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 Mobypicture.com

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 minutes...in 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.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I had an appointment this morning with a nurse educator. I have some health concerns that I want to start controlling, and one of the big ways to do that is to get background information, and start eating better. I had initially wanted to schedule an appointment with a dietitian or nutritionist (I still don't know the difference), but was told that I had to have an appointment with the nurse educator before making the other appointment. Fortunately, the nurse had some really great information, resources, and advice, was able to give me some meal planning guides for both myself and Ed, and in addition gave me a list of websites that might help in various ways.

The website that both really floored both Ed and me was One Touch Gold, a site that allows you to input various tidbits of information about yourself, and then gives you a day-by-day meal plan for an indeterminate amount of time. One can change one's meal plan according to a set number of calories (they give you four common selections from which one can choose), and then one is given breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks, as well as applicable recipes. And - and! - there's a shopping list that is automatically generated by your personalized meal plan, with the option to remove items one might already have. There's also a Fitness section and Recipe section I haven't perused much yet, but it all looks very promising.

Ed is being very supportive, good man that he is, although his support means he'll be eating things like veggie burgers, which is probably not something anyone should have to do on a regular basis. Tonight for dinner we had spiced cod with veggies (potatoes, carrots, and broccoli, which replaced the string beans and zucchini I don't like), and it was good. And more importantly, we actually had enough. Probably used a bit too much olive oil and butter, but it was still less than I'd have used before. I'm not cutting out fat entirely; I'm just going to be more conscious about the amounts I use and use what I actually need, instead of mindlessly slathering it on.

I do not want medical issues to become astronomically worse when I get older.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Running A Baptism Class

I've only been a parishioner at my parish, St. Joseph the Worker, for a couple of months. I registered sometime after May, although I haven't really technically been living in Utah since September. Be that as it may, for the six months I've been going, Masses have been held in Sister Fabian Hall because the old church was demolished; a new church is being built.

The church is coming along nicely, and even though the Dedication Mass isn't until December 19th, there's some hope that Mass will be said in the new church a week or two earlier than that. As such, Fr. Carley put out a call for folks to be Hospitality Ministers: These folks will be responsible for directing people, guiding them to restrooms, answering basic questions, etc. It didn't seem a difficult thing to sign up for, so I signed up. Fr. Carley and I played phone tag early last week, but since I didn't hear back from him, I tracked him down on Saturday after Mass and was asked if I would consider taking over the Baptism class. Apparently I gave off some type of Good-Catholic-and-Teacher Vibe when we had met for our Pre-Cana meeting a few weeks ago.

It seems a low stress commitment, since I'm guessing classes meet on an as-needed basic; Fr. Carley said the Baptism Class might meet 6-8 times a year, for an hour or so at a stretch. I pop in a video about the procedure, talk to the would-be parents about coming to church and the importance of building a relationship with their church, and then have the parents call Fr. Carley to make an appointment for a one-on-one meeting. I missed the first 20 minutes of tonight's meeting (and therefore most of the video), but it's definitely something I can handle. 

Fr. Carley made noises about talking to me about the whole shebang at some point. Next weekend is the Pre-Cana Engaged Encounter weekend, so Ed and I will be calling him next week for a follow-up appointment anyway.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Old Timey Pict-O-Cube

In an effort to stop spending frivolously, Ed and I have merged our Netflix accounts; I put my account on hold (I just couldn't make myself cancel it outright), and added my few remaining movies and television series to his queue. Most of Ed's queue consists of past seasons of various TV series - Heroes, Dexter, House, Fringe, and Burn Notice, with a handful of movies interspersed throughout. 

Justin and I weren't encouraged (read: allowed) to watch much TV when we were growing up, and I didn't really miss it. It wasn't until I was an undergrad that I started watching much TV; it filled the long hours of quiet of my apartment, which is helpful when you're living alone, during semester breaks when you're not taking classes (or when you're taking fewer classes). Hulu is an absolute boon; Ed and I have super basic cable (the rabbit ears version) and no TiVo-like device, so if a show is missed, I can watch the episode when it's released on Hulu...at least if it gets released to Hulu, otherwise it's a matter of waiting for the DVD release.

In any case, what with all these series piling up, I finally got around to putting Mad Men on the list. We've only watched a few episodes of season one so far, but it's really interesting. While I recognize that of course it's fictional show and it's been dramatized, what's been interesting to both of us is the prevailing attitudes. Neither of us is in a position of confirming how accurate the the televised attitudes are, but I have a difficult time not becoming twitchy and telling off the male characters (or deriding the female characters to have some gumption, dammit). Smoking (even during pregnancy) seemed prevalent; folks got married all sorts of young; women aspired to marriage; unmarried women were relegated to secretary-hood or retail work; the divorced neighbor was viewed with suspicion (A divorced woman! With children! Working! What a shame, on so many levels. Keep her away from the husbands!).

I did have something of an epiphany while watching Mad Men, though: Perhaps this was one of the reason's why my maternal grandparents were insistent on my mother and her younger sister and brother - but especially the girls - getting an education: They wouldn't be relegated to secretarial work, or similar, being spoken to as subservient, unintelligent beings. There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with being a secretary, and I can understand how someone might wind up being a career secretary/administrative/executive assistant, but I don't know anyone whose career ambition is just that.

On a marginally related note: Because clicking around the Internet can lead you to some cool things, thanks to the Mad Men listing on iTunes, I was eventually led to a link to the Digital Archive of Vintage Television Commercials, which is all sorts of interesting. In particular, a Pan Am ad of the '60s has a young woman describing her trip to travels across the U.S., beginning in New York City, which included a $450 roundtrip fare, staying at a first rate, $10/night hotel, a trip where she saw all sorts of exciting things like Radio City and the "unbelievable skyscrapers." (I do like hearing people's impressions of a city in which I spent so much time.)

I love old airline ads.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

A couple days ago, Dean Dad blogged about his elementary school-aged children and their recent Back to School night (akin to an Open House). An excerpt: "In [my son's] class – he's in the fourth grade – the kids had done essays on what they want to be in fifty years. The essays were left out on the tables for parents to read. As an exercise in shoe-leather sociology, it was striking."

He continues: "Out of a class of a little over twenty, only two kids mentioned college, and only one – TB [the blogger's son] – had any recognizable professional aspiration. (He declared that he will get his doctorate in civil engineering at MIT, so he can build bridges and highways. About a year ago he asked me what the best place was to study civil engineering, so with my layman's knowledge of engineering, I suggested MIT, and that was that.) One other boy mentioned the state university, though he seemed more interested in the sports than in anything else. Every other kid wrote some variation on “I will finish high school, get a job, and get rich.” The teacher mentioned that she had to push some of them to mention finishing high school."

It's interesting indeed to consider how children are supposed to ascertain their futures; I would agree that parents and teachers are the first step in guiding children in encouraging the children's skills and talents, and introduce them to interesting ideas, etc. The comments below the article are also interesting, insofar as there's a real divide between those who seemed to have a career in mind when they were children (even if that chosen career changed). I question, though, how necessary it is at the tender age of eight (for example) to have a coherent idea of what kind of life one wants as an adult. Obviously, there are kids who will tell you right off the bat that they want to be fill-in-the-blank, and then proceed to accomplish that exact career. Other kids will tell you that what they want to be, or where they want to go...and then change their minds a few dozen times before they even finish high school. I don't know how realistic it is to expect children of that age to have their maps planned out in detail, or even in generalities. At least in part, at that age kids simply don't know how to plan at that level, nor can they be expected to be. That's why parents and teachers model that kind of behavior.

Throughout the post, I was reminded that adults can forget that young kids do not always (or even usually) have a definitive, linear plan, or even an idea of what to do with their lives, let alone be able to articulate how to get there, appreciate the work that gets to that career (ascertaining the method by which one accomplishes that career goal), or even understand all the work that's in the desired field. Until one is actively pursuing a career, you simply can't know the entirety of necessary involvement. To expect that of small children isn't exactly reasonable. Even if one (like I had) two parents with advanced degrees, one still isn't necessarily cognizant of the steps needed, especially not as a small child - unless, as some of those who left comments stated, you are physically taken to a university and shown.

For the longest time I wanted to be an archaeologist because I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist; I didn't quite realize until I was older that they were related but different fields, nor did I grok the grunt work (or science) needed to excel in that particular field. I saw it as digging in the dirt, consistently finding cool stuff, and being able to tell things by looking at skeletal remains. I had to minor in physical anthropology as an undergrad to realize that I may not be (scientifically) able to do the work that I still find fascinating.

I'm sure, of course, there are some children who know exactly what they want to be when they grow up, what they want to be in 50 years, be perfectly suited to that job, know enough of how to go get it, and follow through. I suspect the number of kids in that position would be very small. And it's quite possible that these particular kids had never been asked to consider their future before, either.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More Job Hunting

I'm technically holding down two teaching jobs, but I'm not actually teaching this semester. It's not as much fun as you'd think, mostly because I don't get a paycheck. This puts a damper on things.

I told LCCC that I was only available to teach online classes this semester; I suspect I'm going to have to officially resign; I don't know if they'd accept my moving to Utah and still want to teach online classes. And truth be told, as interesting an experience as it was, I prefer teaching in the classroom. (I prefer and love the personal interactions I get with my students; it's missing from teaching online, which is at least as convenient and flexible, if not more so.)

I got hired as a substitute teacher for Jordan School District, but have yet to actually do any subbing. I was offered one job that didn't work out, but haven't seen any other job offers. I check periodically throughout the day; I've turned on the option that allows the district to call me; I check before I go to bed, but how late do I stay up looking for gigs? I could stay up until two or three in the morning checking their online system, but at some point one has to draw the line. I don't really want to stay up all night and then attempt to deal with teenagers on no sleep. (I've done that. It's...not fun.)

So I check the job boards, and Craigslist. A few nights ago I applied for a part-time, three day a week, office job that seemed ideal. I got an e-mail the next morning describing the expectations, and pointing me to a link to complete an online application, which I proceeded to fill out.

Until I was told that a credit check would be needed at the interview, which meant I had to get my credit score before the interview. Fortunately, so I was told, this still unnamed company had an agreement with a company such that a free credit report would be provided. I was forwarded to another website, and stopped when I was asked for my credit card information. I have no idea why my credit card information would be requested for a free credit report.

I decided I didn't want that job badly enough.

Red flags: I don't know the name of the company that was hiring. I don't know which company was offering free credit reports. I don't know why they needed my credit card for a free service.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I've been having low-level stress about the wedding lately, usually the rest of anyone asking if I'm having fun planning the wedding. Choosing the individual things like flowers and the music and songs is one thing; bigger details like the dress and trying to plan everything from across the country is less fun. But then I look at my calender.

I was dorky enough to configure a ticker download thingie that I now have on my iGoogle page, as well as on my Bio page, to remind me how long I have to wait until I get to become Mrs. Szetela.

Election Day 2010, Part 2: The Reactions of Many

People sure do get upset about politics and voting.

One of my acquaintances got upset that Pennsylvania was (if I'm remembering this correctly) a red state, except for a few counties that were blue, noting that his particular part of Pennsylvania was almost as stupid as the rest of the state. And I realized that for many people, there's an automatic conclusion that someone's politics, if those politics disagree with yours, must be stupid. Sometimes those politics are stupid, but not always; they're just different. Contrary to what many Republicans may think, for example, I am not out to get them every time I vote for a non-Republican candidate (which is often, but not always); I'm just voting for the person whom I think will do the better job.

So, on to the next point: People don't need me to remind them to vote. Either they've already decided to vote, or not. Spamming FaceBook and Twitter with messages and reminders to "Vote vote vote!" just spam my update feed; everyone seem to post that they voted. It's worse than the World Series spam I got from Phillies fans. 

Well, maybe not worse.

Yes, actually worse, because more people were spazzing about voting than about the Phillies, about whom no one cares. (Baseball is just a game, whereas actual things are affected by politics.) However, that still doesn't mean I care whether or not you voted.

Yesterday on FaceBook, I posted that I hadn't voted yesterday. It's true; I didn't. I did vote, just not yesterday. (Huzzah, absentee ballot!) I must not have been the only person who posted something along those lines because; one acquaintance asked if we were supposed to be proud of those folks for not voting. Well, quite frankly, why do you care if that particular person voted or not? I don't really care if my friends voted. If you did, and you want to discuss the results, that's fine, but I don't really care to tie myself in knots if you didn't vote. I'm not any more or less proud of my friends who voted than those who didn't.

It's annoying when folks feel compelled to pressure everyone else to vote, then tell me they voted. Good for you. What's for lunch?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day 2010

When I was visiting Utah over the summer and it looked like I would be moving here in September, I registered to vote. Ed had told me that years ago, when he moved to Utah and was still flying the line, he'd chosen the absentee ballot option. (When you're not sure in advance if you'll be home for election day, it makes sense.) I chose the same option, and a few weeks ago we both got our ballots. It was a rather cool thing, to be able to permanently vote via absentee ballot. (I've voted via absentee ballot before, years ago when I was busy flunking out of Temple University in Philadelphia and therefore not home in the Lehigh Valley, but that was a one-time deal.)

For this election, I got to (well, had to) research all the candidates, which was made easy because many provided absolutely no information online. There were the usual options of choosing a particular candidate, but there were also a lot of questions about whether specific candidates should continue to hold office. People I'd never heard of. (Because, you know, I've only been living in Utah for a few months.) People who had absolutely no information anywhere online. What does one do in that situation? Two candidates were listed twice, their questions about whether they should remain in office listed one right after the other. Thinking this was a typo, I e-mailed the Bureau of Elections, whose reply questioned that many candidates were running for reelection in more than one district, and was it possible that this was the case on my ballot as well? Of course, I didn't know because there was no indication in which district the candidates were running - and I replied as such. So perhaps that could be better phrased on future ballots.

Last night and this morning I was amusing myself with the 100 Best Signs at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. The picture below accurately portrays my feelings on the election at the moment:

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaBloPoMo, Anyone?

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a method by which one attempts to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175-page) novel between November 1st and November 30th. I'm always pleased to see many of my friends partake; I love any activity that pushes people to write (even if it's not high quality; that's what revision is for, after all). As a writing teacher, I like the idea of folks getting roped in by writing because the act of writing is fun and allows for creativity, after which I hope said writers become even more interested and want to write more.

I, however, have never really tried involving myself in NaNoWriMo, mostly because until fairly recently, I was up to my eyeballs in writing for school, and when someone has been writing papers nonstop for six years, often for multiple English classes at a time, and recently for graduate-level English classes (three to four of those graduate-level English classes a semester for two years), one figures that one has written several novels per month. And one - and by "one" I mean me - needs a mental break from all the writing. 

(I enjoy research, and writing non-fiction, but I never got into it very much, possibly because I was doing so much of it I just got overwhelmed and suffered burnout. Similarly, I suspect that most people associate writing with the forced-upon-you-for-English-class flavor of writing, and often those types of papers are just not interesting. I mean, you have to write things that just aren't always that interesting in order to learn a particular form or style of rhetoric or argumentation. And when you're teaching even one class of English, it's simply not possible to always give every student the opportunity to write what they'd like every time. Sometimes the assignment isn't interesting simply because one doesn't particularly care for the piece of literature in question, or the research isn't something you'd choose. This is more of a problem in lower-level writing and English classes, but I digress.)

Besides which, I have to admit that NaNoWriMo has never quite appealed to me, mental burnout aside. I used to write a lot of creative stories when I was a kid, but somehow I got away from that; probably no real reason for it other than I just stopped enjoying it. However, one of the classes I really enjoyed in grad school was the creative non-fiction class, which allowed me to utilize and integrate research into, for lack of a better phrase, autobiographical sketches that we were assigned. For the first time in a long time, writing was fun again because I could steer the writing in a direction I chose. This style of writing is partly why I enjoy blogging: There's no length requirement, which means I won't feel badly if I don't write 50,000 words; and it's not creative writing, which means I don't have to map out characterization or plot. Creative writing is absolutely a wonderful thing; it's just not my forte.

So when I heard about National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo), I was intrigued. I love blogging, and the "requirement" (such as it is) is this: Post something every day for a month. That's it!

I can do that.

I set up a profile, tapped my blog's RSS feed into it, and I'm ready to roll. The challenge will be seeing how long I can keep this up.


Problem with the Post Office

I've been having a lot of problems with the post office lately. I've never had any problems before I moved to Utah; suddenly, within the two months I've been here, I've had a multitude of problems.
  1. In early September, I shipped four boxes of books via Media Mail. Three of those boxes showed up a day ahead of the shipping estimate; the fourth box disappeared into the ether. We hadn't added the delivery confirmation or tracking options so we had no way to follow up with the Post Office once it became clear that the rest of my books wouldn't appear (including my rather expensive copy of The Riverside Chaucer). A few weeks later I got a letter from USPS, stating they believed a shipment I'd made had been lost, and asking me to list the items in said package. Ed had packed the books, and we hadn't made a list of which books went in which box, so aside from The Riverside Chaucer, I have no idea what else is missing. The fourth box is books remains unaccounted for.
  2. Ed and I were considering getting some personalized tea favors for our wedding; Adagio, a tea company from whom I've ordered quite a bit of tea in the past and have historically had good experience, offers said wedding tea favors, so I ordered a few samples. A few days after my initial order, I placed a second order of wedding tea samples because I had wanted to try the tea bag version. Four and five weeks later, I still had no tea, nor was there any tracking information beyond "Electronic Shipping Info Received." I was in touch with Adagio; I was in touch with USPS. Adagio said they would mail me replacements a few days ago, that there would be updated tracking information by the end of the following day. (There wasn't.) USPS said they could prove that the shipping labels had been printed, but could not prove that the tea had been delivered to the local post office. I e-mailed Adagio requesting a replacement order for the missing order I placed more than five weeks ago, as well as the order I placed more than a week ago. Via Twitter, Adagio had promised to get out replacements orders via UPS today, and to e-mail me tracking information, which I have not yet received.
  3. Today I received three of the six non-wedding tea samples I had ordered last week. They showed up looking like this: