31 December 2011

The End of An Odd Year

It is the last day of the year 2011. If you lived in my world that would mean the end of an odd year, literally. For me, anything related to numbers is automatically catagorized in to even and odd. And I confess I have a rather unjust bias against odd numbers. If I encounter them I consider it a bad omen, or I attempt to mathematically manipulate them into becoming even. And yes, I know that this tendency is, in fact, quite odd. Of course, I like oddities--any odd thing really, except an odd number. Which only makes my distaste for odd numbers stranger and more unfair than ever. But that's the way it works, in my mind at least.

2011. Yes, it is quite an odd year. But, if we take a closer look, it really has an even tendency that is just crying to get out. The first step to achieving evenness is to recognize our odd number is really quite even at heart: being as 1+1=2 we find a lovely and symmetrical 202. Then, of course, we see that 2+2= 4, thus the sum of this year is pleasantly even. And should we care to, we could divide it into each place perfectly evenly as 1111.

What does all of this mean. Well, nothing. But I guess, in reality, I feel like 2011 was a bit odd, but not in a bad way. It must be those even undertones!

I am not good at pulling out each moment and making lists of favorites and important events. These things slip through my fingers and the individual moments meld into what becomes an overall feeling or idea of the year. This year I am left with a feeling of blessedness.When I look back at this year (and at my life as a whole up to this point) there have been ups and downs and twists and turns; tears and laughter and joy and pain; struggles and doubts and fears and growth. But what I feel more than anything is love and happiness. I love my life, even though it is simple and small in the scheme of things. I love my life because of everything I have learned and everywhere I have been and, more than anything else, because of all the people who have shown up along the way to teach me and love me and help me and who make each moment, no matter how difficult, terrifying or incomprehensibly beautiful, worth living.

I have a faulty memory and at times it is hard to really put together the pieces of my life and figure out how one led to another. There hasn't always been continuity in the path I've taken, and it definitely hasn't been a straight shot from one point to the next. Yet I have enjoyed every bump and hill and tangent. I wouldn't change where I've been. I am happy where I am. And I am excited...SO excited... for whatever is coming next.

Farewell 2011. Hello 2012. May this year be, for all of us, one filled with love, joy, hope and opportunities for growth and change! Sending my best wishes, love and blessings to one and all!

24 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Love, peace and joy to one and all. And another favorite...


John Lennon!

23 December 2011

The best promise

"Truly He taught us to love one another,
His Law is love, and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease."

I love this version of "O Holy Night" sung in two sweet voices. Though I love most Christmas music, this has to be one of my all time favorites. The message of hope, love and peace; of praise and rejoicing; of brotherhood and unity--it is gorgeous! Every time I hear the lines "Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease" my heart swells with joy and hope. I am reminded of the great promise that the Savior Jesus Christ lived, died and was resurrected for each and every person to be born on this earth; that He loves us all; and that through the infinite power of His atonement He will redeem, comfort and save us. The Savior will bring peace and through Him we will be freed from the inequality, the hatred and the destruction that is so prevalent in the world we live in. He has overcome all things, and through Him we can too.

But I also love the first lines, that remind us of the part we play in His plan: we must be good to one another; we must love and care for all people; for "His law is love, and His gospel is peace." I believe that the Savior will free all humankind from pain, suffering and death, but to do so He will use us and teach us to be holy, to love and to forsake all of our hatreds, prejudices, selfishness and pride.

Listening to this song makes me want to love a bit more deeply and do my best to spread peace in any and every way that i can. And I love it!

22 December 2011


When I was in Oporto I heard a great Portuguese song, the subsequent search for which led me to this song, which I am now obsessed with.

It is actually Brazilian. Which reminds me that I drank some delicious Maracuyá juice yesterday at a Turkish Kebab place. Maracuyá grows in Brazil, as do many delicious fruits. And I now want nothing more than to move to Brazil, eat delicious tropical fruit, explore the rain forest, soak up some sun at the beach and listen to good music!!

But Spain is okay too, I guess ;)


Sometimes when traveling I have a rather hard time sleeping. For various reasons. Sometimes it is because I am scared out of my wits. For example, in high school when my choir went to a competition and I woke up screaming in the hotel only to find out the my roommate was having a "night terror" and was yelling and pounding on the door trying to escape from people she thought were attacking her. Needless to say images of her dream-fiends crawling in the the bathroom window and hovering over my bed in the dark didn't exactly lull me to sleep.

Then there was the time a few years ago when I had to "sleep" in my aunt's "office," where she keeps all of her magic supplies--crystal balls, various useful materials for seances, books on voodoo, magic and spirits. As hard as I tried not to be mortified by the thought of the strange spirits that my aunt evoked in that space, I couldn't for the life of me free myself from the sensation that I wasn't alone in that room. And I didn't like it. I don't know that I've stayed in bed so still and wide-eyed with fear since I was a little kid afraid of the dark. All I wanted to do was get out, but I was too afraid to move.

Most recently, I had a different kind of frightening experience the first night I spent in Porto, Portugal a couple weeks ago. This particular scary night had less to do with dreams and imaginary(?) spirits and much more to do with the two random roommates I was sharing the hostel dorm with.

To try my best to make a long story short (though generally I am much more adept at making short stories long...):
When I went to bed around midnight on the top of one of the two bunk beds, no one else was in the room. So, my first introduction came at 4:30am when one of them flung open the door, half crazy and (I assume) quite drunk. He woke up his friend (who had come in earlier and gone straight to sleep), and me, asking for empanadas which apparently he suspected the other roommate had, or perhaps had eaten. This was all going on in Spanish, and while I was half asleep. I tried to ignore the arguing, until I heard a large crash and, peering over the edge of my bunk bed, witnessed an all out brawl as the formerly sleeping roommated pummelled the other guy, and then vise versa. I think I interjected a few feeble, "what are you doing?"s and "what is going on?"s. And then continued to stare wide eyed and opened mouthed at this unbelievable scene from my loft above. After they stopped hitting each other, the sleepy roommate started getting dressed and throwing things around the room and threatening to turn the other guy in to the police. The other one told him he was making a fool of himself and that he'd kill sleepy if he went to the police. They argued for awhile longer, until the sleepy one left (to go the police??) and I realized I was still staring at this random guy (who I now realized was a potential killer). I quickly lied down tried to look like I was sleeping, as the guy got into his bed and said "sorry" before turning out the light. I confess I found his apology rather feeble and insufficient given the situation at hand! But I let it go.

For the next twenty minuted I stayed in bed half trying to sleep/half contemplating the likelihood that this guy sleeping two feet away from me might be a dangerous criminal. Finding it impossible to sleep under these circumstances I finally crept out of bed and sneaked (why can't it be snuck??) out of the room as stealthily as possible... just in case! When I got down stairs to the lobby the hostel worker looked at my half asleep, dishevelled, barefooted self as if I was crazy. And when I explained that I was having trouble sleeping after being awakened by a rather noisy fight and threats between my roommates he helped me get some tea and eventually found me another place to sleep for the night.

Being as it was 6:30 in the morning before I went back to bed, and that I spent most of my remaining hours of sleep wondering how I was going to get back into the room with the scary strangers to collect my things in the morning, it was overall a rather tiring night.

But by the morning, it didn't seem quite as scary, and I felt perhaps I had slightly overreacted with my hasty escape during the night (though I still checked to make sure I would have different roommates the next night and crept quietly into the room in order not to wake anyone up when I went back for my things). So, when I was getting some hot chocolate in the kitchen after breakfast and some guy who I asked to pass the milk apologized to me for last night, I thought perhaps he had confused me with someone else. Until I realized--"Eres tu!" The dangerous criminal from the night before was there before my eyes, speaking to me quite politely and looking much more like a very embarrassed and sleepy young man than a murder. So after embarrassing him a bit more by recounting and questioning him about the events of the previous night in front of everyone at the table, I felt quite alright about forgiving him entirely. I mean, I might not have gotten much sleep, but at least I had an interesting adventure.

And the next night my roommates were girls who went to sleep before I did! Which reminds me of something I heard once-- a hostel is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. Or something like that, anyway.

16 December 2011

Remember your place

So it turns out that I have one thing in common with Taylor Swift (please skip to minute 5:46 of this video to find out what):

Yes, that's right: "Mi español no es muy bueno."

When this clip came on the news, Dulia, the woman I live with, laughed and said, "It sounds like you when you speak Spanish!" Then, perhaps to soften the blow, she added, "You speak a little better, but you have the same accent!"

Cool. Awesome. Thanks Dulia. Thank you for putting me in my place. I've spent the last 3 months gaining a certain confidence in my Spanish speaking abilities, but luckily for me I have you to take that prideful nonsense and smash it to pieces in 2 seconds flat. Super.

It's especially great since I have been studying spanish for the last 7 billion years, and apparently Taylor heard it for the first time about 3 seconds before stepping onto stage.


13 December 2011

Out of Control

The myth

Part of my life in Spain is that some things seem to be pretty much out of my control. The food I eat (since I eat with the familyI live with), my schedule (since I have to rely on public transportation), and especially the kids in my classes. They are CRAZY (sometimes)!!!

I have one classes that was starting to drive me nuts. The teacher and I decided to teach together today rather than splitting the class in half like we usually do. I decided to see what techniques he used to control the class and get the kids to listen. What he did was: NOTHING! He didn't control the class or make them be quiet and listen or ask them to put away their homework for other classes or participate as a class. He just let them be, and then walked around the class talking to the students. And honestly, I think everyone was much happier than in my classes when I insist on everyone behaving properly. But maybe part of my cultural experience is understanding that in some classes, the kids just aren't going to be perfect angels, and that the teachers don't expect them to be.

For me, it's hard not to feel like I am failing as a teacher if my students aren't listening attentively, participating and concentrating on our class material. But maybe that is just prideful. And maybe, it really is okay to let go of a little control and just go with the flow. This shall be my new experiment.

12 December 2011


I have a love/hate relationship with pants. Yes, pants. Of any kind. Jeans, slacks, stretchy pants, sweat pants. You name the kind and I both adore them and despise them.

I love pants because they are comfortable. Because they keep me warm. Because I can wear them without shaving my legs for weeks (or months) without grossing people out. Because I don't have to worry about how I sit when I wear them. Because they are easy. Because they are versitile and can be worn for a casual affair or be dressed up for work or a nice outing. Because they come in many styles and colors. Because they are generally accepted as a normal mode of dress in my culture.

I hate them because THEY NEVER FIT.

And no, that is not an exaggeration.

Being here in Spain has only exasperated the problem further. Since there are hardly any dryers in Spain (which is great for the environment, but rather inconvenient for laundry procrastinators) my pants don't even have the benefit of a good shrinking after washing, and are thus constantly too big and sliding down. And yes, I have belts and I know that's what they're made for. But I hate belts and wearing them makes me depressed (which is another story completely and you can ask me about it some other day if you wish.. one rant is enough for now).

So, I am stuck with the problem of having short, saggy, baggy-in-the-butt pants. And I just wanted to share that with you today.

Happy Monday!

29 November 2011

A dream or divinity

It was strange, but but for some reason this evening, while I was at an activity tonight with some Spanish friends, I suddenly realized that I was glowingly happy. Really. It's strange, because I didn't even realize it until I thought, Wow! Why can't I stop smiling? I just wanted to sing (which I actually did since we were practicing for our choir... which will perform on Sunday!!!) and give everyone hugs!

There are many contributing factors: I talked to my sister today. I received a beautiful card with inspirational quotes I definitely needed to read in the mail from an amazing woman who I love dearly. I had a great day with my classes (things seem to be much better this week now that they are done with their exams...). And I have been feeling extra blessed, protected and loved lately, which is rather amazing.

But mostly I think it is because this weekend I experienced this:

The pictures I took cannot even begin to capture the magnificence of La Sagrada Familia or any of the other incredible Gaudí creations I was lucky enough to experience with weekend in Barcelona. But I know that being surrounded by this incredible and truly inspired beauty touched my soul and changed my view of the world by exposing me to something so ethereal and yet so grand and magnificent. There is no way to see this inexplicable masterpiece and deny that there was something greater than man behind its creation.

I am still stunned. Just thinking about it leaves me speechless and jubilant!

28 November 2011

Add one more to the list

I am also grateful for this beautiful work of art from a girl I knew once upon a time in college. She is an incredible woman, and I have been inspired by her since we first had a class together a few years ago. Now, she is a beautiful mother and an inspiring artist who has created this lovely tribute to a some strong, faithful, independent, and generally amazing women who inspire her. I love it!

The women in my life have always been a vital part of changing me, influencing me, inspiring me and helping me in basically every conceivable way. I am convinced that there is a power in sisterhood that we have only barely begun to tap into or understand. I love that. I love the power and influence of good women in my life! And as most of you who might read this are women, let me say, thank you, my dear sisters, for your love, your examples, your laughter and hugs and encouragement. Thank you for sharing; for talking and listening and for sometimes knowing how to sit in silence. Thank you for your patience and your advice. I love you!

23 November 2011

never enough

Even though my last post was about Christmas, I didn't forget Thanksgiving, nor could I. Perhaps never before in my life have I been more aware of the incredible blessings that allow me to function from day to day. More than anything else, I am overwhelmed by the kindness of others and the incredible strength I receive from my friends and family (and sometimes even complete strangers who show up out of the blue just when I need them most). I am completely incapable of expressing how much love and gratitude I feel for all those who love me and help me and keep me sane from one day to the next. I think many people will never realize how much they have blessed me and how I have depended on them; how they have been for me blessings from God and answers to prayer. Nor will I ever be able to fully explain what all the hugs and smiles and talking and listening, the calls or emails or texts or letters, the examples, the words, the images, the inspiration- all of it and more- I cannot begin to wrap all these things into words or any expression that I know of that could express what it has meant to me. For now, suffice it to say,

Truly. Sincerely. And with all my heart. Thank you. I love you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Just now, after writing this post, I read this verse
that is only too perfectly fitting not to share:
Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people,
whatsoever land they may be in;
yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth.
Now this is my joy, and my thanksgiving;
yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever.


20 November 2011

when we went a-caroling

Maybe because I have recently been singing in a Christmas choir, I keep thinking about Christmas 2004, when I was a Senior in high school and my school choir spent the whole month of December singing. Or at least so it seemed, with concerts and performances in hotels and stores and nursing homes and parties. I remember feeling so proud of our music. It felt like we were really doing something special, partially because we were excused from so many classes. But mostly because we worked really hard to make the songs beautiful--to learn our parts, to blend and balance, to use good technique and to make our voices the best they could be, to memorize the words and the music and the dances--and then to transmit the message of the songs to those we sang for. And also because there is something special about Christmas music. There is something really powerful about the fact that we sing these songs year after year; that we all know the words and the tunes and everyone can sing along; that the music brings back memories we have of Christmases past; and most especially because they talk about peace, love, joy, beauty and the birth of the Savior. It is music that brings us together and reminds us of the love and blessings in our lives. It makes us want to be our best selves and show a little more love to those around us.

So, as I am officially kicking-off the Christmas season, turning on some Christmas tunes and singing Christmas songs, here is one song that I really loved from my Canyon Singer days: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." I particularly am thinking of the line "through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow." I am so grateful for all the years I have had together with my wonderful friends and family! I hope there will be many, many more. And even though I wont be near everyone I love this Christmas, I am already and always thinking of you all and sending you my love and, of course, good luck vibes :)

P.S. Any favorite Christmas tunes/renditions of Christmas songs you'd like to share with me? I am always looking to expand my collection of favorites!!

Merry beginning-of -a-lovely-Christmas-Season to one and all!! xoxoxo.

15 November 2011

Is this real?

Lately it has come to my attention that I have a somewhat strange perspective on my life here in Spain. It's as if I see this is a step out of reality; some kind of intermission in the story of my life. I didn't recognize it at first, but when I noticed myself continually having thoughts like, "In real life I would...." or "If this was my normal life..." or "When I get back to my real life..." The problem is, I haven't stepped into some alternate reality and left my life behind for me to pick back up someday when I get back.

How did I get this strange notion into my head in the first place? I don't quite know. But I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I am far from home and far from the things I have normally done (like being a students, which only consisted of, oh I don't know, practically my entire life). Because I knew when I came here that it was a temporary and I expect to go back to the United States again next year... and also back to school. But also because I have an overly active imagination that causes me, at times, to blur the line between fantasy and reality. Because for months I imagined life here in Spain and now that I am here it is almost as if I have been subsumed into one of my dreams--something that, although close to my actual life, is not actually true, but a realm of semi-reality and unlikely possibility.

I have this problem often--I have to make a concerted effort to differentiate between what is really going on and the imaginary scenarios that I create in my (day) dreams. Just today, for example, I had to yank myself out of an imaginary situation when I realized I was tearing-up as I was walking home from the train and someone on the street might notice. How do you explain that you are crying over an imaginary event that you created in your mind--not something real, but an imagined possibility (though quite distant) based on certain real life events that have occurred. If you don't think I'm crazy by now, I'm sure some Spanish stranger listening to my broken, confused explanation certainly would!

Anyway, the point of this rambling (which in my world of imagination my many readers are raptly interested in, as always :) is that I have somehow convinced myself that I am on a break from reality. I imagined this experience so often perhaps, or the feeling that I have been scooped up from the normalcy of the life I knew and deposited into another world is so strong, that I have started subconsciously dividing my time here from the rest of my life and my "reality." But that can be no more. I am here. And this is real. My life is not on pause, nor can it ever be.

I don't want my life in Spain to be some hazy dream experience, but a vivid piece of my life that can connect with the many other experiences I have had and that will blend into my future and prepare me for what lies ahead. And so, I commence with a new effort to change my mindset and to really live my life here in Spain.

So, saludos y besos from Spain!! I'm really here :) xoxo

13 November 2011

Caution: Work in Progress

If you can't tell, I'm having a blog identity crisis. For some reason I had the urge to change the "look" of my blog awhile back, and I haven't quite gotten it to the point where I really like it again... So sorry if it seems like every post has a new design. It's a work in process. And with me, it's a slow process. But since this blog is in some ways a representation of me, my life and my thoughts, that's actually fitting.

Thanks for your patience. Suggestions welcome!

We're Going Home

For some reason I was thinking about the song "Two of Us" the other day, and it brings me so much joy to listen to it! I think this is my favorite Beatles song! And lets be honest, that's saying something :)

It is a random connection, but this song reminds me of Christmas last year. I would listen to this song in the car sometimes as I drove all over Utah County for my job. I was always busy often hurrying from one place to another, bringing name cards for the Angel Trees, meeting with organizers and volunteers, picking up gifts, delivering materials, helping at the warehouse. There were so many different things to do for Sub for Santa and Angel Tree. I LOVED those days, even though they were long and tiring and there were a million problems to deal with (and it was cold outside), because I really felt like I was accomplishing something that would make life a little happier for children and families during Christmas. I think those few months will always stand out to me as one of the best experiences of my life. I am so glad to be reminded of it now as we're entering into that lovely holiday season once again (can you believe it's already here??!?!?!), living somewhere far away and doing something quite different. It's strange how quickly things change!

And so, a seemingly unassociated song that I love and will always remind me of my long drives around Utah County last year for United Way!

12 November 2011

Advantage. And it's opposite.

A dear friend of mine recently started a graduate program in Social Work. She is learning so much and loving the way her awareness and way of seeing the world is changing the more she understands about social welfare and social justice. She is an incredible woman--brilliant, loving, hard working, insightful, patient, forgiving, tolerant, caring. I love her and I know that she will be an incredible social worker and help so many people!! And I was really excited when she shared this article about racism Because it sheds a lot of light on what goes on in the world and in America, especially the things we don't usually tend to notice. In this particular case it is "white privilege."

The article is written by a woman who studies women's issues. But during the course of investigating the ways in which men are privileged over women, she began to see the ways in which one race is also privileged over others. In "small" ways sometimes. But, when it comes down to it, in ways that make a difference in the way we interact, the opportunities we have,the way we feel about ourselves and the way we fit into society. The accumulation of these little, unnoticed privileges turns into a system of inequality and division.

The things she sites as white privilege really struck a chord with me-- little things like being able to easily find products for you skin or hair type; "flesh" toned band-aids that at least approximate the color of your skin (a black friend and I were joking about this very topic not long ago!); the knowledge that on any given day, if someone treats you poorly you can be confident that it is not because of the color of your skin; the ability to see people who look like you in the media, in positions of authority, or even among your friends and neighbors. The list goes on. And some things seem like a bigger deal than others. But the truth is, when you look at these details, and when you start adding up the ways these factors affect us on a daily basis, they are all part of a system that privileges, and not benignly, one race.

When I look at my experience and my own life, as a white American, I begin to recognize how distinct the differences are. I realize that out of all of my close friends, only two are black. And, in fact, I don't recall ever having a close black friend before starting college. In reality, I have only really gotten to know a handful of black Americans during my lifetime. Why? I don't completely know. Partly because they have been the minority in my communities, schools, and social circles. Because there are still dividing lines. Because we do not live in a country where all people have equal opportunities and where our skin color is irrelevant to where you live, what you do and who you interact with. And the truth is while it has been easy of me not to notice these divisions and the lack of diversity in my own life, it a loss for all of us.

So here is a bit more from the article:
"Disapproving of the systems won’t be enough to change them. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitudes. (But) a “white” skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us. Individual acts can palliate, but cannot end, these problems. . .

"To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these taboo subjects. . .

"It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power, and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already."
In all honesty, I don't know exactly what the solution is. I don't know how we break an "invisible" system of privilege, whether it is based on gender, race or other factors. But I think a start is recognizing it. And confessing to ourselves that we are part of it-- that we are a part of a culture ingrained with prejudices, as is every culture I've ever encountered. And once we recognize these advantages and disadvantages, we need to speak up. I am reminded of a quote a recently read in an essay by a wonderful friend of mine. She sited Elie Wiesel, who said, I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

I love that! I want to be able to say that. I hope we can all take that to heart and live our lives with that conviction. We cannot be silent. We cannot be neutral. And we cannot ignore the injustices in our midst, even if at times they seems small or unimportant. It is our responsibility to recognize them and then to stand up against them, however we can.

I end with the insightful words of one of my best friends. She is hilarious, gorgeous, loving, innocent, yet unbelievably perceptive and wise. She is also a black woman. These are her thoughts on this article:
I wonder what can be done be bring people to look within themselves, both black and white and human in general, to question their (my) preconcieved notions about the world and the people they interact with? I believe that I as an person born in the U.S., even as an African American female, have many hidden privleges that others do not. Not only do I think think there are privleges with being White, but I think there are hidden (and obvious) privleges with being able to speak English in the U.S., or being "educated", or having health insurance for instance. How do we bridge the gap? How do we address the issue of communities not feeling that they can be in a position of authority, even though there has not been anyone that looks like them doing it? How we change the way people think? There are so many comforts that people would not want to give up. It just makes me want to re-assess how I view others and work to be more concious of the biases I carry and work to change them, because I definiely have them.

05 November 2011


Well, more like, BASKET!

Incredibly, I played basketball on Wednesday night. I don't even know how many years it has been since I played b-ball... probably at least 5. But a friend called me to see if I wanted to play, and honestly, I would have done anything! I mean, my social life here in Spain isn't exactly keeping me overly busy right now. So, even knowing that basketball is always a very humbling experience for me, I readily agreed.

So, it was joyously unexpected when I WON!!!

Yes, folks, you read that correctly. I won... while playing basketball. And I didn't even cheat. Nor, in fact, was I very good. What happened was, we played "21" and I got 21 first! How could that be, you ask?? Well, both of my opponents missed 21 (and thus had to score 31, then 41 and even 51 points in order to win because you can only win with EXACTLY 21 points). So, with less than half as many points as the other players, I won. And you know what, I'm perfectly happy with that.

In sum: I won. And you should feel free to congratulate me :)

01 November 2011

On my little heart

I can't stop listening to this song. Because every time I do, I feel like my heart is breaking, but only so that it can be rebuilt, stronger and more full of love than ever before.

Everything about it makes me want to be better. Not only is it a gorgeous song with a beautiful message, but the fact that it is a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., one of my greatest heroes, makes it all the more powerful. It stirs in me a desire to be the best I can be and to give to the world, and to the Lord, everything I have. I love it!

The same old thing

Someday I will grow up and be responsible.

Until then, my life will always be the same. I will know what I should do and think I'm going to do it. But in the end, something will happen and I'll end up with the same pathetic, guilty feeling as usual, knowing I have been irresponsible... again.

For example, tonight was "Home Evening" for some young adults at my Church. Because today was a holiday, the family I live with, who usually go to Home Evening and open the building, didn't think anyone would go. I offered to go, just in case, and bring the key to the building. They told me I didn't need to, but I could go if I wanted.

I knew I should go, because I had a feeling that some people would be there. And it isn't a big deal to go. So I was planning on it. But then...

I am moving from my room to a different part of the house and I got caught up with that,
And I talked to my mom on Skype,
And I was tired,
And I didn't want to put on any make-up and get ready,
And then it was already past the time I needed to leave to catch the train....

so I didn't go.

Then I found out that some of the group did go, and they couldn't get into the building. And if I had just done what I knew I should do, there wouldn't have been any problem.


So anyway, if you were wondering, that is my life in a nutshell. Yay.

30 October 2011

Who can mind her own business?

I am so grateful for my friend Chelsea who shared the NYTimes article Seven Billion on her blog. And, because it is amazing and I just can't help myself, I am going to write about a few thoughts I have too.

The article (and some awesome videos from National Geographic which I will put at the end of the post) talks about what it means to live in a world with 7 billion+ people. It asks if the earth can support our ever growing numbers; it asks what will happen as our populations shift--as a whole we are become older, more urban and our population centers are shifting from the "west" to China, India and Africa; and as our lifestyles change and more and more people in the world are living like those of us in the United States and Europe (i.e. using more resources on a daily basis than many people in the world use over years or, in some cases, lifetimes). Obviously, we don't know exactly what will happen in the next 10, 20, 50 years. We don't know how things will change, but we know change will happen. And as I see it, in large measure the future is in our hands. It is up to us what tomorrow will look like. We have choices to make that will determine the future of this planet and the people who live here. And many of those choices have to do with our daily lives.

The article concludes with these paragraphs on our future and our priorities:

Is economic development the best contraception? Or is voluntary contraception the best form of development? Does the world need a bigger pie (more productive technologies) or fewer forks (slower population growth through voluntary contraception) or better manners (fewer inequities, less violence and corruption, freer trade and mobility, more rule of law, less material-intensive consumption)? Or is education of better quality and greater availability a key ingredient of all other strategies?

All these approaches have value. However much we would like one, there is no panacea, though some priorities are clear: voluntary contraception and support services, universal primary and secondary education, and food for pregnant and lactating mothers and children under 5.

These priorities are mutually reinforcing, and they are affordable. Providing modern family planning methods to all people with unmet needs would cost about $6.7 billion a year, slightly less than the $6.9 billion Americans are expected to spend for Halloween this year. By one estimate, achieving universal primary and secondary education by 2015 would cost anywhere from $35 billion to $70 billion in additional spending per year.

IF we spend our wealth — our material, environmental, human and financial capital — faster than we increase it by savings and investment, we will shift the costs of the prosperity that some enjoy today onto future generations. The mismatch between the short-term incentives that guide our political and economic institutions and even our families, on one hand, and our long-term aspirations, on the other, is severe.

We must increase the probability that every child born will be wanted and well cared for and have decent prospects for a good life. We must conserve more, and more wisely use, the energy, water, land, materials and biological diversity with which we are blessed.

Henceforth we need to measure our growth in prosperity: not by the sheer number of people who inhabit the earth, and not by flawed measurements like G.D.P., but by how well we satisfy basic human needs; by how well we foster dignity, creativity, community and cooperation; by how well we care for our biological and physical environment, our only home.

With all of that said, here is what I think:

First of all, I think it is a blessing to live in a world where our lives are inescapably connected--if we recognize that fact. Because, among my beliefs about human beings are these two things:
1) people are basically good and everyone is capable of doing something that will benefit the world; and...

2) we are innately self-centered and naturally less aware of those around us than we are of ourselves (and perhaps our family member or those who we are very close to).
So, even though we have the potential to help others and do great things in the world, often we don't even recognize the problems of others, or if we do we don't see a connection between these issues our own lives and the ways in which we can influence those problems. However, the growing awareness that we live in a global community where the welfare of people across the world will have an impact on the way I live and vice versa can be, I believe, a powerful motivation for all of us to look beyond ourselves and our immediate situation to see how we fit into the bigger picture; what we can each contribute. This knowledge that in a world of 7 billion people and counting, we cannot live with affecting and being affected by the rest of those 7 billion helps us step outside of our natural "personal bubble," which in turn, will allow us to use the goodness we inherently have to influence the world in spectacular ways. If we so choose.

And that isn't just speculation. There are people all over the world who have opened their eyes to the problems around them and have done astonishing things, often with few resources and little expertise. Their main qualitification: love. A qualification available to each and every one of of us. There is nothing more powerful or more sacred than love. Pure love.

"The highest, noblest, strongest king of love"
"Charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Wherefore, my beloved bretheren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
Wherefore, my beloved bretheren, pray unto the Father with all energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen."

As a member of the human family, a creature on this earth and a recipient of uncountable blessings, charity is my ultimate and immediate goal. It is my belief that, whatever else we do here on earth, the main purpose of our time here is to learn what it means to truly love others-- to be like, and love like, Christ, whose life and atonement is, for me, the ultimate demonstration of charity.

And charity comes in more forms that we recognize, and can come from anywhere and anyone. When we talk about our place in a world of 7 billion people, charity means knowing that every time I am wasteful with my resources I am harming someone else. It means mindfulness. It means acting consciously and carefully. It means thinking not only about the immediate consequences of my actions, but also the long-term results. It means remembering those 7 billion people and seeing them as equally important, dignified and deserving as myself. And as such, recognizing that quality of human lives is what I am weighing against convenience, economics and effort. Every day. In every choice.

None of us are perfect. Especially me. And I know that I am constantly making wrong choices. I forget about or ignore the fact that what I do matters very much. How I use my resources, talents and time can be a matter of life or death for another human being or another creature on this planet. And the truth is, I can and must do better. As a human community we have much room for improvement.

Yet, what a hopeful thing it is to know that there are 7 billion of us here on this earth--I cannot even begin to comprehend our collective potential. But that is what we must do: recognize and take advantage of our connectedness. Only by working together, pooling our resources and finding solutions that are good for everyone can we create a better world; one which can adequately support all of us in a manner worthy of a human life.

14 October 2011

You never know

Of all things I saw in Washington, DC last month, this might have been my favorite.

I went to see the monuments and museums; to partake of the incredible history that has been preserved in my nation's capitol. And I loved it all. But nothing can compare to the convergence of moon, clouds and sunset forming a kind of loveliness that can only be called gift from a loving God.

But the butterflies come in as a close second!

13 October 2011


A few days ago I saw the sign featured below. And not long ago it would have been simply hilarious. (Because, yes, I know it is trying to say watch out, there are children here so you should be careful. But that's not what it says. And what it says is funny.)

Now, I am less amused. Because I know when a sign says DANGER: Children what it really means is, watch out, these germ machines are just waiting to breathe their poisonous air all over you. You will now suffer pain and inconvenience while they, at worst, get to stay home with their mommies and watch TV all day!

I now know that as a teacher in Spain, getting sick is not that easy. You not only have to make sure you get in touch with someone at the school and explain to them in Spanish that you can't come in because your voice doesn't work and there are slivers of glass in your throat, you also have to find a doctor who can write you a note of excuse--which requires tracking down a doctor, finding a way to get to the doctor's office and figuring out your insurance--which in and of itself requires making phone calls and trying to talk to people in Spanish to explain your situation--all while your head is threatening to explode, you are burning alive/freezing/sweating/shivering, and it feels like you are trying to swallow several knives at the same time.

I think that puts the tally at...
Children: 1134 points
Kendal: 0.2 points

They really are dangerous beasts!

And just for everyone's peace of mind:
In the end my school let me NOT go to the doctor,
which made my life infinitely easier.
And I am already feeling much better!!

09 October 2011

Verghese the artist

A few days ago I finished reading Abraham Verghese's novel Cutting for Stone, a story wrought with human frailty, but also with the human ability to overcome, to love and to be redeemed. I was powerfully affected by the depth of the characters-- their capacity for love and for hate, to help and to harm; their incredible strength as well as their incomprehensible weaknesses; the paths they choose and the places and people they are led to by destiny, fate, or the intervention of divinity. I was also stunned at the beauty and emotion Verghese evoked in medical settings, images and terminology, something I am usually rather wary of, or even slightly disturbed by.

Then, I unexpectedly chanced upon this TED video. And I am not surprised to hear the sincerity and tenderness with which Verghese speaks of his patients and the powerful role of touch in the relationship between doctors and patients. I see in the rituals of medicine Verghese talks about the same nuance and skill, the same comprehension of the human heart and human connectedness that he uses to so beautifully craft his novel. And I fully believe that for Verghese, medicine is an art. And that he is asking that we treat it that way. He asks that doctors be careful and loving with their patients; that they seek to understand before they attempt to treat; that they know and love each person fully; that they take pains to make their work beautiful and every case important; that they take pride in knowing that they have not only invested their intellect, but also their hearts in this work; that they will know they have used their gifts and talents to their full extent in order to heal and to comfort. For thus does medicine become truly sacred. A true form of art.

And it inspires me to be an artist. Wherever I am, whatever I do, I want to invest myself in my work in such a way that it takes on deeper meaning; that I can feel pride in what I have created. For me art, in any form, is terrifying. It requires vulnerability. It requires that we put everything we have into what we do, and that if it doesn't work, we must confess our failed. But it is also only giving our all that we can ever do anything truly great, that we really succeed. And I do not mean that we do something important in the eyes of the world-- that we will be recognized or lauded for our work. But when we use our whole hearts, our whole minds, every gift we have been given, then does our work, and our lives, begin to be a true representation of ourselves. Of the unique individuals we are. I am not there yet, but I hope that one day, I can look at my life and see something worthy of being called art.

06 October 2011

Where'd the time go?

There is nothing that will make you feel simultaneously old and immature more effectively than being in constant contact with people just a couple stages behind you in the journey of life. If you're me, that is.

Not only am I teaching high schoolers, but I spend most of my free time hanging out with a 16 year old, and sometimes her friends. Realizing that some of these kids are almost ten years younger than me... well there's a reality check for you! You mean, it wasn't just yesterday that I was in high school? Could it actually be so long ago that I was that age? And if so, why do I feel like these baby-faced teens are closer to being my peers than the other teachers I work with?

Maybe it's a result of having to communicate in a language in which my speaking abilities resemble those of a young child; or perhaps because something as simple as getting a library card (or even finding the library) seems almost as daunting as performing neurosurgery, but I'm starting to wonder if these 16 year olds (and 14 and 15 year olds) might, in fact, be smarter and more capable than I am.

A few days ago I had a class of students who were about 15. They were all practically fluent in English and Spanish (and learning German too... the little jerks!). I spent the entire class hour listening to them enlighten me on the excellent cultural offerings of Madrid. Who are these people? When I was fifteen I probably would have had a hard time giving you proper directions to the mall, not to mention all the best art museums and historical landmarks! I am beginning to wonder who should be teaching who.... I mean, um, whom... My Spanish surely needs more help than their English. And they are all so well-read I questioning the validity of my degree in English literature...

And then there's the fact that my friend Mari, the 16 year old daughter of the family I am living with, is my only real friend in Madrid and is often my designated escort if I'm going somewhere her parents think I won't be able to find on my own. And I am so glad she is with me, too! At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if someone suggested that I don't cross the streets anymore without holding someone's hand.

Okay, okay. It's true that most of the really fluent kids were raised in bilingual families, and I haven't had the chance to meet a lot of people my age yet except a few other teachers who live closer to the center of the city. But I do confess, I can't help but feel like, for the age gap between us, I'm not a heck of a lot more mature that these pimply high school kids (and lets be honest, I probably have more pimples than they do).

Then again, I'm the one getting paid to be at school. (Take that you precocious little brats!) So maybe that's what it means to be an adult-- you don't have to be that much smarter or more capable; you don't even have to do anything a 15 year old couldn't adequately handle-- you just have to find someone who will give you money for doing it.

05 October 2011

Strike! Strike! Strike!

This week many of the teachers at my school, and most of the schools here in Madrid, participating in a huelga, or strike. I've thought about joining them (I've never been part of a strike before!), but then I remember that I actually haven't done any real work yet and I'm not even altogether sure about the details of the strike. From what I gather, teachers are receiving decreased pay for increased class hours and more students per class--so nothing too new in the life of a teacher I suppose. But I won't go into a rant on the declining state of public school systems (Apparently it's not just a US thing...).

Anyway, for those who have asked me what I am doing here in Spain and I've mumbled something non-committal about teaching English.. assisting in other classes... maybe with 12-14 year olds... I don't know... stop asking me questions because I know nothing and you're stressing me out!... I finally have a few of those missing details.

I am teaching an hour a week in 18 classes. They are all 3 and 4 ESO and bachillerato students-- or high school aged (9-12 grade in the US system). They are all English classes, but some are with students who are practically fluent and others are with those who don't speak or understand much English at all yet; as well as classes with students who are in honors and international baccalaureate programs and those who are openly designated as "bad students" by the teachers here (and they are separated strictly based on how well they perform on exams). So far, I like them all! In fact, I am particularly fond of those who have a harder time speaking--I relate to them the best probably. All of the students have been really well behaved and friendly, though some classes were easier to keep talking than others. And some of the teachers were more helpful than others (i.e. whereas some of the teachers encouraged their classes to ask questions and participate, others left to "run a few errands" while I stayed with the class).

As for the strike, if the teacher is gone we are not allowed to teach the students. And many students have been absent as well. But I'm surprised, not only that students are allowed to be left alone for hours in classrooms with no supervision, but they seem to behave quite well actually. I haven't noticed any students getting into any trouble or causing problems. And some of these kids are only 12 years old or so.

All in all, I'm really enjoying being with the students and I hope I will have fun year with them. Starting next week I'll actually prepare lessons on some of the topics they are studying-- I just hope I can come up with fun and interesting ideas so they don't get bored of having me in class. Any suggestions would be heartily accepted :)

One down side to my current situation (aside from my still slightly sore and swollen foot), is that I have an hour and a half commute each way to and from work. But that's a great excuse to get in some extra reading, and I am hoping to read mostly Spanish authors and also good short stories and poems I can use with my students in class. So, should you feel so inclined, suggest away in this vein as well!


30 September 2011

All the small things

Today I had a small Spanish success: I bought my "abono" or monthly train/metro/bus pass. I won't pretend there weren't some snags in getting there, but the fact that I can now post for you a picture of el abono is, in my life, nothing short of triumph!


Also, I noticed I have a pretty good sense of direction and I had no trouble using a photo booth or fotomatón, as they like to call it here. I know, I'm extremely accomplished.

Confession: I did have to run back to the house for money
in the process of purchasing the abono
because I underestimated the cost by about half.
And I didn't find the grocery store either. Oh well.

29 September 2011

Fairly Representative

I have been in Spain for two days, and I already did this:

In addition to falling down and twisting my ankle, I got sick on the plane, couldn't get money from the ATM or exchange dollars for Euros, felt compelled to eat the ceviche I was served for lunch, and repeatedly embarrassed myself by not understanding or not even hearing things people are saying to me in Spanish (sometimes I have a tendency to kind of block out conversations in Spanish until all of the sudden everyone is looking at me and I have no idea what they just said and then they think I am really stupid).... only 9 months to go.

On the other hand, I've already met some great people. The family I'm living with are so kind and they have helped me out a ton. And the other teachers are fun and friendly. A few of them helped me hobble to the metro after I fell down outside of our meeting (causing the previously mentioned ankle injury). I honestly don't know where I would be, in Spain or in life, if it weren't for the kindness of other people. I am nothing without my family and friends! I love you all! (But if you don't read my blog you won't know it ;))

23 September 2011

Last week I found heaven

and it was the Butterfly Pavilion in the Museum of Natural History.

One of the many reasons I now love Washington, D.C.!

Be grateful I didn't post all 100+ butterfly pictures from my trip :)

19 August 2011

A Provo Parting

After 6 years, tomorrow I will finally depart Provo, UT.

Everything is packed, and I mean packed, into every corner and crevice of my car. Somehow, I managed to make it all fit. I've cleaned, sorted, organized and de-cluttered for weeks (albeit sporadically). The bike rack I bought and assembled is (persumably) securely attached to the trunk of my car with my bike (hopefully) safely in place (a miracle in and of itself). I've tried my best to say a few goodbyes and tie up loose ends. And now all I have to do is get in the car and go.

I will wake up in the morning and leave as early as I can to make the 12 hour drive to my parent's home in Tucson, AZ as safely and smoothly as possible.

I will sit behind the wheel of my poor little car, crammed with more junk than I ever thought it could hold, and I will drive like hell, and hope that I'll make it out of Provo before I'm too afraid to go and before I try to change my mind or go back or before I let myself cry so much I can't see the road.

Because it's time to go. Because I have to. Because, as much as I hate change and goodbyes and not knowing when I'll be back or when I'll see some of these beautiful people who I love so much again, I know that now it is time to move on and do something new. Because Provo has been so good to me, but I've gained what I came here to gain, and so SO much more, and I am finally ready to see what another little corner of the world can teach me.

And so, Provo, farewell.

10 August 2011

Very nice indeed.

Yesterday I went to the Utah State Capitol Building, and I was completely captivated!

There were the impressive columns carved out of smooth, cool, gray marble, decorated with intricately carved flowers; paintings, new and old, depicting various scenes from Utah's history; huge, solid stone statues representing immigration & settlement, land & community, science & technology, art & education; grand doors and winding stair banisters all of a deep, rich mahogany; the ceilings were laced with gold and accented in pale pink and blue; busts of famous people, from Abraham Lincoln to the first man to invent TV, Philo Farnsworth, and many in between lined the halls; there were even recycling bins, which bolstered my hope for Utah's future significantly (in Provo the anti-recycling bug has a firm grip... maybe other parts of the state are doing better. One can only hope!).

But, of course, my favorite part of all was the display detailing the history of women's suffrage in Utah. As we know, women were not granted the right to vote nationally in the United States until 1920. However, in Utah women first officially gained the vote in 1870. This right was revoked later (in 1887) by the federal government in the Edmunds-Tucker Act, and was not reinstated until Utah was officially granted statehood in1896, at which time the vote for women was included as part of the state constitution. This makes Utah one of the first states to officially adopt women's suffrage. Pretty awesome!

I enjoyed that little history lesson, as well as learning a bit about some of the strong female voices in Utah during that time--Emmeline B. Wells, Martha "Mattie" Hughes Cannon, Seraph Young, Ruth May Fox and others. Aside from fighting for the vote, voting and even being elected into the state legislature, these women also set a standard, as have women throughout the United States and the world, for those of us who benefit from their legacy. These women exemplify the bravery, strength, hard work and determination that we should all have in standing up for our rights and the rights of those around us! I am inspired by the suffragists from all parts of our country and the world, and it is exciting to know a bit about a few from my current home in Utah! These are some pretty upstanding ladies! I kind of love them.

In this picture, suffragettes in Utah sit with Susan B. Anthony!

06 August 2011

Running lessons

I hated, hated, running when I was younger. From elementary school through high school and beyond. I loved swimming (even though it was hard for me too sometimes) but running- it just wasn't going to happen! So it was strange, about a year and a half ago, when I happily agreed to train for a half-marathon with two of my friends.

It was stranger still that I actually ran the race, and liked it.

Now, I'm training for another half marathon. This time I will run with my aunt. And this time, I haven't been training as well I should have.

So today, when I should probably have been running 8-9 miles, it was a struggle to make myself complete the 5 1/2 or so miles that I ran. But, during that hour this morning, I remembered an important lesson that running has taught me:
You can do it!

Simple, right? But the funny thing about running is that I always think I can't make it. Yet I do. I always think I'm going to have to stop. But when I don't leave myself that option, I don't stop. I run all the way home, and I think, that wasn't so hard!

I've learned that, when running, the most important part is just to keep going. When you feel like you have to give up, don't, because, pretty soon, it doesn't seem so hard any more. It's like something in your brain just decides to let you go. You stop feeling, or thinking about, being in pain or being tired or hot or thirsty or anything else. It's amazing!

And, for me at least, the pain comes back. And on a long run I'll have to "just keep going" time and again before I reach the end. But every time there are hidden stores of energy that I somehow tap into when I just make myself go onward a little longer.

I've learned and relearned that lesson many times while running. And while it doesn't really get easier to keep going--I always get tired!--when you know that you can do it, because you've done it before, it does get easier to tell yourself to push on a little further. And it works. You keep going. You finish. And it's awesome!

What I haven't learned yet is to apply that lesson in other aspects of my life. I give up too fast. I don't push myself hard enough. As soon as I hit the first road block I just turn around and limp lamely home (metaphorically speaking, usually). But if running has taught me anything, I should know that as soon as I get over that bump in the road, I'll be thrilled to see how much easier things seem, if only just for a moment. And it's worth it! No matter how hard it feels, it's worth it in the end to know that you not only go where you wanted to go, but that you made it through every obstacle in your way, even when it seemed impossible. It's worth it to know that you are capable of "impossible!" It starts to feel like anything might be possible... I mean, if I can run a half marathon-- me, run a half marathon!-- what else can I do?

That's how I want to live. I don't want to give up when it's hard. I don't want to stop trying because I'm afraid I wont make it to the end. I want to do my best and work my hardest and tell myself every step of the way, you can do this! Because I can. We all can. We just have to believe it's possible when it is the hardest to believe.

It's a miracle... just like me running!

04 August 2011

A new lens

Photographer James Mollison created a book capturing a piece of children's lives by showing where they sleep. It is an intimate look into the way children live in various parts of the world. These pictures speak for themselves. And it is gorgeous.

Here we see 4 year old Kaya in Japan.... and her bedroom.

See more here.

30 July 2011

Veggie lover

Since I first decided to become a vegetarian 10 years ago, eating animals is something I have done and not done to varying degrees. It's something I've thought about, and it is something I've also chosen to ignore or "forget" from time to time.

But I haven't been able to stay away from the subject for long (I do eat (at least) 3 times a day, after all). And eating meat is pretty common in the culture I live in. So, I keep coming back to the question: to eat meat or not to eat meat?

Lately, this has been on my mind more urgently, so I grabbed a book from the library that a few friends have suggested to me: Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. For me, this was the push I needed to rededicating myself to what I consider a humane way of eating--avoiding meat and, now, most dairy products. The truth is, I can't stomach the knowledge that I am participating in creating a life of torture and abuse of millions of animals. Not to mention the gruesome deaths they suffer.

Part of the reason I have decided to more fully live a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, and why I am sharing that decision with you, is because I believe it is one small step I can make towards influencing the world around me in a positive way.

I don't know about anyone else, but for me, there are so many problems in the world that sometimes I feel helpless to make an impact or contribute to the solution. But occasionally there is something I know I can do that matters. In this case, for me, it's as simple as not eating meat. Here are a few of the specific reasons I am choosing to avoid meat and dairy:
  1. The obvious: I don't want to participate in the systematized torture and abuse of animals that occurs on a large scale in our country (99% of the meat produced in the US comes from a factory farm. If you don't know what that meas for animals, it isn't hard to find out--read Eating Animals, watch undercover videos taken at these factories. The horrible truth is actually pretty readily available if our eyes are open.).
  2. I am opposed to the human rights abuses imposed upon many factory farm workers (often immigrants or others who have very few financial opportunities and may not feel they have access to legal protection).
  3. It helps the environment. The production and use of meat on a large scale is extremely harmful to the environment, using up resources and land, and creating enormous amounts of waste and pollution. Especially factory farming, which can decrease the value of land for miles surrounding these disease breading, stench producing places.
  4. It plays an important role in global famine and poverty. We may not always think of it this way, but the more meat we eat, the more of the precious grains and food resources are not being fed to human beings (and there are people all over the world starving--as we speak, the worst drought in 60 years is happening in the Horn of Africa, producing a huge food crisis). It takes 26 calories of grain consumed by animals to produce 1 calorie of meat for consumption. That is terribly inefficient and means that many more people could be fed and nourished by the grains that animals are eating than will be fed by the animals themselves. (Not to mention the fact that, in traditional farming animals graze and eat grasses and plants that are not always fit for human consumption, not so with the ever prevalent factory farm.)
  5. It's good for our health. Not only does meat naturally leech certain vitamins and minerals from out bodies, but the meat we eat today is pumped with chemicals and antibiotics, many of which we do not yet know the consequences of for the human body. Also, when animals are raised in such unclean, disease infested places, we can be certain that we are not entirely immune to the consequences of increased spreading of these germs (anyone remember the swine flu (H1N1) epidemic a few years ago.... well, scientists predict that the factory farm may be a breading ground for even more severe influenzas and other diseases in the future.).
Those are just a few examples, but the long and the short of it is that, for me, eating meat is not worth the consequences, to animals, the planet and to human life. I second Jonathan Safran Foer in saying, "My decision not to eat animals is necessary for me, but it is also limited--and personal. It is a commitment made within the context of my life, not anyone else's. . . .For me to conclude firmly that I will not eat animals does not mean I oppose, or even have mixed feelings about, eating animals in general." Yet, I also feel strongly enough about the matter to encourage everyone to consider the pros and cons of meat consumption, as well as the moral implications. I ask that we do not eat meat mindlessly because it is what we have done and what most people do, but make an informed, personal choice about our patterns of eating.

I end with one final quote (a long one) from Foer. And with this: every small act of charity and love matters. Whether it is choosing not to eat meat, lending service to a friend or the championing of an important cause, our choices matter and they say something about us and what matters to us, and they influence others around us. For me, meat, and the consequences of meat, matters. And I wanted to share that with you.

"It might sound naive to suggest that whether you order a chicken patty or a veggie burger is a profoundly important decision. Then again, it certainly would have sounded fantastic if in the 1950s you were told that where you sat in a restaurant or on a bus could begin to uproot racism. It would have sounded equally fantastic if you were told in the early 1970s, before César Chávez's workers' rights campaigns, that refusing to eat grapes could begin to free farmworkers from slave-like conditions. It might sound fantastic, but when we bother to look, it's hard deny that our day-to-day choices shape the world. When America's early settlers decided to throw a tea party in Boston, forces powerful enough to create a nation were released. Deciding what to eat (and what to toss overboard) is the founding act of production and consumption that shapes all others. Choosing leaf or flesh, factory farm or family farm, does not in itself change the world, but teaching ourselves, our children, our local communities, and our nation to choose conscience over ease can. One of the greatest opportunities to live our values--or betray them--lies in the food we put on our plates. And we will live or betray our values not only as individuals, but as nations.

We have grander legacies than the quest for cheap products. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote passionately about the time when "one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular." Sometimes we simply have to make a decision because "one's conscience tells one that is right." These famous words of King's, and the efforts of Chávez's United Farm Workers, are also our legacy. We might want to say that these social-justice movements have nothing to do with the situation of the factory farm. Human oppression is not animal abuse. King and Chávez were moved by a concern for suffering humanity, not suffering chickens or global warming. Fair enough. One can certainly quibble with, or even become enraged by, the comparison implicit in invoking them here, but it is worth noting that César Chávez and King's wife, Coretta Scott King, were vegans, as is King's son Dexter. We interpret the Chavez and King legacies--we interpret America's legacy--too narrowly if we assume in advance that they cannot speak against the oppression of the factory farm."
-Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals