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Mia Fioritto’s Weblog

Back to School

Today was my first day back to school. The alarm was mis-set and I woke up with 10 minutes to get out the door.  It was kinda like all those bad dreams I’ve been having about being unprepared for school, but, you know, real.  Things weren’t all that bad though.  I think the semester is going to be very interesting. I’m taking Family Law, Immigration Law, and International Human Rights Law.  Other than that, I am an associate editor (read: underling) of the public interest law journal this year and will continue working at the refugee resettlement organization in New Haven I was at this summer.

Some things to think about:

What role does/should the government take regarding family?  What institutions does the government have an interest in promoting and, in practice, does that promotion help or hurt?  In what ways would promoting ‘healthy families’ help communities like Englewood, a troubled neighborhood on the south side of Chicago where my mom works, and how would it help an affluent community like Yale-New Haven?  I think the answers are more complex than I have had time to think about just yet.

How do we perceive of citizenship? In what ways does categorizing people as “in” or “out” affect other ways in which we see and treat them as a nation and also as individuals?  What does citizenship get a person that just being a human does not? Are we ok with that discrepancy?  I thought a lot about Paul asserting his Roman citizenship in class today and how much that affected how he was treated. Of course you can’t help but be glad that Paul was a citizen, but you also can’t help but be horrified by what must have been the reality of so many of the people who were not.

I will have lots to think about this semester.

Coffee by the seaside, a wooden tree swing, and hawks!

Yesterday Ryan and I went out to Stoney Creek, a small community on the shore where you can drink a cup of coffee on a deck overlooking the sound, then walk next door to check out what’s new at the antique store, then walk back into the woods to a swing hung on a tree by a saltwater marsh and then on over a little bridge to a hawk’s nest where you can usually sit and watch several hawks swoop and dive pretending to hunt seaweed.

Combined with the beautiful weather, the day turned out to be very relaxing and was a good reminder that CT is much bigger than New Haven or Hartford and that much of what this state has to offer is not to be found in its cities.  Thanks, Olivia, for sharing Stoney Creek with us!

Pest Control

Ryan spotted a very large moth above our kitchen cabinets just now.  So he put our cat up there and in less than 10 seconds the cat caught the moth, jumped down, and ate it.

Wow.

A New England Fall

Fall in New England is beautiful.  The leaves change in the Midwest, too, but the colors out her are unbelievable, like something you’d see in a Tim Burton movie.   The oranges and reds remind me of spring time in Arizona when the wild poppies come out.

I’ve been itching to get out and enjoy the crisp weather and beautiful scenery, but school and an ailing cat have taken up much of our time.  This morning we finally found the time and went for a mini hike at East Rock, the very big, rocky hill  our neighborhood is named after.

We packed up some real NY bagels, hot coffee and a couple Honey Crisp apples and walked up till we found a pretty place to sit. After realizing that we had completely forgotten about day light savings time (and calling our moms to check), we reveled in the extra hour we had and went exploring a bit.

I can’t wait to put my hiking boots to use again–being outside makes me like living out here a lot more than I usually do.

Success!

Heehee.  I just successfully tricked our cat into drinking mint flavored Maalox by mixing it with tuna juice.  Next we’ll try chicken broth…

Cuz you know, all cats like bubble gum…

These were the very sarcastic words of the technician who instructed us on our cat’s home care regimen.  We have to shoot 1ml of the bubble gum medicine down his throat twice a day, which he is pretty much done with after just two doses.  The bubble gum medicine, for those of you who never had the joy of taking it growing up, is children’s amoxicillin. It is gross pink goo that tastes like bubble gum.

Cats do not like bubble gum.

Turns out they don’t like Maalox  either.  We tried that this morning.  Yep Maalox.  Also, Peptid AC.  The vet told us we could mix the Maalox in with some wet food and the cat would eat it.  That is most definitely not happening.  Nick is a food snob.  He has refined kitty tastes and will have nothing to do with the mint gravy I put in front of him.

Izzy on the other hand thinks it’s delicious.

We figure, if this is the worst of our worries we can totally work with with it.  Nick is 100% back to normal except for the shaved bits all over his body and  the pink goatee he’s sporting. We’re loving it!

Nick “Blue Eyes” Rubin Voted Best Cat in New Haven

In the past several days our cat Nick has been described as handsome, great, adorable, ‘quite the guy’, to name just a few of the praises lavished on him by the staff at the New Haven Central Hospital for Veterinary Medicine.

Turns out old blue eyes is quite the charmer and is quite possibly New Haven’s favorite cat . (Shh. Nobody tell Izzy…)

Sadly, Nick’s celebrity status came about because he got sick.  After exhibiting signs of illness (i.e. not annoying the heck out of us to change his water first thing in the morning and, worse, not eating) we took Nick to the vet.  She didn’t seem too concerned but said we should do some diagnostic tests just in case.  After a few twists and turns in the process we were told that Nick had severe renal failure and that based on ‘his numbers’ he really should be dead.  But he wasn’t.  They still aren’t sure why.

Amazingly, he just keeps getting better and even gets to come home today!  Izzy will be very, very happy to see him.  turns out people love just isn’t the same when you are used to a constant kitty companion.

We are really grateful that Nick is feeling better and would like to thank everyone at the animal hospital who gave him so much love and attention.  You guys are great!

So What, Chuck?

My husband and a classmate of his are in the living room preparing for a class presentation they will give tomorrow on Charles Taylor’s book, A Secular Age. Sarah just classified Ryan’s part of the discussion as the “So What, Chuck?” segment, in which after she recaps what the book says, he will ask Chuck, “so what?”

I am so amused by the banter that seems to work its way seamlessly into the otherwise serious conversations that happen here.  Yale Divinity students rock the world of puns and word play–they give our UChicago friends a run for the money in both quantity and quality of puns used each day.

Sometimes the un-funniness of the law leaves me feeling like I will never be a worthwhile contributor to this banter, but this past week we read a case that will make anyone laugh.  We refer to it as the ‘Batman case’.

Basically, a woman was sued after she ran her car into an oncoming truck.  Her explanation of the event? I quote, “The psychiatrist testified Mrs. Veith told him she was driving on a road when she believed that God was taking ahold of the steering wheel and was directing her car. She saw the truck coming and stepped on the gas in order to become airborne because she knew she could fly because Batman does it. To her surprise she was not airborne before striking the truck but after the impact she was flying.”

My teacher found this particulary funny because, in fact, Batman cannot fly.

Honeymoon Pictures!

Pictures of the honeymoon! Check them.*

*Alternative forms include: check this, please; check it; please be sure to check that; that one…please be sure to check it. A phrase commonly used by our Turkish tour guide.

Connecticut

As my mom has pointed out, I’ve been sleeping on this blog for long enough. A quick update is in order…

I have officially moved to Connecticut!  We’re still settling in a bit, but have done the majority of our unpacking, etc.  Once things are cleaned up a bit I’ll post pictures of my new home.  Actually, I have two new homes.  For safety’s sake we have rented a small apartment in Hartford (where I will be in law school)  in addition to our place in New Haven (where Ryan goes to school). This way I always have a place to say when my schedule or the weather make it impractical to get back to New Haven.  Ryan’s friends have taken to calling the apartment in Hartford our ‘summer home’, despite the fact that it is further away from the water than our New Haven apartment and in a more urban area.

I’m enjoying exploring New Haven.  Yesterday I went downtown to get a hair cut and then walked to Nica’s Market to meet Ryan for lunch.  Italian delis/markets are very easy to find here and filled with delicious food.  Ryan’s favorite (and the one that is closest to our apartment) is Romeo and Caesar’s.

I’ve also been spending a good amount of time trying to get my bearings. As my mom will attest to, navigating in New Haven can be a little confusing.  The ‘grid’ (if you can even call it that) is set on a diagonal and there are parts of town where four streets in a row all run one-way the same direction.  I’m doing better, but for a while I really couldn’t keep things straight in my head.

Last night we went to see Dark Knight at the movie theatre downtown which was old school, but very well kept.  We both really liked the movie and were very impressed by the questions regarding the politics and psychology of terrorism it broached.  The acting was awesome and the adventure certainly did not disappoint.  At times, the movie did make me miss Chicago.  Being able to identify so many places (including the Randolph St. Metra/South Shore station!) was really cool.

On Saturday we will attend a Shakespeare in the Park performance of Hamlet. For now though, we’re going to finish organizing the kitchen! More to come later…

At last…

This is the best sleep I’ve gotten in two weeks…

Mia Nap

I went to see Don Giovanni last night with Emily at the Harris Theatre. She worked for the Chicago Opera Theatre over the summer and they comped her some tickets. After the overture, a bar of red light flashed on across the front of the stage and, as the curtain went up, it became apparent, even knowing very little about Don Giovanni, that a good deal of liberty was being taken with this particular production.

The next thing we knew, there were pole dancers on the stage. Seriously?

The production made an attempt to modernize Mozart, but in doing so also felt the need to make explicit everything that had been implicit in the original work. Why is it that we feel so compelled as a society to shove dysfunctional sex in the face of innocent bystanders? Really, much of what they did could have been accomplished, in my opinion more successfully, with a little more tact and a lot more respect for the women on the stage.

I felt strongly that in attempting to show the audience just how despicable and lewd Don Giovanni is the producer actually re-objectified the women in the cast. Emily mentioned at one point that she felt it all needed to be a little starker. I agree completely–I felt like I was watching some crude hip hop video in which prostitution and rape are the motifs of sex. Really, if one more girl had been slapped on the rear I would have walked out of the theatre. Thankfully that stopped after the first act so I could actually look at the stage again.

Why do we feel that it’s ok to act out and to watch as entertainment the very behavior generations of women have fought to eliminate? Is it worth it to make those girls stand on stage in skimpy underwear just to be ‘realistic.’ What purpose did it serve? By the end of the show, the production had pushed the audience so far over the edge that we were incapable of responding appropriately to the death of Don Giovanni and the downfall of the rest of the characters. We should have been struck by the sorrow of a life wasted in sin. We should have been provoked to contemplate how easily a life given over to hedonism leads to abuse. We should have despised Don Giovanni and yet deeply pitied him in his death.

Instead, the boys sitting next to us laughed nervously, Emily groaned, and I sighed, ready to be done with the whole thing.

Daffodils

Daffodils are a funny flower.  I saw a single daffodil poking up out of a corner the other day and I actually laughed out loud it looked so ridiculous.  Daffodils are like cartoon ducks.  I can almost hear them quack. You can’t help but love them and think them silly all at once.

The Purple Bead

When I was a kid we had these giant plastic beads that you could stick together into a chain.   There was one bead in particular that I returned to over and over. There is a picture of my brother and I dressed up for church, perhaps Easter Sunday? In it I am holding my purple bead in a white gloved hand and Sean is making faces at the camera, which was pretty par for the course those days.

I’ve been told that I carried the purple bead wherever I went, but I don’t remember this attachment or even playing with it. This is out of character for me. Images and physical descriptors are usually an afterthought in my memories and imaginings.  Yet it is the look and feel of the bead that I remember.  It was just the right shade of purple–rich and grapey, more red than blue.  The bead filled my hand in a way few things do now that they have gotten bigger.

Beyond this, my parents’ memories are far more reliable and entertaining than mine.

It Had to Be You

Ryan and I were poking around trying to think of wedding songs and were reminded of this one by Harry Connick Jr. This version is from When Harry Met Sally, which we watch, without fail, at least once a year. I’ve been listening to it on loop thinking of how happy I am that I’m getting married, which tells me that this might just be our song.

It had to be you, it had to be you
I wandered around, and finally found
The somebody who could make me be true
Could make me be blue or even be glad
Just to be sad just thinking of you
Some others I’ve seen might never be mean
Might never be cross or try to be boss
But they wouldn’t do
For nobody else gave me the thrill
With all your faults I love you still
It had to be you
It had to be you
It had to be you

On Writing (and how I promise to do more of it!)

In an effort to take up writing as an earnest and sustained effort in the future, I have begun to re-read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. This book is full of wonderful advice for both the serious and amateur writer.

One piece of advice Lamott offers up, is to begin by writing about your childhood.  There is something about reflecting on these memories that brings the details of life to light.  As adults, we learn to draw connections, develop philosophies, and see the ‘big picture.’  Kids are focused on the details in the here and now.  It’s these details, all added up, that make for great writing.

As readers, we don’t want to be beaten over the head with the author’s point.  We much prefer reaching our own conclusions–the author’s job is to write such that we can do this and do this well.

So, I’m going to give it a go.  I’ll start by drafting quick descriptions of memories that I have, breaking them down as much as possible.  Someday I’ll return to them and fix them up and maybe turn them into some real piece of writing.  Perhaps not, but in the end, it’s the process that is valuable to me, not the end product.  Remembering this will hopefully help me to write without hesitation or inhibition.

One-Eyed Angry Owl

Last night, I had the strangest dream…

I dreamt that a loud cooing noise, like a pigeon kept waking me up. After waking up several times and getting pretty agitated, I went to the window to see what was making such an annoying noise. After rattling the blinds a few times and banging on the window, I came face to face with a very angry owl. Now at this point in the dream the owl looked pretty normal, but the angrier it got, the wider it’s eyes became and their pupils shrank into cat-like slits. As it’s eyes merged into one very angry eye it dive bombed me, and that, of course, is when I woke up.

The owl went away, but the cooing did not.

(Seriously, there are pigeons roosting outside our house…I am going crazy.)

Belief and Identity

Elizabeth’s response to my post, On Faith, Fear and Public Discourse, left us with these questions:

“…would it not be an easier tolerance to just stay away from those subjects? Not have the conversations that you know will not end in consensus? Or, conversely, if everyone knows going in to the discussion that no consensus will be reached, why do we get upset when consensus isn’t reached?”

Which got me thinking about why people feel so compelled to talk about their beliefs, whether it is their belief in God or in the New York Giants. I see it two ways:

1. I talk about my faith because it is the most important and most wonderful thing in my life. Because it is so wonderful, I really, really want everyone in my life to experience the joy it brings.

2. Belief is about how we experience life rather than how we analyze it. As Elizabeth put it, you don’t believe or disbelieve in the existence of God based on some rational argument. In your experience, God is there or He isn’t. Telling someone that the life they are living isn’t real is absolutely aggravating. I mean, it’s like telling them they don’t exist. We assert our beliefs because it is our way of saying, “here I am, I am real, and this is who I am.” When you cross the line between knowledge and experience, telling a person what is real or right becomes a direct comment on who they are–and that is tough to swallow no matter how nicely it is said.

A little more love

I think that what all of this really comes down to is that perhaps we have let ourselves fixate too much as a society on this nebulous idea of cultural tolerance when, really, God has given us all of the information we need to create ‘safe spaces’.

“You don’t stop thinking just because you believe in God–you just start thinking differently.”

Namely, you start to see the world from the perspective of its creator, and when you do that you cannot possible doubt that all of God’s creation, no matter how wrong or depraved, should and must be loved. Not tolerated, loved.

As Christians, we need to fully grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” and then do our very best to love people with Christ’s love, not our own limited imitation of it.

On faith, fear and public discourse

Ryan posted recently on the heavy handed and pervasive criticism a good number of people seem to have of subjectivity, specifically when it stems from personal faith. One of the main goals of a liberal arts education is to give students the information and reasoning skills they need to recognize the impact society has on our interpretation of ‘the facts’. The goal being to empower us to think, to create, and to live independently–intentionally choosing how we see and react to the world . If people cannot separate what is real from what they are told is real, they have no autonomy. Indeed, this is why a genuinely free press is so important to a functioning democracy. In order for the government to be truly representative, its constituents must be given the opportunity and the means to decide for themselves what is good and right and just.

Unfortunately, many times in the past, religion has been leveraged to manipulate the masses, so to speak, and the gospel has been used as propaganda to promote unspeakable acts. And so, people are afraid of religion. I say that what we should be afraid of is not religion, but the selfish and sometimes hateful desires and impulses we discover in ourselves and in others when we feel un-reproachable–unstoppable. For some, violence creates a sense of control, for others, religion provides this sense of power. This is why people are abused. This how genocide begins.

Some might say that if religion is used to justify these acts, than it should be simply be done away with. They’re wrong. If it isn’t religion, it’s politics. If it isn’t politics, it’s race. If it isn’t race, it’s gender. People will always find a way to justify their actions and to come out on top. Yes, religion causes people to put their belief in and obedience to God before others, but the result of this is not mindlessness or selfishness. Religion has been successfully used to manipulate people because they were already mindless or selfish; it does not create these qualities.

You don’t stop thinking just because you believe in God–you just start thinking differently. Asking someone to leave their faith at the door, whether that faith is in Christ or Buddah or capitalism, is an impossible request with dubious motivations. I have learned that the more adamant a person is about cultural tolerance, the more likely it is that they fear cultural difference.

It’s time that Christians stopped apologizing for the state of man and started showing the world the transforming power of Christ.

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