Friday, February 29, 2008

This Is Not the Template . . .

. . . I actually wanted. But the one I wanted is way too complicated for me. And I've talked about it so much this week, that, well, we're stuck with this one for now. But what on earth is 565 all about?

Leap Day

Today people were saying "Happy Leap Year." But isn't the whole year technically Leap Year? Should we have been wishing that to people on January first, instead? I prefer to call today Leap Day--although I'm still confused as to what leaping has to do with anything.

I like this day, though, whatever you call it, because you can never say about it, "A year ago today I did thus-and-so." I am going to try again to change my blog template tonight, because it seems like an even better day to do it than 2/22 did. The day itself feels to me like a hidden track on a CD, or the secret compartment in the bottom of the dresser.

I am not doing anything special on this day, really. Staying in because of weather, which has been a little par for the course lately. But still. It's a whole extra day on which to stay in because of weather. Just think of it!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fraud

Do you ever feel like one? A fraud, I mean? I was not going to write about this, but then I read this post on one of InterVarsity Press's blogs, and it reminded me . . .

I had a tremendously lovely day off yesterday. After being at Starbucks from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday (minus two hours when I drove to the small and annoying mall down the street because I just couldn't take it anymore), having worked a full shift and then sticking around for the world-famous meeting, I felt I deserved a day off. I would have lain in bed luxuriantly for hours, except that my body was so exhausted it couldn't actually rest, and woke me up at 7, and so I got up. I had breakfast. And coffee. And finished Harry Potter #3, which I then took back to the library.

After that I did what I have been waiting over a month to do, and have been prevented by weather and illness from doing: I went to Barnes and Noble to use the gift card my aunt had given me. I bought a piece of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake, and a cup of tea, and sat in a comfy chair in the cafe and read intermittently out of two books, trying to decide which one I was going to take home with me. (I ended up deciding on The Last Unicorn because it's way better than I remember it being when I was 11, and also because it was hardcover and beautiful and cost the same as the amount of my gift card.) I sat in there and read for about three hours, and had a slightly bizarre and interesting conversation with a person sitting in the comfy chair on the other side of my table (about which I may write some other time).

Also, I had a phone call from my friend Rebecca, whose mother is in town and who wanted to know if I would like to join the two of them for dinner.

I was feeling refreshed and content as I drove to the restaurant for dinner. Then I pulled off the highway. At the stoplight at the end of the exit ramp was a person with a sign. The kind of person it was is often derogatorily referred to as a "panhandler," and this particular person's sign made no bones of the fact that he or she was there for a hand-out. I said "he or she" because I don't actually know the gender of this person--not because it was unclear, but because I was trying very hard not to make eye-contact.

Which is ironic, since "Twenty-First Time" had, just sixty seconds before, been playing on the radio (you can listen to it if you follow the link). I sat in my car, at a very long red light, trying to justify to myself the fact that I was not going to roll down my window and hand over the $5 worth of change I had in my wallet. We all know the arguments for keeping the window up, so I will not enumerate them here.

Then I thought, "Well, if I had something else to give them . . . but I don't." I did, however, have a warm car, and it was quite literally freezing outside. Also, I had just spent the afternoon somewhat decadently, and I was about to go have dinner at a restaurant. I had a momentary flash of inspiration. What if I brought this person to dinner?

Well? What if I did?

But I didn't, of course. Social convention and all that. I had never met Rebecca's mom before. I didn't expect her to treat this person, but what if she wasn't, you know, cool with picking people up off the streets? It would certainly change dynamics. Plus, I'm a woman, alone, in my car.

These are all considerations, certainly. But sometimes I wonder if Jesus thinks they're kind of lame. At least, maybe in some circumstances they're kind of lame. I don't know what I should have done, but I'm pretty sure that in that particular instance, at least, "nothing" was not it.

That's what I did though. It bothered me enough that today, on the way home from work, I gave my wad of change to the guy standing in the median strip at the five-way stop. Even though, you know, he was probably going to use it for drugs or something. That's what they tell us . . .

But, as Zimmer-Man reminds us, someone else said, "Go and do likewise." So . . . what exactly is "likewise"?

Friday, February 22, 2008

2/22

My friend Brooks has this idea that there's something semi-magical about the number 222, because it is suspiciously ubiquitous. (Just you wait. You never noticed before, but you're going to start seeing that number All Over The Place now that I've told you.) He and his brother and cousin have made 22 February a sort of unofficial holiday, and I have taken it upon myself to crash the virtual party. We don't interact except on Sundays, as a general rule, and already today Brooks and I have exchanged four or five emails just regarding this date.

So I thought, what better day to completely overhaul my Blogger template? I've been wanting a change, so maybe I'll make one. I am going to try my hardest to avoid brown. (But I like brown. I like it so much!)

Only, the templates which actually originate with Blogger are a little . . . well, boring. And yours truly is a little . . . well, technologically inept. So, I found some templates on some other sites that might be kind of cool. I just . . . I just can't figure out how to add them.

Sigh.

Help?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

International Mother Language Day

Apparently today is it. I would just like to know if that title translates any better into someone else's mother tongue. 'Cause I find it a little cumbersome.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You Called?

Jeff mentioned narcissism in a comment on the previous post, and I was going to say more about that . . . along the lines of how it occurred to me just yesterday that while I've never wanted to be rich (just solvent), I think I've always wanted to be famous, though I can't think why. But . . . that's really all I have to say about it, at least right now. I could be verbally self-bludgeoning about the pride inherent in this, but it would probably only amount to another skewed demonstration of narcissism--which I'm too proud to indulge in right now. (Huh?)

So instead, I've decided to pose a question to you which came to me from Barry's comment on the same post. Barry said, "Achieving publication . . . is inarguably a vindicating sign. It is an evidence, at least, of gifting and skill, if not calling."

To which I retorted, "If it's a gifting, is it possible for it NOT in some way to be a calling?" (You can check this dialogue out below if you don't believe me.)

But then I started thinking about this, and I got about as dizzy as I just did above with the narcissism thing, so I thought I'd pose the question more broadly. Well--is it?

I mean, I used to have some skill with the flute. And some time around the turn of the year I decided I needed to re-hone this skill, but that little endeavour got sort of mowed down by Christmas and New Year's--or at least, that's my excuse. I'm aware I'm making an excuse about it, and I feel badly about it in the sense that I'm not sure I can successfully play "Syrinx" anymore, but I don't feel guilty about it in the sense of burying a gift in the ground. Whereas, with writing, I've had to journal since I was 13 or I would have exploded, but I don't feel that way about writing for the public. (Well, except for wanting to be famous enough so that everyone would want to read my--very boring, samey--journals after I died, of course.) However, I have spent a vast proportion of my not-so-vast life feeling somewhat under a cloud about the writing thing--as if I were squandering something by not spending it. But is a slight emotional malaise about something the same thing as a calling?

Is there a difference between a gift and a skill? And if there is, how do you know? And if something's a gift, does that instantly make it part of one's calling? And if it doesn't, why not?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Okay, Fine

My father's reaction to the aforementioned situation is, "I think you just wanted to whine a little bit."

It can be rather intensely frustrating to be told how you're really feeling. Particularly by a parental unit--because s/he might be right. While I'm in the throes of confessing, I might as well confess to liking to whinge on occasion. As you might know. If you've been reading this blog for . . . at least a month.

But it might also be more a matter of what we're actually talking about. I can say I Don't Like Writing, but maybe what I really mean is I Don't Like the Discipline of actually making myself sit down and pound out a few pages. Once I start doing it, though, it's not so bad. I still have to take it in baby-steps--like, yesterday I wrote for an hour and that felt like a record. But, you know, I did it.

My dad might think I really like writing, and what he's thinking of is that I like Having Written. Which is most undoubtedly true. And the fact remains that I communicate with more people more and in more depth via the written word than the spoken one, usually, I think.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Reluctant Writer

This is, evidently, the season of disturbing self-discoveries.

For example, Christianne is just coming to terms with the fact (and please correct me if I'm misinterpreting, Christianne) that connecting with people on a heart-level is more important to her than her writing is.

Personally, I've known that about myself for years, but the thing that has dawned on me this week that is rocking my world is that I don't think I like to write.

This comes as something of a shock, since I have always identified myself (somewhat perfunctorily, as it turns out) as someone who "likes to write," and furthermore, I have in the last month been permitting myself to call myself a writer. I am starting to wonder if the reason I never did before is because I didn't want to have to take responsibility for it. But now I have a book coming out, and I'm writing freelance articles for New England Condominium magazine, and I'm reading books on writing and wrestling my way through a second novel . . . which, by the way, is terrible. It seems that I could vindicate the mild embarrassment I feel for being a barista at . . . this age . . . by implying that, sure, I work at Starbucks to pay the bills, but really I'm a writer.

I wonder if what I like about writing is the self-broadcasting potential, and the fact that I can do it with a modicum of flair. But I very rarely enjoy it. This is making me uneasy, but also illuminates for me why I keep having to browbeat myself to get any writing done. People ask me how "my writing" is going, and tell me I'm "a good writer" or even (this was my favourite, because of the respect I have for the literary savvy of the person who said it) "an unusual writer." And every time someone says it, I feel guilty. Stephen King says that the sign of a true writer is that they have to write and it "blisses them out." I'm pretty sure I've only ever "blissed out" when I was writing once. Maybe twice. Mostly I sit down to do it only when I can no longer find some other worthy excuse not to do it, and then I try to find some other worthy excuse to stop doing it as soon as reasonably possible.

Why would God give me a gift that I use so begrudgingly? Why is it so hard for me to apply myself to it--out of gratitude to him, if for no other reason? Why do I find this gift such a hard thing to be grateful for? I feel like the guy who buried the king's money in the ground.

I have friends who love to write and would love to be published (and deserve the credits, too, no doubt), and heck--I like that I'm going to be published, but I feel like I don't deserve it, since I view the process with such distaste. It's kind of like those friends of mine who are all, "I never wanted to get married--it's so funny that I'm married now!" Well, I've always wanted to get married, and those kinds of statements are a little galling to me. (They also feed my Murphy's-Law-esque ideas about God which are supposedly false--that the things I really want I am unlikely to get, whereas what I don't want will no doubt happen.) I feel that my publishing opportunities are likewise unfair, though I don't particularly want to trade them or anything.

This whole thing is baffling to me. Including the ironic fact that . . . hey, look! I had to write, in order to tell you this!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Something There Is That Doesn't Love a Valentine's Day

Me, for one, although my parents sent me a really cute card . . .

But the weather, maybe, for another. Last winter we didn't have a whole lot of snow. Most of what we got came down in one terrifying blast on Valentine's Day, and I had to drive to work through the worst of it; I arrived at the store an hour and a half after leaving for it, in tears and minus a windshield wiper. It was Not My Idea of A Good Time. After my risking life and limb to serve coffee to, oh, maybe three people, District-Dan decided to have us close the store two hours early. I made arrangements to stay overnight with a church-couple in the City, so that I didn't have to haul myself back through the snow, and then back again in the morning. Fortunately the couple didn't seem to have any big Valentine's Day plans that year.

Today is, I realise, not Valentine's Day, and according to AccuWeather, we may actually see some sun tomorrow. Also, this year has been making up for all the snow we may have missed in the last decade. So maybe it's less random that the weather would be stormy right now. But I find it interesting that, just about one year out, I had to spend the night at the same friends' house so that I could get to work in time to open the store this morning. If they have Valentine's plans this year, however, I am happy to think I did not interfere with them.

We are having a "winter storm," which basically means Precipitation of Various Forms On a Rotating Basis For Approximately an Entire Day. It started with snow last night, and has been pouring down ice for most of the day. I think it may have switched to rain by now. I have no intention of actually going outside to find out.

But anyway, it is people like these Valentine's-Day-sacrificing friends who make me wonder why I would want to leave this area. Sometimes church frustrates me, but other times I think that the people I know in it really are doing just what they should be, as Christians in their respective contexts. In December, when we got pummeled with snow just about every other day, men from four different church families came over to help me shovel. It was almost embarrassing--to need the help and to ask for it and to receive it. But it was also overwhelmingly good.

The weather this holiday kind of reflects the way I feel about it (though a little less passively), but it's that same weather that provides opportunities for me to find out that somehow, and for some reason, I still am loved . . .

Monday, February 11, 2008

Itchy Feet

Store-Manager-Hillarie said, "Are you just getting that five-year itch thing you were talking about?" And I said probably.

Then Decaf-Scott asked me if I didn't just want to settle down and have kids or something. This is the kind of question you maybe try to dodge when a customer asks you it, because you can't be entirely sure what they're asking, even if they sport a wedding ring and have just mentioned that they have a six-year-old. But I'm also not very good at dodging direct questions. (I have gotten in trouble because of this before, but fortunately that did not happen this time.) I said actually, yeah.

Then Decaf-Scott looked at me really hard (but not too creepily) and said, "You do." It was less of a question than a statement of skepticism, and I could have grumbled that what did he know about it, except that I had just given him the run-down of my Adventures-Since-Growing-Up-Here: 4 years in Chicagoland, 2 years in Nannyfield, 5.5 years in London, and roughly 4-5 years here. "Um . . . " I said, "well . . . I'm not sure about the kids part."

I'm not sure about the settling down part, either, apparently, because although I've applied for a few jobs out here, most of the ones I'm looking at are in the Northwest or the Midwest. (And seriously. You would think that if I were going to relocate, I'd at least pick somewhere warm for once.) Over the weekend it occurred to me to wonder if my problem is not an actual desire to pack up all my earthly goods and cart them around like an overladen turtle, but more some sort of inability to do Something Different in the Same Place.

Maybe I identify so fully with whatever my occupation happens to be at any given time that once I feel the need to do something else, I also feel the need to be somewhere else--at least for about ten years or so. I mean, I grew up in this area, but I couldn't come back and live here until I had redefined myself in about four other places first. Now I would, for example, like to move back to Chicagoland, but it's been aeons since I lived there before, so I'm okay with it.

In the last week I actually got contacted by two different academic institutions at which I would like to work. Neither of them are local. Whether or not the jobs panned out (and one of them already hasn't, by mutual but more-than-amicable agreement), it was a great relief to hear something from anybody, because I was starting to fear that I was utterly useless for anything except serving coffee. I had visions of becoming The World's Oldest Barista, at age 97 still hefting change-laden tills to the back room to count them in the wee hours, simply because I never made enough money to retire. However, now that I'm hearing from people out of state, it's making me second-guess myself. I love my Starbucks and its people. Do I really want to move?

I think I do. But there are things that might keep me from it. I don't know. I expect I'll explore some of that here more later.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Easy as 1-2-3

ZimmerMan memed me, only I didn't know it until my mother (who is always telling me when ZimmerMan is talking about me, it seems) said, "I can't wait to read your meme." What meme? Oh. This meme:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

So . . . here we go.

1. The nearest book (next to me on the couch) is The Master Puppeteer by Katherine Paterson, which I checked out from the library because I love kids' books (I wrote one, for goodness' sake), but I don't feel I have read enough of them lately. I haven't read this one yet, either, actually.

2. Did it.

3. And that. Oh. You wanted to know what the fifth sentence was. Okay:
"Yes, sir," replied Jiro meekly.
4. The next three sentences are the following continuation of dialogue (with the next sentence being spoken by whomever Jiro is meekly addressing):

"And I'm not a Buddha!"
"No, sir."
"Will you get your head off the floor before it takes root?"

This is about all I can handle these days, what with job applications and magazine articles and not visiting facebook so I can work on my current novel . . .

5. If Stacey were still blogging, I'd tag her, but since she isn't, I tag, um: Heather, Jasdye, Inihtar, Jenn, and Marty.

This is not part of the meme, but I would just like to copy here, for the general edification of my reading public, the fourth sentence on the page in question, which runs thus:

"The convenient stupidity of you boys--it's enough to try the patience of a Buddha."

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Copyeditors Anonymous, or: A Ghost Story

I am telling you this story because I personally find it hilarious. But I would like to state at the outset that I am not making any assertions or theological assumptions about ghosts.

Whatever comes after the "outset" but before the actual story shall be stated here, and it is the following three facts:
  1. I just watched the season premiere of Lost, which included the character "Jacob," who might be a poltergeist or something--who knows? Who knows what or who anyone is in Lost?
  2. I have recently decided that now that the bandwagon has mostly safely passed, I can read the entire Harry Potter series with impunity. I am on book 2.
  3. Yesterday I finished reading Stephen King's book On Writing, which is actually . . . on writing. It's not a scary book. But it's still Stephen King, and he really did get pulverised by a van in Maine and survive, so . . . you know, still Stephen King.
Okay. I think you know all the relevant backstory now.

Last night I had this dream. In it, I was visiting somebody up in Maine. I have no idea who this person was, but in the dream we were friends, I guess. Anyway, her house was haunted, by a ghost who was classified as a poltergeist. He didn't do all that much throwing stuff around, though. He just kind of hung about invisibly and interfered with things you were trying to accomplish. He also talked. A lot. Man, could that ghost talk. It was really annoying.

I had a pretty clear intuition that this ghost was malicious, but mostly he hadn't done anything more than get in the way (as much as an invisible being can) and grumble. All the time. He wasn't too happy about being a ghost, it seems. He was also kind of snooty about it, though. It was weird.

Anyway, in spite of my intuition, I wasn't very afraid, reasoning with my sleep reason that if this ghost tried anything, you know, really evil, Jesus was in me, and the ghost would have Jesus to answer to. I was in the midst of trying to figure out whether some sort of exorcism would be in order in any case, just to get a jump on things, and the ghost was blabbing away about something, when he suddenly employed absolutely abysmal grammar.

Apparently I was just nervous enough of this ghost not to want to correct him or anything, but in that instant, one of my colleagues, Constant (for whom English is not a first language) showed up. "What?!" he said indignantly to the ghost, and promptly corrected his grammar. The ghost was never heard from again.

I always knew language usage was important . . .
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