Friday, September 28, 2007

Ask Me Anything!

ETA on 9/26: Here is the answer to the first question!

ETA on 9/28: I made up my own question, and here it is!

I was going to provide you all with a random thoughts post, as I had many of those this weekend that seemed worthy of sharing. But I can't remember any of them now. See what happens when you pass 35?

So, friends, Romans, and random wanderers through the blogosphere, here is the opportunity you have been waiting for, even if you didn't know you have been waiting. Yes, it is your chance to...

Ask Me Anything!

Yes, you can ask me anything you'd like, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral; factual, fictional, or personal. I will answer just about anything with an answer that may or may not be true (I promise you will be able to tell the difference, though).

Haven't you always wanted to know what goes on in my groovy mind? Or haven't you always wanted to ask a complete stranger an off-the-wall question like, "What color were your favorite pajamas when you were four years old?" (For the record, they were white with blue roses, and very soft.) Here is your opportunity.

I will respond to any questions asked over the course of this week. I've given this post Friday's date so that it will stay at the top. Responses will be below it.

Bring it on, World Wide Web. Bring it on.

What Are Your Pet Peeves?

OK. No one actually answered this question, but I'm in a pet peeve kind of mood today.

  • People who write or speak in the voice of their pets. Your pets are not people. They do not have human thoughts or emotions. They have doggy or kitty emotions, but not human ones. Stop trying to put thoughts into their little, animal minds.
  • On a related note, people who refer to their pets as their children, or call themselves their pets' moms and dads or other family members. It is nauseating and creepy. Stop it.
  • People who shop at Whole Foods because, "Organic is better for the environment, " then leave the store and drive away in their Hummer H2's. And yes, I see this all the time at the Whole Foods near where I live. They bill themselves as an environmentally friendly, crunchy granola kind of store, but the parking lot is filled with big-ass SUVs that get 5 miles to the gallon.
  • And again, while we are on the subject, people who drive Mercedes, Lincoln, or other luxury SUVs. You want a luxury car, fine, but make it a car. You want an SUV, buy a Chevy or Ford or Toyota (or any other "normal" make).
  • The fact that the bras I found that I like are always out of stock everywhere. People obviously like them, Bra Company, so make more of them.
  • Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens...oh, wait...those are a few of my favorite things.
  • The markup on electronics. I broke the charger for my cell phone. For the charger I wanted, the cell phone store charges $15, plus a fee to special order it (they only carry combo chargers - the ones that can be used in an electrical socket or a car. I just wanted an electrical charger). I found the exact same thing, brand name and all, on E-bay for $2.99, $8.50 with shipping. And it got to me in three days, as opposed the the 7-10 the phone store was saying.
  • Boots.
  • Frozen food containing carrots. Not everything needs to have orange in it to look appetizing.
  • Martha Stewart and her hour-long commercial masquerading as a TV show (but I watch it every day anyway...sigh).
  • Technophobic people working in state government.
  • Hats.
  • The fact that the more I learn about the candidate I originally planned to vote for (the real candidate, not the poet), the less I feel like I can, in good conscience, vote for him.
  • Louisiana weather, and the fact that you can only comfortably wear sweaters four months out of the year.
  • Ants.
  • Frickin' student loans (though I have to say that the people who work for my servicer are always pleasant)
  • The word "smirk" and, in particular, its misuse.
  • People who don't seem to understand the difference between plurals and possessives
  • Ads for feminine hygiene products
  • The Airwick ads with the impliction of cross-species breeding (how does a giraffe end up with two boars as sons? And why are their voices so high if they are supposed to be teenagers?)
  • The fact that the Albertson's with good produce has bad everything else, and the Albertson's with good everything else has bad produce.
  • Busy streets in this city, with popular business on both sides, that are two lane and have no turning lane.
  • The song, "Our God is an Awesome God." I used to not hate it quite so much, but when you hear it at mass every other Sunday for a year and a half, you get sick of it and realize that the lyrics are both kind of stupid, and that they portray God as wrathful, vengeful, and mean-spirited.
  • In that same vein, most all happy, clappy, "the youth will love them!" worship songs. They lyrics are inane, and are often not in line with the theology of the churches that came out of the Catholic tradition (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican/Episcopalian are what I'm referring to here). The argument is that the kids don't get the good worship music. Let's give young people a little more credit here, can we?

I think that is plenty to be going on with.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Why Baton Rouge?

My first question! This one is from LutherPunk:

Ok, so why Baton Rouge? As a Lousiana native i understand that the call of
Tiger is great, but of all the places in the world a yankee girl could end up,
why there?

Why Baton Rouge? A question I have asked myself on more than one occassion since I arrived (when it took me a good hour to find the apartment building that is a mere 1.2 miles from the interstate exit - and it is a straight shot.). A question part of me is asking again as we in Louisiana endure another election cycle (they seem to happen every couple of months here).

I don't think I ever told the story of exactly how I ended up here in the first place. I shall share that fascinating tale with all of you now (Alert: you may want to have a Red Bull on hand).

In March on 2002, I found out that I would not be returning to the Catholic school where I had been teaching. It didn't come as a big shock to me on any level. First of all, there would be one less class in the middle school, and I wasn't certified to teach lower grades. Second, the principal at the time really preferred that all her teachers (with the exception of middle school math) be certified in Elementary Ed, rather than a secondary subject area. Third, I was a little too liberal, both politically and theologically speaking, to fit in with the culture of the school and parish. I would have stayed if they had asked, but I wasn't broken up that they didn't.

I decided that I didn't really want to be in teaching (though I didn't discount it all together). I enjoyed the day-to-day interaction with the kids, but sometimes the all-important (and inflexible) structure and rules really annoyed me. Add to that the fact that in middle school, I always ended up cleaning up the grammtical problem areas that the elementary school teachers should have taught but didn't (this is a universal problem, by the way. It's why so many school districts prefer secondary teachers in their middle schools rather than elementary teachers. Well, that and the fact that we know that adolescents are almost physically incapbably of walking single file and silent between classes - but that's another story). I sent resumes to a few schools (all out of state because it is almost impossible to get a teaching job - especially in English - in Pennsylvainia), but my heart wasn't in it.

A lot of people suggested that I consider youth ministry. I was already doing this in my parish (on a volunteer basis), I had a pretty strong theology and religious education background (both from classes I took in college and after, and my own reading), and I related really well with teenagers (probably because I never talk down to them). I did some research, found places with those kind of job listings, found some positions I qualified for, and applied.

The first call I got was from this church in Baton Rouge, Lousiana (note that this is the first time I am linking to my former employer. I will still call them St. Al's CCC, but I want those who are interested to have as full a picture of the parish as they can, rather than just my admittedly biased viewpoint). I had a phone interview with the whole staff (which was the largest staff I had ever heard of for a Catholic church - nine people not including the two priests - if you are interested, they are up to fourteen now, with one priest) which went extremely well. I also had interviews with churches in New Jersey, Maryland, and Idaho.

Well, all four churches offered me in-person interviews. The first one was the CCC. I flew in to New Orleans, was picked up at the airport by two members of the administrative staff, taken to lunch at a very nice restaurant (that I can't remember the name of), and dropped off at the hotel to rest for a while before dinner.

Dinner was at Mike Anderson's, a very good seafood place here (though I understand the quality has dropped recently). I had dinner with everyone on staff, and it was very nice. The next morning, I had a group interview with around 6 staff people and 3 or 4 parishoners. It went well. Then the director of religious ed and the director of liturgy took me to lunch and on a tour of the city. I saw Mike the Tiger, and I knew I could never live anywhere else.

Ok, I'm kidding about that last line. But seriously, the city really is rather nice for a small city (or what used to be a small city). I was struck even then by the dichotomy in the city, though. The neighborhood where the church is is very affluent, very well-educated, and very white. Literally across the street is a very poor, very black neighborhood of shotgun houses that have definitely seen better days. And then on the otherside of the that is a middle class neighborhood, which is right next to another affluent one. All of this is within about a mile radius of the church (but add in a neighborhood that is mostly apartments and college students, too).

Later that night, I went to dinner with two high school students who were really active in youth group and an adult (who would later come to be known as a minion of the dark one). That meal was at Chili's. I really had a good time and felt really comfortable. I was impressed with the young people, and impressed that the church involved the youth in the interview process.

I went on another in person interview (Maryland) and was all set to go to New Jersey and Idaho (God help me), but the CCC called me with a job offer. I did what you are supposed to do and didn't accept right away, and I talked it over with friends. I accepted anyway, without going on the other two interviews (Stupid, I know). I knew I didn't want the job in Maryland (it was right outside of DC, and way too...hectic for my tastes. The parish in New Jersey was right outside of NYC, and was probably very similar to the CCC. The one in Idaho was literally in the middle of nowhere (well, Twin Falls, so it might as well have been), and would have been way, way too rural for this city girl. Baton Rouge seemed ideal.

I accepted the job on June 30, and I was in Baton Rouge on July 15. Things went swimmingly for a while, but then I started to realize what I bad decision I made. That happend about...six weeks after I arrived and school started. I was told to spend that first year more in the background, and to let things go as they had been and to make observations and suggestions. Well, my first observation is that there was a distinct division between those who were in Catholic school (90% of the parish youth) and those who were in public or other private schools. I tried to point out that we needed to schedule not only for the Catholic school kids, but the other kids as well. I was told the public school kids didn't come to any events anyway, so why bother. I tried to point out that they didn't come because they were in religious ed at the time, or even in school at the time, and that maybe they would if we scheduled appropriately. Got shot down.

Pretty much every suggestion I made or program I tried to implement that year got shot down in some way, shape or form. At the end of the year, when I could finally take control of things, I spent weeks putting together a new structure that met the objectives laid out in official US Catholic Conference documents about effective, integrated, wholistic youth ministry (Renewing the Vision is the standard, by the way. And it is very good, regardless of the denomination). I gathered all the adults involved in any facet of youth ministry (jr. high, sr. high, religious ed., confirmation prep., etc) and presented this framework. Everyone was all excited about it, was on board, thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then somehow, when we had our first planning meeting, it morphed into something it totally wasn't supposed to be.

The problem is that the people in that parish are all used to being in charge. They are doctors, attorneys, college professors, business owners, and the like. The don't quite know how to step back and say, "tell me what I need to do." Instead, they tend to push ahead and say, " here is what we are going to do." And when many of them band together...well, I didn't stand a chance.

Then I found out on our summer leadership retreat that the minion of the dark one was organizing a campaign to have me fired. There had apparently already been one meeting with parish staff without me, and I resented that. A lot. I wasn't able to defend myself against anything that might have been said, and I had no idea what had been said. I was hurt that the senior members of the parish staff would sanction that. And I was hurt that the organizers didn't come to me first with their concerns.

Well, we had it out on that retreat. It was not the most professional thing I could have done, I admit, but I made sure that there were no youth present by having one of the seniors organize a game of Capture the Flag. I put all my cards on the table. I opened up, and I forced them to be honest (or so I thought). I had no idea the adults I had been working with for so long resented me so much. They didn't like that I had a more laid-back approach to youth ministry. They wanted everything to be heavy programming, heavy organization, every minute planned, etc. I can't function like that. I prefer to have a loose outline and follow where that naturally and organically goes. I'm just not "J" enough to function the other way.

We all agreed that we would give each other more time, and see how the year went.

Well, it went poorly. The minion of the dark one in particular (though she had a few lackeys who followed her every whim) pretty much made my existance unbearable. She instituted herself into every ministry we had for youth, even ones she never expressed an interest in. She was at every meeting I was in, and I swear I could have said, "The Catholic church believes in the doctrine of the Trinity," and she would have argued with me. It made me miserable and insecure. Add to that the fact that I didn't have the support of the senior staff (whose policy was always keep the most influential parishoners happy - they have money and a loud voice), and it was an almost unbearable situation.

The beauty of it is that this woman is now a spiritual director, trained by the Jesuits. And to think, I used to respect them.

Anyway, I came to the painful realization that that particular parish was not a good fit for me. I was also experiencing something of a dark night of the soul as I was coming to the conclusion that my beliefs didn't really fit Catholic theology all that well. I knew I was going to resign, but I was going to finish out the program year.

Didn't work out that way and I was fired two weeks before Confirmation. In fact, after a very painful chat with the pastor, I was given 10 minutes to take anything personal out of my office. They said that they would deliver the rest, which they left on my patio in a driving rainstorm, destroying the books they deigned to give back (they kept a lot of my personal books, as well as a bunch of CDs).

I was bitter for a long time, and probably still am a little. Some of that is starting to wane, though, as I see the direction that parish in general and that youth ministry in particular are heading. I'm probably a lot more sane (despite the stint on antidepressants) than I would have been. I haven't had to try to be someone I'm just not for the sake of keeping up appearances.

I had the opportunity to leave Baton Rouge a couple of times. I was offered teaching jobs in Connecticut and in Houston, but they just didn't feel right. Despite everything that went wrong with my last job, though, I'm glad I stayed. I wouldn't have my current, wonderful job if I hadn't.

And I like Baton Rouge, even if the politics, the racism and classism, and the lack of seasons do drive me nuts.

How's that for a long answer to a short question?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Remind me to never again buy a box of organic grape tomatoes because they were tw for $5 at Whole Foods, then to bring the whole box to work with me. Over the past two hours, I've eaten just about the whole thing, which is about 2 cups. Fortunately, tomatoes have only 27 calories per cup. Unfortunately, the have a ton of fiber, which I'm going to regret later.

I know. TMI.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Just to clarify on my post of a few days ago, I do believe that it is important to commemorate the 9/11 attacks, and Katrina/Rita. My frustration was with the fact that for days, or even weeks, leading up to the event, we were innundated with just stuff. And most of it wasn't new stuff, or discussion about current impacts. I'm all for that.

And PS, I absolutely agree that nationwide, people need to realize that the hurricanes impacted more than New Orleans, something most of Louisiana has a hard time with. They really hit some of the coastal parishes hard, especially Cameron and Calcasieu (which I probably misspelled), and Katrina hit costal Mississippi even harder than it did Louisiana. The reason you only hear about New Orleans is that A) it was the most major city hit (Biloxi was less than half it's size), and B) the government of our fair state has managed to screw up pretty much every thing it has touched as relates to the recovery efforts. I can't talk about a lot of what I know from the inside (since I'm loosely in the industry, and I like my job), but suffice it to say, a lot of the blame for the current condition of the state should be placed squarely at the feet of the resident of the Governor's mansion, who is currently in Spain to "drum up business for Lousiana." She has taken many such trips over her term in office, which, mercifully, comes to an end soon.

Speaking of which, I have an election rant, too. Our elections are coming up in November. We are electing Governor, Lt. Governor, a few statewide offices, and some state representatives and senators. All over town I'm seeing, "Vote Pro-Life" signs. Now, I have no objection to people placing those signs and encouraging others to vote that way. What I do have a problem with is the sillohuette of a fetus on the signs.

Being against abortion is not being pro-life. It is being anti-abortion. I bet if you surveyed these folks, they would agree that they are against abortion, euthanasia or assisted suicide, and stem-cell research, but they would tell you that they have no problem with the death penalty, with the torture of political prisoners or prisoners of war, with the lack of access to health care that so many in our state have (one estimate puts it at over 50% of working adults without health insurance), with the ridiculously low minimum wage, etc. All of those are Respect Life issues, too. If you are going to declare yourself to be pro-life, you better embrace all of what that means, hook, line, and sinker. Otherwise, just tell it like it is and say you are anti-abortion.

Sorry. This has been a pet peeve of mine for as long as I can remember, and every election year it gets my dander up.

By the way, I'm embracing my new goal to use as many cliches as possible in everyday life. Did I hit the nail on the head?

Yeah, this is no shocker. says I'm a Kinda Dorky Nerd Queen.  What are you?  Click here!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This was my very favorite toy when I was a kid.

I got it second hand, and I played with it like crazy, until my parents insisted on giving it away to someone else (I guess 9 is too old to be playing with a toy clock).

I think I will have to save to buy one, though. I may even give it to someone with a kid.

I also had this.

And this.

And my neighbor had this, which I coveted.

Whatever happened to wood toys?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

OK. I'm going to say something that may be controversial or unpopular. Just warning you in advance.

I don't understand why we have to have annual commemorations of tragic events with weeks worth of news stories, PBS programs, etc. leading up to them. I know the 9/11/01 attacks were a critical moment in American history. But they happened six years ago. Six isn't even an "important" anniversary. I could deal with the mention, and perhaps images of a memorial service, but story after story after story for days? Not so much.

I suppose part of it is that I live in a conservative, Republican, Southern state. "God loves America Best" is practically included in the 10 commandments around here (I think it takes the place of "Thou shalt not commit adultery" to see the Republican politicians around these parts. But I digress). And I think that the people who died in those attacks deserve to be remembered. I don't think, however, that I need a week's worth of stories on the evening news or articles in the so-called local newspaper about 9/11's affect on Louisiana (and sorry if it should be effect - I'm too tired to figure out the right one right now).

I feel the same way about Katrina/Rita. In addition to the two or three national PBS shows on the 2-year anniversary (again, a non-important one), there were about 5 local ones. That's a lot of Katrina. And the conclusions? The state is just as screwed up as it was two years ago. Gee. Anyone who lives here could tell you that.

I think I'm going to chuck it all, learn to drive the big rigs, and listen to nothing but The Statler Brothers and the Oakridge Boys on 8-track while I tool around the country.

Oh, and if you are a teacher, or know a teacher, go here for some laughs. Thanks to Blogger Blogs of Note for the link.

Monday, September 10, 2007

There are still 3.5 hours left in my day.

I may not survive the boredom.

That is all.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I did something I'm not entirely proud of today. I snuck out of church (yes, I made it...).

Oh, I didn't leave before the service was over, but I did intentionally sit in the back on the side aisle (as opposed to the center, where the pastor greets people as they leave), and as soon as the assisting minister finished the dismissal, I shot out the side door.

Why, you ask? Today was the young adult lunch, and I didn't want to go, but I didn't want to tell anyone why and I didn't want to lie.

Yeah, I know. Stupid, right? I just feel guilty about it nonetheless. The young adult group at our church has become very couple-centric and/or very, very young. The only other single people are undergrads. I'm 36 years old. I am almost old enough to be their parent. The couples are mostly younger, too - mid to late 20's. I just don't fit there.

But I don't really fit anywhere else, either. I am way, way to young for the ladies who make baby blankets (by about 40 years), I can't be active in any of the music ministries (due to the fact that I am tone deaf and have no rhythm), and I am way too young (and employed) to participate in the weekly Bible study, which is at 11 a.m. on Thursdays. That's pretty much the sum total of the what happens at my church, except for campus ministry, but that's a whole 'nother animal

I understand the reason for all this. Our membership literally spans five civil parishes (and actually, we have registered members in a couple others, but who drives 75 miles to go to church every week?). Nobody is wants to come into town for something that isn't on Sunday morning. But still, it's hard for me not to be involved in something.

Sigh. I'm not having a dark night of the soul, but I am having a bit of a dark night of the...body? Mind? I don't know.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

So I heard on the radio today that Madeleine L'Engle died this week. I cried as I drove to the store.

A Wrinkle in Time is the first "grown-up" book I can remember reading. I was in 3rd or 4th grade I think, and allowed to use the middle school section of the school library because I had read everything in the elementary section by then. I have no idea why I picked that book, but once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. When I found other books she wrote, much later (when I actually was in middle school), I read them as fast as I could. I think A Swiftly Tilting Planet blew me away even more than Wrinkle.

Ms. L'Engle is the reason I got interested in science and space (though even Meg Murray wasn't enough to make me overcome my hatred of math). She also got me interested in writing. When I imagined myself being a writer in my younger days, I always saw myself writing like her. My early attempts were almost all in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. They were also horrible. I learned that Ms. L'Engle's style is not my style, but she was my first inspiration.

Ms. L'Engle was also the first Christian writer I read who wrote about Christian themes without smacking you over the head with those ideas. She taught me that subtle is good.

I really don't quite know what to say beyond this. She was my favorite writer, one of my favorite "famous" people. I really feel this loss, yet I know she is a far better place.

So I will just say thanks, and I will say:


Friday, September 07, 2007

This guy is running for governor of Louisiana.

I think he shall get my vote.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Go read this article about a school for special needs kids in Massachusetts.

I didn't think places like this still existed, and I'm embarrassed that they do.

And I read Walden II in high school, and it creeped me out.

That is all...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

So, I never quite made it out of my jammies today. Yes, that means I missed church again. I couldn't sleep last night, so when I finally got to sleep, I slept until 1. On the plus side, I did about $20 worth of laundry last night. That isn't as impressive as it sounds. Our washers are small, and cost $1.25 for a wash. The dryers are $1.25 as well, and one of them didn't work. I can't figure it out. The laundry I put in there wasn't heavy, and it was warm when I went to take it out, but it was still soaking wet. I also put quarters in a dryer that had no clothes in it, instead of the one I put my clothes in, and didn't discover it until I went to get the clothes out of the dryer.

You know what I wish? I wish my church had some kind of adult education thing that wasn't on Sunday morning. The adult forum on Sundays is really, really bland, and full of old people. I would volunteer to lead something ('cause I kind of miss being involved in ministry, too), but I'm still a little gunshy first of all, and second, I'm afraid I'm not knowledgeable enough in my new denomination. Yes, I know I am being stupid. Nevertheless, I'm still scared.

Oh, and I'm looking for something to enhance my own prayer life, which is kind of stagnant right now. I'd like something that involves Scripture, but not the liturgy of the hours. I've never been able to handle that. Any suggestions?

Last thing. I've been thinking for awhile about volunteering with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Basically, CASA volunteers stand up for children in the child welfare system, advocating for stable placement, educational resources, etc. I've been thinking about it for a long time, but I'm always afraid it will interfere with work. I think my current job may be flexible enough to allow for it, but I guess I should talk with my boss before I find out more.

All right. I'm going back to some sewing. I have to labor tomorrow on Labor Day, but only for a few hours. Those of you who have the day off, enjoy.