30 Hour Famine

This weekend I did the 30 Hour Famine.

If you’ve never heard of the 30 Hour Famine, imagine taking two or three dozen teenagers, depriving them of food for 30 hours, locking them up in a dark, empty church basement with 10 gallons of Gatorade, and then telling them to wake up early the next morning and do physical labor on empty stomachs for the glory of God.

That, in a nutshell, is the 30 Hour Famine.

Sound like a bad idea? Yes, yes it does sound like a bad idea. Let it be known unto you that there is no whinier tribe of people than that of hungry teenagers.

I want an ice cream sandwich.

Stop talking about food.

I want BACON!! I love bacon!! Did you know they make bacon ice cream at Such-and-such place? I want bacon!

Stop talking about food.

Jello sounds really good right now.

Stop talking about food.

I really want to go clam digging, but my family doesn’t want to. Do you think the Boy Scouts would take me clam digging if I asked? I know most of them.

Stop talking about food.

I want pho.

Stop talking about food.

I want sushi.

Stop talking about food.

And it goes on and on.

Yet, year after year, we decide to do it again. Year after year, kids sign up and voluntarily give up nourishment. Year after year, people talk excitedly about the 30 Hour Famine coming! What? You’re not coming? Why not?! Meghan, you’re going, right? Oh good! Oh my gosh! 30 Hour Famine is coming!

Kids are just weird that way.

But I suppose I’m not telling you about a very important part. These kids don’t starve themselves for nothing. They’re getting money for their troubles. Their mothers feel sorry for them and they sweet-talk their uncles and aunts into giving up some money. If you’re me, you guilt-trip your cousins and bully your friends. Then, you proudly take your sheaf of money and give it up to Pastor Ming and never see it again.

But somebody does. The money raised for 30 Hour Famine goes to World Vision, a Christian humanitarian relief organization that fights poverty, injustice, and their effects around the world. Somebody is going to get some use out of that $292.01 I forked over today. I’ll probably never know who or why. They’re never going to thank me for it. But they might be going through a real famine, with real hunger. No Gatorade. No post-Famine feast. No sympathetic parents to baby them after it’s all over. I’ll never know exactly how my little bit of money is used.

And that’s okay.



Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life (and the 99%)

I have discovered something that I have often suspected to be true: twelve-year-old boys and 19th Century Brit-lit don’t mix.

I wrote the following in an email to Ryan the 7th Grader:

I am currently reading a book called Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life, by Elizabeth Gaskell. I like Elizabeth Gaskell. She was a contemporary of Charlotte Brontë, a close friend, and also wrote novels, many of them emphasizing local culture or political and socioeconomic strife of the times. Mary Barton is an interesting read, especially now after all the Occupy Wall Street business. It’s interesting to read of the same things happening almost two hundred years ago and to compare what has changed and what hasn’t between then and now. Mary Barton is set in Manchester, England of the 1840s, during the Industrial Revolution and portrays the working class’s general dissatisfaction and the ensuing class warfare of the period. See, the rich people who own cloth factories are all like, “Okay, we need our cloth to be cheaper than everyone else’s so that everybody will buy ours. To that end, let’s not pay our workers too much.” The factory workers are all like, “Umm, no way, Hosea! We’re the ones who do the actual work. We’re the ones who made you rich in the first place. We got mouths to feed. We DE-MAND better pay!” Then the rich peeps are like, “NEVAR!” and the poor people are like, “FINE! BE that way, 1%! We’re going to Occupy Manchester!” and then everyone’s all like, “Grawr rawr rawr!!!!!”

Meanwhile, there’s this girl named (guess what?) Mary Barton. She is the daughter of factory worker John Barton, who is embittered against the rich because of what he regards as their flagrant disregard for the welbeing of the working class. But Mary doesn’t care about all this. She’s super cute and even better, a cute guy likes her. Even better than that, the cute guy is loaded. He is Harry Carson, the dashing, playboy son of Mr. Carson, the rich, self-made factory owner. She dreams of being married to Harry Carson and being rich; of giving her poor, hard-working father every imaginable comfort, of being a fine lady and doing fine, lady-like things. But this quixotic castle-in-the-sky of hers comes crashing down around her when she realizes that she does NOT love Harry Carson at all, but Jem Wilson, the honest, hardworking son of her father’s friend. No sooner does she realize this than a brutal murder threatens to tear her life apart in a most horrific way, she realizes that she may loose her lover, and that it is all. Her. Fault.

Bom bom bwammm!!

Ryan’s reply to my thoughts? They are brief:

Ok well I didn’t really read the last paragraph cuz it sounded kinda boring but idk something about some Barton guy and falling in love.

I’m not sure why I even try.

Conversations with Brother

These are my typical conversations with Younger Brother.

Conversation 1: Banana Ninja

Banana Ninja

Erik: Guess what, Sofia! Something amazing just happened!

Sofia: You found a dollar? You got a job?

Erik: No, so there’s this website, and it’s called BananaNinja.com, and it’s actually a relatively decent website, I mean, some of their stuff is a little silly, but for the main part–

Sofia: Wait, what is this?

Erik: Banana Ninja! They make movies about a Banana Ninja! I mean, you’d think something like that would be a lot more popular than it is, but it isn’t. I mean, you just look at their forums and it’s pretty sad. Nobody comments on their stuff except me. In fact, sometimes they even joke about it. But anyway, stop interrupting me! They had a contest, and so you get a fortune cookie, but if you get a paper crane, then you get a free item from their store, but there aren’t very many paper cranes, I mean, they’re really, really rare, but if you do, then you’ve won their contest. But I got a crane, and so I took a screenshot of it and sent it to them and now I can get a Banana Ninja T-shirt for free! Except that they haven’t emailed me back yet, and I did do it pretty late, so maybe they aren’t checking their email as frequently. But yeah!

Sofia: . . . Cool story bro. I could have told it in two sentences, but I’m happy for you.

I think these things, but I don’t actually say them. Unless I’m in a bad mood.

Conversation 2: The Contents of Erik’s Jar

Erik: Hey Sofia! Guess what! Something amazing has happened!

Sofia: You’ve decided to be a plumber when you grow up? You won another free T-shirt?

Erik: No, stop interrupting me. The spider in my spider jar finally caught the fly I put in there! It’s in its web now and the spider is all juicy and fat. Man, I put another spider in there, and that one is a lot skinnier and I would have thought that it would have made more effort to catch the fly, but nope. The big spider caught it. My spiders usually end up eating each other until there’s only one left, so maybe the big one will eat the other one after it’s done with the fly. Everything is pretty dead in there right now. Maybe I should put some more grass seeds and water in there so that they can get some greenery . . .

Conversation 3: The Contents of Sofia’s Jar

Sofia: Ooh! Look! Someone used a lemon! Here’s a lemon rind for my salty lemon jar!

Erik: What?

Sofia: I thought it was a waste to throw away the lemon rinds after we’re done squeezing them, so I decided to save them in a Mason jar of brine.

Erik: What’s brine?

Sofia: Salty water. It preserves stuff. See the lemon on the bottom? It’s about two months old, but it still looks as good as new! That’s because of the salt! It preserves stuff.

Erik: Sofia, you’re becoming a pack rat. Nobody wants salty lemons.

Sofia: Smell them! They smell really good!

Erik: NO!

Conversation 4: Petticoats

Sofia: Look Erik! I made a petticoat!

Erik: Never heard of ’em.

Sofia: Well, back in the olden days, people wore them under their skirts to keep warm, and they were just another warm skirt, but then they evolved to be poufy and ornamental, like mine.

Erik: What’s the point?

Sofia: To make your skirt poufy.

Erik: No, not my skirt. YOUR skirt. Sofia, people just don’t wear things like that. What’s the point?

Sofia: To make your skirt poufy!

We don’t get each other. At all.

How to Make Flan

You know what’s weird?

Trying to sleep in crinolines.

You know what else is weird?

Arguing with Ryan the 7th Grader about Griffith’s experiments of bacterial transformation.

Sofia: Isn't it cool, Ryan? The mouse is injected with dead pathogenic encapsulated bacteria, which can't do anything because it is dead, and non-pathogenic non-encapsulated bacteria, which can't do anything because it's non-pathogenic, but together, they're able to kill the mouse, even though they can't do anything by themselves! Isn't that cool, Ryan?!
Ryan: Um, yeah Sofia, NO, that's not cool at all!!

I guess I’m just weird that way. It’s been a weird day. Yesterday I came home from work with a temperature of 103 degrees and a throbbing headache. I’m beginning to have my doubts about the efficacy of flu shots; this is the first year I’ve ever taken one and this is the second flu I’ve contracted.

Yesterday was my official first day on the job. As in, not in orientation anymore. I had to do everything myself. I couldn’t cry to anyone and say, “I don’t know what to do!!! Help meee!!!” No Sofia, you’re on your own. Try not to let anyone die (my job is at the hospital). My plan of action is to keep bringing in homemade food until I’m competent, so that my colleagues like me. Yesterday, I brought flan, which I learned how to make from a random Filipino website I can’t remember the name of. My elder brother used to make “flan” from a Jello mix. Don’t settle for the Jello mix. It’s really easy. The hardest part is getting the hot pan out of the steamer. I use Chinese steamer tongs. I’ve switched up the recipe somewhat. Here is my take:

Leche Flan

10 egg yolks

1/2 c boiling water

1 c dry milk

1 1/3 c sugar

3 T butter

1 c milk

1 t vanilla

1 t salt

Method: To the 1/2 c of boiling water, stir in 3 T butter. Once melted, add dry milk and 2/3 c sugar. Blend it like crazy and let it sit 5 minutes to cool. In the mean time, beat the 10 egg yolks in a bowl and set aside. No, you can’t use 5 whole eggs instead. It just wouldn’t be the same. Whites=protein=tough flan. Save the whites and use them for angel food cake or something. Once the boiled water-butter-dry milk-sugar concoction is done cooling, add egg yolks. Blend well and then add the normal milk and vanilla.

By the way, if you have moral objections to the whole boiled water-butter-dry milk-sugar deal, you can replace it with a 14 oz. can of sweetened, condensed milk. I just do this because I don’t happen to buy sweetened, condensed milk, but we do happen to have boiled water, butter, dry milk, and sugar on hand.

In a small saucepan, cook together 2/3 c of sugar, 1 t salt, and 1 c water on high until mixture starts to carmelize. Continue cooking until almost-but-not-quite burnt, adding water if necessary to keep mixture liquid. Immediately pour into mold. Wait another 5 minutes for this to cool off. In the meantime, get a large pot of water boiling and figure out how you’re planning to steam this thing. My “mold” is a 8 in. cake pan that fits perfectly over the mouth of my stock pot, but if you have a steamer basket, that might work as well.

Pour flan mixture into mold over top of caramel, cover with aluminum foil, then place in steamer and steam 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.


For Lent, I gave up Facebook.

Giving up stuff aside, I really enjoy Lent, which is ironic since we’re supposed to be contemplating the sacrifice and suffering that Jesus went through for our sakes. It’s a time when we put away the Halleluiah songs and bust out “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.” But it’s also a time of spiritual renewal; a time when we put aside our busy lives for a while and strive to enter a deeper relationship with God.

For Lutherans, at least in my neck of the woods, this is how Lent goes down:

  • Lent lasts for 40 days, not including Sundays. The number 40 is a very important number in the Bible; the Israelites wandered around in the desert for 40 years, Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness, etc. It’s not exactly a fun-time number, but a waiting number and a hoping number. During the 40 days of Lent, we are called to contemplate our lives and our relationship with God as we wait and hope.
  • No more Halleluiahing: I was actually serious about that. During Lent, we don’t sing any songs with the word “H/Alleluia” in them. We’re getting ready for Easter and Jesus’ triumph over the grave, but right now, we’re not doing that. We’re waiting.
  • At Wednesdays at 7, we go to church. Is it just my church, or is Wednesday at 7 a very Lutheran time to do things? I just visited the websites of a bunch of random Lutheran churches, and sure enough; Wednesdays at 7 are all pretty much booked. We have council meetings Wed. at 7, the knitting group Wed. at 7, Lenten services Wed. at 7, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Board Meetings Wed. at 7 – the only reason that choir practice is on Thursdays at 7 is because Wednesdays at 7 are all booked up, otherwise, Wednesdays at 7 they’d be.
  • Before Lenten services on Wednesdays at 7, we have Soup Suppers. Soup Supper is one of the very best things about Lent. Old ladies, such as myself, come to church and volunteer to make homemade soup and bread for anyone who wants to come at 6:30 before service. It’s a nice time to unwind from the stresses of school and to chat with your friends. Besides that, Marge Johnson’s homemade bread is amazing. So is her clam chowder.
  • A lot of people give something up, or take on a new challenge. The archetypical examples would be giving up chocolate, or reading the Bible every night. I chose Facebook because it distracts me from my homework when I’m on the computer, which is a lot of the time. My life is busy enough without getting even more distracted. I’ve decided that I’m going to send more letters instead. They’re more fun and more personal. I just wrote my first one:

Yo So-and-so,

Wassup? Since you are so sad about my being off Facebook for the 40 days of Lent, I thought I’d send you a letter. Letters are better anyway, right? I can show off my gorgeously illegible handwriting and draw you pictures of bunny rabbits. A bag next to me just started rustling. I freaked out because it might have been a rabid mouse, or something like that. Fortunately, we don’t have mice in our house. Rabies, by the way, is caused by the Rabies Virus. Who would have guessed, right? It usually results in fatal encephalitis. In America, a common cause is a virus variant found in silver-haired bats. So, my friend, stay away from silver-haired bats . . . .

Today I tried to figure out which generation I am in. It is either Generation Y or Generation Z. You are definitely in Generation Z (mid 1990s-present), but I’m kind of in the middle because the Generations overlap. Wikipedia says that one of the key differences is that Generation Y can remember before the takeoff of mass personal electronics. Hmm, I remember film cameras. And dial-up. Does that count? I bet you don’t even know what dial-up is. I used to have to ask my dad to get off the internet so that I could call up my little friends. I just went to Youtube to listen to the sound of dial-up. Now I’m listening to a 3 1/2 minute clip of dial-up sound. It’s such a weird sound.

I am super distracted from my homework. Just look at me; listening to dial-up sound. Giving up Facebook didn’t help much after all did it? . . . .

Well So-and-so, there you have it; half an hour in Sofia’s brain. You’d better write back. See you around . . .



PS: Wasn’t that better than Facebook?

By the way, if you’re still listening to the sound of dial-up, you’re a dork. But that’s okay, because I like dorks. Besides, I’m still listening to it too.

When I should be doing Micro . . .

I think about other things, most of them pointless and random.

Recently, I have discovered that headphones don’t fit very well over curlers.

“Recently” means seven seconds ago.

Whenever I’m procrastinating and it’s nighttime, I put my hair in curlers.

Whenever I put my hair in curlers, my brother laughs at me.

I embarrassed my brother today by going with him to the grocery store in my pajamas. My pajamas consist of

  • My plaid flannel nightgown; I got it at Goodwill for very cheap. It has a hole in the sleeve and eyelet lace around the collar. It reaches my ankles and I’m in love with it.
  • “Pants” (for lack of a better word) that my Chinese grandmother knit me. They’re bottle-green with orange stripes. They’re really loose at the moment, because the buttons are almost falling off, which in turn causes the pants themselves to almost fall off. The nice thing about wearing a nightgown is that it really doesn’t matter if your pants sag.
  • Yellow man socks. I knit them to give to homeless guys, but then I tried them on . . . and then I started sleeping in them . . . and then they shrunk down to my size. They’re mine now. I’m sorry, Sockless Guy. I’ll make it up to you someday.

Erik bought Jello. I bought beets and paid for them in quarters, because I’m broke. A guy I went to high school with was bagging groceries. We pretended not to see each other.

I also made a cake today. Chocolate cake with raspberry-cream cheese frosting. It has beets in it, because Joy the Baker said to, and Joy the Baker is never wrong. Plus, I’m obsessed with beets at the moment. They’re so pretty! They make my sink pretty when I rinse them! They make the water they’re boiling in pretty! They make my hands look like they’ve sustained a second-degree burn! Pretty pretty. Besides, I need the people at my new job to love me, and cake is the way that it’s going to happen. Because I’m a freak though, I reduced the sugar to half a cup of white, and half a cup of brown. I also used about 1 cup of powdered sugar in the frosting, as opposed to the 4-5 cups in the original recipe.

Come on now; 4-5 cups? I work in a hospital; they’d confiscate it at the door.

Not really; nurses seem to eat a lot of junk food. And chocolate. They’re obsessed with chocolate. It helps them deal with the stress. I never cared about chocolate before, but it’s starting to rub off on me.

I’m supposed to be doing Microbiology stuff right now. I have a sheet with questions such as:

Culture A is aerobic and contains an abundance of bacteria after 5 days of incubation. Culture B is anaerobic. It contains bacterial growth, but not as much as Culture A. It also contains detectable levels of ethanol. If Culture A and Culture B contained the same initial number of bacteria and produced the same amount of ATP in a specified time period, which culture would consume more glucose while making ATP? Explain your answer and be specific.

I should go now.


Driving Mr. Moseley

In high school, I ignored driving.

I got my driving permit when I was 15, just like everybody else, but then pretty much ignored the whole thing. I had other stuff to do. I would stay at school and finish my homework every day in the library, often being the last person to leave the building. I had church stuff to do; youth group to attend, choir practice, quilting group, homeless shelters to cook in, knitting group, youth team meetings, fundraisers to plan; I had stuff to do.

Besides, I never felt the need. I never got excited about driving. Why drive yourself when you can take the bus? I’m a pro at taking the bus. It’s just so easy. Besides, you can knit on the road. You can watch life go by and talk to people. You don’t have to wear a seat-belt.

Even so,

I don’t want to be a loser 23 year old that still gets driven around by her parents. So when Mr. Moseley offered to teach me, I said “Sure!”

I still can’t decide if it was the right thing to do, or if I have a secret death wish.

Let me tell you about Mr. Moseley.

Take an impulsive, 12 year old boy with major ADD. Now make him an old guy with a truck and a gun lots of guns. I have no idea how many he has. His truck is plastered with stickers from the National Rifle Association, et cetera, and in his living room closet he has a collection of raccoon skins. Not only do they make good cat toys, but they’re also great for warding off mouthy vegetarian friends that his daughter unwisely brings home. Mr. Moseley likes to teach people lessons. Perhaps that’s why he wanted to teach me. I have heard that as a substitute teacher one day, he decided to teach an obnoxious teenage boy to pay attention to the lesson. How? By throwing a brick at him.

What I don’t get is where the brick came from. It was the science room, but still . . .

Maybe it was just a rock.

He’s a good cook, but an even better practical joker. At his children’s school potluck, he signed up to make meat sauce for the pasta. Everybody went crazy over that sauce . . . until he cheerfully mentioned his secret ingredient: raccoon. Bom bom BWOM! Yeah. They were still pretty crazy over that sauce, but not in the same way.

With Mr. Moseley, you either love him or you hate him. It’s hard to be neutral about Mr. Moseley. Personally, I love him. It’ll probably be the death of me, but I really do. He’s hilarious.

The aforementioned truck, which I am learning to drive on, is a beat-up 1970s Ford. Floor gear shift. 4 speeds. “Learn to drive this thing,” he says as he hands me the keys, “and you can drive anything you want.”

I believe it.

“Now the first thing you need to know about driving,” he says as we hurtle down a hill backwards, Sofia at the wheel, “is that you don’t hit anything bigger than you; in this case,” he leans over the seat and points out a substantially bigger-than-us brick wall, “That. Brake now.”

The thing I like about Mr. Moseley teaching me is that he never freaks out. The one or two times I went out driving with my mother, it was not so.

“Sofia. Slow down. You’re going 15 miles an hour. Ahh!”

When I went clear up over the curb and annihilated an unfortunate juniper bush, leaving broken twigs and branches in my wake, he just laughed and said that it could be Sofia’s bush now. When I crashed into a fence today and curious apartment-dwellers came out to watch the fun, he didn’t care. He calmly told me what to do and how to back up. When we got stuck in a mud hole and the wheels were spinning and burning rubber, he simply told me to rock with the clutch until we got out of it. The only way I can tell that he’s actually nervous is that he starts whistling serenely.

“Why don’t you follow that little blue car up that hill?” he says after a while of driving around in the parking lot.

“But that goes to a main arterial. I’m not ready for that,” say I, looking over at him.

“It’s okay; there’s a drive-way that we can turn around in and come right back down.”

I should have known. I should have known. Why did I trust him? I. Should. Have. Known. Better.

“There’s no driveway here, Mr. Moseley! How am I going to turn around? Oh my gosh! No! No way! ARE YOU CRAZY? WE’RE GONNA GET KILLED!”

“It’s clear. Go now. Don’t worry . . . ooohh, rat. Um, Sofia, step on it. Now.”

The next second we’re past the main arterial after almost getting T-boned by the oncoming traffic. We’re on a side-street and Sofia is visibly shaking whilst Mr. Moseley smirks in the passenger seat.

“That was great! I’m glad you didn’t panic and stop in the middle.”

Sofia, panicked: “Yeah. Yeah, thanks. If I had, we wouldn’t be here having this conversation, would we? Mr. Moseley, I don’t have insurance on this car. What are we going to do if I crash? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!”

“Now just go around the block. That’s right. Okay, you can turn now. Get behind that bus and follow him back to the parking lot. Oh excuse me; I have a phone call.”


Not listening, “Hey Joe! How are you? Listen, I’ll call you back, okay? I gotta go. Ha ha, yeah . . .”


Very soon however, we are back in the relative safety of the parking lot. I park the truck as well as I can with my shaking hands, and proceed to have a mental breakdown.

“See?” he says, grinning. “You can drive; you just gotta get out there and do it.”

I burst out laughing.