Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sniffles are a thing of the past

Well, I'm not a person who tries to start new blogs all the time. I've had one for several years, and another one for about a year. However, Sniffles Predominating has ceased to be an appropriate name. In my life these days, sniffles do not predominate -- I am filled with smiles, because I am no longer lonely, but happily sharing my life with my new husband.

In fact, I think it is wrong overall, regardless of my state in life, to focus on the sniffles. G. K. Chesterton said, "It is wrong to look a gift universe in the mouth." Therefore, I will be blogging henceforth at A Gift Universe. It's been a great year with you, my Constant Readers, and I hope you will rejoin me over there to hear what rambles come to the mind of the new Mrs. C. -- a person whom you will find is not much different from the Miss J. who used to blog here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Marriage and the State

John and I went to get the marriage license yesterday. It cost us a hundred bucks. That is what my dress cost. I am filled with righteous indignation.

My indignation grew when I heard that the priest told us that he would go to jail if he married us without a license. That just made no sense to me. Why couldn't he perform a quiet, religious ceremony without the state getting involved? Sure, we wouldn't get a tax break, and we wouldn't have a marriage certificate to show anyone, but why is it that two people can't make a religious commitment without paying Uncle Sam $100?

Of course, it's not just money. In the state of Washington, a 3-day waiting period is required before getting married. Since the state was involved anyway, I guess they felt that while they were at it, they might as well insert their own provisions. The idea is to reduce the divorce rate. But the question is still, who gave them the right?

The fourth thing (if you were counting) that bothers me is this. I'll be watching a movie, and there will be a wedding. The minister says, "By the power vested in me by the State of California ..." What? The State of California? The State of California has the authority to proclaim people man and wife, or not? No wonder there's a fuss about defining marriage. The state thinks it has the authority to do so. But people were marrying and giving in marriage long before the State of California set up shop.

Nowadays, people shack up all the time. They are in no way distinguishable from a married couple, except by their lack of a license. (I would say they lack the lifetime commitment, but so do the married people, too, much of the time.) I say, why can't they have a lifetime commitment without the license while they're at it? Why can't they go by their local church, synagogue, or hippie guru and proclaim their lifetime commitment? Why in the world is it against the law for them to do this? Maybe they don't want the state to bother with them. What about that scenario is so terrible?

What about this notion. Everyone gets married with their churches or religious groups or whatever. If they have no religion, they get up among their friends and profess their commitment. They can get a friend to act as minister, if they like -- people often do. Then, if they want to get a legal marriage license, they go into a courthouse or before a clerk and sign a document that says they wish to form a legally binding partnership. Most people would probably do this. But that way, they can do it before or after the wedding, whenever they like. And it wouldn't be the state's authority to marry people, just to recognize and give certain legal benefits to their union, and later to moderate their disagreements, if they should divorce. But if people were content with a religious arrangement only, I see no reason at all why they should not be allowed to do so.

All right, that's my soapbox speech for today. In other news, I'm getting married in ten days. I'm staying with my future in-laws and just as busy as I can be. Between Wii Golf, gardening (and getting burned), and watching the cows, the days are just packed. The hard part is to carve out time on the computer. There are a lot of Connollys. But I will try to post at least once more before the wedding.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Thoughts on the threshold

It is less than a month until the wedding, and I feel what the "Conscious Weddings" website describes as "feelings of liminality." Limen is the Latin word for threshold: liminality is the feeling of being at the threshold between two stages of life. That definitely describes me right now. I am moving out on Wednesday, to go to Philadelphia to observe classes at the schools where I interviewed, and then to Wisconsin to put together last-minute plans.

I came to this apartment about eleven months ago. It was completely empty except for Olivia's bookshelf and my three suitcases. In eleven months, we turned it into a home. My photograph of the Shenandoah on the wall, the picture of a tiger I picked up at a curb giveaway, the Wal-Mart accent lamp. Olivia's table a friend gave her, her dishes, our stacks of books. I think of the meals I fed people in this apartment, of the sound of the train when it goes by at midnight, of the leaves that gathered on the porch in the fall.

I leave this apartment as I came to it: in solitude. I arrived here on a July night, late, driven by the airport shuttle. I got the key from the mailbox and let myself in, to find there were no lights except in the kitchen and bathroom. I sat on my suitcase and felt I had started new life. That overwhelming feeling of changes that enveloped me then is returning to me now.

Once again I am alone here: Olivia is gone for the week, though her possessions remain, to temper the emptiness left where my things used to be. I will leave early in the morning, before I would usually be awake, and walk with my two suitcases to the train station. Like I came, I will leave alone, with no one to see me off, as there was no one to welcome me.

Oddly enough, I like that. There is a huge emotion that comes to me when I begin or end a stage of my life. Another presence distracts from it, keeps it from being painful, certainly, but also keeps it from being acknowledged and accepted the way I need to do. When my life is changing, I don't like to be shuffled from one thing to another, to be conversed with and distracted from my thoughts. I like to have a moment of silence.

These few days, as I finish my grading, go to graduation, say my goodbyes, are that moment of silence. Like I did at the beginning, I wake up when I am not tired; I eat when I am hungry; I walk where I need to go. I am self-reliant.

Perhaps I treasure this self-reliance all the more because I know it is the last time. Soon, I will be a married woman, with someone else to answer to. I won't be quite so able to arrange things at my whim. I won't be alone anymore.

I have never been a person who craves solitude as much as company. I like people; I don't like being alone too much. But there are always moments when I need it; when, as a child, I climbed my holly tree to leave the busy world beneath me; or when, in high school, I would wander out to the farthest end of the driveway to pray my rosary where I could look at the sea. Even now, I always like to be the last to go to bed, so that I can settle my thoughts and feelings with myself before I go to sleep.

I ask myself, will I miss this? How will I find the time for this in my new life?

My comfort is that, though I depart alone, I will not arrive alone. I leave here on my own power; I arrive there with someone to catch me. First, the friends in Philadelphia, then my future in-laws when I go to Wisconsin, then --

After that, wherever I go, I will not be alone. I hesitate now on the threshold with my thoughts. But when the time comes, I will be lifted over it. My days of utter self-reliance are over, but a new era is beginning, one where I am received with love, where I am protected, where I have a place and a mission. Nothing is going to be the same, but it will, God willing, be better. I welcome the threshold and embrace it, for I cross over it into a new and wonderful adventure.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Seen on Catholic Answers Forums

"Oh, I agree entirely with the essential social skills development thingie. Fortunately, we have found a way our son can receive the same socialization that government schools provide.

*On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will personally corner my son in the bathroom, give him a wedgie and take his lunch money.

*On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my wife will make sure to tease him for not being in the “in” crowd, taking special care to poke fun at any physical abnormalities.

*Fridays will be “Fad and Peer Pressure Day.” We will all compete to see who has the coolest toys, most expensive clothes and the loudest, fastest and most dangerous car.

*Every day, my wife and I will adhere to a routine of cursing and swearing in the hall and mentioning our weekend exploits with alcohol and immorality.

*If our son attempts to use the bathroom without permission, we will punish him immediately.

*And we have asked him to report us to the authorities in the event we mention faith, religion, or try to bring up morals and values."

Found here. Apparently it's originally from Kolbe Little Home Journal, Fall 2005.

Lately I've been doing research to find out if it is humanly possible to homeschool in Pennsylvania without going bats dealing with the draconian laws. Anyone know?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why Twilight scares me

Or, at least, part of the reason. Mostly I hate it because it's unrealistic and badly written. Then I hate it because vampires are a traditional symbol of lust, and I don't think that symbolism has really been purged out of their depiction in Twilight. After that, there are all of the very good reasons in this article.

And after that, there is the fact that the 13-year-old girls in my classes are reading them, and picking up some highly inappropriate ideas -- including some pretty darn weird ideas about sex and relationships. Maybe adults would be able to see past this and make judgments about it, but the age group that is reading these books definitely should not be.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chicken Soup

I have been ill the past few days; let that be my latest non-blogging excuse. But as a consolation prize, I'm posting two recipes for chicken soup; one my old specialty, and one I discovered yesterday while trying to cure myself of pharyngitis. (It worked! or else the antibiotics did. I have made a speedy recovery.)

First, the discovery.

Mexican Chicken Soup, to be made while sick

Chicken on the bone
Black beans
Other Mexican spices
A slice of lime

On the way home from the pharmacy, buy a package of chicken thighs, or really any chicken so long as the bones are included. Also buy limes, if you can find them at 2 for 88 cents.

You've had beans soaking since yesterday, so put them on the simmer. Put the chicken in a big pot of water and boil it. Then you're supposed to skim it, which is hard when the boiling bubbles are all over the place and the steam is in your face. However, this is called the "steam cure" and is probably good for you. Turn down the heat and simmer the chicken for about a million years. Meanwhile the kitchen will smell really lovely, and you'll be starved. Leave it to boil while you go back to bed.

When you wake up, really only maybe four hours later, everything will be more or less ready. Scoop the chicken out of the broth, de-fat the broth (this one was very hard to do in the hungry hurry I was in. I am afraid it was not well de-fatted until I de-fatted the leftovers this morning), take the chicken off the bones, and put it back in the broth, shredded into pieces.

Scoop out about three cups of the chicken soup and put it in a small pot. Then open up the bean pot and discover that the beans are just right. Put maybe a half cup of them in the soup. Pull out some frozen corn and stick it in, maybe a quarter cup. If you have cooked brown rice, put that in too, though I am sure white would be good too. Then add some salt, some cumin (part of your bridal shower gift) and some strange Mexican seasoning you picked up about a month ago. I suspect chili powder would be a good substitution for that. Add a dash of Tabasco if you like it. If you found the cheap limes, take a slice and squeeze it into the soup, and then drop the slice into the bottom of your bowl. Pour the soup in, and garnish with sour cream. Yum! The peak of health should return after 24 hours.

Next, the classic. This has been my specialty since I was about 16 or 17, and I used to make it for my mom when she was pregnant with John Paul. It is excellent as an after-school snack, because it feels warm, cozy, and filling (which one's sandwich at school was not), but does not spoil your appetite for dinner. It also can lick the stuffing out of any cold, especially any throat or sinus cold.

Avgolemeno Soup

3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup cooked rice
2 tablespoons lemon juice or white wine

Heat 3 cups chicken broth. For this soup, I would usually just use boullion cubes, but "real" works too, provided it is well salted. Add 1/4 rice, or a little more. You can add cooked rice, or cook the rice in your broth (though you will have to add more broth to account for the amount the rice will absorb).

Once the broth is at the simmer, get a container you can pour out of. A pyrex measuring cup, the kind that has measurements up the side and a pouring spout, which you can use in the microwave, is ideal. Crack into the container two eggs, and add 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, white wine, or half of each. (Half of each is best, but I don't often have white wine.) Mix together with a fork until it's a uniform color. Dip a little of the chicken broth out of the pot and add to the eggs -- this warms them up a little.

Then comes the tricky part. Pour the egg mixture very slowly into the broth, stirring all the while and pausing in your pouring periodically. You want the eggs to disappear into your broth, turn it opaque, and give you little egg shreds here and there -- not a big, visible "egg flower" like you have in a hot and sour soup.

Pouring the egg in will have disrupted your simmer. That's okay, you can turn the heat down now. If you want to make sure the eggs get all the way cooked, you can leave it on for a moment longer, but I find they tend to cook sufficiently even if you turn the heat right off at this point. Now take some dill and shake it over the surface of the soup. Ladle the soup into bowls or cups. Big mugs are ideal. Serves 2 hungry people or 3 ordinary people.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring pictures

Time to upload a few more pictures!

Sunset over the school.

Daffodils in the rain.

Sunset over 66.

This and the next few are at Manassas Battlefield Park.

Some pictures of the cherry blossoms near the school.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Trying to keep up

It's hard to be a fiancee, a teacher, and a blogger at the same time. Other identities that slip through the cracks include good roommate, daughter that calls home more than once a week, faithful correspondent, writer, poet, photographer, student, reader for pleasure, music listener, and person decent to be around in the morning. I am just so busy!

And when I'm not busy, I'm still often a little stressed. Who wouldn't be? Today I left work smiling, in the realization that since my grades were in, I would not even have to think about school till Monday unless I wanted to. Two hours later, about two minutes after John and Claire walked in the door, a parent called. Why is her son failing? I am not really sure except that he is. I do know that the deadline for making up work has passed, so I don't feel too inclined even to talk about it. However, a concerned parent is a concerned parent, so I spent fifteen of the thirty minutes I had with John (before he headed off to his conference in DC) on the phone.

When I am not busy or stressed, I am sometimes lonely. Being engaged means that I want to be with John. Being in Virginia means that I am not generally able to be. Now I am aware that there are other people in the world. However, most people my age are single, it seems -- at least the ones I know, the other teachers and the parish people. As such, they are interested in other singles, and would like to associate with other singles in the hopes of ending their singleness. As a result, my roommate is always being invited to things, whereas I am often overlooked.

I don't exactly blame them -- after all, when they do invite me, I run home early so I can get my grading done, or sew a few stitches on my wedding veil, or call John, or any number of a million things I spend my time doing. And I don't really feel I'm missing that much -- I am not exactly close to any of these people, and I am not quite sure they know how to have a good time. To me, a good time involves lounging on the couch at Sean and Andrew's place and hearing John and the other guys discuss politics and pterodactyls. It can also involve bonfires and singing. Or wandering through the woods with a camera and a friend or two. It does not generally involve small talk, bars, or concerts.

So far, this email sounds very negative. In fact, I don't feel negative, at least not at the moment. I feel glad because John will be back from his conference soon, and we'll probably get together with our other friends and have something I would call a good time. I also feel glad because I can feel the time counting down toward a time that, hopefully, will make a lot more sense. Then, the same person I want to be with will be the person I am with. I will get to start putting a life together with the person I want to spend it with. We can arrange things to suit ourselves, instead of trying to fight our way through all the limitations that plague us like cellphone minutes and gas prices.

In the more immediate future, spring break, which I desperately need, is starting next Thursday. I am going home! For the last time, at least in one sense -- because the next time I go there, it arguably will not be "home," but "my parents' house." My "family" will be John and me, and my "home" will be a tiny little apartment in north Philly. All very strange, and will probably take some getting used to.

I am looking forward to seeing my family, especially the little ones who grow so fast and change so much. I also will get to see my maid of honor, whom I miss. In addition to being The Ideal Roommate (the kind everyone searches for and does not find), she is a good friend. She's going to be throwing a shower for me, and another day we plan to get together and do a wedding dress fitting. Both of those will be big events for sure. Mostly, though, I'm looking forward to catching up. It is such a shame that all my wonderful Christendom friends are scattered all over the place. At least at the wedding, most of us will get a chance to see each other.

After Easter, there are only about five weeks left of school. Five weeks is not a long time. In fact, it is way too little time to cover the different infinitives, indirect discourse, ablative absolute, and the subjunctive in Latin II. I'll do my best. But then the year will be over, and I will get a little break. The plan is to stay out here for the first week of June, and then head to Wisconsin sometime soon after that, to do wedding-ish stuff and spend time with my future sisters-in-law. Two of them are going to be going to the convent soon, so I have to catch my time with them while I can.

And after that? Why, at that point, it will be three weeks till the wedding! I imagine they will pass the slowest of any three weeks ever, but I know the day will be here before we know it!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wedding Counter

It's too wide to fit on my sidebar, unfortunately ...

Wedding Countdowns

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I am almost done with the invitations. Just a couple more whose addresses I need to get or verify.

Doing the invitations has been my favorite part of wedding planning so far. It's not stressful like some of the other parts -- instead it's methodical and relaxing.

As I write the addresses, I think about each person. Here are my cousins -- I wonder if they will make it. I think about the good times we have and the closeness I've had with them all my life. I hope we will stay close after I'm married, even though I'll be living far away. Now here is some of John's family. I trace their unfamiliar address, spell out the name of their hometown. I don't know these people, and yet I'm filled with wonder as I reflect that they will soon be my family too. I hope they come to the wedding, so that I will get to meet them soon.

I used to be a little afraid of having so many strangers at the wedding. Now I've realized that once I'm married, these people won't be strangers anymore. They will be friends and family by extension; people I don't know yet, but who are bound to me already. The wedding reception will be a chance for me to gaze over my newfound wealth -- a treasure in each friend of his who becomes a friend of mine -- of ours.

Some of the people I sent invitations to, I know won't come. But I want them to know they were welcome and wanted. My dream wedding would have been close to everyone, no more than a few minutes' drive for everyone we cared about. But it could not be, and I know the closest some people will come to our wedding is looking over the invitation. At least they get to be that close.

Writing those invitations just reminded me of how much I love these people -- those I have met and those I haven't, those who will be there and those who won't. This has just been the beginning of something the wedding will be the fullness of -- seeing all those whom we love and who love us gathered around for the greatest change of our lives.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Interesting article, and a little update

Yes, I know it is disappointing when you have pretty much given up on the idea that someone will ever update her blog, and then they appear only to post a link and disappear again. But it is 11:54 as I begin, and I know there is no time for a long blog post.

So, here's the link. It's a very true critique of the "feminist ideal" that shuns commitment and family, from someone who tried it and didn't like it.

As far as my life goes (really quickly!), I'm doing pretty well. I am extremely busy most of the time, between work and trying to plan this wedding -- with really no idea what I'm doing here. The current hurdles are looking for a wedding cake and a florist. The cake is being funded by John's very generous aunt, but I am supposed to pick something out. I have no idea what I want; I only know that most of the pictures I see are not it. For flowers, I do know what I want, but don't know anything about florists or how much I can expect to pay for a couple lilies, some white filler, and a bunch of ivy. I could make the bouquets myself, but with the shipping, wholesale is actually more expensive rather than less, as far as I can see.

Meanwhile I have been whipping all my classes into shape and teaching them a lot -- except for eighth period. I don't know why what works with the other classes doesn't work for them. They simply have no fear, no respect, and no limits.

Also, we've been working on honeymoon plans. We've decided not to go to Ireland after all; it is simply too expensive, and flights did not go down that much. But I have been having some really wonderful ideas about what we could afford. Something isolated, surrounded by nature ... which is always my favorite, whatever other wonderful things are available. I must say the idea of honeymoon resorts with spas and heartshaped Jacuzzis and white beaches has never really appealed to me. No, give me some deep woods, any day. Or stretches of ocean cliffs. Or towering mountains in the background. Or all three ...

Mostly I'm just frantically getting things done because there is not enough time before the wedding, and then counting down the days on the calendar because there is way too much time before the wedding. I just want to get my new life started already!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

English majors gone crazy

This is so me.

In other news, my mom got me a sweatshirt for Christmas. It read,
"I am the Grammarian about whom your mother warned you."

It makes me feel so happy inside.