Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Biology and Ben-Hur

My first term of Anatomy & Physiology concluded about two weeks ago - and since then I've been relishing every moment of freedom I have. I am still in awe of how much information my brain absorbed during that 8-week period. We covered bones and muscles, tissues, and part of the nervous system. Even though I am ecstatic to be done, I am also excited for next term. We will be covering more of the nervous system, as well as the endocrine, cardiovascular and immune systems. What I've enjoyed learning about the most is the processes that occur - the physiology of what is happening in our bodies. Even while it is fun spouting off anatomical language with my classmates (it's true - becoming a nerd is way too easy :), I've really enjoyed learning about the chemistry behind all of the reactions that occur in and between our cells. How muscles work, how neurotransmitters work, how different types of tissues function...I won't bore my friends w/ the details but even the seemingly mundane processes our bodies regularly go through are nothing short of miraculous.

In light of my newfound freedom from classes, Ben and I have decided to start watching the "classics" - (mostly older) movies that have in some way had a dramatic impact on the world. We started this journey with the epic, "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ." Ben has seen the movie a handful of times but I'd never seen it. Boy am I glad I did! I don't even have the words to describe this film - spectacular and deeply moving, with the quintessential lead character filled by the beautifully chiseled Charlton Heston. I highly recommend it :)

The film, being the first I've seen of Charlton Heston (I know, I know, I'm absurdly naive when it comes to classic pop culture icons), made me think back on the film I saw in high school, "Bowling for Columbine." In this film, Michael Moore interviews Charlton Heston, who, at the time, was serving as president of the NRA. I watched the interview again on YouTube yesterday and was disappointed with Moore's treatment of Heston. I am also extremely intrigued by Heston's life history (of which I am just barely aware of - via wikipedia :) -
how he went from a political progressive active in the civil rights movement to a political conservative endorsing Reagan and both Bush's, and becoming a prominent defender of the Constitution's second amendment right to bear arms. The wikipedia article quotes him as saying this in response to his apparent switch in political allegiances: "I didn't change. The Democratic party changed."

Recently a member of my family publicly criticized me for my support of health care reform and Obama. I replied that I didn't think Obama was perfect, and that I suggested he watch the film, "Sicko". This same member of my family went on say that I was "brainwashed by the left,", that "all politicians are crooks," and that Obama is "nothing more than a polished turd of a used car salesman." He also cursed the maker of "Sicko" and politely referred to Obama as "Obama bin laden". This member of my family is a HUGE supporter of gun rights and refers to himself as neither liberal nor conservative, though I do remember him giving praise to Donald Rumsfeld just after we bombed Iraq.

In watching the clip yesterday from "Bowling for Columbine" I could see one small thread...an inkling, perhaps, of common ground between this family member and myself. Ultimately my ____(unnamed family member) wants to protect the innocent. He wants to get rid of the "bad guys." He probably doesn't receive his information from the traditional media because most likely it is suspected to be biased and reflecting the views of the liberal upper class. I'm not sure where his news comes from. Ultimately, much like most of us, we watch and listen to programs that in some way we trust, or believe is genuine, unbiased reporting. Of course what I think is genuine and unbiased is completely different from what other people in different corners of our country think is unbiased and genuine.

The Christ depicted in Ben-Hur speaks to so many of these underlying human problems (albeit indirectly). The camera never shows the face of Christ, only the reaction people have to him. I hate it when people say that something is "all about" something - reducing a complex issue to a nice statement. But in this one instance, it seems appropriate to say that it really is about power. The struggles facing the world are about power - who has it and who doesn't, and what the people with it are doing with it. This struggle for power (or, maybe just the freedom to exist as one chooses) is the context in which a helpless Christ dies for doing nothing wrong.

I am looking forward to the next "classic" from the library. We have close to 2 dozen on the list, so we'll be watching movies till our eyes hurt for the next few weeks :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why I don't have time to blog anymore...at least for now

...Because I'm busy with work and taking Anatomy & Physiology! There is little time for much else. However, I've had some incredible weekends hiking with Ben. We've been hiking along the Columbia River gorge as much as possible while the weather here is so beautiful. We've discovered a website that describes virtually all of the hikes in the Portland area, what to expect, how difficult they are, how to get there, etc. It has been our go-to for all of our hiking adventures this summer. How lucky we are to have such a great resource!
I went to a lecture/conversation at my church with the presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church a few weeks ago. She was wonderful. You can listen to her at my church's website. My priest included his favorite quotations from her talk on his blog and I think he does a pretty good job of highlighting some of her important points. His blog is here.

I'm anxious to get more involved at Grace, but also reluctant to do so, given my already jam-packed schedule. One of things I'd love to do, perhaps next summer when I'm not taking a class, is volunteer at the Art camp. It serves over 1,000 kids in Portland every summer - this year the theme is "Tales from the Ancient Near East." What fun! I would also love to get more involved in the healing ministry/Taize service, and perhaps the Labyrinth ministry. And maybe the gardening guild. You can see now why I was so attracted to this church :) Too little time...

For the next three weeks I will be stuffing as much information re: the skeletal and muscular system into my brain. Memorizing every bone, process, notch, ridge, etc. in the human body. It is fascinating but all-consuming as a condensed summer course. Thus, I am saying goodbye now for quite a while. :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

First time ever joining a church

I don't know if it's the time of year or what but it feels like everyone (including me) is sort of bored with and/or not interested in blogging. I've been absent in the blogosphere lately because 1) I've had so much going on; 2) I don't feel like I have anything all that thrilling to write about; and 3) I've become more wary of sharing personal things on this blog with the world. So, I'm working on solving #3 by only making my blog accessible to friends. However I need specific email addresses for that. #1 and #2 I'm afraid will be that way for quite some time... :)

Some exciting news: I joined a church last weekend! Since moving to Portland almost two years ago, I've been attending a variety of churches. Some Presbyterian, some non-denom., one Methodist. They have all been positive experiences, for the most part. But none of them felt quite right. I wrote a few months ago about how I attended an Episcopal church and how it felt like home. Well, that feeling has never left me. Every time I go, I feel at peace, and I am so excited to be there.

So, last weekend I stood in front of the congregation and became a member! (Something I have never done before, at least at a mainline denominational church.) I'm excited to learn all about the Episcopal tradition and to connect into this community. So far, I love what I am learning and seeing an experiencing.

PS my biology class is going well. I registered for Anatomy & Physiology I this summer. It will be a busy season!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Guitar Loving Cat

I just can't get enough of this.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Biology 112 Here I Come

I started the first of several pre-reqs for nursing last night at PCC. My instructor is fantastic. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz and has studied marine biology all over the world. Plus she is funny, does not take herself too seriously, yet has very high expectations and has been refreshingly clear and organized. And you get the feeling that she is genuinely rooting for all of her students to succeed.

I'm so excited for this class. And not just because it will be fascinating material...but because what I will be learning in this class will be applied to my life...not just recreationally, but professionally. For a long time I've taken classes for enjoyment or to get a degree...or to vaguely improve my standing in getting into graduate school. I don't regret all of my political studies classes, art classes, horticulture and plant classes, etc....in fact they've all shaped who I am and I hope to never think of them as useless or a waste of my time. All education is an end in itself. But some of it is more useful in terms of gaining employment. I know there will always be a need for nurses. I doubt we'll ever have too many people who know how to care for the sick and the dying, of all ages. I am excited about the one-on-one interaction. I am excited that this is a field where what makes you great is both your intellectual grasp of concepts and ability to practically apply them, and your emotional intelligence...i.e. how well you treat people, and your ability to stand beside people in their pain.

I am excited for this new journey. The picture above is the only one I could find that wasn't either a slightly pornographic photo or an average run-of-the-mill shot of a real life nurse (after a few moments of googling "nurse"). Both seemed unfitting. So I went with the Cadet nurse.

P.S. now that I think I know what I'm doing with my life, generally speaking, perhaps I can start blogging about the things that I originally sought to blog about...and not just a keep a running tally of my thoughts at a particular moment. I'm sorry for anyone reading this blog who thinks it abhorrently uninteresting and self-absorbed. Thanks for being my friend anyway :o)

Monday, March 16, 2009


This life is a crazy one. The geology course I just finished blew my mind. When you start thinking about the world in increments of millions or tens of thousands of years, it puts everything in a different light. In some weird paradoxical way, I have even more respect for the creation, for this amazing, relentless life-giving universe we are all so blessed to participate in and experience after taking this class...and at the same time I feel as though I've become a bit more moderate in my environmental leanings (i.e. less granola :). I've learned that throughout the history of the universe, as we know it, there have been incredible eons of time marked by extraordinary forms of life, and that these periods of time repeatedly underwent mass extinctions...whether this is through a giant asteroid hitting the planet, or widespread disease, or massive amounts of volcanic activity across the globe, tectonic plates shifting, and the proposed theory of the impact of the sun ushering in ice ages over tens of thousands of years...and that even after these mass extinctions, life somehow goes on...as we see in fossils and rocks, essentially acting as a giant tape recorder of all life on earth throughout all time. Life goes on much differently after these extinctions, in many cases. In the case of the dinosaurs, it altered the evolutionary path of all living things and paved the way for the development of human beings, while virtually wiping out all of the dinosaurs (all but birds, who are the closest thing we have today to dinosaurs). As I think about global climate change in this context, I think to myself, "Of course the climate is changing. It has been doing that for over a billion years." This does not mean that I feel unsympathetic to creatures of the world who are suffering because of this change.

I have a sticker on my car that reads "Extinction isn't Stewardship" with a Jesus fish symbol and salmon inside
. It's true, extinction may not be stewardship. In many cases it is the direct impact of human beings that are causing these creatures to become extinct. This is tragic. It is, as Wendell Berry states, a blasphemy against God. But, the one thing I've gotten from this class is...life will go on...and on it will go in extraordinary ways. This amazing planet, which teeters on its orbit around the sun, floating in the universe, will somehow go on. God, energy, spirit, life...it will all go on somehow, someway.

Speaking of life going on, I've temporarily put to rest my dream of going into landscape architecture. My reasons are myriad but essentially it comes down to: 1) It is a profession of the upper class, which tailors its business to what those with money want; 2) as such, it is a privilege occupation - it is not one that we need, but one that is nice. It would be a beautiful career if money weren't an issue; 3) the money in it is mostly in contracting and maintenance, which does not interest me as much as plants and design; 4) jobs in landscape architecture are not very abundant...particularly in an economic recession such as we are in now...and I simply cannot risk taking a hundred thousand dollars in student loans out for a job that might be out there.

So...for now LA is on the back burner. The profession I am looking into now is Nursing. This is about the third time in my life I've given serious consideration to it. Tomorrow I'm going to an informational meeting about PCC's nursing program. They have a Associates degree in Nursing program that allows you to become an RN or transfer to OHSU for a bachelor's degree. The pre-reqs would take a few years to complete while working full time. So...we shall see what's next. The idea of nursing is exciting to me. The idea of working with people one-on-one, caring for them, learning about the human body and how it works, not having to pick out my outfit every day (just kidding...ok not really, i think i'd like wearing scrubs!), and of course knowing that I can go virtually anywhere in the world and be ass
ured that there will be a job....this all sounds great to me. Plus, perhaps I could integrate some of what I've learned about plants through horticultural therapy with my potential future patients...who knows, and maybe by then I'll actually have money to afford to make a therapeutic garden of my own!

For the time being, however, I will be cramming for my Soils final, which is tomorrow, after the informational meeting about nursing. Life sure is crazy. But it relentlessly and marvelously goes on.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


This morning I worshipped for the first time at an Episcopal church in NE Portland, and for the first time in a really long time, it truly felt like home. If Ben enjoys it as much as I did we may have found our church home. We shall see. It was so invigorating to feel good at church, instead of feeling like an awkward stranger. Church-going alone can be a lonely, scary task, particularly at larger churches where it is easy to get lost in the crowd. This morning a woman named Sarah welcomed me, invited me to coffee hour and introduced me to some other people...which makes all the difference when you don't know anyone. I'm thankful to God for this welcoming community in the heart of NE Portland. In addition to the people, the building is absolutely gorgeous. Smaller, intimate, warm, inviting, peaceful. And, to top it off, there were some younger people sitting in the pews! This may be an answer to prayer, we shall see.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Since my last post...

1. My boyfriend of almost 3 years moved here after about 18 months of living in California
2. I've begun coursework in Soils and Plant Nutrition, and I love it
3. I've begun coursework in Geology of the Pacific NW, and it is blowing my mind and is so far beyond my comprehension...but even so, my brain is enjoying the imaginitive trip through what our world may have been like billions and millions of years ago. It is an astonishing journey.

4. More snow fell in Portland than in the last 40 years, and then melted, thankfully

5. I've gotten a nice chair at work that helps with good posture (which was desperately needed)
6. I'm getting new office furniture, and I get to pick out a color for an accent wall...i'm thinking of going with "Tangy Green" or "Green Moth" - (they are much lovelier than they sound...:)
7. I've gone to an exploring membership dinner at the Methodist church I've been attending...and I'm still not sure I want to "join." I appreciate the people there. They are warm, inviting, inquisitive, and thoughtful. Ben and I are the youngest people by at least 5 years...there are a handful of early 30-somethings. I don't know why I have this need to have one foot in and one foot out of things like this..maybe it's part of my non-committal lifestyle, I'm not sure. I am torn between wanting tradition and wisdom, such as you would find in an older mainline denominational church, and the liveliness and peer network of a younger, perhaps non-denominational congregation. In any case, all of this requires that I commit somewhere, and that I seek to give to that community, not just continue "shopping" around for what a faith community can give me.

8. I love having Ben here - it has been wonderful in so many ways. He has brought a lively energy to our introverted home, helps with meals and dishes, and is just a good roommate. When he starts working he'll move out into his own place, and it will be good for him to have his own space, and not be living out of a suitcase and sleeping on our living room couch every night. But we will miss him. We are both praying hard that he will find a good job soon. Everyone knows how sucky it is to be looking for a job, and at this point in time (during an economic recession), in this city (which is overflowing with over-educated, ambitious, young and willing-to-work-for-nothing hipsters), it is particularly challenging. Ben is a dynamic, intelligent, enthusiastic, driven and genuinely caring person that any company would be incredibly fortunate to have. It is difficult to convey that to a company in a few short interviews or on a resume. We are praying for what feels like a miracle.
9. I am still planning on applying to grad school next year. I keep talking to people and asking them the same questions I've been asking for the last year and a half - and I keep coming back to Landscape Architecture.
10. That said, I've also entertained thoughts of bagging the whole LA thing and going to school to learn web design.
11. I've been obsessed with Etsy.com - little parts of me dream about being a full-time artist from time to time.
12. I guess that's it. My life has been so busy I've had little motivation to post anything, especially at home where my computer is slooooooooow.

13. One last thing: I saw this amazing lecture about mushrooms in my soils class - the more i learn about fungi the more respect I have for this incredible Kingdom of life. I still HATE the texture of them in my mouth, though. I respect and appreciate them without wanting to eat them :) The video can be found here. Enjoy.