How Badly Do I Now Want To...

How badly do I not want to go to this new years eve party? I don't really have words to express the amount, but it's a lot.

I find myself being a mercy friend with someone else tonight. Do I really want to go? Not even a little bit.

We'll see if I can get out of it...


The Continuing Saga of Group and My Car

I've had the feeling for quite some time that my car will never be fixed. It's time for that feeling to go away.

When I got home last night, several things on my car were not working
  • the tail light
  • the dome light
  • the turn signal

I was so bummed. All of this stuff worked when I took my car into the shop, the day after Thanksgiving. Why won't it work now?

This morning, I hauled myself down to Bloomington and the fixed everything and added the plastic piece that had been missing for so long. I'm afraid to say my car is fixed because I don't want to jinx it.

And group: It was fine. We practiced some skils around asking people for job applications and gathering information. I think our next goal is getting the attendance to be above five people for once. No matter, we have some good discussions when the group is that small.


Every time I Leave...

Every time I leave the state, it snows in the place I am going to.

Case in point: Thanksgiving, I flew into Cincinnati and we drove up to Ft. Wayne Indiana to see the family. Mother nature promptly dumped several inches of snow on us the second we crossed into Indiana. (Really, I see this partly as what we get for going into Indiana on purpose.)

Christmas is no exception. I flew to Cincinnati where it was 50 degrees when I landed. Woops. The next day it snowed ten inches, and that was before the snow turned to ice pellets.

So, I'm happy mother nature can continue her little joke on me.


Challenging Your Brain

Challenging your brain:

  • What would you like to receive for Christmas this year? Return of the King, Extended Edition. I'm not sure if I'll get it though. Might have been too complicated, the whole regular edition and extended edition thing.
  • What could possible be the best Christmas present given to you this year? I'm not sure. We have some good gifts going around at the family party usually. My Mom always picks out nice gifts too.
  • What are you tired of receiving every year? I'll go with Kelly on this one, soaps, and chap stick. Chap stick, I ask you...
  • What could be the worst gift that anyone could give you this year? I don't even want to go down this road.
  • What was the worst present you ever received for Christmas? All presents are nice, at least someone was going for what they thought I wanted.
  • What was the best present you ever received for Christmas? My car.


The Ice Storm From Hell

I got my car back today, finally. Ironically today was the day winter officially began in Minnesota. We had freezing rain this morning that coated everything in ice, especially the roads.

Remember, I hadn't been a great fan of the rental car they gave me. I liked the fact that it was free, but as a car, I wasn't it's big admire. This is mostly because it's an automatic and I like my stick shift. Also because neons are designed more to look cute than for driveability.

This morning however, I made peace with the car. I take this clover leaf entrance ramp onto the express way. You have to take the ramp slowly in normal conditions because of how sharp the turns are. Add to that, it's a sheet of ice, and it's up hill and there were problems.

Cars were stopping in the middle of the ramp, others were trying to back down the ramp which was screwing up ten different kinds of things, and most of the cars at the top of the ramp were spinning their tires on the ice. I put that cute little car in first gear and we went right up the ramp together. We didn't slide or spin tires or anything. Apparently, the only thing that would make me like the car is shifting gears.

This morning there were 123 wrecks with property damage in the twin cities and 29 accidents involving injuries in the twin cities.

The irony of the situation is that I didn't have my car for so long because I had been in a wreck when it was wet outside. So the day my car is finally fixed, instead of the roads being wet, the roads were icier than they have ever been in life.


Today was a pretty fun day.

I had to be at work by 8:25am, no problem. Did you know that the anchor stores in the mall open by like 7am during the holidays. But yes, even at the Mall of America, I found a parking spot on the first floor close to the door.

I only had to work for four hours, which was even more awesome. Three of those hours, I was at the touch pool. It was so slow today. I think I used the microphone for all of five minutes. Everyone was shopping not so much being tourists.

After work, I went to the alpaca connection to get my Mom's Christmas present. She likes that store. I got her a pullover poncho type thing and a scarf. I hope she'll like them, I'm not sure she will.

I went to Target, but after being told that they carried binoculars, I still couldn't find them. When I asked a sales person, she wouldn't help me, so I left in protest. I will get Dad a gift when I get to Cincinnati.

I went home, and then over to Amanda's house. Happy birthday Amanda. Amanda gets, well I can't describe it, but she gets more Amanda-like when a large group of people are expected at her house, which was the case tonight. So, I went over to be the calming influence. It's a good thing I was there because the wine was not a calming influence at all. It made her really giggly, more than calm. I went out to start the car before we left for dinner and Amanda was walking up the hall behind me singing Happy Birthday to herself. It was only 5pm.

We had a good dinner and I had a great time hanging out with some of Amanda's friends. They're all really funny, like to laugh and hang out kind of people. Eventually I had to leave, because I have to work a full day tomorrow, 9:25am.

When I think about going to work on the weekends, I'm not a big fan of that job. Really, it's easy to be there, especially on short days like this. It's just hard to motivate myself to go when it's -3F with 22 mile an hour wind. But then I get the pay checks which makes it better.


Singing and dancing in Malawi. Posted by Hello

Brings Tears To My Eyes

I went to a play tonight with Amanda. The play was written and directed by a lady who had been homeless for part of her life. Valeriessia worked with Person to Person to get into a shelter, and eventually into a home where she could get her children back. She now runs an agency called Lighthouse In The City.

At one point of the play, Valeriessia sang a song with one of her daughters and it brought tears to my eyes. I forget sometimes about that simple power of songs to bring tears to my eyes.

These ladies, clearly their singing voices are how they talk to God. With an instrument as powerful as that, what else could they use?

Africa was like that. Everyone had the most beautiful voices. When the whole village sang together it was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard. It still is actually. I remember feeling quite sure that not only could those songs bring a tear to my eyes, they could bring tears to God's own eyes.


Teaching the Computer

I went to the library today to get some books about computers. I'm teaching some people to use computers, but I just sort of picked it up, so I can't explain computers to other people.I wanted to read these books to see how they explain the computer monster.

The Computers For Dummies books are really funny. I was glad they had that amount of sarcasm because it's the only thing that could make reading about the difference between hardware and software bearable.

While I was reading, I was getting all of these ideas about labelling the different parts of the computer, like A drive, D drive, mouse (hardware), monitor, and so on. I was planning on using permanent marker, but Kelly reminded me that labels were probably a better choice. I also wanted to make the desktop wall paper actually say, "This is the Desktop Screen".

The whole experience is giving me a new respect for IT people who take these questions all day. Computers aren't the easiest thing in the world to explain to someone who has no idea what's going on. Can you imagine, "How do I open a word document?" or "I can't find the document I was working on. Should I have saved it before I shut down the computer?" And who can forget everyone's favorite, "I'm holding the paper to the screen, and hitting enter, why wont it fax?" How do IT people handle this? Hopefully someone is checking to make sure they're not loosing brain cells from being exposed to this so often.


What Tomorrow Is

Some days are the greatest day I've ever had. Some days are just an opportunity to do better tomorrow. Guess which kind of day I had.

One of my co-workers is having trouble learning his job. I wanted him to do well and took an interest in him a while ago. I've been keeping up with him ever since. When I'm at the office, I try to stop by his desk and see how things are going. At that point I usually get drug into something or other. But, I expect that and plan my days accordingly.

Today, I and several of my colleagues, including this particular co-worker, volunteered at a Habitat for Humanity warehouse nailing together the frames of houses.

I need to pause and address the family that will live in the houses we framed: I did my best and I believe that at the very least, your house will not be blown over by a strong gust of wind.

Back to the warehouse. Because, apparently, I am the only person who has taken an interest in this co-worker, he sticks with me when we go to things like this. It's hard for me sometimes because I come expecting to hang out with my colleagues, and I wind up making sure he knows what's going on. Today I got impatient at the end of the day, which I now feel rotten about. Tomorrow is just a chance to do better.

I called my Mom later because I had some other things to tell her, but I also told her about this experience and the things that led to my impatience. I was glad I did because she was able to find humor in some of the stories I had.

Her favorite:
Co-worker: "Liz, was there a toilet that we weren't supposed to use?"
Me: "Yeah, there's only one that's working."
Co-worker: "Oh, damn."

It was great to hear my Mom start laughing because I didn't at the time. Really it's a story that deserves some laughter.


Bus is Hell

I called about my car this morning, hoping for good news. No joy. Apparently it's jumped from being ready Wednesday to "the end of the week". I am in hell.

Taking the bus hasn't been that bad, but it's getting worse. It was literally ten degrees outside, not counting the wind chill. I was so cold. I have this wool blanket which is only wide enough for one person. So I wrapped that around my legs like a chitenje (sarong) skirt to keep warm. It looked quite dorky, but at least I don't have frost bite. Give me my car back.


We find beauty in the strangest places

Today on my bus ride, there were these two old Hmong ladies. They were such tiny, old wrinkled women. One of them had what must have been a 50kg bag of rice on her back and the other one was carrying grocery. They were talking to each other and smiling. They looked like such happy old women.

I couldn't help thinking of Mpalale and the people I knew there when I saw these two ladies. My Amayi were both pretty young, and Lidia was my age, but there were many old women who carried fire wood or water on their heads every morning. They were always happy to see us and shake our hands, and say hello.

I remember Annie talking about a really old Amayi in Chickanda whose face was all weathered and wrinkled. Annie was saying how beautiful and wise her face looked. The old faces in Africa were always the most beautiful to me. They were where I found hope and peace and wisdom.

I'm always amazed at the places I find beauty. I find it in the lines of a woman's face, and in Lidia's voice when she sings, and Dyna when she was making us laugh or Beatrice when she was talking to us.

Today, I found beauty and peace in these happy old women carrying rice in a neighborhood in south Minneapolis.

Why people avoid public transportation

My day today is why people hate the bus:

I left my house around a little after 11am to get on the 11:13am bus into downtown. To my delight, the bus came almost exactly at 11:13, which should have been my first clue.

All hell broke loose between me getting on and Nicollette Mall where I was supposed to transfer. There were these old Hmong ladies (who I really should come back to at some point) who had some bags to unload off the bus, then there was a lady in a wheelchair, then there were the three lights we sat through at Park Avenue while a whole line of people got on the bus.

I was suppoed to get to the transfer station at 11:30 and have an eight minute lay-over. 11:30 came and went, and around 11:36 we were still three blocks away when the lady in the wheel chair wanted to get off, so I got off and ran the rest of the way. I've gotten really good at running since I've been taking the bus. Sadly, I still missed my transfer. A barrage of swear words issued forth that are best left unpublished.

I got on another bus which would take me close to where I wanted to be, a five minute car ride away. Due to the logistics of the roads, stills too far to walk, especially with the time constraints that I was now under to get to the office on time. But at least if someone had to come pick me up from the office, I was close. Unfortunately, the office is getting recarpeted and its Friday, all day, so I had a feeling the office was going to be very empty.

The whole time I was thinking, "this is why people don't take the bus". I had a job that depended on me getting there on time, and public transportation is all I've got. I left my house two hours early, and still had to worry about being late to work. This is ridiculous.

The bus costs $1.25 on off-peak hours which is the weekends and non-rush hours on weekdays. It costs $1.75 during rush-hours, and express buses (which only stop downtown, and then take the expressway out to a suburb) cost $2.50 one way. For anyone who has free parking, it's cheaper to drive than take the bus. And the bus isn't a reliable form of transportation, as I learned today, so where's the incentive to use public transportation.

"Beacuse it's good for the enviornment" isn't enough. Not even for me and I like the enviornment. "Because it's easier" simply is not true. This is Minnesota. Stand outside in the minus ten degree weather, it's not easy. That leaves "because it's the only choice" which just isn't good enough.

We are the richest nation in the world. We have more people with college degrees, more food and more technology than anywhere else. Surely we can find a way to move people from point A to point B in a way that doesn't relegate anyone without a car to second class citizenship.



My Mom once told me that if I loved to write, I should write about everything. She was reading this book about an author who has all of these workshops for aspiring writers, and when the aspiring writers get to her workshop they've already for their first book published in their heads. The author always tells them that if they love to write, they should write about anything because that's the joy. Write about doing the dishes, write about folding laundry. That's what writers do.

Apparently this woman is a wonderful writer. Mom says she can make anything funny. The only time I'm ever funny successfully is when I'm trying to be serious. It comes out of the blue. I remember being the emcee of this awards dinner when I was a LAB RAT, and I was up there talking, trying to be serious. I don't even remember what I said but everyone laughed. It was a nice warm laugh, not like men laughing at a joke that would make me feel dirty. A bit later in the awards dinner, I said something else, and was again shocked by the laughter.

It's funny how that little success has stuck with me for so long. I remember Debbie coming up and saying, "we don't have a host, you have to do it". I thought being a host would be like taking one for the team, turns out, I found the funny. (Since then, I've mostly misplaced it. )

I love to write. I'll be at work thinking of things to write down and it's rough on me that I can't write them down right then. It's like if I don't get to a computer it's going to come pouring out of me some other way. The first thing I do when I get home is turn on the computer and write something. Most of the time I delete it again, because I don't think it's good enough, but after a try or two, I find something I like. When I sit down at my keyboard, my fingers start working, like magic. Words and ideas and phrases come bursting out of them, like water from a fountain.

I can't understand people who don't like to write, people who don't like to create. This is so much fun, why wouldn't you do this? The things we create in life are the things that are really ours, but they're also what we have to give. It eludes me that there's something inside of another person, something they could create and share and they choose not to. They choose to deprive the world of that gift.

For a long time, I drew tons and tons of pictures. I stopped one day because I thought I wasn't as good as everyone else at drawing. I wasn't really, but I still had something to offer. The day I stopped drawing was the day I started improving at the guitar. Creativity has to have somewhere to go. I plugged up one hole and it just found another outlet. How can people keep this up inside of them all day? I'm amazed they don't explode with wanting to get it all out.

Everything seems to be "getting repaired" right now.

My car: On election day I was in an accident. It was really no fun at the time but the aftermath is turning out to be much worse. (Only partly because President Bush won the election.) I took my car in to the shop on November 29, it's now December 9, and I wont have my car back until sometime next week, probably Wednesday.

Taking the bus for the past (several thousand) weeks has been fun. I got a lot of music listened to and had a lot of time to think.

I've also had a lot of time to sit in traffic on the bus, or stand in the cold waiting for the bus. I've had lots of oppurtunities to be on public transportation with people who stand to close to me, and a few people whose smell, well, I miss my car.

The office: We're getting new carpet in the office. As a result, I wont be able to get into my cube all morning, and probably not all afternoon tommorow. Today Jon's cube was getting recarpeted and he didn't have much to do, so he came over and talked with me while I was clearing out my cube for the carpeting crew.

The house: This is day three without showering. Mercifully, it's the winter and I live in Minnesota so there's no cloud of dust following me around like Pig Pen . Yet. A new medicine cabinent is being installed in our bathroom and the bathroom is being repainted. Our bathroom is the size of a small closet, so I'm a little troubled that this is day three of repainting the bathroom and it's not finished yet.

I told my roommate that the "shower in a bucket skills" might come in handy again. There's something that I thought I left in Africa. It seems the things I enjoyed like peyalas and the beautiful music and my family stayed in Africa, and other crap like peeing in a hole and bathing in a bucket have followed me all the way back to Minnesota.
Posted by Hello


If a tree falls in the forest...

Today I worked at home planning our group for tomorrow and updating materials from the previous group sessions. Tomorrow we are going to take an interest test and identify jobs that correlate to those areas of interest.

Around 4pm, I headed out for the bus to go up to White Bear Lake. Around 5:30pm I finally arrived in White Bear Lake. I was on one of those buses with the hinge in the middle. I was one of the last people off of the bus, so it was fairly empty for a while and I was the only one in the back half of the bus. When the driver turned corners, it felt like I was on this phantom bus with no one else. Because of the hinge in the middle of the bus, I couldn't see up to the front so I couldn't see the driver or other riders. It was really a sensation I could have done without.

Youth group was really interesting. There's a girl in the group who lived in another country for the past 6 years. Last week we found out that she didn't know what Twinkies were. This week Kelly had surprise Twinkies. We played some really entertaining games too, "things you can do in the snow" and "songs with Christmas in them" and then talked about Mary.

When I came home I knew the dishes would be there waiting for me, and I had accepted that fact. In doing the dishes and throwing out some scraps of food, I realized it was time to take out the trash. I was ok with taking out the trash too. Except when I went onto the back steps I discovered another bag of trash had been hiding there. I know that bag of trash had been tied up and removed from the kitchen garbage can a week ago. (I remember last week being excited that my roommate had taken the trash out. Woops.)

In all that time, that bag of trash had only managed to move about three feet. In some ways I'm relieved that it didn't grow legs of it's own and walk off. But my relief didn't really trump the annoyance I felt at being the only one capable of taking trash out to the garbage cans behind the house.

The question is, if your roommate ties up a bag of trash and moves it out of the garbage can and onto the back steps, have she really solved the problem?


I love it when...

Today, I slept in. I had a meeting at 9am, so I didn't have to get on the bus until 8:32am. I felt like a rich woman waking up at 7:50am.

While I was at the meeting, I got invited to a Christmas party at the Central office. I convinced a couple more co-workers to come with me and enjoy the free food. They cooked 3 turkeys for about 30 people. I think it there was a turkey or two left over.

I got a ride home from work with Jan. There are no words to express the joy I felt at walking in my door before 6:30. Also, I don't have words to express my joy at not having been on the bus and standing outside to transfer for 90 minutes.

Right now, I'm listening to some music. Mozart right now, Peter Paul and Mary and Beethoven a bit earlier. Also a guy named Lebo M who did music for movies like The Lion King and The Power of One. In the very begining of the Lion King movie, the voice that starts singing to call all of the animals, that's Lebo M. Anyways, because I miss Africa and my family there, I really like listening to his music.

This is a wild hoary bat. Posted by Hello

Explaining the A4Bats Name

A4bats is a name that doesn't explain itself easily. That name popped into my head because it was my very first email address, a4bats@aol.com. (I feel comfortable posting that because that hasn't been my email address in several years.)

Bats as in baseball, or bats as in the things that fly around at night? Why bats?

When I was in highschool I worked at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Science. One of the permanent exhibits at the museum is a cave exhibit, featuring the world's largest man-made cave, and a colony of (at the time) over 40 big brown bats (e. fuscus). I got really interested in the bats and started working taking care of them. I also met a bat biologist and was able to do some other work with wild bats outside of the museum.

Working with bats gave me an income the rest of high school and most of college.

Why the "A4" part of the name? There are 4 A's in my name.


The Joys of Public Transportation

Earlier this year, one light rail line serving south Minneapolis opened with limited stops. This weekend in Minneapolis, five more stops opened, including a stop at the Mall of America. To celebrate the Hiawatha lines new stops, the Twin Cities Metro Council chose to make buses and the light rail free both Saturday and Sunday.

I work part-time at the Mall of America and enjoy public transportation because it means I don't have to compete for parking spaces with all of the holiday shoppers. However...

Saturday night, I got off work around 7pm, and foolishly forgot that all of those people who had taken the train to the Mall Saturday morning would now be taking the train home. The trains and buses were free, so they were more crowded than usual, and they were populated with people who don't usually take the bus or train.

Public transportation is always an adventure, but a crowded train, packed with the kind of people who would only ride a free train, for fun, is beyond words.