I'm writing in English, which is strange in itself since I really love my own language, Finnish, and since I detest the power position that the English language has in global communucation... but I'd get way too many complaints from American friends if I didn't write in a language comprehensible to them.

Mar 31, 2010


This Sunday we decided to go all Utah and make a jello salad. For those who don't know, jello salad is jello with fruits in it. In Utah you can also add shredded carrots. It's eaten with Cool Whip, sort of a whipping cream substitute. The part that made us excited was that there is hardly any basic ingredients in the whole food, it's super sweet and in Utah it's despite all this often served not as dessert but as salad. As far as I've understood it all. Young girls learn to make the jello from package, mix in some fruits and vegetables (yak for the last) and spread Cool Whip on top. We had some guests that we already had prepared by telling them about the least "natural" of all dishes, so when they saw it they were very impressed. All the guests are more, how should I say it, European style cooks - use fresh vegetables and basic ingredients in all their cooking. So are we, mostly.

Jello salad was good (we didn't add shredded carrots) - how could it not be with all that sugar? In fact, I shouldn't say sugar, since I think both jello and cool whip are sweetened of course with high fructose corn syrup. This very far processed sweetener turns up everywhere here in the US. We will all be mostly corn after a couple of years of eating it in everything.

I have missed most of the ready made box foods (or canned foods) in the US, but I'm one of the few. In fact, some children (young for sure) don't recognize fresh vegetables when they see it... There's a funny show, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, that follows a british chef trying to help children eat healthy foods in West Virginia - see the trailer here.

In Finland they used to have a list of so called "added ingredients" in food, meaning salt and all that extra stuff that is added for texture, colour, preserving and such. They removed them at some point (maybe because of an EU decision?) so now you just look at the amount of ingredients in anything you buy. What would jello salad show?

I don't really believe that children only like to eat unhealthy foods. A friend family of mine, the Eppels, taught me that. Yes, children are often picky if they don't know what they eat. But even I myself, the pickiest child in our family, ate raw fresh vegetables (although never cooked ones). If you set veggies out on the table so they look cute (bento box style) and separate from other veggies, and don't cook them all mushy, most children seem to eat at least some favourites. (Although with kids I think you don't get any guarantees...)

But surely, although children can be picky, adults could eat real food even in America...?

Mar 25, 2010


Everybody knows this feeling: getting tired after reading (or watching or listening to) news. Just now I would like to move to another universe.

Today in Helsingin Sanomat, good news: the two grandmothers won't be sent back to Egypt and Russia respectively, since the police is expecting the laws in the matter to change. The sad parts: According to Finnish law, grandparents don't belong to the near family. Therefore they can't be brought to or stay in the country (Finland) where the family lives. The concept of family will not be changed in the law but the humane factors will be emphasized so that the courts will have more room to maneuver. Also sad: Many Finns are worried about all the grandparents who might now flock to Finland to use our health care. Inhumane attitude in my mind.

Neutral news: The asylum seekers coming from other EU countries will be swiftly shown the door according to new law. Good side: hopefully there will be more chances to help those who actually need help. Sad part: Not everyone everywhere in EU have humane living conditions. Check out the situation of the Roma people in Romania, for instance.

Made me very tired: The Internet version of Helsingin Sanomat shows all the recent news as a long list where I normally scan for interesting stuff. Unfortunately, about a third (!) of these news concern sports. Please, dear Helsingin Sanomat web page designers, could I check my news somehow without that? Also, the comments under the news are so xenophobic that they make me sad. Could you hide them somehow?

Mar 21, 2010

22 votes?

I'm impressed. When I started the blog I thought that I could just bury it if it seems too tiresome, but with these scores of people I might have to keep it up for a while.

I didn't make a question about whether I should write more about interesting stuff like babies. But fortunately there are enough baby- and family related blogs in the world. Sometimes I just press the "next blog" button and check what comes up. Children and families, every time. Maybe because everyone moves so much that their loved ones and friends can't keep up any other way?

Since shorter blogs were asked I'll do this supershort. But as a last random question for the beginning of this week (for anyone who wants to sit and think): does Santa Claus really exist? I say he does. Do myths exist? I say they do.

Mar 18, 2010

Very affirmative

Today I heard on the radio how someone was ranting about how the media contributes to the feeling of inferiority of African Americans – in fact I think they used the word “brainwash”. As a hopeful future champion for equal rights I wanted to comment on it. I think the word “brainwash” might be a bit too strong, since I doubt it's actually a conspiracy – more a question of unrealized attitudes of whites and blacks alike. Media does influence the way we look at the world, of course. The imagery we see in advertisements and news will change the way we see the people around us. If we always see black people as laborers, nurses and bus drivers in ads, and white people as doctors, politicians and actors, what will we think? Or, and this I was thinking this morning, what will the little black kids looking at the ads think, of their future and goals? And the news – if we always see more black criminals than white (I won't say if this is a “true” representation of the US or not, since the concept “true representation” is in itself always a bit clouded) what will we or our kids think of these skin colors?

Of course, the world isn't that simple in the US. There are African Americans and first generation Africans (and within this group the subgroup of Somalis, at least in Minneapolis), there are Asian and Arabian born people, and the big group that are without any separation called Latinos, or Hispanic. And another group in themselves are the children adopted to a “white” family, therefore culturally completely “white” but looking different from their so-called peers. All of these groups have their own problems... and also need attention in different ways.

But for the purpose of this blog (trying to keep it short) I wish there were a bit more black professors, actors, doctors and writers represented in the media. If the baby growing in my womb was black (hardly any chance, I know, seeing as we're both nearly transparent) I'd want to surround it with pictures that gave it role models and possibilities that were as near to its own skin color as possible. In fact, I'd look for a black Jesus. I wouldn't want the child to think “I want to be white like Jesus”.

Mar 12, 2010

Shorter rant about healthcare

I don't even want to listen to the news anymore. I'm so tired at how it seems impossible to make a legislation that would allow everyone in the US to have some decent health insurance. I blame mostly the two-party system - since there are only two big parties that can be counted they tend to define themselves as the opposite to the other (not quite and not everything of course). So then when one tries to do something the other can always say that this proposition stands for all that we hate. This applies to both parties equally...

I guess normally it's no big deal but right now I'm worried for a lot of people who would need this legislation. There is a friend who is graduating and doesn't know about a job - and she's had a lot of health problems so she really has no chance to get insurance privately. I was in a similarly interesting situation last year - I had insurance, privately bought since I was working for a temp agency and their insurance sucked - but this insurance would not have covered labour. Only prenatal care. We were too "rich" for Medicaid (almost anyone is) and therefore, if I had gotten pregnant, could have faced about $10,000 if c-section had been needed. How can people afford to live in America without good jobs that give them good coverage? And yet, many don't have those good jobs. In my last job I saw enough credit reports with horrible medical bills - and often sad stories behind. In fact it was so common that it was already an accepted explanation for bad credit scores: got sick, lost my job, couldn't pay the doctor's bills. True, people can leave them unpaid and just face economical disgrace, low credit scores and still not die - but I don't see that as an attractive alternative, and I'm not the only one.

So how can it be that this rich country can't get this thing done? Politics. Nobody will just swallow a bitter pill and support something - everyone, in both parties, is performing for their voters: "See, I won't give in, see!"

Mar 8, 2010

Feminism - happy Women's Day!

It's probably appropriate to write about my stance on feminism on International Women's Day. This is what my oldest sister wrote on facebook today: “Ponders where I went wrong, as my daughter spent the eve of International Woman's Day finishing her essay about feminism. Her conclusions included that maybe the feminists really believe what they are saying but that they really aren't needed anymore... ARGHHHH...”

Is feminism still needed? My oldest sister would surely think so, since she's very ambitious and has run into the difficulty of getting ahead in her career (in a very male-dominated field) because of her gender. My middle sister denies being feminist although I'm guessing that she would strongly protest against blatant discrimination if she faced it. I on the other hand have a bit of a different stance than either one of them – maybe due to my circumstances. Having studied philosophy and women's studies I see a couple major problems, and I feel that to address those we still need feminism.

First, a clear and physical thing: violence against women. Violence in any form is a dreadful thing, and in so many countries in the world women are completely helpless in the midst of war and turmoil, victims at all times, never able to decide over how their body is used. So is this only a problem of Third World countries that are at war? No, unfortunately. Even in Finland violence in relationships is so common that explanations are needed – over 30% of Finnish women have during the last five years experienced either physical or sexual violence, threat of violence or similar (http://www.stat.fi/tup/tietoaika/tilaajat/ta_10_01_naisvakiv.html). There are theories about how this is possible in a country like Finland – for instance that women are so much more verbal and under verbal abuse a man retorts with violence – but none of the theories or explanations can explain away that this is a disgrace. With these numbers, how can we say that women don't need champions anymore – and why couldn't we call those champions feminists?

I'm not going to talk about the situation of women in non-western countries, since there are always problems when western women tell others how women should live. I would prefer the intellectuals and wise women of those countries to decide for themselves what the rights of women are and what feminism could do for them.

My second issue has more to do with equal respect and is a more difficult issue. In this I often run into conflicts with other so-called feminists. During my studies of philosophy I read a lot of Luce Irigaray, and from those writings developed a feminism of my own. (I don't want to credit this to Irigaray, since I can't remember everything anymore and so have mixed my own ideas with hers.) The main point is that women have through the ages been defined by men as their opposite, and often as the weaker opposite. Women, since they haven't had a chance to express themselves in public, have been made the mirror. I want to see women's own attempts to define themselves – and it's not easy, because all women won't really agree on anything, but why should they? In order to do this there needs to be friendship between women, love between mothers and daughters and less of a competitive atmosphere. And one thing that really shows the difficulty of the task is the disrespect and even sneering at qualities traditionally seen as female. Don't get me wrong, I don't want any of the respect that lifts women on pedestals and leaves them there while men go do other things. I think that part of the reason for not respecting women (and not respecting ourselves) is because compassion is valued less than aggression, that careful driving is silly and aggressive driving better and so on.

As a result, women shun those qualities they might see in their mothers and try to achieve those they see in their fathers (obviously not always the case) – and, in my mind, think that male is better than female and therefore want to become male and forget about the female. Sure, this female might only be a mirror of the male and therefore not real at all – but if we in our hatred turn to the male, what becomes of the female? There will never be such a thing as the female defined by women. Something could be permanently lost from the world.

Finally, Julia Kristeva, philosopher and psychoanalyst, was once asked why she doesn't call herself a feminist, and she answered that feminism is a project for “all women” and that “all women” doesn't even exist. I would still not discard the concept feminism. I would like it to become a concept of plurality – feminisms – and no group should be in the right to define it so that it leaves outside anyone who champions for women, for the feminine, for their equality or for their difference.

Mar 4, 2010

Mormon in love with Rayonnant Gothic

Today I sat in on a lecture on late Gothic style, very pleased since we were talking about my favorite style, Rayonnant Gothic, and my favorite building in the whole world, Sainte Chapelle in Paris. I remember the first time I saw it. The lower level was beautiful in itself, but when you climb up the stairs to the higher level, oh... The teacher today said “if you don't get some kind of 'wow'-reaction when seeing Sainte Chapelle then there's something wrong with you.”

There was a long discussion on my facebook page about how to deal with the challenge when your sense of esthetics differs seriously from the mainstream in your religion. All this was triggered by an email from a friend where she was wondering how often people choose a religion that does respond to one's own sense, and how those, who have found their religion through some other way, deal with it. They clearly do. I mean, I do. Most of my Finnish friends (the discussion was in Finnish) seemed to think that esthetic experiences are different from spiritual experiences, and therefore they are able to separate these two things. There were some other voices too, however. And I myself have been lately wondering how separate they really are...

Take church videos, for example. Mormon liturgy (Sunday meetings) are made fairly simple, pictures are not used and during the sacrament (communion) there is no music playing, apparently so that people could have a connection with God that wasn't influenced by esthetic experience. This would point to spiritual and esthetic experiences being separate. However, when helping others convert (I'm not discussing here whether that is possible, that's another thing) members are often encouraged to use basically esthetic experiences – using videos or music is considered effective ways to help others feel the Holy Spirit. So, here they are tied? And to be honest, some of my spiritual experiences have been linked to music – but always to music that I love, not “mormon music”.

Does this cause trouble? Yes it does, to me at least and to many others who have a strong sense of esthetics (whatever that is). I remember a time when my home ward in Helsinki was encouraging everyone to bring friends to see a new church movie. This was supposed to be a great missionary effort. I normally try to do what my ward leaders ask me to do – their job is not easy so try to make it a bit easier by cooperating – but this was impossible. I knew I wouldn't like the video and I knew any of my friends – mostly friends through different arts – would feel the same. I don't know if anyone was bothered by my rebellion except for myself, but I didn't want to rebel – just had a different view of esthetics.

Sometimes, when I look at Sainte Chapelle and get tears in my eyes just because it is beautiful, or when on Sunday morning I listen to old (medieval or baroque) spiritual music from the radio, I get a little sad. I'm a mormon and wouldn't want to be anything else, but I wish I could get unified spiritual and esthetic experiences through my religion. As it is, I need to seek them elsewhere. There are moments when I'm set as a rebel (if only silently) although I don't have any issue with faith or doctrine – only with esthetics.

Mar 1, 2010

Emigration, immigration

Today, as often, I'm thinking about how on earth I ended up here. Sometimes I just look around and marvel. Not specifically how I ended up in Denver, but how I ended up moving to the United States, where I never ever in my life planned to move – I wasn't even all that excited to travel here. After having spent a year and a half on a mission in Georgia I thought I'd seen as much of the US as I needed to see and would hereafter travel to other, more interesting places. (Yes I know, Americans will say there is a lot more to the US that Georgia and that it's not a good example anyway... Sorry to say, an European knows that even Georgia and Alaska have more in common than, say, Finland and Sweden, so despite the variety in the US, the uniformity is a bigger thing in my eyes. This not counting in the nature of course, which is very varied.)

It's a strange thing, emigrating from your country. Some move with joy to wider spaces, some move with interest but can never truly feel at home. Even stranger it is if you end up moving to one of those countries that you really don't like or that don't interest you. I moved because of love – and because my husband had more of a chance for a career in the US than in Finland at the time. (My career couldn't be taken into account since honestly there was none and is none.)

Away from Finland, I've noticed strange national romantic feelings arising. In fact, since I've lived away before, I knew that when I haven't seen my native soil for months, suddenly I get all weepy eyed from national romantic poetry or songs or anything that evokes “Finnishness”. And, funnily, I tend to laugh at the same stuff when I'm in Finland. I haven't noticed this reaction in all Americans who end up in another country, not my husband for sure, but sometimes you notice young missionaries for instance being weepy eyed over peanut butter or even Hershey's chocolate (no reason for that I think, the stuff is horrible).

It's different though if you move from a small country with a very self-satisfied but isolated culture to a bigger one, that exports culture and can even be seen as a cultural threat. I think there is a sense of having betrayed your country. This is especially the case with mormons who end up moving to America to marry an American man. When I was planning on my move I talked with a lady, a friend of mine, and she said with clear disappointment in her voice: “I would have thought that you at least would have stayed...” - a real you too Brutus comment. This comes from the fact that so many promising mormons move to the US, either because they genuinely like the culture, because it's difficult to be a small religious minority, or because they want to find a soul mate who is also mormon and can't find that in Finland with only 4000 members. Ok, so it's not easy, but by moving you give up and make it even more difficult for the ones that stay, since there's one less. And these feelings are always in the back of the mind of the emigrant. When you visit, even if your friends are still your friends, they will have gone on and you are no longer one of them.

The photo I chose is from Hanko, where lots of emigrants sailed from to find new life in America, a hundred years ago and more. One of those emigrants happened to be my grandfather's father (although I don't know where he sailed from) and his brothers. He left his (ex?)wife and child here and went off to find a new and happy life in the land of plenty. Betrayal. Am I following in those footsteps in some sense?