10/25/2014

Not Alone Series: Talking About Ess-Eee-Eks

Here is this week's prompt: Our culture is obsessed with sex. With anyone! At any time! If you want to, just do it! But, the Church teaches that sex was created for the context of marriage. Why do you choose to abstain? Why aren't you going around having sex with just anyone? How would you encourage others to do the same? How do you remain strong when everything in our culture is encouraging you to abandon your convictions?


This week's prompt was particularly appropriate, given the conversation with my mom this afternoon.

Although the dinner with Mr. Lehigh Valley seemed to go very well, not much communication has happened since.  And there wasn't much before that dinner, now that I think about it.  It appears we have gone from hour-long phone calls once or twice a week to a little bit of texting on Saturdays.  He texted me from visiting his grandmother in the nursing home, just like last Saturday. I asked him his plans for the rest of the day and he said they were to crash the sofa and catch up on all the sports games.  I'm just getting the sense he's working too hard/doing too much to have the energy and/or time to date.

Or, you know, I really didn't catch his fancy.  (So why he even bothers with texting, I'm not sure.)  I'm not trashing the whole thing but at this point in time things are going nowhere.

I called my mom, frustrated and a bit disappointed.  O.K., I cried a little.  There was definitely some nose-blowing.

Mom: Well, here, I'm looking at the website right now and there's a cute guy your age and he's from [a town in the same county as us, pretty close by].

Me: That's surprising he didn't come up in my searches.  Maybe it's a fake one to bring people in.

Mom: It's not fake!  I'm sending you his picture. *types email*  But it says I have to log in or register to see his profile. 

Me: O.K., well, maybe he's not coming up in my searches because something doesn't match. Like the questions.

Mom: What questions?

Me: The "Do you accept the Church's teaching about certain things" questions. It's probably the contraception one.

We figured out his member number and how to look him up.  And after Mom promised to uncheck the "Keep me logged in" box, I gave her my log-in (I know! I'm a hypocritical librarian! Don't do what I do; keep your passwords private!) and we both looked at his profile.

Sure enough, the question about accepting the Church's teaching about contraception was answered "No," as was the one about sex.

Other than that, his profile sounded nice and he was good-looking.  I'm not saying I wouldn't respond if he messaged me--because he will get a notification that I viewed his profile--but I'm not planning on reaching out.  Mom asked me why, and I told her how uncomfortable some of the dates were on the other dating site I used years ago, and how obvious it was the men had had sex before, and they wanted it again. One guy confessed to me he'd renewed his expired membership with that site because his friends had made fun of him for not "sealing the deal" with me.  (Yeah, he was a jerk and so were his so-called friends.)

I don't know how easy it is to change someone's mind about all of it, but at the very least I'll answer the prompt above, because maybe that will give me some clarity for what I would say if put on the spot during a conversation with a date.

Why do you choose to abstain? Why aren't you going around having sex with just anyone? Sex is a gift from God to spouses so that they can enjoy each other, be closer, and (at times) produce children.  I choose not to have sex because (1) as I am not married, it is serious sin which is something I try my hardest to avoid, (2) the emotional and physical consequences are too great, and (3) I have lived through the harrowing experience of being just one person removed from not one but two "surprise pregnancies" (in quotes because, really? surprised twice?) and the emotional rollercoaster of attachment/fear of commitment.

For those who are fairly new readers of the blog: I have a niece and a nephew who were born within about 17 months of each other and who both were conceived during break-up/make-up cycles between my brother and his then-girlfriend--who now is my SIL as the result of much prayer, grace, and pastoral counseling for both of them.  But it could have gone completely the other way and I'd have never seen those kids again, nor would I be enjoying my other two wonderful youngest nephews.  I shudder just typing that.
It was horrible while it was happening--my own boyfriend at the time judged me and was not much comfort--and the worst part was worrying about what was going to happen to those little babies because there was nothing anyone could say or do to help.  We were told how to feel and how to act, because they were in massive denial about the whole messed-up situation.
I shouldn't have been surprised, actually, because years before, I'd come across my brother's high school journal (oh yeah, they were encouraged by their teachers to put their thoughts in these things and apparently didn't get any kind of response or just weren't read. . . by their Catholic teachers, some of whom were priests!!!) and on one page he'd written something like, "Once you have sex all you can think about is having it again."  Mind you, he was a teenager then, but adults' engaging in sex without considering the consequences (or thinking you're invincible) sounds pretty immature to me, too.

How would you encourage others to do the same? I think I would encourage others to do the same by being open to learning what the Church teaches, and talking about it, both the positives and the negatives.  Sure, people make mistakes and have regrets, and I've had those conversations with dorm-mates and roommates.  I would not judge them and in fact would applaud them for having the courage to make the decision to be chaste.

One of the priests at my college gave this advisement to us students: "Men use love to get sex and women use sex to get love."  I'm not fond of generalizations like that, but maybe I would say that there are some people, both men and women, who would say, "I love you," to convince the other person that it's O.K. to sleep together--and on the other side, people who are willing to sleep with someone so they feel loved, so it keeps the other person around.  (Hence the whole point that sex bonds people in an emotional, not to mention biochemical, way.)  So maybe we need to make sure people feel loved in other ways, by giving them attention, listening to them, caring for them.

How do you remain strong when everything in our culture is encouraging you to abandon your convictions?  Are you kidding me?  I've been countercultural since I was a kid; why should I be any different now? It doesn't faze me anymore.  During my time in college, JPII coined the phrase "culture of death" and it involved abortion, contraception, euthanasia, and drugs/harming oneself.  I stood outside of it then--on the fringes, because I loved alternative music especially--and maybe it helped me evangelize somewhat, to reach out to people and say, I know how it feels but there's a better way.  It's not easy, but if you're lucky you get some grace to help you and find some friends, of either the IRL or invisible internet type, or both.
I hated being dumped by guys who didn't like being told, "No," but I'm glad to be free of the emotional complications, fear of STDs, and pregnancy scares.  (Not to mention being used by handsy pervs.)  I'm looking forward to enjoying being with my future husband and not have that "who I've been with" list looming over our bed.  

And on a lighter note, it's too bad our consciences can't sound like Broomhilde from Robin Hood: Men in Tights, as she protected Maid Marian:

 
"No ding-ding vithout ze vedding ring!
(photo from Aveleyman website)


Thanks to Jen for hosting this week's Not Alone Series link-up.  See more responses here.
 

10/12/2014

Four Things About the Last Seven Days


One: I wrote up two students in two days for unacceptable behavior during class.  One was in Kindergarten (punching a classmate) and one was in Third grade (numerous problems but the last straw was spitting in a classmate's face!).  That was my first time dealing with any of that kind of stuff.  Stupid eclipse, Stupid day off for the kids tomorrow but not for us faculty.

Two: I didn't get a chance to participate in this week's Not Alone Series but if you like reading about prayer and/or the single life you might like to see what others had to say.  Very heartening.

Three: I arranged for a beautiful house blessing to be made by this artist for YS and YSF's new house.  It arrived yesterday and I can't wait to give it to them (which probably won't be before Thanksgiving, sigh).  They are hauling tail trying to get all the work on the house done so YS and her housemate (plus tiny cat) can move in at the end of the month.  At least somebody has tomorrow off to do something productive.

Four: I had dinner last night with Mr. Lehigh Valley.  He really does exist and looks like his photos.  Three-plus hours of talking.  Two hugs.  He is cute, smelled nice, and paid for dinner.  We had a good time.

 

10/05/2014

A Sweet Reward to a Brutal Week


Every single one of my co-faculty said it: Last week was tough.  Even the seasoned ones looked worn out by Friday.  We don't know why but the kids were really pushing the envelope left and right.

All the more reason to look forward to hitting the road Saturday morning, headed to Baltimore with my parents, to celebrate my great-aunt's 60th jubilee as a religious sister.

What, doesn't everybody have a relative in a religious order?  I have two. The other one is another great-aunt, the older sister of my Balto-based great-aunt, who passed away when I was in 8th grade, shortly after she'd celebrated 50 years as a nun.  We always ask her to put in a good word for us with the Lord to give us good weather for family get-togethers.  

While we did have rain in the morning, as we went south we could see the blue skies peeking through and later we took pictures outside in the sunshine-y patio in the middle of Aunt K's retirement place.  

As an aside, encountering so many nuns in one place is kind of nice--they were so friendly to us and they were all giving Aunt K congratulatory words and hugs.  There was another sister who was celebrating 70 years; she was born in Ireland and had transferred to Maryland to teach in the '70s.  (Such a lovely brogue!)  And the sister who made all the arrangements for Mass and lunch told me I had nice skin.


About a dozen and a half of us relatives showed up for Mass--and we like to sing, so that made the woman who led the singing really, really happy.  Then we got a yummy lunch--crabcakes! The lady who cooks for them is amazing and she remembered when my parents last visited and my dad was raving about the cornbread!  I got to sit with Younger Sister and catch up on the new house she just bought and all the work her fiance's doing to it.  (Yeah, posting in the near future about all that on SOSOB.)  Mom took an awesome photo of "her girls."  It just felt nice to get away for a day and celebrate a happy occasion, even if it wasn't for very long because it's easy to wear out a 90-something nun who usually has a quiet daily schedule.  But I know she was happy to see us.

Oh, sure, there were the usual weird things my relatives always do.  I should make a BINGO card.  Lecture from my aunt about how I'm so wrong about something? Check! This time around it was about how I am so closed-minded for saying I'm not into praise music when she's so sure I haven't listened to it.  Really? I can name three online friends who really like it so no, I'm not making a blind statement.  I think she just likes to pick a fight with me because she knows how to push my buttons.  And I still fall for the trap from time to time 


Weird statement by my uncle about his current relationship? Check!  At least he didn't ask me about my love life.  This time.

But overall, it was just a nice visit with some family, and really heartening celebration.

I think we all needed that.  


Renewal of vows in the chapel during Mass.
Her order no longer wears a habit, but she always wears blue!


(I had to edit the post to include the delicious lunch menu!)




9/25/2014

Now I'm a Honker


Not to be confused with being a "honky" but I guess I might qualify for that, too.

Tuesday I started to lose my voice.  Yesterday, I woke up unable to make a sound at all, so I called in sick to work.  Well, I don't know what you call it when you use the online system to register an absence and arrange for a substitute, but that's what I did.  Good thing I did not have to make a phone call, because nobody would have been able to hear me.

Went to the doctor and determined it was not strep throat but a cold virus.  Probably the same one I've been fighting for the past week and a half.  So annoying.  But at least I got to read nearly all of one of my library books (this one; it was interesting but confusing and mostly sad) and I don't have to take antibiotics.  Just more decongestant, fluids, and rest.  I got two naps in yesterday and slept in this morning because school is closed for Rosh Hashanah.

I am beginning to notice a difference already: yesterday, I was barely audible and only able to squeak out a few words.  Today I sound like a honking goose.  Or one of these guys:



The plan is not to overdo it today, but I need to get a couple of things done like take out the trash (maybe when it's done raining, ugh, but we need it) and wash dishes and a load of laundry.  Just to make myself feel like I'm not just lying around and I'm so horribly far behind in my to-do list.  Oh, and a quick trip out to get cat food because Miss Picky is complaining about being served from the emergency Fancy Feast stash.  And we know it's all about her, don't we?  Grumpy old lady.

Well, Rosh Hashanah started at sundown last night, so in a way it's a new year.  Gonna make something sweet to invite more sweetness into the coming year, as my ancestors in faith would.  I had night 1 of a two-night cooking course (one of those adult evening school at the high school deals) earlier this week; maybe I'll try a recipe we learned.  The sample I had was pretty good.

But truth be told anything sweet will be fine.  I just get really angst-y this time of year with the change of seasons and the approach of my birthday.  Getting sick is just an added frustration.  Sweetness would be welcome, anytime.

 

9/21/2014

Worst. Trivia. Ever.



A teammate saw there was a fundraiser for the local Irish Center--in need of some extensive renovations, and we met up Friday night to play.

It was impossible!

Seriously, this was one of the questions: "Name four Philadelphia Irish radio hosts who are deceased."

What!?

The only thing that would've made it harder was if they'd asked the questions in Gaelic.

On top of that, our married-couple teammates had put their kitty to sleep the day before and were rather bereft.  That said, by the end of the night we were so far behind and punchy that the wife of the pair decided we should just forget the questions and make up naughty pseudonyms a la Bart Simpson's crank phone calls to Moe's.  It was fun being 12 years old for a while without all the other drama.  Plus we had beer.

Also, I really felt that the Guinness tasted better there as compared with the taste of it at the place we usually play. I don't know why, but it did.  Plus I had a nice chat with the older gentleman tending bar who told me I should come to their ball in November.  We shall see.

Anyway, the money went to a good cause and I haven't been surrounded by that many people with brogues since college when my cousin married a woman who grew up in Dublin and her many relatives were in attendance.

And maybe next week they'll call me to tell me I won the raffle for the big Celtic cross painting.

You never know.

 

9/11/2014

Woke up at 5 A.M. and All I Got Was This Lousy CO2 Detector


If I see one more memo shoved under my door when I get home, I'll scream.  Yesterday, arriving home close to 5:30 (and having to get back out the door for a 7:00 pilates class), I received notice that maintenance was coming either Thursday or Friday--technically not 24 hours' notice--to install "smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and/or carbon monoxide detectors" in all apartments.  It appears the boro inspectors who came about a month or so ago didn't think we were up to code.

All I could do after pilates was eat dinner, pick up a few things, and go to sleep.  So I just set my alarm earlier (JOY) and got up to finish straightening up and make a huge sign saying, "PLEASE DON'T LET OUT THE DEAF CAT" or something to that effect.

When I got home today, I found the front closet door still open (didn't find any changes) and a new carbon monoxide detector.  Right across from the original smoke detector above my bedroom door.  I wonder if they'll both go off if there's sm-  Never mind, I don't want to find out.

In about five minutes, I'm headed back to school for--you guessed it--Back to School Night.  Fortunately, because I dared to ask, I found out I and the other special area teachers have to be present for only the two middle sessions, which because they are back-to-back will cover all of the grade levels.  (The principal decided to divide-and-stagger because So Many Students.) My fellow specials are very glad I asked.  Friendship points!

At least The Cat doesn't seem stressed out, so maybe she slept through the whole Maintenance Visit.  Me?  I'm so tired but so glad tomorrow's Friday.

  

9/06/2014

An Update on My So-Called Work (and maybe somewhat of a Dating) Life


Ah yes, I have made it to Saturday.  I had no idea how much sleep I'd been missing, between the adjustment to a new routine and just plain anxious restlessness at night, that it surprised me how quickly I'd fallen asleep last night and--aside from the 5 a.m. kitty breakfast--stayed in bed until 9 a.m. today.

The other adjustment is the huge imbalance I now have between library management and teaching classes.  I went from 12 library/tech classes and 12 book exchanges per week to 28 library classes (in fact another librarian comes from one of the other schools to cover a 29th) and what amount to basically 4 book exchanges for kindergarten.  There are just that many students!

And I'm finding that there are some who can barely communicate as they are just learning to speak English.  I'm sure they will come along way during the year, and I hope that getting to borrow books to read will help.

So far, 5th grade are my darlings--they seem to be the smallest group in the building--and 1st grade are kinda nuts.  But I realize it's an adjustment for them to have a longer library class now than they did last year.

The good news is that we found the yet-to-be-placed book order and will put it through this week.  I'm not happy that I have to wait for the books to come in and I'm stuck with what was approved, but I do have more in the budget to spend.  I'll have to sit down and puzzle out what we still need, along with what I plan to do for the year.  At least I'm inspired by this book (Penguin has lesson plans) so maybe that will help with planning for this month.  I know it will take some time to get things together, but I do feel motivated.  And the paycheck I got yesterday (Bills are paid! Hooray!!!) feels a little validating, too.

My principal--who seems to be in perpetual motion--stopped for a moment Thursday to talk to me and meet my mentor, who had stopped by at the end of the day to help answer some more questions I had.  My mentor acknowledged the reason for her visit but added, "But she knows what she's doing and she's doing great."

"I'm sure of that," replied my boss, "because I knew that when I interviewed her, that she really knew her stuff."

Man, that felt good.  Nothing like a little confidence boosting.


And in other news, Mr. Lehigh Valley and I are finally talking about figuring out a time to meet up. I'm afraid he's going to be put off by how much I have going on in a most out-of-the-ordinary parade of events running through September and October--but hey, my sudden popularity is impressing the heck out of myself.  I'm even waiting on one more confirmation on a cantoring change.  Somehow, the lady who schedules the cantors completely misread my email and put me down for dates I said I could not do.  One frustration I could do without in the middle of trying to navigate a new job and foster a possible relationship.

Now, I don't know what the catalyst was that made him bring up meeting at last--because frankly my faith was starting to reach its limit and I'm still reading the "We've got new matches for you" emails from the website--but maybe it was just getting over the new-school-year hump, or there was some sort of unknown-to-me timetable going from when we first started corresponding at the beginning of August. . . or maybe it was that hysterical conversation we had the other night (I was laughing so hard I was crying), and he told me I had a really great sense of humor.

Oh, and he has given me an inside-joke nickname in our e-correspondence.

It's weird to feel both the newness and the familiarity of starting a new job, and starting to be interested in someone.  I know I've done these things before, but it's been a few years in both cases.  And you may recall that I got off to a lousy start at my previous job.  Also pretty much was the last time I dealt with any kind of actual dating situation was this.

Is it the timing that's different, or is it possible that I'm different now?

Or both?