Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chin Plucking

Thanks the acquisition of a number of ointments, unguents and perfumed soaps at the local Bath & BodyWorks during their half-year sale, at bedtime I now smell like that staple of church lady brunches, the overripe miscellaneous fruit salad.  At least the odor neither gives me a headache (musks tend to, or clog my sinuses) nor inspires a case of the munchies--it's cruel of lotion developers to make apple pie and chocolate smells, because visions of dessert start dancing in my head, and instead of dozing off I find myself toddling toward the kitchen in search of sweets.  Even my hair smells fruity right now, because I'm out of shampoo and used body wash on it. I keep forgetting to buy shampoo. I buy toothbrushes and paste and toilet paper in bulk, so I don't have to worry about shopping more than once every six months, but since B&BW didn't have shampoo (the only kind they had was for men, which I would have gotten for myself, but none of that was on sale--there's something immoral about paying $12 for a small bottle of shampoo), I haven't stocked up.

I like being thoroughly clean, but I hate the niceties of shaving extremities and getting manicures and such (my sister used to harass me about not having a skincare regimen--when I get up, I just wash my face with whatever's handy, an absence of strategic planning she declared anathema).  Some women go so far as to chemically scald the hair from their arms; I'm happy my arm hair is blond so that I can remain comfortably fuzzy.  One of the reasons I wear long pants winter and summer is to avoid daily leg shaving (hey, singleness has its perks!) and yet recently I've noticed the proliferation of spikey little whiskers on my chin. OH NO! OH CRAP! Surely, I have lived a pure life in vain. As much as I pretend to stroke an imaginary goatee when thinking, I really don't want to grow a real one. So, short of wearing a veil, I either have to painfully pluck these with tweezers, or resort to shaving. No, I'm not going to use depilatory creams--I'd manage to burn myself bald, blind, or both. .Shaving it is, then. So if one day you drop by and happen upon a hairy-legged woman smelling of fruity women's bodywash and cheap men's shampoo, irritably wielding a razor on her lathered chin, it's not a transgender interloper, but yours truly.

I've got silicone sealant in the ridges of my class ring, but my stepdad hasn't said anything negative about the ugly job I did on his shower, bless him.

I applied for four jobs today, wired a lamp, and assembled a bunch of magnets. If none of the former yield anything, maybe the latter will.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Upside Of Unemployment

A major benefit of unemployment is when I develop a migraine, like I did at lunchtime Sunday, I don't have to worry about taking a sick day.  The first indication things were amiss was nausea, which I initially ascribed to hunger, since I'd been invited over to fellow choir members' for the midday meal and we weren't eating until two. But I stuffed myself and still felt queasy. And then the light sensitivity began, and I knew I'd better dose up on pain killer, and retreat to a dark corner for the duration. More than twelve hours on, I'm again feeling barfy. Migraines are really no fun!

So many people at church have told me that they are praying for me to find a job! I so appreciate the encouragement and the prayer support.  I pray that whatever happens, I would learn what I'm supposed to from this experience. I'm pretty disgusted with myself, that I seen to have made little progress in my closeness to the Almighty, and continue to display a remarkable lack of self discipline in several areas of personal responsibility. I don't know whether to ascribe some of this to profound depression, to sheer laziness, or to a combination. Growl.

One happy thing that did happen last week was that playing chicken with the cable company seems to have paid off. I was so disgusted with the local monopoly provider, which sent me a bill superseding my first year "introductory" rate of $50 with a "regular" rate of $79, that I cancelled my subscription entirely--I tried to reason with the "customer service" (in name only) people, telling them that as I'd been unemployed for 13 months, I really needed a better rate, but they were immovable and somewhat rude--I figured driving to the local gym or McDonald's was easier and more cost effective than paying half again as much for the service. Two days after I cancelled, another department of the digital Gargantua called me to ask why I'd left, and to offer me, should I decide to resubscribe, a year-long new rate of $45 a month, no reactivation fee needed. All I can say is, they are idiots (why screw over your existing customers, when you can clearly afford to sell them services for less?) and God is good.

I've finished painting the signs for my new booth at the North Augusta antique mall. It will be such a relief to have them and all the things that have been cluttering my living room and garage installed across the river! I think I'll actually be able to assemble more currently "in progress" lamps when the ones that are already together are out of the way.  The bookcases that once held my china have been replaced with a real china cabinet and are waiting to be sold, I have a stack of paintings to hang on the pegboard booth walls, there's lusterware in a box, I've got bagfuls of costume jewelry for people to paw through, and eight lamps, freshly wired, to plug in.  There are two coffee tables in the garage, and an end table that I need to finish repainting and screw back together. It's a start.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Protagonist Dies In The End

...or wishes to be dead.  Why is school-assigned young adult literature so terminally depressing?  I've brought a load of books into 2nd and Charles in hopes of eking out a few pennies, and have paused next to the "school reading" display halfway down the aisle. There are a lot of well-written, worthy books on the table, but taken together they'd make me want to hurl myself off a bridge--it's all the misery of the world, from unjust internment to slavery to rape, holocaust, pollution, and discrimination.

A sample:
The Devil's Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
The Stranger, by Albert Camus
The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
Farewell To Manzanar, by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James Houston
Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy

Oh, sure, there were some where not *everybody* is terminally depressed: Chaim Potok's The Chosen and Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, but only two to which I could point with any surety knowing they were thoroughly cheerful: the Gilbreth sibling's Cheaper by the Dozen and Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest".  Yet, in the company of Wiesel's Night, Orwell's Animal Farm, Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying, this was weak relief.

I think all these books are needful reading, but I wonder whether youths are permanently inured to reading as they are assaulted by one grim tome after another as assigned classroom texts. The deer dies, the dog dies, the people die--aren't there good books that acknowledge the depravity of the world without permitting it to dominate the narrative? Novels and memoirs that refuse to permit dystopias to persist?  Whatever happened to the ironic humor of the statement by Wilde's thwarted writer in "The Importance of Being Earnest", summing her lost three-volume novel: "The good ended happily, the bad unhappily. That is what 'fiction' means!"?

Would that other, encouraging true stories like Hillenbrand's Seabuscuit and Unbroken were included with the above!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Colorful Churches

Jesus lambasted the Pharisees--the "good folks" of his day--for being white-washed tombs: sparkling clean on the outside but inside full of putrification. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a speech shortly before his death at 39, noted that 11 AM on Sunday mornings was one of the most segregated times in American society, and more than half a century later, this continues to be the case. Our pastor is determined that our church should be a preview of heaven, where St. John described people from every language and ethnicity gathered around God's throne, united in worship.  So, for the second year in a row, our church has hosted the area MLK memorial service.

Special music began at 11 AM, though the service itself didn't start until 12; I arrived at 11:10, and the sanctuary was already packed--I ended up with more than 150 others in overflow seating in a building across the road, watching a live video feed on a large screen. We have some African-American regular members, but how comparatively few overall was illuminated by the number of darker-skinned people in our usually predominately pale pews as the camera panned from the podium to the audience and back. I was reminded of my visiting a black church in south Georgia several decades ago, where I was one of maybe two white people in the service, and how everyone looked at me covertly with "what on earth is SHE doung here?" expressions. When you are a member of a majority, it's eye-opening to be put into circumstances where you are a minority--suddenly, you realize how much you stick out, and how odd you feel, even if folks are superficially welcoming and friendly.

Jesus's life, death and resurrection tore down the dividing walls between humans and their Maker, and between humans and other humans. Our false perceptions of ourselves as somehow superior (often this assumed superiority is due to characteristics over which we had no control, such as lineage or skin color) are only destroyed by the understanding of how much Jesua had to sacrifice to achieve our forgiveness, and those who comprehend the weight of this forgiveness cannot help but forgive others.  So, just as people who were once enemies of God are now declared his friends, those who were once enemies of each other are now siblings in the church. But this has been given only lip service for a long time, and the messy business of talking about ongoing racial tensions and general injustice has been largely glossed over by the Christian community.

So it was that I found myself clasping hands with strangers and singing "We Shall Overcome" after a powerful sermon by a local Black Baptist bishop yesterday afternoon. Establishing a broad redeemed community is a huge long-trm challenge: may I live to see the dream of having solid, fully multi-racial churches embracing the thorny issues incumbant in ethnic identity and overcoming these to build a glorious whole mosaic fulfilled in my hometown!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rain Makes Full Week

My mother and John got back from Maui this morning. They've only been married two years, but somehow they've already managed three trips to Hawaii and two to California. The sun went west with them last Saturday, and we in Georgia didn't get even a glimpse of blue sky until this Friday afternoon. Because it was so wet and chilly outdoors, and because my k-drama obsession is limited to a single, currently-airing show these days (another addict said in her review that Healer, which airs Monday and Tuesday evenings in South Korea, is the first of its kind to make her long for the weekend to pass swiftly so she can see the next episode--I'm of the same mind, and afraid that it's been so good, so well written, paced and acted, that they will screw it up spectacularly in the next episode!), I got mountains moved.

I made a sign for my new antique mall booth. I framed an oil painting. I sealed my stepdad's shower--it was the most ugly ass job in the history of Western Civilization, and there was silicon festooning everything, from my hair to my shoes, when I finished, but it should be watertight! I made a lamp and fixed several pieces of jewelry.  I removed the irritatingly shallow wire shelves in the linen closet (the closet is 22" deep, but the building contractors had put in 16" shelves, leaving 8" of wasted space) and put in new, 20" deep ones. Now I don't have to worry about my fitted sheets and stacks of pillow cases falling onto the floor. And I have a spot to store my air mattresses. I had a phone interview with a company out in the West that I would REALLY like to work for--they deal with financial instruments, which would be a whole new world to me, but the prospect of doing useful work with an eclectic team of talented folks (current employees include PhD computer scientists and mathematicians, a former chef, an ex-stay-at-home dad, and a female helicopter pilot, speakers of at least 10 modern languages and one person who was a Classics major) makes me hope that the lady I talked to for half an hour liked me as much as I did her. We're supposed to touch base again this coming week.

My Christmas decorations are down! The leftover Christmas items I had in my consignment store booth are neatly boxed and ready for the 2015 holiday selling season.  And this evening I went to Harbor Freight and bought myself the Mother of All Bolt Cutters. I feel like lofting them over my head He-Man style and hollering,"I have the powerrrr!" But knowing me, I'd drop them and crack my head open like a boiled egg.  I now have shelves in my bedroom armoire (Lowes cut the wood I selected to fit), though they'll have to wait for veneer and varnish until it's warmer outside.  I also got wood to make tops for three of the open bookcases in my loft library. Again, half-round molding and a pretty cherry-red paint job to match are going to be delayed until springtime.

Thus far, I have seven lamps, two each of bookcases, coffee tables and end tables, and a small stack of original paintings ready for my new antique mall booth.  There'll be some smaller items, but mostly interior decor-oriented things. I want all the saleable stuff I have to be in either of my two booths, not cluttering up parts of my house. People can't buy it if they can't see it. And I want them to see it, like it, and pay top dollar for it!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Frankly, My Dear...

For some reason, since the beginning of this year, my readership has been primarily French. I am mildly curious as to what has attracted the Gaulish audience, as I have written little lately directly pertaining to that country. Odd.

I really haven't been in the mood to write this fortnight--a dull melancholy is often worse than a sharp misery, because it doesn't gin up even anger at circumstances which can be poured out on the page. I finally reached the tipping point Sunday, and spent a good chunk of the day in tears, deeply unhappy about having had to give up my calling to be an historian. I love the hunt for documentation, the debates about character and motivation, the human quirkiness that filters through the mists of time. It makes me viscerally upset when I hear people voicing unsubstantiated notions about past events, ignorance dangerous because it distorts truth, frequently lionizes the corrupt and ignores the struggles and accomplishments of the small and ordinary. We had a great lesson in Sunday School about William Carey, a contemporary of Wilberforce and a redeemer of many lives and hearts in colonial India. His was a hard life, particularly the burden of a severely mentally ill wife, and the opposition of the East India Company. That the latter institution was a repressive oligarchy was challenged by a gentleman listening in the row behind me, and I was so glad that the teacher knew to respond intelligently and firmly. I felt like standing up and giving a lecture on colonial economic development and exploitation.

On an intellectual level, I know this sense of "Why, God, am I stuck here spinning my wheels?!" isn't unique to me, but on an emotional level, coping isn't easy.  I know that the race isn't always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but you'd think I'd get a chance to jog or shoot off a volley occasionally, not sit on the sidelines in my tennis shoes and buckler, seeing years of training slip away as my muscles atrophy and my sword rusts from long disuse!

Maybe I am learning humility. Or perhaps I am indulging in self-pity. It's hard to chart any spiritual growth over the last thirteen months.

In the last ten days, I have been freed from a lingering psychological burden almost two decades old, so that's an incredible sense of relief, but I now want to own a new vision for my life, to have a clear and realizable goal in mind. I had thought it would be history teaching. I know that God has gifted me with enthusiasm for this field, and abilities to prosper in it, but it appears that at least for now, I've more willingness than opportunity.

I had a really bizarre and intense dream last night about a PTSD-stricken American soldier, a rabid Afghan jihadist and a female journalist. Not restful, and dramatically misogynistic.

This morning an old schoolmate emailed me out of the blue to tell me about a job opening at a financial services company for which he used to work. I am supposed to talk to a manager there sometime in the next few days. The job would be in Denver, which isn't total terra incognita, and where I do have some family.  I know nothing about the finance industry though, so I would be learning the work from the ground up, if they were to be disposed to hire someone with my eclectic background!

I have arranged to rent a larger (100 sq. ft.) booth at a much-frequented antique mall in North Augusta, SC. I plan to stock the space with furniture, paintings and lamps. The contract is month-to-month, so if it doesn't work out, I'm not stuck financial obligationwise. But I wanted to try my hand at art dealing, since I've assembled a critical mass of original signed paintings and etchings, and the lamps I've put together haven't been flying off the (very tall) shelves at my other booth (I think because most people don't bother to look up above eye level). The booth is well-lit and has pale yellow peg board, which is perfect for hanging up art.  Now to think of a memorable name fore the spot, so I can create a business Facebook page...

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Pants, Occupations, Visitors

The only real problem with sleeping in vintage ankle-beaded silk harem pants is that occasionally one of the threads breaks, scattering tiny glass pebbles all over the bed, so when you slide between the sheets it's like lying down on a sandy beach towel, or a gargantuan piece of really low-grade sandpaper.  I love my erstwhile jammies, though--they go well with my embellished Indian-made bedroom slippers.

For proprietary reasons, I can't blog about my brother's shop, but it was fascinating getting to watch him work. I drove a friend with hematological issues to a hospital in Atlanta yesterday, and asked Nate if I could stop by to see the manufacturing process while my friend was navigating the health care bureaucracy. I don't think he'll mind if I post my favorite picture from the visit:

There's something viscerally exciting about watching an artistic technician take raw materials and use power tools to turn them into a neatly finished product. Nate got so preoccupied with his work that he completely forgot to eat lunch, which must be a family trait.

My friend's checkup went well, and we left Atlanta around 2 PM. The weather was great, though chilly. At least, I felt it was chilly, until this afternoon's leaden temperatures made yesterday's a warm memory. It's supposed to drop to 16F tonight, and the blessings of good insulation and central heating cannot be too highly praised. I'm glad I didn't get rid of my long underwear when I moved south!

The alligators at the swamp in South Augusta were submerged in their pond when I took Paxifist and her three boys to visit them this past weekend. At that point, it was just cool and rainy, and I was rather bummed that after all the talking up of large reptiles I'd done to the small fry, when we hiked up to the fenced area, they weren't cooperating. We did see a lot of birds and mud puddles.

The boys were good sports about the experience for the most part. I hope they enjoyed themselves--they certainly did get to use their Christmas scooters a lot elsewhere, from the sidewalks around my small subdivision, those in Mums and John's neighborhood, down near the levee, and even in Dublin at Grandmommy's house.  There's a whole list of things I'd like to show them the next time they come, from taking a long Savannah day-trip to picking blueberries.

Way back in 2014 (early last week), it was still warm, and Mums and I took our bikes down to the swamp one sunny day for a several hour ride.

A thorn tree: encouragement to stay on-path!

The seed pods on this bush reminded me of fireworks, cascading out from a central exploding core.

I am looking forward to the return of more reasonable temperatures!