Friday, December 31, 2010


I did take some pictures during Christmas this year, although not many.

The day after Christmas, Ed, his uncle Tom, and I went to Longwood Gardens. I haven't been to the Gardens in a long time, and I've never seen their Christmas gardens. It was pretty spectacular. (The full set is here.)

Yesterday, Mom and I went for a quick walk around Bethlehem; I wanted to buy some beesewax candles at the Moravian Book Shop. (Main Street has several shops that I make a point of visiting whenever I'm in town. Downtown Bethlehem is really lovely during the Christmas season; they decorate beautifully. And on a side note, Ed and I are having our wedding reception at the Hotel Bethlehem, which is this lovely old building surrounded by all this.)

On our way to and from our parking spot, we passed by Central Moravian Church, which every Christmas has a Christmas Putz (from the German putzen, meaning "to decorate"), which is a retelling of Jesus' birth by means of narration and music. It changes at least slightly every year, and I was a bit sorry I didn't have time to see it this year.

When I walked by the sign, I immediately thought of Pinky and the Brain, and giggled to myself. My mother, who knows me well, looked at me and said, "You're giggling because you're thinking of a putz having her own entrance, aren't you." 

Of course, she was right.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas 2010

I'm sitting here watching my parents and brother playing Scrabble; Ed, Cheng (my Thai-Chinese sister-in-law), and I alternate between making snarky comments and being supportive, mostly by interfering with Justin (my brother) trying to play his turns.

Ed and I have been in the Lehigh Valley since Monday evening, when he and I arrived on a bus from Philadelphia. We flew into Philadelphia on Thursday, rented a car, and drove to Landenberg to spend Christmas and stay with Ed's aunt and uncle; Ed's aunt and cousin from California were staying at their house too, while Ed's parents drove up from Virginia and stayed at a local hotel. It was my first time meeting Ed's extended family, and only the second time I met Ed's parents, and everything went pretty well. Ed's aunt is a bit of an organizational dynamo, so we had a great time but felt like we were being slightly micromanaged, but she cooked well and made us feel very welcome and comfortable. Ed and I went to a Christmas Eve Mass on Friday afternoon, which cleared us up for opening presents (and sleeping in a bit) on Saturday. We made out well: We got a calendar acquired in France from Ed's aunt Sarah (who, along with her daughter, Ed's cousin Collette, had spent Thanksgiving in Paris), as well as framed art from recent trip to Colorado; Collette gave everyone a lovely print based on her own artwork (she's an art teacher, and also a talented artist in her own right); Ed's parents gave us some of their own belongings that had been too nice to donate or throw away, but which they did not have room for themselves anyway, including a creche (instant family heirloom) and a Lenox porcelain vase that had been given to Ed's great-grandparents (I think) as a wedding present.

On Monday, when we arrived in the Lehigh Valley, Anne (Mom's sister), Bill (Anne's husband), and Ciara (their daughter, my cousin, and one of my bridesmaids) had just arrived in town from upstate New York, so we had a couple days of hanging out with them - plus, with Justin and Cheng visiting, it was the first time Ed had the chance to meet said family. It was nice to be back visiting with everyone, coming and going all at the same time. (Organized chaos.) Last night we all went out to Gregory's Steakhouse for dinner (this is becoming an annual Christmas tradition).
And - more presents! Ed and I both got gift cards from Amazon, as well as a Target gift card for the both of us. I also got a Kindle, which I was initially cautious about, which is turning out to be really cool; I've already downloaded a plethora of free e-books (although I bought a few e-books as well). I also got a few paperbacks in the form of collections of short stories, which is one of my favorite genres, so I was happy. Justin and Cheng got us a pasta maker (which had been on our wedding registry), which I'm very excited about, as well as a hot chocolate pot, which pleases my inner chocoholic.

We had an appointment with a wedding cake person yesterday, and two more today, but I'm still processing all the possibilities.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And Then There Are The Well-Behaved Classes.

This was done by a few of my fourth period kids today:

Student Logic

To varying degrees I like the classes and students I'm teaching. Each class has a different personality based on the students who are in the class; different classes find different things funny, or happy with different things, can be more easily bribed with candy canes, etc. But in all of my classes, the students just can't understand that I can still hear them and see them even if I'm sitting behind the rather large monitor the school has lent me to use during my brief stay here.

Last week we finished reading Dickens' A Christmas Carol, so on Thursday and Friday we watched the Disney version of the movie. And yesterday we watched the classic cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. For both movies, students complained, either that they didn't want to watch the movie, or they'd seen it a lot already, or why did they have to watch the cartoon version when the Jim Carrey version was so much better? (Personally, I'm not sure I'd show the cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas to this age group - I think they're too old for it - but that's just my opinion.) They complain constantly about why I don't let them do this, that, or the other - despite my initial explanation that these are Mrs. T.'s lesson plans I'm following, not my own lesson plans.

First period is the class I like the least; they're the most frustrating. The first thing I do after the bell rings is to make a few announcements; this particular class continues to talk over me, constantly interrupting. There are a few that are outright disrespectful, telling me they're not talking even when I can see their lips move and hear them talking. I told several students to stop talking halfway through class only to be told by another student that no one was talking.

Two or three students especially cause issues, one by continuing to talk and not understanding why she would need to be quiet, another being outright nasty and rude. I pulled the rude-and-nasty student out of class today and lay into her, and told her I'd write her up the next time there was a repeat performance of today. She continued to question why she was failing (because she hasn't turned in the assignments), even if she found them in the file cabinet, graded and not entered into the grade book. (I apologized - again - for this occurrence. It does happen that students hand in work, I grade it, then for whatever reason it doesn't make its way into the grade book.) That doesn't give her blanket permission, though, to act the way she's been acting. More than any other student, this one particular girl is a proverbial thorn, although there is another girl who is a lesser version of this.

My other classes are fine; my integrated class is a challenge because of the nature of integrating these students into mainstream classes, but they're not nasty or disrespectful. First period is just difficult.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Funny Discipline

One of the things I learned quickly when I started teaching was that if the students are laughing, they're paying attention, they're engaged, and they're at least partially relaxed. I don't know that I make a specifically concerted effort to get every class to laugh at something every day, but I do try to be silly whenever I can. For example:

  • If a student won't stop talking after repeated requests to be quiet, and it's an especially silly kid, I'll be as dramatic as possible and tell the kid that if he won't be quiet, I'll have to glue him to the ceiling and he'll have to stay up there overnight. This invariably makes the rest of the class laugh (and I'm encouraged to do it). It's ridiculous enough that no one is offended for being called out, and the kid is usually quiet (or at least quieter) for the rest of the class.
  • When students get frustrated with each other and insult each other (there's one kid in my 5th period class who other kids just don't like), I put a stop to that right away; their insults run along the lines of insulting intelligence or sexuality. (The insults haven't changed; you know what they are.) By being dramatic, I intercept the insults when I hear them and say, "Stop! If you must insult each other, you must be creative about it." This gets them to laugh - they're not expecting me to say that, seemingly permitting insults - and then call each other things like "cat hugger" or "face smoosher" (actual insults used in my classes).
  • One kid today just would not sit down; he kept roaming about and desk hopping. Finally, after repeated attempts of having the kid stay put, I said that if he didn't sit down, I'd have to yell at him in German. This immediately got reactions of, "You speak German?!" "Yell at him in German!" (Everything sounds angry in German, even if you say "I love you.") And it focused on unacceptable behavior hopefully without being unnecessarily mean. And it got the kid to sit down.

Of course, I've also been known, in response to students complaining about an assignment, telling them that since I have no life, I like to stay up late at night to figure out ways of torturing them. Sometimes they can't tell if I would actually do such a thing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Disciplined for Disciplining

A few weeks ago, one of my classes was really acting up. Their task for that particular class period was to write a response, in class, to a service assignment they had been given previously. I repeatedly asked them to be quiet, only to have them continue to chatter. After telling the the same information repeatedly because of the continued talking, I informed the class that no, they were not allowed to submit the assignment late in this particular case because of my having to repeat myself, sharing the same information multiple times, information that would have not had been necessary to repeat had they been listening. Students were having trouble finishing on time because they weren't focusing on the work that they would have had enough time to do if they were to just write. (Since then, the majority of students have not had trouble finishing similar assignments in one class period. Those who need more time, of which there have been very few, have come to ask if they could hand in the work late.)

I should note that, if not a district policy, it is a school policy to allow students to hand in each quarter's work until the last day of that quarter. I've been accepting work since my first day as a substitute teacher; this one instance in this one class was the only instance in which I would not allow late work to be submitted (obviously, if a student were absent, or if there were other extenuating circumstances, the situation would change).

Today I was pulled aside by the principal (very nice woman that she is) about this. Apparently the student had complained to his or her parent, who then called the counseling office. I explained the situation to the principal as best as I could remember at the time, but I was still a bet nettled (although that may be too strong a word). The principal did not know which student had complained; she had been approached by the counselor who had been called by the parent. Clearly the student must have noticed by now that I'm constantly accepting late work, so I'm not really sure what the issue is. Perhaps the student didn't understand why I was upset, or thought I overreacted, or wanted to cause trouble for the sub; perhaps the student didn't explain the situation well to the parent, who thought I would no longer accept late work. (I'm really not a fan of accepting late work willy nilly, but I'm only here at this school a short time, and now is not the time to fight this battle.)

The principal didn't seem too upset by the situation, thanked me for doing a good job and working hard, etc.; she said she'd pass on the message to the counselor, so I'm not sure anything else will come of it. If anything, the student will be encouraged to come talk to me about the situation, but I'm not expecting anything more severe than that.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Open Letter to the Wedding Industry

Dear Wedding Industry Folks:
After reading various articles in magazines and on Web sites and in books (most recently The Wedding Book, which I actually returned because it stressed me out so much), I would like to address a few issues to those of you in the wedding industry who feel compelled to offer advice to those of us whose wedding is imminent. You're a frustrating bunch, and I think a few issues need to be rectified.
  1. Please don't automatically presume that all brides been planning our "dream weddings" since we were five - or at any point prior to our engagement. My fiance and I got engaged on July 16th, 2010, and that's when he and I together began planning our wedding. Aside from the necessity of being married in a Catholic Church, I had no notions or ideas of what I wanted. It's because I recognize that while getting married is one of the more important events in our life together, it is not the most important event in my life.
  2. Why do I need a theme for a wedding? I'm not planning a child's birthday party. The theme of our wedding is, "Michelle and Ed are getting married. Come hang out and get jiggy with them!" Isn't that enough?
  3. On a related note, who the heck cares if the style of the flower doesn't match anything else? It's all interchangeable, y'know. Somehow, I don't think that if I choose one specific dress, I have to eliminate a specific flower or table linen because it might not match. (Side note: This is partly why I'm refusing to wear white heels. I don't want to match.)
  4. Don't presume that we all live nearby our families, friends, or those who will be in our wedding party. Times have changed, and these days large numbers of people live far away from their families and friends. As such, not all of us go wedding gown shopping with our maids of honor, bridesmaids, or mothers. Sometimes we can only bring the groom with us because if he doesn't come with us, we go alone. It's pretty depressing going wedding gown shopping alone.
  5. Don't presume that we're planning our wedding with the help of anyone else. With the exception of my Matron of Honor, I haven't heard from any of my bridesmaids in regard to any aspect of my wedding unless I've e-mailed them first; I don't think my fiance has heard from any of our groomsmen. Your idea that the bride has gaggles of bridesmaids taking a continued interest in the wedding, or even occasionally checking up on the bride, is not always correct.
  6. Don't presume we all live in the same part of the country as our parents, extended families, friends, bridal party, etc. Why is there so little said about wedding parties that are so scattered? I have yet to encounter any really helpful advice when the bride and groom are on their own.
  7. On a related note: Stop telling me to take my bridesmaids out for lunch or a trip to the spa before the wedding as a thank you. I wish I could, but it's not feasible. My bridesmaids range in age from 8 to early 30s, and live in four states across the country, so please take into account that sometimes, we're scattered, and having lunch the week before just ain't gonna happen.
  8. On another related note: Yes, I would love to have an Engagement Shower (sans gifts) or Bachlorette Party (What's the equivalent for just having the entire Bridal Party hang out without parents or other guests?), but it doesn't look like I'd have a chance to socialize with my wedding party before getting married. Telling me the etiquette for who should be throwing me a party that can't happen isn't helpful. And how about including party ideas for a wedding party that includes folks under 21? (Five of the 11 friends and family members in our wedding party are under 21.)
  9. Don't tell us that by not serving alcohol, our guests will not have a good time. If guests can't have a good time without alcohol, that's their problem.
  10. I am not creating a minute-by-minute schedule of the wedding day itself. Lists can help some people, but many of us are capable of letting things go with the flow. It's just a day and if something goes wrong, who will care? It'll get resolved.
Please expand your thinking about weddings and loosen up. Thank you.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Very Tuba Christmas

In May I'll be marrying someone who has absolutely no musical tone whatsoever. Ed did not have music lessons growing up; and while he has talents and skills I do not possess, he should not sing. Inexplicably, though, he has developed a fondness for the tuba. Last week we were discussing Tuba Christmas and, knowing he would like to go to a concert, on a whim I Googled whether there was a way to ascertain if there were any upcoming local Tuba Christmas concerts.

And indeed, we discovered a tuba Christmas concert planned for this very afternoon. It was held at the Rio Grande Depot, which made me happy because even more than airports, I love old, historic railroad depots.

These days the building houses the Utah State Historical Society as well as the smallish Rio Gallery, an art gallery (somewhat inconveniently) open Mondays through Thursdays, but which did have some nice pieces:

In any case, we hung out while a plethora of tubists played various sizes and types of tubas. I had no idea there were so many different styles and sizes (and even colors) of tubas. Folks played tubas of varying sizes: Some tubas were small; a few were those huge wrap-around-the-tubist types that looked like the tuba was digesting a person. The youngest tubist in the bunch was a 6th grader; the oldest was in his late 70s. A man and his grandson were both playing. And the length of involvement of those playing ranged from those for whom this was their first year to those whom had been playing for more than 20 years in this particular collective. (Apparently, Tuba Christmas has been a Salt Lake City institution since 1983.) It was quite a range of people, and I hesitate to admit how much I enjoyed it for fear of inflaming Ed's obsession. One felt the tuba playing as much as heard it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

This Week in School

I felt like bullet points today.
  • Every day this week I arrived at school before the sun had come up. Monday and today were especially unfun, because the sky was completely overcast and dark, and it was raining. On a Monday morning that's especially depressing.
  • I managed to get all my photocopying done before the first bell two days in a row, although I forgot about the photocopier that does two-sided copies until I had made one set of copies that could have been two-sided, so I wound up stapling said set of papers during first period one day. But this means that students who are missing work now should have access to all the handouts they need to get caught up. (This is a big feat. Either the copy machines don't work, or other teachers usurp them and make 4,762 copies. Bastards.)
  • Yesterday, one of my fourth period students came to hang out before the first bell of the day had rung. She said she had nothing better to do, that she didn't really have many friends, but then proceeded to tell me about her mom, about the dance assembly that she was taking part in later in the day, asked me if I had any kids, and why not ("Because I'm not married yet."), that I should hurry up and get a husband ("I'm getting married in May, kiddo."), that I should bring my fiance to school so that everyone could meet him ("He'd be terrified." "Why?" "Large groups of children scare him." "It does? Why?").
  • We had a dance assembly yesterday afternoon, which means the last hour of my day consisted of watching students dance. They were good; some of them were really impressive, doing flips. (Item of possible interest: Every single performer was female.)
  • I wrote up my first student this week; R. left class before I dismissed everyone, and wouldn't come back after I told him to Get Back Here, so I asked another teacher what the school policy was, to which she replied that a referral was in order. 
    • I kinda screwed up a bit and wrote up the wrong kid. There are two Hispanic boys in the class, both with Hispanic hyphenated last names. I tried looking at their school pictures to ascertain which one was which but one kid was missing a picture, and the other picture was pretty bad. Fortunately the kid I did write up told the Vice Principal the name of the kid who should have been written up, and the kid who should have been written up got a detention. (The kid who should not have been written up was really good about it and was totally down with accepting my apology, which was a relief.)
  • I made a friend in my 8th period class. One student isn't doing especially well but is a voracious sci-fi and fantasy reader, so because I'd expressed interest, every day this week (except for today), he's approached me at the beginning - and sometimes at the end - of class to ask if I'd checked out any of authors he'd recommended. I don't have the heart to tell him I never really got into those genres; fortunately, Ed is interested in those books and knows many of the authors mentioned, so I brought in a book so the kid will think I support his geekery (which I do).
    • Of course, today was the only day he didn't approach me before class to ask if I got ahold of any of those authors.
  • A student begged me today to raise his grade so that he could play in tomorrow's big basketball game against a rival school. I couldn't do it - the kid has a 17% and is missing most of his work - but he spent more than half an hour trying to convince me that if I'd only raise his grade to a 60%, he'd be a model student, he'd hand in all his work by next Friday, I could even write a note to his coach saying he could watch the game but not play, he'd even give me money. There was some major cajoling but I was unbreakable. I felt genuinely bad for the kid, and if he had had a history of really working and trying hard I may have been convinced, but he's missing 17 assignments (he's handed in one assignment this quarter). I offered to stay with him after school so he could make up his work, but apparently there's a basketball practice. (Oh, the irony.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cleared Up

Yesterday turned into an extremely foggy day. (It was apparently so bad that at one point, our best man, Captain Alex, had been stuck in Denver for at least seven hours because he couldn't fly into Salt Lake City because of the fog).

When I left for school this morning (7:15 a.m.), it was so overcast as to be completely dark: The sun still hadn't risen, the sky was dark with heavy clouds, and it started to rain while I was on the road, making it a rather dreary way to start the week.

Yet, when I went outside to run out to grab some lunch, I was met with the following view:

Posted using

It was still cold, but the air was sharp and clear; it smelled clean and of earth, almost like farmland.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Advent Wreath

Last Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent, which is the beginning of the Catholic liturgical year.  Around the time the first (purple) candle was being lit, it occurred to me that perhaps I should get an Advent wreath for home. I did some shopping on Amazon and found some nice wreaths, but the one I kept coming back to was this one. It was on the expensive side, but it was the nicest one I saw. (Plus, bonus points for the Irish/Celtic factor.) It's inscribed with text that reads, "As I light this flame, I lay myself before thee." It's bronze, and pretty hefty. It finally arrived today: 

I had also ordered the appropriate candles, which of course arrived several days ago. (That's a beeswax candle in the center). I simply cannot make any of the candles stand upright; they kept listing off to the side, but we lit two of them tonight after dinner (since it's the second weekend in Advent), and kept them lit for a couple hours:

The candles themselves seem to burn pretty quickly, so for the time being I'll only leave them burning for an hour or so every night; perhaps I'll only burn them at the weekend, or perhaps I'll just buy some more candles, if I can find some more inexpensive Advent candles.

Christmas Shopping Fail

Around Thanksgiving, Ed and I were made aware of various Christmas markets in the Salt Lake City area being open for a week following Thanksgiving. Today was the last day two of these markets were open, so we thought we'd check them out.

The Old World Christmas Market looked promising, especially since it was being held in the old Salt Lake City Union Pacific Depot, which is just a cool-looking old timey railroad building. I'd never seen anything Union Pacific before I moved to Utah, which I guess speaks to my lack of exposure to this part of the country.

The market itself was a bit of a downer, though. Because today was the last day, perhaps some of those outdoor vendors had already gone home, but there wasn't all that much to see or buy. We thought we'd grab some of the advertised German food for lunch, but aside from a guy outside selling some sausages, and separate vendors selling frybread, hot chocolate, and kettle corn, there wasn't much to be had, so walked a few extra yards and had lunch at Thaifoon instead. I think we spent a total of 10 minutes ascertaining there was nothing interesting to be bought - nothing especially festive, Christmasy, or unusual.

Since the afternoon was still young, we decided to try another Christmas market, the South Jordan Christmas Boutique. It was certainly larger, but it was more like a home show, selling sheets, weight loss products, jewelry, clothing, and the world's biggest collection of ugly purses (sold by multiple vendors). I think I saw one place that sold Christmas ornaments.

Christmas shopping felt anti-climactic, and I was reminded why I haven't even bothered to try non-Internet Christmas shopping in years. It's too much effort and too much of a letdown.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I'm beginning to understand how to discipline my 9th graders, if by no other way than based on their quirks. There were a few things Mrs. T. told me in preparation: For example, late work was to be accepted (at least, for each quarter students were permitted to submit work by the end of that particular quarter); furthermore, students were not to be given Fs as final grades. I don't know if these are school policies or a district policies, but there are different levels of ridiculous in both.

Beginning today, I incorporated some new rules:

  • Mrs. T. had read A Christmas Carol aloud in class. I can see why she would; doing so makes sure the students are technically exposed to the text, but I want them to actually read also. On alternating days I make them read that day's pages, quietly and to themselves. If I don't make them responsible for reading a certain number of pages, they don't follow along or otherwise pay attention.
  • Students may not use the Hall Pass before we've done the reading for the day. (We're currently reading Dickens' A Christmas Carol, which the students don't especially like, and they look for reasons to get out of reading it or hearing it read.)
  • Fridays are SSA (Silent Sustained Reading) day. The day is abbreviated (classes begin at 10 a.m. and are only 34-35 minutes long), and students are permitted to go to the library. However, for the first 15 minutes of class, students must read, and after that, no one in the class may go to the library or use the Hall Pass if anyone has been talking. (Three classes lost the privilege of going to the library today because of students who continued to talk.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Wedding Present!

We got our first wedding present today! (I thin this means we actually have to get married now.)

Aren't they terrible?

Folks around school are slowly beginning to recognize me as Mrs. T.'s long-term sub. I've had an occasional "Who are you?"-type questions, and the teachers and staff here have been very welcoming and friendly, occasionally popping in to see how things are going. This morning the head of the English department stopped by, apologizing for not having stopped in sooner, provided me with her e-mail address, and encouraged me to stop by or e-mail her if I have any questions or problems. I really like this school and am trying to figure out a way of having them contact me for future subbing gigs after this one ends.

The kids are not the type I'm used to, but my experience teaching at the secondary level is still limited. I did my high school student teaching portion at a school on West 18th Street in Chelsea, New York City; it was so terrible, that the city shut it down in part because of its disciplinary problems and low, low graduation rates. (The man who was the principal when I student taught there had been forced to resign after a Regents exam cheating scandal. This was the same guy who told me that student teachers shouldn't teach because they didn't have the experience to teach. At least there's a new principal these days.)

My very first subbing gig was a five-day position at a very small private Christian school where I covered history and English. The school was so small, I had multiple grades in my classes, which were led by a teacher who was a career-changer. Apparently it was normal for him read aloud, or have the students read aloud, from the textbook, after which they'd answer the questions from the book; the tests were also textbook publisher supplied (I don't think teacher himself wrote any of his own tests). The students were very quiet, very polite, and completely personality-free, which made the job both easy and interminably dull. (Plus, the school had a policy that the female teachers could only wear skirts or dresses.) I then subbed in the South Bronx, which, let me tell you, was about as different as the Christian school as you could get. Students, if they attended, if they weren't hostile, had a big attitude; schools were loud and full of mayhem; the buildings were dirty and/or old; and the classrooms were largely disorganized. I remember thinking that I wished I could cross the Christian school students with the students from New York City; I like my students to have at least a little attitude, although not as much as the gun- and knife-toting, iPhone-stealing kids in New York City.

The kids here are completely different. They have actual personalities, and the biggest problem I have is that they won't shut up when I want their attention. (This is what we in education call "small potatoes.") There are some irritating kids, as there are everywhere, but by and large I like the kids, and I enjoy their goofiness. When I get asked by the teachers here how everything is going, and if I'm having any problems, I briefly think of the kids in New York City and have to admit that the kids here simply aren't a problem.

P.S. It's strange not to label my posts with the NaBloPoMo tag. I think I missed one entry during the month of November, but only because I was at a complete loss one day what to write. Fortunately, a few ideas were presented to me at the last minute and I got all blog entries posted. I enjoyed being put in a position where I had to write. It's cathartic.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Odd Couple Travels

A few days ago I was playing on the Internets, and had completed one of those "Where have you been?" memes that always make you feel you've never been anywhere, even if you have citizenship from like 48 different countries. I realized that I'm one of the least traveled people in my family; my parents and brother have been to three continents, including an Asian country, and I've only been to Europe. And even though I've been to more countries than Ed, he's been to both Europe and South America. Therefore, I suck.

Hopefully not for long, though. I'm being modest (not really) when I admit that Ed is lucky to be marrying someone who will, in fact, get on an airplane. (This is not an issue to be minimized. We both know people who are terrified of flying, or abjectly refuse to fly because of other ridiculous reasons.)  And while I dislike many aspects of traveling, once I land and have gotten myself organized, I'm very excited to be seeing something new.

But how we decide where to travel is simply different than how other folks choose their destinations. Our trip to Stockholm, Tallinn, and Helsinki last August was the result of a late-night telephone conversation that progressed from car ownership to mid-life crises. (I exclaimed that if acquiring sports cars in mid-life was indicative of men's mid-life crises, the female equivalent would have to be running off to Estonia with one's fishmonger, at which point Ed's response was, What the hell is Estonia? Of course, this is the same man who hadn't heard of baba ghannouj until recently.)

We have occasional conversations about where we'd like to go on a honeymoon. while the downside being that such trips can cost money, the upside would be that at least airfare, one of the two biggest expenses, would be negligible; in essence we would be paying taxes. China, Thailand, and Ireland are all on the list. Sticking to the big cities in China would be relatively safer than the countryside, but the hotels might be a bit more than we can afford soon after the wedding. (Option: We got on our first anniversary.) A college friend of mine went to Thailand for a month after graduating and apparently had a fabulous time, noting that while the most expensive part of the trip was the airfare, everything was very cheap. Ireland would be easy: a week or so in Dublin or Galway; then we could stay with my parents in Roscommon and Ed could be subjected to my large, talkative, tea-swilling Irish relatives (Lord help him). But I'm attracted to going someplace really unusual for our honeymoon, in a country where not only do neither of speak the language, thereby eliminating all German, English, and French-speaking countries, but a country in which making sense of the alphabet would be impossible.

Clearly, more research is necessary.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Joy of Grading

This is my first long-term subbing assignment, and I'm discovering that it's a weird cross between being part of faculty and an academic culture, and being considered a warm body. I was really delighted to be offered this position for a couple of reasons: For one thing, it's lovely getting a regular paycheck for something for which I'm actually trained; additionally, it's lovely being able to be in the same classroom for an extended period of time, getting to know the same students for more than a day, when as a short-term substitute teacher, one is likely to be (although not always) the target of Students Behaving Badly. I got to talk to Mrs. T. before she went on maternity leave, ascertaining the lay of the land by being introduced to the students and meeting other faculty and staff. This makes the job a heck of a lot smoother, especially when the (even temporarily) outgoing teacher can let the students know that just because she's being replaced does not mean that my discipline and grading don't carry weight. Not for nothing, it was very helpful for Mrs. T. to tell her students that I would in fact be grading their work; it might not eliminate their attempts to do lesser work, but it lessens their attempts to see me as someone who's just a warm body.

The Special Education teacher who co-teaches the third period inclusion class with me is also very supportive, helping me when I'm unsure how to reach the class, which is great because I'm not trained in special education; Mrs. M., the other 9th grade ELA teacher also periodically checks on me, passes off helpful handouts, answers necessarily banal questions to which I wouldn't have the answers but which I'm sure are still annoying. The secretaries similarly have been exceedingly patient and helpful, and I must remember to bring them something small before I leave. (Everyone knows that secretaries actually run the schools; they know everything and if you irritate them, they can make your life difficult, to say the least.)

Meanwhile I have to deal with the things a regular teacher would have to deal with, like grades and attendance. Mrs. T. had given me her user name and password, which would allow me not only to submit grades (because I'm responsible for grading, of course, and need to add the assigned work to the gradebook), but to take attendance as well. However, she had shown me how to access the gradebook from the vantage point of the parents' logon; the classroom management (teachers') logon is a different URL entirely. I thought she'd given me the wrong user name and password, so I e-mailed her a week or so ago, but haven't heard from her yet. Meanwhile I had a quickly growing stack of papers (some of which went before Mrs. T. went on maternity leave) which I've begun to grade, and I couldn't do anything with them: I couldn't put the grades into the gradebook, but because the room is so full of books and other classroom equipment, I had nowhere to actually put the assignments until I could get to the gradebook. Additionally, I had students asking me what assignments they were missing or asking what their grades were, and I couldn't tell them. And I had to have the secretaries manually print the attendance sheets so I could take attendance the old-fashioned way, and then have a student run down the attendance printouts at the end of the day.

Today was just a busy day as I tried to solve a multitude of problems: We got some more snow last night that, by this morning, still wasn't cleared, even on the main highway that I drive to school, so getting to school took a bit longer. I had to make a few hundred copies before first period of a grammar worksheet that the students would need for the week; the copy machines were out most of last week, and I wasn't in on Wednesday, so I couldn't make copies before the holiday break. I didn't get a chance to solve my login problems before the start of classes, so during my prep period I ran down to the Main Office, asked one of the secretaries to whom I could speak, located the woman who gave me the correct URL of the site that would allow me to access Mrs. T.'s gradebook (the site is not linked to the school's website, of course; this was the link Mrs. T. had accidentally pointed me to), and ran back across the building to my room (because our rooms were on opposite sides of the building, of course). I was told to look for "Educator Login. There was no "Educator Login.: There was "Employee Login" button, though. Well, that didn't work, so I traipsed across the building again and conveyed the problem; the woman looked at the website and said, Oops, it's actually "Classroom Management" tab.

Fortunately, this worked, and I managed to submit three sections' worth of grades into the gradebook before I left for the day, and a fourth at home. I still have three more sections' of grades to enter, but I'll be able to finish that work by tomorrow evening, just in time for the mid-term grades to be due on Wednesday. I still have a rather large stack of student essays to read from last week, but the large majority of backlog will have been taken care of.

Of course, I was also told I'd have a temporary district e-mail address, and that hasn't happened yet, but I"m not sure I want to push that issue right now.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Shopping

And so, the season of Christmas shopping begins. I have not begun to do any shopping mostly because I keep forgetting. Ed has put me in charge of all the shopping, which is probably a mistake, because I'm missing the Girly Gene that would make it necessary for me to actually enjoy shopping.

We did do some shopping today, though. St. Joe's is one of the parishes in the diocese that gives parishioners an opportunity to buy a few gifts for a child in need by choosing a card hanging from a Christmas tree at church; said card included the child's age, height, weight, favorite colors, clothing sizes, etc. We got a four year old girl whose favorite colors were pink and purple, and listed a few items she needed most (a coat, dresses and tights, and two-piece outfits). This afternoon we stopped at Target and bought her a pink and purple coat, a pretty dress with purple and pink accents, and a few pairs of tights (two pink, one purple). It would have been easy to buy her a lot more but one has to restrain oneself at some point.

I kinda enjoyed shopping for a little kid and only slightly went a bit mushy at the pretty dresses.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Concert

Tonight Ed and I went to our first Christmas concert of the season, which featured the Utah Premiere Brass and the Salt Lake Choral Artists (consisting of five separate choirs: the Concert Choir, the Chamber Choir, the Women's Choir, the Salt Lake Vocal Artists, and the Young Choral Artists), who sang both separately and together in various configurations. The Utah Premiere Brass performed sometimes with the choirs, and sometimes alone.

It wasn't the best concert I've ever been to. I'm a choral nerd, and have heard better choral performances, but not all of it was the fault of the performing choirs. I wasn't thrilled with the selection of music, which was performed fine for the most part, but which didn't blow me away. Most of the songs chosen and performed weren't ones I'd heard before; I was hoping for more of the "normal" Christmas songs (although there were a handful of standards, such as "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and "Carol of the Bells"). 

There was a lot of commotion throughout the performance, which detracted from my ability to really listen to the performances; large segments of the audience kept coming and going, which was disruptive, to say the least. There were also a considerable number of children present, which normally (being a teacher) I don't mind; I like seeing kids being taken out to concerts. However, the sheer number of small children crying, whispering, talking, and wriggling about, including the three in front of us, was bothersome because they couldn't or wouldn't pay attention (nor would their parents insist upon it), and they didn't sit still for any length of time. I'm usually pretty patient with smaller children, but I don't think I managed to be able to pay attention for more than a minute or two of each song without some disruption.

On the other hand, Temple Square was beautifully decorated, and although we didn't walk around much (it was either really cold or we either were trying to get inside to the concert), I loved seeing all the lights:

Last December was my first visit to Salt Lake City to visit Ed, who gamely let me get all sappy as I walked around photographing and videotaping the lights. (It was really romantic, in a sappy, girly kind of way). (This is my video from that visit.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Global Visits

I feel so...untraveled.

visited 28 states (56%)

(I included a few states I've traveled through but didn't see much; for example when I drove from Pennsylvania to Florida or took a bus from Philadelphia to Cleveland, I didn't do any sightseeing but it took an ungodly amount of hours to drive through the state.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble Day

I think this may be the quietest Thanksgiving I'll have ever celebrated: just Ed and myself with all the traditional fixins, spending the time enjoying the holiday together sans family.
Tonight's menu:
Posted using

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snow Day!

Except it wasn't really a snow day. We did get snow - in fact, a blizzard warning was in effect yesterday - but aside from after school activities being cancelled yesterday, school was still being held today.

Damn plowing. I hate it when things are all organized and whoever does the plowing does their job well. Give me my snow day!

I wasn't feeling all that well when I got up this morning; the past two nights I didn't get too much sleep owing to an upset stomach, so despite some massive feelings of guilt (Who believes the newbie who takes an alleged sick day the day before a holiday?), I took the day off. I'm rather glad I did, although I was feeling much better by early afternoon. At least I put myself to work: We ran errands (post office, library, UPS, Walmart), and I baked a pie and some cookies, and set the turkey up for brining overnight. Had some dinner and watched an episode of Heroes and Cadfael ("The Raven in the Foregate").

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Subbing Tuesday

In which I continue with the subbing and tell you how my day has gone so far (recorded during my prep/lunch break; five periods down, two to go, at the time of this AudioBoo):

Also, it was a few periods earlier when my 2nd period kids (homeroom) had written this on the board; obviously, they know just how much I heart them:

Monday, November 22, 2010

More Priestly Meetings

This afternoon we met with Fr. Carley for the second and last time regarding our marriage preparation duties. There was a form he needed to fill out - our names and addresses, parents' names, whether we'd been baptized, understood the commitment we're about to make, etc. - but all it all it was fairly innocuous. We were able to give him copies of our Engaged Encounter certificate, as well as copies of our baptism certificates and my confirmation certificate, all necessary for him to include in the packet he'll have to ship off to the priest at Saints Simon and Jude in Bethlehem. We still need to send a form off to a relative who's known us our entire lives and can vouch that there is not any known impediment to our marriage.

And then that's it. Once those forms have been signed and notarized (we're both simply asking our parents), we get the forms back and return the entire packet to Fr. Carley, who then ships it off to Sts. Simon & Jude. (It was thought it might be better if said packet was sent from one parish or diocese to another; we don't want to give the impression we would have tampered with anything, or give any reason to prohibit or delay the wedding. It's all about removing roadblocks, apparently.)

I think we were both looking for this to be much more complicated than it was, expecting to be met with more resistance or reasons that would have barred us from getting married. We probably (definitely) could have bypassed the Engaged Encounter if there had been some reason we would not have been able to make it (either financially or because of other reasons), but it was a small price to pay for being able to get married. Fr. Carley was really easy to work with, and it's a bit of a shame that both Ed and I now have this bitter taste in our mouths because of that weekend.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shuffling the Kid

Obviously, neither Ed nor I has kids yet - and of course we may never have them, insofar as having children, adopted or biological, is never guaranteed - but we're in an unusual situation if we are ever to successfully adopt any.

I was reading this article tonight about the difficulties that arise when a child with two working parents becomes sick. The blogger acknowledged that "[t]he sick-kid shuffle must be particularly hard for single parents, or for people without local extended family, or for people whose kids have chronic conditions." Ed and I have discussed that it's unfortunate but increasingly common for people to live far away from their families, or indeed families just to be generally spread out. Ed is an only child who was born in Washington, D.C., moved to San Jose when he was a child, went to college in Arizona, and moved back to California, then Florida, and finally Utah, for work, while his parents themselves moved from California to Texas, and finally - and only recently - moved back to the Washington, D.C., metro area for their retirement; meanwhile, one of Ed's aunts lives in Pennsylvania, the other in California.

My parents lived in New York when they were first married, but then moved to the Lehigh Valley, where they've lived since (except for our family's year in Germany); my father is an old child whose parents and extended family most still live in the Lehigh Valley until they died, but my mother's sister and her family have lived in upstate New York for 20 years at least, while my uncle and his family moved from Boston to Vermont and now live in Virginia, although their daughter is in college in Boston, and their son will be going to Los Angeles for college next year. Meanwhile, my brother and his wife live in San Francisco, and I live in Utah.

So in other words, the immediate family, both Ed's side and mine, is spread out across six states, in three different time zones, and from coast to coast. Apparently we don't do the thing where the family lives in the same town, or even the same state, for multiple generations. If both Ed and I worked outside the house and had sick children, there would be quite literally no one to watch them; one of us would have to stay home.

Last weekend, one of the questions that came up at the Engaged Encounter was who would stay home and watch the children, because clearly most of the time either both parents are working outside the home, or one parent is not working outside the home. As it is, we have a slightly unusual situation. Ed stopped flying a couple years ago, and although he still works for SkyWest, he telecommutes (read: works in his grungies on the couch) whereas my employment status is still tenuous (subbing is not a career choice, no matter what they say). At some point I will have regular employment, even if it means working as a cashier down at the grocery store (please God let me utilize my education and teach), but Ed will still be working at home. Now, obviously he needs to be able to work, but rarely does his job require him to go into the office - or fly down to headquarters in St. George - so theoretically we could make it work such that Ed could watch the kiddo(s) while I'm out forcing kids how to learn semi-colons correctly, dammit, although some manner of morning babysitting might have to be instituted. This is all very theoretical at this point, but it's feasible - at least right now. I do not want to send my kid to daycare if it's possible, but there's simply no one else to help care for the kids we don't yet have.

I grew up with both sets of grandparents in the area, and lived to late high school with all four of them alive. I'm a bit sad that we aren't likely to have that for our children, but it's more and more common and usually can't be helped.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pre-Cana/Catholic Engaged Encounter Weekend - Part Two

It's hard to believe that our Engaged Encounter weekend was only last weekend; between subbing for four of the last five days this past week and getting a second fitting of my gown on the day I wasn't subbing, it feels like last weekend was a lot longer ago. (the first blog entry about last weekend)

For the most part, the talks that were given were pretty innocuous. They weren't exactly thrilling to listen to, but then again, I'm not sure how exciting any talk would be when you're on the tired side, and when the talks are all read from a printout ("to make sure we don't forget anything or ramble on about unrelated topics too much"). The talks themselves weren't too long, perhaps 10-15 minutes each, after which point we were consigned to writing in our notebooks and talking to our fiancee/fiance. The format was repetitive after awhile, especially since Ed and I had previously discussed most of these topics. One or two of the topics sparked follow-up conversations along the lines of, "We've talked about this before, and we need to remember..." but nowhere near the in-depth conversation that others were probably having or that would have been expected of us.

(My parish priest had commented that when he'd sent other couples to the Engaged Encounter weekend, many remarked that they had so much to talk about, to which Fr. Carley's response was, "Well, what are you doing getting married; you should have been discussing this long ago!" I'd venture to say that sometimes there are matters or aspects of matters you wind up not discussing because you hadn't thought of a particular point, but if most or all of the topics that were brought up were issues you hadn't discussed, you really do need to rethink how soon you'd want to get married.)

In ruminating about the Engaged Encounter weekend this past week, I maintain that the most helpful parts were those in which we were not simply writing in our notebooks and talking to our partners; we were discussing how we prioritize various issues like money and family. (Ed and I were in nearly complete agreement on what we should prioritize, but the level of prioritization was interesting. We both chose food, house, education, and medicine/medical issues, but sometimes the order was switched. For example, is shelter more important than food? How about if you have a life-threatening or chronic illness; is that more important than food?) I wished there were more practical discussions like this, although I also have to admit that whenever Ed and I disagreed about our prioritization lists, we would also almost immediately be able to see why the other viewpoint was valid.

The talk that was outright painful was Natural Family Planning (NFP). I neither hide nor advertise that I can't have children. A lot of people know that I can't have kids but don't know specifics. I do not share the details with anyone, nor would I or will I ever discuss the issue at length with anyone other than my doctor or Ed. (Various people have asked for details; I have always and will consistently refuse to discuss it.) This is not only because it's painful to talk about, but also because it's not anyone's business. And that sums up how I feel about the entire aspect of having children: It's not anyone's business, nor is the method of having those children the church's business. I can understand why the church pushes NFP, why some methods are meant not to be followed, but I disagree with those reasons. Simply put: Stay out of it.

I was prepared to sit out the talk; I knew it would be coming, albeit not to that level of detail, to the point where I left the room. I do not want to hear how NFP will allow me to have my own children. I may or may not be able to have my own children; NFP won't help me here. In either case, I can discuss and attempt to resolve this issue with my doctor after the wedding (because that's when I'll have health insurance again). Hearing the details about how NFP works, and how it can even help infertility, pushed me over the edge. I left the discussion and hid in the chapel, but one of the discussion leaders followed me, asked if I was okay, asked if this was a painful discussion, said she would be there to listen if I'd like, and gave me a hug. This pushed me over the edge. I do not cry easily, but the discussion kept going on and on; I'd had enough, and I did not want to be followed or discuss my feelings with someone whom I don't know. And I will say that while I'd always been a bit ambivalent about birth control, leaning more towards the church's teachings, last weekend managed to push me over the edge such that I am now in more agreement with alternate methods of having children.

When I finally came back, the talk had been completed; it was the women's turn to go to their "writing rooms" (in my case, it was my dorm room), where I just hid out until Ed came. I felt utterly defeated and browbeaten. Between last weekend, and being reminded of things this week that I'd already taken care of even before being reminded, the whole week I've felt defeated.

I noticed that there was not a single mention of adoption; there was only one question about infertility (buried among other questions), and there was not a single chance to discuss how the children should be raised, or even how many we'd want, or when we'd want them. Those discussions would have been much more helpful to me. It was rather glaring, this absence of discussion of children or alternate methods of having them, even if IVF or other non-approved church methods aren't discussed, adoption is usually a sanctioned option.

I also noticed that during the entire weekend, rarely if ever did anyone get up to use the restroom during the talks. Ed was late to a discussion; I was asked where he was; I encouraged them to start the discussion despite his lateness; I was told that we could not start until everyone was present. My response was along the lines of, no, really, you should start (which they finally did); he'd return in a few minutes. I did not feel inclined to share why he'd be late (heaven forbid someone have a reason for needing an extra few the restroom).
I wish there had been a chance to provide feedback. The discussion leaders offered to take money off our hands, encouraged us to become involved, went on at length about how we could become involved (not surprisingly, Ed and I are disinclined to become involved with this ministry). Thankfully we got our certificate at the end of the weekend, so there's no waiting for them to arrive in the mail.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Subbing / Teaching

It's been a busy week! I was going to blog about my week of subbing, but then I went and recorded an Audioboo instead.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Invitation Phraseology

We've already ordered our wedding invitations - they're safely tucked away in a corner until it's time to address and mail them - but we had quite a time figuring out the best way to phrase "Hey! Come on down to our hootenanny and watch us get hitched!" without resorting to some version of "Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Solomon wish to happily announce that their spinster daughter, who's been living in the spare room under the stairs, has finally found someone who'll agree to be seen with her in public twice a year." Then there's the hoopla of having stepparents* and how to incorporate them into the invitation; the list goes on. Generally speaking, even in this day and age, most wedding advice presumes that the bride's parents are paying for the majority of the wedding, and as such tend to recommend the traditional phraseology of the parents announcing the wedding. Since we're paying for the wedding ourselves (although my parents are kindly contributing to the rehearsal dinner, and Ed's parents also making a contribution), we omitted our parents from the invitation altogether. We really spent a lot of time figuring it out, though. I'm sure none of our guests will be paying attention to the specific wording of the invitations.

I've learned largely to ignore advice from folks like the well-intentioned Miss Manners, who generally offers good advice, but if I were to have listened to her wedding advice, I'm sure I would have concluded that Ed and I were doing everything wrong. (At least, including RSVPs with text on them in definitely wrong, according to the venerable Ms. Martin, but I digress.) I was, however, happy to read her column today - specifically the third letter - which validates our phraseology as well.

* There is, of course, nothing necessarily wrong with having stepparents. Ed and I have been lucky that his parents are still married to each other, as are mine, so it's one less headache.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Religious Delusion

Recently one of my long-time acquaintances noted that folks who are religious are deluded. I've known this guy a long time, and although I don't know him well, he's always been amiable and we've always gotten along, so I don't think (I hope) that this comment wasn't said necessarily in malice. Nevertheless, religion has been on my mind a lot fairly recently, especially between my acquaintance's comment about alleged delusion and a few conversations I've had with Ed and my parish priest about those who claim to follow a particular religion but don't go to Mass and only show up to receive the sacraments.

My own experience is based on knowing others who do have a set of religious beliefs tending to be more open-minded, not believing that others with different beliefs as "wrong," "deluded," etc. Yes, I am aware that there are those who take their religious beliefs to extremes, believing, for example, that those who don't follow the Bible to the letter are going directly to Hell (I can't know the state of someone's soul, and neither can anyone else), believing that if someone believes differently they should be harmed for having a different set of beliefs/non-beliefs, etc. 

I do get impatient with self-professed Catholics who only show up during Christmas or Easter, or only to get the required sacrament for themselves or their children; call it what it is. If you're a Catholic, it means you go to Mass every week, whether or not you want to, and really try to live according to your own conscience. But I also recognize that we live in a pluralistic society, that there may in fact be more than one path to God or heaven, that many religions may have been given to people in response to what a people needed at that particular moment in history in that part of the world. If you're going to call yourself a follower of any given religion, I really do believe you owe it to yourself to then follow at least the basic tenet of that religion. To my mind, it's like calling yourself a physicist because you have a degree in physics, but haven't done anything with it in a few decades. Well, at one point you may have been a Catholic or physicist, but if you're no longer practicing it, then you may not be that anymore. Which isn't to say you can't get back to that place, of course.

I've not had much of an in-depth conversation with my agnostic or atheist friends, mostly because they've been uninterested, but it strikes me that there is this belief that because one is religious, one hasn't questioned one's faith, gone through periods of disbelief (or unbelief), or asked hard questions. I suspect there's also this belief that if you call yourself a member of a particular religious community, then of course one must agree with every aspect of the dogma.

The flip side to this is that while I think it's normal for everyone to question their faith, this is not something that's discussed; it's almost like there's a feeling that if you do question your faith, you must not be religious enough. This is, I repeat, simply not something that's talked about. I once heard an analogy of faith being compared to a glass of water: When you're younger, the glass being half full is enough, but as you get older, you yourself have to replenish what's in the glass.

I heard of a study once that opined that students who drop out of school may do so for many reasons, but the binding factor is that many drop out of school because they are not engaged. Religion can be the same way: I too have belonged to parishes where I wondered why I bothered going to Mass; there was no way for me to become involved, and because I had no ties, it became increasingly difficult to maintain interest. In other words, you have to work at your faith, educate yourself, talk to others, and pray. If you don't even do the minimum, of course your faith will fall by the wayside. Having faith is work, and if you don't work at it and put forth effort, it's going to shrivel. It's okay to ask questions; it's even okay to disagree with some of the church's teachings. (I disagree with a lot.) But it's not okay to call folks deluded because they can accept something different than what you can accept.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wedding Nightmare

I had a doozy of a bad dream about our wedding last night: 

  • We went to pick up my gown, and when I was about to walk in, there was a woman in her wedding gown and getting photographed. I thought she had brought someone along to take pictures when I realized she had gotten married at that location. (I also remember that hers was a Jewish wedding, but I don't remember why I knew that, except I must have heard some Hebrew or seen the scroll at some point.)
  • I had The Freakout and couldn't walk down the aisle, so I had someone else (I don't know who) stand in for me for the entire ceremony.
  • We neglected to give our photographer a shot list, so I had to track down other folks to take the pictures I wanted (because our photographer hadn't arrived late and missed the wedding ceremony itself, so there would be no pictures taken at the church otherwise).
  • At some point during the ceremony I wasn't attending, my grandmother (who has been dead since 2006) had some kind of old-person-creating-a-ruckus moment, which was additionally disturbing because in both real life and my dream, this particular grandmother had a graduate degree, taught for 10 years, traveled somewhat extensively, and was mentally and physically active, so now the family had to worry about what to do with a going-mentally-downwards grandma.
  • The horse and carriage we'd hired showed up late, but we couldn't use it because things were quickly going to hell and I didn't know if and when we would be proceeding to the reception, so a few guests used it to jaunt around town (this was the least of my worries).
  • My matron of honor took her daughter (the will-be-about-two-and-a-half-year-old flower girl) back to Long Island because she (the flower girl) was having a meltdown.
  • My parents were literally following my every move; I would pace around looking for something, and there they would also be, about three steps behind. I remember being agitated and wanted enough space to be pacing around without them.
  • My cousin Bronwyn, who's a bridesmaid in our wedding and a violinist to boot (she's studying at Berklee), has agreed to play during the ceremony, but in my dream we never hashed out the details so she wound up not playing. Probably wouldn't have mattered because apparently I didn't go go my own freaking wedding anyway.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Long Term Subbing: The Intro

I went in to South Hills Middle School today to meet the students I'll be teaching, as well as their teacher, Mrs. T., who introduced me and told the students to behave while she'll be gone. There aren't multiple floors, but there are various and sundry wings such that I couldn't get a good idea of just how large the school is, but my impression was that it was on the bigger side. I briefly met the other 9th Grade ELA teacher, who told me that both she and the teacher I'll be replacing teach seven sections, although one of those sections is more like homeroom. I'll be teaching six classes of 9th Grade ELA, have a homeroom, and a prep that is sandwiched located between two lunches (Hah! Get it?).

I liked the kids; I appreciate the smart-ass behavior of that age. And the teacher clearly likes the kids also. Mrs. T. been very organized and planned out lessons for her time away from school. I'll be taking over the grading, and since I'll be there for at least a full marking term, a computer will be made available to me so I can submit grades. Essentially, I'll be taking over every aspect of Mrs. T.'s classroom and classes, although all the supplies have already been pretty much made available to me.

Thank goodness I've already taught before, otherwise this whole gig would seem overwhelming.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pre-Cana/Catholic Engaged Encounter Weekend

This weekend Ed and I went to the Catholic Engaged Encounter weekend in Salt Lake City. Although my parish priest had recommended that we go because he himself does not run any Pre-Cana workshops for engaged couples, he did note that the weekend had both good and bad qualities. It was a good weekend for younger or more inexperienced couples who might need help learning how to communicate effectively with each other; various questions would be posed such that the affianced would have the time to really discuss a lot of issues that will affect their married lives: finances, children, marriage as sacrament, etc. Lots of good topics. It was also noted, though, that Ed and I specifically might not get much out of the weekend because we were slightly older than the average age of the couples who generally attend, and because we were older, were more likely to have discussed most or all of the issues presented. I think if we had said we didn't feel comfortable attending, or if we hadn't been able to afford to go (the price of the weekend was $300, although we only paid $275 because we registered more than a month early), Fr. Carley would have if not overlooked it, helped us with a viable alternative.

Nevertheless, we decided to go; I think Ed was largely ambivalent about going, but knew that attending was important to me, since I want to get married in the Catholic Church. I thought that the worst that might happen is that we might be somewhat bored, but we might be introduced to a few topics we hadn't thought about or need to address further.

The weekend was being held at the Wasatch Retreat and Conference Center, and we were told that we would each have a roommate of the same gender, that there were no exceptions to this policy. We were given keys to fairly nice rooms: single beds with bedside tables that included lamps and an alarm clock, shelves behind one bed, place to hang one's jacket, and a sink; there was a semi-private bathroom that was to be used by two rooms. Not too bad.

With a bit of relief, I was happy to note that Ed and I were not the oldest couple there. There were only six couples: One couple was at least 5-10 years older than we were, and another couple was about our age. The remaining couples (of which one arrived more than an hour late) were in their early to mid-20s.

The entire weekend consisted of two married couples (one in their 50s and married for nearly 34 years, the other in their late 30s or early 40s and married for six years) reading from printed scripts, then giving us a printout of questions to answer in the notebook we'd been provided. Men and women were alternately sent to assigned rooms (one of the previously assigned bedrooms, either your own or that of your fiance/fiancee) or told to stay in the common area to write for a specified amount of time, after which those who had stayed behind went off to the room that contained your fiancee/fiance to read each other's responses and discuss them.

Ed and I were pretty dutiful about writing our responses, although we skipped occasional questions. We were pretty much in tune with each other; we'd discussed these topics previously so there weren't any great surprises. Topics ran the gamut:
  1. introduction ("Why did I come here this weekend?")
  2. self-awareness ("Our family backgrounds have a lasting influence on who we are today. What are three strengths from my family that I bring to our relationship? What are three weaknesses from my family that I bring to our relationship?")
  3. disillusionment ("What are some ways you and I are alike? What are some ways you and I differ? How do these play a part in our cycle of romance, disillusionment, and joy?")
  4. openness in communication ("What things (thoughts, feelings, behaviors, dreams, values) do I find difficult to reveal to you?")
  5. signs of a closed relationship ("Which of the following cause me to ignore differences between us: peace at any price; don't rock the boat; matter of convenience/laziness/indifference; fear of rejection; fear of losing you? What can I do to address these obstacles?")
  6. marriage as vocation ("What does marriage as a vocation now mean to me? How is God calling us to be one?")
  7. marriage morality ("What specific ways have I been life-giving in our relationship?")
  8. decisions in marriage ("What important decision have we made recently that has affected us a couple? How did we seek God's guidance in prayer?")
  9. married sexual intimacy questions ("What are my expectations/hopes/anxieties about our wedding night/honeymoon; leadership/initiative in lovemaking; my sexual knowledge/information; etc.?" There were eight bullet points.)
  10. forgiveness ("When have I hurt you during this weekend? Explain.") 
By number six I had stopped writing my answers; although I did write my answers to the earlier handouts and one or two of the later handouts, I often didn't have much to say. Some of the more religious-based questions were more difficult to answer because Ed doesn't have the background I do, and I know that however I might interpret something specific (for example, marriage as vocation) did not mean that he would interpret that something the same way.

I could definitely see how many of these topics would be helpful; and in a sense they weren't bad for us to revisit either, which I think is a big point: Being able to revisit topics from time to time is beneficial to make sure you're still on the same page. But because Ed and I haven't been dating for years on end, and we've only been engaged about four months, our recent discussions have negated our need to answer these questions again. And the couples who were running this weekend had acknowledged that some of these discussions may be more or less applicable to each couple.

All the discussions were a bit much after awhile. Ed and I were tired from the moment we'd arrived on Saturday morning anyway, since we hadn't gotten enough sleep, so the leaders reading from printouts was additionally tiring. After awhile we got into the groove of reading each other's contributions, talking for a few minutes, and then going off on a tangent.

There were a few things that I did appreciate. For example, we were asked a series of questions, and told to answer "yes" or "no" after each question, after which were taken out to the lobby and told that if we answered "yes" to a question, we'd stand on one side of the room; if we answered "no" we'd go to the other side of the room. It was interesting to see how Ed's answers compared and differed to mine when it came to things like whether we should life insurance soon after the wedding, and should the woman balance the checkbook. There were a few answers we disagreed on, and it was interesting to see how we thought differently. (One question I had an issue with was whether the woman should balance the checkbook, I suppose the presumption being that each couple would have one checking account. Ed and I have had discussions about both paychecks being deposited to the same checking account, but I may keep my own separate checking account for small deposits as well. Certainly I do not want or need Ed balancing a checkbook tied to a checking account that's not his. To my mind, the question was poorly phrased; perhaps it was intentionally vague.)

The other activity that I found helpful had to do with priorities, namely what we prioritize and how. We were given (yet another) handout that listed various areas the one could value; we were instructed to check five areas that we, as individuals, would see as values in our future marriage. We both agreed that raising a family, owning our own home, our careers, and going to church were priorities; while I had also checked finishing school (must...complete...Master's...), Ed had chosen something else that made equal sense. We also rated how to spend money and time, and how we ranked the importance of family of friends; our lists there were way off, so that's something to work out. Those kinds of activities are more helpful to me than most of the other writing we'd been doing all weekend.

There are a few more things I'll be blogging in terms of our weekend: a few interesting things (or at least, things that made me stop and think), and a response to one discussion that I had to leave because it made me too upset, but I need a little bit more time to process this weekend's events.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Video Tour

My parents had requested to see a video of where I'm living now, so I put together a little video tour of our house.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Show-Stopping Weddings

A segment of my inner dork is really interested in history. (You can't be an English major and have academic concentrations in American literature and British literature without being interested in history, especially since so much of the literature has historically been a response to the events at the time.) I used to subscribe to a couple of history podcasts, but since I stopped commuting and I haven't been walking lately, I've scaled back the number of podcasts to which I've subscribed.

Nevertheless, one of the podcasts I do subscribe to, but to which I've only begun to listen, is Stuff You Missed in History Class. The most recent episode is "5 Show-Stopping Historical Weddings," which was interesting to listen to if for no other reason than to appreciate the sheer opulence (and the usually-subsequent unhappiness).

I do need to start taking up regular walking again, if for no other reason than it's the only time I can catch up on my podcasts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Long-Term Subbing

I got offered a long-term subbing gig! Huzzah! It's at least eight weeks at South Hills Middle School, covering for a teacher who's going on maternity leave. I'll be covering her 9th grade ELA classes; we're meeting on Monday so I can meet her students and figure out the lay of the land.

Exciting! Slightly nerve-wracking! All rolled up into one big ball of fun!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Revamping the Menu

Today has been day two of Operation Let's-Try-To-Marginally-Cut-The-Crap-From-Our-Diets. So far, so good. The meals have been easy to prepare, they've been pretty tasty, and honestly, it's kinda a relief to not have to plan every single aspect of every single meal, especially in terms of making sure one has all the necessary accompaniments.

It's been pretty easy swapping out meals and/or aspects of meals, too. For example, the original plan for tonight's dinner was herbed salmon with citrus sauce (okay, so I might have gone out of order in terms of which meal was assigned for which day of the week, but we'd bought some salmon yesterday and I wanted to use while it was still fresh), a sweet potato, and two cups of salad; instead, I made baked salmon with lemon spinach sauce, steamed us each 1-2 cups of broccoli, baked a small red potato, and included a smallish whole wheat roll. For dessert, we had half a pear and a banana each, then some tortilla chips and salsa (probably too much; didn't measure portions; oh well). 

The menu includes a lot of food; each day's menu includes three snacks. I foresee the morning's snack getting combined with lunch or a later snack, otherwise we'd be eating breakfast at 10 a.m., snack at 1 p.m., lunch at 4 p.m., etc. The nurse educator recommended eating something every three to four hours, and I can see why; we'll avoid bingeing and have more fruits and veggies, and we'll still get treats like a few graham crackers or cinnamon raisin toast. (I think we bought every type of whole wheat bread-type food possible.)

These menus really are a relief: It's a shame there's no chocolate (erm), but I get an occasional sweet thing like graham crackers, the food serving suggestions are portioned well, and I don't feel like I'm being starved.