Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wedding Etiquette

Out of boredom today, I was reading several of Miss Manners' past columns. I'm particularly enjoying the wedding-related questions (for obvious reasons). Fortunately, Ed and I have, I think, managed to sidestep many blunders that other folks seem to make; at the very least, we've managed to avoid some of the more common pitfalls that others seem to encounter. For example, we're not having a destination wedding (yes, we're getting married in another location, but Pennsylvania isn't really all that exotic, and probably not what is meant by "destination wedding"), nor are we having a small wedding with just the immediate family and then having a large, secondary wedding down the line so we can get the "wedding of our dreams." And so on.

The sticky wicket is proving to be the guest list. We were hoping to invite a lot of people, but it turns out we don't know as many people we'd like to invite as we'd hoped. In other words, we wish we knew more people to invite. It would be easy to invite everyone we knew on FaceBook, or anyone with whom we were still marginally in touch from college, etc., but that's not realistic either. We want to invite people we're close to, who would be happy to celebrate with us, not everyone we've ever met. I'm inviting my contingent of Irish relatives, recognizing that many (indeed, none) are likely to attend, but this I understand. It's a long distance to come for a weekend; many will be working, several will have children in school. Of the approximately 115 people we're planning on inviting, exactly 10 of those people live in Pennsylvania. Everyone else will be traveling several hundred, or several thousand, miles. We're taking into consideration that many people will not be able to financially afford to fly, drive, or otherwise travel, or be able to take time off from work. (Our wedding is on a Saturday; if one is traveling a far enough distance, his or her attendance could require missing one or more days of work.)

There is a question regarding the permission of including "and guest" on the invitation. Many of the people we're inviting are married; several also have children, whom we're delighted to include. (We added a line on the invitation stating that children would be welcome to both ceremony and reception; a wedding without kids is just no good, although I draw the line at folks bringing their pets.) Many of our friends are single and not currently romantically involved. My maid of honor requested I invite her significant other, which I am delighted to do, but I cannot know the relationship status of our other single guests several months in the future; I would like to extend to them the option of bringing a friend or date if they are so inclined. Miss Manners opines that adding "and guest" on the invitation is not to be done, but I do not want to exclude anyone who might be significant to our guests. (Or they might wish to bring simply a friend, which would be fine.) What other viable options are there?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Come, Come Ye Saints

In 2006, PBS & Frontline produced a four-hour documentary about the Mormons. Although I think I've seen it previously (at least in bits and pieces), it's been interesting to watch it again, especially because I've only recently moved to the Salt Lake City environs. Tonight Ed and I watched the first half, which covered the history of the LDS church starting with Joseph Smith's childhood, through the migration to Salt Lake City, and ending with polygamy. I already knew something aboutLDS history, but it's interesting to get a more complete picture. I'm pretty interested in religion, the history of religion, and what others belief. Mormonism is so prevalent here, though, that I still feel vaguely uncomfortable, and I'm trying to ascertain why. (It's certainly not because I'm in a religious minority; unless I move to the Vatican, I'm always going to be in the religious minority.)

Of course, the topic that the documentary ended with, and one of the big the hot-button themes, is always the issue (or the non-issue, I suppose) of plural marriage. Because of a constitutional clause prohibiting polygamy, the Utah territory wasn't granted statehood until 1896. Wilford Woodruff, the fourth president of the LDS church, announced that plural marriage was no longer a divine revelation, which made it that much easier to be accepted as a state.

Watching The Mormons got me to thinking a few things, though; they're questions that have been percolating in my mind for some time, without the proper way to express them until I was watching the documentary tonight:

  • Was it difficult for the LDS church to sacrifice polygamy so that Utah Territory could join the union? There are many aspects of my religion I simply must adhere to, and as such, no condition could cause me to forgo those practices. While I'm sure the renunciation of polygamy wasn't a decision that was made lightly, I'm led to wonder how important it was to the church leaders, or if it was really a divine revelation to begin with.
  • Brigham Young, the second leader of the LDS church, was portrayed as someone who really didn't want to accept the divine revelation of plural marriage. (It was noted that something like only 20-30% of the LDS faithful practiced plural marriage, that it was mostly the church leaders who practiced it, and only if they could afford multiple wives.) I would go out on a limb and suggest that most religions require obedience from their followers, but wasn't there any concept of free will? I can't speak about any religion other than Catholicism, but at least within Catholicism, if one is in a position of making a decision contrary to one's perception of morality, then one has the obligation to act in the individual manner one believes to be right. I'm wary of any religion that would require me to act in such a way that really goes against my conscience.
  • I absolutely believe that polygamy is detrimental to families. From time to time I see interviews with sister wives who describe how lovely it is to share one's husband, how it brings families closer together by sharing household and family responsibilities, as well as the children, etc. While I can see how this could bring a family together, I can also see how divisive jealousy could be. (I certainly don't want to share Ed with anyone else. I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to share me with anyone else, either.) However: In specific cases that the family unit is well-preserved, that the parents are able to educate, feed, clothe, and otherwise provide and care for their children, why is the government getting involved? I'm a pretty staunch Catholic, and I extremely in favor of separation of church and state for reasons like this. Whether or not the government has a right to step in to protect children who are forced to marry against their will and before they're ready to marry is another, separate issue altogether; I refer only to the specific cases where adults over the age of (let's say) 21 enter into the situation of their own free will.
  • Was Joseph Smith's divine revelation about polygamy really a divine revelation? I kept getting the impression that he wanted to get around (so to speak), and this was the only way he could think of to resolve a religious belief with sexuality. (The anthropologist's argument that people are incapable of true fidelity!) Granted: Religion is not good at resolving sex and faith. One historian, Kathleen Flake of Vanderbilt University, opined that "[t]here are so many easier ways to satisfy our sex drive than to have many marriages, at least at one time. Now, maybe serially, but having many marriages at one time seems to me to be the least rational way to satisfy one's sex drive." Yet I could see how might not know how else to resolve the issue - aside from abstaining altogether.

My impression remains that plural marriage seemed like a cornerstone to the early LDS church, but when it came right down to it, it was easily removed. The Catholic Church has a lot of problems (as do all religions, I suspect, at least from an administrative standpoint), but I appreciate that it takes the Vatican a very long time to change its policies, because they want to make sure it's the right decision.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Musical Enculturation

In an effort to enculturate ourselves, Ed and I have begun going to a few local orchestra performances. Tonight's performance of the Temple Square Orchestra was one that I had seen advertised a few weeks ago, made even more appealing by being free. The concert lasted about two hours, and included Wagner's "Overture from Tannhauser," DiLorenzo's "A Little Russian Circus" (the piece I liked the most tonight), Mahler's "Adagietto from Symphony No. 5," and Franck's "Symphony in D Minor." I managed to record all but the very last few seconds of the Wagner piece, as well as Mahler's "Adagietto" in its entirety.




Thursday, October 21, 2010

More Educational Bureaucracy

I recently submitted an application packet to the Salt Lake City (Utah) School District. I don't believe they have any vacancies for English teachers, but I sent them an application packet anyway. The application packet required my completing a district application, a voluntary affirmative action data form, a resume, an optional cover letter, official copies of my (college) transcripts, a copy of my Utah teaching license, and a copy of any out-of-state teaching or other professional licenses. 

This was not a problem. I filled out the application and affirmative action data form, included my CV and a cover letter, official copies of my transcripts (I keep extras for this very reason), and a copy of both my Utah and New York State teaching licenses. And I didn't really expect to hear anything.

Today I received a postcard in the mail from the SLC school district, requesting I submit my Praxis exam results and three letters of recommendation. (There were checkboxes of various item that might need to be submitted.) Sending them my Praxis exam results is not a problem. However, I do not have three letters of recommendation because I haven't been teaching long enough to get any. There was no indication on either the SLC school district website or the application packet that these extra items would be required. So what are the options for a new teacher, one who has just graduated, perhaps, and hasn't had any professional experience yet, and therefore has no letters of recommendation?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rocky Mountain High

I'm not used to mountains; I've lived nearly my entire life on the east coast. When I was growing up in the Lehigh Valley, as a kid we'd go to the Jersey shore for summer vacation (easy to get to, and comparably cheap). Then I went and moved to Long Island and lived there for eight years, living only a few miles from the ocean. I loved being near the water, and swore I'd never leave the east coast.
Then I went and got myself engaged to someone who's chosen profession has him stationed in Salt Lake City.

It's been a bit of a culture shock. One of the reasons I had always been hesitant to moved to a landlocked state (all the while knowing that Pennsylvania is, in fact, also landlocked) was that I had this weird claustrophobia: If I needed to escape, I could do so easily.

I will say, though, that the mountains are absolutely beautiful. When I had come out to Utah last December for a visit, Ed had made us reservations at Log Haven, a very nice restaurant that required us to dress up and drive through the snow-laden mountains: They were gorgeous, all white and twinkly. The further up we drove, the more snow appeared. (Thank goodness for four-wheel drive.) And it was so quiet, that quiet you get when everything is blanketed in several inches or more of snow. When we stepped out of the car, all we heard was the mountain stream tinkling through the snow.

Today we finally went on a really nice, long drive through the mountains again, through the Wasatch Mountain State Park and the Uinta National Forest. We drove by and attempted to get into the Timpanogos Cave National Monument (or at least see what it was about), but it was closed for the season.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Substitute Teacher Orientation

This morning I attended the Jordan School District substitute teacher orientation. Running over two hours (put 125 or so teachers in a room, and they'll ask a lot of questions), we covered everything from blood borne pathogens to pay rates to expectations to how one could choose to be informed of a job: Instead of waiting for a phone call as early as 5:30 a.m., I can choose if and when the school district would call me. Even better, I can search and view for subbing gigs online, which is great, since I don't want to carry my phone around waiting for a phone call. Using the online system (Aesop), I can also choose which schools I do or do not want to work at, which is helpful insofar I do not want to work at elementary schools.

Throughout this orientation, though, there were two things that were difficult to understand. Students are disallowed from sharing medication, which I actually do understand, but apparently "medication" also includes aspirin. If students are found to be handing aspirin over to another student, the students are then considered guilty of selling or pushing drugs. While I certainly don't condone students using dangerous drugs or even sharing prescription medication, not being able to give a classmate some aspirin because she has a monstrous headache seems a bit farfetched.

One particular question had been raised in past years, and was brought up by the woman running the orientation: What happens if one were no longer able to logon to Aesop? This, then, would be an indication that one's services would no longer be required. Apparently one can be terminated without warning, and without reason. I'm familiar with many states utilizing At-Will employment, but I find it disconcerting that I would not be given a reason for termination. (At least being told that there was no reason, as opposed to a reason, would help; otherwise, I'm left wondering what I did terribly wrong, remaining ignorant, and not being able to correct the behavior.) Additionally, my file is apparently so confidential that even I can't see what's in my own file. I don't have much experience in this, but it strikes me as worrisome that I can't have access to something that directly pertains to my career, and that could help or harm me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Politics in Utah

I can't believe I moved to a red state. I didn't realize how much I'd gotten used to living in the liberal blueness that was New York, surrounding by academics and friends who, like me, pushed for progressive thinking. Here I'm surrounded by people who are all the same, who, to me, seem to be afraid of any thinking that would alter the status quo - whereas I got used to the "Let's keep things changing!" line of thinking. Perhaps most people are petrified of change, and I'm just used to people who aren't. (Yes, I notice the irony of being surrounded by folks who think Just Like You.)

When I registered to vote here in Utah (as a Democrat, thank you very much), on the spur of the moment I checked the Absentee Voter box, so last week I got my ballot in the mail. It's quite the process, looking over all these names of people about whom I know nothing. I logged on to the Vote Utah site to check out the candidate info page; most of those running give a short, 200-word statement of qualifications, often which include links to websites (huzzah), thereby allowing me to check out individual takes on "the issues." There are a lot of issues I don't have particularly strong feelings about; and while I try not to be a Single Issue voter, the single issue I can follow with extreme clarity is education.

What I first noticed is how amazing it is that the people who are running don't give specifics - not just in discussing education, but every single issue . A four- or five-line statement (not even a four- or five-line sentence) telling me that you think NCLB was a terrible idea (duh) and that we need to fix it, without telling me how, doesn't tell me anything. I nearly wept with joy when I saw that Peter Corroon, the Democratic candidate for Governor, had a 36-page plan for education. (Republican gubernatorial candidate Gary Herbert also included more than 50 words on the subject.) Now, Corroon didn't have long statements for every issue; for example, how he plans "to bring these principles [and] philosophy [that all citizens of Utah should be allowed to live their lives free of discrimination]" is a bit of a mystery, but comparatively speaking, Carroon has already put in more details than most of the other candidates I've perused so far. While it's great to tell me you want to promote healthy lifestyles, my unending question is, "How?" Perhaps it's just not feasible to answer that question in every single instance, but it's frustrating to just be told that a candidate thinks we need to build a big fence to keep out the scary immigrants.

And at least Curroon's website was light years better gubernatorial candidate Andrew McCullough, the Libertarian candidate who faxed his electronic statement of qualifications, and who on his website didn't address a single issue. At least he has a MySpace page.

Yes, I judge my candidates partially on their technological (in)competence, just like I judge alleged professionals who don't check for spelling and grammar while attempting to get my vote. If candidate don't have a fairly exhaustive list of issues on their website, or if they only address four or five issues, I am...nonplussed. Give me reading material, dammit!

I usually go around telling people that I'm apolitical, but during elections I get all riled up.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wedding Gown & Flowers

Yesterday morning, I met with the alterations lady so she could start the arduous task of altering my gown. It was...traumatic. In fact, so far, the whole process of alterations has simply been annoying.

I had done some searching online for someone who would specialize in wedding gown alterations, since gowns are a slightly different animals than the run-of-the-mill work. During a visit to one bridal gown shop, I'd been given the card of one lady; a Google search turned up another lady who turned out to be a complete dud. (I had e-mailed her to ask if she would be interested in helping me create a gown; after a very quick response in which she asked for details, examples of what I liked, and my budget, she didn't e-mail back for five weeks. When she did, the estimate was of course at the very highest range of what I said could be paid. I was then in touch regarding doing alterations on the gown that I had since bought; it took her more than two weeks to respond, saying that yes, she would be happy to do alterations, but we didn't need to start now, and that I should be in touch closer to May. I've e-mailed her to tell her exactly why I won't be using her services; I don't know if she doesn't realize that the lack of quick response leaves a bad impression.)

In any case, I called Maria (she whose card I had been given), set up an appointment, and met her yesterday morning. She's very nice, has been doing alterations f work for over 30 years, and certainly seems to know what she's doing. I think my dress might be one of the more challenging she's had to work on, but she did not tell me it could not be done. Despite my having bought the gown in the correct size, it needs to be reshaped: It's a bit tight around the middle, but the bodice is too big and doesn't fit well, and the chiffon coat needs to be reworked, also, insofar as it isn't shaped in a flattering way. First, some hemming has to be done, at which point she'll begin working on reshaping the gown. 

I tried avoiding looking at myself as much as possible. Between the gown not fitting well at all, and all the mirrors showing how the gown didn't fit, I felt self-conscious and downright dowdy. I felt worse about myself yesterday than I had in an extremely long time. And I realized that this is why I've always made a fuss about not wanting to wear a wedding gown: I could never imagine feeling beautiful or attractive in a gown. I'm hoping Maria can do her job well and when it's all said and done make me feel less ugly.

Today we made up our minds regarding our flower vendor. We'd met with two, and it was a difficult decision; it wasn't clear cut. Phoebe Floral was overall less expensive and was a larger store with a lot of business; and Rose e-mailed us the estimate in Excel. Quite frankly, though, I liked the first vendor we'd met, Sherry from Mary B's. Sherry gave us specifics costs for everything we'd asked. When I followed up with Rose regarding different centerpieces, telling her exactly what I wanted, came back with a response that included telling me that the flowers I wanted were only available in specific colors (as opposed to the same flowers in different colors); her estimate was general, saying that the cost would be "around $30." A bit too much back and forth for my taste, and since we've already hashed out what I wanted with Sherry, it just seemed easier to go with her.

It's a relief to have big things crossed off the list. Flowers are largely taken care of, and the alterations are under way. There will be some residual niggling with Sherry, since we still have to work out aspects of the alter pieces and those bow thingies that hang on the pews, but that's minor stuff at this point.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Buddhist Temple Weekend

This is the altar (that can't be the right word, but I don't know the equivalent) of the Salt Lake City Buddhist Temple. 
(Who knew that there were Buddhists in Utah?)

Why was I at a Buddhist Temple? Well should you ask!