Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Today's installment of saving babies

Today was one of those "odd jobs around the office" kinds of days that leave me exhausted but happy. While waiting for a grant proposal draft to edit, I answered phones and sorted donations.

Donations make me happy. It's so satisfying to organize piles of baby wipes or Gerber jars knowing that one day soon all these things will help make some mom's expenses a little easier that month. Today's highlight was the high school home-ec class that came en masse to deliver "the blankets we made, um, for the babies who don't, um, have any." It wasn't just blankets either - there were also cheery tote bags that held fuzzy sleepers complete with zippers, hoods, and little mitten cuffs.

Monetary donations, like the pile of checks I processed later in the day, are good too, especially anything that can help meet an emergency need. If I ever have a memorial fund in my name, I'd like it to go for NFNF discretionary funds. (Not to be morbid. Just putting the idea out there so no one attaches my name to something goofy like transcendental meditation or saving obscure birds in the Azores.) Today I answered a call from a woman whose father had just died and needed Greyhound tickets to get to his funeral. Normally we don't just give out money for stuff, but this time I think there is a real need we can meet. St. Vincent de Paul would probably agree with me that it was a privilege to be able to listen to that woman's story and offer my condolences.

Friday, December 12, 2008

We even have a guest room!

It's hard to believe we are almost halfway through the VSC year. I'm running out of time to see everything I want to see - and for people to come visit me! Yeah, I know, travel is expensive and everyone else is busy too. Let's see what The Onion has to say about dropping by the STL

Carol of the Bells

Lift up your head, ye mighty gates! Behold the King of Glory waits

It makes for a long Tuesday night, but I have come to love my handbell choir rehearsals. As I drive down Lindell and the Basilica dome appears on the horizon, I have this wonderful feeling of coming home. I've spent so many evenings there this fall, I feel like the building and I belong to each other a little. I've memorized which mosaics are in which transepts. I know how to navigate the balcony stairwells and enter the security code for the basement choir rooms. I practice music alongside the ornate reliquaries that display the very bones of Sts. Vincent and Louis, the STL's favorite patrons. I have a personalized hanger reserving my own choir robe. Most fun of all, I get to pass under velvet ropes and use the "Clergy and choirs only" entrance.

Really, I should just admit that I love sneaking around behind the scenes of anything. Like so many habits of mine, it started with my parents. Since my toddler days Dad and Mom were part of the "Baptism Team" at our parish, gaining access to sacristy cabinets so we could help set out chrism, white bibs, and candles for the priests. Baptism days meant extra time being well-behaved in our Sunday best, but I enjoyed being in the know about the church's storage system and which homily points each priest favored. (Fr. Pollard always reflected on our adoption as God's children, while Fr. Haley cautioned new parents not to slip on the sanctuary steps.)

I still love being part of the liturgical stage crew, whether as a lector or extraordinary minister of the eucharist (person with the chalice.) You could even say that my job choice reflects my desire for restricted area access. At WM, I got paid to open the student centers and then grab what was needed from the restricted AV equipment room. Hey, I even got class credit by defying barriers, making a year-long internship out of going past the velvet ropes in Colonial Williamsburg.

So, is it any surprise that I get a kick out of being behind the scenes at what is arguably this city's most splendid church? It's always a little thrilling to lift up the velvet ropes blocking off the sanctuary area and inform the ushers that it's ok, I'm with the choir.

The cathedral Christmas concert was the perfect adrenaline rush to cap off my return to the world of gloves, mallets, and table damps. Hours of rehearsal in the church with choirs and orchestra might seem like good preparation, but nothing could really get me fully ready to walk out before a capacity crowd and start chiming with all my might.

By the time we finished Of the Father's Love Begotten, nervousness had turned to pure energy. With the exception of an interminable, multi-movement Gloria, the concert's two hours flew by. Making music to praise God in such a wonder-inspiring place never gets old for me. Surely even the stern seraphim on the dome were smiling behind their six wings. I definitely spied some grins on the faces front-row senior citizens when we launched into Joy to the World. (Now with added soprano "hieroglyphics!" as the choir director calls them.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A taste of vacation

So, I haven't really been back at work since Thanksgiving, thanks to some flu-like virus thing. I missed part of last week (not to mention 2 Healthy Start meetings), and then on Monday I felt so gross I went home early. Annnd so there I have remained the rest of the week, sleeping in, lying on the couch, and watching pretty much all of Season 3 of The Office.

(On a side note, do you ever feel you get numb to a show's charms after watching 4 episodes in a row? Dwight Schrute and Michael Scott are at their funniest when I see them only once a week. It's like those 6-hour Pride and Prejudice binges that always make me fall asleep the minute Lady Catherine appears for her angry speech.)

Anyway, it hasn't been all fun and games here in the land of feverishness and recurring circulatory symptoms. Until Wednesday I was sweating out my application to the University of Chicago, editing my personal statement and re-formatting the zillions of pictures in my church architecture project. Plus making a feverish late-night run to Fed-Ex.

Then I retook the GRE today, having re-registered for it on a whim. Just what I needed, to cram for a four hour test while I can't sit up straight. Somehow the illness was a lucky charm though, because I IMPROVED MY SCORE FROM 1290 TO 1440!!!!

It's such a relief to have a good score under my belt, and to have once app sent in. Tomorrow will probably be my last day of medical leave, and my plan is to spend it on Christmas Cards, applications and Flight of the Conchords episodes. Saturday is our first house party, a Ghetto/Yuletide affair we call "Christmas in Da Crib." And then the real vacation is only a week away!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A few reasons wny I am applying to graduate school

With Thomas Jefferson in the St. Louis Arch museum

“One can accept the view that the historical record is fragmentary and incomplete, that recovery of the past is partial and difficult, and that historians will never finally agree in their interpretations, and yet can still believe intelligibly and not naively in an objective truth about the past that can be observed and empirically verified. Historians may never see and represent that truth wholly and finally, but some of them will come closer than others, be more complete, more objective, more honest, in their written history, and we will know it, and have known it, when we see it.” Gordon Wood in The New York Review of Books, 1991.

"The intellectual life is indeed an intense and ongoing conversation (occasionally a brawl) into which young academics seek entry and from which scholars draw vitality throughout their careers."(xiii)

"Popular culture is of great interest to me because I am fond of thinking of homes, churches, local libraries, and municipal buildings as the prosaic side of collective memory. In these often unassuming buildings are found things that tell us who we are by shaping out memories of the people, places, institutions, and events that have formed our lives-often in forgettable yet utterly tenacious ways. Religious stuff is a particular category of the things that mark the halls and walls and countertops of everyday life. Why bother to study it? In a nutshell, because there is something irresistable about the fact that human consciousness owes so much to cardboard icons and plastic buttons." (xi)

"And what will enrich our understanding of the worlds in which we live more than an historically informed analysis of the artifacts that articulate the worlds of others?" (pxv)

Visual Piety by David Morgan (Berkeley: Univ of California Press 1998)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Back to Cubicle-land

Ok, I take it back. My friends in contracts have the all-day Christmas radio on, and I'm not sure I can last through a month of this.

But IT"S SNOWING! I can see flurries through the blinds, and we had to clean off the car windows this morning. Now that's my kind of holiday spirit.

So is tracking down a cheap-as-free sleeper couch for a Healthy Start client. The people at the Salvation Army are usually really helpful when I call on missions like this. If you know me well, you know I am not a phone person at all - just the thought of dialing a friend's number is distasteful to me. So, appropriately, working here often requires me to call all kinds of places and people. This introvert is going to be a skilled networker if it kills her.

Ironically, I don't mind answering the phone so much. In fact, I love the frantic energy of being the operator at NFNF. It takes me back to my customer service days as a University Center supervisor.

Last week I met all kinds of interesting clients and donors while I directed calls. My favorite was the 90 year old woman who wanted a personal message printed in her holiday card order. She was very glad we were pro-life and not one of those secret terrorist fronts they warned her about at church. I heard all about her upcoming birthday party at the Ritz and how she's slowing down and reflecting on her life now that she's hitting the big nine-oh. She was a hoot - I hope we convince her to come visit the office.