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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! :)