A mixed-race family posing in front of a Christmas tree

Mixed-race reflections for Loving Day

In honor of Loving Day today, I thought I would write an essay about being mixed-race. Also featured: a portrait I took of my awesome family for Christmas 2018. Thanks to the Lovings, my parents could get married and Cobalt and I could get married. Hurrah!

Last Tuesday I participated in a panel of mixed-race writers. One of the questions they asked us was “What is your biggest obstacle as a writer?” Many people discussed the lack of representation of mixed-race people in our media.

How does seeing people who look like me in movies or books affect me?

  • I think of crying in the dark movie theater during the opening scenes of “A Wrinkle in Time”: a brown girl with curls everywhere working with her white dad in his lab. My thoughts drifted to building radio kits with my white dad and my Black mom, to them helping me build an “apparatus”  — made from a ginger ale bottle, wires and a tongue depressor — that dispensed cat food for my eighth grade science fair project.
  • I think of the scene in Melissa Valentine’s “The Names of All the Flowers,” the one where her family is standing in the airport, her white dad with his chest “puffed up like an orange bird,” his Black wife and brown kids with all sorts of hair around him. I was transported back to our family reunions, being surrounded on all sides by Black people. And somewhere in the mix, my white dad.

These instances certainly help. But when I was preparing for the panel, the biggest obstacle that came to my mind was my own self-sabotage and self-silencing. Not feeling seen and feeling like I am not allowed to be my real self.

I’m always hustling and following rules instead: smiling when I want to cry, staying when I want to run away. Being what I think people want from me — quiet, contemplative — even though it makes me feel like I’m a robot.

Other people seem to be just fine saying whatever they want to say, doing whatever they want to do. But when I try, no one responds. Or if they do, it’s to tell me that I am too much: My voice is too distracting, I am too informal, I am so wiggly.

I’m trying to be better. I police myself, anticipating when someone might be upset with me, when I will be out of line, and then course-correct before anything happens. Sarah is in control.

The advent of Zoom everything provided a rude awakening for me. For the first time, I was face-to-face with what I looked like in any given situation: a meeting, a panel, a conference.

I watched a video where someone interviewed me over Zoom about my job. In the video, my interview is juxtaposed with two other writers’ interviews and we go back and forth answering questions. The other two writers are calm, composed, while I am wild. Smiling and gesturing and laughing. I’m all over the Zoom box. Can you hear me? Can you see me? Is what I am saying making sense? If you paused the video at any part when I am speaking, I would be a blur across the screen.

I was mortified.

What is wrong with me? No wonder people have a problem with me. I thought I was reining in all the crazy, but obviously that is false.

My co-workers said the video looked good, that they liked the energy I brought to the interview, that it was clear I was excited and passionate about the topic. But I couldn’t see that. Surely there must be some way to be excited and passionate while also being in control of your arms, your words.

Back on the mixed-race panel, again everyone was calm and composed, thoughtful and elegant. I turned my Zoom self-view on to keep tabs on myself. Was I sitting up straight? Was I in the middle of the box? Did I look interested? Was I looking at the camera?

Then the moderator asked the “obstacle” question and chose me to answer first. “Sure!” I said. I glanced at my notes to remind myself of where I wanted to start. On the page was a joke to myself about how I grew up acting as if I could pass as white (“Oh I’m a quarter German!”) even though I am obviously brown.

“Sorry,” I tried to regain my polite poise. “There’s a joke to myself on this one….” and then I started giggling again. “Well, I guess I should just explain it to you…” The hands came out. I couldn’t see the audience, so I had no idea if they thought the joke was as funny as I did, but I still pantomimed the whole thing just in case. “Look at me! How is this face white-passing? Hahaha anyway, I hope you enjoyed that… Now I want to talk about self-sabotage.”

The whole time the self-view gave me away: the flapping, the gesturing, the head bobbing.

But I decided that I didn’t care. Forget that poised person who looked like she was perched on a shard of glass in a way that avoided getting her butt cut. I was tired of trying to stay in the lines that I’d drawn for myself.

Besides, was I really going to silence my discussion of self-silencing?

So I let it all out for once, and the joy of being Sarah tumbled out of me.

Note: I think it’s important to highlight how many times I tried to silence myself while writing this essay. This is a constant, evolving process. 

Hawaii behind the lens

Never fear science readers… I have some ideas for a new post (think – what kinds of jobs can scientists have?!) coming soon. But for today, let’s put science on hold and talk about something else I am passionate about – photography! I miss my photo blog! The end of the year is coming up really soon and I have been thinking back about everything that happened this year. One really cool part of this year was that Cobalt and I got to go to Hawaii with my family for my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary! My aunt and uncle live there so we stayed with them for a lot of our trip, which was really awesome because I haven’t seen them since I was in high school (or even younger?!). Plus I got to hang out with my cousin, whom I also haven’t seen in forever. Yay family!

My family at my aunt’s and uncle’s farm shortly after we arrived. That’s a pretty good looking family if I do say so myself!

Anyway – so we were in Hawaii surrounded by so much stuff to photograph. Really it was kind of overwhelming for the photographer in me. Part of me just wanted to experience everything not from behind the lens of a camera and part of me wanted to take a picture of everything so I wouldn’t forget it. Also, it was the first time I’d pulled out the DSLR in a while (So sad…) so there was a lot of remembering what to do under various lighting conditions. It was also fun to challenge myself to take unique photos. A photographer once told me that all photographers need to find their own style so I like to take these opportunities to figure out what my photography style is. Today I thought I’d share some of my favorite DSLR pictures with you from our trip.

Some creatures of Hawaii

I really like how this picture turned out even though it was really overexposed. I think it looks a bit like a painting. Look at that happy bee!
In Hawaii, you learn to look closely to find those little geckos hiding in plain sight. This little guy was chilling on the farm.
At one point we went to a park and there were stray cats everywhere! I wanted to take them all home but Tarantula probably wouldn’t be very happy with me… Anyway, I really like the lighting in this picture. I think there was a streetlight or something else orange going on to the left of me and this kitteh?

Playing with lights

You can’t visit Hawaii and not talk about volcanos! This used to be a full lava pool a few months before we got there but by then the lava had flowed elsewhere and all that was left was this creepy glow…
See? Creepy glow!
More fun with lights. This is my sister and my shark Scrarmpl in a lava tube. I like the lighting… it’s so weird and orange. Plus my sis and Scrarmpl look happy.


Baby fern!
Did you know that orchids have what looks like baby manatees in them?!
See for yourselves! It’s a manatee surrounded by a heart! <3!

That’s all for today but never fear! There are tons of pictures left for me to share with you! We did so much in Hawaii that this first post barely scratches the surface (clearly… as there are no pictures of food in here!)! Be prepared to see more Hawaii sprinkled into my posts soon! Plus Cobalt and I also went to Germany so there will be some Germany pictures sneaking into the mix too!

Now it’s your turn!
What did you guys think of that post? What is your favorite picture? Have you been to Hawaii? Did you like it? What was your favorite part? Where did you go on vacation this year? What are you doing for the holidays? So many questions…

Celestial Seasonings and What Followed

Hello everyone! I hope you had a great MLK weekend! I had a lot of fun with my SIL, her kiddos, and Cobalt. We went to IKEA (I’ve got a plant project… more on that later… like when I actually do the project), Cobalt’s favorite record store, our favorite bookstores, the park (it was so warm this weekend!), the movies and to Celestial Seasonings for a tour of their plant. That is where the above picture comes in: we all had to wear hairnets to go on the tour but Cobalt and the other bearded guys also had to wear beard nets… hahahaha. It was funny. We giggled at him a lot. Regardless, the tour is really cool! You should definitely check it out if you’re ever near Boulder (also, you need to visit me… duh)! After the tour, my niece and I got matching shark and whale finger puppets. :D I named mine Rosabaya and Arpeggio after two of my favorite Nespresso flavors (I know…. super nerdy all of a sudden)!

The shark and whale finger puppets hang out…

Anyway, that’s all for now. Things are busy as usual. At least my niece and nephew got to help me set up for Monday’s experiments Sunday night. We all had gloves on and I taught them how to set up everything. It was kind of amazing. Made Monday’s experiments way happier knowing that we set it all up together…

In other news, I’ve been working on making our lab webpage super awesome so when I finally get time to work on this blog, I am kind of tired of typing… So I apologize for posting lags…

What are you guys up to right now? How are those new years resolutions coming?

Frolicking with Family

C and A are always so good at posing for my SIL and me when we want to play with our cameras together!

This weekend, my sister in law and her kiddos are coming to visit us here in Colorado! So excited to spend time frolicking around and seeing some things Cobalt and I haven’t even seen yet – like Celestial Seasonings! Can’t wait to catch up with my niece and nephew and my SIL! Haven’t seen them since Christmas! :D

Now before I run off to go clean up our house for our guests, I’ll post some pictures of my niece and nephew because they are growing up so fast! I am so proud of them. :)

A in Oklahoma during Thanksgiving

This might be one of my favorite pictures I’ve taken of C. :)

What are you up to for the long weekend? Exciting plans? :)

The world is just a little less puffier today

Potassium and her wee holding Patti and Smokey the day the kittens joined the family.

A long time ago (read: before braces and growing up and all that jazz), Potassium and her family adopted two tiny kittens to befriend their older cat Blackberry. They named the kittens Patti and Smokey. Patti, the runt of the litter, was so tiny that the vet refused to draw her blood for the customary FeLV test at her new cat exam. “She needs all the blood she can get!” the vet commented, adding that Smokey’s test results would be fine for both of them.

In addition to being so tiny, Patti had epically long fluffy fur, she had the tiniest squeak of a meow, and she didn’t even know how to purr (Potassium and her friend G had to teach her). Potassium and her family fell in love with her instantly. Then Patti grew up into an even fluffier little puffball who loved being petted (so much so that she would bite your butt if you were “ignoring her” by petting one of the other cats), thought that cars were her friends (that was scary – she would flop down right in front of people pulling into the driveway so she could get her belly rubbed), and was our adorable little Snowbeast with her little pantaloon pants.

In case you didn’t believe me about her pantaloon pants…

Unfortunately after almost 17 years with our family, Patti succumbed to heart disease earlier this week. We love you and miss you, little puff!

Happy New Year! :D

Helloooo everyone! Happy new year! I hope you guys had a great Christmas and a happy New Year (and other happy holidays too)! Cobalt and I traveled to see both of our families and it was great having time to catch up with everyone. The pictures in this post come from my family’s holiday pictures!

Potassium and Cobalt being photobombed by Finn. Play close attention to Finn’s fin – he’s moving so you can see the books behind it! :)
Fun with my sis! :D

Are you guys excited about 2014?! Any New Years resolutions? Cobalt and I are busy coming up with a name for ours. Last year ours was called “Operation Go for It!” and I think it worked out awesomely! Tune in later to find out all about this year’s soon! It’s going to be an epic year with me hopefully defending in the summer! I wonder where we will be by this time next year… I hope you are excited about all of this because I am… though also pretty scared. This is the first time in my life that I don’t know what I am planning on doing next! Cobalt feels similarly…

Okay, your turns. Tell me about your holidays and new years resolutions!

Artistic sisters

Helllooooo everyone! I hope you are having wonderful Tuesdays! Today’s post is about art and science! Last week when my sister was here, we spent a lot of time driving. We went to Fort Collins, CO to speak to some summer research undergraduate students about grad school. On Wednesday, we participated on an alumni panel and on Thursday, we returned to check out the students’ research posters and hear the keynote address. It was awesome getting to know these students and hearing about the successes and frustrations with their projects this summer. When we were not hanging out with the summer students, we hung out with the other grad/med school students on the panel and the keynote speaker and it was really nice to make new friends (all the alumni had the summer program in common but none of us actually participated in the same year). Everyone was so cool and inspiring! However, by the time we got back to Boulder on Thursday afternoon, we were exhausted/tired of driving. So first we ran around like crazy in a big rain storm and then we settled down in Cobalt’s and my living room to do some art before we had to take my sis back to the airport. This was my creation from our art afternoon. I have to say that I’m pretty proud of it! :D What do you think it should be called? All I can think of is “Whales in the sky keep on turning…” hahahaha…

What were you guys up to this past weekend? Cobalt and I celebrated our anniversary by staying at a lovely bed and breakfast (also in Fort Collins… he drove that time) on Friday night and then spent the rest of the weekend at IKEA/putting various pieces of furniture together. Also we had our neat anniversary party on Sunday! Stay tuned for pictures (but don’t be dismayed if they don’t show up in a timely manner this week; my summer students have their poster session/end of the summer banquet coming up)!

The story of the girl with the yellow hair

So my sister is coming into town today and in her honor, I thought I would post a story about our childhood that recently resurfaced…

A long time ago when we were kids, we had this amazing bathtub toy (the Floating Marina by Fisher-Price) that included a few people, the floating marina, a water plane, and a boat. We loved this toy. It pretty much hung out with us every bathtime for more fun in and around the marina. We especially liked the girl with the yellow hair. We liked her so much, we gave her a special name: “The girl with the yellow hair” (creative, I know…). Anyway, our family used to go stay in a cabin in Yosemite National Park for a week or so every summer and of course, the floating marina had to accompany us on our vacation. So there we were in the bathtub in Yosemite playing with the marina and its accompanying friends. I put the girl with the yellow hair under a bowl (maybe she was in a submarine?) and moved it along the bottom of the bathtub until… oops… she fell down the drain!

Looking back and thinking about the size of the girl with the yellow hair, I am confused about how she even fit down the drain because she is a pretty large toy. Anyway, tragedy struck and my poor parents had two crying children to deal with. They frantically attempted to retrieve her for us, even calling a plumber the next day to see if she was stuck in the pipe… but alas, the girl with the yellow hair was with us no more.

Now you are probably confused because I’ve posted this lovely picture of the girl with the yellow hair in her plane on the top of today’s post. To get to that part of the story we have to fast forward about ….. 20 years from the original incident to a few weeks ago. I was talking to Cobalt because I was upset about a mistake I had made and for some reason, the girl with the yellow hair story resurfaced. As soon as the conversation was over, Cobalt ran upstairs to search for the girl with the yellow hair on ebay and he found her (thank you Cobalt)! I called my sister, who was visiting my parents at the time, and she managed to dig up the sea plane from the marina set within all of our old bathtub stuff (surprised that we still had it actually…). So now the girl and the plane are finally reunited (and my sister and I will also be reunited)!! Happy days. We already decided we’re taking the girl with the yellow hair out to brunch to apologize for throwing her down the bathtub drain all those years ago.

Now it’s your turn. Do you have a “scarring” childhood story about losing one of your favorite toys? Or a story about you and your siblings? Let’s hear it! :D

Look at that family…

This last weekend, Cobalt and I went to visit his family (Success! We saw both families in the same week!). I brought my DSLR so we could take a family picture! We were planning on doing the picture outside but then there was this HUGE thunderstorm so everything outside was soaking wet. The result was that we ended up pushing all the furniture around in the living room to make room for an indoor picture. It turned out to be fun though and I got to use my sweet infrared remote so no one had to run around with the timer on…

In other news, my friends A, J, and I made up an Instagram photo challenge to do together starting today… so exciting!

I’m sorry about the crazy posting schedule lately. There’s a lot going on/coming up (including teaching middle/high school students genetics and running a 5K – The Firefly Run – this Friday). I have a lot of ideas about things that I want to post (especially about France, which was 2 months ago now! :p) but no time to write about them. Boooo… What are you guys up to? Also, how do you make time to do creative things because I have all these projects/creative activities (like photography) that I never have any time for… wah…

Your turn… talk to me! :D Allllllso, leave a comment with your Instagram name if you want to do our photo challenge (and you need to know what “qwrahhhhh” means)!

pH and Dallas Day 2

Some Dallas “wildlife”

I totally meant to write my second Dallas post for you guys this week but life went crazy in grad school. One of my labmates defended his thesis yesterday. This means he has his PhD now! And that I am now the senior grad student (not counting our MD/PhD student) in the lab… craziness… Because the defense is probably the most important part of actually getting a PhD (even more so than walking at graduation), my boss came all the way back from her sabbatical in France for his defense. This whole week reminded me of the two skills I think are the most important to learn in grad school: 1) that it is good to learn how to be independent, in control of your project, and manage your time well because after all, the whole point of getting your PhD is to learn how to answer a complex question that no one has ever asked before and 2) while skill 1) is important, it is also necessary to learn how to be flexible with your time because sometimes your cells don’t want to grow, the microscope is on the fritz, or your boss shows up from France after not seeing you for 3 months and wants to meet with you… at some point…

I had all these experiments or ideas of experiments planned this week and they mostly still happened except not exactly in the planned order. In addition, this was an epic week for defenses (my lab mate and one of my other friends here are now PhDs!) so after crazy days of trying to fit everything experimenty in and having exciting conversations with my boss, there was a lot of celebrating going on… I also had a random soccer game on Wednesday (they are usually on Sundays)… Whew… I am so excited for the weekend…

Anyway, as promised:

Dallas Day 2

After all the epic driving going on on Day 1, there was much sleeping in the morning of Day 2. Poor Jem still had to go to work so A, Cobalt, and I slept in and then got up to explore our surroundings a little. We took a leisurely stroll to this restaurant called the Dream Café and had amazing breakfast (it was lunch time though). I got these super fluffy amazing ricotta pancakes. I am not normally a huge pancake fan but I was really craving them and these hit the spot perfectly. Mmmmm… I want more! After our tasty breakfast, we wandered around downtown Dallas taking in the sights. It was pleasantly warm and there was so much neat stuff to see! I longed for my fatty DSLR camera instead of my little iPhone camera… Regardless, here are some pictures of our outing…

A and a dog she found…
A bird pretending not to watch us eat our delicious breakfast
Cobalt “walking on water”
Potassium and A being normal (that means weird)


In the evening, Cobalt and I drove to see some of his family members that live nearby. I pretty much instantly bonded with all of them and it turned out to be a really nice evening. We celebrated their youngest daughter’s birthday with pizza, wings, and deliciousssssss homemade cupcakes and I felt so special to be included. :)

Next week – Fun times at the Fort Worth Zoo and Fort Worth in general. For now it’s your turn. Tell me about your work – are there skills that you have had to develop to do your job better? Tell me about food – do you enjoy eating breakfast? What is your absolute favorite breakfast food (I love eggs, hash browns and some variety of meat but I don’t often order it because I eat it too fast to enjoy it… :p)? Any fun plans for the weekend? Any requests for animals next week?

In other news, I saw something cute yesterday: pH (which is a measure of how many hydrogen ions are in something)=2/3 PhD… so I guess I’m pH right now…