Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Going to Waste

So here I am on my own blog on a New Year's Eve, mostly because I want to use a link I keep here, and I see that Pixie over at Why Architects Drink has a new post up.

(Link to said post, for your convenience.)

And I'm reading what she wrote and I'm thinking, "Hell!"  Or if you want to be Southern about it, "Hay-ell!" Because the way she's been feeling lately is the way I've been feeling.  Except my depression and anger is all tied up with the fact that I haven't been practicing as an architect these last six or seven years.  I'm not designing houses, I'm cleaning them.  And I'm not giving people design advice in the conference room of an architecture office in return for a reasonable professional compensation, I'm giving out design advice in the aisles of the Big Blue Box Store for next to nothing.

And some nights I get so angry about it I pray God to make the time go fastfastfast till I can go home, because I'm tired of acting all nicey-nice and I'm afraid that if I get one more customer asking me some bloody fool question I'm going to rip his bloody fool head off and he'll deserve it, too, for being such a bloody fool.*

Thank God it's not like that every night.  And the last night it was, a co-worker left me some chocolate and I ate some on break and came back feeling half-human.

Which is about all the anti-depressant drugs this kid can afford.  Or wants to take.

But something has to change.  I put off till the last minute doing the continuing education it would take for me to retain an active architect's license: what the hell did I need it for, the rate I've been going?  But I made the effort and got the CE hours in and some to spare.  So can I do anything with it in 2014?  It would have to be on a freelance basis.  I doubt I could convince any architecture firm in the area that I could be useful to them, especially with the economy still in the tank.

But heaven help me, I have to do something.  What I'm doing now does not pay the bills.  And it makes me feel I've wasted my education, my talents, and my life. And I can't go on feeling that I've wasted my life.

And I don't have much life left to waste.

*No, not all the customers are bloody fools.  That's the anger talking.  But some are, and when they are and I'm in that state of mind, it's scary.  Bring on the 80% cacao . .  .

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Forget It

It is very educational working at the Big Blue Box Store, and not just in regard to tools and DIY supplies. It also affords me a course in contemporary music, thanks to the continuous feed that plays all day and probably all night over the PA system.

It's to my advantage that I'm hearing these songs with no clue to who the singers or songwriters are.  This way I can appreciate them without thinking, "Oh, yes.  That's that girl who was caught one night last week throwing her underwear to the seagulls at Venice Beach."   Or whatever.  No, it's just me and the music.

And a lot of it isn't half bad.  Pretty good, actually.  The songs are creative and varied, their singers using diverse vocal techniques (I recognize some from the exposure I got to Estill voice training in choir a couple years ago) to great effect.

Nevertheless, these songs as a group don't do a lot for me.  They run through my head when I'm not at work, but like a rat runs through cheese, mindlessly.  I have no urge to sing them, or identify with them, or in any way make them my own.

I've wondered why.  And it's seemed to me that it's because I'm just too old.  Not too old for the music, but too old for the subject of most popular songs:  romantic love.  I've lived without it for so long.  It's been the late '90s since there's been anyone I was interested in, seriously or not.  By now the whole thing seems foreign and irrelevant.  I've got my life course set, and guys and relationships have no part in it.  Even if I had time to date anyone, I doubt I could be bothered to gin up the requisite feelings for him.  I doubt I could if I tried.

At least, that's how I thought about it until recently.  Recently, however, I discovered the old nerve endings are not dead after all.  How I learned that is not important, since I also discovered that the situation was, shall we say, not eligible.  So much for that.

Nevertheless, here I am, having to admit that on my side, at least, the popular songs could provide a soundtrack for me, should an appropriate man come along.  Nice to know that part of me isn't dead after all.

Still, maybe I'm back where I started after all.   A few weeks ago I was waiting on a customer at the store.  He had a lot of explaining to do regarding his home improvement project, and as I stood patiently listening to him, it hit me:  This man, were he single, would be an example of someone of suitable age for me to date.  And I rebelled:  Impossible!  He's old enough to be my father!  He looks old enough to be my grandfather!

And me, I probably look old enough to be my grandmother, too.

So, forget it.  It's not happening.  So  for me the contemporary popular songs, while musically interesting, will have to remain emotionally opaque.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Getting On with It, or, I Postpone Setting Up My New Computer

Consider as made the usual apology for not posting for a long while.  I am not living in my car or under a bridge--yet-- but in my house at home.  As the Beatles sang a few (!) years ago, "I get by with a little help from my friends."  And my family.  And a little freelancing here and there.  And with the help of a part time job working at what I discreetly call The Big Blue Box Store, so as not to violate any company policies should I ever want to do a gripe-and-moan about my experiences there.  Started as a seasonal employee late last March, but was promoted to permanent part time a couple weeks ago.  No raise in pay, but if I take advantage of the medical benefits it offers, it should keep me clear of any awkwardness when the Obamacare ax falls in October.

And as of the 27th of this month, all this might be augmented by the pay I'd get teaching a couple sections of English at our county community college.  My friend Frieda* tipped me off they were hiring adjunct professors, I went on the website and applied, and the head of the Liberal Arts department liked what he saw.  English Literature, and Writing, it would be, and since due to the same Obamacare the college took forever determining their hiring needs, I'll have less than a week to check out the curriculum and draw up lesson plans and evaluation procedures.


But the really scary thing was the behavior of my computer, the very one I'm composing this post on, the HP Pavilion Slimline s7600y I purchased in January 2007.  As a teacher on the college level (my past integration into Oxford ways makes me very reluctant to call myself a "professor" of any kind), I'll have to have a computer that works.  There will be student work to pull up, grades to be submitted, emails to be answered and written, and, heaven help us, possible instances of plagiarism to investigate.  I can't be spending a literal hour and a half doing fifteen minutes worth of work, because the stupid system is taking so jolly long to load.

And that's what it was doing every lousy day, up to two weeks ago.  I've gone to sleep on the floor of my study wrapped up in an old blanket with the dog more than once, waiting for a download to complete. Frustrating isn't half the word for it.  And with everything I have to complete and do, especially with the public schools restarting in a week or so and substitute teacher calls resuming soon thereafter, I don't have time for the nonsense.

So two weeks ago I went online to see if HP or any other brand had any slimline towers I could afford.  (Call me a stick-in-the-mud for going for a PC again.  I have my reasons, which I won't detail here.  And it has to be a slimline, for space reasons.)  And lo!  Best Buy had one, an HP 400 Slimline, very highly rated, on sale for $369.99.  Excellent price, especially as was offering the same machine for $599.99.

Now, I have no money.  Everybody knows that.  But as I said before, as a community college teacher I can't be limping along with a computer I constantly have to hard-reboot to make it function.  So after church two Sundays ago I travelled over to the nearest Best Buy that had the HP 400 in stock and bought the silly thing.

Of course, it wasn't a matter of plunking down the $369.99-plus-tax and walking out with it.  Oh, no.  This puppy runs Windows 8, and as the song says, "Suddenly, nothing, nothing, nothing is the same."  Windows 8 doesn't play nice with older software.  Me, I have a lot of what I believe are called "legacy" programs running on my current machine's XP-Pro operating system. Like, um, WordPerfect 6.1, which I like just fine.  And Quicken 2009.  And Lotus Organizer 5.0.  I have no desire to upgrade or change to different software, and even if I did, I don't have the hundreds of dollars that would run me.  This being the case, I had to throw down another goodish chunk of change for the "Win Pro Pack 8" that's supposed to let me run my old software on Windows 8, once I create a virtual partition for them.  And in the wisdom of the geniuses in Redmond, Washington, Win8 won't run any Windows Office versions before Office 2013.  Thanks, guys.  So there's another charge for the "Home and Student 2013" version of that, because, WordPerfect lover that I am, most church secretaries prefer to converse in Word.  Throw in a 32GB flashdrive to create the operating system backup, and we're talking a real investment.

But as I said, the way the old s7600y was dragging along, it was necessary.

So why am I still working on the old computer?

Well, part of it is the fact that I wanted/needed to clear the decks before I set up the new computer.  I literally had not entered anything into my financial software since before tax time last April, and my study was awash in receipts, statements, file folders, and other accounting flotsam and jetsam.  There was no room to put the new system together.

And what if I can't get the virtual partition to work?  I wanted to get my Quicken accounts all entered and balanced before I cut myself off myself off from the use of the software, because it's mentally wearing to not really know where I am financially.  Now, I know good and well I'll still have the use of the old computer, once I get a second monitor.  It's not like it's totally given up the ghost.  Really, what I wanted to do was to clear out my mind as I cleared the paperwork out of my study.  I didn't feel I could enjoy the new computer until I had.

I haven't had many hours in the day to spare for this task these past two weeks.  Bt at last it's done, everything is balanced (well, mostly everything), and as of two nights ago the paperwork is filed and put away.  And as of this afternoon, I've finished entering my checking account transactions into my physical checkbook register, which I hadn't done since last February, for goodness sakes.

So why does the new machine still sit unopened in its box over here on the floor?  Why haven't I run to break it open and explore its wonders?

Maybe because I know it's going to take hours and hours to set up, and I don't feel like investing that right now.

Maybe because I'm afraid, as I said above, that I won't be able to get the virtual partition to work.  Or that if I can, it's going to take forever and I'll be cut off from virtual civilization (i.e., the software programs I depend on) until I can get it all to behave.

It's not that I'm afraid of Windows 8, not in itself, apart from what it'll mean for my accustomed programs. Clerk at the Best Buy let me fool with it a little, and I'm sure I can deal with it, even though it seems a little silly.  I mean, don't we all have enough problems with "Ooooo, shiny!" tendencies these days without graphic tiles sitting on our desktops tempting us to open Facebook and Hulu and Netflix when we should be working?

Maybe I'm so addicted to having a computer (that is, the Internet) running that I don't want to shut the old one down long enough to set the new one up.  (When I was doing up the s7600y I had a laptop open next to it.)

Which leads me to maybe the biggest reason I haven't set the 400 up yet.  Because, gosh darn it, for the last week or more my old PC has gone back to functioning.  It has hardly frozen up at all.  No problem opening anything.  Videos and audio files have been playing just fine.  You'd think it'd gotten wind I was planning on replacing it and wanted me to change my mind.  Maybe it will keep it up.  So why should I stop using it?

Besides, I got a call the other day from the Liberal Arts department secretary at the community college and she said that due to low pre-enrollment, there's a good chance the classes I was supposed to teach will be cancelled or rolled into the schedules of full-time faculty.  They won't know for sure until final enrollment the end of this coming week.  So maybe the need that job posed will disappear.


And maybe this old machine will go contrary on me again.  And maybe I'd like to use the drafting software I downloaded awhile back, that I can never seem to get open, let alone draw with.  Maybe there will be enough students for those English sections, and I'll be stuck after the 27th with an old computer that won't work and a new one sitting in the box with no time to install it.

So I guess I'd better woman up and at least begin.  Besides, I'll be moving the old one down to the dining room.  It'll still be there when I need it, I just won't be asking it to do quite so much.

And maybe with a newer, faster computer, I might post here more often.

Or maybe not.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Statement of Faith-- Whether I Feel Like It or Not

"Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior."

                   --Habakkuk 3:17-18 (New International Version, 1984)

Monday, November 05, 2012

Blahg, Blahg, Blahg

A few years ago, when I first heard about blogging, I was reliably informed that it was basically mental regurgitation.  Random, stream-of-conscientiousness effluvia.  Inchoate plops of verbiage emitted whenever the writer had the impulse.

I discovered, of course, that this is far from the truth, at least for weblogs worth reading.  In fact, writing a blog post is more like producing an essay than anything else.

And with one thing and the other, I don't feel like producing essays lately.

But I wouldn't mind occasionally emitting a few plops of verbiage, inchoate or not.

In no particular order and in no particular relationship:

  • Which is stronger-- my dislike of wrongheadedness or my dislike of conflict?  I ask myself this as I wonder to what degree to engage my niece and a friend of hers on Facebook over their screamingly erroneous and absurd political opinions.  Disagreeing on aims and goals and ways and means is one thing.   Having someone take her stand on outright lies is quite another.  But at this stage of the game, where do you start?  Is it worth trying?
  • Hoping Mitt Rommey wins the election tomorrow; we can't take four more years of Mr. Obama's policies.  But I have no illusion that a Republican victory will automatically open up the jobs market to someone of my age and experience.  Can't hurt, however. 
  • It's going to be hard keeping my weight down now that the cold weather has set in.  Find myself wanting to eat more.  I have a new dark gray size 6 dress I've been wearing on Sundays to preach in, but who knows if I'll be able to get into it the Sunday after Thanksgiving-- that's my next engagement.
  • Preached yesterday at a church where I've been before.  They put on the back of the bulletin, "Welcome Rev. Blogwen X* who will deliver a great SERMON."  (All-caps theirs.)  Yes, indeed, God willing I hope it was a great sermon, but I'm sorry, I'm afraid it wasn't a little bitty short one.  Normal twenty minutes-- but oh, dear, it was Communion Sunday.  And as one of the elders told me afterwards, "the old people are used to getting out in a hour," Communion or not.  He acknowledged that it was too bad they thought that way about the Word of God, but well, "they're old."  Thinking about it afterwards, I beg to differ.  The problem is not that they're old, but that they're old children-- children as to the Word, who have never matured in the faith enough to savor a proper meal of spiritual meat and drink.  But what can you do to help them grow up before they die, especially when you're not the permanent pastor?
  • Spent the afternoon processing my Halloween jack o' lanterns into pumpkin purée.  Ended up with maybe three quarts or more of it.   Now I've got to figure out what to do with it all, especially since freezer space is at a premium-- I'm storing up raw milk against the winter when the dairy dries out their cows.
  • Oh, did I mention I've been drinking raw whole milk since last April?  Great stuff, which is why I want to lay in a good supply until the cows come into milk again in the spring.
  • Thinking about the poor people in New York and New Jersey who've been devastated by Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy.  If my power was out but my house was intact and I'd put by enough water, I would be okay for food for two or three weeks, just on what I have in the pantry.  Though if the gas were shut off as well, I might be reduced to eating cold soaked pasta-- gack.  But the people in the New York boroughs, they don't have room in their dinky apartments to store a lot of food.  Their pantry is the shop down the street.  Praying the power and transportation lines will be up again sooner than soon.
  • When I look forward to enjoying the new milk in the spring, I may be living in a fantasy world.  My financial situation really stinks, and for all I know, by spring I may be living under a bridge. 
But that's another essay I don't feel like writing at the moment.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Listening Fail

I'm finding out why it's a good thing I don't have a working television and cable to supply it.

Because I can get programs I like on the Internet, and that's just as bad. Or worse.

Especially if you can get episodes on continuous stream.


So, I admit it.  I've found someone on YouTube who posts back episodes of What Not to Wear and Say Yes to the Dress.  What a guilty, addictive pleasure.  The former can be helpful in helping me shop sales, but as for the latter?  I've never tried on or needed a wedding dress, I don't foresee ever needing one (though it would be a nice surprise out of life, yes?); nor do I have any daughters or granddaughters who might take me wedding gown shopping with them.

Still, I watch.  Let's say it satisfies the frustrated fashion designer in me-- after all, that's what I wanted to be all through high school.  And sometimes the show gives food for thought-- in a not necessarily digestible or comfortable way.

Take the Season 1 episodes I've seen lately.  It's just like a TV show producer to glom onto and follow around the most interesting consultants, the ones with the most personality or those who'll strike the most sparks.  So in Season 1, they latched onto a newbie consultant named C--, whose combination of cluelessness, egomania, and crappy selling skills has the YouTube commenters wide-eyed with wonder.

I could tell she was headed for trouble in her first appearance, when a bride told her she wanted to see "Greek goddess" gowns and instead of fetching some, C-- basically told the bride (though in not so many words) she was stupid for asking, didn't she know that style made everyone look fat?  I was sure that when the show was broadcast, she'd be mortified to see herself and want to correct her behavior.  But as the episodes go on you see her committing error after correctable error.  Couldn't she have asked to see the footage taken of the successful sellers?  But you glean that she wouldn't be interested, because she continually tells the camera that she thinks she's doing just fine, there's no room for her to improve, nobody sells that many dresses anyway, etc., etc.

The Kleinfeld's management gives her chance after chance, and to her face and to each other they say, "C-- doesn't listen."

Oh, that.  That's a song I know well.  And from bitter experience, I well know the uselessness of vague job review terms like "X doesn't listen."

For C-- really thinks she is listening--according to her own definition of the term.  Trouble is, it's not her definition that was going to rule.  But if her supervisors really want to give her a chance to succeed, . can't they see she doesn't or can't catch what they're trying to convey, that she's interpreting it entirely differently than they mean it?

"You doesn't listen" in this Say Yes to the Dress situation could have meant

  • "We don't want you just to hear our words and understand them, we expect you to do what we say."  I.e., "to listen" means "to obey."
  • "You need to learn from management and the other consultants, and not figure a rookie like you has it all down."
  • "Listening to the brides does not mean making common cause with them over against the store.  It reduces their confidence in the establishment and in you."
  • "When management politely suggests something be done, the politeness is social grease, and we really mean, do it."
  • "You keep up such a flow of talk you can't take in anything else."
  • "When the brides say they want to try something or other, you're sure you know better and bring them something else instead."
  • "You don't know to shut up long enough to let the brides' instincts about the Perfect Dress take over and make the sale for you."
And so on.  True, C-- was so colossally full of herself I guess it would have done no good had management spelled it out for her.  She deserved to get canned.  But for the rest of us poor working fools out there just struggling to do our best, please, HR, be a bit more specific.  Define your terms!

When I was hit with "She doesn't listen," I knew it meant "she doesn't obey."   In the circumstances I couldn't acquiesce and they had no right to ask me to do so-- though they did have the power to punish me for it, however unfairly or illegally.  But that aside, last night I reflected that I don't listen as I should.  I tend to talk too damn much.  Lord, help me to be quiet in myself and let the other person's thoughts and feelings and ideas flow!  For unlike C-- on Say Yes to the Dress, I have it in me to see myself and be very, very mortified.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Beating the Odds-- So Far

Not mine, but illustrative
I don't believe in food-as-medicine.

Yes, I believe in getting one's nutrition as much as possible from healthy, wholesome, locally-grown food eaten in reasonable amounts and proportions.  But when it comes to the esoterica of when and how and how much and in what combinations, my response is "Non credo."

You've seen them.  Articles from nutrition pundits who tell you to eat a cup of fresh blueberries three times a day every day for the rest of your life.  I like blueberries, but not that much!  Or blog posts insisting that all grains are inherently bad for people and one should never eat them.  Or the book that tells me I should never eat red meat after three in the afternoon, and then only if I've done four impossible yoga poses before sunrise.  And don't forget the earnest folks who tell you you can't possibly be healthy unless you consume some exotic fruit or herb found only on some South Pacific island the Polynesians have never heard of.  No.  Can't swallow that.

But there's a way lately that I have been taking a more therapeutic attitute towards food, and to some extent it's paying off.

A couple of things dovetailed this spring, and a very portly dove it was, too.  The first is that the low blood sugar I've put up with since my college years at least seemed to be getting worse.  I found myself getting lightheaded more frequently, and even feeling I was going to faint a time or two.  Yeah, some people would say I should run off to the doctor and get tested for diabetes.  That's not me.  If I can deal with it myself, I will.

The second thing is that I noticed that I'd gained a lot of weight since my last post-chemo weigh-in in late February.  Above the waist, where I generally don't put it on.  Rolls of flab on my back.  No more definition in my upper arms.  The pot around my belly button greatly increased.  I hadn't changed my eating or activity habits at all, but here it was getting difficult if not impossible to fit into my clothes.  What's this all about?

So towards the end of May I decided to tackle both these problems at once.  I'd change my eating habits.  I wasn't going on a diet, oh, no.  Nor would I renounce any particular food.  I've been at this weight loss game long enough to know that that's the recipe for desperation and disaster.  No.  Instead, I began to stretch out my meals.  Instead of eating three largish meals a day four to six hours apart, I'd spread them out.  Have the protein at one little meal, then two to three hours later have the starch I would have had with the protein.  Be conservative about portion sizes, and learn to enjoy, say, new potatoes boiled with just salt, pepper, and parsley, no butter or gravy.  Of course I had to go back to enforcing my no-eating-after-9:00-PM rule.  By all this I hoped to keep my blood sugar even and kickstart my metabolism so maybe I could lose a little weight.

I'm still at it.  It's been interesting the past month.  My birthday is in mid-June, and customarily I share the celebration with my friend Frieda*, who was born in late May.  We celebrated this year on the 2nd, and I made our favorite sour cream chocolate layer cake.  Sent a good two-fifths home with her and shared a couple more pieces with a small neighbor boy who has no compunction about opening my fridge and begging for whatever treats he sees inside.  This left me about half the cake.  You know it took me three and a half weeks to finish it?  I could say I'm "restricting" myself to one dessert "meal" a day, but the fact is, I don't feel like having more than that.  The cake was a little dry by the time I ate the last piece the other day, but it was still good.

Sometimes stretching meals out can backfire.  Couple weeks ago I ate something that was evidently past its use date.  Evidently, judging by all the painful pot-sitting I had to put in that morning and afternoon.  Banana bread.  Spoiled banana bread.  Ordinarily, I would have finished that ages before, but not this time.  I've learned to put things in the freezer if I'm not going to eat them in a reasonable time.

Happily, this regimen seems to be working to even out my blood sugar.  I might still feel a little lightheaded when I finish one of my snacky-meals; normally, that would justify my eating more right then.  But with a shallow nod to the food-as-medicine advocates, I tell myself, "No, let the food work.  You wouldn't take another dose of aspirin if your headache wasn't gone the moment you swallowed the first two tablets, would you?  All right then."  And most of the time, the airheadedness soon goes away.

However, it didn't seem that I was losing any weight.  I have two body scales in the house, neither of them accurate, but their inaccuracy was not encouraging.  I was still being squeezed by those fat rolls above my waistband, and the post-hysterectomy pot below my waist was as protruding and obtrusive as ever.  What was wrong?  I can swear I'm eating only two-thirds to a half of what I was before, so why aren't I dropping the pounds?  It's not like me to get cancer head before my post-chemo checkups, but I found myself wondering if something was Wrong.  Especially since my digestion isn't totally back to normal after that bout of food poisoning.  Oh, lord, what if the cancer had come back and got into my intestines?

It didn't bear thinking of.

So I didn't.  Instead, I went online and looked up "menopot," a cute name for the very uncute bulge we women often develop in our midsections post-menopause.  None of the articles I read was specific about the precise location of the bulge, above or below the waist, but all agreed that it was endemic, annoying, and about impossible to get rid of.  I gathered also that I shouldn't gripe that I'm fighting it now, after my cancer surgery.  The remarkable thing, apparently, is that it didn't set in seven years ago when I hit natural memopause.

So my triannual post-chemo checkup was this morning.  And withal I braced myself for possible bad news.  But all my test reports came in normal, all my numbers are good.  So with my former ovarian cancer, I am continuing to beat the odds, so far.  And as to my weight on the doctor's official scale . . . ?  Down.  Five pounds from my February weight.  Being weighed in jeans.  Which may mean I've lost six or seven pounds since the end of May, since I know I gained some since the February weigh-in.

And I have to admit that those jeans are size 8 slims, and it's easier to zip them.  And my tape measure says I've lost a half inch off my waist in the past month.  So enough with the pessimism!  When it comes to post-menopausal weight gain, it looks like I'm beating the odds there as well.

So far.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dear John

May I call you John?  Perhaps it's disrespectful.  After all, you are my five-times-great grandfather.  I should honor you with a title at least.  Will "Grandpa John" be appropriate?  All right, then.

Grandpa John, I'm writing because I've learned some things that change things between us, and I thought you ought to know.

No, it's not that we are not related.  You, John Wade of Virginia, certainly are my fifth great grandfather, the father of Otho and the grandfather of Sarah who married my third-great grandfather Sampson Zickefoose, father of Peter Hull Zickefoose, whose line leads down to my mother and to me.  I make no complaint touching my descent from you.

The problem is with-- Ah, well, allow me to explain.

This past year when I set my mind to learning more about my family's past, I came across a-- well, let's call it a document, a family tree, authored by another one of your five-times-great grandchildren.  This cousin of mine presented his work well, with thorough footnotes to document his findings.  He wrote that your wife, my fifth great grandmother, was named Sophia Howard, and she might or might not have been descended from the Howards who were the Dukes of Norfolk. I respected the note this cousin made saying this lineage might be dubious, so I was apt to believe him when he said that your father was Zephaniah Wade and your mother, Verlinda Pottenger.

Zephaniah and Verlinda were very interesting people.  I found an online copy of the inventory of Zephaniah's worldly goods when he died fairly young without a will (What's that, you ask?  What does "online" mean?  It means-- Oh, never mind.  Please bear with me).  He had a plantation next to George Washington's Mount Vernon, and the young Washington mentioned the family in his early correspondence.  But even more interesting to me was the information the cousin gave on who your mother's ancestors-- and therefore yours and mine-- were.

Go back far enough here in colonial America, and we find a Nathaniel Bacon.  Not the Nat Bacon of Bacon's Rebellion, but his cousin.  And Richard Kingsmill, Nathaniel's father-in-law, who came to Jamestown in 1616 and so was one of the original Ancient Planters.  Drawing on other sources, I traced Richard back to England, and found that he (and we, Grandpa John) were descended from one Bridget Raleigh (actually there were two Bridget Raleighs in the 1500s, aunt and niece, but I determined which one was ours), and her line goes back to-- amazing places.  In one branch, I learned we were the offshoots of the Dark Ages kings of Northern Ireland and Scotland.  There was early English royalty.  Edgar of Wessex.  Ethelred the Unredy (you see how I spell it to reflect his lack of adequate counsellors, or rede, not any lack of preparation).  Coel Hen, also known as Old King Cole, belonged to us, and more beside.  Especially pleasing to me, I found links to the old kings of Wales.  Cadwallon Longhand, Maelgwyn the Great, and even Roman Emperor Macsen Maximus, Spanish-born but claimed by Wales.  They, too, were our forefathers.

In another of Grandmother Bridget's lines, I found that we sprang from the race that included John Balliol and Devorguilla his wife, founders of Balliol College.  I read about our many-times-great grandfather John "the Red" Comyn, who might have been king of Scotland in the early 1300s, had he not been treacherously murdered by Robert the Bruce in the Kirk of Greyfriars.  I traced our line that married into the Balliols, which included the de Clares and the Earls of Pembroke and went back to William the Conqueror's sister and beyond.

But it was in the Pembroke line that I discovered the ancestor whose name and memory filled me with the most pride.  For I found that our hearts beat with the blood of Sir William Marshal, the first Earl of Pembroke.  Grandpa John, American schools teach nothing about him, so it was not as if I could boast of him to my friends and gain their admiration.  But Sir William is a progenitor worth boasting of, indeed.  "The Flower of Chivalry," he was called.  And, "the greatest knight who ever lived."  A man of strength and skill, never defeated in battle or single combat.  A man of unblemished honor and valor, who with wisdom and prudence served four kings.  The man who convinced King John to yield to the barons at Runnymede and sign the Magna Carta; who confirmed the precious charter and had it reestablished when he was regent for King John's young son and heir Henry III.  A man who was no man's fool or toady, who gained and held the respect of all, a man who could so easily have seized power in those uncertain days and become king of England himself, but who faithfully followed the path God had laid out for him.  Here was a longfather to inspire the highest of aspirations, to induce in me the deepest sense of responsibility and of strength.  Noblesse oblige!  The blood of Sir William Marshal flowed in my veins!  Should I not strive to live up to such an illustrious heritage?

But, Grandpa John, there was one small problem.  It had to do with the dates and places recorded for you and for your parents Zephaniah and Verlinda.  The cousin I mentioned before had it down that you were born in western England or Wales in 1724, and you had an elder brother Nathaniel born there in 1720.  But both Zephaniah and Verlinda were said to have been born in the colony of Virginia.  And the pedigree said they didn't marry until 1727.  This seemed strange to me.  Though even in the eighteen century nice young couples might, ahem! get in a hurry, Zephaniah and Verlinda didn't strike me as the sort.  Especially, not the sort to wait seven whole years with two young sons to have their marriage solemnized.  And what about your place of birth?  Had they travelled to England for some reason and had you there?

But as I said, this cousin's work seemed so convincing overall, that I put these concerns away from me.  Perhaps the dates were transcribed incorrectly from the original documents.  Perhaps the couple actually were married in 1717.  There was an explanation, of that I was sure.  Meanwhile, I added our illustrious forebears to my tree and revelled in how pleased my mother would be when she saw it.

Alas, dear Grandpa John, that's when it happened.  I was engaged in further research, and I came across a . . . letter (we'll call it a letter) written by another of your descendants.  And she argued-- and argued convincingly-- that you, John Wade, were indeed born in western England or Wales in 1724, but you and your brother Nathaniel were not the sons of Zephaniah and Verlinda Wade.  They did have a son named John, born in 1741, and no one seems to know what became of him.  His fate is cloaked in obscurity.  But the same is true of your parentage.  No one knows who your mother and father were.  And so, goodbye Macsen, goodbye King Kenneth MacAlpin; farewall Balliols, farewell de Clares.  They are none of ours.  Ours not the Kingsmills, the Raleighs, the Potyngers, the Chamberlynes or the de Merlays.  Nor ours, alas! the Pembrokes and the noble William Marshal.  All gone, all fallen away-- all is changed.

Forgive me, Grandpa John, and have pity on me for my absurdity and pride.  How I felt about you and our line has altered, and things between us can never be the same. So I bid you adieu, John Wade, son of Zephaniah and Verlinda, and scion of kings, queens, and nobility.  And with due modesty I beg to make the acquaintance of John Wade, son of who knows whom, born who knows where.  You have produced a goodly heritage, and I am honored to be in your line.

Your 5x Great-granddaughter,

PS:   Nevertheless be assured, dear Grandpa John, that I would be immensely gratified if somehow you could lead me and your other progeny to discover who my Wade sixth-great-grandparents actually were.  After all, noblesse oblige!

Monday, February 27, 2012


It may have been noticed that I haven't posted since last August.  Some of that is busyness, some of it is laziness, a lot of it is childishness, but most of it has been cowardice.

Yes, cowardice.  This past autumn I interviewed for a half-time position as an interim pastor with a parish in my presbytery.  During the interview, I mentioned that they could see a sampling of my sermon style on my preaching blog.  Makes sense, right?

What I forgot was that the sermon blog was linked to this one.  And one of the committee members clicked through, found this blog, and, as she wrote me in an email, was deeply disturbed by what she read here.  Seems I was too open with my revelations about how things had gone in my previous parishes, and although I had disguised church and presbytery names well enough, it bothered her.

We talked on the phone about it, and she professed herself reassured about my history and my explanation of it, and said she'd only mention it to the other committee members if she felt she should.  But I didn't feel easy about it.  Up to that time I was pretty sure I'd be offered this job.  After this, I felt my past and my big mouth had come back to bite me again.

It's very like me to write and reveal and not expect what I've written to have any effect in the real world.  Hey, I think in imaginary conversations where I work out how I would explain things to other people; isn't a blog just more of the same?

No.  I guess it's not.  You know the term "chilling effect"?  That's what this had on me.  I felt literally cold inside. I took the link to here off the sermon blog.  And for months I've written nothing.  I was afraid to write anything.  Not here, at least.  Too paralyzed thinking about how what I say can be misconstrued or used against me.

Chicken, chicken, chicken.

As it turned out, after observing certain things while guest preaching in that parish, I decided the position was not for me.  It would have been impossible to do all that was wanted and needed on a mere half-time basis.  But for whatever reason I didn't ring them up and say so.  Maybe I wanted to be convinced otherwise, since I really need the work.  Eventually I heard from the search committee chairman himself: they were going on with other candidates.  I bit the bullet and asked what had eliminated me.  The answers weren't totally convincing, I thought.  Had the one committee member told them about this blog, and he didn't want to say so?  Better not to ask.  And as I said, by that time I'd tacitly withdrawn myself.

That's been almost four months ago, and I hope and expect they're beyond caring what I say here.  But I guess it's a lesson.  I have to be willing to stand up and take the heat for what I publish, or shut the dickens up.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Before I get to work on patching the ceiling in my study, I need to suspend my disbelief long enough to post what I found out this past Saturday:  I did pass my English Language Arts ABCTE exam, after all.  Not only did I pass it, but my incomplete essay on the set 20th century poem got me a mark of "5," while the finished one I produced for the Teaching Knowledge exam only came up with a "4."*  There's no accounting.

I'm still in a state of amazement.  I keep going back and staring at the online certificate, my only proof so far that this is so.  Yes, the 5 is still there.  It hasn't gone away.  Too blinking strange!

So, praise God! I don't have to pay to take the test over, and I don't have to practice-practice-practice so maybe I can complete the essay the second time around.  I'm still working on reading the books and poems on the recommended list, the ones I haven't met up with before.  But I can be more leisurely about it.

The irony, though, is that two parishes, and maybe three, are talking like they're seriously interested in hiring me as their interim pastor.  Wouldn't it be funny if I qualified to teach just when something breaks for me in the ministry department?
*Oh, yes.  I guess I never posted that I passed the pedagogy exam.  Found out about that a couple of weeks ago.  Mea culpa!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Down But Not Out

I guess.

Quick bulletin:  Passed my ELA multiple choice exam with a scaled score of 377, which puts me in the "distinguished" range.

But I didn't finish my essay, which puts me in the flunking range.

So sometime in the next six months I gotta do it all over.  Maybe by then I will have read all the stuff on the lit list and I'll already have a clue what to say about the prompt.  The one I got I think I may've read before, but not so recently I already had any organizational ideas about it.

Other things were involved in me ploughing this, but no time to rant or moan about them now.  Still have a sermon to write.

Round Two: Already on the Ropes?

This afternoon at 2:00 I take the second part of my English teacher certification exams, over English Language Arts.  In an hour and a half I saddle up and head down to the testing center.  I'd planned to spend a few hours this morning doing some last-minute skimming in Wikipedia and SparkNotes for basic information on all the novels, poems, speeches, etc., I should have read in the past eighteen months but didn't.

But for the most part, I'm not.  I can't.  I'm just too lightheaded and tired.

It's what I get for not turning off the bedside light until 4:00 AM.  Especially after a week or two when I pretty consistently turned in by 11:30 at the latest.  So I couldn't sleep past 9:00 this morning, even if I wanted to.

Five hours.  Not at heck of a lot of sleep before a big hairy test, especially one where I'll have to write a sudden-death essay on some work of literature that I've likely never seen before and know nothing about.

I'm not sleepy.  Just dizzy and quilt-stuffing-headed.  I've eaten a protein-rich breakfast in the past hour, so I doubt it's hunger.  Insufficient sleep, it has to be.

I could have gotten to bed earlier.  I finished the curriculum material and all its quizzes around 10:30 last night.  But I figured I'd better go ahead and take one of the practice tests.  125 questions; they give you three hours to complete it.  Goody for me, I did it in less than an hour and got 90% of them right.  No, actually, nothing to brag about, considering I took the same test several months ago and most of the questions were absurdly easy.  (I doubt the real exam will be the same.)  Turning in at midnight wouldn't've served me too poorly, but no.  I simply had to search online to find out about some of the questions I missed.  And commence my quick-and-dirty knowledge fill-up, starting with the reading list dramatic works I've never read. 

Great.  That took me till a little after 2:00.  I fed the dog, took him out to do his business, shut everything off and went upstairs, took a bath, and got into my nightclothes.  And then I started thinking about a couple of things I still wasn't sure about.  Like, how do you recognize an unreliable narrator?  And what's the difference between irony and paradox?

Back downstairs, restart the laptop, read up on these matters till nearly 4:00.  Learned some interesting things.  Great food for thought.  But this morning, as has been said so cogently in another context, "Teechur, my brayne iz full!"

So instead of cramming, I'm indulging in a nice whinge.  Instead of reviewing my notes (Oh, gosh, what are all the different organizational modes for expository writing?), I'm writing in my blog.  I'm not to the happy point where I can say I don't care if I pass or not.  I just don't have the time or brainpower this morning to deal with anything more.

Yeah, there's a chance I may pass the multiple choice if I read the questions carefully and keep my response to what they actually say and not what I hurriedly perceive them to. And make sure to question my own assumptions about things.

The essay?  Passing that will depend greatly on what the gobbet is (hee-hee, Brit-speak).  And if it strikes any sparks.  Maybe, if I can get my old BSing motor revved up . . . . If the online literary criticism I've been reading is any guide, all I have to do is say the work refers to the inherent corruption of capitalism and the futility of the American Dream, and I'm home free.

Cotton-batting-stuffed head and all.