Tuesday, December 10, 2013

F#20: Four Days

In the grand scheme of things, these last ten months have flown by.  And in four days, I will be a Mrs.  My old-married-couple friends tell me nothing much changes, especially if you have been living in sin, as we have.  Still, my signature will have a few extra letters, and I will officially have a step-son.  

There is not a great deal left to do.  Unfortunately, the tasks I do have to complete are unnecessarily last minute.  This, I suppose, is the karma for me not freaking out about most of the wedding planning experience.  The Universe is saying "Look, here are some last-minute guest issues you need to resolve."  Awesome.  Thanks Universe.

I know, in the end, what matters is that The Fiance becomes The Husband.  If people flake about showing up, I guess that means extra food and cupcakes for the rest of us.

I know everyone who plans a wedding jokes about eloping.  If I'd known my grandparents couldn't come, I may have done some sort of destination event and just told people where and when it would be.  Still, as the snow falls outside, I know it will be beautiful on Saturday.  It will be cold, but that's what I get for a December wedding in New England.

Now, who wants to take bets on how far into the reception before we get the baby question?  Double or nothing if you guess the correct relative/friend to ask. ;)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

F#19: Failure

Things took an extra crazy turn Labor Day weekend when my fiance dislocated his ankle and my fifteen minute commute became an hour so I could drive him to work.

As a result of this, I have been thinking about failure.  Little failures, big failures; my failures, others' failures.  As someone with a competitive nature (against myself or others), I hate the idea of not winning.  Coming in even second or third will still irk me, because I could have been better.

But let's start with the failures of others.  Specifically, Congress.  We're in day twelve (or thirteen) of the shut down.  Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have been doing a great job lambasting them all, while NPR is covering it with a bit more neutrality.  Every morning we get into the car and, before we turn on the radio, we ask ourselves "Is the government still shut down?"  The answer has been yes.

Which is stupid.  Look, ObamaCare is a law.  If Republicans want to over turn it, they should put up enough quality candidates next year to replace the Democrats and then have it overturned that way.  But as it stands, the idea of affordable health care for all Americans is a thing that is happening.  So stop dragging your feet and get your acts together.  REAL people are wondering how they are going to pay their bills, while you are using the gym and sauna (because those are apparently "essential" to the government).  This failure to pass a budget, and the looming failure to raise the debt ceiling cannot end well if someone doesn't put on their big boy panties and deal with it.

My own failures are more eclectic.  I am currently failing at housekeeping because I don't have the energy after my two hours in the car, on top of my actual job of teaching.  And today, when I have the house to myself...getting out the vacuum is absolutely the last thing I want to be doing.  Tangentially, I am also failing at cooking anything of quality with regularity.  

At work, I am feeling like a failure as well.  I don't have enough time before or after school to get my act together, and the little time I have during the day is just enough to breathe.  My classes are huge this year, bigger than they've been since I first started, and it's taking a lot of energy to wrangle that many teenagers, many of whom REALLY do not want to be there.  I want to try new things, be creative and amazing, but I am failing to trust my students to be able to take the road less traveled.  (I did try something on Friday, and the success level was...minimal.)

I'm also feeling like a failure as a bride-to-be.  I am obviously SO excited to be getting married, specifically to my fiance as opposed to anyone else.  But I'm not feeling the excitement right now; I'm only looking at the things that still aren't done and wondering how it'll all work out.  We don't have music chosen yet for our first dance; no rings have been purchased because I can't find what I want (a failure on my part to want a lot of bling).  

There's also kitty-mom failure.  Someone is still peeing in the corner, even after we tore up our wood floor in the corner and exposed the concrete.  These are some of the most loved cats on the planet, and they thank me by urinating on my floor.  Awesome.  Thanks guys.  What am I doing wrong?

I'm sure I'm also failing to remember other things I am currently failing at.  

There seems to be some success in the weight loss/healthy life category.  Taking up running this summer has not been an enjoyable experience, but many people who see me are commenting that there is apparently less of me.  I haven't put myself on a scale in a while, but my clothes do feel a little bit different.  And my wedding dress did need to be taken in more than I expected, so that's something.

Friday, August 2, 2013

F#18: Fast vs. Frugal vs. Fresh

Many things are once again conspiring to have me be healthier and lose some weight: wedding in t-minus four months, cholesterol that's just this side of high, and a fun new development--high blood pressure.  (Plus, one of my bridesmaids, a nurse and the mother of a toddler, is kicking some serious physical fitness ass, and I want in on her success.)

So, I joined myfitnesspal.com, I've started a couch-to-5K app on my phone (finished week one, thankyouverymuch), and we are now back to my problem area--food.

This is going to sound like a bunch of excuses, and it probably is, but I really want to vent about the problems I see with suggestions for eating healthy AND cheap:

1. Buy in bulk, cook all of it; food for a week: Okay, yes, a bag of dried beans and a bag of rice are going to be dirt cheap, especially at Target. But now I've got five pounds of beans and five pounds of rice.  And you know what, I'm bored after day two, meal four of this.  And my freezer is tiny, and my condo doesn't really have a place for another freezer, so I can't exactly store it all.

2. Don't buy meat/dairy: Several things wrong with this.  One, I like meat.  Two, I like dairy.  Three, my fiance would only tolerate the all-vegetarian diet for about a month (if that) before begging me for something that once walked the Earth or swam the ocean.  Then we're eating out, which rather defeats the purpose on several levels.

3. Buy veggies at the farmers' market: This can be both cheap, and not.  Obviously, really fresh produce, not the kind you find at Stop & Shop, is going to be more expensive.  However, this is probably the "cleanest" food I can eat.  Flip side, this produce doesn't stay as long because it's so clean, and I don't have any convenient markets in my area that I can visit on a daily basis to resupply with veggies and fruits.

4. Plan meals ahead of time; shop the sales: This is probably the easiest thing to do, in theory.  This goes back to, however, buying ten pounds of chicken breast (or whatever is on sale) and then having to either cook it all and eat that for a week and a half, or try to freeze it (see #1).  

5. Don't eat out; cook at home: Numbers 1-4 all preclude that a person prepares meals in his or her own kitchen.  And, let's be honest, I don't love to cook.  I enjoy it from time to time, but it's not something I look forward to doing after coming home from work.  (I wish I had gotten that passion from my mother; it would make life easier.)  And yes, I could just make everything in the Crock Pot, but with only two people eating, I'm once again back to eating the same thing for a week.  (Sidebar: my Crock Pot is about ten years old and getting a little crotchety.  Fingers crossed that it wows someone shopping off my registry.  Also, blender is pretty much done.  No more smoothies for now.)

So, what's a girl to do?  I don't buy frozen meals (unless you count pizza), but I do buy a lot of frozen veggies, because they are cheap and I don't have to use them right away.  I see recipes that look delicious (Thanks, Pinterest) and I'll try some of them out, but then it's all, "I just spent $X on one meal and still have six other days and twenty other meals to eat."  And because I don't cook often (or rather, I don't cook things that are complicated, often), it usually takes me longer than it's supposed to, and then I get impatient.  (Yes, I know, as with anything, if I did it more, I'd be better at it.)

The forum is now open for comment/suggestion/berating/mocking/etc. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

F#17: Fashion

I am not destined to be a fashion icon.  Most of (read: all) of my clothes are covered in cat hair.  I don't buy things that say "dry clean only".  While I own an iron and ironing board, my fiance uses them much more than I do.  I believe clothes should be easy to wear, easy to care for, and not expensive.

I like pretty things, but I don't always find them comfortable or practical to wear.  My Pintrest "Clothing Dreams" board is filled with ballgowns, dresses, and skirts that I adore.  But then I think to myself "Would you really wear that to work?" and I answer myself "No."  For one, my place of employment is always vaguely dirty; black pants never come home black.  For another, I frequently have to climb over book bags, work boots, and desks; these are not the ideal conditions for Mad Men-esque styles.  I would love to wear cute pumps, but has anyone ever REALLY found heels they could wear all day?  If so, please let me know.

So, where am I going with this?  I cannot find clothes to wear.  Or rather, I can't find the clothes I'm looking for.  Two summers ago, it was cotton sundresses that weren't at c-level (my father's phrase).  Yes, I could find sundresses, but they were rayon/polyester; or if they were cotton, they were far too short for a woman in her thirties to decently wear, regardless of how her legs look.  (Mine are rather nice, but I have my limits.)  I finally found a few items that more or less met my criteria, but I'm still having trouble with "breathing" pretty summer numbers.

A few weeks ago, it was jeans shorts.  Five or so years ago, when Bermuda shorts for women came in to style, I found a pair at Banana Republic that I loved.  Almost to the knee, but fitted, they fit below the belly button but above the underwear.  Of course, I wear them whenever I go out, so they've begun to fray.  They aren't bouncing back quite as tightly in the dryer as they used to.  So when I went shopping with my mother a few weeks ago, I was in search of just one more pair.

Obviously, I tried BR first.  They did have some of the longer shorts I was looking for, but the 8s were too tight around the belly and the 10s were too lose.  I also found them to be too tight around the knee, giving my ample thighs a lovely bulging look.  The next five or six stores we went to lost my business on several fronts: wrong color, wrong length, wrong material.  If I could find jean/denim shorts, they were either colored (red, yellow, green) or came to the wrong spot on my thighs.  Alternately, they came up over the belly button, where I do not like to wear my shorts, or were too tight around "the pooch" and I had a delightful muffin top as a result.

I found a pair that was close-enough at Calvin Klein, but they're still a little too baggy by the end of the day.  I just hope they don't look like Mom jeans.

I don't know if it's my age or my temperament that makes clothing so difficult to find.  The juniors section varies between whorish and ridiculous on a thirty-year-old body; the women's section reminds me of something an elementary school teacher in her seventies would wear and something my mother would pick out for herself.  Not that my mother has poor taste in clothing, but she's a mature woman so she wants different things out of her clothing than I do.  (Incidentally, my mother is really good at picking out clothes for me: some of my most-complimented shirts were birthday or Christmas gifts from here.)  And so I mostly wander clothing stores helplessly, wishing I could find a balance between floozy and fuddy-duddy.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

F#16: Fake Food

In the interest of full disclosure, I should make it quite clear that I am not a "perfect" eater.  I like potato chips and cookies and cakes and can easily eat an entire pizza by myself without so much as a by your leave.

That being said, I am trying to eat "clean" (the new buzzword) or at least clean-er.  I look for products that have short lists of ingredients, and are more or less pronounceable.  This is far more complicated than one might imagine, and yucky things are hidden.

For example, I went to buy Greek yogurt, and had a coupon for Yoplait 100.  Now, I've learned my lesson that things labeled "lite" usually have artificial sweetener in them, so I did check the label, but obviously not closely enough.  When I went to make a smoothie the next morning, I had a little yogurt left on my spoon and I licked it off.  Something tasted...wrong.  I checked the label again and there, buried in the relatively short ingredient list, was Sucralose.  How depressed was I?  Normally, there is some sort of label on "lite" products that states clearly it has artificial sweetner.  But because Sucralose is supposedly made of sugar, I guess they didn't have to.  Guess what I'm not buying again?  Back to the more expensive, but more natural, Chobani.

Another example was when I tried to buy rolls, or English muffins, or whatever.  I gravitated toward the whole wheat and multi-grain products, as I've been told to do.  Little did I realize how many of these also have Sucralose as well.  I finally found a brand (Nature's Own, as well as Arnold) that didn't have it.  Super frustrating.

This is like when I first started trying to cut High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Reading labels, wanting to throw things at the shelves because anything that was reasonably priced for my  tight budget was highly processed, even if I didn't think it was.

So why do it to myself?  Well, I read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and learned a whole lot more about food production than I necessarily wanted to know.  But the gist of it, which makes sense, is that the more processed a food is, the less of it the human body recognizes as food, and all that "extra" has to go somewhere.  Now, in order to keep prices down, additives/preservatives were placed in food, and when people started getting calorie-conscious, sugar was replaced with corn syrup.  But the human body really isn't supposed to process corn that way and, as a result, we are getting fat.  The corn syrup is turned into sugars and then just sort of...sits there.  The body doesn't know what to do, so it becomes fat.  One of the many reasons we have seen expanding waist lines, especially in the USA.

Also, a dear friend of mine had some serious health complications arise in her family, and the doctors were either pessimistic about chances of recovery, or quick to prescribe medication.  This friend of mine chose a different path, and began to eat cleaner, but also  looked into ethnic eating--as in, what did their ancestors eat, and what didn't they eat.  By looking into the food heredity, she was able to change her and her husband's eating and improve their collective health.

As I said earlier, I am not a perfect eater.  I will eat fast food, and I don't think too hard about what goes into the food at restaurants when I eat out.  But I try to manage what comes in to the house, to try to keep down the unnatural items we put into our systems.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

F#15--Federal Government

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that I am registered as an Independent.  I consider myself socially liberal (for the most part) but fiscally conservative (for the most part).  This is why I didn't register with either party when I turned eighteen.  In fact, I voted for Ralph Nader in my first presidential election.  I think I have exclusively voted Democrat since then, but would probably vote for the right Republican if I could find him/her.

That being said, my brain is starting to hurt from all the nonsense going on in Washington D.C.  Besides the fact that the two sides of our government can't get out of each other's (or their own) way to create a real budget*, the White House seems to be imploding.  Under the previous administration, I felt like they hid these gaffes a lot better; it wasn't until the end of Bush II that it became clear-ish what was going on.

I think it all boils down to miscommunication and bureaucracy.  With Benghazi, I can't believe that the President and then-Secretary of State Clinton would willingly have let soldiers and the Ambassador die to...what?  I mean, this isn't the war monger president of before.  Obama doesn't want to drop us into another conflict.  So why?  I can only suppose that the requests for additional security just got lost in the red tape that is the Federal Government.  

This IRS-Tea Party scandal confuses me because I don't know why it's a scandal.  The whole purpose of investigating charitable organizations is to make sure they are actually charitable organizations and not political organizations.  If you put the words "Tea Party" in the name of your charitable organization, that's a red flag.  I have yet to see a person/group come forward with claims of being irrationally targeted that wasn't more or less connected to the Republican party (or their crazy cousin, the Tea Party).  Most of my news comes from NPR and "The Daily Show" so you'd think I'd have heard about it by now.

And then there's the AP thing.  This is the most infuriating, because the one thing that keeps us separate from so many places is that our press can say what they want about who they want, whether we, or the government, likes what the press has to say or not.  If there's a leak in your office, don't go hounding the press.  Figure out what information is getting out and track it back to the people who would have known it.  (In light of this post, I can assume I'll have some of Big Brother's eyes on me too).

*I can't even begin to express my outrage over the gun control legislation that didn't pass earlier this year.  I am not anti-gun; I grew up in a household with firearms.  I was taught to respect the weapons; I was taught how to use them.  Several years ago, I also got my pistol permit.  I don't currently own a weapon; I did not go out to purchase one in the post-Newtown craze.  And I believe that the Second Amendment is there for a reason.  But the part that a lot of right-wing people (some of my family and family-friends included) are forgetting is that there is a phrase about "a well-regulated militia".  Well-regulated, to me, means that people are properly trained, and properly recorded, so we know who has the weapons when we need someone to have them.  This President has never asked to "take our guns" and he's not asking to do that now.  He's just saying that the civilian population doesn't need military-grade weapons, and if you haven't hit what you were aiming at with the first ten rounds, you probably need to rethink the situation.  (Yes, I realize you can reload, but that does take time.  And time, sometimes, is what we need when there's a bad guy with a gun.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


This past week...well, really these past few months...have been filled with all kinds of fear, both professional, personal, and public.  Life continues as normal most of the time, but the fear still lurks while I'm showering, or driving home, or trying to sleep at night.

I was afraid for my students after the Newtown shooting.  High school students can be challenging, and they are sometimes their own worst enemies.  But they are still kids, and they deserve to be safe and protected in school.  They were worried in the days that followed; one student asked me if I would abandon them in the classroom if a shooter came into our building.  Now, I know that I can come across as a bit gruff, but the fact that this girl felt she needed to ask me was sad.

(Shortly after the Newtown incident, there was an incident at my soon-to-be-step-son's elementary school.  Nothing came of it, but it was scary to read about how close it all came.)

The public and the personal fears overlapped last week, co-existing as I heard about the Boston Marathon bombing.  Some of the fiance's and my various close friends live or work in the Boston area, and we had a friend participating in the run.  Thankfully, everyone we knew was safe.  But those waiting moments, checking Facebook and text messages to make sure everyone was okay, were nerve wracking.  

I've also been afraid for a friend who is going through a difficult time and there is absolutely nothing I can do to help.  And another friend can't find someone, which is so scary, and another thing I can't do a thing about.

While all these fears pile up, combine, and fade in and out, I try to live my normal life.  I clean my house, I pet my cats, I watch bad (and good) TV, and I hug my fiance a little tighter at night.  I can't let the fears take over, or I'd just curl up in a ball.  And then I feel guilty (leftover Catholicism?) for taking on fears that are not my own.

No big revelations in this post, but I wanted to talk about these big (and little) events.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

F#13: Fandom

I am a geek at heart.  I love aliens, space ships, wizards, elves, and magic.  When I was younger, this was something I kept sort-of-secret, mostly because teenage girls who like Star Wars do not get a lot of dates.  (I actually didn't get a lot of dates anyway, so maybe I should have embraced this earlier.)

Now, as an adult, I don't care.  I wear my Star Wars and Doctor Who shirts to work; I drink out of my TARDIS coffee mug.  I participate in Renaissance Faires (another post).  Fandoms have brought me a lot of joy, and a lot of people, so I am not ashamed of myself anymore.  At least not for this.

I entered into the Star Wars fandom between seventh and eighth grade.  This was when the SciFi channel first got its footing, and they would air the Original Trilogy (then, of course, just the Star Wars movies).  I was visiting my cousin in Canada, and a friend of hers had taped them all.  I remember the commercial breaks feature Billy Dee Williams and Carrie Fisher.  Of course, the tape cut off about twenty minutes into Return of the Jedi, so when I got back home at the end of the summer, I begged my mom to rent it so I could find out what happened.  My mom would share with me that, as a tyke, I was terrified of the Ewoks, and that I burst into tears when my first grade gym teacher dressed up as Darth Vader for Halloween.  (Oh, if only we'd all known how my love affair with Darth Vader would proceed.)  After that summer, I was reading the books, getting magazines in the mail, and then there was the Special Editions, and then the promise of the Prequels. There was live-action role-playing online; my teenage bedroom was covered with Han, Leia, and Luke.  I strayed away from the books, and now I am waiting with everyone else to see what Disney has in store for us.

High School saw the development of three fandoms: The X-Files, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star of the Guardians.  The first two were shows I would watch with my mother, and the obsession never reached Star Wars level, I did set my schedules by both shows through high school and college.  The last on the list is a series of books, written by Margaret Weis.  A high school friend introduced me to them, and told me if I didn't read them, she would never forgive me.  Another love affair began, and this one ended up with a tattoo when I was twenty-three.  (Last year, I met Weis at a gaming convention in Boston.  I was all tongue-tied and fan-girl the first time I saw her, but managed to collect my thoughts enough to get a picture with her.  The exact words out of my mouth were, I believe, "I have a tattoo of Star of the Guardians on my back.")  The books are no longer available in print, but they do have digital copies available.  Which is a good thing, as my physical copies are pretty beat up.  I let a lot of people borrow those books over the years.

Harry Potter I got into when I was in college, but only after having seen the first two movies.  The first four books were out when I started reading those, but I still remember the anxiety between five and six, and then six and seven. I had not suffered as other fans had suffered, but getting The Deathly Hallows was an emotional event.

As an adult, I've branched out some more.  The same friend who threatened to disown me over the Weis books worked her evil magic again with a still-growing series by George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire.  At least with Star of the Guardians, all four books are out.  Martin is still working on his epic, so I must wait patiently with the rest of the world to see what will happen in Westeros.  HBO gives us Game of Thrones for a few months a year, but I want to know what's NEW, not what has already happened.

My adult-self has also come to embrace Doctor Who.  When the show first started airing in the States, I gave it a go, but wasn't in love with it.  I must not have been in the right head space for it at the time.  Once my fiance and I started dating, and he started watching it, I gave it another go.  This time, I fell in love.  I am half a season behind, as BBC is not a pay-for-stream service, and I am dying to know what happens with Amy and Rory (spoilers!).

There are other series that I enjoy, but not with the same fervor of those listed above.  I was on the Downton Abbey wagon about six months before everyone else in the States; we just finished re-watching (for me, at least) The West Wing, in preparation for season two of The Newsroom this summer.  And, of course, there is the oh-so-trashy True Blood, which is just a train wreck I can't look away from.

All of these things, which made me such an outcast when I was in middle school and high school, have now brought me to some of the best people and experiences I have ever had.  It's still hard to explain some of these fandoms to the people at work, but my students have a surprisingly good grasp on them, which makes my job a little bit more enjoyable.  I now let my geek flag fly whenever I can, and I like to see just who it attracts.

Monday, March 11, 2013

F#12: Finances (The Sequel)

So now that jewelry has been received, it's time to officially begin melding lives, and that includes discussing who makes how much, and what sorts of bills we have that the other person doesn't know about.

I know lots of couples go about this differently: I have some friends who have completely separate checking and savings accounts and one person just writes the other a check when bills come due.  Other couples share everything: checking, savings, and credit cards.  I find this second thing somewhat problematic when it comes to buying each other presents, especially if one person (ex: my sister-in-law, whom I love) is a triple-checker of receipts.  My parents have a combination of the two: most of their money is joint, but they each have "their" credit card for surprises of the Christmas, Birthday, and Anniversary varieties.  

S.O. and I already have partially melded accounts, to avoid the first situation of having to ask for money directly.  But now, with a wedding to save for, and a new life to try to pursue together, for reals, we have to look at our numbers: who owes what to whom.  How much of this is "joint" debt, and how much of it is "solo" debt?  And how quickly can we collectively get out of that debt so we can start using our money for more important/interesting things than car and student loans (you know, FUN stuff)?

My goal as I try to crunch numbers, which makes my head hurt, is to low-ball our income and high-ball (is that even a phrase in this case?) our outcome.  Then, hopefully, we can eat for two weeks until the next paycheck comes in.  And occasionally go have outings with other people and not just stare at the cats (see first Finances post).

(Tangentially--freakin' electric bills!  Does anyone else just ask themselves how it's even possible to spend that much money on something one is not home to use for nine hours at a clip--at the least?)

Also, the numbers never fall quite right.  If one looks at the totally monthly income, everything is fine.  But to look at how the income is split, versus when the bills are due, there is always some sort of discrepancy. (Or maybe that's just us.)

(Tangentially the Second--I don't know why I am the person who is dealing with the bills, either.  Numbers...not so much my forte.  My mother was the bill payer when I was growing up, so I guess I just assumed the role because that was all I knew.)

So, if we can't eat, but we can be debt free, at least I'll look really good in my wedding dress. :)

Monday, March 4, 2013

F#11: Fiance

After almost four and half years of dating, my significant other has become my fiance. The official date was Feb. 24, 2013, but we had to wait a few days to go truly public so S.O. could tell parents and grandparents.

I don't know how I expected I would get engaged.  I dated another person for five years starting in college, and we broke it off because he didn't appear to want to get married.  When the S.O. and I started dating, there were a lot of factors that led to that sort of forward thing to be back-burner material.

I sometimes imagined a big spectacle, in front of total strangers, or family and friends.  But I also am someone who HATES spectacle, especially when I am the focus of it.  (Please, do not have the wait staff come over and sing to me for my birthday.  I will leave the restaurant and wait for you all in the car.)  I had envisioned a huge diamond, flanked by sapphires.  

What I got, of course, was much better.  In keeping with truth, I was having a bit of a "where is my life going?" breakdown on the night in question.  I was crying quite a bit.  The S.O. disappeared for a moment, after he was sure I was at least temporarily done with the sobbing, and reappeared.  After some words of encouragement, he did get down on one knee and gave me the ring I really wanted--my paternal great-grandmother's engagement ring.   I cried again, obviously, and then said yes.  So my engagement happened in our pajamas, in front of our cats, at 10:30 at night.

Given my phobia of spectacle, I did not make a big announcement at work.  I told one colleague immediately, because she was excellent at decoding Facebook statuses.  I waited until the Wednesday after to tell some more colleagues, but have been keeping it on the down low because...well, I get super red in the face and it's not a good look for me.  No one I work with seems to understand why I am not jumping up and down screaming this.  It's not that I'm not happy...I am positively elated that it is MY turn.  I get to wear the dress, plan the wedding, and cry the tears.  By previous generations' standards, I am positively an old maid!

So, the S.O. and I are getting used to rolling the words fiance/fiancee around on our tongues.  We are bracing ourselves for every conversation to begin with "What dates are you looking at?"  We prepare for debates over guest lists and locations.  But then I get to look at my left hand, and see Bomba's ring on my finger (a ring that fits perfectly) and I am so excited that it doesn't even matter.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

F#10: Faith

In honor of, or perhaps inspired by, the retirement of Benedict XVI from the papacy, I thought I would write a little bit about faith.  

I was raised functionally Catholic.  I went to CCD, got confirmed, attended Mass perhaps once a month.  I went to a Catholic high school, more to get away from my small town K-8 education than out of religious fealty.  I also went to a Catholic college, but again that was about the feel of the campus and less about getting closer to God.

It's more complicated than that, of course.  My mother grew up in a dual-faith household, which was almost unheard of post-WWII.  Her parents had to drive all over the state to find a priest who would marry them.  She and her sister were raised Catholic as part of the bargain.  When my mother and father wanted to get married, it was the same thing...with less stress about finding a person to marry them.  My brother and I were raised Catholic to appease the Church and my grandfather.

My mother and I had become disillusioned with the Church as I went through high school and college.  As a young woman, I was having trouble with some of the rules that wouldn't let me do what I wanted to do.  (Like join the Knights of Columbus...I wanted to join the Knights of Columbus.  Ovaries and mammary glands excluded me from this.)  To be fair, I was also very much going through my King Arthur/fantasy fiction reading stage at this point, and the pagan/Wicca ideas rather intrigued me.  

I've never asked my mother why she decided she wanted to "jump ship," as it were.  We had trouble when my brother went to get confirmed, as the new priest of our church would not let my brother's godfather be his confirmation sponsor.  Four years earlier, my godmother was allowed to be mine, so we were a little confused.  I suspect it had something to do with that.

Anyway, when my maternal grandfather died my sophomore year of college, my mother and I decided to take the plunge.  We left the Catholic Church and joined the local Congregational church, following in HER mother's footsteps, and that of my father's family.  

Now, I don't go to church.  When I bought my own place, I didn't relocate to another congregation in the area.  I'm not sure why.  I rather like church services, as long as they're not too long.  Because, let's be honest, pews are not comfortable.  And in really old churches, as the Congregational ones tend to be, they were designed for discomfort, because the Puritans didn't want anyone enjoying themselves.  Or falling asleep.

But this doesn't mean I don't believe.  Some of the more religious Christmas songs make me cry every year, for example.  When I think about the beginning and the end of the world, I feel in my bones that there was Something to get the Big Bang going, and that Something will be there to clean up the mess when it's all done.  The idea of a vengeful, angry God doesn't make any sense to me.  Neither does an overly-involved one, however; The Watchmaker Theory seems to make the most sense, at least to me.

Sometimes I wonder if there's more.  Is it just one Him/Her/It, or did the Greeks, Romans, and Celts have it right?  The world seems to prefer balance, so I would think there would be more than one Something out there to make things run smoothly.  Of course, that flies in the face of a rather substantial book that is supposed to be the basis of my faith.  So I wonder if my belief in the other, the female, is left over from my The Mists of Avalon days, or what.

When I read the newspaper or listen to NPR, I am always amazed, disgusted, and awed by the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church.  That, perhaps more than anything, is what drove me away.  I abhor illogical, unorganized institutions, especially when the fixes are so simple, if the people involved just stop being so stubborn.  But with so many centuries behind them, I guess it's tough to move forward.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

F #9--Finances

Sometimes, being a grown-up sucks.  Especially being a grown-up who decided to buy a house.  Money suddenly gets exponentially tighter, in ways one doesn't imagine it happening.

I'm not going to go into all the gory details about my debt.  Suffice it to say that I've joined those proud Americans who got themselves into a hole and aren't quite sure how to get out of it.

The first place I went, obviously, was the Internet.  Tell me, Dr. Google, what is the best method for paying down one's debt?  Answers are conflicting on this matter.  Some sources suggest tackling the lowest balance first; throw all the extra money at that so it goes away, and then move on.  Other places suggest tackling the highest interest rate first, because that's where a person is really losing the most money.  And then there's a third method, which suggests a bizarre mathematical formula dealing with both balances and interest rates.  This made my head hurt, mostly because numbers are not my strong point. (Obviously, right?  I'm writing a blog post about debt.)

The real problem is that being responsible about one's debt, doing the utmost to pay it off, can mean sacrificing a lot.  And I'm not just talking the canceled gym memberships or buying generic brands.  I've done both of those To really get debt under control, a person has to stop having a social life.  Because driving places, going out with friends, these things all cost money.  I suppose if I ONLY ever drove to and from work, and ate nothing but Raman, I would certainly save money.  But now I'm the crazy cat lady who never leaves her house.  That's not healthy.  On any level.  (Especially not for the blood pressure.  Again, my weird relationship with High Fructose Corn Syrup and Organic food is coming soon to a blog post near you.)

So, when money gets tight, where do YOU pinch pennies?  For those of you who have been in debt and gotten out, how'd that work for you?  If you're not in debt, how do you stay that way?  (I mean, besides "don't spend more than you make.")  How do you realistically keep it all under control?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

F#8-- First Kiss

So, my local NPR station did a one-hour show on first kisses today.  As I am still off from work due to poorly-plowed roads, I got to listen to it live.  It got me thinking about first kisses.  And not just the first time a person gets lip-to-lip, non-familial action.  There are so many other important first kisses too.

My first kiss was when I was...ten, let's say.  I had a boyfriend for several years in middle school, thankyouverymuch.  Anyway, the details are now a bit fuzzy, but I remember being at his house, possibly in his bedroom watching TV.  My mom was downstairs, ready to pick me up.  He turned me around as I was walking out the door and kissed me.  This was an awkward kiss because, as one might imagine, there was a bit of a height difference.  I don't remember being wowed, or disappointed, but I was vaguely glad that bit of nonsense was out of the way.

Before my current significant other, I dated another person for five years.  I cannot tell you what our first kiss was like, which I suppose speaks volumes about our relationship.

My first kiss with my significant other, however, is one for the record books.  Mostly because I ended up with a bloody lip.  See, we met performing at The Connecticut Renaissance Faire, which involves not just acting, but also interactive theater and harassing the patrons who have paid good money to come in. (I'll post about the Faire another day.)  Our first kiss was actually on school day, after my character (the Mayor) had asked some teenage girls what the best way was to attract a man's attention.  This led to a running kiss, complete with knocking teeth...and my split lip.  Occasionally, we still knock teeth because one of us (usually me) is not 100% paying attention.  Mostly, I get The Look and an eye roll and we try again. 

I do not believe bad first kisses doom a relationship.  My best friend's first kiss with her now-husband was, by the estimations of both parties, pretty bad.  He often says that he almost went back and did it again.  But if he had, I wouldn't have had that delightful anecdote for their wedding toast, so I'm glad he didn't.  

A little poll, then, if you are so inclined--tell me about a first kiss.  Either THE first kiss, or maybe just the first kiss with your significant other.  I'm curious about the correlation between quality kisses and long-lasting, functional relationships.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Despite being home all week with LOADS of free time on my hands (Thanks, Charlotte), I was having trouble deciding what to write about.  A lot of the "fs" I had in mind just haven't percolated enough yet for their own post.  Then I looked at the calendar.

My father is turning 61 on Friday.  Obviously, I should talk about fathers.

(Whatever you think about John Mayer, this song rings very true.)

I start out by knowing how incredibly lucky I am to have my father.  A very close childhood friend lost her father when we were juniors in high school.  It was shocking, and terrible, and it was the first (and only) time I have ever seen my father cry.  So please note that anything I say below is also laced with a deep appreciation and love for my dad.

On a scale of one to ten, my relationship with my father falls at a seven or eight.  We have a wonderful tradition of going Christmas shopping for my mother every year, a plan I suspect he devised when I went to college so he had an excuse to spend time with me.  Then, he buy me dinner.  So that is awesome.  On the flip side, our politics have started to differ more and more as I have gotten older and this makes it difficult to talk about world events at dinner sometimes.  Often.  99% of the time.

My father and I are also a lot alike, which is why I think our relationship can sometimes be so strained.  We are both the oldest child, overly headstrong and opinionated. In some ways he is very traditionally male, which obviously irks this modern woman, but I have also seen him don an apron and cook dinner, so it sort of balances out.

I've got some very strange, awesome memories of time with my father, memories that often outweigh the moments that I feel I've let him down with my life choices: 

My first memory is of my dad coming home from overseas where he had been working.  He was coming to get us (my mother, myself, and my brand new baby brother) so we could go live with him.  As we waited in the airport, a man turned the corner and I told my mom that it was dad.  She said no, but three-and-a-half-year-old me was quite insistent.  He'd lost a lot of weight, having to fend for himself, so Mom didn't really recognize him.  Score one for the preschooler!

He once came home after duck hunting, and let his preteen daughter barrage him with questions about the innards of the animal as he dressed and prepped it for a later meal.  He also dragged me out onto the deck one snowy morning, while I was still in my pajamas, because he needed to hang a deer of the back deck.  This was in high school, and I was less amused.

There was the time he accidentally rear-ended a woman at a stoplight, with my brother and myself in the cab of the truck.

Or the time my brother and I were fighting and my middle finger got slammed in the car door.  My father, after making sure I hadn't broken my finger, asked if I had damaged the car in anyway.  (That is always my father's de facto response--is the inanimate object okay?  I have found myself using this same question with children as well.  Thanks, Dad?)

But, I also remember him taking me square dancing with the other Girl Scout dads, even though he absolutely never dances.  (Well, except at his 30th anniversary party, and my brother's wedding.  At the former, my grandmother yelled at him--"Dance with your daughter!"  My hypothetical wedding should be interesting.)

My father really is an amazing person.  He and my mom worked a lot of long hours to put me through a private high school that I desperately wanted to attend.  He came to get me at college when I was super sick, so I could sleep in my own bed and have someone take care of me.  He has rescued me from many homeowner fix-it problems, because while I could figure it out, I would probably do more damage along the way.

In short, fathers can be amazing.  If you have your father around, give him a big ol' hug and kiss on Friday, in honor of my dad's birthday.  If you aren't speaking to your father...are you okay with that?  Is your husband a father?  Give him a hug too.  And if you are one of those people who has lost your father, I am sending you a cyber-hug from mine.  Because he's an awesome guy, and I'll lend him out to anyone who needs a dad.

Friday, February 8, 2013


If you've been paying any sort of attention to the national news, you might have noticed that the Northeast is getting slammed by Blizzard Nemo...or Charlotte.  It depends on what source you're going from.  As a CT resident, we are only on our third "storm" of the year, so we're calling this one Charlotte.  According to one of the local news station's Facebook pages:

Hello everyone, WFSB News Director here...To answer the 'name' question.... WFSB has been naming winter storms for several decades-so far back our station call letters were WTIC! In the 1970's we began naming storms. It's been a tradition since then. Remember Blizzard Larry folks have been talking about all week? We named that. But, there's a method to to the madness... Let me explain: We only name storms capable of 1/4 inch of ice or 6+ inches of snow. Last year, The Weather Channel announced they'd begin naming storms. We had great (heated) internal debate about what that meant for us. Short answer: nothing. In the end with the support of our loyal viewers, we decided that we would not stop what we'd done for so long- its just part of who we are. And, that's how we came to Charlotte. Thanks everyone - stay safe! Best, Dana Neves

Anyway, it's snowing outside.  We are apparently supposed to get a lot of it.  I am hoping we don't lose power, because then it's going to get AWFULLY cozy at my parents' house, where they have a generator and two wood stoves. And possibly two cats, two dogs, and six adults.

I have lived in New England most of my life, so I feel confident in saying that snow is highly over-rated.  It's very pretty right around Christmas, and that's about it.  As a student, of course, snow days were awesome, and you didn't really think about those days at the end of the year, because your parents might let you stay home anyway.  As a teacher, I don't get to stay home.  We've lost six days this year between Snow and Sandy, which means my one February "vacation" day just disappeared.  Any more and I start to lose April.  (Yes, I know teachers have it "made" with our snow days and our summers off. Please, allow your employer to constantly change when your vacation can be, and then tell me you're pleased as punch.)  (Addendum: teaching post for another day.)

But back to the snow.  

We are making the most of this day.  We have slept in, we have finished watching Arrested Development and moved on to season six of The West Wing.  We are debating when to go out to do Round One of the shoveling.  I did get two loads of laundry done; I would like that on the record.  I actually tried to do some serious work, but apparently, all the other teachers in the state had the same idea, and I found myself with no work to review.

To those of you in the area, be safe.  Stay inside.  Find your pets and make sure they stay inside.

To those of you not in the area...we hate you.  Just a little bit.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


No, not the fancy-pants drink you buy at coffee shops.  I am talking about the ballet term, a word that means "to strike" in French, and involves hitting the floor with one's foot.  Intentionally.  

I started taking ballet when I was in second grade.  It was my extra-curricular activity all through elementary, middle, and high school, the way many people played soccer and softball.  It's hard to tell how good I was; for the studio I danced at, I suppose I was in the top tier.  I briefly switched studios my sophomore year, where I fell the back of the class in soft shoes, but got to move up when it came to pointe.  Go figure.  (I had to take six months off after I sprained my ankle walking down a flight of stairs.  The doctor asked me not to dance many more.  Ever.  I went back to my former studio after that, to finish off my high school career.)

After high school, I stopped for many years.  I was a broke college student, and then there weren't really any adult classes in the area.  I wasn't such a beginner that I needed to be taught the positions and how to plie, but I was out of practice in a pretty deep and fundamental way.

Four years ago, I found the studio I am at through the friend-of-a-friend.  Talk about your learning curves.  It quickly became clear that I did not remember nearly as much as I thought I had.  Also, the seventeen-year-old ballet mind could not really get the twenty-seven-year-old's body to cooperate.  Still, I was dancing again, so I made the best of it, cried occasionally when I felt like a failure, but was glad to get out of the house.

Year Two saw me taking the leap I didn't think I ever would again--I put on pointe shoes.  Two years after that, I still can't do anything without holding onto the barre (well, except walking), but I do look damn good up on those shoes.

I am not very good, I have decided.  I can't spot during turns; I really have trouble breathing, smiling, and dancing all at the same time.  Also, I can't get my arms and feet to move simultaneously.  (This has always been a problem for me, but being out of practice, and older, has made the discrepancy more pronounced.)  My instructor takes this all very seriously, and can be more than a little intimidating on a show year.  I respect her as a teacher, though, because I know what she goes through with her classes, and I just hope I only mildly disappoint her on any given Wednesday.

I will continue dancing until there's a real reason that I have to stop.  I'm thinking ACL surgery or really bad arthritis in my ankle, both of which are distinct possibilities, given my joint health.  Tonight I will go and make a fool out of myself trying to do assembles, turns, and bizarre arm movements.  My instructor will look at me and shake her head in disapproval; I will come home and probably have a Charlie Horse in the middle of the night.  And I will do it all again the following week.

I am a pretty, pretty ballerina, damn it.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

F #4--Football

In honor of the Super Bowl (or Superb Owl), I thought I would post about the very bizarre relationship I have with football.  See, I like football.  As a woman, this apparently makes me an anomaly, if American media would have me believe it.  Of course, the American media would have me believe that I'm overweight (see previous post), so we'll take THAT for what it's worth.

Now, the tale is normally that boys bond with their daddies on Sundays by watching football, while Mom and the sisters...I don't know, go to church or grocery shopping or something.  In my house, it was not exactly like that.  In fact, my mother and I were the ones on the couch watching football, while my father was at his club dressing deer.  (Another post, another day.)  But we were not "local sports team" fans.  In fact, we both developed a deep loathing for the New England Patriots after they used CT as a bargaining tool for their new stadium.  (This makes my relationship with my Significant Other interesting, as he is an MA transplant.)

So, we were a house divided, but not a house of rivals.  My mother rooted for the Indianapolis Colts, while my father cheered on the Miami Dolphins.  My baby brother (he's four years younger than me and married...still my baby brother) kind of bounces between the San Francisco 49ers, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  And then I decided to follow the Minnesota Vikings.  My reasons were not particularly grandiose: they wore purple, their mascot was a viking, and they had two players with fun names: Cris Carter and Robert Smith.  You see, this was when The X-Files was still on, and Chris Carter was the creator and main writer for the show.  Robert Smith is also the name of the lead singer of The Cure, one of my mother's favorite bands.  Anyway, the Vikings were having a particularly good year in the 1998-99 season, so it was easy to enjoy the games.

Not so much anymore.  I have suffered through: Randy Moss, Dante Culpepper, the Love Boat scandal, and Brett Favre.  I have watched them lose by over fifty points in the NFC Championship game.  But I also was lucky enough to see them play in Foxboro on Halloween in 2010.  Again, a loss, but seeing a favorite team play is pretty freakin' sweet.

When the game starts today, I won't care whether the 49ers or Ravens win.  The best part about having a sucky team is that, ultimately, the Super Bowl becomes about the game, the commercials, the food, and the company.  I will be yelling at the TV screen with my brother and his lovely new bride, as well as with my Significant Other.

Happy Football, Everyone!

Friday, February 1, 2013


To begin and to clarify--I am not really "fat."  No doctor has ever told me I needed to lose weight.  But, as an American woman, I have a mildly skewed body image.  (One of the alternate titles for this blog was "I'm Not Fat with my Clothes on".)

And I know what I have to do to make myself look closer to the way I want to look--I need to exercise more and eat less.  Like most people, I go through phases where I'm really good, and then other phases where I'll eat a whole bag of Cool Ranch Doritos (not the snack size), followed by some Ben & Jerry's, and then roll myself up the stairs to bed. (Rolling up the stairs counts as exercise, right?)

I'm working against a couple of things I haven't figured out how to get over--
    1. I like to work out in the morning, but I get up at 5:30AM for work.  I am not getting up at 4:30 in the morning to work out.  It is just not happening.
    2. Mostly, I cook for one.  The Significant Other works second shift, and gets fed at work, so I am left to my own devices five out of seven (non-consecutive) days.  Yes, I know I could cook once and eat many times but..well, that's pretty freakin' boring!

In a way to get around this, I scour Pinterest to try and find quick workout routines that I can do while watching Netflix and HuluPlus.  (Remembering to do those routines instead of just sitting on the couch and blogging about them...totally different story).  I do take a ballet class once a week (the subject of an upcoming, schadenfreude kind of post), as well as yoga with my sister-in-law.  I don't like to workout alone, unless I'm on a treadmill, because then I can read a book or watch TV and zone out.  (Logistically, there's not really a place for the treadmill in The Condo of Awesomeness, but the S.O. and I are discussing it).  But, I'm also cheap, and I don't want to spend money on classes either.

And then there's food.  Also wine (also a post for a later date).  But, most days of the week, the food.  I like food...pretty much all food.  I eat my fruits and veggies, but I also really like all things carbohydrate, salty or sweet.  I'm also in this weird place where I am trying to eat more naturally more of the time (again, another post for another time), so I avoid the "diet" foods because...well, they taste gross.  To correct this, I downloaded the MyNetDiary calorie counter app, and I cook off of www.skinnytaste.com when I am going to try to cook.  But it's so much easier to just go to Panera and have them hand me something warm and cheesy.  (Or Taco Bell...or the local Chinese restaurant...)

Which all adds up to the fact that I'm putting on weight again.  I joined Weight Watchers a year and a half ago, and it worked for awhile, but all the counting and tracking...so tedious.  I still haven't found the thing that works for me.

Unless someone wants to remove all the food from my house and just find me at specified times throughout the day, hand me a meal and say, "Here you go.  See you in four hours."  I would totally pay for that service.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I am, by nature, a cat person.  Cats cuddle, cats warm the lap, cats purr...but cats also don't need to go out at 4AM, and can be left alone for a few days as long as the litter box has been cleaned ahead of time, and there's enough water in the dish...or an open toilet.  In that regard, cats can be quite like dogs.

I have been owned by, or lived with others who have been owned by, eleven cats in my thirty-two years on the planet.  They have been all shapes and sizes, all colors and genders.  Except calico...I have never owned a calico.  

When I bought my condo, I brought Cleo, nee Winnie, with me.  Cleo was a tuxedo-looking, Siamese speaking, under-the-covers-cuddle-bug who would come when I whistled.  But only the first five notes of Beethoven's Fifth.  Because...no one really figured out why. 

After a few months in the Condo, we got Aisha Clanclan of the Ctarl-Ctarl Empire.  She is all-black: black fur, black nose, black whiskers, dark eyes.  Aisha came with what most shelter cats come with, a cold, a shabby coat, and a very strong desire to eat ALL THE FOOD!  Little did we know that the residual cold was actually a corneal sequestrum, which is just a fun way of saying "The cat's eyeball might explode."  Good thing she came with insurance.  (Shortly after the surgery, Aisha developed red patches in her fur, and later some white spots.)

Cleo left us after a briefly-diagnosed battle with stomach cancer, but not before peeing in various places around the condo, including but not limited to: the corner of the living room, on top of the kitchen cabinets, and under the vanity sink.  

A few months later, Mr. Darcy entered our world.  He is my first "Garfield" cat: an orange and white tabby, who is growing increasingly more chubby the longer he stays inside.  He was rescued from the streets, and has decided indoor life is much nicer.  

And then...the peeing started again.  We couldn't figure out who it was.  I'd thought I caught one (Aisha) but we weren't really sure.

We have tried: medicine, pheromones, new litter, new litter boxes, floor scrubbing...the smell is still here, and the peeing is still happening.  It's not like the cats ignore the litter boxes.  If that was the issue, I could probably deal with it.  

So, I try to discover what it is I have done to irritate Bast, while I clean up pee at 5:30 almost every morning, someone having pissed in the corner downstairs in the two hours since my boyfriend came to bed.  I will have to replace part of my less-than-two-year-old wood floors, and some of the sheet rock downstairs for good measure.  When I bring Aisha to the vet soon (because she might have a heart murmur...really???), and we start the whole detective process all over again.

I will not say this experience has soured me on cats, but it does certainly try my patience with my felines.  Until it's bedtime, and Mr. Darcy decides to put himself on my pillow and curl up around my head, just to make sure the nightmares don't get in.

Monday, January 28, 2013

F #1--First World Problems

My problems are not big problems.  They are what are popularly known as "First World Problems".  Right now, my biggest problem is that I live in New England, it's cold, and our weather related days off from work are soon going to encroach on my scheduled work vacations.

As I said, First World Problems.

I also have self-inflicted problems: I like Food and Fun (read: wine) a great deal, but I'm not so much into Fitness.  Also, I have Felines, which are both a source of joy and Frustration (oops, a fifth "f"), depending on the day.

So, I have started a blog.  In this blog, I will try to deal, daily, with one of the four F's that are part of my life. This will also, hopefully, get me writing again, which is something I have not done in...far too long.  The notebooks and binders, documents on my computer, look at me longingly, begging for me to come back to them.  And I cannot find it in me to go back to the stories contained therein, for reasons unknown.  So, like any "good" writer, I'm abandoning all those other projects and starting a new one.

Like ya' do.

I hope some of you find these posts educating, edifying, entertaining, or elucidating.