Friday, February 29, 2008

How did I do?

I don’t know the results of the Soviet history exams yet. I wrote 34 heavily-footnoted pages, comprising two essays—one on waifdom and the other on regime and popular reactions to World War II—and got them into my advisor with ten minutes to spare on the deadline.

I do know I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the dramatic manifestation of God’s grace, shown particularly through the kindness and generosity of my friends. For instance, I was overwhelmed (and nourished—I didn’t have time to eat much else in the last 72 hours) by a gift basket of edibles (fruit and small snacks) sent over by Cathy Plus One late Wednesday evening via her husband. As far as I can remember, it was the first “exam-time care package” I’ve ever gotten (our undergrad alma mater used to offer the option of them if your parents paid, but we never went in for them), and it could not have come at a more opportune moment. Incidentally, I just finished the last of the Scooby-Doo dog-bone-shaped graham crackers, and am considering rounding out my midnight noshing with an orange.

So many people prayed for me during the comp, and I saw the positive answers to those prayers. Grace was clear from Tuesday onwards. For one, I was supposed to begin around noon, but I checked my email until 1:30 in vain. I called the department and found that my advisor had disappeared—either into his carrel at the Georgetown library or into the Library of Congress, it was supposed. Apparently, he’d forgotten about the test. Or died—that was not ruled out as a possibility. The longsuffering Work-Study was packed off to check the library carrel and came up empty. I had to wait. I didn’t waste the time—there were several books I hadn’t had a chance to look at, and so I perused these in the meantime (this basic familiarity came very much in handy later). Then I went down for a nap and had a weird dream that my stomach was in pain.

Just minutes before 5 PM, my advisor called to say he was emailing me the questions. I logged on to our snail-paced dialup connection and found that he’d sent them in WordPerfect format. I couldn’t open them—I don’t have that program on my computer. Thank God, the NPV was home and he did have WordPerfect on his laptop, so I was able to run over, open the file, and send the contents to myself in a readable format.

Two sections, two essay questions each section, choose one from each. Section 1, Question B was impossible, so that meant choosing Question A: Compare the different approaches of two American scholars and a Soviet document-anthology to the besprizornost’ issue. Only one problem—although I had read the two American scholars’ work (or at least skimmed through them, and had their books on hand), I’d only read the introduction to Spasenei revoluutsiei, and didn’t remember diddly about the actual contents. And it was in Russian. And I didn’t have a copy of the text. And the only extant copy of the text in the greater DC area (and possibly anywhere in the United States) was in the Library of Congress.

So...I knew I had to go to the LOC, hope that the book was on the shelf and the librarians could find it quickly, and photocopy the thing, then take the copies back to Georgetown, scan them into the computer, rough-translate them, and go from there. Half an hour after the Main Reading Room opened Wednesday morning, I was up at the central desk with my little carbon-copy slip request form. “It’ll be about ninety minutes,” the young lady told me. I sat down at one of the lovely mahogany reading desks, opened my laptop, and worked flat-out on the Section 2, Question B essay—about Soviet responses to World War II.

Almost to the ninetieth minute, the book arrived. It took me much of the rest of the day to copy, scan, translate and read the thing. Thank God, it was only 100 pages. I finished the Section 1 essay around midnight Thursday, some three hours later than the time I’d been shooting for, but hey—I had until six or seven the next afternoon to finish the one on World War II, given my software-enforced late start to the process. Right? Wrong.

I logged on to email the first essay (to myself as an attachment—I was taking no chances that this finished product would vanish from my harddrive the next day) and found that the department Graduate Coordinator had sent me a one-line note: My advisor expected the answers to be printed out and in his front-desk mailbox by 5 PM sharp. Argh.

There was no help for it. I brewed a mug of super-strong chai tea, stacked the 40+ books I needed to cite in piles around my chair, and dug in. By 4:30 AM, I knew I had to sleep or I’d go nuts—I was having hallucinations that my voice-recognition software was turning every word in my essay into “the.” Page after page of “the the the the the….”

Friday, I typed my fingers to the bone. 71 footnotes in the second essay alone—my advisor’d said to reference what I’d read. I finished by 4:30, except for a single concluding sentence. Susan, who’d only just gotten home from school, volunteered to drive me into Georgetown so I could print the thing and deliver it and its seventeen-hour-old companion. But I was stuck on that last sentence. I called the department. My boss, my darling, sweet boss, answered and said that I could email her the essays, she’d print them out, staple and time-stamp them. There was no need for me to drive in. This gave me a much-needed quarter-hour grace period to come up with that end sentence and add page-numbers. I emailed both documents, she printed them, and, voila, c’est finis.

I plan to make some earrings tomorrow--I haven't made any jewelry in a month and it's driving me mad.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bathing Beauty

Rita enjoyed swimming at the hotel where her grandparents stayed during their visit in Rhode island.

Nephew Picture!

Finally! Little Brad can be revealed to the world...

His mother says he has "reptilian eyes," but I can't confirm this from the picture.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Preparatory Irony/ing

My wardrobe almost doubled while I was watching Ирония Судьбы (Irony of Fate) tonight. This was the result of neither chicanery nor shopping—just ironing. The pile of wrinkled, clean clothes had been accumulating for a considerable period, and when I couldn’t find my camera this evening, and (among other placed I looked) sifted through the entire mountain in a vain search, I knew it was time to deal with the issue. I will now be able to present myself to the public properly pressed.

Straightening up my room and ironing while watching a movie were also good ways to ignore the stress which is building in my mind about the written comprehensive exam on Soviet history that begins Tuesday. I am entering the Modified Standing Panic stage, faced with stacks of books that I haven’t had time to open, much less read, about which I am supposed to be professionally conversant in a matter of days. I am asking friends and relatives to pray. I realize that getting through comps is as much a matter of endurance as knowledge, but I feel myself running low on both. I can honestly say, however, that I am now much more prepared for this exam than I was last term—the last month in particular has been packed with really solid spells of study—I only wish I had the self-discipline to concentrate so well over extended periods of time!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Bachelor and the Buddy-Sister

I am in one of those delightful, but usually brief, phases of individual contentment as regards my single state. Maybe it’s all the exercise I’ve been getting, the fact that I’ve been so busy studying, or my budding creative plans for the summer that have kept me preoccupied, but I haven’t spared too much thought for the males of the species. But however happy I am personally, I couldn’t help but become angry recently on behalf of several Christian sisters’ suffering from the perpetuation of a relationship pattern I abhor.

Here is an example, a composite of several cases I have witnessed in real life: Nice single or divorced Christian girl is friends with nice, slightly-to-somewhat-older lifelong-single Christian guy. The two occasionally go out together, though these are never called “dates.” Girl becomes fond of guy, but is careful to “guard her heart” quietly while maintaining the (admittedly enjoyable) friendship. After all, she believes the guy is supposed to make the first move in romance, and he certainly seems fond enough of her.

Several years pass in this manner. The guy, who apparently lacks any real sex drive, is proud to be physically pure while enjoying the emotional intimacy of, and proximity to, the kind, intelligent girl. She reads Christian relationship books and (except for occasional paroxysms of self-criticism), knows she’s done what she should, and she keeps hoping and praying that modest forthrightness on her part will pay off in her bachelor friend focusing his attentions on her.

Then she finds out he’s interested in someone else. In fact, he either tells her as much, or he makes such obvious attempts to conceal the fact that she immediately ascertains the truth. After all, she’s basically his sister, one to whom he can talk about the object(s) of his affection, or one to whom he’s sheepish about admitting any romantic interests.

She’s crushed—either immediately, or over an attenuated period of realization. Here she is, forever the girl-buddy. And she doesn’t even have a good-looking gay friend to dance with, like in that old Julia Roberts/Rupert Everett vehicle, “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” Or maybe she does, but that’s small comfort, both from a psychological and a spiritual perspective.

Not that this interest of her guy friend in the other girl will necessarily go anywhere—he’s generally too damn scared of being united with the reality of flawed womanhood—which would betray his own flaws, which he is trying valiantly to ignore—actually to marry her.

Still, the girl-buddy is sick of being invisible and overlooked, being thought of as nice, but not really as attractive. Unlike her outraged-on-her-behalf girlfriends she probably won’t think vengefully about the Paulinian suggestion that functionally sexless guys “should go the whole way and cut themselves off.” She’ll be nice and take it on the chin. She won’t say a thing about her own feelings to the guy concerned. Sometimes, she’ll throw herself headlong into her career to anesthesize her feelings. She remains friends with the fellow, eating what crumbs fall from his relational table, suffering regular emotional bruising, whether she admits this or not, afraid of letting go of the little she does have for the unknown of no contact with a friendly male presence.

There are a handful of guys I pray for on a fairly regular basis, that God would make them men after his own heart. One way I’ll see my prayers answered is when they wake up to realize that they are men, adults in body, soul and spirit. And that their longsuffering Christian sisters would make good wives, good lovers, good mothers of children. Children, come to think of it, that their would-be fathers are rapidly getting too old to sire.

And the fellows should consider that their own notions of whether such faithful girlfriends could love them may be wrong indeed. In fact, the other day I heard a single fellow of a certain age casually say, “She’s not interested” about a girl. I don’t know the girl in question, but I would bet serious money that this guy doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about when it comes to determining whether particular women like him. Of course, going to the other extreme is just as obnoxious. Perhaps an intermediary to ascertain her true feelings is in order. Of course, get a go-between that will act promptly--I once waited over a year for a fellow I'd asked to to find out what the guy I liked thought of me to report he said "CEP's nice" (an unequivocally "damning with faint praise" remark in the context of another whole list of girls who were similarly declared "nice").

The “I kissed dating goodbye” excuse isn’t valid anymore, if it ever were. That’s a phrase that has been wrongly used to make a virtue of inertia. And, besides, the guys I’m speaking of never locked lips with real honest-to-goodness dating in the first place—they waved dating goodbye, from a safe distance, more than a decade ago, and failed to replace that supposedly flawed model with anything better, leaving a lot of Christian women to feel like they are withering on the vine, undesired, unsought, unloved. Surely that is a pretty rotten witness for Christianity, fellows. Just because you court and wed that girl-buddy of yours doesn’t mean she’ll stop being your friend, and then you’ll get those awesome fringe benefits, which might not be so terrible as you are acting like they must be.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

7 lbs. 15 oz.

Was the magic number for little boys born this past week, it seems. My dear sister and my dear friend Paxifist gave birth yesterday (2/12) and Friday (2/8), respectively, to not-so-very-wee boys who both weighed in at 7 lbs. 15 oz. It was Paxifist’s third (joining two brothers) and my sister’s second (to join my sweet niece Rita). The older Mebane cubs are competing at giving hugs to the new baby, while my mom told me early this afternoon that Rita has yet to go over to the hospital to see her small sibling. No pictures from either North Carolina nor Rhode Island as yet—hopefully I’ll have some soon!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Unpleasant Episode

My boss’s husband works for one of the big international package-delivery companies here in DC. He making his rounds in his delivery truck last week and pulled up next to a curb, went around the vehicle to open the gate, and spotted a purse lying at the base of a tree. He picked it up, and being a good citizen, went in search of a police officer to give it to. Finding one several blocks away, he explained how he’d found it and handed it over.

What did the policeman do? Instead of saying “thanks,” and taking down the good Samaritan’s name and address for reporting purposes, the policeman, who was white, searched my boss’s husband, who is black, and then ransacked his delivery truck. In 2008. In our nation’s capital.

This is not only racist, it’s stupid. Come on, when was the last time a FedEx/Airborne Express/UPS guy—in uniform, mind you, and with his giant company truck—stole a purse? And then had the crust to find a police officer to give it to afterwards? I was horrified. I hope the dumbass policeman gets fired. It’s obviously only a matter of time until he shoots a little old lady for criminal trespass.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Cat-Sitting and Studying

How the Soviet Union was a seriously messed-up society, oh, let me count the ways.

Besides studying, I am also tending the lackadaisical felines (redundant?) of my Air Force colonel friend for the next ten days. After hours of elegant lounging, the cottonball one just went into "wild kitty mode," pretending to be one of its pre-domesticated ancestors in a paroxysm of wide-eyed scampering. Five minutes later it was in the bathroom, begging to have the tap turned on so that it could lap at the trickle of water. House cats are, on the whole, a lot like human 2-4 year olds. They think they are capable of much independence, but also expect the "parent" to respond to their whims. They alternate between "I don't want you!" to "Hold me, mommy!" They need to be fed and cleaned up after regularly, and are capable of making huge messes, but they also are sweet to have around. And if you have two or more of them, they sometimes fight, and you have to fuss at them. It's great motherhood training.