Friday, June 28, 2013

Tri-ing Something New

Wasn't this an exercise blog once? Yes, yes it was. And then we ran a half marathon. And then we took a very long hiatus from any disciplined running. I mean we were planning a wedding, so that took up a lot of time. But that was 4 months ago. And that hiatus is still going. I had just started to go running regularly again, and then I got smacked in the face by summer. Now it's HOT. Last summer we were training for the half, so we got up early (really, really early) to get our runs in before dawn. (It was still really hot and humid... and miserable.)

Well, as much as I'd like to be in the same shape as last September, I don't want that so much that I'm willing to wake up before dawn for runs again. There needs to be another way. So after some research, I found a gym in my neighborhood that has not just the regular cardio equipment and weights floor (which we can get for free at JSC) but also an indoor running track (because the treadmill kills my soul) and... pools!

Nothing sounds better on a hot day than swimming! I've actually been really envious reading all of Caitlin's swimming adventures, so I was hoping to find a lap pool of my own.

I'm on the evening shift this week, so I took the advantage of freedom during the day to go sign Dan and I up for the gym and go a couple times. I have started roughly following the Beginner Sprint Tri plan here.

Day 1 (Tuesday): 15 minute run (not sure the distance because 1. I don't know how long it is and 2. I lost count of the number of laps), did some situps, then headed down to the weight room for some arms machines.

Day 2 (Thursday):  Florida kids are born with pool water in their blood basically, and I was on a short lived swim team in 8th grade. Even my poor public high school had a pool, and we spent an entire quarter in PE on swimming. And I went to the lap pool in college a handful of times too. But this was my first swim for exercise in about 7 years. And it was ROUGH. I would finish each lap totally out of breath. So there's room for improvement, obviously.

As I said, I'm roughly following a triathlon plan, because I do better with a training plan than just winging it. But that hasn't stopped me from eying the race schedule. If I were to do one, it would be this one: 300 yard open water swim, 11 mile bike, and 3 mile run. Honestly all 3 of these sports would require massive improvement in the next month for me to even sign up for the tri. Then there's the matter of my sad, old, heavy hybrid of a bike.  And the race is two weeks short of the actual end of my training plan, which doesn't bode well.
If I did do it, my only hope would be to live. But I'm a little suspect that I wouldn't drown in the middle of the lake right now. But for now... no tri, just training. Famous last words.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

We the People

Oh you guys, I just can't.

I was all ready to post a real post today but... my goodness. Wendy Davis! SB5 goes down! Texas GOP thinks the rules don't apply to them! SCOTUS! DOMA! And this:



I will be honest, I'm a conservative. Fiscal conservative. Small government conservative. Maybe even a Republican.  But the Republican party of old Christian men who want to legislate their religious views into civil law do not speak for me. They do not, as they claim, have a monopoly on what is "right." These laws that invade our bodies and our bedrooms are unacceptable.

I want to look back on today and see this as the day that the party of anti-woman, anti-love, and pro-bigotry imploded, and risen from the ashes was a Republican party that I would actually vote for. That sound you hear, it's the tides turning.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Is the Bar Mitzvah Model Broken?

A couple weeks ago, this video popped up on my Reader:


It's a chat between Jewish women on what is wrong with the Bar Mitzvah. This is actually something I think a lot about: because I'm in an interfaith marriage and because of my time spent in the Orthodox community.

For those that aren't Jewish (or didn't have many Jewish friends in middle school), the bar mitzvah (bat mitzvah for girls) is a Jewish coming of age ceremony celebrated at 13 for boys and 12-13 for girls. Following the Bar Mitzvah, you are a full Jewish adult and all adult commandments apply.
The (Conservative and Reform Jewish) "Bar Mizvah Model"follows, with my own commentary on some of the problems:
  • Kid spends 4-5 months taking Bar Mitzvah classes- learning the prayers and the specific Torah portion  they will perform in front of the congregation on the big day. Then you can promptly forget it all. The synagogue often has requirements for a number of services to attend the year prior. I think I was exempt from these because I went to a Jewish day school and actually led services there weekly, but I remember my brother having to attend services before his.
  • Kid usually does some kind of mitzvah project, which is talked about at length. The mitzvah project is any kind of community service project, some examples are given in the video. In recollecting my own mitzvah project, I realize his is really a burden on the parents, not the child- whatever you do, they have to facilitate, finance, and arrange. As a 12 year old, you don't really have the means or transportation to do much of anything on your own, even if (big IF) you come up with it on your own. I don't think it really sticks in any meaningful way.
  • Day of Bar Mitzvah, the kid leads some portion of the service, perform their Torah portion, maybe give a speech and then are pronounced an adult.
  • Then there's usually a party. When I grew up it was a big wedding-like affair. DJ, catering, dancing, etc. As a result of our economic times, this is already changing: often now there will be a catered lunch post services (at the synagogue, and no music/dancing) and maybe a fun party for just kids that doesn't resemble a wedding so much. 
 For something that is supposed to mark an important entrance into full religious responsibility as a Jewish adult, it is lately reduced to little more than a bunch of stuff you have to do, followed by a big party. And in that manner it is pretty broken. (Also, is a bit like weddings in that respect. We're just very broken these days.)

In my time at the Orthodox synagogue, I have seen a bit how they do Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and it's a bit different for girls and boys.
Four years ago I was invited to my first Orthodox Bat Mitzvah. It was an informal dinner party on a Sunday evening, for only women (although the Rabbi, the girl's father, did make an appearance). There was no services, but she did give a lovely speech about the importance of women in her history and the women there that day in shaping her life and community. Of course, her entree into Jewish adulthood was the result of 12 years as the rabbi's daughter- weekly shabbat dinners, weekly services- which would continue for the rest of her life.
Since, I have also attended some of an Orthodox Bar Mitzvah. For the boys, they lead the entire Saturday service start-to-finish, plus a Torah portion. There is some boys only event afterwards, so I'm not sure what that's about, but it's probably a similar simple dinner party. But again, as part of an orthodox lifestyle its not the end, it's just a step along the way.

Then I think of my own children, and what their Bar/Bat Mitzvah should be. By then they'll have spent 12 years being raised Jewish but with half of their relatives being Catholic. And they will be reaching their age of religious majority, taking responsibility for their own spiritual life. Will they leave Judaism because Christianity- or non-belief- are easier? How does the Bar Mitzvah model encourage them not to do that? In short, it doesn't.
The bar mitzvah is built up- months of learning, months of mandated synagogue attendance, a mitzvah project. And then it's over. And then... you go back to your life? Jewish adulthood should not be a sprint to this arbitrary day, and then nothing.
One thing my synagogue did right? Once you were Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you were on the roster for high holiday torah readings. Over the many Torah services on those 3 days there were about 20 Torah portions, 20 readers needed. It was optional, although encouraged, to volunteer for this honor... and I opted in. For the 4 years after my Bat Mitzvah until I left for college, I read the same portion (#4), for those keeping score at home) at Yom Kippur services every year. It was nerve-wracking, as Yom Kippur morning service draws the biggest crowd of the year, but I was also proud to serve my part as a Jewish adult in the community. And the Bar Mitzvah model needs more of this. More call-backs, year after year or week after week, reasons to keep you coming back. Perpetual mitzvah projects, ones which are integrated into the Jewish community rather than spending a day at the soup kitchen.

Instead of seeing the Bat Mitzvah as the end of a journey, as the end of a list of requirements to check off, as an excuse to throw a big completion party... it needs to be seen as a beginning. Put the mitzvah project after the Bar Mitzvah, not your last act as a child but your first act as an adult. Continue to expect synagogue attendance, services participation, and Jewish learning AFTER the big day. And maybe, the big day needs to be a little smaller.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Spartans Take On Austin

Last weekend, Dan and I headed back to Austin with some work friends to party it up. The Spartan Operators (and Operator alumni like me!) are a close-knit group of 20-somethings and we enjoy hanging out. Usually our revelry is confined to biweekly happy hours, but one of our team hatched an idea to do a bigger trip. As usual, I was mostly there for the food, and we had some really good stuff!

Friday: Dan and I left around noon. We stopped for sandwich materials, ice, and beer before hitting the road. (Remember, I never go anywhere without food. Just in case...)

My coworker's husband works for Hilton and got us a sweet deal at the Hilton Garden Inn on 6th Street (the main party street in Austin). It's a very fancy/big HGI. Here's the view from the bar/restaurant on the 18th floor:
The dome just right of the center is the state capitol.
 Our peeps began trickling in as they finished work and drove the 3 hours to Austin. It started with just me and one other guy at the bar, but soon enough we had a whole team.
 When the last of our team of 18 arrived, we walked over to Moonshine's. There was, in fact, moonshine (well sort of, flavored 195 proof grain alcohol made onsite). And deliciousness...

 


Ruby Slipper: vodka, grapefruit juice, and grenadine. Yum!
 

Chicken and waffles!
 After Moonshine's we dressed for the evening and hit the bars. I wore a dress and didn't carry a purse so there's no pictures. Probably just as well. When we got back to the hotel, Dan and I devoured the one chicken finger and 1/4 waffle leftover from dinner. It was delicious as drunk food too!

The next day when all the party animals finally got up, we headed to an hour south of Austin to the city of New Braunfels to tube the Guadalupe river. Again no pictures, because my camera isn't waterproof. But I snagged one before we got in:
 It was pretty fun. You can bring drinks (no glass) on the river, so we just floated and chatted and drank beer and enjoyed ourselves.
After the river, we headed to The Salt Lick BBQ. Everyone ordered the all you can eat option, so they brought us a giant plate of meat. And then another. And then another. Delicious but we were SO stuffed!
 

 We headed back to shower off the river water, planning to head back out... but ended up passing out at 10pm. Party animals we are not!
 Before leaving town, we stopped at Flip Happy Crepes, which is basically a trailer in a gravel parking lot. It was apparently on "Best Thing I Ever Ate" and it was indeed delicious!

 We shared two crepes. One had spinach, cheese, and scrambled eggs; the other had cream cheese, smoked salmon and egg. They also have savory lunch crepes and sweet dessert crepes.
Then we headed back home, called our dads for Fathers Day, and I still had time to make a breakfast casserole for the week!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wedding Stuff: Makeup

During wedding planning I mentioned a couple times that I was doing my own makeup for the wedding. In fact, not only I, but all 5 of my bridesmaids did our own makeup and I think it worked out great!
This was mostly borne out of laziness and fear. Weird, right? I wasn't afraid to do my own makeup with no experience, but I was afraid of getting it done professionally and then hating it because it didn't look like my face anymore. I wasn't too lazy to learn how to do my own makeup and do it on my wedding day, but I was too lazy to go find a makeup artist and have to go to (gasp!) a trial. It wasn't really about cost savings, although it did turn out cheaper (if not for me, because I bought a bunch of new makeup, then definitely for my bridesmaids.).

All 5 of my girls were pretty much pros at makeup, but I was a total newbie. As in, never owned eyeliner before because it looked scary. As in, I had an eyeshadow palette in my bathroom (a gift) that it turns out I had been using entirely the wrong way for years. Because I just had no idea what I was doing.

So how does a girl who goes naked face every day and doesn't know how to use her makeup get from there to this?

The short answer? Sephora. [Non-disclaimer disclaimer: I was in no way compensated for this post, I just thought the help I got there was awesome and the stuff was cool!]

I found out that they'll do a full makeup tutorial for a $50 minimum purchase. If you've been there, you know you can get to $50 super quick, and I figured if I hated everything and decided to go the makeup artist route, I'd just buy my mom a present and not worry about it. (Sorry, mom, you lost that round!)

The makeup tutor was awesome- she literally taught me right there in the store how to use eyeliner. How to hold the brush and pull my skin and where to start and where to stop. She also taught me (finally) how to use an eyeshadow palette. And blush. (Yeah, I didn't know how to use blush either.) She listened to my concerns about looking too "done up," and picked more neutral colors that wouldn't be too shocking.

When you tell people that you're doing your own makeup for your wedding, they look at you like you're nuts. When you say your 5 bridesmaids are also doing their own makeup, people panic. Apparently, even though these grown-ass women already know how to do their makeup (some every single day), they can't be trusted not to look like clowns on your wedding day, thereby destroying your pictures which everyone knows is the only reason to have a wedding anyways. Or something. Let me tell you, it was fine.
None of them look like clowns to me! What do you think?
Also one of my favorite memories of that day is when me and 3 of my lovely ladies crowded around one bathroom mirror to put our faces on. Fun times!
Ok, on to the stuff! On the day of my wedding I wore the following makeup:

Face: (Note also how everything I put on my face uses a polite version of "Super pale" to describe my skin tone)
  • Tinted cream foundation- Miracle Skin Transformer in "Light" ($48 from Sephora)
    I wanted my freckles to show at my wedding. I happen to love them. So when the lady at Sephora tried a "BB Cream" (I'm still not sure what the heck this is) I decided it wasn't sheer enough. She went back to get something else. This stuff is lightweight, moisturizing, plus has SPF 20 and doesn't coat too thick. On the other hand it claims to "instantly transform your skin in one application." Transform into what?
  • Pressed powder- Neutrogena Mineral Sheers in "Classic Ivory" ($12 from grocery store)
    Just a little bit, to set the cream foundation so it didn't rub off on the first person I hugged.
Eyes
  • Eyeliner- Sephora Smoky Cream Liner in "CafĂ©" ($12 from Sephora)
    My favorite of the Sephora purchases from my tutorial. When I decided I would do my own makeup for the wedding, I went immediately to Kroger and bought an eyeliner pencil. If I was gonna do my own makeup, eyeliner was a must in my mind (not true, there are no musts except the marriage license and officiant), and also my biggest obstacle. Well that eyeliner pencil was evil and pokey and tickled a bit too.
    Cut to my bachelorette party in Vegas when all the girls were done up and I was still in the bathroom shrieking quietly because the eyeliner pencil was hurting and tickling at the same time, but I was determined to learn so I kept stabbing myself with it. Yeah, it was hell.
    But! The Sephora lady hooked me up with this cream eyeliner and it was fantastic. It still tickled occasionally, but it was way softer and smoother and easier. Now that I've practiced I can actually use that pencil too, but when learning this was way better! This was also so waterproof that I showered in it and it didn't run. Usually a must for weddings, although I didn't cry at mine!
  • Eyeshadow, There were two:
    Sephora Palette in "Eternally Purple" (this was my old eyeshadow palette that I didn't know how to use, so I'm gonna go ahead and call it $0 since I didn't buy it for the wedding)
    Maybelline Quad palette in "Designer Chocolates*" ($4 from grocery store)
    When the Sephora lady fixed me up she used a giant eyeshadow palette with a combo of purple and brown. Rather than buy that big, expensive, palette, I knew I had the purple at home and opted to get brown on the cheap to supplement.
    On the wedding day, I wore the cream color on the brow, light brown on the lid, and purple with some blended brown in the crease. (See? Told you I learned how to use it!)
  • Mascara- Givenchy Phenomen'eyes in "Brown" ($30 from Sephora)
    This super waterproof mascara (again, worried I might need it) has a weird koosh ball shaped brush for getting all the little baby hairs. Good for fighting clumpage. Despite the stupid name, this stuff is awesome.

Other:
  • Blush- Sephora Microsmooth Blush Duo in "Fuchsia flushed" ($17 from Sephora)
    This is pretty pricey for blush and I half wish I had gone for cheaper, but I didn't really trust myself to pick a good color at the grocery store without the makeup lady to guide me. So I splurged.
  • Lipstick- CoverGirl Outlast in "Faint Hue" ($7 from grocery store)
    Another grocery store buy and it was long lasting and didn't rub off on Dan. All good things. It's a bit too dry (leaves my lips chapped) for any kind of everyday where but it was good for the special occasion and I do break it out occasionally.
  •  Remover- Neutrogena Cleansing Towels ($7 from grocery store)
    Having never owned waterproof makeup before, I needed some waterproof makeup remover, which kind of terrified me due to its similarity to paint thinner. These were awesome and portable.
So what was the total?
At Sephora I spent $107, then supplemented with $30 from the grocery store.  I also had to buy a couple brushes at Target (lets say another $20). So overall $157. To compare, a makeup artist in Houston usually charges about $175 for bridal makeup.
So it didn't really get me out of it for cheaper, but I now have learned a new trick, and have all this makeup to use whenever I want! Confession: I always hated when I would go out with a group of girls and they all would get ready and I would swipe some of my eyeshadow on (the wrong way, I now know), put on some mascara, and call it a day. It is fun sometimes to get gussied up, and now I can too.


Other tips:
  • Make sure your bridesmaids are comfortable with this sort of thing. I did offer to my bridesmaids that I'd hire a makeup artist if anyone wanted one; nobody did. But if I was asked that a year ago, I would have probably gone for the professional rather than learn all this.
  • Practice! I practiced hardcore. I picked Thanksgiving to practice the entire face and solicit feedback, but I also practiced eyeliner pretty much every weekend until I could do it without shrieking. This meant a lot of times my face didn't match my clothes (jeans, t-shirt... fancy eyes?! Yeah, weird.) but you gotta practice!
  • Have fun! It's only your face.
I totally recommend doing this, especially if you already have some of the stuff you'll need and can save some $. But also because its great to control what goes on your face so you know you'll like how your pictures look, and because it's fun to get beautified with the ladies all crowded around one mirror. If I can pull it off, basically anyone can; that's how bad I am was at makeup.

*Fact: If a makeup is named after a food, I am twice as likely to want it. Three times if it's a lipstick.
Other Wedding Stuff Posts:
Outfits
Rings

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Name Change Adventures, #4

I'd like to subtitle this post

Would that I were kidding! (Although a helpful coworker pointed out that we can't actually put a man on the moon currently, which does not make it better...)
Some background: I work for a contractor on a government facility, so I needed to change my name with both my contractor and civil servant management, both security offices, and various IT resources managed by various companies/contracts. It's a very tangled web. 

First, HR tells me I need to bring my marriage license and 2 forms of ID with the new name to the company security office. At the time I had my SS card but was waiting for my DL to come in the mail so I had to wait for both of those. My DL came in the middle of the week while I was supporting the day shift. I did a lot of my other name change stuff that week, but didn't have time to swing by the security office before they closed.
 I shoot the security office lady an email telling her my DL is in and I'll be swinging by the following Monday. She tells me she'd like the new name so she can "start working on the paperwork." I tell her.
What follows is a series of unfortunate events. Now that the saga is mostly over, I think we can all look back on it and laugh together...

"Hilarious" thing #1: Please enter your login. No, the other one. No, not that one either.
Apparently "start working on the paperwork" was code for "put in the IT change request" because the very next morning (where I am in mission control preparing to dock a troublesome Progress resupply vehicle) I get an email that my username for some applications has changed. Among them, my profile for the intra-office instant messenger client, so I spent the rest of the day explaining to people who I am and why I added them to my buddy list.

Fast forward 3 hours and I am actively sending commands to the International Space Station, from a procedure which I am viewing electronically on my computer, and my username to that very computer changes. It kicks me off, and I have to log back in with the new username before proceeding with my commanding. Awesome. [Here I jot down a note to future name-changers: Don't let them change your name the day of complex ops.]

Fast forward 5 more hours, and I'm trying to sign my timecard after a very long day on console. Nope. My old username no longer exists and my new username isn't recognized by the server. Too tired to deal with it, I send an email to my boss with my hours and call it a day.

"Hilarious" thing #2: "I managed to hold onto your card for 22 years, you lost it in a month." 
(-My Mother)
Sunday night I am preparing to go the next morning to the security office with my new DL and SS card, and I CANNOT find the SS card (which I mentioned briefly in this post). I don't take it well.
Who knows where it went? I never did find it...
So I head first thing Monday morning to the Social Security office. They open at 9 and I arrive at 8:30. There were already a few people in line so I join them. They open the door at 8:45 and station the first 15-or-so (including me, yay!) people at windows; exactly at 9 the windows open and we are helped right away. I get out by 9:15, which is much better than the 2 hours I waited last time. Getting there before they open is definitely the way to do it!
I worried I would get in big trouble for starting the name change process with the IT resources and then losing my SS card, but nobody yells at me (except for the voice in my head who thinks I'm a giant moron for losing my card).

I do sort out all my login issues from the previous week (except I just discovered a new one last weekend so I guess I'll have to deal with that now, too.)  My changed login required my name to be changed on a bunch of group calendars, so now I'm working under different names in different applications and have to regularly tell people who I am. It turned out to be a great thing moving my last name to my middle name, because I changed my display name in the email system to read Last, Stephanie Middle (it defaulted to Last, Stephanie) so both my old and new last name are visible. Then its pretty obvious who I am.
A week later the replacement card comes in, and I do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, do not move that card from it's safe hiding place, except to bring it to work. I get my new contractor badge and she photocopies my documents for HR and gives me back the originals. Which go back in their safe place that very night. Whew! [Side note, according to SSA policy, you are limited to 3 replacement cards a year, which means at least one person has lost more SS cards than me. Knock wood.]

I get summoned the same day (convenient since I have my SS card on my person for the last time EVER, lest I lose it again) to the NASA badging office. They confiscate my permanent badge with my old name and give me a temp badge with the new name. (It seems silly to me, because I am the same person, but whatever.)


"Hilarious" thing #3: What, you still work here?
Actually this one was hilarious the whole time, so...
Hilarious thing #3: What, you still work here?
A new laptop box appears at my desk. (I was due for an upgraded machine for a few months now, but due to whatever procurement issues was waiting for the machine to actually come in.) Ordinarily before they deliver the machine they send you an email telling you when you are scheduled for your upgrade and how to back up your files so they transfer properly. But I didn't get an email.
I ask our group's secretary, who informs me that my name change confused the system and they thought I didn't work here anymore, so I got bumped to the bottom of the update list. She cannot explain why nobody told that to the person who delivered a brand new laptop to my desk, with my old last name written on the box. (While I am one of 3 people in the Agency with my new last name, I am the only one with my old last name.)
She emails the people in charge who say definitely I am not on the list. But then someone else responds that yes I am on the list, and my upgrade is the very next day. I ask them to please send me the list of things I need to configure so I can get ready with a day's notice.
Oh, you thought this story was over? It's not.
The next day the IT guy comes to do the upgrade; but it won't let him transfer my profile over to the other computer because here it has my maiden name and there it has my married name. Instead he has to drag folders over piece by piece and reconfigure from scratch. I spend 6 hours at work camped out in a conference room using the conference room's computer so I can try to get some work done. It was not my most productive day, as you might imagine... but I did end it with a shiny new work computer!

I want to say I think the drama is finally over, but I thought that after thing 2 before thing 3 came along. Who knows what other access is just waiting to be revoked? So far I am getting still getting paid, so that's good!

Let's review the stats:
What: Change my name at my job 
Time spent: Probably 8 hours
Cost: Nothing monetary, but plenty of sanity
Difficulty: Absurd.


The last big thing on my to-do list is my Passport, but they require you to mail in the originals of everything. This makes me nervous, so I'm trying to make sure I figured everything out before I do that.

Other name change posts

Monday, June 10, 2013

Weekend Recap and some Links

Friday night Dan and I went to see Now You See Me, that move about bank robbing magicians (or so the previews would let you believe).

Source

The cast was good and entertaining to watch [Not too spoilery spoiler: Morgan Freeman narrates a TV show within the movie. Naturally. That man has a voice like butter. Or something.] but I didn't really like the resolution, so despite enjoying nearly the entire movie it was ruined for me in the last 5 minutes or so.  Oh well.
 

Saturday we got up bright and early to go do some community service with my coworkers. I'm part of what I call the "Pep Squad" (we have an official name, but I like pep squad better), a team pulled together in the division to boost morale and team unity. One of the things we came up with is periodic community service as a group (bonding and doing good and whatnot). Yesterday was our first event - beautification projects at Armand Bayou Nature Center, a non-profit wildlife refuge near the space center. Dan went out with a team doing trail widening/clearing and I was working on weeding and mulching some planters at the entrance. It was sweaty, dirty work, but lots of fun.

Today is the usual- laundry, grocery shopping, getting ready for the week. Earlier I baked another breakfast casserole and tonight we're having steak, with grilled Caesar salad. Sounds weird, but grilled lettuce can be delicious if you get it in the sweet spot (wilty, not scorched).

Now for the links, just some things from around the web that interested me last week:
  • From one of the Women of the Wall, Why I Wear a Talit
    Women of the Wall is a group of progressive Jewish women who are looking to see the Western Wall opened to less-orthodox prayer. The wall is controlled by ultra orthodox that police the dress and behavior of women who come to pray, lest they disturb the men. The Women of the Wall want to be allowed to pray out loud (a sect of Judaism known as Haredi don't want the men to be able to hear the women praying), wear talit, and allow women to read Torah.
    I've written here before about the differences between Orthodox prayer services, where women are separated, and the conservative Judaism I was raised in, and the ways I'm conflicted about it. When I began attending the Orthodox synagogue in Houston, I reluctantly buried the talit from my own Bat Mitzvah in my closet and attended services without it. I don't know that they would have stopped me, but I didn't want to feel out of place. Since then, I occasionally run across my talit and wonder when I'll wear it again. Reading this article, I wonder if I am missing something important by leaving it behind.
  • From Jewish author Anita Diamant's blog Mother-Daughter Mashup, Her Tattoo
    Anita Diamant is one of my favorite Jewish authors; in fact her book The Red Tent sparked my interest in historic fiction, and I went through a phase where I read tons of books in that genre because of her. In this post, she discusses her daughter's tattoo.
    I have long believed, without thinking much about it that tattoos are against my religion, and so I would never get one. And so, reading this article, in which a prominent member of the Jewish community speaks out about tattoos without the fire and brimstone makes me wonder... if tattoos aren't against my religion, would I get one?
  • From the Atlantic, Mrs. and Mrs. Smith: How Some Gay Couples Reclaim Old Marriage Traditions
    The article brings up two of my own hot-button gender equality and marriage items, name changes and the word "wife." APW already does plenty on the Reclaiming Wife topic, but the word "wife" is full of connotations, most of them not things I plan to be, ever. (Of course the simple definition, a female partner in a marital relationship, is true. But the rest of it..eh.)
    Perhaps gay marriage will help feminists do what we cannot do alone... change the connotation behind these traditions from the patriarchal to the modern, from the oppressive to the liberating.
Read anything good around the internet lately? Hope you have a good week!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Honeymoon Recap, part 5

When we left off, Dan and I were schlepping suitcases through the streets of Rome.

We arrived at the lovely Hotel Paba around 11am. Hotel seems like a deceptive term in this case. Really, the "hotel" is on the third floor of a random building that has residential apartments and businesses. The other half of the third floor has a dentist. The hotel has I think 7 rooms, of varying sizes. So not exactly the hotel that my spoiled American self had come to expect.
Nevertheless it was awesome. We were in the largest room because it was not yet tourist season. Our room, called the "Happy Family" room (each room had a name as well as a number) had a California king bed in the main room, and a twin in a small room between the main room and the bathroom. The hotel is run by a delightful old lady (she must be 90!) who is still very tech savvy and speaks English well and was very helpful. Every morning she brings you breakfast- tea or coffee, juice, and croissants. And it's only about a 5 minute walk from the Colosseum and metro station. Not bad!
Breakfast in the hotel.
After dropping our bags, we headed out for lunch. We found a little place down the street to stop for... More pizza!
 


I decided it was chilly, so we ran back to the hotel for our coats. I'm so glad we did because it started raining soon after. We went to the Colosseum:

 


And the Roman Forum:


 


How cool is this GIANT flower?



We had rain coats and our winter coats (well, northerners would call these fall coats, but it's my heaviest coat) but we couldn't fit the rain coats OVER The winter coats. We chose to be warm, but we were NOT dry. And these two activities were pretty much all outside.

Then we walked over to the Pantheon...
 

 and stuck our heads in Piazza Navona:


Then, tired and WET, we headed back to the hotel.  But we got kind of turned around while doing it and it took us a long while to get back. We changed into dry clothes, hung our poor coats up near the heater to dry, and went to the closest hotel for dinner because we were tired of being wet. It ended up being delicious (I'm not sure you can really make a wrong turn in a Roman restaurant).
Mussels in a garlic wine sauce.

Gnocci!
The next day was thankfully a less-rainy day. Too bad we did all the outdoor stuff in the rain the day before. We headed to the Vatican Museum:


A real live (well, once) mummy!
 





and then into St. Peters Basilica.
Then we wandered around the shopping district. I didn't buy anything, but Dan got a Ferrari shirt.
 We were hungry so we stopped at a cafe for a snack, then walked up the Spanish steps.


















On our last whole day in Rome we headed into the Jewish quarter, which we got lost in our first night in Rome. We took the tour of the synagogue (they don't let you take pictures inside due to a bombing that happened a few years ago). Due to the unique position of Italy, both Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jews- like me!) and Sephardi (Western European Jews) cultures have lived in the area. The Jews were only allowed to build one synagogue in the middle ages, so the single synagogue had 2 sanctuaries, each organized and decorated in accordance with the respective tradition (which are quite different!). After the Holocaust, many Jews returned to the area and built a new synagogue on the site of the previous one, again with two sanctuaries, which is what we toured.

Then we went to a kosher meat restaurant in the Jewish quarter. Their specialty was fried artichoke (like the WHOLE artichoke, deep fried) which we scarfed before photographing. Which is a shame because it was beautiful.

We then wandered over to the Capitoline Museum to see more naked statues and antiquities.



These crazy busts were wearing clothes made out of marble. So cool!
Unfortunately I caught a terrible cold towards the end of our trip and started feeling pretty crappy by the last afternoon. So after touring the museum we headed back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.

We got up for dinner and wandered some more until we found a little cafe where Dan could get some more pizza.
 
And finished it off with some gelato!
The next day we got up bright and early, to head to the airport. We had planned to take a taxi, but the old lady who runs the hotel said she could call a shuttle service, which saved us about 10 euros. The shuttle service arrived right on time- a minivan packed full of tourists and suitcases already- we were the last stop.

By this point I was pretty sick- my nose started running when we got to the airport and didn't stop for about 12 hours. I quickly used up all my tissues and had to start hoarding toilet paper from the airport and then airplane bathrooms to wipe my drippy nose. (Side note: At the Rome Airport you can buy Gucci clothes, a Prada purse, a Ducati, and all manner of wine and food, but you cannot buy a box of tissues.) It was so red and irritated by the time we got to the US.. I just hoped they wouldn't refuse to let me into the country while I was carrying plague... but the immigration officer stamped my passport and didn't seem to care (this is how all those people died in Outbreak, if you remember).

We made it back home with only one hiccup- one of our two suitcases didn't make it right away. They delivered it to the house 2 days later. We ordered chinese food when we got home, stuffed our faces, and slept for about 13 hours. I woke up the next morning feeling basically good as new (except for my poor, scabby nose) and ready to start our married lives.
And that is our honeymoon story!