Facebook tells me this was a year ago today

I bought my wedding dress in the Netherlands, at a wonderful store in Arnhem, with my mom and sister and two really good friends.

I didn’t particularly enjoy a lot of wedding planning. I didn’t care about so many of the details, I don’t like being the center of attention, I was overwhelmed by all the options (take the usual options and multiply it by three to account for our different cultural, national, and religious backgrounds), my family was so far away and I never have been very good at asking for help so I did most of it by myself, and I thought about eloping every time we figured out how much something was going to cost. I thought about eloping extra hard when we moved to California and suddenly I had to plan the wedding all over again, or so it felt. In the end, I wanted a marriage more than I wanted a wedding.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with how our day turned out, I don’t regret not eloping for a second, and as soon as we get our pictures back I’ll share some of the details I did care about with you.

But this day? This I enjoyed. I had the support of my favorite people, I came home with the best dress (and so different from what I imagined!), and although I never really experienced the manic joy that movies show brides having, I did have the magical “say yes to the dress” moment.

I thought that was complete and utter bullshit made up by the wedding industrial complex, but it wasn’t–at least not for me. I thought I’d end up with a short, A-line, practical dress, something pretty and inexpensive, but when I tried some on, I just felt meh. I felt fine, but not especially special. After I tried on a couple longer dresses, but still wasn’t really feeling it, the saleslady came bearing a dress that didn’t look like anything I would like. But because I am very non-confrontational, I tried it on anyway. And as soon as it slipped over my head, I knew it. I hadn’t even seen myself in a mirror before I knew I’d found my dress.


We ended up spending more money on the wedding than either of us really wanted, but I don’t regret buying the dress one bit. It was made all the more special and meaningful because I got to buy it with some of my favorite people. In that sense, it was a good foreshadowing of the day: everything that I loved about our wedding is tied to the people who made it possible.


Military Reads

June was Military Month when it comes to my reading habits: one book on military science, one book written by a physical therapist at Walter Reed, one book about women in the military.

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Timely, according to the articles in my Facebook feed about the possibility of requiring women to register for the draft now that combat positions are open to women. For the record–I’m not opposed to being drafted. I don’t particularly want to go to war, but I doubt many of my male friends do, either, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t do my part if it’s needed. (I did, however, look up what would happen if I got drafted, since I have dual citizenship. Turns out that there’s a nice little loophole that as long as my two countries aren’t at war with each other, and I’m drafted and don’t voluntarily enlist, I can keep both nationalities. Good to know. (Please stay friends, guys.) I also learned that I can’t, however, serve as a military chaplain–single citizenship is a requirement there.)

Run, Don’t Walk: The Curious and Chaotic Life of a Physical Therapist Inside Walter Reed Medical Center, by Adele Levine. 

Levine works as a physical therapist at Walter Reed, working with soldiers who have undergone amputations. It’s hard work, and a hard world: all-consuming, painful, but with a surprising amount of humor too. Most of the book tells the stories of the soldiers who come to her for rehabilitation, but she also writes about how she got into the work and what it does to her and to her co-workers to see the effects of the war on a daily basis. Recommended if you’re interested in the human cost of war. (Levine writes about the prices soldiers pay for policy decisions made by mostly white men in Washington DC, but doesn’t go into politics itself, so this book is suitable for both sides of the aisle in that sense.)

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Mary Roach.

I love Mary Roach. I’ve read all but one of her books, and I love her irreverent approach to life and science and the wacky questions she comes up with that end up being super interesting. And she knows how to write for those of us who aren’t particularly science-minded or didn’t take a lot of science classes in school. As Goodreads says, “Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier’s most challenging adversaries—panic, exhaustion, heat, noise—and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them.” Roach tackles the varied topics of hearing loss, heat, exhaustion, proper clothing, fear, submarines, ducks, and stink bombs.

Roach is famously funny and irreverent, and I will say that she tries very hard to find the humor in a lot of situations, but doesn’t become disrespectful–she is writing about the military, after all, and people willing to risk their lives for other people’s safety. I think she’s conscious of that and tries to stay on the right side of that particular line. You can judge for yourself how well she succeeds.

A couple of reviewers on Goodreads and Amazons remarked that the book seems a little disjointed, and I’d have to agree with that. It’s still worth your time, especially if you’re a Roach fan, but if you’re new to her work, I’d pick up one of her other ones first to get an idea of her style. (Try Packing for Mars, for example, I liked that one a lot.)

Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War, by Helen Thorpe.

This was the most heart-breaking book of the three. Thorpe writes about three women who joined the Indiana National Guard and were sent to Afghanistan and Iraq. She talks about their time overseas, but also what happens when they come back after their first or second deployment, what happens to their families, and how they try to adjust back to civilian life. Embedded in a military that is inherently  male in nature, these women try to navigate their way through boot camp and training, drill weekends and deployment. Thorpe follows them for more than twelve years, and this longer-term view makes for a particularly interesting narrative.

Michelle is a student who enlisted in the National Guard because she needed money for college–and then 9/11 happened and suddenly she was sent overseas. Debbie is a beauty salon manager and has been in the Guard since the 1980s, serving as a kind of den mother to the soldiers. The Guard means community to her, more than anything else. And then there’s Desma, who signed up on a dare and ending up needing both the camaraderie and the steady paychecks to support her family. A New York Times piece about the book says that Thorpe “gives us a dynamic understanding of what it’s been like for Guard members who unexpectedly found themselves shipped off to the front lines of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, their lives and plans disrupted, their families thrown into disarray. She chronicles how these once ordinary civilians were abruptly transformed into full-time soldiers, and how they coped with the boredom and isolation and terror of serving in places where land mines and I.E.D.’s and roadside bombs were a constant threat.” This is also a good book to read if you’re interested about the support work that goes on during a deployment–one of the women works in the motor pool, while the other two are a part of the armament team and spend their time repairing and keeping track of deadly weapons. None are meant to see combat, but of course those lines aren’t as clear overseas and eventually one of them will even encounter an IED and will later be diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury. This was an interesting book to read given the debates over women in combat, as it showed how women are sometimes already on the front lines, how gender comes into play while deployed, and what a female draft could mean for those left behind.

Main take-away from all three books? There is no good excuse for not taking care of those we ask to fight for us. Whether it’s before, during, or after deployment, there are about a million different ways in which we are letting soldiers down. I don’t know what to do about that, honestly, so if you have resources or further book recommendations for me, let me know!

2016 Summer Bucket List

We returned from our honeymoon on Monday. Reader, it was glorious. We had so much time to just relax, and hike, and talk, and read, and people-watch, and eat that I think everyone should go on a honeymoon at least once a year, whether you’re married or not. (I think other people might call these vacations, but like a true grad student, I don’t really know how to take time off. A honeymoon seemed like a good enough excuse, though.)

While driving back on Monday (so much driving!), I started thinking about what I wanted to do this summer. So here it is, my summer 2016 bucket list, in random order:

  • take L. to camp at Sequoia and/or King’s Canyon National Parks (this was a favorite family destination when we were growing up so obviously L. needs to go, too)
  • visit Santa Cruz
  • go to a baseball game (Go Giants!)
  • visit Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • experiment with spelt bread recipes
  • make my own yogurt
  • run a 5k (I’m on week 5 of couch to 5k now, which is like three weeks further than I’ve ever made it, so I’m hopeful)
  • ride another century
  • visit friends and family in the Netherlands this summer
  • write and submit an article to an academic journal
  • not get sunburned (which is harder than it looks, at least if you’re me. I went on a bike ride a couple of weeks ago, and cavilierly applied sunscreen, thinking I’d only be out for 90 minutes or so. Thanks to my abysmal sense of direction, 90 mins turned into 3,5 hours and my arms and legs got very red indeed. I’m going to aim at not repeating that experience). Also included in this goal is to avoid heat exhaustion/sunstroke
  • go to Yoga in the Park, put on by a local yoga studio here
  • go see a movie on Courthouse Square in Redwood City (the city puts on free movies on a big square in the summer–it’s a good mix of older and newer movies, and there should be at least a couple I’m interested in)
  • volunteer with CASA San Mateo (Court Appointed Special Advocates–I’ve talked with them and they’re amiable to me helping out. I get some hopefully relevant work experience, they get an extra pair of hands)
  • check out Cal Academy of Science’s new show, “Incoming!”, narrated by George Takei
  • attend at least one meet-up event
  • find a new book club
  • watch Love Between the Covers, a feature length documentary on romance novels, readers, and writers
  • keep writing cover letters until someone finally hires me

My reading goals are separate. The biggest one is to make a dent in the unread books on my shelves, but specifically:

  • Ron Chernow’s Hamilton 
  • Greg Prince’s Leonard Arrington and the Making of Mormon History 
  • Annie Clark Tanner’s A Mormon Mother
  • Kate Bowler’s Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel
  • Heather Hansen’s Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bisons and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service 
  • Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. 
  • Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
  • Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You
  • Annie Barrow’s The Truth According to Us
  • Frederick Backman’s My Grandmother Told Me to Tell You She’s Sorry
  • Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian
  • Marilynn Robinson’s Lila
  • Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life

although I also reserve the right to reread the Harry Potter series for the fifth hundred time, and anything I might find on my no doubt frequent trips to the library. Hashtag spontaneity.

reader, I married him

It’s still a little hard to believe, but I’m married. Sunday night, after the ceremony and reception, we stayed the night at the Claremont hotel in Berkeley, and then returned home bright and early on Monday morning to have a last breakfast with L’s family before most of them left town. And now we’re home again, and everything is different, but also the same.

On Facebook, I posted the following:

I washed the makeup off my face last night, took the pins out of my hair, and hung up my dress. There I was, the same Saskia, but also a little different. We’re back to normal now, the two of us. Except we carry the love of so many people with us going forward, and that makes all the difference.

Thank you to everyone who made our wedding day happen. Thank you to my family, and Loel’s family, who are now also mine. Thank you to our officiant, who helped us craft a ceremony that reflected who we are and what we value. Thank you to our friends and family who came, and those who loved us from afar. We are so blessed.


I have a husband now. I am a wife. L. and I have been joking around all day, saying things like, “this is our first breakfast as married people!” “hey, look, this is our first time walking Josie as married people!” and calling each other husband and wife. Per Dutch tradition, I switched my rings from one hand to the other, and although it’s a little jarring to feel them on the other side, I think I’ll get used to that pretty soon. It might take me a little longer to get used to these new identities, though, and this new reality  in which I am mine, always mine, but now also his.




We leave on our honeymoon tomorrow: the Grand Canyon, Vegas, and then a stop in Salt Lake City, both so we can go to all our old haunts, and because I have a paper to present at the annual Mormon History Association conference up at Snowbird. (What, you didn’t spend two days in a conference hotel with a bunch of nerds on your honeymoon, talking about Mormon history? just me? Oh.)

I have some posts planned about our ceremony, what we wore, how much I cried (so much!), and how happy I am (so happy!). But first, I have to go enjoy this feeling of being L’s wife.

see you on the other side

On Tuesday, L. and I had our last marriage prep session with our officiant, the rector at my church. Where other sessions had focused on our relationship and the ceremony, this one went more into what marriage means, why it’s considered a sacrament in the church, and what it means to start a new family. The rector stressed that we should be wanting to bless the world, not just ourselves, through our marriage. While I certainly don’t think you have to be married to do good in the world, something about that idea stuck with me and I’ve thinking about it since.

Yesterday, we had our rehearsal, at the venue. Standing there, running through the service, saying some of the words we’ll say on Sunday, even just seeing our names on this sign at the parking lot:


It hit me. We’re getting married on Sunday, the day after tomorrow. It’s finally here.

Shit just got real.

read what you want, when you want (part 1)

A popular book blogger had a post about New York Times bestsellers worth reading, saying that ‘bestseller’ doesn’t actually mean very much since a lot of not-so-good-books make it onto the list. I’m not linking to the post because this isn’t about her and I’m not even critiquing her–it just got me thinking. I am a big proponent of reading what you want, when you want. This doesn’t mean I think all books are good, or worth my time–but the operative word here is my.

I read cozy mysteries like my life depends on it. I read Patricia Cornwell and Karen Slaughter thrillers. I read Amish romances. I read fantasy and sometimes sci-fi (though the latter is rare). I also read high-brow literary works, and academic tomes, and non-fiction. (I don’t read much science, though, something I’d like to change.) Hell, I’ll even read the back of the cereal box if I have to (ie, if I’m stranded without anything else to read during breakfast).

I have a friend whose book list gives me holy envy. She goes off on reading tangents and now knows a lot about both Darwin and the Russian tsars. But just because I admire her dedication doesn’t mean I want her list, even as I’ve vowed to read more quality non-fiction as a result. Fluff fiction relaxes my hamster wheel brain more than anything else (except maybe drugs? Stoners always sound super relaxed. But cozy mysteries seem like a much more viable, safe, and legal option there).

There is so much classism and other forms of perceived moral superiority stuck under these expectations of who should read what. And to get back to the beginning of this post, bestseller lists, if nothing else, are interesting because they tell us something about the popular consciousness–if four out of the first five fiction books on the list are thriller mysteries (Grisham, Patterson, Greaney, Baldacci), and the fifth is Stephen King, that says something about the people who read books, and the books they choose to buy. Books might not be ‘worth the hype’ based on literary merit, but that there is a hype is very interesting nonetheless.

I do, however, make an exception for Twilight. And Fifty Shades of Gray. No one should be internalizing that (and I have read both, so I should know). Anything else, however? You go girl. Read whatever you want, whenever you want, and don’t let anyone shame you into thinking your tastes aren’t good enough.

to be continued…

On Hamilton, Or Why I Should Think Before I Press Play

Last week, I had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It was one of those days that you just have to get through, and when I went to take Josie for her afternoon walk and was looking for something to listen to, I saw the Hamilton soundtrack. I thought, “yes, this is just what I need, an upbeat soundtrack about persevering and making it and not throwing away anyone’s shot. I’ll sing along in my head and it’ll give me perspective on my own stupid problems and it’ll be great.”

Bad idea. You see, I was halfway through the musical, and you know what happens after the halfway mark? (Spoiler alert, although this shouldn’t be a spoiler for anyone who’s had to take a US History class.) Philip, Hamilton’s son, dies in a duel. And then a terribly sad song comes on (“It’s Quiet Uptown”), and I cried. I know Hamilton’s story, I knew this was coming and I still cried. And I kept walking, and then Hamilton’s own duel happens, and he dies (“The World Was Wide Enough”), and poor Eliza sings “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” and I was trying very hard to not weep while Josie wandered, oblivious, at my feet.

At least no one noticed, and I didn’t have to explain I was crying over something that happened way back in 1804.  Small mercies, I guess.