Sunday, June 30, 2013


I am 45 minutes early for the evening church service run by the young adult ministry, so the band is running through their songs on the platform in front, and a handful of people of an age that I could have birthed them are messing about with the sound system and chortling with each other in the back. I didn't make it to church this morning, though I woke up in time. I started fooling around on YouTube watching GrumpyCat videos, and then I looked for "happy cat" clips, which led to "cats and vacuum cleaner" videos and before I knew it, it was 9:20. And the early service starts at 9:15. So I went straight to work.

The sale went pretty smoothly except for the "I'm a lawyer and I am going to sue your company because your customers parked on the edge of my lawn" neighbor who actually called the police about it. The policeman basically told him to get a grip, which was really cool of him, I thought. If we have further trouble from this court-happy lizard, we'll get the policeman to talk to the judge on our behalf. America, land of the lawsuit.

My niece and nephew have been calling me over the last month. Talking with them is like those scenes from Singing in the Rain where they are dramatizing the difficulties of introducing "talkie" technology, and the actress with the squeaky voice tosses her head back and forth, which causes the recording to go LOUDsoftLOUD irregularly. Neither Brad nor Rita focuses on the phone, and they have little trilling voices to begin with, and so half their words are lost before they reach me.

Nonetheless, it is so fun to get calls from them! They went to the library yesterday, and Brad phoned to say that he'd borrowed a book about unicorns; "they are beautiful" he confided. He had also gotten a book about dragons.  Rita, on the other hand, had opted for intellectual subjects--she is reading about autism (I asked her if it was so she could understand herself better or other kids on the spectrum) and, perhaps somewhat prematurely, at least one on parenting. This last reading led to the following interaction with her mother...

Rita saw a little brown purse while they were out shopping and fell in love with it. S Dawg checked the price and noted that it was over $100 (another way Rita is my clone--we both have champagne taste). She told Rita that she couldn't afford it. Rita said that she would save up her allowance to buy it. S Dawg pointed out that by the time she had saved up enough, the purse would be gone. Whereupon Rita burst into tears and said, "Mommy, you should never destroy hope!"

Friday, June 28, 2013

Barking Dogs

Having been out of the writing habit for a while, it's a challenge to remind myself to sit down to record the day's doings.  Plus, this last week has been nuts, with work occupying more than 10 hours of each day.  This house is in a nice neighborhood in Bethesda, but the owner, who at 86 is on husband #4 (having outlived the previous three), did not leave us the creme de la creme of her possessions.  We rightly insisted, upon reconsideration of the contents (my boss had first agreed to do the sale over a year ago, and we were a little nonplussed when we were shown around three weeks ago and found much less in the house than we had been led to expect), that we needed a 40% cut rather than our standard 30%, because there was so much of small and little value through which we had to sort in order to do our usual unusually organized job.  There were some treasures we discovered--some rare books, nice carpets, shiny copper cookware, and a stack of silver dollars--but most of the items in the house are fairly humdrum.

I had never heard of St. John's suits before working with the estate sale company.  I doubt they are popular elsewhere, at least apart from the octagenarian socialite set.  They are basically obscenely overpriced knitwear in matronly patterns.  This lady also had a large collection of Ferragamo shoes.  But they, like the St. John's suits, are in styles that are too old to be in style, but insufficiently old to be vintage, which makes reselling them a challenge.  Our colleague who would have blitzed through the clothing in no time was out of town this week, leaving the rest of the team to struggle through the mass without her. Hence the long hours and the frustration.  And my former Yugoslav coworker, though a vigorous and relentlessly dedicated person, who gets tasks done efficiently and accurately, is also one of the most caustic and negative individuals I've ever had to deal with, and that would be exhausting even if our schedule of late weren't.  She seems to be getting more and more bitter, always shouting (in one or another of the six languages she speaks fluently) about some crisis or insult or indignity she has suffered.  "Fucking assholes" is one of her favorite expletives, and you'd think repeating it was her mantra for happiness and wealth.  It's like a venoumous snake at the heart of our operation, and her complaints are coloring everyone's attitude.

I have applied for two full-time jobs in the last two weeks, in spite of the hectic level of my work schedule.  Both are federal positions.  It's an entire evening's labor to apply, even when one doesn't compose a cover letter.  There are keywords to be inserted in the resume, and KSA's to be listed.  And every government agency has its own little questionaire.  I really want to have a peaceful, steady job.  When I went back home to GA two weeks ago, for the first time I was tempted simply to stay, although I have only one friend in Augusta anymore, and my mother is getting ready to rent out her townhouse.  It was so quiet there, and I didn't have to be quiet about being a conservative.  My coworkers and I don't talk about politics, but their world views are fundamentally different from mine, as evidenced from remarks they make about homosexual marriage and abortion rights.  And there is always an ambient noise of vehicular traffic here.  I hate to admit I am getting old, but there is something about being home, not that I think anywhere on earth is the perfect environment.  I have been thinking a lot about St. Paul's teaching to "aspire to a quiet life".  I do want fame and fortune (I've dreamed of being a best-selling novelist since I read The Black Stallion in second grade), but comparing myself to others is neither right nor healthy, and being content in relative obscurity, and able to serve others, can be a holy calling.  Is it mine?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dye Job

The floor and walls of the shower looked like a scene out of Carrie once I stuck my head under the water--there was red "blood" splattered everywhere, with rivulets running down my body and pooling at my feet.  It was more than a little freaky.  This gory episode was not the result of some murderous rampage but a wild notion that I'd entertained since high school, when one of my artistic cousins showed up at the family Thanksgiving reunion with her curly hair imbued with vibrant red highlights.  She told me that she'd used KoolAid powder to achieve the effect, which would wash out in a fortnight.

While I had long hair, I was always too chicken to try this temporary coloring method, especially since my hair had lovely reddish tints in it already.  But I always thought that when I got older, and grayer, and my hair was shorter, that I'd experiment with fun colors.  So I did tonight.  I used red food coloring and let it dry in place.  My silver temples are now pink, and the overall color is humorously reminiscent of Russian women's of the early 1990s.  It should be fun to have for the few days it lasts.

I think I'll try turquoise next!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Two Months Of Upheaval

I've been retrenching, in Jane Austen fashion: cutting my losses, vacating my apartment (a process which took far, far longer than I had planned, as there was far more stuff to move than I had estimated), putting the belongings I wanted to keep in storage, taking others to estate sales, and working through the whole emotional and financial mess that my herniated disks precipitated has kept me from writing for a full sixty days.  I told someone who remarked that I was bearing up well under the tumultuous conditions that I was comforted by the fact that Austen heroines meet Mr. Right after having to endure such reverses.

There have been several changes in the intervening months, besides my relocation from Arlington to Alexandria, from my 900-square foot apartment to the small guest room in Susan and Steven's basement.  My Navy brother Bob is now ex-Navy, my other brother, Nate, is gaining an ex-wife.  I am not going to Ukraine as I was told I would, but Dex--with whom I did go to Ukraine those years ago--has reappeared in my life (as a valuable member of my moving team--I would not have made it without him, or Rachel, who came over twice to help me stuff things into boxes, or Susan and Steven and little Theo, who arrived the last rainy night to cheer me through the final hours of packing, or Lad and Tara and five other people from Sunday School who sacrificed an entire Saturday to the task of getting all my furniture down the stairs, into vehicles and set neatly in storage). And then there are Anita and Mary, who respectively are giving space to my jewelry and sewing components.  Could I but put all these dear friends into a suitcase and carry them with me, I would be happy anywhere on earth!

Speaking of nigh-impossible schlepping, I reflected one night as I was carrying one of countless personal boxes to the minivan I'd borrowed from my dear boss, after a full day of moving things around an estate sale venue, that as the lepers of old used to call out "Unclean, unclean!" we schleppers of today must call out "We clean! We clean!" as we haul away objects to tidy up space for events.  It's a good thing my surgery was effective, and that I have regained most of the strength in my right arm, because I've been using every muscle to move my own stuff and others'.

As a break from heavy lifting, I did face-painting at the annual Armenian Festival in Old Town Alexandria one Saturday; I was paid for the gig, but the best reward was watching little children admire the ladybugs and other cute creatures I drew on their tiny hands (most opted for hand-painting rather than face-painting because they could easily see what I drew).  Thanks to Anita, who was manning out joint booth next door, I also sold more jewelry than I had since the Christmas Georgetown show--one necklace was bought by the former ambassador to Armenia for his wife.  My creations are adorning some neat people!

That evening, I stayed at Anita's, and my niece Rita called me to cheer me up.  She'd overheard her parents discussing the fact that I was depressed about my impecunious old-maidenhood, and she wanted to assure me that she and Brad loved me, that they "are my children", which I thought was really sweet.  She'd just gotten her two front teeth fixed--she'd broken both of them in a fall, and had at first been seriously angry at the Almighty that He'd let such a thing happen.  I had written her a letter telling her that I believed that God allows us to experience some bad things like this because He wants us to know how to show compassion and sympathy for others who are experiencing similar situations.  I certainly have a greater understanding for those who find themselves in stressful financial conditions, and how wonderful demonstrated, practical love can be (my friends helping me move, my church Deacon's Fund covering one of my monster medical bills in full) now that I've been here myself.  I don't know how much of my letter affected her, but am glad that Rita has concern for others--she didn't seem to be harboring any evidence of spiritual crisis when we spoke.

I'm tired. There are many details yet to be sorted.  I drove down to GA today (I have a doctor's appointment on Monday, and though Mums and John flew to MI this morning for a week's fishing vacation, she left me a list of things to do) and visited briefly with my friend Susanna while my brother Bob meticulously stenciled a Hello Kitty emblem onto his motorcycle gas tank.  He's already taken the guest bed back to his new pad in Charleston, and is occupying the master bedroom here this weekend, so I'm sleeping on the couch tonight.

I would like to continue, to rant extensively about the evils of the financial burdens associated with the American medical system, particularly the pigheaded bureaucracy at the so-called "non-profit" Virginia Hospital Center, which refuses to believe that I am unable to pay their exorbitantly costly fee for my Valentine's Day MRIs, and to comment on the dreadful assortment of Father's Day cards available to the filial shopper this year, but I am exhausted from the nine-hour drive and from the residual effects of changing residences.