Thursday, December 28, 2006

Finally Moved In!

But... Laura... you moved to your new apartment MONTHS ago.

I know. But I wasn't really moved in. There was one *tiny* detail that really kept me unsettled. That nagged at the back of my brain. Wouldn't let me really feel at peace in my lovely new apartment. Something I rarely fully, consciously contemplated, but that tortured my psyche in little ways. A demon I could not exorcise. A ghost I could not lay to rest. Until today.

I FINALLY FOUND MY FRIGGIN' ***PLACEMATS***!!!

So, it pays to go the extra mile for Mom. I decided to really wrap her Christmas presents, not just tape them into the nice little store bag, pretty though it was. So I pulled down my bag'o'bags to find a nice Christmasy one. I know I'm late, but I was sick! She and Kid are coming into town tomorrow, so tonight I'm cleaning up, wrapping presents, and listening to my favorite Christmas CDs. (These are, incidentally, Indigo Christmas, which is jazz, Winterlude, which is contemporary contemplative something or other with guitar, percussion, and synth, sound cheesy, but I like it, and Benjamin Britten's Ceremony of Carols, yes, I'm a nerd).

Anyways, I pulled down the bag'o'bags, and stuck my hand it to root around. And then it caught my eye. That sort of southwest-y weave of red, orange, and burgundy. My long lost placemats!!! Just in time for my New Year's party! My apartment and my life are finally complete, and Christmas is coming!

Life is good.

:-)

Monday, December 25, 2006

All I want for Christmas...

Is to not be sick for Christmas. Oh well. I've been curled up watching Mythbusters for a long time now. It's fun. I'm almost done with my new Season 1 DVDs. Thanks Will. But it's not really Christmas. I am feeling better, though. I'll hopefully be up to full strength by the time I need to do actual work.

My only real problem is that eating instant rice, tortilla chips, mac-n-cheese, or anything else I have in my apartment just does NOT sound like Christmas. And I have no more caffeinated beverage. This could really be a problem.

I've also decided that I want pets. Sea monkeys to be specific. For some reason I'm fascinated by sea monkeys. Hmm....

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Bowling

Well, so Rice didn't win the New Orleans Bowl. We really did not play up to the level I've seen us play this season, and you just can't win in the post-season without being at the top of your game. But I have absolute faith that this is just the beginning of our bowl experience with Todd Graham as head coach. We'll be back, and next time, with a win!

Win or lose, New Orleans was a BLAST. Morale for me was a little at ebb just because of all the travel and worry and nudging aside of Christmas traditions. But I got to see some friends I hadn't seen in years, and hang out with some of the most fun people I know in a city I'm quickly becoming entranced with.

I flew in Thursday night, and actually managed an earlier flight. I was waiting in my gate, and the flight before mine was a bit delayed, and apparently had 13 empty seats. One of the gate attendants approached me and asked if I'd like to just fly out now, and I said sure.

When I got on the plane, there were of course no window seats left, but some rather... ahem... nice-looking young men sitting in a row towards the back kept glancing at me as I walked down the aisle, so, in a what-the-hell sort of move, I made my way to them and asked if the seat between them was taken. They said I could certainly sit there, and the one on the aisle even got up and moved to the middle. Very gentlemanly, I think, since all the men I know would decidedly rather NOT sit in a middle seat.

I had apparently attracted their notice with my MOB jacket, because as I sat down, I noticed the rings. Rice rings. They were 2004 and 2005 grads, and former members of the football team! One of them had even been on the panel that had selected coach Graham. I never did get names, but I really enjoyed talking with them during the flight. Especially since it helped us keep ourselves distracted from the turbulence. The flight was a little rough, but at least the rain had stopped. New Orleans neighborhoods had apparently seen some flooding earlier in the day, but I was able to land just fine.

They apparently work in investment banking up in Dallas, and are just so excited about the changes to the football program. They also planned to get a cab the next day and drive around the city to see how places other than the French Quarter were fairing in the aftermath of Katrina. New Orleans is definitely pushing its way back up, but there's a lot to be done. And as Katy said, it really makes you want to spend your money on the street performers and the food and just being a tourist, because it's an industry that you can contribute to so easily, to help them get back on their feet. I hope we helped!

Speaking of my roomie for the trip, Katy, I called her when I got in, and she and a bunch of others were out at Pat O'Brian's tackling hurricanes of a different sort. I collected my room key from Joanna and Mark, who picked me up at the airport, and my uniform from Mike and Will's room, got everything situated in my own room, and set out with Mike for Bourbon Street and Pat O's. Which I keep wanting to call Brian O'Neill's. Bear with me.

Mike and I found a crowd out on the Pat O patio, and Katy was a little, um, tipsy. :-P I'm not sure how long they'd been there, but we didn't all stay much longer after that. Maybe an hour, and I had a Sprite. It rained a bit, so we got a little damp. In the end, the group split, and Mike took his group of very happy MOBsters back to the hotel while I agreed to get four of them over to Cafe du Monde.

Mind you, before the beginning of this week, I hadn't been to New Orleans since my junior year in college. I definitely need to learn the city a bit better. Right now I'm pretty well landmark oriented, but not at all directionally oriented, and I prefer to be both. My goal for my next visit is to pin down which way, exactly, is north. My next visit will likely be early in 2007, since work will be picking up. As it was, I got us to Cafe du Monde after only five extra blocks of walking or so, for which I felt kinda bad, because some of our party really needed the facilities. But we got there without losing anyone, and grabbed a dozen beignets for the five of us. Katy probably ate five of them herself. :-P Fortunately I had absolutely no problem finding Canal Street and our Mariott from Cafe du Monde.

The next morning Katy and I headed back to Cafe du Monde to meet my friend Ellen, who sang in Philharmonics with me. Hadn't seen her in a few years! On the way we stopped in the Jax Brewery shopping center for me to do some Christmas shopping. I was planning on having to grab a half hour somewhere to get to the Rice Village so I could buy my grandmother a gift card at Chico's, but I had noticed a Chico's there on the walk the night before. Score! We took care of that, and wandered around the shopping center checking out tourist junk for sale. It started drizzling, so we contemplated buying an umbrella, but in the end we were able to just wait it out, and when it cleared up we walked down to Cafe du Monde for our second visit.

It was amazing how many people we saw there and on the streets wearing Rice shirts! The owls were definitely out in force, and everyone was PUMPED. The trumpet player who was out on the sidewalk playing to us started up "Deep in the Heart of Texas" and a full two-thirds of the cafe patrons began to clap along. My friend Ellen showed up, and introducing her to Katy was really fun! They're both living in Michigan right now, so they had a lot of common ground to chat about. And of course there was all the gossip about ourselves and our mutual friends.

Ellen's family lives in Metairie, and their house was definitely affected by Katrina. It's been really hard on her mother, especially, and her father had to temporarily relocate to Philadelphia for work during this last year. It looks like things are starting to come back together, but it's still really hard. It reminds you that even when the tangible damage is dealt with, the scars that are left can run so much deeper. Life will never be what it would have been. It can only be... what it can be. It can only be what a person, a family, a city, and a nation can make of it. They still need our thoughts and our prayers, to say nothing of whatever tangible help we can give, to make it *good*.

Some of Ellen's other friends who were in town came to meet her, and a large group of MOBsters turned up, swelling the ranks of Rice folk, and the trumpet player cranked up Louie Louie, probably by MOB request. Katy and I were hungry, so we decided we would find Fiorella's and sample their world famous fried chicken for lunch. We grabbed Tera out of the big MOB group, and I called up Tim to see what he was up to. He and three other guys agreed to start heading down Decatur Street towards Cafe du Monde, and I agreed to call them once I'd found the place, since I'd received information that it was on Decatur.

Tera, Katy, and I wandered down towards the French Market, and caught a glimpse of our goal just past the big yellow cinderblock building that held Jimmie Buffet's Margaritaville. We went in to stake out a table, and got sent to the back of the restaurant. So I went out to wait for the boys, since there was no way they'd find us on their own at that point.

While I was standing on the sidewalk outside, a guy in a Rice sweatshirt came out of the gift shop next-door. I grinned and said, "Go Rice!" and he came over to chat. He said he had actually gone to Indiana, but his father had played football at Rice, and was a member of the 1961 team! The last Rice team to go to a bowl game! At that point, and older gentleman came out of the shop and walked over to us and said hi. I asked if he'd really played in the last Rice bowl game, and he said, yes! I told him it was an honor and a pleasure to meet him, and we talked a bit about all the program had been through over the years, and how terribly exciting it was to be in New Orleans for a bowl. They went on their way, and soon the boys showed up.

Okay, if you're ever in New Orleans, and if you like fried chicken, then Fiorella's is a place you do NOT want to miss. Ask me for directions. Oh my. Now, I've grown up in Texas, and my mom makes some pretty darn good fried chicken. Her's is different from this, but this stuff was PHENOMENAL. Crispy, piping hot, deliciously seasoned without being too spicy for me, but still with a tang that let you know this was definitely Nawlins chicken. We decided that between the seven of us, we probably ate four fried chickens and a Coke. Jake Blues would be proud.

By the time we were done eating, it was getting to be time to head back to the hotel. We wanted to stop at House of Blues for souvenir shopping, but they were unfortunately closed. So we just went on to get ready. While I was changing, Joanna called to make sure I was in and that she new my right room number, because she had something for me. She and Mark came down, and gave me a holiday gift!!! It was a GREAT tie that has a trumpet on it and says "New Orleans Jazz." Now I have *two* ties to wear for MOB that come from New Orleans and have cool stories (my other tie I bought 45 minutes before I had to be dressed and on the bus for my first ever game with the MOB, in a dollar store off Bourbon Street). Very nice present. I love it! Thanks again, you guys. :-D

For news of the game and the show, you can check out various forums. I just don't have the energy, and honestly, I wasn't at full strength for the game. Though I did do a good job of busting my chops and torching my vocal chords. Go Owls!

After the game the adventures around town began again. We were unfortunately too late to hit the Red Fish Grill, so I was disappointed in my hopes of trying the double chocolate bread pudding. A group of ten or so of us ended up in a pizza/daquiri shop down Bourbon, that was playing some really fun Latin dance mix sounding music. Paul and Chip (who moved to Chicago a while back, and we haven't seen since then) got their grooves on and were dancing to the beat. It sounds incredibly goofy, put like that. Only, the thing is, they're both *amazing* dancers. And I have to say there are few things I find more attractive/enjoyable to watch than a guy who can really dance. Those two were a blast. I even got to swing dance a little with Chip later on, which I enjoyed emmensely. Swing dancing is definitely something I need to pick up again.

From the daquiri shop we made our way back to Pat O'Brian's for another night. Roy offered to buy a round, so I agreed to have a Kir Royale, since that seems to be about the only cocktail I know of that I can actually enjoy drinking. Let me tell you. Pat O's makes a *very* nice Kir Royale. And Roy didn't even end up getting to buy. A gentleman in a Rice polo shirt saw our gear and came over to say hi. Turns out his son is a Rice player, and he just could *not* say enough about how much the support of the students and especially of the MOB means to the team and their families. He thanked us all profusely, bought our whole table two rounds, and chatted for a while about Rice football.

We also ran into some of the team. They *also* thanked us profusely. One of them in particular hung out at our table for while, toasted us, yelled "GO MOB!" a fair number of times, danced along with Chip and Paul, and after being away for a bit, started carrying over six more hurricanes for our table. There was a *lot* of liquid enjoyment running around our group. But it was *just* a blast to meet these guys, and to know that what we do really means a lot to them. That is, after all, a lot of why we do it.

I was good, and didn't even try to start the second Kir Royale that had appeared on the table. One is my limit for now. I don't think I managed to get drunk, and I didn't feel sick, so I think my tolerance is improving with very minimal effort on my part. I still prefer soft drinks. :-P After some portion of about, what, 25 hurricanes? had been consumed, along with several daquiries, some beer, and my girly drink in a champagne glass, it was closing time. We all headed out to the street, and getting Katy back to the hotel took some doing. She was *quite* sloshed. We stopped a couple of times for glasses of water to pour into her, and managed to hang together as a group pretty well, considering I was probably the only person who qualified as sober.

We decided that Katy probably wasn't going to be good for the 6:30am bus loading time, and that I as her roommate was not up to the task of getting us both down there after that much booze and only about 2 hours sleep (it was 3:30am when we left Pat O's, and it did end up taking a fair amount of time to get back to the room). So Will graciously agreed to take me, Katy, and Tera back to Houston with him. We agreed to meet downstairs at 10:30am, we all got back to our rooms, Tera helped me get Katy to bed, and we all slept happily and deeply for a few hours, at least. Which explains why I'm incredibly sleepy right now, and ready to turn in as soon as I finish telling you all my stories.

We got all checked out of the hotel on time the next day, and decided to make one last run to Cafe du Monde. We parked by the steamboat landing and got to look at the Mississippi under a gorgeous blue sky, and listen to the steam calliope play some *beautiful* Christmas carols. Hee. We grabbed our beignets to go, and ate them sitting on a bench in Jackson Square, after looking over the street artists' works on display. I bought an old slate painted with a night scene and a trumpet player. I love it!

Some time after noon we got on the road, and headed back to Houston, with some stops along the way. We hit a Burger King, and when I went across the street to the Chevron for a soda with a resealable top, I saw something pretty appalling. They had angel figurines about a foot tall with fiber-optic light up wings in shades of pastel pink and blue. Ew.

The drive back was uneventful, and now I'm home, so the adventures are over. Time to slow down a bit, and enjoy Christmas. Cruise stuff when I'm done doing that. :-)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Oh, I forgot

Another uber-cool thing about the W. The mats in the elevators.

When we first got there, at around 3:30 pm, they said "Good Afternoon" and I went, huh.

When I went downstairs for dinner at around 7 pm, they said "Good Evening" and I went, awww yeah.

When I went downstairs the next day to check out at around 7 am, they said "Good Morning" of course.

Talk about attention to detail. :-)

Monday, December 18, 2006

I <3 New Orleans

Cruise journal coming soon, I promise. As soon as I have time to think about it without forgetting all these other adventures I’m having that I want to share.

I’m in the W New Orleans. I’ve been awake since 3:45 this morning. Halfway through my meeting at Shell, I realized I’d been up for over 6 hours, and the morning wasn’t half over. It’s been a long day.

I’m so glad my coworker Danny offered to drive. He actually knows where to park at Intergalactic. We got there in good time, considering our flight took off a bit late. They had to find 11 people willing to take the later flight, cuz they’d over booked. For $300 in travel credit, I’d have done it, but I kinda had somewhere I needed to be. Like the meeting I was traveling for.

Anyway, so we board the plane. I had a window seat. And an aisle seat. At the same time. And two people had to move from the front to the back to make sure the plane was balanced okay. Fun! But I wasn’t nervous at all. Danny said he was.

So meeting good job team blah blah blah. Then they took us to lunch. At the Red Fish Grill. I had the venison patty melt, and yes I’m now fully aware that my lack of appreciation for sea food and spicy food mean I will never fully enjoy all New Orleans cuisine has to offer. It was still a dang good burger. And I’m *fully* capable of appreciating the chocolate bourbon pecan pie with caramel sauce that they put in front of me for dessert. FULLY capable. I was really full. And they recommended a good place for us to go to for dinner, and we went, and I was too full to really do it justice. But my ravioli were yummy, and the duck Danny ordered was SUPERB. There was a jazz pianist in the foyer, and wainscoting and striped wall paper and stained glass and still life paintings in heavy frames. But my favorite part of this trip by far was the walk back to the hotel.

First off, I love this city because of how much is within walking distance, and how many people walk. We walked to lunch. We walked from the office to our digs. We’ve walked everywhere. And anywhere you can walk along the street admiring the paintings in the galleries, then get pulled to the window of a club by the sound of a band with a 70 year old drummer, a 20 year old pianist, and a trumpet player who sounds as rich and smooth as Miles Davis… That’s heaven. Danny keeps talking about jazz fest, and I really want to come back here for that weekend.

I have another meeting at 7:30 tomorrow morning, so I should really go to bed. But I have to tell you all about my room. Where to start. Well, let me go over to the window and gaze through the white louvered wooden blinds. I can see the Hilton. I can see the Harrah’s. I can see the pool that has “WET” in big letters on its bottom (they like W words at the W, apparently). I can see some unmarked tall buildings, and the rest is kinda lost in the fog that’s draped the city all morning. I have a closet with an actual door, a nice roomy bathroom, and an incredibly soft, cushy, and roomy king-sized bed. It really seems excessive for one small me. And that’s just the beginning.

I have a machine on my desk/table that will sell me a handful of Hot Tamales for 5¢. I have a clock radio that plays CDs. I have a 27” TV and a DVD player. I have two cushy chairs with a glass-topped end table. And I have a mini-bar & munchie box that has, I kid you not, a teddy bear in a plastic wrapper. In case I forgot mine. Which I did. But since he costs $12, I suppose I’ll leave him for someone else. But I want him very much. Lessee. What else is in the goodie pile?

  • White wine
  • Red wine
  • Bubbles
(WTF? Bubbles? Hold on. Okay, bubbles must mean that miniscule bottle of Champagne.)
  • Bud light
  • Heineken
  • Corona
  • W wine ($42 friggin dollars???)
  • Soda
  • Juice
  • Large water
  • Small water

(They’re all snooty, and call it H2O.)

  • Energy drink
  • W snickers
  • W M&Ms
  • W Oreos
  • W cocktail jelly beans
  • W Cocabon chocolates
  • W Twizzlers
  • W cashews
  • W trail mix

(What makes them all so “W”? Oh, the fact that they’ve been additionally-packaged in a plastic box with a sticker across the lid that says “W”. I bet that’s so you can’t just replace them with, you know, stuff you bought at the gas station for less than, what, $6? Right.)

  • Pringles
  • Energy bars
  • Mojito mints

So much for the edibles. Now things get even more fun. Besides the teddy bear, we have:

  • CD
  • T-Shirt
  • Tote bag
  • Short story book

(Huh, wonder what sort of authors? Huh. Among others, the author of Bridget Jones’ Diary and Steve Martin. Can’t see if they’re any good. It’s also wrapped. :-P)

  • W candle
  • Umbrella
  • Corkscrew
  • First aid kit
  • Intimacy kit

Yes, that last is just about what you think it is. Eeenterrrresting. The coffee and tea aren’t on the list with prices, so I can only assume they’re complimentary. There’s an incredibly soft bathrobe in the closet, tempting me to take a bath and lounge around in it. There’s a little catalog where I can order W pillows and d├ęcor and jewelry and even MATRESSES. Oh, CAN I??? Yeesh.

The stationery rocks, though. You know how in the 18th century you wrote your letter on thinner paper, and continued onto the envelope, which was just like the paper, only sturdier, maybe, then folded it all over and sealed it with a… wax seal? Looks like they’re trying to mimic that. Might have to snitch some and write someone a letter, just for kicks.

But for now I’ve described all the wonders I’ve found thus far, and it’s REALLY been a long day. I’m glad I’m going home tomorrow, but I’m glad I’m coming back for fun later this week.

Night, all!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Update on the trainwreck

Got a call from the complex this morning, just as I was about to call them.

Profuse apologies on their part. My check was received, and I do not owe for any past water bills. What happened was my check got put with the letter I'd enclosed, instead of with the other checks. So it had been remembered yesterday right after the notices had been posted, and they couldn't get my notice back.

This will not go on my record. I am instructed to shred the notice to vacate. I will not be kicked out.

All is much better in my world.

Monday, December 04, 2006

And now for the train wreck

So, I came home to a lovely surprise. I've been given unconditional notice to vacate my apartment by December 7 for non-payment of my rent.

BUT I PAYED MY RENT! EARLY! I HAVEN'T BEEN LATE WITH THE RENT SINCE I MOVED IN!!!

I put a check in an envelope in the drop box on November 30, and thought all was well. Now they're kicking me out? *whimper*

Now, it's possible that there's something else going on. In November I got a letter in my door addressed to some one NOT me, saying that i had an outstanding water bill. I kept meaning to go into the office to ask about it, but I didn't make it in by the date they said. So I called. The girl on the phone said it sounded like there was a mistake somewhere (of the two water bills I've received, only one of them has my name, and none of them have the name of the person I know lived there right before I did).

The letter said if not-me didn't pay the water bill by the date they said, they wouldn't accept the December rent check, and late fees would accrue. Yay. So with my rent check, I put a letter explaining that I had received this notice, and I had payed the bills I'd received, but if I was owing, I would be happy to pay if they'd just address me by name and let me know how much I owed.

So now I have no idea what's going on. All I know is that I'm scared and angry, and so confused, and I can't do anything about anything until the office opens tomorrow morning. At 9AM. And I have to be at work tomorrow morning because Danny's out, and Shell people will be calling for me.

Why does this crap always happen just when I'd thought I was doing okay?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Contentment

I have a new DVD player, and I'm watching Fellowship of the Rings. I have a glass of sweet wine I'm sipping on. The dryer is humming, and my apartment is toasty warm.

In less than a week I'll be on a cruise ship down to Cozumel and Belize. This coming week, and the week after I get back will be decidedly insane, but for that week, I'll have nothing to do but eat, sleep, and relax.

I might have even decided on some reading material. Father Justin spoke this morning about a publication from Rome called Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church that sounds very much like something I want to read. Not very relaxing reading, I suppose. But I feel called.

I had a very good dinner today, and on the way home, I was able to share it with someone who needed it more than me. To be honest, once the light turned green, and I pulled around the corner and out of sight of the woman in her wheel chair, I began to sob almost uncontrollably. I have so much, and I do so little for people who don't. This needs to change. Even if it's just in the little things.

But today I did help a little, I hope. And the concert I had went really well. I had some solos, and I did NOT screw them up. In fact, I got some compliments that mean a lot to me, from musicians I have a LOT of respect for.

The bits I played weren't really all that hard, and the church we had the concert in did some very nice things for my sound, but I've been working hard to gain the confidence to play a solo with more than just the right notes in the right places. I want to play musically, with good tone, but also like myself, to make the solo mine some how. I think it must be like trying to find your voice as an author. You can only do it by... well... doing it. So I played around with it a bit. It's easier, I guess, when it's a song you know well, and for me it helps that it's a song that has words. I just play it like I'd sing it to myself.

Apparently jazz band is paying off. :-) Not to mention listening to some CDs a friend lent me over and over and over again, like he insisted I should. I'm learning, I'm growing, and I'm playing sooooo much. I'm really happy with how today went. I hope I don't slide too far back over the next month, when I won't be playing quite as much. I wonder if I can take my trumpet on the cruise... :-P

So, DVD player, wine, a full stomach, satisfaction with my music, and the sense of having helped someone. It's been a good day. I am grateful and content.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pearls before Swine

Lately one particular biblical passage keeps coming into my mind: “Do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)

These words and the spirit of giving that permeates (but is not limited to!) the holiday season have got me thinking about gifts. Gifts tangible, gifts immaterial, gifts acknowledged, and gifts given only in the quiet of our own hearts. And the value of gifts. A gift has value in the eyes of the giver, and in the eyes of the gifted. If these don’t match, is there any absolute, objective value for a gift?

If you’re raised a Christian like I’ve been, you’ve heard the parable of the master who gave talents to his servants in proportion to their desserts, and rejoiced in the servants that cultivated and multiplied his gifts, but was angry with the servant, who for fear of losing the one talent he was given, went and hid it, and had no more to show than the one talent when his master came back. God, I believe, has an absolute value that He places on the gifts He gives us, and that value is not changed by how other people feel about them, or by how we feel about them. If we don’t like them, we might not use them well, and might derive no more blessing from them, but still they have that value in His eyes.

But I’ve been thinking about things on a more human level.

Back to the pearls before swine. I try every day to be myself, completely and unconditionally. And yes, I’m arrogant enough to see this as a gift I give to the world in general. I mean, I feel like who I am and what I have was certainly a gift given to me, so sharing that with others has an incredible value, at least in my eyes. I want to multiply my talents, instead of hiding them. I’m afraid I’ve done too much hiding them in the past, because I had hoped for different gifts. But I’ve come to value the gifts He’s given me much more. More every day. I’m not always as grateful as I should be, but I try to be, and I try to share. So the pearls, such as they are, pretty much end up flying off of me in all directions. It’s a constant barrage of pearls, some admittedly of greater price than others. But it’s me. I feel like I’m constantly shedding bits of myself wherever I go, and stopping to look around for swine is not normally part of the equation.

Maybe it’s a large component of my innocence that I pretty much fail to recognize the existence of swine in my world. I just assume that people are caring, are conscientious, are compassionate. That they give me the benefit of the doubt, that they want to know me, and knowing me, will of course care about me. I really can’t imagine the person that would have absolutely no value for me as a person, and would trample me under their feet, and turn and tear me to pieces.

But, realistically speaking, these people must be out there. Maybe they’re even people I know, but just don’t know well enough to know that I don’t know them. Or something. Right. So, I would like to firmly believe that giving of myself to people who don’t see the value does absolutely nothing to lessen that value. I am worth just as much with them in my life as without them. And in the immortal (if paraphrased) words of my buddy Tim, “If they don’t care about you, f*ck’em.” (Incidentally, Tim, to find this quote, I searched my e-mail and chats for the F word, and the vast majority of the entries are attributable to you. :-P)

But here’s an interesting question. What if I know someone has a lower value than I do for something I want to share? What if, knowing this, I decide to share it with them anyway, because I’d rather do that than completely shut myself off, and because I’m sure they must have some value for it, even if it’s not equal to my own? Does what I give become cheapened by my willingness to share it where it isn’t wanted, or isn’t valued as highly?

I guess giving advice is a good example. Advice is almost always of more value to the person giving it than the person getting it. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be given, necessarily. It’s just a tricky situation that has to be judged on its own individual merits. I guess that’s the only real answer to my questions above: it depends.

But, to mix biblical metaphors, do gifts cheapen when cast before swine? In some ways, I do think they might. Maybe. The pearls get muddy and broken. But the one talent was no less at the end of the tale than at the beginning. Except in that it was no more. And will the swine really turn around and attack me? I can’t really believe it. I probably never will, unless it happens. I pray to God it never does. But these thoughts keep coming to mind, and I continue to chew them over, if only to keep myself from getting complacent and stagnant and even more arrogant. :-P

Anyone else have any insight on this? I’d be happy to hear it.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Mixed Emotions

Okay, first off...

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW
WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWLL
LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For the first time since 1961, Rice is going to a bowl game. No idea which one yet, but I WILL be there. No missing this. Amazing game, too. We went ahead 17-0 in the first quarter. The second quarter, not so good. Went down 24-17. Tied it up, then went down 27-24, but twice kept SMU from scoring from about the 3 yard line. Finally made a touchdown with several minutes left, and managed to hold them for as long as it took.

Ridiculously exciting, and very very happy for the team and my school and my band and my friends. Incredibly amazing, with this being Coach Todd Graham's first season.

Then I got bad news. A friend of mine lost her grandfather Thanksgiving night. I've lost so many of my own family, and it's just a terrible feeling. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, and my heart goes out to her and her family. What a rough, rough way to spend the holidays. On the one hand, there's the feeling thankful for the fact that a special person was a part of your life, and that you could share part of their journey with them. But you've lost something, too. Something that will never come back. And she was already planning to visit an ailing grandmother, and had to cancel that trip. Who knows if she'll get another chance to see *her* in time. Just, no words. Concern, sympathy, care, love, support, helplessness, humility in the face of a power that can't be gainsaid.

So my earlier jubilation is fairly tempered. I'm thankful for the win and the wonderful opportunity, of course. But more than that, I pray for my friend and her family in their loss. What a day.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Giving Thanks

Pining to turn in right now. My metabolism has retreated into its cave to gnaw on Thanksgiving supper, so I'm cold, and my eyes definitely want a restraining order against my contacts. But I really need to post this before a good night's sleep turns today into yesterday. And today was Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for so many things.
  • The fact that I will soon curl up in soft PJ's in my nice warm bed in my beautiful and comfortable apartment.
  • The gorgeous weather today that allowed me to enjoy playing at the Uptown Lighting Festival, instead of making it the miserable trial by shivering that it normally is.
  • The adoption referral Jim and Reb got that means they might soon be parents, YAY!
  • Joe and Amy's engagement.
  • Getting paid to do something I really enjoy, and am REALLY good at.
  • Having time in my life for the people I care about and the things I love to do, like reading and music.
  • Feeling the grace of God, and the movement of His Spirit in my life, even when I have no idea where I'm going.
  • The fact that Rice football actually has a shot at post-season play.
  • A wonderful, loving, supportive family, that I really missed spending time with today.
  • A life fully worth living and fully lived, loved, and laughed at, even though it hurts sometimes.
  • Going out to lunch with wonderful friends, and eating a fabulous pork chop, then helping make dinner for other wonderful friends, who all loved my cheesy chicken casserole.
  • ALL of my wonderful friends who have loved me and supported me and put up with me through so much. And that means, of course, that I'm so very thankful for...
  • YOU!
God bless, I love you all, and hope you had a peaceful, restful, and thanks-full Thanksgiving!

Good night!

Monday, November 20, 2006

The good news...

Very brief update, for those keeping score. Lab work came back. I’m roughly as healthy as your average clydesdale. :-P

Cell counts all great, cholesterol low. Oh, and I'm O+ just like my mother.

The bad news? The only thing doc can tell me to do about getting sick is to get more sleep, take vitamin C, and have my flu shot every year. And a pneumonia vaccine every 5 years.

Okay, back to life!

Friday, November 10, 2006

New Game: You tool!

Do you want to play a game?

Thanks to OOKaty (or her friend Josh) for the idea. I don't think this is as cool as the rhetorical question thing, but it has potential. It has a *lot* of potential to go south very fast, too, but think the ride will be fun. So here's the question.

If you were a tool, what would you be, and why?

Laura's answer: An eyeglasses screwdriver, because I'm small, meticulous, not very helpful for the heavy jobs, but good for just about any detailed work.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

BIG BOX!!!

I got a BIG BOX!!! from FedEx today! I got the FedEx tag on my door, and my eyes grew wide in instant and delighted comprehension. It came it came it came!!! It's here it's here it's here!!!

I scurried down to the leasing office, and as they started glancing over the little shelves where they would have put a little box, I said, "I'm pretty sure it's the BIG one!"

And it was! It's about 4' tall and a little over 2' wide and about 8" deep. Just too big for me to carry comfortably, of course. And being as I scurried right back down after going up to my apartment, I was still in heels and slacks. But I didn't care! IT WAS HERE!

Oh. What was here? Well, just my new strap, stand, gig bag and tuner for my dad's guitar, that's all! :-D

Laura is happy!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Telling myself I'm being irrational isn't helping

Okay. If you don't remember the tests the doctor said he would run, here's the rundown: allergies, infections, thyroid, kidneys, anemia, diabetes...

and leukemia.

I know, I know. He's just running every test he can think of. Dave G. patted me on the shoulder Monday and said he was only doing it because the other doctors would laugh at him if it turned out to be that and he hadn't tested for it. But every time I think of getting my test results back, I keep coming back to this, no matter what, and I'm trying not to be stupid. But I'm scared.

I'm scared that the fevers and the respiratory infections and the strange feelings I've been ignoring because I can't explain them might add up to something big, even though they seem small enough in themselves.

I'm scared because for the next two weeks, no one can tell me I do have anything really bad and scary, but nobody can tell me for sure that I don't.

I'm scared because I'm not in control. There's nothing I can do. I am not okay with this. I know I'm supposed to accept God's plan for me with grace and serenity. But I'm terrible at grace and serenity. I'm much better at fighting and fixing. And right now I can't do anything.

I tried to reassure myself by looking up the symptoms on WebMD. If you ever want to try that, don't. It's never reassuring. There are lots of symptoms listed that I don't have, sure. But some of the ones listed sound hauntingly like some of the things I've bee telling myself were nothing, couldn't be anything.

Fevers and night sweats. I've always been so cold natured, but a couple of times over the past year I've woken up and found myself drenched. And I've had the sore throat things, but I've also run fever at times with no other symptoms other than the achy weariness of the fever.

Frequent or unusual infections. See above about sore throats. Depends on how you define frequent. Every month? Every three months? It's been at least that for the past two years.

Weakness and fatigue. I won't go there. I'm always tired. I think it has more to do with my lifestyle at the moment than my blood. Some other iffy ones like loss of appetite, which I've noticed lately, but then, I do still eat just fine, so that's probably just occasional stress. I'm not exactly easy going. And like I said, a lot of symptoms that I don't have.

And okay, so WebMD does say some reassuring things. I don't really fit any of the higher risk categories. I don't smoke, I've never had chemotherapy, and I have no family history.

Okay, so you'd think I'd be able to reason myself out of this. Yes, I realize I'm being incredibly doomsday about this. Yes I realize that I'm a worrier, and a worst case scenario sort of person. I'm melodramatic and hyperemotional and prone to all sorts of terrors once I let my imagination loose. I'm trying to keep things under control.

But I'm scared. I try not to think about it, but I'm scared.

All I can do is wait and pray and enjoy myself the way I always do. There isn't much else for it. I've given over this space of time to my witless little worryings and whinings. I don't intend to let them spill over into my productivity or ebullience over the next 13 days. I'll be better tomorrow, and I'll do my best not to be a wet blanket. Things always look better in the morning, and no sense not having my usual Wednesday fun.

Curse, WebMD, though. It's going to be a long two weeks.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Monday Morning Adventures

Warning, my morning was a tiny bit on the gory side.

So today I went in to the doctor's office so they could take some blood and run some tests. My bout with strep throat exactly a month ago was really the culmination of several months of on and off respiratory woes. The day I moved into my new apartment I ran a fever, and I really haven't felt completely up to speed since then. I'm still coughing from the strep, and the doctor says I can expect a couple more weeks of that. Fun. So today I went in because we want to know why I keep getting sick, and to make sure this isn't just a symptom of some larger problem. Or even just allergies.

My appointment was for 9 AM, and I got there exactly on time. I walked in, and saw something I'd never seen in my entire life. A completely empty waiting room. Seriously, have you ever gone to a general practitioner's office and been the only person there? It was surreal! I walked over to the window to sign in, and asked the receptionist, "Where is everybody?" She replied, "I know! We've all been wondering if our watches were wrong!" So I got checked in immediately, put on the scale (152 lbs and holding, which is good considering the crap I eat :-P), then shown to an examination room. They took my blood pressure. (100 over 73, should I be worried that it's lower every time they take it, and it's not like I do any sort of cardio work out? Then again, I hadn't had my morning caffeine yet.)

One nurse put me in a chair, propped my arm on the extendable part of the examination table while the other collected the necessary supplies. When she tossed about five or six empty vials down on the table, my eyes got a little wide, and the other nurse said, "Wow, he's running everything on you!" I guess I'm a wimp, but some of the vials looked huge to me. Only one was the size I was used to seeing. The first lady said, "You got good veins, honey?" I laughed nervously and said, "Not at all." I don't. I have terrible veins. Me having blood taken is rarely anything less than a miserable experience.

She looked over and prodded my right arm. Then pulled up the sleeve on my left and looked and prodded some more. She pulled out the elastic band and tied of my left arm and had me make a tight fist (this is when I realized I really should have cut my finger nails), and looked and prodded. The other nurse came over and looked. They went back to my right arm, banded it, I made a fist, more looking and prodding, hemming and hawing. You can see the veins. But you can't feel them, and one suspects you cannot find them with the needle. So the nurse said she was not going to stick me, and we'd wait for Victor to get in. Victor the vampire. Heeehee! Brilliant.

I thanked her profusely for looking first, before sticking me. Can't tell you how many times they've gone prospecting for veins by just jabbing the needle in a likely spot, only to come up dry. The best was the time they went from right to left to right to left, and ended up bruising both my arms. So I was perfectly okay with waiting for Victor the vampire. Besides, it gave me time to clip my finger nails. :-)

So I asked where the bathroom was, so I could clip my nails over the sink, and the nurse said while I was in there, I may as well pee in a cup. Hey, it never hurts. And it would suck to use the restroom and then find out they needed a sample. I've done that. And I've also sat in a doctor's office for over an hour because I couldn't manage a large enough sample for my employment screening drug test. But that's another story...

So by the time I got back to my room, Victor had arrived. He took my right arm, banded it, and ran his finger over the crook of my elbow. He raised my hand and massaged the blood back towards my elbow, and ran his finger over the veins again. He found a fairly promising one pretty far back on my arm, so I had to keep my arm twisted pretty severely. I finally ended up with my arm on the extendable part of the table, and my head and shoulder resting on the other part, so that this didn't hurt. (He did ask first off if I had any joint pain. I don't, but this is the arm I slept on funny Saturday night, and it's been a little sore since then. Oh well!)

So he bands off my arm even tighter, I make a fist, and he slides the needle in and pops the vial into the holder. Eureka! He found it! Thank God. First try and everything. It didn't even hurt! Victor is my new favorite person.

With my head resting on the table, all I can really see is what he's doing to my arm, so it's a good think I'm not too scared of needles, and I'm not bothered too much by blood. But watching the vials fill up one after the other was kind of disturbing. For one thing, blood doesn't flow. It... well... it spurts. So the level in the vial rises rhythmically following my heartbeats. This was kinda nasty, but also kind of fascinating to watch.

I've never had them take that much blood from me. I mean, we're not talking pints, but still. It seemed to take forever, but really it was probably record time. Still, I'm feeling kind of tired, even now, just a little dizzy, and I really want a steak. Can you get those delivered? :-P

Anyways, the doctor came in and talked with me a little about my cough and what sort of tests they'd be running. They'll check for diabetes, leukemia, thyroid problems, anemia, all sorts of stuff, including allergies. They'll go ahead and check my cholesterol (been meaning to have that done) and at my request (and insurance might not cover it) they'll check my blood type. It's something I feel like I should know, and don't. The doctor agrees it's good information to have. My money's on O+ like my mother, though O-, A+, and A- are also possibilities. If a B shows up, we have problems. ;-)

At any rate, I now have another 9 AM appointment for Monday, November 20, to see if my cough is any better, and to get my test results. I kind of suspect I'm a little anemic. My coworker says she was anemic in high school, and she was always cold, and didn't heal very fast, and those both go for me as well. And I do have other allergies. Maybe I have some that I don't know about that make me predisposed to all this respiratory junk. But when he started saying things like leukemia and diabetes, I got a little scared. I mean, I don't have any family history, which is reassuring, but still... Well, I guess I'll find out in a few weeks.

In the mean time, seriously, does anyone know of a steak place that delivers?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Diploma'd!!! Uh... Again!

I have *two* diplomas! Got another one at my new place. Interesting, I must say.

I have very little else to say.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Breath-Taken

This morning the city once again caught me off guard with the sort of soul-piercing beauty that is just so rare when you get this many of your closest friends together in so few square miles. It was a lovely day, of course. And at about 8:45 I stepped out of my apartment to head to church. I got into my car, pulled out of my spot, waited for the gate to open, and made the turn to leave the complex.

And was frozen in my tracks.

The newborn morning is a magical thing. When the sun is up and the world is officially awake, but still young and fresh. When the day hasn't yet started walking around and getting into trouble, but has just sat up for the first time and blinked it's wide eyes.

The sun came from the east over the hill in front of me (an embankment that lifts the street up to send it vaulting over the quarry and the train tracks south of my complex). The sky was blue and the sun shone down on the grass, where the vivid green was almost hidden by a dazzling blanket of dew. It looked like every blade was encrusted with diamonds, and I was struck with a physical sense of wonder, of awe, of worship, and of humility.

My breath was startled out of me, and I began to cry, because of the amazing, incredible beauty of an entire hillside sparkling under the young day.

I don't think I have words to convey the image, or the emotion. But my soul was shocked to stillness. The sort of stillness that comes after the earthquake, after the fire. When suddenly within yourself you hear the still small voice. It was always there, but too much was in the way. When you hear it all of a sudden like that, it can be shattering.

I haven't been to church very regularly lately. Today was my first day back in the Catholic Student Center choir after over a month of weekends home sick or weekends out of town. I was looking forward to this day back as a sort of coming home, even though my voice is still very weak from the strep. I miss my community of faith, and I miss the peace I find in doing things this way. I was prepared to get emotional about it. I wasn't prepared to have the prison walls riven open before I'd even gotten on the road.

But there I was crying as I drove, barely able to catch my breath. All because of sunlight on dewy grass. And there I was confronting the part of my soul that is helpless. I'm a pretty confident person, and I like to do and to fix, not to submit and wait. But this stripped me down to something inside myself that is completely helpless. Something that lies prostrate, is very easily hurt, and has *been* very hurt, and still hurts very much, and can only offer itself up to God and say, make of me what You will. I am nothing without You. In fact, I'm pretty much just lying here on the floor in the dark sobbing my heart out and praying that You will send me strength and peace and joy, because I can't find them alone. I've tried. Please help.

He so often does.

We sang a song in church today that I have always loved. But without the morning's vision, it would not have touched me like it did this time.

He healed the darkness of my mind
The day He gave my sight to me.
It was not sin that made me blind.
It was no sinner made me see.

Let others call my faith a lie
Or try to stir up doubt in me.
Look at me now, none can deny
I once was blind but now I see.

Ask me not how! But I know who
Has opened up new worlds to me.
This Jesus does what none can do.
I once was blind but now I see!

That dazzling light this morning opened up a new world. A world I don't know yet, and don't understand yet. But the eye-opening for me has always been like peeling an onion, or better, the thinning of the veil in slow stages. I'm not saying I have it all right. I have my questions. I have my doubts. But I'm doing the best I know how to do, and this is what feels right for me.

I'm used to feeling these things out in places like Glacier or the Hill Country. In places where I feel like my soul can stretch out as far as I can see without running into anything or anybody. I feel so much freer, less confined out there. But it looks like the Spirit can still manage to find me in the big city, too. It's nice to be reminded that I'm never completely lost in this crowd. And that thought in itself, that I am never lost, even among so many people, can be pretty darn breath-taking, too.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sick and Tired

of being sick and tired
of dark mornings
of being cold when it's warm outside
of caring so much
of not caring enough
of being told my vote doesn't count
of people who talk about happiness in terms of politics and not people
of narrow minded bigots
of respiratory protective program standards
of the word "shall"
of being the walking reference index for the finer points of Shell formatting
of bulleted Word styles that won't stay put and Word tables that behave in inexplicable ways
of "quick" format edits for people who can't format worth crap
of cars and buildings
of gas prices
of the shifting concrete in the road by my apartment
of the poor customer service at the nearest T-Mobile store
of not being able to sing through my full range
of coughing
of having no breath support when I play
of not having any completely free weekends at home until next year
of having only one free evening a week
of being lonely
of having no time to meet new people
of weighing 15 lbs more than I want to
of my lack of motivation to lose weight
of never going out dancing
of never getting asked to dance when I do
of not seeing the friends I don't see
of incompetance
of mediocraty
of complacency
of my own impatience with others
of fighting losing battles
of being sick and tired

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Expectations

Another motif that has been coalescing from scattered elements of my life lately. And has culminated in a big way leading up to the occasion of my ten year high school reunion. Where to begin? This is a huge thing for a perfectionist over-achiever like me. What I've been thinking isn't really news. But it's started meaning something new for me.

Okay, 12 pm yesterday (Saturday) found me performing invasive surgery on a box of granola bars whilst driving west down I-10 at 85 mph listening to Miles Davis. Headed home. For real this time. I didn't stop in Schertz.


I met Mom in northwest San Antonio at the salon where she was having her hair done. When she was finished, we went to visit an old neighbor that we hadn't seen in a while. After visiting with her for an hour, it was time to go to the reunion. But I made one more stop first. I had to see home. I can't drive up the driveway any more, without being weird and creepy, but I made the turn down that one lane, dead-end road.


I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but nothing had changed. The golden afternoon sunlight through the mesquite and cedar trees. The rusty old mail box and sagging barbed wire around the gate. I could even still see the old pile of unused bricks standing where it's been since the house was built... I took these pictures with my cell phone, cried a little, and drove on.





Our reunion was held in the Spirits Saloon in Rio Medina. I got there around 5:30 PM, and recognized about half the people in the room. And was recognized by about half. :-P Something about having had really long, blond hair in high school and having short, red hair now... I felt somewhat awkward the whole evening with the looking at people looking at me, wondering if we knew each other.


It was fun getting caught up with folks. But I also think I disappointed a few people...


Apparently technical writing is not the glorious future some of my classmates were pleased to imagine for me, Valedictorian and voted Most Likely to Succeed. On girl said, “Oh, wow. I would have thought you'd be a rocket scientist or something.” One of the guys said, “Man, I thought you were gunna find a cure for cancer!” And of course I had to field all of the “Didn't you get married?” questions. Sigh. When you put it that way, I don't really sound too successful. It all comes back to your expectations.


I guess I knew I might seem a little... lackluster... to my classmates. I just happen to know myself a better than they do. And I happen to know that not all really bright people become doctors or rocket scientists. Not all people with 1500+ SAT scores and perfect GPA's go on to change the world in conspicuous ways. Not all of us like rockets, after all. And not all incredibly smart decisions are, by that token, good decisions.


But I'm very glad I went to the reunion. It was fun to see how everyone had changed, or hadn't changed. And I had some great conversations. One of the most musically talented guys in the class immediately asked me if I was still playing my trumpet, and I was happy to say I played in three bands and sang in my church choir. It's a part of my life I'm very proud of, even if I don't make any money doing it and it tears my weekly free time into shreds. But it's fun, and it's a talent I haven't sacrificed to the career gods.


And I had a great time talking to a guy who does graphic design and layout for a small publication in San Antonio. He condoled with me about clients who want to change everything to Arial font to save space, and when I mentioned I'd really like to be an editor some day, he said it sounded like I'd be good at it. Heh, maybe there's hope for me impressing the masses at the 20 year reunion. :-P


So much for living up to my own legend. Fortunately I just don't measure life like that. My friend in graphic design did share something with me that would have made the entire thing worth going to, even if everything else had sucked. He told me how he still remembers, for whatever reason, a morning back in the summer of 1996, just after we'd all graduated. He was driving to work and listening to the radio, and my name caught his ear. Bob Berwick was calling in to the radio station just to say how proud he was of his daughter Laura, and to wish her luck in the coming fall, when she'd be going to Rice University.


I never knew about that. He never told me he'd done it, and I didn't hear it on the air. It's funny, but I'd always thought I'd disappointed him a little by not going to A&M. And maybe I did. And of all the people whose expectations come anywhere close to mattering, I can tell you, my dad is at the top of that list, right beside my mom, and the Medina Valley High School class of 1996 isn't on it. I always knew Daddy was proud of me, but hearing this... Maybe it seems like a small thing, but I can't say how much it made my evening, ten years after the fact. I'm so very grateful that my friend remembered it after all this time, and was able to tell me. It means the world.


Speaking of parents and expectations, I was thinking about this the other day. I met the father of a friend of mine, and he's a pretty impressive person, by my own brief estimation, and by all I hear. My friend asked if I had found him intimidating, and talked about how hard it could be to live up to a father like that. I actually didn't find him intimidating, and I think that's because he seems very good at what he does, which I definitely respect, but what he does is not what I do, and I have every confidence in my own ability to be formidable in my own field.


But I can imagine how frustrating it might be to have any sort of expectation that you would measure up to that, and just not feel like you will, for whatever reason. I know there have been times where I set expectations for myself that weren't realistic. That weren't who I was. And I failed. I set myself up for failure, and sure enough, I screwed some things up. In the end, it's a pretty futile exercise, so I'm doing things differently now.


I know my parents did have certain expectations. I told my mom once I thought it would be cool to be a truck driver. That might have been the only time in my life when my mother was not supportive. "You are NOT going to become a truck driver. You ARE going to college. And you're not doing that well in driver's ed, you know." Dude, I was just sayin'...


At the same time, my mom and dad both always said I could be anything I wanted to be. I always admired them for what they were good at. My grandfather was one of those impressive people, and I idolized him. But I've never felt compelled to live up to any of my family members. I do feel like I've gone beyond some of them in some ways, because of the opportunities I've been given. But in doing so, I was only fulfilling who I was, not trying to outdo anyone else.


Besides, for me, success isn't about who's heard of what I've done, or who I've equalled or surpassed. I finished reading Middlemarch by George Eliot earlier this month, and the very last passage really resonated with me.


[T]he growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill for you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”


I expect most of my acts to be unhistoric. I'm not an ambitious person, and I'm not an activist. I've always found it easier to change my own little habits and exchange deep thoughts with my close friends than to change how society does or sees anything. I might never write the great American novel, but I've been touched and humbled every time someone tells me that they like reading this blog. That something I said, or something I felt, spoke to them. If I in any small way make a difference to someone, that is success. And for myself I want to grow and learn and be touched by every person I meet. Those are my expectations.


And when it comes right down to it, those are the only expectations that matter: my own. What do I demand of myself? What do I want out of life? What do I need to do to be the absolute best ME I can be? Not what do I need to do to make money, though that is a needful thing. Not what do I need to do to impress my classmates at the 20 year reunion (that is not needful). Not what do I need to do to satisfy my mother, or heaven help me, my grandmother who doesn't like my hair and keeps saying how surprised she was that I got a divorce. Not even what do I need to do to honor the memory of my father.


No. What do I need to do to be proud of myself? To be happy with who I am and where I am? What do I owe to myself and no one else? Am I doing this?


The answer is yes, professionally, personally, in every aspect of my life. The result is I'm happy, in spite of the things I'm still working on. After all, life is not a destination. I will never arrive at something I can call my life. It's happening to me right now. I can't make it stop, and I can't hurry it along when it's not getting where I want to go fast enough. But I'm doing my best to make the most of the ride, and to me that means I'm a success, in spite of any misguidedly grandiose expectations there might be floating around for me out there.


But you know, I have friends that design rockets, and I have friends that study cures for diseases. If by being a friend to a person, I make their life easier, more fun, or in some small way let them know they are cared about, am I helping? Do I have a little hand in their great works? Is that what Eliot meant?


If so, then I'm all over that saving the world thing!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Diploma'd!!!

I have my UH diploma! They sent it to my old apartment complex, and I had to go pick it up. BUT!

My name is correct.
My DEGREE is correct (i.e., it shows the degree I actually earned, not the non-existent degree they listed in the graduation program).
It's NOT 8.5x11, so it won't look *too* shabby next to the half rack of lamb my other Rice diploma is printed on.

Now I just have to get it framed. Hopefully less than three years from now.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head


But that doesn't mean my... apartment will flood. I hope. :-P












Is anyone building an ark?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Little Bit Haunted

Do you ever have one of those days, weeks, months, where things start happening, and they start to bring stuff you thought you’d left behind for a while right back up into your face, surrounding you, and staring at you, demanding attention?

And you get really tired of just looking at them looking at you, and you realize that the only way you’re going to get away from them is to fight your way through them?

I’m fighting. Hopefully I’ll find some breathing room on the other side.

The strangest thing happened to me yesterday. I was driving down Kirby, headed for dinner with friends. I was stopped at the intersection with 59. I was sitting between the Taco Cabana north of Bennigan’s and the building that has the Red Onion in it. And I smelled this smell.

It was a combination of motor oil and Jim Beam and cigarette smoke and… and… and something indescribable, but undeniably warm and human. I guess it sounds fairly terrible, if you didn’t know it, but I did.

It was Daddy.

For a second I was absolutely certain that if I turned and looked over my right shoulder, he’d be there, in the back seat. With that quiet, still look on his face that he’d get when he was concentrating on something, before he’d look up and see his little girl watching, and smile. Why he’d be sitting in the back seat, I don’t know. But that’s just where the smell seemed to be coming from. Which makes no sense. None of it made any sense.

Because he wasn’t there. Not even in spirit. I’d have felt that, wouldn’t I? And I felt nothing. Just the smell, the memory. And the pain. Trying to drive down the road, make my turns, the every day business of getting where I’m going one step at a time. And all the while my soul flailing around about me, reaching here and there like a blind man searching, searching for the warm touch of a remembered hand. Surely it was right there, just a second ago?

And now it’s all back. It’s been creeping up for a while, and it comes and goes like waves on the beach. I guess I’ve seen it coming. Things have just been happening.

I’ve made some new friends. Eventually, somehow, it always comes up. Normally, because I’m still lax in the tense I use when I talk about him, it’s a little uncomfortable. But no matter how smoothly it happens, it’s never easy for me. The tears just fall on the inside now.

Then I went to my friend’s commitment ceremony. I love her and her family very much. I’ve pretty much been part of the family for years. I lost touch with them all a bit when I left home and got married. But Daddy still stopped by to visit them every so often, and Daddy was always willing to help out anyone who needed help he could give.

It was my friend’s father that Daddy was helping when he died. The visitation in Castroville was the first time I’d seen my friend in years. My ties to her and her family will always be inflected by my loss, and my grief. Not in a bad way, because I love them very much, and I love him very much. I don’t think I can even begin to explain. But seeing her and her family brought it a little nearer.

Then last week, a man in the community band I play in, with the same name as my father, and probably not much older, had a light stroke. He’s recovering very well, and was in band on Wednesday, and everyone was so glad to see him. And I hope very much that he’ll continue to improve, and be healthy. But it wasn’t many months before Daddy died that he had what was probably a small stroke. He was driving, and he lost vision in his left eye, and lost feeling in his arm and hand, and ended up taking out a mail box. And it came a little closer.

So all these things, and other things, have brought me here. To a point in time when some stray accidental scent from a city full of weird smells can turn me around into a tight little knot inside myself. Curled around the old grief, and feeling it in new ways.

I’m trying to date again, some. Who will tell any man who starts to matter that the worst and last mistake he’ll ever make is to hurt me? Who’s got my back like that now? Who will ever cherish me like that again? Whose other, better self can I possibly be as truly as I was his. As he told me I was.

He told me, not long before he died, that he knew I understood him better than anyone ever did, because I was like him. But that I was more. I was the person he would be if he could go back and try again.

And I didn’t tell him what I would give anything to tell him now. It was in my heart, but it was hidden. I told him everything I could. But I somehow couldn’t tell him that he was the person I was going to be before it was too late. That I had so many of his gifts frozen inside of me, and that my greatest wish and prayer was to break them loose, thaw them out, and raise them up. That he was full of a life and a love that I was too afraid to fill myself with. That he gave himself in ways that I was too terrified to risk. But that whatever it took, I was going to do it, damn it, because when I die, I want to have lived.

See, when I lost him, I couldn’t let him go. I couldn’t. But I couldn’t keep him unless I became all the things I cherished in him, all the things that made me proud to be from him. It was the only thing I could do. I know I can be those things. They were his gift, and I hold them in myself. But it takes so much courage, and sometimes I’m not that brave. It takes so much strength, and sometimes I’m not that strong. Sometimes I’m so damned tired of being strong. It’s worth it to me, but it makes me so tired. And it hurts so much.

It still hurts. Every time I throw my feelings of into the ring, which I do every day to some degree. Every time I invest my spirit and my energy in any sort of gamble, and let’s face it, all of life is a gamble. It hurts. It hurts to drop the chips on the table and step back, and it hurts even more to watch someone else scoop up the pot. But I keep on doing it, because if I didn’t, I’m pretty sure I’d lose even more.

I’ll be fine. I can be as strong as he was. I can be more stubborn than he was. And I lost him in himself, but I found him in myself. And if I hadn’t found him there, I wouldn’t really be alive. But it still hurts so much. I try to keep him alive as much as I can, because it’s the only way I can do this. And I do believe I will see him again. If I had no other reason to believe in heaven, I would cling forcibly to any faith that gave me that chance. To see him and tell him what I didn’t tell him.

I’m not sure I believe in ghosts. I don’t discount them. But he wasn’t in my car yesterday. Not that way. Sometimes, even if it’s a blasphemous wish, I do wish he could be. I want something I can face, even if I can’t touch it. Some feeling of a presence that could never be anything but loving, outside of myself. Something reflected back of all the love I’ve had in my heart for over four years now, and that will continue to build up in the years to come, with no father to give it to.

When he died, a good friend who lost her mother when she was thirteen told me two things. “You’re going to see him. You’re going to see him everywhere. It’s okay, you’re not going crazy. And it will get better, but it will never be really right again.” Those things comforted me, really. To know that I wasn’t crazy, and that it was okay if I never got completely better. Four years and change later, it still can come over me some times. In the strangest ways, for the strangest reasons. Ever day is better, but no day will be what it used to be, or what it would have been. That last is not actually an unmitigated evil, but it’s still hard.

This is what I’ll be working on tonight. This is what I’ll be working on my entire life.

This weekend should be happy. So tonight, I think I'll just go ahead and be sad. It's been coming for a while. And the rain outside seems to be keeping me company. It'll be better tomorrow, and I'll be ready to face it all again.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ready for a Jail Break

Ugh.

So. I've been sick. For a while now. Depends on when you start counting. Was sick over a month ago, and the residual asthmatic cough never went away. But I counted myself better. Until last Sunday, when I briefly ran a low grade fever. It went away pretty quick, but on Monday I had a sore throat. Which I decided was probably more due to having dyed my hair on Sunday, and then having slept with the covers over my head all night. The throat was much better come Tuesday, and Wednesday I was almost back to normal, with just the same light cough.

Thursday morning wasn't so good, but I got up and went to work. And proceeded to go down hill rapidly, until the boss walked by at around 9:15, looked at me, and said, "Do you need to leave?" I looked up at her, then down at my work, then over at my jump drive, and said, "Yeah." I loaded up some files on the jump drive, drove home, looked up a doctor covered by my new insurance, made an appointment for that afternoon, and tried to keep getting work done. With limited success.

The doctor listened to my story, looked at my chart, told me to open wide, flicked a light into my throat, and said immediately "Oh, you've got strep."

Great.

So I got a shot, a prescription for some antibiotics, and an order not to go to work until he gave the okay and to come back Monday morning.

So. Since about 3PM on Thursday, I have been in my apartment. I have left exactly twice, to go check my mail. Yesterday I finally went all day with only one sneeze and only used one tissue, which was a great improvement over preceding days. I also watched the entire Star Wars trilogy on DVD using my new lap top. It's very much nice. But I'm a bit burnt out on movies now. I know, that didn't take long.

I also finished one George Eliot novel (Middlemarch) and started a second (Silas Marner). I'm a little burnt out on books. I have been writing for work off and on, and have also been working on some personal essay type writings just to keep my brain from eating through it's own synapses. But I'm a little bit burnt out on writing.

This morning I started to sing in the shower. At that point I realized, 1) wow, I can sing again, and 2) wow, I haven't used my vocal chords in over 60 hours. Lovely.

My usual group of hang-out-on-weekends friends are out of town, because they got to go to New Orleans for the Rice vs. Tulane game. I could not. I was sick.

Only, I feel much better now. Just a little weak still. But I bet I'm not contagious. I'd really like some real food (I've lost 5 lbs living on leftover surprise). And for once the introvert is feeling lonely. :-P

I'M ALSO GOING FRIGGIN INSANELY STIR CRAZY IN HERE!!!

The doctor had better clear me for human contact tomorrow, or I may just lose what few wits I have!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Am I a Fool?

Am I a fool because my heart
Does not lie
In a cage of my own building?
Should I only let it sing when all
The doors are shut
And every window closed to keep the cat out,
As if it were a tame and pretty bird
Content with dead air
And too afraid to face the storms?
Would you tell a wild, free thing
Where not to go,
Or teach a lark the tale of Icarus?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

If music be the food of love, play on...

Music, for a while, let all your cares beguile...

Standing in the middle of Best Buy, behind two easy chairs set up facing a HUGE flat panel hi-def television with the most sophisticated audio and video equipment arranged beneath, I stood entranced.

On the screen was a live Dave Matthews Band performance, in the middle of a tenor sax solo. These few minutes given over to dreaming, and making all the other weekend shoppers disappear from my world. Only music, only dreams, and behind them, silence and darkness.

I needed those moments. It's been a long day after a long week.

What I really needed today was a new phone. But the T-Mobile store didn't have any old (cheap) phones, and I'm not ready to buy the latest greatest. Besides, I'm not eligible for rebates on upgrading to the latest greatest until three months from now. Wish I'd known when I renewed my contract that my antenna would get lost. I'd have just gotten the new phone then. So, balked in this desire, I turned to something... more expensive.

I was at Best Buy to test drive laptops. I did not intend to buy one this weekend. But frustration of one wish will so often drive us into fulfilling what we can, even if it's the less desirable option. I am typing this entry on a brand new Toshiba Satellite. It's pretty spiffy, really. It only cost a *little* more than one month's rent... And hey, it's not the teeny-tiny Vaio I almost fell in love with. THAT would have hurt. This I needed anyway.

Of course, now I'm going to go on line and look up what phones I *can* upgrade to. Hopefully I'll stop hemorrhaging money by sunset...

Then I'll find more music to beguile away my financial cares.
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bad Otto!

All right, I love my car. I really do. Otto rocks, and I've been known to approach him singing to myself, "Little white car, little white car, little white car!" the same as that cat in the Mutts strip and his little pink sock. But he's got a *few* bad habits, and one of them got me into trouble today. *pout*

This afternoon, as I headed out from Mom's to come back home, it was a great afternoon for driving. It's a lot cooler after last night's rain, and the sky is overcast with those high, soft gray clouds. Otto had a full tank of gas and got his oil changed yesterday, so he was feeling feisty, and he *really* likes hills, which we don't get to see many of here in Houston.

So we came down over a hill, and I wasn't paying enough attention to his paces, apparently. Because we got to the bottom, and I noticed another car going slower, and I braked, but then I saw the sparkly blue and red lights in my mirror. Sigh.

So, I only got a warning (only because the cop's computer was acting up, he said). I'm glad, because apparently I haven't changed my address on my driver's license. I swear I did something about that, but now that I think of it, I don't have a new license yet, so it must not have gone through. Drat.

But my pristine driving record is now a bit smudged, and I have to laugh because for all the stupid stuff I've done, it seems only fitting that I almost got a ticket for driving a hair over 45 mph on a nearly empty road. Ah well. I'm not going to argue with a warning, and I'll just have to be more careful in Schertz, Texas. :-P

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Trust

It’s getting late-ish, and I should really put away laundry or pack to go out of town tomorrow. But instead I’m sitting on my couch thinking about trust.

I was driving home today when this came over me. People have commented on my innocence. I try to cultivate innocence. I cling to a child-like sense of wonder and awe. That’s how I want to encounter this world. It’s not ignorance. It’s a choice. It’s what’s helped me bounce back from everything that’s knocked me sideways in my life. The joy of living this way is… what I live for. It’s something I actually work at, because there are so many things going on that could make me bitter and cynical. There would be no joy for me in that.

All of these thoughts tonight congealed around the notion of trust. Whom do I trust? Well, for starters, I’ve been known to have some angry, one-sided, rebellious-teen-ager type yelling matches with God. For a while the only way I could tell I did believe in God was that I was incredibly angry at Him, and blamed Him for where I was in my life. But I always knew that He’s a loving parent, and I could never damage the love He has for me. That it wasn’t even a matter of forgiveness, because that was mine already. Held out freely. And this trust in His love is what saw me through the worst crisis of faith I’ve ever had. I still don’t like everything about where I’m at, and I still pray that he will lead me along the best paths SOON. I prefer my time to His. But I’m willing to accept His, because I trust Him to be right. Even when it hurts.

I also thank Him every day for giving me the ability to trust myself. I know myself better and better each day, and I’m not sure that’s something everyone can say. For a long time I was more interested in changing myself into what I thought I should be than in finding out who I actually am. Like my trust in God, my trust in myself has hit a few snags lately. It’s hard to unmake decisions you were so sure were the right ones. And having to do that shook my faith in my ability to make good decisions. But I know now that I can trust myself to make the best decisions possible with the knowledge, the wisdom, and the love that I have, and that I can’t do any better. They may end up not working out. But I will do my best. Always. It’s who I am. I have a lot of faith in that.

And I trust my closest friends to love me even when I screw up. Everyone’s been so supportive of me, even when I waffle and whinge and whine about the same things over and over. I know they wish they could help, just like I wish I could help them in their troubles. I’d give a lot to fix things for everyone I love. And they do help me so much, just by being there. So I trust them, and I’ve never been let down.

Who else do I trust? Who do I not trust? These are more difficult questions.

I have made a habit of believing that all the people I meet are caring people. And I tend to assume that people are like me in many ways, and getting to know someone has a lot to do with discovering where and how we diverge. Honestly, I’m fascinated by the divergences. I feel like everyone I meet gives me a new perspective, and expands me into something a little bit more than me. There are differences that come out immediately, but some things I only learn slowly, and they can be a surprise. One of these surprises lately has put me into a new sort of crisis of faith. How on earth can I maintain that child-like trust in other people, people I don’t really know, now that I know how badly I can be mistaken?

You see, being single again, I’ve started poking my nose out and sniffing the winds of the dating world. I’ve never really done this before. Since I was about fourteen, the longest I went without being in a committed relationship was measured in months. And each new relationship was with someone I’d known or at least known of for a while. Now it’s been over a year since I really had a someone, and I’m not likely to find a someone among my close friends. Those winds out there can be pretty darn dry and searing, I find. And just when I knew I could trust myself, and was ready to open up my trusting little heart to that world, certain that I could protect it, I got kind of turned upside down.

[...]

Tonight, thinking about trust, I find that one of the things I’m most afraid of is losing the ability to trust. Of not being able to lay my heart in someone else’s outstretched hand in an act of faith as simply as a child does. I’m afraid I’ll be too scared. [...] I feel like a little bit of my innocence has been eroded away. Maybe it was inevitable, but I’m still so sad to see it go. I want it back. But how do I find it again? Is that even possible? Where do I go from here? Besides back inside my shell. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. I’m still pretty sure I can get over anything and still be the same confident, confiding me.