Friday, August 29, 2008

RevGals Friday Five: Labor Day

From the RevGals:

Here in the USA we are celebrating the last fling of the good ol' summertime. It is Labor Day weekend, and families are camping, playing in the park, swimming, grilling hotdogs in the backyard, visiting amusement parks and zoos and historical sites and outdoor concerts and whatever else they can find to help them extend summer's sun and play just a little bit longer.

It is supposed to also be a celebration of the working man and woman, the backbone of the American economy, the "salt-of-the-earth neices and nephews of Uncle Sam. With apologies to those in other countries, this is a Friday Five about LABOR. All can play. Put down that hammer, that spoon, that rolling pin, that rake, that pen, that commentary, that lexicon, and let's have some fun.

1. Tell us about the worst job you ever had.
I think canvassing door to door for a political group was probably the worst. It so goes against my introverted nature. I don’t like selling anything, even a cause I believe in, and no one wants a canvasser to show up at their door. On the other hand, I worked with some really cool people. So, perhaps the worst job was the time I worked for a researcher at Emory, where I had to dispose of the radioactive waste. I mean, it was low-level and all that, but still.

2. Tell us about the best job you ever had.
I’m not sure it’s happened yet. There are aspects of every job I’ve had that were positive. I worked at Cambridge University Press for a while—that was a connection with a prestigious history and legacy and knew we were publishing some of the best intellects around. On the other hand, the books were pretty boring. Working for a literary agent was kind of glamorous. I met some authors, even some Russian spies (and it’s pretty cool when you answer the phone and it’s Michael Nesmith on the line). But the husband and wife team I worked with were pretty much insane. Working for a Hispanic press introduced me to a culture I didn’t know much about, and the work atmosphere was very relaxed. The head of the press was completely nuts, and the managing editor was chronically late with everything (which is really not what you want in a managing editor). The computer publishing company sounds dull, but there were some very quirky and interesting people there. The educational publisher. Well, maybe that was my worst job. My boss had no ability to feel compassion. Even when Firecracker was in the hospital for a week she expected me to be at work. She never even asked about her. When I had the shingles, she expected me to be at work. So, I guess she was a . Where I work now is pretty cool. It’s not the work I thought I would do, but they have been extraordinarily understanding of my family emergencies, and despite the fact that some of their beliefs don’t sit well with me, I know that they have warm hearts.

Afterthought: Holy cow, I can't believe I forgot about working in Walmart summer of my senior year of high school. Walmart had just moved in, right across from KMart. It was so awful. I was in the fabric department, and I developed conjunctivitis from the dye. We had to take shifts as greeters--no one was used to that then, so they skittered around us suspiciously. Customers left stuff in an unholy mess, and we had to spend hours in the evening "zoning", putting everything back in order, labels facing out. I once had a freaky old man pray for me in the linens section, and there was a biker in automotives who took a shine to me. Whew. I'd never want to do that again.

3. Tell us what you would do if you could do absolutely anything (employment related) with no financial or other restrictions.
I would like to be a stay-at-home mom. That’s kind of ridiculous because I am horrible at creating a viable structure for myself, much less anyone else, but I have this longing to be there when the girls get off school and not having to rush rush rush in the evening. We can’t afford for me to go to part-time, even. Part of me wants to home school, which is probably even more ridiculous, given my chronic disorganization and inattentiveness (not to mention my distaste for the religious tone of most home school communities), but there it is.

4. Did you get a break from labor this summer? If so, what was it and if not, what are you gonna do about it?
Not exactly. I had almost no vacation time, and we moved. But I did take a Friday and head off with the family to Savannah and Tybee Island. Savannah is becoming a favorite place to visit. I’m not sure why. It’s not as if there’s tons to do there, particularly for kids, but we love the waterfront with its cobbled streets and the old, gracious houses.

5. What will change regarding your work as summer morphs into fall? Are you anticipating or dreading?
Fall is easier for me than Spring, when there’s a major conference to prepare for. The pace is pretty steady now. But, someone just retired, and her jobs are temporarily being spread amongst us. And then there’s the hurricane season. If there’s a major disaster, the work here will increase greatly. We also do a lot of projects for Thanksgiving and Christmas, fun stuff for us as well as community work. It’s pretty jolly, but it means the workday is a bit crunched.

Bonus question: For the gals who are mothers, do you have an interesting story about labor and delivery (LOL)? If you are a guy pal, not a mom, or you choose not to answer the above, is there a song, a book, a play, that says "workplace" to you?

Oh, do I ever have a labor story. Firecracker was determined to leave the womb early. It was so unexpected—DramaQueen had been full-term, healthy as could be. We had to go to the hospital twice. The first time the stupid nurse told me it was Braxton Hicks. The next day all hell broke loose when I got to the hospital. The doctors were in a kerfuffle figuring out what to do. They didn’t have the facilities to care for a baby born so early (26 weeks). Soon I was loaded onto a helicopter for transport to another hospital. Things were getting surreal. To this day the sound of helicopters is a little unnerving. They put off labor for as long as possible to give me various meds, but they couldn’t do what they hoped, which was to put it off for weeks. My room was full of hospital personnel for the delivery. I don’t know how they all fit. They warned me that she probably wouldn’t have enough lung power or energy to cry, but she managed it—feisty right from the start. I got to kiss her and she was whisked away to the NICU and oxygen and a heated bed. This was probably the single most frightening experience of my life.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Poem du Jour

Batter My Heart, Three-Person'd God

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

~ John Donne

I had forgotten how much I love John Donne. Reading him is like watching a juggler; you sit tense, a bit breathless, wondering if he will drop a ball, but no, he keeps them circling, then catches them all neatly and bows.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Golden Boy

I stayed up way too late last night to see the closing ceremony of the Olympics. Wow. It was like a surrealist painting in motion. This was the first Olympics that I paid much attention to. I'm not really much into sports so I would usually either ignore them or perhaps check in on the gymnastics. But this time I got into it, as in I shouted encouragement at the TV screen. I saw Michael Phelps win several of his medals, and Shawn Johnson finally get hers, and Usain Bolt breaking the world record, and the US Women win the 400 relay.

But there was one medal win that really affected me. As I said, I’m not much of a sports fan, and I wouldn't normally watch diving, but it sounded suitable artistic, so I watched the men’s 10 meter. How anyone can stand on their hands and then push themselves into a dive amazes me. I also didn’t know that you could jump into a body of water without splashing. Sheesh. I didn't know who any of the major players were, and only recognized a few names from watching part of the semifinals.

Those who watched the event know how exciting the last few dives were, when the tables turned and the Chinese, who were marked to win the gold, suddenly faltered. Even before he won the gold I liked Matthew Mitcham. His performance was incredible, particularly at the end, but what stood out for me is how happy he looked, how downright goofy at times. He could win an award for all-around adorableness. He didn’t even seem to realize what happened when he surpassed Zhou Luxin. Someone had to come up to him and tell him he won, at which point he broke down. I found his reaction touching, not just because it was so fun to watch someone so deserving win, but because he didn’t stand there beating back tears, looking grimly emotional—he flat out burst into tears.

I didn’t know anything of his story (and I guess I've been living in a cave), so it was just today that I found out he was the only openly gay man to compete at the 2008 Olympics. Well done. And as one web site put it, Cheers Queers!

Friday, August 22, 2008

RevGals Friday Five: The Forgotten

1) Datebooks--how do you keep track of your appointments? Electronically? On paper? Month at a glance? Week at a glance?

I have a little datebook from the dollar store that I carry with me and usually forget to look at. I used to get the Franklin Covey planners, but I figured that I could just as easily forget to consult a much cheaper calendar.

At work I line up email reminders in my outbox and schedule them to blast off at future dates. It sometimes works.

2) When was the last time you forgot an important date?

I forget everything: birthdays, appointments, holidays. But I can’t remember what I’ve last forgotten.

3) When was the last time you went OUT on a date?

Sometime before we moved in July. I think we went to see Prince Caspian.

4) Name one accessory or item of clothing you love even though it is dated.

I’m not sure I would know if it was dated. My clothing hasn’t been adventurous since the 1990s, so I don’t think I have much that doesn’t look pretty generic. DH says that some of my nightclothes look like they belonged to a grandma.

5) Dates--the fruit--can't live with 'em? Or can't live without 'em?

Ick. They are way too sweet, and I can’t get over the fact that they look a bit like squashed dead cockroaches.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Some bits of the real me

Dear Husband recently got after me for hiding my true self. This followed him asking an Old Friend for some advice on encouraging me to write again. Old Friend seems to have advised him to not go there, as I was a suicidal mess when I wrote. Well, whatever. Maybe I’ve shut the door on my subconscious. I don’t have a solution to that. But I do hide my true self. How could I keep a job otherwise? How would I fit in most places if I didn't just sort of let my opinions slide?

So, in the interest of being authentic for a few minutes, here are some things that I tend to keep quiet about:

  1. I’m an unabashed liberal. I keep that quiet at work, because they despise liberals as unchristian freaks of nature.
  2. I don’t think homosexuality is a sin, and I’m baffled by people who do. I think gays should be allowed to marry and that their marriages should be recognized by the state as unions with the same status as marriage. If Jesus Christ himself came down to earth and told me differently, I’d tell Him He was wrong and should rethink the matter in light of the overall message of the scriptures.
  3. I don’t believe in the headship of the husband as a biblical imperative.
  4. I quite frequently have doubts about the existence of God and think we are all deluded.
  5. I can’t stand Beth Moore. I can’t stand all those women Bible teachers who have seminars where they joke about women doing too much or whatever crap they joke about and then do a teaching on the scripture that is about as original as a cross-stitch sampler.
  6. I hate contemporary worship music. I temper that by saying that I’ve definitely had some grow on me, but for the most part I think Christian worship music and Christian contemporary pop music are bland beyond belief and some of the most mind numbing junk I have ever listened too. Give me the Rolling Stones any day.
  7. I don’t say grace at meals. I say it at work because if you don’t pause, bow your head and look serious for a few moments they get suspicious.
  8. Every time someone says something about the sovereignty of God I cringe inside.
  9. Every time someone says something about God having a better plan when some tragedy strikes, I want to slap them.
  10. Advise me how to raise my kids and I can guarantee I will not listen to a word you say, just on principle.
  11. Complain about how other people raise their kids and I will secretly hope yours join rock bands, color their hair purple and pierce their tongues.
  12. I think sexual purity is over-rated. The church would still rather freak out over premarital sex than do something about serious suffering. And don’t start talking about unwanted pregnancies and diseases. If we had the right social infrastructures in place (see, that’s the unabashed liberal speaking) with appropriate access to contraceptives, universal healthcare and affordable childcare we wouldn’t have such a mess. When people get all freaked out about the sanctity of marriage and the glorious holiness of husband and wife and so on, I want to tell them to chill, take a few deep breaths, and remember that Christ’s mission was not to establish a kingdom of no sex without marriage.
  13. I cannot comfortably use most stock Christian phrases.
  14. Thomas Kinkade sucks.
  15. I loathe the phrase “bible-believing church.” And the other kind are . . .? Country clubs? Social networks? Mosques in disguise? Communist outposts? Pits of iniquity? Or, just maybe, Christ-believing churches?
  16. You couldn’t pay me to put my kids in a Christian school.
  17. I’m not particularly interested in raising “obedient” children. Obedience is a code word for “shut up and accept the status quo because you don’t have the power to do anything about it anyway.”
  18. Question authority. Always. If I can teach my children one thing it will be that power corrupts and they should always be aware that anyone in a position of authority can be corrupted.
  19. I don’t really get the problem with secular humanism. Strikes me as way better than, say, fascism.
  20. Let’s see, what disaster will happen if they remove In God We Trust from our currency? Oh, no, God won’t love us anymore. Help—we’ll be just like Europe! Doomed, I say, doomed! On the other hand, I think any self-respecting atheist could make better use of their time.
  21. When did the Bible become an instruction manual? We are such a fraggin utilitarian culture. I mean, how boring is an instruction manual? Do you really want to read one?
  22. When did poetry readings become “spoken word performances”? What—now you’re supposed to have a backup band? Whatever you call them, they are booooring. I have been to maybe one poetry reading that wasn’t a total drag. Poets have this voice they put on for readings. I wish I could describe it. But wait, I don’t have to, because I found this description: “The most common of these is the tendency to lapse into a sort of quivering, nasal incantation, in which the voice trails upward, uncertainly, at the end of a line. This mannerism lends an oracular cast to much modern poetry, as if the poets were delivering dire prognostications or trying to awaken in the masses some sense of religious awe.” Oh God, it’s ghastly. The description is from this article in the New York Times, which I happened upon through the wonderful portal of Google, and which expresses to a T my own thoughts about the utter absurdity of poetry readings.
  23. Writing workshops were invented by the devil. I sat in a workshop where someone waxed poetic –ha!-about the writer’s use of prepositions. Prepositions, people. Poets aren’t normal, and when you put them all in a room and ask them to critique each other, there will be blood and a whole lot of nonsense.
  24. I never want to hear the words “covenant children” again. Beware all you non-covenant children—the big bad wolf of secular humanism wants to eat you for lunch!

So that’s some of the real me. I’m feeling more authentic already.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Accomplishment for the Day

We just installed a toilet. It was not without incident. I now have a sopping pile of towels, and I'm in a bad mood because I can't find one of the plastic bolts that holds the seat to the bowl. Well, I'm done. Dear Husband will have to go to Home Depot, that's all I've got to say. I need a Dr. Pepper, a bowl of Cheetos and a good book.

Friday, August 15, 2008

RevGals Friday Five: Tranformations R Us

For this Friday's Five, share with us five transformations that the coming fall will bring your way.

1. We WILL paint our new house. We are living in the land of beige.

2. I will become Homework Monitor, not because I have to badger them to do their homework, but because the school requires me to sign off on every blessed thing.

3. I love the shift from summer to autumn. I will be able to walk outside without suffering from heat exhaustion. The air will smell different, crisp and smoky.

4. The leaves will be pretty and I think, I think, we have a maple tree in our front yard. I’m crossing my fingers that it will transform into a red-robed beauty. I’m not very good at recognizing trees, but they look like maple leaves to me.

5. Preparations for Halloween begin. Halloween is such a wonderful event. I’m not one for dressing up or such, but I love helping the girls find costumes and going with them door to door in the chilly air. And then we sort the candy and they give me the ones they don’t like. Yippee! I get all the Mounds bars, and all DramaQueen’s Snickers and Baby Ruths. If I was nice I would give them to Firecracker—but, heh—she’s got her own pumpkin full.

Bonus: Give us your favorite activity that is made possible by the arrival of fall.

I can enjoy the outdoors again. Just simple things, like walking to my parked car and it’s cool inside. Going for a walk without feeling like the sky has dropped down and wrapped around me like a woolly blanket. Or being able to take the kids to the playground in the middle of the day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

DramaQueen Reveals Her Practical Side

Not too long ago I was driving the girls back from camp via a road that runs by an old church. "Look," said DramaQueen. "There's a cemetery close to our house. If you guys die we can just drop you off."

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Firecracker's New Teacher

Thursday I took Firecracker to her school orientation, where she got to meet her teacher. Her teacher has a rather difficult, hyphenated name, Potts-Datema. She told Firecracker that it was okay to call her Ms Potts.

When Dear Husband came home he asked Firecracker if she had met her new teacher. "Yes," she said, "Ms. Teapots!"

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Road Trip to St.John of the Cross

To the left is an installation by Bill Viola, called Room for St. John of the Cross. This picture doesn't tell you much, but more about that later. Before I saw this installation, I had only vaguely heard of St. John of the Cross, and I had never experienced this sort of art.

In the winter of 1987, I decided to travel cross-country with a college friend. She was one of several exchange students from Scotland, and as part of the program, they were given a van for transport. For whatever reason, we lucked into having the van ourselves. Denise and I weren't close friends; we just hung out with the same people, so I don't know why she asked me or why I decided to go. Perhaps I just didn't want to be home for the holidays. It was dull and my parents found and I felt squelched and defensive. Maybe it seemed like an adventure.

The trip began auspiciously with me throwing up. I had gone out with a high school friend the night before and drunk too much of something very strong. Usually I avoided hangovers by drinking a lot of water before passing out and not eating the next day. But that morning, since I was going on a journey and didn't want to get a cold, I took my vitamin C. Never take vitamin C after drinking. Happily, throwing up seemed to make the world right again and I set forth light of heart and stomach.

This was a winter of storms and blizzards. We cautiously approached Tupelo in a deluge, listening to reports of flooding on the radio. We stood in the dark, soaking parking lot of the small house where Elvis was born. Denise was an Elvis fan, so this was a Special Moment for her. I was just wet. In Memphis it was freezing, and we ended up sleeping in the van in the parking lot of a 7-eleven. We could hear the Christmas Carols being piped through the streets of downtown. The next morning we stumbled into the Drake to watch the red carpet rolled out and the resident ducks make their way to the hotel fountain. It’s kind of amazing we were up that early. We went to Graceland, of course, and the Lorraine Hotel (surprisingly shabby and unassuming). Then we made our way along a route I don’t remember very well, except that at one point we were driving up a mountain in the dark with no guardrail and an ominously dark bunch of nothing past the drop-off, and one night we slept at a hotel for truckers—bungalows with space beside to park your 18 wheeler.

As we drove into Yorktown, a blizzard hit and it was like trying to drive in a blanket. Despite the blizzard, and because we were total idiots, we took the time to stop somewhere to buy cheap champagne, to keep us happy while we waited out the storm in a dingy hotel. The next day we visited Yorktown, where all the information was blatantly anti-British (as Denise pointed out repeatedly), and then Jamestown, by which time I was so cold I easily understood how an entire village could disappear. Denise knew someone who lived in Williamsburg who took us in a back way that avoided entry fees. The place was nearly empty, with a few workers dressed in period costumes and looking cranky about it. We took refuge in a hotel and drank hot buttered rum.

At some point we got ourselves up to New York state, where Denise had arranged for us to stay with one of her many contacts. She knew a lot of people because she was friendly and undiscriminating. This was often the cause of problems, or at least I saw them as problems. She seemed not to mind if we ended up in a pub with two drunken bikers after the buses stopped running or in a house full of rowdy and randy Scots on New Years Eve in Edinburgh. She was a friendly girl with a nice word for everyone. Which is how we came to be staying in Yonkers with a girl who had been over at St. Andrews for some study program. I disliked Yonkers Girl on sight. Then I met her friends.

OMG. We ended up in a bowling alley. A bowling alley. I was a bohemian kid with a pierced nose and a horror of suburbia, so spending time in a bowling alley was a soul shriveling experience. And here I was talking with an RN (an RN, I tell you) who was afraid of catching AIDS from a bowling ball. Anyway, boring suburban Yonkers girl took us into Manhattan and to MOMA. I have to think MOMA was my idea, as I don't think Yonkers girl had ever entered it before. And as fate would have it, we happened upon the last few days of an exhibit of Bill Viola's work. I'd never heard of him, but it was art, it was culture, it was a Manhattan art museum and not a bowling alley in Yonkers.

I walked into a dark room, with a small structure in the center, warmly lit from within. A video of snow covered mountains was projected on one wall of the outer room, the film jerky as if the cameraman had been running. There was a roaring sound like wind. As you moved closer to the structure, which represented the cell where the mystic had been imprisoned, you could hear a voice reciting poetry in Spanish. Inside the cell there was a desk with a pitcher and a video monitor showing the same mountains, only quiet and serene. The catalog explained who St. John of the Cross was and printed some of his poetry. Wow, I had never read anything like this. I had never heard anyone speak of God like this--it was erotic, sensual, surrendered, a love song. What, I wondered, would it be like to experience God that way?

I don't remember anything of the trip after that: what happened to Yonkers girl, how we got out of Manhattan, the trip back to Atlanta, if we ever met up with the other exchange students. The narrative unravels here.

When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,

it wounded my neck

with its gentle hand,

suspending all my senses.

I abandoned and forgot myself,

laying my face on my Beloved;

all things ceased; I went out from myself,

leaving my cares

forgotten among the lilies.

Tiddly Pom

I feel antsy today, unable to settle and concentrate. Nothing that should hold my attention does. I would so much rather be reading a book. Or napping. Or alternating napping and reading. Instead I am staring at emails, staring at my to-do list, working in fits and starts.

I hate being bored. My brain craves stimulation. I want to talk, I want to read, I want to listen to people tell me their stories. I want to bob along in the flow of ideas. Instead I’m plashing in the shallow here, just me and the dead frogs.

I look out my window. It’s hot and humid out there. The sky is dull with moisture. The clouds look sluggish. It’s the right kind of day to be bored. The heat inhibits enthusiasm, movement, vigor. In this weather, everything is itchy, including my mood.

I just stepped outside to see if I could scrounge some change from my car (in the hopes that a coke will bully me into productivity). Do you recall in Harry Potter the image of the Dementers sucking out the souls of their victims? Yeah.

God, I wonder what it would be like to have a work ethic.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

James McAvoy

This is specifically to annoy Dear Husband, who thought it just fine to call the actress from Burn Notice "Hot" but whose feathers were ruffled by my enthusiastic response to this actor. This has to be one of the most romantic screen kisses ever. And if you haven't seen the movie Penelope, you should because it is utterly charming. And you get to see a lot of James McAvoy.

Friday, August 01, 2008

RevGals Friday Five: The Lockdown

From Songbird:

For some reason, Blogger declared this blog possible SPAM and locked us down yesterday. This morning, we're free to post again, but there was a fair amount of excitement last night among our contributors, who found a dire notice on their Blogger dashboards threatening that this blog might be deleted in 20 days!

We requested a blog review, and I posted a request at the Blogger Help group, where I found we were not alone. Many other perfectly nourishing and cromulent blogs got the same notice last night.

This turned out to be a very small barricade in our blogging community life, but it seemed appropriate to explore locks and blocks and other barriers this week. Also, I liked the picture of the security team above! Could they be Blogger's Spam Prevention Robots, working overtime?

In honor of their efforts, I bring you the "Lock Me Out, Lock Me In" Friday Five.

1) How do you amuse yourself when road construction blocks your travel?

If I’m by myself, I listen to the radio, flipping between stations as needed. If Dear Husband is there, it’s an opportunity for conversation. But if the kids are there, well, let’s hope they brought their doodle boards and don’t need to go to the bathroom.

2) Have you ever locked yourself out of your house? (And do you keep an extra key somewhere, just in case?)

I once locked myself out of my apartment in Brooklyn and my boyfriend had to climb up to the second floor and through a window. Happily, a burglar never had the same idea.

But the worst, the absolute worst, was when I locked my keys in the car with DramaQueen, age 3, inside. Somehow I managed to coach her to flip the lock. In the old days that would have been easy—remember the cars with the locks that looked like golf tees sticking out of the door? I don’t know how she finally grasped which of the buttons to press where with me shouting and miming directions through the window. This was in Arizona, so I was thankful it wasn’t summer.

I'm far more likely to lock myself out of my car than my house.

3) Have you ever cleared a hurdle? (And if you haven't flown over a material hurdle, feel free to take this one metaphorically.)

The mastectomy was a huge hurdle. Sometimes I forget what a big deal it was. Firecracker’s brain surgery was a hurdle. Her birth was a big hurdle. All my hurdles involve hospitals. I think we stumbled over them rather than cleared them, but they are at last behind us

4) What's your approach to a mental block?

Read something fun and surf the web, maybe write a bit, watch the home improvement channel, go to the library. Watch Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time.

5) Suggest a caption for the picture above; there will be a prize for the funniest answer!

I’m no good at this sort of thing. They look like old-fashioned paper dolls merged with Legos.