“…I thought that life was a matter of figuring out the answers to questions and that was that. Now I’m learning that good answers lead to better questions, and that the cycle never ends.” Physicist Frank Wilczek

I am always asking questions. Always wondering, as it were. One of my favorite phrases in the whole world is “I wonder why…” I say this so often that it drives some of the non-questioners in my life bonkers. Fortunately, there are others, like my dad, who get it because they, too, are wonderers.

We’re the people who aren’t content with seeing something odd or unusual and letting it go. No, we’re the ones who say, “I wonder why…” and then finish the sentence with any number of queries. Knowing this about myself, I tried to count the number of times I wondered something this morning. The questions ranged from, “I wonder why the birds are cranking it up so early this year?” to “I wonder what the heck my upstairs neighbor is doing up there, again?***”, to “I wonder why two pairs of leggings in the same color from the same brand fit so differently?” to “I wonder why that guy behind has his brights on?” In other words, nearly everything that I do, see or say in a day is something that could – and often does – prompt a question.

I like to think this is one reason that I love my job so much. If you don’t know, I’m a faculty member at a University. I do teach, but the other big part of my position is research. Asking questions that I try to answer either through the literature or doing studies of my own.

And I love it. I really, really do. What an awesome job – they pay me to ask questions! It’s the ideal career for a chronic wonderer. One of the best things is that my colleagues are also likely to be wonderers, so no one rolls their eyes when I pose new and (to me, at least) interesting questions. Another best thing? There are so many questions that I could – and probably will – work for as long as I possibly can, and I’ll never, ever get to them all. The best finding from a study is a finding that makes you say, “I wonder why….” It never ends, and I love it more than I can say.

I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to turn something that I do naturally into a career that pays me (admittedly, not as much as if I’d stayed in the position I had right out of college…no, seriously…) to do one of the things I love the most. Time to get another day started. Time to see if I can find some more answers.

“Don’t just go through life. Make it a point, instead, to acknowledge mystery and welcome rich questions–questions that nudge you towards a greater understanding of this world and your place in it.” ~Nipun Mehta

**Note: My upstairs neighbor, I believe, jumps on a pogo stick while juggling bowling balls. Seriously. Sigh.

How did I forget the popcorn?

Quotes about Popcorn (139 quotes)
When I wrote my post about how my family shows love through food, I completely forgot the popcorn. How could I forget the popcorn?
Popcorn is a key component of so many childhood memories. Except for a brief fling with an air popper (probably in the 80s), we’ve always used a plug-in oil popper. Popcorn with butter and salt was the taste of my childhood weekends… enjoyed while watching the Muppets, or later on, a rented movie. Popcorn is actually considered an hors d’oeuvre in my parents’ house – and disappears faster than the cheese and crackers or veggies and hummus. 
Now? Popcorn is how my parents show love long-distance. During the pandemic, each of their far-flung children and / or grandchildren has received a care package with… popcorn. In a zip top bag. Salt already applied. Love included.
I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been rationing my last care package of popcorn and eating it very, very slowly. At this rate, I’ll probably give myself food poisoning (can one get food poisoning from old oil-popped popcorn? I certainly hope not…). But every time I take a kernel or two, I feel my parents’ love.
They’re almost always eating some when we do our weekly family Zoom calls. There is always popcorn in the drawer or on the counter when we come home for visits. It’s the first thing my old friends request when they come to visit. And it’s always made by my dad.
He can make two things: corn muffins and popcorn. Oh, and peanut butter sandwiches. A whiz in the kitchen, he is not.
But oh, his popcorn. You can taste the love in each bite. And he loves making it for us.
So today, I might have another kernel or two of my stash. And think of the day when I can hug them and tell them how much I love them in person.
And maybe eat some fresh popcorn, ready for me, sitting on the counter, showing their love for me. 
Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate – Alan D. Wolfelt

Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate – Alan D. Wolfelt

Peace, Anticipation, and Anxiety

I’m in a bit of a quandary… I know so many people who are just, well, eager for things to open back up, to be able to see those they love and haven’t seen in so long.

Yet I find myself in the small-but-larger-than-I-realized group of people who are highly anxious about reopening and don’t necessarily want things to change. At least not right now, and not abruptly.

Even when I do get the vaccine I don’t think that I’m going to want to suddenly be out and about. I find that I rather like the peaceful and solitary life that I have had the last year. I’ve been very cautious and haven’t seen other people much all year. There have been occasional (distanced) meet ups but nothing like what other people (who clearly are craving more in-person interaction) have been having. I’m even more cautious than my parents were (before they got vaccinated, yay).

I am so happy that those I love are getting the vaccine. I’m also happy to just wait my turn. It gives me, well, a bit of an excuse for continuing my peaceful, solitary existence. Others really can’t understand this – even those who know me best and love me. They think that I should be eager to get back to “normal”, too.

While I’ve been fine with being alone this past year, and have liked it more than I thought possible, I also worry that it has made it easier for me to withdraw (which is my natural inclination in relationships) and become more of a loner than I was before. I worry that it may have hastened the end of my relationship… since we definitely have different opinions on what is safe and how much we should be interacting with others.

Which means I find myself treasuring my peaceful existence, anticipating getting my vaccine (eventually, when it’s my turn) and highly anxious about any return to anything resembling “normal”, as well as what that means for my relationships. I don’t want “normal”, but I also don’t know how to balance a version of “normal” with what I have now. I know I won’t have all the answers immediately, but in the meantime, it’s reassuring to know that others are feeling the same way.

In the meantime, this quote is giving me a bit of peace…

“There may be many uncertainties in life but there are also infinite possibilities. It is impossible for us to know how our days will come and go, and I think it’s better this way. The truth is, if we “knew it all” life would be so much less interesting. When we have a tight grip on how we think our lives should look, we block out the guidance of the really magical lives that are waiting for us.”

I don’t know who said that, but I have it clipped and saved and it does speak to where I am right now – not knowing where the road post-isolation will go, and trying to remember that, well, that’s life. Time to see how it unfolds.


One of the best things to come out of our weekly family Zoom calls has been revisiting shared memories. I grew up in a wonderful family – I was extremely fortunate to have parents who had the resources to give me and my brother what I now recognize as one of the best childhoods I could have asked for. They were strict but not TOO strict; they allowed us to stretch our wings as we grew; they gave us so many opportunities to learn, to grow, to find out who we were and what we wanted to bring to this world. Things were not handed to us – oh, no, far from it. There were many Saturday afternoons spent cleaning the bathroom / cleaning our rooms / doing other neglected chores in order to gain freedom for the evening. I honestly credit them with everything – because of that strong foundation, I am the person I am today. And I know how fortunate I was.

I’m also fortunate that we all like to spend time together. As evidenced by the weekly Zoom calls. I have always talked to my parents (on the phone, usually) at least once per week, and usually more. We’ve added family texts and daily emails to the mix, as well. To say that I am close to them – despite the physical distance – is an understatement.

Plus, the family members who have joined us (my spouse, my brother’s spouse and kids) also seem to enjoy spending time with us. That, or they tolerate us. Perhaps a bit of both.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that sometimes our family virtual get-togethers turn into rather hilarious trips down memory lane. Food. Vacations. Fights. Adolescent missteps that will never, ever be forgotten. (One of mine was, believe it or not, mispronouncing “adolescence”…. they have never let me live it down, despite my protestations that I was young and had read the word but had never heard it spoken.)

The food memories have been particularly hilarious lately. Oh, the things we ate. My mother is a fabulous cook, but, well, kids eat what kids eat. We ate Cheez Whiz “nachos” with tortilla chips. There was the summer I lived on vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup (and left the sticky bowls in my brother’s room, where the Nintendo that we were addicted to lived). The fish that my mother served for years – orange roughy – that we all detested and she insisted on cooking every week. The special requests (chili without beans, please!). The special meals, like the fried egg my mother made for my breakfast on the first day of fifth grade. Why do I remember that? I have no idea, but it stands out vividly in my mind. Sandwiches, fruit, and cookies for high school lunches. And finally, finally, moving into more, well, grown-up and modern foods… finding out that (except for my father) the family that eats sushi stays together. Homemade crab cakes on Christmas Eve. My mother’s epic chocolate birthday cake. Peach kuchen for my birthday (I’m the one non-cake person…). The pies and brownies served at my wedding (told you I’m not a cake person).

So many family meals, consumed with joy. So many memories.

For this one, turning to an odd source…

Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them. ~Bob Dylan

Answering the questions

There are years that ask questions and years that answer

~ Zora Neale Hurston

An old favorite. Yet so appropriate for what is still the beginning of 2021. 2020, for me, was a year that asked a lot of questions. Obviously, there was the pandemic, and all of the questions raised by that. But I also questioned relationships, my work, my ability to do my work, whether I’ve made the ‘right’ choices in life, and so on.

Even though it is only a month and a half old, 2021 seems like it might be a year that, for me, answers some of the questions. There are a lot of things happening in my life (sorry to be vague, but well, that’s pretty much all I can say) that are going to help me with direction in my personal life, my professional life, how I show up to the world…

I’m looking forward to it. As much as I love asking questions – it is, after all, what I do in my everyday life – sometimes, it’s really nice to get some answers. I’ve found that you can’t rush the process. As much as I would have liked to get some of these answers last year, it wasn’t the right time. Now, apparently, it is.

I’m not going to lie, though – it’s a bit nerve-racking (side note: huh, I always thought it was “nerveWracking” but according to the Interwebs, that’s a less-accepted variant spelling… you learn something every day!) to know that I’ll get some answers to questions that have persisted for, well, over a year now. But I do better with certainty than uncertainty, so I’m just trying to remember that no matter what the answers are, things will be okay.

I hope that 2021, for you, is whatever you need it to be – a year that asks questions, or one that answers a few for you.