide
To soar into the bright light of day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's "help meet," not "helpmeet."

This has been on my mind for years, and since it came up this week in my scripture-reading and in church today—and since I am all-powerful on—I decided to write about it.

First, let's cover the basics.  There are four scriptures that reference why Adam needed Eve.  Let's review:
  1. Genesis 2:18
    And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
  2. Moses 3:18–20*
    And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten, that it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him.
    And out of the ground I, the Lord God, formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and commanded that they should come unto Adam, to see what he would call them; and they were also living souls; for I, God, breathed into them the breath of life, and commanded that whasoever Adam called every living creature, that should be the name thereof.
    And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but as for Adam, there was not found an help meet for him.
  3. Abraham 5:14*
    And the Gods said: Let us make an help meet for the man, for it is not good that the man should be alone, therefore we will form an help meet for him.
Now, after each of these verses is the part where God takes a rib from Adam and creates woman.

There are two points I'd like to call to your attention—one is a matter of grammar and the other is a matter of meaning, which, as all English lit. graduates know, is inextricably tied to the words themselves.  So.  Here is what I want to say:

The scriptures read "help meet."  They don't read "helpmeet" or "help-meet."  "Meet" in all of these scriptures is used an an adjective that means "fitting, proper" and "precisely adapted to a particular situation, need, or circumstance."  (That's from  But even if you used the word as a verb, the slight definition change still gives us something interesting.  My old Oxford College Dictionary puts it this way: "to come into conjunction with; to join."

If woman is a help meet for man, then, we can say that she provides precisely adapted relief and support to him.  Yes, Merriam-Webster also defines "helpmeet."  It's a word that comes from "helpmate," and it very vaguely (in my opinion) defines that as a "companion" or "helper."  But that word—helpmeet—doesn't give much meaning to the relationship between Adam and Eve.  In fact, it suggests that Eve was just an assistant and maybe an afterthought.  In the second set of verses I referenced above (Moses 3:18–20), though, we are essentially told that of all the creatures on the earth, none were good enough to assist Adam.  None were "suited to, worthy of, or corresponding to him," as the footnotes of the LDS King James Bible** specifies.  Eve wasn't just a helper for Adam.  She wasn't just a gal God threw together to do any extra and mundane work.  She was created specifically for and equally to him.  She was symbolically made from a bone in his side—his equal in purpose.  She was precisely adapted for that time and that place and that man.  She was meet for him.  And women, in general, are meet for men.  A yin and a yang.

*The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has additional scriptures, besides The Holy Bible.  There is also The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price, which is the book that contains the second and third sets of scripture I reference in this post.
**Here, you can read the LDS version of the King James Bible online.  (It's the same as the King James version that most people read, except that it has footnotes that reference other LDS scripture and scholarship.)  You can also read all of those additional scriptures on the Scriptures page of

Thing I'm thankful for: the word "swirling."  It's such a good word.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"The Pianist," or My Movie Rating System

After a conversation with a co-worker a few weeks ago, I found myself thinking about R-rated movies -- rather, why I don't usually watch them.  He'd asked me why I didn't, and I answered as plainly as I could, but since that day at the office, I've thought about it a bit more.

Eight years ago, my friend Shannon told me she quit watching R-rated movies, and it impressed me.  Why it impressed me so much at that particular time, I'll never know.  But I quit watching R-rated movies, too.  For a long time, I missed the movies I couldn't watch; after a while, I didn't even care.  And after a long while, I got to the point that I often didn't see lots of movies -- whether they were rated "R" or not.  I became more selective in general -- skipping out on "PG-13" movies because they seemed just as offensive as the R-rated ones.  Then some "PG" and "G" movies didn't make the cut, either -- not for their crudeness or immorality, but for their utter ridiculousness.

My own personal rating system seemed to be all over the charts; that is, there were no hard rules.  I based my movie decisions on trailers, published reviews, and word-of-mouth.  I developed my own gauge on which movies were acceptable and which weren't.  And then one day, I decided to make an exception to the "No Rated-R" rule.  It was one instance in a handful.  I can't even remember what movie it was, though I think it was a re-watching of something from my teenage years (some 90s grunge-era movie, no doubt).  Did I regret it?  Yes.  Have I regretted all the exceptions?  No, not by a long shot.

One such movie is The Pianist.  Although it could be described as a "war movie," I didn't watch it because of that.  (Many people who don't watch R-rated movies will tell you they make exceptions for the ones about war; I don't subscribe to that philosophy.)  I watched it, in part, because of the music.  I figured a movie that featured ten works by Chopin was probably worthwhile, and I was right.  It was a wonderful movie.  It is a wonderful movie.  I would recommend it to anyone, even if they don't usually watch R-rated movies, too.

Why am I blogging about this?  Well, because I just bought "The Pianist" on sale at Target . . .  And because I wanted to talk about why I do what I do, I guess.  What I know about making my own rating system is this:  My life has been better because of it.  My thirst for popular culture and celebrity gossip has dramatically waned, and my sensitivity to foul language, violence, and unhealthy romantic (especially sexual) relationships portrayed in media has increased.  Considering the amount of movies and television I used to watch and the resultant skewed perspective I had on such subjects (especially romantic relationships), I think these changes have been a good thing.  I don't think avoiding R-rated movies is a good rule, nor do I think media that doesn't follow MPAA guidelines is a free-for-all.  (I'm looking at you, television.)

I guess I'm saying that I think it's good to use your head and your heart to make decisions about media consumption.*

And that if you have the chance, watch "The Pianist."

*In 1981, Keith W. Merrill, director of The Great American Cowboy (1973), gave some excellent advice about relying on movie ratings.

Thing I'm thankful for: sleepy afternoons

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mint Car

I was talking to a friend tonight about romantic relationships and whatnot, and it got me thinking . . .  Thinking about how I want love to feel.  If I could capture that feeling and turn it into a song, it would come very close to sounding like this:

Thing I'm thankful for: easy days

Monday, April 15, 2013

Out of Character

Sometimes you just gotta do something out of the ordinary.  You've gotta do something outside of your comfort zone.

For me, that's a lot of somethings.

On Saturday night, it was blowing on fire with cornstarch.  Nearly everyone I was with was doing it.  I didn't want to seem boring, but I also didn't want to do it.  So I sat away from everyone and watched.  And watched.  And watched.  And then I thought, "What would Lexi do?"  What would Lexi, my hip older sister, do, if she were the one here instead of me?  So before I could talk myself out of it, I abruptly stood up and said, "I'm gonna do it!"

And this is what happened:

It was one of the two biggest flames of the night!  I was pretty impressed with myself.  My heart was gearing up toward top-beating speed, but I blew before I knew what was happening.

And sometimes, that's how life works, I guess.  Just go before you know what's happening . . .

Thing I'm thankful for: warm Spring nights

Thursday, April 11, 2013

This Video Brings Me Joy, Pt. 3

I don't spend tons of time on YouTube.  I mean, I watch my fair share of videos, but I'm not usually the one at a party or get-together who starts the you-have-to-watch-this-video train because really, in large groups, many videos are just not that funny -- partly because there's so much variation in what people find funny and partly because humor is extremely contextual.

This video, though -- this video needs no context.  It makes me laugh every time I watch it, and I've watched it a lot.  I already know that it will be one of my go-to videos for when I'm feeling stressed and need a good laugh.

Happy Friday, folks!

*See This Video Brings Me Joy, Pt. 2.

Thing I'm thankful for: ice cream for a sore throat

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Some Songs About Love that I Love

Who says love is for February 14th?  I'm celebrating it today just because.  Because I have a runny nose and a sore throat.  Because my head feels fuzzy.  Because it's cold and rainy outside.  Because my stress level has moved from eustress to plain ol' stress.  And because love is fun.  It's fun to think about, fun to write about, and fun to sing about.

So here are some songs about love that I love:

Thing I'm thankful for: packages in the mail!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

I Hailed My First Cab Today

I've been to New York City countless times, but it wasn't until today that I hailed my first taxi cab.  Truth be told, I was a little nervous.  There's a certain oomph one has to have to hail a cab . . .  Confidence, chutzpah -- that sort of thing.

Well, I didn't have either of those.  I nervously stood in the bike lane and tried to spy an empty cab.  After nearly getting run over by a guy on a bike, I crossed the street and thought maybe I'd have better luck over there, away from the bike lane.  To my dismay, I found myself in the bus lane.  "Great," I thought.  "Now I'll get run over by a bus."  Here lies Sara.  Because she got hit by a bus.  When all she had to do was hail a cab.

I was determined to get one, so I did my best to stand away from the sidewalk -- but not too far into the bus lane -- and stick my arm into the air like I was raising my hand in class.  I didn't see an empty cab, but at that point, I didn't care.  I made my suitcase as obvious as I could, and I emphatically looked at my watch, even though I knew what time it was.  "Surely, it's clear I need to make it to the airport!"  Boy, was it!  It worked!  A cab stopped!  Just for me!

In my rush to claim the cab, I opened the door and threw my suitcase in, without even first telling the driver where I needed to go.  He looked at me quizzically, and I stated with authority, "I need to get to JFK."  For almost the rest of the trip, I stared out the window in silence.  That, combined with the harsh and hardened look of my fake leather jacket, made him think I was from New York.  Ha!  I fooled him!

Thing I'm thankful for: having two seats on the plane all to myself

Monday, April 08, 2013

All Quiet on the Northeastern Front

It's late.  I'm the only one awake in this tiny 500-square-foot apartment.  Soon, there will be a baby in this place, and prolonged silence will be part of a distant landscape.

For now, though, there is no crying, no cooing, no restless sleeping, and no sirens or honking horns outside in the streets of New York.  So I wanted to take a few minutes and write down some thoughts -- well, one main thought, anyway.

Sunday's Merriam-Webster Word of the Day happened to be "equivocal."  The term has a few meanings, but the one I'm most familiar with -- the one I think is most often employed in everyday speech -- is the first: "subject to two or more interpretations and usually used to mislead or confuse."  I hate equivocation.  I think it's the slyest and slimiest form of communication, and it belies immaturity and insecurity on the part of the speaker.  It's an evil I think the world could really do without.

Here's why I bring it up, though, besides the fact that it was the Word of the Day:  I am happy to report that the apostles and general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don't resort to equivocation.  They speak readily and roundly about gospel topics.  They are straightforward and unapologetic in their testimonies of the gospel, and they dare to be politically incorrect.  I love that about them.

In an effort to follow their examples, then, I want to say some of the things I believe:  I believe in God, the eternal Father, and in his son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.  I believe that I am a literal child of God -- as is everyone else who has ever lived, is yet living, and will ever live on this earth.  I believe that agency is the single most important gift God gave man, but in case we needed another gift to feel his love, he gave us the Atonement of Christ.  I believe that God's law is often different than -- and supersedes -- man's law, and the way we become familiar with God's law is through prophets.  In ancient times, these prophets were the prophets referred to in The Bible; in modern times, they are the ones who lead The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I believe that we can learn how to practically apply God's law in two ways: daily prayer and daily scripture study.  These two actions are crucial to our ability to receive personal revelation, which -- if we are living in obedience to God's law -- is the most important revelation we have access to.

Some may read this and not believe similarly, and that's okay.  But it's what I believe; it's what I want people to know I believe; and it's what I want my future children to know I believe.

Thing I'm thankful for: Sunday evenings

Saturday, April 06, 2013


I surprised my sister in New York City today.  She's having a baby shower this weekend and wanted me to be here . . .  I said I couldn't and actually wasn't planning on it, but after my brother-in-law asked me to come, I decided to make the trip.

The plan was to surprise her on the way to dinner.  So here she is, along with her husband and my mom,* walking to Prime and Beyond.  I was just sitting on a stoop, pretending to read something on my smartphone.

Pretty cute, huh?  :)

Thing I'm thankful for: mini cakes from Black Hound

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

It's the Little Things

Sometimes you feel like you're failing at life, but then your co-worker teaches you how to make a paper airplane or you eat maple-and-brown-sugar oatmeal for lunch, and you feel like maaaybe you can make it through the day.

I got caught in the rain twice yesterday -- once when it was like cats and dogs and once when it was a drizzle, but kinda cold.  Usually, I like rain, but yesterday, I was hating it.  But then I watched lightning blaze across the sky on my drive home and admired it's beauty.

Life is just a series of ups and downs -- big problems and little comforts.  I'm trying to get the hang of it, but I don't know if I'm doing a good job lately.  It definitely makes me grateful for the five minutes here and there of pure joy -- the paper airplanes, the oatmeal, the brilliance of the night sky.  Here are some other things I cherish, in no particular order:
  • A new bar of soap
  • A comment on my blog
  • A like on Facebook
  • Pictures of my nieces and nephews
  • Brightly-colored slacks
  • Yellow umbrellas
  • Clementines
  • Windshield wipers

That's what I noticed today, anyway.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Photo Series

Can you guess what I've captured in these pictures?  They're inspired by my sister Lexia, actually.  And based on the fact that I was simultaneously terrified and exhilarated by this thing when I was a child.  Can you guess?

I think the photos turned out quite nicely, if I do say so myself.

Thing I'm thankful for: burgers -- very nearly my only source of red meat