Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cold ... It's Freakin' Cold Outside

It’s cold these days. Dangerously cold. Schools throughout the metro region and state are closed as the wind-chill temperatures are certainly capable of severe frostbite and are potentially lethal as well. Ellie and I hunker down, making sure we don’t stick our noses into the weather any more than absolutely necessary … to get the newspaper from our stoop, to make sure no mail is sticking out that would not fit down our mail chute, to make sure our garbage and recycling carts are properly positioned for their respective pickups the next morning. We’re not exactly afraid of this weather ( not exactly ) but if there is no reason to go out, let’s just not.

Mid Wednesday-morning I get an email that the Pathways event scheduled for Thursday night is cancelled; “when the schools are closed, the Basilica closes, too,” is the communication. This is a program I help schedule volunteers for, so I get involved in making sure the communication of the closure is communicated to all those scheduled for the evening. This is successful.

Monday is again brutally cold ( following, please note, a reasonable weekend of weather; Saturday the highs were in the high twenties and Sunday the temperatures were above zero all day ); schools are closed, and, so I assume, is the Basilica. The school district’s closure meant Benjamin and I miss our first evening of this quarter’s class, “Making a Writing Life.” Tuesday is even colder, so, of course, schools remain closed. As does the Basilica … I get a text message from Travis telling me so.

I have missed the window of opportunity for my weekly Basilica inspections … Travis’s days off, Monday and Tuesday. As I consider my days ahead … with forecast high temperatures remaining above zero … I realize I have no intention of going to the Basilica to do the inspections this week. My assumption has been that, failing to get the report submitted before Travis comes to work on Wednesday is grounds for not submitting it at all. “Is this reasonable?” I wonder.

I write to him to ask.
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Monday, January 27, 2014

Snow Cold Day

Today Walter and I were to start a class, but it was called on account of "extreme cold weather".  That's probably for the best.  Both Walter and I agree that we wouldn't be leaving the house if it weren't for class.

Instead I listened to another episode of Packing Heat.  That's the podcast about writing that I promised to review months ago.  To my embarrassment, I'm still only on the eighth episode.

The last episode I had listened to before my long hiatus directed listeners to the story idea generator at Seventh Sanctum.  I have found that to be very useful, along with the name generator.  I have never just took an idea or name, and used it as is.  It generates several, and I've mixed and matched.

So far the podcast has not been too adult themed, and almost all of her advice would relate to any writing style.  I do wonder how pricing your work would be different, but I'm not really there yet myself anyways.  The most graphic thing I remember her mentioning so far was when she was talking about specific vocabulary to use, and what to avoid.  I would still probably be embarrassed if the other people on the bus heard me listening to it.

She talks about writing goals in the range of 700-1,000 words a day.  What's interesting is that, although she's not still producing the podcast, she does have a note up saying that she now finds around 400 words per day more realistic, and useful.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Rush Hour Accident

“We have to get you off the highway. Do you have your insurance card?”

“Of course,” I replied.

“May I have your driver’s license?” the Trooper continued.

“Are you going to hold this for ransom?” I asked. He only nodded.

This conversation preceded a meeting in a church parking lot just off the exit from the interstate. The meeting seemed interminable, in 30 something temperatures, and was a marked contrast to the gathering I wanted to be at and was headed for in a church not far away. In the actual meeting we were outside, in the cold, with the blue revolving light of the Trooper’s car periodically flashing on the wall of the church. I had wanted to be inside a church, with other volunteers ( some of whom I was planning to meet this night ), in a cozy room eating pizza as we chatted about our volunteer work.

The outdoor meeting was the result of a phone call to 911 reporting a 4-vehicle accident that had occurred on the interstate. The accident occurred during rush hour, in very heavy, slow-to-stopped traffic conditions, and began with the driver of a small truck apparently deciding he could text and operate his vehicle simultaneously. His rear-ending of the car ahead of him shattered that illusion ( one can hope, eh? ) as well as the left taillight and back bumper of the car. That car hit another and that one hit me, ending the chain reaction.

“What th’ … ? What was that?” I said to myself, as if it could have been anything else. I pulled to the shoulder and exited my car; though we were moments ago snarled and nearly stopped, traffic seemed to be whizzing by me now. I looked at my car’s rear end and saw, by the lights of the car that had hit it, only minor damage. The driver of that car, a female, had also pulled over and was still in the car. Suddenly, appearing from nowhere is a man on the passenger side of her car.

“He was texting! He admitted to me he was texting!” as he comes to my side.

“Who’re you?” I managed to say through a fog of confusion.

“The kid hit me,” he said, as though that explained everything.

It explained nothing to me. “So … ,” trying lamely to tie this together, “you don’t belong … “ I pointed to the white car.

“No, no,” he said, “I’m behind her.”

I’m not a rocket scientist, and now I didn’t need to be one. “So,” I said, as if calculating a rocket’s trajectory, “you got hit, hit her, and she … ”

“Bingo. Yup. You got it. He was texting! I’m calling the police … none of this exchanging driver and insurance information and going on our merry way for me.”

I was ready to just exchange information, thought calling the authorities a better idea, and was glad there was at least one person more clear headed than I.

“Here’s what we gonna do,” the Trooper said, in the church parking lot. “I have all the information I need from all of you. I am going to go to my car, enter the data into the computer, get a print out for each of you, then gather you again for the next steps. OK?” He didn’t wait for an answer before walking to his car.

I met Michael and Joy that night. Joy had hit me and Michael her. Most of the damage seemed to be to Michael’s nineteen ninety something Volvo
( “a tank,” I thought; “a tank,” he referred to it as ) that had been in pretty pristine condition. “What it will cost to fix this will get me another car,” he said. And while he seemed to enjoy the thought of another car, he clearly mourned the damage his “tank” had sustained.

Joy was new to this country, having come from Canada and having no idea how dealing with an insurance company in this sort of situation would come down. Michael and I assured her that, if the perpetrator admitted texting to the Trooper, it was pretty likely his insurance company would pay all costs. While the temperature was in the mid-thirties and we went back to our cars to warm up several times, exchanging pleasantries in the parking lot was, well, pleasant. We even joked, “Well it was nice having an accident with you.”

All in all, however, I would have preferred being at the pizza party.
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Monday, January 20, 2014

Continued Adventures in Transportation

Day 1
I was pretty miserable; not because I was taking the bus, but because I was not prepared for it. I was not equipped for standing outside in -15° weather. I was not yet familiar with the bus routes, and schedules. This required me to be very early wherever I went to be sure to be on time. It also caused longer layovers than necessary. There was also the small hassle of keeping change on hand.

On the brighter side, I did know what to expect. I also retained the skill prevent myself from sleeping past my stop if I fell asleep.

Day 4
I was finally able to buy some appropriate winter wear. I also got a bus pass. I had become much more familiar with my routs. Over all, things were going much more smoothly.

Day 5
The coldest day in years; -50° with the windchill. And I was... indoors. My work was nice enough to finally set me up to work from home in case of emergency.

It was above freezing, and I didn't mind taking the bus at all. I don't expect to see those temperatures until spring, but I can be sure now that I made the right decision to take the bus this spring, summer, and fall. I'll spend that time getting my duck in a row before rushing off to buy another vehicle.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Cathedrals & Churches II

As stated in a prior post, Cathedrals & Churches, when speaking to a friend, "I offered to preview some of his favorite pictures on," my blog. Two pictures followed. Below are a couple more.

Nave and Sanctuary
Monastery of the
Immaculate Conception
(a Benedictine
community of women)
Ferdinand, IN

This house of worship is elegance par excellence. The structure behind the altar is a small enclosed chapel where the tabernacle is kept. The space is vast – yet intimate – and also features a second level balcony level that surrounds the nave.

The altar rests on a multicolored geometric pattern. Images of the life of Christ are cast in bronze and embedded in the sides of the altar.
Sanctuary and Choir
Saint Meinrad’s Archabbey
(a Benedictine community of men)
Saint Meinrad, IN
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Monday, January 13, 2014

How to Get Where You're Going

When I was attending college, I came to the conclusion that I needed a vehicle by the time I graduated if I wanted to be free to find a job in my field. I succeeded in this goal, found a job, and never looked back... until now. It's three years later, and I find myself once again car-less.

I love the look of my car, and have no complaints about the way it drives. It will be missed, because the reality is that it needs more repair work than is reasonable for me. I'll have to sell it to someone more knowledgeable about cars. The good news is, I can get to my job by bus.

There are some bright sides to this whole situation.
1. I had become complacent, and this whole ordeal has given me a lot to think about.
2. I'm getting more daily exercise than I have been.
3. I think I'm saving a little money, but that's debatable.
4. I don't have to drive. It's true; I hate driving.
5. I have a little more time. Although my trip is longer, I can use that time, unlike driving.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mentoring ... Big Brother without the Testosterone?

I have “always” been aware of the blessed state of my life ( see my blog post Giving Thanks ) and interested in “giving back” to the community. I volunteer at my church ( see my blog post Making of a Volunteer for the start of a story about that ), and I help when and where I am able. I have also, now and then, thought about being a “big brother.”

This has always implied to me things that are laced with testosterone … coaching him in athletics, taking him fishing, hunting, swimming, and to all manner of sporting events ( and the more violent – think NFL and college football – the better ), and possibly even showing him how to box and use a handgun. You know, being a big brother. None of these things is me. For better or worse. This need for high testosterone levels has kept me from even looking into being a “Big Brother.”

A staff member at my parish sent me an email, advising me the parish is starting a mentoring program for formerly homeless people now in college and urged me to consider becoming a mentor in the program.

This sounded like a “Big Brother” thing — without the testosterone — and the email immediately piqued my attention/interest. I went to talk to her about it … sure enough, the mentors are to help with things such as budgeting, studying ( not tutoring … but helping figure out study habits that work, and how to study, making sure the student knows how to get tutoring help if that is actually necessary ), time management, accountability, and so forth. We’re to help with skills that most people who’ve been to college take for granted. Testosterone level not relevant.

And, although I’ve graduated from college and believe I have, and can teach, most of these skills, I’m suddenly not certain I can mentor. Anyone who’s been homeless has street-smarts that I’ll never have and skills that I’ll never learn. Would I have any credibility with him? Who am I to teach her anything?
And yet … and yet, the draw is there. I feel a pull to this task. Some fear, too; I wonder if I can actually do it. But, putting my faith in my God ( the source, I am sure, for the pull in the first place ), I will pursue this opportunity. His strength and wisdom will sustain me when my own resources fail. The initial meeting for interested persons is January 09. I will keep you posted.
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