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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Gratitude for 2005

Newspapers and magazines, in print or online, take the last few days of each year to sum up “the year’s biggest stories” and the like. I thought I would make a list of things God wrought in 2005 in my life and in the lives of those I know for which I am grateful:

1. Godly Christian husbands for several of the many single female friends for whom I have been praying (for some for years!). The average age of the brides was mid- to-late 30s.

2. Healthy babies for married couples I know. I am particularly thankful for my little niece, who is my goddaughter. She learned to crawl, to clap, and to stand up by herself this last week, and I am besotted by her cuteness and proud of these eighth-month accomplishments. It was also so special to be there at the birth of my honorary nephew in VA. He is adorably round.

3. Good physical and mental health for me—no major depression, and the OCD is under control, the MRI and EEG scans were normal (and I got a migraine diagnosis at long last), and I didn’t break any bones or lose large quantities of blood (hey, in my family, that’s something!).

4. Passing my Russian language exam. Fourth time’s the charm!

5. Getting into the Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases MS program. (Boy, I hope those turkeys give me a scholarship next week!)

6. A successful year selling my jewelry—I finished the year out of debt to myself, after some thirty-six months of in-the-red operations. And I have plenty of components, packaging and display materials with which to proceed.

7. Continuing and new friendships. God has blessed me by giving me a good Bible Study (and full of kindred spirits) to attend, and Christian friends on Georgetown campus, where they are sorely needed. He has encouraged me further by maintaining my relationships with dear ladies in DC, IA, VA, NC and SC and Russia, some of whom have been close to me for more than ten years. It is hard indeed to wallow in loneliness with such a great cloud of witnesses just a telephone call or an email away. And of course, I am most grateful of all for my relationship with God Himself—getting to know His character better is something I’ve relished this year and look forward to most in 2006.


Resolutions for the new year? Not really. Beyond-wildest-dreams hopes? Of course! Lessee…

1. Get first book published.

2. Oh, heck: get first article published in refereed history journal.

3. Be awarded National Endowment for the Humanities translation grant, so that I can go back and forth to Russia and finish “Two Motherlands, Two Fatherlands.” Get a book contract for its publication in Russian and in English by major firms.

4. Finish the MS in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases program and graduate in December.

5. Pass my History Ph.D. comprehensive exams and apply successfully for dissertation research-grants.

6. Have a fantastic romance and fall in love and get married to a good-looking smart and kind Christian guy and be pregnant with triplets by this time next year.

7. Win a jewelry design award.

8. Commission a tiara from Ricky Frank and wear it at my wedding.

9. Get my two volumes of Voyage into the Levant preserved, restored and rebound by a professional bookbinder.

10. Learn to dance. Better. This one might actually be doable. Anybody for volunteering to be my partner?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Weaponry

I have acquired a 1946 Mosin-Nagant M44 rifle in exchange for my Kalashnikov Saiga 12 shotgun, which I never used. I did, once, take the Kalashnikov (no, it didn't look much like an AK-47, though I did have a banana clip) out to target practice at my grandparents' farm, but it was frankly too big for me, and I've never been a huge fan of shotguns. The main attraction was really the name: owning a Kalashnikov sounds cool, doesn't it?

I much prefer my new acquisition for its historical associations alone: the Mosin-Nagant is the same rifle that was used at Stalingrad and other actions by the Soviets against the Nazis. It's just a good gun. But the rifle has real aesthetic appeal, too. This one hadn't been fired until two months ago--it was still in its original grease. The bayonet is a thing of beauty, but most definitely for working use, not show (thankfully, it folds neatly alongside the stock). The stock is somewhat battered honey-colored wood, with a steel plate at the butt, and discreet Soviet markings on the steel action. According to the tiny factory-mark, it was made at the same place my Kalashnikov was put together--but this is the venerable great-granddaddy of that gun.

My brother Nate gave me a box of Czech-made ammunition for Christmas, and told me that the Mosin-Nagant makes enough noise for a cannon. Good hearing protection is definitely in order. Too bad I'll only get to see my new 1000-meter (calibrated range) baby on the holidays--there is no way that it's coming back with me to Northern VA. But maybe I'll have a chance to go out to a range before my return...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Chri'mas Eve

We went to the Christmas Eve service at my parents' church this evening, my brother, my mother and I. My father was away on general call this evening. The day after Christmas, he's on OB call, and then again on New Years Eve, when delighted parents will be welcoming their little last-minute tax deductions. He loves babies, and so though it usually means being up for 24 hours straight, he prefers OB call to the other kinds.

The service was pretty good. I love Christmas hymns, which I think shouldn't be relegated just to Christmas (why can't we sing Silent Night in July, I want to know?), and I love singing. I just wish I knew the carols' alto parts. When I learned them, I was a soprano. Now I'm an alto, and some of the high parts are murderous. "Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel" nearly kills me every time, and especially when the hymn was started a bit high.

The only drawback of the service was the decision to hand out wax candles to the children as they came in. At the end of the service, as we sang the last two songs, all the candles were lighted. Little children who had been poking their siblings throughout the entire sermon were suddenly entrusted with fire. In the end, nobody had torched themselves or anybody else, but all the burning candles in little hands freaked me out--they'd turn around and miss their neighbor's ponytail by inches, or wave their taper in time to the music. Aack. And the pastor said the closing prayer while all the candles were still lit. My eyes stayed unreverently open and glued to the kid in front of me, who was industriously attempting to blow out his sister's candle, and not exactly trustworthy with his own.

Christ is Born, let His people rejoice!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

This Guy's Chestnuts Ought to be Roasted over an Open Fire

Peace and goodwill shall not extend to all men from my quarter this Christmastide, least of all to this archetypical "Christian" male chauvinist pig whose recent spleen-leakage appeared in the online version of Christianity Today, of all things. I am still reeling from the notion that CT--whose doctrine has long been considered by many of my dear friends to be too liberal--should have endorsed this particular piece of anti-female bigotry by giving it electron-space, but my aforementioned friends might opine that when one looses one's moral moorings, all sorts of odd combinations develop. I reserve judgment, being still so shocked.

Riddled as this article is with infected sores of logical error, insulting misinformation and deliberate misunderstanding, it is difficult to know which pustulating boil to lance first. I think, though, that the best approach is to proceed from the opening sentence, having donned a exegetical hazmat suit with oxygen mask, carrying a large can of grammatical sulfur powder in one hand and a sharp red pen in the other.

Mr. Illian, age unknown, begins his diatribe with a disgusting episode from his own past, wherein he was lip-locked by an aggressive woman on a dance-floor, a woman who, despite her diminutive stature and claimed church-going habits, displayed all the tact and reserve of a hungry pit-bull. He continues thereafter: "Now, I'll admit this is an extreme example of an aggressive Christian woman, but there are other documented examples out there. In the last month alone, I've spoken to about half a dozen godly men who have been dumbfounded by the bluntness and aggression of our female counterparts."

He then cites examples of similar Christian female "aggressiveness"—a woman who incessantly telephones the unfortunate man who took her out just once, and a girl who apparently was in league with a roommate, so that a hapless suitor, thinking he had a date with one, found he was squiring the other. While both these behaviors are annoying in the extreme, I am not sure they can be accurately categorized as "aggressive." Irritating, yes. A sign of mental imbalance (in the first example), also likely. And in the second, what could well could have been conceived as a subtle and face-saving way to AVOID a date (one can just imagine the conversation between the girl roommates: "I know I said I'd go out with him tonight, but I couldn't think of a good excuse, and he'll be here any minute." "Oh, I think he's nice, he probably won't mind if I take your place, this is only the second date, after all." "Would you??? That would be so sweet!") on the part of the one girl, was perceived by the man as a brazen move by the roommate.

What is doubly curious to me is Mr. Illian's application of the word "godly" to the men of his acquaintance while he castigates "Christian" women for behavior that in and of itself implies they are not, indeed, Christian (I speak of the lip-biting, not the subsequent examples, which to me have no moral scandal about them, but instead are issues of purely social faux pas). A few nice remarks about one's church attendance does not a Christian make. And yet this was apparently all he knew of the background of a woman—she who subsequently snogged him at the danceclub—before he deemed her a "safe" date and asked her out. One wonders what sort of godly Christian man presumes so much of the character of any person, male or female, based on the barest acquaintance.

Frankly, other than Mr. Illian’s own testimony, I would find this story of the unwanted and painful smooching hard to believe. I have quite a few non-Christian friends, and I don’t think any of them, however steeped in the highly-sexualized popular culture his article so deplores, would—without the assistance of significant amounts of intoxicating substances, and the direct connivance of the other party—engage in such intimate interaction within an hour or so of their first meeting.

But to move on.

In the briefest of conciliatory gestures, Mr. Illian reflexively indulges the tender feelings of his female readers, saying that “the majority of Christian women are doing a wonderful job of being approachable and noticeable without being predatory.” Oh, really? Do tell us more. But no. Immediately, he’s back on the attack: “But like most things, the misguided minority can give the whole female gender a bad reputation….” It’s petty of me to expect Mr. Illian to have respect for the English language when he has so little for fifty percent of its speakers, but the politically-correct misuse of the word “gender” (as any prim English teacher will tell you “people have sex, nouns have gender”; “gender” is a grammatical construction, not a physical one) particularly rankles, given his approach to his subject.

Both “genders” are treated to a perfunctory scolding in the next paragraph, which claims that they are “pursuing relationships and sex all wrong.” This although Mr. Illian has mentioned heretofore—and will mention in whole of the rest of the article—no examples of male malfeasance. Other than (unintentionally) his own.

But, this wouldn’t be a truly “Christian” article if God’s Word didn’t get dragged (however unwillingly) into the mix, and the author have an opportunity to show off his little Hebrew language skills. He knows how to use a concordance! I’m impressed. It’s a pity, again, that his English grammar skills are far inferior to his Hebrew vocabulary. After millennia of church history, it is to Mr. Illian, a young single male who demonstrably conflates nominal and real Christianity, that a “fundamental and profound truth about women,” hidden in Genesis all those many, many years, has been revealed! The problem is, it isn’t, and hasn’t.

Genesis 3:16 reads, as Mr. Illian quotes it, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you,” which he takes to mean that women “desire to be desired.” His Biblical quotation is correct, except for a single, signal word omitted at the beginning: “yet”. Still, with or without this pivotal conjunction, his interpretation is in error. The pronoun “he” is an unequivocal reflection of “husband”; if the text had meant that the desire would rule, the pronoun “it” would have been used. The “desire” is not what will rule over the woman—the ruler is her husband. Here or elsewhere, the Bible does not say that women “desire to be desired” any more than men desire to be desired. And about that omitted “yet”…

This verse follows on the heels of Genesis 3:15, which declares that, as a result of the Curse—the burden laid on people as a result of sinning—women would have pain in childbirth. So for God to say that women would “yet desire” their husbands (after all the discomfort they would go through having babies) was actually one of the blessings on the sex that made his judgment bearable, if you’ll pardon the pun. Given this context, and the fact that this was not part of “God’s original design” of women (being part of the Curse, not the Creation), the “desire” in this verse cannot be justly mixed-and-matched with sin itself, which Mr. Illian does, using the neat fact that “the Hebrew word for “desire” in Genesis 3:16 is the same one used in Genesis 4:7—“Sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Having deliberately misapprehended his proof-text in the same way that popular sages opine that “Money is the root of all evil” (rather than, properly: “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”), Mr. Illian says “This seems to imply that a woman’s desire, like that of a lion, will defeat her, subdue her, and exploit her if it extends beyond God’s original design.” Given the hundreds of other, more direct Bible verses about both sexes’ need to maintain mastery over their desires, I do not see how the warning about indulgence should be limited to just the one here. But, clearly, Mr. Illian has an axe to grind. Except it’s a spoon, and he is fruitlessly digging to China with it.

Finally, Mr. Illian concludes his essay by distinguishing three “types of predators”: three villainous archetypes against which he admonishes his female readers to measure themselves. This would be well and good for a summary—and in fact useful from a social and spiritual point of view—had any of these sorts of les femmes dangereaux actually been mentioned in the preceding article, and thus form part of a logical argument. Or had I, or any other genuinely Christian woman (by which I mean having a personal relationship with Jesus as her Savior that affects her private and public life, bringing her ever closer to the standards set forth in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments) I know actually met women who fit any one of these profiles. The Barbie Doll Girl, the CEO’s Wife, the Suga Mama—all are catchy titles (much like the article’s oh-so-clever moniker “Let Us Prey”), but totally unreal even in the abstract.

The “Barbie Doll Girl,” for instance, is a shallow nymphet who hangs around bars (!) seducing men through sexual favors. Um, didn’t Solomon cover this type (in much more sophisticated terms, she’s the “Wayward Woman”) in Proverbs? And Solomon himself didn’t allege she was a God-follower. The notion that any godly man would be “unsuspecting” around such a obviously nonChristian creature, or frequenting the spots or situations that Mr. Illian says are her regular hangouts (What sporting events is he talking about? Is he describing athletic team groupies?) is preposterous, and disrespecting the intelligence of his own sex.

The “CEO’s Wife” is another “Christian” type I have never encountered in the churches that I’ve attended in several different states and across multiple denominations over the past twenty years. But then again, “prosperity gospel churches” (since when are these considered Christian?) and country clubs are not my turf. Apparently Illian moves in more monied circles than I do. Besides, most of the women I know who have genuinely expensive taste can satisfy it themselves, thanks to their own self-provision. But I don’t know many of those, and few I would call believers.

Last but not least, Illian’s description of the “Suga Mama” reveals more about so-called “Christian” male shortcomings than about the character of the type of woman he so despises. I know literally dozens of attractive, talented, and successful women who are single, but none can be accused of using these good attributes to “draw in a man.” That any person, male or female, is distracted from previously intense and oftentimes noble desires by present comforts is a sad tendency of human nature, not necessarily something that can be blamed on someone else. Illian is obviously hurt and chagrined by a friend of his, once married into wealth, losing the wherewithal to produce his first musical CD. But the world may be a better place for an insufficiently self-disciplined not-quite-musician’s not having afflicted a lengthy sample of his less-than-stellar talent on the general public.

A common thread of “it’s all the bad woman’s fault” runs through all the reportedly real-life examples which accompany each of the aforementioned typologies. But, away from the immediate acquaintance of Mr. Illian, I am hard-pressed to find similar examples. The sweet lady who initially sent me the link to “Let Us Prey” [she had noticed the article initially because it had—in its author’s only other sop to female frustration—a one-sentence admission (prior to further criticism of “love-hungry tribal women”) that “many men are simply sitting in the stagnant pond of romance like a bloated water buffalo”; she thought the male passivity point was overlooked] could think of only one hypocritical “Christian woman” she had seen: on a TV reality show, a buxom blond in a bikini sitting in a hot tub with an interested male, lecturing him, Bible in hand, about the evils of lust. But in real reality? I won’t say presumptuously that these women don’t exist simply because I haven’t met any like them myself, but it does seem strange that physical-beauty-centered, cash- and status-directed women who are also (in a contortion of worthy of a circus troupe) Christ-followers are not to be found throughout my life experience. If these are indeed the sorts of people Mr. Illian regularly encounters, and not just broad paper targets he’s set up for the perverse purpose of ripping them to shreds, he needs to check his own definition of Christianity.

In its parts and as a whole, this article is not, I believe, an accurate or even approximate picture of what is truly Christianity Today.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Happy Birthday, Granddaddy!

Yesterday was my Granddaddy's 89th birthday. As we celebrated with him and Grandmommy on Sunday, a day early, and this post is going up a day late, I figure it averages out to punctuality!

Like my father, Granddaddy has been a constant, steady, hardworking and faithful presence in my life from the day I was born. He, like me, is cantankerous sometimes, but he believes in the Almighty, the USA, and the unsurpassibility of my Grandmommy's cooking, all of which good qualities mitigate his periodic prickliness. He is violently opposed to squirrels and to Osama bin Laden, and would like to do to the latter what he regularly does to the former: trap him and shoot him in the head, and then use the body for blueberry-bush fertilizer. He grows the world's best blueberries, giant orbs that explode between the teeth and drip juicily down the throat.

In the last two weeks, I have learned neat details about two noteworthy figures who served, like Granddaddy, during World War II. When I met Zak at the Georgetown Christmas sale, he mentioned (don't ask how we got on this subject!) that he used to get his hair cut by an old barber down in Fairfax, VA, or thereabouts who, given the location, had a fair number of well-connected clients, including a retired high-ranking Naval officer who had served in the Pacific theater. Once, the barber asked the old salt what the most difficult thing he had done in the war had been. His answer: "Ordering the assassination of Yamamoto." Apparently, before the war broke out, this American had been a friend of Yamamoto's--they used to get together to play cards on a regular basis when the Japanese was stationed in the US. I imagine that the attack on Pearl Harbor, which was organized under Yamamoto a few years after their poker nights came to an end, put a wrinkle in that relationship, but apparently it was still tough for this guy to pull the trigger, so to speak. But he was philosophical: "That son of a bitch would have done it to me had he gotten the chance." Pays to have perspective.

The other person whom I "ran into" through a mutual acquaintance, surprisingly enough, was General George S. Patton, who, (perusers of my blogger profile will already know) was the subject of one of my all-time favorite movies. Although Granddaddy did not, and does not, approve of the General's personal morals (Patton's regular application of his own principle, "he who can't fuck, can't fight" comes most quickly to mind. Frankly, I'm not sure there's any historical foundation for this antic adage, given the performance of the Janissaries, for example, but I digress; perhaps Patton's profound appreciation of military history stopped at the Dardanelles.), he did admire his guts, his ability to stand up to Rommel, et al. I was at the Intervarsity Christmas party over on Capitol Hill two Saturdays back, and over a table loaded with delectably caloric confections I got into a conversation with a lady who had once been the governess for the general's great-grandchildren. Apparently, Patton's wife had prepared a New Jersey estate for his postwar retirement, an estate he never got to enjoy, but which was still very much awe-inspiring for this woman who stayed there as a family employee some fifty years later: there was a giant room lined floor-to-ceiling with books arranged around a large formal portrait of Patton. Interestingly, my acquaintance was hired because of her bilingualism in German and English: a Patton grandchild had married a German, and the parents were determined that they be reared with facility in both languages.

Patton would probably have approved. Now if the foreign spouse had been Russian... I imagine he would have expressed himself in the peculiarly direct fashion which so un-endeared him to some of his fellow generals, and the politicos directing the wartime coalition.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Hill of Beans with a Kitty on Top

Petkya is sprawled on my lap, warm and furry and purring loudly. What a cuddly kitty to wake up to in the morning! I bury my fingers in the thick downy fuzz around his neck, his purring redoubles and he raises his head to have his chin scratched. Petkya is one of several treats I look forward to in North Csrolina--he is a gem among cats to begin with, but since I cannot have a moggie of my own in the rental housing I share, his company is especially welcome.

I've added yet another link to my blogroll: Hill of Beans, by the 16-year-old daughter of the Canadian lady who writes The Upward Call. I'm almost twice the young lady's age, but she has good insight about issues that concern me, too.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rained In

The rain has left me stranded in DC today--it snowed this morning, and then icy water followed. I figured it was wiser to postpone my departure for a day rather than risk my neck on the slick roads between here and North Carolina. In the meantime, I have been getting my last month's sales tax ready to pay, and arranging other financial matters that need to be attended to. And cleaning my room. Big job. It still would not pass my mother's inspection, but it's much more livable. The stacks of clothes on the coffee table are over a foot high, but they are clean and folded. The floor still has piles of books here and there, but it has been vacuumed. Wall-to-wall carpet is a tool of Satan. It's impossible to get really clean, and it collects hair, which is nasty. And if you spill a lot of tiny beads on it, you can't just scoop them up, you have to pick them up painfully, one by one. I know whereof I speak. Speaking of unpleasant housekeeping, my evil roommate left the front door not only unlocked, but open this morning, so when I got up I discovered we were heating Arlington County. She left her television on, volume loud, too. So the gas and electric bills next month will no doubt be gargantuan. At the very least, though, I'll be returning to one clean room.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Narnia

I did enjoy The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which I saw with a friend tonight, although it was nothing like I imagined the story, and they omitted some of my favorite details: Father Christmas presenting the Beavers and the children with a giant breakfast tray, and later, the Witch picking up her skirts and fairly running for her life when Aslan roars. Ah, me. And Giant Rumblebuffin, "may it please your worship" wasn't seen, either. Still, it was a good movie, and I hope it will be fabulously successful.

Aloysha seemed pleased to see me last night. I was surprised the Rehabilitation Hospital was so nice--I guess I had a Russian ward hospice image planted in my mind, rather than the American version. Though drowsy from an injection they'd given him to manage his leg pain, he was mentally alert, and that alone gave him an aura of health. But he is terribly, terribly thin, probably half his former bodyweight, and obviously weak. After I gave him a hug, he clasped my hand for a long time, like so many nursing-home inmates I've visited. It is awful to be left alone. I told him I would be back after New Years, when I'll bring some music. He still finds it difficult to read--his sister was reading to him in Russian when I arrived--and so as much as I wanted to afflict him with selections from my personal library, I am forced to forebear.

Speaking of my personal library (and no, Zak never wrote or called--I must have scared him off!), it's been expanded further by gifts from professors. One man, having received extra desk-copies (gratis editions from the publisher as "thanks" for assigning them as required texts for a course), gave me one of each. Thus, I acquired Black Lamb and Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia by Rebecca West. History like an adventure novel. Great stuff by the former mistress of H.G. Wells.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Dancin'

I'm going swing dancing with my coworker from the History Department again tonight. I need to get out of the house, away from the repetitive thoughts which have bothered me throughout the day. Tomorrow I'm supposed to go to the National Rehabilitation Hospital, where a guy I know (a fellow History grad) has been moved after coming out of the coma that was the result of a September attack by thugs three blocks from campus. Problem is, he's suffering from horrific leg pains, which have hindered physical therapy, and now his doctors want to write him off (his insurance has run out), stick him in a nursing home and leave him to rot instead of continuing the effort to get him back to normal. I am torqued. This is one subject Silverman and I can agree on. The two of us met with another professor this evening to do a bit of preliminary strategizing about a campaign for university support for the poor guy. He's getting really depressed, I've been told. Well, yeah. To have come back from the edge of death, fight off brain infections, heal from broken bones and lacerations and then have somebody tell you, effectively, "That's as far as you go." Makes you feel so helpless, frustrated, mad and impotent.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

When the Presbyterian Fell Down the Steps...

He said, "Thank Goodness that's over!"

You know you have a singular preordained talent for messiness when you manage, as I just did, to spill your evening glass of milk over the back of your own head. Yes, my hair is getting washed tonight.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Ann Louise's New Blog

A dear, dear girl from my hometown who is now in seminary in St. Louis, MO, has finally begun a blog of her own. Ann Louise's contribution to the blogosphere, entitled The Vulnerable Church, has already been added to my blogroll, since she is truly one of the better theologians of either sex with whom I have associated. Ann Louise asks questions few cultural Christians consider; in part her frankness is thanks to her not being raised in anything resembling a godly home, and her having been a radical leftist-feminist her first years in college, before she met Jesus. The reality of her relationship with her Savior affects her intense zest for life, and she expresses her fears and joys, her love and frustration with (what is to me) an enviable clarity. Ann Louise: a great lady who demonstrated the purest empathy with me during my own struggles several years ago, who encouraged me then and whose writing makes me glad still. I hope you will find her posts similarly edifying and thought-provoking.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Wonderful, Wonderful Week!

...And it's not even over! So, last Saturday I was accepted into the Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases MS program over in the Georgetown Medical School, which was nice. Sunday was the good sermon, followed by a successful preliminary meeting for the Phi Alpha Theta fundraising sale, and then my first-ever-on-my-own clothes-shopping trip. I had a 30% off coupon for the GAP, and at the end of two hours had acquired the goods to temporarily shed my external "country come to town" look. And it was a DC sales tax holiday weekend, so I not only got almost a third of my purchases for free, I didn't have to pay the city for the privilege of doing so.

Monday was good. I was productive at work, though filled with occasional fits of nervous anticipation as I waited for my language exam results, which were supposed to be available that afternoon. They weren't. Surprise, surprise. Multiple phone calls from family anxious to hear what I heard. After handling these, was up until 2 AM as fit of creativity hit and I wanted to realize necklace and earring designs before they slipped from my mind. Made the most beautiful peridot set for a certain female relative's Christmas present.

Tuesday, I rolled off my air mattress at 6:10, having had less than four hours' sleep. Frantically stuffed extra inventory and cashbox into my snow-covered car, then busied myself with the scraper. By 7:20, I'd met my potter-friend Hannah and helper John at the History Department, and the three of us were soon rolling a caravan of loaded carts to the student center. Fill six folding tables with our wares, and by 9:15, we were selling. John soon left to write a term paper (he's an undergrad), Hannah went off to Northern VA where she teaches elementary school art, and I was on my own. The students were definitely in a buying mood, and I spent the next nine hours standing, selling. I love selling. I love standing. And I love to talk. But the duration doing all three simultaneously almost killed me. I was flat by noon, and a ragdoll by three. Thank God Hannah came back to help the last hour and then John returned to assist us with the packing. 6 PM came and went without the professor's promised phone call reporting my test results.

Bob Fleischmann showed up with Zak in tow around 1 PM. I was too tired to be shocked--talk about going out of your way to set two people up! But I wasn't too tired to notice that Zak really was my type. He IS a Messianic (attended a PCA church during college) Jew, a graduate-educated (law school) guy with a good sense of humor, a reader who loves his avocation-turned-vocation of selling antique prints (he has a gallery in Soho). Not handsome, but not ugly. And in contrast to my sister's pessimistic prognostications, not fiftyish--I would say he is in his late 30s. We exchanged business cards. We'll see what happens there--I'm sure Bob will want to know my impressions when he sees me this Saturday, particularly since he kept butting into pauses in our conversation, telling each of us about the other. A male version of the matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof.

Wednesday I sold even more, I think. I didn't eat much of anything all day, but enjoyed that adrenalin energy that comes from doing brisk business. I kept my scarf wrapped around my sore throat the whole time--I was hoarse from chatting up potential customers for so many many hours--and sucked on Vitamin C drops and drank orange juice. I also was perfectly giddy with joy from having passed my language exam. I PASSED!!! The lady professor who had administered it emailed me late Tuesday to say that the joint opinion of her and Silverman was that I had done a good job. An answer to prayer is what I call it.

This afternoon was the History Department Holiday Party. Courtesy of the secretary, we have a manger scene--sans donkey (it broke); in all other aspects, our heavily-decorated department is without a religious theme. We have Santa Clauses all over the place (there was a live one--with a real beard--come for the handful of professors' children at the party), live poinsettias and tinsel galore, though. No mistletoe, thank heaven, though that didn't stop some people--I got kissed twice in thirty minutes, before the drinking had even begun (People congratulating me on my good exam results in enthusiastic fits of unprecedented intimacy). A bit of a shock, when I'd only expected a hug or a pat on the back. I was staggered enough by a hug, anyway--Silverman got me in a headlock at the start of the party and told me that everyone in the department loved me for helping out at the front desk. Oh, man.

Then I got three presents! A tiny bottle of champagne and a large bottle of bubblebath from the department coordinator (ah, something to look forward to at Christmas!), a stuffed animal and some nice glass beads from my supervising secretary (she knows I make jewelry), and a welcome bonus in an envelope from the department chair. Sweet. Now I'm home and totally zonked. Must go to bed before I keel over. It may snow/sleet tonight and close the university. Here's hoping--I could use a good fifteen hours of uninterrupted slumber.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Fundamental Question

Is God still God when He doesn't do what we expect, what we desperately want and pray for? We should ask Him this question, not debate its theoretical veracity--He wants us ask hard questions, sincerely, without litmus tests, to prove Himself to us on His own terms, and in His own time.

An agnostic friend of mine told me this afternoon that her stepfather was diagnosed with bone cancer just before Thanksgiving. Two of his vertebra have disintegrated, and he is being treated with chemotherapy and radiation. She is devastated, her mother overwhelmed, all her dreams lying in shambles. My friend, for all her agnosticism, is staggering under the weight of "Why? Why?" Her stepfather is a "very religious man," a seemingly healthy, robust man who has never smoked, doesn't drink, a good man. His body is riddled with cancer. Why?

Tuesday, we read the events surrounding the death of Jesus' friend Lazarus. "Why didn't you come?" was the desperate unspoken question of both the dead man's sisters, who cried, one after the other, "If you had been here, he would not have died." There was a dramatically happy ending to the sisters' sorrow, but not for John the Baptist, who asked basically the same question from his prison cell, the sermon this morning pointed out.

John sent his own followers to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we look for someone else?" John had been the first to recognize Jesus' Messiahship, and here he was, locked up in prison while Jesus went around preaching. Unfair, disheartening? But he didn't convene a committee to consider the philosophical strength of Jesus' claims, he went straight to the Man Himself. And Jesus didn't rebuke him.

Jesus didn't rebuke Mary and Martha, either. There was no condemnation for their almost accusatory declarations, which mixed faith ("you could have saved him") with total disappointment over his not answering their messages, their prayers. Nor was there condescension towards their ultimately needless feminine emotional display--in fact, he wept with them, validating their feelings, their expression. He answered John's messengers not with the monosyllabic affirmation which they might have expected, but with a firm reference back to the Old Testament messianic prophecies which he was daily fulfilling. John's martyrdom and Lazarus' resurrection were allowed, planned by the same God, with the same character, who loved both of them with everlasting love, as he would show at Calvary only a few months or a year later.

God does what He wants to do, in His time. Reconciling ourselves, submitting ourselves to this reality is at the same time mortally painful and incredibly exhilarating. Some of our dearest dreams may never be realized on this earth, we may be stymied despite all efforts we make to achieve them. Other experiences and opportunities, though, paths beyond our wildest expectations, so radical and exciting that we could never have imagined them, may be ours. God is God, I am not. But creaturehood in the service of a Creator who loves me and gave Himself for me is more awesome than I can express.

No matter what happens, Jesus is Lord!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Thanks, Thanks

I do not know how I did on the Russian test. I do thank God for getting me through it, and the many friends who prayed on my behalf to that end. I have been told the results will be available on Monday.

Four days prior to the exam, I found out that Silverman would not be administering it. I consider that, of itself, an answer to prayer. I find it hard to dislike people for long--I have a short attention span, and a profound lazy streak, and so I do really forget my anger, and don't exert the energy to maintain a grudge. There are a few old wounds, though, that do break open occasionally, and then I find myself close to tears, clenching my teeth at the injustice of this or that person, and afterwards abruptly reminding myself that I have forgiven them, that I must forgive them. This is an effort even though I have effectively forgotten (and know I will again soon forget) all the wrongs they once did me. But Silverman is one of those people who is not just a foul shadow, a measmic memory banished to some dusty corner of my rambling mind, but a frequently-encountered person who actively triggers those unpleasant thoughts that make me sigh, shaking my head at my own sensitivity and others' brutality. Alissa, of course, is the only other.

I was so, so very relieved that Silverman would not be giving the exam. Instead, it was administered by a woman who I respect as a teacher, upon whom I can rely to give me a fair grade. If I fail this time, it will be on my own lack of merit, not because I have to worry about the proctor's personal prejudice.

Bob Fleischmann intends to bring Yitzak to the Georgetown show next week. Today, at the market (which was beyond cold--28 degrees when I arrived, with a windchill of 15, which did not improve through the day) I found out a bit more about this guy--apparently, he "goes to church every Sunday" (Wow! Messianic???), and is passionate about books--he buys and sells rare editions. [I wonder what he would think about my spending so much of my stipend last year on that 1718 first English edition of Tournefort's Voyage into the Levant?] This fellow actually sounds nice--"studious" was how a friend of Bob's described him--and certainly worth meeting.

Got good news today on another quarter of the academic front: I received a letter from the Georgetown Graduate School admitting me to the MS in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases program. If I can work it out, I would like to use my proprosed teaching assistanceship in the History Department (Please God, don't let me be assigned to Silverman as his TA!!!) next term to pay for my classes in the Medical School. It may take a bit of arranging, but I think it can be done--perhaps simply because it's not been tried before, and so no one has thought to prohibit it!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Matchmaker Matchmaker

The phone rang off the hook this morning. I get back into town after a long and restful (even the MRI was restful, in its way—after all, I was lying down) Thanksgiving holiday, and my secretarial duties start before I even leave the house. The last call, though, was totally out of the blue: “Hello, this is Bob Fleischmann.”

The director of the Georgetown Flea Market?! Why on earth is he calling me at home? And on a weekday morning?

“You know my friend I told you about? Yitzak? He’s coming into town next Tuesday and he wants to have dinner with you.”

Oh, holy cow. I thought Bob was being merely hypothetical when he suggested a couple of weeks ago that I should meet this guy. He told me he thought we would hit it off. Seriously, he noted, we have a lot in common: “You’re both very religious—and he’s a Republican, too!” Bob is a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat and not religious at all—Jewish nominally, though he never goes to temple, and had a fight with the rabbi who made so bold as to suggest he show up occasionally—so this is major.

Bob, I wanted to say, um, “very religious” can cover devotion to any creed—the measure of your devotion is not what counts, it’s to Whom you are devoted. But I think he’d necessarily understand this—in his mind, I think, being in church regularly has as much legitimacy as sacrificing a chicken to a jungle idol. Not that I think Yitzak runs around chopping up poultry. He’s probably a respectable conservative Jewish guy who keeps kosher and does mitzvah among the needy.

Except he’s goofy. Bob told me so: “He’s kind of goofy—but I think you’ll like him.”

I might. But I have a conflict next Tuesday—the Phi Alpha Theta “Holiday Fundraising Sale.” I’m hoping to unload vast quantities of my jewelry, and my friends’ pottery and vintage linens, on the Georgetown student population. Maybe I’ll tell Bob to bring Yitzak by…after all, I suppose he could be Messianic…

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mon Anniversaire

It's my Birthday!! Whee!! I think I'll celebrate by going to bed early and not setting my alarm...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Movie Recommendation

Saw Pride and Prejudice this evening. There's a reason Jane Austen is still popular after almost 200 years--she truly records humanity, and depicts our deepest desire: to be loved by someone intelligent and honorable to whom we are wholly fitted. It's a wonderful movie, and not just for girls.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Brain Scan

My brain has been electromagnetically sliced and diced, probed and strobed. I had an MRI and an EEG this morning (or, according to my internal clock, the middle of the night). I had to get up before 6, and rode with my father to the hospital, where I was first on the list at both the MRI department (appointment 7 AM--I arrived earlier, and they took me right in) and in the EEG suite (I had to wait for them to open at eight, but again, they were very prompt with the test administration). I have been informed that my neurologist will go over the results with me. Drat it, I was hoping to get to see pictures of the inside of my head right off the bat. But there you have it.

As usual for trips home (I flew south Sunday afternoon), I had scheduled a roster of checkups--want to keep the ol' bod in working order, insofar as routine maintenance is concerned. Monday afternoon, right before my second appointment, I experienced a return of some of the dizziness and disorientation I have mentioned previously on this blog, and decided to mention this to my physician, setting the symptoms in context of those of past events. He thought it warranted further inspection, and had his receptionist phone up a neurologist across town, who shoehorned me into his Tuesday schedule. My mother, certainly a person who is not known for advocating superfluous testing, said she approved of all this--she'd been really worried about these "wierd" episodes.

The neurologist took down my symptoms, then began asking questions: What year is it? Who is the President? Who was President before him? And before him? What did you have for dinner last night? I did fine on the first four questions (I can name all the presidents, and the number of terms they served, back to Hoover--but I always stumble during the Roaring Twenties)--but when it came to what I'd eaten the night before, I didn't have a clue. I eat, and unless it was spectacular, and sometimes even then, I don't remember the meal--just so long as I'm not hungry, it's not an issue. I experienced a sudden panic--"Oh no, I'm going to flunk!"--but he waved off my forgetfullness. It wasn't until halfway through the physical exam--testing my reflexes, balance and so forth--that I remembered and blurted out, "Five ginger snaps" (I hadn't been hungry). Which I think kind of startled the good doctor.

He ruled out MS and Mennier's Disease, and gave his professional opinion: "I think these are really funky migraines." But he still ordered the tests for today. Thank God I have health insurance.

Giggling during an MRI is strictly verboten, but I was sorely tempted. The machine makes so much noise that the nurse handed me a pair of earplugs before the tray I was lying on was pushed into the tube (which made me feel like Spock about to be shot out into space). Even through the earplugs, there was a tremendous racket, from pulsing beeps that resonated somewhere in the middle of my chest and made me feel like a bomb about to explode. Later, there was loud rhythmical purring that encouraged me to wiggle my feet and curl my toes like a nursing kitten kneading its mother's abdomen (and no, this wasn't a CAT scan!). And then there was the techno beat. I felt like I was in a cheesy European dance club. So, it was a struggle not to laugh. I wasn't allowed to move at all. And it's always at those times that you develop itchy spots next to your nose...

There were two stages to the MRI--the second stage involved being injected with some substance that would make parts of my brain light up. Or not. I had a vision of little bits of metal floating through my bloodstream, sticking to my organs and glowing radioactively.

The EEG nurse was a darling (as the MRI lady had been), and when I wasn't being told to hyperventilate while the snug electrode-studded cap strapped to my head recorded my stress levels, she told me about her own stress--her three-year-old stove had quit working yesterday evening, when she was starting her preliminary Thanksgiving cooking. And she hadn't been able to get a hold of Sears, and she had ten people coming to dinner on Thursday. Now, that's stress.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Frozen Nozes

I need a nose-cozy. You have heard of tea-cozies, those knitted teapot-sweaters that preserve the warmth of the good brew in its porcelain egg while one is sipping one’s first cuppa? Well, given the frigid weather, and the wind-chill which inevitably develops in the afternoons at the Saturday markets (when the building shadows have engulfed the street), I need a little knitted cover for my nose. Otherwise, it’s going to fall off, as if I were an ancient statue being whittled away by time. Only, I’ll look considerably less noble than the Sphinx, and much less sexy than the entirely head-bereft Venus de Milo.

The philosophy behind the nose-cozy (or, to be trademarked, the “Noz-Kozy”) may be sound, but the realization is fraught with embarrassing associations—the Halloween pig-snout, the Christmas Rudolf-nose, the all-season Groucho Marx nose, mustache and glasses. It would have to be fuzzy to be warm. And must have strings to attach it around the head. Oh, why not just embrace the Rudolph association, and issue this wintertime article of facial clothing in all sorts of bright and eye-catching colors, in every shade except avocado, brown and black? It would add an element of cheer to otherwise less-than-exciting sales. The nose-cozy: an invention whose time has come.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Burning Topics of the Day

Christian guys are doing us Christian girls a grave and dangerous disservice by not asking us out. This I have concluded after having two non-Christian guys express frank interest in me in the last week. You have no idea what a serious temptation it was and it is to reciprocate, to agree to a date—dinner, movie, “hanging out” at a dance club. Both are friendly, articulate guys, fun and outgoing, and kind of cute, too. But definitely not believers.

What’s the harm, you might say, in just going out—that’s not a lifetime commitment, just a bit of fun. Nope--I know myself. I know how susceptible I am to attention, how willing to melt under frank admiration from a cordial member of the opposite sex, how quickly I would get in trouble with a guy who had none of the same social and spiritual inhibitions as I do. I could feel myself wanting to snuggle up to them just given their public “let’s go out” remarks!

Because I was sick on Tuesday, I missed the IV Bible Study covering the Colossians 7 chapter on singleness, the gift thereof, and the subsequent admonition from Paul, “It is better to marry than to burn.” I go through spells of flammability, and given my current internal tinderbox—which has been drying out for some time—I couldn’t have borne sitting there expressing my frustrations in company with a bunch of other intelligent, like-minded Christian women, a couple of married guys, and the only single man who attends our group. And I think I would have gone off on St. Paul, too: it was all very well for him, an adult male, to talk about getting hitched as a solution for legitimate incineration—the Legal Firebug Approach, if you will—but girls, perhaps less now than then, don’t have that choice. Instead, we find ourselves mentally panting like post-menopausal women getting hot flashes every time a decent guy chats with us, and having to damper it down with stern lectures on self-control and Job-like chaste thoughts. Thus, all this energy gets saved up, making us ready to explode into small Roman candles because we don’t have the opportunity to date Christians, even casually, on a regular basis, which would be a moral safety-valve, of sorts, if not a means to establish solid, lasting romance.

Thank God I’m leaving town for a week come Sunday, so I don’t have the temptation of a movie date dancing tantalizingly on top of my squishy moral fiber. Especially since I have been wanting to see some movies that are out right now…

In other news, Nokia phones are Arabic-compatible! On the Georgetown shuttle bus this morning, I sat down next to a dark, fashionably-unshaven guy wearing a mullet, an iPod, and a heavy coat which reeked of mothballs (yes, winter has come in force—supposed to drop into the 20s tonight), who was instant-messaging somebody in Arabic. I wish I could read Arabic. A woman in hijab was seated a few rows back—we have a lot of women in headscarves on campus, and at least one guy who wears the male Pakistani-style Islamic yarmulke. On the rush hour metro a couple of Fridays ago, I was crowded up against a young woman, also in hijab, that was cupping a finely embossed and illuminated copy of the Q’ran in her hands, reading on her way to prayers. More practicing Muslims at the University, I think, than practicing Christians.

The “danger of Islam” which people should lament is not terrorism, which, without intending to mouth politically-correct platitudes, really isn’t the preference of millions of Muslims, who like millions of other people, are mostly law-abiding, decent folk who differ only from those others in superficial cultural mores. Instead, the danger of Islam, Buddhism, Shamanism, and all other organized, unorganized, and outright disorganized creeds and “feelings” and anti-creeds whose adherents run the gamut from delightful to deadly, from pacifists to anarchists, is that they do not recognize Jesus as Son of God and the only true way through which we can please and know the Almighty. All other constructs (and destructs) are dedicated to proving that self can overcome sin, or that sin does not really matter. Lovingly, winsomely, we need to “lift high the Cross.” Freedom which expresses itself well is not, ultimately, of the political variety; it is this Forever Freedom for which we should be the most ardent proponents at home and abroad (and we need not neglect the political variety meantime).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I'm Baaaack...

...at work. Made ten pairs of earrings last night, and felt so much better that I set my alarm and arrived before the other staff members at the History Department this morning. I think my wooziness was due to overtiredness and under-creativity. I hadn't made much jewelry in the last three weeks, and when my opportunities to sit still and work with handtools are diminished, my brain gets overloaded, and I burn out. Must take it easy today--work more slowly (I usually run up and down the stairs, trot across campus, carry the stacked mail containers), eat reasonably (a surfeit of leftover Halloween candy probably hasn't helped my system much) and go to bed early (6PM?--about fourteen hours' sleep would do me good, I think!).

The Department gets all sorts of mailings, ads for conferences, symposia, and history-related jobs. One of the most recent was a notice from the US Holocaust Museum entitled "Outreach Intern Fluently In Italian." The museum "is seeking a student fluently in Italian," it began. The position is "non-pay" and requires someone "be patience and detail-oriented." I think they need to find someone "fluently" in English to work for them, who is not merely oriented toward patience, but possesses it in spades, and has an independent income to reconcile him/her to the nonPAID work. Good grief!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Whirled

Dizzy, so dizzy--my brain feels like it's slowly spinning inside my skull. No evidence of fever, but tired and heavy. I was feeling slightly disconnected throughout the weekend, and more so on Monday. My supervisor kindly let me go home, and today I stayed indoors, unsteady and unfocused. Plan to go back to bed soon.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Social Whirl

For a person of my generally retiring nature, the past three days have been an exercise in extroversion. I technically left work at one on Friday, but remained in a secretary's cubicle, finishing my paper and project for Atlantic History--an Incomplete on my academic record since last spring term. Six months overdue. I turned it in a smidgeon after four, and floated out (feeling five pounds lighter) to catch the bus, the last daylight run which circles within about half a mile of my house (I don't like walking the route in the dark). Home by five, I dropped my paraphenalia, clothes, showered, re-make-upped and got ready to head out again for a Intervarsity dessert that I thought started at seven. Instead of being fashionably late, I was significantly early--it didn't begin until 7:30, nor get officially underway until 8pm. Plenty of time to talk with new people then, and the speakers, a couple of guys who just published a book on Jesus as an effective communicator. They both are involved in the arts, and are the first Christians I have ever heard say, "There are a lot of good folks in Hollywood."

Speaking of Hollywood, I wandered into the kitchen while waiting for the shindig to start, and glanced over the fridge doors, which as always were papered with photos of far-flung friends and family. At the top, there was a new addition among others, a picture of...what the heck was Matt Damon, holding the couple's baby, doing there? It was just a random snap, not distinguished from its surroundings. I know that my hosts know an extraordinary number and variety of people, but an A-list actor I did not think was among them. There was a story to accompany the photo: apparently he and Robert de Niro were doing a shoot over on Capitol Hill, and Tara, the mom, decided to push the stroller the couple of blocks over one morning, where MD happened to be shaking hands with people. In a fit of randomness, she asked him to hold her boy while she took a picture, and he thought for a second and in a similar fit of randomness, agreed. Welcome to Washington--you must learn to kiss babies.

Saturday was Leah's birthday party--we initially assembled over at a posh mall Cheesecake Factory restaurant, but they weren't going to be able to seat us for 2 hours (after a more than three-hour wait by Leah and her husband, who were, as you can imagine, justifiably frustrated), so we agreed by acclamation to adjourn to the Olive Garden a mile away. This was much more pleasant to me--better lit, less noisy, good food after a much shorter wait. I was seated between a woman I knew slightly and a newly-met kindred spirit fifth-grade schoolteacher from Florida. I got acquainted with each of them a little better, which made three delightful possible new friendships beginning within 24 hours: at the IV dessert, I laughed in the company of Julianna, a business school student from Kenya, whose tales of her experiences working in Nairobi for a couple of British expatriates and her transition to the US were hilarious and eye-opening to cultural mores.

Sunday afternoon was the Phi Alpha Theta Quiz Bowl question-writing session. Having come directly from church without lunch, I volunteered to create toss-ups and bonus questions on the Napoleonic era. The pizza we ordered never showed up, so I was famished and satisfactorily brain-dead by 5pm, went home, and still managed to stay up until 11pm getting bills paid, my laundry done, and other bits of necessary pre-week housekeeping completed.

I do think I need more sleep tonight!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Done In

Folks, I may not be blogging for the next few days. I'm so exhausted I'm useless. I spent yesterday tripping over my feet--I fell on the escalator, tripped several times on the sidewalk, and twisted my ankle leaving the IV Bible Study. Today I hadn't any time to work on my paper--which I promised last week I'd turn in yesterday--but kept the fax machine warm sending desk-copy request forms to dozens of publishers. I'm kind of down, too. Academics is a dreary business to contemplate sometimes.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Lady in Waiting?

I avoided the Prince of Wales on Friday. Charles and Camilla were in DC doing the royal social rounds, and Georgetown was on the itinerary. The academic powers that be sent out a general announcement to the student body and staff, telling them when and where to be in order to get a glimpse of this genetic celebrity, but I stayed away. I was briefly tempted, but decided that panting over a prince is not how I wanted to spend my afternoon.

As some of my readers know, I name each piece of jewelry I make. I create a necklace, for example, and then think, "What does this remind me of?" Thus, I have arrived at a pair of earrings named "Migraine" and a bracelet with the lengthy monicker "Rainbow over Stormy Sky." Naming pieces is not just a superfluous gesture, it's an inventory help, too--I have everything I make recorded in my computer, and when I sell an item, the name helps me track it down in the more-than-200-page file called "Georgetown Jewelry."

Anyway, yesterday (Saturday), I sold a necklace called "Lady in Waiting." Pink pearls, garnet, 14k white gold, agate. Subtle but elegant.

And this morning, after Sunday School, I overheard a member of my Bible Study talking about a book called Lady in Waiting, one of those ubiquitous paperbacks on Christian singleness/courtship that has been churned out by well-meaning starched-cotton-wearing pale-skinned counter-culturalists over the past five or ten years. My friend was talking about the distinctly unBiblical attitude of the title, if not the contents, of that particular book: we, none of us, are on "Plan B" with God, and that includes our non-married status. We are not in a holding pattern, waiting for life to begin once we have met Mr. Right.

I, along with other single Christ-followers of my age and sex, need to be regularly reminded that we are not forgotten, that we are not merely graying damsels, pining in a ivy (or in my case, ivory)-covered tower, mindlessly picking at small sewing until a prince rides up on his charger (or in a limo surrounded by secret service, depending on his modernity), and plucks us down from our isolation, taking us away to our "real" lives.

Instead, we are "princesses errant," heroines of our own great quest, fighting dragons, crossing oceans and confronting personal tests which will fit us to be queens. The pacificity model so beloved of "courtship" (however valid that behavior is otherwise) teachers is of no use to us who, like Abigail, are marshalling supply corps and riding out to meet would-be invaders; like Ruth are leaving all we know behind and setting off for unfamiliar countries and customs; and like Lydia are conducting our own businesses and supporting our own households. The static woman has no basis in scriptural teaching or recorded practice.

Come on girls, grab your spears, your knapsacks, your armor, your digital camera-phones and your Bibles, and let's go!

...And if we meet respectible male knight errants along the way, with whom we can share our quests, that's fine. If we don't, what the hey. Either way, there's real adventure planned for each of us. Leave the tower and that boring stitchery--let somebody else needlepoint a tapestry about you.

Friday, November 04, 2005

CEP, Expert on...China?!

Wierd call at the department yesterday afternoon. Female, didn't identify herself.

"Can you tell me about Manifest Destiny?"

Gosh, where do I start? Putting her on hold, I went off to grill a professor of 19th century American History. "John O'Sullivan, Democratic Review, 1845--originated the concept, in what publication, when," I reported.

But my caller was not finished with me: "Could you tell me what European powers occupied China during the Boxer Rebellion?"

"What the..." I thought. "I am not harassing another professor for this information." I zipped over to Google, keying "Boxer Rebellion, European powers."

"Ma'am, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Austrian and Italy--at least these sent relief forces to Peking; I'm not sure if they were occupiers."

Then the woman totally confused Hong Kong and Tiawan, thinking Tiawan was occupied by a European country and returned to China last year. I corrected these considerable misunderstandings--including the date that HK was ceded by Britain back to communist China, and then my caller returned to the Boxer Rebellion.

"Was Chang Kai-shek in that?"

"No ma'am." [Now that was another thing I didn't need to look up] I googled his dates just to make sure: 1887-1975. He was thirteen at the time.

"Did he lead the Long March?"

"Ma'am, are you familiar with the Internet?"

"Yes."

"You do realize that you can look up most of what you're asking me on-line, on Google."

She apparently did not consider this worth the bother.

I sighed and returned to my own web-browsing. "Mao Tse-tung, ma'am. May I ask what you need this information for?"

"We're having a sort of debate."

Ah, ignorance pontificating to other ignorance. Sounds like classroom discussion group.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Cute Honorary Nephew

One of my cute honorary nephews went as a strawberry for Halloween. My niece reportedly was dressed as a wee pink piglet. I will post pictures of the latter when I have them. As to the former, my readers should pop over to his mama's blog and tell her what a sweet little boy her son is!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Praise God!!!

I am grateful to God--I was too busy and stressed out to pray, and He sent people to help me.

I got to work at 7:30 this morning, having woken before 6. I brought my laptop, and for almost seven hours straight, I worked on two computers--when the laptop was saving a file, or I was scrambling printouts, I would work on the desktop--frantically composing, formatting, and collating. Ten copies of the grant proposal, all binder-clipped, in proper order, were produced out of a morass of disconnected paragraphs, jotted salary figures, and outright panic. I was physically shaking at a couple of points--I was so nervous, my palms were damp, and my stomach felt like I had swallowed a handful of Mexican jumping beans. It was the due-date of the NEH grant proposal, and despite a month's work, I had next to nothing completed.

When I arrived at the department, I didn't have the official online coversheet generated, nor had I downloaded the ten-page budget document from the website. The narrative description was not composed, nor was the list of possible reviewers finalized. There was no table of contents, and I hadn't a CV for my linguistic consultant. And I hadn't decided which excerpt I would use from the translation to demonstrate the difficulty of the original material and my skills in rendering it in English. Basically, I was not going to finish the proposal in time.

Then an encouraging professor (they do exist) told me I ought to send in what I had--"You never know," he said. "It's a lottery of sorts anyway."

Well, I don't have OCD for nothing. I HAD to finish the packet, resumes, essays, forms and all. And God sent Teresa--a fellow History grad student who had already (on Monday) volunteered to take the packet to the NEH today--and an undergraduate member of Phi Alpha Theta to help me put all the forms in the prescribed order. Teresa waited patiently for over an hour while I cobbled together documents from scratch (I ended up just printing the faculty homepage of the professor who has agreed to be the project's Linguistic Consultant right off the Georgetown webpage, logo, tabs, color and all), and then WALKED them to their destination, two miles away.

So, we'll see. I have been praying for special blessing on Teresa--she's one of the few other Christians in the department, and she certainly demonstrated Christ's love to me today.

Yesterday, I walked over my own application to the Department of Biomedical Graduate Education, where I met a friend of mine, who was dressed in full William Wallace (Braveheart) regalia, complete with blue face paint, a bushy brunette wig, a tartan makeshift kilt (an artfully-draped patterned blanket overlaid with a sporran), and bagpipe tunes on his Ipod. He and I were the only two people who seemed to be in the costume spirit during Halloween daylight hours. I was in another nineteenth-century outfit, this time dressed in 1850s cotton longsleeved daydress, crinolines, a silk shawl, and handwoven doily over my braided hair--I was hoping to evoke either Elizabeth Barrett Browning or Harriet Beecher Stowe. I did get more compliments! :)

Monday, October 31, 2005

Deadline Looms

Frantically, breathlessly working on my NEH grant proposal, due tomorrow. A friend (may she be blessed beyond measure!) has agreed to hand-deliver the proposal downtown tomorrow afternoon, since there is no way on God's green earth I am going to be finished before 7pm, which is the pick-up time for FedEx, and I have to work all day tomorrow. There are same-day delivery services through FedEx and DHL, but there's absolutely no way in the known universe I'd pay $165 to have a packet of papers weighing just three pounds carried four miles. They really stick it to you when you are desperate, these delivery people.

I was up to 4:30 AM this morning submitting my application to the MS in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases program (application also due Nov. 1), to which I hope to be admitted for the term starting in January. With such a degree, I would have a job after I graduate--having all sorts of specific knowledge on the awful things that bioterrorism and disease epidemics can do to the body, I would be a hot property for the national security-minded. I would hope. But BTAEID people first have to admit me, and then they have to give me financial aid. Being a secretary and an artist does not leave one flush with tuition money.

But I did have a good day at the market Saturday, despite fierce, freezing wind which turned all the vendors into frozen pillars behind their tables. I spent the whole day repeatedly picking up earring stands knocked over by gusts, and attempting to maintain circulation in my hands. I was dressed warmly--undershirt, turtleneck, pullover, lined raincoat, heavy exercise tights under my jeans. But it was still a struggle against chill, and when everyone began packing up an hour early, I followed suit.

Thank God for functional radiators.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Making Myself a Spectacle

I am a sartorial exhibitionist. Thursday was the History Honor Society Halloween Party, before which I had to work in the department reception area, so I went to campus in a cream-lace accented wine velvet antebellum ball gown. Corset, crinolines, jewelry, the works. Everybody else on campus was—on that glorious clear fall day—bundled in black coats, drab slim-fitting jeans, the unexciting wardrobe of the conventional weekday city dweller. So I really stood out.

The workmen refurbishing the neoGothic fa├žade on the front campus yelled down from their scaffolding “Hey, there’s Cinderella!” I smiled and waved.

Red Square was packed with the midday crowd of milling undergraduates, and I sailed through grandly, drawing only covert looks (again, the city mentality—don’t express interest in difference, lest you seem unsophisticated). Indoors, I did get lots of compliments (it is a lovely dress), and was able to do a bit of advertising for the party, which was our best-attended event yet.

...due to our faculty sponsor's offering all her undergraduates extra credit for showing up.

Speaking of Halloween, I heard a horror story about Silverman from a recent Ph.D. of the department. It appears that she had passed her Russian exam when she first entered the program. Years later, after she'd finished her classes, passed her comps, traveled back to Russia to research for a year and written her entire dissertation, just three weeks before she was to defend this dissertation--which was based on Russian-language primary source research, mind you--Silverman told her that she hadn't passed her Russian exam (the department had lost her paperwork for both her language exams, and she was only able to dig up the documentation for her French one) and would have to take it again. Never mind that she actually had demonstrated her comprehension in real life work, Silverman made her sit down and take a Russian test. And here I was full of all these glowing plans to finish this book translation, get the thing published, and slap a copy down on his desk, asking (rhetorically, I had naively supposed), "Now, do I pass?"

Apparently, though an angel from heaven should testify on my behalf, Silverman would still say, "No."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

System Down

The Georgetown email system is down for the second time in three days. I don't mean just down for a minute or two, either, but for hours and hours, with no end in sight. This time, we got some forewarning--they sent out a general notice that the thing was going offline for an hour at 12:30. Now it is past 6:30, and it is still inaccessible. Some of the professors have come around to ask me whether/when it would be up (as I am The Secretary, I Know All, you see), and I told them that the Georgetown computer system and its employees resembled the Chernobyl reactor and its staffers--they run a planned test, and suddenly everything goes kerflooee. But at least we don't have to flee for our lives from campus.

It's amazing how much you can't do when your computer is not functioning--can't contact people you need to, can't send documents, can't access files, can't print anything. At least the server is up today--on Monday night the whole shebang went out suddenly, and people couldn't access the Internet at all, which just adds to the inconvenience, since a lot of folks have more than one email address, and they can fall back on that one when the school's is out.

Silverman told me this morning that I look so much happier lately. Hmmm. I wonder why that would be? Because I'm not stressing about papers, perhaps? Not worrying about how I am going to get a stack of books read in a few hours? Not being late to class?

He also told me I was a "Cheshire sphinx"--I grin and say nothing.

My former advisor, whom I had asked to write me a recommendation letter (there's this program that I'm applying for that starts in January...), told me that she shouldn't have given me a grade (I got an "A") for last Spring semester, because it was a two-part class and I only took the first half (the second half is this term, which I am obviously sitting out).

"Bloody hell," I thought, "Here goes another professor about to screw me over."

However, I kept my cool and assured her that I would eventually write the paper which is the major project for this term. And I will. Maybe next year or the year after.

I've got to say spritely and complimentary things about Silverman tomorrow in front of an audience--as Graduate President of the History Honor Society, I have been given the responsibility of introducing our featured speaker on the historical Dracula to the attendees of our annual Halloween party. And Silverman is it. The speaker, I mean.

Monday, October 24, 2005

It Never Rains But It Pours

Cold and drizzly here, a damp chill that seeps through layers of clothes and makes my teeth chatter. And of course, late Sunday night, both the heat and the shower stopped working. And I was gone from 8:45 this morning to 12:30 tonight, so I had no time to call any repairmen, and no ability to allow any into the house.

The showerhead has ceased to allow any more than a dribble of moisture to come out. At least the stalk sticks out eight inches from the wall, so it is possible to huddle between the wall-mounted taps, part-way under the dribble, so as to wet one's hair. And I should be grateful that the water, albeit scarce, is warm. But most of the hapless bather's damp body is out in the cold for the duration--the temperature inside is less than sixty degrees, given the lack of heat (the radiators remain stone-cold, despite our pushing the control-knob past eighty)--which may be a useful penitential gesture, but doesn't make for comfort after a long day's work.

It has truly been a long day. A good day, though. I went swing-dancing with a friend after my after-work Honor Society planning meeting. I've forgotten a lot of steps (my last lessons were a good five years ago), and my sense of rhythm has returned to stasis under the overwhelming pressure of my inactivity, but I did get asked to dance by several partners who apparently weren't so appalled by my lack of coordination that they were afraid to get near me. And one fellow (who was a really talented dancer) asked me twice, which made my evening. Even when I was sitting out songs, it was fun to watch people in motion--there were couples (mostly young--I would say mid-twenties to thirties) twisting and stepping in intricate spontaneous patterns that would have made Astaire proud, and a white-haired World War II veteran who was moving to the Big Band tunes like he was the same age as the lithe sylphs he guided around the dancefloor.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

This is the House Across the Road


Just listed for sale. Price: $749,000. It's backed up to a busy car-repair garage. It has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and the whole lot it sits on is 6970 square feet. The house itself is probably no more than 1500 square feet, maximum. They're having an open house today, and it's been crawling with prospective buyers. I think this is insane. What say ye?

Friday, October 21, 2005

You know...

...you aren’t sufficiently awake when you catch yourself about to smear toothpaste in your armpit.

You know you’re a secretary when you mistake replacement escalator steps stacked in the metro station for giant laser printer cartridges.

You know that lack of sleep is about to send you around the bend when your evening pill gets stuck in your bellybutton.

You know you are reading too many Dave Barry snake-in-the-plumbing story links when you dream that your house is being taken over by small two-steppers in red-on-yellow rings and a gregarious nine-foot python named “Rosie.”

That about sums up my life of late.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Today, I unwittingly lent my support...

to "Hoyas for Choice" (the Georgetown pro-abortion group). Or at least my chair did. Yesterday was the Phi Alpha Theta (History Honor Society) booksale at Georgetown, out in the plaza known oh-so-appropriately as "Red Square" (every college campus I know has a quadrangle so named--no wonder the Feds thought the commies were infiltrating in the 1960s...but be that as it may), and as the club's graduate president, I felt it behooved me to lend my market tent, tables and chair to the cause.

Tuesday afternoon, after IV Bible Study (which we relocated impromptu to the outdoors because the fire alarm in the building where we usually meet started going off--and it was so pretty outside!), a couple of PAT volunteers helped me unload the hardware from my car, and lodge it temporarily in the office of the on-leave History Dept. secretary (see, working in the department pays off!). Wednesday, other volunteers hauled everything down to the square, where a revolving set of club-members oversaw the sale, which eventually netted us $231.25, a pretty good amount considering we were giving the paperbacks away for 50 cents and the hardbacks for a dollar. They put everything back in the secretary's office at the end of the day--I was working at the front desk, and so didn't have time to keep strict tabs on things, but it seemed all was in order.

This afternoon, when I was putting my paraphernalia on the trolley to transfer it back into my car, I saw the PAT people had forgotten to retrieve my chair. I do need it--selling is tiring enough on Saturdays without having to stand up all the time. So I started searching--it's not an attractive piece of furniture, just an old padded folding chair I found in the basement of the house where I rent, but it is distinctive, and I knew I would recognize it.

There were a bunch of other clubs and organizations set up on the square today, and as part of my search, I glanced over the assortment, trying to spot what they were sitting on. Among the tables I saw the Hoyas for Choice folks, with their broad grins, slim figures and big purple sign, and it crossed my mind at the irony that they might have my chair--an item owned by an ardently pro-life, anti-abortion person. And lo, so it was. I marched over to the table (I generally skirt it, like the Levite avoiding the injured man in the Parable of the Good Samaritan), and politely told the girl who was sitting there that she had my chair. She stood up, and I took it. The fabric on it is mildewy, but for a moment, I actually felt that it needed to be ceremonially cleansed, to purge it from its association with its last occupant. She probably would have been similarly horrified had she known in whose chair she had been sitting.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Back to eHarmony

Well, Dr. Neil Clark Warren, ferret-like as he may be, is going to get a little bit more of my money. I'm going to try another three months of eHarmony just as soon as that smarmy soft-voiced psychiatrist's matchmaking minions send me another email coupon (there are limits to my enthusiasm, and cash is one of them).

Re-upping was a "fleece" from Saturday--I've been considering re-starting for several weeks now (three ladies in my Bible Study are now members), and I told myself that if I made over a certain amount at the Clarendon Day market, I would renew my subscription.

I exceeded the base amount by about thirty bucks (it was a Very Good Day), so I'm going to bite the bullet, step up to the plate [insert other overused platitudes here] and see what happens. I'm ready for further adventure, and even a National Lampoon-worthy date would be a change from having to listen to Alissa's maniacal laughter bursting against the background of her blasted blasting TV, which she leaves on at a high volume even when she leaves the house. Grrr.

And I could use new inspiration--I am starting to repeat myself, my vocabulary is faltering, my posts are becoming banal, and my writing is sinking into a morass of over-alliteration. Maybe romance would be a cure...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Love

My grandparents called me last night, just to say "hi," and to share the family news. They are both doing well, although concerned about other relatives of their generation who are suffering serious physical ailments. Granddaddy mentioned in the course of the conversation that he and Grandmommy really loved one another, but mortality was going to make them go their separate ways soon (his 89th birthday is coming up this December, her 83rd is the 18th of this month). Tearing up silently, I smiled and pointed out that they would be rejoining one another after not too long--both of them are believers, and they will share God's company with other dear friends, faithful Wayfollowers, for eternity.

But oh, how difficult it is to be married for 58 years, through tough times and good, and to think about the probability of parting, even for a brief time! Christian marriage is a tremendous blessing, whose effects can be felt even two generations on--I am encouraged by my grandparents' example, and I love them deeply. I value their relationship as one of my "precious things," to be admired, enjoyed, cherished. Likewise, I am so very greatful that my own parents' marriage is Christ-centered. It is a happiness hard to express adequately, a comfort which strengthens the soul, when a thirty-year-old single adult visiting home sees her parents quietly holding hands.

I know these marriages have not been without serious troubles, but endurance, faith, effort and affection have paid off. And the admiration that my Granddaddy expresses for my Grandmommy--"She's the best woman I ever married"--is exactly what I pray someone has the opportunity to say about me, and after such a long time. Thank God for the blessing of love!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mystery of Mail and Male

This is the second professor in a week who has turned an envelope over and over in his hands, looking at it in anxious puzzlement, wondering aloud why it was returned. The first time, the learned academe had neglected to put a stamp on it. The second time, there was no recipient's address. I have had to explain this, kindly, to each man. I swear, if the secretaries did not do basic things like checking the mail and loading paper in the printing machines, the department would rapidly grind to a standstill.

I am suffering from a major case of specialized philoSemitism. I just found out that the other really attractive guy in the department, a fellow graduate student named Dan, is Jewish. Oh, my! Between him and Professor Zimmer (who is on sabbatical this term and doing research in Charleston, SC), I am drooling. Ahem. Should merely wish both a blessed Yom Kippur (begins at sundown today) and be done with it. Talk about wishing folks were Messianic for all the wrong reasons...

I have been in charge today--the secretary for whom I understudy called in sick, the other one is home with her dying husband, and the departmental coordinator is in France on an extended vacation. Thank God the Department chair came in (he was supposed to be away today), or I wouldn't have anybody to sign financial forms (suppliants have been several). And almost every single electronic device has chosen today to go on the fritz--I've cajoled printers, computers, a fax, and one of the two copy machines to quit misbehaving and cough out the documents which the faculty need. Unbelievable, but all are functional as I write.

The only blot on the day has been the sound and sight of Silverman striding around, boisterous as usual. Why? He's the chap who's flunked me twice on my Russian exam and is thereby keeping me from moving on to my comprehensive exams, and I've had one person inquire curiously about my academic standing already today. Too, I've used my spare time to work on the fifth chapter of the book I'm helping to translate, which has also kept the injustice of it all square in mind. But I can't do anything meanwhile, so I should just be quiet and keep practicing my Russian.

Monday, October 10, 2005

New Roommate

Diane moved into Nate's old room yesterday. She's his cousin, and thus took precedence over the Ukrainian guy re: right of first refusal. Ah, well. She seems very nice, although she's tall, blond and beautiful, which would otherwise predispose me to dislike her. I know, I'm being crabby. My digestive system does not like me, and Alissa is still in residence.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

What NOT to Name Your Child

Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing is a mustread for all parents-to-be, current parents and nonparents. I'm only half-way down the first page and already in tears from laughter.

To borrow a line from Dave Barry, "Bust out the umlauts" WBAGNFARB.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bookaholics

I love ABE (the Advanced Book Exchange), and the community forums are fun. For instance, there's a long-ongoing thread called "Are you a Literature Abuser..." which on first sight (misjudging a book by its cover, so to speak) I mistook for a discussion about people who trash books. It turns out, it's all about those of us who just can't do without reading. This morning, there were a couple of excellent posts, the first a quotation, the second a confession.

First, Segue uncovered an apt remark by W. Somerset Maugham:

To the habitual reader, reading is a drug of which he is the slave; deprive him of printed matter and he grows nervous, moody, and restless; then, like the alcoholic bereft of brandy who will drink shellac or methylated spirit, he will make do with the advertisements of a paper five years old; he will make do with a telephone directory.


--W. Somerset Maugham, The Bum.

Subsequently, Chowdermaker voiced the response of all book-mad individuals:


It sounds a lot like the spiel my hubby gives about our book habit. He says he has a printer's devil on his back; if you cut him he'll bleed India Ink#2; it all started with that gateway book, "Fun with Dick and Jane"; he gets books from castoff boxes and tag sales, takes out what he wants and sells the rest, which makes him a pusher, and first lets me go through them to take what I want, which makes him an enabler. It's all a long slide down, where someday he'll be found face down in a gutter clutching a stack of Russian novels.


That's where I'll be in short order...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Donuts and "Free Food"

Tightwad Navy brother is in a science course which requires the highest scorer on the class weekly tests to purchase donuts for the rest of the group. The first several weeks, he managed just barely to escape this responsibility, but the last couple of times he has not been so lucky. Poor baby--he's going to have to budget for pastry.

The Georgetown History Department, as I've mentioned before, has a taste for fine living, primarily demonstrated in the consumption of delicious edibles on the collective budget. Today is a faculty meeting, and several professors have called on the phone or in person to make sure that food is being provided--heaven forbid they not have lunch "on the house"! The caterer has not even arrived (they are due any minute), and already knowledgible graduate students are circling like vultures, waiting for the leftovers to appear in the common area.

Well, as secretary, I'm claiming dibs.

Money and Men's Praise

Getting my first loan was surprisingly easy, but the mechanics of FedExing back the signed paperwork were an adventure. I had a twenty-five dollar shortfall thanks to a household bill-check being deposited before I’d expected it (I’m not going to get paid for the Georgetown job for another two weeks, and I needed the money to be in my account before the market on Saturday, when it may be raining and therefore miserable), and so I had to take a twenty-five hundred dollar loan. That was the smallest amount available. I made sure there were no penalties for paying off the principle early (since I plan to pay it off in two weeks, 3-year term or no 3-year term), and said, what the heck, it probably won’t be bad for my credit rating. And USAA was most obliging—no security required, so my mythical firstborn is not in hock.

FedEx delivered the packet to me at the History Department yesterday morning. I’d planned to sign the forms and hand the packet back to the guy immediately (there was a pre-paid envelope inside), but the last page said I needed a canceled check for direct deposit, and I don’t carry my checkbooks with me.

Worked (it’s fairly laidback as Undersecretary for Departmental Defense, so this mainly involved typewritten brainstorming for my NEH grant proposal in between phone calls) until five, caught the Arlington Loop bus, walked past the house three blocks from mine where the girl was found dead under suspicious circumstances two weeks ago, and got home to finish the application and hoof it over to the post office, where there’s a FedEx drop box. The sticker on the box said they pick up at 5:30 daily. It was then 5:55. Oy.

Trotted back home, hopped in my car, drove to Georgetown—knew thanks to my secretarial job that their FedEx box wasn’t emptied until 7. In the ICC, the atrium was crowded with round tables and women in hajibs, setting up for the sundown pig-out (if you’ll pardon the expression) after the first day of Ramadan. Deposited envelope, and hoofed it across campus, back to my car. The university was hosting some sort of exclusive event—there were suited men in discrete groups at the main gate and on the steps of the Healy building, and limousines gliding around to deposit their occupants on the leeward side of the John Carroll statue.

These were real limousines—not the cheesy sharp-cornered “rent-a-limo” variety, but smooth-edged Mercedes and Jaguars in understated palettes of camel and silver with uniformed drivers in front and silk-clad passengers in back. And all the time these distinguished persons were arriving, moving from one rarified atmosphere into another, students in flip flops, ragged shorts and overloaded backpacks, smoking cigarettes and talking on cell phones were strolling, insouciant and oblivious, between the cars, up and down the sidewalks. How gross it would be for any worldly Georgetown University student to demonstrate obvious curiosity about the glamorous politicos who visit our hallowed halls.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Belated Self-Recognition

My brother emailed me the other day to note that I'd been blogging a year already, and that I ought to issue some sort of poignant reminiscence about the drama of the first annum. I'm not going to. All there is to say is that I am surprised twelve months have passed, and it was sweet of him to observe that there might be something in recognizing this anniversary. I am simply happy to have a forum for public expression (albeit one that is infrequently visited), and in the next year I would hope that my efforts are appreciated by double the number of folks who currently read posts on the site. We will see.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Concern

A neighbor walked over when I was putting out the recycling this evening to tell me that the body of a murdered 23-year-old girl had been found in the swimming pool of a house just three blocks away. Oh, joy--yet another thing to be concerned about.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Frolic and Russian

The strap on my right dress shoe broke yesterday while I was dancing a vigorous Virginia Reel with an octagenarian elder at church. I kicked off my shoes and continued to do-si-do in my stocking feet. John Calvin was probably spinning in his grave. In four-four time.

We had a square dance after the picnic following the 11 AM service. Actually, we danced immediately following dessert, so everybody was on an incredible sugar high. The little kids--between seventy and ninety of them, all under eight years old--had been running around nonstop since church let out, so this was just the culmination of the collective effort to use up their natural and chocolate-induced energy and send them home ready for bed. Even the senior pastor joined in--he was one of my dancing partners in a traveling circle dance. It's very freaky dancing with your pastor, especially just three hours after he's given a sermon on Joseph and Potiphar's wife and resisting temptation.

I had so much fun! I met a great guy...another octagenarian who has been married for 52 years. He speaks fluent Russian--he also got his Ph.D. in Russian-related stuff from Georgetown! He served with the Army during and after WWII, disposing of the Axis powers' chemical weapons. He said they hauled them across Germany on trains, packed them onto anything that would float at the coast, sailed these toxic cargoes into the middle of the North Sea, and sank them. There was no Environmental Protection Agency back then. After undergraduate studies at a certain university in the NC Triangle area, he joined the NSA (just a few months after its inception), and spent the next thirty-three years there, as a computer specialist. In 1992, thanks to his contacts with other American intelligence groups and his known dynamic interest in Russia, he got the opportunity to work with Russian General Lebedev, who was interesting in setting up a telecommunications joint venture--Lebedev was then in his seventies, based in St. Petersburg, and had supervised the installation of GIS equipment at every airport in the RFSSR, so he was ideally situated to pursue this early capitalist effort.

Ironically, this man with whom I talked has never been to Russia or any former Soviet satellite country--back in the old days, this was Not Allowed for a person with his employment associations, and he's just not gotten around to it since retirement. I told him he ought to go--he looks like a little old Russian man! (I omitted the modifiers "little" and "old" when I encouraged his travel.) Fascinating guy. Oh, and he also said he'd be willing to read the book-manuscript I'm translating!

I may be getting a Ukrainian roommate. Nate is planning to move to Delaware to work for a pharmacuetical company, and has been interviewing people to take over his lease. One fellow who I thought would do was the Ukrainian who works for a DC nonprofit, writing grants for projects in Eastern Europe/Eurasia. If he moves in, I'm going to pick his brain on two counts: grant-writing and Russian. If he's willing to speak Russian with me, that would be super--do I need the practice!

I'm working a full day at the History Department today--the regular secretary has doctors' appointments. I did remember to bring my lunch. But I forgot to eat breakfast. But at least I'm rested from yesterday's rhythmical exertions--when I got home a little before five yesterday, I was so tired shucked off my clothes, put on sweats, and fell into bed...and slept until my alarm went off at 7:15 this morning.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Acceptable and Unacceptable

Fine upper-average day at the market, enough to pay rent (provided my landlord holds the check for a few days so my deposit can make it to the bank in time), but not enough to cover my tithe, too. Next week, that's my first priority--to catch up on tithe and still-outstanding mental promissory notes to the flood-recovery organizations.

Awful homecoming--last night Alissa slid $12 (two fives and two ones) underneath my bedroom door. That's all. The bill that this was supposedly to cover was $12.90 (one that I had paid on her behalf when it was already weeks overdue), not counting the other $80 newer outstanding items on the board downstairs. So, I crossed out the $12 and circled the "90" [cents], and left the other bills clearly marked. She was loudly (she is always laughing and talking at the top of her lungs on her cell phone) complaining to a friend about my irrationality and meanness this evening. Well, one of the reasons that I'm behind on my aforementioned moral financial obligations is that I've been covering her calculable financial shortcomings in an ongoing effort to keep my credit rating out of the mud. I was so hurt when I overheard her I went up to my room and burst into tears. Her Yves Saint Laurent and other expensive clothier bags are still crowding the hallway outside her door, and she's intimating lies and injustice about me on the phone to her friends. I do pray that she moves out soon. Either she goes, or I will leave. [She just left, dressed to the nines, for some function, probably over on Capitol Hill, where she works weekdays--she left the light and the TV on in her room, to burn the night away]

I was of two minds about the ninety cents--I mean, it's less than a dollar, and I don't want to be an exacting jerk. On the other hand, unless I have a really good day this next Saturday, I'm not going to be able to cover my own portion of the household gas and electric bills, which are considerable (guess why?!), so every little cent counts. I eat out on average twice or thrice a month, and then for $12 or less (usually less) each time, I don't go to movies, I rarely drive (only three times a week, to church, the market and Bible Study), and I walk most places or use the free university buses to get where I'm going. I buy primarily on-sale items at the grocers, and very little food or drink goes to waste. My sole major expense is jewelry supplies, and thanks to my Saturday marketing, I am gradually chipping away at the amount I owe to myself for them (I aim to break even on my overall expenses, which I've been tracking for the last three years, at the end of this month). In other words, I live frugally, and like I said, every penny counts. And I already provide all the stamps on all the bills the household pays (otherwise, they would never make it into the mail)!

It's a quandary. I emphatically do not want to be a modern version of the Gospel parable's unjust servant, who was pardoned of criminally huge financial obligations by his generous master and then went out and cruelly beat a poor debtor who owned him a miniscule amount. But I don't think the two situations are wholly analogous, either. Frankly, I would excuse the 90 cents, if not the whole $12.90 if it were an issue of couldn't pay. But it's a situation of won't pay, and don't care.

Still, the whole episode makes me feel lousy. I do hope she moves out soon--I have herewith experienced the infamy of the Soviet-style "kommunalka" (communal apartment) thank you very much, and I would fain be (yes, I've been hitting the Shakespeare again, Measure for Measure--ironically--yesterday afternoon) permitted to enjoy the American-style single family dwelling henceforth.