Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Too Much

In general, this "too much" is a way of life for me and Partner. We joke that we don't know the meaning of the world "moderation." With some things, this creates a very good situation. For example, when we have people over, we like to feed them and drink them until they are satiated. I don't know, maybe you don't think this is a good thing, but we do. But sometimes the too much goodness translates into too much badness. Like when we went to Crate & Barrel the day after Thanksgiving and bought an entertainment armoire, two chairs, one ottoman, a lamp, and a side table. Damn! It looks good-- but damn! Didn't our credit card company just love us? Yet it usually all works out in the end. (Here's one of my favorite life philosophies in action: if you believe you are lucky, you will be lucky. Quite a complicated thought there, you might have to read that theory a few times before it sinks in. Really.)

Notice how "too much" translated to our choice of Private Aggressive Associates for the IUI as the first choice, before El Cheapo Clinco. Too much.

Today's 'too much' in action is a very visible choice, just like the Thanksgiving furniture choices, and it's our packing. I just know that we have packed far too much shit. When I was living in Ireland, and did some traveling around the isle, I was constantly impressed by these European boys carrying a small knapsack, and when I asked how long they'd been on the road, it was usually something crazy, like seven months or twelve years. How did they do that with only a knapsack? My vacation books take up more room than that! Or the guy that I lived with in London,-- when his sister went off to Uni, she took one big duffel bag. That's it. Shit. I wish I could be so Spartan. (Well, no I don't, but for purposes of travel, I do.) See? And it's even too much that I wish myself a personality trait so much in the opposite direction of my true personality.

Still, two rolling bags, a duffel, and two carry-ons for two weeks in Europe? Too much. But absolutely everything I packed is essential, riiiight? Right. Love me or leave me, baby. Love me or leave me.

Neshama Gone Wild!

(Here's the long awaited post about my church drifting. Probably not complete, but it's a small initial attempt to talk about how I am "doing" faith these days.)

Now, this may surprise some of you who know I am not Jewish to hear me talk about my neshama, but it was a topic of conversation at this past Saturday's Seder. I am very much interested in Judaism, and I think I've mentioned how my friend, let's call her Leah, refers to me as Rabbi Katie. And as Rabbi Katie, I very much enjoyed this year's Seder with my friends. I love the Orthodox Seder, and looking at all the commentary about the Haggadah and sharing it. It makes for a long night, but totally worth it. I think it's wonderful to connect with my friends on this spiritual level too. It ties us together. (We even threw around the idea of naming one of our children Neshama!) Now, as you may have noticed awhile back, my Neshama, (non-)Jewish and otherwise, has been troubled about where we worship.

For some time I have been slipping back and forth between the Catholic Church and the Episcopalian Church. (For brevity's sake, we'll use the following reference: RC and EC, respectively.) I have long understood the problems present in the RC, and as a women who espouses feminist principles, I can't say it wasn't troubling. There was a point in my life when I was sure I could have been a priest, but of course, it's not allowed, and this caused considerable, not exactly anger, but pissiness. I don't know for sure, but I think I could be a good priest! I also believe that all churches are mediated by humans, as much as they look to God for guidance, so the problems I was (am) seeing and experiencing in the RC didn't bother me too much. Perhaps, I thought, here's a calling for me in the Church-- to work for some reform. People who know me know that I have a big mouth, and I am not afraid to use it. And even after figuring that Partner was "the one" I didn't think about leaving the RC. I thought, I could be a visible instrument for change! After all, the rituals about the RC and the tradition (that I understand some people detest) greatly appealed to me. We all find our own way to God, and I am lucky that the faith I was born into (as an Irish girl, begad) has worked for me. Positive experiences all around.

Then, relationship with Partner progresses, and I realize, holy shit, we're probably going to raise a family together, and thus the lynch pin gets thrown in. One of the things I think that faith practice can do for children is give them a sense of the omnipresent love and compassion God has for all people. I felt this as a child, but would my children feel it too in a church that denied the very make-up and reality of their own family? Phew. Probably not. This made me very sad, and determined I would find a place for my children. An Episcopalian friend suggested her denomination, and for a long time, I ignored it as a possibility. Then one day, I finally gave in. Instead of heading off for 10:00 Mass, we headed off for the 10:15 service.

I got us there half an hour early. We sat in the car for a long time, and oh-how I cried. I felt like I was denying myself, my identity, my past, my own relationship with God. It took a lot for me to go into that church. But I did it. And then for about the first two months of attending church at this EC, I cried during the service too. It was so familiar. I knew the prayers. People introduced themselves to us and recognized us as a couple. Not that people at our RC didn't; the man I read with once a month understands my relationship with Partner, but it's certainly not as open there as at our EC.

Finally, I made an appointment with big-wig archdiocese priest. He's tight with the Cardinal. I marched into the Office of the Curia and said, "I'm gay, and I'm Catholic, and what do you suggest I do?" Rather than excommunicate me (which is what my mother thought would happen to me), this kind and busy priest talked to me for an hour. He recognized the church position on homosexuality was little schizophrenic. I told him about going to the EC, and he said that was fine. I should think of myself as having dual citizenship. He told me about a lot of people from my parish who did pretty much the same thing I did. He said, as I have written about before, that he would be saddened if the RC lost me.

This talk was wonderful, and since then, everyone in the RC who knows I go to to both churches has been very supportive. I'm not sure, alas, I can say the same in reverse.

I came "out" on the recent EC retreat that I still attend the RC one or two times a month. I got a few funny looks and at least one "Are you kidding me?" in an aghast tone. I don't like the constant RC bashing that goes on almost everywhere, including our new church. As I said on another blog, the RC ain't perfect, but the EC sure as hell isn't either.

But let me tell you, I love seeing a woman on the altar, giving a sermon, saying the Mass (service), and I love that people at our EC were willing to bless our union, and celebrate it, and that they all seem so supportive and openly loving of our family. I love that the tradition I revere in the RC is also present in the EC. I worried about losing some of the traditional social justice presence that is part of the RC, thinking erroneously that the EC didn't have this side. Before joining the EC, I thought it was mostly WASPs who attended church for a social outlet. Boy, was I wrong. Our particular church is very motivated on social justice issues, and the appeal of this cannot be underestimated.

And then there was Ratzinger...

I lost pretty much all hope of raising our children in the RC with his election. But I still don't feel compelled to make the split. I know I'll keep going to the RC at least once a month when I am scheduled to lector there, and truth be told, probably at least one other time a month too. Partner has admitted that she enjoys the RC Mass a little more the EC service; as similar as they are, we both discern a difference. But the more I get to know the EC, the more I find I like it, and the people who attend our church, and I am convinced our children would have a solid Christian foundation growing up there. So what's my problem? Who knows, but this is why I am self-identifying as a Roman-Anglo-Catholic with a strong sense of her neshama.

I'm not giving up that dual citizenship any time soon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Va et Vient

10:00 am, the day before we leave, and Partner is trying on clothes in an attempt to figure out what to pack. I am blogging, but this should not delude you into thinking I am not full of stress about how to pack for this trip. We leave tomorrow night, fly to Paris, then fly to Barcelona, spend a night there, fly to Menorca and stay there for a week. We plan on doing a little SCUBA diving, but mostly we are looking forward to relaxing and hanging out with our friends who we are meeting there. I plan on many wine soaked afternoons and evenings. There is a farmer's market on the Saturday after we get there, and we have a kitchen in our condo, so I'll be heading over there for some local produce and cheese, glorious cheese. I tell you, I am going to eat so much goat cheese that I may sound like this by the time I get home.

It's fairly clear what to pack for this leg of the journey, but the big question is do we pack our fins, masks, snorkels, etc? We don't own regulators or BCs, so that isn't an issue. We're renting all that and our dive suits there-- I think we should just pack our booties, masks, and snorkels, but if we want to snorkel, it's really so much better with fins, but at the same time, so damn cumbersome. If we were only going to be on Menorca, I'd pack it with no second thoughts, but after we leave Menorca, we're off to gay Paris.

C'est vrai-- the city of light. I have pages and pages of suggested things to do from many different quarters: my dissertation advisor, a friend who owns a house an hour outside of Paris, and acquaintance mentioned earlier in this blog. There is no way we can do everything, and although I am well aware of the art and history that will be teeming around us, I am most excited to eat in Paris. I bought Great Eats Paris, and after reading a small section of this book, I have come to the conclusion that I should probably start fasting now in order to create room for all the food I will be stuffing into my gob.

It's a hard trip to pack for-- we'll be gone two weeks, No algebra has ever prepared me to solve the formula of laid back island plus exciting, fashionable city, divided one small small bag. When we were in the UK last year, it was so much easier to pack. Plus, since I have lived in London, I didn't feel any trepidation at all about how people in London look-- but Paris! Mon Dieu-- I have visions of Chanel and les petites chiens and me, clunking along aside them with my sac au dos and comfortable shoes, shoving croissant and pain au chocolate down my throat. It ain't an elegant site, for sure.

Anyhow, I'll probably add an entry or two before I leave, and I'll keep my eye peeled for a bloggable station on our trip to add an update or two, but since we leave tomorrow night, and won't be back for two weeks, I thought I'd add an 'a bientôt' and an appraisal of where I'll be disappearing off to. And we are still open to more suggestions for our travel folder if you know someplace in Paris we just have to see!

Monday, April 25, 2005

One Uterus. Two Uteri.

I just wanted to note that tomorrow we have consult number one at the IVF clinic with a new doctor, the RE, henceforth known as Dr. [edited because Partner just told me this was racist. We'll wait until we meet him and perhaps he'll have another name after that.]. 3:00 pm. [Editing again: Private Aggressive Associates just called and Dr. [don't know a catchy name for him yet] will not be in today, so we've been cancelled. Bad news: We won't be able to see a RE until we come home from our trip, so this probably means no May cycle attempt. Good news: first consult is on the house since they have inconvenienced us.]

It's been a process for us to get this far, but I was thinking, it's probably far easier for Partner and me to "get" a baby than two gay men. Finding anonymous sperm and purchasing it is probably much less complicated than finding a spare uterus. And certainly less anonymous. (This is assuming two gay men might want to go this biological route, and not the adoptive route, which has it's own perils for gay people, especially in Michigan, where there is NO two parent adoption.)

Mm. Suddenly I have great affection for our two uteruses. Uteri? Whatever. I love them. I hope they work.

Just the Facts, Ma'am

I've been grading papers for hours now, and I am finally all done. I have a few facts I think you should know in light of my afternoon with final exams:
  • The Declaration of Independence was written in 1776; not 1668, 1863, or 1964. Additionally, the colonists were voicing opposition to George III, not Camilla Parker Bowles.
  • "The Bed and Breakfast Act" is not a real answer. It's a joke.
  • Gunner Mrydal wrote about the American Creed, not the American Idol or Pie.
  • Yes, there were four students shot at Kent State in 1970. No, this was not propaganda.
  • And finally, the basic belief of the Declaration of Independence is not, contrary to what some might tell you, the right to bear arms. Remember that part about "all men created equal"? Also, it's helpful to not confuse the Declaration and the Constitution.

I am done grading. And I am so much more than happy that I am not teaching this summer. Which is sad really, because I love teaching. (That's not sarcasm, as much as it sounds like it at the end of this post; I really do love to teach.)

There are a mere seventy four hours between me and a plane bound for Paris.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Dr. Dyke Update

Today was Dr. Dyke day.

I took Partner with me since we were hoping that Dr, Dyke was the “one,” and let me tell you, we’re asking her to move in with us next week. Get out the U-Haul. She’s super. Partner left totally high with a great referral to an IVF clinic, and I left with prescriptions for a mammogram, genetic counseling, and a pelvic ultrasound. Who do you think had more fun at this appointment? And Partner gets to go back on Monday for even more merrymaking.

The good news is the prayers seemed to have worked. If all continues on track, then it seems like Partner will indeed be able to start trying in June! There were two clinics that Dr. Dyke suggested, one that would probably be covered by our insurance, el-Cheapo Clinco, and one not covered, aka Private Aggressive Associates. She offered to pressurize some people at El-Cheapo Clinco, since wait lists are traditionally about six months to get in there. I was pleased she said this without our having to ask, and as I was hm-ing and ha-ing about the Private Aggressive Associates, Partner apparently made up her mind that was where we were going. Paying out of pocket. But as she says, this is the most important purchase we're ever going to make in our lifetimes. It's funny to think of that way. She also feels she doesn't have any time to lose since she's 36 and everyone keeps telling her how old she is to start trying now. (How do people do it earlier than this?!? I still feel like we are too young! But good God, my own mother was only twenty-two when she had me!! A babe with a babe in the woods.)

We got in the car and called Private Aggressive Associates right away, and guess what? We have an appointment there this TUESDAY for our first consultation. We made sure they were all okay with lesbians, and they laughed-- "Of course we're okay with lesbians!" Sure they are-- Hetero or homo, we all pay with the same green money.

Dr. Dyke indicated this clinic may push us to do things we don't necessarily need to do since it is an IVF clinic. This is the odd world of lesbians trying to have babies-- we're at the IVF clinic because we need a little extra help getting pregnant, but it might have nothing to do with fertility (we are really hoping). Dr. Dyke told us they'd probably put Partner on Clomid right away and give us a little ovaluation predictor kit. (I am a wee bit apprehensive about the Clomid, so if you have any experience here, please tell me what I am in for.) The other thing about Private Aggressive Associates is they pride themselves on an average success rate of 4 cycles or less. I think this sounds good also. Is it? Good? And since we don't have any ostensible problems with fertility, it bodes well.

Yes, Dr. Dyke wins. Hand down. And even though the forecast is an inch of snow to fall overnight, and it's rainy and disgusting outside now, I feel that warming of baby hope again. After all the rigamarole, we might finally get to grow one of our own. (However now comes the daunting task of ranking our cryobank choices, and this is an interesting bloggable topic of its own.)

Yesterday morning Partner said to me as I was weepy at the sink that perhaps we should both be trying at the same time and whoever gets pregnant first, well, that's that. No way is what I told her, and Dr. Dyke agrees, but she also seems to think I should start trying to get the babies I want to have out of the way sooner rather later, and this relates to the genetic counseling I'll be going in for. If I do indeed have what they are looking for, then there's things they can do, apparently, to help any cancer from forming. I have no clue what this is about, and won't until the genetic counsellor calls me. The family history is strong and young enough that she had worries. My dad's mother died around 45 from ovarian cancer, which makes everyone suspect of the pain I have in my own right ovary lately, and his sister was 39 when diagnosed with breast cancer, and since my own breasts can only be rightly descibed as "bazoums", she thinks it's good to get a baseline right now, even though a mammogram will probably not yield much. As Father Jack would say, "Drink! Feck! Arse! Girls!" Pft. It is what it is, and I can tell you more about this as I know more myself.

Ah well, at the end of the day, I think Dr. Dyke worked out quite well, and it appears that early prayers about Dr. Dyke and June are paying off. We're going to keep our fingers crossed, and probably spend more time than we have at the cyrobank website until we leave for vacation (in five glorious days).

Now, off for a cocktail even though it is only 3:50, but it's Friday, and it's been a long exciting and harrowing day for us, and I think we deserve it. (But I also think you deserve a cocktail for merely waking up too, so take my advice with a grain of salt. On a margarita.)

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Cure for a Fragile Morning?

Bacardi 151
Congratulations! You're 134 proof, with specific scores in beer (80) , wine (83), and liquor (104).
All right. No more messing around. Your knowledge of alcohol is so high that you have drinking and getting plastered down to a science. Sure, you could get wasted drinking beer, but who needs all those trips to the bathroom? You head straight for the bar and pick up that which is most efficient.

Take the test yourself.

Do it here. Tell me if you decide to imbibe and how you scored. I think I did okay, but feel disappointed (in an oddly too-attached to booze kinda way) that I didn't score a little higher in some areas.

Five Things To Avoid in Fragile Mood

  1. Do not wake up from dreamy sleep about having loving, "baby-making: sex with tender good looking young man. Try not to remember that in this dream you were also younger and thinner, and generally more good looking yourself. If you choose to tell your partner about this, ignore the brief look of panic on her face. If you register brief look of panic, make sure you reassure her about the fact that you love her dearly and will not be leaving her for a man any time soon [which really is really true] all the while thinking of that dream still. This will make you feel like shit. So, I would recommend not doing any of it.
  2. Do not think of your dad, whom you love very much, home alone while your mom is in South Carolina. You will tell yourself that it's okay because he just got home from being in SC himself, and he's probably loving working like a madman around the house and at work, but you feel that should call him and ask him if he'd like to go to dinner anyway, but then you feel like, oh shit, what will I talk to him about if I do that? And then you'll burst into tears because you love your dad so much, but haven't known how to really talk to him since you and he stopped flying kites together at seven when you got a new brother (your first sibling) and he started his residency to provide a good income to make a nice childhood for you, but oh how the tears come because, by God, you just wish you could go fly a kite and hold his hand and just talk to him about real stuff, not politics and religion and shit like that. Cry more when you blog about this. This will make you feel like shit, so again, my recommendation is to refrain from said activity.
  3. Whatever you do, do not sit on your back deck in the bright glorious sunshine and discuss the landscaping bid and brick paver patio and trainload of fill it will take to regrade weedy back yard. Don't you dare think about how when the landscapers come to kill the weeds that much of the taller grass at the back of your lot will be killed-- this will force you to think about the deer you see daily back there and you will worry about where they will sleep once your yard is landscaped with the same precision as your anal neighbors, who have already inquired more than once about when you are getting grass (!!) reminding you ever-so subtly that you are indeed the Beverly Hillbillies of your nice upscale place you live you increasingly feel like you cannot afford. You can remind yourself landscaper said weed killer would not poison any deer or rabbits, but you'll remember, of course, you didn't really believe him. At this point it would be helpful to not recall any single part of Watership Down, but still you think how scary the hrududu will be to rabbits. You'll feel like shit on a number levels here, one level of such shit is that you are such a fantastic sap on top of everything else . Again, avoid.
  4. BY NO MEANS should you drink three cups of coffee and eat two pieces of sugar and cinnamon Native American fry bread a student brought to class yesterday. This will only make you a jumpy fragile shitty feeling person who will yell at her cats for merely shedding.
  5. Do not talk to your Partner about how when you start working for her company doing the billing, you will probably not get paid for at least six months. Her explanation of how this is the way it is in entrepreneurial business, especially that of home building, will still sound shitty to you and you will wonder if you can really work for six months without getting paid a dime even if there is a big payoff in the end because you start to think you really are base, like a horse with a carrot dangled in front of it and you are working merely for money and that's pathetic and shit, when did you become so materialistic? The result of thinking like this will make you think you should sell everything and go join the Peace Corps or the Missionaries of Charity and work for the justice you so firmly believe there should be in the world, but what are doing about it in your non-landscaped house in an upscale neighborhood in Ann Arbor obsessing about not being paid for six months? More shit. Either go back to bed and try to start again, or engage in escapism by picking up really depressing book you are currently reading. All of these things, I would firmly recommend you do not do if you are in a fragile mood on a Thursday morning.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Party at Mel's Place

Out and about in the e-world, I have made several comments about being ready for the Mass to return to Latin. It's been a joke, really, and I didn't intend to make any suggestions for the church to follow, yet today Pope Benedict XVI delivered his homily in Latin. I really don't know how common an activity this is at the Vatican, so perhaps I sigh a bit too soon.

I made a comment on Peter's Cross Station about my plan to blog about my relationship with the Catholic Church and my relationship with the Episcopalian Church, and I will do that soon. But let me relate quickly a brief interlude between my mother and me just before the conclave began. I repeated the saying about a fat pope and thin pope, and I how I was praying really hard we'd get a nice big fatso jolly holy-rolly-poley pope this time. And I started to get tears in my eyes, and my mom, welling up in unison, just nodded and said, "Me too." We both knew what was at stake.

My grandmother, with whom I had a wonderful relationship, imparted to me a gift of faith too. My personal belief in God, and how I practice that belief has steered me through some rough patches in my life. That's so cliche, I am almost sorry I typed it, but it's too true to not say. This super Gramma also taught me that the church is not a priest, and I should never forget that. Remember a long time I wrote about Tante Folie? Apparently in her early foray into fundamentalism was prompted by an argument with a man of the cloth, so she left the church. This rather disgusted my Gramma. She more or less told me that I should keep my eye on the prize, and if I didn't like the priest, go to a different Mass.

And it's been good advice. I've had my priest horror stories; what practicing Catholic hasn't? But I've some glory priest stories too. A monk who helped me understand compassion and hospitality. A friar who let me see joy and playfulness, even during Mass. A diocesan priest who heard my concerns about being gay and being Catholic, and told me that if I left the Catholic church, he'd be poorer for it and it would be a loss for the whole church. Wow. Those are quick drafts of good-uns.

So I understand that I need to give this new dude some time. I understand that I need to think about why I go to Mass. For the Pope? Heck no! But I can't deny the influence he's going to have on us on all, and I can't help but thinking that over at Mel Gibson's place, there's a party going on right now.

Next post: my heart torn asunder. (For comic relief, review my first choice pope choice here.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Three Bags Full

But the real question is here, how big is your bag? Or how big do you need it to be? Or what kind of wool is in the big, and do you really need it to be top of the line? In my personal life and the life I have as related to those people around me, I try not to “judge” too harshly. It doesn’t work as often as I would like it too. Now, I am not judging anyone on sexual preferences or predilections, or even their politics (most of the time)—I have discovered I often am a harsh economic judge, and what brought to my attention was an observed comment someone made about one of my own economic choices. It seared me; one, because it was made somewhat publicly, and I didn’t feel it was anyone’s business, and two, well, because! After some ranting with Partner (yes, we both raged a bit about this one), we realized that perhaps we do the same. Here's my three bags:

1. My mother: I have no complaints here, so don’t look for a rant about my mom. She’s totally generous and a gifted artist, and while in high school I went through a phase of calling her “my father’s wife,” I would say that now she is probably (outside of partner) my closest friend. My mom and dad just bought a house in South Carolina, which we all enjoy, and they make open to any of us kids whenever we want. They aren’t stingy or anything with it. It’s a five minute walk from the ocean. And as a northerner who has recently realized she should be living in a hot humid climate, this is great for me. But when we were down there this past summer, she had new curtains made for the master bedroom. I won’t tell you the price, but Partner and I were appalled, sure that it was possible to get curtains for less than what she was paying. But here's the thing: it's not my house, and it's not my money, and it's not my choice. Done.

2. Nameless acquaintance: When we were looking for a place to stay in Paris, this friend gave us some advice about where to stay. She loves Paris, and recommended, as her first choice, a hotel way beyond our means. “It’s very romantic,” she told us. I agree: I looked at the website, and it’s fantastic. But c’mon, I thought to myself, who does she think we are? Mrs. Big Stuffs? Ah, but said acquaintance is wife of successful filmmaker, and of course, it’s just different for them. (To be completely fair here, she did give us the names of places that were in our price range too, and I have to love her for not assuming we were poor as church mice. She probably did not “judge” economics as quickly as I do.)

3. Myself: Here’s what my beef was in relation too—our wedding reception. We dropped a buck or two planning this event. Certainly not as much as some, and certainly not as much as the commenter referred to above quoted, but we spent some money on this event. I have a thing about entertaining: I like people to have a good time. No, no; that's not right either, I love for people to have a good time. I want them to eat well and drink well. And since this was party of parties, I understood paying a bit more for this event than others we have. I wanted my friends and family to have a taste of the happiness I feel with Partner, and for the most part, I think they did. Weddings are, in my opinion, akin to funerals in that no one can ever tell you how much is too much and how much is too little. You spend what you think you need to spend at the time. Now, sure we could have gotten some landscaping done with our budget, or something else nice or necessary, but I don’t regret for a minute any decision I made about that day. Not one thing. I don’t begrudge anyone’s drink, dinner, or dance, and I promise myself I won’t ever go to another wedding and speculate on how much it must have cost them because I've done that too. I won't anymore. Tell the lovely couple congratulations, think how wonderful it is that they wanted to entertain you at such lavish levels, and say goodnight.

There it is, my three bags full. I’m going to try very hard in the next few months to let other people’s financial decision be their own, and I am not going to comment on any of it. I hope. We just don’t know enough about anyone’s motivations to derisively address their choice. The same people we are judging about spending that money, might in fact give even more to charity, or take care of their elderly aunt or mother, or any myraid of things we have no idea about. So if you want to spend $400 on dinner one night, go for it—your choice. I'll ask for all the delicious details of the menu and even salivate. If you want to buy $600 shoes, ultimately it’s your decision, and I promise I won’t say a thing except to tell you how lovely your feet look in their new rides. Practice starts now.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

My Partner and the Bash

Tonight I have a "bash" to attend. I was on the planning the committee for said "do". The party is a fundraiser for an organization that I am on the advisory board for. Two of my very dear friends are honorary co-chairs. I will see friends I see twice a year: once at this event, and the other at writing retreat held up north Michigan. I should be excited. I should be dying to go. Objectively speaking, I probably don't look that bad right now, all dressed up.

But I feel bad. Very full of PMS symptoms. So I feel u-g-l-y, ugly. And today we got a deck. So all I want to do is sit outside, with a martini, the grill, and a good burger and just... ahhhhh... But this party... Blah. And I am supposed to be going without partner.

But just as I was walking out the door, she said, "Hold it, I'm going with you."

Oh. My. God. I love her so much at times like this. Isn't she lovely?
A small edit on Sunday morning: we had a good time, and I was glad I went. But sometimes it's just hard to drag myself to events like that, where I need to dress up and know I'll have to socialize. I call these times my hermit periods. We danced like crazy, and at 4 am I woke up with a giant charley horse. It lasted a long time. I think I kicked one of the cats when I woke up. Does anyone know what to do for instant relief of a charley horse? My calf is still sore this morning.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Single Sex Politics

So, since Leah of "The Law of Ma" and I have been talking about cultural identities, I thought perhaps I'd tell you about this book I just read, and LOVED.

My dear friend, who I have mentioned before, is an Orthodox Jew-- I can't even tell you how much I am looking forward to Passover at her house. We'll be there all night, and I have been studying the Haggadah that she gave me in prep. I want to ask good questions! I have also been practicing my reclining at the table...

Anyhow, she loaned me this book thinking I might enjoy it, and I loved it. I have recommended it to two students thus far, and one of them (God bless her) has already read it! Stephanie Wellen Levine, the author of this book, spends a year in the Lubavitch community in Crown Heights Brooklyn in order to write an ethnography for her PhD project at Harvard. Her particular interest is focused on young Lubavitch girls/women-- from about age 16-22-- and how they negotiate between their Hasidic tradition and mainstream American life. I am already largely sympathetic to Orthodoxy, and of course this is a few steps beyond my friend's Modern Orthodox life. Levine also approaches the community in what I feel is a very non-judgmental sympathetic manner. If someone read this and didn't feel that "pull" or sympathy, the reading experience might not be as rewarding.

Now, while the portraits of the young women themselves are interesting, and could prompt some deep discussion in and of itself, I am more interested in Levine's conclusions. She found that these young women were inordinately confident and self-assured in ways their mainstream American counterparts were not, and she attributes this in part to the separation of sexes that is mandated by their Hasidic tradition. (I'm oversimplifying her conclusion in part here-- it's more complex, but there's the kernel for you.) Levine herself, even after spending a year with this community, has no strong desire to stay, and she certainly doesn't mean to suggest that we all turn to Lubavitch Judaism as a solution, but one suggestion she does make from this experience is that we give young girls (in particular, since that was her focus) more opportunity to participate in single sex forums. This may take the form of single sex schools, or camps, but her reasoning is strong. Part of me agrees with her very logical stance. By the same token, Levine is sure to point out that she is not advocating "repression of sexual feelings... [her] argument is not that teen sexuality in itself is dangerous or immoral, but that the constant onslaught of overt eroticism that overtakes adolescent life can be harrowing."

Um, yeah. Last night driving home my favorite Springsteen song came on the radio. No, I am not talking about "Born to Run," but that's up there. I am talking about "I'm on Fire." I remember loving and being slightly scared of this song in high school. But as it was playing, I was overwhelmed with the memory I had about a high-school that harbored a wish a man was singing this song about me (even as I was slightly scared of the passion expressed in the song). For the most part even though I was boy-crazed in high school (!!), I think I was pretty self-assured. I had (and still have them) a strong group of girlfriends which probably helped me to stay balanced. But I can remember "performing" for boys. Thinking about what I said and how I'd say it, dressed, etc. (Levine has a better story related to this in her book. )

When I went away to college, I ended up living in an all-womans residence. Mostly I stayed there because we were inordinately spoiled. (We had tea on Fridays and sit-down dinners (with waitstaff!) four nights a week. Newspapers were delivered to our door on Sunday mornings. I stayed there my whole time in college. I'd still move back.) But even then in the midst of all that pampering, I couldn't help but notice that my residence felt like a haven in the midst of big-ten craziness. I have always maintained that living in Martha Cook gives residents the best of all worlds: the positives of attending a competitive public school, but with all the perks of attending a small all-women's college. Many women who lived in Martha Cook were graduate students, and quite a few had in fact attended small all-women's liberal arts colleges as undergraduates and they concurred with my conclusion. (Too bad my lesbian nature was latent then, otherwise-- whew-- ) I was on the House Board for MCB and noticed that our communication with each other in this single-sex atmosphere was markedly different than in my classes. Levine notes that she attended a roundtable discussion with Harvard undergrads who lamented the lack of single-sex forums. Probably some of these young woman were acutely aware of the difference.

Levine also cites some of the insights Rosalind Wiseman, the author of Queen Bees and WannaBes, has on this subject:

At some point, a girl who pretend to be not as smart, strong, or capable
around a boy she likes. She may be embarrassed by her behavior but not now
how to stop. Girls understand their social status and identity are tied to
relationships with boys. Even when [a girl] knows better, she may
sacrifice her personal boundaries to please a boy.

Also according to Wiseman one in four girls endures an abusive relationship during high school. Right away I could identify that girl we knew about in high school who was getting knocked around by her boyfriend. It actually started in middle school. I mean, for God's sake, adults do not often even know how to handle this themselves or when it's happening to their friends. We were twelve when it started for this girl. (Give her credit-- she figured it out and broke up with him late freshman year). Levine cites surveys that state 40% of boys condone coerced sex when the guy takes a girl on an expensive date, and 32% of young women think it's okay for a guy to force sex upon his girlfriend if they have been dating for a long enough time! Jesus, Mary and Joseph!!! (If you got to this blog through a search and any of this is happening to you, IT IS NOT OKAY!)

Neither Levine nor I are naïve enough to assume that single sex forums or education could solve all these problems, but it might be part of a solution. Of course, good parenting might help some of this too. I was never told it was right or correct to sublimate myself for a man. I might have been told I was too loud and that wasn't attractive, but no one encouraged me to act stupid to "catch a man." With my own children, if they are girls, I plan on emphasizing independence and strength to them, but I do also hope to find some single-sex activities for them. I wouldn't say no to an all women's college. And like Levine, I know this doesn't exactly work if we're dealing with little baby dykes!

Yet be assured, I also think there are positive things to be gained from interacting with the opposite sex for both sexes. Don't be deluded into thinking you are reading a lesbian separatist account of gender segragation here. I really like men, a lot. I dated and slept with them for years, and wasn't unhappy about it. I have seriously good male friends, but nonetheless feel it's important for young women to have the opportunity to grow up, partially, in a setting where sexual politics does not play a central role in their socialization with peers.

Now, read the book! Tell me what you think!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Bad Bad Follow-Up to Previous Post

I cribbed this from Bad-Catholic.

Popapalooza 2005.

Don't die laughing.

Incidentally, my favorite is Ted Crilly, Craggy Island, Ireland.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Me and the Pope Swing on High

Last night as Partner and I were running errands, I tried to tape Survivor. However, as the sole DST concerned person in our house, I had failed to set the VCR clock forward and alas, no Survivor for us. Worse things have happened. I changed the time of the VCR, and set it to record at 3:30 am: the time the Pope's funeral started in Eastern Standard Time. Our local news station was even scheduling the morning broadcast via the web so the funeral could run uninterrupted. How morbid though, to tape a funeral.

I am a cliche really. I cry at [al]most all funerals and weddings. I can guarantee you I'll shed a tear when I watch the tape of the Pope's funeral and at the wedding tomorrow of Charles and Camilla. (I probably won't watch the latter, and will (even worse) cry at the clips I see on the news.)

I bought one of the Detroit paper's today with the commemorative front section on the Pope. It's filled with anecdotes from people about when they met the Pope, or a Pope encounter. Most of them make me gag with their sentimentality (and this coming from the girl who has cried at beer commercials), so I thought about what my own Pope story was. When he came to Detroit, our parish had a lottery for tickets to see the Pope at the Silverdome (now being torn down). My dad won tickets and I was sure he would take me. In fact, I'm not even sure if I perhaps won the tickets and they were co-opted by my parents. In any case, my dad took my Gramma and I couldn't then and can't now begrudge that decision. I will still jealous. I was dying to see the popemobile. (Now, sing "popemobile" in the Batman song in place of "batman!" Try it, it's more fun than you think: Na-na-na-na-na-na-na, Na-na-na-na-na-na-nah: Popemobile!") This was first time I had dill pickle soup-- my mother made it in commenoration of the Polish Pope's pop-in. (I also can't help doing the alliteration thing with the word Pope. Why is that so much fun also?)

Yet far and away my most vivid memory of this pope happened in 1981. My particular grade school, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, had very limited playground equipment during my tenure there. And yes, that is the name of the school: I couldn't make it up if I tried. We had a few cement sewer pipes, a funnel ball thing (why is this fun?), and a metal jungle gym that a school could never have in this day and age because of the liability that would be associated with it. There was a large grassy field and an asphalt area where some kids played kickball, a game I hated then and still hate to this day. In third grade, we got swings. Swings, glorious swings! Every day after we ate lunch (in our classrooms-- there was no lunch room) we'd line up at the door for recess. Of course we had to walk to the school doors. Such speed walking you never did see, but once out the door it was a mighty foot race. Chariots of Fire, what? I relished in the dash to the swings-- there were only six, and as such they were in high demand. If you got a swing for recess, you didn't give it up.

One day while outside, we were all summoned indoors and told that the president had been shot. Solemnly we were led to the church where we spent the rest of the afternoon praying the rosary. Flash forward a few months later-- it's recess, and I have a swing. I've beat out 8th graders. I ain't giving this swing up. It's spring, and I remembered to put on shorts under my uniform skirt, so I could swing with as much abandon as I please and not worry a lick. An 8th grader appears at the back door of the school and rings a handbell. The news trickles back to the swing area: The Pope has been shot. We must go inside this minute. Oh, so skeptical and jaded I was, only in 3rd grade, that I thought this was an elaborate rouse to get my swing. I stayed on, even as the playground emptied. (As I tell this story, I realize what a different time period we were in: I cannot imagine an 8th grader today running for a swing at recess.) The rollicking I got as the school was filing over to the church and yet I still swung on-- it doesn't bear repeating.

How is this symbolic of my relationship with the Roman Catholic church today? With the Pope? I have found that sometimes I need to keep swinging, through the ups and downs of the Church. Ignore the nuns yelling at me and keep reaching up with my feet pointed, face straight up to the bluest blue of a cloudless May sky.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

You Makin' Me Crazy

Blogger-directed rant. Rant rant rant rant. As if it isn't hard enough to post some days and you eat very clever blog entries even though you hardly need anything more to eat, but now you have stopped emailing me comments when people make them. I love my comments. I love when [Maybe Expectant] pops into my in-bin. It makes me happy and gleeful. Why have you taken this joy away from me? I want to email Robin back and ask for more details on charming small hotels in Paris, but you never sent me the email to begin with? Stupid blogger. Bad blogger.

Of course, perhaps I am casting aspersions on Blogger when it's really my mail server...

Edited early Wednesday morning: As if Blogger could hear me, all comments today came into my mailbox. See how the squeaky wheel gets the grease?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Lesbian Impotence

I am ovulating. It's day fourteen. I have the good mucous. Middleschmertz? Oh, yeah. All of these things are very good signs that I am in ripe shape for making a baby. Good news, but for two things: 1. WE HAVE NO SPERM. Why does this make me think of singing, "Yes, we have no bananas today"? Seems entirely appropriate to me. There is no ready made sperm dispenser chez WannaBes. A serious disadvantage in a world full o'perks. And 2. I am not even the one getting pregnant. I will (hopefully) (eventually), but because of various logical and well worked out factors, Patner gets first crack at the sperm (when we finally find it).

This creates an odd type of world for me. We don't have a relationship where just one of us is planning on being the birthing parent. We are both very much looking forward to pregnancy. Yet all of this fertility tracking, finding the perfect sperm, making doctors appointments-- I feel ready. But it's not me that's getting pregnant. And I don't want to say I am jealous of Partner-- I am actually really excited for Partner and for me and for us as a couple. So it's not jealousy. It's just an intense feeling-- of expectation. And waiting. And readiness.

I can't believe I ever worried about an unwanted pregnancy. It all seems so fricking elusive now.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Interview Questions (for Firefly)

  1. What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you while being a nanny?
  2. How did you and Jason decide to get married? Did he ask you in some grand romantic way? Or was it just an agreement that happened?
  3. How did you get started quilting?
  4. What’s your biggest unexpected pleasure about living in the US?
  5. What is your favorite household chore and why?

To reiterate Suzanne’s rules, answer the questions on your own blog, and let me know when they are up. Also offer to interview someone else on your blog. Have fun!


1. Who are you, United States government person, that visited my blog this morning? Did you see my post at witchtrivets place about taxes? I swear to you, I am all paid up now and I am a fine citizen that encourages people peacefully to exercise their civic duty. God, am I paranoid.

2. Why is it so damn hard to save money? Partner and I opened IRAs last night. I just kept thinking about all the things I could do with that money I was handing over. The garden plants, the clothes, the books, the backyard dinner parties... the sperm.

3. Where should we stay in Paris? I have no ideas.