Monday, April 26, 2010

This ain't no Farmville

In addition to an overwhelming amount of work this spring, I've also begun/tried to take up gardening. I planted 8 broccoli seeds, and figured I'd never need 8, so I gave 4 of the sprouts to my mom. I planted 2, but didn't have a chance to plant the remaining 2. Those first 2 disappeared. The second 2 I planted in pots a week later, but they don't seem to be doing very well. I either kept them in their egg carton seed pots too long, or didn't harden them off long enough. I may or may not get broccoli out of one of them.

Of the 8 lettuce seeds I planted, I think 5 sprouted. I transplanted them into larger pots (yogurt cups) sooner, and have been at the hardening off process longer, but I do wish I had them in the ground already. Maybe after I finish writing the final paper I should be writing right now.

Of the 4 spinach seeds I planted, only 1 sprouted. It's doing about the same as the lettuce seedlings, as I've been treating them the same. I just sprouted 3 more seeds in a damp paper towel this weekend, because I wanted more than 1 spinach plant. I'm only 1 person, so I probably don't need 4, but now I have 4, if these 3 - that I just put in pots this afternoon - make it.

I also planted 4 tomato seeds, of which 3 sprouted. If they all make it - and 2 are growing better than the third - I will have more than enough tomatoes. Even if only those 2 make it, I will have plenty of tomatoes.

I have never so looked forward to salads.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Let us rejoice and be glad . . . please

The mood at my home church this Easter was anything but joyful. We tried to celebrate, we really did, but it was a success just to hold back the tears. Five days earlier, two much-loved high school seniors had been killed in a car accident on their way to baseball practice, and the entire community was still reeling on Easter morning. I hadn't known them, though my sister had been friendly with one, and my dad had grown up with the other's father.

And so, though I hadn't known them, I'd spent almost a week reading graphic and heart-breaking local news stories, being moved to tears by posts on memorial Facebook groups, hearing my dad describe repeat the eulogies from the Holy Saturday funeral, and welling up at the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday when Christ's body was removed from the Cross and given to his mother. I can't even begin to imagine what those mothers were going through.

I had thought of trying to talk to one of the priests on Saturday or Sunday about scheduling and making appointments, but the last thing I wanted to do was add one more thing to do to the list of someone who had already had to call the archbishop for a dispensation to have a funeral and distribute Communion on Holy Saturday, who would have to preside at the funerals of two teenagers in five days.

I didn't notice the families of either boy in church on Easter, but Mass was preceded by an announcement about how the community had pulled together in the wake of such tragedy, and we prayed for them during the Prayers of the Faithful. At least a couple of kids there had been their teammates, and while I didn't notice any of those teenaged boys crying, I noticed lots of those teenaged boys' mothers crying.

I couldn't help but think, when we said "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it," that it was not so much a proclamation as a plea. Glad wasn't something we could handle on our own. We needed help.

Let us be glad, Lord. Please. Let us be glad.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Googling "Free Stuff"

I never actually thought it would work, but after spending a huge amount on a major trip to the grocery store this week, I googled "Free Stuff." Or "Where to get free stuff." Something like that. I ended up on a website with the unlikely name of, which listed lots of links to sites with offers for coupons or free stuff.

So instead of doing homework Saturday, like I intended, I ended up signing up for every one that was remotely interesting to me. If they were all legit - and they all appeared to be - in the next 2-10 weeks, I should be receiving Cream of Wheat, BreatheRight Nasal Strips, CankerMelts, numerous feminine products, toothpaste, Tide, and a California Tortilla for lunch one day this week! Not to mention uncountable marketing e-mails and flyers in the real mail. But I'll gladly deal if it saves me money!

I'll provide updates if any of these things actually show up . . .

Monday, February 22, 2010

Good, Secular Organizations:

As I had mentioned after this year's March for Life, I'm uncomfortable with how strong the religious message of the pro-life movement is - even though I agree with it 100%. Soon after the March, I contacted to see how they felt about the issue. Was the religious language alienating? Did it make them reluctant to participate? Less willing to identify as pro-life?

I mentioned the 4 points on which I am uncomfortable with the religious assertions in the pro-life movement:

1) In this country, they cannot and should not be the basis of policy or law.
2) I'd imagine that non-religious pro-lifers might feel alienated by them and/or not be comfortable attending events like March for Life without feeling like they're endorsing something they don't believe.
3) They lack authority in the eyes of a lot of the people we're trying to talk to.
4) You often see someone make an entirely secular argument against abortion only to receive a response along the lines of "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!" Pro-choicers discount all pro-life arguments as religious and therefore irrelevant based on the fact that the most prevalent pro-life arguments are religious.

Here, with her permission, I'm quoting in its entirety the eloquent response I got from Kelsey Hazzard, President of did participate in the March for Life. We stuck out. Quite a few people asked to take pictures of our banner; I caught others trying to take a shot without being noticed. We also had a table at the Students for Life of America conference, where we talked to campus leaders about encouraging religious diversity in their organizations.

I'm actually a Christian too, but like you, I am uncomfortable with the religious overtones at the march. The Catholic language and symbolism used (I'm Protestant) has a more isolating impact than many pro-lifers realize. The atheists and agnostics who make up the backbone of would say that yes, the pro-life movement is alienating the non-religious. I've gotten many emails from non-theists thanking me for creating a pro-life group where they can belong. Without, many of them would either be lone wolf pro-life bloggers, or doing no activism at all. A group effort has a much stronger impact than the individual efforts of its members; unfortunately, the non-religious pro-life movement has historically not been well organized.

I agree wholeheartedly with point #4. One of our principal missions, aside from making the pro-life movement more inclusive, is to fight the religious stereotyping by abortion advocacy groups. The truth is that most pro-lifers, even the most religiously devout, rely on secular justifications for their position. If I became an atheist tomorrow, I would still oppose abortion because I am well-acquainted with the facts of prenatal development, the principles of human rights, and the effect of abortion on women.
On the question of whether it's better, based purely on the numbers, to focus on the religious: absolutely not! Since you were at the march, you undoubtedly noticed the strong presence of young people. Millenials have been called the "pro-life generation" because this age group opposes abortion more than any other. Another interesting fact about this generation is that a quarter of people between the ages of 18 and 29 practice no religion. The older, more religious pro-life leadership is going to be in for a shock. We're here to help the pro-life movement adapt to these new dynamics.

Feel free to quote me in your blog. You can talk to people in our
facebook group, too. Everyone is friendly.
Have a great day,
Kelsey Hazzard
President of
I encourage you to visit at their website or their Facebook page and support their efforts!

Friday, February 19, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday Part XXXIV

1. Okay kids, it's February 2010. That's early-mid 2010, right? So why am I still waiting for the digitization of the 1901 Irish census? Hmmm? Can't Ireland get on this?
2. Problem: Part of my Lenten fast is to give up Catholic blogs. (As much as I enjoy them, there's more snark and more politics involved than on other blogs I follow (read: genealogy blogs). I end up with an unfortunate tendency to mediate my faith through something not particularly fruitful.) I had intended, though, for Conversion Diary to be the one I kept reading. Jen's posts are always inspiring, helpful, and motivate me spiritually. Seems like God had different plans for her Lent and mine both. (So, maybe not such a problem?)
3. Cinnamon Popcorn from The Popcorn Factory. I'm in love. I first tasted it when breaking my Ash Wednesday fast, so I might be a tiny bit biased, but it might possibly be the best thing ever ever invented.
4. Don't look at me like that. I was only eating Cinnamon Popcorn minutes after midnight Thursday morning because I had nothing else in the house. I just moved back into my apartment post-flood, and haven't been grocery shopping since December.
5. I just finished reading Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter. I want to be her. I'm trying to recruit my roommates to plant vegetables in the backyard of the vacant house next door. Read Novella's blog Ghost Town Farm!
6. A week off for snow meant I had time for the rare pleasure read mid-semester. I miss reading things I like. I sure manage to watch plenty of TV, though.
7. I'm pretty sure I'm about a million years behind the meme times, but I have recently learned I love when Hitler finds out things.

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

You might be a bad Catholic if . . .

. . . you've ever gotten dressed up nicely on Ash Wednesday, in a flattering skirt and nice top, not because of that stuff Jesus said in the Gospel about washing your face and anointing your head, but because you knew that after a day of fasting, you'd look skinnier than usual and you wanted to take advantage of it.

(No, not this year; I know better now. But recently enough that I should have known better then.)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Saturday Evening Blog Post

It's that time again! Head over to to participate in this month's Saturday Evening Blog Post by submitting a link to your favorite post of the past month.

Friday, February 5, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday Part XXXIII

1. DC is on the verge of "Snowpocalypse Part II." It's amusing to watch the natives rush around, going crazy at the prospect of snow. Granted, 2-3 feet is a lot. But the city - and by association, the federal government, of course - grinds to a halt every time. I already get to go home after 4 hours of work, and not a single flake has fallen. Oh Washington.
2. I'm interested in growing apples from seed. I understand that it's a bit of a crap shoot; you can never tell what kind of apples you'll get. That sounds kind of exciting to me. I also understand that it takes 6-10 years for a tree to bear fruit. My question, though, is how big does the tree get in the interim? I'm an apartment dweller, and will be for the foreseeable future, though I hope to have a home and yard within 6-10 years. Is it possible to start apple trees from seed now, and keep them as potted plants for several years before planting them outside when they begin to mature to the fruit-bearing stage? Or will they get too big too quickly?
3. You know what's been annoying me lately? Those McDonald's ads that say, "Fruit, meet Oats. Oats, meet Fruit." Does McDonald's really think they invented putting fruit on oatmeal?
4. Word of the month: Antediluvian. adj Of or relating to the period before the Biblical Flood. Use: "No, Landlord, I will not pay my rent until my apartment is restored to its antediluvian condition."
5. On that note, I may be back in my very own apartment (whether or not it's in it's antediluvian condition) by Monday or Tuesday. Only displaced for a month! (I briefly described the deluge here.)
6. I wish my desk had windows. I'd love to know whether or not it's snowing yet. In fact, I may just get up and take a stroll across the office . . . Report: some sort of wintry mix. Not quite snow yet. (As of 11:30am)
7. Since I have snow on my mind, and since I don't want to sound like one these silly Washingtonians who obsesses about snow, I'll end here and get back to work. Happy Snow Day!
Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Politics and Basketball: Only a Hoya

Sign seen at the Georgetown v. Duke game this weekend:

"Coach K ran Coakley's Senate Campaign"

I love it. Hoya Saxa.

Friday, January 29, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday Part XXXII

1. The singer of the "If you want to be happy for the rest of your life" song from March for Life e-mailed me a recording of it. If you'd like to hear it, he's given me permission to pass it on, so just ask!

2. Icky: At a Subway this week, the menu listed an Italian sub, with Salami, Bologna, and Ham. The fine print, underneath, read "All meats are turkey based." Turkey is supposed to be a "good" meat, but when you start making it into things it clearly is not . . . something is not right.

3. To have plantar's warts removed: dermatologist or podiatrist? I'm leaning towards the former, as my most memorable past experience with the latter involved hysterical crying through the entire appointment. I was 17.

4. Also, this is sad. I was at the grocery store yesterday, and blindly navigated my cart to the wart removal section. Then I spent 15 minutes searching for the bread aisle. Dr. Scholl's is going to miss my business if I get these things to go away.

5. I'm unexpectedly taking the day off of work today. I woke up with such a stiff neck this morning, and I can't move my head without a lot of pain. I had a fun weekend planned, and have friends visiting from out of town. This had better be temporary.

6. Is anyone familiar with I signed up for it this week, and I've been using it faithfully to record my trips to and from work by foot or by Metro, but I dunno . . . it seems a little too good to be true, I guess. All I have to do is tell them I rode the Metro, and I can get free stuff?

7. Ow. Ow. Ow. My neck is killing me. I always thought a stiff neck was just, you know, stiff. That doesn't sound painful. But it is highly misleading.

Check out more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How to Eat Well as a Grad Student

Or rather: How do I eat well as a grad student?

Because I have NO IDEA. Yesterday, I googled "how to eat well in grad school" and got lots of sites that told me how important it was to be sure to eat well while you're in grad school! But none of them gave any advice at all. I don't know how I got through a year and a half without ending up either super-skinny or hugely overweight. Lots of grad school programs, like mine, pretend that they are a good fit for people who work, even people who work full-time. They are not. It is physically possible to get from a full day's work to an evening class, but it is not physically possible to do so while being able to eat a healthy, home-cooked meal, nor, for most of us, is it financially possible to do so while being able to eat a healthy, restaurant-bought meal. It boils down to two options: skip dinner, or eat dinner out of the vending machine.

I don't work full-time, not quite, which in theory should make this problem easier. Less time at work = more time for cooking, right? Oh, but also: less time at work = less money! Right. I don't know why I've been particularly frustrated by this problem this week, but I have.

Four days out of the week, this is what my schedule looks like:

7:30: Breakfast at home, make sandwich
8-4:30: Work (eat sandwich at noon)
--3:00: Start to get really hungry.
5-10: Ether class or the gym. Class is over by 8, on gym nights I head home by 9:30.
Between 8:30 and 11: Arrive home. Tired. Hungry. Some days, I haven't eaten in almost 12 hours.

Now, I have 2/3 of my meals figured out. Eggs for breakfast, PB&J sandwiches for lunch. Cheap, healthy, and portable = grad student-friendly. But I am entirely at a loss about what I can ever eat for dinner. On class nights it's not too bad. I can suck it up, and eat when I get home at 8 or 9. Not horrible. I'm hungry, but I'll live. On gym nights, since my gym class doesn't start until 7:30, I could eat between work and the gym. But given my current income, it's financially irresponsible to expect to be able to eat out 3 nights a week, and I have yet to figure out how to prepare all three of the days meals before I leave home in the morning. So lately, I've ended up skipping the gym to go home and eat more often than not, and on days when I do manage to work out, I'm cranky and hungry throughout. Then I get home, eat a full meal (you should have seen the astonished looks I got last night when my (temporary) roommates saw how spaghetti I could pile on a single plate), and go immediately to bed, it invariably being almost midnight. Sleeping on a full stomach is supposedly not good for you, either, but what choice do I have?

Those of you who have somehow survived this stage of your lives: What did you eat for dinner?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Observations on March for Life 2010

  • I think my favorite person there was the guy on a box outside the Sculpture Garden singing "If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pro-choice woman your wife. From my personal point of view, get a pro-life girl to marry you!" It's been stuck in my head for days.

  • I was a little uncomfortable with the strong religious overtones. I agree completely that all the religious assertions were true, but I have 2 concerns. First, as much as I may agree that, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" is true, it's not the base of good policy in this country. What we need to be able to create pro-life laws in America are good, secular arguments against abortion. Second, I know there are pro-life people out there who are not religious. I doubt they'd feel welcome at the March, or be able to participate without feeling like they were endorsing something they disagreed with.

  • It seemed much more crowded this year than last year, but I'm not sure whether that's because the March route was shorter; people were congregating to march at the same place as the rally, rather than several blocks away, so everyone was all crammed together.

  • I wasn't sure whether to find the huge number of high school aged marchers heartening or not. Teenagers have a pretty strong tendency to a) do what their friends are doing, and b) want to go on field trips. I wouldn't be surprised if a large number of them hadn't really given too much thought to the issue of abortion at all. However, even if that's the case, I doubt that March for Life would turn them off of the pro-life cause; it's more likely to make them default to pro-life views, which is a good thing.

  • I wish people - and this applies to everyone, not just March for Lifers - would throw their trash in the garbage! There was way too much litter on the ground when I walked down the Mall at 5pm. I wasn't sure, though, whether the "Choose Life" and "Stop Abortion" signs on the ground would turn people off of the movement ("Look at these disrespectful pro-lifers!") or serve as a continued expression of our message even once we'd left.

  • Having teenagers carry signs that say "Women do regret abortion" and "Men regret lost fatherhood" struck me as a little . . . disingenuous. I doubt that many of those girls and boys were actually regretting abortions. While I know it's true that women do regret abortion, I don't think that presuming to speak for others is an effective way to get your message apart. At the very least, I think that you end up lacking authority in the eyes of others and losing your audience.

  • What sort of signs should young people be holding? Ones that testify to our missing peers and to having survived legalized abortion. The one sign I saw that brought me closer to tears than any other was the one held by a teenager that said, "17 years ago, January X 1993, my mom chose adoption instead of abortion."

  • With all of the tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people there, I had the good fortune to run into the group from my home parish. I was shocked to find that my 8th grade CCD teacher still recognized me!