Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The "m" word

I'm not sure how it happens, but over the past couple of weeks I have found myself smack in the middle of marriage conversations with a surprising array of parents (including my own). It has been enlightening to hear parents' perspectives on why we young people aren't getting married as early or at all. Some ideas are backed by research, some are just musings, but all are fascinating to me, because they provide context for viewing my generation's desires and sacrifices. I think a few of their reasons are just off-track entirely. Others are viable reasons, but, based on my experience, are insufficient to explain a complete phenomenon.

And so I sit here stumped, trying to explain what seems to be inexplicable. I just don't get it. I often hear that young people just don't want to get married. That, to me, is glib and unrepresentative. Everything I have seen tells me that desire is there. In fact, it is so much there that anxiety and bitterness can start to run the show. In my experience, and we're talking Mormons and non-Mormons alike, I have been hard pressed to find somebody lacking the desire for marriage. That sentiment is definitely out there, but has been rare enough for me to discount it as a reason for explaining a broad phenomenon.

I have also heard that my generation just isn't willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary to commit to and maintain a marriage. Again, I think that may be true to a certain extent, but that aversion to sacrifices is not widespread enough to be a significant reason. Perhaps others have found it otherwise, and I would love to hear about it. Perhaps I associate with such high quality people (true!) that I miss the reality of the situation.

Other reasons for delayed and absent marriage include addiction to video games, pornography, increasing education levels among women, ease of materialism, selfishness, pride, lack of understanding about marriage, fear of failure, unrealistic expectations, negative feedback from friends and family, and on and on. The reasons behind this complexity surely cannot be explained by one reason, or even two. Even so, I feel consistently baffled by the fact that so many wonderful people who intensely desire to get married, are still single.

It makes me wonder whether it's not the marriage part that people have a problem with, but what leads up to a marriage: in a word, courtship. Is courtship a dying art? Is courtship still necessary in these times? Do we have unrealistic expectations when it comes to dating and courting? Do we shrug people off too early in the game? Are we too set on what we think we want and need, that we don't open ourselves to new possibilities? Are people getting asked out? I think it's pretty clear that our perception of love has been completely skewed by the media. We often believe that is not affecting us, but I think it may have more impact than we want to admit. Do we secretly hope and believe that love will be like in the movies? Do we not appreciate the work that goes into any relationship? Do we over-emphasize a first date? Are we too prideful to take a chance on somebody if we don't immediately feel something for them?

I am really grappling with this. If anybody is still reading this blog (since I never post...), PLEASE let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blessed reversal

You know, usually when you find yourself absent from a meeting or planning session, you can expect those present to assign you the most unpalatable task. It's almost an axiom, something you build your world on. Last week, my roommates stepped right over this bedrock and bucked the tradition.

When I was traveling, my roommates decided to make motivational sticker charts. In my absence, not only did I not get relegated the worst task, I got the best task of them all (Oh, saintly roommates!). While they are stuck in the doldrums of no sugar and waking up before 7, I on the other hand...

... Well, you can see I will be happily engaged.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Behavior change

It's strange how difficult it can be to change a behavior, even when it comes to changing a good behavior to a bad one. I work in behavior change, and supposedly understand some ways to make people adopt new behaviors. Yet, I still have a time of it trying to change myself.

Here I stand, post-birthday gifts, with a lovely ipod touch. It's real nice and perdy, and in theory, I think it could be useful if used sparingly. But I just can't get myself to use it. Perhaps it's because I resisted it and felt a strong moral opposition to it, and then finally caved. Perhaps it's a feeling of guilt. I don't know, but it's like a sense of awkwardness creeps over me, like I don't know how to use it, and I just put it aside. It's like I have to alter my whole world view to start making an ipod part of it. I have to make room for the ipod, but I feel ambivalent toward it. It has to be something you consciously think about, and I just don't. I forget completely that I even own it, and it sits on my bedside table. I see it when I go to bed and wonder, what is it I'm supposed to do with this here thing? Strange, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Office dweller

I am not made for the office. The office breaks me. Breaks me slowly, but breaks me the same. It shows, perhaps not to the outside world, but to me. Things that used to astonish and grate at integrity become part of the accepted undertone of the office . Things I swore I'd always do, no matter what the circumstance, well. Immune to weather, hands smooth - not calloused, conversations removed from the converser, eyes glazed with computer, limbs unused and wasting, parceled work and play, sunshineless cells, world revolving around a world.

Really, I cannot accept that I am the only one who feels this way. I don't think man is made for the office. Man wants to create, to use hands, to connect with the land, to be part of something larger. And yet so many of us are caught in this fabricated world that is office life. I don't want to find myself old and softened by office living. But what to do?

"I'm off to the subway
I must not be late.
Going to work in tall buildings.

Now when I retire
and my life is my own
I made all the payments
it's time to go home
and wonder what happened
betwixt and between
when I went to work in tall buildings"

-Tall Buildings, John Hartford

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Herbal love

All my love is directed in the herbal direction this week. And the proud owner of that love? Tarragon, ladies and gents. Why is it that I am only now learning how amazing tarragon is? How it complements every dish? I think I have hoisted tarragon to the dizzying heights at which I hold Nutella. Even cardboard would taste good with tarragon. So, watch out if you happen to be supping with me in the upcoming weeks; you might get a little more tarragon than you can handle.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Synergistically bad

With this financial crisis, I have - along with millions of others - wondered how we got ourselves into this mess. How did we lose control? How did we blind ourselves to the consequences of our actions? Some of my answers lie in the make-up of the entities we have raised: Created by man, morphing machinery beholden to The Man, growing larger than man, controlled not by man but by some synergistic other. Often, in creating these entities, we cede our agency to something larger than we ourselves can control, something mercurial that does not abide the laws we originally intended. Lackeys of this, our great creation, we run around believing we are fulfilling our desires, only to discover we have been duped by the monster we have been feeding. We may suddenly find ourselves apologetic at the actions we are performing; but, no longer the bosses, we watch in horror. Some grow to accept what they must do to maintain the machine of their own creation, despite the stark differences between intention and actuality. Others may rage against it, but feel confused as to how to stop the engine of something they should - but do not - control.

I think of The Grapes of Wrath, the owners coming to boot the tenants off the land: "We’re sorry. It’s not us. It’s the monster. The bank isn’t like a man."
"Yes, but the bank is only made of men."
"No, you’re wrong there—quite wrong there. The bank is something else than men. It
happens that every man in a bank hates what the bank does, and yet the bank does it.
The bank is something more than men, I tell you. It's the monster. Men made it, but they can't control it."

How is it that we can create something and then lose total control over it? Is it possible to create something that builds up the creator, rather than building itself up? Likewise, is it possible to continue unscathed by what we create, continue to see things as they are, and not as this creation views them? Can we continue in our authenticity, doggedly pushing what we believe the entity should be? Can we keep the end user in mind? Or will this new-fangled, evolutionary entity "goggle [our] mind, muzzle [our] speech, goggle [our] perception,
muzzle [our] protest" until we no longer recognize the realities and physicality behind our actions? Will we allow ourselves to reach the point where we "eat what [we] did not raise" because we are so disconnected with the repercussions of our creations? Can we, as insinuated in The Grapes of Wrath passage below, remain intimately involved, wise stewards rather than absentee landlords?

"Funny thing how it is. If a man owns a little property, that property is him, it's part of him, and it's like him. If he owns property only so he can walk on it and handle it and be sad when it isn't doing well, and feel fine when the rain falls on it, that property is him, and some way he's bigger because he owns it. Even if he isn't successful he’s big with his property. That is so.

"But let a man get property he doesn’t see, or can’t take time to get his fingers in, or can’t be there to walk on it—why, then the property is the man. He can't do what he wants, he can't think what he wants. The property is the man, stronger than he is. And he is small, not big. Only his possessions are big—and he's the servant of his property. That is so, too."

Most importantly, do we have the integrity and bravery to admit when we have created a bad thing? Do we possess the courage to forge ahead and try again?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Takin' a lift

The elevator and I spent some gooood quality time today. The first thing you should know about my office is that the only stairs in the building are emergency stairs that set an alarm off if you use them, therefore rendering them virtually unusable. So, after work I unassumingly stepped onto the elevator trying to get to my floor. I pressed "3" and waited. Nothing. Pressed it again. Now that may have been my cue to get off the elevator and wait for another one, but I persisted. After multiple attempts and the best baffled looks I could summon, I finally stepped off the elevator to try and catch another one. But, no matter how many times I tried to convince another elevator to come, I ended up with ELEVATOR #6. So, it's you and me, 6. Let's try this again. This time when I got on, the elevator started going up, which - although my number still didn't light up - I thought was progress. Oh, I am so easily mislead. I rode up to floor 6, picked up a dude, and headed back down, desperately swiping my badge and pressing "3" in a rapid-fire motion the whole way down. When we got to the lobby and I didn't budge, the guy looked at me strangely and reluctantly got off. This time, I made my way back up to 6, picked some more people up who didn't know what a ride they were in for. The elevator strolled up and down; 6, lobby, 6, lobby, 6, lobby... without ever opening its doors. We rode like this, 3 strangers, for an entire 5 minutes, nervously twittering. When we were finally spit out halfway above the lobby, we called it good. Despite my newly forged bonds with Elevator 6, I abandoned her and found another more trustworthy companion.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


As we get older, many people's questioning shifts from the what to the how. The looming, nebulous question of what to do with our lives begins to crystallize, and we are left staggering under the weight of how to pursue those passions. What is the venue? Where is the path? What are the channels? For some people, the way seems clear, but for the rest of us, our exposure in life shows us there are multitudinous means to a singular end. We may want to abolish illiteracy, for example, but what is the best way to do it? And not just what is the best way, but what is our best way, given our strengths and capabilities? Should we become teachers, or administrators? Tutors on the side? Politicians? Advocates?

My angst du jour, or perhaps du année is inequities. Life situations lately have left me in tears trying to reconcile why I have so much and others have so little. I suppose juxtaposing the passing of Ted Kennedy - somebody who indefatigably fought to elevate the depressed and abolish inequities - and watching the Pursuit of Happyness only heightened my angst. Senator Kennedy found the channel that, for him, was the best way to make the impact he desired. Yet I am still getting caught in my riling, impassioned over a subject, but feeling helpless to make any difference. Senator Kennedy used his power to help the powerless, a reminder of the nobility possessed by those who refuse to abuse their power. Yet his path is not my path.

I think of an unassuming Bolivian woman who grew up in a mining community and became a strong advocate for miners and Bolivians. The laudability of her efforts, in my mind, comes more from the fact that she never forgot her roots. As she grew in fame and had opportunities to be treated as the high and mighty, she never let her mind wander from her people and purpose. She would ask, "If my people can't stay in a fancy hotel, how can I allow myself such luxury?" "How can I justify having these luxuries when people I love do not enjoy the same?" The solidarity she felt with her people would not allow her to renege on her values, no matter what she was offered. Her philosophy was simple: if they can't have it, then I won't. While her example has always been compelling, I'm not sure that denying ourselves something we have been given is necessarily a long-term solution. But I'm left wondering, what can I do to show my commitment, my passion, to see results I care about? How can I pursue this in a way that complements my natural talents? I feel so lost.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Latest and greatest in contraception

The other day, we were doing a community workshop on women's empowerment. It was the family planning day, so we were talking about what kinds of modern birth control methods were available in their community. Things were going pretty much as expected when one woman spoke up. She started listing some of the usual methods "pills, implants... and of course, one of the most effective methods is a husband's death." Yep, I'm pretty sure that'll do it. Pretty much 100% effective. I can just see the campaign now. Latest and greatest in birth control: death. Pretty novel. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More American than TV

Inevitably, when I tell people that I don't have a TV, they look at me like I've just told them that I killed my own mother. The next sure question is, "What do you do with all your free time?" That question always gets me. I look at them as if they are equally crazy and ask, "What free time?" Seriously, I have no idea how people have time to watch TV.

Monday, March 30, 2009

"Leave 'Em Wanting More"

This week, my mom gave Mikale a sweet, unassuming gift of cherry lip balm. Little did she know the package contained scandalous kissing tips. With tips like these, we're all going to become brazen hussies:

"Pull back and look down, then look into his eyes. If he liked the kiss you'll most likely kiss again. Look at his lips, he will get the signal you want more!"

And, a thought in parting from the Ladies Home Journal (1948): "It takes a lot of experience for a girl to kiss like a beginner."

Thanks, mom!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Plants after my heart

So, I don't own a home. Nor do I have any plans to own one in the near future. But that doesn't stop me from daydreaming about the landscape I will have. There are 3 plants that absolutely must be a part of my home: a Mimosa tree, a Teacup Magnolia tree and Forsythia. And, while I'm at it, I might as well include that my house needs to be within a 10 minute walking distance from a lake. Oh, and I'll be needing a few fruit trees.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A little something

Do you ever feel like something is lacking in your life? Like something is missing - that you're searching for some unknown thing that will make you whole? (Sounds like the beginning of a convert's testimony.) I've been experiencing this feeling the past week. I feel like I'm waiting for something, needing something. I feel dissatisfied, discontent, like I want to get away. Yet at the same time I feel happy overall. It's like something is askew or an intense feeling of hidden frustration. With something. What is that something?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another suitor for the Civic

We'd hoped it wouldn't come to this, but it is futile to deny what is so blatantly true. I'll just say it, then: each of us in the Belvedere Mansion grows increasingly jealous by the day. The object of our jealousy is no less than Claire's 1996 black, radio-less, tail-pipe-dragging, battery-less, air-condition-free Honda Civic. Yes, it's a sad state to be in (for us, not the car).

Civic has sat in our driveway for months, neglected, unwanted, decomposing before our eyes. Yet in a Mahana-like turn of events, suddenly Civic has become desperately wanted, even coveted. Without even the advantage of Craig's list marketing, Civic has managed to muster up several suitors in just 2 days. Men have been checkin her out something fierce. She has experienced aggressive courting, men fighting over her, offers of love affairs, and ever increasing monetary promises.

Today we came home to a note of last resort:
"I would like to buy your (love) but you talked to another guy about it [unfaithful!]. I will give you *$800* cash for your (love) [money talks] and I won't even talk to the other man about it [intrigues pique interest]. It will just be between you and me [baby, oh baby]. Call me as soon as you can [sold!]. I have cash. Tonight!"

Oh, to have the suitors of a run-down Civic.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


You would think that on an external marketing site for a national park, the objective would be to draw in visitors, right? Usually yes. But on some occasions, the national parks sabotage themselves by writing things like this:

During the pony swim, approx. 40,000 visitors wait along what many say is an "extremely over crowded shoreline". Large numbers of people wait for many long hours in an area far from the swim where the restrooms are located. There are no restrooms close to the swim since it is a tidal marsh.
People say that the best way for you to experience the wild ponies of Assateague Island is to just: "Go any other time during the season. That's when you can see them best. You can see the herds of wild ponies where they live along the island on the boat nature tour that runs from May 16th thru Oct 11th"... If you are still interested in seeing the Annual Pony Swim, there is also a special charter to get a much closer view of the Chincoteague wild pony swim (limited seats).

Um, what? Which competitor hacked into their system?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Bird And The Bee

I love this band. That's all.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Defining needful

This past week I noticed that I was becoming a bit negative and irritable. Harried and frazzled, I was having a hard time focusing on what I needed to accomplish. As I tried to determine what was making me feel this way, I realized that I had not taken time for myself. I hadn't given myself opportunities for silence, rejuvenation, and stillness.

I often feel torn between competing "goods." As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I have made covenants of consecration to God. These covenants motivate me to serve those around me - to give of my talents and time. I feel that serving and giving freely of my time - essentially turning over everything I have to the Lord - brings me great joy and fulfillment. But a person cannot give all the time. There are times when you give more, and other times when you receive more; but no matter the stage, everybody needs to take time to fill themselves and tend to their own needs. The struggle I experience is defining the point where my own pursuits are selfish. I guess it is a matter of dividing needs from wants, but that division for me is ever-elusive.

I think of Martha who was doing praiseworthy, good things: "cumbered about much serving." In a very real sense, she was providing service to God. But, as Elder Oaks mentions, her service at that moment wasn't the best thing she could be engaging in. Meanwhile, Mary sat at Christ's feet, learning about the gospel. She was filling herself and increasing her spiritual capacity. While not degrading the value or importance of what Martha was doing, Christ guided her, saying "One thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part."

So, what is that needful thing? Elder Oaks said, "just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it... Make sure that the essential needs are met, but do not go overboard in creating so many good things to do that the essential ones are not accomplished." I completely agree, but conflict creeps in as I apply the principle. It could very well be self-fabricated conflict, non-existent in reality. For example, if on a given evening I arrive at the conclusion that it is essential to devote time to myself, and deem an opportunity for service as just good, is that all right? Knowing that in every circumstance the needful will vary, could that decision be classified as choosing the needful, or is it selfish? Is doing so contradicting my covenant to give all I have, including my time and effort, to God?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One word Wednesdays


(Thanks to Zina for Wordless Wednesdays)

Monday, February 16, 2009


Lincoln Steffens wisely said, "The misgovernment of the American people is misgovernment by the American people." I have spent many a day listening to people bemoan the current state of affairs, whether that be our financial situation, a poor education system, disrespectful youth, or corrupt leaders. I certainly have added my two cents to the growing mound of complaints. But, to what extent are we responsible for both the decline and the necessary improvements? So often, it's simple to shirk our responsibilities, not just because it takes too much effort, but because we manifest an individualistic mentality. It is easy to believe that one person's actions cannot change society - and I am not going to argue with such a statement. But to allow cynicism to paralyze us into inaction will only exacerbate the problems. That is precisely why we must be proactive in organizing ourselves and others to address the problems that affront us. Robert Putnam said, "Americans of [the Progressive] era did not simply bemoan 'the way kids are today,' or long nostalgically for the lost social control of the village. Rather, the Progressives devoted their intellectual, organizational, and financial energies to blazing constructive new paths for youth."

If we're dissatisfied with society, who is to blame really? We live in a democracy, which doesn't function properly when people forfeit their involvement in it. Again, it is easy to rationalize inaction, because it isn't clear how going to a local community meeting can impact national policies. But the grand is composed of minutia. We cannot fairly blame big politicians if we are not fulfilling our civic duties. We can become disillusioned or we can get involved in our communities.

Historian Richard McCormick wrote about the final years of the nineteenth century, but it sounds suspiciously like what we are confronting now: "Amid hard times, many Americans questioned the adequacy of their institutions and wondered whether democracy and economic equality were possible in an industrial society. Answering these questions with hope and hard work, some men and women began to experiment with new methods for solving the problems at hand. Hundreds poured their energies into settlement houses where they lived and worked among the urban poor. From their pulpits a new generation of ministers sought to make Christianity relevant to this world, not only the next, by aligning their churches actively on the side of the disadvantaged. Across the country the movement for municipal reform entered a new phase as businessmen and professionals tried to reach beyond their own ranks and enlist broad support for varied programs of urban improvement. Women's clubs increasingly turned their attention from discussing literature to addressing social problems."

So, as we face our own looming problems with the economy, malfunctioning systems, and a broken people: how will we solve the problems? What will our contribution be? Not, "who is to blame for this mess?" and "what will the politicians do to fix this?" but "what responsibility do we, as members of a democracy, bear in both the creation and resolution of these problems?" This is not to say that government and politicians do not have an important role to play; it is simply to say that we also have a critical role to play. We cannot sit idly by.

Friday, February 13, 2009

V Day gifts

For all of you men out there who are just stumped about what to get that special lady, look no further. Remember those half heart "HeartMates" pendants? Or how 'bout those BFF bracelets? So 15 years ago. If you really want to tell your girl that your heart is hers, AND that you're hip and with the times, you'll get her this:

Sure to spark a connection. A love connection.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


So, on my way to the airport in Amman, the taxi driver and I were holding a pretty average conversation until he asked me if I was married. Told him "nope" simple as that. But questions like this die hard. The inevitable follow up question: "How old are you?" Now, if you're ever in this situation in Jordan, do NOT say 28; I don't care what kind of after life it brings you. I wasn't aware of this little piece of advice back then, however, so I responded, "28." Driver almost loses control of the road as he turns back to stare at me in disbelief and great concern. Literal first words from his mouth: "Oh, no! There's no hope!" Yeah, thanks for that. Is it not enough to get it from worried elderly ladies in your ward? Apparently not. He quite honestly expressed his deepest sorrows for about 10 minutes. I'm now acutely aware of my position in life. Let me break it down for you. If you find yourself to be 28 and not married, sorry - but apparently neither looks, wealth, talents nor stature can redeem the passage of time. These are your only marriage options:

1. You will never get married
2. You will have to marry a very old man
3. You will have to marry a very ugly man
4. You will have to marry a (gasp) divorced man

Or, some horrific combination of the above. So, for all you very old, ugly men out there: I'm available!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Camels. They're a crossin'.

Betcha don't see this every day.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wildling herbs, melting tea

Ah, how I love translations. What exactly are wildling herbs? Dunno, but they were chosen carefully. And, who doesn't like their tea to have a melting effect?


Here I am in Jordan, working on a healthy lifestyles campaign. According to our most recent study, married women exercise the least when compared to married men, young women, and young men. Two-thirds of married women said they had not exercised at all. It's been interesting to see those research results in real life. Every day when I go to the gym, I comb the facilities for another woman. I have yet to see another woman working out at the gym. I got so concerned that today I finally asked the man at the desk, “This gym is for girls, right?” I was worried that all this time I had neglected to notice a sign saying “MEN ONLY.” Apparently, I had no need to be flustered. The gym serves both sexes, it's just that one is conspicuously missing.

Meanwhile, at the office, we're working on our anti-smoking mass media campaign. We're sitting around the table discussing the pre-testing results and which logo would best convey the following ideas: “It's against the law to smoke in public places” and “Second-hand smoke is harmful to the health of those around you.” Mid conversation, our media team grab their cigarettes, put them in their mouths, and start to light up. Hmmm... guess the campaign isn't quite having the effect we'd like it to have. Well, “slowly, slowly” as they say here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Over the break I watched the HBO series on John Adams. And loved it. But that's not entirely the point. I have considered myself grateful for what my predecessors have done, especially those founders and pioneers of this nation. But it wasn't until I watched John Adams that my naivety began to haunt me. Somehow, through all the historical books, movies, and sites, the gravity of it all escaped me. I did not know fully see what I ought to be grateful for because I did not fathom all that had been given nor what I owed at the sacrificers' hands.

What struck me was how hard working they all were - the endless amount they were willing to give for a cause they cared about. For all intents, the tasks before them were insurmountable. Yet they carried on with singularity of purpose. Men sacrificed years away from families, their health, their lives. Women were left alone to work the farms, take care of sick and dying children, fend off invaders, suffer from loneliness. They knew how and were willing to work for long, often indefinite periods of time, to enjoy their desired end result.

I often wonder if we have that same know-how, perseverance and willingness to pay the price for what we want. Speaking of Americans, I'm not sure we have the patience or a large enough dose of that quaint little virtue called hard work. It's interesting, though, because in some ways, I view Americans as an insanely workaholic people - but that's typically in the workplace. That kind of hard work often entails longer and longer hours - working for the sake of working rather than working hard and determinately to achieve a goal or desire.

Lack of true hard work, the immediacy of results, and the unchecked fulfillment of desires are at the root of many problems today. These things impede our ability to appreciate what we get. Ingratitude and undervaluing, in turn, affect the way we treat others and the things around us. Little effort with big returns causes a discordance that perhaps we are uncomfortable with at a basic level. For example, to communicate with one another, all we have to do these days is type a few words and press a button. The ease of communicating is wonderful, but can also cause us to undervalue our communication with each other. We can become casual or even recalcitrant in our relationships. Our lack of patience breeds impatience, while our lack of hard work engenders higher expectations.

I think part of the struggle is finding a way to use and appreciate the things that make life easier, while still maintaining a strong work ethic and being deliberate about valuing the things we have.