Thursday, November 30, 2006

Death and Classes

I had a meeting for my Bioterrorism group over in the Medical school today. We're figuring out how to respond to a plan cooked up by another group in the class. Theirs doesn't have the finesse or the logical continuity of ours, but it's still pretty diabolical. I don't post details here because some crackpot trolling the internet for ideas might borrow it.

On the way back to main campus, I saw a dead body. Apparently Georgetown University Hospital doesn't have an underground loading dock for the morgue, and here was this body on a stretcher, neatly covered in blue cloth, being loaded into the back of an anonymous white van in the alley behind the Lombardi Cancer Center. Another student took a picture of the event with his cell phone. Most others just ignored this casual packing of mortal remains, intent on getting to their next classes on time.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Belated Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. Number thirty-two. I had the worst migraine ever. I thought my left eyeball was going to burst out of my skull. Actually, I hurt so badly I found myself hoping it would go ahead and explode, just to relieve the pressure. Six hundred milligrams of ibuprofen didn't touch the pain. Nauseated, and light-sensitive. I'd never been in such agony before.

I'd been all self-pity earlier in the day because I didn't have anything special to do--there was nobody taking me out for dinner, or somesuch--and then when the headache hit, I was relieved that I was at my regular ladies' Bible Study, not being romantically feted by a Prince Charming (as I'd vainly wished), and could leave to go home to bed.

Today was much better. My IV group spontaneously sang "Happy Birthday" to me when I arrived this afternoon, and one dear girl stuck a candle in a cupcake and lit it. I accidently blew it out with laughter before they finished serenading me for the second time. And I had a good meeting with a potential roommate this evening.

Work was good. I'm actually getting my own phone number, since I'm a "real" Georgetown staff member now! Now if they'd just connect my computer to the printer...

Oh, and [Attention, Elder Kinswoman!] I got my flu shot today!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

4 A.M.

I'm awake at this ridiculous morning hour. I've got a bad cold again, thanks to my small niece, who woke up every hour the night before last and kept my sister in a semi-somnulent state of worry even longer. I hope both of them are asleep right now. Rita is Little Miss Energy. She hates naps, and learned, as of Wednesday, how to climb out of her crib and escape from "captivity". Gone forever are the days when my sister could assure herself that even if her small offspring were not asleep during naptime, at least she was limited to the crib space.

I had a great time in Rhode Island, but it was not restful in the physical sense. Friday, my mother, my sister and I went on an extremely fast seven mile walk. The clip was a bit swifter than our traditional sixteen-minutes-a-mile, and boy, am I sore tonight! 'Twas the first exercise I'd gotten in months, after all. And when we were indoors sitting down, Rita wanted to be read to. She was thrilled to have four adults who were all available as readers of her favorites: The Cat in the Hat, No Roses for Harry, two George & Martha five-story books, Frog and Toad are Friends, The Mixed-Up Chameleon and The Tiny Seed. Rarely did fifteen minutes went by when one or the other of us wasn't being approached by a short person bearing a book and wearing a determined expression. Sometimes, she'd take the same book to several different readers in a row--I guess they gave it a new flavor each time.

Reading The Cat in the Hat meant involving Rita, who knows the story by heart (mind you, she's nineteen months old, but sharp)--when the phrase "but our fish said..." came up, the reader had to pause for the little girl beside her to pipe "No, no!" on cue. It was hilarious.

She is nuts about books. When she's not running around, putting a puzzle together or riding on her rocking horse, she sits on her little chair at the end table which my sister has arranged in the middle of the den rug, and carefully pages through one of her large collection (half her own, half borrowed from the local public library), pointing to the pictures on each page and saying the words she knows. Several times we saw her with one of her little volumes, sitting by herself on her parents' bed and chortling over her chosen book. She's a funny girl--I hope she retains her affection for print once she learns to read for herself.

The train was sold out on the way home. The conductors made announcements to this effect. Thus it was with anxiety that I saw a spider walk around the corner of the seat in front of me and pause on the wall next to my window seat. There was no way for me to get away, and I didn't have anything to mash it with. Happily, my seatmate was cordial and able to dig out a paper napkin from her lunch bag on short notice. It was a small spider, but I don't like being so friendly with one, and certainly not when I'm stuck in an enclosed space.

Well, I'm going to take some painkiller and try to get back to sleep. Tomorrow--or rather, later today--after church I may take myself to see the new James Bond movie. Unholy, maybe, but I love action, and have never missed an installment of the franchise.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Belated Bulletin

Sorry to my myriad regular readers that I haven't been keeping up on the posts lately. It hasn't been lack of inclination or material--it's just been a total lack of time.

The woman I was subbing for at the History Dept. front desk recovered faster from the surgery than she'd expected and was back to work on Wednesday, looking chipper. Such a tremendous relief. It poured on Thursday, and knowing she was back, I called in to tell them I wasn't coming in. Sure didn't want to commute in that mess. Instead, spent more than eight hours typing on a database for my jewelry business, and formulating a survey on terrorism preparedness for my BT class. On Friday, after leading three back-to-back discussion sections on the conquest of the Aztecs by Cortez, the graduate coordinator offered me a job as the regular secretary for the department for the entirety of next semester and part of the summer, which doubles my old salary and means that I won't have to TA next term. It's not really a raise in the larger sense, because the TA stipend I lose is equivalent to the income I gain, but the hours are regular and I don't have to take home work after, which, if the adage "time is money" holds true, is a major boost. Saturday, to use a crudity, sucked. Two less-than-$20 sales. Frigid. Coat disintgrated into mildewy mass and had to be tossed in the garbage. Happy thing was the market director refunded my money for my booth space. Sunday I missed services because I was home making a giant pan of macaroni and cheese for the church dinner, which I made it to just in time. Continued work on database Sunday afternoon. Had a sudden thought about fishing the change out of the pockets of the coat I'd thrown away. Dug into the garbage for the change and discovered my car keys, which I'd tossed along with the coat. God watches over fools and little children, they say.

I may have found a place to live with a girl from my church--I'm supposed to phone her this evening, which is why I have to cut this short and get moving in the direction of Fairfax and supper.

Supposed to take the train to Rhode Island tomorrow. Looking forward to being with the fam, or a subset thereof, for Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Marriages, Arranged and Otherwise

My friend May got married on Saturday. She’s in my Bible Study, met her husband through eHarmony. She’s from northern Virginia, he’s from South Carolina. When she told us about him when they were first matched, I realized that his sister had been my little brother’s kindergarten teacher twenty-some-odd years ago. "There are strange convergences..." as a Russian lyric says.

I was one of the first people to be seated in the sanctuary, and ten minutes before the ceremony started the ushers led another member of my Bible Study up the aisle. Seeing me, she decided to sit on my row. I glanced over to admire her engagement ring—she just got engaged three weeks ago—and saw not one, but two bands on her finger. “Did you get married?!” I whispered. She nodded and grinned mischievously, “Last night.” They’d eloped. I knew they’d planned to, but didn’t expect it quite so swiftly. Two study members hitched in less than 24 hours.

Then my dad called to tell me about an Egyptian colleague of his, who, with his wife and children, is a member of my parents’ church. Apparently this colleague was talking about his brother, who is a doctor, “who is 41 and unmarried,” and when he somehow found out that my father had a 32 (almost)-year-old single daughter, and he became extremely excited. “How does she feel about arranged marriages?” he wanted to know. Anyway, long and short of it is that he is all hot to have his brother meet me—he actually wanted to have him fly up to Rhode Island over Thanksgiving, expressly for this purpose—and emailed my father pictures of the man, which Daddy dutifully passed on to me last night. The brother is actually not that bad looking, but, as my sister says, this whole arrangement does give me a slight case of the fantods. Especially since the man in question doesn’t even have a green card.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rain, Rain, Go Away

On Wednesday, the morning after election day, the hosts of paper campaign signs were wilting in the steady drizzle that was sifting down all over the Washington area. I sat in traffic, feeling sorry for myself. I’d forgotten my cell phone, the roads were slick, my glasses were covered with a thin smoggy film from the rain and the exhaust of the cars in front of me.

More than ninety minutes later, I trudged into the department. I had a precious few minutes to spare, so I followed up on one of the housing leads sent me by the daughter of a friend of my mother. The woman who answered the phone must have had a worse day that I’d had, because she was brusque: “You’re too late.”


I’d been praying for an eternal perspective, rather than mulling over my current reverses. It’s hard. I’m not happy about my financial situation, my lack of a regular living situation, or my academic condition. I’ve seriously considered chucking it all, moving away. To do what, I don’t know, but at least it would be “away.”

That afternoon, I lost it at IV. Just broke down sobbing. Told them I was exhausted, stressed out, overworked, underpaid, etc. They prayed for me, and several offered to keep an eye out for the housing I hadn’t had time to look for. I was so upset, I left early. Plus, I had work waiting.

Back in the department, at the front desk with a pile of unprocessed desk copy orders, I encountered Prof. Lehrer, who is the point-person for graduate student issues. I asked him if there were possibly any more money still in the kitty, since I was in a bad financial state. Then Ann, a recently-minted Ph.D. who knows of my housing need, came up, asked me what was wrong, and I started bawling again, telling them all I had told my IV group. Lehrer asked me how much I needed, and I told him between $18-20 an hour, which is a little less than double what I’m making now. Ten an hour was all very well and good when I was paying $450 a month for lodging, but now that I’m facing probable higher rent, plus inevitably another security deposit, not to mention tuition for next semester, it ain’t enough by far. And there is no way I can work full time and study for comps. Lehrer’s on my comps committee, and I stressed that I’d not had time to read a single book on my list for him.

The weather was much better Thursday and today. It did lift my mood. I was also “lightened” by the fact that I’d dumped all my worries on the IV group and Lehrer. Still no housing options—the selections members of the group emailed me Wednesday afternoon and Thursday were all no nearer than Fairfax, or outside my price range. And when one of my Russian history guy-buddies asked me casually this morning if I’d applied for an IREX grant, I almost started crying again: I have applied for only one wee little grant for travel to Russia for ten days this coming March, no big ones for dissertation research next year.

Of course, at the rate I’m going, I’m not going to have a dissertation to research, anyway. OK, that was mugglywumpy. But who’s to know? I also thought I’d have a husband and a couple of kids by now, too (incidentally, my favorite jewelry store down in Augusta, GA, is going out of business, taking with it, in all likelihood, the lovely engagement ring that I’ve coveted for more than four years, hoping always that I would be its recipient). I do sincerely want to finish my degree(s). And finish that book translation. And get on with my life!

Saturday, November 04, 2006


I'm charging through kleenexes like a rhinocerous. My nose does feel like a horn. Today, it's gotten blown more than a jazz trumpet. I hate colds. Thank God for zinc lozenges and cough syrup. And hot showers and flannel sheets. Church ain't happening tomorrow for me--no sense in passing on this germ to some other poor soul. I plan to sleep in, like I did this morning. Second of three weeks in a row I'm missing the market--next Saturday is a friend's wedding. Good thing I didn't have to pay rent this month!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Chills and Cheer

You know you're in a bad state, health and insulation-wise, when you find yourself clutching a carton of refrigerated orange juice in an effort to get warm.

I'm sorely sick with a cold, but otherwise in good spirits.

Funny bumpersticker on an SUV headed home yesterday...WHEN IT ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY MUST BE DESTROYED OVERNIGHT (with the logo of the U.S. Marines).

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Breathing Space

Monday was a mess, Tuesday was troublesome only in spots, Wednesday so far has been a welcome return to relative normalcy. I am exhausted, and hope to get to bed by ten this evening, which would be three hours better than last night.

Monday. Wiped out from moving over the weekend. At the History Department, people are clamoring for attention on the phone, via email, and in person. Running out of supplies we used to have in abundance. I manage to insult Prof. G-R in front of her entire undergraduate class--by unintentionally implying that she didn't know squat about Boccaccio's Decameron. Filled with remorse. Apologize profusely afterwards. She graciously forgives me, although she is tired and strung out from caring for her bedridden husband. A dissertation defense runs into problems when their reserved room is unexpectedly reassigned, and I calm professor and attender while dredging up the correct forms. Get the departmental mail and discover that the paperwork for my employment paycheck has been returned, rather than processed(one day before checks are to be issued!). Go down to Graduate School and tell financial officer that if I get hit by a truck, my day will have improved. Group members from my Bioterrorism class begin phoning frantically, saying they can't finish the project and do I have anything to add? They show up at the front desk and work frantically to finish the thing before class starts at 4:15. At 5, the final project, still in an ugly draft form, is rushed over to be turned in. I arrive ten minutes before the class ends, having had to single-handedly shut down the department and handle several last-minute professorial crises.

Tuesday. Claudia, aka Desert Rose, is so sick with a nasty cold she can't make it to work. I leave the poor woman in the care of her cats (Mestopheles and Jennie), and drive into school, which takes over an hour. Very few people besides me are wearing costumes. I do not feel conspicuous, because I'm too busy. Discover to my pleasure that I have sold five books on Amazon. Hear to my horror that one of the lady professors in the department had been mugged that morning at knifepoint--walking by the university library. Get paycheck and find that at least some of the money has come through, so they've only messed up a month's worth due me, rather than two. Calm a frantic graduate student who didn't get a check. Discover that payroll was unusually efficient and has already set up direct deposit for her, so she's not marooned. Go to Leah's new house and have a nice lunch with her and little Noah. Rush off to Claudia's to pack books for mailing, call to cancel gas and telephone service still in my name at my ex-residence. Phone company (Verizon) very customer-friendly, gas company (Washington Gas) the opposite. The flibbertygibbet on the other end of the phone tells me they need access to the basement of the Arlington house or my account will remain open, and they "don't issue confirmation numbers," so you have to go on faith. Call ex-roommate and request gas company access. He's not thrilled. Meanwhile, poor Claudia is worse. Recommend zinc lozenges. Go to Bible Study, hand out candy to trick'er'treaters (lots of little princesses this year), eat dinner, drop off packages at post office (thank God, Merrifield's open til midnight!), and come home to repack/clean out belongings for hours before late bedtime.

Today. I've begged off the TAship European Civilization class at noon, and don't intend to go to Intervarsity. I'm the only person running the department today, and absenting myself for two hours at lunchtime would not be the best course. Plus, I was 45 minutes into what ended being a 1 hour 10 minute commute this morning when I realized I'd forgotten my laptop, which made attempting to take notes along with the children pretty futile. I need a spa massage. Oh, and the new due-date for the group project we didn't get finished Monday is this afternoon. Have I had a chance to look at it even once since 5pm the day before yesterday? Hah! And nevermind tracking down a new place to live. Somebody please be my personal secretary!