Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Fun with Technology

I'm taking a step into the 21st century this morning and trying to figure out how to get my CDs onto the iPod that my SO bought for me months ago and I've yet to use.
As Grouch Marx would say, "Why a 4-year-old child could understand this! Quick, run out and get me a 4-year-old child."

In honor of the technically challenged, this week's Friday Fun video is the oldie but goodie entitled "Medieval Help Desk."
The invention of the printing press spurred the creation of one the world's oldest professions: the IT guy. Techno geeks everywhere rejoiced.

The funniest part of this video is at the end when our techno-phobe is handed the "manual" - The medieval equivalent of computer manufacturers who include all of their "How To Operate This Computer" instructions on a CD-ROM., while I await the arrival of the 4-year-old child.....Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


The spring cleaning bug has bit me and I'm spending my day in full Clean-a-palooza mode, so the following is a blog-brief-update on what's going on:

** I'm still waiting to hear from the Boston seminary's admissions woman regarding the likelihood of me receiving any additional funds for school. I believe in God. I believe in miracles. But I think admissions committees operate on an entirely separate plane. Especially seminary admissions committees. Somehow I don't think claiming that "God has led me to this seminary and He will provide the funds - Make it so" has much sway with them.

** My college classes are officially OVER!!!!!!! I went to clase de espanol on lunes (Monday) fully expecting to have to drag myself through 3 more classes and the final exam, only to find out that our Profesora had to fly back to Columbia the next day for a family emergency. She cancelled the last 3 classes AND the final! What was more amazing, she told us to take out a piece of paper and write down the final grade WE THOUGHT we should get for the class, and after collecting the papers she said they looked fair and we would each get the grade that we wrote down. It saved her from having to do the work, and the kid sitting behind me who missed the only test we had and hadn't shown up for class in 6 weeks got the B+ he requested. Who said life wasn't fair?

** My 80 year-old mother can't make it up for my graduation on May 13th - I didn't really expect her to - sitting in the sun for 3 hours on a football field is hard enough when you're 40 let alone 80. My mom did tell me that she's organizing a family get-to-together for me the day before which is a nice surprise.

** My mother-in-law is flying out from California to attend the graduation and she'll be staying at our house for six days (thus the Clean-a-palooza). We'll take her down to NY for the get-to-together that my Mom is planning, and she wants to use one day to take a trip out to the Mystic CT aquarium. That will take care of 3 days, and my SO has to work on the other 3, so it will be just me and her mom. Her mom is a putterer. When we visit her in CA she never sits still - gardening, laundry, cooking, cleaning the patio/pool, walking the dog, general putzing around. How am I going to keep this woman occupied and entertained for 2 days? Help.

** We've had roofers at our house for two days - clamoring up and down ladders, throwing huge chunks of wood into dumpsters, running saws, hammering nails, and generally making a lot of noise. I'm just glad they're getting it done so we'll no longer have Niagara Falls running from our living room ceiling. Of course, I just heard one of them yell "F**K! I f**cked up! I really, really f**king f**cked up!" - that can't be good - perhaps he failed to follow the old adage: "Measure twice, cut once."

** ...and the most important update of all - the Forsythia have finally bloomed! It was 85 degrees on Monday, I drove to school in the morning in a brown world, and drove home in the afternoon in a world with splashes of golden yellow.
Life is good.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Fun with Felines

Here's a kitty who epitomizes the idea of "perseverance."
He's gotten a hold of a feather duster that he's determined to store in a safe place.
May we all have the same courage and strength to achieve whatever it is we set out to accomplish....

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

I'm sending this week's Wednesday Words of Wisdom out to myself:

"You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need"
- Mick Jagger

Have you ever wanted something so bad that you poured all of your heart and soul into getting it, taking all the necessary steps, dotting all the i's crossing all the t's, convincing yourself that it was so much a sure thing that it wasn't worth dwelling on the small chance that it wouldn't happen?

And then it didn't happen?

Last Thursday I heard from the Boston seminary. I was accepted for the Fall semester, but I didn't get the scholarship that I was sure I was going to get. They offered me the "Dean's Award," a one-time award that will pay for two classes (roughly $2,500), and that's it.
That's not even going to put a microscopic dent in the $50,000+ cost of going to seminary.

I'm graduating next month Summa Cum Laude with honors and a 3.97 GPA. I have less than $100 in the bank and $7,000 in credit card debt after depleting my savings paying for my undergrad degree.
So why didn't I qualify for one of the Presidential scholarships that the school offers?
Well, actually I did, according to the admissions department.
But I was too late. They had "just" given out all the scholarship money when my application was reviewed.

How could this have happened?
I blame it on bad information on their website and bad assumptions on my part.
They received my application on Feb 23rd, long before the April 1st admissions deadline.
I didn't send it in sooner because they advertise their full tuition scholarship as being merit AND need based. Thus I assumed that they wouldn't be handing out scholarships until they had the applicants financial aid information.
The website says that financial award letters would go out to new students "beginning" March 1st, but their 2007/08 Financial Aid application wasn't made available until Feb 15th. I filled it out online on that same day.
Unlike other seminaries, their website has nothing that says "all applications must be in by such-and-such date to be considered for a scholarship." They have rolling admissions and with the mid-Feb arrival of the financial aid form and the April 1st admissions deadline, I assumed I was getting in early in the game. I assumed wrong.
I also don't know why it took them 6 weeks to review my application when their admissions office claims that "applicants will be notified in 3-4 weeks."

There is no way that I can go to seminary without a scholarship.
I don't want to leave school carrying $50,000 in student loans.
I may get a few thousand here and there from grants or other scholarship sources while I'm in school but realistically I know the bulk of the cost will have to be paid by me, and that would entail working full-time, going to school part-time and taking out reams of student loans. I know people do this all the time to pay for Grad school. I did it for the past 5 years to pay for college. But I can't justify accepting the $2,500 award and going into serious debt knowing that I would have had a full scholarship had my application been reviewed as little as a week earlier.

I will either have to wait a year and apply again (if they allow that) or apply to a different school. It's too late to apply anywhere else for this Fall as all the financial aid deadlines have passed.
So much for busting my butt last semester earning 22 credits so I could graduate this spring and start seminary in the Fall.

I am so angry.
Angry at the Boston seminary. Angry at myself.
Now everything I've been planning has been thrown up into the air and possibly put on hold for another year.

Yeah I know all the comforting clichés that apply in this situation:
"Humans plan and God laughs."
There may be something else God has in store for me that I can't see right now.
Everything happens for a reason.
I should be grateful for all that I do have - a wonderful wife who supports and loves me, a decent place to live, food on the table, my health, and the opportunity to graduate from college and go on to seminary, regardless as to when it happens.

I know all of that.
But I have to allow myself time to stamp my feet and pout and be pissed off and disappointed because things didn't work out the way I expected them to.
I may want to be a minister, but I'm still human.
In the real world I'll put on my "Que Sera Sera" brave face.
I come here to rant and to rave and to cry.
To cry over the loss of something that meant a lot to me.
The loss of something I truly felt God was leading me to do, right here, right now.
Either God has a different plan in mind or my going to seminary this Fall was the plan and I just screwed it up big time.

The door is still open a crack (a very tiny crack).
The woman in the admissions office was very sympathetic and wants very much for me to be able to attend in the Fall as planned. She told me that she's "going to see what (she) can do" and get back to me sometime this week but I'm not holding my breath. Short of her coming back and offering me close to what the Presidential scholarship is ($10,000 a year) I just don't see how I'm going to be able to go there in the Fall.

I've already started looking at other schools to use as a back-up should my chances for getting a scholarship from the Boston seminary fall through again next year.
There's a school in NYC that I took off my short list years ago that's starting to look pretty good.
In fact, looking at the NYC school has made me doubt whether the Boston seminary should have been my first choice after all.

Perhaps the "things happen for a reason" cliché will ring true once again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TAG! You're it!

My fellow blogger Dennis was kind enough to tag me to participate in the "Six Weird Things" meme that's going around, so here goes:

Ground Rules for tagees:
1. Reveal six weird things about yourself on your blog, and
2. Tag six people to do the same.

Six Weird Things About Me

1. I have no idea what beer tastes like. Other than a sip of champagne at a wedding or two I've managed to get through my entire life without ever partaking in an alcoholic beverage.

2. While on the subject of drink, I love the smell of coffee but hate the taste of it.

3. I've seen Elton John in concert 22 times and was obsessed with him as a teenager. I had every record and every poster, magazine, book, T-shirt etc. that was in existence. I was 15 years-old and in love with a gay man. That should've been my clue that I was destined for weirdness.

4. When I was a kid I loved the Encyclopedia Brown books. My friends and I started our own detective agency in my back yard and we advertised our service on the telephone pole in front of my house. Someone kept stealing our sign so we never had any customers. We didn't think to try and find out who was stealing the sign (we were lousy detectives).

5. Back in my bike racing days I used to get up at 4:00 in the morning every Saturday and drive to Prospect Park in Brooklyn to race. I'd pay my $20 entrance fee, bitch about how cold and dark it was until the sun came up, line up on the start line with 50 men and 3 other women, bust my lungs wide open trying to keep up with them and not crash, get dropped on the hill on the 3rd lap, and spend the rest of the race trying in vain to catch back up and/or not get lapped and pulled from the race. I did this every weekend. Voluntarily.

6. If I could hang out with any fictional character I would choose Captain Janeway of Star Trek Voyager. She had brains, brawn, and beauty. She could take Kirk AND Picard in a fight any day.

I'm going to go out on a limb and tag some wonderful bloggers whom I read often but aren't part of the Mad Priest brigade: Kitty Litter , Sassy Femme , Mary Sue , Skdo , Zane , and Mrs. M

Monday, April 16, 2007

Where's Moses when you need him?

I woke up at 3:45 this morning to a bedroom brightened by flashing lights streaming in through the window. Either we were having a Close Encounter of Third Kind or the incessant rain we'd had all day was causing problems outside. Unfortunately it was the latter that was true (how boring). The brook that runs in front of the school across the street had overflowed its banks turning the road and our parking lot into a white water rafting exhibition.
After waking my SO up so she wouldn't miss out on the fun, I peered out the window and watched three flash-light carrying fireman enter my neighbors house, presumably because she's the one that called them. The firemen then exited the house, strung yellow caution tape across the road and left. That's it. No flares, no signs, no patrol car with flashing lights to warn people coming around a blind curve in the dark that they're about to drive into a raging river. Sure enough, once daylight broke we looked out the window and the tape had been broken. Most likely by a driver who came around the curve and ran right into the caution tape. We've been watching drivers all morning come around the curve, get half way through the flood, and then turn around. That's if they're smart. One guy in a Hummer just blew right through (and was probably surprised to run into the police car closing off the other end of the road).

Naturally, they closed the school as both the entrance and exit cross over the brook so there was no getting in or out. My SO was happy to get a day off, and I'm happy because there's no way I'm getting my car out by 11 am to get to my Spanish class. I wasn't going to attempt it anyway, given the condition of the road when I drove down to school yesterday to speak at an Honor Society induction ceremony. I was hitting lakes of standing water the whole way down, at times the water cascaded over my car entirely forcing me to drive blind for several seconds. It was not fun.

And as if we didn't have enough water outside the house, our living room ceiling has been cascading a river of it's own since yesterday morning. We have towels and buckets down and the plaster is dropping down in clumps. The leak appeared a few weeks ago, and the school's maintenance man looked at it and essentially said "yep, that whole ceiling is going to have to be replaced or it's gonna come down on your head." How reassuring. Presumably we were placed on a list of "Problems to take care when we get around to it" because while roofers have showed up several times to look at the roof, no work has actually been done. The kicker is, we live on the second floor of a three story building, and yet a leaky roof is causing our ceiling to rain down on our heads, literally. Apparently water is running down inside the wall of the apartment above ours and finding that the ceiling above my comfy chair in our living room is a mighty fine place to come to rest.

So me, my chair and my laptop have been evicted to an inconvenient spot in the middle of the room (oh how I fear change!), we're just waiting for the ceiling and our upstairs neighbor to come crashing down on our heads, and we can't go anywhere because every road around us is closed. They just announced that they have Police Dive Teams standing by to perform "rescues" because the pond in front of the Mall has covered the road.

At this point, my SO and I are ready to build an Ark and start gathering the animals.
We already have two cats, so we're off to a good start.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Fun with Satan's plaything

Did you ever get the feeling that God has pegged you as the new JOB and has decided to test your faith by screwing with your life?
I'm having one of those days....

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

...for Doug

"I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go."
~Abraham Lincoln

This week's Wednesday Words of Wisdom are for my brother-in-law Doug who last week received the one diagnosis we all fear: Cancer, everywhere.
While we await the doctor's prognosis as to how long he has and what treatments if any will buy him some time, all we can do is pray.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dante's Infernal need to label people

Yay! I'm a heretic!
If you need me I'll just be hanging out on level six with Joan of Arc, Galileo, Martin Luther, Copernicus, and that infamous leader of the rabble rousers...what's his name again?....oh yeah, Jesus.

In Which Circle of Hell Would You Reside?
Your Result: Circle Six

The Heretics: You taught heresy, falsehoods against the truths of God. Your flaming tongue that lead people to their deaths have gotten you a burning tomb in the city of Dis.

Circle Three

Circle Eight

Circle Seven

Circle Nine

Circle Five

Circle Four

Circle Two

In Which Circle of Hell Would You Reside?
Create a Quiz

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

“April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”
- T.S.Eliot

It's cold and rainy here in southern New England today. I have an Easter Egg Hunt scheduled for this Saturday with the Sunday School kids and the forecast calls for "rain and snow showers" with a temperature in the high 30's.
April is indeed the cruelest month.

It's also one of the ugliest, at least in the beginning. Everything is brown and drab and covered in a layer of mud. We still have a few hold-out mounds of snow tucked into shaded corners but even those are covered in the dirty soot that time and passing cars have laid upon them. Grey skies, cold rain…the only bits of color I spotted on my 25 mile drive to school the other day were the bright blue plastic bins that were tossed haphazardly at the end of driveways after the recycle truck made its weekly rounds.
I'm waiting for the color to come.
The yellow of the Forsythia.
The pink and white blossoms of the Cherry trees.
The brick red of the wood chips scattered by landscapers getting a jump on the season.
The infinite shades of green that spring out from the ground and the twigs of bushes.
The splash of rainbow emanating from flowering plants pushing up on the roadside and in tended gardens alike.

We're at least a few weeks away from all that.
One day the world is brown and grey and the next day, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we awake to color bursting out from every corner of our vision. It's as if God threw a switch lighting up the carousel of nature in all its splendor.

April does indeed mix "memory and desire."
The snow and crisp air of winter are gone, the landmarks of Spring are not yet here. It's an in-between time that like the transition between Fall and Winter is devoid of life. How else do we fill this time but with thoughts of the past and hopes for the future?

During this time of year my mind can't help but drift to memories of Aprils and Easters past…
I am three years old watching my mother button up the front of my new spring coat. It is pink and made of a soft fuzzy fabric and I know that we must be going someplace special because the only other time I was allowed to wear it was on Easter Sunday two weeks before. She is taking me to the hospital to have my third operation in as many years to fix the cleft palate that I was born with. I had no idea where we were going, nor did I know that the operation would once again be unsuccessful. I did not know to be afraid. All I knew, and all I remember, is the excitement of wearing of my new pink coat, and the feeling of love and protection emanating from my mother as she stooped before me pushing the tiny buttons through stitched slots, making sure her youngest daughter was safe and warm.

Fast forward in time and I am 16-years-old. Riding in a car beside my mother watching the bleak landscape of yet another April scroll past the window. We are once again heading to the hospital, this time for my seventh and final operation. It was a new and complicated procedure that the doctor assured us would be successful. It was… but I did not know it at the time.
As I watched the barren trees slide in and out my vision I wrestled with the memory of an operation I had two years prior, one that was not successful….most likely due to the scar tissue that had accumulated from prior operations, but this did not deter the doctor from blaming the negative outcome on "patient attitude" - I did not want it to be successful therefore it was not.
What a horrible thought to put in the mind of child.

Was I scared? Yes - being left alone in a hospital, dealing with pain, uncertainty and the unfamiliar scrutiny of doctors and nurses.
Was I nervous about the outcome? Certainly - I knew the expectations of the doctor, I knew my track record was against me, I knew the medical bills were stacking up on my father's desk, I knew all the worry and upheaval to routine my mother was experiencing having to traipse back and forth to the hospital to visit me.
Did I not want the operation to be successful? There was a part of me that didn't. The part of me that used my speech impediment as a reason not to speak up, not to participate, not to claim a space in the world for myself. Being shy is not a good enough reason to be a mouse in this world. It's not normal to want to be alone, to shun social situations, to prefer to get lost in your own imagination rather than hang out with your peers.
Having a cleft palate gave me a physical reason to be an introvert. How would I exist in the world without it?

What I didn't know as I watched the April trees standing black against the steel grey sky was that I would learn how to exist without it. That not having it to fall back on forced me to rely on what I did have - a sense of humor, a curiosity about life, and a good sense of what made me happy and what made me sad. I learned how to get the words in my head to come out of my mouth, and with the fear of ridicule subsiding, I discovered that I had a voice, and that voice had a place in this world just as any other.

April is a time of "stirring dull roots with spring rain." And I can remember many more Aprils where roots that lied dormant suddenly sprung to life. When I got my first job. When I purchased my first home. When I took my first weekend trips up to CT to be with the woman who is now my wife. When I walked into a United Church of Christ sanctuary for the first time and discovered what had been missing in my spiritual life, and was gifted with a new sense of clarity as to where God was leading me with this call to ministry.

There is part of me that dreads this time of year with all its memories of past hurts and agonizing wait for things to come. And there is part of me that knows that all of it is necessary; we need to till the mud loosened soil to expose the potential for life that lies below. We need to stick our hands in the muck and the messiness that we would rather ignore and root out the bulbs to expose them to the air.
April is all about appreciating the browns and the blacks because without them the reds and the yellows and the greens would not have a canvas to lay upon.

April is all about "breeding lilacs out of the dead land."

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The waiting is the hardest part

I haven't heard from the Boston Seminary yet and it's been 5 weeks since I sent in my application so I contacted the Admissions office yesterday and they said my folder is with the Admissions Committee right now and I should be hearing from them early next week. Yay!

In the meantime I've gathered all the necessary paperwork for my In Care application and my pastor will be mailing it along with her recommendation to the Association's Committee on Ministry this week. Once they review the application they'll contact me to let me know when I can come in for an interview. It may be too late to get on the schedule for the April meeting, if so I'll have to wait until May.

Also falling under the category of "things-I'm-waiting-for" is my May graduation. We have Easter break this week but when I return I'll have SIX, count 'em: SIX clases de espanol left until my college career will officially be over.
The last time I wore a cap and gown I was graduating from high school and I remember feeling a sense of relief - that I survived the hell that high school can be - and a sense of dread, because I had no idea what it was that I was "graduating" into.
This time around couldn't be more different. It's not relief and dread that I feel, but rather pride and anticipation. I know what the next step is and I can't wait take it. And unlike high school where I felt like nothing I ever did was good enough, I know that I've worked hard over these last 5 years and I've earned the right to wear that robe and walk up on that stage along with everyone else.

There's one robe that I haven't yet earned the right to wear, and I discovered a few weeks ago that I'm reluctant to wear it until I have earned that right. Two Sunday's ago my pastor asked me to help her present a sermon that was set up to be a dialogue between the two brothers in the Prodigal Son story. We had fun writing and rehearsing the sermon and it went over very well during the service, but what stuck with me is what happened just prior to the service. I arrived early so we could rehearse the dialogue one more time, and to my surprise the pastor called me into her office and offered me one of her robes to wear. She thought it would be better if we appeared as "equals" while doing the dialogue.
She gave me the option of not wearing the robe if I felt more comfortable in my street clothes, but not wanting to appear as if I was uncomfortable with seeing myself as an "equal" I said I would wear it. She gave me her white summer weight robe and cinched it with a white corded belt. She helped me put it on, thankfully (who knew tying a knot could be so complicated!), but while she was putting it on there was something inside of me saying "this isn't right." I felt like I wasn't ready for it, like I hadn't earned it.
The fact that the robe was a little too big for me (she's 5'9, I'm 5'7) and I had to roll up the sleeves, made me feel even more like I was playing "dress up" - like I was trying on something I pulled out of the adults' clothes chest and pretending to be something I'm not.

When we stepped into the sanctuary to begin rehearsal, the look on the faces of the few early arrivals when they saw me in the robe only added to my feeling of conspicuousness.
I knew it was going to be a distraction. They've never seen me in a robe before and I didn't want them focusing on that when they should be focusing on the sermon. But still I soldiered on. I stepped up to the lectern and we began the rehearsal but I couldn't get comfortable. The sleeves were getting in the way when I went to turn over the pages, and just the bulk of the robe and the extra space I had to leave between me and the lectern made me overly conscious that I was wearing "a robe."
That and the sheer whiteness of it made me feel like a giant marshmallow, as if the Michelin Man had come to preach.
I had to take it off. I told my pastor that it was too distracting and I would prefer not to wear it and she was fine with it.

Would I have reacted differently if the robe was black and/or fit me better?
Probably not.
The bulk of the robe made me take up more space - literally and figuratively - it gave me a physical presence that I'm not ready to claim.
I felt like I had a giant sandwich board around my neck that said "Look at me! I think I have what it takes to be a minister. Ain't that a hoot?!"

When we returned the robe to the office, my pastor (sensing my unspoken uneasiness) told me that it's perfectly ok for lay people to wear robes during worship - it's the stoles that are reserved for clergy only. I felt a little better hearing this, but I still didn't feel like it was right for me. Not yet.

Part of this "earn it to wear it" mentality may be left over from my cycling days. If you raced you wore your team jersey with pride. If you didn't race you wore a plain jersey. Only "Freds" and wannabees bought and wore what we called "Pro Team" kits - matching jerseys, shorts, socks, gloves, etc. all emblazoned with the names and sponsors of the top pro teams. Even worse were those who wore replica World Champion rainbow striped jerseys or, horrors, the Yellow leader's jersey from the Tour de France. These were jerseys you had to earn the right to wear. And it irked us "holier than thou" racers when middle-aged, over-weight desk jockeys came toodling by us on their $5,000 bikes decked out in Pro jerseys thinking they're Lance Armstrong (as if Lance Armstrong would care!)

I wore my local team jersey with pride, and when I stopped racing I stopped wearing it. I didn't belong to that team anymore and I didn't feel that it was honest for me to present an image that suggested that I was something I was not.

That's how I feel about wearing the robe. I'll wear it someday. When I get to seminary, when I do my field education, when I can actually claim the title of 'seminarian' or 'aspirant.' Then I'll feel as if I'm growing into the role and it's ok for me to try on the "adult clothes," if only to get used to how they feel.

"Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have
Immortal longings in me."

--From Antony and Cleopatra