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Archive for November, 2011

Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Or cubital tunnel syndrome, I’m not sure. My pinky is tingly and my elbow hurts.

So I’m going to fall behind on my transcribing, paper-writing, and Christmas knitting.

And catch up on Glee instead.

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We all do it. Anyone with any sort of mobile information gathering device has done it. Fess up. You know you have.

We’ve all checked our e-mail/facebook/twitter at inappropriate times.

I’m most guilty of checking it during class, although I try to stick to just e-mail and news websites. I have a three hour no breaks seminar every Wednesday and by hour two my head is starting to nod. To pretend like I am actively engaged and fascinated by my once-astute-now-boring classmates have to say, I read the BBC.

I read the BBC for most all my news, but that’s another story.  Okay and Huffington Post but that’s like the check-out line equivalent of online news so I try not to admit that.

My laptop is my most portable device, and I would expect those with smart phones and tablets and go-go-gadget watches succumb even more often to checking the news at inappropriate times.

Class.

Meetings.

While you are on the phone with somebody.

Church.

All this clandestine checking up on the world has made me wonder what would have to happen in the world that I would interrupt whatever presumably cellphone/internet free social event I was at to inform them of the news. My husband I discussed this one night but we could only really come up with two situations:

1) Somebody shot the President.

2) The U.S. declared war on somebody.

To be honest, I’m not even that sold on number two, mainly because sometimes I lose count of how many foreign conflicts we are in. And someone declaring war on the US is hardly news, unless it’s Canada. We debated for a while if the Pope being shot would be interruption worthy, and decided that for class it wouldn’t be.

So when would you break the silence? How catastrophic/exciting/amazing/shocking would a piece of news have to be for you to publicly admit (beyond just those times when you weren’t supposed to be texting at the dinner table) that you were, in fact, not listening to a word the other person was saying and instead were browsing cnn.com?

 

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The Sunday Post: A story

Again it is time for a Sunday post. A day late. And it is likely you will find this a dollar short as well, but I have been putting off on writing this post for so long I figured I should just get it out there.

You see, after deciding I’d write about my faith each Sunday, I figured I would need to first explain what that faith is. But there are a few problems with this. First is the vast complexity of the faith, of any faith. The second is that it has been repeated and repeated, shouted on street corners, told in signs at football games, in Sunday schools and by bedsides. There are illustrations and two minute explanations galore. “We are all sinners who have fallen short of the Glory of God. The wages of sin are death, and so God sent Jesus Christ his only son to pay the penalty through his death so that we might have everlasting life.”

Simple enough, right?

But there is more to the story than that.

I say story because religions are formed and reproduced through stories. Often people take affront at the word myth, lest it imply that a person’s beliefs are not true. But myths, stories, tales of adventure – that is what our religions are formed around. These stories do not have to be historic, they do not have to be scientific, they do not have to even be logical to be true. We can recognize and believe in the indissputable claims of evolution while still seeing the beauty in stories of God’s creation.

These stories are deeper than what we know to be true.

The story I believe in begins in a garden, and as all good stories do, with a man and a woman falling in love. But it is a tale of love bigger than that of man and woman, daughter and son. It is a tale of a love for life. 

The book follows the stories of others, of their heartaches and failures, miseries and triumphs, doubts and reconcilliations. It is confusing and frustrating because it is not the story we want it to be. But if I were to read the story of my life, I suspect that it would not read how I want it to read either.

It is a story of abandonment and searching, believing in, no matter how unlikely, deliverance and rescue. It is the story of a rescuer, a savior. It is the story of a troublemaker, a rebel. The story of a war wager and a peacemaker.

It is the story of forgiveness and redemption and life. Ephemeral yet everlasting life.

I say it is a story, but it is many stories. One great narrative that is repeated throughout all the earth and throughout all the time in penthouses in cities and caves in the desert. It is a story we live.

I’m sorry I have no better explanation than this, but this is the only way I know to explain my faith. But it’s a start.

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Every morning I see a little more of my breath, feel my nose a little less as I walk to work. I can feel it coming in the air. There is a bit of excitement to it, skis and snowmen are not far behind.

It’s coming. The cold.

When I was a kid we got the American Girl magazine and one of my favorite articles was on 50 ways to stay warm in the winter. I don’t remember many of them (besides putting your PJs in the dryer before getting in bed!) but I’m sure I tried most. Unfortunately  I can’t find the article on-line anywhere, so I will simply have to recreate it for you. So here are my (and my readers!) top tips for staying warm this winter without jacking up the thermostat. (and fall and spring if you live in Montana).

1. Layer. I know, I know its one of those tips that you hear all the time. But until I moved to Montana I didn’t know all of the things that you could layer. I swear I’ve seen people wearing two scarves before.

When I was a kid, I used to wear two pairs of underwear to go play in the snow. I don’t know why I was worried about my butt getting cold – that only happened when I was ice skating.

2. Every man for himself when it comes to the hot shower. First one up gets all the hot water. No exceptions, no mercy. Oh wait, y’all have hot water heaters that last more than one shower? Why are you even reading this?

3. Laugh when it starts snowing inside your house. Because it’ll melt quickly.

4. If you live in an apartment that has one tiny heater situated somewhere next to the door and very far away from the living space and you pay gas and your landlord pays electric (as one certain husband of mine used to), buy an electric space heater. Extra points if it looks like the Eye of Sauron. If you start having dreams about an evil eye lighting your house on fire, don’t blame me.

Also don’t do this if you pay your own electricity bill.

5. Cuddle. Mainly for the body heat. Don’t get too sappy about it. Pets work well too.

6. Eat soup. Drink soup? Just don’t slurp soup, that’s supposedly rude. I don’t think Emily Post has ruled decisively on that one though.

There’s something about a hot bowl of soup. Anyone who has lived with me can attest that I can barely cook anything in which “broth” is not one of the top ingredients. It’s the magic meal – take a few meager potatoes and onions, some pearl barley or quinoa and rice and you have yourself a meal. We invented a delicious squash & sausage soup recipe the other night. Perhaps I should share that one day.

7. Drink tea. Or cocoa. Cocoa is easier to sneak a shot of schnapps into, if you are so inclined. Either way, the respectable version or the adult version, it will keep you warm from the inside out.

8. Knit as much as you possibly can. If you knit for yourself, you will have things to keep you warm. If you knit for someone else, they will feel obligated to do things like buy you a cup of hot tea or pick up your next heating bill. The second one probably won’t happen though.

9. Make yourself a bean bag. I’m sure you can google it and find a blog that is actually “helpful” to show you how to do it. My advice is to sew a bag, fill it with beans, microwave, and repeat. Plus every time you do, your house will smell like food and when your significant other asks if you’ve been cooking, you can proudly respond, “No. Make your own dinner.”

10. When all else fails, get out. Find some warmth, be it in another state or at a friend’s house where you go and shiver and sigh awkwardly until they feel obligated to turn up their heat. Works every time.

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It’s time for the sun lamps

The night has descended upon us.

The long, cold, dreary night of winter in Montana.

Which is not to say it is all bad. There is sweaters, and scarves, and more knitting than my wallet can afford, hot (white) chocolate, pumpkins and butternut squashes and sweet potatoes, cuddling on the couch, snowmen and snow angels, and best of all – skiing.

But these are only tiny gems hidden in the long cold months. The weight of the winter sky weighs heavily one me, more so than I like to admit. I am no stranger to snow. Even though I am from Virginia, I am from the mountains. Growing up we had storms that would close our school for sometimes upwards of 15 days a year. We had blizzards that would knock the power out for weeks on end. We sledded and built forts along with the best of them. But no matter how hard the snow fell, within a few weeks it would be gone. A brief respite before it came again.

I spent four years off in college near the coast where we would see 1-2 inches a year. Missing winter, I decided I would move out to Spokane, WA where we had 100 inches of snow. Worst winter on record. And that was the winter I decided to show up.

Like I said, there are pieces of winter I love and look forward to. But no matter how optimistically I begin the late-fall/winter season, by February my optimism has crumbled into despair. Complete hopelessness at ever seeing the sun or feeling its warmth on my skin again. Our town is situated in a bowl and despite its lovely springs and summers, the cloud inversion can let a month go by without letting the sun shine.

Maybe I am not cut out to be a Montanan.

But despite all past precedence that has suggested I will not make it more than 3 months without threatening to buy a one way ticket back to Virginia, I (yet again) remain hopeful. So I want to write a few posts on how to survive these non-daylight savings time month. One on staying warm and another on staying happy.

If you brave the short days and long winters of the north (or, if you are on the other half of the globe, the south, but there it’s summer, so hey), have survived trekking miles in the snow, have worn long underwear, or have ever wondered “is this what frostbite feels like?”

Then help. Let me know your suggestions. Together, we will prevail!

 

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A clarification

I was really happy to see all the discussion that yesterday’s post generated, both from people who agreed and disagreed. Thank you for pitching in your voice. I enjoyed hearing from people who had much different experiences with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Most of all though I would like to apologize to anyone who I might have offended. So I thought I would clarify a few points.

Awareness, to me, is the most important part of BCAM, and the way I conceptualize awareness tends to be concrete information about prevention and causality. I don’t see pink products as achieving that goal. For other people though, pink takes on a different role. It acts as a reminder or serves as a memorialization. I don’t mean to diminish that purpose at all. Ultimately I would like to see them combined – pink water bottles that say “BSEs once a month” or boxes of pink granola bars that include a handout describing risk factors and prevention measures.

My goal was to get people to question their purchases in the name of charity. I don’t think that buying pink products in and of itself is bad, but I think it’s good to take a moment to double-check why we are doing it. Ask questions like, “What percentage of the proceeds are actually going to research?” or “is this company just using my sense of goodwill to sell a product?” You might still decide to buy the product, you might decide to send a check directly to the campaign, or you might decide to support another cause. I think breast cancer awareness has pure intentions, and I worry that corporate interests have used those intentions to manipulate customers. But that doesn’t mean supporting breast cancer awareness or buying something pink is bad in and of itself.

Last, I just want us to remember there are other diseases that are not as well known or not as easy to sympathize with. While every single person can’t care about every single cause, I hope that we haven’t gravitated towards breast cancer awareness over other important diseases because of its marketability. Is it important disease to research, treat, and cure? Of course! I just hope that it isn’t distracting us from other important diseases.

Again, I am sorry if I offended anyone. I just want us to stay aware and always question what is presented to us. Being a medical anthropology student I am used to taking these impersonal, analytical views on things which can be very personal to other people. Sometimes its good to step back and take an impartial view and other times it’s good to hear from people who have experienced these things. I hope that we can keep open minds and the discussion alive.

And here’s a breast cancer charity I can get behind: Tit Bits

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Boobs

Disclaimer: (since there seems to be some confusion here) In no way am I trying to diminish the mental, physical, and emotional pain associated with breast cancer. I am trying to respect it and argue that because it is such a serious disease, we should give money to research wisely and take prevention seriously, and also not forget about the many other serious forms of cancer that do not get as much attention. Like many of you I have lost people I have loved to cancer and agree we should fight against it.

Happy November. One of the reasons to be happy it’s November?

October, sorry excuse me, “Pinktober” is over.

Perhaps you have noticed the insane amount of pink products at every NFL game, a few college ones. Maybe your latte was died pink or your yogurt cups had pink lids. I’m guessing half the products I walked passed in the store this past month had a little pink ribbon in the corner. Onesies proclaiming “I love boobs” and adult sized shirts shouting “Save the Ta Tas!” have no doubt crossed your path at some point in the last few weeks.” It’s unavoidable.

It was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And while I can’t imagine the pain people go through who are diagnosed with or watch a loved one be diagnosed with breast cancer, I am not particularly a fan of the fund-raising campaign.

But wait, you ask. How can anyone be against boobies? Everyone loves boobs! Save the boobs! Save the women!

I’m not. I love breasts as much as the next person (unless the person I am standing beside is a straight man. In that case he probably likes them a little more. But you get what I am saying). But I have some issues with the whole breast cancer awareness, buy everything pink campaign.

Fear Mongering

Who here has heard the statistic “One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer?” Did you find yourself thinking “I know at least eight women but I don’t think any of them have breast cancer?” That’s because statistics are not always what they appear. The key words that are often missing is “in their lifetime.” One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.” Which means that by the time you reach 80 something, you will have had a one in eight chance. But for younger women, it looks like this (from cancer.gov)

  • from age 30 through age 39 . . . . . . 0.43 percent (often expressed as “1 in 233″)
  • from age 40 through age 49 . . . . . . 1.45 percent (often expressed as “1 in 69″)
  • from age 50 through age 59 . . . . . . 2.38 percent (often expressed as “1 in 42″)
  • from age 60 through age 69 . . . . . . 3.45 percent (often expressed as “1 in 29″)

It’s a little different than one in eight. But we usually don’t get the whole story. It’s not as dramatic, not as interesting, not as money generating.

Consumption

I’ll admit. I have a pink coffee mug. I bought it a long time ago thinking I would do something nice to save the world. But back then the whole pink phenomenon was still pretty new, it had yet to reach the massive proportions that there are today. Now I question it a bit more.

Take the whole Yoplait “Save Lids Save Lives.” For every lid you mail in (or redeem online), Yoplait will donate ten cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure (footnote: up to 2 million dollars.) If Yoplait just wants to make a two million dollar donation, why wouldn’t they? Are they hoping that they won’t make it to the two million dollar mark? Or are they hoping you will buy more of their yogurt because it makes you feel good about the world?”

Buying a bunch of stuff we don’t need (like a pink plastic water bottle that increases your chance of breast cancer), shouldn’t drink (like pink alcohol, which could also increase your chances) probably isn’t helping anyone except corporate pocketbooks.

If you want to donate money to breast cancer research, donate money. If a corporation wants to donate money, let them donate money. There’s no need to buy a whole bunch of stuff for that to happen.

Sexualization

Do you know that the lifetime incidence of prostate cancer for men is one in six (source)? Or that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America (source)? Cancer is number two, and so while that shouldn’t be ignored, I think it is fair to wonder why we give so much attention to breast cancer.

Could it be….

I mean I hate to suggest it…

… because our society likes the boobs?

Seriously, when was the last time you saw a “Save the Prostates!” t-shirt? Breast cancer isn’t a bad cause to get behind, and there’s no rule saying you can only support the most dire causes. But it’s important to stop and ask why breast cancer funding is getting so much research, to look and see where that money is going, to see if there are other causes in need of attention that don’t have the well-oiled publicity machine that Susan G. Komen for the Cure runs.

Sexualization isn’t the only reason we pay a lot of attention to breast cancer, though I do believe it’s part of it. There’s a lot of diseases out there that need more research and awareness. Our medical system is a capitalist, for-profit system, which means it largely behaves like any other industry – it goes where the money is. There’s not a lot of incentive to research rare or unprofitable diseases. (Which is all fine and good until you come down with one of those rare diseases that no one has bothered to research a cause, treatment, or cure for yet. Then it gets on your nerves.)

Prevention

How much actual awareness did all the pink merchandise raise? Sure NFL players had flashy pink shoes, but did the game announcers remind people to give themselves breast self-examinations every month? Was the football link designed to raise awareness among men who can also get breast cancer? Where was the information about healthy eating or reducing alcohol intake? How much of the money is going to research the environmental causes of breast cancer? What can we do to actually prevent breast cancer, besides just buying a pink-labeled candy bar?

In Conclusion

It’s not a bad cause, and I wouldn’t fault anyone who feels compelled to give to it. But I would urge anyone to (before supporting any cause) ask where the money is going, how much of the money is going there, double check if we are doing it because it is popular or because it is right. And after you have decided that, by all means give, promote, raise awareness, save the world.

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The Hogsmeade

So, I like to knit. And there is this website that every good knitter knows – Ravelry. It’s this pretty amazing compendium of patterns, needles, books, yarns, everything you could ever need. I can take a book I have, look it up on Ravelry, see people who have knit the same projects in the book, and judge what colors or yarn I want to use and if I want to make any modifications.

A few weeks ago, I entered a cupcake contest on Ravelry (okay technically in the group “Hogwarts at Ravelry” – I’m a dork, I know).  I’ve yet to jump on the whole cupcake bandwagon; personally I would take a slice of cake any day, but I figured I would give it a go. And guess what? I won 3rd place. I think I win a free pattern or stitch markers or something like that.

So here you go, a wonderful fall, Harry Potter inspired, IC friendly cupcake invented by yours truly.

The Hogsmeade

Where do you go for a nice cold pint of butterbeer? Hogsmeade of course! These are pumpkin butterbeer inspired cupcakes. Personally I love how they look like a mini pint of butterbeer, with the butterscotch colored bottoms and the white, foamy tops!

Cupcakes

 

(pretend this is an artsy DSLR photo with the cupcake off to one side, only three quarters in the frame, with a blurry background, and not just a photo taken with my webcam).

Here’s the recipe (makes 24 regular sized cupcakes):

Cupcake batter:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed cooked or canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup butterscotch chips

Beat sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla well. Sift together dry ingredients and add in slowly, alternating with milk. Mix in butterscotch chips. Fill lined (essential!) muffin cup tins three quarters full and bake for 20-25 minutes at 375.

Frosting:

1 stick butter, melted
2 cups confectionary sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk (or less or more!)

Melt butter and add in sugar. Add in vanilla, Slowly add in milk. Remember – you can always add in more milk, but if you add in too much, you have to put in more sugar which can quickly run into a problem when you run out of sugar. :-)

Butterscotch topping:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

In a heavy bottom pan, melt butter over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add in brown sugar and heavy cream and salt. Raise the temp until it the mixture boils for about 5-10 minutes. Take off heat and stir in vanilla. When it cools a bit, taste and adjust as necessary (add in a little more sugar or butter or vanilla!)

When cupcakes cool, frost and drizzle butterscotch topping on top. Enjoy!

  • I’m allergic to pumpkin pie spices like cloves and nutmeg, so I didn’t try using the traditional pumpkin pie spice. If you want a more pumpkin pie flavor, try adding in a tsp of a pumpkin pie spice mix! Personally, I like it this way – it lets the pumpkin and butterscotch come through

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