Wow...I haven't posted in almost two months. You'd think I was busy finishing up my scholarly paper, finishing two grad classes, singing Handel's "Messiah," working, having a "wedding" shower, writing "thank you" notes, going to pre-marital counseling, and graduating with a Master's degree in aerospace engineering or something.
Yeah...it's been a busy two months.
But that's all done. This week, my mom and I will make the majority of my wedding dress, and then I'll pack what's left of my stuff that's been in my brother's basement for three years into a U-haul and drive it all back to Maryland. The week after that, I'll address a _whole_ bunch of envelopes and mail out invitations (send me your address if I don't already have it - and maybe if I do....some have been inexplicably lost). In the three weeks after that, I'll make three bridesmaids dresses. What little sewing experience I have was back in the days of baby Links and Elianas...seeing how they're both college-aged now, you could say that it's been a while.
But it'll all get done and on February 11th, while Maryland beats Duke, VNB and I will get married!
So, I'm going to go back to spending time with my family. Y'all have a merry Christmas!
Monday, December 26, 2005
Wow...I haven't posted in almost two months. You'd think I was busy finishing up my scholarly paper, finishing two grad classes, singing Handel's "Messiah," working, having a "wedding" shower, writing "thank you" notes, going to pre-marital counseling, and graduating with a Master's degree in aerospace engineering or something.
Posted by Melissa at 12:38 AM
Thursday, November 03, 2005
So yesterday marked one year since I landed back in the States. Today marks one year since I first heard VNB's name. On Monday, GI Joe got back to the States and on Saturday, he'll get back home. Don't worry about me though - he and Coupon Maven are graciously letting me keep staying at their house until VNB and I get married (well, after a week or so of privacy).
I don't really have much to say on the matter of one year back in the States. I've blathered on before about how much has changed, blah, blah, blah and am just not really in the mood for more mushy writing today. But at the same time, it's an important milestone that I didn't want to be neglected.
So....a year back in America. Woohoo!
Posted by Melissa at 10:43 AM
Monday, October 31, 2005
So the weather people warned those of us in the mid-Atlantic that it would be a pretty colorless fall this year since it had been so dry during August and September.
In my yard, at the very least, they were very wrong.
Each morning these last few weeks I've woken up to a sight which has been increasingly beautiful - a maple tree. My drapes are open just a crack, but basically the first thing I've seen each morning is that sliver of the great outdoors. Each day it's seemed amazing...and each day is more amazing than the day before. Despite several cold, rainy, and dreary days, the view from my window has been brilliant.
And then the fun comes. My car, which parks below said maples, always collects a number of leaves on the windshield and hood over the course of the night. So when I leave in the mornings, it's like I'm driving through a big pile of leaves! I get to see them as they all go flying and as a few brave cling on during my travels, waving wildly in the wind.
Soon the leaves will all be gone, along with the colors, and next year I won't be in this little room with it's view...but soon winter with its many joys and beauties will come, followed by a spring like I've never known before - one shared completely with someone else. Life will never be exactly the same again, but one thing that I've found to be always true in my life is that what comes next is even better than what was before. It may not be apparent right away, and at times it may seem like life can't get any better or more beautiful...but it's always been true.
So in the words of the Arabic Children's Bible that I learned from a lifetime ago, I say thank you:
Posted by Melissa at 8:24 AM
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Well, we got back from Mississippi at about 7:30 AM on Saturday morning. It's a mess down there, but we were able to help a few people and see what we're really up against. It's going to be a _long_ time before life gets back to "normal" for anyone down there. We spent most of our time working in Nicholson, MS. The MapQuest map that I linked to doesn't really show it, but it's right next to the MS/LA border (that's the Pearl River). We were staying about an hour away in Saucier (pronounced "sew-shure"). We stayed with a couple whose nephew's wife was on our team. They're caring for her 100-year-old mother, so they're not able to get out to help people much, but they saw this as their way of helping with the relief effort. Let me tell you, they fed us _well_. We all probably gained weight, even though we were doing hard work all week. And we each had beds to sleep in (most of us didn't even have to share!)!
We drove down (in the rain) Friday night and got there Saturday evening. Sunday morning we made our first trip to FBC, Nicholson in order to worship with them during their morning service. Afterwards we had lunch with the pastor and his family, unloaded the food we'd brough for their food bank, then had a planning meeting with some church members for our Thursday night block party.
On Monday, the pastor was driving all over creation to teach at a seminary, so we were on our own (with some direction from him). We helped an older couple pull all of the furniture out of their house. They'd evacuated to Baton Rouge or someplace during the storm and hadn't come home for a while, so they didn't realize that their roof had sustained some damage and was leaking into their house. By the time they came back, all of their furniture, rugs, drapes, etc. were ruined. We also re-tarped their roof.
Tha didn't take us nearly as long as we'd expected, so we went over to the local elementary school. The principal was a member of FBCN, so we knew before we came what some of their needs were. In their county, all students are required to wear school uniforms. However, many of the displaced students don't have uniforms, so we brought some extra uniforms from our church's school for some of their students to use. When we stopped by to drop them off, we noticed that the roof of one of their portable classrooms needed some help, so we offered to re-tarp it. While a few of us did that, the rest of the group went over to the Pastor's house to remove the debris from his yard.
The next day, we went to the home of another elderly couple. It had been their home for over 50 years. They hadn't sustained a lot of roof damage, but it had taken two weeks for them to be able to get to their door due to all of the downed trees, so their carpets had picked up a lot of moisture. Their insurance company told them to go ahead and remove the old carpet, but to hang onto their furniture for the time being. So we spent the first day moving furniture around and pulling up carpets. While we were there, we heard stories about how beautiful the yard was since the gentleman was a gardener/landscaper, so we took the next day to try to return their yard to some semblance of order.
That day was the most heartbreaking for me. That couple had spent over 50 years cultivating their yard and now that they should be able to just sit back and enjoy it, it's practically gone. Don't get me wrong, they still have a few bushes and flowers, etc., but even the lady of the house realizes that, while it _will_ grow back, it's not going to do it in their lifetimes.
They'll make it through, but....well....I just can't imagine working so hard all those years to have it taken away like that.
On Thursday, we mostly just got ready for our block party, but we did spend the morning vising down closer to the shore in Waveland, MS. We went all the way down Nicholson Ave. to the coast. For several blocks from the coast, the houses were just completely leveled. For a few blocks beyond that, they were destroyed, although still mostly there. We were told that the storm surge was approximately 50 ft deep there at the coast, so even the tall palms and pines that were there were completely underwater for a time. The water reached in about 10 miles from the coast. Understand though that, unlike New Orleans where the water was trapped, this water receeded almost immediately after the storm passed...taking much with it.
Not at all to belittle the people from Waveland's tragedy, but it seems to me that they'll have it easier in many ways than folks in places like Nicholson. See, their homes are gone. All of their belongings are gone. They just have to accept that, bulldoze the debris, and start over. The people in places like Nicholson are going to spend the next several years dealing with insurance to fix roofs and remove trees and replace furniture and belongings and remove mold. The task is so overwhelming.
So we did the only thing left for us to do. We spent Thursday evening providing a needed distraction. We rented a moonbounce with a slide and provided live music and free hot dogs for a couple of hours. The people were so appreciative, the parents especially. They got to watch their kids _play_ for a few hours without thinking about the storm or their monumental task to rebuild. They didn't have to think about being evicted due to their trailer park's sewage system backing up. They didn't have to think about the clean-up process.
With that done, we drove home after one last wonderful lunch with our hosts, arriving back at FBC Laurel (MD, not MS!) at about 7:30 AM on Saturday. We're all still tired and still sorting through our own thoughts and responses to what we saw.
I _can_ say that the team that came together at the last possible minute was definitely Providential in its planning. We got along together so well and just enjoyed each others' company. But we're all glad to be home.
Posted by Melissa at 2:16 PM
Friday, October 07, 2005
(That's spells Mississippi, btw).
As soon as our last team member gets here, we're leaving the church to head down to Nicholson, MS. Our church is partnering with FBC Nicholson to help them and their community get back on their feet after Hurricane Katrina. This trip is mostly for us to do some assessment to see what they need and how we can help over the next couple of years, but we know we'll be helping a couple of elderly families clean up mold (and possibly just see what of their stuff we can salvage, if the houses are too far gone), and pulling up some carpet (possibly at the church). The big thing we'll do, however is to have a big "block party" or carnival on Thursday night. The minister of music (who's the pastor leading this trip), another lady, and myself will be providing the evening's musical entertainment, we're hoping to rent a moonbounce, and we've got sno-cone and popcorn machines. Hopefully it'll give people a welcome and needed distraction from their current situations. In the future, we hope to bring down trained counselors since that's really what they need the most right now.
So y'all be thinking of us. It's a 24-hr drive each way with a week of work in the middle. Also be thinking of VNB since he's graciously doing without me for yet another week (he'd be there with us in a heartbeat if he had the leave, but he seems to think that having enough vacation for a honeymoon is important for some reason... ;p ).
I hope I'll have internet access at least for one hour this week as I've got a web-based quiz that's due before Thursday. We download it from a website, then have an hour before we have to upload it again, but we have until next Thursday to do it. But I can't make any promises that I'll blog while I'm there. I'll definitely let y'all know when I'm back though!
Posted by Melissa at 7:08 PM
Monday, September 12, 2005
A year ago today I left Iraq. I distinctly remember as we were going through one of the many security checkpoints at the airport (the point at which we said goodbye to our drivers) thinking that I shouldn't leave. I should just go back home with the drivers.
But then "logic" or "reason" kicked in. "But you're going to a conference and you're actually interested in what they're going to teach you." "It's only a few days. You'll be back soon." And the real kicker: "You're going to get to go SCUBA diving in the Red Sea!"
Little did I know that I wouldn't get to go back. That those hurried goodbyes at the checkpoint would be the last words I got with our national staff. That those would be my last views of Baghdad.
Today, a year later, my fiance and I closed on a condo in Columbia, MD. A year ago, I almost didn't get on the plane that took me out of Iraq. Today I'm engaged, about to get my Master's degree, and have a new condo to paint and decorate in preparation for living there once VNB and I get married.
I still can't explain how much I miss Iraq. I really loved it there. There are times that it's almost a physical longing to go back. Even now, as wonderful as my life is, I wonder sometimes what life would have been like if I'd listened when that voice said "don't get on the plane." Would God have arranged something even more amazing so that VNB and I would have met at exactly the perfect time? Would I still be there? Would I be five months away from getting married?
What a difference a year makes!
Posted by Melissa at 9:51 PM
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
So on Saturday, VNB and I took two of many "big steps." We realized that we could save some money if I was added to his cell phone plan and if I started using his gas card.
His company gives him 15% off of his cell phone bill, plus calling each other would be free, and with the "family" plans, we can share like 800 minutes. PLUS, they were running a special on that particular plan, so we get it for $30/month instead of $80/month for the first two months (not including his discount). Add that to the fact that we no longer have to pay my monthly bill, and we're saving a boatload of money.
Then with his gas card, he gets like 5% back on gas purchases at Shell stations as long as he goes to at least 5 in a year or something. So especially with gas prices the way they are right now, we're gonna save a lot of money there too.
So basically, the moral of the story here is this: marriage saves you money. :)
Posted by Melissa at 11:21 AM
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Thursday, August 11, 2005
I'm still in Nigeria. We'll be here for a few more days. A few of us took a few minutes at an internet cafe, so, since I had some time, I thought I'd drop a line here to let y'all know that I'm ok.
So, I'm ok! :) I'll write more when I get back and have more time.
Posted by Melissa at 11:51 AM
Monday, August 01, 2005
So I leave today for Nigeria. I'm going with a group from my church to visit in Lagos and Ayetoro (a "village" a couple of hours north-east-ish of Lagos). I'm really looking forward to the trip, although it'll be really hard to be away from VNB for most of 17 days. But, God worked everything out so that he could see me off and pick me up, which means a whole lot to me. Since we started dating, there's never been a day that we haven't talked to each other, even if it was just on the phone. That's a record that I didn't really want to have broken.
But I'm writing, not just to sing the praises of my betrothed (although I'm sure I'll do some more of that too), but also to say that I'm not sure I'll get email/internet access while there, so if I don't post before the 18th, you'll know why. :)
In some ways, we have every minute planned out, but in a lot of ways, we have no idea what we're going to be doing while we're there. This trip is something of a practice in flexibility and patience for all of us.
The biggest part of "not knowing" for me is that I have no idea why I'm going on this trip. I was kind of intrigued by the idea of going to Africa, but didn't have the funds to go. The pastor said that I "needed to go," and funds appeared, so I'm going.........but I don't really know why. I guess I'll see that while I'm there. Maybe it's to prove to me that I don't want to do any more international trips without VNB (a thought I already was fostering).
I don't know. I guess I'll see when I'm there, or possibly in the months and years to come afterwards (in sha'allah).
Talk to y'all on the 18th, if not before!
Posted by Melissa at 6:30 AM
Friday, July 15, 2005
Monday, July 11, 2005
If you go to this website and put in the above coordinates, the output will be several "plates" from which you can extract the image of a star. The picture shown here is a sample of one of those images. This star (I _think_ it's the one in the center of the picture), formerly known as #02131700154 is now known as "The Marry Me Star."
On Saturday, July 9th, at roughly 3PM, VNB changed from "Very Nice Boyfriend" to "Very Nice Betrothed" when he asked me to marry him and I said, "YES!!!!"
VNB and I will be married (in sha'allah) on February 11, 2006 at First Baptist Laurel - 7 months from today!!! So mark your calendars now!
As a friend of mine at church said yesterday, I went from Iraq to "a rock" when he put this ring on my finger.
I'm getting married!!!
Posted by Melissa at 1:59 PM
Friday, July 08, 2005
So I remembered two more books I've thought of writing:
"Medicine Head" of the Soul
I don't know about the rest of you, but there has been at least one time in my life when I just felt disconnected, spiritually. It was similar to when I take cold/sinus medicine, except without the sniffles and coughs. My brain was still there with all of its knowledge, but the rest of me felt far away. I think this one was supposed to be auto-biographical, following my journey back. I even started it once, but I think that was lost with the great hard drive crash of '04. It's still a great name, but I'm not sure I could write this one anymore.
The Theology/Philosophy of C.S. Lewis' "Space Trilogy"
I've been a fan of C.S. Lewis' writing ever since I first read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when I was a child. Sometime during my early teens, I read his "Space Trilogy" (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength). At that time, I enjoyed the story in the first, followed the story in the second, and was completely lost in the third. I read it again sometime in high school and still enjoyed the story in the first, enjoyed the story in the second, and started to follow the third. Sometime in college, I noticed that the second book had a _lot_ of philosophical discussions in it. I'm not sure if I glossed over those parts before, or what, but I honestly didn't remember them being there. I read them again after college and noticed that the first wasn't just a story - there was a lot more to it too. And the third is completely different from the first two, but at the same time completely inter-related. If for no other reason than my own curiosity, I'd like to do something of a scholarly look at the philosophy and theology espoused by the books.
It'll be at least a few weeks before I start on that one though because I need to write my "scholarly paper" for school. In fact, I'm avoiding that as I type, so I should get to it.
Posted by Melissa at 11:38 AM
Saturday, July 02, 2005
So my little brother, Link, got the lead part in some play that "maybe" you've heard about. It's Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliette." Hopefully it comes as no shock to anyone that the lead role he got was of Romeo, not Juliette. Anyway, if you happen to be passing through Cookeville, TN over the next few days, you might want to try to catch him. Info, and a picture of Link looking very higlighted, can be found here.
Posted by Melissa at 12:01 PM
Because of my previous location and job, my blog wasn't publicly available (i.e., it wasn't advertised by blogspot.com, nor did I have my blogspot profile publicly available). Basically, the only way you'd know about it was if I (or someone I'd told) told you about it.
Well, I don't live there anymore, and I don't do that job anymore, so I've just made some changes. They won't affect anyone that I know of, but now, maybe some bored person will stumble onto my blog and find it interesting.
So if that's you, then welcome and I hope you enjoy it! :)
Also, if you're interested, my little sister has a blog now too. To prevent anyone from Googling her name and finding out all about her, I'll name her Eliana...since that's her elf name anyway. I may add a "cast of characters" to the sidebar here soon just so you'll know who I'm talking about. (Heh...and so I'll remember too!) Anyway, Eliana's site is on xanga.com and here's the link. Expect much talk of Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, and Elves (although probably not the Santa or Keebler kind - you know...the _real_ ones).
Posted by Melissa at 11:11 AM
I've had some of these titles in the back of my head for years and years now (although some are a "little" more recent). I've even started writing some of them from time to time...but my biggest problem is that, while I seem to be great with titles, what I really have to say seems to only take up a few pages. But here they are. If you're a writer and you steal one...well...dedicate it to me or something. That is, unless I've got a book deal and my version is like two weeks away from coming out. Then I might be mad.
"The Other Brother"
This was mainly a book of encouragement for people like me - people who, while they did their share of "sinning," didn't do the "big" stuff. That is, stuff that would be a scandal at church like leave the church, have a child out of wedlock, sleep around, get arrested for something, be gay, etc. That's not to say that we're any less in need of salvation since all sins are equally bad in God's eyes...but we've never done anything "really bad" in the eyes of people - just like the "other brother" in the parable Jesus told about the "Prodigal Son." In that story, a rich man has two sons. The younger one decides that he's not going to wait for his father to die - he wants his inheritance _now_! So his dad gives it to him, and he goes off and spends wildly and loses it all in a short amount of time. He becomes destitute and decides that he'd rather be a servant in his father's household than live on the streets, so he goes back. His father sees him coming and instead of making him a servant (as he deserves), he runs out to meet him, cleans him up, and throws him a big party. Needless to say, the "other brother" is kinda upset. Here he was, doing his job the whole time, being "good," while his brother ran off to get into who-knows-what, but _HE_ never got a party.
And we hear sermon after sermon about the Prodigal Son that we just can't relate to since we've never run away to a life of debauchery - we've always stayed "home" and been "good." Our only part in the story is a gruff reminder from the Father that all that is remaining in His household is ours and we can have a party any time we want to, but we should rejoice that the Prodigal Son has returned.
In my own life, this happened when friends who _did_ sleep around always seemed to have boyfriends, while I was always single. And especially when those same friends had babies when I wanted them, while I waited...and waited...and waited...(and still wait!). Here I was, doing things "right," while they "messed up" and got "everything" I wanted.
Now, clearly, my feelings were an exaggeration because a) I was far from "right" most of the time, b) they were just "messing up" in _different_ and more public ways than I was - I was still messing up, and c) they _weren't_ getting "everything" I wanted because, deep down, I "wanted" those things in the "right" way (and, of course, it wasn't truely "everything").
So, the book would be geared towards people who, like me, haven't done anything "majorly wrong," and who take some pride in that, but are kinda irked when they see people who _do_ do "big" stuff wrong get things they want. And it would have three main points, maybe four:
1) We're not as perfect as we think we are.
2) All sins are equal in God's eyes, we're just better at hiding ours maybe (which could be considered worse in some respects than letting our sins be known).
3) As in the story, we're _going_ to get those things we want - we just have to wait until the right time (the Other Brother _did_ get his inheritance too, and in fact, everything his Father still owned belonged to him - he just had to wait).
4) Our focus, instead of being on the "things" that the other people are getting (as the Father in the story points out to the Other Brother), should be on the Father's business. Psalm 34:5 says that if we "delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart" (that's the "Melissa Standard Version, btw - i.e., not a "real" translation of the Bible...just the general gist of the verse however I remember it). While that verse is something of a Catch-22 (if the Lord is our "delight," then our desires will be whatever He wants), He is also our creater and knows us and our desires better than we know ourselves. He knows when that perfect person is going to come along, or that perfect job, or babies, or a house, or whatever it is that you're dreaming of, and He knows exactly how long you're going to need to wait before it all happens. So in the meantime, He prepares us for His Business and so that we'll be ready when we actually _do_ get those "desires of our heart."
Obviously, there's not too much to say about points 1 and 2...and I've basically said a lot of what I want to say for points 3 and 4. Hence the not writing of this book. But it's still a great idea!
"'Twitterpated' with God"
In the movie "Bambi," after he and Thumper have survived the winter together, the springtime comes and the boys find themselves "twitterpated" (in the words of the Owl). Everyone's felt that way (you know, "in love") from time to time - when all you want is to be near the other person, to say their name, to do things that will make them happy, all you can talk about is them and how wonderful they are.
Well, what I just described is what the Christian life really ought to be, except that we'd be "twitterpated" with God rather than another person (although both can happen at once).
The thing is, in a "real" relationship, the feeling "in love" comes and goes - especially after you've been together for a while. Some days you'll see your significant other in ways that are decidedly _not_ "twitterpating." Which is why I think marriage shouldn't be based on being "in love" (but that's a different book :) ). But all of the things we're commanded to as believers really seem to fit this description of being "in love" with God. So what do we need to do to restore the "romance" in our relationship with Him?
And what would Christendom look like if we all felt that way?
Crud....there was at least one more that I can't think of right now. Oh well, I'll post it later. I hope you enjoyed my book ideas!
Posted by Melissa at 8:32 AM
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
So today, the Iraqi democracy turned one year old, and I turned 29. I didn't hear of any celebrations in Iraq, but I know that I was celebrating for them in my heart today. I've found myself in recent days "plagued" by something akin to homesickness. I've heard that there was a second wave of "culture shock" around six months out, and I think I'm beginning to experience it.
While my roommate's husand has been home on leave, I've been staying with some friends from church who have cable and have caught a couple of episodes of Discovery's "Operation Homecoming." In one, a soldier who had been writing to some school children surprised them when he came home. When he began giving each child a "Saddam" (250 Iraqi dinars in the old Iraqi currency - it had a huge picture of Saddam on it and was the base unit of currency there, like the $1 bill is here), I burst into tears, completely unexpectedly.
I literally spent two hours yesterday going to all of the supermarkets in Laurel looking for pomegranates. I've been craving them because they'd be starting to show up in all the markets in Iraq right now.
But I was ok today. VNB made me leave work early today so that we could go on a picnic. After the picnic, he gave me my birthday present - a print of Van Gogh's "Starry Night," which is my favorite painting. After that, we had some time to kill, so we watched a movie. Then I got all "dolled up" and we saw "The Lion King" (the musical version, not the movie) at a theater in Baltimore.
Not only that, but the Orioles beat the Yankees in extra innings, so it's a good day all around! :)
So happy birthday, Iraq! May many more come to you, and may each be a little safer and more secure!
And happy birthday to me! And thank You to my Other Boyfriend for all the wonderful things He gives to me, especially VNB!
Posted by Melissa at 11:56 PM
Monday, June 27, 2005
It's been _waaaay_ too long, I know. But there are books to read and people to hang out with (yes, yes, including "VeryNiceBoyfriend," henceforth VNB) and restaurants to visit (and Star Wars toys to buy at Burger King - curse, you Burger King, with your 31 toys that are all cute or fun!) and TV to watch and games to play!
But I'm going to commit to at least one post per week. Fridays are my usual day off, so they're the most likely candidate for posting day.
I'm not even sure that anyone other than my mother and maybe my friend Chris read this anymore, but I like to write, and I really feel that this is a good way to work through the thoughts that run through my head occasionally. I'm not _forcing_ anyone to read, so I won't feel guilty about writing whatever I feel like. :)
So, read if you want. I'm more writing for me than for anyone else (well, other than Him). I commit to _not_ adding a counter to my site since I'm not trying to make this about my own popularity.
I'm pretty sure I need to update the sidebar, so I'll try to remember to do that today. It probably won't include quite so much stuff.
So, thanks for reading. I'll try to be more regular in my posts. Enjoy!
Posted by Melissa at 11:04 AM
Saturday, June 11, 2005
So I've figured out why the Orioles are kicking butt and taking names this season. You see, all the _other_ teams in Major League Baseball are finally off of steroids. The Os aren't playing any better or worse than they have in recent years, the other teams just aren't hopped up on the "juice" anymore!
Posted by Melissa at 8:03 AM
Thursday, March 31, 2005
I got an email from my mom today saying that I needed to post something new. She's right, like usual. Sorry it's been so long! These last few weeks have been filled with lots of stuff happening, so here's another "update on my life" post.
School: As of March 25, 2005, I owe the University of Maryland $6747.50. This means that I am a fully re-accepted and registered graduate student again! Yay! Now I just have to figure out how to get student loans. I've never done that before. I'm still loving my classes and am having a great time remembering, learning, and relearning this semester.
Work: I'm working part-time at my church as the Assistant to the Minister of Worship and Music. That's probably the longest title I've ever had (well..."Engineering Projects Coordinator for Baghdad" was long too). I work Monday through Thursday, 9AM - 1PM. I got my first paycheck last week. :) That money should support my habits of eating and having a place to live. But more importantly, last week I was handed the form to fill out for insurance and told that the effective date was the day I started working - March 7th - not April 1st or May 1st as had been discussed previously due to the money needing to be put into the church budget and voted on by the congregation. So, many thanks to our office manager Bob and our Finance Committee for helping me out with that. But talk of insurance leads me to...
Evan: I was handed the form on Tuesday I think and given my numbers on Thursday, so Friday I went to my new "Primary Care Physician" which I had essentially chosen at random from their book and got a referral to a gynecologist about Evan. For some reason it never occurred to me with my previous two lumps to 1) go to a _female_ doctor (my doc was male, as was the surgeon he sent me to - both great guys, but they just don't understand), and 2) go to a doc who specializes in that system of the body. I didn't have the info with for the GYN I wanted to go to (the Women to Women Clinic which had been highly recommended) so they gave me a referral to someone else and told me to just call and it could be changed easily. Since it was supposed to be so easy, I went ahead and made the appointment with WtW. I called the doc when I got home to get the referral changed, but got sent to voicemail, so on Monday I stopped by again and they took care of it for me. Then I had to call some referral service for the chain (Patient First), and then I was officially referred to WtW. So....my appointment is at 10:45 tomorrow morning. I'm not so much concerned about what the doc will say, but I'm ready for this appointment to be done with. This week has gone by _really_ slowly as I've waited for Friday to come. It's always been the "not knowing" that was the issue for me, so waiting for the appointment (especially after all of the drama surrounding getting the insurance) has been difficult. I'll update you all on the "results" as soon as I'm ready.
VeryNiceBoy: On a _far_ more pleasant note, on Friday, March 18th, "VeryNiceBoy" (forevermore "VNB") officially became my boyfriend! :) He's very nice. :) Have I mentioned that? :) But please be thinking about us as we get to know each other better and learn how to interact with each other. It's been 6.5 years since I've had a serious, long-term boyfriend, so I'm a "little" out of practice (although some old habits have come back to me far too quickly). But he's a very nice, Godly man. So nice, in fact, that I keep wondering when he's gonna wake up and realize that it's time for him to fall off the face of the planet, never to be heard from again, like so many other guys have done. Fortunately, _he_ keeps wondering when _I'm_ gonna wake up and realize that I'm "too good for him," so maybe neither of us will take the other for granted. My parents and sister came up to visit last week and seemed to like him. I'll go to meet his parents and sister in a couple of weeks, but apparently I've already gotten some major "brownie points" with his mom by asking for help on his favorite recipes. :)
Speaking: I'm being offered more and more opportunities to speak about my experiences overseas. A few weeks ago, VNB and I had lunch with a married couple from our church because they wanted to hear about my time there (they're also a newer couple, so they just wanted to get to know folks). A few months ago, I got to speak to some folks from our Hispanic congregation and will get to speak to their youth group this Friday night. On Sunday, I've got another lunch date with a family from church (they're inviting the pastor and his family and some others too - which reminds me...I need to tell them about VNB and make sure he's invited too :), and then we've got a group that's going to France over the summer (which has a very large Muslim population) and they want to hear methods for talking to Muslims. Eventually, I'll also set up a time to talk to my church about things. I'm almost ready for it emotionally, but the service hasn't really come together in my mind yet so it might be a few more weeks. I'll definitely let y'all know when that's happening just in case some of you want to make the trek here for it. But, for all of my issues with "the Company," I'm really excited about telling folks about living and working in Iraq and working with Muslims.
Devotions: I need to update the sidebar, but I've recently started a new devotion. Oswald and the Names of God book just weren't "doing it" for me. It annoyed me that except on very rare occasions, I didn't need the Bible at all for either of them. So, for a while I just wasn't doing anything. But now I've got a plan and I'm starting to stick to it. In the mornings after my alarm goes off when I'd usually just doze until I had to get up, I'm going to start reading through "The Message" translation of the Bible. That particular translation is a "modern day" language translation, and the translator didn't put in verse numbers (although there are chapter numbers and each page has a header stating the verses on that page) or many "topical" headers, so it reads much more like a regular book. I'm just going to read as much as time allows each morning. I'll be on Genesis 9 tomorrow. I think this'll give me a new perspective on Scriptures, many of which I know well and have heard to the point that I don't listen anymore.
That's all I can think of right now, but I'll definitely let you know the outcome of my appointment tomorrow when I'm ready to share.
Posted by Melissa at 10:31 AM
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
I've apparently not been in much of a writing mood lately. I'm pretty sure it's because 1) so much is happening right now, and 2) some of it isn't for public consumption yet (nothing too much that's bad, in fact it's mostly very, very good...I'm just not ready to share with everyone on the web yet).
But in the "so much is happening" department, I started my new job officially today. I am no longer unemployed (although I'm still uninsured until the first of April)! I'm now the Assistant to the Minister of Worship and Music at my church. So far it's been _really_ exciting. Especially since this week the youth are in charge of the services. :) But it'll be a good job for me - mostly low stress - as I focus on school.
School's still going great (although I'm _still_ not officially registered...any day now, they keep telling me). I really love the classes I'm taking, even though they're a lot of work.
I've had a cold for the past three weeks. For the first time in my life, I literally lost my voice. It's mostly back now, although I still have a really sore throat, especially at night. I went to the doctor a week and a half ago (despite my uninsured condition) and they said it wasn't strep. I'd rather not have to go back, so I'm really hoping this'll go away soon. I've made improvements though - I finally didn't need Nyquil last night and today was the first pain-killer-free (and more importantly, pain-free) day (for the last week or so, someone has been stabbing an ice pick into my right sinus...pretty much 24/7). Now I just have to get to the point where my throat doesn't hurt so much that I can't sleep. But drugs are my friend. :)
I've also helped start a new Sunday School class at my church. It's for "older" singles. The church has a great group of folks who are in college or are college-aged, but it hasn't had anything specific for folks who are post-college in a long time. I finally got fed up with it and started my own class. We only had three people on Sunday (including myself), but that'll change as people transition out of other classes and once I actually call people and invite them to come. :) It was my first time teaching adults though. Apparently, for someone who knows me relatively well, it was obvious that I was nervous, but I did alright. We're studying "The Gospel of Jesus Christ According to Mark." I'm going from notes that I took as we studied Mark in Amman...so hopefully the whole "discussion" idea will catch on by the time we get to the point where I came back to the States and my notes end (chapter 8). :)
But between a new job and another new massive time-sink, I'm struggling a little bit with keeping up on my course work. It's mostly just that I'm not having the time to do all of the extra things I was doing before, so I feel like I'm falling behind. I'm also not getting to watch as much Buck Rogers or play as much CivIII which leaves a big hole in my life. ;p
But...ok....I can't keep it a complete secret...the new massive time-sink is a VeryNiceBoy. :) That's his name. And he's nice. And I like him. And, wonder of wonders, he likes me too! At the same time! And he's willing to admit it! (And no, he's not "Mystery Date.") He even lives nearby!
There's probably a place that's typically very warm which is enduring a cold spell at the words mentioned above.
Posted by Melissa at 12:10 AM
Monday, February 28, 2005
Well...it's snowing again in the DC area. The Weather Channel (.com) is calling for 4-7" today with a possible 2-4" more overnight. But watching it come down....and a lot of other things....has put me in a thoughtful mood.
I think God has called my bluff. I've talked some big words about some things, and I think He's saying, "Ok, here's what you said you wanted...pretty much exactly...do you have the guts to go through with it?"
It's scary to think about...but not at all scary at the same time...which may be the scariest thing of all.
Heh...I just re-read the title of my blog...and I have my answer.
Posted by Melissa at 10:46 AM
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
I'm sure you're all wondering what a single girl (whose most recent foray into the world of dating ended with the guy taking yet another leap off the face of the earth) did for Valentine's Day, especially since V-Day was the anniversary of the best puppy in the world's untimely death.
Well, first off, for the first time, probably ever (except possibly for the years I was dating JM), I wasn't dreading V-Day for V-Day reasons. Its approach made me think of Mara and that made me sad, but I didn't dread V-Day. Several years ago my two "adopted" aunts began the tradition of celebrating the man in their lives for V-Day. Both being single believers, that man was Jesus. When JM and I broke up, I started joining them, as did various other strays from time to time.
While I'd always enjoy the food (we'd eat crabs!) and the company, I always hated the evening because it was a glaring reminder that I wasn't feeling how I knew I ought to feel (ok with who I am, content with being single, etc.). I knew I ought to be ok, but I just didn't feel that way so the feelings of desire for a flesh and blood guy to do something romantic for me were combined with the feelings of guilt that I _had_ those feelings since I knew I should be "content whatever state I was in."
Last year, the guy mentioned above and I had only just met a month or so before, so I sorta just ignored it and so did he. I still kinda _hoped_ that he'd do something, but I didn't make a big deal of it since it was so soon since we'd met. And then when I actually saw him the next day, Mara dominated the conversation, so it just never came up.
But this year...I dunno how to explain it other than that when I'd think of V-Day, I just wouldn't care that I didn't "have anybody." Life is great! I didn't feel unworthy of love due to the fact that no guy had made his interest known. I know that I'm unworthy of love, but it has nothing to do with what guys think (or don't think) of me, and God loves me anyway. :) I don't _have_ to wait for His call after we spend time together because He never leaves (in a good way).
Anyway, apparently all of this is just an unexpected (but welcome) side effect of all I've learned recently.
But we continued our tradition of our V-Day dinner and this year opened it up to the other single women at the church. We didn't have a huge crowd, but we had a good group. We ate well and enjoyed great company, even though most of us didn't know everyone else. One lady came that no one knew. She actually came to the church door looking for assistance right as we were getting started. She'd been given the number to our deacon hotline previously during another crisis, but had lost the number and was in another situation which required help. I didn't know who she should call, so we invited her to join the party while I found out. Then, when we found out what she needed to do, we invited her to stay and eat dinner, which she agreed to do. When we went around the room to introduce ourselves, she was one of the last ones to talk, which was really good because that gave several others the opportunity to say how they were single moms and for me to say how I am unemployed, so it wasn't a big deaal when she said those same things. We sent her home with lots of leftovers and party favors for her kids and she said that the evening had really touched her, so she and her kids would be at church on Sunday morning. Al hamdoo lillah! :)
It was a great evening! Plus, I got to play delivery girl to bring a card designed by Dawn's husband Joe and some flowers to Dawn. So it was fun to make the day extra-special for her too.
_AND_ (as if all of that wasn't enough), when I woke up, there was snow on the ground! All some guy would do is maybe bring me flowers. Who made the flowers? Jesus. And who knew exactly what I wanted for V-Day (i.e., snow)? Jesus. And who's the only Guy able to give me exactly what I wanted? Jesus! So forget all you other guys - _Jesus_ is MY boyfriend.....unless of course He's willing to share me because that would be nice too. ;p
Posted by Melissa at 9:55 AM
Saturday, February 12, 2005
I've been spending a great deal of time these past few days playing wtih orbits for the s/c we're designing in my satellite design class. It's been a whole lot of fun. I've missed this stuff soooooooo much! I've recently been appointed the systems engineer for our group (mostly because I'm the one with the most time) and am just having a blast putting together budgets and stuff. I know it sounds boring, but the systems people get to have their fingers in a bit of everything, and I _love_ that! ;p
The other thing that's been taking a great deal of time has been my piano!!!! I had it delivered on Tuesday and, as a Valentine's Day gift to one of my great loves, will get it tuned on Monday. :) It's a "little" worse for wear due to life with little kids, followed by life at church, but it still sounds great and isn't really that far out of tune.
I've still got some irons in the fire in terms of "real" jobs, but I may end up just getting a part-time clerical-ish job that'll give me access to benefits. I'll have to get student loans for the first time in my life...but it's almost gonna be worth it if I get to keep my current lifestyle of living mostly in my pjs. :)
I've also just heard from my friend Khulood. I've been a terrible correspondent due to connectivity issues and just my own issues with living out of a suitcase, but she and her family are doing well. It's so good to hear from her!
I've also finally started watching my Buck Rogers DVDs. They are funk-o-licious! And did you know that in the originial movie/mini-series thing that there are _words_ to the theme song?!! I had no idea!! But my favorite part during the credits which are _very_ late-70s chic is when Erin Grey (Col. Wilma Deering) "seductively" tosses her very fluffy mane. It is hi-larious! As is the end when she tells Buck "I know I've been cold in the past, but I'm going to show you every day that I'm all woman." That is _so_ out of character for Wilma (and just such a stupid, cliche thing to say) that I was rolling, I was laughing so hard.
But I can definitely see why I was in love with Buck (yes, even at 3 and 4). He's the man. There are just no two ways about it. The actor's gotten old and fat, but Buck is still the coolest 500-year-old man ever to fly an Earth Defense Force ship.
Anyway, I should get back to my engineering fun. It's interface diagrams for me today! Woohoo!!
Posted by Melissa at 9:29 AM
Friday, February 04, 2005
Ok....so I'm an Alias fan. There are no two ways about it. I have been since about the middle of the first season when I visited my friends Phil and Lori (and Andrew and Katy) and Phil turned me on to it. It's just a cool show. Somewhat vulnerable girl kicks baddie spy butt! And there are hot guys too! And a geeky guy!! And enough soap-opera-esque backstory to keep you watching and re-watching old seasons for signs of what eventually became.
So what does that have to do with resumes, you might ask? Well, just for the record, yesterday I submitted an on-line application for a couple of positions at APL (in addition to having friends there distribute my resume since that really works better at APL). But because of Alias, I have just completed the on-line resume submission for the CIA.
Get this...as I finished the submission, the modem started making dailing noises again. It hadn't disconnected at all. It just decided that right as I was submitting a resume to the CIA (for various jobs which actually looked really cool and could be an interesting blend of my aerospace and overseas experiences) to made dailing noises again.
I am convinced that some Marshall-like person is now sitting in a cubicle at the CIA watching me. So, um, "Hi, Marshall-like person! He's my favorite geeky character on the show, although I did think it was cool when Carrie showed up and he got a girlfriend!"
What's funny is that they got my address from the form. Now they're just watching me, even though they already know where I live. I'm being surveiled. Heehee...
Posted by Melissa at 9:55 AM
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
OK...so my schtick since I've been back is to tell people that, while the media is not lying to them about what's happening in Iraq (as in, this isn't "Wag the Dog" with actors making up a war), they're not telling the _whole_ story - i.e., people _live_ there, go to school, go to work, go shopping, have babies, get married, etc.
The thing is, lately I've noticed that the media _is_ lying about one thing. They keep talking about the "occupation" of Iraq by US and Coalition forces. From Dictionary.com, here are the definitions of the word "occupation:"
oc·cu·pa·tion ( P ) Pronunciation Key (ky-pshn)
1. a. An activity that serves as one's regular source of livelihood; a vocation.
b. An activity engaged in especially as a means of passing time; an avocation.
2. a. The act or process of holding or possessing a place.
b. The state of being held or possessed.
3. a. Invasion, conquest, and control of a nation or territory by foreign armed forces.
b. The military government exercising control over an occupied nation or territory.
(Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.)
Clearly, definition 1 does not apply in this case. Definition 2 could be applicable, but definition 3 is by far the most applicable.
Now, the Coalition forces _did_ "occupy" Iraq from roughly April 2003 until June 28, 2004. But, on June 28, 2004 (my birthday, btw...have I mentioned that before? Have I mentioned how cool I think that is? Because it's _way_ cool!), the Coalition Provisional Authority (the occupying power) transferred their authority to an interim Iraqi government. So, at that point they stopped exercising control (note in definition 3a the three things required for an "occupation" - invasion, conquest, and _control_) over the sovereign nation of Iraq.
The Interim Iraqi Government promply then _asked_ the Coalition forces to remain in Iraq indefinitely.
Let me tell you a little secret. When a government _asks_ you to be there, you're not an "occupying power," no matter what you may have been in the past.
So write/call in to every news source you hear use the term "occupation" in reference to the current situation in Iraq and tell them that they're wrong. Because they are and it's (purposely) misleading to those in the American/world populus who don't take the time to look up terms like that in the dictionary.
Posted by Melissa at 12:48 PM
Monday, January 31, 2005
God is definitely good. Al hamdoo lillah! The year before I left, the DC area got one of its biggest snowfalls in like 20 years. Since I've been here (like two weeks), it's snowed three times. And it's accumulated some each time. And then stayed for a while afterwards. I've missed the snow. Yesterday as Dawn and I stayed home due to cancelled church services, we ate snow cream (with an added twist, thanks to Dawn - powdered strawberry Qwik!!) and watched Alias all day while doing a puzzle. It was a wonderful Sabbath!
And to make it even better, I spent the previous evening playing my first volleyball match since April of 2003. And it felt _GOOD_. I'm still feeling it, but I don't care and can't wait for next week! I have missed volleyball _so_ much.
So, although I miss the daily group dinners, discussions of deep-ish things, and evenings of Alias-watching with our group, there are _definite_ advantages to being back in America.
And after three months, I've even put my hair in a pony-tail a couple of times without wincing. Mostly though...I just _really_ prefer it to be completely free. But still....there were two months in Amman where it was down a lot of the time, and three months here now. It was weird though. I spoke to part of our Hispanic congregation on Friday night and showed them how I'd do my hair and cover...and that felt...safe too. But it still felt good to let my hair back down. :)
But also al hamdoo lillah for the success of the elections yesterday!! I'm praying that I'll run across someone with a marked finger around here so that my Arabic can stop being a parlor trick. :)
Posted by Melissa at 12:42 PM
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Everyone, please be in prayer for the Iraqi elections. They happen tomorrow, but remember that they are 8 hours ahead of us (on the east coast), so by the time you wake up in the morning, the polls will be getting ready to close.
Specifically, pray for:
- Peace and safety during the polling process.
- Participation by those who are eligible to vote.
- Understanding of the new process by the voters.
- The integrity of the polls and the vote-counting process.
- Clear winners to avoid (more) sectarian strife following the elections.
- That we and the Iraqi people would know that, no matter the outcome, God's will is being done.
Posted by Melissa at 10:32 AM
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Well, the very, very good news is that it shouldn't be a problem for me to get back into grad school. It might take a week or two for all of the paperwork to actually happen, but it's probably _going_ to happen. In related news, you know how I've been saying that I was within the 5-year time limit for taking all of my classes for this degree? Yeah....since I started in 2000, I actually got cut off _this_ year, not next. Because with my Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering, I'm not actually able to count to five.
But Mary doesn't think it'll be a problem, so I'm not worried. Plus, I'm just not worried.
In other news, I went to my software safety class today at 4. I was a little early I thought, so it didn't surprise me that there was a class in the room....but when the discussion on the very entertaining movie they were watching about the possibility of cyber-terrorism taking down power grids (paid for by your tax dollars and mine) continued, well past the 4 o'clock hour, I figured that something was amiss. The class was being held in the Instructional Television building (meaning lots of technology for broadcasting lectures via satellite to other places and what not), so the people in charge of the building were around and helped me figure out that my class was actually on _Tuesday_, not Thursday. I felt like an idiot (especially coming fresh off of the counting to 5 thing), but was mostly worried that it would conflict with the other class I'm taking on Tuesdays. Fortunately it doesn't, so life is even better than it was before since now I'll have another free afternoon/evening each week. :)
But since I didn't have class to go to, I went shopping! :) I used my Christmas Linens-N-Things gift card to get stuff to hang things on, then I went off in search of a bookshelf. I went to Target first. They didn't have any bookshelves (??!), but I got notebooks for my classes and a hole puncher and a couple of other things. Then I went to this furniture store because it was halfway between Target and Kolhs. They had, no lie, _one_ bookshelf in the entire store (which could easily have fit two football fields). Said bookshelf was of the typical pressboard quality found so often now-a-days, but this one was apparently pressboard lined with gold or something because the _display_ model cost over $300!!!!
So then I went to Kohls. They didn't have any furniture at all....but they were having a clearance sale where things were up to 80% off. I actually found a suit-ish jacket that I can stand. I think it normally sells for $60 or more, but I got it for $13. Now I just have to find pants or a skirt to match it. The "nice" pants that I have bought recently are black, but the jacket is blue. It was even the right size. It was probably the only thing in the whole store that was small enough for me.
I know that I'm petite, but I still don't get how I'm a size 4. I've got a big top and a big bottom, but anything larger than a 4 just falls off of me. I don't _think_ I'm skeletal or anything. I know I eat enough. But its _VERY_ frustrating to go shopping and not find anything smaller than an 8.
Anyway....so I went from Kohl's to Walmart. Not only did they have cheap hangars, they also had a bookshelf for $32. It's the cheap of the cheap kind, but it holds all of my books and will do me nicely at least until I move again.
So, now I'm gonna go cut up boxes for recycling.
Oh...and the book that's recommended for my Satellite Design class? $134.50!!!!! And that's on Amazon (Half.com's prices were even higher!)!!! I'd forgotten how astoundingly expensive engineering textbooks are. Good thing I can write it off for taxes.....next year....
Oh, and Amazon's "People who bought this book have also bought..." lists? EEEEEEVVVVIIIILLLL. That list is of the Devil. I rebuke it in the name of Jesus. I have been tempted to squander more money from those stupid little lists than from anything else I've ever known. It's like Amazon can read my mind and knows titles which will elicit great longings in my heart. Titles like Spacecraft Systems Engineering make me think - I'm already spending $134.50 for one book...what's $66.77 more? And Bah! Now I know that the Farscape mini-series is out on DVD now! Bah! (Btw, Claudia Black will be on Stargate SG-1 tomorrow night.) At least it's not horribly expensive.
Posted by Melissa at 9:24 PM
Well, yesterday was my first full day back in Maryland "for good." Sunday I drove to Nashville, got some more of my stuff on Monday, then drove back on Tuesday. Yesterday was a full day with getting my car serviced in the early, early AM, lunch with my pastor, then an afternoon of trying to figure out what to do about getting back into grad school with my advisor. I also ran into my ex-boyfriend, Jean-Marc. He's married now! (Don't worry, it wasn't a surprise to me or anything, it was just the first time I'd seen him since the "big day.") Hard to believe sometimes that it's been six years since he and I dated.
Anyway, then I went to my first class - Satellite Design. It looks like it may be more work than I expected, but hopefully it won't be too bad. There apparently were complaints about the lengths of homework assignments the last time the course was offered, so hopefully they're going to work on that some this time. It's gonna be a really fun class though. We've been given "Level 1 Requirements" (i.e., top-level requirements for the system, some of which are imposed by the instrument that the spacecraft (s/c forevermore) we're designing will carry, some imposed by the launch vehicle we've been assigned, etc.) and we get to completely design the s/c bus to adhere to those requirements. It'll be fun, I say, but then I've always loved design classes. :)
Today I'll spend in the continuing unpacking/organizational phase for my room. It's pretty much just boxes and stuff all over the place right now. For all that I tend toward the cluttered side of life, I can't stand it when things aren't organized and I like to feel "nested," so it's somewhat discombobulating to still have my "home" be a wreck. I'm working on that though and will work some more today. There are a few things I need to buy (like a new bookshelf and some hangars) in order for everything to have a home, so that's probably what I'll spend my "out and about" hours doing today. I also still need to get a MD driver's license. That might be a "tomorrow task" though.
I also need to stop by the University again today to talk some more with my advisor's wife who I hate referring to in this manner since she's an aerospace professor in her own right and on the graduate selection committee. So, from now on I'll just call her Mary since that's her name. My advisor will be code-named Dave. Oddly, that's his real name too. Either that's not sneaky at all, or it's so sneaky that it's really amazingly sneaky.
Yes, I've been watching too much Alias.
On the job front, I've got a couple of irons in the fire including one at ARL (the Army Research Lab). It's a defense-related thing....but actually _defense_, not offensive stuff....so that makes it better somehow? It would also mean working for a guy at my church which could have its good points and its bad points. They're going to send me an application, then I'll interview after that, in sha'allah. Hope with me that ARL has a "casual" dress policy because all (both) of my business suits got eaten by mildew while I was away and I'm too cheap to want to spend hundreds of dollars (and many, many hours of shopping) replacing them right now. Actually, I took the mildew-eating as a sign from God that business suits are a tool of the Devil and should not be worn except at great need. But maybe I'm biased in that regard.
Anyway....I'm going to go shower now and get my butt moving on the ever-growing list of things I need to take care of and buy.
Posted by Melissa at 10:55 AM
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Bah....runtime error deleted my post. Oh well...it wasn't terribly well-written anyway.
So a few days ago, Mrs. C. called and made a _great_ suggestion - that I live with her daughter-in-law, Dawn, while Dawn's husband (and Mrs. C's son), Joe, is in Iraq (that's right - he's G.I. Joe). Dawn's been praying for an opportunity to share the extra space in their house and it's just a perfect fit. We're both _really_ excited about it. She's excited about my piano being there and because this gives her a chance to re-arrange things.
I'm excited for a whole bunch of reasons. Not only is this a low-rent option, but I also won't need to rent a big truck in order to bring a lot of furniture....but I'll still have enough room to have a little space of my own. I'll have to convince my brother to keep some of my stuff for a little while longer, but I don't think he'll mind.
We're both also excited because we started talking tonight about the things I learned in Iraq about sharing with Muslims and she's really excited to learn more. This'll give me a chance to review and learn more while we study it together. Hopefully we'll be able to get some other folks involved too.
I'm just so excited that this is working out like this. It's like the apartment shopping was just a way for me to know exactly how generous God is. So, yay, God!
Or as they say in Iraq, al hamdo lilla!
Posted by Melissa at 10:41 PM
Monday, January 17, 2005
Well, I'm still unemployed, uninsured, and homeless....but at least I'm not living with my parents anymore. That's a move in the right direction, isn't it? ;p
The drive here was uneventful, as usual. I spent Saturday and some of Sunday afternoon looking for apartments (Barbara came along on Saturday). We went to a lot of places, so I spent Saturday evening setting up a spread sheet on my computer (have I mentioned that Henry's not a paperweight anymore? Yes, thanks to the generous help of my church, he has a new hard drive and is back up and running, although we've still not recovered any data from my old hard drive. But, at least he's no longer a $3000 paperweight!). Since everywhere had some different variation of pet fees, student discounts, utilities, specials, and laundry issues, I decided to compare them over the course of a year rather than month-to-month. So, I'd add together the monthly rent for twelve months, any monthly pet fees for twelve months, any monthly utility estimates for twelve months, then add in any one-time fees like the application fee, add in an estimate for laundry costs if a washer and dryer weren't included in the apartment, and subtract any discounts. Not surprisingly, the two efficiencies that I looked at topped the list of cheapest place to live over a year. Far more surprisingly, for only ~$200 more (over the course of the year, not monthly), I can get a 1BR apartment, newly renovated, in one of the nicer areas of Laurel (Montpelier). It even comes with an alarm system and is actually ground-level (not "ground floor" which ends up being down several steps quite often) - making the installation of the piano _MUCH_ easier. They've even got one coming available this Saturday.
The only "catch" is that I need to have income before they'll lease it to me. I can probably get my parents to co-sign for me if it comes to that, but the alternative would be a letter of intent from where ever I plan to work. Some of the other places would take six months of bank statements, but not this one, and money in the bank doesn't seem to make much of a difference. That makes me wonder how really rich people who don't need to work manage to rent apartments. Maybe they just buy stuff.
Anyway, so that sent me to job hunting today. I've just applied online to a place in Silver Spring where I'd be a software tester, do some tech support, and write users manuals. That might actually be the low-stress job that I'm looking for. Another alternative is the Army Research Lab. I was talking to the dad of one of the girls I grew up with at church, telling him about how I was looking for a job, etc. and the guy behind him asked what I did, then gave me his card. He works for SAIC at ARL. That might work out well too, although I would imagine that they do a lot of work with defense stuff and I've never been too keen on that. Don't get me wrong, I think that wars are necessary from time to time (this time included), and I'm glad that there are people who are willing and able to design, build, and use defensive and offensive weapons and equiment, but I'm just not one of those people. But then again, it's a job, and it's right down the road from the nicer of the two efficiencies (which is running a close second to the 1BR due to its location and the friendliess of the staff). I'll email him and see what he can find for me. Most of the other jobs I've seen in the papers I've looked in have been "driver" or "assistant," etc.
I also need to email someone in the aerospace department. I'm still not able to register for classes and no one seems to know why. The person that I was sent to didn't answer my voicemail, so I'll try email now. I've still got over a week before classes start, but I really need to take care of this.
I'm pretty stressed about it all right now. I know that everything is happening according to His plan, but _I'd_ certainly like it all to be settled.
I hope to go to the inauguration on Thursday. I don't think I've ever been to one, despite living in the area for most of my life. I vaguely remember working the day of the last inaugural (about two blocks away, actually) and thinking that I should have walked over.
Anyway, that's where I am right now.
Posted by Melissa at 2:19 PM
Thursday, January 13, 2005
So my travel plans have changed (those of you who know me and/or my family will not at all be surprised at that). It was just too much to try to fit in this weekend, and the whole driving all night thing sans caffeine just wasn't smart, so here's the new plan: I drive up tomorrow during the day (with a brief stop in Cookeville to drop some stuff off with Toby who went back to school today), then take my time in finding an apartment. Once that's done, I'll fly to TN, pack a U-haul with the rest of my stuff and my furniture (knowing better what furniture will actually _fit_), then drive back. Or my family will pack for me, drive up, then drive back. I vote for door #1 though. I was in MD when my stuff went to TN, so I didn't help with that at all. The least I can do is be there for the unloading of Jesse's basement since I missed the loading.
But, as you can see in this post's title, I am a packing queen! When going through all of my stuff, between trash, goodwill, and repacking I diminished in "stuff" by 12 variously-sized boxes, and several bags. But not only that, but today, I fit everything I wanted to in my car with room to spare. But you really just have to see it in order to appreciate the full magnitude of my mad packing skillz. Every nook and cranny is filled. No space is left empty (except the top and where I'll sit). The back seat bottom pulls out before the back of the seat folds down. Under that space is all of my linens. In the triangular space between the front seats and the first row of boxes are my SCUBA fins. You really have to just see it. And what's funny is that since I had room after I put in all the stuff I'd planned on taking, I'm _really_ having to fight the urge to bring more stuff...just because I can. :) But I won't because I don't want to deal with anything more than I'm bringing now.
But now I'm sleepy. I stayed up late last night, hoping to sleep as late as possible this morning, making it easier to stay up late and drive tonight. But I only made it to about 2...and then got woken up multiple times this morning...all of them early...so by 8:30 I was too awake to sleep anymore. So...going to bed now. I'll be in MD tomorrow for good(ish). Saturday is the first (and hopefully only) apartment-hunting day. Once I find an apartment, then will begin the job-hunting day(s). And on the Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday after Jan 26th begins the school days.
Ok...going to bed now....later!
Posted by Melissa at 11:40 PM
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
So, I went to the guitar store where I bought my old guitar. Turns out, they knew a guy who could actually fix it - if I wanted to pay as much or more than what I paid for it. So instead they showed me around the ones they had available for cheap, but decent quality. And for $250, I ended up getting a used Fender in really good condition. I'm "kinda" excited about it. The guy said that they sell for almost $1000 new. I haven't looked it up yet, but I'd believe that it was a pretty good quality guitar. Plus, it's a Fender. :) I've actually _heard_ of that brand. :) It's a natural finish, cut-away style, acoustic electric. They also sold me a used direct box for $25 (that kind sells for $50 new), so now I can even plug in at churches that don't provide them for us. :)
But all of this is more than a little bittersweet. Like when you bring a pet to the vet for the last time, I left my old guitar with them for a proper burial. They all got a chuckle out of that notion, but they understood. It was a good guitar and did me well.
In other news, I spent yesterday afternoon/evening under Jesse's house going through my stuff. It didn't take as long as I expected. All that I have left to do today is go through my book boxes, many of which are apparently full of old school notes and assignments (making the task significantly easier). I threw a lot of stuff away, and I've got a car-load full (with the back seat down too) of stuff for Purple Heart when they come by tomorrow.
The stuff did pretty well under Jesse's house. All of my remaining clothes and linens are musty (as are the books), but there were only three boxes that were sitting in puddles. One had stuff that I really didn't care about at all (old trinkets for my Sunday School class, old nail polish, etc.), one had dishes so it didn't do any damage, and one was my box of Cal Ripken memorabilia. Every time my mom would find an Orioles or Cal memento anywhere, she'd buy it for me, so I had a box full. But also in there were my ticket and souviener posters from Cal's 2131 game that I went to with Barbara. Only one corner of the box was wet, but it was, of course, the corner by the big and flat things. The posters were completely ruined, but the ticket is still readable, although a little worse for wear. It's got a blue-ish tinge now from the envelope that it was in for safe-keeping, and the embossing stamp that they used to mark the ticket (instead of ripping it like normal) is gone, but it's still legible.
My games were attacked by some paper-eating bug. The boxes are still in tact, but the top layer of paper is gone in a lot of places. There's only one set of "stuff" that I can't seem to find. I thought there was a box of old cassette tapes and CDs, but I can't find it. I'm pretty sure I put all of the CDs in one of those CD notebook things and recycled all of the cases since otherwise I would have had boxes and boxes of CDs, but I had a good number of tapes too, and I don't know where they are.
I managed to get a nice-sized "crick" in my neck that a heating pad and I are trying to get rid of right now, but after that, I'll go finish wading through the books. After that I just need to collect and organize all the stuff that's scattered around my parents' house now, then I'll be ready to go. :)
Posted by Melissa at 2:00 PM
Monday, January 10, 2005
I haven't been much of a blogger lately. I have my suspicions as to why, but they're not really important. Hopefully soon I'll get back to doing it more regularly. But as a result, there are lots of little things to talk about, none of which really deserves its own post....so here's the miscellaneous randomness of my life:
Moving: Well, the big move may happen this week. What I know for sure is that I'll help out with my dad's Science Club meeting on Thursday after school, then I'll drive to MD overnight. Normally, I'd forego overnight driving (especially sans caffeine), but I need to spend Friday looking for (and hopefully finding) an apartment. If I find one available for immediate occupancy, my parents will drive up on Saturday with all of my stuff, furniture, and my cat. If I find one that will be available really soon, or even if I don't find one at all, they'll just bring up my stuff (no furniture or cat) and I'll store it or something. Then, when a place _is_ available, I'll make another trip to TN to pick up my furniture and cat or possibly my family will come up again during Spring Break. As two months is a long time to go without a bed, I'm really hoping it won't be that last option. So, MD folk, I'll be back in town "for good" starting sometime early Friday morning, but I'll be pretty busy over the weekend.
School: I just tried to register for my classes and there's some block on my registration. The lady who might know what the problem is comes in at 1:30. Hope with me that it's something simple. I now plan on taking three classes: Tuesdays, 7-9:30PM is Space Human Factors and Life Support; Wednesdays, 6:30-9PM is Satellite Design; and Thursdays, 4-6:30PM is Software Safety. The human factors class will be interesting - it'll cover life support systems and the "human" aspect of space travel. I'm counting this as my "easy" class since my "expertise" at my old job was the life support systems on the Space Station. Design classes are always fun, so the satellite design class should be good. It'll give us a nice overview of each typical satellite system (power, thermal, guidance, etc.), then I'm sure there'll be a group design project. :) This course is possibly time-consuming, but hopefully also not terribly difficult. The last one could be really hard, or it could be a cakewalk. I hoping that some of my friends from my old job will take the class with me, so we can cut up in the back of the room. :)
Job: I still have no idea about a job. I figure that I can live (_very_ carefully) as long as I'm making at least $6/hr full-time, but I'll also need to pay for school, so something higher than that would be really good. It needs to be full-time so that I've got some amount of medical insurance, and I'd rather it be relatively mindless work. The last real "hourly" job that I had was in high school at Service Merchandise and I used to have nightmares about it, so hope that I've gotten over my fear of working in retail sales. If anyone knows of anything, let me know. This semester it could pretty much be anything, even a 9-5er, but I don't know about next semester, so flexible hours are probably necessary.
Guitar: I played and sang "Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)" for church on Sunday. When I got out my guitar on Friday to practice, I noticed a new "feature" near the top of the neck that I'd never noticed before. I thought it was odd that I'd never noticed before that it was two pieces that were joined, but whatever. On Sunday morning I realized that the neck was cracked, pretty much all the way to the fret board. The guitar made it to and from Mexico, to Kuwait, Iraq, and Jordan (probably - I didn't examine it very closely at the time), but sometime since then either due to temperature changes or impact or something else....well, she's dead, Jim. Lacking anything else to play, I went ahead and used her on Sunday morning, but I'm going to head over to the store where we bought her three or four years ago to see about buying a new one. They buy used guitars, so maybe I'll get some small amount of trade-in for her "electric" side or something. So sad. :(
Wasting Time in TN: I've spent much of my time here helping my family clean/reorganize their house. We've sent a lot of stuff to charity and a lot of stuff to the dump. During my less busy time, I've been playing games on the computer, and watching TV and DVDs. Last night we finished watching all of "V." That was originally a TV mini-series in 1983 and 1984, then it lasted one season as a TV show. It was about these lizards that dressed up like humans in order to act like our friends, but really to rape the planet of its natural resources. They eat a lot of mice and other rodents, and the guy who plays Freddie Krueger is a friendly lizard. :) It's fun. I also very much enjoyed the Alias season premier last Wednesday. JJ Abrams (series creator) decided to give that to my mom as a birthday present (Happy Birthday, Mommy!). I was worried through the first hour that my boyfriend Marshall (the tech geek) wasn't going to be on the show anymore, but he is, and I'm happy. My other boyfriend Michael Vartan, of course was still there. But sadly, they say that they've killed off Lena Olin's character. Fortunately, no one's ever _really_dead on this show (except for Dixon's wife, Emily (this time), and possibly many of the "red shirts," to use a Star Trek term). But Spy Daddy was just as ambiguously good as ever, Sloan was just as ooky as ever, and it looks like Agent Sean might get a girlfriend this season. :) Yay! Agent Sean is my other, other boyfriend (he's the big teddy bear imaginary boyfriend, Vaughn (Michael Vartan) is the hot imaginary boyfriend, and Marshall is the geeky imaginary boyfriend - hey....when they're just imaginary boyfriends, you can have as many as you like and switch between them depending on your mood. Imaginary boyfriends are very convenient that way.). The credits are a little different, but I could still do my internationally-known "Alias Dance" to them, and the disguises, accents, and fight scenes were just as much fun as ever, so I have high hopes for this season. :)
ANY-way.....so now I'm going to head over to Jesse's house to spend time going through my stuff in his basement. That should be "fun." And cold. And dirty. But at least his crawlspace is tall enough for me to stand up, mostly. Purple Heart is coming by again on Wednesday, so I'm hoping to finish going through everything by then. That's the goal anyway. We'll see what actually transpires. We'll also see if I can practice what I've been making my mom do - enjoy it for one last moment, now give/throw it away!
Car: I finally got my MD license plates, so my car is official now!! :)
Computer: I forgot to tell you that my computer is no longer a paperweight! My hard drive is probably definitely gone (although we'll see about someone Marshall-esque retrieving the data, if it's not too expensive), but my church generously replaced my hard drive for me and got Henry back up and running again. Not having much need for him here, I've only recently finished getting him back to the way that I like him, but he's working just fine again. I'm still sad about all of the applications I've lost though. And I haven't connected him to the internet at all to update anything, so it's entirely possible that SP2 will work its magic again, but I hope it won't. I think I've got a scheme for having internet connectivity once I get back to MD, but otherwise, does anyone know the cheapest way to get internet access in the DC area?
Sunday School: I'm sure you've all been wondering how things have been going with my Sunday School class. Well, unexpectedly, I've really enjoyed the time. Mostly because I always had a class of one - me. No one else ever came, and except for the first time, I didn't get caught, so I got to have an hour of "me" time. That was definitely better than sitting in some class. :) But I turned in my book yesterday, so my career as an adult Sunday School teacher seems to have come to an end.
That's all I can think of for now. I'm sure I'll think of something else piddly here shortly, but it can't be that important if I can't think of it now.
Posted by Melissa at 10:29 AM