Thursday, October 30, 2008
Just about every night lately I dream of work, God alone knows why. This past night, I dreamt there were about a dozen men, women and children in my office -- they needed the food shelf, and I was in the middle of something so they'd parked themselves in my office to wait. There was no place to sit because they'd taken the chairs, and after a few moments of me stumbling around them trying to accomplish whatever it was, they turned off the light and disposed themselves to sleep: a man in one of the chairs, a baby in blankets on the desk, women and older children in chairs and on the floor -- everyone in their clothes and coats. The office was overflowing. So I gave up trying to do whatever it was, and began working to answer their questions - where could they find help with this and that. They were impatient, they were annoyed, they wanted service. In the middle of this, with perhaps CW or CP somewhere nearby, I realized that I couldn't breathe at all (for some reason) and needed to step out of the room to go do some serious coughing. Off I went to the bathroom, and standing in there by the door to the boss' office I thought I could hear CP sighing heavily. It took me several minutes to get over the coughing and retching and choking, and when it was done I cleaned myself up, and looked in on him -- and he looked awful, all covered up with blankets in his desk chair (and he'd grown a beard, oddly enough). He were terribly distraught, and exhausted, and kept sighing and asking why we couldn't just "be the church."
And then I woke up, and realized that all the sighing was actually my son, snoring in bed.
This is not as bad as the dream where the boss left his kids in my care for the night, and one of them fell down the basement stairs -- and suddenly he and his wife were standing in my kitchen in their pajamas, looking really upset with me, and I was in a panic because I hadn't realized until maybe two minutes earlier that the kids were even in my house. I had that one last month some time. Can you say, "overdeveloped sense of responsibility?"
Hardly anyone I know needs anything more to worry about; and at almost any time of day, should I allow myself to start dwelling on my personal conundrums, the doorbell is likely to ring -- and I'll find myself at the door with someone who needs food and has much bigger problems than mine. Though of course I don't need to walk even that far to find someone with bigger problems than mine, these days. So it seems shameful and pointless to dwell on my own stuff. You probably know the feeling. And it's all fine and Christian to put others' needs before your own, if you do it consistently -- but I don't. This afternoon CW and I were talking about my increasingly pressing need for solid emotional connections with others -- the feeling that is the opposite of loneliness. And she said that you grow out of this -- that you aren't supposed to need it all the time. I think she meant that we're all ultimately alone and doomed to face facts (my words). And I told her that I hadn't grown out of it, that it really depresses me sometimes, and she suggested drugs (which is where the boss walked in.) It's a line of dialogue that says at least as much about her, and makes me sad for her (though that might not be appropriate.) I myself feel these days that all of my primary relationships are about responsibility and caretaking, in a more pronounced way than usual. I feel terribly needy, as a result. I fantasize a lot about being loved up, being really spoiled and taken care of. Being rescued, being swept off my feet and made to feel safe. Unrealistic crap like that.
What to do. I'm irritated with myself for whining about it, but really pent up with increasing frustration and resentment. Boy, aren't I a treat.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Later, as I walked to the bus stop I saw the inevitable cascade of drooping green leaves, the last holdovers that seldom turn but maintain their summer color until the cold freezes them through -- catalpa, gingko, others. The neighbors at the corner have an enormous catalpa tree, such grand scale with leaves the size of luncheon plates and knotty branches that spiral skyward, huge flowers and absurdly large beans in the summer. In the morning stillness I could hear the giant leaves dropping to the sidewalk one at a time, with an audible "pat." In fact, the pavement around was nearly invisible for the blanket of green. So I stood underneath the tree, and tipped my head back as far as I could, so that only the sky and the branches were seen and not the horizon at all. And down they drifted, one at a time in constant rhythm, falling out of the receding perspective of the uppermost limbs, fluttering to either side of my face on the way down. And I could hear them touch ground, pat...pat...pat. As much fun as this was, I could only stay a moment. I stooped over, chose a leaf to carry away with me.
Down the road the gingkos stand, lining the numbered cross-streets, and most of them obstinately green. They too are leaf-limp and drop their pretty, wedge-shaped foliage all around. Gingko leaves grow right out of the larger limbs often times, amusingly, like ruffled sleeves on the tree. A few of the older trees had started to gold, and I picked up one of those leaves as well. Next thing I know I'm running for the bus, having lingered too long.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
This morning, I dropped my son off in the Sunday School room and trotted down the hall to use the restroom. WHERE I was confronted by a terrible smell, and a sight one really doesn't expect to see outside the hospital or the bar bathroom. 15 minutes, one bottle of spray bleach and a set of rubber gloves later, my day was well underway. What am I going to do, leave it for the next hundred or so people who walk in? We don't have a constant custodial presence. Someone has to take the crap.
And take it I did -- grabbed a dozen times to field all sorts of questions that folks could probably have answered for themselves if they hadn't spotted me at the opportune moment. Plus a little complaining, since I'm also a walking suggestion box. I never get to finish a cup of coffee during Fellowship after church. What happened to the pears that so-and-so donated two weeks ago? Where are the bread knives? Who has a large-print copy of today's reading? Can I borrow your keys? Why do we have to keep the four-to-seven-year olds in a different room from the nursery? Why do we have to have two nursery attendants when sometimes there's only a few kids? Who is making the list of volunteers to watch the 4 year olds? When is the parents meeting? NONE of these subjects falls squarely in my domain, but I'm an easy target. I'm everyDAMNwhere, and that's my problem.
Today was my day to volunteer with the 4 year olds, so I didn't get much church either. With my own child in tow neededing attention and supervision, I didn't get much time to talk with my friends, or with the new visitors pointed out by my boss the pastor. And then it started to snow.
DAY OF CRAP. Let's hope it improves.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
This elevator is one of the serious irritations of my life as a Congregational Administrator. I'm in charge of a million daily tasks as well as several vision pieces that pertain to our community relationships, our ministries and our arts programs. The elevator, a relatively old car that traverses just three floors, is CONSTANTLY on the fritz. I've had two door motors replaced, the switch box examined countless times, valves and connectors examined and cleaned, and etc ad nauseum. Every other week I'm on the phone with the service techs, and we bought the platinum service contract last year because we KNEW this beast would give us hell. But it's one of the reasons our new congregation chose this building over the other two, post-consolidation of our three former churches. The elevator. The beast of burden that holds us in thrall. An unreliable contraption that mystifies the most learned elevator repairmen. An essential component in our efforts to serve all those for whom stairs pose an insurmountable challenge.
And today, we had a wedding. And the younger brother of the groom was recently paralyzed from the waist down in an auto accident. He's still very much in the painful adjustment period, getting accustomed to life using a wheelchair, and he absolutely does not want people carrying him anywhere -- especially not up the front steps of a church, to his older brother's wedding, wherein he was not a groomsman. He told the groom that if the elevator wasn't working, he would not come to the church, period. And was assured that the elevator would be working fine, because the faulty door motor was just replaced four DAYS ago. So of course this same horrible beast of a contraption broke down again just 90 minutes prior to the ceremony. We pay overtime for weekend service, pretty unfair when you figure we're a church, and the damned thing is BOUND to break down on a weekend.
"Do you know how to reset the elevator?!" My boss the pastor gasps, skidding to a stop before me. Shit. I run down to the lobby, where it always jams up, and the doors are standing open with the floor of the car a few inches below the lobby floor. Now, normally, if this is the problem you can muscle the doors closed on the inside and the car will automatically descend to the basement and stop, opening the basement-side doors for you to exit. I've performed that operation a dozen times, and I'm happy to see it's just this sort of problem and not some other mystery where lights won't light up and etc. SO I jump in and shut the doors. The car dutifully descends. And then -- nothing. No doors open on the basement side. I punch the "Doors open" button. Nothing. The button doesn't even light up.
SHIT. I try prying the doors on the basement side open, to no effect. Then I pick up the emergency phone that all elevators are required to have. Only to find...NO DIAL TONE. SHIT!! This was supposedly working a few weeks ago, but given the trouble we've had with the elevator I feel guilty for not having checked it more regularly, and now it's my ass in the tank. I'm breathing fast. I cross the car and start pulling at the doors opposite the basement side, the ones I'd closed manually before. And they open up. I can see the floor of the lobby above my head, and the metal exterior doors to the elevator shaft. I rap on the metal -- "Hello up there!" I'm hoping my boss is still standing around, but no luck. I'm ready to scream and yell, ready for an all-out panic, when all of a sudden and apropos of nothing, the basement-side doors slide open. Whoosh. Ding!
I jump out, and the doors slide shut again. Given that the interior doors on the opposite side are still pried open, I know this goose is cooked. I enter the elevator room and hit the reset, but it's no good, not surprisingly. So I sprint upstairs again. I call the company, feeling pretty adrenaline-shot and pissed off, and I DEMAND they have someone come out and fix this fucker before the wedding guests arrive. And as I'm hanging up the phone, my boss the pastor comes in and explains the situation with the groom's younger brother and the wheelchair.
In the end, the service tech himself runs the car for us before and after the wedding. He can't recreate the problem, though he has successfully resuscitated the machine. He tactfully hangs around until we're sure the guests have gone.
I had a few moments at my desk once I'd placed the service call and my boss had gone -- I was dizzy, light-headed, shaky and dry-mouthed. Like I'd been in a little fender-bender. Nothing serious, residual panic. But I'm not surprised -- my history with elevators is a tiny bit fraught. And of course, the clock is still ticking -- I have the phone guys coming out on Monday. But I can tell you one thing -- I am NOT jumping in like Rambo to fix those doors ever, ever again. That's what I get for trying to be Jen the Super-Secretary.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
each piece is a work of exquisite complexity
there where they carpet the ground
and the sidewalks are charted in maps of their verity.
Littered like lost love notes spendthrift;
dazing the eye with their gift.
Each day draws to a close:
undone in the gloom of the life undermined by them.
Mercies unshackle my foes -
I'm forced to my knees by the weight of their diadem,
witlessness plundered by wisdom,
sleepwalking memories plumbed.
All these synapses blaze:
abed on a pile of books drifting and bountiful.
Waiting, naked and splayed
for the touch of a match to repel the year's cold counsel -
consumed in the dark by the beautiful
unbound by the quickening thrill.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
There's nothing except what's in my heart that makes me feel lost.
she had the skin so fine and limbs that rose like now;
her mouth was wide, and sweet as well,
and I'll know untold hours now dreaming of her smell...
And I feel as if I'm looking at the world from the bottom
of a well --
Lonely, frustrated, misunderstood, taken for granted, unable to successfully feel sorry for myself because I know so many other people who have it worse. Pastor Lott, who insists on referring to me as "woman of God," reminds me on the phone this afternoon that we can't be in Christ when we're complaining. Which is certainly true. I'm ungrateful, which is crazy and shameful. But I'm lonely too, wishing there were someone listening who could tell me something new --
and here's a food shelf client at the door. Right on time.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Read Mitch Omer's pleasant rant against Andrew Zimmern, the real-life version of Anton Ego (though without the epiphany.) Follow the links for additional backdrop. Anyone want to join me at Hell's Kitchen for breakfast?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Email is 24 hours per day (for better or worse). When you sleep, people are emailing you. When they sleep, you're emailing them. It never stops -- it's a real-time measurement of the changeful order of things, on a vast spectrum from intimacy to global news. When you wake up, words and images will be waiting just for you -- it's as if you hadn't slept at all. That's at least a good chunk of why I dig it so much. Because if I didn't have to sleep, I wouldn't -- I'd be busy all the time, looking around, making connections. My computer identity - my blog, my email inboxes -- are always open for business in some sense. In the world of ideas, this is critical, this open identity -- a large net for all sorts of information, some of it very influential for you (and some not at all.) It's being alive, all the time.
:-) Neat, huh?
Also, I've added a new gadget: "Followers." I'm not sure this isn't self-agrandizement on a shameful scale, but I understand that some people genuinely like to belong to a community -- a cohort, if you like -- and if that's you then scroll down to the Followers link in the Sidebar. There you can add your name and optional profile to the list of folks who occasionally hang out here. Right now there are ZERO Followers -- a good place to start!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I read a poem last night by Jill Alexander Essbaum, called Apologia. It appears in the current issue of Image journal - an excerpt:
Darkness, I have done dread deeds in,
Hearkening to apocalyptic heathen,
Even as I cocked my lips to yours. And I have slept
On floors. And I have crept along on all fours.
And, More. I have lived briskly in nice houses.
I have swigged whiskey in icehouses.
I have been June, July and August.
I have been riotous when I felt like I must
Or I could be. And I've hung on your tree like a ripe fig
Desiring to be plucked. And I've flung my body to your bed
Like a white bride pining to be rubbed up against.
Like a suckling child hungry in a viper's den...
It's really a worthwhile poem. Not to everyone's taste, of course, and in the end it's about guilt and about living a life worthy of repentence; and thereby, a live worth living, and faith and forgiveness. It opens with an epigram of St. Augustine: "However innocent your life may have been, no Christian ought to venture to die in any other state than that of the penitent."
Tis a gift to come down where we ought to be. Humbleness and gratitude don't come without some knowledge of your misdeeds and failings. And I'm not sure you can really love without both of these. Though some days it's a real trick to feel your gratitude, feel it with enough depth that your love too has the depth you desire -- love for your fellows, or your family, or someone else. The love of someone who forgives you for being a miserable jackass, for example. As some have forgiven me and as I must forgive others.
And here's my spouse, up at 2am. Right on time.
Monday, October 13, 2008
In brief, my sermon was well-written but the certain people were a little disappointed by my performance. I was very nervous, and read off the page too much, without allowing myself to sound as passionate as I felt about some of the issues presented. Other aspects of the service went really well, but there were some frustrating comments after the fact that reminded me that not everyone took an interest in being as involved in the planning as they could have been.
I went to a political rally of sorts in St. Paul sponsored by the ISAIAH coalition, and heard some moving testimony as well as some excessive yacking -- inspiring stuff on the whole, but a little lacking in the "what's next" department. Apart from recognizing the very real need to improve voter turnout in the city.
I had a damned yard sale, which actually went reasonably well but I'm not eager to repeat the act any time soon. Lots of interesting people popped by and it was an amazing cross-section of my very diverse neighborhood. But I didn't get rid of all my crap like I wanted.
And, I'm feeling an uncomfortable need for a deeper level of self-examination than I've done in while. A little accountability on the personal/spiritual/emotional fronts. At the moment, it's a lot to unpack.
So -- sigh -- more later.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
ANYway, tomorrow is the mot**rfu**ing yard sale and I have to get up at six. I have to drag a bunch of junk out onto my yard and hope I've priced it cheaply enough that it all GOES AWAY instead of going back down in my basement. It's been a crazy-busy day getting ready for this puny sale. And I've been with the boy all day too, trying not to be too overbearing even as I spin furiously trying to accomplish all my tasks. I'm low blood sugar right now too, so against my better judgement, I'm snacking. Still stuck at minus-ten pounds. Trying to maintain the 1200 calorie diet, though it's starting to affect my outlook. But I walked MILES today putting up signs and hauling my son around in his wagon, as well as running up and down the basement stairs 50 times. So I think I've burned some calories.
The crib, toddler bed and high chair are in the yard, waiting to be sold. I sent my husband down to the basement to grab the copy of "What to Expect the First Year," and he came up all morose. "So, we're not having another first year I guess." He's been watching this whole yard sale process from the back seat, not helping much and belching out advice occasionally. He'd like another child, but I'm pretty clear on whose job it would be to stay home with the infant; plus, he was a huge head case during our son's first six months, because he thinks sleep deprivation is harder on him than on any other human born. He's a great parent during daylight hours, but I've always been the one who had to get up at night. So I'm like, "whatever. It's not that I don't want another one, but we're NOT doing that again." He takes that personally.
I'm over-limit now on Barbara's All-Natural Cheese Puffs. Crap. And no new emails from my peeps. Drinking up my wine, feeling kinda oogie now, wondering where the alarm clock has disappeared to. At 8am, the vultures descend.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Here on the eve of yet another debate, I'm looking for the snapshots most recently downloaded from my camera phone and find instead just these few images taken in Dallas more than a month ago -- the grassy knoll, and the x marks (3 of them, you can only see one here) in the pavement on Elm St where JFK was shot and killed.
It's an odd experience, being there - very different from my memories of the Vietnam War Memorial, for example. CP and I talked a little about this, I think, as we explored the aging historical markers nearby and contemplated the view. I was reminded more of the soon-to-reopen (at that time) 35w Bridge over the Mississippi; because Elm St and the other road that leads to the Triple Underpass are still busy thoroughfares, and trains cross that viaduct regularly, though they are LRT rather than freight these days. Cars by the hundreds, maybe thousands roll over the sad white X marks on Elm St each day -- I guess I was surprised by this. As is the case with the 35W bridge, we choose not to let the dead have the final word in our national tragedies if it impedes automobile throughput. Whereas, in Washington DC, war memorials hold sway perhaps by dint of sheer numerical force behind the names of those killed - and quiet lawns allow us room and mental space within which to consider our dead, their causes.
Maybe it's a pure function of the manner of death -- like a white cross on the roadside to memorialize a tragic car accident. One man dies in the road, and regardless of the importance of his life, the road remains a public right-of-way. A dozen plus people perished in the Mississippi when the bridge collapsed, but the honoring of their lives and the lessons learned must wait until a suitable out-of-the-way marker can be wrought. As if the highway were a river itself, and these deaths the incidental drownings of those who stray too near. John Kennedy didn't technically die on Elm St, but a nation was summarily executed there -- and in Minneapolis, a community was wounded at the heart of its birthplace on the river; but to each the anthem is merely the repetitive grinding roar, the white noise of passing cars.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Mainly I'm concerned about getting a draft of the sermon done in the next couple of days -- which ought to be a tightly focused inspiration-packed 13 minutes max, but God help me, I tend to run long --
and my kid has been in and out of his bed twice tonight, as if sleeplessness were catching, which I believe it sometimes does.
Al, I'm sorry I haven't called back yet. I will. Soon.
Will somebody please come over here and give me a good massage, or a fistful of antihistamines, or something??
Thursday, October 2, 2008
into the ironing pile they go
under the sheets I folded before
to hide from the draft that slips under the door
they pester me where I sit and type
they mince their paws and whine and gripe
they purr to set a loving trap
when all they want is a nice warm lap
October comes to brown the leaves
that clog the gutters, spill over the eaves
and Halloween cats who arch and spit
must beware of pumpkins carved and lit
the cold cats wander to and fro
(and talk of Michelangelo)
and furnace dust, and shut-in air
that make a prison of their lair
but here at night I think of you
and under a flannel quilt or two
I'll warm to sleep with cats apace
and dream of August, and your face
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Instead perhaps I should focus on the people who visit the food shelf, or the depressing statistics on rising child homelessness in the Twin Cities. I should talk about my pressing crush on a certain friend, who is so doubly, triply off-limits (me married, etc) that to even express the thought is a shameful and pointless self-indulgence; I should consider instead the lilies of the damned field, as the man says.
But in truth it takes a fair amount of energy these days for me to be well-behaved. To pretend that my appetites don't distract me, to pretend that I'm unaware of temptation, to fake a disciplined demeanor in the hope that on some level I really am that much in control. To think of God, the ever-present Father, and know that no trip to the cookie jar goes unnoticed. It's self-destructive, I know. I used to think it was normal behavior; now I know better, but I want it just the same. More more more.
The food shelf has been crazy busy over the past few weeks, as more and more people slide into the widening gap between haves and have-nots. Food shelf "stuff" takes up more of my office time than I would like it to, though that's just a function of paperwork -- piles and piles of stuff on my desk that needs attention as well -- and the 09 budgeting process underway, which compels me (the bookkeeper) to do lots of digging on others' behalf.
Drill down into the layers of my life, and you'll find me wishing I had more time to create.
Meanwhile, fall is setting in and before long the leaf-raking commences. I'll need winter tires for the bike eventually, plus my chain guard is busted...and I'm not looking forward to the long winter of closed windows and gray skies. Sigh. The problems of others close to me are more acute, so there's plenty for me to worry about without getting fixated on the weather. Hope you all are well...