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Archive for April, 2012

Community

Sometimes, you finish a year or two of JVC and you realize it wasn’t what you expected. The community didn’t turn in your best friends for life, and while you’re happy you got a husband out of it and all, you just thought it would be a little different.

Then you get a call and a text and a message to find out a man had died. A good man, one that you knew. Who lived next door to where the JV house used to be, years ago.

And you call your one housemate who lives in New York, even though you haven’t talked in, gosh has it been a year already. And you run across town to hug your other former housemate and friend. And you cry, and you talk, and you hug.

You wonder if anyone has told your husband’s aunt and uncle  (who live across the street from the couple), who met when she did JVC in the house next door. You wonder if you’ll see your professor at the funeral, who also used to be your landlord, and lives in the next-door house now.

And you realize that maybe its a pretty small town after all.

So then you talk, and you remember. You remember the man who had a harder life than you’ll ever know. A man who would always ask you how things were going at the shelter you worked at, start talking local politics with you, and was usually more up on everything than you were. You remember a man who had an apple tree with so many grafts on it, he had forgotten what kind of a tree it originally was.

You feel blessed to having known a saint during his time on this earth.

You remember the pie that he had baked that set on your counter when you first moved here. How you ate it for dinner late that night and breakfast the next morning before you found your way to a grocery store. You eat the sweet cherries and the cakey crust.

You put down your fork, and think to yourself – this is something big.

This is community.

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Thesis Defense

If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you might remember that I’ve been doing this thing called “grad school. Totally forgot, right? Its okay, I sometimes do.

But not this week. This week I defend my thesis (on guard!). To be specific, tomorrow I defend. Tomorrow! I have been slaving away over this puppy for over a year. I took the entire summer off (well, plus working part time) last year to focus on the research. I have spent hundreds, hundreds! of hours researching, interviewing, transcribing, analyzing, compiling, writing, and editing. And it’s almost done.

Hurrah! Sing hallelujah!

I’m getting my degree in a field called Medical Anthropology. If you’re thinking “what’s that?” that’s cool, I think most people related to me have the same question. Anthropology is essentially the study of humans, or more specifically, that which separates us from non-human animals. There are four major sub-fields of anthropology: biological (studies evolution and the body itself. Think Jane Goodall and Bones the TV show); linguistics (language, something again, mostly unique to humans. Think Noam Chomsky); archaeology (that’s the one where you dig up stuff. Think, of course, Indiana Jones); and socio-cultural anthropology (everything else. The study of culture. Think….old white guy studying small tribes in the Amazon).

Cultural anthropology has come a long way since it’s admittedly, somewhat racist roots. (From “Discover the ways of the savages!” to “Preserve this culture before we kill them all off!” to “Hey, every group has a sub-culture. Let’s study white people too!” Medical anthropology, what I do, largely falls under the umbrella of cultural anthropology (though you will have people who argue it’s its own subfield. Overachievers).

Medical anthropology essentially studies diseases, health, and healing in a cultural context. While it does sound super-obscure, it is actually one of the most developed subfields of cultural anthropology. My particular branch of medical anthropology, (or at least what my research is on, I do work for a professor who does medical anthropology with a very different focus and population) focuses on the effects of social stratification on human health. Why are poorer people more likely to get sick and die? What has happened globally as underdeveloped “third-world” countries have shifted rapidly to a capitalist country? How are bio-medical fields and traditional medical practices combining? Why do people who live in inner cities have less access to health care? How do older beliefs of healing persist in rural areas? Those are the kinds of questions we ask. It’s a pretty fascinating field, really, especially realizing how complex health is. We tend to think of it in very black and white terms using our biomedical framework. But what about diseases that exist only in countries like America and aren’t found elsewhere? What about very real, very obvious diseases that occur only in India? Why doesn’t “understanding” what doctors say always result in action?

If you want to learn more about Medical Anthropology, I can’t recommend enough the book: Mountains Beyonds Mountains by Tracy Kidder. It profiles Paul Farmer, a MD and anthropologist, who starts a network of clinics in Haiti and other countries. (His partner, Jim Yong Kim – also an anthropologist, was just named head of the World Bank).

For my thesis, I looked at food insecurity in people who are homeless. It was very enlightening and exhausting research. And I’m happy to share with you the abstract below, in part because it’s arguably the most well-written part of it all, and in part because all 130 pages won’t fit in this blog post.

Another Day, Another Donut: Political Economy, Agency, and Food in a Montanan Homeless Shelter

Despite widespread undernutrition among the homeless, there has been little anthropological research on the experience of food insecurity in this population. Between 20 and 40 percent of the homeless population is undernourished and one third regularly miss meals (Gelberg 1995). This thesis addresses the significant problem of food insecurity in the homeless from a political economic perspective, analyzing how larger social structures influence the individual person. Fifteen residents at a shelter in Missoula, MT were interviewed about their dietary practices and experience of social service programs. The macro-social level influences the diet of the individual in two important ways: first, by creating the environment in which homelessness occurs, and second, by regulating the social measures which address food insecurity. These social measures which are designed primarily for the needs of the housed are insufficient to deal with the unique challenges of food insecurity. An inability to cook and store food limit how effectively homeless people can utilize these social programs. It is necessary for these programs to appropriately adjust their services for the homeless; however, to truly solve the problem of food insecurity, the reality of homelessness must end.

The defense is at noon tomorrow (MST) so if you want to send some prayers/good thoughts/rainbows/butterflies my way then, it would be appreciated!

 

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Earth Day

I spent Earth Day killing plants.

I uprooted them, threw them away. I pulled them out of the ground so that they would grow no more. I disrupted the natural propagation process of trees and flowers. I say that I love the earth, but I spent the whole day impeding its natural processes, killing its fruits.

Or I could say that I spent the day weeding and raking, so that flowers could thrive.

It’s all a matter of how we look at things. One man’s love is another man’s hate. One person’s sin is another person’s justice. We take our best guests, our stabs in the dark, to try and live God’s will. But we can never truly know it.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Is. 55:8

We can never know in this lifetime. Christ rebuked those who chastised people for loving God the “wrong” way. The goal is not to determine who is “right,” the goal is to love.

Let all you do be done in love.

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I support gay rights because I am Catholic, not in spite of it.

I grew up Catholic. Catholicism was early morning and late night masses, hot cross buns on Good Friday, wearing a pretty white dress for my first Communion, confused friends who wanted to know if I worshipped Mary. It was glowing candles on the dinner table during December, and palms folded into crosses in April. It was simple, and it was good. I believed it then, and I believed it now.

But it is not as simple now as it was then. Now I realize being Catholic isn’t defined by whether or not you attend Fish Fridays, but is a complex world of the orthodox and the not-so-orthodox. I am not an orthodox Catholic (used in the sense of one who follows every belief to the letter, not in the sense of the church that became identified as such during the Great Schism). And there is a reason that we have that term “orthodox” or “traditional” (the term my husband’s uncle, a religious, used instead of our term which I believe was “crazy conservatives” at brunch last week). Because despite Catholicism’s call for us to adhere to one set of beliefs, we do recognize, at least popularly, that there is a myriad of beliefs, experiences, and practices that create Catholicism. All this to say, my beliefs here do not reflect the beliefs of the Catholic Church, which opposes the legalization of gay marriage.

But I believe in it, and other gay rights, because I’m Catholic, not in spite of it.

You see, if the Church had wanted to turn me off of supporting the marginalized in our society, it should not have read the Sermon on the Mount to me each year. It should have silenced Jesus’ cry of blessings on the poor in spirit, the persecuted, the meek, the peacemakers, and those who thirst for righteousness.

The Church should not have taught me of the love God has for all of his people. It should have taught me instead that Jesus only came for those who were rich, who were white, who were straight, who were male, who were powerful, who were orthodox.

If the Church wanted me to oppose gay marriage, it should not have taught me that scripture is historical and contextual. It should have taught me instead that it is always literal, but it did not. It should not have taught me that God is love. It should not have taught me about the dignity of the human person, that everyone deserves a place to live, a place to work, a place to eat without being discriminated against.

It should not have taught me about the beauty of marriage. How the love between two people mirrors the love of God and his people. It should not have instilled me with the morals of faithfulness, commitment, and love if it had wanted me to discourage those practices in others.

The Church taught me instead about personal conscience (Catechism) and that “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself” (1790). It taught me that the conscience is inscribed on our hearts by God.

The Catholic Church taught me not to judge. And not in some trite “love the sinner but hate the sin” (but secretly hate the sinner too because that’s just easier) way, but in a deep, true way.  It taught me to look inwardly to my own faults, not outwardly to the faults of others.

It taught me to fight for the rights of the least among us. It reminded me that those whom society deemed okay to hate, we were required to love.

Of course, some will say that I am a shining example of the fallen American laity. They will remind me that the Church does not conform to the whims of modern society, and instead follows the teachings of Christ.

To which, I would respond that I agree. The Church is bigger than simple societal whims of oppression, of hate, of bigotry, of fear. I would say that the Catholic Church, at its core, preaches love and acceptance, hope and grace. If it wants me to adhere to another belief set, one of prejudice and marginalization, it should have taught me something else.

I support gay rights because I am Catholic. Not because I do not understand the teachings of the church, or because I simply choose not to follow them out of convenience sake, but because I do believe them, because I do follow them. And it’s not just me. A study  in 2011 showed that Catholics are more in favor of same sex marriage than any other religious group, and more than Americans as a whole.

If the Catholic Church wanted me to oppose gay rights, it shouldn’t have told me what Christ taught.

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Stitch Markers

I’ve never been a stitch-marker gal. Being the lazy/cheap knitter I am, I’ve tended to use things like rings, rubberbands, and safety pins to mark my stitches. But a few months ago, I got third in an online contest through Ravelry for my cupcakes. My lovely prize was a set of stitchmarkers from Amanda’s Jewellry.

You can find her here at: Your Jewellry. Yes that’s spelled right. She’s an Aussie, folks.

Amanda was incredibly sweet and offered me several stitch markers as the prize, and shipped them all the way from Australia for free! I promised her I would blog about them, in the hopes that someone from my small little blog would see them and send some business her way.

Her stitchmarkers are beautiful:

Unfortunately I haven’t had much of a chance to use them since I’ve been battling cubital tunnel syndrome after typing some 500+ pages this year. But when I start back knitting again, I’m going to pick something out that requires multiple stitch markers, just because I love these.

So check out Amanda’s work at http://www.yourjewellry.com. There is plenty of non-knitting stuff too (for those of you who haven’t discovered the joys of it yet!)

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Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. Except no lemons here, this is IC (aka low acid) friendly. Not to mention raw foodie and vegan and gluten free too! Let’s all have a party and make some waitresses weep!

Recipe:

3 cups whole dates (yuck not those nasty rolled in flour things you got in school lunch. Real, whole medjool dates. Take out the pits though.

1 3/4 cup almonds

.5 cup carob chips, unsweetened. (trust me. Dig that bag you accidentally bought once out of the cupboard. I know, I hate them too. Usually) If you are lucky and can eat the real stuff, duh, use chocolate.

1 tbsp nut butter

1 tbsp coconut, shredded. (yeah that’s not in original snickers, but so what? Neither are dates)

Toss almonds and chips in the food processor. Throw the dates in if yours can handle it. Toss half the coconut in the bottom of a 9×9 pan. Press date mixture in. Sprinkle rest of coconut on top. Cut in squares. Enjoy. Snicker at people whose candy bars come from wrappers.

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Women saw him first

Women were the first to see Christ.

Mary became a temple to carry the living God. His heart beat inside of her, she felt his kicks, she fed him from her body. Mary was there.

Some years later, it was women at his feet as he hung on the cross, and three days later, it was women at the door of his tomb.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Jn 20:1-2

A woman was the first to proclaim the news of an empty tomb. And the men came, and then left. John tells us they believed, but did not understand.

But Mary stayed.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?: Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jn 20:11-16

 Jesus first appeared to a woman.
 
Luke fills us in on what happened after the women ran to get the male disciples.
 
It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Luke 24:10-11
Women were the first to proclaim the good news of Christ’s resurrection, and they were not believed.
 
And today, when women say that they are capable to proclaim that good news today, they are still not believed. When women say they are able to hold the body of Christ in their hands, they are still not believed. A woman carried the body of Christ in her womb, woman proclaimed the news, and women are told to be silent today.
 
Women are not better than men, but they certainly are not worse. The disciples doubted, and Mary did not recognize the risen Christ. We are all human, we are all flawed, but women not more than men.
 
You can quote Paul’s letters when he tells women to sit down and shut up, and I can counter with historian’s belief that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was added in later. You can quote 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and I can point out all the women who did serve, did prophesy in the early Church. I can remind you those letters were written to a specific people, in a specific time and place, very different from our own. Women were not educated then, but they are today. We live in a different world, a one where a religion will not be laughed at and mocked because it allows women to lead. The disciples goal was to build the church, a church they did not think would last more than a few years. They were not writing to the 21st century, they were not envisioning a world where one day, women would be treated as equals. They had no time for that. A religion which gave women authority? Surely that would falter and fail.
 
The Catholic Church holds women in high regard, but I would suggest perhaps not as in high regard as we would like to believe. We honor women as saints, we recognize their human dignity, and we prohibit them from the altar.
 
What did Jesus say to the men who rebuked the woman who was attempting to serve?
Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. Mark 14:9
I pray that the Catholic Church continues to grow, continues to evolve, continues to hold steadfast in its desire to be the body of Christ. I believe that his body includes women, though, and does not push them to the margins. I pray that we follow Christ, rather than acquiesce to culture.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:28
 
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Gen 2:18

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House Hunters

You know what gets my goat? That tuition isn’t tax deductible in Montana. Nevermind that we’ve been funneling well over half our income into the state coffers via the university system. Americorps education awards are taxable income, so we are literally paying money to the state on money that is 100% going to the state. I mean really? Really?

Granted, by the time we get the Federal refund and pay state taxes, we still come out a grand total of $10 ahead. But regardless, I’m ready to be done with shelling out cash to school. Because (not to jinx anything two weeks before my defense), graduation bells are right around the corner.

Which means we are moving on up, away from our beloved Missoula, into a brighter and better future. Literally brighter – even though we are moving just an hour and a half away, our new town gets way more sunlight than Missoula’s bowl shape allows. Although I am pretty sad to leave, after all, this is the only place in Montana I’ve ever called home, I am looking forward to a fresh start.

And most of all, a new apartment.

Our place is small. It’s nice, it’s cheap, and it works, but it is small. It’s the perfect size for the two of us, but I would love something bigger. Not because there is going to be three of us any time soon, but because I love having people over. I’m no entertainer; I’m not even much of a people person, but to me, a home should be open. One of my absolute favorite memories of college was our Thursday night potlucks my roommate and I hosted post-graduation. I had just broken up with a long-term boyfriend and unexpectedly found myself in Williamsburg for the summer with a few other misfits. We hosted potlucks for anyone who cared to come – the guy from my speech class, good friends from freshman year, a friend’s fiance who had just moved to town, underclassmen doing research – you name it.

It was an absolute blast. And I miss it. Our 512 sq feet have hosted more guests than you would have expect, but it would still be wonderful to have things like a guest room. Or a dinner table.

A dinner table that you don’t have to drag to the middle of the living room if you want to sit three people around it, anyway.

This longing for a new place has led to a lot of House Hunters watching. While I’m trying to keep the envy, jealousy, and materialism in check, it makes me want MORE. BETTER. NEW. But you don’t get dream homes when you’re 25. And so I can live without open concepts, granite countertops, clawfoot tubs, hardwood floors. But just for the fun of it, here’s our list of things we are going to look for in a new place. No idea if this comes off as too demanding, but I feel it’s reasonable.

Criteria

* Small house, apartment, or (most preferably) a town house/duplex
* 2-3 bedrooms - I would love to have a guest room! We technically have 2 bedrooms now, but one is being used as an office which we won’t need when we aren’t students.
* Dishwasher – I haven’t had one 3 out of the past 4 years. I want one. NOW.
* Not out of town – We only have one car and have no desire to buy another, so something within biking/busing range is essential!

Negotiables we still feel strongly about

These are things that we really want, but could compromise on if need be.

* Washer/dryer - This is more or less a criteria, BUT I would consider an apartment that has coin-op in the same building. Laundromats are out of the question.
* Pet friendly - We want to keep the options open.
Budget – There’s a little wiggle room here. The rule of thumb I hear is that no more than 30% of your income should go to housing costs. We’re going to apply that rule to one of our incomes, which I think will be plenty for this area.
* Close to one job (probably John’s) - The issue here is that I don’t have a job yet, so there’s no sense in planning a place around where I will work. However, if I get a job where I’ve been applying, we’ll work across the street from each other. And if that’s the case, we’ll carpool so it won’t really matter if we’re super close or not.

In a perfect (yet still somewhat realistic) world

* No wood panelling – Each of the three places I’ve lived in the past four years have had it. I’m sick of it.
* Two bathrooms – The whole “peeing all the time” thing I have going on can be difficult when there are two of you attempting to use the same 3 x 7 ft room.
*  Yard – Even if we don’t get a dog, having a yard would be lovely.
* Paintable – My folks got cable when I was 12, so I have been watching HGTV for 13 years and have been dying to paint a place ever since. I know most rentals don’t let you paint, so if/when we ever buy a house I’m going ALL Sherman-Williams on that place. Beware.
* Fireplace – A real wood burning one. So cozy.
Bathroom without pedestal sink – Hate trying to balance the soap on the edge of the counter and it falling off constantly.
* Garage – Really one I don’t really care about or even plan on looking for, but if we’re talking a perfect world, hey why not?

So what would your dream place look like right now?

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Lent

Today is a good day.

I haven’t touched on Lent yet this year, not because I am not observing, but out of my attempt to reflect the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 6:16 – “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting.” Not that blogging about Lent is hypocritical at all, I just wanted to do things on my own first and talk about it later.

Lent is a period of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving leading up to Easter. Most people associate it with Catholics skipping hamburgers in favor of fish fries on Fridays and holding off on the donuts. But it is more than that. It is a time of peaceful reflection, of self-denial in favor of something greater.

Note, Lent is a "fast" not a period where we give up sins just to get back to them 40 days later! Still, its OK to use that time to focus on an area that is taking us away from God.

This year I gave up two things for Lent. Not because I am some holier-than-thou look how good I can do perosn, but because I kept wavering back and forth on which I should give up (trying to figure out which was “easier”) and figured I should stop being such a baby and give them both up.

The first was not buying food on campus. I did this my senior year in college, (which my roommate thought was pretty much the dumbest thing she ever heard!) and it was actually really tough for me. I will admit, I’ve broken this more than once. I had gotten in a habit of relying on vending machines and the market store in the University Center for lunch (typically a fresh roll, babybel cheese, and a pear). Not buying food on campus meant I had to either a) plan ahead, or b) go without. The money I saved will go to a charity – either our church’s sister parish in Colombia, or Partners in Health.

The second wasmultitasking. Yup, I gave up multitasking for Lent. I actually decided I should do this last year, but then in preparation for Lent I started cutting back in the weeks before. So when Lent rolled around I decided I didn’t really “need” to do it, but then I realized it was just me chickening out.

So what do I mean by multitasking?

- no listening to music or talking on the phone while driving/walking to or from school

- no reading on e-mails/blogs/news/magazines while watching TV

- no listening to podcasts/music while doing dishes or cleaning

- no watching TV/reading/playing on computer while eating

- no watching TV while cooking

I will admit that I broke all of these. A couple times I put on classical or Christian music so that I would stop going crazy and just finish the damn dishes. My rule was if someone else initiated (like called me while I walked home or if John turned on the TV) I was going to just go with it. Which meant I still ended up doing these things pretty regularly, though way less than I had before.

The hardest was not doing something wile eating. I had anticipated hours of quiet meditation over my meals – savoring every bite, being truly present to what I ate. In reality, I would scarf down my food because it was boring to just sit there and eat. It made me realize how loud the command in my brain to “DO SOMETHING!” is.

My goal with giving up multitasking was to create more quiet in my life, more time for reflection, more peace. To stop being bombarded with noise, news, information, entertainment all the time. To create more time to listen to God speak.

Did I achieve this goal? Yes and no. I have more quiet and I do feel calmer overall. But I don’t think I have conquered the “BE PRODUCTIVE! DO!” voice in my head. In a way, I almost feel anxious when I’m not “maximizing” my time, even though in reality multitasking helps no one. I don’t think I carved out the hours for quiet prayer that I wanted to, but I still think there is value in the silence and in focusing. It was a hard thing to give up, even if I caved in a lot. I hope that even when Easter comes and I am “released” from my fasting obligations, I will tone down the multi-tasking and focus more.

How did your Lent go? What are you doing these last few days to prepare for Easter?

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