Wednesday, May 2, 2012

contraception inception: we need to go deeper

The caption reads: "What, dinner not ready yet! What have you been doing?"
Much of our culture has changed since this old anti-women's suffrage comic,
but the war against women is still a very real problem.

A question: is the recent debate regarding contraceptives an issue of women’s rights?
How I would answer: absolutely.

Another question: is the recent debate regarding contraceptives an attack on religious freedom?
How I would answer: absolutely not.

This might come as a surprise to those of you who know me. I am, after all, a very devout Christian. But I’m also very much a feminist—and no, that is not an oxymoron. Still, you may be wondering how I could defend the “feminist” stance over the more “Christian” stance, so I thought I would explain why I wholeheartedly believe that insurance companies should cover the cost of contraception despite any religious convictions.

 Let us list some of the reasons a woman might want to take birth control, shall we?

If a woman…

  1. Is not physically capable of surviving a pregnancy 
  2. Could not financially support a pregnancy 
  3. Has a medical condition which is treated with contraception 
  4. Has a medical condition which would endanger a pregnancy 
  5. Is in a position where her health might be compromised by a pregnancy 
  6. Is married and does not want any or more children 
  7. Is single and does not currently want children 
  8. Would like to experience fewer and lighter periods 
  9. Experiences painful or inhibiting symptoms of premenstrual syndrome 
  10. Uses contraceptives to help prevent endometrial and ovarian cancer 

…then she might talk with her doctor and explore birth control as an option.

 First of all, allow me to explain each side, as I understand it:

Why contraceptives SHOULD be provided by insurance:
  1. Many women take birth control for legitimate health reasons 
  2. Not all women can afford the cost of contraception 
  3. Some women are married and do not currently want to start a family 
  4. Some women are unmarried and do not currently want to start a family 

Why contraceptives should NOT be provided by insurance:
  1. Contraception is readily available to those who take it for health reasons 
  2. Contraception is inexpensive and insurance coverage isn’t even necessary 
  3. This is a First Amendment issue, not a women’s rights issue 
  4. The church shouldn't be forced to provide and pay for something to which they morally object 
(There is more to be said on each side, but these are the arguments I’ve most commonly heard.)

Now. Let’s discuss this.

Monday, April 30, 2012

10 things I'd rather be doing during finals week

As you might have guessed from the title and my lack of updates, it is finals week at my university. Finals week is always a very special time, in which students stay up for several nights in a row, overdose on caffeinated beverages, sob uncontrollably, have panic attacks, throw themselves against cafeteria walls screaming WHY GOD WHY.

This is a hyperbole (sort of). But those of you who have experienced it before will know that finals week is a dreadful experience. At least, it is for me. Even though I'm at the end of the term with only a few class days to go, finals week always ends up as the most stressful time of the semester (rivaled only by midterms). So, after pulling an all-nighter last night with two tests in my immediate future, I thought I would make a list of things I'd rather be doing instead of finals.

(p.s. this post can also be named, "in which Sarah takes ridiculous photos of herself and posts them on the internet, where she will return and be ashamed of them later.")

(p.p.s. no sleep. did I mention that?)

10 things I'd rather be doing during finals week

1. Sleep

Baby, I'll never leave you again. Forgive me for walking out
on you this morning? xoxo

Monday, April 23, 2012

self-inflicted major

While having a discussion with another student at my university, making polite and pleasant enough small talk, I happened to mention that I was an English major. He chuckled at this. “So, I guess you have a lot of free time on your hands, huh?”

Yeah. I get this a lot.

Maybe he was just teasing and didn’t mean for it to be insulting, but it is. It always is. I take it personally every time someone makes some kind of quip about my major. Literature and creative writing aren’t important fields of study, they seem to say. You must have a lot of free time, since you don’t actually do something that’s important. Sure, you work hard and spend a lot of money to attend this university to study, but if you’re going to study English… why even bother?

If I said to you, “Yeah, I know you absolutely love this and you’ve spent a lot of time and hard work on it, but, in all honesty, you’re wasting your time,” how would you feel? Well, that is what you are essentially saying to me every time you question my choice to major in English.

I am aware that English is not the most financially secure major. I know that writing a novel will not necessarily cure cancer, end poverty, and save starving children in Africa. I understand that my work might not sell. I don’t need you to remind me.

You see, I chose it anyway.

Writing brings me joy. Thinking that my words made any sort of difference—no matter how small or insignificant the impact—in someone’s life is fulfilling to me. Maybe I won’t save anyone, or maybe I’ll end up as the stereotypical wannabe writer who will never really make it big-time. But words run through me like blood. They keep my heart beating. And I am not trying to speak for all English majors here, but most of them have chosen their course of study because they have, in some fashion, fallen in love with the written word. It is not your place to judge their love affair with words.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

the horizon of deliciousness

I'm one of those unfortunate people who loves to cook and bake but isn't particularly good at doing it.

Still, the urge to take on the kitchen occasionally strikes, and I momentarily forget things like the time I knocked some napkins into the stove top and set them on fire, or the time I broke my mother's electric mixer while making fudge, or the time I mixed up the measurements for baking soda and baking powder. Instead, all I see ahead of me is a horizon of delicious flavor that will be bestowed upon the world by my own two hands. So this weekend, I enlisted the help of my dear sister, Rachel, and we set off into the land of baking.

Baking is serious business.
Armed with the necessary ingredients and cooking utensils, we followed the recipe here to create tasty cookie dough bars. And, I must say, I impressed myself from the very beginning by browning butter for the first time and doing it successfully. Oh yeah, I thought. Look at me, world. Baking like a boss. The kitchen can't even handle me right now.

We continued to follow the directions carefully. It was a beautiful sisterly bonding experience. We laughed. We danced. We watched an episode of Monk. Life was good. Life was as sweet as we expected our dessert to be. 

After mixing the ingredients for the cookie dough, we, of course, tasted it.

And it tasted a bit strange.

But surely this was because it wasn't finished, we thought. Besides, it was too late to turn back, so we continued our endeavor.

Looks can be deceiving.
After some time and effort, we finally finished our cookie dough bars. We decorated the top with pretzels and melted chocolate. The finished product looked so incredibly delectable. We called everyone in the house to come down and try our creation. 

"Can I has nom noms, too?!?"
The moment of truth came. Armed with forks and a plate of our creation, we each shoved a bite into our mouths and...

There was a very... distinct... flavor to it. 

The dessert wasn't bad - it was quite tasty, in fact. The shortbread crust turned out perfectly, and the texture of the dough couldn't have been better. But there was a very, very strong flavor. It tasted something like almonds.

The recipe called for vanilla extract.

We used almond extract.

I think the only way I could have made a more embarrassing mistake would be if I were to have mistaken the sugar for salt. Everyone ate appreciatively, but every bite I took, the more our baking adventure felt like a failure.

But look at me! I'm such a responsible adult! How could it have ended this way?
Seriously. I might as well have spiked my dessert with amaretto. 

I'm sure there's some sort of grand lesson to be learned here. Something like pride comes before the fall or sometimes, things don't go the way you planned. Maybe something even more positive, like, it's not the end that matters, but the journey. But, I admit: right now, the truly important thing I have learned is this: pay more attention when adding extracts, you airhead!

Oh well. You win some and you lose some, I suppose. It was a lot of fun nonetheless. Besides, no matter what sort of kitchen trauma Rachel and I may face, we still remain classy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

on the inside looking out

 es·o·ter·ic [es-uh-ter-ik] adjective
understood by or meant for only the select few who have special knowledge or interest; recondite: poetry full of esoteric allusions.
Definition from

Exclusion eats at people's souls. At least, it feels like it to me every time I find myself in a group of people and realize that I am the odd one out. When you feel lonely when you're alone, that's perfectly justifiable. When you feel lonely in a group of people, especially friends and family when you are supposed to be intertwined, something begins to gnaw at your heart. The energy of togetherness is a power that you cannot manage to harness, and without it, a beast digs claws into your spinal cord and climbs up one vertebra at a time. Suddenly, everybody else is one step ahead of you, laughing at a private joke that only you don't understand. You're part of the crowd in presence, but not in heart. 

Sure, you can try to justify it. Christians can say it's because they are supposed to be in the world but not of it; they are set apart and will only feel inclusion in the next life. Individualists can say the world simply doesn't understand them, and that finding our own place in society apart from others is the way things should be. But I've never been satisfied with answers like these. They make me guilty for wanting to connect with people.

Networking with others has never come easily for me. I'm an absolute introvert (INFJ, thank you very much), and I'd rather read a book than go to a party. But even someone like me has the desire to engage in meaningful relationships. 

Human beings seem to be esoterically inclined. We create our own little worlds, little spheres of self, and others are allowed in by invitation only. But we don't always judge our status in the world by whose circle we have stepped inside, but by who and what steps into ours. Maybe part of the reason we don't feel like a part of anything is we haven't dared let ourselves. 

My name is Sarah, I am (as of only about a week ago) a 21-year-old English major, and I want to take a dare. I want to try new things, see new places, experience new cultures. I want to think and understand. I suppose you could say I want to broaden my sphere, but I also want to get to know better what's already inside.

After all, when creatures live for too long in your head, they begin clamoring to be released.