Three Must Read Memoirs

This is a post I originally shared at The Nectar Collective. Today I’m linking it up to Book Chat over at the Tangerine.

Today, I’m super excited to share with y’all some of my favorite nonfiction books. Now, don’t get scared! These aren’t textbooks you struggled through in school or anything of the sort. These are just memoirs, biographies and stories. I like reading nonfiction because true books remind me of reading blogs. I get a little peek into someone’s life that is way different from mine and sometimes that can really be entertaining or thought-provoking. Most nonfiction books that I like fall into three categories: slightly nerdy, moving or funny. Today I’m going to introduce you to one of each.

The Slightly Nerdy: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks was a poor black woman in the South in the mid-1900s when she developed cancer and underwent treatment at John Hopkins Medical Center. She passed away but unknown to her–or her struggling family–her cells were being grown and sold around the world. The book follows the family more than the science aspect as Skloot introduces us to Henrietta’s family and their lives. This true story touches on themes of crime and racism as Henrietta’s daughter comes to terms with deceit and injustice since Henrietta’s cells change the world but her own daughter can’t even afford healthcare.

Quote: “She’s the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother is so important to science, why can’t we get health insurance?” –Deborah, Henrietta’s daughter

Why You’ll Love It: It’s just enough science that you feel like you’re learning a little, but enough crime and drama that you won’t want to put it down. Rebecca Skloot makes her characters so real that you’ll really feel like you know them by the end of the book.

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The Moving Memoir: Beautiful Boy by David Sheff

Called a “fiercely candid memoir,” Beautiful Boy traces Sheff’s journey dealing with his son Nic’s transformation from a joyful, athletic, good-natured, and kind Honors Student to an out-of-control delinquent addicted to crystal meth.

Quote: “I’m not sure if I know any ‘functional’ families, if functional means a family without difficult times and members who don’t have a full range of problems.”

Why You’ll Love It: This book is sad, but I also couldn’t stop reading. He balances out the heart-breaking moments with stories that make you love Nic. In the first few pages, Sheff shows you just how great his son is and how he was devastated by addiction. I will never read this book again but I truly believe everyone should read it. Definite trigger warning though, if you couldn’t gather that.

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The Witty Tale: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

If you like humor, you have got to read David Sedaris’ books (I’ve heard Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls is hilarious as well). In this book, Sedaris tells a series of short stories from his life on all sorts of topics ranging from bull fights and learning French to family bands. It will make you laugh all along the way.

Quote: “I find it ridiculous to assign a gender to an inanimate object incapable of disrobing and making an occasional fool of itself. Why refer to lady crack pipe or good sir dishrag when these things could never live up to all that their sex implied?” –On Learning French.

Why You’ll Love It: It’s hilarious. What more reason do you need? Plus every chapter’s a different story so you can flip open to a random chapter, read for fifteen minutes, get yourself a good laugh and be on your merry way. If you can, find the audiobook at your library–it’s hilarious in his voice!

What about you? Have you read any of these books? Do you like reading memoirs?

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How a History Major Became a Biology Rockstar! [guest post]

Hello everyone! So today is my first ever guest post in the entire universe, how awesome is that? I was pretty indecisive when I thought about what to write for Allie and all of you wonderful readers, but I FINALLY decided! Today we are going to chat about:

The Life of a Cell and How it Paid my Bills

Like all good stories this one hails back to my undergraduate days when I was working my way through my bachelors degree and living off of top ramen. Yummy! ;) I was in my Sophomore year at the community college I was attending and had some grand plans to transfer to a 4- year university within the year, but in order to do so I had to knock out some science courses.

Boy, was I NERVOUS! I was a history major and so anything math or science related tended to give me hives, but I knew it would be better to attempt the class where I was rather than at a larger school.  So like any good student I enrolled in Biology 101 and waited for the fallout, except that there wasn’t any.

Not a one.

Somehow, something clicked in my brain, and biology and I got along famously! So much so that I even contemplated switching my major to biology, because no matter what I was absolutely fascinated with everything I learned. I knew something was up when I got my hands on a copy of The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, because let me tell you, I couldn’t put it down! The Lives of a Cell is a collection of 29 essays written by Lewis Thomas and from the first of it I was hooked. Reading Lewis’ thoughts on the mitochondria, or a how a cell comprised of “ecosystems more complex than Jamaica Bay”(Lewis, 4) was like magic to me.

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My bio-love was the real deal, yo.

Fast-forward a year and I’m at a big’ Ol University by the name of Kansas State University (I love you, Bill Snyder) and I have bills to pay. Going to school out-of-state is always pricey EVEN with an academic scholarship, which I had. I was working at a grocery store and trying to snag another job when the opportunity to work as a peer tutor AND learning assistant for the university came up. Biology, it seemed was a subject that many people had trouble with, so I grabbed both opportunities and never looked back.

Five days a week I moved between working for the athletic department and the university teaching biology to anyone who needed the help. To say that I enjoyed my time as a biology tutor is an understatement because I freaking LOVED it. Biology explains how things live and why things are how they are. I love understanding the world and what makes it work so naturally biology excites me. For a little over 2 years I tutored biology and I was definitely in demand for my skills by students/faculty who even requested me by name.

I had become a biology rock star!

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Me trying to bear hug a massive redwood during a camping trip in the Redwoods National Forest.

A passionate teacher is an effective teacher and teaching biology even strengthened my ability to teach history. So thank you, Biology, for feeding me, paying the light bill, and putting gas in my car. Oh, you little powerhouse mitochondria and semi-permeable cell walls, I could go on forever about how cool you are or how important you are for life. I really wouldn’t have been able to make ends meet or get my degree without my teaching gigs and I’ll be forever grateful for what my knowledge of biology afforded me both physically and mentally.

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At my graduation with my then-fiancée, now husband. Thanks, biology!

 

Was there ever a subject that totally pumped you up and made you ready to take on the world? Were you ever able to use the knowledge you gained in the classroom to better your life outside of it? I know that when I make use of my classroom education I always feel like the school loans are totally worth it, don’t you?

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Wow, thanks for sharing that Crystal! Isn’t she great, guys? Catch up with her more here: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Bloglovin’

Catching My Eye 09.

Would you make me very very happy and take my survey? I promise, it’s super short, 9 questions. And most of the questions are multiple choice, a few you have to fill in a word. I will love you forever! 

The best of the interwebs:

(This is probs NSFW…but it’s effin hilarious.)

♥I’m working on the 30 Day Arm Challenge with Claire from DaisyBisley. I love feeling stronger!

♥This slightly depressing article shows that I’m about as smart as an eighth grader in 1912.

♥I love this cool Kickstarter campaign for laboratory glasses made into tableware.

The Wine Glass

♥Think your life is tough? Here are 23 easy fixes to first world problems.

♥If anyone wants to give me $60, I’d love this studded Stella & Dot bracelet.

♥Michelle reviews a subscription box of gourmet food!

♥This is so freaky cool! A photographer spliced pictures of family members together and shows how cool genetics are.

Ulric Collette - FullyM1

Make graffiti with moss!

♥You might have missed: Funky Mood? Not for Long Weekly Wishes #8 ♥ Choices + free iPhone backgrounds Sponsor CMS in July/August.

What have you been loving this week? Which of these links did you think was the coolest?

Marie Curie, karate chopping stereotypes (+sponsor love)

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Marie Curie. She is undoubtedly one of the greatest scientists ever. And she is a woman.

Only one in seven engineers is a woman. Less than 20% of computer science majors are women. The number of women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields is the same as it was in 2000. That is pathetic. Unfortunately, most women don’t even think of science or math fields as an option. Women should be in journalism or English, right? Wrong! Women have been revolutionizing science for centuriesI think learning about other females in STEM fields is essential–to prove to women that we do great things, in the past and in the future.

Take Marie Curie for example. She won two Nobel Prizes, in two different fields (Physics and Chemistry) and she was the first female to do so. She discovered two new elements, polonium and radium, which was used to first study ways of curing cancer. She taught as the first female professor at the University of Paris.

Basically, she’s my hero. But we can learn some stuff from her.

Take risks! I mean, I don’t really think we should carry test tubes of radioactive chemicals in our pockets, but look what she did when she wasn’t worrying about the risks!

Don’t be afraid to do what no one else does. In that period of time, women in science were even rarer than they are today (duh). Marie was the first female to win a Nobel Prize and the first female professor at the University of Paris. But because she wasn’t afraid of being alone in what she did, she made great steps for women and science.

Lastly, stay away from radioactive stuff. Apparently it can kill you. (But really).

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Speaking of awesome, I’m so excited to introduce my newest sponsor to you, Kayte of Floradrenaline. Kayte is basically my bolder/more outspoken/more badass alter ego and I’m so excited to share her with all of you! By the way, she lives in ALASKA! When she told me that I was like ummm can I be youUnfortunately, I can’t be her. She’s got it covered. Anyways, Kayte blogs about fashion, health (especially mental), her life and she participates in Weekly Wishes! She also has some of the coolest Pinterest boards (link below) I’ve ever seen.

kayte of floradrenaline

Three Awesome Posts from Floradrenaline: Tips and Tricks for Small Apartments / How to: Three Edgy-Chic Outfits for Summertime / Coping Skills for Depression and Anxiety

Hang out with Kayte: Blog / Twitter / Facebook / Pinterest

What do you think of Marie Curie and other women in science? Awesome, right? And how about Kayte?! Go give her some blog love!

4 Genius TEDTalks

For those of you who have been following along the blog and have seen my goal in the last Weekly Wishes post, you know I watched lots of TED Talks this week. In short, TED Talks are short lectures (5-30 minutes, generally) on anything that’s an “idea worth spreading”. I love watching TED Talks, but just don’t get around to watching them often for whatever reason. So, I made it my goal this week to watch one or two every night and I succeeded, for the most part! Here were my favorites this week:

1. David Gallo: Underwater Astonishments. David Gallo shows jaw-dropping footage of amazing sea creatures, including a color-shifting cuttlefish, a perfectly camouflaged octopus, and a Times Square’s worth of neon light displays from fish who live in the blackest depths of the ocean.

2. Marc Koska: 1.3m reasons to re-invent the syringe. Reuse of syringes, all too common in under-funded clinics, kills 1.3 million each year. Marc Koska clues us in to this devastating global problem with facts, photos and hidden-camera footage. He shares his solution: a low-cost syringe that can’t be used twice.

3. Gary Lauder’s new traffic sign: Take Turns. Fifty percent of traffic accidents happen at intersections. Gary Lauder shares a brilliant and cheap idea for helping drivers move along smoothly: a new traffic sign that combines the properties of “Stop” and “Yield” — and asks drivers to be polite.

4. Jake Woods: A new mission for veterans–disaster relief. After months or years fighting overseas, 92 percent of American veterans say they want to continue their service; meanwhile, one after another, natural disasters continue to wreak havoc worldwide. What do these two challenges have in common? Team Rubicon co-founder Jake Wood gives a moving talk on how veterans can effectively contribute to disaster relief responses — and in the process, regain purpose, community and self-worth.

Do any of you watch TEDTalks? Which one is your favorite, of these or otherwise?

Like this post? Tweet it and share the awesome.

Weekly Wishes #4

 

The Nectar Collective

Hello friends. Once again, It’s time to link up with The Nectar Collective for Weekly Wishes. The Weekly Wishes is where we all can share our posts about goals, challenges, and wishes for the week!

Last week, my goal was to drink water often and journal everyday. How did I do? Pretty well! I didn’t drink a ton more water than usual, but I was more conscious of bringing a water bottle to work and keeping it near me. I also journaled just about everyday, which was weird for me! Some people say journaling helps them clear their minds but it’s just not for me :)

Anyways! Now, for this week’s wish:
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In short, TED Talks are short lectures (5-30 minutes, generally) on anything that’s an “idea worth spreading”. I love watching TED Talks, but just don’t get around to watching them often for whatever reason. This week, I plan on watching at least ONE every single day. I’ll share my favorites at the end of the week! If you’re slightly geeky or just like learning new stuff, start watching TED Talks! I promise, it’s so worth it! They have videos on everything from plankton to street signs to religion. 

(Here’s a great/short TED Talk to get you started: Gary Lauder’s new traffic sign: Take Turns).

Now head on over to The Nectar Collective and join the Weekly Wish link up.

How did your weekly wish go? Have you ever watched a TED Talk?

Interview: Chelsea Harms from Sea, Field & Tribe

Today, I’m lucky enough to interview the lovely Chelsea from Sea, Field & Tribe. Chelsea is a marine biologist, currently living in Puerto Rico, documenting her life outdoors and sustainable living through blogging. Here she is:

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Hi Chelsea! Welcome to Call Me Sassafras; I’m so excited to share you with my readers! Tell us a little bit about you and what you do.

My name is Chelsea and I’m 25 – currently residing in the beautiful Caribbean island of Puerto Rico! I’m actually a marine scientist and I’m working towards my Ph.D. with a focus on ichthyology (the study of fish). I love nature and I love to be creative – I’ve found that these two characteristics are actually quite complementary! I love to be outdoors and you’ll find me out in the ocean on many days of the week – diving with the fish and enjoying the world underwater. I live with my surfer/scientist boyfriend, Evan, who is also working towards his Ph.D. as well. We have dreams to one day open our own “sea semester” company for students to learn about the ocean from a sailboat.

What’s a typical day like for you as a marine biologist?

Well, I’ll give you a typical dive day, because believe it or not, a lot of science is actually writing! But that’s not nearly as much fun as the field work! So, I’ll wake up around 4:30AM and get my gear together for my day underwater. I’ll drive my 1 hour commute to my research station while the rest of Puerto Rico just starts to wake up (my favorite time to be on the road, no one else is around!). When I reach the “island” (because our department is actually literally on what used to be the zoo for the town, a small mangrove island that houses our facilities, classrooms, labs, etc), I get a boat ready with my team’s scuba tanks and gear. I always bring snacks because I’m hungry after each dive! We’ll load up and head out to our study site, which is about a 10 minute boat ride. We’ll anchor and jump in to start one of our three 60 minute dives. Underwater, I’ll survey my site for the presence of lionfish – an invasive species to the Caribbean – and spend some time monitoring the other native reef fish, recording their species and number on my slate. I repeat this three times (= 3 dives) and in between each dive we must give ourselves a little surface interval where we allow the nitrogen that has accumulated in our tissues to be expelled from our bodies before doing another dive (this is basic SCUBA procedure, nothing scary or unusual!). On these surface intervals, we may just snorkel around another mangrove island, swim casually in the beautiful blue waters or nosh on the snacks that I bring to satisfy my never-dying desire to eat haha. We’ll then return to the dock after all three dives, rinse off the gear and get set-up for the next day underwater.  I then usually have to transfer all my recorded data to a digital file online and do a dive log about each day we spend working on this particular project. Can I just say, I love my job!

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I’ve heard a lot about your project with the lionfish. Can you explain what the lionfish are and what your project involves?

Sure! I wrote a proposal to study the control methods for the invasive lionfish in Puerto Rico. The lionfish (Pterois volitans) is an Indo-Pacific fish that many people keep in their aquariums because they are very beautiful. Some of these “pets” were released into the Atlantic Ocean in south Florida after they got too big for their tanks. Unfortunately, this is a horrible habit of pet owners (please don’t do this!). Just six fish have now been responsible for invading the entire Caribbean and up the east coast of the US in just a few years. So my project is looking at how we can “control” these fish, because there is no way we will ever eradicate them and they have no natural predators over here (they have venomous spines that keep bigger fish from eating them). This project will last until June 2014, so please do follow the updates on our website: www.lionfishpr.com

Why should anyone care about the lionfish and other invasive species? What can we do?

The lionfish is an invasive species. Something becomes “invasive” when it is introduced into an environment that it was not originally found in, and then grows, populates and integrates into that system. Another example is the python in south Florida, which is another case of pets being released into the wild. These invaders can cause serious damage to an ecosystem – they are predators that compete with native organisms in ways that those animals don’t know how to respond. For example, the lionfish eats a lot! It targets small juvenile fish of many of the native reef fish that we as humans like to eat, and that could be detrimental to our fisheries.

You also post a good bit about traveling. Why is traveling so important to you?

Traveling is a looking glass to the world. If you want to experience another culture or learn something new, just visit someplace you’ve never been! This is part of the reason why I chose to do my graduate studies in Puerto Rico – I wanted to learn Spanish and live someplace different for a few years out of my life.  I’m so grateful for my wanderlust, because I feel like there is just so much out there I want to learn and experience. But also, find that happiness in your daily life, don’t wait on someone else to show you or bring it out. If you need to go place new to discover it, do it! Don’t wait, because life is short. Go see the world! Easier said with money, I know! But be a tourist in your own city even! You’ll be so surprised what you discover that you had no idea existed – and you’ll just be cultivating a better part of yourself for doing it.

And before we wrap up, what’s the most interesting destination you’ve ever visited?

India! I love India, the culture, the food, the colors, the people. I spent two weeks there over a Christmas holiday and I saw a lot of the southern part of the country. I cannot wait to go back again – I’m thinking of doing a culinary tour where I just eat my way around, and I’m dying to do a yoga/wellness retreat there too. I love visiting parts of the world where life is so contrasting to mine. There is so much to learn and so many places to visit, but India is definitely one I want to return to many times.

Sounds great! Thank you so much again to Chelsea for visiting here today. For more of Chelsea, visit the blog or her etsy shop, follow her on Twitter, or email her.

P.S. She also has a giveaway going–check out here.