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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Singing & SeoulTee

Somehow I'd gotten it into my head that choir practice started this evening at 7:30, and so there I was, cheerfully tootling along on the elliptical trainer at 6:55, thinking I might even have time to pick up a gallon of milk on my way home for a shower before shooting downtown to church.  On the way out to my car, water bottle and keys in one hand, iPhone in the other, it occurred to me that tonight's practice might be guys only, as our director had been planning a men's ensemble for an upcoming Sunday.  I opened my email, scrolled down, and "Crud!" found out that not only was the full choir due at practice, it started at 7!  By that point, it was 7:03.  So I was 20 minutes late and in my smelly sweats, but I made it.

Singing in the choir is just so much fun!  Out director is a gem, and always makes funny remarks.  And the theology of the songs is clear, even if the tunes and parts are complicated.  It's a pleasure to hear everyone blending together, the parts cascading in alleluias from the sopranos through the altos and tenors down to resonate in the bass section.  After rehearsal, I went out to Starbucks with a fellow alto who speaks Russian and watches K-dramas (she and I have made a pact to finish our online TESOL certificates in the next few months), and we talked for two hours.

Speaking of English teaching and the Korea connection, a few weeks ago I started watching the YouTube channel of SeoulTee, a man from New Hampshire by way of Florida who has been teaching English (and practicing judo), in Busan, South Korea, for the last three years.  I was impressed by his careful, informative videos about what life teaching (and working out) was like over there, what to do and not to do.  He reminded me a bit of my friend Dex (similar jawline and energy level), and so I was not surprised to find out, like him, he'd been a software engineer for years.  Tonight, he posted a new vlog about five ways you can find fellowship as a Christian in South Korea (I just had this feeling from the way he behaved on camera in his previous practical advice shorts that he was a believer...which was one of the reasons I asked him to connect on LinkedIn a few days ago), and I urge my readers to check out his blog: www.reddragondiaries.com.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Interview

God definitely answered the many prayers of people I'd told about today's job interview.  I didn't break down from nerves, and I think I was pretty coherent.  Interviewing is an mental and emotional workout, though.  By the third hour, when the department director asked me why I should be hired over equally-qualified candidates, the only thing that occurred to me was, "I'm nice."  Well, I am, but I've never known that to be a super-professional way of achieving adult employment.  They've got someone else to interview (my presentation went pretty well, I think--I didn't ramble overmuch and I kept within time limits; no dazzling graphics on my PowerPoint slides, though) tomorrow, and the decision on who got the job should be made sometime next week.

I will say that I liked everybody who was on the interview committees--none of them appeared to be stinkers, although I am sure everybody has crochets and peculiarities that can get on other's nerves.  Actually, I spent most of the time interviewing them, not the other way around.  They asked me if I had any questions, and why, yes, I had a page and a half of them.  And that used up that whole hour.  The other office members were friendly and approachable, and I think all would be cool to work with.  I spent the three hours after I got home writing and rewriting thank-you letters to all eleven people with whom I'd spent the morning.

Gosh, I would love to have this job.  I know I gave it my best shot, and I definitely had the moral and spiritual support I needed.  And I had done the requisite research about the role and the institution which were so highly recommended by all, and I do hope it paid off.

In the meantime, I am going to make some more lamps.  I bought four prospective bases at consignment shops yesterday, and I'm waiting on a large delivery of components (they should be here today!) today.  I had a coupon code.  The story of my life: "But, but, I got a good deal..." 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Revolution in Ukraine

The photographs from the very nice house of semi-deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych indicate more of a holiday atmosphere than a vicious revolutionary coup d'état, at least as far as the opening of that particular piece of expensive real estate to the public is concerned.  Thus far, visitors are behaving much more like refined tourists--taking photos of each other and their small children with cell phones and video cameras--than Winter Palace-looting hoodlums. 

I've been watching the Maidan Square livecam, but the time difference means little is occurring there during what are to me waking hours.  As I have been writing this post, an Orthodox priest has spoken a gospel message to a small crowd of rain-sprinkled listeners, and another man in jeans and a warm jacket is now reading inspirational poetry and talking about the current crisis, his breath coming out in cold puffs--I recognize most of the words, but only recall what half of them mean!  My language skills are rusting dreadfully.  There is frequent mention in the rhyming verses not only of the protesters' representing the honor of the Ukrainian people, the need for recognition of human rights as free people, but also of Jesus's salvation. Really cool stuff, even if the poetry's quality doesn't rise to the Taras Shevchenko level.

It's been seven years since I've been in Kiev, but it's weird looking down at the square and thinking, "Oh, the post office is over there, and the café where Dex and Kimberly and I had dinner a couple of times is over there...". 

I do like that the churches--Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant--are represented on the square's stage, as they were during the Orange Revolution almost a decade ago.  Off-square, I have learned that church members have been intent on caring for the wounded and have tried to prevent violence and looting during this breakdown of official order in the cities--criminals are not bound by political loyalties and are taking opportunities to pillage unpatrolled and defended areas. 

There are slimeballs out there on the fringes, I do not doubt, but unless I am greatly mistaken from my personal observations in the past and reading since, most of the Ukrainians want their country to Westernize, for their elections to be free and their politicians reliable, not suddenly kowtowing to Russian pressure.  I am glad that the protesters have not wholeheartedly embraced Yulia Tymoshenko, given her own Russian connection, but I am also pleased that she hasn't been completely rejected for this association.  I dearly hope that the European Union--particularly the Poles, who can historically commiserate with the Ukrainians--will not abandon their intensive diplomatic role in attempting to bring a peaceful, and democratic, conclusion to this dramatic confrontation between a muscular Moscow and the wobbly EEC. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Skype

I don't know many Skypeable people--searching for people's names is futile, as many of my friends use different monikers online for privacy reasons, and there are inevitably given/surname duplications when you've got a worldwide system like Skype.  But I do have a few folks with whom I am technically connected, and I was in a wired and weird frame of mind after my second trip to the gym today (when I went there this morning, there was a hefty guy who kept gasping loudly every twenty seconds, and after a quarter of an hour I couldn't stand listening to it anymore), and so I left video messages on three accounts.  I was perfectly sober, just feeling isolated. My mother and John are headed off for a week in Kauai, Hawaii, tomorrow...  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Honor Impuned, Tax Letter

Few things, perhaps nothing, upsets me more than having my honesty questioned.  I know this is a essential pride thing, and therefore something, as a Christian, I must fight to overcome, but on the few occasions that this has occurred, the emotional repercussions have reached down to my core and made me physically shake.  And the circumstances in which such profound insults have been lodged have heretofore been so minor, and yet, deep in my heart, I have wanted the insulters--and by extension, all they know and love--to die, horribly, for being so patently unjust.  This is probably the reason that God didn't put me in positions of power when I was younger, because I would not have reacted at all gracefully to unwarranted personal attacks.  Folks without OCD don't understand this reaction at all--"So what if that person said that--it's not true, so get over it," a dear friend told me, when I was almost beside myself after getting my first negative feedback on eBay last week (in a small amount of emotional growth, on this occasion I didn't want to draw and quarter the commenter and his extended family, just have him alone permanently banned from the auction site).  Perfection-minded people process such unwarranted defilements of their records differently from other personalities.  While natural events don't bother me so much--hey, "I got a flat tire", or "The power's gone out", or "I'm bleeding", I can deal with unruffled--other people peeing on that that sacred piece of my psychological turf (that I'm truthful) still upends my emotional applecart.  Though, I guess I should be grateful that at least now, at this point in my life, a few pieces of fruit are staying aboard, and more or less edible.  Mmm, pie.

One external unexpectedness that I still don't take well to is the reception of a letter from a department of taxation (federal, state or local), saying that I failed to file this or that important form.   Gack.  Total helplessness.  Oftentimes, despite "delivery confirmation" or other chits from the Post Office, the tax people claim not to have received what you sent them, and without a cancelled check, you are sunk.  Sometimes, a cancelled check simply isn't available, as when you filed a form for a quarter that didn't have any payment due.  I think, after many tears, two online chat sessions and one frantic telephone call, that this latest snafu has been un-"fued", but I won't believe it until I get printed confirmation in the mail from the tax office, which they told me can take eight weeks.  In the meantime, my stomach is tied into knots, and I have to prepare for THE job interview.  In a few minutes, I'm going to pull on some sweats and go to the gym, work off my angst, settle my head (I have done what I can, the Almighty is in charge), and then return to do what I can to learn as much as possible to anticipate and respond to the search committee's pointed questions about my qualifications.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Messes

I have been severely remiss and self-centered in not keeping up with, or blogging about, the human-created mess in Ukraine. Update bulletins from friends in Kiev paint a bleak picture of the ongoing political crisis, with protesters being brutally treated in the main square of that beautiful city, and evidence of undesirable meddling by the powers that be of the country's large northeastern neighbor.  I will be more specific in a future post.

Much closer to home, people are attempting to deal with the natural mess resulting from last week's severe ice storm.  In the daylight, the destruction stretches far inland from what was visible curbside in the dark.  This is a photo of one of my mother's neighbor's yards:

Most other residents have cleaned things up as best they can, and huge stacks of branches and entire cords of wood are lining the sidewalks, waiting for county trucks to come get them.  The aroma of pine sap suffused the warm air when I drove around the area this afternoon.  I love the smell, but looking up at the shattered trees, at tears in the bark where car-sized pieces had shorn away (many falling not just into the yards, but also onto the houses, gouging holes in the shingles and breaking windows) made me grateful I was in a newer neighborhood, with smaller, less lethal shrubbery.  At several points by the road, there were waist-high makeshift tripods of wood pieces, like the sort you see holding up cast iron cooking pots in old photos of frontier settlers--these indicated where the thick metal and concrete covers of storm drains had been smashed.  They reminded me of illustrations of the broken Stone Table in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, when Aslan comes back to life.  The skin on my mother's arms is covered with purple mottled bloodspots from carrying rough branches to the curb.  She needed elbow-length welder's gloves instead of those thin, short gardening ones she was wearing.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Night Road

I love walking at night, I love driving at night.  I like the lack of glare from the sun, the absence of hypnotizing shadow patterns on the asphalt that make me inescapably sleepy.  I like the way things seem to speed up--what is a sedate pace in the daylight appears to be drag-race appropriate at night--without the pressure of waking-hour traffic to break the illusion.  To be specific, if I have four hundred miles of flat, boring interstate highway ahead of me, without the promise of pretty scenery or well-stocked antique malls, I'd much rather drive it after dark with an audiobook than during regular business hours. 

Usually, such a trip guarantees that I'll notice little outside the bounds of the lane-lines, but the last, midnight hour between Columbia, SC, and Augusta, GA, on I-20 this evening was exceptional--mile after mile, there were ghostly shapes of dozens of evergreen trees down on both shoulders, clearly casualties of last week's winter storm, their tops cut off right at the painted lines so that traffic could pass.  The whole highway had been turned into an obstacle course of impromptu roadblocks by ice-overburdened branches, and the local utility crews had come through with chainsaws, just sawing off what was necessary in the short term without clearing the rest.  Heaven forbid one have a sudden flat tire and need to pull over--you'd like as not encounter a tree!

Mine was a productive, if unexpectedly extended, stay in DC.  On Sunday, I got to church, finally passed my responsibilities as art collection inventory manager on to my successor, fixed a lamp that had been broken by the postal service en route north, and had a last dinner with Susan, Steven and Theo. Today, Leah (God bless her!!) punched in all those complicated numbers to complete my tax forms.  I was down to my last pair of underwear and was re-wearing yesterday's socks as of this morning, but altogether the clothes I budgeted and the task and social level I maintained were satisfactory.  Tomorrow, I have a bunch of eBay items to ship, and then I'm to dedicate the rest of this week and the first two days of next to getting ready for THE important job interview eight days hence.  I have to come up with a witty, brief and interesting PowerPoint presentation that will so impress the search committee that they will beg me to work for them...I hope!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Desire & Ice: Skating to the World’s End

Poor Augusta!  It's been hit with an apocalyptic sequence of seismic and meteorological events this week.  My poor mother and John were about to begin their fourth day without power at home because of Wednesday’s ice storm when a small earthquake hit Friday night, waking Mums and shaking a local water-tower to the extent that its seams burst, leaving it spurting water like a prop tank in a Hollywood disaster movie.  At least one window is broken in their house (smashed by an ice-laden branch, not the earthquake), while their neighbors across the street had three trees fall on their house, puncturing not only their roof, but the ceilings of rooms indoors.  I want to be home, but I am not looking forward to seeing the mess (thus far, my house has escaped more or less unscathed, and has been Mum’s refuge while John works four straight days on call in Labor and Delivery).

I have tried to use my unexpectedly lengthy stay in the greater Washington, DC, area to my Study Abroad job-interview-preparation advantage.  I’ve talked to three foreign language teachers, one college counselor, one Department of State officer, and one college writing professor for ideas about what to give my 10-minute presentation on, and how to find material to contribute to it. 

I had planned to leave Thursday, but the storm postponed both my tax return preparation and the transfer of the art collection inventory data to the dealer’s new assistant.  I was able to have dinner with several friends in the meantime, and dedicated myself all snow-drenched day on Thursday to crunching numbers for my taxes, then digging my car out of a snowdrift, and when my usual monthly fatigue laid me low on Friday, it was a relief to be able to retire to bed knowing that I had used much of my free time productively.  I spent Valentine’s night at the home of two German professors, fellow singles who persuaded me to watch my first events of the Sochi Winter Olympics after we’d wined and dined well on champagne, pinot gris and provolone-pesto chicken, broccoli and pasta, finishing up with a raspberry chocolate ganache cake in the shape of a heart which I’d brought from a local bakery. 
View image.jpeg in slide show

On Tuesday, Steven had filled the basement room of his and Susan’s house with a dozen red metallic heart-shaped helium balloons and other decorations, so the whole area was aglow when she came downstairs with their little son.  It looked a little like a floating forest of Wonderland roses, trailing long red stems.  I never knew that people actually did romantic things like this before Steven came into Susan’s life—he just enjoys surprising her with these bursts of beauty.  Theo was so overcome by the sight that he literally fell over backwards while tugging a ribbon and staring at the balloon above him.

I had told my LDC about my long-standing affection for Valentine’s conversation hearts, and that I planned to buy them on sale beginning the fifteenth.  And then I had a real problem finding any!  I didn’t succeed in my saccharine quest until after dinner tonight, when I raided the shelves of a CVS already thoroughly stocked with Easter candy.  The supermarket that I had gone to earlier had whole racks of pastel foil-wrapped chocolate bunnies on display, with fluorescent Peeps and plastic eggs in packages:  Valentine’s bow was empty and the rabbits and their baskets had taken his place without a pause.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

DC Is Frigid!

I drove back up here to DC on Monday to tie up a bunch of loose ends that, despite my attenuated departure, had been left undone.

It's so cold!  And the traffic is murderous. How quickly I have gotten used to the warmth of Georgia and the ease of travel through Augusta!

I may be stuck here beyond my intended departure date because we are supposed to get almost a foot of snow tonight.

I've closed my post office box--found two checks therein and got a small refund on the rental, so that was a nice surprise!  I dropped off four lamps and a framed watercolor at the home consignment store in Bethesda where I used to work--found out that Hope, my nonagenarian former coworker, has chosen to go into hospice, and is taking only desserts and vodka to sustain herself.  Caroline, one of my trivia teammates, had sweetly emptied my ceramics locker at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center, which contents I transferred from her trunk to mine Monday night.  I'm supposed to transfer all the art-inventory data to the dealer's new assistant tomorrow, but the weather may interfere.

Leah is a doll and agreed to help me with my taxes on Friday. I indeed spent more than half my total income in 2013 (a laughably small sum) on medical care, so I should get back every penny I paid in estimated taxes.  I hope. With our tax code, there's no telling!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Sleepless & Bored

Our pastor's sermon last Sunday night was on the perseverance of the saints, and among the beneficial self-disciplines he mentioned as an aid to spiritual growth was getting to bed on time, so that you aren't tempted to oversleep and waste the good hours of the day. Well, I was awake for maybe four hours on Tuesday (I had a telephone interview for a job I dearly want--there were so many applicants for the post that the hiring director interviewed eight via phone in order to whittle the number to a final three to be met with in person), but as consequence was super well-rested for Wednesday, and got a mountain of chores moved off my "to do" list.

Hoping to duplicate my success, I went to bed early last night...and dozed for just two hours before I came fully awake again.  I wish I could sleep at night, like most normal people!  I got up and checked lamp part prices online for a couple of hours, then went back and forth between cute YouTube cat videos and snippets of DramaFever romantic comedies, but nothing interests me at this hour.  What's really frustrating is that I've lost the ability to pretend myself into a story, like I could when I was a child and teenager, and fall asleep imagining I was in Badger's burrow from The Wind In The Willows, or snug in a sleigh in a blizzard, like Laura Ingalls Wilder.  So, I wiggle and wriggle for exactly the right comfy spot like I've done since infancy, but instead of curling up like a field mouse and hybernating, I end up stretched and twitching, a pea-sensitive princess on a mattress full of rocks.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

A Little More Illumination

One of the things I enjoy about lamp-making is the serendipitous find of just the right combination of colors and styles--in this case, I'd had the vase for almost two years, but this perfect shade didn't come to my attention until a couple of weeks ago, when I was browsing in a consignment shop.  The base of the lamp is wood, and the vase is vintage cloisonné.

 I've had this lamp vase (heavy cased glass with an enamel hand-painted motif of flowers and a butterfly) since I began assembling lamps, but its original base was ghastly, and it's taken me this long to find an acceptable alternative.  The only quibble I have with this base is that, being antique, it has three holes (not visible in the photo) on the top edge for the old push-button on/off electrical switches.  Rather than doing a shabby job patching them, I let them be.
To tell the truth, it makes me sad to part with this piece--I love green, and the hand-painted design of olive leaves and golden berries on this antique double-gourd white glass lamp is beautiful to me.  But despite the ritzy accommodations you can glimpse in the background, I have huge bills in the offing which I do not have the money to pay (being out of work for two months is a bear!), and so I have to scrounge up cash where I can.  I know that one of the reasons I don't want to sell this one is that it was such a coup--I found the vase and base at a thrift store in Maryland for $10.



This was another coup, from an antique mall in middle Georgia two years ago--the bisque ceramic was a nasty brown, instead of cream, because it had been in a smoker's house for decades.  I paid a pittance for the poor thing, took it home, took it apart, and subjected it to a bath in 409.  The dirt literally ran off and puddled on the counter, revealing this pretty color combination.  I love the sinuous Sixties shape, and decided that a Twenties Deco finial would echo the lines nicely, though come to think of it, the finial would look better if it were silver chrome, rather than dull brass...

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Gray Genes

I've been up since 2 AM. My hair is more than half gray--I was sitting on the bathroom counter with my feet in the sink a few minutes ago, staring at my developing wrinkles, and I suddenly realized that I am profoundly silver, every way I part my hair.  Argh.  I wish it were a crown of wisdom attained by a righteous life, but in my case it's just genetics.  Once it's totally white I will consider dyeing it an unreal neon shade and dressing in black leather and chains.  Or maybe not.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Breaks, Pipes & Drill Bits

In case you've ever wondered, yes, it is possible to slice your finger on a drill bit.  Especially when the bit's been busy biting through marble, the cutting edges get honed fine, and they'll take chunks out of your fingers in a nanosecond.  I have less skin on my hands now than I did this morning.

I was forced to go to the gym at last after procrastinating about it all day when I got an email from the neighborhood listserv saying that the water was cut off subdivision-wide until 2 AM because somewhere nearby a main pipe had broken. I always shower before bedtime, and there's a shower at the gym, so I worked out for half an hour, then washed up and came home to sleep.

I spent the day drilling lamp vases and marble breaks (lamp components)--I'd found the holes in the latter were too small to slip the standard 1/8 IP pipe which is the core of your standard American table lamp, and so I had to enlarge the hole. I was disgusted to learn that the glass lamp I'd carefully packed to ship up to my friend Rachel (she'd been waiting for it for 1.5 years!) had gotten broken in transit.  Back to square one!

I sanded the rough spots on the oak desk chair I'm enameling cherry red, and I used up the last of the citrus varnish remover on the old bookcase that I'm stripping to the mahogany wood, and spent two hours poking at it with a paint scraper.  One or both of these repainting projects will involve a small quantity of composite gold leaf.

My sore fingers and I had better get to sleep!