Friday, November 30, 2012

Thoughts on Travel

And so concludes my foray into NaBloPoMo; with the exception of one blog entry, I've blogged every day. Some days were easy; some were difficult in that I just couldn't think of anything interesting to write about: nothing was preying on my mind; I wasn't ruminating on anything in particular; nothing newsworthy had happened at work.

I've been thinking about travel lately, though. I used to dislike traveling: I didn't know what to expect or how to navigate any place that wasn't the States. More travel experience helped with that, as did getting older, and being able to conrol where and when I traveled. Having good people to travel with also made a difference - friends who were relaxed and flexible and interested.

I recently applied for Irish citizenship. I had all the necessary papers for about six or nine months but not the money, but things have improved on that front, so a few weeks I sent in my application, and all the necessities. It'll take a while.

I do enjoy watching travel shows on TV; last night and tonight Ed and I were watching a PBS special on ancient Ireland, and our TiVo had gone through a phase in which it recorded a lot of Burt Wolf's Travels & Traditions and Rick Steves. Our list of places we'd like to visit is slowly growing; at this rate, we're going to have a take extended leaves of absence just to go everywhere we'd like to.
That Ed works for an airline is a big help, financially; it removes a major financial obstacle and allows us to do other things we might not be able to do.

The last two summers, we hit a few rough spots so we've had to postpone our honeymoon, but we're hoping to be able to finally get to Iceland during Summer 2013. Traveling around the Ring Road appeals to us, especially since we'd be able to hop on and hop off to see glaciers, fjords, whales, and whatever other wild things lurk in Iceland. I suppose we should be going to Hawaii or Paris for our honeymoon, but we'd rather do something different.

Greenland appeals to me, also. It's so remote. The list grows!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Student Complaints

Every semester I get complaints. I find them upsetting; I don't like being complained about, especially if the students complain about me directly to my boss, or on the course evaluations, instead of coming to talk to me first. Several times throughout this semester I made a point of talking to my students about professionalism, which includes not only better ways to e-mail me (and I bring in examples of previous e-mails, with the students' names removed, to illustrate just how bad some of them are), but ways in which to resolve those things the students find upsetting or confusing. I talk to them about shifting expectations, that now that they're in college they need to act differently, more like they would at work, and less how they would have acted in high school.

Since the summer semester, I've started emphasizing that my they need to come talk to me first, before they go elsewhere; it's more professonially courteous (I explain), since we're all adults here; I emphasize that my policies are not the result of my disliking my students, of thinking they're anything other than intelligent adults, or that I'm out to get them. But now that we're all adults here, especially if they've come right from high school, they need to start trying to resolve their issues with me first. If they come to me first, we can try to figure out a solution, and it's easier than having a big blowout at the end of the semester.

The big complaints come out in the form of talking to the department chair, or a very long comment on the course evaluations. One student complained to the department chair that he had done badly on his paper - he had failed for not fulfilling the basic requirements. The department chair asked the student if I had told him what the repercussions would be; the student replied that I had made it clear. (He later apologized, sheepishly acknowledging that he "may have overreacted.")

Another student, in his course evaluation, launched into a tirade that clearly I was anti-Mormon. A third sent me a lengty e-mail several weeks after I had submitted grades, complaining about her grade, and alleging that I was grading her harshly because she was pregnant.

Of course, in the case of that particular student, because her attendance had been spotty, she consistently missed my announcements both in class and through e-mail in which I reminded students to check their e-mails and that there were deadlines for questioning their grades, which I reminded her of; I reminded her that these policies had been announced a number of times in class and through e-mail; that I could not be responsible if she did not check her e-mail in a timely manner; and that she could not claim that I was making it difficult for her because she was pregnant if I had been lenient in the past. I didn't hear from her again.

I do encourage my students to question their grades, but I also remind them that I have my own deadlines when it comes to submitting grades, and that I can't give them an indeterminate amount of time.

One of the things I like most about teaching this level of writing is the thing that's also the most frustrating: teaching the students some of the basics of communication that I probably didn't quite grok at that age either, but which in retrospect were obvious.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Religious & Cultural Freedom

I'm interested in the the intersections of culture and religion, since they both affect each other in so many ways. I wonder if there can be a singular "true" religion, since so many religions are a reflection of a specific society. Of course, religious freedom is my own cultural reponse - although I've begun to think that religious freedom even in America is a misnomer.


Extremism in any form bothers me; the thinking that no one can be allowed to practice a religion based on governmental policy, or that medical care should be withheld because of a dominant religion, strikes me as the anthithesis of religious practice.


These deep not-so-late-night thoughts brought to you by an article I read earlier tonight about Catholicism in China, which, like all other religous practices, are forbidden.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The ePortfolio Talk

This week begins the second-to-last week of classes. In the final two weeks, my students are all overwhelmed with everything they need to do for all their classes, all the projects and exams and, in my class, their notebooks, their research papers and their ePortfolios.

My department offers a syllabus for the lower level English classes that I use, and it includes a grading system that comprises of assignments that equal 1,000 points. This makes it easy to assign a value system - notebooks are worth 15% (150 points), the Issue Exploration Project is worth 25% (250 points), etc. Although we've been discussing the ePortfolio throughout the semester and I've mentioned multiple times that they need to have one set up, today we really got into what goes on it and how it should be laid out. I told them last week to have their ePortfolios set up before they came to class today, that I would love to be able to offer extensive help to each student who might need it, but I simply couldn't - there wouldn't be time. I helped several students figure out what a hidden page meant; I answered other questions about layout and where the self-assessments were to go; and talked rather extensively to one student who just couldn't seem to take the initiative and try to figure things out alone - she asked questions about everything instead of trying it first.

Most students wound up talking to each other during class, asking questions of each other about ePortfolio layout, and clarification.

And I was reminded of my second Methods class at Stony Brook University, in which the professor continually referenced digital natives and digital immigrants, how much I dislike those identifiers - and more importantly, how much those identifiers are just wrong. Based on those presumptions, my students, by sheer dint of being a decade or more younger than I should be much more literate than I am, yet they aren't. Rather, some are certainly more knowledgeable about computers than I, but from what I'm seeing, the students just don't have the experience with web design that I have - which is saying something, because in contrast to the computer professionals I know, I have much less of an understanding.

So we talked a little about this in class today, but I wonder if it would behoove me to talk about the ePortfolio much earlier in the semester, and do so more in depth, because clearly they're just not grasping it. My job is not that of a computer or technical instructor, and I'm loathe to spend multiple classes on web design, but perhaps I could incorporate such discussions into class time about communication and professionalism.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Library Reading List

Periodically I check out the New York Times bestseller list, which I like to peruse because it tells me what people are currently reading. Through this list I tend to find other suggestions as well, so for me it's a good place to start.

I'm pretty backlogged, though; I have more than a dozen books on our bookshelves and on my Kindle to keep me occupied, but that doesn't stop me from requesting books through Salt Lake County Library Services. Currently, this is the list of books I've requested through interlibrary loan:
Once I get these holds cleared, I really do have to read the books I already have.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

This Weekend's Project: Bookshelf

Today's project: cleaning out the bookshelf. It was overcrowded, so we went through each shelf, cleaned them, decided what could stay and what would go, and donated large pile to DI, most of which included large piles of books and CDs, which made more space for other books. But the bookshelf looks a lot better, a lot cleaner, and with a whole lot more space.


Photo


We've been cleaning out our house like mad people; last weekend we went through about 10 storage containers' worth of things we'd gotten from Ed's mother's house, and rearranged the storage we had in our garage, yet we had so much to donate, we had to put down the back seats of the SUV.

There's still more to donate; we have other kitchenware we don't need that needs to be gone through and donated.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Introspection and Introversion

I've been feeling more introspective than usual, and this introspection was caused by a letter to an advice columnist that I read a couple weeks ago: A mother, who along with her husband was a self-described party-loving extrovert, didn't know how to help her daughter, whose personality was seemingly diametrically opposed. The daughter wanted to quiet holiday instead of dealing with 45 others for Thanksgiving because she found it overwhelming and draining; the mother simply couldn't figure out what was going on or why her daughter was like this, since apparently every other person in the family was an extrovert who'd wanted to go all out.

(My family was not like that, but for a while when I was little, we did have a lot of people over for Thanksgiving and Christmas - nothing like the 45 people over, but perhaps a dozen or two.)
The response included a link to Quiet, which I read this past week, as well as Introvert Power, which I'm currently reading. Both these books have gotten me thinking about how I interact with people around me, what I need for social fulfillment, etc. I was reminded of being talked to a number of times when I was a kid about not reading so much, about going out and playing with other kids, which I just didn't want to do much of; then, as now, I wanted to be left alone to ruminate. There was (and is) always so much going on in my head that I needed a lot of time to think; I needed a lot of time to recharge from school, which at least in elementary school was a great experience, and reading and writing were the best ways for me to do that.

Of course, I didn't know how to explain that as a kid, and I probably should have played more with other kids on the weekends than I did, but it also possibly wasn't necessary. I was social enough, and I didn't need more; I needed time away.

In any case, it was this quote that jumped out at me: "Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can express the "real me" online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions. They welcome the chance to communicate digitally. The same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice. The same person who finds it difficult to introduce himself to strangers might establish a presence online and then extend those relationships into the real world." -- from Quiet by Susan Cain.

Maintaining a presence online when I did was absolutely integral to "finding" myself, more than I think my parents may have realized. When I began playing around online, they were afraid of something happening ot me; it seemed that nearly every week my parents found stories of young women being kidnapped and assaulted by perverted men whom they had met online. My computer time was limited, by password or other means; ultimately, it didn't stop me from maintaining an online presence anyway. (In the end, all my boyfriends weremen I'd met in the same chat room - as was the fella I eventuall married.) I felt then, as I do now, that learning to navigate one's presence online is exactly like learning to naviage the physical world; it's absolutely necessary to learn, otherwise you will get taken advantage of and hurt later, but again, thse are skills that need to be learned - how to "read" people both online and in person. It was that online presence that allowed me to figure myself out and extend those relationships to the outside world.

And this, too, struck me: "What constitutes an introvert is quite simple. We are a vastly diverse group of people who prefer to look at life from the inside out. We gain energy and power through inner reflection, and get more excited by ideas than by external activities. When we converse, we listen well and expect others to do the same. We think first and talk later. Writing appeals to us because we can express ourselves without intrusion, and we often prefer communicating this way." -- from Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe.

I think before I speak; I react sometimes much later, especially if something has upset me. Writing is so much better than speaking, because writing allows me to figure out what I actually feel and think, more than speaking aloud generally does.

It's so nice to know that this is an actual thing, that a lot of other people do this.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful

I'm thankful I'm employed, that I have a pretty cool job that lets me watch people grow.

I'm thankful for my friends. I don't have as many as some, but the ones I have are good people, genuinely kind, honest, thoughtful, and caring, some of whom have been friends for 15 years, some less so, but all of whom are in my heart.

I'm thankful I have a closeknit family, my aunts, uncles, and cousins; even though we're all far away, we keep an eye out for each other and come together.

I'm thankful for my parents, who loved me even when I was difficult, who raised me to be kind and thoughtful, and how to care for myself and others. I'd like to continue to get to know them as adults, and not just as Mom and Dad.

I'm thankful I have a brother who loves me and looks out for me. I'd like to get to know him better; we're older now, and are at similar stages of life.

I'm thankful for my husband, who loves me fiercely, unquestioningly, and without fail; who supports me in all things, emotioanlly, professionally, and financially; who takes care of me; who listens to me; who laughs with me and, when necessary, at me.

I'm thankful I'm part of this woman's family.


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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Preview

We're going over to Alex and Karen's for Thanksgiving tomorrow; I was tasked with bring sweet potato casserole and biscuits. I plan on making maple chipotle sweet potatoes and herb-and-cheddar biscuits tomorrow morning. (The recipes for herb biscuits and cheddar biscuits were exactly the same except for the addition of either herbs or cheddar, so I added both to the same mixture.)

I also made rosemary maple-glazed nuts with pecans, walnuts, and almonds this afternoon; they were amazing. (I'm planning on bringing over most of them to our hosts tomorrow afternoon.)


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I managed not to eat too many, but it was hard. Very delicious, and very easy to make.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Purposes of Blogging

I've been contemplative lately, thinking about the people in my life, or people with whom I'd been friends in the past but whose friendships I've had to let die away for whatever reason. Sometimes it's been my fault; often it's the behavior of others I simply can no longer tolerate, or the relationship has become one-sided. Often, of course, it's more complicated by the fact that someone is a member of the family.

One of the reasons I enjoy blogging so much is that it helps me figure out what I think about things; it helps me work through a problem or emotios I can't quite figure out otherwise. This is especially helpful when I've been spending a lot of time thinking about religious issues with which I disagree - writing about whatever is on my mind helps me sort through things - although there was one woman with whom I've since cut contact who'd told me, in no uncertain terms, that I should not be writing about these things; I should just accept what the church teaches, without question, because if the church teaches it, then that teaching should be followed.

I was easily hurt when I was younger; I was sensitive to tones of voice, and even if someone said that which may have been true, specific tones caused me to not be able to hear the message. This sounds ridiculous, and it probably is, but I couldn't always get past pitch and volume. Noises can do me in; I don't like a lot of noise in my life (probably why I don't like most cities).
Meanwhile, I've been holding onto a lot of hurt for a long time; things that were said to me by close family members are still in my mind. Even if I've forgiven, I haven't quite been able to forget, which makes it difficult to trust people and truly be open. It's unfair, and I'm trying to figure out how to move past those past hurts.

There's always something to work on.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Less Human

Earlier today I saw an Independent Lens documentary called Park Avenue: Wealth, Power & the American Dream, which examines how the stark gap between rich and poor has developed. Paul Piff, a social psychologist at UC-Berkley, who studies, among other things, the psychology of social class and the social effects of rank and class, spoke of how one's level of wealth shapes the way in which you see the world and interact with those around you. 

We like to think that in America, anyone has a chance of doing great things, or at least has the possibility of being successful (however you want to define that), but in actuality it's more complicated than that. If your family hasn't historically had access to education, if they don't know what an education can do for you, if they're so poor that they can't afford to feed or clothe you well, your perspective is skewed; you're more concerned with acquiring the basics. You're less likely to obtain a job that pays you well enough to live a comfortable life (although external factors can affect that; and one can make a very good living doing mechanical or technical work that doesn't require further education); abject poverty affects a child's ability to do well in school from an early age if they're hungry or tired or live with a family who faces much deeper stressors than those who are financially comfortable and don't face these things. 

"How Money Makes People Act Less Human," an article published in New York Magazine in July, was referenced in the film, and it included research that led to the following conclusion:

"Public-health research has long shown that poverty can have devastating effects on the brain. At 3 years old, poor kids have vocabularies that are three times smaller than their better-off peers. Their memories do not work as well. In poor children, executive function is not as developed as it is in more affluent children, which means they have a harder time sorting and organizing information, planning ahead, and coping in the event of changed circumstances...The corrollaries to this poverty work are potentially explosive: Wealth may give you a better brain. It may make you a more strategic thinker, a savvier planner."

I've met a few wealthy people; most did not seem to be especially interested in those whose backgrounds were different, or those whose circumstances were extraordinarily worse than theirs; many seemed to be deeply conscious of social class, and felt it necessary for there to be a separation between them and those whose earning power was significantly less. (One mentioned that people who couldn't afford to go to college shouldn't go, which, of course, would eliminate nearly everyone.) 

Money really does make a difference in making sure that our children have a good foundation that can lead them to comfortable lives. There's the danger of not thinking of those who have less, especially if one grew up always having more.

(There's so much more I could say about this, and I would like to, but I could not do so without getting into details that, really, are not mine to share. I've only ever seen large amounts of money negatively affect people, and I'm sure that's not always true, but I'm having a hard time believing that it's possible.) 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Political Finds

It's pretty easy to get outraged about politics, especially when it comes to extremes, whether those extremes be wait times or points of view.

There are issues with excessively long wait times to vote: "[W]hat happened this weekend in Florida is simply unacceptable. According to a local election official interviewed by CBS News' Phil Hirschkorn, the last "early voter" in line for Saturday's truncated early voting in Palm Beach County finally got to cast a ballot at 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning, which means that voter waited in line for more than seven hours. In Miami, another traditional Democratic stronghold, the wait was said to be nearly as long."
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There are issues with folks on all sides of the political spectrum who are hostile to the other side: "This month's presidential election was between two fairly centrist candidates. And yet political discourse between ordinary Republicans and Democrats is more contentious and hostile than it's been in decades. I bet you strongly agree with one of these statements:
  • If you're a Democrat: The Obama campaign for reelection was run largely based on telling the truth. The Romney campaign was largely based on lies.
  • If you're a Republican: All political campaigns stretch the facts from time to time to make a point. Romney and Obama both did.
I'd like to suggest that both these statements are false."
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And, of course, people freaking out about Obama's reelection, and being convinced that Obama will single-handedly bring the downfall of the world.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sugar Addiction

"The experimental question is whether or not sugar can be a substance of abuse and lead to a natural form of addiction. 'Food addiction' seems plausible because brain pathways that evolved to respond to natural rewards are also activated by addictive drugs. Sugar is noteworthy as a substance that releases opioids and dopamine and thus might be expected to have addictive potential...The evidence supports the hypothesis that under certain circumstances rats can become sugar dependent. This may translate to some human conditions as suggested by the literature on eating disorders and obesity."

What I'm slowly coming to realize is that I simply can't have dessert. I can eat all the fruit I want - and I especially like strawberries, apples, bananas, and grapes - but I can't eat cookies, cakes, brownies, or similiar foods. Once I get beyond that deep craving, which can take a week or two, I miss that sugar and its accompanying comfort much less, and I'm okay with seeing other people eat such things, but I can't touch it myself. I can't "just have one serving." I can't actually control myself, so it's better if I just stay away altogether.

Which leads my just feeling badly, not only because I ate a dessert, but because I couldn't stop myself or control myself. I need to get past the feeling of deprivation of not having cookies, or the dessert du jour.

This is a shame because I really love to bake, and I'm good at it, too. I wonder if I'll ever get to the point where I can have just a serving and be content. I suppose it's possible, but it's going to be awhile.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Three Years Later

Just over three years after I broke up with C., it still stings that I got called a liar for not sharing all the details of our breakup; that my "bad past," in which I tended to be too afraid to tell the truth, which led to a lot of lying, got brought up because I didn't want to answer questions. ("Well, you did lie a lot when you were younger; why should we believe you about this?" This is not helpful after coming out of a nine-year relationship, and being unemployed and having to move back in with my parents in my 30s.)

It still stings that people pushing me into sharing details I did not want to share. Why people would think that someone is likely to share intimite details of a painful breakup from a long-term relationship days or weeks after it happened is a bit puzzling. I needed to process what happened, and it took me a long time to do that.

It still hurts that C. felt compelled to drag my parents into our breakup; why would he do that? (Aside from wanting to hurt me, I can't imagine a reason.) Our breakup had nothing to do with anyone else, and should have remained between us.

I'm an introvert. I'm cautious, and need to observe people for a long time before I'll be comfortable talking to them about anything personal. I distrust people, and get hurt easily. Once I get hurt, I remember the circumstances for a long time. I don't like being offered advice bluntly. I'd prefer to be listened to, without advice being automatically offered. Just listen and be gentle.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Making Plans

Sometimes I see ads for financial planning services in which older adults talk about how they can't retire of of [fill in the blank].

I realize I do not want that to be me.

I like teaching, and I hope I can do it for the next 30 years, but if not, I hope I can find another career that I enjoy that I can continue doing; but I hope Ed and I will be able to retire, or continue working because we want to, not because we have to, and not because we didn't continue developing a life together. I also hope we can continue to develop interests outside of work so that we won't be of the mindset that if we don't work, we won't have anything to do. I've seen some some of my parents' contemporaries not retire because they didn't take the time to develop outside interests.

A former boyfriend's father (who has since died) was a mason who had continued to work into his 70s; his wife, a career hairdresser, was not earning enough to support herself with her salary. Even after he was diagnosed with ALS, he continued to work because he loved to work, but around the time of his diagnosis I remember his saying that he had made no long-term financial plans for retirement because he had never planned to retire; he thought he would just keep working. I was struck by the realization that even if one doesn't want to retire, one should make plans in case one needs to retire.

That's the only extreme case I know about, but I know of two other men who continued to work because they had never taken the time to develop other interests; they only wanted to work. They would work hard, and long hours, and when they came home they would do more work. I've known programmers who come home to work on their own projects, but I wonder what stops someone from seeing that one's life cannot only consist of work; there's a need to develop a life that includes other people in it, too.

It can be hard to develop new interests, but I'd think that once one has retired, you'd have a chance to do things you might not have been able to do otherwise. (Travel that doesn't have to take place during the summer comes to mind.) Travel isn't for everyone, but there must be something else out there you'd like to spend time on because you couldn't when you were working 80-hour (or even 40-hour) weeks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Illegal vs. Immoral

This is why I have trouble with anti-abortion laws. There's no room for necessary medical treatment.

I believe that life begins at the moment of conception; I believe that abortion is murder; I believe it a wrong decision; and I believe that there are very few reasons to allow for abortion - to my mind, the only reason to allow an abortion is if both the mother and child would otherwise die - but I understand that not everyone believes the same as I do. If we were to make abortion illegal, I foresee that many women would get abortions that could, if not done safely, do more harm.

If we're concerned about women using abortions as a means of birth control, there are alternatives to that, namely in the forms of education and contraception. If we want to prohibit abortion because we're taking a life, we also need to understand that ultimately, others cannot, nor should not, make those decisions for us; often those decisions are hard enough to make as it is, and I would not want others imposing their own morality on me.

I am not the keeper of other people's souls, nor do I want others keeping my soul based on their own sense of morality.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Eating

Last month, I got a pretty bad cold. It's rare that I get colds that are that bad; this really knocked me out. I stopped going to the gym regularly - up until that point I was going four days a week. I had been tracking my food intake and calories I was burning at the gym with the MyFitnessPal iPhone app.

Then I got that cold, and things went downhill. Really downhill. I stopped going to the gym four times a week. I stopped tracking my food. I ate chocolate and other desserts that I had been managing to avoid. I gained weight.

Time to get back on track. I was doing really well, and now I'm not.
  • I need to get back to the gym four days a week.
  • I need to start using CurvesSmart again.
  • I need to use MyFitnessPal to track my calories.
  • I need to stop eating candy and desserts, and start eating more fruit and veggies. I have apples and bananas and grapes and Spicy Hot V8 and tomatoes and cucumber at home, or I need to get back to buying them on a regular basis. 
  • I need to watch portion sizes and eat smaller portions.
  • I need to watch my serving sizes.
If I stop eating desserts, chocolate, and candy, it'll be really hard for a week, but then it'll get better. I'm afraid I can't do that. I can't have a serving size of chocolate or dessert because I'm incapable of controlling myself.

I want to like the way I look. I want to feel pretty. I want to feel proud of myself. I want people to see me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Churchy Things & Books

Tonight was our second parish council meeting. I'm really going to enjoy it; I enjoy hearing about how the parish works, what issues are being faced, and being able to help resolve them. It was agreed, both last week and this week, to keep a certain level of confidentiality, so I'll be staying largely silent on many of the issues that we're facing; however, they're things that I suspect all parishes face, and deal largely with getting more people involved in the community and breaking up the cliques that can tend to arise in certain groups. People complain a lot about ridiculous things, both as individuals and in groups; I guess they'll always do it, but they complain about truly ridiculous things, like the windows being dirty, or the dead plants not being removed quickly enough. I suspect some have too much time on their hands.

A couple of months ago, I bought a copy of Imitation of Christ. I haven't picked it up often since I got it,  mostly because I'm backlogged in reading (I have a pile of books at home that I need to get to; in some cases, I've had a book for years). The book presents short teachings, which makes it easy to read in short bursts, which I certainly appreciate, but the little I've read I can tell I'm going to have trouble with the way in which some of the teachings are presented.

For example, one is encouraged not to develop one's own opinions; rather, one should ask older, more experienced people for guidance and follow said guidance. It might be difficult for older people, though, to consistently find older, more experienced people to ask, especially after a (long) lifetime of their own experience; I suppose at that point one just follows the lead of one's priest. As I understand it, one's own experience could lead one astray and lead one to the wrong conclusions; therefore, it's better to heed the advice of someone with more of an understanding of how things work.

I find that difficult; I absolutely agree that a member of the clergy would have more experience and theological background than I, but why can't I ask questions develop my own opinions based on the answers I'm given? Having a discussion in which I could get my questions answered, understanding why things are done the way they are, why and how these practices developed, would help me understand more, not less. And I'd then have an easier time following my faith.

Another statement advised the reader to avoid talking to young people; it didn't say why, although I suspect it's for similar reasons: An older, more experienced person would conceivably have a better understanding of an issue than a much younger person. However, I also understand that being young does not negate an experience that would provide an understanding that I might not have.

I don't understand why I need to follow anything blindly. I understand that religion does require a large amount of faith, but I don't understand why I can't question and talk to everyone around me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Election "Disaster"

[Albert] Mohler at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary says evangelicals now need to approach politics in a fundamentally different way. They need to bend a little on issues of lesser importance — for example, supporting candidates who have different ideas about the role of government — but who agree with them on marriage and life issues. And most important, Mohler says, evangelicals need to reach beyond their suburban walls.

"If we do not become the movement of younger Americans and Hispanic Americans and any number of other Americans, then we will just become a retirement community," he says. "And that cannot, that cannot, serve the cause of Christ."

I'm wary of any group of people who believe that their way is the only way that people can or should live. "Because it's in the Bible" and "this is what Jesus says about it" doesn't work if most people don't follow your version of the Bible. I wish people of extreme opinion on all sides could see that we live in a world with multiple ways of living, and that it's okay if people lifestyle choices are different than your own. Your own standard or morality is, for better or worse, not something everyone will heed to. And bringing it to the level of nastiness or disparaging personal attacks makes it impossible to take such attacks seriously.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Las Vegas: Friday & Saturday

Friday was a pretty quiet day; Ed had more meetings which took up most of the day, and was pretty tired by the end of them, so Friday consisted of getting ourselves to...the Flamingo.


We were both too full from lunch, so we stopped off at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, had a light dinner before wandering around the Bellagio's Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and saw the fountains at the Bellagio.

Today was the night in which had the most fun. We finally saw the flamingos (by the time we'd gotten to our hotel and were in a position of wandering out to see them on Friday, it was dark and we didn't get a good look).

We wandered over to the Palazzo, had lunch, and admired the gondolas at the Venetian, which we had contemplated riding, but we changed our minds. Mostly we sat around (my feet were ready to fall off) before going to Mass.

We had a truly amazing dinner at Carnevino, where we ate very well, and then headed back down the Strip (which we went up and down four or five times by the end of the day) to the Monte Carlo theater to see the Blue Man Group. We really had a good time.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Fragments

The Occupy Sandy relief effort, working with the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, created an Amazon registry that's comprised of non-perishable items such tools and hardware, and health and personal care items. The idea is that one can purchase what one can afford, and have them sent to, in this case, the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew (in Brooklyn), which will then disperse them where needed.

It's a horrendous situation; most folks have their power back, but some still don't, nearly two weeks after the fact, and many lost much more than their power, but instead of people who didn't lose anything (and that includes power; if the rest of your house is intact, unless you need electricity for medical purposes, this is a severe inconvenience), I'd rather see pragmatic approaches taken. People are getting help, but never as quickly as you'd like; there are still ways to help. Taking time to take stock of the situation and being shocked for some time is normal, but there comes a time when it just looks like you're continuing to fall apart. Do something about it.

(I donated two economy packs of diapars, in two different sizes, and an 864-count tub of baby wipes. Small donations, but this is how I can help.)

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"Reestablish a relationship with your parents. You don't live with them anymore (hopefully) so start to appreciate them as human beings with toughts, flaws and feelings rather than soulless life ruiners who won't let you borrow their car.

"Eventually all these nobodies will make you crave a somebody. Have a real relationship with someone. Go on vacations together, exchange house keys, cry in their arms after a demoralizing day at work. Think about marrying them and maybe even get engaged. Regardless of the outcome, feel proud of yourself for being able to love someone in a healthy way.

"Think about having children when y ou stop acting like a child. This may not ever happen."

(from "How to be a 20-Something")

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"Adolescents with Lesbian Mothers Describe Their Own Lives, the longest-running study of lesbian famiies, found that kids of lesbian parents are academically successful and happy with their lives. (Here's the full study.)

This comes on the heels of...the tuahor of a controversial study that claimed that children of same-sex parents were worse off than those raised by heterosexual couples," although later it was revealed that research was flawed

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Las Vegas, Day 1

Ed had to go to Las Vegas today for meetings that will go until tomorrow, so because we haven't had any vacation since before we were married (trips to bury one's parent don't count), we decided to stay for a long weekend. Ed took an earlier flight, and I came out after my classes. I arrived a lot earlier than I originally had planned - two of my classes opted for a work day, so I could catch an early-afternoon flight, and between that and catching an earlier shuttle, I got to the hotel by about 3 p.m.

I was only in Vegas once before, four years ago, and it hadn't actually occurred to me at the time to gamble (not that I would have had the money for it anyway, which is probably why I didn't think to partake; besides which, I get really easily overwhelmed by a lot of loud noises and blinking lights; I find it extremely unpleasant), but things weren't too bad today; I stared straight ahead and consciously avoided looking at all the slot machines. Lots of smokers, though, and a lot of people in cowboy hats; apparently there's the Indian National Finals Rodeo is taking place in our hotel this weekend (although I'll note we're only staying here one night; tomorrow we're moving to the Flamingo, where Donny & Marie are performing; I'll also note that Ed had never heard of Donny & Marie or the Osmonds).

So, the smell of smoke and beer permeate the casino, as do a lot of blinking lights and noises which tend to overwhelm me (this is why I never liked amusement parks too much - too much noise), so for the most part I've been hiding in our hotel room. Ed had a work dinner planned for 4 p.m., but seeing as how I'd only eaten three hours previously, I wasn't quite in the mood to feed myself, so I stayed put. This turned out to be a wise move; Ed had a two-hour meeting, which I definitely wouldn't have been welcome to, before they moved on to the buffet at the Stratosphere, which I would have liked to see (and by the time they got there, I would have been hungry), but it was probably better that I stayed behind. I had a fantastic dinner at Steak 'n Shake, and I splurged and had a strawberry milk shake with hot fudge, so it's been a good way to start the weekend.

Ed has more meetings tomorrow, but we have good plans for Saturday, and tomorrow we can relax during the evening and spend the rest fo the weekend enjoying each other.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election-Related Tantrums

Regardless of an election outcome, someone will be unhappy about and with the person who won the vote. There will always be folks who become downright hostile and regress to a level of immaturity that rivals bad-tempered teenage snits - because their guy didn't win. I know that this is just one response of voters on both sides whose response to loss is that extreme.

In my own limited experience, such reactions have only been those on the conservative side. I don't quite know why that is. (Just because I haven't witnessed it elsewhere doesn't mean it hasn't happened, though, of course.) I really don't understand such deeply negative responses. If you're that unahppy that your guy lost, perhaps you shouldn't be living in a country where there are elections. Perhaps you've never encountered disappointment before, although how you get to be old enough to vote without encountering disappointment is also beyond me. If you're that unhappy, instead of complaining about the system, what are you doing to change the system?

I have trouble with the extreme expressions of disappointment, rude and downright unkind remarks that touch on things like our living in a state where freedom of speech will be eliminated, that we should all get out of the country, etc., etc.

This is the fifth presidential election in which I've voted, and "my guy" hasn't always won, but my reaction was more along the lines of hoping that the guy who did win would do a better job than I thought he would. I don't think the "other" guy is stupid, or out to get me, or will take away all my rights. (I may think some of his policies are ridiculous, but that's something else.) I didn't think I need to move to Canada or Mexico or Europe or anywhere else simply because my guy didn't win, or the other guy was reelected. I have yet to enconter a single candidate whose ideologies perfectly reflect my own.
I quite expected much more wailing and gnashing of teeth on Twitter and Facebook than I actually encountered. All of my Catholic friends were silent; I didn't hear a peep of reaction from any of them. I wasn't expecting to hear much of anything from my international friends and family. A handful of friends from New York and Pennsylvania expressed varying degrees of happiness or disappointment that Obama had been reelected - and this was fine. I can handle disappointment.

One friend of an acquaintance wrote that on the mutual acquaintance's wall; I replied that this was, of course, why I'd voted for Obama - I was tired of all that free speech getting in the way. I was almost immediately defriended. A couple weeks ago, an older cousin of my father's posted some nasty comments about Obama as well, and I nipped that in the bud; her comments stopped. (She said she didn't want to hurt my feelings, that she still loved me; I said I wasn't hurt, I loved her too, and I could quite well handle hearing specific complaints; I said I'd be really interested in hearing what she specifically had a problem with, and curious as to how she would resolve the issue, but personal attacks don't resolve anything.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Romney's Interesting Point

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I'm relieved. I was curious - things were neck-in-neck for awhile: Sometimes Obama was ahead; other times Romney was ahead.

I happened across a really interesting video of Romney earlier today, given in 2007 when Romney was being interviewed at a radio station in Des Moines. I've seen or heard a couple speeches and interviews Romney gave, and I had little opinion of his speaking abilities one way or the other.

Yet in this interview, Romney really had some interesting things to say. While the constant interrupting on both sides irritated me, Romney accurately described how I tend to feel of abortion, and how I wish my own church would respond to abortion: "The [LDS] church does not say that a member of our church has to be opposed to allowing choice in society. It says, 'Look, we are vehemently opposed to abortion ourselves, and for ourselves. But we allow other people to make their own choice."

My disagreement kicks in with his statment that he disagrees with that view: "Politically, I looked at it. I said, 'You know what? That's wrong.' And it's not a Mormon thing. It's a secular position to say we should have as a society in the following circumstances. But it's not violating my faith."

For me, like with Romney, it's as much as secular position as it is a religious position: Such strong personal beliefs are religious, but putting them into practice needs to be secular. The best way to reduce the number of abortions is education: The more education people have, and the more access they have to contraceptives (which I am also in disgreement with my own church about), the fewer abortions there will be - if men and women alike are allowed to choose for themselves the best time to have children.

But I'd never heard a politician say anything close to what Romney said before, and I wish I had heard Romney (or Obama, for that matter) say more things like that. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Parish Council

Around the time I joined my church, Fr. C. waylaid me and asked if I might be interested in joining a parish council that he was putting together. He wasn't quite sure of any specifics - how many parishioners would join, or even what we'd do - but it was something he'd been thinking about for awhile, and would I be interested in becoming involved? I was new to the parish (this conversation happened nearly two years ago), so I was amenable. Nothing came of this conversation, though, until a couple of weeks ago, when I was called by another parishioner who asked if I was still interested. She asked for a brief bio, which was then published in the bulletin, along with those of six other parishioners whom Fr. C. had asked to take part. Our first meeting was tonight. One gentleman was out of town, but the rest of us were able to hang out for a couple hours.

Anne, the parish administrator, had done a great job of putting together a slide show that gave a rather extensive background of the parish (which was helpful, since I didn't know that much). At this point, I don't think we have an agenda; we had all been mailed some examples of what other parish councils were about, but for the time being, we're thinking of ways we might improve the parish and the various associated groups. I know I have a few things to say about the women's group, and the music at the Saturday evening Mass, but I'm not sure how these things could be improved - I'm hoping that there will be some brainstorming involved; I'm curious to see what the other folks come up with.

One woman is perhaps within 10 years of my age (probably not that much older), but everyone else is at least, I'd say, 20 years older than I; I'm certainly the youngest one in attendance. Gaining insider knowledge about how my parish works, what the priest thinks of things, and having his ear are all things I'm glad of. Fr. C. is fairly vocal in his opinions, and has an idea of how things should be run - no shrinking violet, that one - but I think wants the perspective of a variety of parishioners who are personable, and who aren't entrenched in clique-ishness (one of the big problems of some of our groups). I think I'll enjoy the experience.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Voting Women Are Dangerous

Voting happens on Tuesday. I voted weeks ago - Utah offers permanent absentee ballots, which I signed up for when I moved to Utah and regsitered to vote (and then I had to re-register for the absentee ballots after we got married, what with the name change fun).

It was interesting to see the actual list of presidential candidates; without the absentee ballot, the first time I would have seen the full list of presidential candidates, let alone my walking into the voting booth on Tuesday would have been the first time I had even seen the other candidates. That, of course, is my fault for not having thought of looking into these things more closely, but with the absentee ballot, I was given the opportunity to research each and every candidate, from the presidential race down to the local elections. In terms of the presidential election, my vote didn't change, but I took a couple hours over the course of a couple days to educate myself.


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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lazy

Today was a wonderfully lazy day, except I decided that I wanted to be awake at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. Well, I didn't, and neither did my brain, but the rest of me overruled. I was not happy, but I went to the gym early (around 8:30 a.m.) and stopped off at the grocery store on the way home (because it's always better to go to the store when you've just worked out).

I generally disapprove of being this productive so early on a Saturday - all this accomplished by 9:45 a.m. - but I recovered by taking a nice nap and making my way through the latest book I've been reading: Ken Follett's Fall of Giants. I enjoy Follett - a friend had recommended The Pillars of the Earth years ago - but his books are all so mammoth (Fall of Giants runs 985 pages) that I can only read him if I'm not buried in work; I had to send back Fall of Giants once already because I was inundated. There's a recently released sequel. Winter of the World, that's patiently waiting for me at the library, and it'll be there until Tuesday, but I'd like to be a bit further along before I check out the sequel.

We had tickets for Quidem, a Cirque de Soleil performance, tonight. It was serendipitous that I happened to see the FaceBook ad telling me that they were performing locally this weekend. I've never seen a Cirque performance before, and I have to admit it was quite spectacular.

We stopped off for dinner at Pho Green Papaya (Thai/Vietnamese fusion) beforehand. It was really quite good; we had some excellent food. Turned out to be a great date night!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Catholic Catechism & Purgatory

St. Joe's doesn't have weekday Masses on Fridays, but today was the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed - the Feast of All Souls - so a Mass was said anyway. Yesterday, being All Saints' Day, was a Day of Obligation, but I was able to go to Mass this morning as well. There were only nine of us there, and with one exception I was the youngest by at least 30 years.

Our priest had said something interesting yesterday during his homily, and mentioned it again during today's Mass, and it got me to thinking about the Catholic cathechism. He said that he didn't believe anyone went to hell; we all go to heaven. He talked about purgatory, and about our understanding of time: One spends a certain amount of time in purgatory, and once one's soul had been purified, one went to God.

I don't quite know how that would work, especially if someone outright rejects the idea of God's existence. I didn't have the chance to talk to Fr. Carley about this, but I'd like to. I wonder if those who do not believe in God (let alone those who are not in a state of grace) go to purgatory and are given the opportunity to get to know and accept Him. I don't know if acceptance is a guaranteed end result, if purgatory allows for a cleansing of one's soul if one wants it, or if purgatory allows for not only the cleansing of believers' souls for for the acceptance for those who do not believe in God. I have a lot of unanswerable questions.

Fr. C. talked about the Baltimore Catechism that had been used when he, born in 1945, was growing up, but that it was no longer used past the late 1960s because errors had been found as our understanding of theology developed and matured. Our idea of how time is measured, theologically speaking, has changed since those days; our "time" is not necessarily the same as God's sense of time. As an example, he spoke about indulgences that lessened a soul's time in purgatory - it involved going into a chapel or church through one door, saying six Our Father's, six Hail Mary's, and six Glory Be's before departing through another door. (If one wanted another indulgence, one need to enter through a third door, depart through a fourth, etc.) This was, as Fr. C. said, clearly ridiculous, but not only does our own theology mature, the Church's does as well.

Ed and I talked a bit about catechism tonight over dinner, and I was reminded that I have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I believe this to be the most recent edition, but I can't be entirely sure; for the moment it's close enough. I also bought the Kindle version of the Compendium of the Cathecism of the Catholic Church (although it's available online, it's easier to read in a different format), written by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who authorized the Impromi Potest for the Cathechism.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Food for Orphans and Fresh Milk

Today is the first day of NaBloPoMo - National Blog Writing Month. It was created as an alternative to NaNoWriMo. I'm disinterested in writing a novel; although I love to read fiction, I'm not interested in writing it. But I do enjoy blogging, and with few exceptions have I had problems coming up with something about which to blog - the point being simply to write. This is my third year participating in NaBloPoMo.
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I recently signed up to sponsor a little girl on ChildFund; her name is Jasmine, she'll be 10 in December, and she lives in Oklahoma. She and her older brother currently live in a small rural area with their parents, who are unemployed; she likes riding her bike and running track. She likes to read (especially the Barbie books) and her favorite subject at school is computer lab. It's such a small amount to sponsor a kid.

Because I agreed to sponsor a child, I've begun getting the occasional gift catalog. It's both interesting and disheartening paging through it; one can do so much with nearly any amount of money, ranging from $25 for things like fruit trees or vegetable seeds or fruit seeds, to buying gardening tools, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, or camels, all the way up to $1,267 for a yoke of oxen and a plow. (Often, one can buy a share of the more expensive things; for example, for about 10% of the amount, in this case $127, one can buy a share of a yoke of oxen and a plow.)

One can send a bicycle for $100 (for girls who travel long distances to school in India or Sri Lanka), clean water (for $50, $100, or $200); a starter farm for $325 (each farm includes a pair of goats, a pair of chickens, seeds, and farm tools); restocking a health station or buying medicine for mothers and children in Liberia; a mattress for a family in Ethiopia or Uganda; a set of winter clothes for a kid in Vietnam; wash kits for preschoolers in Vietnam; a set of four tables and chairs for preschoolers in Sri Lanka; a mama kit, which contains supplies for a pregnant woman to use during and after delivery, and is combined with education for expectant mothers in Uganda - there are really a lot of options.

I think that each month I'm going to find something to donate, however small. This month I chose the following, but I found it hard to choose:
  • In India, 30 orphans and children affected by HIV/AIDS live full-time at the Namma Makkala Dhama orphanage. Food is scarce, and when a child is malnourished furing the first two years of life, the child's physical and mental growth and development can be affected for the rest of the child's life. [$120 will feed 30 orphans in India for a week.]
  • In India, the gift of fresh milk will help the physical, cognitive, and intellectual growth and development of an undernourished child. By adding supplemental nutrition now, the milk you provide will help prevent long-term problems for the children, increasing their ability to develop into healthy, independent adults. [$64 will provide milk for one month for 30 children in India.]
It bothers me, for reasons I can't explain, to see little ones lacking basic necessities, especially for such small amounts of money. I will never be able to give as much as I would like, but we're lucky - we have a little money now - so I can share with people who really need it.