Thursday, June 26, 2014

TESOL Course Completed!

I'm finally done with the TESOL certificate course I began before Christmas.  It took me about twice as long as the 160 hours advertised; I am so slow and comprehensive in note-taking that my progress was glacial. I probably wouldn't have gotten through it at all without June--her coming over twice a week to sit at my kitchen table and work on her own online TEFL course kept me motivated and moving.  Now, I'll get to find out whether this certificate has more street cred than my MA degrees...

I was part of a group interview at one of the major banks this afternoon.  There were ten women and one man being initially vetted for two positions, both part-time.  We were those who had made it through the lengthy online application and questionnaire process, and I think we all had applied for a post which we found out at the interview was no longer open (not that the two alternate spots posted on the board weren't OK, just further afield).  I will be surprised if I am offered a one-on-one interview. For one thing, I'm not sure I'm a "quota" sort of girl--one of the things about my previous work experience was that I did my best, and that was praised; I didn't have to tick off the numbers of new accounts I had opened day by day in order to ensure job security.

The group was really well-qualified as a whole, including one woman next to me who'd been a teller, and a bilingual (English/Spanish) lady whom I'd chatted up in the breakroom before the two-hour ordeal began who was outgoing, confident, friendly and clearly competent at a customer service level of which I can only dream.  Another woman had worked at a bail bonding place, and her tales of "customer service" (calling in favors to get a crack dealer out before trial) were worthy of a novel.  I didn't have a persuasive reason why I wanted to work for their bank in particular, whereas others were much more articulate on the subject.  But I did find out there is a place out in Thomson that will do digital fingerprint background checks, which is much faster than the ink version--and most reputable overseas schools want their teachers to have such.  So this may have been my one useful takeaway from the session.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thievish Slime

Some light-fingered individual stole a ring from a locked case in my consignment booth, I discovered today.  The tag with the price and description (14k white gold & CZs) was there, but attached to a cheap stainless steel men's ring, not the thin pretty ladies' band I had it on.  Turns out, one of the store employees had opened the case for a customer on Sunday afternoon, and then had been briefly distracted before he relocked it.  Having had a ring taken from my Arlington market table while I was paying attention, I know the hand can move faster than the eye.  And having had a toilet seat I consigned removed without payment from an estate sale, I know that there are people out there who will steal anything.  So I'm not ticked at the store (the owner is going to cover the loss, which I hugely appreciate), but I am thoroughly disgusted at the state of humanity. To replace the ring with another also implies prior planning, not just giving into temptation on the spur of the moment.   It's no wonder the salesperson didn't notice the theft--not being as familiar with the case contents, just glancing in he would have seen a ring with a tag in the box that had had one, nothing obviously missing.  And where the jewelry case is would be one of the two small blind spots in the video surveillance system.  Well, rot.

The owner tells me that they've also had a big problem lately with people stealing lamp finials.  Thus far, mine have not fallen victim because they are on top of the shelves, and require employee help to get down.  Forewarned is forearmed--I won't be putting expensive toppers on the lamps I have there.

Tomorrow, I have a group interview downtown with one of the banks I applied to on Monday.  This is  for everyone who passed the initial online screening, so there could be half a dozen or more other wannabe hires with me.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Job Search Slog

When it comes to job-hunting, I feel like I am walking through the Slough of Despond, attempting to pull one foot out of the mire after the other without losing my shoes, not so much progressing as resisting regress.  I spent hours online today, briefly checking in with the local private schools--why, no, they still don't have any openings!--and then filling out applications with three local branch banks.  Other banks in the area didn't have any spots they were trying to fill.

Nowadays, the banks have not only the usual questions about education, work experience, and whether one has had unhappy brushes with the law, but also hour-long (timed!) interactive personality and calculations quizzes, designed--one presumes--to see whether you are fit to be a teller or sales rep or whatsit.  Irritatingly, though in one section there were four options on how to respond to given customer situations (you are supposed to choose your least favorite and your most preferred), there was no feedback at the end saying, "You are wholly unsuited for work with SunGeorgiaTrustThirdAmerican Bank." So again, I am left unsure of whether I totally bombed the questionnaire [I think I did the first one, because I didn't know a calculator was permitted, and I got "timed out" (a 30-second window) attempting to do equations on scraps of paper and in my muddy brain] and whether my resume has been sent directly to the virtual trash bin.  I never, ever thought I would be grateful for the USA Jobs website's "based on your responses, you have been deemed not eligible for this position" or "you were deemed eligible, but not referred to the hiring authority" notices!

I've thought about taping copies of my resume to the inside of my car's passenger-side windows--maybe some random passerby would read them and offer me a job.  This seems to have about as much likelihood of success as any other method I've tried.  I think I've told everybody in my church about the situation.  I'm a professional job-seeker on LinkedIn, and as almost 400 people on Facebook have "friended" me, there's certainly some exposure there.  It's tremendously disheartening.  I know God brought me back to Augusta for a purpose--maybe it was only to finish the TESOL certificate that has taken me so long to complete!  Perhaps there's a English-teaching slot out there in the Siberian hinterland, the suburbs of Seoul, or even in some humid state in India, just waiting for me to apply for the work. Lord willing, I should finish the certificate tomorrow night, when June comes over for our regular study session.  Then, I'll send off copies of my fingerprints to the FBI (most schools, reasonably, want a national background check before they'll accept you to work with minors), and think about what my teaching philosophy should be.

Boy, though, in the meantime, I really wish the stuff I've got out for sale in various shops and online would be snatched up--any bank who might hire me will doubtless be shocked by how enormously my checking account is overdrawn at the moment.  Living, even frugal living, is expensive!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Station Agent, Sunday Work

I decided to watch The Station Agent this afternoon because I needed something to distract me while cutting out parts for Christmas ornaments.  I knew Peter Dinklage had earned many critical kudos for the title role, and the clips I'd seen of his character from Game of Thrones showed his sense of deadpan comic timing to be exquisite.  I knew the Agent was a melodrama, however, and I wondered if I wouldn't be a bit distracted by his physical atypicality--might it turn out to be just a "dwarf film"?  No.  For one thing, Dinklage's voice is positively hypnotic.  And being a little person, though important, is yet only incidental to the story--which is a solid, steadily-paced tale about the blessings of friendship.  Everyone carries his or her own sorrow, their own resentments which they have to address, and the fraternal affection that is generated initially, relentlessly, by the positively-portrayed (yet not "heavy") Puerto Rican Christian character leads to a tight bond between three quirky individuals.  I really liked it, and Dinklage (and his co-stars) richly deserved honors for the work.  And while appreciative of trains (I like trains), the dialogue didn't beat you over the head with trivia about them--it was well-grounded, not buried in locomotive lore.

I think the health-food place will probably not hire me, as I told them in a clarifying phone call this morning that I couldn't work Sundays.  Church, besides being a huge proportion of the spiritual nourishment I get each week, is also one of the few social outlets I have, and to forego fellowship for the foreseeable future was unwise, I felt.  Sigh.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Grocery Checking & Toilet Cleaning

This evening, I put in my resume for a job as a check-out lady at the local military commissary--it pays better than most civilian jobs hereabouts. As sworn beforehand, since I was still unemployed on Sunday, I went to the closest Publix after lunch and applied for multiple positions there--cashier, stocker, cake decorating trainee, floral department staffer and something else which has escaped my memory.  Monday, I spent four hours transcribing my undergraduate and post-baccalaureate transcripts, and applied for a Study Abroad Advisor position in the North Georgia foothills.  While at the gym a bit later, I was called for an interview by the health food store where I had put in an application on Friday.

I'm glad they asked me to interview, despite my education making me absurdly overqualified.  It starts out paying minimum wage, and then clicks higher as you prove your worth as an employee.  One of the job tasks is cleaning the store restrooms.  I have decided that my education is worth about as much as that of an immigrant who was a doctor or professor in his home country, who upon arrival in the US finds his credentials unrecognized, forcing him to start over at the bottom in middle age.  I need to develop the immigrant mentality.

I told the interviewers that I'd cleaned toilets before, and I'd do it again.  What is far more humiliating to me than becoming a charwoman is that I found out during the meeting that the boss of the operation is a former cheerleader classmate of mine.  Truly, it is not what one necessarily knows (she is a public proponent of juice cleanses for weight loss, which I consider hokum), but to whom one is related.  I do remember her as a sweet girl; she was able to step into the family business right after college, whereas I went away to the big city with high academic aspirations.  Thus, she may well be signing my paychecks soon.  They did also ask, given my education, what would happen if I were to  be offered a job in my field.  I said that someone would have to die for this to occur, but that if I were offered work with benefits and a retirement plan, I would certainly take it.  Who knows what they will decide--I can sing the praises of organic chocolate and peanut butter ad infinitum, but could not swear to do the same for other ingestible substances.  I did tell them that historically, organic meant death before 35, but I believed things had considerably improved in the modern era! :-).

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Four Horsemen, A Blueberry & Week Summary

Yesterday, I found an almost-ripe blueberry on one of my backyard bushes!  It wasn't very sweet in and of itself, but tasted very sweetly of gardening success.

I applied for four more jobs yesterday, before I went to a choir member dessert "on the hill" in Augusta.  My friend June and I had thought we'd just make a cameo appearance, but had such a great time touring "Walton Abbey" (as the owners facetiously call the grand old mansion they've partly remodeled and exquisitely furnished--it has the original marble fireplaces in every room, and crystal chandeliers in many!) and talking to folks we normally just sing with that we stayed until the very end.  I learned a bit more about the modern Chinese (all-diesel) submarine fleet, and heard a couple of hair-raising stories from the tenor and bass sections about trips in small private aircraft.  Sea- and air-stories are always entertaining!  We sat out on the stone colonnaded veranda until it got dark and the mosquitoes descended in droves.

A former professor of mine at Georgetown sent me a copy of my late adviser's, Richard Stites's, posthumously-published book, The Four Horsemen: Riding to Liberty in Post-Napoleonic Europe, for which I had helped him track down sources in all of the major European languages through ILL.  As his last research assistant, mine was the task months after he died to turn all of his somewhat cryptic in-text citations into proper footnotes once his colleagues had figured out what were the final chapter-versions.  He was such a great professor and good writer.  I wanted to become like him in the classroom (outside, he was a bon vivant in ways that probably shortened his lifespan a good deal!).

Today was the fourth anniversary of Daddy's death.  Time passes so quickly, and memories drift away.  You don't forget, exactly, but life with all its small and great distractions continues.  Sorrow is ultimately obscured by the necessity of laundry and tooth-brushing.

I attempted to finish drilling out the spaces for my awesome new inset brass hinges that I am installing in what will become my clothes-cabinet, but it's slow going, free-handing with a Dremel tool, and I only got one (out of four) done!  The friction really wears down the bits quickly (although I did counter this somewhat by dipping them regularly in a small Tupperware cup of water), and there is sawdust everywhere.  I did get the Jonas Gerard painting (the beautiful female nude figure study which I bought down at the beach) as clean as possible--it had obviously spent time in someone's garage or attic, and I had to vacuum all the frame crevices and the pockets between the canvas staples thoroughly, and wipe it down repeatedly with a damp cloth before I felt it could safely be hung over my bed.  I love vintage art, but not the bug debris that sometimes clings to it.

Oh, I saw my first Gatling Gun at the Fort Clint museum on Tuesday.  I've seen pictures, and watched old WWI films of them being fired, but I'd never seen one in person that I can remember. Being cranked at high speed by a team of four desperate men, it could achieve firing rates of 600 rounds per minute.  Sheesh.  I've read accounts of the Great War (the hundredth anniversary of its official beginning is upon us) about the devastation of the automatic weapons (the Gatling gun had been first patented during the American Civil War, but the European war of 1914-1918 was a wicked coincidence of tactics, technology and alliances), but looking at the clustered barrels and visualizing them whirling in use, spitting bullets, made the stories settle in.

I had dressed in long sleeves and jeans again, not wanted to be sunburnt, which definitely gave a period feel to the experience of wandering the fort.  It was not quite hot as Hades, but it was definitely first circle warm.  There were some cool, cool places though, including some winding staircases in the battlements...

When I grow up and have money, I want a castle with curving secret stairs and halls of vaulted brick:

I used my father's huge golf umbrella as a makeshift parasol.

The fort's "time" was set to 1864, when a group of New York engineers had been stationed there to finish it (a task never completed).

The Fort Clint state park was surprisingly large--the road underneath the moss-hung live oaks from the entrance gate to the fort, which sits right on the beach overlooking the Cumberland Sound was three miles long--and had opportunities for hiking. I decided to ignore the considerable heat and go along one trail.  I was sweatily snapping pictures of lichen along the overgrown path when I noticed a really impressive spider web, complete with a large yellow and black spider.  I crept up to get a picture (I have a great camera, but not a super-zoom lens).  I tried to focus on the spider, clicked, and then noticed that it had friends.  In fact, almost everywhere I looked around me, there were these shining webs centered with speckled spiders.

I feel about spiders the way Indiana Jones felt about snakes.  "Alrighty, that's quite enough nature for me, now, thanks!" I decided, and returned rapidly to my car.

One last place to stew in my own juices before I left the park--the pier along the jetty.

The waves were refreshing, but I was medium-well done with a light pink center by the time I got into air conditioned comfort again.

My friend Audrey, who lives in Savannah, fed me a wonderful lunch on the way back from the beach--we talk on the phone every quarter or so, but it had been two years since I'd seen her in person.  Such a pleasure to have a relaxed chat after a delicious home-cooked meal.

Bruises, spiders and all, Florida was great, but I am glad to be home!

Monday, June 09, 2014

Sunrise, Sunset

The biggest bruise on my right leg looks alarmingly like Peter Jackson's film interpretation of the Eye of Sauron.

I woke up at 6 AM this morning and went to the beach to watch the sunrise.  Yes, the world is coming to an end--if joining Facebook weren't evidence enough, here I am waking up (not being still awake at that hour, as is not unheard of) before dawn, without setting an alarm.

The sunrise was like a giant lava lamp being switched on.  A orange globule started pulling out of the sea, and even when it was 3/4 above the horizon, the atmosphere made it look like a fat piece was still attached to the base liquid.  Then it popped free and rose surprisingly fast behind a ribbon of morning clouds.

I ate a muffin on the beach, then went inland about five miles to spend an hour at the gym.  The water in the fountain where I filled my bottle tasted brackish--I've been spoiled by the super-filtered stuff at the house kitchen sink.  The cats only drink the filtered stuff, too.  The tan tabby yowls in a Siamese voice when he's feeling emotionally needy, and the extremely shy Manx has emerged from her fortress under the bed on two occasions and allowed me to pet her.

I went to the beach for wave-wallowing this afternoon.  I had my dark cheesecloth dress over my swimsuit, and just left it on when I went in the water--light as it was, it would have been burdensome if I'd been really swimming, but I didn't wade more than waist-deep, and I just didn't want to show my leg, spectacularly bruised and swollen as it is, to the other beachgoers.

Paranoid about sharks as always--though it is my sister and my niece who attract them, not I--I kept an eye on the water as I bounced and floated and splashed.  I did see one rather large (dinner-plate size in circumference) jellyfish that I decided to avoid. Meantime, there was an exciting display out in the ocean, as one giant stingray after another (or perhaps the same one, full of joie de vivre) cartwheeled out of the water and then plunged back with a splash.

Speaking of stingrays and show-offs, a skinny white dude in long shorts and a t-shirt mounted a blue paddle board, and made his way across the rolling breakers--holding an eight-foot fishing pole in his teeth.  To me, this was the beach equivalent of those thin taut guys who cycle their road bikes through traffic while leaning back on the wee seat in a casual attitude, not touching their handlebars (truthfully, I've always been vaguely envious of their balance and devil-may-care cool, but as we have seen, I can't stay upright on a bike when I have both hands clutching for dear life).  The paddleboarder established himself on calm water and began casting his line into the stringray area.  The gentle swells of the ocean made his board mostly invisible, so he looked like he was standing on top of the sea.  He did not catch anything, and returned with pole to shore after fifteen minutes--his lack of time-commitment was another factor in my deciding that he was basically putting on a performance of "look at me" for the bikini-clad babes rather than seriously fishing.

On of my favorite restaurants in downtown Fernandina is 29 South, and since I'd eaten my way through the perishables in the house fridge, I decided to dine out for supper.  Great food (their "Southwest Taco Soup" was more of a Brunswick Stew, but nonetheless delicious), and a steak on a "bed" of fries.  When a menu describes meats served on "beds" of starches or salads, you never quite know what that means--I've seen "beds" that were thinner than sheets, or mere futons between the entree and the plate.  This "bed," however, would have adequately cushioned even the legume-vexed princess from the fairy tale--I'd never seen such a huge mound of potatoes.  The steak, which was not small, was dwarfed by it.  Very tasty--and a good thing, too, because I was already so full from the soup that I ended up taking away more than half for leftover-lunch tomorrow!

Since I'd had a glass of wine at dinner, I decided to walk down to the harbor with my camera afterwards, to enjoy the view of the marsh side of the island and coincidentally see the sunset. I had much more company watching the sun go down than had been with me when it rose--people spread out along the docks with their phones and their cameras, snapping pictures and chatting, parents fussing at their children not to drop things in the water. A small pod of dolphins swam by, including a mother and her calf.  There was a rumor that someone had spotted a manatee as well, but I couldn't verify this.  Altogether, a thoroughly full (and filling) day--I think I may visit Fort Clinch tomorrow, if the weather's nice, adding to my list of "outdated coastal fortifications I have seen" on the Atlantic seaboard.  

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Alligators, Pirates & Seashells

For all the preemptive warnings of the dangers of alligators and mosquitoes, and the admonitions about telling someone where you were going and when you were expected to return, I was given to understand that I was undertaking a real expedition yesterday afternoon when I betook myself to the island greenway, a blissfully undeveloped Spanish moss-hung corridor along a stream.  Since there was no particular person I could tell of my intentions, I posted my plan in a brief note to my new Facebook timeline, filled my Camelback pack with ice and water, slathered on sunscreen, squirted the few bits of exposed skin with DEET (I was wearing long sleeves and jeans, despite the 92 degree temperature—I never want to have sunburn or be bug-bit again, if I can help it), and trudged off, my battered Georgetown umbrella unfurled over my head.

It was not a hike.  To me, a hike involves scaling obstacles; this was just a nice walk in the woods.

However, I saw some pretty flora:

And some interesting fauna (can you spot the alligator?—I saw more than seven!)


And dozens of dragonflies in gold, red-orange, and blue.  How on earth do people photograph dragonflies?  Wait in a likely spot and hope?  They never spend more than a millisecond in any one place.  [I also saw a Great Blue Heron, but my camera didn't have a "zoom" enough lens to make for a good picture.]

I rewarded myself for surviving my walk by having frozen raspberry and vanilla frozen yogurt in a waffle cone.  And then I returned by way of the beach.  A pod of dolphins was following a net-dragging trawler, which had driven a huge school of tiny fish toward the shore—I watched the water sparkle with them, as the occasional seabird took advantage of the feasting opportunity.

Home again and showered (it may have only been a walk in the woods, but I smelled terrible!), although the weather radio kept broadcasting emergency alerts about an oncoming thunderstorm, I calculated that it was far enough distant to enjoy the first half of a free two-hour concert downtown, and so I drove the mile or so and parked on a sidestreet.

The crowd was about 60% retirees, mostly local residents who chirruped greetings to each other as they fanned themselves.  The musicians on stage crooned in tones blending Elvis and Johnny Cash, playing questionable hits of the 1960s about boardwalks and such.  The announcer was a middle-aged man in tan Bermuda shorts and a black wool bowler hat doing a medicine-show shtick, urging concert-goers to buy raffle tickets to support local businesses.  The tickets were hawked through the crowd by sweet septuagenarian “pirate wenches” in belly-dancer coin scarves and homemade bustiers.  

More genuinely piratical-looking was a scruffy bearded man seated near me, wearing a Harley t-shirt and death-themed tattoos.  I got a purple t-shirt for buying $10 worth of raffle tickets, but won no prizes.  When the color of the sky in the west began to resemble my new shirt, I beat a quick retreat to my car, making it home a few minutes before the thunderstorm, warnings, wind, and all, rolled in, illuminating the entire house through the single round skylight in the living room.  The rain made me think of the parable about the house built on sand—it poured for hours.

Today, I did essentially nothing until late afternoon—my stomach was iffy and my leg ached, and I figured it being a summer weekend tourists would be out in full force.  I finally forced myself into my swimsuit and betook myself to the beach about 5:30, where there were more people than on a weekday, but hardly a smothering assembly. 

I strolled along people-watching for a while until I found a spot where I felt comfortable leaving my bag unattended while I went into the water.  Most Americans don’t go to the beach by themselves—in our individualist culture, it is a place to observe couples and families. The few lone individuals had dogs with them, or were earnestly prospecting with metal-detectors (overweight white guys—not genuinely alone, the two I saw were trailed by their doughy wives), or were exercising.  The little kids were really funny to see: a short, pre-verbal individual with sunburn-splotched cheeks was industriously removing little fistfuls of sand from a pile at his parents' feet and flinging them at a destination two feet away.

The fisherfolk were out tonight.  Not just in the lone shrimp boat out on the horizon--the remainder of a once-thriving local industry now laid low—but the beach anglers, casting their lines into the surf and steadying their poles in sand-planted PVC pipes.  A grey military helicopter, flying low--about 30 meters--above the waves--buzzed up to the sub base at King's Bay, then returned, higher, its doors open to the sea air (reminding me of the time my father, riding in an open-door Army chopper, nearly fell out several thousand feet up when he leaned over to admire the view—discovering in the process that his seatbelt wasn't fastened properly). 

I spent more than an hour in the water—it was cool on my toes at first, then I acclimated and waded further in, so the surf could fizz around my knees.  After I was thoroughly soaked and sandy, I took my camera out of my bag and went walking, hoping to get some decent pictures.  Sea gulls sniped at one other over edibles in the storm-enriched shell-line, where silent adult humans bent and peered, looking for pretty and unusual artifacts.  The beach is hard to capture—I used to collect handfuls of shells, but their colors always seemed duller away from the ocean.  Likewise, those recordings of sea-sounds that people use to relax are pitiful imitations of the real drop and swish of the surf—it’s like watching a video of a fireworks display, rather than seeing them live.  Some things can only be roughly approximated in records—they have to be experienced to be truly appreciated.

So, with that caveat, here are a few of my beach pictures, inadequate as they are:

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Blithe Assessment Reevaluated; Art Seeing

So, I didn't escape the bike accident as unhurt as I thought...

As close as this blog will ever get to a selfie "cheesecake" shot!

I thought I was a little stiff in my right leg (I was wearing pants as almost always, and so couldn't visually assess the damage), and prepped for bed to find this!  Of course, as with most accidents, it hurt worse the second day than the first, so today I've been hobbling around like a little old lady.  Trying to get up and down from inspecting things near the floor (I went antiquing, and I habitually don't want to miss interesting things on low shelves) was almost impossible.  Thank God for Motrin!

Of course, there are always lovely things not to be missed overhead as well:

This is a custom mouth-blown glass chandelier available at one of my favorite Amelia Island downtown shops--if I knew the artist(s) I would give credit where due (the tag didn't say)--I love it, but I wonder how you would go about changing the lightbulbs?

I may not like random color splotches on my extremities, but I do love the use of recycled bits of mirror, glass and tile in building decoration, and there's a gallery of local artists whose architects incorporated these themes beautifully:

Just because something is "scrap" doesn't mean it's useless, or that it can't be made part of a bright and cheerful quilt of color (the challenge is using them constructively, not letting them accumulate, hoarder-style into piles of junk!).  There were, of course, some really good pieces of new, original art inside the building, too, priced fairly for the work and skill that made them, but that put them far, far above what I could afford!  My artistic coup of the day was at the local cat rescue thrift store, where I found a framed original underseascape watercolor by a listed artist for $12. 

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

On Amelia Island

The bad news is that my handlebars and brake levers are now somewhat askew, and that I have a small, superficial scrape on my right elbow and a matching rashy bruise, but the good news is that that seems to have been the extent of the injuries to my bike and me when I went head over teakettle in front of the Amelia Island Publix when I hit a bump turning off of the main road.

The weather is lovely. I rode down to the beach, chained the bike to a post, and sat on the sand watching the waves roll ashore.  There were people in bathing suits on chairs under umbrellas, and others walking along the tideline, but they were scattered in discrete pairs and trios and it was by no means crowded.  The sound of the surf massages the soul.

I am here for the next week taking care of two cats while their humans are in Ireland.  One feline I know exists only from the reflective glow of her eyes when I peeked under the bedskirt in the master bedroom.  The other, a tall pale tan tabby, has condescended to having his head rubbed, so we've been introduced.  I am told to eat all the perishables and to make myself comfortable, which is delightful.  It would be nice to have someone to talk to, but that's just greedy of me, considering there is an entire tub of freshly-ground natural peanut butter in the fridge and a bunch of four organic bananas on the counter!

Monday, June 02, 2014

Hanging Tough?

Just today, I got computer-generated "dear John" letters in response to four job applications I'd made in the last month.  Mums says she's proud of my keeping my spirits up and still trying to find work, but it's hard.  Being mindful that God has always put me where he wants me, that even thus far in my life I can look back and remark fervently how grateful I am that things did not turn out the way I thought ideal at certain devastating junctures, is really comforting.  That said, I have certainly not arrived at a level of spiritual maturity where I truly can say that I am living by faith in Christ alone--there's a lot of the Material Girl that runs through my head and heart, if not my physique!  Thirteen days until I go to the local groceries and ask for work there...  In the meantime, I am going to Florida to house- and cat-sit at the beach (gives new meaning to the term "paid vacation"--this is just a short gig, but it's nice to have even minimal income)--I am looking forward to sand and seashells!  And furry purry animals.  I am blessed, and I am grateful to Almighty God for it--I hope that theme predominates over my whining....

Oh!  I submitted Ira's and my manuscript to a whole network of evangelical publishers.  The individual presses don't take unsolicited projects, but they've wisely set up a collective online clearinghouse for  such.  There were only two quibbles I had with the site: there was no literary category for "history", and the sample size of an excerpt from the work was limited to 3000 words.  Given that our book translation is 200,000 words (including endnotes), it was tough to decide which sliver to present as a taste.  There are big sections of correspondence, some explanatory narrative, pieces of newspaper articles and diary entries, besides entire poems and verses of songs--it's a great, sweeping story, with many genres of writing interwoven beautifully, but selecting such a little part made me feel like I was told to represent the whole of the Bayeux Tapestry in a single square-inch clipping. I finally settled on an earlier narrative passage that talks about the official  redefinition of "God" via Ushakov's dictionary.  I may exchange something else for this after Ira gives me her feedback.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

See Scot Run & Awkward Chit-Chat

Just before the end of church this evening, a tall, handsome, red-haired Scot wearing kilt, sporran, knee socks and a formal shirt sprinted across the courtyard outside carrying a sword, and came to stand at the sanctuary doors, a silhouette against the evening, like a Pre-Raphaelite dream of a Bonnie Carolingian avenging angel. 

Tonight was the surprise to celebrate the career of our church’s beloved music director and organist, Mark Barron, who for 36 years has led musical worship under different pastors, cajoled the choir with good humor and excellent orchestral talent into a fine corps of dedicated singers, arranged and composed original scores for everything from brass quintets to string quartets, and generally done whatever needed doing to glorify the Almighty through songs, hymns and spiritual songs. 

For more than a month, the more subtle members of the sections had been plotting to assemble a large choir and instrumental group playing a handful of his compositions and some of the great church “oldies” (Crown Him With Many Crowns-with descant, etc.).   Emails and MP3 files of the various parts to be sung were sent out with much cautions of secrecy, and yesterday morning about 75 people showed up at the place where I attended elementary school (the new music building sits on the old playground where I queued for first grade) to practice for hours to polish off the rough edges and get final instructions for today.

Our church generally prints the order for the morning and evening services together in one bulletin, and the preparations to surprise Mark went so far as to create a fake scenario for the evening service, to conceal the design until the last minute—it was not until all the musicians were filing into the choir loft at 6:30 PM that the pastor admitted the subterfuge and had the deacons pass out the real bulletins for the evening.  It came off beautifully.  Mark confessed to being genuinely surprised, and was certainly pleased.  The video will be posted online sometime in the next couple of days, if you want to get a taste.

Because of my perfectly average height, I’d been seated exactly in the center of the choir—hence the great view down the central aisle into the courtyard.  The fellow in the kilt was raised in Scotland, and wears traditional dress every Sunday.  I’ve never much been enamored of height, but for someone so tall he’s beautifully proportioned, and his calves are a great argument for man-skirts.  He played the penny-whistle during one Irish-themed piece, and then mysteriously disappeared from the dias.  Minutes later, I was one of perhaps four people who could glimpse the awe-inspiring scene of his sprint with the claymore, which addition to his garb didn’t seem to faze the two Richmond County police officers which were out in the street directing traffic—but I feel a sudden surge of pity for the WWI Germans, when the “Devils in Skirts” came racing at them, bagpipes screaming, steel flashing.  He looked fully capable of slaying a platoon, or a dragon (to rescue a damsel in distress).

The reception after the service was in the church social hall, and featured punch, and tiny cupcakes decorated with musical notations, an ice sculpture of a truncated eighth note surrounded with strawberries, cucumber sandwiches, and other Presbyterian delicacies.  I'm not that good with small-talk.  I'd been so grateful that my stomach had allowed me to practice Saturday and perform Sunday, but I was starting to feel a bit iffy again, and people always want to know how and what you are doing at these events, neither in my situation being the best topics, and almost always inviting unwelcome advice.  I was on the verge of leaving--had smiled at most I knew, had two glasses of punch and two mini-cupcakes and a triangle of sandwich--when the ancient, dear widow of a former pastor spotted me, and hobbled up to me on her cane to give me a hug.  "I'm so glad to see you!" she said. "Is your mother still living?"  This was so odd an inquiry that I responded, "Yes, so far as I know. Unless my stepdad has killed her in the last hour and a half."  See?  You just can't take me anywhere.