Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The results of the vegan diet

We both lost weight and lowered our cholesterol to different degrees.

The husband lost 12 pounds in the first 2 weeks, which he has kept off and then some. I was very bitter about this because I didn't lose any weight in the first 4 months or so, and I had been riding my bike to and from work.

We got our blood drawn for our cholesterol tests just two months after the husband's initial test result because there was no way we'd adhere to the diet on our wedding anniversary trip.

Husband's cholesterol dropped a good 50 points to just above the high end of normal. And I think he's a good 15 pounds down from before.

My total cholesterol was 160 mg/dL! I'm super-healthy! And now I know that I can avoid a lot of those typical Filipino cardiovascular disease problems by - um - not eating Filipino food. AND I've lost more than the 10 pounds that I hadn't intended to gain! Score! So in total, I'm down about 15 pounds and two belt holes from when I bought the belt last Christmas.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Our mostly vegan diet

Our diet can be described as vegan and lower carb, with one weekly cheat meal.

I didn't quite know where to begin with cooking vegan. I had had enough of a hard time learning to cook without meat, but now I could no longer rely on plain yogurt to add a flavor kick to my food. Naturally, it was time to do research. I borrowed a whole bunch of vegan cookbooks from the library and started following vegan food blogs.

Oh, and I did a very unscientific thing by changing two variables instead of just one. Not only did I eliminate eggs and dairy, but I also tried to lower our carb intake. The precedent for both of these is my older brother. He lowered his cholesterol by going vegan for three months. Then he has since lost a lot of weight by going on his beloved so-called "primal diet," which consists of reasonable amounts of meat, tons of vegetables, and pretty much no carbs.

Thankfully it was late spring and early summer when we started this vegan diet, as we had a multitude of fresh veggies from the farmers' market to keep us occupied! Also, I had lots of time to cook because all my choirs were on summer break. Furthermore, to keep our sanity, we allowed ourselves one cheat day per week: our weekly veggie burrito from Taqueria Cancun.

Next time: The results!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why the veganism?

I decided to eliminate dietary sources of cholesterol in order to lower my husband's blood cholesterol levels.

Back in May, a blood test showed that my husband had pretty high cholesterol. The doctor gave us a couple months to reduce the number by diet without statins. Statins are a class of drugs that lower cholesterol by inhibiting HMG CoA reductase, which is the enzyme that catalyzes the rate-limiting step in cholesterol biosynthesis.

That's right, the body has the ability to synthesize the cholesterol it needs for stuff like cell membrane components and hormones. The body has to balance cholesterol biosynthesis with incoming dietary cholesterol, a process called cholesterol homeostasis. What are dietary sources of cholesterol? Anything animal-derived. For the ovo-lacto veggie husband, this meant no more eggs or dairy. So I figured it was time to eliminate dietary cholesterol and see what the husband's baseline cholesterol numbers would be.

I put myself on the diet, too, for solidarity. It's important to have a good support structure at home with any significant diet change.

Next time: Details of the diet!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ethical Eating: [mostly] vegan

My non-vegan dinner from last night: rye bread, cottage cheese, smoked salmon, green onion, freshly ground black pepper.

Last night the hipster cashier dude at my neighborhood froofy grocery store took a look at my pile of coconut water and diluted coconut milk (as cow's milk substitute) and asked me if I use coconut oil, too, saying that he baked cookies with it and they turned out funny. I said that while I had seen coconut oil in vegan recipes as an alternative to butter, I've never really mustered up enough courage to cook with coconut oil. I just use it as the occasional deep conditioning treatment for my hair.

"Are you vegan?" he asked.

Oh dear. And now I felt I had to explain my entire diet to him.

"No," I said, "I eat mostly vegan, I guess. I cook vegan at home, eat vegetarian socially, and treat myself to the occasional sashimi." I smiled and added, "And bacon."

I found it funny that I was treating cheese consumption as a social construct, much like a person might claim to drink or smoke "socially."

So that's my diet. I've lost anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds in the last six months, and my cholesterol numbers are awesome. I think in my next few posts I'll elaborate on why the heck I turned myself into a grass-fed hippie.

Besides, I'm in music theory marination mode for the time being, so I might as well take a mental break to write about food.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?

I want to write a song. I wonder what it's like to get goosebumps at hearing my own composition come to life. If I had taken that first music theory class any earlier than spring semester my senior year in college, maybe I could have made time for more composition courses and found out.

At the time, I felt I was doing really well in it. Like most of my humanities classes in college, that class was an easy A. I went through most of the semester doing my homework without aid of a piano. At the end of it, I came away with a ridiculously cute eight-measure ditty that I still have among my sheet music at home.

A funny thing that didn't go so well in that class was the piano lab. The piano lab portion was a lot of playing scales in different keys in multiple octaves. It should have been easy-peasy after my on-and-off years of piano lessons growing up. When I was a kid, I had had a particularly intimidating Eastern European piano teacher; she scared my fingers wiggly. Years later, in that first piano lab session, the instructor plugged her headphones into my keyboard and said in an Eastern European accent, "Please play me a D major scale, two octaves." All of a sudden, I was eleven years old again, with jelly fingers. I played the scales as well as I did when I was eleven, and the instructor complimented my proper fingering. Go figure.

And then there was the solfège. Man, do I dig solfège. My dad's brain is hard-wired for solfège (oïdo, he calls it), so I think I get it from him. In my high school choir, it all started clicking for me. I fell a bit out of practice in college until the sight-singing lab portion of that music theory class. Then I felt like I was in high school mixed chorus again, getting envious looks from my fellow choristers who thought I was showing off. Except in that college class, we were all nerds with our heads buried in our music. Or at least I was. And when I sight-sing now, I'm still that nerd with my head buried in my music. I feel like it's a return to that part of my teenage brain.

But, as with many things in my life, the music became one of this jack's many unmastered trades. Sure, I sing in lots of choruses nowadays. Although singing alto has been wonderful brain exercise, it decimated my upper register, both technical execution and pitch. What a mess I've become.

Singing alto has also made me appreciate good choral writing.

Yeah, so I complimented Anders on his voice leading. Yes, I am a huge dork. Shut up.

Seriously, though, I want to write something lush and pretty. I have a bunch of Shakespearean sonnets that I want to commit to memory (36, 61, 63, 116, 128, 150). I'd love to set at least one of them to music. By the way, this post's title comes from Sonnet 8.

What made me think of toying with choral composition again? Heh, what else colors my mental musings these days? Listen to this piece, Skärgårds Akvarell. The title means Archipelago's Watercolor.

Monday, November 7, 2011

I am awesome.

Anders thanked me for pointing out his faux pas. He had the subtitles revised in his interview video.

Now it says he's been working with "fantastic Filipino session musicians" with no comparison to Swedes. Obviously, the original words are still in the spoken Swedish. Still, although the translation is not direct, the important part of the meaning remains. Compliment without the controversy. Rock on.

And now I feel all influential and accomplished. :-)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I'm not sayin'; I'm just sayin'

So about addressing Anders Paulsson's politically incorrect statement, I decided it was better to say something than to say nothing.

Anders' comment about working with "Filipino musicians who are just as talented as Swedes" probably wasn't outright racist. Perhaps it was a response to criticism. It might have stemmed from some distinctively Swedish cultural elitism. Or perhaps it stemmed not from elitism, per se, but from Orientalism, a romanticized view of so-called exotic Eastern cultures.

In any case, my gut tells me that Anders really didn't mean to be demeaning. Or at least I'd like to believe that he doesn't actually have lower expectations of musical proficiency in the Philippines. So I wrote him an e-mail to make him aware of the possible misinterpretation of his comment, and that I preferred not to share that particular interview because it just wouldn't make sense coming from me.

I guess I was thinking I'd be nipping a potentially sensitive situation in the bud. I hope I haven't made things awkward, thereby screwing over this project.

It was important to me to respond quickly to his e-mail about the interview. I also wanted to ask his collaborating scientists to contact the oceanographer who hasn't yet written me back. But I needed to do the former before the latter.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Am I overreacting to perceive this as subtly racist? [UPDATED]

UPDATE: After all the deliberation, I did finally decide to say something, which resulted in the subtitles being changed for the better. I gotta say, that Anders is a good sport! :-)

Original post below:

Anders Paulsson just got a little less hot for remarking that the Filipino musicians he's been working with are just as talented as Swedes.

Last night Anders e-mailed me a YouTube link to a video of a television interview he did on Sweden's largest news program before the Coral Guardians inaugural gala in Stockholm last month. "Feel free to include it in your introduction of us," he wrote.

The video features Anders along with Johann Rockström, the executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center. Anders wears a shockingly non-traditional take on the barong tagalog. Whereas traditionally it's a sheer white shirt worn over a white undershirt, Anders' barong is black with gold front panels edged in red.

Starting at 2:40 or so, Anders tells this cute story of how he got into this whole thing about using music to spread awareness of coral reef preservation. Originally he volunteered at the Coral Cay Conservation in the Philippines as a break from music, but one Christmas he filled a bunch of empty soda bottles with seawater and played "Silent Night," to everyone's delight. From then on, a bunch of music projects started, and he says, according to the English subtitles around 3:30:

"I've started playing with Filipino studio musicians who are just as talented as Swedes."

Say WHAT, Anders Paulsson?!

Wow. Yeah, I guess Anders must find it pretty amazing that some vestiges of Western music remain in the Philippines after 400 years under Catholic Spain, followed by some decades under the US. As if the cultural impact of being a longtime Spanish colony weren't already apparent in the religion, food, language, dance, clothing, etc., not to mention the names and faces of people, too. Sheesh.

I have a rule for cases like this. Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by ignorance.

However, even if this comes from a place of ignorance, that nonetheless implies a pre-conceived notion of low expectations of musical talent in people half a world away.

While the rest of the interview provides a lot of great information about the history of the Coral Guardians project on both the scientific and artistic sides, that one little remark irks me to the point of not feeling comfortable sending the link out. Especially to Important People at my alma mater. Especially coming from me, a talented Filipina-American musician-scientist!

So what can I do? Should I say something to Anders about it? If I say nothing, he'd probably freely share the video and possibly come off looking slightly racist. If I do say something, what can I say to minimize the ensuing awkwardness?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Bad Catholic returns!

*tap-tap-tap* Is this thing on? Can you hear me back there? Yes? Great!

OK, so, this bad Catholic has been feeling extra bad lately. This means I will brain-dump onto Teh Interwebs now, you lucky readers, you, whoever you are.

I have a massive crush on this tall, blond, handsome, Swedish drink of aquavit Swedish composer, soprano saxophonist, and environmentalist, Anders Paulsson (no link because of autoplaying music on the homepage). I have now taken it upon myself to hook him up with my alma mater to promote his Coral Guardians initiative, a coral reef conservation project to provide marine biology educational opportunities for kids in the Philippines.

Why am I doing this? Because I find him hot, and if this collaboration works out, then I might actually get to sing in a concert with him again! Anders is my new celebrity crush. Move over, James Franco; your book sucks. Now, Anders, on the other hand, writes some gorgeous music. And the dude can rock the soprano sax, with a clean tone that seemingly effortlessly obliterates the Kenny-G-associated dorkiness factor of the instrument. And Anders is really nice to look at. He's also a genuinely nice guy and easy to talk to.

What? I have a thing for tall blonds, OK? I married a tall blond, after all.

At the dress rehearsal a couple weeks ago, we ran through his arrangement of "When The Saints Go Marching In," complete with snapping on two and four. He said, "I think it should be slower. More," he paused, "sexy." Then he set the tempo of the snaps while conducting with his entire body. My brain short-circuited, and all I could think was, "I'm sorry, what? I couldn't hear you with your shirt on." (There is precedent for the mental image of a shirtless Anders. Check out this photo.)

So come concert-time, I got all dolled up, donning make-up, contacts, and my bestest (i.e., charmingly booby) little black dress. This paid off swimmingly when, at post-concert dinner, Anders sat RIGHT ACROSS FROM ME! I know, right??? How awesome is that? We chatted up a storm, and at one moment he tentatively asked me, "Are you Polynesian?"

Heh. I grinned. I thought for a moment, "I do so love playing this Guess My Ethnicity game. Should I make him guess again? Nah, let's just get on with it." I knew he had a thing for the Philippines, so I just outright said, "Actually, I'm Filipina," and I smiled.

He smiled, too, and said, "I thought so!" Then he told me he was going to the Philippines for two months in late November, and he launched into his Coral Guardians spiel.

A lightbulb went off in my head, and I asked, "Do you have contacts at [my alma mater's oceanographic arm]?" He shook his head, and then he gave me his card so I could e-mail him!!! EEEEE!!!!

So all told, we've exchanged a good half a dozen or so e-mails about some possible collaboration. However, the Important People at my alma mater aren't replying to my e-mails. I'm still working on it.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Lenten episodes, part 3 - A cleansing bike ride

Wednesday morning there was a freak downpour that coincided exactly with my bike commute to work. That is, the rain only lasted 30-40 minutes, but it was exactly the 30-40 minutes that I was riding to work.

It was sunny when I left the house. On the radio, they said a 50% chance of rain. I thought nothing of it. The sun was shining! Plus, one day last week there was a 50% chance of precipitation, it didn't rain at all. Anyway, I was planning on meeting friends at the new Mission Cheese shop after work, so I wore my Mission-appropriate skinny jeans.

Well, I guess it was lightly sprinkling though sunny when I left the house. As I got to the more difficult part of my ride, it started raining harder. I was just far enough away from home and it was just late enough in the morning that I didn't want to turn back.

The rain got harder as I got up the hill. The way the drops were hitting the ground and bouncing, I wondered if it was actually small hail. Hail! On my morning ride to work?!

Towards the top of my ride, I knew I was getting drenched. It was all downhill from there, so I just kept going. Without fenders, my butt got unpleasantly wet. The freak downpour mocked my usual rule of thumb: Don't go anywhere with your ass wet. Think about it.

Then the rain became a full-on downpour as I got to the flat part of my ride. I was riding more slowly than usual because I couldn't see! Not only were the raindrops hitting my glasses, but the raindrops were hitting MY EYES. I cautiously coasted along, lightly riding my brakes, squinting and blinking half-blind. But whenever I pedaled, the upstroke of the pedal squeezed my water-logged skinny jeans legs and flooded my shoes.

At the rate and volume at which I was screaming, "AUGH! OH MY GOD! AAAAUUUUUGGH!" one could have thought I was having a good ol' attack of the Holy Spirit and a soul-cleansing baptism. Which, I suppose, is nicely timed for Holy Week or something?

I got to worked completely soaked. My co-workers gaped at me as if I were crazy. All I could say was, "It was sunny when I left the house!"

So I switched from my wet softshell jacket to my dry hoodie, peeled off my skinny jeans in exchange for scrubs, and squished around in wet shoes all day.

I hung up my jeans in a sunny window (because it was sunny when I got to work!) above a heating vent. Of course, you can't just leave unlabeled stuff in the hallways at work. It could be considered trash and just thrown away. So I left a note:

Yup. Classy. That was a long day.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lenten episodes, part 2 - Freak accidents and survivor's guilt

Continuing the last break-up story from the last post:

A few friends were over at M's house to keep her company and give her consolation food after her recent surprise break-up with J, who acquires a new nickname at the end of this story.

I ended up leaving M's house with my friend B at around 1:30 A.M. We walked a couple blocks to the main drag where we waited for our respective cabs As she was still having a cigarette when the first cab showed up, she let me take it.

And then The Horchaccident happened to the cab that she took.

I have been feeling some odd survivor's guilt since that happened. If only I had taken that second cab; I wouldn't have had to go anywhere near that intersection! I can't blame myself, of course. There was nothing I did to make that car run that red light.

Last Friday, I brought her my last jar of lemon marmalade, a loaf of sourdough (not homemade this time), and a big chunk of gorgonzola. Again, stinky cheese heals all wounds. B and I bonded over stinky cheese. Good times.

This past Sunday, I crashed a fantastic dinner back at M's house, cooked with love for B. When I left at 10-ish, I announced to the living room, "OK, so, who's going to walk me out and make sure the karma cab doesn't come get me? Any takers? No?"

Rationally, I know that the accident wasn't my fault. Naturally, M and B are blaming J, whose break-up was the reason we had been at M's house that night in the first place.

Rationally, it's actually the fault of the driver who ran the red light.

Nevertheless, it's easier to blame J, henceforth known as the Kneebreaker.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lenten episodes, part 1 - Breaking up, while hard to do, is sad and sometimes necessary

I have started riding my bike again, so the Bikeless Chronicles are on hold until next winter.

However, Lent got off to a wacky start, so I'll blog about those dramas instead of my bikeless transit woes.

So far this Lent, I have witnessed three break-ups.

1. Ash Wednesday

On Mardi Gras I went to see Devotchka in concert, and it was excellent, of course. I got to bed at around midnight. Then Dear Husband's phone rang at 2:00 A.M. It was a request for him to go over to A's house because she had just broken up with her boyfriend, and he went psycho, showing up on her doorstep completely plastered at 1:00 A.M. She was home alone because her roommate was out helping another friend who had had a roofie slipped into her drink.

I know, right? Crazy!

So my husband went over at 2:00 A.M., as the cops were leading the psycho ex away in handcuffs.

The husband came home a few hours later to wash the cat allergens off of him, and then he got another call. The dude got out of the drunk tank and showed up at A's house again. The husband went over to sneak her out of the back door and drive her to work. Later that day, she filed a restraining order against the ex.

2. Long-distance

One of my best friends is going through a generally amicable break-up with a really good guy an ocean away. Although they are each really good people, they're not good for each other in a boyfriend/girlfriend-type relationship right now, and that's okay.

3. Out of left field, and yet not

A few short months ago, M started dating J. J was a self-proclaimed man-ho. While they were best friends for a good three years, we all had a feeling that when they started dating, an ugly break-up would be a big looming possibility.

Surprisingly, J broke up with M, not because of some man-ho ways, but because he was in a depression rut and pushed everyone away, including his three years' best friend and three months' girlfriend, M.

Now, I know that the depressed mind isn't exactly rational, but, man, you don't sever ties with a major part of your support network when you need it the most!

A few of us went over to M's house to keep her company and bring her consolation food. I brought over some meyer lemon bars, sourdough bread, and tallegio stinky cheese.

Stinky cheese is the best glue to mend a broken heart, of course.

There is more to this story, but I'll get to that later.

* * *

I like my lack of relationship drama. I really like being able to be myself with my husband, and I like that he can be also be himself with me. While it may be difficult to watch my friends' decisions play themselves out in non-ideal ways, they are still my friends, and I care for them very much.

Friday, April 8, 2011

bloggers' dialogue with the Vatican?

The Vatican Invites Catholic Bloggers to Dialogue.

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is opening a new avenue for dialogue, this time with Catholic bloggers.

The pontifical councils for culture and for social communications are inviting bloggers to the Vatican May 2 so the Vatican can “listen to the experiences of those who are actively involved in this arena” and “achieve a greater understanding of the needs of that community,” said a press release sent out this morning.

The meeting is pretty much open to any Catholic blogger, but the fact that there are only 150 seats in the conference hall and that the Vatican is looking for a mix of languages means the Vatican will be making some choices. The press release said the Vatican also wants a geographical mix and diversity based on the kinds of blogs out there: institutional and private, multi-voice and personal.

Heh, yeah, they wouldn't want to dialogue with me.

I'm pro-women. I'm pro-gay. I'm pro-birth control. I'm pro-choice. I think divorce should be allowed. I think priests should be allowed to marry. I don't believe in papal infallibility.

And that's not even core doctrine!

I don't believe that Mary and Joseph never got it on while they were married. I have major issues with Paul. I think John was drugged out and a bit off his rocker. I don't believe in transubstantiation.

I'm just a really bad Catholic like that.

But I really dig my church and my friends at church. I think it would be great if we could love our neighbors, even the gay ones.

Yeah, the Vatican would not want me at their bloggers' dialogue.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bikeless Chronicles, part 4: Holy Land Accessories

It's pretty ridiculous when religious items make it into mainstream fashion.

Remember that rosary-as-necklace trend? That just bewildered me.

One of the guys at my church showed up one morning wearing a keffiyeh. As we're a well-educated, well-cultured bunch of people surrounded by hipsters, this guy got several comments and questions as to what statement--political, fashion, or otherwise--he was trying to make. He smiled with confused innocence at the unexpected barrage and explained that his keffiyeh was a gift from a friend, and he only wore it that morning because it was chilly.

A couple weeks later, I read on Jezebel that H&M is selling tallisot (Jewish prayer shawls; tallis is the singular). I got really excited and concocted a scheme to buy one as a gift for my keffiyeh-clad friend at church to complete his Holy Land Accessories Collection!

At the first chance I got, just a couple days ago, I eagerly went to H&M specifically for the trendy tallis. I really should have read the comments on that Jezebel item. Had I read the comments, I would have learned that it's not a tallis but a poncho. I really can't stand ponchos. Notice the disappointment on my face in the above photo. Stupid poncho.

Another commenter posted that one particular rabbinical student is turning the poncho into a tallis katan. The tallis katan is usually seen as a thin undershirt of poncho construction, with tassels on each corner to remind the wearer of God's commandments.

Anyway, for $35, this H&M tallis-like poncho was a bit too pricey for a not-quite-right gag gift.

Hm.... I wonder if I could knit myself a mantilla, wear it as a hipster-ish neck scarf, and start a trend.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bikeless Chronicles, part 3: Queen Bitch

A couple weeks ago, on the bus, I saw this young and slim African-American lady. She had ironed-straight hair, 80s blue eyeshadow, and long fake eyelashes. Despite the bubble butt (or perhaps because of it), her jeans slipped just enough such that her lower back tattoo was clearly visible. It read, in a frilly Gothic calligraphy font, Queen Bitch. And she had a four-year-old, and a baby in a stroller.

I thought to myself, "Aw! Queen Bitch has children! Can't I have children, too???"

That was a depressing moment.

The mortgage is expensive. Childcare is expensive. I can't afford children right now.

Yet everyone seems to like telling me that the husband and I should have children.

"You! You guys! You should breed! You should have kids!"

Uh, OK, that's nice. You wanna be a cool aunt/uncle and spot me $1000 per month for childcare?

What do I need to do? Film a Kickstarter campaign? I can almost imagine it.

"Hi. You know us. You like us. You want us to have kids. And you'll like our kids, too.

We're just two -ologists looking to bring some future -ologists into the world.

We're smart. We're gainfully employed. We like thinking, reading, sunshine, and puppies. We make stuff from scratch, like bread, sweaters, and leblebi (it's a tasty Tunisian chickpea stew). We support local business, the arts, public transit, vaccines, and vegetarian burritos.

Our combined income barely covers the mortgage on our modest home. This means we cannot afford childcare.

This is where you come in. We have some fabulous thank-you gifts, too.

For a five-dollar donation, we'll send you a baggie of dehydrated sourdough starter! This is the real stuff, containing Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis and other tasty-making natural bacteria and yeast! This is the gift that keeps on giving!

For a ten-dollar donation, we'll send you a jar of homemade sugar scrub! Exfoliate your hands and feel good about contributing to a future generation!

For a twenty-dollar donation, we'll send you a handknit coffee cozy! Save the environment one coffee sleeve at a time!

For a fifty-dollar donation, we'll send you a jar of homemade organic lemon marmalade!

For a hundred-dollar donation, we'll send you the breakfast special of two jars of marmalade, some sourdough starter, and a coffee cozy.

For a five-hundred-dollar donation, we'll send you a pair of handknit fingerless gloves. Maintain your dexterity and warm your wrists in style! We'll also throw in a coffee cozy and a jar of sugar scrub.

Sponsor an entire month of childcare for $1000, and we'll thank you with a handknit scarf and matching fingerless gloves! We'll also send you baby pictures from the month you sponsor!

What? It could work.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bikeless Chronicles, part 2: Mom, I dare you to prove me wrong.

Are you familiar with Captain Subtext from Coupling? Watch this video. Captain Subtext and the Truth Filter go on until about 1:30.

Having a subtext filter is especially helpful in dealing with the passive-aggressiveness that my mom threw at me. Here's what my mother said to me tonight, slightly paraphrased:

"You know, there are a lot of Catholics out there who take birth control and who like gay people, and they still come to church. They don't abandon their faith."

And with Captain Subtext's Truth Filter:

"You know, despite your ideological differences, you can still come to church. I'm worried that you have abandoned your faith."

Gee, thanks, Mom.

I told her, also slightly paraphrased:

"Look, I'm not abandoning my faith. I'm not abandoning my practice."

She interrupted, trying to sound clever, "Oh, but you're abandoning Catholicism."

"I'm not even abandoning Catholicism! You think I am, because you haven't checked it out yourself to see what it's all about. And until you do see for yourself that the beliefs are the same, don't tell me that I'm abandoning my faith."

"I don't think you're abandoning your faith," she backpedaled.

"Oh, whatever," I said, rolling my eyes.

"I'm not comfortable with it."

"You're not comfortable with it because you don't know what it's about. You refuse to come see that there is nothing wrong with the messages we get."

Subtext: "I dare you to find something objectively wrong in the mass I attend."

Seriously, would she rather I go to church in bad conscience? Would she rather I listen to some judgmental hate-thy-[gay, female, non-Catholic, etc.]-neighbor sermon and conveniently dismiss it and/or contradict it in both word and deed? How hypocritical. That's not the function of church.

Would she rather I continue to worship as a bad Catholic, picking and choosing what messages to live? And what the heck is so anti-Catholic about saying the freakin' NICENE CREED every single week, plus apostolic succession and sacraments and all that?

Yeah, Mom, I dare you to find something objectively wrong in the mass I attend. I dare you to find something counter to the Gospel. I dare you to find something counter to loving God and loving one's neighbor as oneself. I dare you to tell me that what those gay, female, and married priests say is a bad or wrong message.

I dare you, Mom. Bring it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bikeless Chronicles, part 1: reading about forbidden love

Padre Alberto's latest book [Amazon link].

Some of you may remember Fr. Alberto Cutié from his extensive media presence on his various radio and television programs in both English and Spanish (and a Twitter feed, too!). Some of you may remember him from the news a couple years ago, when he was caught on the beach with his girlfriend, Ruhama. Subsequently, he left the Catholic church, was received into the Episcopal church, married the lovely Ruhama in the Episcopal church, became a priest in the Episcopal church, and now has a baby daughter!

During part of my bikeless commute, I read his latest book, Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love. As a self-proclaimed bad Catholic with Episcopal leanings, I was certain I would enjoy the book.

As you can see from the book cover image above, Padre Alberto's distractingly handsome face is all over the front cover of the book, complete with the distinctive white collar and the word DILEMMA printed across his chest. It's not the easiest book to read on public transit in a town with such a strong Catholic history, but I suppose that dealing with difficult or embarrassing issues head-on is part of the point. Additionally, a couple friends and I have started referring to Padre Alberto as Fr. Hottie.

Fr. Hottie skillfully recounts his experience with the baffling hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic hierarchy with regards to its priests' mental and emotional health. Through Fr. Hottie's pretty blue eyes, we see the church as a questionable employer who doesn't quite take care of its employees or clients, whose higher-ups have lost sight of what it's like on the ground, and where a person really can sleep his way to the top.

Fr. Hottie also documents his ideological shift from Rome to Canterbury, wading through issues including homosexuality, birth control, papal infallibility, and priestly celibacy. The tabloid exposure of his relationship with Ruhama precipitated the final push on the road to Canterbury. For all the support that Fr. Hottie got during the media mayem, he also got a lot of negative fallout about betraying the one true church. This sense of betrayal undoubtedly stems from the spoon-fed propaganda that the Roman Catholic church is the one true church, whereas those Protestants were total jerks about that Reformation thing.

Huh. Aside from the publicity, this sounds a lot like my own ideological struggle and the shit-fit that my parents had when I told them that the husband and I have started attending an Anglo-Catholic church that better fits our ideals and spiritual needs.

I very much enjoyed Fr. Hottie's book. This book was exactly what I needed to read at this point in my spiritual journey. I has given me a lot to think about, especially in the coming weeks, when my husband will be presented to the local Episcopal bishop. Yet for some reason, I still can't quite bring myself to participate in the reception ceremony. Who knows? With Fr. Hottie's book in the back of my mind at next month's ceremony, I may yet change my mind for next year.

Gracias, Padre Alberto.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bikeless chronicles, part 0

This is the first of a few posts about my misadventures of my sadly bikeless commute.

The universe has been ganging up on me, conspiring to keep me from riding my bike to and from work. In roughly chronological order, here's what the universe has thrown at me:

1. Winter - Dark, cold, rainy. While I have lights and a reflecty vest for the dark, the cold and rain just make biking downright unpleasant.

2. Christmas - The Christmas season brings up lots of evening activities, like my friend's Lillajulafton, or little Christmas Eve. It's a Swedish thing, and I got to wear my "got glögg?" t-shirt. The opportunities to wear such a t-shirt occur so seldom, that I'd rather not get it sweaty and then show up to the party.

3. Colds - I caught a doozy of a cold right after New Year's. It knocked me out for a good week. Can't breathe, can't ride.

4. Repavement - Just when I got over my cold, I noticed that my bike route was being repaved. It was down to dirt for a couple weeks.

5. Injury - Walking to my bus stop after work one day, I rolled my right foot on a seam in the sidewalk. This happens to me a lot, and I can usually walk it off because my ankles always bounce back. This time, however, my foot--not my ankle--continued to hurt horribly. I hobble to my bus stop, hobbled onto the bus, and saw from the window that the repavement was all done on my bike path! Grrr!!! So I hobbled home and sat on the couch with a bag of frozen peas on my foot.

6. Insult - Yes, added insult to my injury. The weather been GORGEOUS out here (sunny and unseasonably warm), and I can't ride my bike with a sprained foot. Furthermore, Tuesday morning, just two weeks after I sprained my right foot, the left one rolled! Again, walking downhill on an uneven sidewalk, of which there are many in this town.

As such, I've been stuck on Muni for way too long. But at least the Muni commute gives me anecdote fodder, reading time, and knitting time. My next few posts will be about stuff I've seen, stuff I've read, and stuff I've knit on the bus.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

let me google that for you


I published a knitting pattern on Ravelry.

I just got a question about what the heck Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off is.

I did not drink the haterade.

I did not send this link: http://tinyurl.com/464a9q5


It's fun!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tidbits for the new year

lemon chunks in water
Today's lemons: head cold. Today's lemonade: blog post.

Happy New Year, everyone! I had a lovely holiday of family, friends, and fondue. Now I have quite the unhappy sinuses, so here are some short tidbits for your ADHD perusal.

1. St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix lost its Catholic status for allowing an abortion that saved the life of the pregnant mother of four other children. Sigh.

2. Catholic-turned-Episcopal priest Alberto Cutié just wrote a book about his issues with the Catholic church. Sounds right up my alley! I'm queuing it up at the library!

3. This year I tried something new for Christmas gifts for my family. I didn't have to brave crowds at the mall; I didn't have any knitting deadlines; I didn't contribute to the family's various piles of junk. I made various charitable gifts in their names on Changing The Present, all from the comfort of my couch.

4. See that picture up there? I did indeed make lemon marmalade from my friends' backyard lemons. After three hours of waiting for a pot of steaming lemon slices to cook, I needed a couple more days before I could enjoy the finished product without anger towards the seemingly interminable process. It's tasty, but now I'm leaning towards pickling.

5. I promised a chai recipe a few posts ago. My friend's chai recipe wasn't so good, but I used it as well as this other one as a starting point for further improvements. Here we go:

Spicy Masala Chai

2.5 cups of water
15-20 black peppercorns
10 cloves
8 cardamom pods
a pinch (~1/4 teaspoon) aniseed
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled
2-3 teaspoons black tea leaves
2.5 cups of milk (use whole milk for richness)
sugar, to taste

1. Put the water on to boil in a saucepan. While the water is heating, bruise the dry spices (pepper, cloves, cardamom, aniseed) using a mortar and pestle. Add the spice mix to the water. Then mash the ginger and add to the water.

2. When the water reaches a boil, add the black tea and boil on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Cooking some of the water off at this step will concentrate your flavors.

3. Add the milk and let the temperature come back up while stirring. Remove from heat once the mixture barely starts bubbling.

4. Strain, sweeten, and enjoy.