Sunday, September 24, 2006

Prodigal brother

And just to keep the Paul status up to date: he's in trouble.

He went into my room (at least twice now, actually) and stole some change off my dresser. In some ways, no big deal. But it really had to be dealt with, so I kicked him out.

OK, I kicked him out for an hour and then let him back in. But the new rule, which won't last long, is that he isn't allowed to be in the house when I'm not here.

This turns out to be very difficult to enforce. For instance, last night when I went to some friends' house to watch the last 3/4 of the football game, Paul was asleep. Was I really going to wake him up and kick him out? (I didn't.) But what about tonight? I'm watching a movie with my students (Fog of War) tonight at 7, and will probably go up to my office first about 6:30. Should I kick him out?

I guess I'm hoping 3 days of being kicked out has taught him his lesson, exhausted him, and prepared him to be in the house without stealing.

And yes, I'm trying to take temptation out of his way.

And one completely other note. Any of you to whom I mentioned that I was locked out of my garage, that's no longer the case, thankfully. But that's another story.

Accidental Ebay

OK, so I know a couple of my loyal readers are Ebay enthusiasts, Ebay experts even. To you, this might sound strange: last night, I accidentally bought a dining room table on Ebay.

OK, accidental is strong. Everything connected with my placing the bid was, strictly speaking (and I am beginning to consider myself something of an expert on this), an intentional action. But I didn't exactly mean to do it.

Here's the thing. I've only actually bought one other thing on Ebay, and that was a heart rate monitor. I tracked several of them for days to see what they were going for. I researched them on and off Ebay, online and in actual stores. And when I knew what I wanted and what it was worth, I started making bids, knew what my max was, and got a more than fair (but not outstanding) price.

I played around a little back then -- this was maybe a year ago -- and put some ridiculously low bids in. Most of the time, other buyers, like me, were informed, and their bids would automatically bump up to the "reasonable" range. And the first bid was never reasonable.

But, you see, that made me less wary than I should have been. Because I THOUGHT I knew what I was doing. I searched some tables, saw one I really liked the look of, and saw that there had only been one bid on it. So I just barely outbid him, convinced that on the heels of my "bid confirmation" email, I would have a "you've been outbid" email.

(All this, by the way, was going on as I was getting incredibly depressed watching the Irish lose horribly in the first quarter against Michigan St. Shopping is such a great distraction. Sigh. The evils of consumerism.)

Anyway, it didn't come. And after about 5 minutes of poking around, I realized that the auction was going to end in half an hour and I was going to own the table.

The good news: I got a decent price, and I really do like the look of the table.

The bad news: the delivery charge is a bit steep (I really should have checked that before bidding). Especially considering that, I'm paying more than I wanted to pay.

The great news: I'm going to have a dining room table that I think I'm going to love in less than a week! And I can stop shopping and start doing the things I need to do.

But I still can't believe I just randomly bid on it and got it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mission accomplished

Well, I really accomplished something today. I fixed my toilet.

This was my first major adventure in one of those little things that I would have called in to the landlord if I had one, but I had to take care of it instead. Or suck it up and call either a man I know or a plumber to come and take care of it. I was reluctant to do either of those.

The problem was that the toilet wouldn't flush. I easily removed the top of the tank and looked around and found the problem. What it looked like when I first looked in there: the stopper-thingy got disconnected from well, that, other thingy. The "other thingy" moved when you depressed the lever as if to flush. But since the stopper-thingy was disconnected, it stayed in place and there was no flushing.

After 2 visits to Home Depot, here's what I saw: my flush valve actuator system was disconnected from the actuator disk. Bad news: you need a whole new system. Good news: system costs just under 10 bucks. Great news: I figured out how to install it and did so successfully within about 10 minutes.

Paul and I can flush again, which is a good thing.

But I admit it was sort of tempting to keep making Paul hike to the toilet in the basement. That would be one way to keep things upstairs smelling better.

Anyway, it made me feel like I really accomplished something today, even if it wasn't getting ready for class, writing a dissertation, or grading the papers that got turned in Friday.

Ah well, I suppose we have to take the successes where we find them.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years later

September 11th is clearly going to be a strange day for the rest of our lives.

I've caught a couple of articles and a couple of shows recalling the heroes/victims of that day. And I've found myself in or near tears a couple of times. There's just no shaking the terrible losses of that day.

But now I've also heard what President Bush had to say about it. Apparently, we're against radicalism. Our fathers and grandfathers fought "radicalism" in Europe and in Asia. And now it's up to us to fight it in the Middle East.

Radical--as I learned from Dorothy Day--has to do with getting to the root of things. She was a radical. So was Jesus. I find it hard to be against radicalism.

I liked it better when we were against terrorism. Is it just me or did an already vague enemy just get vaguer?

And why do the losses have to be answered with more violence? I wonder if we could ever see ourselves not necessarily as the solution but as part of the problem?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Embarrassing moment?

So, I think I may have had my first embarrassing moment as a faculty member. I had my biggest class (25) today. I called roll and then grabbed my notes to do the walk around and lecture thing. I looked down and noticed that my second-from-the-top button on my blouse was wide open.

Well, I pretty seemlessly (I think -- but who knows how long it had already been open?) covered my chest with my notes. And I'm thinking ... I can't make it through the whole class like this. Eventually, I may need to look at these notes, and I'll certainly need to open my Bible. So, somehow, I managed to keep talking and just button the thing with one hand while continuing to hold my notes in front of the whole operation.

But of course none of them said anything or indicated in any way that they noticed. It's very strange. You sort of want some acknowledgement -- gee, you handled that gracefully. Or even "oh my gosh, I can believe you just went on talking like that!" Even -- "hey, so was that your bra or another shirt we were seeing?" Because you wonder just how subtle you are, and it would be nice to know, even to know that you weren't. And you also don't know if you should feel embarrassed, or how much.

By the way, it was actually an undershirt. I'm actually not sure why I wore it. I think maybe I had some issues with this shirt before. I think maybe that's what kept me from panicking. I mean, I was still decent.

Of course, one does wonder what they were thinking, especially since one of the texts we spent some time with was Jesus' denunciation of lust in Matthew's gospel. At least my shirt was buttoned before we got there.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Great line, great feeling

I thought I'd pass this on, because I think it's a great thing to say to the new tenure-track faculty member on her (or his, but in this case her) first day of class: "So, how was the first day of the rest of your life?"

The folks here keep giving me the impression they want me to stick around for a while. And that's a great feeling.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Glad to be where I am

I love my colleagues.

It has come to my attention that some people think that many of them are sexist pigs. Actually, I mostly know this because one of them pointed it out to me. He and I have been joking about it a bit now. But he turned to me tonight, and for the second time now, said to me something to the effect of, "Look, we're joking about this, but also I do know that we're painfully inadequate sometimes and we just don't know how to include women well. Please let us know what you need from us or if there's anything we can do better. We're really glad to have you here."

And all this happened at a Labor Day BBQ where people also very graciously included my brother.

I'm really glad to be here.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Labor day?

Can anyone tell me anything about Labor Day that would make me think it's even really a patriotic holiday, let alone one that churches should support?

I bring this up because the closing song at Mass this morning was "America the Beautiful." I always get really nervous about these things. Since I believe that participating in the Mass through singing is important, and also that one should really sing songs like that in Mass, I'm always quite conflicted. I did something today that sort of surprised me. I hit my knees and prayed silently for our country to repent of the wars we're waging, and thus to live up to the beauty the song was acclaiming.

I don't think anyone noticed. But that's okay.

Friday, September 01, 2006

No more tears

I cried twice today. So far.

This has nothing to do with teaching. It has to do with state inspection stickers.

The lovely little state I've moved to requires a "safety and emissions test" once every two years. This is the fifth state I've lived in. Most such inspections are annual, but they take 10 minutes and basically just make sure all your blinkers and windshield wipers work.

Not here. The test takes an hour and a half. And, after that 90 minutes or so, it turned out my car had failed due to too much wear on the brake pads. They could, of course, replace them for me. Since they had them in stock, it would take an hour. Two, tops. I look at the time: about 10:15. Two hours and 45 minutes until my brother has his evaluation scheduled, the one that will really get the ball rolling on the plan for his long term care and for housing. The one that's been on the books for almost three weeks now. OK, go for it, but I really need to be out of here in 2 hours, tops.

About 11:45, I'm getting really restless and I ask the guy for a progress report. It turned out they didn't have the parts in stock. I explain that I really have to be somewhere by 1:00. He says he's sorry, he'll try to expedite the parts and then, as soon as the parts get here, it will be like 20 minutes.

Now, at this point, I start making phone calls. Annoyingly, I can't call Paul because I don't have a home phone. I call his social worker. Not there. I will call him 8 times in the next hour, but only leave 3 messages. And the main thing I want is for him to let the front desk know that we're running late, because I have two major fears. First, of course, is that it will take us a month to get another psych evaluation scheduled. Second, I'm vaguely recalling all these threats about what will happen to you and your firstborn if you miss an appointment without calling. I'm wondering if Paul will ever be allowed to receive psychiatric services again, in any state.

I try to think of who else to call, but, you see the bind, right? Being new to the area, how many people can you call and say, "Look, I need a big favor. Go to my house, walk right in. Go upstairs. Paul will probably be asleep. He will probably have clothes on. Wake him up, get him dressed if necessary, and get him to this appointment at a place that I can find and can give you an address, but can't really tell you how to get to. Oh, you'll also need to find his meds and his cigarettes and bring them with you." I mean, it's a lot to ask.

At 12:53 they tell me that the car will be ready in 5 minutes. OK. It'll take me about 15 or 20 to get home to grab Paul and then get to the appointment. That's not so late.

And then the guy went into the garage. And didn't come back for 20 minutes. Seriously. I was going crazy. I actually had the thought go through my head "If we miss this appointment, I'm going to check whether I can sue to make them pay for Paul's psychiatric care." Then I remembered that I didn't believe in that sort of crap. But it's hard to remember who you are when you're under this sort of stress.

Then they told me that the computer was broken and they couldn't print my inspection sticker. Everything was ready, but for some reason they couldn't account for or fix, it wouldn't print. And I was stuck, or at least illegal until it did. That's when I called the social worker with message #2 ("looks like we won't be there at all"). Then my car pulled up and they let me pay for the brake job and leave without the sticker, but warned me I was driving illegally and encouraged me to call and check if the machine was fixed and come back to get my sticker.

Well, Paul and I got to the place at 1:45. And he had completely missed the appointment. They wouldn't reschedule. They would let him see a doc to get meds to get him through the weekend, and they set up an appointment with his nurse on Tuesday to evaluate and consider rescheduling the other. My heart just fell. And all of a sudden, you realize how much you've hung your hopes on something. I've been telling myself to hang on until Sept 1, because then he'll get the psych eval and we'll begin to move forward. And then ... no.

So, we sat there waiting to be called for the meds. I went to the bathroom and cried. I was just so frustrated I wanted to kill somebody. Well, hit somebody. Hard. I decided I was focusing too much on my anger (much of which was directed at myself) and I decided to say Hail Mary's. That's one of the great things about being Catholic. When you're too angry to really pray, you can just ask Mary, over and over again, to pray for you. It generally calms me down.

And because God (and Mother Mary!) are good, an incredible thing happened. We were still sitting there waiting to see the doc for meds at 2:25 and the woman at the front desk called me up there. "The 2:15 psych eval hasn't showed yet. If you guys can stay another hour, and that person doesn't come in the next 5 minutes, we can see him." "Absolutely."

About 15 minutes later, they called him back. I still didn't quite dare believe it, so I asked, "I'm sorry, did he get called for the full eval, or just the meds." The full eval. Thank God.

I cried again. I couldn't quite believe it. All the stress, all the hopes, all the frustrations, and he got in.

Of course, it turns out the psych eval isn't magic. He'll file a report and we have a follow-up appointment in 10 days. But we're moving forward.

The one remaining loose end was that I was a bit worried about driving to Boston to pick up my friend Kyle in my illegal car. I was also worried that all this would make me late to get him. But his flight was delayed and the computer got fixed. My car is legal, and braking better than ever, and should be in Boston in plenty of time to get him.

Sigh. Hopefully, no more tears. Not today.