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22 December 2008

Baby Dreams

It's finally happened. I was quite content that it hadn't happened yet, but on Friday night, I had it. A Baby Dream. (Queue screaming sound effects.) Yes, my friends, it can even happen to you. But I don't think it was a traditional Baby Dream because I was rather resentful and bitter.

Picture this ... Sicily ... 1917 ... (Sorry! I had to!! Golden girls homage!)

Anyway, in the BD, I was living alone but next door to my mom. Some friends of ours had had a baby, but, sadly, the mother was no longer in the picture. I'm not sure if she died or left or what, but she was gone. The father was trying to take care of this child, but he was failing miserably. He left it (it was a baby boy ... I think Daniel?) for long periods alone and didn't feed it regularly. (This is actually remarkably similar to a situation that The Boy and I were involved with regarding a dog that we cared for while a friend's husband was in the hospital. Anyway ...)My mom comes to me and tells me that the poor child is suffering and needs a stable home. She says that "since I've got nothing better to do" (!!!!), I should care for the child. This pist me off. Not because I actually had better things to do but because I didn't want to take care of the brat! Of course, Mom guilted me into it, and I took the baby into my home. I bought it all kinds of toys and clothes and diapers (I remember buying A TON of diapers!!! Damn!!!!) and furniture, and it lived with me for a few months. I actually started liking it. I looked forward to rushing home from work and spending time with it (although I don't know what I did with it while I was at work ... ). I even stopped calling it "It." 

Anyway, after a few months, the father's degenerate family comes into the picture and takes the baby back. I got really upset about it. They were really rude and abrupt. It frustrated me. I was sad to see the baby go, but I think I was more sad that I had all this baby crap scattered around my house (that I had spent a lot of money on!) gathering dust. 

So, there you have it. My first, and hopefully only, BD. 

I would really hate to have this thing analyzed. I think it would reveal scary elements of my psyche!!

21 December 2008

Definitions of Beauty

As I sit on my couch, sipping peppermint tea and waiting to go to work, I'm watching U-Carmen. It's a South African version of the opera, Carmen. It's an interesting exploration of what cultures deem as beautiful. Let me explain ...

Traditionally, actresses and singers who portray Carmen look like this:

 or this 

or even this ...

She is always svelt, lean, and stunning. At least according to Western ideals of beauty. We are, after all, the culture who idolizes women the likes of  Pam ...
[pam_anderson.jpg] (who we all know is lusted after because of her impossibly thin waistline and disturbingly large cup size) and Catherine Zeta-Jones . And I actually like the last one!

The Western ideal of beauty is thin and pale (with the occasional dark-haired beauty!), usually with unnaturally mismatched measurements.  In this version of Carmen, the women are rather big boned and VERY proud of their bodies and shape. Here she is ...  She is by no means the traditional Carmen. In fact, all of the women, save but a few, are shaped like her. The great thing is that she is a highly desirable sex pot. Men lust and chase after her, seeking her companionship and attention. It's a great look into what real beauty is. Confidence and vulnerability. Attitude and style. This Carmen has all of those and still shops in the Women's section of the stores, not the 00P section. Very refreshing. And I won't even get into the depiction of South African life. 

15 December 2008

Advent Inspired by Kiki

Kiki recently posted some of her reflections on Advent and Christ which means she beat me to it. I had been meaning to do so since this season marks the one year anniversary into my Catholic journey. I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance because of work and such. I posted a rather long comment on her page and that got me juices flowing. 

Advent is a time of great celebration and rejoicing. For those of the Christian faith, it is a time of hope and renewal. Christ the Savior is being "re"born to prepare a way for us. It is a time for family and joy. Sadly, today's consumer culture has transformed Advent into Retail Madness. Advent has become the Christmas season. Traditionally, the Christmas season actually begins on Christmas Day and ends on the Epiphany (January 6th). This is where the whole idea of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" comes. It happens AFTER Christmas, not before. Because of this great consumer (and, by extension, social) emphasis on the lead-up to Christmas, the real focus of Christmas gets lost and convoluted. 

The thing that I really appreciate about the Catholic church is that we follow the liturgical calendar. Advent in the Church is a time of preparation and great anticipation. The reading and Gospels in the mass discuss directly the coming of Christ and the signs of His future works and trials. We don't read about His life or deeds during this time. We focus on preparing ourselves for God's greatest gift. We don't sing traditional Christmas hymns or carols, and the church has few signals of the winter holiday. A few poinsettias bring color to the altar, but that is it. Next Sunday, the third week of Advent, a few small white-lit Christmas trees and evergreens will appear. At midnight mass on Christmas Eve, we will introduce the caroling and Christmas hymns into the mass. And we will sing those hymns for the next two weeks or so. Because, at that point, the Christmas season has begun. 

Our Christmas season will end in January when we'll have a few short weeks of "ordinary time." Late in February, Ash Wednesday marks that start of Lent. Of course, this is a serious time of reflection, repentance, sacrifice, and penance. This solemn time allows us ample opportunity to reflect on our own lives and examine the debt we owe for the sacrifices made.  The Catholic Church's calendar is set up so that the Easter miracle is never far away. Everything we do is in preparation to honor and revere this holy sacrifice made for us so that we may be forgiven. The year is a near constant cycle of preparation, rejoicing, and reflection, and sacrifice. It ensures that Christ's life and death is always at the forefront of our mass celebration.  Even now, in the throws of the "Christmas season," Christ's sacrifice is the focus of our mass. Each week when I participate in holy communion, I'm reminded that Christ was born to die for my sins. That sacrifice is overwhelming and overpowering. And it's important that we not forget it. No matter what the season. Christmas is joyful and renewing, but it is also the start of the greatest sacrifice ever made. 

While Advent is a temporary season prepping us for Christ's coming, it really is the start of His most holy sacrifice. To only celebrate the wonder and glory of Advent is to lose the real significance of the season. 

But those are just my thoughts. Yours?

11 December 2008

I sing you to me

Jo and I just returned from watching Australia. It was really well done. I can completely see the comparison to Gone With the Wind. Very romantic and "building of a nation-esque." While I appreciate the beauty of Hugh, he doesn't make me swoon as he does some people (Queen of the West Bank!). He did a great job in the film, as did Kidman.

A reoccurring theme in the movie is the importance of our stories because they make us who we are and leave our legacy behind. The film explores the aboriginal value of song and singing our stories rather than just passing them down. Little Nullah tells Lady Ashley twice that he will "sing you to me." As they separated because of societal forces, Nullah reminded Lady Ashley (his "adoptive"mother) that no matter how far apart they are, he will lead her to him through his song. Lady Ashley replied that she "would always hear." It's a very romantic and grand notion. Those we are deeply connected to will always be able to find us because of the song that we share. It made me tear up. 

I give it two thumbs up. Go see it, people!

Mom's cookies!

... came in a big box today!!! Yummy!

Our stockings are hung by the chimney with care

I've decorated the house for Christmas. Actually, I decorated about a week or so ago but have just gotten around to taking and posting pictures. 

Here's my hope chest, covered in my snowman collection.

Here's my Christmas tree, decorated in the usual blue and white WITH PRESENTS BENEATH IT! Mom and Dad's packages got here today!

This is the same tree that we had last year. It is some kind of tropical evergreen that lives in a pot. Her name is Cecilia. 

Cecilia all lit up.

And our stockings!! One for each of us!

It's nothing spectacular, but it makes it seem more like Christmas.

Self-imposed ice cream restriction

Sadly, my love affair with ice cream has come to an end. Well, not so much an end but more like a curtail. Does that make sense? Probably not. Let me explain.

The Boy has been doing some research for his European Union Law course in school. He and I have already started being more cautious and concerned over the food we put in our bodies. Over the past year or so, we've consistently been buying organic produce, organic meats, organic dairy, and organic groceries in general (when possible) because it is better for you. There are far fewer pesticides, the treatment of the animal is far better, and the general health benefits make a strong case for organic foods. The Boy's paper was about the mad-cow disease. His research for that paper and a previous assignment led him to investigating the use of rBGH in cows. If you don't know, rBGH is used to prolong the milk cells in a cow's udder therefore increasing it's productivity. rGBH is a synthetic form of BST, a naturally occurring hormone in cows. However the EU has banned the use of rBGH in dairy because there is a strong correlation between the presence of rBGH and prostate and breast cancers. While the correlation isn't cause and effect, it is strong enough to make one pause. 

As a result of his project, we've investigated our food choices even more closely. We've always known that Ben and Jerry's refuses to knowingly use rBGH enhanced milk and makes their dairy providers vow to not use the hormone. This is a good thing because we LOVE Ben and Jerry's! Sadly, Haagen Daz and Breyers do not make such a promise. This makes a sad Marybeth. I love ice cream!!!!!!!!!!! But I kinda love my boobies more. So I guess it's a trade off.  We've already decided to consume only organic cheeses or cheese made within the EU because it is rBGH free because of their laws.  Man, I love me some ice cream. Oh well. Ben and Jerry's has a bazillion awesome flavors, and there is one right next to my job at AT! Yeah!

Well, on the good side, the decreased ice cream consumption may help to decrease my waistline!

Oh! and this picture just makes me laugh!

09 December 2008

Giving Back

Despite my many complaints, I do live a blessed life. I am healthy (not counting the pre-arthritis and bursitis ... old age isn't an illness, right?), able-bodied, above the poverty line, gainfully employed, and surrounded by people who improve my life simply be being in it. While I moan and cry about not being with my family this holiday, I fully recognize that it is an extremely minor inconvenience in my life, paled in comparison to the many people who suffer greatly this season. I haven't lost my livelihood and savings in the recession, and I still have roof over my head and food in my cupboards. My children aren't starving or going without warm coats, and I not (currently) battling insurance companies for coverage of a major (or minor) illness. I truly am blessed. Sometimes I just need to pull my head out of the sand to realize how lucky I really am.

This Christmas, The Boy and I are only doing Sixty Dollar Stockings. We are going to save our money to go somewhere together at a later date, and we are filling each other's stockings with gifts that total no more than $60. We normally go WAY overboard for each other, and neither one of us can really afford it this year. Plus, there are better things to do with our money. We'll put some things together for B, but we aren't doing anything else for anyone else. My family has been notified of this (I usually buy for my parents and whoever I draw for the swap), and they completely understand.

Instead of spending money on presents and material things, The Boy and I are giving back this year. We are spending Christmas afternoon serving dinner to the homeless and less fortunate. We are also going to be making some donations to Heifer International. If you are unfamiliar with this group, the project focuses on providing people with the tools and materials necessary to create a sustainable food source and income. When I was a kid, our church did Heifer Projects every year. I always thought that they were all overseas. Turns out, Hefier International works globally, within the States and without. Not that it makes a difference, but it was cool to discover. HI has put together a "catalog" of giving that allows one to see the many types of giving available. You can give anything from a waterbuffalo on down to a hive of honeybees. The money donated goes to the entire mission, but it is nice to see how such a small amount of money can help someone to become more self-sufficent and economically stable. And the gifts start as low as $20, so it is something that even us poor grad students can contribute to. The Boy and I are thinking about giving some honeybees, geese, ducks, and chicks. Maybe even a trio of bunnies. It will be nice to give something back to others to remind me of how blessed I truly am.

06 December 2008

Melancholy yet contented

It's Christmas. I miss my family. I miss Mom's cookies. I miss hanging out with my Dad, running errands and just being together. I miss all of my screaming and rambunctious nieces and nephews running around the house like maniacs. I miss my brothers and my grandparents. I miss the snow (I can't believe I just wrote that!) and my parent's Christmas tree. I took B for a long walk today and loaded the iPod up with Christmas music. Bad choice. It made me even more sentimental. But I'll shake it off! I'm tough!

Happily, I have a lot to look forward to this spring to keep my mind off of missing home this season. I've got a kick ass new job that will hopefully be a permanent position. I'm going to be traveling (hopefully!) to Texas in March and Florida in April and hopefully home sometime as well. Plus The Boy and I are saving our Christmas money to go on a trip this year. I'll be working steadily on my prospectus and eventually my diss. Things are looking up. Finally.

You gotta take the good with the bad, right?

02 December 2008

Just call me "Prof"

So, yeah, Elon offered me a full-time teaching position for the spring. It's only a one semester and three course appointment, but they have a really high retention and renewal rate so that is great! I'll be teaching college writing (which I have A LOT of experience with), and the compensation is OUTSTANDING.  Far more than I ever expected. Seriously. It's goodbye to the Athletic Department! I meet with my boss's boss tomorrow to discuss my options (either he guarantees me my boss's full-time-with-benefits-job in writing or I say "adios!"). The Grad School has already told me that I can resign from my assistantship at any point so I'm not contractually bound there. So, tomorrow determines what I say to Elon. Of course, the compensation really does make my decision easy. 

I really am so thankful for this break. It's been a rough few months, and I was starting to get pretty down. Yeah for a reversal of fortune!

Guess who got a job offer today?

It's me! It's me!

The specifics are still out, but I could be a full-time instructor at Elon University in the spring!!!

01 December 2008

A chill is in the air

My apartment tends to remain a bit chilly in this cold weather. Not the whole apartment. Just the living room. The upstairs gets downright hot and the kitchen and bar and dining room all stay warm as well. But the living room stays blanket-worthy. When I'm home, it's no big deal. I turn on the space heater and nudge the thermostat up and hang out. If I have work to do, I simply do it in the office where a t-shirt and shorts is appropriate dress. When I leave, I bump the heat WAY down and this causes B to be a wee-bit unhappy. She's got no body fat to keep herself warm and she refuses to bed down under all of the blankets that I leave her. I normally secure the upstairs so she cannot get up there (because we all know how "investigative" she is). Because of the cold living room, I've started sealing off my bedroom and leaving the office upstairs open for her. I put her bed right next to the heating vent so even when I turn down the heat, she stays toasty. B is a BIG fan of this new arrangement. She prefers the upstairs anyway, so she's pretty happy about this.

I left the house this morning and peddled my ass to school. I left the office open for B, turned down the heat, and headed out. I returned three hours later and opened up the backdoor of the house. Normally, B is waiting for me at the door, eager to go out.  B was no where to be found. I hauled the bike in, took off my helmet and balaclava and gloves and coat. Still no B. I shut the door loudly. Finally I hear B wobble to her feet and clamber down the stairs. She was sleepy and groggy. She had NO IDEA I had gotten home because she was in a complete coma! It was very funny!


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