Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Not by Bread Alone

When I lived in Southern California, I was a regular at the LA Religious Education Congress. As a high school student I went to the "Youth Day," which meant a day off school and a chance to experience Catholicism outside the bounds of my parish, then as a grad student I went as a catechist enjoying dipping into the wonderful array of talks. I seriously missed that energetic gathering of catechists when I moved East some thirty-five years ago.

This year, part of me got to go to the Congress, or rather my book go to go! One of my Liturgical Press editors send the larger than life photo to me. I could not possibly have imagined this when I was a high school student.

And if you're still looking for some Lenten can order it from Liturgical Press, paper or electrons, English or Spanish.

Armed with the weapons of self-restraint

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
— Opening prayer for Ash Wednesday

"...armed with the weapons of self-restraint." I kept hearing that snippet from today's Collect throughout the day today, but I was practically chanting it at the grocery store at 6. It was packed as if there was an Eagles' play-off game or an incoming Nor'easter. And then there was the lady at the fish counter. Who ordered one thing. Then changed her mind. Then changed her mind again. Then wanted it steamed. Arm yourself with self-restraint, I reminded myself, before I got a bit steamed myself.

I'm hoping to be armed with self-restraint, as I've given up chocolate for Lent. Cliché, I know. But for me it's a bit like a hair shirt, a small ever-present irritant. I'm reminded when I pack my lunch, sans chocolate treat. When I eat lunch and there's no little treat tucked in. And when I see the basket of chocolate in my office, the bag of chocolate tucked in the cabinet at home. And after dinner, and, and, and...

It's like doing physical therapy, all these repetitions should strengthen my spiritual muscles.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

As the Hamster Wheel Turns

If I were to write a soap opera about my life, it would be called “As the Hamster Wheel Turns”. I would have an evil twin. She would go to meetings and be difficult, so neither of us would be asked to sit on another committee again. She would stand outside my door and glare at anyone who approaches, daring them to ignore the “Do Not Disturb” sign and knock. I would develop amnesia, forgetting what is on my never-ending to-do list, forgetting that I even have a never-ending to-do list.

What would your soap opera life be called?

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Twilight Zone

I’m flying from PHL to Greensboro, NC to give a chemistry talk. We have been flying for nearly an hour in a solid layer of clouds. My window is a grey rectangle. I keep thinking I’m in the Twilight Zone episode, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, where William Shatner looked out the window to see a gremlin on the wing. So far, no one on the wings. My flight is filled with business guys, a coterie in their slacks and button downs, all in shades of gray and blue, typing away on laptops.

Me, too, for that matter, on both counts.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Is this a good time?

Friday was a mess.  I woke before my alarm, dreaming of eating gummi bears, which then pulled out the temporary crown I have on a back molar. Surprise! The crown had fallen out in the night, no help from gummi bears (which I have given up for the duration of this dental adventure, which will end just in time for the start of Lent.) Thankfully I hadn't swallowed it. (Do not google "swallowed crown." Just don't.)

I was at my desk by 6:30 am, working to finish a National Science Foundation grant proposal that was due soon. (And yes, apparently unlike the chair of Harvard's chemistry department, I did disclose my (unpaid) connections with a foreign state's scientific institute.) I called the dentist when they opened, they could glue me back together just after 11. Perfect, I have class at noon.

I finish the grant, let the grant's officer know she can check it, fingers crossed we can submit before the end of the day. Do the last bits of prep (naked eggs and handouts) for the two hour class I'll teach at noon, grab my keys and the baggie with my crown in it and head out to the dentist and then the college.

The crown gets cemented back in while I contemplate adhesive chemistry (what would it take to make an adhesive that will stick well, but then be reversible??).  I dash to the college. I don't get in my door before crisis 1 presents itself.

Crisis 2 arrives just before class.
Crisis 3 arrives at the start of class (incredibly dysfunctional tech).
Crisis 4 sends an email while I'm in class. Can we talk? Yes.
Crisis 5 knocks on the door. Can you talk? Yes.

Grants officer finds a typo, fix it and it's ready. AAAGH.  Crisis 6: the file is scrambled. I pull back a previous version. And find another typo.

Crisis 7 calls. Can you talk? Sure. I'll be in your office in fifteen.

The phone rings and I — foolishly — answer it. It's someone who wants to talk about quantum mechanics and a paper I wrote. I say this isn't a good time. He persists. Really, this is a terrible time. Crisis 7 is now knocking on my door. I have to go now. He persists.

I hang up on him.

I apologized by email. It wasn't well received. Crisis 8 came and crisis 9 followed. And it was still Friday. But the grant narrative got fixed and submitted.

Also, it made me think about how I don't always think about what might be happening on the recipient's end when I send an email request or make a phone call.