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Friday, June 30, 2006

Adventures in Nepal

One of my IV group friends is working in Nepal for the summer. She has an awesome travel blog, which I know readers bored with my accounts of humdrum life in waterlogged DC will enjoy!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Floods and Our Fathers

The National Archives basement was flooded. When I drove past at seven Wednesday night, and again at ten, there were yellow fan-hoses snaking up the magnificent marble steps, attempting to dry the interior. I did think it a sort of poetic justice that the only other government building on Constitution Avenue which seemed to be experiencing the same problem (judging from the equipment parked outside) was the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency.

I am reading C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. I won't write much about it, since as Lewis himself notes, writing about the spiritual reformation one wants can oftentimes be a substitution for doing, particularly among us introspective members of society. Suffice it to say that I am feeling very convicted about all sorts of thought and behavior patterns that I have that are far more pleasing to whom Screwtape refers as "Our Father Below" than to his "Enemy," my Lord and Savior.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Party Animal

I missed Bible Study tonight to attend my comprehensive exams study group session. This was the first "real" meeting, as it was the first for which all four members were present and the first for which all of us were (theoretically) to have read materials. We'd all had complicated last few weeks, though, so none of us were perfectly prepared. We'd all skimmed enough, though, to keep us talking for a good hour about 18th century Russian development before adjourning to a local watering hole for further chatter over pitchers of beer (the three guys) and ice water (me). In the course of the evening, I volunteered my backyard for a grad student party.

Yes, I am actually going to host a beer 'n' burger event. Not this coming weekend, but the following one. This means I have to break down and buy a propane tank for the grill. And somehow persuade my roommates to remove the old couch (which is now soaked, thanks to eight inches of rain in the last 24 hours alone) and the remnants of the discarded coffee table from the backyard. We have a kiddee pool in the basement, which I plan to put out on the patio and fill with ice and drinks. And I may even light some tiki torches (planting them in the dying poison ivy bed around the lawn and warning people to keep away from both). What else do I need? Suggestions?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Movies I Kinder Wanna See

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. And, just maybe, the new Superman movie (although the Brilo-creamed, just a touch-made-up man in blue tights and red tightie-whities has never been my favorite superhero...even before his ongoing social faults were chronicled on the Internet. I've always preferred men who could clean up well, but were normally on the casual side--the fact that neither Superman nor his nebbish alter ego Clark Kent ever seemed to find it necessary to shave, and neither ever mussed his hair, no matter how many buildings leaped, bullets outraced or newspaper deadlines met, always has disturbed me).

Friday, June 23, 2006

New ID Card

A month ago, I lost my Georgetown ID--the one with the background of the campus skyline that made me look like I had horns (due to the application of my picture over the 2-pronged library towers). I waited and waited to be contacted by a good samaritan who might have found it, I called campus security again and again to see if it had been turned in, and I took all the other obvious and not-so-obvious steps to make sure that it was irretrievably gone. Twenty-five bucks a replacement was going to cost me. This afternoon, when I drove into the city from NC, I finally reluctantly schlepped over to the ID card office to apply for a new one. But as I was standing at the counter listening to the staffers snap at each other, I had an inspiration!

"Hey, I'm in a new program," I told the harassed woman at the middle desk, praying silently that I would be in her good graces. "My old ID was a main campus ID--can I get a med school one?" [The other members of the BTAEID program have those, so I knew this was a legit request]

Voila! I am now (on plastic at least) a Graduate Medical Student. And she sweetly didn't charge me anything. My new picture is dreadful, though. But this is an ID threaded on a dog-tag chain (med students wear theirs over their lab coats), so I can hang it around my neck, and not have to put it in my pocket (whence it can easily get lost).

Now I'm on my way to the library (where I haven't been able to check out books owing to the loss of my old card), where I'll flash my superior ID (the closest I'll ever get to medical professionalism), and hope to find the books that I should have been reading during my break down in GA (not that I had any spare time, what with getting my car fixed--twice: first the alternator, then the timing belt--doing two jewelry shows--quite successful--and going down to visit my grandparents--the second time for an overnight stay). What with meetings, the market, and medical tests over the next four days, I'm really looking forward to Wednesday, and the relaxation of just being a secretary again.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Mutilated Body of Terrorism

The two soldiers kidnapped in Iraq the other day were killed, their bodies left horribly mutilated and boobytrapped for coalition forces to find. Both young men were younger than my youngest brother. I hope their murderers are quickly found and summarily executed.

Those who oppose the presence of allied military in Iraq will probably resume their chorus that this vile act is a result of that presence, rather than realize that terrorist training camps long pre-dated the invasion. The terrorists now have a new opportunity to practice their deadly skills, certainly, but by the very presence of the troops they have thus far been limited to local activities, rather than exporting these overseas. This is awful for the Iraqis, but it also means that those who participate in what is euphemistically titled "insurrection" can be stamped out close to the point of origin, thereby eliminating individual opportunity for further mayhem, particularly on a intercontinental scale.

Of course, if Saudi Arabia and other hardline Muslim countries continue to export mass murderers at the rate they have for the last five years, it's going to be a long time before all the heads are removed from, and the stumps cauterized on, the hydra of Islamic terrorism. But the bestial body of hate-filled behavior does need to be chopped and charred, lest many more peacekeepers--of both the civilian and military varieties--be thus abused.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Very Wrong Vera Wang

I thought I’d struck the jackpot yesterday, at our humble little hometown T.J. Maxx. There were genuine Vera Wang dresses sprinkled through the selections on the clearance racks. For the male readers of this blog, who may be less than familiar with this designer: she’s known for her couture wedding gowns, which cost thousands. Her ready-to-wear line is only slightly less expensive—the tags on these dresses had them priced from $250. They were marked down to $80. I just had to try several on—that’s more than I would like to spend, but in this case I confess to a serious label-consciousness. Vera Wang. Holy cow. Anyway...The fabric in these creations was exquisite—I’ve never felt silk so soft!—but the actual cut of the dresses made me wonder what sorts of space aliens were supposed to wear them. So ended my brief foray into shopping for designer clothing. I’ll stick with the Target t-shirts and Gap jeans, I guess.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Enemy of Diamonds, Friend of Squares

I pulverized a diamond on Tuesday. They may be the world’s hardest substance, but they are also quite brittle, and if you accidentally compress one with a pair of steel pliers, it will explode into a million tiny, cloudy shards. At least it was a miniscule stone (maybe half a point, or .005 of a carat), worth perhaps three or five dollars at the most, but still, quite distressing to have destroyed it. I was taking my engagement ring (see a previous post—this was a commercial thing, not a romantic one) to pieces, and had successfully prised the large center stone from its setting, and was working on the accent diamonds when the disaster occurred. Drat.

Tonight, my parents took me along to their first square dance. A customer of my father’s had invited him, and she was so tickled to see us that she clasped me to her fringed bosom and one of her silver dancer earrings became snarled in my hair. We managed to extricate ourselves without injury, and happily that was the low point of the evening. Delightful, plain folks, the square dancers, mostly senior citizens (or people prematurely aged from a lifetime of sugar and cigarette abuse). Lots of sweets on a folding table at one end of the room, and frequent breaks for refreshment. A very huggy crowd, all pinned with nametags—the regulars had linked cascades of erratically-shaped formica plaques on their chests, declaring their association with this or that local square dance group, their skill levels, symbols of various dance moves, and souvenirs from other clubs they’d visited. It was a lot of fun, weaving in and out to the chant of the caller, giggling at missteps, being told how well I was doing by potbellied old men who patted my hand encouragingly.

Through the good offices of my mother, who cut out the contact information from the local paper today, I managed to get in touch with the organizer of the local farmer’s market, which meets on Saturday mornings during the summer. I’ve been approved as a vendor for this weekend. I’m glad I brought my jewelry, my cashbox, credit-card machine and sales tickets with me on vacation. I didn’t have room in my car for my tables or my tent, though, so we’ve been trying to borrow those from friends here—no sense in buying ones to use once. Hopefully, the weather will be pleasant and sales will be brisk. Especially as I’m supposed to be there around 6:30 AM to find my booth space and start setup.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Blueberries

Every year my Granddaddy mournfully prognosticates that the blueberry harvest from his more than 200 bushes--planted for family eating, mind you, not commercial consumption--will be horrible.

"This year we won't have enough to give any away," he announces, pessimistically.

I don't know what mythical golden age he's hearkening back to, but it must have been when there were a dozen gallons of berries loading each and every bush, because today the fifteen bushes in his back yard (as opposed to the just less than 200 out on the farm property outside of town) were laden with fruit. I pulled off handfuls and had a pint in five minutes--and that was my being choosy, wandering from bush to bush in a dulsatory fashion, not earnestly stripping the berries from a single spot.

And the nearby fig trees and scuppernong vines and the pear tree were weighted down with still-developing fruit. It's like Eden in my grandparents' backyard.

Oh, last night I bought an anvil. It's tiny (weighs one pound) and painted red. It's hilarious--every girl needs her own wee anvil. Holding it, I feel a bit like Wiley Coyote. It will come in handy for the jewelry-making, I think...though it is tempting to drop it out of my second-story window and see how deep it buries itself in the damp ground. I will restrain myself. I would hate to mash an innocent lizard or passing frog. Or a tiny roadrunner, for that matter. Not that the forever-optimistic coyote ever managed to do so--and if I think too much like him, I'll end up with a personal-anvil-mashed toe. I have the mad skills that way.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cleanups and Letdowns

Byron mopped the basement on Thursday evening. He moved the refrigerator (which he had cleaned out and wiped down with Nate’s help), and polished the floor underneath it, as he had the floor in front of it and the back stairs. He scoured the sink with steel wool and somehow pried the decades’ worth of caked grime off the laminate around the kitchen cabinet handles (they are metal! Who woulda thunk?). The place has never been so clean. I can actually breath when I go down to do my laundry—there is no carpet serving as a mold spore hotel anymore (he and I hauled the last of it out to the curb Wednesday night), and prior to mopping, he’d sprayed down the brick walls with a garden hose (yes, the drain in the basement seems to be working again), which radical treatment got rid of layers of dust and cobwebs. It was almost worth having endured Alissa for a year and a half in order to enjoy such a radical improvement in the upkeep of the whole house.

I haven’t blogged the past week because I haven’t been sleeping. I’ve been exhausted, but unable to get a decent night’s rest—first not able to fall asleep, then not able to achieve deep sleep, and ultimately not able to stay even superficially asleep. Awful dreams: one night, I had a nightmare about anti-woman laws in Saudi Arabia followed by visions of life-swallowing mudslides in West Virginia. Not restful at all. By Thursday I was completely batty—lack of sleep will do that to the most reasonable person, and those who know me will say I’m not necessarily operating on both cylinders at all times anyway—and after a series of mishaps with the mail delivery at work (and the fact that the CSCM, who had said maybe five words to me the whole week, walked up and silently handed me a candy heart with the enigmatic inscription “Get Real” before entirely disappearing), I burst into tears and sobbed for half an hour. And on Friday I went to a long-scheduled doctor’s appointment and was told straight off that immediately after I return from vacation (two weeks from now) I have to have unpleasant medical tests requiring the consumption of nasty chemicals, general anesthetic, and round-the-clock monitoring by a responsible adult for a day following my discharge from the hospital. To make sure I don’t have yet another chronic illness, or cancer. Oh, joy.

Needless to say, I was not a happy soul at the end of the workweek. Then Leah of Cathy Plus One called and straightaway volunteered to take care of me during and after the hospitalization, despite her having a husband and little boy to see to. It’s amazing how good that made me feel! It is such a loving thing to do. I’d been feeling so lonely and sorry for myself (and, frankly, at a loss as to how this whole medical scenario was going to play out), and here a dear friend appeared alongside, and selflessly promised to see me through the rough spot. I actually was able to sleep some on Friday, and better on Saturday.

The market was horrible Saturday, though. Ideal temperature, beautiful sunshine, gale-force winds. Four customers. Gack.

So, tonight I am down in NC, enjoying the great hospitality of another pair of wonderfully generous friends, Paxifist and Deacon Paul. Tomorrow, Lord Willing, it’s on to GA. Hopefully the drive will continue to be smooth and my car will quit making the weird whining noises that I noticed this morning on the way to church.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Fuzzy Critter

I saw a bunny today! I didn't notice it until I was two feet away from it, where it sat, wiggling its nose in the verge next to the bikepath. It was a very sanguine bunny--it eyed me in a bored fashion and continue to indulge in its midafternoon meal without starting for the bushes, even when I paused to stare at it. When I was twenty feet farther up the path, I glanced back and the little brown-furred animal was still chowing down in the same spot of grass. I guess I'm just not threatening. Either that or the wildlife around DC is totally streetwise, and that rabbit knew a puffing pedestrian like myself didn't have a cottontail's chance in catching it, even had I made a move to do so.

I am looking forward to being in GA for two weeks, beginning Monday. Sailing (maybe), a couple of handfuls of homegrown blueberries (probably), and a new pair of tennis shoes (definitely). What more could a girl want?

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Cradle Falls

Last night I was sitting at my desk making earrings, tapping my foot to a bubblegum pop CD, thinking about the conundrum of the CSCM (which my brother claims stands for Crack-Smoking Chinese Muslim), when, suddenly—

BLAM!!!

The floor shook with the seismic impact. Something very big, and very heavy, had fallen on the other side of the house.

I whipped open my door and saw that Byron’s room door was open, his light was on, and he was nowhere to be seen. His solid-oak-framed double bed, however, was lying askew.

“Byron? Are you OK?” I asked, moving hesitantly in that direction.

A muffled voice came from under the mattress, which was in the bed frame on the floor. “Yeah, I think so. The bed fell on me.”

He’d had the whole frame tipped up on its side for some reason, lost hold of it, and it had come crashing down in a split second, hitting the wall before knocking him on the head and leaving him flat. It’s a good thing the corner knocked a divot out of the plaster before it hit him, or he’d be in the hospital with a bad concussion. Or worse.

He was fumbling his way up through the slats when I went back to my room. A guy who’s just been knocked silly by his own bed doesn’t need some girl standing in his doorway staring at the carnage. I’m glad I have an air mattress.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Theological Clarification

Just as you cannot serve both God and money, you cannot believe lies about the history and character of Jesus Christ and really know him as Lord and Savior. A person cannot claim to trust writings that are contradictory to the teaching revealed in the Old and New Testaments and legitimately claim to be a Christian. Both Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and Muslims say they believe in God and the prophetic importance of Jesus. But, as part and parcel of their accepting contrary scriptures, they demonstrate no understanding of the damning seriousness of even so-called “minor” sins, and the necessity of one and only one Man as intercessory sacrifice to pay for any and all violations of God’s holy law. They do not comprehend that the only way we can find favor with God is by trusting his son Jesus—that his horrible death, and his unique perfect life (from supernatural conception to miraculous resurrection and permanent heavenly intercession) are the sole vehicle by which we escape God’s proper wrath and begin to please him. By ourselves, we cannot make up for even the smallest of our “little” sins. This is the difference between Christian professions and non-Christian (Mormon, Muslim and all other faiths). And until we realize our need for the real person and work of Christ on an individual basis, even those of us who belong to doctrinally Christian churches cannot know ourselves to be genuine believers.

A few years ago, I read the autobiography Papa Married a Mormon by John D. Fitzgerald, author of the funny Great Brain children's books (about the exploits of his “great brain” older brother in their childhood in early 20th century Utah). Fitzgerald's father was Catholic, his mother was Mormon. They had an extremely happy marriage. They were both kind-natured, non-judgmental people who got along well with the many cultures and religions represented in their Western frontier town. But clearly they were content being nice people. They thought being good, upright citizens, being friendly to their neighbors, loving their children and each other, was enough to be righteous. And on his deathbed Fitzgerald’s father was calling for a minister to marry him and his wife yet another time (they’d previously pledged themselves to one another in an almost comical series of secular and religious ceremonies, despite the opposition of their respective churches)—he was going into eternity terrified of not being forever linked to her. This is a tragedy, and indicative of where his sense of self-worth lay—in trying to stretch pleasant temporal interpersonal relationships into eternal ones.

Don’t mistake me—it is lovely, in an eternal sense, to love your neighbors, your spouse, your children. In fact, it’s commanded in the Bible—this is good in God’s sight. But it is not to be the focus of our lives, and doing it without realizing how fundamentally flawed even our best efforts at goodness are is to set up a false and actually evil standard: what the New Testament book of Galatians calls our “own righteousness.” It’s to lull ourselves into believing that Jesus smiles on us because we are nice people, because we go to church and give to charity, rather than the truth: Jesus “loved us while we were still sinners.” And we are still sinners, all of us. We cannot truly please God without his being the center of our lives, and building our other relationships--and basing our intentions--on his will and his strength. These are the only "good intentions" that cut any mustard with the Almighty. If we believe otherwise, we are committing spiritual suicide, no matter how perfect (with minor, excusable, "we're only human" imperfections) we seem to ourselves and others.

That’s what I meant when I told James at dinner that I think sometimes it’s better to be a “bold sinner” than somebody with self-sustaining “good” intentions who flubs up occasionally (as he said he and I were). That is, often it’s easier for a person who has dramatically violated God’s commandments to recognize that he or she in need of salvation than it is for a productive, generous member of society who hasn’t broken any big laws to realize they are just as in permanent need of Jesus as the multiple murderer on Death Row. James didn’t understand what I was trying to say. I hope I’ve been clearer here.

Friday, June 02, 2006

"Research and Development" Costs

Well, James, otherwise known as the CSCM, said tonight the man must bear the "research and development" costs of a relationship, and did he ever invest heavily in such this evening! He took me to Smith and Wollensky, a Very Nice steakhouse near Dupont Circle. We both chose the least expensive item on the menu, and the meal still cost over $100. It was good, but the company was better.

James said that his autobiography will be entitled "Why is This Happening to Me?" because his life has been filled with bizarre experiences. For instance, he was hit by a car on the way to meet me at the metro station. Fortunately, his knee (the bum one from playing rugby when he was "young and stupid") was just tapped by the bumper of the car, and he and his bike tipped over in slow motion. So he was no worse for wear. Which is a good thing, because he refuses to wear a helmet on principle (apparently there is such a thing as a libertarian Canadian, and he is one).

He's also an entrepreneur--owned his own construction business for ten years before deciding to finish his undergraduate degree and pursue his dream of becoming a writer. If he writes like he talks, they'll be good books.

We did briefly chat about religious issues (he said he's in a sort of "spiritual crisis"), and I invited him to a IV book discussion group (we're going to be reading C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters this summer), but he said he'd had bad experiences with other Christians--"not treating Mormons as equals." Well, I couldn't say anything to that. Mormonism is not Christianity. But how to communicate that is difficult to a person who holds niceness as coequal and coeternal with Godliness? During dinner, he expressed the thought that God is amused by our miserable failure despite our good intentions, like we smile at the serious concentration of two-year-olds in their play. Which is initially funny, but on reflection, horribly misguided. I hope that my Christ-following friends will be praying for James! Sincerity and sweetness is not salvation, no matter how superficially appealing it seems.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

C.S. Lewis and Steak

The CSCM is holed up at home today, reading C.S. Lewis' Miracles. I don't know why he chose this particular book, but he showed it to me yesterday afternoon and announced that he had a peculiarly free day today and was going to unplug his telephone and read. This is a good topic to discuss at dinner tomorrow evening! We're supposed to meet at the metro station near the steakhouse at 7:30, which should give both of us time to get home from work and cleaned up before sprinting out again. I've woken up at 4:30 the last two days, so I hope that I will be conscious--right now, it's barely afternoon at the deserted department (I'm the sole staffer today), and I'm already daydreaming of sleep.