Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Influencing Machine, by Brooke Gladstone--8/10

I love the way this book was done. It's graphic nonfiction, done in the style of a comic book (illustrated by Josh Neufeld), which makes it a really fast and fun read. But it's full of historical data, too, as well as being a commentary on the way media influences us (and has throughout history). I found all of it fascinating, because I'm a nerd like that.

I think Ira Glass said it best on the back cover: "Like Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis or Michael Pollan, Brooke somehow takes a subject most of us don’t give a damn about and makes it completely entertaining." (I adore both Michael Pollan and Ira Glass, so this endorsement might hold more weight for me than it does for you. It's true, though!) Here's an example:

I would check it out immediately if I were you. Library impulse-grabs for the win!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tower Heist

Or, why I ended up liking this movie although Mike had to drag me to see it. 

We saw it last night at the dollar theater. First of all, it was funny. I'm not really a Ben Stiller or Eddie Murphy kind of person, except for Madagascar and Mulan. But I thought the humor was done really well. It was subtle - yes, subtle - not what you'd expect from the headliners, but Matthew Broderick added a lot and the rest of the cast was good too. 
Second... Well, if you've seen the movie and have ever read the political posts on my blog, you know what's second. Yes, I liked the premise: Ridiculously wealthy company owner scams his employees by investing/losing their pension funds; loyal manager learns that none of them will be getting their money back and the owner will (1) go free and (2) essentially not even be affected because he has his "nest egg" to fall back on, so he and some other employees decide to steal the nest egg. 

Here's why the illegality of that doesn't bother me: 
  • Sometimes the law actually impedes justice. Most of the time that's something we have to live with, a sacrifice for the sake of preserving people's freedoms (i.e. how a criminal will go free if no one can prove he did it, even if everyone KNOWS he did). 
  • In this particular case, it's not only justice that would be sacrificed by obeying the law; it's the lives and livelihoods of dozens of completely innocent people. Some of those people were eight months pregnant and had just lost any way to pay for the delivery of their baby. Some were old men on the verge of retiring, whose life's savings had just been stolen. They were doormen and maids and concierges and cooks; they were not making a ton of money. They couldn't afford to lose everything they'd saved. 
  • Based on what I understood from the relatively sparse information given, there was nothing the law could do to help them. The rich man had hidden the extra money from the government when he was arrested (which was yet another illegal action), so the government couldn't confiscate it. And even if they could, the money would've gone to the banks and those people would still be screwed. 
  • I don't consider that nest egg as belonging to the rich man at all, since he'd stolen the money in the first place.
  • Essentially: I think it was wrong legally, but not morally. (Because the law does not automatically = moral rightness.) And in this case there were circumstances that I think were just more important.

In any case, it was a fun movie. Nothing earth-shattering, but as heist movies go, not the worst either.

Friday, January 27, 2012


It's been a long week. 

As I mentioned, Saturday evening Dafni started having contractions. My mom and I packed some things hurriedly, including our Subway, which we decided to eat in the car because we had over an hour to drive. It turned out (obviously) that we needn't have rushed. We spent Saturday night, Sunday, and Monday constantly reevaluating because she had contractions the entire time, and they kept gradually getting stronger, but still no baby. In the meantime we played with Goose, watched movies, and sat around talking (internet-lessly, as you may have noticed). 

Monday afternoon we came to the conclusion that having Jaylee around was keeping Dafni from really focusing on starting labor, so my dad and Daniel came to pick her up. It worked; Tuesday morning the contractions really started buckling down, and around 1:00 the midwife, Sarah, showed up, followed by Danielle and Gina, her assistants. They set up, we moved to the bedroom, and the real labor began. 

Guys... It was amazing. Okay, not at first, because mostly Talia and I were near tears every time Dafni had one of the really hard contractions. But it was amazing before that, because Dafni and Brandon kept talking about how much nicer it was to just be able to walk around their own house and watch movies, eat, and do whatever they wanted right up until the end (their first had been born in a hospital in Idaho, with a midwife). And it was amazing again when we got closer to the end, and Talia and I could see Brielle's head start to show.

And then she was out, in four pushes. Three days of slowly intensifying contractions, three hours of the really bad ones, and then in about twenty minutes Sarah was catching Brielle and handing her up to mommy. It was incredible.

I was supposed to have started work again on Tuesday, but Sunday night we could tell that that wouldn't be possible, and I arranged to come back on Wednesday instead. So Tuesday night I drove home, by myself in a torrential rainstorm, and it was not my favorite thing, but I listened to Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and didn't get lost or die, so it turned out okay. I got to see Mike for about an hour, but pretty much went straight to bed. Wednesday morning I woke up at 5:30 and went to work, watching Lana and now also her new baby sister (two-month old Harper). Daniel was still watching Jaylee but needed help because he was packing to leave for China the next day, so he brought her over to me and I watched the three of them together for a couple hours (which was not at all as chaotic as it could have been). 

At 3:00 I got off work, went home and took over watching Jaylee for Mike (who had no idea what he was doing and was exhausted after 45 minutes with her), cleaned up, packed Goose into the car, picked up Alex from her granny's, and drove back out to Dafni's house for everyone - my dad, Daniel, Alex, and Jaylee - to meet Brielle for the first time. We left much earlier than we would have wished, but also much later since we all had to get up early the next day. We got home and I helped Daniel with his packing, then went straight to bed.

Thursday I worked, picked Mike up from work, and finally got to have an evening at home (though dinner was a bit of a scrounge since we had nothing in the house and were waiting on a paycheck).Today I worked half a day, walked home, and helped Benjamin with a project he was working on; I am now, finally, for the first time since last Saturday afternoon, feeling like things are back to normal. It's so nice, though I miss all the family I got to see so much over the long weekend.

And now I get to go shower, because I literally have not had a chance since Tuesday morning and my hair is feeling it. I spent naptime at work yesterday catching up on the blogs and Facebook, spent an hour this afternoon catching up on Google+, and have revived my blog. Welcome back, real life.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baby Brielle

I have a new niece today! I've been at my sister's house for the past four days, since she started having contractions Saturday night; tonight I see my bed (and the internet) for the first time since then. Baby Brielle was 9 pounds, 9 ounces, and 23 inches long. She is so beautiful and I can't wait to see her again tomorrow (when I will hopefully also get a hold of some of the pictures we took). In the meantime, here are these:

And now, goodnight. I am about as exhausted as I can be considering that no babies came out of my uterus today, and I start work again tomorrow with Lana and her new little sister. 5:30 am can only come too soon.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What Women Know

Last week I was reading something fascinating--a Master's thesis by Julie Hollist, entitled "The Ideal Mormon Woman: An Analysis of Ensign Articles and Comparison to LDS Women's Perceptions of Gender Role Expectations"--which could really be a post (or several) of its own, and I might end up doing that too but in the meantime I'm just establishing the trail through which I found this: the subject of today's post.

(written in response to this, which many of you probably remember)

"Several ideas within the body of President Beck's talk conflict with our inspiration and experience. We are authors of our own lives, and this is the story we know to be true: 

Fathers as well as mothers, men as well as women, are called to nurture. Nurturing is not confined to mothering or housekeeping, but is a universal attribute that communicates patience, peacefulness, and care.

Housework is something that grownups do and that children learn by example and instruction. Unfortunately, women and girls still perform the bulk of the world's low-paid and unpaid labor, including housework—often at the expense of their own education, leadership, creativity, health, and well-being. Men and boys who share care-work and household responsibilities make it possible for all family members to live happier, more fulfilling lives.

We reject teachings that encourage women to shoulder ultimate responsibility for every aspect of child-rearing and family life, and to take on shame and guilt when things do not go according to plan.

The choice to have children does not rule out other avenues of influence and power. By valuing ourselves as lifelong achievers, apart from our roles as mothers, friends, partners, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers, we stand for creativity, public service, competence, and growth. We take joy in the collective contributions we make in the fields of government, medicine, academia, law, journalism, human services, business, art, health care advocacy, music, technology, child development, and science.

Men are our fathers, sons, brothers, partners, lovers, and friends. Many of them also struggle within a system that equates leadership with hierarchy and domination. We distrust separate-but-equal rhetoric; anyone who is regularly reminded that she is “equally important” is probably not. Partnership is illusory without equal decision-making power.

We claim the life-affirming powers of spirit and wisdom, and reject the glorification of violence in all its forms. We are filled with unutterable sadness by the Book of Mormon story of more than 2,000 young soldiers whose mothers teach them that faith in God will preserve them in battles in which they kill other mothers' children. This is not a success story. It is a story of the failure of human relationships and the horrors of war. In a world that has grown increasingly violent, we believe that one of the most important passages in LDS scripture is D&C 98:16: 'Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace. . . .'”

There are a few more if you follow the link, but these are the ones that resonate especially with me. What do you think? Were there parts of Sister Beck's talk that bothered you, or are you more uncomfortable with what I just posted? I was surprised to see the last point about the glorification of violence--but pleasantly so, because I very much agree. Which points surprised you, if any?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Help! Help! I'm Being Repressed!

With the new layout, the "like" buttons are now working! I guess my last several templates really were repressing the code. (P.S. How do you like the new layout?)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Favorite Books of 2011

Best YA and Middle Grade
  • The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
  • A brilliant novel about a German girl during World War II. Interesting fact: It's narrated by Death.
  • Because of Mr. Terupt, by Rob Buyea
    One of the best books, YA or otherwise, I've read in a long time. About a fifth-grade class that goes through some pretty big changes when there's a tragedy in their class.
  • Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt
    Sequel to The Wednesday Wars, though it isn't necessary to have read the first. Both so, so wonderful.
  • I am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak
    A surprisingly unique plot, though the Hero's Journey is obvious.
  • For the Win, by Cory Doctorow
    Par for the Cory Doctorow course: thrilling story, cast of technological teen prodigies, rebellion against the corrupt establishment, terrifying semi-futuristic plotlines that don't sound all that futuristic, and the occasional surprisingly-understandable explanation of concepts that are otherwise really hard for me.
Best Nonfiction
Best Adult Fiction
  • Dreams of Joy, by Lisa See
    Amazing sequel to Shanghai Girls; takes place in newly-Communist China.
  • Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami
    My favorite Haruki Murakami so far. Beautiful writing, beautiful characters. One of my very favorite books.
  • Chocolat, by Joanne Harris
    The book on which the movie was based. I love them both deeply. 
  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski
    Not my usual fare, and therefore all the more wonderful because of the surprise. About a boy born mute (but not deaf) into a family that breeds a very special kind of dog. Very similar to a certain Shakespeare play.
  • Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson
    Good old Brandon Sanderson; you really can't go wrong with him if you're even the tiniest bit interested in the fantasy genre.
  • Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett
    I seem to have had a stronger reaction to this book than most of the other people I know who've read it, but I don't know why. It's a gorgeous book based on the Lima Crisis of 1996-7; a really fascinating story.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Can We Hear Ourselves When We Say These Things?

Published: January 16th, 2012
Almost 40 American religious leaders have collectively issued an open letter warning about the threat to religious freedom posed by the potential legalisation of same-sex marriage in the US. 

The letter, which includes contributions from evangelical, Catholic and Jewish leaders, warns that the introduction of homosexual marriages would end up “pressuring both individuals and religious organisations - throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies - to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.”

I can respond to this only by reposting something I posted a few days ago:
Same-sex marriage does not threaten heterosexual marriage in any way. Churches will not be required to perform ceremonies that they are morally against. Marriage is not a Christian practice, it is a human practice. And it is wrong to tell others that they can't get married because of your beliefs. If homosexuality is wrong, God will deal with it. End of story.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Confessions of a Closet Catholic, by Sarah Darer Littman--6.5/10

I loved the premise of this book. The protagonist is eleven-almost-twelve, a Jewish girl who decides to give up being Jewish for Lent. Her best friend is Catholic, and Justine really wants to be, too--so she sets up a confessional in her closet with her teddy bear priest (Father Ted), a contraband rosary, her Hail Mary cheat sheet, and matza and grape juice for communion.

Her exploration is mixed in with the typical trials of childhood--feeling less loved as the middle child, thinking she's ugly (of course, because she has curly hair), having a crush on her best friend's brother--and I think would be really great for older kids and younger teenagers to read. The religious questions make it interesting for adults, too, and the age of the protagonist makes the process heartwarming rather than painful (like it often is when the questioner is older). If nothing else, I think it's always important to get to know other religions, and since I'm neither Catholic nor (religiously) Jewish, I really enjoyed this.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin--5.5/10

Overall, a pretty disappointing endeavor. I loved the first several discs, the part  about Alice's childhood at Oxford. She was a bright, interesting girl with a lovely curiosity and a kind heart. I really enjoyed the image of her early life and her family's relationship with Charles Dodson.

It was teenage Alice that made me gag, the Alice that was "courting." Oh, she was irritating. She simpered and sighed and grew weak and trembly when she thought of her love (literally: once, he kissed her, and her knees actually buckled. He had to catch her and carry her to a chair). It was just gross--and her romantic relationships were almost the sole topic of that entire portion of the book.

Adult Alice was pretty typically Victorian, too, but there's less opportunity for matrons to be gag-inducing, so the third section was better essentially by default. There was more depth in the content, too--more introspection as she grows old, and more narrative interest in the form of her sons going to war. If I would have stopped around disc eight (which I considered), I would have hated the whole thing. The end pulled things together enough that I don't regret having read it, but it certainly wasn't one of my favorites.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January's a Good Time for Thinking about Civil Rights

In 1966, Uhura was the first black woman as a main character on American television who was not a servant. NBC refused to let Nichelle Nichols be a regular, claiming Deep South affiliates would be angered, so Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry hired her as a “day worker,” but included her in almost every episode. She actually made more money than any of the other actors through this workaround, but it was still a humiliating second-class status. The network people made life hard for Nichols, constantly trying to pare down her screen time, purposefully dropping racist comments in her presence and even withholding her fan mail from her. This deplorable state of affairs led Nichols to make the decision to quit after the first season, but then she happened to meet the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who pleaded with her to stick with the show because as a black woman she was portraying the first non-stereotypical role on television.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Philosophy Series: Being Commanded in All Things

I thought I should probably share some examples of things I think fall into the category of being commanded in all things, especially since the original post sounds a little harsh on its own. This started out as a comment on the other post, and then got so long that I decided it should be not only a post of its own, but one in the philosophy series. It essentially is a kind of unorthodox-Mormon manifesto anyway, so I suppose it could be considered my philosophy on being Mormon. I'm bugged by these kinds of things, some more than others:
  • CES won't hire women with children under 18 to be seminary or institute teachers (though they can be secretaries). If a woman is teaching seminary and becomes pregnant, she is fired. What gives CES the right to make this decision for women?
  • CES won't hire single men to teach, or sometimes hires them with the condition that if they're not married within two years, they're fired. If a teacher gets divorced, he (not sure about women) is fired.
    (This is a "more than others." These policies are not just overly-controlling, they're discriminatory and absolutely appalling.)
  • Sleepovers. They've now been discouraged in General Conference (scroll up to the beginning of the paragraph) and alluded to in For the Strength of Youth (in the Sexual Purity chapter, interestingly, as though many LDS teens are throwing coed sleepovers), so to many Mormons this will be considered doctrine. I think that's absurd. It might be good advice, but this barges right in on territory that should belong quite firmly to parents. Religions should not be regulating this kind of activity.
  • LDS funerals are considered church meetings and must be conducted by a bishop or stake president. The bishop tells the mourning family what music can and cannot be played, and the church handbook specifies that no rituals or customs of other religions are allowed. It also says that no digital presentations can be used, and that "teaching and testifying about the plan of salvation, particularly the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection, is an essential purpose of the services associated with a Church member’s death." In fact, the handbook says, “Funerals provide an important opportunity to teach the gospel and testify of the plan of salvation. They also provide an opportunity to pay tribute to the deceased. However, such tributes should not dominate a funeral service.” Really?? That seems one hundred percent backward to me, and I think it's wrong for the church to restrict how members honor their dead.
  • Mormon culture generally requires that young men wear white shirts to pass the sacrament, even though the church handbook specifically says it is not required. It is also highly frowned upon for women to wear pants, though there is no reason why they shouldn't, and certainly no rule telling them to do so (at least not in regular church meetings). Young men are harassed for having shaggy hair or not wearing a tie, and are not allowed to have earrings. Young women are only allowed to have one pair. In some circumstances men are not allowed to have facial hair or ponytails. In some women are required to wear skirts and pantyhose (missions, the MTC, and working for CES, for example). Why must we care so much about people's appearance?? Every one of those things is completely arbitrary, a matter of culture if anything, and yet it is included as a principle of our religion (whether officially or not).
  • The blanket prohibition against R-rated movies (which, thankfully, is something General Authorities appear to be moving away from; the last time it was mentioned in Conference was ten years ago, though it's shown up in the New Era and Friend plenty since then). You've probably heard it a million times, and for good reason--MPAA ratings are arbitrary and useless. I've seen PG-13 movies that were trashy and vulgar, and I've seen R movies that were lovely and uplifting and beautiful. Please, watch The King's Speech and tell me that there's anything inappropriate about it. It's a beautiful movie and I would gladly sit down and watch it with the entire Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency. Watch Match Point, and compare the sexual content to that of The Notebook or any of the old James Bond movies. Watch Bridesmaids and compare it to What Women Want and Dinner for Schmucks. (I'm not going to say I'd want to watch Bridesmaids with General Authorities--just pointing out how arbitrary the ratings are.)
The thing that people often say in response to some of these points--the thing I myself said until less than a year ago--is that it's "a matter of principle; if the prophet asked us not to do it, then that's good enough for me." Well, I don't feel that way anymore. I don’t think “because someone told me to” is a good reason to do anything, even if that someone is the prophet.

I think we need to make our choices for ourselves. Following the prophet’s counsel is a choice, yes, but the way Mormons often approach it, it's a choice that pretty much absolves you of any further responsibility. Essentially I think we've just misunderstood what “following the prophet” means. It doesn't mean that you make a one-time, blanket decision to always follow anything and everything the prophet says no matter what--I think it means that you take each individual issue and look at it, consider it, see what it would mean for you, and then decide whether or not you’re going to follow the prophet’s counsel regarding that specific issue. And I don't think there's anything wrong with deciding that you feel differently about something, because I believe that our personal relationships with God take precedence over the rules set by the church for its membership of fourteen million. I don't believe that it's only okay to question as long as you end up coming to the same conclusion they do, because that would mean it isn't really okay to question.
The gospel is the substance of the divine plan for personal, individual salvation and exaltation. The Church is the delivery system that provides the means and resources to implement this plan in each individual’s life. Procedures programs and policies are developed within the Church to help us realize gospel blessings according to our individual capacity and circumstances. Under divine direction, these policies, programs, and procedures do change from time to time as necessary to fulfill gospel purposes. Underlying every aspect of Church administration and activity are the revealed eternal principles as contained in the scriptures. As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we become less dependent on Church programs. Our lives become gospel centered.

...The conformity we require should be according to God’s standards. The orthodoxy upon which we insist must be founded in fundamental principles and eternal law, including free agency and the divine uniqueness of the individual. It is important therefore to know the difference between eternal gospel principles which are unchanging, universally applicable, and cultural norms which may vary with time and circumstance.

--Ronald Poelman, First Quorum of the Seventy
I realize that sounds like I'm saying my life is more gospel-centered than that of people who are Mormon in the orthodox way, so I want to tell you right up front that I am not saying that. In fact I guarantee the opposite is true in countless cases. But I do want to say that the more I think about Mormon culture, the more similarities I'm starting to see between us and the Jews--following rule after rule that must seem, to outsiders, completely arbitrary and pointless, and that don't even have any significance if you follow them for the sake of the letter of the law instead of the spirit of it. As a people, as members of the LDS church, I think that we will become more gospel-centered when we can stop caring so much about the tiny little things and focus on the actual principles of Christ's teachings. I doubt very much if God cares whether we have one earring or twelve, vote Communist in the next election, or try every kind of alcohol there is at some point in our lives. What I think he cares about is that we respect our bodies, be good neighbors to others, and never judge someone who does do those things. LDS culture could make some progress in that area.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dear Mormons:

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
Doctrine and Covenants 58:26

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Favorite Posts of 2011

My friend Laura did this on her art blog and I really liked the idea.

My Blog's Top Five Most Popular Posts (of all time, actually, not just this year, but they do all come from this year--apparently I was on a roll in 2011!)
  1. 20 Greatest Harry Potter Characters
  2. Philosophy Series: Filling Out the Abortion Discussion
  3. Philosophy Series: Abortion
  4. Puritan Mormons
  5. Watching the Daily Show doesn't usually make me angry...
My Favorite Posts:

Monday, January 2, 2012

P.S.--About My Reading Theme

I decided to scrap the fiction theme for this year because I know I won't be able to do it justice and I don't want to waste such a good one. This shall be the year of feminism, both fiction and non. I'll be reading other nonfiction, too, particularly in the realms of politics, philosophy, and religion. And I'm still doing the Bible. (If you're interested in a fiction reading challenge, check out my friend Larissa's!)

2011 in Pictures and Links

I spent most of January waiting to hear back from the library between interviews, and then finding out that I didn't get the job. Yeah, I still think about that every so often when I'm there. I saw Maya Angelou and, to end the month on a more awesome note, we road-tripped to San Antonio to hang out with the newly-wed Megan and Eric.

In February I found out that I'd been un-Facebook-friended by some close friends from college, and it really hurt. Snowpocalypse 2011 was weirdly under-represented on my blog; I checked out 100 YA books for feminists and adopted a new philosophy for the changes happening in my life. My lovely aunt Virginia was in Dallas for business and stopped in for a day, and Megan got her wedding photos back and gave us this magazine-worthy example of Lin's and my collective fabulousness:

In March I was lamenting the movie landscape of 2011 (which was not very promising but improved quite a bit in the second half of the year), being enraged by the fight in Wisconsin over collective bargaining rights, and reminiscing.

April was pretty much the worst. There were some bad family things going on, and a friend from high school was killed in Afghanistan. Perhaps to take my mind off those things, I spent a lot of time being in love with nature and started my philosophy series.

I don't know if May was so much better to make up for April having been one of the worst months of my adult life, or if it was just better in comparison (because April was the worst). But May was fantastic. We had a reunion of sorts, spent several really wonderful days with my family, went to my brother's murder mystery dinner, house/babysat for my baby cousin, saw Gary Shteyngart and Sarah Dessen at the Dallas Museum of Art, and saw Bridesmaids in the theater two or three times (it became my favorite movie of 2011). I read some really fantastic books and saw a PostSecret that turned out to be foreshadowing for what was to come later in the year.

In June I turned 26, learned some interesting things about myself, read new Lisa See, and went out with friends to do some awesome karaoke. Also, June is an excellent time for getting photos of people in midair.

In July I had to give up on the big trip Mike and I were planning, which would have been our first out of the country. I'd been planning it for months and was really depressed when it fell through. Luckily July was also the month of the last Harry Potter movie's release, and my siblings and I did a marathon leading up to the midnight showing. And I discovered / scanned to Facebook a lot of old family pictures and was really happy with the conversations and reminiscing that started because of it.

In August I read Thomas Hardy for therapy, saw this guy speak (and liked him less for it), and thought about how much I love historical fiction and wish my history classes in high school had done justice to the subject.

In September I took a break from the interwebs, particularly Facebook and news sites, and it was really fantastic. I started a weekly feature that didn't last very long once my internet hiatus ended. I celebrated Banned Books Week, discovered that some of my chronic headaches have now morphed into migraines, and posted--all at once--the first two of my Mormon posts. September is when I discovered all the new blogs that I've loved reading since.

Mike's sister got married in October, so we went to Utah. In a spontaneous addition to our plans, I got to have lunch with Megan and go to Counterpoint--hopefully the first of many times! I shared the conclusions I came to during my September hiatus, documented Texas's Evil Summer of 2011, went to the State Fair with my family, and went trick or treating with a Goose.

November was quiet. I spent a lot of time reading blogs, came out as one hundred percent pro-marriage equality, discovered several really brilliant articles about rape culture and gender privilege, and had a lovely Thanksgiving with my family (plus an early one with our friends, for which I made amazing Parker House rolls).

My boss had her baby right after Thanksgiving, so in December I started a two-month leave from work while she's on maternity leave. I got twenty-year-old spam, followed by a Christmas Eve email from an unknown blog reader that was a really wonderful surprise. I posted articles that yielded the two most epic conversations in the history of my Facebook wall (you can only see them if we're FB friends, but if we're not and you'd like to be, send me a request!) as well as a surprise--hopefully not unpleasant--for many of my friends. Dafni and Brandon came to stay for the entire Christmas vacation (they just went home a couple hours ago, actually) and it was really fabulous having them here.

It was a surprisingly hard year for me. Some great things happened, and daily activities were the usual. But some pretty terrible things happened, too, and I've never had such an emotionally painful year. I am hoping hard that 2012 will be better on this front. It looks promising so far!