Sunday, March 30, 2008

Oh, the people you’ll meet!

On the way home from work on Friday, Kathy decided we were going to play hooky and not go home right away. She had a taste for mussels from Bonefish, and that was where we headed. She even drove the big girl way down the interstate to get there. We had a nice dinner all by ourselves and relaxed for an hour and a half or so. She had had a rough week at work and so we deserved it.

I’ve actually been having some fun at work lately, feeling more like a counselor, since I’ve had so many appointments lately. I was a little rusty, but now I’ve been able to really nail it with some people, coming up with the perfect thing to say, or getting them to tell me what they really want.

The other morning at about eight o’clock, an interesting person came to the office without an appointment. Turns out she was an erstwhile art teacher who graduated 12 years ago when there were no jobs in that field. She started doing secretarial work and stayed with it, but now she wants to give it another shot. I got her to talk about what she’s been doing and how it relates to her goal. She’s the one out there with the neighborhood kids playing badminton, organizing crafts—now it’s on her resume.

Some of the other people I met included:

-The serious young social worker who is relocating to the Carolinas—she mentioned an air force base. Maybe that’s where a boyfriend may be stationed. She didn’t volunteer that information and I didn’t ask. I did get her to smile a few times, though she kept focused on the task at hand: getting her resume together and figuring out how to relocate to a new city and find a job..

-The harried linguistics major with a tiny diamond nose piercing who wants to teach English overseas. She wants to go to Greece—Crete, in particular. I mentioned that I wasn’t sure there was a market for that there, but that’s what she wants, and she’s certainly not going to listen to some old guy tell her how it won’t work.

-The earnest, not-so-young any more man who spent the last ten years working in finance instead of teaching math, which is what he really wants to do. After seven years of school, he’s anxious to make his move, but feels like the Colossus of Rhodes, straddling the gulf between the sure thing (boring old job) and the uncertainty of landing his dream job in teaching.

-The secretary with the Tracy Chapman ‘do, who majored in fashion merchandising of all things, and worked for HBO in New York City, had a daughter and is now back living with her mom, looking for “something stable, but in an artistic environment.” How’s that for a tall order?

Even though I complain about having to do three peoples’ jobs—and it has been hard at times—it’s been good to get back to what I liked about this job in the first place. Kathy had to remind me of that lately. Maybe some day we’ll get some more people to help us, and I hope they are good people, but in the meantime, I am fortunate to be in the company of such wonderful students, so motivated, so driven, so hopeful. There is an amazing group of young people coming up—Generation Y, Millenials, whatever you want to call them—we’ll be in good hands.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


So this is the day between Good Friday and Easter. A day when I wonder what the world might be like if Jesus had not risen from the dead. I can’t help but think we would all be living in a world ruled by Biff—the bully from Back to the Future who makes a fortune betting on games whose outcome he already knows, due to the sports almanac he filched from the future.

It was an amoral place, full of vice and empty glitz, where pursuit of material things was all that seemed to matter. There was no reason to look out for anyone but yourself, no code of conduct other than that of Mammon. It would be a difficult place to exist, because that’s all we would do—exist—not really live.

But I believe He did rise from the dead, and that makes all the difference.

Now there is hope. Now we know there is a better way to live. We have an alternative to self interest and avarice. It’s called love.

Tonight I’ll be in the Easter Vigil service, celebrating the wonderful gift of the Resurrection.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I had too much to dream last night

I had a temp job as a guest lecturer in a math class in France. I had nothing prepared—I just know I was supposed to talk about U.S. math for an hour. The classroom was full, but there were all kinds of people: men, women, young twenty-somethings, older people in their 70’s.

There was music blaring from different corners of the room, so I messed around trying to shut it off. I finally got one section quiet and the class applauded.

The room was very wide and resembled a hunting lodge or pub, with log walls and wooden booths in a the back with traditional school desks scattered around haphazardly.

I said things like, “My sister is a French teacher.” They thought that was very funny. I asked if numbers were different somehow in the U.S.—they thought that was funny, too. I asked if anyone liked to count things, and this one woman answered, but her accent was so strong that I couldn’t understand her. While asking her to repeat her answer, I realized she was naked from waist down. No one else thought anything of it.

All of a sudden a group of older people gathered around a TV right in the middle of class. “What are you doing?” I asked. They mumbled something, but it was apparent that some sort of national sweepstakes horse race was on, and they didn’t want to miss it.

I considered storming out in a huff, but I was afraid I wouldn’t get paid—that’s if I were paying paid at all. I wasn’t too clear about that. Meanwhile, some kids were trying to shut off the music in a corner of the room and I went to help them, but that area of the room was like someone’s kitchen and we couldn’t find any switches. I went back in front of the class to try to continue and I looked at my watch and a whole five minutes had passed the class had started!

Saturday, March 08, 2008


We have been hunkered down since Friday night with this huge snowstorm howling outside. This morning the weather guy on one channel was giving the official definition of a blizzard—a certain wind speed, snow fall and visibility—and declared that we hadn’t yet met those criteria but then he looked at the camera and said, “But, that’s pretty much what we have out there—it’s a blizzard.”

Kathy tried to clear a little path by the backdoor, since we could hardly open it against the snow, but much of her efforts were obliterated by the blowing and drifting snow. I stuck a tape measure into the snow by the backdoor Saturday morning and it was nine inches deep. Now there are drifts three and four feet deep in the driveway, and it’s impossible to tell what our local total might be. It should subside over night and be sunny on Sunday. The lector for 7:30am Mass called me to say she wouldn’t make it to church. I told her I wasn’t going at all myself—we’ll watch the shut-in Mass on TV Sunday morning. The paperboy called fishing for a snow shoveling gig, and we asked him to come on Sunday when the weather clears. He asked, "How much will you give me?" We said twenty dollars (we knew he had been asking $10-15 the day before, but now he knew how much work it was!). He seemed pleased and said he'd be over around 11am. You know we'll give him another five dollars just because he's a great kid.

The roads were closed to all but essential traffic, with the police telling everyone to just stay home. Two major malls closed, so you know it must be bad for retail commerce to grind to a halt. Of course the airport was closed—I am very glad I didn’t have to go anywhere this weekend.

We have heat, lights and the Internet. What could be better than that?

We have plenty of food and no reason to go out until Monday morning for work. We watched some episodes of “Northern Exposure” on dvd—just the thing for a snowbound afternoon.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

How I Spent My Birthday

A little while ago, daughter Ann lamented that fact that her dad was no longer blogging. Her plaintive cry worked on my sensibilities for a while—she always could get anything she wanted from me. So I decided to crank up the blog again and see what happens. Watching from the sidelines as she flourished here in the blogosphere has been fun. I guess I want to get in on some of the fun. Perhaps the reasons I originally stopped blogging are no longer relevant. So here goes:

How I Spent My Birthday: I got up early as is my wont, and started several loads of wash. Then I took Kathy to work so I could have the car. I came home and checked email and cycled the washes into the dryer until it was time to leave the house.

I drove to FedEx and shipped the draft of the third edition of my textbook. Do you know the sort of redneck comic named Bill Engvall? He’s famous for the “Here’s your sign” routine. That is, some people should wear a sign saying “Stupid”, so that we’ll know not to rely on them for anything. So I’m in the FedEx store and I put the box on the counter and the woman says, “You want to ship that?” “No, I just thought you might want to admire my neat printing on the address label….here’s your sign.” I didn’t actually say that, of course. Her name tag said “Christine—Team member since 1998.” What I did say was, “So Christine, you’re coming up on a ten year anniversary” and she got this stricken look on her face as if to say, “Ohmigod, have I been here that long?” as she multi-tasked shipping my package and printing color copies for a little old lady standing further down the counter.

Then it was over to Sams Club for paper products, chips and Advil—just the essentials.

Then to a big mall where I was determined to do some damage with the Macy’s gift card Kathy had generously given me. There was $47 left on it and I didn’t see why it shouldn’t be wiped clean in one fell swoop. I wound up buying the most expensive pair of black dress pants I could find.

It was nearly lunch time and I was feeling rather peckish. (Always wanted to use ‘peckish’ in a sentence, but first I accidentally typed “puckish”, which I believe is a whole ‘nother thing.)

I stopped at a Dippin’ Dots place, I think it’s called. Ever see that stuff? It looks like crumbled cookie toppings but magically turns into ice cream when you put it in your mouth. The was my first experience with the concoction. I also picked up an Auntie Anne’s pretzel, since I was celebrating anyway.

Dippin’ Dots is a little tricky, requiring most of one’s attention, so I sat on a couch in the middle of mall eating my Dippin’ Dots, by myself, on my birthday. Then I realized how pathetic that was, and I left to go to the car and eat my pretzel, washing it down with the dregs of a can of Coke I had left in the car. Aware of how sad that was, I headed home.

Desiring to surprise Kathy with an ice-free driveway, I went out and chopped ice and snow for a while. Probably just long enough to screw up my knee again.

For some months I’ve been promising myself a new watchband for my Mickey Mouse watch, since the old one has these sharp edges that ruin my shirt cuffs, I drove to another mall to get one. The young lady at the mall kiosk has been there for years and really knows her stuff, so together we picked out the right one for me. She even gave me 10% off when I told her I had bought the original band from her ten years ago. I didn’t even have to play the birthday card, so to speak.

After picking Kathy up at work, I came home and fielded calls from admirers family members who felt obligated to call with birthday wishes. Still, it was fun catching up with everyone.

So. What are we going to do tomorrow night, Brain? Try to catch up with New Yorker magazines that have piled up.