Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend in Review

Wednesday morning we headed off to Fort Lauderdale for Thanksgiving weekend at my mom and dad's house. Some pics from the weekend:
Deep fried turkey. Yum!
Turkey Surgeon (real surgeon too!)



Dan and his dad.
Dad and his dad.
Me and my little brother!

Me and my grandmother.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Our Interfaith Ketubah

The Ketubah, as I explained previously, is a Jewish prenuptial agreement. You can read the translation of the traditional text here. The traditional Ketubah was not right for us... Dan is Catholic, a religion which expressly prohibits divorce. And having a wall of Hebrew or Aramaic text, which nobody present can really understand, seems odd. But I still wanted a ketubah-like document to include the Jewish tradition in our wedding. I scoured the internet for "unique" or "interfaith" ketubahs. 

I was really hoping for a picture that was either abstract or space-related, but I couldn't find any that fit my other specifications. Though we were not going to do a block of Hebrew text, I wanted a bit of Hebrew that would make it more like a ketubah. This was extremely rare, in my searches, and more rare was that I could actually come up with my own Hebrew verse, which I ended up doing (I didn't find any that offered a Hebrew verse I liked as much).

Our verse is from Ruth (1:16 or 1:17 depending on your bible version):
And Ruth said, "Do not entreat me to leave you, to return from following you, for wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God. (Source)
Ruth is an interesting character. She was not Jewish but married a Jewish man. He died, but she continues to stick by her Jewish mother-in-law (who she is speaking to in the quote), eventually marrying a different Jewish man and becomes the grandmother of King David. Jews believe that the messiah will be a descendant of David, and therefore also of Ruth. Though she speaks these words to her mother-in-law, I think they are very true for our marriage.

Dan and I often discussed that we believe we follow the same God. Different names, different traditions, but ultimately the same G-d. When it says "Your God, my God" it doesn't mean to me that one of us has to give up our beliefs, but that our beliefs are ultimately more the same than different. Our Ketubah also makes a promise: Wherever you go, I will go. It promises we will stick together, us against the world. 

As an interfaith couple, we know it won't be easy. To come together from different faiths and form a unified family will be tough. We both will, as experienced here, encounter people in both our faiths who seek to tear us down or make it more difficult. But we're making a one way trip, we're joining together forever, in spite of the downsides.

After months of searching, I ordered our Ketubah from this website: I contacted Modern Ketubah and the designer/owner contacted me right back. We worked out the custom poetic verse and Hebrew translation by email before I did the online order form. It arrived about three weeks after I placed my order. Let me tell you, it is even more beautiful in person than it looked on the website, and far prettier than it looks in my photo here.

Our ketubah uses the Interfaith 3 text here, in the English drop down menu. It was by far the best interfaith text I came across in my searches, and I didn't need to tweak it at all to say what I wanted to say. My favorite part:
We will create a home built on the foundations of our traditions, and nurtured by the values of our families. We willingly enter into this covenant of companionship and love: from this day forward, we are as one.
Daniel, the guy who runs Modern Ketubah, was awesome. He responded to email super-quick and did an excellent job making our ketubah. The designs he has on his site are pretty neat too... a unique perspective on flowers and nature, to go along with his unique perspective on the ketubah. Dan and I chose the Falling Leaf. I liked it, but sent the link of all of them to Dan without telling him my picks. It was his first choice too. Easy!

In our ceremony, we will do the exchange of rings and vows. Then we will have the ketubah text read out loud. Dan and I will sign it, along with 2 witnesses, as is the Jewish tradition.  I'm just sorry I have to wait 3 months to hang it in the house, I am ready to show it off now!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Sex Talk

[Usually here is where most bloggers would warn their dad not to read the post. But my father knows about my birth control use, he knows I've had sex (and with whom)... my parents raised me not to be afraid to talk about sex with them (or, apparently, with the entire internet). I hope they'd say it worked out well.]

A couple weeks ago you may recall that Dan and I went to a Catholic marriage prep class called "Married in the Catholic Church." Since then I have had this half-written post about why "The Sex Talk" bothered me so much, but I haven't been able to formulate much beyond wanting to shout "Lie! Lie!" That's not very productive, but I couldn't get past it.

Because that IS what bothered me so much. Basically none of what they said was the truth. Or, if that sounds a bit harsh, it was certainly heavily coated in Spin. Let's review:
  1. Birth control has all these negative side effects. It will give you cancer and depression and make you fat and pimpled and is just terrible for your body.
    Lie! Lie! Oh, sorry, there I go again. Ok, yes, birth control has negative side effects for some women. It also has positive side effects for many women. Sometimes you have a mixture of both. I'm pretty lucky in that the pill has always been pretty positive for me. (TMI disclosure: I was on Yasmin and then Yaz, both forms of "the pill," for many years, but am now on Nuva Ring, which is not a daily pill but a monthly vaginal insert.) I actually went on the pill as a freshman in college, years before I became sexually active, because my cycle was so irregular it would sometimes be months between periods and I would have PMS-type mood swings that lasted for weeks beforehand. Birth control gives me short, light, predictable periods, and no crazy mood swings.
    As for the cancer part, hormonal birth control has been shown to increase the risk of certain types of cancer, but it also decreases risk of other types of cancer so that's kinda a tie on the pro/con list.
  2.  Birth control is an abortifacient.
    This one about made my mental lie detector explode. I guess I just run in the best pro-choice circles, because I had never heard that before and it blew my mind that the presenter would say such a ridiculous thing. So I came home and I googled it, and found plenty of pro-life literature on exactly that. Color me shocked, seems a good deal of people actually believe that and have some YouTube videos to "prove" it. As this post discusses, however, it's all a bunch of bullshit. (As a side note, that post promotes the idea that being anti-birth-control is about controlling women to not be slutty. I don't think that this is the Catholic view, for a number of reasons that would make this already long post become absurd. It does seem true of the evangelical Christian standpoint though.)
  3. Even if you are on birth control for a medical reason, go see this Natural Family Planning specialist and she will show you how diet and lifestyle changes can replace all those nasty chemicals you are pumping into your system.*
    Oy vey. We aren't really worried about "nasty chemicals." Because as far as I know, the Catholic church does not oppose any other types of "nasty chemicals," from Advil if you have a headache to antibiotics that might save your life. They don't even seem to be overwhelmingly opposed to childbirth interventions from epidurals to C-sections. Certainly if we are truly concerned about modern medicine being bad for you, we should worry about ALL types of medicine and interventions, not just this one.
  4. Couples who use NFP have a lower rate of divorce that the general population
    While the study did find this, it was certainly not conclusive that NFP is the reason those couples had a lower divorce rate. Correlation does not imply causation! (the battle cry of statistics fans everywhere) The "divorce argument" is a scare tactic of sorts- people our age have watched so many marriages in their parents generation fall apart and are terrified of becoming part of that "50% of all marriages end in divorce" statistic. The threat of divorce is a common theme in the MICC lectures, accompanied often by the vague assertion that doing it the Catholic Church's way will save you from that fate. But the study does not support the attitude that NFP is a magic bullet to a good marriage.
  5. "God" thinks this type of birth control is ok, but none of the others are.
    This might be my greatest disappointment from the sex talk, because I was hoping that finally someone could cohesively explain why it matters to God the method with which you have sex but don't make babies. The "explanation" is that to have a proper sexual union you must be "giving yourself entirely to the other, not withholding your fertility." Except that you still are withholding your fertility, by not having sex when you are fertile. They will say in one sentence that NFP is 98% effective, close to the same effectiveness as hormonal birth control. Then in the very next sentence they'll tell you that you are not "subverting the procreative nature of sex" because you are still open to giving of life (aka to getting pregnant) using NFP. What?! I would buy that God wants you have as many babies as you can (that's the Jewish view) and thus opposes all birth control methods. I still wouldn't do that, but it is a logical argument backed up by both scripture and science. I suppose that, recognizing that most people would not be up for having a dozen children, the Catholic church is finding a middle ground. But it's not a very well supported argument. (I personally believe that God doesn't care if you want to have a ton of children/just a few or how you do that, which is also a logical argument backed up by Jewish theology and science. More on that some other time.)
I knew of NFP, and I was not (and am still not) opposed to it, but I also will not be using it anytime soon. While I continue to support overnight shifts every month or two, I cannot use my body's natural cues to determine my fertility. This is another issue I have with the NFP lecture (and specifically argument #3), which is that there is no answer for people who can't use NFP for this or other reasons. What are their alternatives? Don't have sex with their spouse ever? Have 15 children? No thank you, on both counts. (Possibly they would suggest a third option, which is to get a job that wouldn't interfere so much with either NFP or being a mother. Again, no thank you.)

I voluntarily gave non-anonymous (email) feedback to the organizers, and in reply to an unrelated topic they suggested that attendees should have known that the weekend would represent the Catholic Church's views. I don't disagree. I knew I would have to sit through an NFP lecture and did not expect them to tell me to pop BC like candy and "wrap up those penises, girls" (the terminology used by the campus health services presenter at my college freshman orientation... right before she handed out condoms). But this does not change that their argument is problematic and not entirely truthful. I suppose a good portion of the feedback they received that she considers a problem with presenting the "Catholic way" is more discontent with the arguments not standing up to scientific fact or logic.

 *A large portion of the trouble with NFP is it being billed as an opposition to medicine, when in reality NFP methods are highly scientific. Faith Permeating Life has 2 posts (here and here) on why the approach taken by Catholic NFP promoters is creating enemies rather than helping the cause. Both are excellent. NFP should seek to ally with both OB/GYNs and holistic/Eastern-medicine types. It's kind of the perfect balance of science and "hippie." Instead they distance themselves from both by making it all about faith. Faith only works on the faithful, but if you want to gain a footing sometimes you have to cater to the audience.
Additionally, if you get a variety of non-Catholics practicing, you actually have a fighting chance to prove causation on the divorce-prevention argument (if a causative relationship exists), which in the long run could actually help your argument to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weekend Update & Wedding Invites

What a week! I thought that "fall back" was supposed to make you feel more rested, but somehow I found bedtime sneaking up on me every night and woke up exhausted every day. Also, definitely not loving how it gets dark before I get home from work these days!

By Thursday, I was too exhausted to even make a real dinner. Instead, I made...
One of Dan's childhood favorites- shells and cheese with beef hot dogs. I added some roasted green beans to the side so it would have some nutritious content. Still probably healthier than going to a restaurant. And cheaper.

Friday after work we headed to the grocery for the ingredients for Splattered Apron's Stuffed Salmon, and we happened on the random fall squash. There was all kind of funny-looking squashes, and we picked this guy:
He was quartered, oiled, and tossed in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.

I was surprised that it was kind of bitter and I didn't like it too much. I later searched how to cook it (too late to make a difference) and saw that people recommend butter and brown sugar, which probably would have helped with the bitterness. Maybe next time the baby blue Hubbard comes along!

This weekend we finished stuffing our first batch of wedding invites! (We have a few more that we'll do later, for various reasons.) 114 wedding invites, stuffed and sealed:

 We started last weekend with numbering the reply cards (in case people forget to write their name), stamping the reply card envelopes, and stuffing everything but the reply cards inside:

That was actually pretty easy, only took about an hour. Then this weekend, we labeled the envelopes and made sure to match the reply cards with the labels. About 4 hours went into labeling, ribboning, and stuffing into envelopes:

We made little templates for labeling- measured the envelope and labels, then cut a cardboard box top to center the labels. Dan suggested it, but I was immediately into it, he didn't have to sell me on straight labels. I set him to work hacking up a box while I went to find the tape measure. I realize this is a totally nerdy thing to do, but I love that about us! Bonus, our labels are pretty damn straight and centered.  Here's our template in action:

All done!

We stamped 3 of them (my mom, his mom, and his roommate) and dropped them off at the post office dropbox, to make sure those arrive ok before we stamp and mail the entire bunch. Assuming those arrive in one piece soon, we will stamp the rest next weekend and drop them at the post office in a week. Can't wait for the responses to start rolling in!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Motivation Monday

Oh man, does the end of daylight savings suck or what? Well, sure there's that whole feels-like-I-got-to-sleep-in thing. But now its dark at 6pm.

Today I stopped for groceries after work and by the time I got out of the grocery? Pitch black. Which equals ZERO motivation to work out. So here's what I told myself to convince myself to work out:
  1. You can have one of these cookies!
    This is what happens when you grocery shop hungry!
  2. You can watch Once Upon a Time and Revenge when you're done. (By the way, I am LOVING starting my week with new episodes of those two awesome shows!)
  3. It's only 20 minutes. (This is my best motivator- 20 minutes of working out and then I'm done? I can put dinner on the stove and it'll be ready when I finish. Perfect for a weeknight when I'm already hungry and don't want to do a long workout before dinner.)
  4. You skipped it yesterday because you were gonna do it today. You can't skip it twice.
  5. Don't be lazy. Lazy doesn't give you sexy wedding arms!
    Ok, this lady is kinda scary. But she does have sexy arms. Source.
As you can see, I go through bribing, threatening, and bargaining in order to get myself off the couch. It worked though! I did another round of 30 Day Shred Level 1 (I think that's 6 times... haven't been keeping track). Level 1 leaves me sore already, can't imagine what might be in store for level 2.

Special shout-out to Rachael who recommended these kickass videos. I am loving them!

How do you talk yourself into working out?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wedding Update: 3 Months to Go!

This month I really stocked up on stuff...
Guest book!
Maybe Dan's tie?

Favor jars w/ shaker lids.
Ketubah frame.

Suits for the boys came in, then got sent out.

Wedding Day jewelry.
Invite- sneak peek!

Ribbon. For cake, favors... whatever.
Got my face did!
I got my makeup done at Sephora. It's a $50 minimum purchase (I spent about $100) but that's less than you would spend on a makeup artist for the wedding. The girl was really helpful, she taught me how to apply the gel eyeliner (remember, I'm makeup challenged?), and listened to what I wanted (my freckles to show, whether I liked the colors, etc.). I would highly recommend this sort of thing if you are gonna do your own makeup.
My loot!
Also did out marriage prep class, booked a honeymoon, had a bachelorette party weekend in fabulous Las Vegas with my best girls and.... unexpectedly found a rabbi (more on that another time). My wedding ring came in, but Dan has forbidden me to post a picture. We shopped for wedding band for Dan, but he's still undecided.

This weekend we are doing our tasting with our caterer (yum!) and then it's invitation sweatshop day on Sunday. My hope is to get all the invitations mailed before we leave for Thanksgiving, giving people plenty of time to reply before Christmas makes everything hectic. My wedding dress should be in towards the end of the month, the bridesmaids dresses are trickling in (1 in, 4 to go).

Can't believe there's only 3 months, but I think we are doing alright. Eek!

NYC Marathon and Hurricane Sandy

I have seen a lot in the fitblog-world about this topic. People who signed up for the marathon and now aren't sure if they should go. People who live in NY/NJ area who are incensed that the marathon will go on. I admit I don't know very much about the marathon route or whether those areas are ready for the race. But I do know about hurricanes...

I grew up in South Florida. The first hurricane I remember is Andrew. I was 5. I don't remember much of this, but I do vividly remember me, my sister, my baby brother (he was born only a month before), and my mom huddled together in my parents' king size bed while the storm raged outside. Andrew devastated Miami. There were fish in the streets, I remember seeing that on TV.

Over the years there were more. My freshman year of college, Orlando was hit by 3 in close succession: Charley, Frances, Jeanne. They cancelled rush week and early registration for the fall semester because of the first 2. The last one hit on my 18th birthday, bummer. I remember repeatedly missing my exit on the highway on my way to college because the sign for it had been blown away by a hurricane. Then there was 2005. Most people rightly remember 2005 for Katrina. But I remember Wilma. It came backwards across the state, from the gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic. I remember us huddled again, this time in a hallway. I remember a terrible howling noise and my mom SURE that there was a tornado and we were all going to die. This one knocked out power and water for a couple weeks, we had to get a new roof, and we lost the screen over the patio (actually it clung by one of 4 corners to the house and flapped in the wind for several hours which might have been worse). Still small potatoes, compared to many.

When I moved to Houston, 3 months later Hurricane Ike hit. I will focus my analysis of the situation on Ike because it was my first as an adult and the most recent. Ike devastated Galveston Island and much of a city called Kemah which is on the coast (that's about where I lived when I first moved here). Imagine, if you will, that only a week after Hurricane Ike, there was a marathon scheduled in Houston. By a week after the hurricane, much of the area still didn't have power (the last of the people to get power waited close to a month). Some didn't have running water. Some people still had standing water in their living room. For some the water had receded, and communities were coming together to strip insulation and upholstery and drywall before it started to mold. People were waiting in line for gas, for ice. Some people had gaping holes in their roofs which would later be covered by blue tarps for months, until they could be repaired.

It was not the time for a marathon. It was not time to take police from their jobs of cleanup, first-response, or just being home with their own families and dealing with their own damage in order to direct traffic. It was not time to take resources from the locals for tourists. If there is bottled water a bus full of gas, you need to drive that bus to a community that has no running water and give the water to them. Not for marathon promotion, marathon support.

I understand that the marathon is a great infusion of money to a region that will desperately need those tourism dollars in the coming months of recovery. If the marathon was a month later, I would say by all means, go, enjoy, buy things from local businesses as they try to get back on their feet. Then you would be a help. But a week later, you'll be a hindrance. I grew up in a tourist area that also happened to be hurricane-prone. You do not want to be in a hurricane-impacted area as a local. You definitely do not want to be one as a tourist.

Things to think about before going to a post-hurricane zone:
  • Is there power where you will be staying? If there isn't, don't go. It will suck. I promise.
  • Is there running water where you will be staying?
  • Is there transportation to get you from where you are to where you're going?  In Houston there is no public transit, so it would be a question of is there a rental car and gas? (Gas is a big one. If there was gas in a station but there's no power, you can't get it out. If not, it has to be trucked in, along with every other damn thing.) In New York City, it's a question of subways and trains and taxis (which use gas). Are they running a limited service? Then the locals need that to go about their lives. Are they running at all? Can you even get from your hotel to the start line? To restaurants?
  • Are the restaurants open? A lot of small businesses take months or even years to bounce back (one business affected by Hurricane Ike just opened back up a few months ago. That was close to 4 years they were closed). Restaurants that lost power have to throw out all their food and order more. Many will be closed. Many more will have a limited menu and a skeleton staff.
  • Are there attractions? If you are going to fly to NYC for your fabulous marathon weekend, you might be kinda bummed to find out that there's not a damn thing to do otherwise because most of the places to see are closed. Statue of liberty? Probably not. Empire State Building? Who knows?
  • Can you get your plane ticket refunded/rescheduled? The answer is probably yes, usually airlines suspend rebooking fees during hurricane times. If you can get a refund, I think your choice is easier.
Honestly, I think you shouldn't go to run the marathon. (I think the marathon should have been cancelled, but it's too late for that.) You could go volunteer for the Red Cross. You could defer until next year. You could take the money you might have spent on hotel and food and fun and donate it to the relief efforts.

Let's talk about deferring. You could defer to next year. Then you will be part of a comeback, a rebirth, a city rising from the (in some cases literal) ashes of a terrible hurricane. It will be better then. Better for New York, and better for you.

I know that you trained hard. I know that you don't want to give it up. But I also know what it's like post-hurricane. And I don't think it will be enjoyable.

A Night in MCC

Today, 2 astronauts suited up and went outside the ISS to perform a spacewalk.
 Today, a procedure that I helped write was executed. We deployed a new radiator and maybe changed the face of the ISS forever.
Source. That's the new radiator on the right, in the back, mid-deploy.
Today I worked a long, exausting, 11-hour shift in ISS Mission Control. I sent about a hundred commands. I commanded rotating joints and power converters. I changed software states and hardware states.
Source. That's a few rotary joints!
 I am lucky I have a job that puts food on the table and a roof over my head. As we say on Passover, "dayenu," which is Hebrew for "it would have been enough."

But I'm luckier than that. I control a laboratory flying 17,000 miles per hour, orbiting 250 miles above our heads. Forget the hours. Forget the stress. This is the coolest job in the world.

I am not just lucky. I'm blessed.

For more info on the EVA:
NASA's Briefing
Spaceflight 101 Coverage
(Disclaimer: Some of the images used here are not from today.  Most of those pictures probably won't be available for a couple of days.)