Friday, December 31, 2004

2005 almost here. Hmm.

I only actually remember one New Years. It was 1980. My parent, seizing the opportunity to pursue their newest hobby of turning everything possible into a math exercise for me (annoying but necessary - I was always close to failing math in elementary school and actually did in 4th grade...but that's a story for another time), challenged me to figure out how old I would be in the year 2000. After many calculations and way too much effort, I finally figured out that I would turn 29 in 2000. To my eight year old self in 1980, not only did 2000 seem impossibly far away, 29 sounded like the oldest a human being could possibly be (even though my mom and dad were 44 and 53 respectively).

In 2005 I will be turning 34, five years older than that impossible 29. I find myself troubled by that. Oh, not because I am getting older - I can deal with that. It's more because I haven't accomplished anything I thought I would have by this point in time. By now I was supposed to be married with children (to a baseball player, according to my inner time line), a published author, and generally well-known and respected.

Instead, I am toiling away in anonymity in a job I really don't like and don't have much aptitude for (except for the research and application end of it). My one potentially publishable work remains stuck at just over 10000 words. And I don't remember my last date, it's been so long (and no, he wasn't a baseball player - he was an accountant).

As I reflect on that, I feel more than a little inadequate. I'm still fundamentally the same person who was predicted to go so far by just about every teacher I had (except for my math teachers, but they were minions of Satan anyway, so...). Yet I have accomplished nothing. Why?

I'd like to blame it on everything else: the fact that we were rather financially bad off when I was growing up, the fact that my parents died while I was relatively young, the fact that I couldn't leave Pittsburgh after graduation because I was taking care of Mum, global warming, etc. But I can't. Oh, those and other bad things played a part, but they aren solely responsible for me not living up to my potential.

I am.

I've made my share of bad choices in life. Sometimes I was forced into making a bad choice by circumstances, but more often I simply made a poor decsion. I chose to be an ed. major even though even then I liked writing more than I liked teaching writing. I chose to take the crappy financial aid job instead of subbing after graduation. I chose not to move to North Carolina when my friend found me a job in her school the summer after Mum died. Heck, I even chose to pass notes in Algebra II instead of actually paying attention. Change any one of those things, or the thousand other things that hindsight tells me were bad ideas, and who knows what my life would be like now.

So, as 2005 creeps ever closer, I pray for just one thing for myself in the coming year: Clarity. I ask God to help me to see the path He has laid out before me, and to help me walk it to the best of my ability. I know that many other choices loom in front of me in the coming year, and I ask that God grant me the wisdom to make the right decisions.

I just hope that I am listening.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

What Are You Doing New Year's

New Year's Eve?

My answer is...laundry. Does life get more exciting than that?

Really, though, I'm hoping to get some writing in. I just wish I had a more comfortable place to write than I do. But alas, I don't. Still, I haven't gotten any quality writing done in weeks. If I'm going to commit myself to the writing thing, it helps to actually put words on paper. Makes it much easier to shop to agents and then publishers.

Job situation still pretty much stinks. I stayed up until 1 a.m. fixing a spreadsheet last night, and sent it to my boss. She didn't look at it before sending it to her boss. There were errors. They were minor, but they were there. Kicking myself over that, even though no one knows it was me who did the spreadsheet - they think it was her. I feel bad though. Really, the blame lies with my boss's boss's boss. She didn't mention that she wanted that part of the market share report done this week. She said she wanted the market share report by the 15th of January. Then she calls yesterday looking for this part. And the beauty of it is that it looks like the numbers in it aren't even accurate (not our fault - blame the provider).

Nevertheless, let this be a lesson, kiddies. Proofread, proofread, proofread. And if you aren't confident, get someone else to proofread.

My boss's new boss comes back to work Monday. Don't know how that's going to go. She's worried about changes that might happen. And I'm worried about...well, everything. According to my boss, this person says that she wants to hire me soon, but needs to work out a job description. I want to be optimistic, but I've heard this song and dance before. The fact of the matter is I've been temping there for nine and a half months now. I'm really, really tired of it. Have I mentioned that?

The tsunami. Wow. The scope of that disaster is almost too much for me to comprehend. They said on the news tonight that the death count is at 125,000 right now. I think I saw on MSN that something like 30,000 of those were in Sri Lanka. That's a small city.

It's good to see that so many people are stepping forward to help, though. It kind of restores your faith in humanity a little bit.

Guess I'm going to go now. Yeah, it's a weak conclusion, but oh well. Cest la vie. (look at me speaking French. Woo hoo.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Two links

Go. Read. Giggle.

Giggle at this, too, if you're sports minded. Meant to post it Sunday, but I forgot.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Had Lots to Say...

...but can't remember any of it.

Cried at work again today. Almost got in trouble with the agency I work for. They didn't tell us we got holiday hours for last Friday (and I assume this Friday) and my supervisor let me fudge my hours as long as I make them up this week. Well, the agency called and asked if I did in fact work Friday, because I get holiday hours for that day. Well, I got flustered because I wasn't expecting that, and I stuttered through an answer (damn my introversion), and I got the impression that I could end up in trouble with them after that phone call. Fortunately my supervisor at the company overheard, I told her the situation, and she called them and set everything to right. She's a good person, even if she drives me crazy sometimes.

I just hate temping. It's so hard sometimes because you are neither here nor there, especially with long term assignments. I've been at this same company for nine and a half months now, but I don't feel a part of it. I never know what I can do and what I can't, and I just hate it.

The problem is that the job market here in South Louisiana really stinks at the moment, unless you know someone (this is easily the most political state in the union). I know people, unfortuantely they are all members of the CCC. So even though I know congresspeople, lawyers, physicians, Nick Saban (wait - that's not such a good thing right now), and other movers and shakers, they can't (or won't) help me since I've been ostracized. It's like I'm Amish and have been shunned. In short, it stinks.


Watched Spiderman 2 twice this weekend. Loved it! I've always liked Spiderman, from the first time I saw him on The Electric Company. I read the comics, I've seen every episode of every cartoon series (except the one currently on MTV, since I gave up cable), and seen both movies. I've even read a couple of the novels.

I think I like Spiderman so much because he isn't the typical superhero. There's always something larger than life about superheros: Batman/Bruce Wayne is a millionaire playboy, Superman/Clark Kent is an alien, etc. But Spiderman is just a typical guy searching for his place in the world. He has a tremendous gift thrust upon him through no action or desire of his own, and he as to decide what to do with it, and how to function with it/despite it. It really is kind of profound.

This movie had some pretty deep themes stuck in there amongst all the action. Perhaps the most profound is the idea of masks. Peter Parker wears the mask as Spiderman and essentially becomes a different person. But he isn't sure he likes who that person is. Yet that person is a part of him, just as much as the sweet little science geek is. He struggles with his powers in this movie, and even rejects them for a time. But circumstances compel him to use them again. And the viewer knows instantly when he realizes that Spiderman is as much a part of who he is as the science geek, Aunt Mae's nephew, and the guy with a huge, unrequited crush on Mary Jane Watson. He removes his mask, and he's just Peter.

If that movie doesn't receive Oscar nominatins at least for cinematography and screenplay, then it is a travesty of justice.

Just my $0.02.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

So This is Christmas

Woo Hoo.

It's funny. The keep putting radar images in the corner of the TV screen because apparently it's snowing in the bayous. They actually closed I-10 between Prairieville and New Orleans for a little bit of snow and freezing rain. I drove from Erie to Buffalo in a blizzard that layed down a foot and a half of snow and they never considered closing 90. Wimps

I enjoyed services last night. The church was decorated simply but beautifully. The service wasn't complicated or dynamic or full of bells and whistles (well, whistles, anyway - there were handbells) but it was...peaceful. I think that was part of what was starting to get to me about Catholic worship - for all the bells and whistles and rules and just...stuff, I was losing site of why I was there. Lutheran worship is a scaled back version of Catholic worship, and I find I like it's simplicty and peacefulness.

I also found the sermon very significant. On the way to church, God and I were having a little conversation that went something like this:

"Big Guy, to be blunt, this year sucked."

"I know. Sorry about that."

"Not your fault. But I need 2004 to be better. I need You to help me make it better. You lead, I'll follow, but I need to know what to do."


So I listened. And the pastor preached last night about how we focus so much on celebrating Jesus' birth that we forget the other part of the equation - the gift he gave us with His life and death. He said that Christmas, we need to remember that Love has in fact come, and has left us His grace. He said we need to remember to live in the moment, and trust that the path that God has laid out for us, difficult as it sometimes is, is filled with graced moments and to revel in that Gift Jesus gave us.

Yeah. God and I are communicating again. Contrast above to what I wrote on July 4th (again, I'd link but I'm feeling too lazy. Just go to the July archive page).

I also made the decsion last night to write to two of my Catholic friends and tell them what's going on. I've been going to this church since August, but I'm scared to death to tell my Catholic friends. I'm scared of one of two things happening. The easiest to explain is rejection, especially from those down here in Louisiana. Catholic-Protestant relations here are kind of...non-existant. I'm not used to that at all. In Pittsburgh, the Catholic bishop and the Lutheran bishop issue at least on joint statement of faith every year. In fact, the leaders of all the mainline Christian denominations meet on a regular basis to pray and talk. Here, Catholics seem to be threatened by Protestants. So I'm afraid that if I admit to the fact that I'm thinking of becoming one of the, they'll just shove me completely out of their lives.

The second fear, and if a way, the worse fear for me, is that they'll be persistant in trying to "bring me back home." A lot of Catholics view anyone who leaves the church for whatever reason as a lost sheep who needs to be shephered back to the flock. They are persistent in wanting to drag you back, whether you want to go or not. I don't know if I could face that. It was not a snap decision that led me to St. Paul's. It was months of agonizing and praying and contemplating and studying before I even considered it, then it took three weeks of driving there, sitting in the parking lot until services began, and leaving before I finally got up the guts to go inside. I just don't know how I'd react if I was accused of experimenting or making a snap, spontaneous decision. I'm a rational, intelligent person, even when it comes to religion (I intentionally didn't say faith - faith isn't reasonable in and of itself, but it can't exist without reason as far as I am concerned.). I knew what I was doing when I made the choices I did, I don't regret them, and at this point in time I don't want to go back to the Catholic Church. I can't say that that will be a permanent thing, but for now, I like the community where I am worshipping. I like what I have read about Lutheran theology and spirituality. I can hear God again. It's a good thing.

So I'm writing two letters. I don't know what will happen, but I know I have to do it.

Oh. I made pancakes on my new griddle today. It was exciting. I also made bacon in a frying pan and filled my apartment with smoke. I find it funny that turning on the heat for the first time in winter can make my smoke alarm go off, but an apartment full of bacon smoke doesn't. Not a comforting thought.

Friday, December 24, 2004


I posted this as a response to a comment on my last entry, but I feel the need to post it on the main page as well. Take it how you will.

Well, you know I appreciate you comments. And even though I don't write about it every day, the fact of the matter is that I do know how fortunate I am. I thank God every day that:

  • I had both of my parents around for the 22 and 24 years that I did have them, and that they loved me enough to make incredible sacrifices for my happiness.
  • I have a roof over my head and a warm place to sleep tonight, unlike the people they showed at the St. Vincent DePaul shelter on the news last night, as BR had it's first hard freeze of the season.
  • I had an opportunity for a good education as a child despite growing up in the inner city, unlike so many children out there.
  • I have a job - even if it pays a pittance - unlike so many who have lost their jobs in the past month.
  • My job requires me to do the extremely boring task of manipulating data all day long, unlike the men and women serving in the military who wak up in the morning not knowing if they will see the night.
  • That the student loan people allowed me to attend and complete college, even if I can't find a job that will allow me to pay them back.
  • That I have been able to find a faith community in a different denominationthat has shown me kindness when my own did not.
  • For all the little things God has blessed me with in my life, and there have been a lot of them.
  • For the fact that God allowed Himself to become incarnate in Jesus and allowed Himself to be sacrificed as payment for my sins.
  • That God loves me despite my faults and imperfections.

But the fact remains that I'm frustrated that I've been dealt a pretty lousy hand the past several of years including:

  • Unjustly losing my job in January because the church I worked for wanted to hire the son of a founding (and very wealthy) parishioner for political reasons.
  • Being treated no better than the gum on the bottom of the shoes of the people in the parish I worked for for 18 months before that because I committed the unforgivable sin of growing up in a working class family in the north.
  • Being offered two good jobs this past summer, one of which I really wanted, but being unable to take them because I couldn't afford to move.
  • Temping at the same company for nine months, been told that I'm a real asset, and then having the department fail to put hiring me in the budget. Meanwhile, it would probably cost them less to hire me than what they are paying the temp agency every week.
  • Worrying every time I get a sniffle that it is something more and panicking over what I will do if it comes down to that, considering my PCP charges $80 for an office visit if you don't have insurance and that that is almost 1/3 of my weekly pay, and knowing that I can't receive primary care at the charity hospital because my pay comes to $18700 a year, and to qualify for primary care you can't make over $18000 as a single person.
  • Panicking every time my car makes a funny noise because I don't have any spare money to fix it and public transportation in BR sucks, to be blunt. If I don't have a car, I can't work.
  • Losing both of my parents within two years of each other before I turned 25, and having my remaining relatives reject me utterly after the died for reasons known only to them.
  • Spending most holidays alone, and feeling like an interloper when I'm invited to spend them with someone else.

Yes, I do have internet access, and a DVD player (bought for $30 when I had a job that paid almost twice what my current one does. My ISP fees and my Netflix membership constitute my entire entertainment budget for the month. I don't ever eat out. I don't ever go to the movies. I don't buy CD's or DVD's or books. I don't buy new clothing. I get my haircut at the local beauty school for cheap.

I do give money to my church and to charity. I do do volunteer work through the company I temp for and on my own. I do buy fast food gift certificates to give to the folks panhandling by the interstate.

The fact of the matter is that I whine in my blog so that I don't whine in real life. If I can put my frustrations down in writing for myself and whatever anonymous people wander in here to see, I can get through the day without sniping at my co-workers, whose continual talks about the frivoulous way they spend money drives me crazy. I can get through the day without crying because my job is so incredibly boring and doesn't allow me to use the skills I have. I can put on a happy face for all the world to seedespite the fact that I'm in pain on the inside, and no one is the wiser.

Oh, and I couldn't care less about the commercialism of Christmas. My best Christmas ever was the year when money was really tight for my family and all I got was a sweater, a package of Snack Pack pudding, and a deck of cards. What made it wonderful was the fact that it was just me and my parents and it was incredibly peaceful and just...right.

I know I'm not the only one suffering this holiday season. There are a lot of other people out there who are lonely, or sick, or otherwise unhappy. And I grieve for them just as much as I grieve for myself. I hate injustice in all it's forms. I may gripe about not having health insurance myself and not being able to seek medical care, but I know that there are millions of other people out there in the same boat. I know that I am not the only person in America who is underemployed; with the economy the way it is, there are millions. And I know that despite the fact that I've been dealt a pretty lousy hand, there are a whole lot of people a whole lot worse off than I am.

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh. But the fact of the matter is that it is impossible to know someone from meager words on a page or on a computer screen. I don't think that it's fair that you seemed to have judged me on just a few blog entries. I wouldn't presume to do the same to you.


Well, it's Christmas Eve, and it looks like I may be spending at least part of the day in the emergency room at the charity hospital. I think I'm officially sick, and without insurance, I don't have much of a choice. I've had a low-grade fever all week, and I had cyst-type things on my side and my chin this week, just like I did in February when I had a staph infection. Those two are pretty well healed and show no signs of spread, but what I thought on Wednesday was a zit on my nostril (sorry - I know it's gross, but I haven't slept all night. I have the right to be indelicate) has gotten progressively larger and now my whole upper lip area is swollen, and I think my cheek and jaw may be as well. It hurts so bad that I haven't slept at all tonight. I don't want to go to Earl K Long, because the waits there are notorious, but I don't have much of a choice. Plus, I think they give you any medicine that is prescribed there, so you don't have to get the prescription filled.

The worst think about my current situation is the lack of benefits. I hate not having insurance. Yeah, the insurance I had at the CCC was ridiculously expensive ($70 a month for the basic plan) with horrible co-pays ($25 PCP, $40 specialist, $50 urgent care) but at least it was there.

Oh, and something is wrong with my car.

Will it get better? I sometimes wonder.

I wish my parents were still around. I want my mommy!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Little Things

You know, it really is a wonder how small things can either ruin or improve you mood by great measures.

My friend Amy read my blog on the 16th, the "All I Want for Christmas" entry (sorry - I'm too lazy to link. Besides, the link is still right over there <===). Last night, at 9 p.m., the UPS guy knocked on my door. He had a box from Amazon that he said was for me. Since I haven't ordered anything from them in a year (unless you count the pre-order for Harry Potter 6 I placed a few days ago - can't wait for July 16th!), I questioned him, but it was for me. Amy got me the Spiderman 2 DVD. I couldn't believe it, and couldn't believe how touched I was that she thought of me. I'm still upset that the company I've been working at didn't budget to hire me (although my supervisor doesn't believe it), and I still hate the fuss over Christmas, but that small gesture was enough to bring a little bit of brightness into the darkness in my mood.

I'm off to get my paycheck and to try to bring some brightness to someone else in turn.

Monday, December 20, 2004

It's a Wonder...

...that there aren't even more suicides than there are this time of year.

I'm a little depressed, can you tell? I hate Christmas. I try really hard every year to not hate it, but I never succeed. I know I'm supposed to feel happy, but when you have no family, your friends don't even bother to send cards, and the only gifts you get are pity gifts from your bosses(some awful smelling Mary Kay crap, a cheap wreath, and a votive candle) and an electric griddle from the company you work for to thank you for your nine months of indentured servitude, it's hard to feel jolly.

Oh, and then of course you hear that despite your nine months of temping, and knowing that the amount of work your department has to get done couldn't get done without you, your department head didn't put it in the budget for this year for you to be hired. Nevertheless, they value you and your skills and want you to stay for crappy pay and no benefits.

I've cried the past two days at work. I never cry at work. I don't know that I have ever felt quite as hopeless as I do right now.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

All I Want for Christmas

Saw this meme in someone's blog and decided to put it in mine.

Assuming reality and money are no object, all I want for Christmas is:

  • Peace on Earth
  • An end to poverty
  • An end to disease
  • Respect and tolerance for all people
  • A really, really good haircut
  • An alarm clock that works consistently
  • Spiderman 2 DVD
  • A Chia Pet turtle.

Profound, no?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Water in the Desert

I had an interesting experience at church this weekend. I've been meaning to write about it since, but never quite got around to it.

First, there was a baptism this weekend. I don't know if the rite they used is the "official" Lutheran rite (is there an official Lutheran rite? I would think so since they consider baptism a sacrament), but it was really beautiful. I loved the prayers that were used, and at the end, the pastor took the baby and literally presented him to the whole congregation. I mean, he walked around the whole church with him. I thought that was the coolest thing I have ever seen.

The second thing was that I had a revelation about desert imagery in Scripture. The pastor mentioned in his sermon that the desert wasteland was frequently used in the Old Testament, and even by modern writers, to symbolize separation from God. As I thought about that, I realized that in the New Testament, as well as in the very early church (the desert fathers, for example), the desert was where people went to find God. I thought about why the difference, and I realized that the difference was Jesus. Jesus bridged that separation between God and humanity by becoming incarnate. He is the water in the desert that enables a seeker to endure the sometimes long and difficult search for God.

I feel like I should have known that all along, but it was an "ah ha" moment, nonetheless.

The final thing is that I didn't leave the church like I was a conflict fleeing captivity this week. I didn't linger, either, but I wasn't on the verge of a panic attack.

Progress, I suppose. I don't know what it all means, but there you go.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Please Save Me!

I need music that isn't Christmas music. Or at least Christmas music that isn't sung by a choir that sounds like they are being tortured into singing the least upbeat rendition possible of these songs. If I have to listen to this junk for the next three weeks I am going to completely lose my mind. I think we should pass a law that Christmas music can't be played prior to December 18th. I can deal with one week, but over a month? No way.

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Long Awaited "More to Come"

Yeah, I have time now since I can't do any real work because our files are being moved to a different server. Just a few notes, though, as I'm choosing to keep some other things close to the vest until I process them all together. Yeah, I know no one (except that one person who pops up in my stats a couple times a week - Hi!) actually reads this, but still, I am an introvert.

I had lunch on Tuesday with the pastor of the church I've going to. It was a real step out of my comfort zone, as I sorta kinda initiated the contact (sorta kinda because I responded to an e-mail he sent me, even though I was scared to do so). He was really very nice, not condemnation of my Catholicism or anything (as a side note - while I'm in parenthetical mode - I have no idea where or when I developed the attitude that Protestants are so unwelcoming of Catholics. I don't think I ever had it before I moved down here). In fact, he was very affirming of how slowly I've been moving, and of the fact that I've been trying to separate my feelings of hurt caused by the St. Al's CCC with my...misgivings? about the larger Catholic Church. He told me that he'd get some things together for me to read and for us to talk about, and he said that regardless of how active or how much on the periphery I chose to be, St. Paul's would always welcome me.

That was cool. I feel a little bit better about everything now, though I still think I need closure with the CCC...maybe this weekend I'll finally write that letter I've been meaning to write.

If I was still at the CCC, I'd be in Pittsburgh at a conference right now. I miss home. Even though we came close to our first freeze here the other day, highs have been in the 60's, and this weekend it's supposed to hit 70. That just isn't December.

I'll write more tonight, but it's almost time to leave - finally!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

TS Eliot. Youre the man!

Which dead celebrity are you?
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Yeah. Cool. Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock rocks!

I'm so bored!

The name of the rose
Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose. You are a
mystery novel dealing with theology, especially
with catholic vs liberal issues. You search
wisdom and knowledge endlessly, feeling that
learning is essential in life.

Which literature classic are you?
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You know, I've started this book about 20 times and I still haven't finished it? Hmm...maybe I should hit the library after work...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Oh By Gosh, By Golly

I'm sick of Christmas music's folly (just needed something to rhyme).

In my new building, there are two offices and three cubes in our little area. I'm in a cube, as is my boss, along with one of the telemedicine nurses. She has been playing Christmas music non-stop since Monday. I don't like Christmas music to begin with, and I'm certainly not ready for it yet. Anybody want to get me the new U2 CD and save me from this insanity? I've heard it's good, but I don't have the money to get it right now.

I really do have other stuff I want to write about, especially my lunch yesterday, but I just don't have time. Maybe tonight.