Reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

Please be aware that the following excerpt references cancer cells and mortality. It also reveals a scientific plot point in the book.

“Scientists knew from studying HeLa that cancer cells could divide indefinitely, and they’d speculated for years about whether cancer was caused by an error in the mechanism that made cells die when they reached their Hayflick [splitting and reproducing] Limit. They also knew that there was a string of DNA at the end of each chromosome called a telomere, which shortened a tiny bit each time a cell divided, like time ticking off a clock. As normal cells go through life, their telomeres shorten with each division until they’re almost gone. They then stop dividing and begin to die. This process correlates with the age of a person: the older we are, the shorter our telomeres, and the fewer times our cells have left to divide before they die.

By the early nineties, a scientist at Yale had used HeLa to discover that human cancer cells contain an enzyme called telomerase that rebuilds telomeres. The presence of telomerase meant cells could keep regenerating their telomeres indefinitely. This explained the mechanics of HeLa’s immortality: telomerase constantly rewound the ticking clock at the end of Henrietta’s chromosomes so they never grew old and never died. It was this immortality, and the strength with which Henrietta’s cells grew, that made it possible for HeLa to take over so many other cultures–they simply outlived and outgrew any other cells they encountered.” –pp 217

This was a great book about persistence, trust, the ethics of human subject research, whistle-blowing, international medical collaboration, relationships, love, loss, the vulnerable position of black women and of children, racism, the relationships of institutions-individuals-communities, economic development, personal and intellectual property rights, and so much more.


Reading “Every Day Is For The Thief” by Teju Cole

“One goes to the market to participate in the world.” — pp 57

“Well this is wonderful, I think. Life hangs out here. The pungent details are all around me. It is a paradise for the lover of gossip. Just one week later, I see another fight, at the very same bend in the road. All the touts in the vicinity join in this one. It is pandemonium, but a completely normal kind, and it fizzles out after about ten minutes. End of brawl. Everyone goes back to his normal business. It is an appalling way to conduct a society, yes, but I suddenly feel a vague pity for all those writers who have to play their trade from sleepy American suburbs, writing divorce scenes symbolized by the very slow washing of dishes.” — pp 66



A time to think about the relationships of:

Marriage as partnership//marriage as service
Personal autonomy as the right to denial without threat of loss//the privilege of power
Love as understanding//love as currency
Love as abundance//love as sacrifice

Also a time for groggers and spiels because nothing soothes a close shave like the toppling of a classic villain, music, and baked goods!

Reading “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison

I am trying to read more books! Here are some quotes from my first read in January. This was an extremely sad book to read, and I’d highly recommend it. The quotes I chose are poignant, but no short passages will reflect the depth or breadth of the novel.

“If happiness is anticipation with certainty, we were happy.” pg 16

“There in the dark [of the movie theater] she succumbed to hear earlier dreams. Along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced to another–physical beauty.  Probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and ended in disillusion. In equating physical beauty with virtue, she stripped her mind, bound it, and collected self-contempt by the heap. She forgot lust and simple caring for. She regarded love as possessive mating, and romance as the goal of the spirit. It would be for her a well-spring from which she would draw the most destructive emotions, deceiving the lover and seeking to imprison the beloved, curtailing freedom in every way.” pg 122

“When Sammy and Pecola were still young, Pauline had to go back to work. She was older now, with no time for dreams and movies. It was time to pull all of the pieces together, make coherence where before there had been none. The children gave her this need; she herself was no longer a child. So she became, and her process of becoming was like most of ours: she developed a hatred for things that mystified or obstructed her; acquired virtues that were easy to maintain; assigned herself a role in the scheme of things; and harked back to simpler times for gratification.” pg 124

“We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor. Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous. Ever her waking dreams we used–to silence our own nightmares. And she let us, and thereby deserved our contempt. We honed our egos on her, padded our characters with her frailty, and yawned in the fantasy of our strength.” pg 205

All of the best things that happened in 2017

  • Finished all my coursework and applied to graduate for my master’s program
  • Identified a capstone paper topic so that I can graduate
  • Learned three new software programs (Tableau, Excel, Stata)
  • Became attuned to reiki level 2
  • Shared reiki
  • Took the best, most memorable, so-perfect-I-kind-of-can’t-believe-it-happened vacation with my mom, dad, and sister through England and Wales.
    • Met Phillipa (London). Met Paul and Pauline (Wales). Met Dave (Liverpool). Met Judy Chicago (also Liverpool).
    • Dad got his approval for faculty emeritus status at the Lion Inn in Winchcombe, the Cotswolds. Was slightly cranky that we dragged him to both Cardiff and Bath, but I think it was worth it in the end.
    • I think Nora was cranky that we didn’t let her walk to Bath. I never knew the woman liked to walk so much.
    • Mom had the best time at the beach in Tenby, where we had arguable our best and most cozy-feeling-family meal of the trip, a seafood and lamb dinner.
    • Saw Beautiful, the Carole King musical, in the West End
    • Got to see one of my best friends in South London, and visit her and her husband’s new apartment
  • Caught minimalist fever and rid myself of 600 items (and counting)
  • Composted almost all year
  • Got to talk with renowned climate scientist pioneer Dr. EMT
  • Went to Skull Session and the football game the day my dad was recognized on the field as a Distinguished Professor
  • Worked graduation the day Marla got her MA; got to find her and say hello
  • Maintained a curly bob until autumn
  • Planted a couple of trees in front of the apartment with Mom and Dad
  • Helped plant the south side fruit park
  • 29th birthday dinner in Grandview with a serendipitous running-into old neighbors
  • Joined and performed with the Harmony Project Spirit of Columbus choir
  • Got sense knocked into me and dropped out, because I don’t need another extracurricular
  • Performed live music with a friend at a bar in Clintonville (why not? say yes!)
  • Flew to Florida for a wedding
  • Drove to Nashville to see a friend (cue night at the honky tonk)
  • Flew to Atlanta to see a friend (and SZA) (and Ria’s Bluebird Cafe. Twice.)
  • Drove to DC with a friend for the Women’s March on Washington; got to see a friend’s bachelor pad, a college friend, and a friend from Berlin
  • Hosted ward meetings. People came.
  • Saw so many friends who live in or visit Columbus, from the top of the year to the bottom
  • Watched the eclipse with the office crew
  • Saw a friend’s Russian art collection at the museum, and attended his guided tour
  • Heard Valerie June play live
  • Surprised mom at her retirement party
  • Mom beat cancer
  • Went vegan and gluten free for 30 days and loved it
  • Did a bunch of weight training and loved it
  • Had a solo weekend in Hocking Hills
  • Had a weekend with a friend to Songbird in Hocking Hills
  • Had a family Thanksgiving in Hocking Hills
  • Enjoyed enthusiastically pushing my diet on my family by making green smoothies for Thanksgiving breakfast. They played along so they are keepers. The dog refused her portion.
  • Went to the Ohio State-Penn State nail-biter of a football game
  • Got to see two friend’s new homes (friends! who are homeowners!)
  • Learned to make tinctures
  • Nora started a new job
  • Continued to value work and all the incredible things it teaches me
  • Did some top-notch neighborhood dining out

Feeling very grateful for 2017. Happy for life. Inviting compassion, gratitude, and focus to 2018. Thank you for reading!

Meaning, mission, and our valuable time

Out of all of the things we do, which activities relate to our mission, and which operate silently in the background? A weekly visit to church, a diet or exercise plan, or a creative hobby could be one person’s lifestyle but another’s scaffold, holding space for other meaningful things. The question could be parsed: is our mission personal, communal, or professional? If these diverge, do they overlap, remain discrete, or enable each other?


When people describe their ideal personal and professional lives, no matter how related, they often seek the intersection of meaning and happiness, and focus on a job for at least part of that, as jobs occupy so many hours. For some, employment is purposeful, while for others, it steals time from purpose.

Finding your balance point can be as challenging as seeking purpose itself. Meaning doesn’t arrive only in one big chunk, nor does it exist in direct proportion to time. It’s unsurprising that sweet, small moments, or quick challenges are as important to our sense of purpose as our 40-hour-a-week lives. And, as we routinize things (like food shopping, diet, exercise, even work or hobbies, depending on your life balance), they can come to support our sense of a meaningful life instead of operating as meaning themselves. Alternatively, we may find that we need to become experts at certain routines and expand their space in our lives, so strong is the sense of connection.

If you are reading this, you might ask: what routines bear personal meaning? What challenges do you hope to “turn routine”? And what larger impacts do you hope to have that, combined with the efforts of others, can be greater than yourself?

Magnifying our impacts through collaboration is one goal of the workplace. Honing expertise to maximize impact is one goal of work for those who work alone. In this vein, I separate work from hobby, which animates the personal space and engenders connection and community. Hobbies that transform spaces might be rightly described as work within a community. What lends meaning to you, and what lends happiness? How do you prioritize your work, communities, and hobbies?