1. Immigration is not like Disneyland.
I don't have a lot of strong or well-informed opinions about immigration. It's just not something I've researched enough to understand. I would say, however, that I probably had something like the mindset Bronwyn Lea describes: "If they want to move to the U.S., they should do it legally and just get in line." Her personal essay, picked up by HuffPo, was eye-opening. A few startling insights:
I would love to be the holder of a green card -- that elusive piece of paper which would grant me the right to remain in the U.S. indefinitely -- but as it is, I don't and can't qualify. There is not a single category under which I can legally apply for permanent residence.Definitely read the whole thing for a huge dose of empathy and education.
...there are very few categories under which one can apply for permanent residence, and unless your employer is sponsoring you or you are marrying in, you have to be a bit of an über-mensch (as in, a scholar of international standing, a Pulitzer prize winner, an Olympic athlete, to name some of the examples listed on the website) to qualify.
...What I want you to know is that there is no line. Immigration is not like Disneyland, where if you pay enough money and queue patiently for several hours, anyone can ride Space Mountain. There is not a single line that I can stand in on my own merit. Even with language and education and money and privilege aplenty, even though I don't come from India or China or Mexico, there is no line for me.
2. Alice Seeley Harris was a missionary who helped take down King Leopold's barbaric reign in the Congo.
Harris was one of two women I'd never before heard of until I learned about their heroism last month. Katelyn Beaty wrote about Harris in a compelling article that argues for the importance of women wielding power in society and working outside the home:
The year before Alice and John had left for Africa, Kodak had debuted its Bulls-Eye camera, which could process photographs without a darkroom. Alice began using one to document Congolese who had been beaten and maimed by officers, first sending photos back to the magazine of their host agency, the interdenominational Congo Balolo Mission. Within five years, Alice’s photos had circulated beyond the magazine, composing the Harris Lantern Slide Show, which was shown throughout England and eventually the United States. Ordinary citizens who had assumed Leopold’s rule was civilizing and beneficial were faced instead with the irrefutable carnage of colonialism.
3. Nellie Bly was a groundbreaking 19th century journalist and aviator.
A Google Doodle introduced me to this remarkable woman, whose reporting on the plight of the oppressed led to systemic reforms in the 1800s:
She spent 10 days posing as a mental patient in New York's notorious Blackwell's Island and returned with stories of cruel beatings, ice cold baths and forced meals. Her reporting led to reforms of the system and set the tone for her career. She exposed corruption and the injustices of poverty by telling stories of the disenfranchised, the poor and women. When she covered the Chicago Pullman Railroad strike in 1894, she was the only reporter to share the strikers' perspective.
4. "Belgian waffle" is an oronym (at least the "Belgian" part).
This word-of-the-day/history lesson came from my favorite cooking blog, Smitten Kitchen. Deb informed me that "the Belgian waffles we know of in America are an oronym (word of the day alert!) of the 'Bel-Gem Waffle,' the Brussels waffle vendor that brought them to American via the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and started something of a national waffles craze. 'Bel-Gem' mutated into 'Belgium' then 'Belgian' and the name stuck.
Oronyms (I'd never heard the term before) are a pair of phrases which are homophonic. When pronounced without a pause between words, phrases which differ in meaning and spelling may share a similar pronunciation. One popular example: "ice cream" and "I scream."
5. Peonies are the state flower of Indiana.
I get a little obsessed with peonies every May, as evidenced by my Instagram feed. My white ones here in the South are always the first to bloom and the first to go; after they are sad and dead, I get to enjoy pink ones around the neighborhood and my northern friends' peonies of all varieties. A native Hoosier friend shared that they are the Indiana state flower. Much preferable to Tennessee's state flower, which I just now looked up and found is the iris. I hate irises.
6. Tulip poplar trees flower in the spring, and the petals look like candy corn.
I learned to recognize these trees a couple of years ago from a favorite picture book that we check out of the library every fall, Autumn Leaves. It wasn't until this spring that I noticed they actually flower. And when the petals fall, they remind me of candy corn:
7. Cold-brewed coffee is significantly better than regular coffee.
I really enjoy iced coffee, and until last month, I made it by refrigerating regular coffee. Finally I got around to trying this cold-brewed business I'd heard about--Smitten Kitchen (who else?--I feel like she shows up in every one of these "things I learned" posts) convinced me. It turns out there is a scientific reason why it's better: when you don't use hot water, you don't get the bitterness. Just smooth and dreamy coffee goodness. I find I need far less sugar this way. It's also convenient because while it's a bit of a pain initially, you end up with a big jar of coffee concentrate that will stay fresh in the fridge for quite a while.
Lately I've been doubling the Smitten Kitchen basic recipe. The concentrate is fantastic with a 2:1 or even 3:1 ratio of whole milk to coffee...but that's a lot of calories. My compromise is something like 1:1:1 coffee, milk, and water, with a splash of half and half and a little maple syrup. The creamier it is, the less sweetener I find I need, and I think the fat calories are a whole lot better for me than the sugar. The Pioneer Woman has a recipe for brewing an entire pound of coffee at once, which would be great for a crowd.
8. Dry shampoo totally works.
I've been hearing about this for years but only recently got around to trying it out. Amazing. I'm a fan.
Head over to Chatting at the Sky for a roundup of more May lessons. And leave a comment--what did you learn last month?