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 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 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.