Thursday, March 29, 2012

Facebook Fasting, Followers, and Friendships

I apologize for another alliterative title, but these things just come to me in that between sleep and awake place. And I love alliterations. Anyway...

The inspiration/idea for this post came from Jill the Great and I thank her for the suggestion, for supporting my love of cats with her own, and for being a welcomed PenPal. :)

If you have recently tried to search for me on Facebook and found me to be missing, I'm not blocking you, I promise. As I've previously mentioned, I gave up Facebook for Lent. For those of you who are not familiar with what Lent means beyond the fact that it comes after Mardi Gras and people usually give something up, allow me to explain (and try not to bore you; please continue reading). In the simplest terms, Lent is a season of fasting and reflection that lasts the 40+ days between Mardi Gras (in the church world, referred to as Shrove Tuesday) and Easter (which isn't just about chocolate bunnies). This church season is observed each year and signifies the days leading up to Christ's death (Good Friday) and his resurrection (Easter). Faithful Lenten observers will use this time for prayer and introspection, and often either take on a discipline (reading the Bible each day, walking, etc) and/or a Lenten sacrifice. Many people give up sweets, or eggs, or bread or chocolate, all of which I've done in previous years. The year before last, I gave up alcohol. Those of you closest to me during that period know that this was a really good idea. Last year, it was sweets. I know I said Easter is more than just bunnies and candies, but I gorged myself on jellybeans last Easter. Jellybeans are my weakness.

I love the colors of Easter! stock.xchng 
Since I've been better about eating and exercising anyway, I decided to challenge myself to something else. I'm not even ashamed to admit I was addicted to Facebook. I, like millions of other users driven by Maslow's smartly determined need to belong, am drawn to it's omni-presence like a moth to flame. After e-mail, it's my first click and despite hours of screen time for my job, it was often the first thing I logged onto upon returning home from work. It's everywhere, even accessible on my phone. I delighted in reading and commenting on statuses, viewing and sharing photos and posting articles to spark discussions. Thankfully, I never played any of those ridiculous games (except Words With Friends, from my phone app). Facebook keeps people connected; indeed it has kept me tethered to friends and family scattered across the country, which is largely the basis of it's appeal for me. It was starting to become so life-consuming, and I was [needlessly, as it turns out] so dependent on it for that feeling of connectedness. I knew it was what I needed to give up for my Lenten sacrifice.

I know you're all dying to know what it's been like. Initially, it was liberating. Amazingly liberating. Like pulling up the anchor and setting the boat free (apparently, it has allowed me to wax poetic as well). Suddenly, I'm not logged in, latched on, or hooked in (the Matrix?). I didn't have to waste my coffee-drinking hour at work scrolling through statuses. Detaching myself from the minute details of everyone's lives was actually really easy. A large portion of my FB "friends" were people I sort of know, or went to high school with, or are friends of friends, so I found it easy to let them go. My new found time has allowed me to focus on other things. I think I've written my best posts during my FB hiatus and I've read more books. Giving up Facebook has really liberated my time. I've filled the void with actual conversations ( even on the phone, actually talking, not just texting), reading excellent books, taking walks with Ethan and keeping up with current events more than I ever have. I've shared meals with friends and fun nights out and shopping trips and gotten to know people better. Rarely, during any of this did I think "I wish I could post about this on Facebook." The experience is enough.

Been doing lots of reading. Catching Fire and pudding!

I will admit I am starting to miss it a little. Lately, I've been starting to think "what have I missed?" Has someone announced an engagement or pregnancy? Who's been accepted to grad school? What are people saying about our political climate? There's a disconnected feeling. But, from who? I've still managed to talk to my nearest and dearest friends (whom, as it turns out, aren't as FB obsessed and post-crazy as I and others are) and I don't feel any less socially fulfilled. Sure, there are acquaintances I miss hearing from and learning about and I have far fewer Twitter followers than I had FB friends, but the Facebook fast has not been as unbearable as I thought it might become. What I'm realizing is, I miss it the most when I'm bored. Everyone knows FB is one of the best ways to beat boredom, at least until it becomes boring itself. But, without it, I've had to find other ways to entertain myself. It's been a great time, figuring out things to do. It's definitely lessened my screen-time and absolutely enriched my life.

Lent is a time of reflection and spirituality, and while it doesn't seem like giving up Facebook could be a spiritually enriching moment in my life, I assure you it has been. I've had more time to think, to pray, to search for a new church home all without comment from others. Ethan and I have been in the midst of planning our wedding ceremony, which has included meetings with my priest, a brief Bible study and an examination of our relationship. Facebook pales in comparison to those Saturday afternoons with Father Jim and Ethan, talking about God and our love for one another. I went to church at Trinity on Sunday and enjoyed it immensely; especially coming home and not logging on to Facebook, but instead relishing in my spiritual fullness by filling my stomach. It's been quite wonderful.

Twitter has been fun; my 60 followers seem minor compared to my 500+ Facebook "friends" and has allowed me to feel somewhat connected (I couldn't give up ALL social networking). I've got regulars with whom we tweet back and forth, mostly about our cats (shout out to my cat chat loves!) and reading tweets from celebs I like. Don't tell FB, but I think I like Twitter more. Maybe it's not hip to read all the time and take walks instead of post. But it's pretty much more fun. And while I'm sure I'll log back on to Facebook from time to time, to connect with family and friends I don't see as often, I know my FB time will be much more limited. The people I most want to stay in touch with, have put themselves in touch in other ways; these, I have learned, are my truest friends. If Facebook shut down tomorrow for everyone, they are the ones with whom I know our connection wouldn't skip a beat. Perhaps that has been the best part of logging off.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Second Wedding Dos and Don'ts

First of all, let me say a shout-out thank you to my dear Jenny, for encouraging me to run with this blog idea. All my love, lady!

For those of you who don't know, (really, you don't?) my up coming marriage to Ethan will in fact be my second marriage. Long story short, my first marriage ended in divorce. C'est la vie. So yes, I am now a statistic and despite my ex-husband and I trying to live beyond the "starter marriage" stereotype, it is what it is. That said, naturally I myself, and others, have been comparing the two weddings (not the marriages), which leads me to this post.

The first wedding was more or less traditional. We cut some corners to save money, but overall it had the standard wedding elements and structure. This time, it's going to be much different, in a good way! The process of planning this wedding has been only mildly stressful, and definitely big fun. What I'm about to post are recommendations only, based on my personal experiences, things I've seen/read/heard and are in no way meant to pass judgement on anyone's wedding. Also, I will use "traditional" wedding terms like bride and groom, but I support gay marriage too. Love is love!  /end disclaimer

Second Wedding Dos and Dont's

  • Don't feel like you need to replicate, one-up, or completely out-do your first wedding. This is brand new wedding, to a brand new person. Guests (if you have them at the 2nd one and there are cross overs from the 1st wedding) may make comparisons, but gently remind them that you want this one to be different on purpose. 
  • Don't feel like you have to wear a formal wedding gown. In fact, I'd go one step further to say don't wear one. The beautiful dress I had the first go fit the time, wedding, and person. It's marvelous, but it's not me anymore. I certainly wouldn't wear that dress again, nor did (that's right, bought my dress already. Sorry, Ethan reads this, so no pictures yet!) I want to buy another wedding gown. Do throw caution to the wind and shake-it up a bit.
  • Do buy something(s) new. While it shouldn't be doesn't have to be a "wedding gown" per se, make it something new. Recycling a pretty dress you've worn a whole bunch will take away some of the novelty. Plus, shopping is fun! You could wear these, for example:

Fun and fashionable!
  • Do figure out what you really, truly want in your wedding the 2nd time around. Is it the opposite size and structure of your first? (Small, then big or vice versa, etc). Is it fancy or low-key? Guests, no guests, family only? Remember, this is you (and future hubby's call), so do what you want. This may sound like a no brainer, but don't do things you don't like, just because it's "traditional" or "for show."
  • Don't stress out the bride! (duh)
  • If it is your second wedding (or hers, or both of yours) don't expect it to be like your first wedding. In fact, expect it to be very different. 
  • Do express your opinion! You might want to leave it all up to her, but chime in here and there (even if it's about china patterns or napkin folding). If you really want to have something in particular, speak up! Most planners like the help; that makes it a little less overwhelming. 
  • Don't wear jeans. Just don't. At least put on khakis. And, like your bride, wear something new! 
  • If it's your second wedding and your wife's first, be prepared to go all out; she may want to have all the smells, bells and whistles. Just remember to speak up if you're not comfortable with something. 

DO throw a Bachelor Party if you want. DO NOT make an ass of yourself.
  • Do what the both of you want to do. It's your wedding (if I had a nickel for every time someone said "this is your day.." I'd have.. $1.05) and you get to make the decisions.
  • Don't get bogged down by the judgements of others. TV, bridal rags mags, friends, even family; everywhere you look someone has an opinion about your wedding. "But that's what has to be done," "but, you have to get a white dress," "at my wedding we did this and this and this. You should do that." Just shut them all out and do what makes the two of you happy.
  • Don't  stress over the guest list. Once you figure out the style, date and budget of your wedding, make a guest list that fits. If someone doesn't fit, or you're going to go over budget, or Aunt So-and-So made a scene at your Uncle's cousin's wedding and you don't want her at yours, don't invite her. Friends and family that truly love and support you will continue to do so, regardless of how you plan your wedding. 
  • Do choose a nice place for your wedding. Whether that's a church, a living room (we're doing it in Ethan's parents' front room, complete with bay window and fireplace) or the beach, just do it where you'll feel at ease. 
  • Do remember the point of the wedding; marriage and love. The wedding is the physical event, the ceremony, reception, etc. The marriage is what you are committing to each other; you're married to the other person because you love them. Never let that get lost in the shuffle. 
Higgins Beach, Portland ME Perfect Spot for a wedding. MKM 2012

Guests, Friends, Family
  • Don't judge. Whether it's the first, second or fifth wedding, whether it looks like yours or not, is traditional or funky, your job is to show up, smile, and support the couple. Reserve your judgments for at home. Remember, don't gossip about the wedding at the wedding or reception. You never know who is listening. 
  • Do honor the requests of the bride and groom. If they put something on the invitation that says "In lieu of gifts, donate to X Charity," or "In lieu of gifts, please help us fund our honeymoon," (*coughwelikethisonecoughcough*)  or even "GIVE US LOTS OF PRESENTS KTHNXBYE" then that is what you should do. If you're broke and the couple wants money, $50 is good enough (according to most of the wedding etiquette I've read, $50 would be an appropriate minimum for monetary gifts). Or offer to pet/house sit while the couple honeymoons. Get creative, but not to the point of buying things not on the registry, for example. 
  • Don't be offended if you aren't invited. Second weddings in particular will likely have an even more rigid/tight budget/guest list/intimacy level. Honor this. In our case, we're doing immediate family, and one or two guests. It's not that we don't love everyone and want them there, but we a) cannot afford a huge wedding and b) want it to be personal and intimate. If you didn't get an invite, you can politely inquire about wedding details, but don't be offended. It's likely nothing personal and lots of other people (including family) probably didn't get invites either. 
  • Do ask how you can help, or offer to spend time with the couple if you want to feel included (people rarely say no to a dinner invite, for example, and a couple may like to relax and unwind from the wedding stress). 
  • Do have fun! 
Feel free to agree, disagree, or suggest something I missed in the comments; I'd love to hear your thoughts! I look forward to my wedding so much and I can't wait to share the photos and [hip] story with all of you! 

xo MK

Thursday, March 8, 2012

And now, a PSA:

UNE takes care of its students and staff. Why do I say this? I've been working there just shy of one year and have been bombarded with gratefully able to participate in a variety of employee and university-wide health events. Back in August of 2011 there was the wellness walk and in the fall there was the HR wellness fair (I won a cheese plate in the raffle! win!). Every 8 weeks or so UNE also sponsors a Red Cross Blood drive (I donate every time; you're welcome hospitals) and just today I participated in the university wide health and wellness fair. Kendra and I received seated massage and foot reflexology. They offered bio-metric screenings for anyone that wanted one, with nurses on staff to discuss results. My health is very important to me, so naturally I partook in the screenings. Okay. Maybe there was also free food. And the massage was a nice incentive. But still. I did it and that's all that matters.

Seriously. Donate blood. It's free and it saves 3 lives!

The results of my screening were very good. Included were BMI, HDL (the good cholesterol), blood pressure, blood glucose, body fat percentage, heart disease risk, etc. I basically got an A+ on everything. I only recently (since our engagement party) obtained a scale but I'd say since my freshman year of undergrad, I've lost 30 pounds. This morning when I stepped on the scale as I do about 2 times a week,  I hit a milestone I've been trying to reach for a while! I spent the morning hoping that when I stepped on the medical-grade scale at the screening that it would read the same weight (it did!). The nurse told me to keep doing what I'm doing; and then she told me that she was jealous of my blood pressure (110/76, baby). What an interesting compliment. But, yay? I have very low risk for heart disease and diabetes, which is good since I have a family history of both.

Come to think of it, my family history weighs on my greatly. While I know that cancer isn't necessarily preventable and can strike even the healthiest of people (I'm fairly certain my mom was pretty healthy when she was diagnosed) I've been doing what I can to stay healthy to reduce the risk. Dad has a host of health troubles, but I know that much of his are due to lifestyle (he smoked for 40+ years [he quit], has a sedentary lifestyle and eats poorly). Still, there's history there, so that's good motivation to stay healthy. The secondary motivation is that I want to bear children in the next 5 or so years and I want to be healthy for that.

Someday, we'll get rid of cancer. I know it!

Ethan and I have decided we need to take up a sport together (I know, I know, me? A sport?) to get/stay more active. After much consideration of our terrible skeletons and my severe lack of balance, etc, we landed on tennis. I always liked tennis when we played at school and I am killer at Wii tennis. It's medium impact (+1 for being joint friendly) high intensity & cardio (+2 for exercise) and will be an excellent test in hand-eye coordination (-2 because I suck at this part). Stay tuned for some hilarious tennis-related updates this spring. I am sure I'll be a hot tennis-mess but at least we'll be working out together.

This is a preview of what I'll probably look like playing tennis!
I'm feeling pretty good overall these days. The tests today showed that I am actually healthy, and I think that's pretty damn hip.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pundits, Personhood and The Pill

For those of you who are my FB friends (when I'm not on a Facebook Lenten fast), today's post will not surprise you. Many of you know that I would often post links to articles on topics I am passionate about, and I was [am] not above letting it stir up controversy. When I started this blog, I had no idea where it would take me beyond my surgery and I was sure it would evolve but I never wanted, or expected it to be a venue for me to express my thoughts about religion or politics. However, in light of the events of recent weeks, the fact that I am Facebook-dry and most importantly, the public attempts to belittle and silence women, I have to speak.

Election seasons are always somewhat crazy; the mud-slinging and empty promises and the "he said/she said" party polarization becomes difficult to watch. Since I became old enough to vote, I have always made an effort to follow the elections in order to make an informed decision for my vote. This season is not much different except that it has me really, really pissed off. Pissed off and scared. This year's pool of GOP candidates has left much to be desired. I could talk about the blatant disregard of civil rights for the GLBTQ population, but perhaps I'll save that for another post. Suffice it to say, I am proud to see gay marriage bills being passed in seven (?) states so far and hope there are more to come. What I am currently so angry and exasperated about is the attack on women's rights that is sure to have many disastrous consequences.

A whole gaggle of misogynist crazies!

In recent months, many lawmakers, public figures and media pundits have done their best to show the United States that they feel as though they have a right to dictate what a woman can and cannot do with her uterus. Now, since the era of Roe v. Wade, abortion has been a hot button issue. It usually comes up each Presidential election season among the platforms of would-be candidates. For the GOP this year (and particularly in the group above) it seems to be the only issue. And, abortion is not alone. For some reason, all these rich, "Christian," white, penis-bearers seem to think that they know what's best for women, and wish to make us void of any form of choice about anything relating to our sexuality, sexual health, and conception practices. What law-makers all over this country (not just those running for Commander in Chief) are doing with their law making is basically misogyny, thinly veiled with a guise of Christianity.

Allow me for a moment, to focus on Rick Santorum. I have already made it known to Ethan and to pretty much anyone else who'll listen that should this man for some God-awful reason become our next President, I am purchasing a one-way ticket to Norway and taking my uterus with me. But I digress. All I know about how this man would run the country is that women would basically be sent back to the kitchen, be forced into  being baby-factories and every school would have prayer time. Oh, and also, homosexuals would have to be forced into 'treatment' for their 'gayness.' Santorum and others have completely blurred the line that separates church and state. They can worship on Sunday at any church they choose, teach their children whatever good Christian values they believe in, but when they return to the office Monday morning, I do not expect them to make laws based solely on their religious beliefs. That's not how the job works. Rick Santorum has spent his whole campaign touting his Catholic values, with a focus on the "family" and "morality." He has said the word "God" more times than I think any politician should. And he and his fellow GOP buddies and ultra-conservative pundits (I'm looking at you Fox Faux news) have centered their attack on women's rights.

I could point to a plethora of articles from a variety of sources highlighting the GOPs position on women's rights, but it would take two or three blog posts to cover them all. Allow me to summarize: pro-lifers are on the same crusade they've always been on to out-law any form of abortion, no matter the terrible circumstances (i.e. rape, incest, unplanned unwanted pregnancies). They've also sprouted more ugly heads, with these so-called "personhood" bills popping up in various states. These laws basically state that life begins at conception, therefore abortion at any stage would be considered murder, but also the "Plan B" morning-after pill would be illegal and perhaps most disturbingly, IVF would no longer be permitted, since not all embryos survive. Birth control has also been creating quite an uproar on the federal level, as under President Obama's health plan, employers would be required to cover birth control and women's health exams. Naturally, the hyper-conservative Christian politicians and pundits got their panties in a twist about that. Sorry, but most women do not want to be Michelle Duggar.

A vagina is not a clown car

The list of attacks on women's rights goes on and on, with panels of all men at a hearing re: the pill issue, constant attempts to de-fund Planned Parenthood,  Newt Gingrich accusing Obama of supporting "infanticide," right up to Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke and any other woman who wants birth control "sluts" and "prostitutes" and not apologizing for it. Rick Santorum was asked a few months ago what he would do in the event that his 14 year old daughter was raped and became pregnant. He basically said he would make his daughter have the baby and give it up for adoption. Not only would she have gone through the physical and emotional pain of being raped, she would also have to go through the physical and emotional pain of pregnancy and childbirth of her rapist's baby. Nice one, Rick. How thoughtful!

Why anyone thinks it's the government's job to be all up in our lady-business and decide what we can and cannot do with our uterus is beyond me. Most of these conservatives say they are driven by God, by their solid, Christian values. Well, let me say this: clearly Santorum's God and mine are not the same. The God I worship gave us free-will, the ability to make decisions for ourselves. The God I worship loves everyone, period.  I'm a practicing Christian woman who uses birth control, has sex and thinks that all loving couples should be able to marry. I am the kind of woman the GOP hates and wishes to silence. What they don't realize is that the women of this country who do not buy into this brand of politics are not going to be silenced, controlled, or regulated. The message is clear; get your politics and your religion out of my uterus.