Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Draft 1

Dear Abba,

B and I have read over your last message carefully, and given it full thought. The answer is no. B will not be converting to Judaism. We will be getting married on May 17th 2009, in the ceremony of our choosing. If you would like to lend us a chuppah to use during the ceremony so that we are incorporating some jewish traditions into our ceremony, we will be happy to exchange the vows we have written under one.

Your aims are not my aims. I do not want our children to have a religious identity. I'm not an atheist because I am lazy or I think religion is too hard, or I don't think it's a big deal. I think organized religion is wrong, and harmful, and I do not want to expose our children to that way of thinking. Having B convert would be a larger compromise than I am willing to make. And for what? Getting invited to a family reunion or two each year? Your stamp of your approval? Your love? If he converts, then what? Everything is hunky dory? We're just try to forget that your refused to even meet him for the past 2 years? That your love was conditional on him converting? That I wrote to you asking for a more honest and open relationship, and you replied by asking me to undertake an elaborate hoax so that you can save face in front of your family and your community?

If you feel that inviting us both to family events would be too much strain, and that you can't accept B into the family unless he converts, then that is your choice, and we will go our separate ways. How the other members of our extended family decides to treat us is up to them. If you ever decide to welcome B and me back into your life then I will happily try to forget the extremely disrespectful way in which you have treated us over the past few years, and will be happy to resume a relationship with you. We will also be happy to dress appropriately and keep the laws of kasharut, etc, for any time we are under your roof.

With Love,
Abandoning Eden

So what do ya'll think? I'm thinking I might leave out the middle paragraph. Then again, there's stuff in there that needs to be said, and maybe me always trying to not hurt his feelings is what led to this situation.

Monday, December 29, 2008

I don't even know what to think

So I decided to reach out to my dad one more time. He sent me an email about channukah and asked what was going on with me. I told him that me and B are thinking about having kids (and also getting a dog), and then wrote some heartfelt note about how I wasn't trying to make him upset with that news, and I wish we could have a relationship where we are both happy for each other, and respect each other's decisions, and that I don't not want to not have a relationship with him, but I can't go on having a relationship where I lie about everything in my life, and don't tell him important decisions. What can I say, I had just spent all of christmas with an awesome family, it was 4am, and I was feeling down on myself.

As so many people predicted, the thought of having kids must have shaken something loose in him. This is the reply he just sent me:

Hi Abandoning Eden,

We received your last e-mail and I read it carefully. It made me think. I always try to figure out what would be a "win-win" solution to various problems. What would make both parties ultimately happy? So, while I was davening in shul this morning (sometimes I get my best ideas while davening) I thought of the following possible solution for our mutual dilemma.

A win-win situation here would be one where you & B would be accepted and included in our family. Where there would no longer have to be a strain in our relationship. Where any future children you seem to be planing would be welcome and included. For us, a win would be one where you married someone within our faith. While it would be ideal for you to marry a frum man and be observant yourself, we know that that you are not at that point in life now. Yet, we are sure you understand that we take Judaism very seriously and follow God's word literally.

So here is my suggestion. Although I haven't had the pleasure of being introduced to B yet, from what you have told me, the two of you are very fond of each other and want to marry and start a family. I am sure he loves you very much and would not want to put you in a position where you have to choose between him and the whole rest of your family. So since he loves you and since you tell me that you are both agnostic and being labeled one religion or another does not mean all that much anyway, why doesn't he convert to Judaism?

Sure, I understand that a conversion for him would not be 100% sincere at this time. But, it would allow for the two of you to be included in our extended orthodox families, it would be beneficial for the religious identity of any future children and, who knows, maybe he will actually come to enjoy and appreciate our traditions and customs over time. It would also be beneficial for your siblings since it would set a good example for D and help E's chances of securing a future shidduch as well.

I would like you two to think about this for a while. If you guys would like further direction and counseling in this area I would suggest that you contact my Rabbi and friend, Rabbi XX, who is the Chabad Rabbi in XX. (About 30 years old, used to counsel college students and is very personable.) He does not know that I am suggesting this to you, but I have talked with him in the past about your situation and I am certain he would be amenable to helping out in any way he could. I believe this would involve some education/training on B's part to know what he is getting into, a private religious ceremony and dip in the mikvah pool and, when the time comes, a religious wedding ceremony (Chuppah) in addition to whatever else you both have planned, marriage-wise.

Rabbi XX can be reached at *Email and phone number removed*

I think this could be the win-win situation we all could live with. It's not a perfect solution but a workable option.

Best wishes,



So....I haven't even shared this email with B yet...he's taking a nap right now and I'd rather not wake him to talk about this.

Some immediate thoughts:
1) I told him we're atheists, not agnostics, it's interesting he said that we were agnostic as if he can't accept atheists (or it could be he doesn't know the difference)

2) I don't think this will be as easy as he thinks it will be. For instance, I know that when my ex converted, even though he had been circumsized the rabbi drew blood from his penis. I'm not sure B would be down for that. And, as I know from my friend who is converting to judaism, it takes like a year for the process to go through. We would be married before that, we're not changing the date of our wedding. We might even have a kid before the conversion goes through. So my parents are just going to not show up to our real wedding, and think it'll be ok afterwards?

3) I love the invocation of family guilt, ha. "good example for D"? D (my little brother) stopped keeping kosher before I did, and hasn't had a jewish girlfriend like...ever. I actually really like his current non jewish girlfriend and hope they end up staying together.

4) It's like a quicky shot gun wedding if I were pregnant...a quicky conversion

5) where does it stop? If we do this, will our son have to get a bris? Will he take our kids to religious services?

6) but I'm not just agnostic..I'm actually an atheist, and I actively think religion is wrong. I don't want our kids raised in the jewish community. I don't want them indoctrinated into that bullshit.

7) It's hilarious that he says he 'thought of this while he was davening this morning' when I know for a fact he has mentioned something like this to my brother several times in the past.

8) While B would probably have no problem with it, it would very much upset both his mother and his grandmother.

9) B has said in the past that he would convert if I wanted him to. But how could I ask him to do something like that just to make my family happy, after all the shit my family has put me and us through? So he just converts, and my family accepts me, and all is forgotten and forgiven? By them? But what about me? How could I ever forgive them for forcing me to do this so that I can have their love? Is that even love? Doesn't seem like it.

This isn't a win-win solution. This is a them-winning and me-capitulating solution.

Dream about to be fullfilled

B's parents are taking us (and his sister, we're all going together) on a Mediterranean Cruise this summer (in July probably)!!! I am super excited, as I've never been to any other countries except Israel (6 times) and Canada, and have always wanted to travel around Europe (and especially Italy) for many years.

In college I really wanted to spend a few weeks in Rome on a study abroad program, but my parents wouldn't pay for it (not kosher or some such nonsense) and I couldn't afford it I ended up taking a roman civ class (or three) at my college instead. But ever since then I have really wanted to go to Rome. I've always really been interested in roman archeology and such...even when visiting Israel, some of my favorite things to see were the Roman ruins.

And this way I can go and get my European travel-lust over and done with before having babies (if we end up having a baby next year...come to think of it, during the cruise might be a good time to try and get pregnant...). At some point (before I die) I would also like to check out France, Amsterdam, and England...but maybe that can be a mid-age trip (or maybe B's parents will keep taking us on trips repeatedly, ha).

This cruise his parents are looking at starts in Italy, and goes to Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Sicily. We would also spend some time in Rome for a few days before or after the cruise.

10-Day Roman Empire Cruise

0 Civitavecchia (Rome)
1 At Sea
2 Dubrovnik, Croatia
3 Corfu, Greece
4 Katakolon (Olympia), Greece
5 Santorini, Greece
6 Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey
7 Piraeus (Athens), Greece
8 At Sea
9 Messina, Sicily
10 Civitavecchia (Rome)

Super super excited!!! Gotta figure out how to renew my expired passport.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Serious Business (tm)

Me and B are in the midwest for the week. We have no way to watch TV (his parents have a big one, but they are always watching sports and poker games and lots of stuff we have no interest in), reading and going on the computer all the time gets old, so mostly when we are out here we sit around and talk to each other. Inevitably Serious Business (TM) comes about when we have this time to just talk to each other for days in a row. Last time we were out here, we decided to get engaged for reals (we had been talking about it for months beforehand, but it was here that we decided to start to tell people and to set a date).

This time around our serious business (tm) has focused on two topics: Getting a dog, and having a child.

First the less life-changing confusing thing: A dog. I was never much of a dog person. I far prefer kitties, as I can leave them alone for days, and not worry that they will starve or pee all over the apartment. But B loves dogs, and had one as a child, and wants to get one. And over thanksgiving we hung out with his sister's dog (which inspired a post about dogs that I'm not going to bother to link to), and have been hanging out with the dog this week as well. And I'm starting to come around. I think I would even like taking a dog for walks, getting out of the house a few times a day, even though B would be in charge of most of the dog-related things.

We are thinking we may start looking for one when we get back home. We still like the beagle idea, since B likes smaller dogs and I like bigger dogs, and a beagle seems like the good middle ground that we both would like. But it would have to be a quiet one, and most arn't. Most likely we will check out some beagles from petfinder and also just go to a shelter and see if there's any dog there that we like (beagles or otherwise).

Then there's the scary life-altering thing: We have been discussing having kids a lot lately, since with my career, around next spring/summer would be a pretty convenient time to get pregnant. If we didn't have a kid now (and by now I mean getting pregnant next summer and having the kid in Spring 2010), we realistically would probably end up waiting until I got tenure (which would be 8 years from now if all goes on schedule- I'm 26, so I will be 32 when I get tenure).

On the one hand, it would be a good time now, I think we are both responsible enough, and we can afford it. We both very much want to have kids. I don't know that I would want to spend the next 8 years without any kids.

But what is making me hesitate is that I'm not sure if I'm ready to give up my lifestyle. Not that I go out getting drunk every night (I don't even drink), but I like the freedom to take off whenever I want, have random adventures, stay out late (although honestly I only go out like once or twice a month at most). And of course all the other freedom's you give up when you have a child. I don't know if I'm ready to do that or not.

Also we are getting married in May, and have only been together 2 years at this point (our 2 year anniversary is in 2 weeks). Am I going to miss having that time just to ourselves if we have a kid right away?

So how do you know when you are ready to give up on your own 'childhood' (or young adulthood, whatever, you know what I mean)? Do you just know? Or does nobody feel ready until way after you already have a child, and is that normal?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I love Christmas

Growing up, Christmas was a weird time of year. Everyone was running around shopping and everything was decorated with Christmas decorations, but I of course didn't celebrate it. My parents didn't believe in giving channukah presents because that was 'too goyish', instead they gave us channukah 'gelt' (cash).

I felt like an outsider wherever I turned. Of course I didn't want it anyway; oh look at those people running around and worshiping at the alter of consumerism I told myself (Yes, I was anti-consumerism from a young age). It can't be that great. They don't even know what they're celebrating, they're just doing these stupid rituals that don't mean anything anymore. (Sour grapes much?)

My parents used to go on vacation over christmas, cause my dad had off from work. For 2 years in a row when I was in my late teens, my brother and I (a year younger than me) threw gigantic "Christmas for Jews" house parties, where 30-40 people came over and hung out and got drunk away from adult supervision. One year we almost got caught when my mom noticed some crushed chips on the floor that we had missed cleaning up. My brother said something like "Oh yeah mom, we had a gigantic party of 40 people here" in his sarcastic voice, and my mom was all "yeah right, like you have 40 friends" (come to think of it, my mom is not a very nice person).

When I obtained financial independence and moved permanently away from my parents house after college (when my dad could no longer force me to come home every shabbas by threatening to cut me off), for a few years some friends of mine would come crash by my place, and we would go get great chinese food and go to a movie. We did this entirely because of the stereotype of Jews eating chinese and watching movies on christmas.

Then I met B, and last year I celebrated my first Christmas. In a completely non-religious way. We went to his parents, I got to decorate my first tree, and I left all the Jesus-y ornaments off (although my future mom in law later went and put all of them on). B's mom, who is very religious catholic, goes to mass, but did not even bother inviting us. I probably would have gone just out of curiosity, since I've never been in a church before, let alone gone to any other religion's religious services. I'm like to see what goes on there, and how different it is from shul.

B's family has it's own christmas traditions. On christmas eve (so, tomorrow), they (we) have a dinner made up entirely out of their (our) favorite appetizers. Then they (we) all go sit around the tree and everyone takes turns opening one present at a time. His mom traditionally gives the kids (and now me) a calender and gift cards and one big present. Then on christmas day they (we) have a big turkey dinner.

I love it. I love getting presents, but I love giving them even more. My family isn't really a 'present' type of family; my parents gave us kids cash on their birthdays and chanukah, but never gifts per se. If I did ever get a gift, it was because I specifically requested something, so it was never a surprise. My friends were never really gift exchangers either.

But the whole gift exchange thing is so fun! For the past few days we've been shopping all over the place (2 malls and 2 other stores), getting gifts. We've been trying to figure out what specific people will like through subterfuge (usually by asking their spouse or parents), and based on what we know about them. It's like a giant scavenger hunt for the perfect gift. I love it so much I even mailed both my brothers gifts, making sure to write "happy chanukah!" on the one to my religious brother. We got christmas gifts for our cats (2 new scratching posts!) And one for B's sister's dog (an argyle dog sweater!). We're going to pick something up for our catsitter before we go back home this Saturday. I'm on a gift buying binge. I keep thinking of more friends I want to send gifts to. Next year I probably will.

Next year me and B are getting our own tree.

It still feels a bit weird to be celebrating christmas at all. Like, even though I celebrate it in a completely non-religious way, it feels as if I've joined another religion. I know that is partially because of socialization; my parents drilled into my head that christmas was something the christians do, even though people of many religions celebrate it. It's also partially because it's so ritualistic, even though the rituals are a conglomerate of several different winter solstice festivals, and most of the religions behind them have been dead for hundreds if not thousands of years.

But on the other hand, these festivals were created to stave off the depression that one gets from a long dark and cold winter when farmers didn't have much work to do. Christmas was something to look forward to. And you know what? I've had a pretty depressing and dreary fall semester. The past few months I've been working constantly. I too need something to look forward to. And having Christmas just makes this time of year that much better.

It's a guilty pleasure.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Coming out to relatives...

People continue to surprise me. A cousin of mine (who is exactly my age, lives in Israel, divorced, and who I know has lived with a guy who she wasn't married to) saw the post I put on facebook about my wedding dress, and was all "mazal tov? hello talk to me... love you"

I took that to mean that she had no idea I was getting married. So instead of ignoring her, I decided to just tell her about it. I mean, she lives in Israel, I've met her maybe 6 times in my life (although we lived in the same room for around 6 weeks when I was 14), it's not like if I wasn't marrying B we would have a great relationship or something.

So I sent her a short email:
Hi *cousin*-

Yeah I'm getting married- and have been living with my fiance for about 8 months now. We are getting married on May 17, 2009.

My fiance isn't Jewish (He's not any other religion either- he's an atheist), so I don't think my parents have been telling anybody about the wedding (they are very upset about it and aren't coming). Since my parents aren't going to come, we decided to have a really small wedding with just a few close friends and my fiance's parents and sister (around 15 guests). I haven't really told a lot of people in our family that I'm getting married since I think most people would be upset about it.

How are you? How is your job going? Are you still doing the news?

Love you too!
Abandoning Eden

and got this back 5 minutes later:

you are very brave... my heart with you. i dont care for religion as long as you love him. sorry that your parents dont support you...
and i wish you all the love happines and luck . my english is very poor,so i cant say all my wishes. May 17, 2009. excited

love you more then ever in this special moment

mazal tov

*beams with happiness*

Things are good

It's been a little over 8 months since B moved in and a little over 5 months since we got engaged (and our wedding is 5 months from tomorrow, so I guess this is the halfway mark of our engagement!). Which is weird, as it still feels really new. On January 12th it'll be our 2 year anniversary.

Last night B picked me up from work, we got burritos at Q'doba, came home, ate, watched current_tv, and just hung out. And B was all "This is awesome, I get to do all my favorite things, I have my favorite food and my favorite people and my favorite tv channel and my awesome kitties and everything is perfect!"

Things ARE perfect. I have complete freedom in my life to do whatever I want (which mostly involves q'doba burritos and current_tv), and I have an awesome partner who likes to do the same things that I want to do, and with whom I feel like I have a true partnership of equals. I'm on my way to an awesome career, I earn enough money to be comfortable with some extra for fun things, and people are starting to pay attention to my research (my schools' research newsletter just wrote a story about my latest journal article and I got a lot of emails from people requesting copies of it!). I'm spending next week at B's parents for christmas (yay, presents! good cheer! cookies!), and then when we come back a couple that we are close friends with (who live far away) will be coming to visit for 4 days around new years (yay, friends!). There's a possibility that another far away couple we are close friends with will be coming to visit too.

I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Oh yes, life isn't perfect, me and B have our issues and problems (what couple doesn't, really). But overall, in general, things are farkin awesome.


In other news, I'm around 90% sure I will be spending a 6th year in grad school, and have been making arrangements for funding and such. This makes me infinitely less stressed out.

I talked to my adviser yesterday and afterwards he sent me this email:

Good talking with you today. I'm glad that you are planning to stay in graduate school for another year. I do feel that it will be best in the long run. And your upbeat attitude is the right approach (of course that is easy to say but not always easy to do).

Why wouldn't I be upbeat? I'm not super thrilled about any of the schools I still have a chance to get a job at this year (2 schools left) since I don't want to live in the NYC area, where they are both located (lesson learned for next year's job market). I wasn't originally planning to go on the job market this year anyway (but was talked into it by advisers). And knowing that I don't have to finish my dissertation by August whilst also planning my wedding and working on other research projects has suddenly taken this huge burden off of me.

I have a whole extra year! I can totally do that! And I will get to make progress/hopefully finish a whole bunch of other research projects as well. This is great news! I basically just got a one year extension on my PhD! And I have full funding (including health insurance) to boot. :) That's a lot better off than many people right now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Bought the dress, a size larger than I usually wear so that I can take it in (also cause they sold out of my size). Cost:$80

Bought the veil Cost: $20

Fabulous necklace was bought out from under me while I took too long making decisions. :( Can't find anything else on Etsy that I like right now, so I'm going to wait a bit and see what new stuff comes out early next year.

Total cost of wedding to date: $200 (including venue, dress, veil, candle holders)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

potential accessories to go with potential wedding dress

Potential wedding dress?

So today I stumbled across this dress which is quite within my budget, semi-white so semi-traditional, and comes in my size!

But I need a second or third or fifth opinion of whether this will look good on me, as it seems to be an internet only type of deal.

it seems to be a little baggy under the models' arms, but I have bigger boobs then her, and I can always have that tailored if need be.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Outing myself to people I barely know.

Ahh facebook, the bane of my existence. I now have almost 400 friends on facebook, at least 100-200 of which are people who I grew up with as an orthodox jew. Many of whom are still frum, (as far as I can tell through frequent annoying facebook status updates about religious plans as well as their 'religious preferences' thing).

Anyway, when I got engaged I posted it to my facebook. And, as is traditional in the Jewish community (among others), millions of people I hadn't talked to in years came out of the woodwork to wish me a mazel tov.

But now I end up feeling guilty and weird and dishonest about my marriage. I know many of these people would not be wishing me well if they knew I was marrying someone not Jewish. So it feels like I'm tricking them into wishing me a Mazal tov somehow, by not being completely upfront about the fact that B is not Jewish.

But how do I go about telling people that he isn't Jewish? I don't think it's a huge deal, but I know other people will. So do I make a big facebook stauts post that is like "FYI MY FIANCE IS A GOY!!" I think my non-jewish friends may be a bit confused by that.

I'm definitely not ashamed of B, and I don't want to feel shamed. On the other hand, why do I have to make a big deal out of the fact that I'm marrying someone not jewish, and do I really have to go out of my way to let everyone know, or is it just none of their business? Also, am I overestimating the extent to which people care about my life?

I'm thinking in particular of one girl...raised Satmer but was "OTD" by their standards (although her OTD was MO), my BFF in high school, who I still occasionally keep in touch with (we talk once or twice a year). I know she would never talk to me again if she knew I was marrying someone not Jewish. But I barely speak to her as it is. Should I go out of my way to end my small friendship with her, by making a big deal out of marrying B, or do I just go about life as if everything is normal (which by my standards they are), and figure she will find it out through the grapevine eventually?

It's hard to figure this all out.

The life and times of AE

Things have been a little crazy lately. I've been traveling a lot (a conference in late October, an interview in early November, Thanksgiving, and in a week and a half it's off to the midwest for Christmas at B's parent's house). This means that for the past two months approximately every other or every third week, I've been going on a 3-5 day trip. This has thrown off my whole work routine; it takes me at least a week to 'recover' from these trips and get back into a frame of mind to get some serious work done, and by the time I'm back in that frame of mind, it's time to go somewhere else.

Added on top of that is that I've been waiting to hear back from this job, which is really stressing me out. They told me they would let me know last week or this week, and I've heard nothing, and there's been nothing on my professions' wiki (that keeps track of which jobs have been offered). But I assume that they have offered it to their first choice and are waiting for that person to make a decision.

I'm still stressing out about it. Not because I particularly want this job, but I just want to know if I'm going to be spending a 6th year in grad school or not..if I am, I can relax and not feel so guilty about doing basically no work on my dissertation for the past month or so. If I do get the job, I need to be seriously working my ass off right now. So instead I'm stuck in a limbo where I'm not working as seriously as I would need to be if I got the job, but I'm not able to relax as I would if I hadn't gotten the job.

On top of THAT is regular end of semester madness; I've spent the past 5 days or so grading papers, and tonight my class has it's final which I have to grade as well (and get final grades in).

And all this stress and travel have definitely made me more ornery in general, which has led to some 'work-life spillover' in that I have been picking fights nonstop with B (because he happens to be the only one around to pick fights with). This built up to a huge altercation on Sunday, which involved both of us crying, and then talking for hours about what was bothering each of us and how we can improve our relationship so that we are both happier. One of the reasons I love B is that whenever we fight we end up having these long talks...and actually do things about it. As a result our relationship has actually been improving over time (as opposed to other relationships I've been in, which have always seemed like a slow march towards destruction).

I've now not spoken to either of my parents in a little over a month, since I called to talk about my interview, and my mom went on her whole delusional rant about how if I want to talk to her I can never talk about B. So I've just given up on talking to both my parents at this point.

Me and B are thinking of going to sears or something this weekend and getting a professional photo taken of us, and then framing it and giving it to B's mom for a Christmas present. We'd also get one for our house, and I'm thinking of mailing one to my parents. In a normal family that would be a nice thing...but in this case I'm just pretending my family is normal. And would that actually be a passive aggressive move on my part?

Monday, December 8, 2008

How do you sell gold?

I keep reading about people selling their gold jewelery for insane prices...I have a whole bunch of yellow gold jewelry I've received as gifts over the years (much of it from my bat mitzvah, including some bracelets that don't even fit around my wrists anymore), but I don't like yellow gold and haven't worn any in at least 10 years (as someone with an olive complexion, yellow gold looks hideous on me). So that means I have a bunch of gold jewelry that has been sitting around in my jewelry box for years, untouched.

I'm thinking that since the price of gold is so high right now, I might as well sell all my yellow gold and maybe even some white gold jewelry I got from an ex (which I feel weird wearing, so I never wear that either), and use the money to buy our wedding rings. If I can sell this giant yellow gold herringbone necklace I've had for years and worn like once, I'll probably have enough for two nice platinum or white gold wedding rings + change. And I hear the price of platinum has been going down too. I have a food scale at home I'm going to use to weigh everything tonight, but I think what I have is at least a couple of ounces. And an ounce of gold pays something like $750 right now.

Anyone know how to go about doing this? Do I just walk into a random jewelry store and ask how much they will give me for it? Which would pay me more- a pawn/consignment shop, or a nice place in the jewelry district of my city?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Crock pot recipe o' the day: Steak and Shake Chili

Today is the second time I'm using the crock pot I acquired 4 months ago when an acquaintance of mine moved to Arizona. The first time we made pulled pork, which was ok (although I definitely made too much, since we ended up eating pulled pork sandwiches for a week and a half, which means I'm all pulled-porked-out for now).

This week I went on an internet crock pot recipe search, and found a fantastic blog, where the writer is trying a new crock pot recipe every day for a year. Complete with pictures and reviews of the food.

So yesterday at the grocery store I bought all the ingredients for the pomegranate beef recipe, which I'll be making later next week or next weekend maybe. But today I'm trying a recipe I didn't find on this blog: An imitation steak and shake chili recipe.

See, B, my fiance, is from the midwest. Something the midwest has that I haven't seen east of Ohio is Steak and Shake- a kind of chain diner thing. B LOVES Steak and Shake chili, and every time we go to visit his parents he ends up dragging me there around 5 times a week. Not that I don't love their food too, but this fact directly contributes to me gaining 5 pounds every time we visit his parents.

So since we are without steak and shake until Christmas time, after much internet research today I am attempting to make a passable imitation of Steak and Shake Chili in the crock pot. I just put everything in, and it should be finished around 4:30 tonight.

1.5 pounds of ground beef
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 can Campbell's condensed French onion soup
1 can kidney beans
1 can chili beans
1 Tbsp Chili powder
2 Tsp Cocoa Powder
2 Tsp Cumin
1/2 Tsp Black Pepper
1 8 ounce can Tomato Sauce
1/2 cup Ketchup
1 cup Dr. Pepper (not diet)

Serve with:
Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Brown meat in oil and salt. Meanwhile, blend the soup in a blender or food processor until completely smooth. Once meat is browned, drain and then add the soup and let it simmer a few more minutes. Add beef and soup to crock. Drain beans and add to crock. Add everything else to crock. Cook on low for 6 hours. Serve over pasta and sprinkle some cheese on top.

I'll let you know how it turns out in approximately 5.5 hours.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving with B's family

Thanksgiving at my parents house took place without two of their three children; me and my brother spent the holidays with our respective non-jewish significant other's families. At what point do my parents realize they have decimated our family by holding such a firm line on religion? Or do they never realize that? Me and my brother have resolved that if I end up getting this job near my parents we'll do our own Thanksgivings.

My parents also did not try to contact me in any way on or near Thanskgiving, they didn't invite me to thanksgiving dinner (although if I had invited myself I doubt they would say no), and they had no idea that I was even in Illinois.

Meanwhile, I met all of B's family out in Joliet, Illinois (where his cousins live). Including his cousin who is a race car driver, his other cousin who used to go on phish tour (yay for new hippie relatives!), and a whole slew of other people. We sat at the 'kids' table, although B, at 25, was the second youngest kid (the youngest was his sister who is 22). After dinner we 'kids' went to go play wii in the basement and me and B played some awesome rounds of tennis, and some less awesome rounds of some tank game. Everyone came together at some point to watch Forrest Gump in the living room. Later at the hotel me and B hung out with 2 of his cousins and walked around, talking about life.

There was no yelling, there was no talk of politics or religion (except when B and I were explaining to some cousins why my parents aren't coming to our wedding), there was no snarky comments thrown across the table, or under someone's breath, and there was no one looking miserable or uncomfortable or awkward. People wanted to hear about my crazy parents, and people wanted to talk about the wedding, and about my job prospects. I didn't have to pretend like B didn't exist, or that we didn't live together, or that we arn't getting married. I didn't have to limit myself to only talking about school. People were nice to each other, and they seemed happy to see each other, and seemed like they were close with each other as well.

In short, it was awesome. And the exact opposite of my 'normal' Thanksgiving experiences with my parents and grandparents and cousins.

'Normal' family gatherings at my parents house involve several arguments (usually about religion and/or politics, and usually between my charedi cousins and my MO cousins), several outwardly racist and/or sexist statements, my grandmother interrogating me about my level of religiosity and telling me that "education is all nice and good, but marrying a good Jewish boy should be your first priority", and otherwise trying to convince me to be more religious, my grandmother staring in my face and inspecting my ears to see if I have new piercings, and telling me to get rid of the old ones (I have 3 earrings in each ear), or (one year when I had an eyebrow ring briefly) telling me how no one would ever marry me if I had an eyebrow ring, and my mom making snarky comments about the way I'm dressed, or the way I live my life, or how much I weigh, or how my not-modest-enough-for-her clothes make me look fat (which is how my mom tries to get me to stop wearing them). And wearing what is basically a costume, and having to pretend that I'm in any way religious, because otherwise my parents would be mortified. More recently, those gatherings have involved snarky comments from my mom about how I can't bring home leftovers because I might give them to "that person you're living with".

But I've seen the other side, and how life can be if everyone acts like adults, and tries to have a fun family gathering instead of using it to air all of ones grievances. And a family where people are genuinely happy to see each other, and everyone catches up with each other, and isn't judgmental about everything. I have seen it, and it is wonderful. And I can't imagine ever choosing to go to my parents house for Thanksgiving instead of B's family. Even if they would have me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I spent the night with a lady, and now I'm in love

Me and B have been thinking about getting a dog, specifically a beagle. His sister just got a beagle named Penny a few months ago, and brought Penny with her to our Thanksgiving hotel, in Joliet Illinois. After listening to B's sister talk about how much work is involved (she has to take her dog for a walk four times a day! and one of those is a 45 minute walk! ), I'm not so sure we should get one until we move and have a fenced in yard or something.

Penny spent the night cuddling with me to try and change my mind. She didn't leave my side all night, not even to go sleep with B's sister in the next bed over. (B is sharing a room with his parents, since we're not married and all)

I think it's working, cause she is so adorable I kinda want to dognap her and take her home with me. She's lying next to me right now, snoring away. So adorable!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What is wrong with this article

Hint: I'm going to bold the part that's wrong, and not post the rest of the article.

NEW YORK ( -- The home price plunge stayed on a record pace this summer, according to a widely watched gauge of national real-estate markets released Tuesday.

The S&P Case-Shiller Home Price national index recorded a 16.6% decline in the third quarter compared with the same period a year ago. That eclipsed the previous record of 15.1% set during the second quarter.

Prices in Case-Shiller's separate index of 10 major cities fell a record 18.6%, while its 20-city index dropped a record 17.4%

With foreclosures soaring at record rates, the economic picture dimming and job losses ramping up, all the elements were in place to push prices lower.

"The turmoil in the financial markets is placing further downward pressure on a housing market already weakened by its own fundamentals," said David Blitzer, Standard & Poor's spokesman for the indexes, in a press release. "All three aggregate indices, and 13 of the 20 metro areas, are reporting new record rates of decline...Prices are back to where they were in early 2004.

Answer: The problem here is that when prices fell by 18%, they fell to 2004 levels. That reflects an insane increase in housing costs over the past 4 years that far outpaces the rate of inflation.

Well boo freakin hoo homeowners. Your house, which you bought for 200,000, and thought you could sell 10 years later for 300,000 is now only worth 260,000. You still made $60,000! Meanwhile, people like me who want to buy their first home have no way of breaking into home ownership, since someone, somewhere, decided that home price inflation should far outpace the rate of actual inflation. How did you think that was going to work out for ya?

I'll tell you how that works out- no one can afford to buy your houses anymore, so you either drop the price or stay on the market forever. So you end up dropping the price. And somehow that's a Big Problem (tm).

Houses aren't something that you invest in to make more're supposed to invest in them so that instead of throwing your money into a big black hole we lesser beings call "rent" you can get the money back in a few years if you want to sell your house. But that doesn't mean you should get your money back at an 18% interest rate! That's just unreasonable! And yet because it's not working out like that, people are freaking out.

(note: the foreclosure problem, though related, is a whole other kettle of worms, and I don't think people freaking out because of that are ridiculous).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Always on fire

I was watching an old episode of Six Feet Under last night, where one of the characters goes to some self-actualizing seminar thing called "The plan."

In the show, the seminar leader talks to one of the participants, a woman from a foreign country. The woman tells this story about how when she was 12, her father had a dream that she was unfaithful to her future husband (who had already been picked for her), so her dad set her on fire. She then shows off her scars to the seminar.

The seminar leader responds with something like "you should invite your father over, and forgive him for what he did to you." The woman is of course skeptical, at which point the seminar leader says "as long as you can't forgive your father, you will always be on fire"

Now my parents never set me on fire, but I think the general principles are the same. Forgiveness is not for the person who is being forgiven. It's for the person who forgives. As long as I can't forgive my parents for how they have treated me, they will always have some kind of control over my life. Even now, when I talk to them once every several months, I still have a major chip on my shoulder about them. Not a day goes by where I don't feel upset about the way they are reacting to my choices. Not a week goes by without me fantasizing about what life would be like if my parents would be supportive and happy for me and my decisions.

But how ridiculous is that? I'm barely talking to them, and they still manage to cast this huge shadow over my life. I need to somehow figure out a way to forgive them, to be at peace, to not be spending so much energy thinking about my parents. Part of me wants to go to therapy for a bit to figure this stuff out, although I kinda hate going to therapy cause then it just makes me dwell on bad things more so than I would otherwise. Part of me wants to just call my mom up and say "I forgive you" and see what happens. Part of me thinks that if I truly did forgive them, I wouldn't even feel the need to tell them about it, so clearly I don't forgive them.

Who really knows anymore.

Meanwhile, I don't think I ever told my parents I was going to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Oh did I mention that? B's parents are flying me (and B) out to Chicago to meet the entire extended family of B who all meet up outside of Chicago every year for Thanksgiving. I think it might be fun, and I'm hoping that his family will be cool, since our future kids probably won't be having too much contact with my family.

But meanwhile, I don't think I ever told my parents, and they never asked what I was doing for I guess it's good that I made these other plans, since it seems I'm not invited home anymore. This will be the first time in my life that I won't be at my parent's house for Thanksgiving (Since they don't celebrate Christmas, and since I won't go to my parents house for Jewish holidays, Thanksgiving was really the only holiday my family was ever all home for).

I'm not sure if that's going to be weird or depressing or this point I'm more excited about taking a mini-vacation with B (Our first plane ride together! The first time in a while that I get to go on vacation!) and meeting all of B's family (who soon will also be my family!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

rut students found my facebook!

Apparently, even if you set "photo's that are tagged of you" to be friends-only, that doesn't set the actual photos you post yourself to be friends-only.

As I discovered, when a student of mine came up to me on Monday night and was all "I saw your facebook profile, I can't believe you had dreadlocks! Mad respect!"

Later that day, another student of mine (who is friends with the first one) friended me on facebook. After some thought and editing of my profile, I added her back. Why not? There's only 2 weeks left to the semester. If something goes horrible wrong, that's just lessons learned for next time.

Yesterday I found that student #2 had sent me a lovely facebook message, that just totally made my day.

The best
You are teaching, by far, the best class I have had all semester-- Not a night goes by with out something hilarious happening and it actually helps me to remember things! You should here the pow-wows that go on before you arrive!!!

So it seems this facebook-friending thing is working out in my favor. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The state of religiousity in the U.S. (among women of childbearing ages)

As you may or may not know, when I'm not ranting about my parents, I'm a sociologist. Specifically, I'm a grad student in sociology: I have a MA, and am planning on completing my PhD either next May or August depending on how things go (if I don't get this professorship job I just interviewed for I may end up staying in grad school until 2010).

The specific topic I study is family and gender, and my dissertation is about cohabitation in the United States. I do my research using large scale nationally-representative datasets.

Right now I am working on an index of religiosity- that is, a measure of how important religion is to the daily lives of people in my dataset. I want to account for this in my statistical models, since religiosity is highly correlated with cohabitation.

So here are some brand spanking new numbers I just calculated using the National Survey of Family Growth dataset. This dataset was collected in 1995 and 2002, is nationally representative, and specifically surveyed women age 15-49 (women of childbearing ages). So these numbers are only true for women age 15-49 in the US.

For all women age 15-49:
Religion very important: 57.04
Religion somewhat important: 36.45%
Religion not important: 6.5%

I'm specifically looking at women who have ever been married (so may be divorced or widowed at the time of survey, but were married at least once). For women age 15-49 who have ever been married:
Religion very important:60.90%
Religion somewhat important: 33.97%
Religion not important: 5.13%

For women age 15-49 who have ever been married and didn't cohabit before marriage:
Religion very important:68.03%
Religion somewhat important: 28.31%
Religion not important: 3.66%

For women age 15-49 who have ever been married and who DID cohabit before marriage:
Religion very important:51.29%
Religion somewhat important: 41.60%
Religion not important: 7.12%

It seems that not being religious is a pretty rare state for women of childbearing ages in the United States.

you may say I'm a dreamer...

But I'm not the only one

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

the pro's and con's of a professorship job.

Well I had my interview last week. I think I'm going to take the job if offered, but I'm trying to think about it in a more rational manner. I won't find out until December that I got it, but I want to know before then what my decision would be, so I'm not trying to make a decision in the 2 weeks you normally get to make such decisions.

*2 and 2 teaching load (2 classes a semester), which is basically the lowest teaching load you can get outside of an ivy league university
*everyone was really really friendly and seemed happy with the department.
*I would have complete flexibility over at least one course a semester (which course to teach) and complete flexibility over when to schedule courses.
*no one is doing research very similar to mine, so I won't feel like I'm in competition with specific people
*I would never have to teach introduction to sociology, since that's taught by adjunct faculty

*tenure expectations are not impossible- out of the last 9 people who went up for tenure in the University(which represents 3 years of hires in this school since they hire so few people a year), 1 person didn't get it, and he was denied at the university level and not the department level. I looked up this guys CV later, and it seemed that since he got his phd he only published 1 book based on his dissertation and 1 article, so it seems to me that they were fair in denying him tenure.
*so research is expected, and supported by the university
*the school is unionized, which means guaranteed raises every year and an excellent benefit package.
*it's a public university so I wouldn't be teaching a bunch of rich spoiled white kids all the time- there is a very diverse student body.

Grad students:
*although there is no grad program in sociology, there are some grad programs in affiliated departments (like women's studies) that I would be able to teach in if I wanted to do graduate teaching
*no grad program might actually be an advantage cause that means no time taken up with advising and mentoring grad students.
*I don't even know if I want to teach grad students, I think my passion is much more for undergraduate teaching.

*The school is about a half hour drive from where i grew up, and where a lot of my friends still live, so I would have a built in social network.
*The school is in the NYC metro area, so I would not be living in the middle of bumblefuck

*The department is really really small (~9 faculty members including whomever they hire this year) which may lead to small department infighting, although I was assured on my interview that this has been a really great place to work for at least the last 20 years (but that before that, there was some infighting)
*No one is doing research similar to mine, so I would have few people in my department to bounce ideas off of, or to give me technical help with stats
*I would be required to teach research methods and stats every year, which I don't mind right now but which might get tedious after a while. Also those classes are known for low teacher evaluations since the topic can be pretty boring, which may hurt my teaching evaluations (which may affect tenure)

*I would be judged for tenure using the same criteria as the other campus's in this university's system, some of which have grad programs and grad research assistants to help them do their research
*it's a public university and subject to budget cuts at the government level. The economy sucks, so there will probably be budget problems
*public universities generally have less resources at any given time.

Grad students:
*No grad program in sociology so I wouldn't be able to have graduate research assistants to help me write papers, which might make me less productive

*the NYC metro area has a freakin insane cost of living compared to anywhere else in the country. I was checking out housing prices around this area, and even places further out with longer commutes have what I would consider insane housing prices- like $300k MINIMUM for a piece of shit that needs work. So we might not be able to buy a house right away. A LOT of junior faculty seemed to rent instead of own. The salary is a little higher for this job than in jobs in other locations, but definitely does not make up for the huge cost of living increase
*It's near my parents. And we're not on great terms right now, obviously. In fact, I refuse to visit them until they agree to meet B, and they refuse to meet B, so we're at a standoff right now. Being closer to them might mean we would reconcile (in a dream world where my parents are reasonable people), but more likely will mean having to deal with them 9and related drama) more then I would if I moved to, say, the west coast.
*B really hates the place and doesn't want to live there. To be fair, he has only visited the area 3 times, and I think if he visited it more he would like it a bit. He has reassured me repeatedly that he will follow me wherever I go, even to rural Texas, and has reassured me that he would follow me to this area too. But just because he WOULD follow me there, doesn't mean he will be happy living there, and even as I try to convince him that it wouldn't be so bad, I'm afraid he's right, and that the reasons he has for not living there (congestion, high price of living, etc), are good ones.

So this will all be useless information if I don't get the job offer, but I have about 30% chance of getting it I think (since they are interviewing 3 people for the job), and I think they are looking for someone who does pretty much exactly what i do, so I am a really good "fit". Then again, maybe the other people they are interviewing are better fits. I have no way of knowing.

My options if I don't take this job are to wait and see if anyone else wants to hire me this year (which is pretty unlikely at this point, as I applied to 7 jobs, 5 have scheduled interviews, and 1 of the remaining ones is Princeton which I don't think I am good enough to get a job at. So I have 1 more chance for an interview). So If I don't get or take this job, I will stay in grad school for an extra year and apply for jobs again next year (for professorship jobs you can only apply once a year, around fall of the year before you want a job). I have full funding for another year of grad school, but I will probably be finished with my dissertation before that year (since I definitely will be finished if I do get/take this job). So that means an extra year of fucking around, no reason to be in this city, not earning as much as I could be earning, etc.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I was so caught up in the presidential race that I barely had to to be nervous for my interview tomorrow to be a REAL tenure track professor. (Ok that's a lie, I had a few anxiety dreams about getting interviewed here and there)

But now that the election is over, it's starting to set in. I've been working the past 9 years towards becoming a tenure track professor, and tomorrow is one of the last big hoops I have to jump through before getting it (ok, I also have to finish my dissertation, but I'm not worried about that).

It also is my only interview so far (of the 7 schools I applied to, 5, including this one, have scheduled interviews, leaving 2 more possibilities). If I don't get this job, I will probably end up spending a 6th year in graduate school. They are interviewing at least 2 other people, possibly 3. So my job tomorrow is to be the most awesome I can be, in order to beat out those other 2 or 3 candidates.

Wish me luck!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My mom (has no grasp of reality)

It's kinda surreal to talk to my mom, who is so deep in denial that she has created an imaginary world in which I'm not getting married. We just had the following conversation: (tenuous connection to reality part in bold)

*blah blah stuff about job interview, got to talking about the housing market near where my parents live*
mom: Yeah the housing market is really bad, but I think it's going to get to it's lowest point next year and then start going up after that

me: well that's great, cause I'm planning on buying a house next year or the year after!

mom: well banks aren't giving out mortgages as much, and you need to have money in savings to have a big downpayment

me: well between the two of us we have close to $XX,XXX in savings...

Mom: Nah you don't want to buy a house. You should get a condo! That would really be better for you and what you need

Me: Yeah but I want a house- I'm probably going to have kids in a few years, and arn't condo's usually apartments? I want a place that I can keep for a bunch of years that has enough room for kids

Mom: Yeah you don't want a house, you want a condo. How are you going to take care of a house all by yourself? What are you going to, go out and mow the lawn by yourself?

me: [suppressing comments about gender roles]: But I'm not going to be living by myself, I'm going to have a husband, remember?

mom: whatever, we can't talk about that

me: Well...he's still going to be around..

mom: well we can't talk about that stuff, because then there's just bad feelings and we shouldn't talk about that

me: well, I get bad feelings when we DON'T talk about him. Plus is it really a good idea to just deny reality like that?

mom: well it's not denying reality, I just don't want to talk about it. if you want to talk to me then you can't talk about him ever

me: .....

mom: well I have to go put some clothes in the dryer, have a good night, bye

Over the past two months I've talked to my mom on the phone 3 times. The first was right before rosh hashana- I called her to wish her a happy rosh hashana. I deliberately called her while I was walking to my class, so that I could only talk to her for a few minutes. This was after several months of not calling or talking to her at all (the last time before being when I called to say I was engaged).

I talked to her for all of 3 minutes that first time, didn't mention B, and at the end she was like "Well, I'm really happy you called, it was good to hear from you."

So of course that immediately sent me into fantasies, whereas since she said she was happy I called that means one day she would accept me and B. Since she didn't hate me enough to not pick up the phone.

See how I just set myself up for disappointment there?

Anyways, the next conversation set me straight when I mentioned something about wedding dress shopping and she talked over me. But just because I hate myself, I thought I would give her a call and another chance today. And then the above ensued.

Also when I mentioned that I got the interview, and the school it was at, she was all "why would you want to work THERE." Great mom. Not sure if that's just because she's a bitchy person in general, or because she sucks at being a mom, or because she doesn't want me to live near her.

Anyways, I guess I have nothing to say to her anymore, since in order to talk to her I have to pretend like B doesn't exist. Can I return this mom and get a new one?

I have a job interview!

I got my first job interview for a professorship job! It's next week Thursday, and I just found out so I'm running around trying to put together a job talk...

It's for my absolute last choice in's a third tier school that is about 20 minutes from my parents house. Yet it's the only school that wants to interview me so far, so I'm going to go in with an open mind. But near my parents, that doesn't sound so awesome. But maybe the school will rock, and just cause I live near my parents doesn't mean I have to hang out with fact, maybe by living close to them they will feel more pressure to accept B?

Monday, October 27, 2008

photo update

nothing new to report really. I'm really tired of working and need a vacation.

So instead of a post, I give you a photopost of recent photos from my camera

Got this shirt in the mail today, which inspired photo taking and thus photoposts. I'm totally going to be rockin this shirt tomorrow. I wonder if I can get away with wearing it to class under a suit jacket...

Every Saturday morning me and B make bacon and eggs for breakfast (sometimes with toast of some kind) and have breakfast together. Here's breakfast from a few weeks ago

Sometimes breakfast comes with a mustache

B's kitty and my kitty love each other now!

Foo the ninja cat trying to sneak his way onto my recent trip to Maryland! He is one crafty ninja cat..

Some bell peppers I got at the farmers market

Monday, October 13, 2008

Religulous and wedding dress shopping

Me and B went to see Religulous this past Saturday. We got there for a 3:30 showing, but according to the box office person, even though all the websites on the internets had said it was showing at 3:30, and the box office itself had a sign that said it was showing at 3:30, this was all a lie and it really wasn't showing until 6:30. I was vaguely suspicious that she was religious and trying to stop people from seeing the movie.

Anyway, we had driven about 45 minutes to get to this movie, so we decided to go to the nearbye mall to kill time until the 6:30 showing. We had a lovely (very) late lunch at the cheesecake factory, and then walked around the mall. B graciously humored me in dress shopping, which I'm sure wasn't fun for him. We checked out two stores- Macy's (where all the dresses were basically short cocktail dresses) and this "formal dress and prom" store that had all sorts of prom dresses and a bunch of wedding dresses hidden in the back. Since I don't think I want a big poofy white wedding dress, I was mostly looking at the prom dresses.

From this trip I have successfully concluded that a) all wedding and prom dresses come in size 6 or 8 only, which i will never fit into and b) there is no way in hell I am getting any sort of dress that looks like a prom dress. Everything there was poofy and glittery and shiny...after looking around for a while and trying to picture myself in a big glittery poofy dress, I've decided there's definitely no way I can wear anything like that and not feel like a complete fool. So I'm back to square one on the wedding dress front...although I have a new idea of going to an indian clothes store and getting a Ghagra Choli or something, as I always love indian embroidery and styles...

After the mall we went to see religulous. First of all, we were the youngest people there by at least 15 years. Apparently young folk arn't down with Bill Maher or Atheism? I'm pretty sure 90% of the audience were Jewish, since they laughed the hardest at all the jewish jokes. Also they all looked like old Jewish couples.

The movie was mostly focused on Christianity, had a tiny bit about Jews and Mormans and Scientologists, and a little more about Muslims. Like anything having to do with Christianity, I was a bit alienated and couldn't relate to some of what they were saying, since I didn't grow up in that belief system. This movie is definitely not going to change any religious people's minds, and will probably just anger them. But I don't think it's aimed at changing people's mind, I think it's aimed at the 15% of Americans who are not affiliated with any type of organized religion. Preaching to the choir mostly.

Then again, I am the choir, and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Three things really stuck out for me:

1) When Bill Maher met with this Jewish guy (I think in Israel) who ran a shop of devices that could be used on shabbas through religious loopholes. Basically, this dude was an inventor, with all sorts of things that let you use electricity on Shabbas, but not actually break shabbas- like a phone you could dial somehow without breaking shabbas, an oven timer, a shabbas elevator, and a wheelchair that you could move with air pressure.

Back when I was orthodox, that stuff never sat right with me. It was all exploiting loopholes, but seemed to violate the spirit of the religion. Maybe that's because I grew up thinking electricity was a horrible thing to use on Saturdays, but I have a clear memory of taking a Shabbas elevator once (an elevator that stops and opens on every floor, so you can use it without pressing the buttons) and even though I was going to the 20th floor of some building, and even though my parents said it was ok, I felt very very uncomfortable using it. It seemed hypocritical in some way, like so much of judaism does to me know- that people are following the letter of the law so closely that they forget the big picture.

2) When he was talking to 2 ex-mormons, Maher asked them why more people didn't leave the religion. They talked about how it was social suicide, that if you left your parents and family wouldn't talk to you, and none of your friends would talk to you. I was reminded once more of how much I feel I have in common with ex-mormons, and how much judaism and mormonism has in common, at least socially- although the message differs, the method of enforcing it is the same.

3) When he met up with this guy who 'used to be gay' and is now married with 3 children, and runs one of those places where gay people who want to be straight go to fix themselves or whatever. Those people make me so sad...can you imagine hating yourself so much that you would willingly go to a place to 'fix' you of yourself? I guess if you are of the opinion that gayness is wrong (like alcoholism or something) this seems like a good solution, but from my more liberal position, the people who go to these types of places are the ones who have deep psychological problems. I know some people are forced there by their parents...but I know of someone like this who went voluntarily..he dated a (male) friend of mine for several months, and then after he broke up with my friend he became a born again christian, and went to one of those anti-gay brainwashing places. All I can feel in these situations is pity.

Meanwhile, some religious people on some other blogs I read were deeply offended by this movie. And it is probably deeply offensive. But if you think about it, religious beliefs ARE ridiculous. That doesn't mean that religion isn't helpful to people, and doesn't enrich a lot of people's lives. But the two are not mutually exclusive, and just because you don't like someone pointing out the ridiculousness of your religion, doesn't mean they are wrong.

My (blogging) friend's reaction to this movie, which was mostly anger, reminded me of a friend I had in college who took a bible studies class. The class talked about the documentary hypothesis (the hypothesis that the bible was compiled from 4 different sources). My friend, who was an orthodox jew, and had taken this class in the hebrew department assuming that it would agree with his viewpoint, was very angry about this hypothesis. So angry that he was talking about organizing some type of protest against the professor. And I think that is a common response to your fundemental life views being challenged by scientific have to either reject the views on which you have built your entire life, or accept that those views are wrong. Faced with that decision, I think most people would get angry at the person who callanges their views, because that anger protects them.

Anyways, I have some more to say about my personal life- including talking with my mom around 2 weeks ago after I wrote that long blog post about it- but I think I'll save that for another post.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Dissertating is aging me

I can't help but notice this glaring new white (not gray, WHITE) hair on my head. I know it's new because it's only about an inch and a half long, and given that I grow about half an inch of hair a month, that means this one represents approximately the time I have spent working on the first chapter of my dissertation, which is due on Monday.

Oh dissertation, you have caused me to grow a white hair at the tender age of 26. How many more white hairs will I have by the time I finish?

On the brighter side, this may mean I am going to have white hairs (like my mom) and not gray hairs (like my dad). IMO white hair is a lot more attractive and cool looking than gray hairs. On the not so bright side, I think my mom started getting white hairs in her late thirties, so it seems I am considerably ahead of schedule.

Monday, September 29, 2008

forgive or forget?

Which is better; to forgive or to forget? And by that I mean; to forgive the person who wronged you, or to forget the relationship you had with that person, because there can be no forgiveness.

I talk a lot about my dad here, but I don't say much about my mom. Up until I went off to college, I was very close with my mom. Every friday night, while all the boys in the house would go off to shul, me and my mom would sit on a couch together, and read, and talk about our weeks.

In high school my mom was always sticking up for me. When my principle tried to tell my parents that I should consider going to a different school, because since I wore all black all the time I must be depressed depressed (and depressed people can't go to jewish school of course), my mom, who was wearing all black at the time (as all true new york artists do), laughed in her face and told her off. Expulsion averted. When on "mother daughter day" at school I wore a bright green and yellow shirt, and a teacher came up to me asking why i had to wear THAT shirt when all the mothers would be there, my mom got all up in her face and told her that my shirt didn't violate any part of the dress code, so she should leave me alone.

It wasn't just that my mom had my back, or that she was standing up to religious figures. It was that she thought for herself, and never took any crap. When my mom was my age (or younger) she decided to go to art school against her father's wishes, and later worked for some kick ass art designers (before she had kids and became a stay at home mom). It must have been tough for her, since going to art school isn't exactly the top career choice for young jewish women.

Now, I didn't admire everything about my mom. For instance, when I was around 10 or 11, she stopped talking to the person who had been her best friend for almost as long as I was alive. Her best friend, who had become a baal teshuva for her husband, decided when she caught her husband cheating on her that orthodoxy was a bunch of hipocracy, and stopped being orthodox. My mom stopped talking to her, and forbade me from talking to her son, who was my best friend for almost as long as I had been alive. That never sat right with me.

Anyways, getting back to our relationship-

In college something changed. I'm not sure what it was. Maybe it was that I decided to go to grad school sometime around freshman year, which suddenly made me a lot closer with my dad (who has a phd). Maybe it was that I started studying the gendered division of labor in the home, which she took as a personal insult, as if I was studying the topic because I disapproved of her life. Maybe it was just natural, given that I was off making new friends and figuring out my identity. Maybe it was that I was open about not being religious for the first time.

When I got engaged to my ex fiance, our relationship improved a bit. My mom was really into planning the wedding, and we spent a lot of time together running around and planning things. But then once me and my ex broke up, my mom became noticeably cooler towards me. I think she was disappointed that after all her planning, the wedding wasn't going to go on. I also think that despite the fact that my ex is the one who called it off, that my mom unconsciously (or consciously) blamed me for the relationship ending. I was definitely not going to be following in her footsteps now; I was headed off to graduate school soon, I wasn't getting married when she thought I would be, and I wasn't religious anymore. Our relationship became increasingly estranged, until we got to the point where we would talk about school and gardening maybe, and not much else. Certainly nothing that actually affected me. She told me not to speak to my youngest brother, so I wouldn't be a 'bad influence' on him. She blamed me for my other brother not being religious (although he stopped keeping kosher before I did! But I was older so it was my fault).

In grad school for a while I called her at least once a week, having these weird conversations about school and gardening. Up until I told her about B that is. After that, if I mentioned anything having to do with B, she would talk over me on the phone. For the first year and a half we were dating, every time I would talk to my mom on the phone, I would hang up and feel hurt. The last time I saw her was on memorial day- she told me I couldn't take leftovers home if I was going to share them with "that person you live with." The last time I spoke to her was when I got engaged in July- I called to tell her and was met with total silence. When I eventually asked if she was going to say anything she responded "I have nothing to say. You know how I feel."

This shouldn't have come as a surprise, given how she treated her former best friend of over 10 years who decided to leave orthodoxy. That doesn't make it any less hurtful.

I do miss her though. I understand why she is acting the way she is, as by her perspective I am rejecting everything about her, which she probably takes pretty personally. But I don't think there is anything I can do to change that.

So now I have two choices going forward; do I try to work on forgiving her, despite how hurt I am that she would reject me now because of my choices. Do I reach out to her, even though she probably doesn't want a relationship with me (because of those choices). Do I start trying again, even though I know she will never accept me, and that every time I try to reach out to her, I will get hurt. Or do I forget her? Do I work on trying to feel less bad about the fact that I will never have a real relationship with her, unless I completely change everything about me. Do I try to stop burning with jealousy every time I hear about someone's close relationship with their mother? Like every hurt, It will probably fade with time.

I was thinking of reaching out and calling her today to wish her a happy new years. But every time I reach for the phone, I am reminded how hurt I still am by the way she has treated me the entire time I have been dating B, the way she reacted to my engagement, and that she hasn't once tried to contact me since then (Not that I've tried to contact her either I suppose). Just writing about what has happened between us makes me so angry, and sad. I've been trying to be less angry about these things. If I was just sad, I could reach out to her. But that anger is still there, and instead of diminishing with time, it is just getting stronger. So is it time to move on?

Talked to dad

Yesterday, in the middle of a new episode of true blood, my dad called me. I was waiting for some food delivery so I eagerly grabbed the phone, only to feel a wave of anxiety as I saw who it was. So I hesitated, and by the time I picked up the phone it had gone to voicemail. My dad left a pretty awkward voicemail about having a good year.

I called back at around 10, but he didn't pick up. Then he called me back again at 10:30, at which point I was already half asleep.

We had an extremely awkward 4 minute conversation, in which he asked if I was doing anything for Rosh Hashana (at least he didn't assume I was doing something), and I said (truthfully) that I wasn't doing anything, because I have a dissertation chapter due a week from Monday (today). We then talked a bit more, mostly having to do with school and how I am applying for jobs this year. He managed in those 4 minutes to make me feel bad about my decision to only apply for a few jobs this year, and my plan to stay in grad school for an extra (6th) year in the likely event that I don't get a job-which I have full funding for. Somehow this translates into him thinking that I'm failing out of grad school or something. Wonderful.

He didn't ask for any forgiveness. I didn't offer any. B was not mentioned by either of us.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

B started a blog!

Well he started it months ago, but now he's actually posted a post for two days in a row!

Here's one on how he became an atheist

In other news, I got the bill for that cancer genetic testing thing, and had to ask my dad for the money he promised (way back before I was engaged) he would give me for it- since while my principles are strong, the bill was for more money than I have in my bank account right now. :( Apparently my crappy health insurance has a $500 is up with that?

Meanwhile my dad wrote back saying he would be happy to send the money in a shana tova card, and that he wants to call and when would be a good time. I sent back an email telling him i'm free pretty much all the time except during the 5 hours a week I have scheduled teaching-related duties, like teaching, and office hours. That was yesterday, and he has yet to call. When/if he does call, it'll be the first time talking on the phone since I got engaged.

I was just thinking the other day that rosh hashana and my birthday are the two times a year my parents have ever called me in the past (even before I was engaged/dating B, I was the one who always called them), and that it would be weird if they didn't call this year for rosh hashana. But I guess at least my dad will be calling. Still haven't had any contact with my mother since I called to tell her I was engaged and her response was *total silence* then "I have nothing to say, you know how I feel." Lovely.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Older singles making aliyah?

What's up with all the single frum men and women in their late 20s making aliyah? It's always the same type of people...they are single, haven't been in a serious relationship in years (if ever), they most likely lived on the UWS when in the US, they never mention any particular connection to Israel, and then suddenly one day they decide to move there and 3 months later they are on a plane.

Of course there was a group of people who stayed is Israel for college and beyond after going to seminary for a year, but that happened fairly early on. Now, after years of only one person I know (at the most!) moving to Israel each year, suddenly there are 5-7 of them last year and this year.

Is it that the American jewish community isn't very welcoming to older jewish singles? Is it that they are desperate to get married and they think they will have a better chance in Israel? Do they hate their life in the US and think it will be better in Israel? Do they just want to start their life over with nobody who knows them, ,and for jews the only feasible place to do that is Israel? Or do they magically get the urge to move there one day in their late 20s, like the way you get schizophrenia in your early 20s after not showing signs of it you whole childhood?

Well I got some bad news my friends: wherever you go, there you are.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I don't get you

I pride myself on trying to see things from other people's perspective, even if I don't agree with them. For instance, although I'm firmly pro-choice, I understand why some people are pro-life. I might disagree with them, but I can at least understand what their thought process is. But there are some people I just don't get. At all. I just can't understand why they think the way they do.

Chances are, I have no freakin clue where you are coming from:

1. If you love President Bush and think he is a great president

2. If in the event your child married someone of a different religion or race, you would pretend they were dead or stop speaking to them

3. If you think that the government is correct to lock up thousands (or millions) of people whose only crime is smoking weed

4. If you think sacrificing our personal liberties for increased "safety" is a good idea

5. If you think Obama is a secret Muslim

6. If you think rock music is "just noise and a bunch of people yelling"

7. If you think gay people can change their sexual orientation if they just try hard enough

8. If you think that we shouldn't raise taxes to provide free healthcare for everyone, since "why should you have to subsidize their lazyness, they should just get a better job"

9. If you exclusively drive SUVs and don't live on a mountain/in a bog/somewhere actually off-road

10. If you think that an unchecked free market will just work itself out so that everything/everyone will just be fine and dandy


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The content of their character

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

I have a friend, lets call her J. J is white. A few years ago, J married a man who is from India, and is Indian. Her parents did not approve. They didn't come to the wedding, and for a few years were not on speaking terms with J. Not because of the content of her husbands character, but because of the color of his skin.

We have a term for this view. It's called "racism"

Now, leaving behind any emotions about destroying the jewish people, etc. How is her situation any different than mine? My parents, and all the various asshats who don't 'approve' of me marrying B, are not judging our relationship on the basis of his character. They are judging him based on who he happened to be born to. Who his parents are.

You can argue about whether Judaism is a race or not. That's not my point. My point is that if you believe racism is wrong, then how can you think disapproving of my choice of partner on the basis of who his parents are is right? How can disapproval of racism be reconciled with a disapproval of me marrying B? Or should I just assume that anyone who disapproves of our relationship thinks that racism is just fine and dandy?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hells Yes!!

A revised version of my master's thesis received a "conditional accept" decision at a peer-reviewed journal! That gives me three peer reviewed publications- one second author, one first author (with two authors), and this one where I am sole author (and thus proves that I can do research without co-authors).

Yay for publications that can lead to tenure-track jobs/ultimately tenure!!!!


I don't keep in touch with a lot of my exes. Some relationships ended badly, some relationships were just bad through and through, and in general I'm not that good at keeping in touch with people. There is one dude I keep in touch with- we were friends for a year or two, we dated/hooked up for like 2 months back when I was 19, officially were "girlfriend and boyfriend" for like a week, and then broke up. Or more precisely, he broke up with me cause the "relationship was getting too serious" And then we both tried smoking stuff for the first time a week later, and he tried to touch my ass. And then hooked up with my best friend that weekend. But that's a whole other story.

Basically I was a girl he hooked up with during his 'rebellious period' as a teenager, before he went back to towing the line, and dating good jewish girls. Shidduch dating good jewish girls.

This dude had a pretty significant affect on my life in some respects. He introduced me to smoking things, and smoking cigarettes (thanks for that, I love being addicted to cigarettes now, it's totally awesome!), and he introduced me to Chuck Palahniuk, my favorite author, and B's favorite author. In fact, when I met B, it was through a dating website- and the only reason I wrote back to him at all was that Chuck Palahniuk was the first author under his 'favorite authors.' So in a way, this dude may be responsible for me dating B in the first place.

Ok that may be a stretch. But either way, me and B now own two copies of every single Chuck Palahniuk book.

Anyways, this guy got married to a lovely good jewish girl, had a kid, and recently we reconnected via facebook. We chat on facebook chat like once every 3 or 4 months, mostly about new Chuck Palahniuk books that are coming out (We are both huge fans, and he is the guy who introduced me to Palahniuk's books), or today- the new movie based on a Chuck Palahniuk book (Choke- coming out in a week or so). I mentioned today when chatting that my fiance is also a huge Palahniuk fan, and he was all "Fiance????" so I told him about B, and then told him about how B isn't jewish, so my parents don't approve.

And he replied with something like "well just for the record, neither do I."

And then continued with something like "well I wouldn't say that if I thought you would care, but I know you don't"

Well I don't care about his approval, but I still find it obnoxious that he would say that to me. I mean, who is he to approve or not approve my relationships? Some dude I briefly dated 7 years ago, who dumped ME and is not not approving of who I date/marry after him? Someone who fooled around with a LOT of girls during some rebellious phase in his life, smoked a lot of pot, and then married someone who I'M SURE had no idea about that period of his life. Especially cause I hear she was shomer negiah before they got married (for those non jews: that means she never touched a guy until she got married, let alone hooked up with one).

And yet now, this former-extremely-slutty-pothead dude who most likely is keeping secret a large part of his life from his wife is judging MY relationship decisions.

What kind of bullshit chutzpa is that!

Friday, September 12, 2008


I missed the exact date earlier this week, but it has now been over two months since I got engaged (on July 8th), and over two months since I have spoken to either of my parents on the phone. Two months since I've had any contact with my mother at all. My contact with my dad in that time has been around 3 emails (one of which was to inform me of the death of someone, and was a group email).

It's not that bad I guess. I don't feel sad about it. I can't imagine calling my mom now and having some bullshit conversation where I don't mention B and talk about gardening and school cause that's all I can talk about with her. It's actually nice to NOT have those conversations, since every time I did I felt like crap afterwords.

In other wedding related news, I haven't really done anything for the wedding since we booked a place. Except yesterday when I spent some time on ebay looking at various dresses. The only thing I liked was basically some renn faire goth costume, and I think I would look silly in that. Did I mention I hate shopping, I hate dresses, and I hate planning things? Would it be entirely inappropriate to show up in matching hoodies?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


well 9/11 is the word of the day. When I hear someone say or write "9/11" all I can think of now is Gulliani and how 9/11 has turned into some bullshit political catchphrase. I never liked him when he was mayor...seriosuly, where did all the homeless people go?

9/11 was a great turning point for me in my life...when my feelings about this country turned from pride and mostly indifference to fear and displeasure. Not fear about the big bad terrorists, but fear of my fellow Americans, and the ways in which they react when bad things happen. And not immediate reactions, but the 7 years that followed. When we entered bullshit wars for no reason I can see, and a guy I had a crush on in late 2003 told me he fucked his girlfriend while watching the bombs fall on Baghdad cause it was so awesome and great. Which made me throw up a little in my mouth, and it was crush over from then on out. 9/11 marks the turning point, when I came to realize that I do not agree with nearly, or more than, half this country. On basic fundamental levels. It was also a turning point in that I started reading the news sand following politics, which takes up a lot of my time these days as well. So I guess it was a political awakening.

I went through my other blog to see if I had posted anything interesting about 9/11. Apparently I avoided talking about it for the first 5 years after it had happened. But here's a post from 9/11/06.

I remember being confused when my dad knocking on my door that day and said I couldn't go into school that day cause a plane had hit the world trade center and downtown would probably be a mess. That was when it was only the first plane, and people thought it may have been just a plane crash. I spent the whole day on the couch in front of my parents tv, and didn't bother changing out of my pj's. The only station we got was channel 2 (CBS) because we didn't have cable and all the other stations had been broadcasting from the WTC. Later that day my brother (the EMT one) went to liberty state park where they were bringing people over from downtown on ferries, so they could be treated for smoke inhalation.

I remember the next day going to the top of my ex's office building and looking out to see the huge cloud of smoke that was over downtown. Later we heard stories about friends of friends who had died there, and my dad's friend who was there but got out. My grandfather's office was across the street, and all the windows in his office had been blown out. My "feminist science fiction" class spent a day talking about the events, and about the 4 students from my college who had died in the attacks.

But mostly I remember the missing persons signs that were at the path train station long afterwards..there were hundreds and hundreds of them, they plastered the walls, and I read them every morning when I was waiting for the path. Months after any hope of finding them was completely gone, their pictures hung in the path station, a silent memorial of the hundreds of passengers who would no longer wait beside me for the train

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Work/Family Spillover

Work/Family spillover is a concept I talk about in my courses. Basically it is the stress that 'spills over' from your work into your family, or visa versa, whereas problems in one area leads to problems in another. For instance, if you have a sick child and can't finish something at work before a deadline: That's work/family spillover. Conversely, if you are working long hours at your job trying to finish some deadline and miss your child's 3rd grade play, that's also work/family spillover.

I talk about it in class, but I don't think i've ever actually experienced it before this semester. Well, maybe that's because until around 5 months I didn't have a "family" living with me, since I was living by myself.

But now that the semester has started, it is really kicking in. I have been working crazy hours trying to finish research for two papers, so that I can start writing said papers and finish them before their deadlines- one is due September 22nd and one is due October 6th. Both of these are due to conferences- one I am trying to get a presentation at, and one in which I've already accepted the offer to present (which was based on an extended abstract), in which I have to submit a completed paper to the conference organizers. My life has been: waking up to an alarm, going in to school within an hour, coming home around 7ish, and falling asleep around 9 or 10 because I'm so tired from working an 11 hour day.

Meanwhile, B went back to work a week or two ago. He's a writing tutor at a local college, and has also been working late hours- he doesn't get out of work until 8pm, doesn't get home till 8:30ish. I generally work late hours anyway, but I'm usually home by 7 or 7:30 at the latest. In the past we would have dinner together at that point, giving us at least 2 or 3 hours of quality time before I pass out.

Now B is getting home an hour after I am, and passing out almost immediately. We have been eating dinner separately because he's too hungry to wait until after work to eat, and I'm too hungry to wait for him to get home to eat. And as a result, we really only see each other (awake) on weekends now.

This isn't leading to stress or breakups or anything, but I'm kind of sad about the whole situation. We live together, and yet we are barely spending any waking time together. I can't even imagine what it would be like if we had kids. Or if we didn't live together.

Of course there's the weekends. Which we spend together entirely (this past weekend we went on a 6 hour-each-way road trip!). But then my work is trying to take over my weekends as well...this weekend my department is having a 'semester kick off' party for grad students. Which I would never subject B to, cause it sucks enough for me, and I know what the heck these geeky people are talking about. So at this point I'm just cutting out all social activity which doesn't involve B, so I'm going to skip this party. But I have so much work that that's "spilling over" into the weekends as well, since no matter how hard I work during the week I always seem to have more work that I have to make up weekends. And I feel bad about skipping these social events, since I seem to have no friends in my town now that my two best friends moved away this summer, and having no social life apart from my partner is also lame.

So tell me oh relationship internet guru' do you manage to spend time with your partners while working 60+ hours a week and dealing with exhaustion? Or do people who work that many hours just only see their partners on weekends? Any tips for balancing a crazy work schedule with having a life? This whole situation is super lame.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gotta go back, back, back to school again

It's the first day of school! I'm now in 21st grade! Yes, I have been in school for 21 years, not counting kindergarten or preschool or any of that.

Ok technically the first day of school is tomorrow, but today is the first year student orientation, and I have to go to a departmental brunch, and then I'm giving a little shpeil at lunch about "things I wish I knew when I was just starting grad school." I just tried to spellcheck "shpeil" and the suggestion it gave me was "Fleshpot" (What? That's a word? Sounds naughty).

In my 21st grade of school, I'm not entirely a student anymore. My transcript has changed my title from "doctoral student" to "doctoral candidate." I haven't taken a class in over a year now. This weekend I went shopping for some new school clothes! Only now my school clothes are button down shirts and fancy pants and a new blazer...what some would call 'work clothes.' Starting tomorrow I'm teaching a night class which is the only class-related activity i'll be engaging in this semester.

I guess there's not that much difference between the summer and the semester. I still worked long hours all summer, usually not coming home till 7 or 8. But there's something qualitatively different...apart from having to teach, everything just feels more busy in the semester. And I always get a lot more done. And this year I have to, since I'm supposed to finish my dissertation and all. The first chapter is due in a little over a month, and I have not yet written a single word.

Me and B spent the last weekend of the summer just staying in with each other, cooking awesome meals and watching a whole bunch of tv. Yesterday we watched a star trek: the next generation marathon. I haven't watched this show since I was a kid (and they were new), but I have to say...this show is awesome! Much better than the stuff that passes for sci fi shows these days...

Well now I better go get showered and ready for the first departmental brunch of the year. I probably won't be around as much now that the semester is starting up again..that's how academia goes. Happy first day of school to anyone else who is going back this week! And an even happier first day of school for those of you whose kids are going back! :)