Not Getting Hit on, Just Hit up

Our Archdiocese has embarked on this campaign to raise funds to support various services/programs/functions (seminary, ministries to the needy, schools, etc.), and to turn a percentage of the money raised by individual parishes back to those individual parishes for improvements/programs/what-have-you. Great. I have no problem with that. I think we get much-needed improvements to our parking lot, among other things, out of the deal. We got letters about a month or so ago with a suggestion of what we should pledge.

I've always given what I could, so what they hit me up for was what the law office in my previous career life would call "highball." (Of course, my parents--my models for generosity to the Church--got a figure that kept my mom up all night. I don't want to get into it, but my parents suffered a financial setback 4th qtr 2009. That didn't help.) The letter said not to respond just yet but to think it over and expect a phone call from a parish volunteer.

The call never came, and things got busy at Christmastime, so I put the letter in my filing.

This weekend at Mass, we were handed pledge cards and being asked to make (somewhat of a) commitment.

Personally, I don't find stuff like this during Mass appropriate, but I understand why it's done--to give the pastor has the opportunity to speak to all of us at once. And I know he doesn't enjoy talking about money in general, so he wasn't having a blast, either.

So, there was that unpleasantness, but what really irritated me was the stupid chart on the back of the pledge card that tried to put the pledging in perspective as a sacrifice.

A happy-face perspective on sacrifice that didn't relate to me.

"$27 monthly is a trip to the movies!" (Um, it's maybe $10 if I go. Alone.)

"$84 monthly is dinner out at a restaurant!" (Where? The Palm? 84 bucks is more than I pay a month for my car insurance.)

I think you can guess my point: These are correlations for married people. Families.

Well, of course that makes sense--I mean, families are what keep parishes going. A family can add new members to the church. I will consider myself lucky if in my lifetime I've inspired one person to think about his or her faith life.

But really, I felt left out. I felt even worse because I'm not sure how I can promise to give monthly for a couple years, when I am not working in a permanent job yet. (That situation is a whole other post for a whole other time.)

So I didn't fill out the card. Actually, I didn't even take one when they handed them out up in the choir loft, and probably the usher didn't think to push one on me because it's generally assumed that I live with my parents still (you know, not being married and all). I did, however, change my mind after Mass when a blank one turned up in a pew, and I put it in my purse to take home and think things over.

When Mom and I walked back to our cars, I complained how annoying those equivalencies were. How I felt "dissed" as a single, and what were they thinking? How can I give what they expect of me when I'm just a me?

Without missing a beat, my mom said, "Their marketing people have always been horrible."


She was right, I had to admit. This wasn't the time to strike a blow for single people in the Church. In fact, it was pretty much an equal opportunity irritant. This was the time to think, check off the box of what I think I can do, and pray that it will happen.

Hey, I probably should include a note that if they want the money, they'd better pray I have a job in the Fall, too.


Oscars Project: Movie #2

This is going up a little later than planned--after a pleasant, much-needed happy hour with some co-workers, I got a little lost in--no surprise here--the video rental store. I got two more rentals for $2 and change. I love coupons and discounts. (Take that, On Demand.)

(Explanation of The Oscars Project found here. And need I say it? This post contains SPOILERS.)

From 2000: Erin Brockovich

Based on a true story, this film follows twice-divorced (and foul-mouthed) former beauty queen Erin Brockovich (played by Julia Roberts, who won Best Actress) as she tries to support her three children and winds up helping an entire town that had been poisoned by the local power plant. It all started when she had the boldness to demand a job from the lawyer (played extremely well by Albert Finney) who had promised her an "open and shut case" with regard to a personal injury claim after a car accident--not anticipating that opposing counsel would provoke the spitfire plaintiff and torpedo the case!

What I liked:

1. The cast. I'm not really a Roberts fan, but I have to give her credit on a flawless performance. Albert Finney, Aaron Eckhart, and the actors who played Erin's children could not have been more right.

2. The children. I don't know if this was something for which the director (Soderbergh) was responsible, but the kids did not come off cutesy or saccharine. In fact, I had the subtitles on--they tend to bring out the background dialogue we usually miss--and the kids were, well, natural kids. No coached dialogue. When they were playing with biker dude neighbor George (Eckhart), they were really playing. Creating that air of authenticity is something of an art.

3. The first half was really compelling. I watched about 45 minutes the first night, and it was tough to turn the DVD off and get ready for bed.

4. As a somewhat recent convert to Bones, I was amused to see a very young Dr. Hodgins playing a corporate representive!

5. This one's for the guys--I have to admit, Roberts' front porch looked good. (Her legs looked like sticks, though.)

6. Wardrobe. You never knew what kind of outrageously scandalous totally-late-'90s outfit Erin would be sporting (before she started dressing a little more seriously as she grew confident in her job).

What wasn't so great:

1. It was hard to tell the passage of time at some points. Sometimes it was the next day, sometimes it was a month. I think.

2. It ran a bit long. Near the end, it started to drag and I was hoping it would wrap up shortly.

3. The excessive use of the f-word. I'm not a prude, but sometimes the dialogue was scalding my ears.

Overall, not a bad movie. I did a little research and was a bit amazed that this scrappy little movie was nominated for Academy Awards alongside a strong but really diverse group of films (Gladiator, Crouching Tiger, Billy Elliot), and that Julia Roberts beat out some seasoned actresses (Joan Allen, Ellen Burstyn). I think the movie was extremely well-cast, and that made the film such a standout.

Cinematherapy authors Peske & West recommend this movie as inspirational for when you're "feeling suffocated by the turtleneck of your life," noting that, as this film was pre-9/11, it's chock full of optimism and faith in the arrival of opportunities (p. 13).

Always a good film to watch when you want to root for the underdog, not to mention the good guys.

Next up: Adaptation (Get ready, Cullen.)

Story of My Life

My co-librarian lost her voice yesterday, and it wasn't quite back in action today. Because she can't really help people--nobody can hear her--at one point in the afternoon she mentioned she was going to just go into our nonfiction collection to work on moving the books over on the shelves where we weeded a bunch of stuff out of the collection and had a big gap.

Sounded pretty nice to me.

Me: Don't get me wrong, I like teaching and working with technology, but sometimes it's just great to get lost in the stacks.

My Co-Librarian: You were born at the wrong time to be a librarian.


Mixed Results

I've spent the past two nights configuring my new TV, cable box, and DVD/VCR. So far, I can. . .
  • watch TV
  • watch HD channels (woo-hoo!)
  • watch DVDs

I can't, however, watch anything through the VCR. I get sound but no picture, which makes me think either a connection is in the wrong spot, or I need one more cable I didn't know I needed. Tomorrow I'm going to stop by my parents' (they have all the same components except the HD stuff) to take a look at where all their cables are connected.

I taped last week's White Collar on my old TV/VCR, but I can't watch it. Rats. Guess I'll start on E.B. before I go wash dishes and try to get myself to bed at a decent hour.


Oscars Project: Chapter 1 Movie List

Movie list created from Cinematherapy Goes to the Oscars

Tentative List from Chapter 1 (2000-2004) "Antianxiety Movies"

Erin Brockovich
Murder on a Sunday Morning
Seabiscuit (under "What Were They Thinking?")
The Hours

I plan to do these in the order listed here, but I hope to get advance notice if the order changes (usually resulting from attempts to obtain the next film in line).

Others mentioned in chapter (and possible alternates if needed and not yet seen): Finding Nemo, Lost in Translation, The Fog of War, Bowling for Columbine, Into the Arms of Strangers, Mystic River, Shrek, Monster, Pollock, A Beautiful Mind, Monster's Ball (also "WWTT?")

Oscars Project: Movie #1

(Explanation of The Oscars Project found here. And need I say it? This post contains SPOILERS.)

The kickoff film is Chicago (2002)--not exactly first on the list (more on that later), but the first I could get my hands on. It's based on the musical of the same name that presents the story of two women, Velma and Roxie, who aspire to stardom on the stage (of a packed gin joint) but wind up in prison for murdering their significant others, at which point it's up to slick high profile attorney Billy Flynn to redeem them in the eyes of the jury by any means possible. . . or else they'll hang. Oh, and there are singing and dancing numbers (Bob Fosse!) interspersed throughout.

My thoughts:

1. I really didn't feel much sympathy for Roxie, because she was fooling around on her husband and basically shot her paramour because she was furious with him for feeding her lines about getting her at shot at the big time when he just wanted to sleep with her. In fact, pretty much everyone in the big "He Had It Coming" number didn't really convince me, except maybe the one inmate whose man was physically menacing her out of jealousy. . . while she happened to be cutting up a chicken.

2. Catherine Zeta-Jones earned her Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She looked, sounded, and acted the part. A smash-up job.

3. That said, is there any scene Queen Latifah can't steal just by her mere presence? The woman must have liquid charisma running through her veins. Why don't we see more films featuring her very prominently? She was fantastic as the lead in Last Holiday, and also good in The Secret Life of Bees (such as it was) and Hairspray.

4. I never want to hear Richard Gere sing again. Maybe it's just me, but that was unpleasant and an embarrassment to the last name Flynn (and I can say that because there is vaudeville in my ancestry on the Irish side).

5. On the other hand, John C. Reilly's endearing rendition of "Mr. Cellophane" as Roxie's good-hearted lug of a cuckolded husband was just expertly turned out--sweetly maudlin and yet understated so as not to appear overly pathetic.

6. Do I agree that, as Peske and West say, that at the time of its release, Chicago "reassured us that when the going gets tough, the tough find a whoopee spot. . . and wait out the storm" (p. 24)? Maybe. I definitely agree with their mention of our "obsession with celebrity." (Ibid.) The fickleness of the public during the drama in the courts and the fascination with the latest crime rings true even today. I guess it's timeless.

They are definitely right, though, when they say that "if [waiting out the storm in a gin joint] doesn't work, there's always Queen Latifah." (Ibid.)

Next up: Erin Brockovich (complete list of movies for this chapter here).

Feel free to share your thoughts in the combox.


New TV! New TV! Yay!!!

It took about two hours, but I got my new TV and new cable box set up, and the picture is big and gorgeous. I still have to hook up the DVD player, but that can wait (although the next movie for the Oscars Project is waiting for me).

The old TV/DVD/VCR--and when I say "old" I mean "former," because it was only about five years old--had an annoying hum, the VCR part pretty much died a few months ago (would not rewind, kept rejecting tapes, and this week ignored a timer recording), and the DVD player was wearing out from consistent weekly use. The lousy hunk of junk's in the dumpster getting rained on right now.

Don't ask me why I wound up with that poor excuse for a TV; I didn't buy it. That, I believe, is the last of the things The Ex gave me. The earrings broke, I chucked most of the videos and trinkets, the books were given away or sold online.

I feel as if I've taken back my living room.


The Cinematherapy Oscars Project

When movies aren't a sure thing, and tickets cost upwards of $8.50, they're something I tend to put pretty low on the list of entertainment. When the awards shows roll around each year, I don't watch, because I've seen only one (or possibly none) of the nominees. Half the time, I don't even get what people are raving about when it comes to certain acclaimed films.

At the same time, though, it does make me feel a little culturally deficient.

The idea to remedy this problem: Cinematherapy Goes to the Oscars. This book views films as a reflection of the times in which they were created/nominated, and of course (sorry, fellas) from the perspective of inspiration for women.

How this is going to work: Every week, typically on Thursday night but Friday night at the latest, I will post about a movie (selected from the book) that I have watched during that week.

A few more miscellaneous details:
  • I have chosen about 48 films, expecting to complete the project by year's end. That said, I'm off to a late start, so I probably will do two in one week occasionally.
  • I will be going in chapter order in the book, which is by decade, starting with 2000-2004--2004 being the publication date of the book--and going backwards.
  • Every third film in the chapter was chosen, unless I saw it already or didn't have the stomach for it. (Seriously--Monsters' Ball comes to mind, for example.)
  • I will post the list of films from each chapter in advance, with a few possible alternates in case I can't track some down.
  • I will try to watch them in order of the list, but the order will be subject to how soon I can obtain a copy of the film. I will try to give notice if I am deviating from list order.
  • I reserve the right to take two nonconsecutive weeks off (barring any horrible personal disasters, ptui, ptui)
  • Movies will be provided by the local video rental store and the library. If I get desperate, possibly "Video on Demand," but I hope not.

Of course, all blogreaders are invited to read and/or watch along with me! And comment! I don't claim to be an expert on film (what with one film class from my undergrad days--but oh, I loved that class), so contributions to the discussion are strongly encouraged! All I ask is that you be respectful, as usual.

First up: Chicago

O.K., Smokey. Roll 'em.


Lousy Internet

I had a slow-to-nonexistent connection for a couple hours, and after a few attempts to fix it, I finally called the provider. Turns out that not only did they do maintenance work in the area today, but also my wireless settings were changed, possibly when I changed my plan this week to get HD channels.

Things seem fixed now, but I'm feeling under the weather and need to put myself to bed. Which sucks, because I wanted to do my big project kickoff post. Tomorrow, I hope.


On a Lighter Note

In honor of the impending kitteh adoption at Casa CCR, a funny video. (Note: one line is NSFW so you might want to save this for home.)

Best wishes, CCR (and Miri and Carlos)!


So Not Ready for Bed

Or for tomorrow (Monday), for that matter, but it's an in-service day, and nearly everyone else in the country has the day off, so at least I'm not dreading the morning commute. (I just have to get up in time to get coffee, 'cos budget cuts mean there won't be any offered, booooooo.)

Things were a bit crazy on Friday (hence the absence of the Friday Five--and changes to that are in the works, to be announced shortly). It was a challenging day managing the library without the other librarian, but I did all right and got to blow off some steam at the biggest faculty happy hour we've had so far this year. (Just ginger ale for me--I had been taking Tylenol.) Still, it got a bit loud for me and I was worried about traffic, so I bailed at 5:00.

I spent Saturday contemplating whether I really liked the new stereo (verdict: no, and I think the display was broken during delivery) and cantoring the vigil Mass on-the-fly, because the mic at the cantor's podium was broken and I had to sing everything from the pulpit. I must have been having a psychic moment, because on the way there I mentioned something to my dad about the priest who is an occasional visitor but whose name I can never remember. . . and sure enough, there he is, signaling me to start Mass (or steal second base, because that's what it looks like). Not to mention about three dozen students from one of the local universities were there, too, so it was a pretty crowded church. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but fortunately everybody seemed to go with the flow. Just all that panic wore me out a bit.

Because I did my drop-in cantoring gig last night and my standing "gig" this morning, I got to hear
one of my favorite readings (Is. 62:1-5) twice.

I guess this reading holds a lot of significance for me because sometimes there are those moments when I feel as if my situation--single, no long term relationship in years, renting for ages and no prospects of owning a home, no permanent job (yet), haven't settled into a group of friends--just screams "forsaken" and "desolate." My life has taken some pretty abrupt turns (some passive, some active) in the past few years, and I often wonder if this slow (re-)build is ever going to get to the point where things aren't constantly shifting underneath my feet.

What makes it worse is I know that people who knew me before the abrupt turns happened are watching--I can feel it. Some of them worry (my parents), some of them distance themselves from me (sibs, extended family, former friends/acquaintances), and some won't shut up about it (yes, that aunt). I try not to worry about what they think, but it's hard to miss their behavior towards me. They see me struggling to work things out my life, and they don't know what to do with that.

On the other hand, there are other people who think I've got it going on--the people at church who tell me I have a lovely voice, the people who think it's remarkable that I went back to school, etc. They compliment me, and for a minute it's all very nice. . . then they walk away and go back to their own lives, their own people.

Seraphic has been asking in one of her sidebar polls, "What do you like least about the single life?"

I personally found the choices lacking, but I couldn't put my finger on the problem until this weekend: Lack of intimacy (in the whole sense of word). "Loneliness" doesn't quite cut it, nor does "Not having anyone to go to events with." About a year ago, a well-meaning married friend told me I "had a lot to offer," and that made me respond with a tearful, "Then- why?"

I couldn't get it all out, but I was trying to ask, "Why isn't anyone interested?"

He must have misunderstood me--to this day, I'm not sure what he thought I was asking--because his response was, "Because at some point in time, someone gave you the message that you were unlovable." Probably true, and probably even truer that the same message often seems to surround me, press in on me, to the point where I'd just rather give up and not try to keep working on these changes in my life that relate to being authentically me and realizing my full potential--and not try being "out there" anymore.

So why is that first reading from today's Mass one of my favorite readings?

Because it doesn't end with "Forsaken" and "Desolate." Or "Unlovable," for that matter.

It states outright that even if I think nobody's interested, the Lord "delights" in me, and the reading ends with promise. Maybe not an immediate resolution, but a promise still: The time is coming when those labels will be "no more."

I don't know exactly what that means, but I have hope.


This will be brief--the Benadryl I took is starting to kick in and making me a little woozy. Took the Benadryl because I had to taste the dinner I was making for a teacher. Her family took some hits this past semester, the last one being right around Christmas, so another teacher in her department organized a schedule for people to volunteer to make a dinner for her family. This recipe isn't too bad; it came together really fast. . . and honestly, if you don't like bread crumbs, you probably could skip the oven and serve it straight from the stovetop. But it's a lot of milk and cheese, so definitely not one I'd make for myself. I might try to adapt it sometime so it's milk-free. In any event, the teacher is really nice and smart, and probably one of my favorites for, if only because she asked if I'd turned 30 yet.

I could have hugged her.

The only real downside to this recipe is that preparing raw chicken makes you vulnerable to pet attacks--in my case, the Cat almost jumped on hot stove. I hated yelling at her, but there was no way I was going to the vet E.R. tonight. After that psychotic episode, she settled back down in one of her happy places.

Gotta run--need some sleep because I get to be librarian-in-charge tomorrow! (Pray for me.)


A Bit Subdued Today

Maybe you were like me today and you woke up a bit crabby. (Maybe unlike me your reason wasn't that a cat had been nudging/purring/slobbering on you well before the alarm clock was set to go off. Stupid winter "I'm cold! Feed me more!" feline drama.)

Let me tell you, after a few minutes with the morning news on the radio, that crabbiness turned to sadness. Aching.

I really have nothing to complain about. So I prayed a lot and gave what I could.

If you're looking to help, here's a great post (h/t Amy Welborn).

Still praying.


About that Giant Box. . .

I'm about to go wrestle it open, because (1) it kills the time while I'm waiting for the water to boil for my mac-n-ch(r)eese, and (2) it makes me unavailable to answer the phone or check my e-mail, as I am avoiding my aunt's attempts to pimp me out to one of her piano-student-families for a babysitting job thinly disguised as a reading tutor job.

Her: three phone calls, two voice mail messages, two e-mails.

Me: two e-mails.

I don't understand what I have to say to get her to take NO for an answer, unless she's trying to get me to say something to get her ticked off at me. (Maybe all of her other family feuds have cooled as of late?).

Then again, making her so angry with me that she stops speaking to me might be kinda the way to go at this point.

I'll keep you posted.

On the stereo, I mean.

UPDATE 1/13/2010: From the aunt: no sound; from the stereo: really good sound.


The Friday Five Asks the Magic Eight Ball

Or should ask it, I guess. I don't own one. It's probably better that I don't know the answers. . . I always think of the debates about self-fulfilling prophecies, or free will, or just going with the flow. But then I think that to some degree we weren't meant to be anxious about the future--so how do we deal with not knowing? We discuss five things whose future I'd like to know now:

1. When will I finally be comfortable with the idea of joining facebook? You know, when will it actually seem to be of use to me, or to Tracey for that matter.

2. Will the workout video I ordered be any good? (And will I have that expression on my face after I work out?)

3. After managing to keep my cool on a day where my co-librarian was at an off-site meeting, my key got stuck in the lock to the library door (still locked, and with two dozen eager students breathing down my neck at 6:51 a.m.), and we had a lockdown (first in two or three years! with about 200 students in the library!), if the position opens up for the next year, can I qualify as a shoo-in for the job?

4. Will my library staffer who is determined to do matchmaking for me--from among the single straight male faculty members--succeed?

5. Is the stereo that just arrived going to fit in my TV cabinet? (Note the lack of any kind of physical description--not even some lousy dimensions.)

Please let there be three layers of bubble wrap.

Have a great weekend, and don't get bogged down in the what-ifs!


Have You Hugged Your Accessories Today?

I'll admit it--you don't usually see me clicking in the Accessories area of the programs on the Windows computers I use, unless my calculator's out of reach for a problem too complicated to do in my head.

Today, one of the lovely English teachers with whom I organized the NaNoWriMo write-a-thon for the writing classes came to me with an unusual computer request: She was teaching poetry in one of her other courses and wanted to know if there was anything software-wise she could use to mark scansion on the poems the way a textbook would.

I did a quick check of what we had in Acrobat, but we only have Reader and no tools to mark stuff up. Rats.

Then a light bulb went off, and I opened up the Paint program. It's probably one of the worst drawing programs out there, but hey, you can type words and then draw all over them.

With a line tool so you can get scansion marks!


The teacher I was helping isn't terribly tech-savvy, so I walked her through it one more time, and she was very excited.

It's one of those rare days it feels good to be an English major and a high school art scholarship kid. Who ended up a librarian.

Now, if the teacher had been a little more comfortable with technology, and I'd had more time to think, I could've fired up a
SMARTBoard and had some real fun marking up poems.

Maybe I'll ease her into that one if I'm around next year.


Final Thoughts During the Final Hours of Vacation

--The time off went way too fast.

--Come to think of it, part of the bummed-out feeling between Christmas & New Year's came from the fact that Younger Sister left early last Sunday morning without saying goodbye. I hate it when she does that but that's her M.O.

--The past few days, I have been on some serious late night "writing benders" in connection with the novel I'm still trying to finish. (Perfect timing.) I don't know what I'm going to do when I go back to school--it's really not a good idea to lose track of time and be up until 1 a.m. writing when I have to get up at 5 for school.

--It's not that I don't want to go back to school. I just wish there could be a way to ease back in before I have to deal with certain students who make it clear they didn't want school to start again just yet.

I'll keep you posted on how it all goes. Hope you have a good Monday.