How We Lose to ISIS

There is nothing simple about warfare, terrorism, or the senseless deaths of innocent people. But there is something simple about love.

“Love thy neighbor as thyself.” –Jesus Christ

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” –eden ahbez

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” –His Holiness the Dalai Lama

And with love comes inclusion and seeing in your fellow human a reflection of yourself. And yet, there are those who would try to make you believe that the best way to end hate is to to perpetuate it in other forms. We lose to ISIS when we do this. And more importantly, we lose our souls when we do this. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The funny thing about humanity is we spend so much time trying to divide ourselves but when it comes down to it, we’re all pretty much the same. We want love, sustenance of the body and spirit. We have likes and dislikes, we laugh, we play–we live.

ISIS doesn’t represent Islam. Most members of Islam in this world are decent people, just like you and me. Most Muslims don’t have an enemy in Americans or other Westerners or Western countries. But we give them an enemy when we murder their family members and destroy their livelihoods through carpet bombing and other modes of destruction. We give them an enemy when we treat Muslim-American citizens or residents like criminals and second class humans. We give them an enemy when we deny compassion to people fleeing for their lives from the same enemy we strive to defeat. We give them an enemy when we remove love from our hearts and replace it with fear.

I don’t need to mention the GOP candidates who would cause us to lose to ISIS so I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks. But these people are full of hate and fury and fear. They will not lead us to peace, but instead will create the problems they purport to solve.

Choose peace and love today. The world already has too much hate.

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And because I quoted a song used in Moulin Rouge, here’s Ewan McGregor.

The Little Big Problems in the Mormon Anti-Porn Video

I am a Mormon and am against porn. I commend the effort behind a video released by the LDS church that provides support and instruction on how to react if one accidentally views pornography.

The video–which was released in September, but which I hadn’t seen until now–is aimed at older children and young teens and encourages open communication and is free of shame for accidental viewing. The video distinguishes that a body’s natural urges and reactions are normal and are not sinful or shameful. These are great things that I fully support. It is difficult to impossible to overcome a problem such as porn addiction if at the onset the viewer is met with shame.

However, there are two instances in the video that I must nitpick because they send incredibly toxic messages. It is one o’clock in the morning and I am in recovery from surgery so really should be sleeping, but my mind keeps going back to those two moments in the video and I won’t sleep until I decry them.

First, when defining pornography, the video describes it as, “bad pictures of people with little or no clothing on.” This video stars children, so perhaps the intent was to avoid making them uncomfortable by including a more well-rounded and accurate description, but this definition is horrendous.

What does “bad” even mean? It’s too ambiguous to be helpful. And “people with little or no clothing” is a perfect definition of pornography if your intent is instill a Puritan-esque abhorrence of all nudity and to teach that the human body is sinful and shameful. But… I suspect that is not the message we want to send to our children, right?

Nudity isn’t inherently sexual.

There are cultures in the world where little to no clothing is worn. Images of these people are not pornography.

Underwear is a fact of every day life for most people. Advertisements for such items are not necessarily pornography.

Women breast feed. Not pornography.

Beautiful art and photography often include nudity. Not pornography.

I don’t deny that normalized porn exists in the world. The ladies at Beauty Redefined have done wonderful research on normalized porn as it exists in our culture. But to equate all nudity to pornography sets the stage for sexualization to occur where there is none, and paves the way for objectification of the body.

The definition also fails to include video, which is an important inclusion if you are attempting to prepare kids for what to do if they accidentally encounter porn.

The second moment that bothers me (and this one makes me grit my teeth quiver with buried rage) is when the video starts to list three steps of what to do if you see pornography. The first step is to Call It What It Is, telling you to say, “That’s pornography, that’s immodest.”

Ahem… Immodesty is NOT pornography! I am tempted to copy and paste my previous sentence a hundred times just to drive the point home. Modesty standards and pornography have no business being in the same conversation. Modesty and pornography have about as much business being together as organic chemistry and literary theory: they belong to completely different worlds. They are not the same, they are two separate conversations, and equating them is unbelievably toxic.

Modesty is relative. As a lifelong Mormon I know there are plenty of people in the church who think we have a monopoly on what constitutes modesty, but we really don’t. What is considered modest varies from culture to culture and holding other people to your own standards of modesty only creates judgement and shame.

Modesty is not a matter of inches and styles. True modesty is in your attitude and your behavior. One can be covered from head to toe and not be modest, while another can be scantily clad and as humble as can be.

What happens when we equate modesty to pornography is, for example, a guy sees a girl dressed how he considers to be immodest. He finds her attractive, perhaps he feels aroused. He feels ashamed, like he did something wrong (though he shouldn’t, these things are normal and natural). He remembers learning that immodesty is akin to pornography and blames her for how he feels and turns her into a sexualized object.

Girls and women–no matter how they are dressed–are not pornography. 

You may not be able to control who you are attracted to, but objectifying someone is a choice you make. When you equate modesty to pornography, you choose to place blame and shame on someone else for what you think and do.

This is a big deal. It is one of the most damaging and toxic messages taught in Young Women and seminary classes all over. I for one had a major struggle overcoming body shame because I was convinced that my curvy body was a “problem” for guys and it was my fault. And that’s just bollocks. No one should have to feel they are responsible or to blame for someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or acts. That is the kind of thinking that leads to rape culture and victim-blaming.

In short, pornography is pictures or video of a sexual nature designed to stimulate sexual arousal. Expanding the definition to include nudity in general and immodesty is dangerous, inaccurate, and can cause long-term harm.

Here is the video:

On International Service Trips: America’s Feel-Good Hobby

I don’t doubt other countries participate as well, but as an American I’m going to write about America’s love of voluntourism, the participation in international service trips.

First, let me assure you there is nothing wrong with wanting to help people. Obviously. But we as Americans seem to have a paternalistic view of helping people in different countries, thinking we know best and that if other countries would just do as we do there wouldn’t be a problem.

It’s not a mystery as to why people like these trips. If you participate in these trips you get to travel, you get to feel good about yourself, and you get to help other people. It’s a win-win-win situation.

But here’s the problem: We tend to go on these trips with the attitude that if only these people we are trying to help would be more like Americans they would have better lives. We try to help them in such a way that in the long run does’t help at all, but instead forgets the traditions and beliefs and abilities of the culture we are trying to help. We go, we “help,” we leave and show people our photos of the “unfortunates” we helped.

Here’s the part where I admit I’ve been on one of these trips. In many ways, it was wonderful. I travelled to a place called Santa Rosa, Peru. It is a village right on the Amazon River smack dab in the middle of the Amazon Jungle. It is only accessible by river boat and is about two hours away from the nearest city, which in turn is only accessible by boat or airplane. It’s a fantastic place.

My two weeks in the Peruvian jungle showed me how resilient humans can be. It showed me how wonderful the Peruvian Amazon culture is. It showed me that often the simplest food is the most delicious (Beans, rice, and fried yucca anyone? Best. Food. Ever.). It also showed me how blind well-intentioned Americans can be.

I travelled with an organization called Youthlinc. While I have come to see problems with my specific trip, I think Youthlinc does have great philosophies. In order to go on an international service trip with Youthlinc, participants must do a certain number of local community service hours. These hours of service help to offset the cost of the trip through an agreement with the local Rotary Club. What is exceptional is, even if you can afford to pay for the entire trip without help from the Rotary Club, you are not allowed to go without providing the local service hours. Youthlinc’s goal is to create lifelong humanitarians, not simply to provide opportunities for Facebook photos that make you look like you are a deep and caring and adventurous person. In terms of genuine intent and a desire to help the entire world, Youthlinc is the real deal.

I went on a trip in 2008 so I don’t know how much Youthlinc has changed over the years. But as of 2008, there were problems. First, we took a bunch of toothbrushes and t-shirts and other things to donate. On the surface, that doesn’t seem like a problem. But if you think about it you realize there isn’t garbage removal in the middle of the jungle. Worn out toothbrushes can’t simply be thrown into the recycling bin and forgotten–there simply isn’t a place for them to go. Additionally, even if a group of Americans donates a bunch of toothpaste to go with these donated toothbrushes, toothpaste runs out. Then what? The locals can no longer brush their teeth, which the visiting Americans assured them is essential for their health, and where does that get anyone?

Second, we told the locals that the Amazon River, which is their lifeline, is not clean so they shouldn’t use it. Prior to my arrival, filtered water towers had been installed in the village by the Rotary Club. I hope I don’t need to point out that telling a culture they should no long use the thing they rely on for almost everything is a bad idea.

Third, we built sidewalks through the village. The main problem with this is, the locals can’t maintain them without donations of money and/or supplies from outside sources thus the sidewalks are likely to fall into disrepair and become safety hazards.

The overall problem with the things we did on my service trip was we provided what we considered great services and improvements without consideration of resources Santa Rosa already had for maintenance and development. Neither did we consider self-reliance or the overall culture. Our services were short-term solutions instead of long-term self-reliance.

If a village in the jungle needs help with oral health, it is much better to work with that village to determine what resources they already have to take care of their teeth instead of bringing a bunch of toothbrushes, leaving them, and saying hasta luego.

There are a couple of experiences that led me down this path of rethinking how Americans do international service. First, while on my trip with Youthlinc, there was a participant from Colorado who joined us as part of research for her schooling. As best as my recollection serves, she was studying water and usage or some such thing. She mentioned one day that if you take a bucket of Amazon River water and store it covered, it will have the same amount of microbes as would a bucket of water from the water towers stored uncovered. This got me thinking about the usefulness of the donated water towers and how strange it was to tell a bunch of Amazonians their primary water source is bad. (Interestingly, I recently ran into this girl and she didn’t remember telling me any of this, despite how much of an impact it had on me. Isn’t that often how it goes?)

Then, I studied Anthropology in college. I learned about ethnocentrism and cultural relativism. I heard anecdotes and studies about how well-meaning groups would enter a culture and improve overall health (seems like a great idea, obviously), but would leave, not taking into consideration that improved health means a bigger population, which can mean having less food availability so instead of people dying from disease they are dying from starvation.

I learned about roads in Haiti that had been paved by service organizations, but left to fall into disrepair because the local infrastructure couldn’t maintain them. This meant that the paved roads became so hazardous cars had to travel on the side of the road instead.

In short, I learned that the American Way isn’t the Only Way and that being well-meaning in your service isn’t good enough, and can in fact do more harm than good.

I don’t think the solution to all this is to stop doing service. People worldwide need help, and helping your fellow man is good. I do think the solutions are fairly simple.

First, work locally. Youthlinc is unique in its approach because of the local service requirement. Plenty of organizations will take you on an international service trip without consideration for local service. But ask yourself, “Why am I so amped to go on an international service trip if I don’t even think about what is needed locally?” If you don’t serve in your own backyard, traveling abroad to do so is plain illogical, and I would hazard to submit doesn’t come from a place of true love and service. Pardon my bluntness, but if you want to do international service but don’t care about local opportunities, what the Hell are you doing? It’s a common bumper sticker and full of truth: Think Globally, Act Locally. If you can’t act locally, revisit your intentions.

Second, service organizations need to work with the cultures they are visiting to figure out what can be done to both provide service where needed, but also to ensure self-reliance. It isn’t helpful at all to donate a bunch of American t-shirts if the culture you visit doesn’t have a way to clothe themselves on their own (and while I’m on the subject, let’s make sure we understand that dressing in Western clothing is not the only or best option; there are innumerable facets to every culture and clothing is just one of them). It does no good to pave a road if the local infrastructure can’t maintain it. It does no good to assume you know more about the local river than the locals themselves.

Third, we need to do better at learning about and understanding the culture we visit. If the only thing you know about a place where you are about to provide service is where it is on a map, you don’t know enough to fully understand how to help. Having a well-rounded understanding of the culture’s beliefs, values, traditions, daily activities, etc. will only help volunteers understand how temporary service can become long-term help.

I’m not claiming to know everything–I really know nothing. But, going with the example of the supposed contaminated river, in the future instead of saying, “This river i contaminated. Don’t use it anymore,” I would approach it thusly, “What do you use this water for? Do you see a need for something else? Am I being an overbearing ethnocentric jerk? Teach me things, and show me how I can help.”

I recall on my last day in Santa Rosa, the Youthlinc team leaders met with the local leaders to discuss what could be done for the next year’s trip. I wasn’t in on that meeting so I don’t know all that was said or how detailed of a discussion it was or how culturally relative it was. Regardless, it says to me that with Youthilinc at least there is some level of working directly with Santa Rosa to see what is needed. However, based on what I saw and did, there was still a certain level of paternalism and ethnocentrism. Perhaps by now it has changed. (I currently have a desire to interview Youthlinc just to find out. We shall see.) But even if Youthlinc has improved, America’s overall attitude towards international service is paternalistic, ethnocentric, and often rooted in appearances and a temporary warm, fuzzy feeling instead of doing actual, long-lasting good.

To recap, wanting to provide international service is not inherently bad. Humans helping humans is good. But the way it is gone about can often have bad effects. Working locally and letting go of your own cultural biases is a great way to make international service a genuinely positive experience.

*Note: If anyone from Youthlinc is reading this, please know I love you all as well as my experience in Peru, and don’t at all think of Youthlinc in a negative light. I merely have anecdotal criticism of things in which I participated. Hopefully we can all improve. Also, if you think anything I’ve said is inaccurate let me know. I would love to do that interview I mentioned in this post.

Back From the Dead Zone

And by dead zone I mean my blatant absence from blogging.

It all started with preparations for departure on a trip to France and Italy. Too excited and busy to write, I let it slide. And while there I only wrote in notebooks. Since returning, it’s been a transitionary phase. Transitioning from travel, transitioning to a new job (really kind of an old job to which I returned. Nonetheless, transition I must!).

It has been three weeks since my return. Three good weeks, yet I feel homesick for Italy. And Paris. Can you feel homesick for places you don’t live? Regardless, I think upon the entire country of Italy and the few spots in France I’ve visited and feel sick not knowing when I will return. Some places just reach inside your heart and camp there. They put permanent stakes in and become a part of you as sure as your arms and legs and head are a part of you.

Italy and Paris are embedded in my heartstrings forevermore.

Upon my departure from Europe, I teared up a bit. I cried at Charles de Gaulle and cried again when I landed at Salt Lake International. I’m not talking heaving sobs, here. Merely stinging eyes and a few solitary drops. It felt like I was leaving home, taking off from Paris that morning. Don’t ask for a logical reason for why this happened. I don’t have a logical explanation. It is what it is.

I want to talk about Paris for a bit.

I know multiple people who don’t like Paris. Or France. Or the French. I don’t understand it. I’ve never encountered a rude French person. Granted, I don’t speak fluent French so the few times random locals spoke to me for all I know it could have been insults. But even if that is the case, there are rude people everywhere. Most French people I have met are wonderful. Doesn’t it take a wonderful person to give a visitor a free macaron? Doesn’t it? (Side story: I bought two macarons at a patisserie in le Marais. The guy working there threw in an extra one. It was nice. And yummy.)

Perhaps people don’t love Paris because so many visitors mainly hit the high spots? The main tourist attractions? If you only visit those parts of Paris you probably won’t love Paris. Too many people, too many gimmicks, too many vendors hawking their goods, sometimes including an umbrella for fifteen euro at the sudden change in weather.

The historical and cultural attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Le Louvre and Le Champs Elysees are worth the visit. They have power and meaning. But they are not the “real Paris.”

One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to get lost. Just wander around looking at shops and bakeries. Finding the street musicians and listening. The details of Paris. That’s Paris.

This is going to sound completely full of snobbery, but I think if you come away from France and Paris thinking the French are rude and Paris is terrible, you probably had your eyes closed the entire time. That’s not to say everyone has to think of Paris as their most cherished place in the world. But to completely hate it and dislike the French… I just don’t see how that’s possible if you are truly absorbing the place and interacting with the people.

One thing about traveling in Europe is I often feel embarrassed. Embarrassed that I don’t speak the languages better. I always attempt to speak the local language and speak it as much as I can, but without fluency I am limited. However, most Italians and Parisians seem to speak a little bit of English. “A little bit of English” really means way more English than my Italian or French. It’s somewhat amusing. I’m trying to be considerate, in addition to practicing my language skills. They in turn are also trying to be considerate by speaking what English they know. Well, that and simply trying to get through to the ignorant tourist.

I always appreciate when locals let me run the course of my local language skills before they chime in with English. It lets me practice what I do know, which only helps me to learn more.

So what did I learn this trip?

Always eat the brie when it is nice and warm. Warm to the point of oozing. That is some delicious cheese.

If you are in Italy at a restaurant and they bring you a bread basket and some oil and vinegar, DON’T dribble the oil and vinegar on the bread. That’s not the intention. Use the bread to clean the sauces from your plate. Use the vinegar and oil to add any seasoning to your dishes.

The machines at the airport aren’t the only place to buy an RER ticket. Seems so obvious now…

In Paris at least, you can order a pitcher of water for free instead of buying mineral water.

The metro is great, but often it is just nicer to walk.

Piazzas can be at their most pleasant at night.

Don’t hesitate to go into the vintage stores. Do it NOW, when you see it. Planning to return often doesn’t pan out because there’s so much to do.

Don’t bother packing any scarves. You’ll just buy more.

The best olive oil comes from a little stand by the side of the road near a tiny localita, where only Italian is spoken.

Positive Change–Supporting the President

Politics are a hot button issue around town, “town” being everywhere. People rant, people decant thoughts, people argue, people debate. Sometimes friendships are made or ended over politics. I’ve even heard people declare members of the opposing party as sinful or unrighteous just for holding an opposing political philosophy (I’ve heard this from both sides, so please stop those self-righteous comments before they’re borne).

But here’s the problem with most political debates I’ve seen: They focus on name-calling or checklists of supposed “crimes” or the character (or lack of character) of politicians. I’m hugely in favor of politicians who avoid the bandwagon of corruption and lies and buy-outs. But you know what none of these debates addresses? Solutions.

Right now the world is in crisis. There is an epidemic of ebola (the disease I am irrationally terrified of thanks to an Anthropology class I took once). Over 200 girls in Nigeria were kidnapped from school, most of whom still haven’t been found. The Islamic State threatens life in the Middle East, while also threatening the United Kingdom and its allies. Russia invaded Ukraine. There’s conflict in Gaza. Drought is so severe people are losing their livelihoods. Campus rape is rampant. An unarmed young man was murdered by a police officer. Ecosystems are breaking down. Climates are changing. Locally, my precious desert is threatened by oil and business and greedy politicians.

That’s an entire paragraph’s worth of problems that to a certain degree as individuals, there’s not much we can do. But our world leaders are in the position to do something significant. Their role, whether we like the individual or not, is vital for these problems to be solved and for justice to be served. Their role does NOT negate the need for activism on an individual basis, whether that activism is in the form of doing what you can to solve the problem or in the form of pushing your politicians to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, I’m no idealist when it comes to esteeming politicians. In fact, the opposite is true where I have a very cynical view of them. And it is imperative to sound the alarm when politicians have a heavy misstep or completely go wrong. But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize their position as an opportunity to do great things. And that is where how we as citizens behave comes in.

It is frustrating when you see politicians do horrible things. And truly horrible things should result in removal from office. But what I see most frequently is people going on and on about how horrible of a president President Obama is. Do they offer solutions? (Saying, “If only my candidate had won the election,” doesn’t count as a solution.) No. Do they offer a diplomatic solution to the strife in Russia and Ukraine? No. They simply complain.

When we spend all our time complaining about politicians we aren’t giving them the positive energy they need to do a good job. That might sound new age-y or something, but I believe it to be true.

So. My call to action in this post is to ask everyone to instead of complaining, send good energy to our leaders. Whether that is by prayer or meditation or good vibes or whatever your method of directing positive energy is, just do it. Making the world a better place and solving problems isn’t an easy job. In fact, it’s often a thankless job that merits more condemnation than praise, whether the mover and shaker is a politician, activist, or average citizen. Reserving judgement and offering solutions is what will ultimately make positive headway, whether your party is in office or not.

So maybe you don’t like the current president or past presidents. Maybe you don’t like the dominant party. Maybe you don’t like ANYBODY! But if we want our government to meet its potential, when the election is over opposing candidates cease to matter in terms of running the government. There are countless issues facing the world today. Making your distaste of an individual one of those problems helps no one and harms the world.

Let’s send a big wave of positive energy out there, shall we?

Standing Up For Your Sisters

To me, standing up for your fellow sisters in situations of harassment is a big deal. It can be scary because you don’t know how the harasser will react. It could be simple annoyance, or it could be violent. But when a woman is being harassed, the feeling is often one of fear and being completely alone. Thus, as a woman, I feel it is vital to stand up for my sisters, to prove that she is not alone when she’s being harassed.

Yet despite that point of view, yesterday I failed to stand up.

I was walking down a hall at my church when I saw a guy badgering a girl and saying, “You’re always so quiet. Why are you so quiet?” Instead of interceding, I simply muttered to myself, “Because she wants to be! It’s none of your business anyway!”

Love this art series. Visit http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/About

Love this art series. Visit http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/About

There are obviously worse ways to harass a woman. But that fact doesn’t negate this incident as harassment. There is a misogynistic belief that women owe men our best smiles, our best selves, our best conversations. But really, we don’t owe men that. We are allowed to be quiet. We are allowed to keep to ourselves. We are allowed to not have a smile plastered to our faces at every moment of the day. We aren’t here to entertain men or to feed their ego. And when it comes to church, we are there to learn and to worship. Sure, we socialize. But we are definitely not there to engage in a witty repartee just because men think we should be.

I’ve interacted with this guy before. This is a guy who thinks his comfort level is much more important than everybody else’s, as indicated by the time he flipped out at me because I dared to turn the air down a notch. Never mind that oodles of people were freezing instead of paying attention to the church speakers. He is also the kind of guy who thinks it is wrong for a girl he claims to love to serve a church mission instead of marry him. That’s respect for you.

But even knowing this I did not stand up. I saw her face, I had a response, I muttered to myself and kept walking. Why? Why did I do nothing knowing that even the slightest form of harassment has potential to make a woman fall into a dark and lonely place?

Harassment kind of feels like this.

Harassment kind of feels like this.

I suppose it could be fear. It is always terrifying to stand up to other people. And there’s always the standby, “Oh, she’s be fine. There’s nothing to worry about.” But it is my job to make sure my sisters feel safe at church. It is my job to work towards a world where my sisters feel safe at school or on the street or in their hotels or at the movies or in their cars or anywhere they feel inclined to go.

So I guess this post is a confession of my cowardice as well as a call to myself and to everyone to be better. Sometimes our perceptions might be off, but it is always better to make sure everyone involved in a strange situation feels safe and okay, than to assume everyone is safe and okay.

Even as I am writing this I am second-guessing myself. “Maybe I’m overreacting,” I keep thinking. But here’s the thing: If it feels wrong it’s wrong! Don’t second-guess yourself in these situations–just stand up.

We need to be better. As bystanders to harassment it is our responsibility to let harassers know that what they are doing is not okay. It is our responsibility to make sure the person being harassed is safe and knows someone will stand beside them. It is our responsibility to stand up.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

Favorite Foods Ranked (But Not Really Ranked)

It might be the lack of good food near my place of employment making me sad, or maybe just the summer months because summer is the best in terms of food, but I feel a need to rank my favorite foods. But since it is nearly impossible to actually rank them, they are randomized. Because how’s a girl supposed to choose between falafel and brie as favorites? HOW???

1. Olive Oil

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I don’t know what it is about olive oil. It’s tangy, it’s sort of sweet sometimes, it’s a lovely color, it adds delight to anything you put it on. I love dipping bread into olive oil, but will often say the bread is more of a vessel for the oil because it’s really the oil I’m after. If it wouldn’t be a gigantic waste of food, I would swim in olive oil.

But not all olive oil is created equal. The only olive oil worth eating or using for sunburns, dry skin, or any other topical use is extra virgin olive oil. This means it is 100% pure olive oil with less than 1% acidity. It also means it tastes the best and is overall superior to just plain olive oil or refined olive oil.

I become oddly excited about bottles of olive oil. When I did a study abroad in Siena, Italy it was the biggest kick to buy a bottle that was made from olives grown just a few miles away (oh, and it was delicious). At home, the best olive oil comes from Tony Caputo’s. They have the best selection of oils and their samples cause me to swoon.

2. Brie

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Brie with a sourdough baguette and some fruit is a favorite. I love the colors and the tastes. I used to work at a cookie bakery where my manager and I ate baguettes, fruit, and brie fairly regularly. Last Valentine’s Day she sent me a virtual valentine via Facebook that said, “Brie mine.” Best valentine ever.

The sad part about my love of brie is, apparently brie sold in the United States–even if it’s imported from France–is not the same as the brie sold in France because here we have absurd raw milk laws. Brie is supposed to be made from raw milk, but that is illegal in the States so it has to be made with pasteurized and homogenized milk. I’m certain it’s not as good, but I still take great delight in it.

Am I a brie fraud because I can’t eat the real thing?

3. Falafel

Falafel-Sandwich

Falafel has been having a major moment since I went to New York City in April 2013 and tasted it for the first time. It wasn’t even great falafel but it was good enough to begin within me an obsession for the food.

It’s just everything delicious rolled into one substance! I don’t even really know what to say about it. It’s the perfect food, especially for vegetarians. Protein! Delicious protein! And in a pita pocket! With tzatziki sauce! It’s enough to make one dance with hungry delight. Honestly, I wish I had a magic falafel-producing contraption to carry around so I could have falafel whenever I want it.

4. Chocolate (duh)

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Who doesn’t love chocolate? I know some people don’t, and that just weirds me out. It’s like not liking The Beatles.

I love chocolate, but not all chocolate. There exists in this world chocolate that is not worth eating because it is disgusting or is sourced despicably (read: sources cacao from places using child slavery). Hershey’s falls into both those categories.

Personally, I love Ritter Sport Alpine Milk. German-made with cacao beans sourced from Nicaragua. While I like to maintain healthy skepticism when it comes to well-to-do companies, Ritter Sport says they pay farmers a fair wage and source from co-ops, so that’s nice.

Additionally, there are brownies. And local to Utah, The Chocolate Conspiracy where you can buy a raw chocolate bar for a whopping $8.00.

What is it about chocolate? I wrote a paper about cacao for a Classic Maya course in college and I still don’t quite understand why chocolate is the ultimate food.

5. Kale

sals-kale-salad-recipe-ftr

I’ve been munching on kale for years now and only recently learned it is apparently a trendy food. Who knew? Food trends are possibly the oddest trends in existence. Eat what you like and maintain a variety of different foods. Grow food, eat locally when you can, recognize that the ultimate superfood is simply a variety of real food. But moving on…

Kale is just an all around great green crop to have, and super easy to grow. One could easily grow it in a pot if one lacks a backyard and garden.

Kale is best when sauteed with garlic and dried peppers and olive oil. If done correctly, it will remain fresh and green, but might accrue some crunch from being cooked. I always like a crunch. When cooked this way, kale can be its own side dish, added to pasta (my favorite), added to eggs, added to whatever screams, “I need some kale to be complete!”

6. Squash

fairytale-squash

I don’t even know how many varieties of squash there are. Some grow in the summer, some grow in the fall. I’ve never tasted one I didn’t like.

Zucchini and yellow squash are staples for summer. Pasta, hummus wraps, omelettes, raw dishes. They’re such warm and comforting foods.

In the fall, squash helps me to relish the cooling weather instead of look toward winter with foreboding, as I am wont to do. Pumpkin curry soup. Pumpkin pie. Butternut squash pasta. (I have a thing for pasta, too.)

Pumpkin is a vague descriptor for a squash. People tend to think of pumpkin as the bright orange, possibly roundish pumpkins used for carving. But the number of pumpkin varieties is staggering. Every fall the farmers’ market bursts with different pumpkins. Cinderella pumpkins, fairytale pumpkins, Galeux d’Eysines (often known as brain pumpkin in my house), pumpkins with names I can’t pronounce. They’re all delicious and all beautiful. At my house we buy far too many and freeze what we don’t eat quickly enough. Frozen pumpkin and butternut squash make frozen months bearable.

7. Garlic

GarlicBasket

People who stop eating garlic because they are in a romantic relationship might be a bit on the sad side. I would NEVER stop eating garlic for a relationship. Garlic is a necessity in life and makes everything better.

Garlic is supposedly one of those foods that smells bad, thus the tendency for some people to stop eating it if they’re coupled up. But I really like the smell. When I’ve been cooking with garlic and my hands smell of it for the next several hours, I’m okay with it. I love the smell. I love the taste. I love how garlic completes a dish. Without garlic, so many dishes fall flat in the taste department.

And there is something terribly pleasing about peeling off the papery layer and smashing the clove with a knife. It is a true happy place for me.

8. Baked Goods

Some of these apricots from my backyard went into pies

Some of these apricots from my backyard went into pies

My love of baked goods mostly pertains to my own homemade baked goods. While there are a few local bakeries I do love, nothing beats my own baking, and I think that’s good. One should love one’s own creations the most!!!

I love cookies and pie and pain au chocolat best of all. Interestingly, I used to think I hated pie before I started baking pie myself. As it turns out, I’m a superior pie-maker and must have intuited that other pies just weren’t up to snuff! How do I know my pies are superior? When people eat them they can’t say anything except groan in delight.

Pie is best when it is made from ingredients you grew yourself or purchased from a farmers market or co-op. Pumpkin pie from a can is not pumpkin pie in my book. Using fresh ingredients will always, always, always beat frozen or canned ingredients. And unless the crust is handmade, don’t even bother. I may or may not be a baking snob, and I’m okay with that.

I got my start baking by making cookies as a child. I was following a recipe and completely messed up, but the botched version turned out much better than the original. Now, I invent cookies and improve upon recipes that already exist.

And there you have it: the best foods. Are you hungry now?

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

Revolutionary Women: Amelia Earhart

Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.

–Amelia Earhart

tumblr_mcrticxMfr1qlkvgwo1_400I just love Amelia Earhart. She isn’t an unusual choice for a feature or person of admiration, but she certainly was an unusual woman of her time. Spotlighting her is not only essential given how great she was for American culture and women, it is timely because a modern Earhart aviatrix has recently finished the flight the original was tragically unable to complete.

Amelia Earhart is possibly best known for her mysterious disappearance in 1937. While that mystery is intriguing and worth exploring, I prefer to focus on her life and accomplishments.

I read a short biography of Earhart at a time in my life when more than ever before I needed to absorb the stories of revolutionary women. Contrary to my then therapist’s insistence that learning about who I called “strong or independent women” would be detrimental because it would make me feel less adequate, reading about Amelia Earhart helped me feel empowered and that my life is mine to make, and I’m not at the mercy of other people or ideas. (Take that psychotherapy! Blammo!!!)

I’m not sure why, but one detail from that biography that sticks out more than others is that of Earhart’s sleeping in her new flight jacket in order to break it in faster. I guess that just seems like the type of thing we all might do when we find our passions? Break into them as much as possible? I don’t know why that detail stands out, it just does.

Amelia-earhart-plane1As a child, Earhart was the definition of a tomboy in a time when it was less acceptable to be one. She climbed trees, hunted rats, and saved newspaper clippings of successful women in male-dominated fields.

The first time she flew in an airplane was in 1920 when she was 23 years old. She took a ride at an air show in Long Beach, California and that ride changed the direction of her life.

Working at odd jobs, she saved enough money to take flight lessons from Anita Snook. In 1921 she bought her first airplane, a bright yellow Kinner Airster biplane, which she called “The Canary.”

Earhart went on to break records and was the 16th woman to be given a pilot’s license by The Federation Aeronautique (wouldn’t it be interesting to know more about those other 15 ladies…).

In 1928 Earhart was the first woman to cross the Atlantic… as a passenger. I can’t exactly stick myself inside a historical situation (where’s the TARDIS when you need it?) but if I had to hypothesize, this seems like it was possibly a publicity stunt. A WOMAN in an AIRPLANE!! Oh, my! Newsworthy!!!! Earhart was invited to cross the Atlantic as a passenger by Captain Hilton H. Railey. She wasn’t allowed to fly because it was considered too dangerous for a woman. (Why have her then? That’s why I suspect publicity stunt. Why invite a pilot if you don’t think she’s capable of managing the flight?) Earhart mused that she felt she, “was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes.” But, never fear! That passenger flight wasn’t the last anyone heard “Earhart” and “Atlantic” together!

Amelia-Earhart-plane-found-submarine-tourismOn the fifth anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s flight, Earhart took off for the same feat. In 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She took off from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland and headed for Paris. However, due to mechanical difficulties she didn’t make it to Paris but instead landed in a field in Londonderry, Ireland.

Earhart continued to take on difficult and inspiring flights. She became the first person to fly across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans when she completed her Honolulu to Oakland flight. She also flew from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and from Mexico City to New York.

Earhart wearing an Amelia Earhart Fashion dress

Earhart wearing an Amelia Earhart Fashion dress

In addition to her flying prowess, she also designed a line of clothes called Amelia Earhart Fashion. Her fashion line was designed with aviation in mind, as well as a desire to design something for all women. Earhart’s line was the first to offer separates for suits. So instead of buying a suit with every piece the same size, a woman could buy a jacket in one size and a skirt in another.

She also designed her line with finances in mind. This was during the Great Depression, so her clothing could not be overpriced. She sold her clothing at prices lower than those of other fashion lines, and also sold patterns so women could make their own Amelia Earhart Fashions.

While the line didn’t last, the designs were notable because they were functional. Earhart said of her designs, “I tried to put the freedom that is in flying into the clothes.” Some notable aspects of her designs included practical fabrics, longer shirt tails that would stay tucked in with movement, solid lines instead of ruffles, buttons shaped like propellers, flowing designs, and the use of parachute silk.

Earhart’s final flight began June 1, 1937 from Miami in a Lockheed Electra. Earhart wanted to be the first woman to fly around the globe. Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan flew down Central and South America, and east for Africa. They continued up through the Middle East and South Asia, to Australia, and finally to Lae, Papua New Guinea.

It was from Lae Earhart and Noonan took off for Howland Island and were never seen again.

The leg to Howland Island was one of the last in Earhart’s round the world flight. Earhart had been communicating with the Coast Guard ship Itasca, her planned radio contact, providing updates on her location. On July 2, 1937 at 7:42 a.m. the Coast Guard ship Itasca received a radio transmission from Earhart saying, “We must be on you but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.” Earhart’s last inflight communication came through at 8:43 a.m. indicating she was flying a north, south line.

While many theories have been presented, there have been no conclusive findings as to what ultimately happened to Earhart and Noonan. Recent research suggests radio transmissions from days following the disappearance were credibly from Earhart, though at the time they were considered bunk so went ignored.

Despite Earhart’s tragic end, her real legacy is inspiring generations of women to aspire to achieve their dreams–be they aviation dreams or not. Earhart broke boundaries for women in her time, and inspired a nation deep in the throes of the Great Depression.

And let’s get fashionably real: We wear bomber jackets because of her, right?

earhart5

Sources:

The Official Website of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart Biography

Amelia Earhart’s Fashion Line

Discovery News

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

A Neo-Luddite’s Guide to the 21st Century

This was originally posted on Hellogiggles.com several months ago. But as I enjoyed writing it so much and find myself to be terribly amusing, I am reposting here. Fun! I also edited a bit because what else is a writer supposed to do? 

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.” –Henry David Thoreau

06146ed47ce106a18faa9b68e0b3c61c9473a1be1fed6ca6be6f79f6f3164f1dEven as I sit typing this, I realize the contradictory nature of the headline: advice for a Neo-Luddite? On a blog? On the internet? Typed on the computer? WHAT? But, hey. This is the 21st Century, after all.

For those of you unfamiliar with Neo-Luddites or Luddites, a Luddite is someone who fears or simply does not like technology. The original Luddites protested (sometimes violently) innovations in textile production in England in the early 19th century. In the 21st century, you can find Neo-Luddites scouring antique stores for typewriters, in possession of a set of ink and quills, desperately denying that newspapers will ever die out, and avoiding places like the Apple store like they would the ebola virus.

Although I am a Millennial, I am a Neo-Luddite. The day I got my first cell phone was a day of embarrassment for me (a day I postponed as long as possible). Facebook is a necessary evil for promoting writing, an evil the worth of which I consider regularly. Ebooks and tablets are the devil incarnate and I would really love to break them all.

Despite my Neo-Luddite tendencies, I somehow ended up pursuing a career that is becoming more and more electronic, as well as more dependent on modern technology.

So how do I survive it? Good question. Below are a few tricks I employ to ensure my sanity in a world that values the latest and greatest technology more than almost anything else.

1. Pick a time (or multiple times) each day to turn off your phone.

The catch-22 of having a cell phone is that it makes you more available, while also making you too available. Being easy to reach can be great and one of the reasons cell phones grew in popularity so rapidly. But being more available can be horrendously stressful. Suppose you are trying to meditate or are trying to focus on writing or studying and your phone rings (or more likely these days, you receive a text). Your brain is rapidly pulled out of focus, even if you choose not to respond. Regaining that focus can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re like me and for some reason feel a nagging to respond just to get it out of the way.

If you choose a period of time each day (while you’re sleeping doesn’t count, although that’s probably a good idea) to turn off your phone, you are free to be free! Free from technology, even if it’s just for a while. And if you choose to use that time to focus on those tasks that require deep mental or spiritual focus, all the better.

2. Turn off email notifications.

This is in reference to email capabilities on smartphones. Many people have jobs that require employees to have smartphones, even if that means the company foots the bill. For a Luddite this trend can be a nightmare, especially when it comes to email. Sure, the purpose of a smartphone for work often is email. But as long as you are a responsible employee there is no reason that every ten minutes or so you have to hear that obnoxious ping or swish indicating a new email has arrived. It is over-stimulating for many people, but more importantly it puts technology in control of you, instead of leaving you in control of technology. That is one of the key problems a Luddite sees with technology: that instead of people living to live and interact and be, they are living to be at the beck and call of some kind of technology. Removing automatic email notifications (and while we’re on the topic, ANY notifications) helps you to be in control.

3. Be that person who lugs around a 600 page book on an airplane.

education-booksI recently returned from a trip to Alaska (by the way, a good place to be if you aren’t a huge fan of technology). As I boarded the plane home, a flight attendant saw my enormous hardback copy of The Historian and said, “Wow, a real book. You don’t see those very often anymore.” I had been up since 2:30 a.m. so didn’t respond vocally with anything very interesting. But my sleep-deprived brain ran through a rapid cycle of thoughts:

“Uggghhhh! E-readers are the worst!”

“Haha, yeah. And I get to keep reading my book during takeoff and landing.”

“How could I possibly board a plane without a book?”

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD IF MY BOOK IS A NOVELTY?????”

And don’t limit yourself to only lugging around books on airplanes. Take them to work, school (school books don’t count), movies (yes, I have taken a book to a movie). Anywhere you feel you might have a chance to read and escape even momentarily from the technology-crazed world surrounding you.

4. Be the last to know about any new technology or trendy website

Honestly, Neo-Luddites probably don’t even have to try to do this. I know I don’t. On many occasions, people have tried to talk to me about a new technology or website that it seems everyone else in the world understands. Frequently I have no idea what they are talking about, and I don’t mind in the least. Why clutter up my life with more websites and more stuff? I don’t need it.

Frankly, even though I have a Twitter account, I can’t figure out its purpose beyond promoting writing. And I can’t make head or tail of what Tumblr and Pinterest are supposed to be. And that’s okay.

This trick can also apply to viral trends. For example, if you ask me what ‘gangnam style’ is all I can say is that it was a trendy video once. I think. Is that what it was? Anyway, I heard people say it a lot but I never really knew what it was. And my life is still pretty neat so I don’t think I missed out much.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be informed. But I think Neo-Luddites are pretty good at filtering out the chaff from the wheat when it comes to media.

5. Go outside frequently

Phone pic--non-luddite style. Kenai River.

Phone pic–non-luddite style. Kenai River.

Often the best ways to tune out the technology you really just don’t love is to go outside–especially if you can go to a wilderness or nature area.

In my experience you may have to adapt the best you can given where you live. For example, when I lived in Columbia, Missouri a year ago, there wasn’t much wilderness around. I often wandered around thinking, “Where did all the wilderness go?” There was, however, a designated “nature area” down the hill from my apartment. Granted, even in the middle of it I could still hear the cars whizzing down the streets that circled the area, but it was better than nothing.

On the flip side, in Alaska just standing outside your front door can be sufficient. I would recommend venturing further than your front door, but it just goes to show how different places offer different levels of outdoorsy sanctuary.

One thing to remember: when you are going outside to give yourself a break from technology, don’t bring your cellphone or iPod or iPad! (duh.)

6. If you’re a student, don’t take a laptop to class

I remember those long gone, whimsical days of college. I felt dumbfounded whenever I sat behind someone who brought a laptop to class. I wondered, “How is this person learning anything? He’s watching funny cat videos instead of paying attention to this lecture on bone composition.” True story. What confounded me was students who brought laptops toggled back and forth between Facebook, Youtube, email, and maybe lecture notes. How do they learn?

I guess that’s their learning style but I have always been grateful that I opted to use notebooks and pens. They’re lighter and I was less likely to be regretfully distracted. And if I ever did succumb to distraction, drawing a picture or writing a poem in the margins of my notebook seemed like a much better use of my time than Facebook.

7. Buy handmade goods and homegrown foods

farmers-market-local-produce-520Mechanization invading every aspect of my life is one my horrors. Sometimes it seems like my nightmare is unavoidable, however, there are so many artisans and farmers around that it is feasible to fill your life with goods and foods untouched by much–if any–machinery beyond the ordinary.

Farmers markets, craft fairs, and used bookstores are your friends.

We live in a techno-crazed world, no doubt. And while it is absolutely unnecessary to wander the earth destroying technology (except maybe ebooks) like our Luddite forbears, it is possible to live a bit more simply.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

Revolutionary Women: Nancy Hart

hartn_portraitIn light of the fact that I came up with this brilliant series around Independence Day, it is fitting that the first woman I spotlight is one from the American Revolution. However, being that your average history of the American Revolution is completely devoid of women, I had never heard of Nancy Hart until I looked up “women in the American revolution” on Google. (Public education fail.)

Nancy Hart is best known for holding six British soldiers at gunpoint. The legend says British soldiers killed her last turkey and entered her home, demanding she cook the turkey for them to eat. She did so, while administering alcohol with the intent to inebriate the soldiers.

While the men were eating, she sent her daughter to fetch water from the well and blow a conch shell there to warn Hart’s husband of the danger. Meanwhile, she started sneaking the soldiers’ muskets out the window while they ate in a drunken state. After two muskets were put outside, she was caught. The third gun in hand, she threatened to shoot anyone who came near her. One soldier tried to stop her and was killed. She kept the rest of the soldiers at bay until her husband arrived.

Hart’s husband thought they soldiers should be shot, but Hart thought that action was too good for them. Instead, the soldiers were hanged from a nearby tree.

That’s quite the story. And a group of skeletons found in 1912 lend credence to the story. However, that’s not all Hart did.

She also worked as a spy, dressing up as a man and infiltrating British camps to glean information from the soldiers; was knowledgeable in frontier medicine; worked as a midwife; was skilled as a sharpshooter; may have blinded a British soldier with lye soap she was boiling when she caught him spying on her. She was a woman of many talents.

Much of the information surrounding her is legend and not as well documented as the exploits of various historical men. Nonetheless, what we know of Hart is she was a bold woman who contributed what she could to the Revolution–which was a lot!

So the next time Independence Day rolls around, remember all the women who contributed to that independence we as Americans hold dear. Remember Nancy Hart, and learn about more revolutionary women, too.

Sources:

Nancy Morgan Hart. Georgia Women of Achievement.

Nancy Morgan Hart. National Women’s History Museum.