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Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

Signing out

This has been a pretty terrible summer.

Not in the sense that anything super tragic has happened, but it just hasn’t been great. I’ve been unemployed since May. And while the standard, unbelievably sexist line I have gotten is “it doesn’t matter! Your husband is going to be a lawyer! He has a job! You’re pregnant!” for our family, it does matter. I’ve been the primary breadwinner of late, so me being without work has meant us taking a financial hit. Despite helpful advice like, “just get a job!” I’m still out of work. This isn’t something we really foresaw – every career counselor I talked to assured me I was an excellent candidate for the jobs I was applying for, and we had planned on me moving to Helena in the spring and starting a job there. That’s not how it worked out. Then I swore to John I’d make money anyway, so I started nannying, and that job unexpectedly ended without enough time for me to get a new one before we moved.

Then last week I had a job interview.

Finally. It was something I was way overqualified for, basically the job I’ve been doing for the last year, minus about 90% of my responsibilities. It went terribly. The interviewer spent the majority of the time trying to get me to rescind my application because I was pregnant. (Which, yes, is illegal. But I kept getting the advice of “be honest,” and there’s not a lot you can do when you are being discriminated against). Probably realizing it was illegal for her to say, “you cannot have this job because you are pregnant,” she finally said, “well I can leave your name in for consideration if you want, but we are expecting lots of other applicants. Usually most people who apply for this job are retired.”  I left my name in for consideration mainly out of not wanting to give into her rudeness, and partially out of curiosity. I don’t think I would work for the company based on how I was treated regardless, though.

So we don’t have a lot of money right now.

Then there has been this week. This week (well, last Friday), I was told I either have whooping cough or bronchitis. The doctor didn’t run a test, saying that because I was pregnant she didn’t want to wait for results but start treatment immediately, just in case. Largely I feel okay, but hot, tired, and my chest burns. And of course there is the gut wrenching coughing, made extra uncomfortable by the fact that there is less room in my gut than normal. Every cough slams my uterus into my bladder, made extra tender by the fact that cough syrup’s main ingredient is citric acid – an irritating substance.

Whooping cough wouldn’t be a huge deal, if it wasn’t for the fact that my husband is taking the bar this week and we move this weekend. So at night I cough into my pillow, trying not to wake him so he can get a precious few hours of sleep, and by day I try to get my tired ass up to do something productive towards our move.

So over here, we’re poor, sick, unemployed, and stressed.

And of course, pregnant.

Which, of course, isn’t a cure-all. It’s not “who cares if you are unemployed and poor and sick? at least you’re pregnant!” because part of the reason I do care about being poor, unemployed, and sick is that I’m pregnant!

All this to say, blogging isn’t something I need in my life right now. I love writing, but the stress of “should I say this? Should I say that? Will this offend someone? Should I write more?” just isn’t something I need. Maybe I will resurrect this address one day, but I must say that I hate when bloggers just disappear, so I wanted to at least say good bye. My e-mail address will be the same so feel free to contact me.

Adieu.

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I love summer.

I do. I know you look at me, and you think you are the kind of person that should not leave the house in the summer, and you are right. And being a nerd, the allure of the crisp air and sharp pencils of fall does have its allure. And spring after a long cold winter is indescribable. But summer holds its place in the front of my heart. I almost think that having summer as your favorite season is looked down upon – it’s not the most sophisticated season. It’s shorts and sandals, not long evening gowns and flutes of champagne to toast the new year. Call it uncouth, call it plebeian, I call it the best.

Summer is complete and total freedom. Freedom from school, freedom from the confines of blustering snow and scarves tied tight. You can leave the house outside without grabbing a coat, even at night. At least in Virginia, Montana still requires a sweatshirt most nights. It’s freedom to move, freedom to travel. In summer (well, by mid-summer) you don’t have to check the pass reports to see if the road is covered in snow. You just go. You can pick up and leave.

Life picks up and slows down and picks up simultaneously in summer. You can breathe deep. You can be free.

Today, enjoy being free. And remember those who aren’t. Happy fourth of July.

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I need a job

I’m graduating in two days (although then I take another class so I really don’t finish until the 22nd. Boo). And I don’t have a job. For the first time, I’ll be standing in my cap and gown with no idea what I’m doing with my life.

Sure, my husband has a job, so I know we’ll be supported, where will live and all that jazz. But if we’re just looking at *me* and *my life,* I don’t know what I’m doing. And while the general chorus is “don’t worry, you’ll be fine!” if the tables were reversed and I had a job and the husband did not, let’s be honest, people wouldn’t be saying, “it doesn’t matter – your wife has a job!”

I want a job. I went to graduate school for two years not only to satisfy my intellectual curiosity, but to help me further a career in working with marginalized people of society, and particularly their health needs. If I don’t get a job immediately, it’s no biggie. I paid for graduate school myself, in cash, and helped support our little family while doing it. We aren’t out any dough. But still. Whenever that conversation turns from “congratulations!” to “what are you doing next?” I hate answering with “any suggestions?”

I’ve filled out four job applications, sent cold-call cover letters to four other places. I’ve gotten one call back with a “we will keep you in mind for a job we might have opening up.” I’ve polished my Linked-In profile. I check the school career center, Montana NonprofitI’ve passed my resume along to several family members, and had some networking opportunities, which have also mainly ended with “we’ll call you if the stars align and something opens up.” So it’s not completely dead ends, but no “when can you start?” either.

I don’t know at what point you start setting you sights lower, as several people have told me to do. To volunteer, to do Americorps (not again!), to take an hourly wage, entry-level job that only requires a high school diploma or equivalent. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not proud. I’m willing to work my way up, to do the grunt work, to earn my worth. The thing is – I’ve already done that. I’m experienced; I’m educated; I’m qualified.

I listened to this talk today:

It makes me wonder about the advice I’ve been getting. Don’t worry – your husband has a job. Take a job you’re vastly overqualified for. Sell your self short. Would we be telling that to a man? Probably not. And that’s why men succeed. The career world is already tough on women. Any job I apply for, they’ll see a woman in her mid-twenties, married, and think “is she going to have kids?” But we don’t think that with men. And you know what? Men have kids at exactly the same rate women do.

I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that I’m already applying for jobs I’m over qualified for (not vastly overqualified, just as in they are looking for 1-2 years work experience and a BA and I have 3-4 and an MA) and I haven’t heard anything back. Not unusualy when it comes to state jobs I hear, but still, frustrating. I’m frustrated that I can’t even get a “no thanks, we’re not interested” from places I cold call. I’m frustrated that the job market where I live now is miniscule compared to where I came from. New jobs in the non-profit world are posted every few weeks, not every few days here. I’m frustrated the economy is terrible and that my generation is graduating into a significantly bad job market. And, yes, I still plan on voting for Obama because voting for a party that wants to defund the public sector, you know, pretty much the only people who do public health work, doesn’t make sense either. I know there are many people who have been looking for work much longer than me, but I am still frustrated.

I’m smart, I work hard, and I’m ready to get started.

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The Countess Speaks

My favorite post from the season.

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Non-religious hymns

TheRemember how we all read The Perks of Being a Wallflower in our angsty, need more Holden Caulfield days? The book, I could take or leave but there is one sentiment I remember. What it is like to be driving down the road and the perfect song comes on and you feel simply infinite. It’s as if your soul swells up inside you, and it’s more than you can handle.

There are some songs that make me feel that way that I would like to share with you. Songs that, despite their intended purpose, make me feel infinite. Or have some spiritual meaning to them for me. And I would love to hear yours, the songs that touch your soul.

First up, Mason Jenning’s I Love You and Buddha, Too.

I don’t agree with all the sentiments in the song – I am largely not a relativist, however there are pieces that really speak to me. “You are unnameable, you are unknowable, all we have is metaphor, that’s what time and space are for.” I believe that the search for God, the search for meaning is fulfilling and noble, but I believe we can only do so much, go so far. I believe that we can only come up with more questions than answers. And I find comfort in that, in knowing this life is not a quiz, not a test to see who has the best answers, but a continual search.

Next up, Old Crow Medicine Show’s Wagon Wheel.

Okay sure, this song is a little bit about sex and drugs. But there is more to it than that. It’s about searching, about leaving pain behind for the hope of love. We’ve all felt that fire under our feet at some point in our lives, an indescribable restlessness, an urge for something more. In this song it takes the life of a lonely man driving through the country in the middle of the night to find his true love, and while I’ve never done that, I can relate to the sense of urgency to find something more.

Next, David Berkeley’s Little Fists

If you haven’t listened to this guy, drop everything you are doing right now and go buy his CDs. Or look him up on Grooveshark. I saw David Berkeley a million years ago opening up for Nickel Creek my freshman year of college, and he remains my favorite musician to this day. (If you want to hear a fantastic song about the Civil War – check out ‘Shiloh,’ which I would have posted here but I can’t find a video for it. Did you even know there were fantastic songs about the Civil War?) This song, Little Fists, is about the futileness of fighting against war. He tells us we’re asking the leaves to change. Which is pretty much what faith calls us to do – stand up and scream for something better, no matter how difficult or unlikely it is.

Jesus, etc. – Wilco

I’m sure this song is one that is too deep for me to understand what it’s about and so I don’t want to read into what the artists’ original interpretation is supposed to be. But when I listen to it, I hear how everything around us crumbles except love. Anything we rely on is temporary. Anything but love.

Flogging Molly’s Therefore the Grace of God Go I

I’ve probably seen Flogging Molly more times in concert than any other band. Okay, maybe more than any other band combined. And I can never decide where they stand – rebelling against their Catholicism, or standing up for it as a part of their Irish Heritage? Or some complicated mixture of both, as it is for all of us. But this song, more than any of the previous, is as close as you can get to a hymn. The sentiment is simple – Therefore the Grace of God Go I. And so it is for us all.

 

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Where I’ve been

Hello!

I bet you are really enthralled by the will she/won’t she post again nature of my blog? It’s really just a strategy of mine to destroy my readership following.

The truth is I haven’t been blogging because I’ve been trying to transcribe 13 hours of interviews for my thesis before school starts back up again. Which leaves me typing several hours every day, which has not been so wonderful for my elbow. It aches and my fingers start to go numb after a while. It also means that I’ve all but given up knitting, my main form of stress relief, for the foreseeable future. Even though I was halfway done with two scarves. Damnit.

So blogging was something logical to cut out of my life. But then I got an arm brace and things haven’t been so bad lately.  Reason #157 I’m glad I got married “young”: I now wear an arm brace, retainer, eye mask, and ear plugs to bed. Sexy. I’m pretty sure if John had seen that get up before we tied the knot, things would have worked out differently. Though, to be honest, if things had worked out differently – I wouldn’t need the ear plugs. Just sayin’.

But then some people, like Jessica of Faith Permeating Life, said some nice things about my blog, so I figured maybe I should soldier on.

The bigger issue, however, is that I don’t really know what I’m doing here. My blog started as a way to inform family/friends back east what was going on in my life while I did JVC. Then, having a job with several hours of downtime in the afternoon, I started reading blogs and thought to myself, “Ooh, I could do that.” And I know I could. I could be a really good blogger with a thousand followers if I put any effort into it. But between marriage and graduating and job searching, blogging isn’t high on the priority list.

The other reason I don’t have a huge followership is that I don’t have a very directed blog. I want to be one of those cool people who do a lifestyle blog and post beautiful pictures of their baking adventures and taking their child to the park whilst impeccably dressed. There are several problems here: 1) my kitchen is a perpetual wreck. If you’ve ever been to my apartment and seen my kitchen clean, please know that is a lie and I only cleaned it because you were coming over. 2) I have no camera. Or, shall I say, I have two cameras, one of which does not like “working” and the other I cannot find the battery charger/card reader too and hate the thought of buying a new one. 3) I do not have a child. This blog would be WAY funner if there were some baby pictures plastered all over it, amiright?? 4) My computer’s spell check accepted the word “funner” as spelled correctly. This does not impact my blogging, but makes me very sad about the world. 5) I do not dress impeccably. The closest I get to impeccable is mildly clean.

And so I end up talking more about  social justice-y issues and go off on liberal rants. Which is fine and all, because I assume most people in real life would prefer me to take it out on the computer, but I’m worried that I’m pigeon holing myself too much as a blogger when I do that. Because I don’t want to write to people who agree with me; that’s no fun. I want to write to people who don’t know much about the Catholic faith and to people who have differing opinions.

So blogdom, what should I do? Soldier on with my mishmash of posts or pick a direction and go with it? Also , what do you think of my technique of posting twice in a month and hoping people are still reading? It work for me, right?

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I know how the innkeeper felt

For there was no room for them at the inn.

I know how the innkeeper felt.

We have vilified him throughout history. Uncaring, unsympathetic, willing to leave a pregnant mother and an anxious father out in the cold. Whether he was born in the spring or in the winter, nights are always cold when you have no place to go.

But I know how he felt.

It was a few days before I was to fly home for Christmas when my job at a housing facility for families transitioning out of homelessness called to ask if I could cover an emergency shift. It was a Saturday and my finals had wrapped up the day before. I brought my knitting, tuned the radio to Christmas carols, ate Hershey’s peppermint and white chocolate kisses, and awaited the arrival of Christmas. It was a Saturday, nothing ever happened on Saturday. Plus a soft snow had started falling that morning, confirming everyone’s desire to snuggle in bed rather than face the world outside.

I answered a few phone calls about where to drop off Christmas presents for the children and unlocked a few cabinets for people needing an extra skillet or some children’s tylenol, but other than that the morning was quiet. 

Until a man walked in.

He asked if they could stay there. His wife was sitting in the car right in front of my window, their newborn daughter wrapped in a large fleece blanket. They had lost their house a week or so before, and had nowhere to go. Neither had family nearby and they had heard we were a homeless shelter for families, could they stay there? They only needed a place to stay for a few days, you see, just until he could find work. It was snowing and their daughter was cold. They had no place to go.

I swallowed. We’re a transitional housing facility, I explained. If you sign up for an orientation session, we can put you on the waiting list. How long would it be? Anywhere from a few months to a year.

That wouldn’t work for them. I knew it wouldn’t.

You can try calling the YWCA or the police station. They can give out vouchers for families to stay at a motel. 

He had tried that. It was getting towards the end of the month, and they had passed out their allotment for the month. I knew they would’ve.

You can try calling churches. Some of churches have benevolence funds to help families in emergencies, although I knew that wouldn’t work either. Not only was it the end of the month, but it was very nearly the end of the year. Plus it was a Saturday, none would be open.

I’m sorry. I don’t know where you could go, I told them. 

There’s no shelter in town?

The only shelter doesn’t accept children. Adults only.

And we can’t stay here?

No, there is no room for you here.

He said he understood, thanked me for my help, and head hung, turned and walked away. I watched as he got in the car and told his wife the news. She turned her head out the window and stared blankly at me as they drove away.

And that is how a few days before the Christmas, I looked the Holy Family in the eyes and told them there was no room for them.

I know there is nothing I could have done differently, but I always wonder. Could I have called more agencies? Should I have written them a check? Let them stay in our one-bedroom apartment while we were out of town? I know these would have broken all sorts of rules and policies, but nevertheless I can’t shake the feeling that I  turned the Christ child away at Christmas.

There was no room for them.

There was no room for them in our entire town. No family shelter, no affordable home, no jobs to be had. We can make all sorts of excuses to justify these actions. There are policies, procedures that must be followed. They should have had a savings account or thought harder before bringing a child into this world, into their poverty. They should sell that car or move back home with family, nevermind there being even fewer jobs in the soon-to-be ghost towns of eastern Montana. It is not our fault, it is their’s and their’s alone.

I wonder what excuses the innkeeper came up with. Now, we sentimentalize the birth in the barn, farm animals keeping the Christ child warm and shepherds gazing peacefully on, a sign of Christ’s humility and simplistic poverty. But I doubt that’s the story that was told 2,000 years ago. They should have planned better, left a few days earlier. What ties had Joseph severed that prevented them from having family to stay with in the town of his birth? How could they have justified breaking and entering? It couldn’t have been long before they were discovered and asked to leave. 

There was no room for them.

I do not know what became of that family. I suspect they drove around for a few more hours until they had exhausted all possibilities. Maybe a church door was open and could give them money to have a place to stay, if only for a night. Perhaps they found a friend with an extra couch who was willing to give them a hand. I can imagine these, but I know they probably found a quiet parking lot and slept in their car, turning the engine on briefly every few hours to warm themselves.

I wonder if the old man and his wife with the swollen belly kept the innkeeper up that night. There were no empty rooms, he knew, but it felt like there should have been something he could have done. Cleared a place in the kitchen, or perhaps his wife would not have minded if they had stayed in their small room, at least until the baby was born. He knew by the looks of her it couldn’t been long. Perhaps he laid awake wondering what would become of that family, disappointed but understanding, and unbearably polite. Perhaps if they had offered him a few more coins he could have found the room, but he could see by the state of their well-worn cloaks that was not an option. What would happen to that child, born into such poverty? 

I know that logic would have won out and eventually he would have fallen asleep. The next morning he would have scanned the road, searching for the family with the old father and young mother and a tiny babe in their arms. He would have said a prayer or two for their safety, and then went on with his day.

I say this, because I know how the innkeeper felt.

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