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“Hidden Figures” A Must-Watch

If you haven’t seen the incredible film Hidden Figures yet, what exactly are you waiting for this? It’s a must-see movie that brings to light essential black female historical figures who have, for all too long, been pushed under the radar. Quite frankly, I’m ashamed to say that before the movie came out, I had no idea of their incredible story – but it’s one I won’t forget anytime soon now. I kept meaning to see the film in theaters, but just never got a chance. I was going to place a hold on a DVD copy at the library, but there were a whopping 77 (!) people ahead of me on the list. Luckily, I discovered I could rent it on iTunes and finally, with a day off last week, sat down and watched it. And wow!

Hidden Figures tells the story of three African-American female mathematicians who worked at NASA. Those women: Katherine Johnson, who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and several other missions; Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. The film is incredible, but the story is what matters the most.

Katherine Johnson conducted important technical work at NASA, including her time in the Guidance and Control Division of Langley’s Flight Research Division. All the while, as she was working on these important tasks, she dealt with segregation and discrimination at a number of levels. She became an aerospace technologist, calculating trajectories for missions including Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Apollo 11 and Apollo 13. Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and has received a number of other honors as well. Today, she is 98 years young. Here is her biography at NASA.

Mary Jackson became NASA’s first black female engineer in 1958, after already having worked for the company for years at Langley Research Center. A mathematician and aerospace engineer, she too fought segregation and discrimination. Jackson earned degrees in mathematics and physical science from Hampton Institute in 1942, and later petitioned the city of Hampton to allow to attend night classes at the University of Virginia. Her work at NASA eventually led her back to Langley, where she served as the Federal Women’s Program Manager and the Affirmative Action Program Manager. She retired in 1998 and passed away in 2005 at the age of 83. Here is her NASA biography.

Dorothy Vaughan became the first African-American woman to supervise a staff at the Langley Research Center. She worked tirelessly in her position as a mathematician and human computer, and taught herself & her staff the FORTRAN programming language. This led her to the eventual position of heading the programming section of the Analysis and Computation Division at Langley. Their work expanded, and again, over the years Vaughan also dealt with racial segregation and discrimination. She retired from NASA in 1971, after 28 years,, and passed away in 2008 at the age of 98. Her NASA biography is here.

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Returning to Cayuga Lake

A few weeks ago, my husband and I enjoyed a weekend getaway on Cayuga Lake, in Aurora, NY. Even though it was a short trip, it was so nice to get away, see some new things (and see again, some old things) and just enjoy the time together.

When we got married last July, we received a gift card to the Inns of Aurora as a wedding present. Their properties get booked fast, especially on weekends in the summer. Luckily, I managed to snag a night the first weekend of April that was open! This would be my first time back in Aurora since 2013 (when I also went to Cayuga Lake, and stayed at the E.B. Morgan House), and it was so nice to return, albeit with my life in quite a different state.

With nothing but time, we decided to take the long way to Aurora – no highways whatsoever. After a lunch stop at Tom Wahl’s in Avon, we went for the mini-Finger Lakes tour. (One of my goals is to see every Finger Lake, and I’m nearly there after this trip!) My husband has really never experienced the Finger Lakes, aside from a quick stop at Conesus a few years ago, so this was a nice treat for both of us. We stopped at Hemlock Lake, whose shoreline is mostly undeveloped. We found a “park” at the north edge of the lake – very simple, very peaceful. You just walk up some stairs to the crest of this hill, and there’s the lake, in all its untouched beauty.

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Book Review: The Little Book of Hygge

Have you ever heard of hygge? (That’s hoo-ga.)

For a long time, I hadn’t. I saw this book on an Instagram account I follow a few months ago, and I was intrigued. Danish people are said to be some of the happiest in the world, and I’d love to know why. So I requested this book through my library – I was 36th on the list, with it being a recent release and all. Months later, I finally got my hands on it!

So what is hygge? It doesn’t have an exact English translation, but we all know hygge when we feel it. It’s that feeling you get when you’re surrounded by loved ones, able to enjoy each other’s company. When you’re snuggled in a blanket with your dog, reading a book when there’s rain outside. It’s that feeling of warm, hominess, comfort. We all know it, even if we don’t have a word for it.

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Labels: Not For People, But For Things

Ask yourself this: how often do you actually read the labels on things? For me, the answer is realistically, not often enough. I recently read my friend Marie’s blog, where she discussed a mobile app called Think Dirty. It’s quick and simple and allows you to scan most of your at-home products (such as cleaning products, lotions, shampoos, etc.) and determine how “dirty” they are, or how bad they really are for you.

Honestly — I was shocked by the results as I scanned some things in my bathroom. Both the oatmeal avocado face mask I’ve been using, and the Neutrogena hair mask, rated as 9 – meaning they are super dirty and filled with chemicals that can have negative effects, especially in the long-run. I was surprised to learn that these products contained such things that have been linked to a number of health issues, including cancers, reproductive issues, and the like. Even my shampoo ranked a 7! It looks like I need to revamp a lot of what I’ve been putting on my body and use things that are healthier and “cleaner.” In the short-term, these products might end up being a little more expensive, but I’d rather pay a few more dollars now and save my health going forward.

So many people focus on their diets and what they’re putting in their bodies that way, but how many of us think about the chemicals and other bad stuff that we’re putting on our bodies in other ways?

In addition to downloading the aforementioned app, I’ve also been starting to make it a point to actually read the labels on food products. Not just for ingredients – many of which go right over my head unless I Google them – but also specifically to look at serving sizes, which are all too often ignored. I had bought a little $1 container of graham crackers the other day. In the past, I might eat a lot of it in one sitting, maybe even the whole thing, in lieu of a proper lunch. It turns out that container actually has 2.5 servings in it! It’d be easy to fall back into old habits and ignore serving sizes or proper portion sizes, but these are important! (Of course, equally important is my attempt to try and introduce more fruits & vegetables into my life on a more regular basis. The worst part of this is forgetting about something that *was* fresh and finding it only when it’s gone rotten. Yuck!)

At any rate, this is where I’m at right now! Just trying to do my best and be my best. And again, I’m so glad I read Marie’s blog where she talked about the Think Dirty app and introduced me to it. It’s crazy to see just what’s in the products we use on a regular basis, without even thinking about it. You can download the Think Dirty app in the App Store!