Monday, November 10, 2014

Four Semesters Down and Thanksgiving Plans

Saturday morning I submitted my final paper for "Graduate Seminar in American Literature," my fourth semester in my MA at SNHU. There's always a bit of an odd empty feeling at the end of the semester, like "what am I gonna do now?" Although not because I don't have stuff to do (believe me, the house really needs to be cleaned) but because I don't know what to do first, now that nothing has a specific due date. Alternately you can say everything has a specific due date, which is before the next class starts...

The way SNHU structures their online graduate programs (which are aimed primarily at working adults), there are roughly 5 ten-week semesters a year, with a week break in between. (If you're a nerd like me, you'd notice that that would equal 54 weeks, even before you factor in a spring break and winter break, so obviously the semesters will undergo a creeping shift as the years go on... kind of like the Jewish calendar, sans leap year.) Dan and I have been trying to use these off weeks to go on a little family vacation. Last time we went to the beach. This time we're going camping-- just a few days at a state park north of Houston. We try to choose pet friendly things (no flying) so we can take Raider with us rather than stick him in the kennel.

Next semester, starting on the 17th, is Gender and Text. I'm pretty excited about this one-- it was newly added this semester and I even put myself on the wait list at first, hoping to get in. We're reading The Handmaid's Tale (among other books) which is possibly the greatest thing ever for combining my two favorite genres: feminism and dystopian future (or maybe it's feminist dystopia, a rather specific subgenre?). On the other hand, The Handmaid's Tale is drifting from fiction to prediction at an alarming rate, so it might hurt to read. One thing I have really enjoyed in my classes is the exposure to different types of books than I would ever have picked up on my own. So while I love this one already, I'm also excited to read some of these other Gender and Text selections... maybe my next favorite book is lurking inside!

In other news, we're hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year for our local friends who aren't heading out of town for the holiday. Our friend group at JSC is mostly young, single or recently married, childless, and transplants to this area. So that means the majority of them head out of town every year for the holidays to visit family. I, of course, refuse to travel for both Thanksgiving and Christmas if at all possible. It's partially about the money, but more about the hassle of traveling on the biggest travel days of the year with all those other people (PS, can we discuss how ridiculous it is that the biggest flying holidays also come in the middle of winter and its always snowing in Chicago and gumming up the works? Yuck.). Plus there's the matter of leaving the dog, which breaks my heart each time they lead his sad sack self into the back and he cries, and he's too big to fly with so he has to stay home.

In addition to avoiding all that, it's also a little bit about the balance and boundaries between being a newly married mini-family and being part of an extended family. I want us to have holidays here, with our people, in our home. We need to get used to being away from extended family, to start our own traditions, to become established in our own city. We can't do that if we are constantly jetting off for every holiday. Already one of my favorite traditions is that we host Passover. Since I moved into my house 4 years ago, I have hosted all but one year; I have had my parents over twice for Passover and his parents once (it was Easter weekend, too) and I always invite any Jewish friends I can round up, and non-Jewish friends who might be up for a cultural experience. Sadly, we skipped it this year because I was increment lead, but that just means next year we can bring it back and better than ever!

To help set those boundaries, we have some loose rules: one large trip to visit each of our parents each year, travel Christmas or Thanksgiving but not both, and take at least one vacation just for ourselves. Earlier this year we went to North Carolina for my parents 30th anniversary reunion celebration and spent 6 days there; for Christmas we are going to Dan's parents in Virginia for 5 days. For our personal vacation, we went to the beach.

So far its been going pretty well, but not without a few bumps from the families, who are understandably sad that we don't visit as often as they'd like. I just hope they remember that they were once young and starting out,  and couldn't flit home at the drop of a hat, and had a cabinet full of new wedding china begging to be used for a holiday of their own. And I hope that they keep visiting us, too, so we can all share the travel burden.

Hope you enjoy great weather, great food, and great company this November! I'm off work tomorrow for Veterans Day and I've got some pumpkin brownies to bake!

Monday, November 3, 2014

November already?

Wow, I can't believe its November already! Feels like time is flying.

I last wrote in early September that I was starting a new diet. So far it's been working. As of today, 2 months later, I have lost 8.6 pounds, roughly on track for the 1 pound per week I was trying for. I have also managed to exercise 3x a week, mostly keeping to the swim, bike, run cycle. Although as the weather turns colder, my desire to swim decreases, but I do plan to swap that swim for another run and keep working out 3x a week.

My current grad school class is over next weekend, so I'm in the midst of writing a 15 page paper on Lee Smith's Fair and Tender Ladies. Have you heard of it? I'm not particularly fond of it, not enough killer robots from outer space.
Dan is out of town for the weekend. I am not, because I was supposed to be on console... until this happened:
Full story. I had spent months planning for this visiting vehicle mission and was expecting to support console this weekend when it arrived at ISS. Definitely a bummer, but glad there was no loss of life and it's looking like minimal damage to the launch facility.
Unfortunately, it was not a good week for commercial spaceflight all around, as yesterday brought news that Virgin Galactic's ship crashed during test flight, killing one pilot and injuring another. Just another reminder that spaceflight is hard. My prayers go out to the injured crewmember and his family, as well as the family of the deceased. There's a quote by Gus Grissom, one of 3 astronauts killed in the Apollo 1 accident, on the wall in the Saturn V building at JSC, that I think of in times like this:
If we die, we want people to accept it. We're in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.
Other, better news? My little sister got engaged at the end of September. Their wedding will be next October. Last weekend I headed to Orlando to help her dress shop (she said Yes to the dress!) and got a bonus football game out of it!

The weekend before we went to a wedding in VA for a childhood friend of Dan's. I actually met the bride at the groom's brother's wedding last September and immediately asked Dan "is she Jewish?" Jew-dar I guess... Turns out that she was, and she asked for my help planning their Jewish-Catholic interfaith wedding.
Waiting for ceremony to start.

Pretty but cold ceremony. Poor bridesmaids!
I  sent her our ceremony and program, which she borrowed from liberally-- with permission of course. I spent countless hours on that stuff, and am glad it is having an extended life and helping others with their own wedding plans.

They had a beautiful (but chilly) ceremony outside on a hillside at sunset, then we went into a tent to (warm up and) party. Dancing helps you warm up quick!

I have become something of an interfaith wedding fairy-- recently 2 different readers contacted me by email (nerdsinloveblog[at], if you're curious!) with interfaith wedding conundrums of their own. If you've got one, write in...don't be shy. I can help.. and if I can't, well, I can commiserate!

Well, here's hoping for a better week in spaceflight news.