Wow, you guys. That was really helpful. And here I was thinking I was going to get lambasted from all sides!

I thought I would enjoy writing about this Church Stuff, but it's been difficult. Writing it out is good for the part of me that likes to organize and file things in my brain, but every time I hit publish I feel a little queasy wondering who I've annoyed and what I got wrong and what I should have said differently. So those of you who've left me "this is halfway interesting, sort of, I suppose" comments, I appreciate it. Really. I've liked reading your stories too, and super surprised at how many of you were in your own NDCFs.

I had another one going, but I didn't like how it was coming out. So this is all you get today, in fulfillment of my NaBloPoMo duties. I had a pretty hard day with Jackson and rearranging our entire living room (WHAT WERE WE THINKING) and now Phillip is home, which means I am free to zone out in front of the television. And television posts are more my speed.

But in case you didn't figure out from my moms group post, I am not a quitter! I have a few more things I want to write about church and choosing to be Catholic. It's been hard to figure out what to say, but I've been having some awesome conversations, online and off, and feeling stretched in my faith in a way I haven't felt stretched in a long time. I mean stretched in a good way. Like when you wake up in the morning and throw your arms over your head and yawn and arch your back and decide it's a good day to eat doughnuts for breakfast.

I'm betting I'm going to be sorry I wrote this one

I started a "This is what I've learned in six months" post that turned into "The things I couldn't possibly have lived without" type of post which then turned into drooling over the Moby wrap and Cetaphil cream and then I got REALLY BORED. And I can only imagine what that kind of post would do to you, my beloved readers. I mean, Cetaphil cream? Really?


(But still.)


So. Now I am sitting here twiddling my thumbs (or the typing version of it, at least) and listening to my inlaws try and figure out why the baby is fussing downstairs. Can you detect my detachment? My disinterest? My willingness to let someone else decipher the fussing? No? BECAUSE IT IS NOT THERE.


I am just going to tell you what I am thinking about. It is: The Rosary.


Not really. Well, sort of. I had this post brewing for later, in which I tell you all the things I find annoying* about Catholicism, the biggest fattest one being READING PRAYERS ALOUD. IN UNISON. IN MONOTONE. Ugh, I am shuddering just thinking about it.**

I just finished a series of discussions in a small group where we had read to everything aloud. Every. Thing. I thought I would die. It just goes soooo sloooow. And I read ahead. And I miss where I am supposed to pick up. And when you are reading prayers aloud, and in unison, it often feels like the meaning and feeling behind the words got left out somewhere around line two.

But today someone was talking to me about anxiety and how I should write things down, as an anchor. So when my brain goes off on what I call Broken Record Disorder, where I get completely fixated on one little thing no matter how untrue or ridiculous it is, I can refer to a piece of paper and bring myself back to my senses. So I am listening to this and trying to apply it, but all I can think about is: THAT'S why we pray like that. DUH! A foundation! Something to refer to! So yeah, while I much prefer my prayer to have a non-denominational flavor to it, I confess my mind often flutters off to, "Did Landry's dad seriously set that car on fire? What are the Friday Night Lights writers smoking?" and "how much pain will I be in if I buy those three inch heels recommended by my sadistic friend Maureen?" If I am reading a prayer aloud, my mind isn't going anywhere. Well, maybe it goes into, "Gee, I hate reading prayers out loud", but that's not that far away from what I should be thinking about.

It all made so much sense!

And so I am wondering about the Rosary***. Its potential as an anchor. Thoughts? Anyone?

*"annoying" does not mean "wrong" or "not useful" or "people should do this differently". In this context it means, "Your trusty blogger friend would rather be watching television."

**If you love reading your prayers out loud, MORE POWER TO YOU. I like reading and I like out loud, just not at the same time. Let's agree to disagree.

***I am not lumping the Rosary into "annoying". Although it certainly was the summer I took a bus ride to Paris with a ten-year-old who recited her Hail Marys over the loudspeaker so we could all pray along. Just that it is a Catholic prayer, that is rote, but in a good anchoring way, which is possibly the point, and I am considering it. As something I do more than once every five or six years.

Day 18

The Evil Weight Loss Challenge ends Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. This morning I weighed in at my lowest weight since having the baby. But then?

I ate pumpkin bread pudding. I ate an egg dish full of potatoes. I ate toast with butter and jam. (Raspberry peach jam! Delicious!) I drank a mimosa or two.

Then I washed all the dishes and slept through the Seahawks game and cheered myself up by thinking about the light salad I planned to eat for dinner. But then?

I went to a one-year-old's birthday party. And stayed after everyone else had gone home. And ate the pizza the one-year-old's parents ordered for dinner. And two pieces of cake. TWO PIECES OF CAKE. Do not look at me like that. The cake was from here, aka God's Own Bakery.

I am fairly certain I will not weigh in at my lowest weight tomorrow morning.

Actually, I don't think I will weigh myself tomorrow morning at all. I am a glutton for cake, not for punishment.

Even if I hadn't eaten my weight in carbohydrates today there's no way I'd lose enough to win the Evil Weight Loss Challenge. Because this woman has lost eleven freaking pounds, running laps around the rest of us slackers. SIGH.

Before I started putting food in my mouth today, I had only seven pounds left to lose. Well, to be back to my pre-pregnancy weight, which wasn't particularly stellar or anything, but getting back to that number would do wonders for my psyche. I haven't been morose about weight for a while simply because I've lost enough to fit back into my regular clothes (most of them) and having clothes that fit you makes a huge difference. Even though some things that fit me at this weight pre-baby don't fit right anymore, I'm not having to make desperate runs to Old Navy to find something that won't offend the old ladies at church. My fat jeans are once again my fat jeans, not the ones I wear every single day. My shirts suddenly seem long enough again, my sweaters fit, I don't wear pajama pants all day long. I've still got seven left to lose, and when I lose that seven I'll want to lose a whole lot more, but I've stopped crying about the way I look. Over a year later I finally feel like I've got my body back.

Bitter Ex Whatevers

I spent four years in a non-denominational campus Christian fellowship and I can't remember a single time when someone accused me, told me, stated, implied or even hinted that I might not be a Christian because I was Catholic. It wasn't like I was hiding it. If someone asked me where I went to church I always said I went to the Newman Center. (Except for the days I stayed in bed. I didn't really like the Newman Center.) When people asked me "how I became a Christian" I would always say I'd been going to church my whole life, blah blah blah. My experience with my friend K aside, I don't think it ever occurred to me that my Catholic faith might be a problem with other students in the fellowship, or that it prevented me from participating in these decidedly Protestant gatherings. A lot of it was weird, yes. A lot of it took some definite getting used to, but I always wanted to get used to everything. Well, most of it. I was pretty sure it was never going to be me up there in the worship band with my eyes closed and my hands raised, shaking my tambourine when the spirit struck me.

And all of that isn't to say that people weren't constantly inviting me to their churches. I was invited to TONS of churches. Sometimes I even accepted. I went to Presbyterian services and other mainline churches and I visited non-denominational services that met in school gyms and rented Seventh Day Adventist churches. While it never occurred to me to ditch Catholicism, I usually liked going to my friends' churches, just to see what they were like. I was always an observer, rarely a participant. I never knew what to do when communion came around, for example. I never knew the songs (unless we'd sung them in the NDCF.) I'd get restless during the talks because dude, Mass is one hour long. One. Hour. And inevitably the Very Friendly Types would say hello to me and ask me how I liked their service and what kinds of ministries they had available to college students and did I want to sign up for a small group and blah blah blah. On one hand, the Very Friendly Types gave me the heebie jeebies because I am one of those people who should have I AM SCARED OF STRANGERS stamped on my forehead. On the other, it was always nice to feel welcome.

The summer after my sophomore year I lived in a rental house with five other NDCF students. None of us knew each other very well, but we all needed a place to crash for the summer and someone got the big idea to Live In Community. Being an IDIOT, I agreed. This was before I knew that Living In Community meant pooling grocery money and arguing over who was drinking all the milk. That I'd never be able to fall asleep at night because our living room would be full of friends wanting to participate in Community all night long. That we'd have to have long eye-crossing House Meetings where we discussed each other's lack of commitment to Community. GAH. But no one ever gave me grief for going to Mass on Sundays while the rest of them attended a non-denominational church together, in the spirit of Community. In fact, I never went to that church with them. I always went to Mass. (Probably because I needed a break from Community, but that's neither here nor there, right?)

A few months before I moved into that house, I was living in my favorite dorm on campus and attending a bible study where I had a big fat ungainly crush on one of the leaders, a devastatingly handsome Chinese man. Where my freshman study had been awkward and uncomfortable and forced, my sophomore study was awesome. There were some great girls in that study, the kind who read poetry and listened to the Indigo Girls and talked about all the things they were "sensing", and I was beginning to think I'd finally found my own kind. The three leaders were in various states of conflict with each other, which gave the rest of us the freedom to ignore them, and even with the conflict and several Dominant Personalities, it was a fun group of people. I was still having Issues with all the stuff I wrote about before, but my new friends were making up for that and I loved hanging out with them. In the spring each bible study was supposed to go on their own little retreat, so one weekend we all packed up and headed down to one of the leaders' parents' house in The Middle Of Nowhere, Washington.

We had a great time. Except for the paintball. Paintball is just Capture the Flag with permanent scarring, and is not a game for the Highly Anxious. But anyway, great time, and did I mention I got to spend an entire weekend in the company of the devastatingly handsome Chinese man? So we're sitting around having breakfast and the mom of the house is telling us how great it is to have us there, all us good Christian kids and I am KICKING MYSELF for not remembering (and Phillip doesn't remember either) but then she went on to compare us to other kids, like heathens and atheists and Catholics. Like, out of nowhere. I am so mad I can't remember what it was exactly, but I do know that I was horrified without showing it on my face, that I stole a glance at Phillip and that we had to debrief later. "Did she really say that?!" "Oh my gosh!" "Are we not Christian?" "Why is she so angry!?"

I found out later that our friend's mom was an ex-Catholic, the bitter angry type, and that she had found rescue and sense and freedom and peace in her non-denominational church. Which: good for her! But I was really nervous during the rest of that retreat. I was afraid she was going to find out about me. I think that's when it occurred to me that even if I felt welcome and like I belonged in the NDCF, maybe that was a fluke.

Until the last year or two, when Phillip and I started making some great friends at our Catholic church, we were the only Catholics we knew outside of our own families. Our best friends all attended non-denominational churches. When we graduated and started doing our own things faith-wise, there were a handful of people who suggested we attend their churches. Sometimes it felt like we were supposed to make our "decision" now, to match our church with what we had learned in the NDCF. And we really considered those options and gave a lot of thought to what we were supposed to be doing, but ultimately we chose Mass. We are blessed, though, in that no one takes issue with this. No one is trying to get us to go anywhere else. Our friends know how invested we are in our church and have actually been interested and impressed with a lot of the things we're involved with in our parish. Along the lines of "a Catholic church is doing that?"

But I often think about that woman in Middle Of Nowhere, Washington. And the other encounters I've had with bitter ex-Catholics and ex-Protestants. I often wonder if God put Phillip and I in the NDCF so we could love both places, be Catholics who can hack it- and enjoy ourselves- in a Protestant setting.  Maybe? Who knows. The boy did not sleep AGAIN and that makes it a little difficult to think straight. 

The one thing I did not want to pass on

I think my kid has Seasonal Affective Disorder. I am not even kidding. The evidence is as follows:

The last two days have been miserable. Gloomy. Gray and dark all day with periodic episodes of Oh My God The Flood Is Coming Rain. The quintessential Pacific Northwest November. Let us all thank Fabulous Commenter Mary for gracing us with this PERFECT November poem:

No sun-no moon!
No morn-no noon-
No dawn, no dusk, no proper time of day,
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member-
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds!

(I googled this for a bit and found the full poem- "November in England", by Thomas Hood, here. How wonderful. I feel so affirmed in my hate for November. Minus Thanksgiving dinner. Loooove Thanksgiving dinner.)

But back to my child with the mood disorder.

He has been napping up a storm the last two days. One to two-hour naps three times a day, with not too much work involved getting him to sleep. We'll be playing downstairs and suddenly he starts doing the worried babbling thing he does when he's tired or hungry or otherwise unhappy with whatever his mother has him doing at that precise moment. Then I take him into his room, sing a song and boom: down he goes. He's always been a good daytime sleeper (my sleep neuroses are all about how to get him to sleep in the first place- not the amount of sleep!) but three or four or almost five hours of daytime sleep? Something is going on.

The Dr. House in me says, "Sleeping all day? Depression!"

But there's more! The last two nights have been HORRID. The pattern lately (and by "lately" I mean "the past week or two, and only the nights I can remember") has been a 7:30 bedtime, waking up at 2, rocking back to sleep, waking up at 6 to eat, up for the day. Not fabulous, but definitely manageable. And predictable! I do love predictability. But the 2 am wake up time over the last two nights has been murderous. Wednesday night he would not go back to sleep. WOULD NOT. First I tried. Then Phillip tried. Then I tried again. Then Phillip caved and made a bottle, which Jackson sucked down immediately and STILL would not go back to sleep! And we don't have a howler, folks, we have an eyes-wide-open moany grunty boy who would probably be fine in his crib, except for the fact that he would keep us up for hours with the grunting and talking and moaning. Even with the monitor turned off. And then, after an hour or so of moaning, the crying would most likely start. So you know. Rock him now or rock him later, right? Rocking him now means possibly getting at least another hour of sleep.

EXCEPT NOT. At four am we were discussing how to give him away to the circus, when suddenly he seemed to drift off into that moaning-but-completely-asleep state. Phillip handed him off to me and he quieted down. I sat in the rocking chair an extra 15 minutes just to make sure, put him in his crib and quickly escaped.

And Phillip's cell phone rang with an emergency work issue at 4:30. DAMN YOU EAST COASTERS AND YOUR FAILING COMPUTER SYSTEMS.

Last night was better, but it still took forever to put him back to sleep. And this time, when we caved and gave him a bottle, he only drank one ounce. So I can't think he's waking up to eat. When I went in to get him he was almost up on all fours, but we've already talked about how he is not allowed to crawl until he is at least four. I'm just getting used to the sneezing with a mouth full of carrots. I can't be expected to deal with a mobile baby any time soon.

Anyway, the Dr. House in me is thinking, "Sleeping all day? Insomnia at night? DEFINITELY DEPRESSION."

(If it were anxiety we'd be getting no sleep at all. I know my disorders, folks.)

And further evidence for Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Tuesday, which was glorious and sunny and crisp and bright and the absolute perfect autumn day? The boy took regular naps. AND SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT.

Okay okay okay, I feel a little guilty saying that because technically he still woke up at 2, but he put himself back to sleep before I could be bothered to get out of bed. A night in which I do not remove my covers? SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT.

He's been napping about a half hour now, which means I better go take a shower and eat breakfast and prepare to conquer the day. He's got his six month shots today (weep!) and I will need extra time to sit in front of the light box.

When you're a SAHM, the office meetings are called Moms Groups

I've tried not to say very much about this, I really have, but I need to vent. A little. On my website. So here it goes:


Whew! There. All better.

I don't know WHAT possessed me- hormones? pregnancy brain? mom brain?- but I am not a group person. I am anti-group. I am the person who sits in stony silence while everyone else shares their Highs and Lows. I am the person who really does not want to hear about the contents of your child's diaper. I am the person who is not terribly interested in getting information about the babysitter list or the zoo memberships or when we're all getting together to swap homemade baby food. Yes, I am HORRIBLE.

Since Jackson was born I've joined two moms groups and started a third. I know. I STARTED a moms group. WHAT WAS I THINKING? 

I had to break up with the second one. I just had to. Even if the size of the commitment hadn't completely overwhelmed me (it wasn't just Tuesday meetings, it was clothing drives and babysitting and bringing dinners to new moms and all super good stuff, just too much of it), it wasn't very fun. The moms were grouped into tables and assigned Table Leaders and Mentor Moms. (Perhaps you are familiar with this group!) We cheerily ate our buffet breakfast and listened to speakers talk about things like children's dental hygiene. And then there were Discussion Questions where we all had to think of something insightful to say about children's dental hygiene. My insightful comment was, "I refuse to nurse a vampire." Then there was lots of signing up for things, some strained chatting about see you next time, rushing over to pick up our kids in the nursery and escape, I mean going home. Very nice. Lovely. But I didn't feel like me at this moms group, I felt like Jack's Mom. And the baby wasn't even around! I wasn't me, I was the mother of a six-month-old. I lived nearby. I didn't go to that church. My kid has two razor-sharp teeth. He doesn't sleep through the night. Oh yours doesn't either? What are we going to do about our predicament? Blah blah blah.

Sometimes? I wanted to talk about television.

I am not knocking moms groups. Moms groups exist for a reason, that being that the mom job is super crazy hard and it's nice to know other people are trudging through teething hell or sleeping hell or breastfeeding hell too. A lot of moms are isolated. They never leave the house. Their friends don't have babies. Their own mothers are driving them crazy. They are completely and totally panicked about when to start solids. These moms need the moms group.

Me? Not so much. Not because I am put together and on top of things. HARDLY. It's because I prefer to conduct my paranoia and neuroses by myself, at home, maybe in front of my husband, where I can whip myself into a textbook nervous breakdown and then blog about it.

The first moms group? I'm still going to that one, sort of. I don't think I've gone the last two times, and I missed moms' night out. I didn't really miss those things on purpose, but the boy was napping. Or I was having dinner with my family. Or trimming my toenails. I don't know. The moms are great, they really are. It'd be great to get to know them better, but I feel as though I've exhausted the amount of energy I can spend bonding over our six-month-olds. Know what I mean?


Obviously these other women need blogs, don't you think? That would really help me out.

The third group, the one I helped organize at my church, is the one moms group where I feel like myself. I had the privilege of having Jackson during a veritable baby boom at my church. I knew half the mothers before they were even pregnant. This group is awesome because (and I'm going to whisper here) I am not just a mom in that moms group. In our little church moms group, where we talk about highs and lows and diaper contents and zoo memberships, I'm very happy. I like talking about these things. I'm talking about these things with my friends. Friends who are moms on the side. (Who happen to be super cool. One of them has a brand new blog. AND an Etsy store. Girls with Etsy stores, as you know, are way cooler than the rest of us. Buy handmade for the holidays, people!)

The problem, I know you are emailing me right now, is that I haven't given the other moms groups enough time. THEY can be my friends TOO! One day we'll move past the diapers and the solids and the sleep talk. One day someone will bring up her undying love for The Bachelor, and I will be thrilled, even though I have never seen one episode of The Bachelor, just because we are talking about something that does not involve Consumer Reports and also goes very well with a glass of shiraz. Perhaps you are even thinking that I - perish the thought!- should be the one to branch out into the Non-Baby Talk!

But you see, I am lazy. It's a lot of work to make friends. It involves a lot of forced smiling and chatting and nervously wondering if the snarky comment on the tip of your tongue is inappropriate and I am feeling rather done with that kind of thing. 

Unless... some of you want to move nearby. I'm totally up for that. Bonus points if you like cheap wine.

The neurotic 18-year-old meets the Secret Cabal

I hate gloomy weather. I hate rain. I hate the cold. Most of all I hate the dark. Dark in the morning, dark in the afternoon, dark all day if it's a rainy dreary typical Northwest morning. Hate. So this morning I decided to talk Phillip into letting me buy a treadmill off craigslist and setting it up in his office downstairs. Think he'll go for it? I think there's enough room for a smallish one, if we move the rocking chair out of the office (which we moved out of the living room to make way for the exersaucer. But we're planning to buy a Big Ass Television fairly soon which, believe it or not, will free up a lot of space in our living room. We could potentially move the rocking chair back upstairs. Phillip is going to read this on his way to work this morning and Freak. Out.) I want a treadmill because the only form of exercise I enjoy is walking. And I can't go for walks in this weather, especially not with a baby. He'd freeze to death and/or complain to death from being stuffed inside his snowsuit. Also, if I have a treadmill in Phillip's office, I can watch TV on his gigando monitor. SCORE.

The preamble to this post is brought to you by the month of November. HATE.

For the uninitiated, NCDF stands for Non-Denominational College Fellowship. Which stands for a national campus ministry. I might tell you the actual name if you email and ask nicely.

So anyway. Freshman year? It was all right. Certainly not the worst year ever (see: age fifteen.) I worked at a campus cafe and went to class and whiled away the rest of my hours with my bible study group or my suitemates or the one friend I'd made outside either of those groups. Towards the end of the year people I knew, mostly other freshmen, started talking about "Frosh Project" which was a two-week inner city immersion. I don't remember my bible study leaders bringing it up, but they must have. I was not interested, however, because 1) my family was coming back for the summer and I missed them and 2) I had to work.

Slight tangent: throughout my entire four years in the NDCF, I can think of maybe a handful of people who had jobs. And this was true of people I knew in my dorms and in my classes. Both of my parents put themselves through school and I grew up thinking I would do the same, that that was what everyone did. But no! I can't even remember how many conversations I had to have with NDCF people regarding my schedule and my commitments and me having to say, "Yes, but I can't be in the NDCF AT ALL if I don't have a JOB to pay for me to live in the freaking DORMS." Only I said it nicer. Perhaps I have a selective memory, but seriously. I always seemed to be the one person in the group who worked more than 5 hours a week. ANYWAY.

So. No Frosh Project for me. Then one day I was talking with my best NDCF friend at the time and she mentioned some leadership retreat she was going to attend in a few weeks. I hadn't heard anyone mention it and I wondered why no one had brought it up. I stewed in that for a while, hearing that other freshmen had been "invited" too attend, but that some of us hadn't. Some of us, like me, didn't even know it was going on. THEN my best NDCF friend told me that her bible study leaders had "invited" her to be a bible study leader the following year, and that she had to give them an answer soon. And NO ONE had invited ME.

Naturally I was extremely offended.

Now. Why in the world I thought the NDCF staff would think I would make a good bible study leader is beyond our collective comprehensions, as I was the sort of freshman who never said a WORD in bible study and had perhaps professed to not really like bible studies anyway. But I did not take that into account. As far as I knew, I'd been the model NDCF freshman. I'd done all the things they'd asked me to do. I'd been honest and committed and, for the most part, a willing participant in pretty much everything, but somewhere, obviously, I had failed.

Instead of saying, "Hey Bible Study Leader, what's up with this retreat I just heard about?" or "Screw you, NDCF! I'm off to make my mark in the Creative Writing Department!" I festered. I stewed. I lolled about in my self-pity and anger and humiliation. So maybe I understood why I hadn't been invited, but they could at least have TOLD ME about it. I was so mad at my leaders for not being open when they were constantly telling ME to be "vulnerable" with them. It really felt like there was a secret back room meeting where all the leaders got together to discuss the pros and cons of their students and someone somewhere had said, "Oh, I don't know about Maggie, I don't think she's a good candidate."

And you know what? THERE WAS!

Now that I am Older and Wiser and friends with the NDCF's current Head Cheese, I know a thing or two. I know why they had this group called Decision Making and why they invited some freshmen and didn't invite others. I know I would have made a terrible bible study leader. I even know why decision making was done in secret.

But it was painful, and not just for me, but for a lot of the freshmen in the NDCF that year. There was a hierarchy and we were not moving up. We had been found wanting in some way. The "cool people" in the fellowship, namely the staff workers and interns and many of the leaders, didn't want to spend time with us. And the saddest part was that the only way to participate was to be a bible study leader. I think the only other organized group was the worship team, and even that was made up of bible study leaders. There weren't other ministries to be in charge of or help with or anything like that. In a fellowship geared towards serving freshmen, there really wasn't a place for older students who weren't in charge. And I don't think anyone would have suggested starting a new ministry, because people were very happy with how things were. The leaders were happy because they fit the right mold. The staff workers were happy because, I think, that was how they knew to do things. The rest of us, those who didn't fit the leadership criteria, would just have to stick it out and either get better at bible study and be invited the next year, or find something else. It sucked.

And this is going to be my last Moaning About The NDCF post. I don't like writing this stuff. I'm over it, but going "back there" to write about it still makes me feel yucky. Especially because things are different now. They started to change when I was in school and I'm excited to write about THAT part. But to tell you that part I have to tell you this part. Which was crappy. Boo.

And how many of you are dying for November to be over so you never have to see the acronym NDCF again? Gah.

Who CARES about the Greek?

Phillip was already a member of the NDCF when I was a clueless freshman, but I don't remember a thing about him. And he's not around for me to ask if I should have remembered him from that year. I don't think he joined the worship team (note to clueless Catholics: "worship team" = band that plays and sings the songs at the fellowship night, complete with amps and speakers and lyrics projected onto the wall and a girl singing with her eyes closed while shaking a shaker offbeat) until the next year, so there's a high probability I didn't even notice him. I was already intimidated by the people in my own bible study that year, so I didn't have time to be terrified by anyone else.

The girl who became one of my very close friends asked me to the new student barbecue and after that I found myself agreeing to go to bible study on Tuesday nights. I had no idea what bible study was. I'd never been to one. (And now that I have been to, oh, several HUNDRED bible studies, with Protestants and Catholics alike, I can safely say that I HATE bible study and would be okay if I never went to another. Such is the sorry state of my spiritual life.)

The NDCF was all about reaching out to freshmen, at least at that time, so every card carrying member was committed to living in the dorms and organizing bible studies for the students in that particular dorm. Depending on the size of the dorm, there were two or three, and whichever one you ended up in, that was kind of your little college family. Your team. You ate dinner with them, watched TV with them, studied with them. It's not like you weren't allowed to associate with non-NCDF people, you just got sort of sucked into your bible study group. I mean, there were a LOT of commitments. Bible study, worship night, little outings and gatherings planned by the bible study leaders, all sorts of stuff. And no one ever said you HAD to do all these things, but the expectation was there. If you spent time with non-NCDF people or, good heavens, non-Christians, you were also expected to invite them to bible study. You know. Represent.

I didn't catch on to this for a while. I did all that stuff because I didn't have anything else to do. And, for the most part, I really liked the people in my study, even if the leaders liked to do the unspoken expectation thing. The girls in my freshman dorm suite were all singularly weird and I was going to 500-person 100-level classes, so it wasn't like I was going to make any friends in class. I hated bible study (did I mention that?) because I'm not much for external processing (a term I learned in the NDCF!) I am very much a person who needs to sit on something for a while, or write about it, or talk a long time with one other person. I am not good at the sitting in a circle and discussing what a particular passage may have meant in Jesus' day. And this is entirely my own fault, not a flaw in the NDCF or anything like that. So even though I sort of despised the actual study part, I liked everything else.

I really liked worship nights, even though it was the strangest place for me as a Catholic, much stranger than bible study with these bible know-it-all college kids. I had never seen a worship band before. I'd only seen people close their eyes and wave their hands while praying or singing on television. We'd sing for nearly an hour and then one of the fellowship staff workers would get up to give a Talk. And oh, we loved these talks. There were some highly gifted staff workers when I was a freshman, one in particular stands out, and everyone loved him. Hung on his every word. I'd never been to anything like these worship nights, but for a lot of people it was 'church', or similar to churches they'd attended at home, only with a decidedly collegiate bent. The NDCF had maybe 150 people in it then? I can't really remember. So much smaller than the most popular NDCF on campus (which had hundreds and hundreds) but big enough to be a big group.

The NDCF was big on community. Discipleship. Accountability. I had no idea what those things were and no one bothered to enlighten me.

The NDCF's hierarchy had paid staff workers at the top, then volunteer "intern" staff workers, then a layer of student leadership- the kids who led the bible studies in the dorms, then the rest of us dutiful study-attending members. At the end of every year the leadership team would get together to decide who they would invite to lead bible studies the following year. More on that later, she says as she taps her fingers together Mr. Burns-style.

My bible study consisted of a bunch of silly freshmen girls and male bible study leaders- not a particularly good combination. At first, my now-close-friend was one of the bible study leaders. Then she and her boyfriend broke up and I remember her telling me that two of the staff workers thought that she should move to another dorm and get involved with another study, because it wasn't "healthy" for her to stay in our dorm where her boyfriend lived.

I was crushed. She was a big sister to me. She didn't seem to want to move and I didn't understand why these two staff workers had all this say in her life. I didn't want to be in the bible study if she wasn't going to be there. "Investing" was another NDCF buzz word and I'm pretty sure my now-close-friend had done quite a lot of that in me. And now she was just leaving? Did I want to be involved in something where one day someone might tell ME where to live and what to do? Because pretty much my favorite thing about college thus far was being my own boss.

That's when I started to suspect there were some, uh, really crappy things about the NDCF. Now, when I think back, that little episode is pretty tame. I was upset because she wasn't going to be my bible study leader anymore, but also because I didn't understand what this whole Secret NDCF Cabal was doing in the background, with all their decision making and life deciding. And also because you were supposed to love your bible study leaders. You were supposed to look up to them and be discipled by them (whatever THAT meant) and learn from them. That's the way the NDCF was set up. In that respect, I was following the plan.

Anyway, the baby is waking up and I must attend to the cereal making and pear thawing. I suspect that two or three things in this post may have potential for bending-out-of-shape, but it's just the first thing that happened in a long string of things and I haven't gotten to the What I Learned From This post. I also suspect this will sound really weird to people who haven't been sucked into an NDCF, but trust me that it wasn't cultish or out of the ordinary. This is just stuff that happened and how it felt. And, eventually, how it led me to where I am. So. There you go.

I'm wasting valuable television time!

I didn't think it would happen. Not now. Not ever. And yet, FOOTBALL HAS INVADED MY HOME.

As I sit in the living room, computer perched on my lap, Monday night football blaring on the television and my husband chowing down on dinner next to me, I am wondering what happened to the man I married. I knew he liked baseball. I knew he had a secret man crush on Ichiro. I knew he sometimes watched Sonics games with his dad growing up, and that he knew the names of the important players. But football? FOOTBALL? Phillip is not a jock- he's a BAND NERD. A band nerd turned COMPUTER GEEK. These people are not sports fans. They are board gamers. They are Trekkies. They are LARPERS!

(Raise your hand if you knew what a Larper is because you have a strong attachment to Beauty and the Geek, just like your trusty blogger friend.)

And you know, I've poked a lot of fun at my husband on this here website because of his band nerdiness and computer geekery. Even when I'm the beneficiary of such geekery, like the Phillip Cheung TiFaux and my networked wirelessed shortcutted kissable laptop, I don't think twice about rolling my online eyes at the Roomba and the Star Wars quoting and the strong obsession with plastic toys that morph from boom boxes into robots.

But secretly, Internet? I like geeks. I like boys who know their way around a SQL server. Who enable me to print to the downstairs printer. Who can make sure I can record The Office and Grey's Anatomy at the same time. Who spend their Saturdays attempting to earn an MCSE certification. I hate it when Phillip wears contacts. Give me the glasses! I love the glasses!

And now it appears that my beloved band nerd, my adorable computer geek, is a football fan. I know! What happened? I think it's peer pressure. I think all the Cool Jocks, what few there are at a software company, got to my husband and made him feel that to not watch football is to not be a MAN. What other reason can there be for the fact that we are watching the Seahawks trample the 49ers right now instead of chilling out with TiFaux?

Fine. I've been known to watch a game or two. I had brothers who played football. I know that the guy wearing the little towels throws the ball to the guys wearing the gloves and that everyone is supposed to knock each other to the ground. I may not think a sport requiring helmets is terribly entertaining, but whatever. I know how to cheer a team. I can deal.

Except. EXCEPT.

This football thing is not just a football thing. Oh no. It is a fantasy football thing. If I didn't have a six-month-old to keep alive and cheerful tomorrow I'd be beating myself unconscious with the remote right this second.

We can't just watch the Seahawks. We have to watch ALL the games. We have to get to know ALL the players. We have to discuss stats and yards and points and who has which player. We have to hang our heads in shame when the know-nothing girl who works down the hall beats us that weekend. We have to pump our fists in triumph when our quarterback kicks the boss's quarterback's butt. And no, we can't root for Peyton just because we like his commercials and his Saturday Night Live appearances and his cute folksy demeanor, we have to root for him because someone else has Tom Brady and in order for Phillip to get ahead in his league, Tom Brady must spontaneously combust on the field.

Freaking football. I'm told my little brother is the commissioner of his league. The COMMISSIONER. I don't know how my sister-in-law does it. If I were married to the commissioner the league would have to get a new one because he'd be DEAD.

I ALMOST forgot to post today

But I didn't! 9:45 pm Pacific Coast Time!

Phillip and I just got home. I ran upstairs saying, "I have to write a post!" and now I am here and I don't know what to write about.


How about how my boy is turning into an interpretive dancer? In church this morning he's standing on my lap looking over my shoulder and waving his arms in front of him, kind of like that weird lady who tours with Bruce Hornsby just to stand on the edge of the stage acting out an acid trip. He's twisting his hands around in front of his face, like he is mesmerized by the amount of wrist fat. It is very strange. I swear, people, every day there is something new. My parents were watching him tonight and my mom told me that he was flapping his arms around while she was feeding him, as if to say, "Woman! My mouth is hanging open! Insert the pureed carrots NOW!" He hasn't done that with me. He also fell asleep on her shoulder at 7:45 and allowed himself to be placed in the crib without a half hour of vigorous annoying rocking. He hasn't done that with me either. Harrumph.

Also? I made butternut squash soup today. From a squash I roasted myself. Now that I have actually done the roasting and soup-making, I have to say it's not quite as difficult as I thought it would be. But still. I am the kind of person who buys the plastic wrapped package of pre-cubed squash and here I am roasting and blending and tasting and adding cinnamon. I am so awesome.

Although I've had better butternut squash soup. I picked this recipe because it had a small list of ingredients (as in, things I already had in my house) and didn't have forty-seven steps. But now that I have roasted my very own squash, I may be able to branch out into multi-stepped cooking. Do you have a good recipe? That will not kill me and/or use every pot in my house?

Speaking of good recipes, Saturday night we went to a Pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner at a friend's house and besides the turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy and stuffing and vegetables and cranberries and pumpkin pie and many bottles of wine, there was butternut squash lasagna. Specifically, this butternut squash lasagna. Oh man. Best thing I have put in my mouth in MONTHS. And this includes the giant handfuls of chocolate chips I've been downing lately. It totally dropped me to 10th place in the Evil Weight Loss Challenge, BUT IT WAS WORTH IT. This baby weight is never coming off. (Although I'm sure the fourteen glasses of wine had something to do with it too. Mmm, wine.)

Okay, I'm now going to see if the goths made it through tonight's episode of The Amazing Race without smearing their makeup. I am totally entranced by the goths. I can't be bothered to cover up the zit on my chin most days- I can't IMAGINE going through life making sure my roots are still pink and my mouth is still lined in black.