Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Continuing the count-down

Currently, there's eleven weeks, two working days, and forty-seven minutes to commencement.

Work is harder and harder to tolerate, somehow. The phrase "wailing and gnashing of teeth" is not out of place with my thoughts on the subject. Right now I don't know my plans for the next eleven-twelve-thirteen weeks. (Of course I don't know anything beyond that. That would be silly.)

So work is in the process of producing an employee handbook. I asked K a while back how many vacation days I have left (thinking I would see how much of a Paschal break I could take, or how else I should arrange my tools to stretch my sanity jeest a little further). And she didn't know. Because they're in the process of changing how vacation days are done.

What I knew before: effective January 1, employee has immediate access to a year's worth of vacation, sick time, etc.; employee keeps any unused time at the end of the year, adding to the current time.

What K indicates they may be changing to: effective at the employee's anniversary (hire) date, employee will accrue vacation time in what seems to be a monthly manner: 0.867 something days per month; employee does *not* keep unused time at the end of the year.

My anniversary date is April 25 (or 24 according to K, which makes a difference since I took Bright Monday off last year). Massachusetts law says that the employer must pay for any unused vacation time when employee leaves company. I had been planning to work as long as I could, take the vacation pay as a bonus savings for the trip to Greece; I had spoken with this to JL who seemed okay with this. However, if I do that and the second plan is in effect, I would not *get* any vacation pay, and I *would* lose what I hadn't used. Which is silly, to me. I also realized that if Holy Week would come after my anniversary date, were I still employed here and the new plan would be in effect, I wouldn't be able to take the week off. Since last year's Holy Week, I took off three days for traveling to his ordination; one day for a stress vacation day; and two sick days. Also, I really don't want to work here any more.

So JL and C1 and I (that's yours truly, not another initial) had a meeting yesterday, involving who does what and how far is her training and how can we speed things up, and I voiced my concerns about the vacation thing. JL said that within a couple of weeks, they should have three or four people ready to be interviewed. So. One thing Dn. V. and I had been talking about was giving notice this week and stopping working on my birthday. However, due to the COMPLETELY UNKNOWN FUTURE, it seems prudent to keep socking money away into the savings account.

So after commencement, there's a trip to Greece, which is sponsored by the government of Greece through the school. We have tentative dates (starting a week after commencement). We have been told the government does not have the funds to include the wives (but we don't know whether, if we pay them the money, they could include us in the plans, transportation, etc.). We have given our passport information to the (very patient) student who is working to get us any information at all.

Then after the nebulous trip to Greece, there's a tentative trip to Romania to meet my inlaws. We would like to abscond with them back to the States (you know, generic airport) so that they can be present for their son's (and brother's) ordination to the priesthood.

Theoretically (oh, how bitter are the adverbs!), the ordination would take place at Dn. V.'s new parish assignment. The most recent news on that is from one of the two bishops in Chicago, saying something to the effect of "oh, I thought of this one parish, but I'll have to talk to the other bishop; we'll get back to you."

And then we live happily ever after. Thank goodness there are no loopholes in these plans or anything. I feel like I need a daisy chain and a wispy dress and a vacant look in my eye. I don't mind plans changing ... but that means actually having plans. Right now it's too "yeah, I'd like to do that someday; how about this summer?" God, I trust, but there are a lot of other people whom I *have* to trust, pulling the strings and calling the shots. Too bad I can't get a letter from my bishop telling my boss I need to stay home and play Alpha Centauri for the next eleven weeks.

Oh, and the sequel to my thrilling "Receptionist Manual" is in the works. Today I wrote how to submit forms online. Except for the part where I needed clarification from JL, so I wrote around that. I think there's a desk under all these papers, but I'm beginning to doubt.

Eleven weeks, two working days, and nineteen minutes to commencement. Now to fill the nineteen minutes with silly things which get paper off my desk, since I can't actually think any more.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Lent Begins

We have had two services in Lent so far: Forgiveness Vespers last night and Orthros this morning. At the end of the vesperal service, beginning with the priests, deacons, and professors, we asked forgiveness of each other, individually bending down before each icon of Christ, kissing and begging in humble joy.

This morning, as usual, was a struggle to wake up (several times). But in the light of the chapel, each face was reflecting the morning light, many almost haggard-looking. (Or maybe that's just the way I felt so early.) The beauty of last night's calisthenics in the darkened church was brought forward into light, as each person I saw seemed to be even more a representation of Christ ... even the ones I didn't particularly like for one or another trivial reason.

We had a beautiful reflection on chastity given by Dna. Vassi. She said several things I particularly enjoyed, but this one especially: that everything she would say, she hoped we already knew, but perhaps, as she sometimes did, we needed a reminder. So often I find myself tuning things out, because I have convinced myself, "Oh, I already know that" when it may be a lesson I have yet to learn, like the story about the priest who preaches the same sermon Sunday after Sunday—his parishoners get worried: "Father, how long are you going to preach the same sermon?" "Until you listen."

My husband says that today is one of the strict fasting days, and he is planning to not eat until the evening. I am going to try to join him, but my stomach is already rumbling, trying to call my attention (as usual) to myself and what I want. God grant me the grace to continue on my journey to obeying His desires for me.

Forgive me, my brothers and sisters, a sinner.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 09, 2007

Crawling Through

This week has really taken it out of me, and I haven't even made it to the gym.

Work ... has been rather horrendous. E was out sick Monday, and we had a new C (C2) to train as receptionist. Our previous C (C1) was out sick Tuesday, came in for the first part of Wednesday, and had to go home and be out on Thursday as well. Nevermind all the unexpected work (for me and for C1, and training C2) I got to prevent me from my already over-loaded expected workload. And the interpersonal boundary issues. Haven't killed anyone yet, and there are 14 weeks and half a workday left now, until commencement.

On Sunday I knitted for about five or six hours. Dn. Virgil lost the scarf I had previously made him, so I figured I would pick up the lonely yarn and make him another. It's a pretty, bright red, and I'd like to be done by the 14th, but I'm planning on using up the whole skein, so I don't know whether that will happen. It's already a good length for a very short scarf, but I like knitting, and I may as well use up this skein and start in on another matching scarf for myself, since I managed to lose my scarf, too, perhaps out of spousal sympathy.

On Monday evening, I was so beat I just stayed home and knitted. On Tuesday, I went shopping during the day and after work, went to the library, and knitted while I watched House. On Wednesday, Dn. Virgil started the laundry, and I finished it; Dna. Shyla came over to visit and drove us both over to Ladies' Night Out where Dna. Vassi showed us how to make kollyva (with many different spellings), and we talked about the different traditions. Afterwards, we had the Howards up for fruit snacks. On Thursday, we had choir rehearsal for the Deacon's Singers (our SATB choir which Dn. Virgil started), and my voice told me that after that week, I was most definitely not going to be able to push enough air out of my lungs to sing well, let alone sing the soprano line. The spice tea from Natalie, given the night before, was really good when I got home (and knitted).

Lent hasn't even started, and I feel like I'm creeping towards Pascha, any progress already reduced to a crawl. I've gotten my Fr. Seraphim Dedes' Great Paraklesis cd back in the car, but couldn't summon up the energy to sing along this morning. I've noticed a difference in how difficult things seem on fasting days as opposed to non-fasting days, actively struggling against giving up. Maybe the creeping crawling is a good preparation for humbling myself, but I am longing for (perhaps not "ready") the lightness of Pascha. (Wikipedia says of crawling, "The term is often used to describe the motion of infants..." That seems appropriate in this "motion of a particularly slow process.")

This weekend we'll celebrate the Saturday of the Souls. Praise God I won't add my father to that list this week. Monday brought a scare, though he should be out of the hospital this coming Monday. (Please pray for Theodore.) On Saturday afternoon, there's a baptism for a darling baby girl on campus. After vespers, we've snagged some people to come over for dinner* before we go to the school's apokriatiko glendi (like a mardi gras celebration) in the gym in the evening. Sunday evening offers a "Kyriaki Parea" which means "Sunday Company" for the women of campus; I'll be bringing my knitting.

*We need help in eating up the ice cream, since somebody doesn't want me to do the whole thing myself. I've offered.

We are hoping that next week will bring my renewed passport and some information about where we might be going in the fall.

Labels: , ,

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sunday of the Prodigal Son

I think my favorite story is that of the Prodigal Son. A father confessor of mine had likened confession to that story, and ever since then, it comes up in my mind. Last night I was talking to Dn. Virgil about my thoughts on it, and he said he enjoyed them, so you have him to blame for this blog post.

There are several differences to look at in this story. One is how the younger son makes his decisions. In the second part of the story, "when he came to himself," he makes a decision. (I also like the translation; it is a beautiful way to say that he was honest with himself, and came face-to-face with his behavior.) However, in the first part of the story, there is no indication that he reflects at all. For one thing, there's no language about it: immediately, he goes to his father and asks for his inheritance. For another thing, he doesn't immediately go out and party: "Not many days later..." he leaves; that indicates that he's really not planning anything, even having a good time.

Another difference in the story is, when the younger son does start planning, how he thinks his father will react and how his father ends up reacting. (My father confessor pointed out that their relationship is a symbol of the relationship between mankind and our heavenly Father.) The younger son plans to say things and humble himself as a servant. However, at first he doesn't even get that chance because his father is so overjoyed to see him: "But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." Then the son was able to tell his father of his contrition.

This story is the story of confession: we do wrong, perhaps unthinkingly, and are estranged from God; we "come to ourselves" and realize that we're in a sorry state, and things are better off where we came from; we decide to go back, humbly; we begin to act on that decision; God rejoices and welcomes us; we follow through on our decision to repent (that's the actual confessing within the sacrament—the hardest part for me); and we are welcomed home with rejoicing and festivities (able again to partake in the Holy Gifts).

The third difference in this story is the behavior of the two sons. One son begins by being unthinking, but then he thinks about his actions and realizes the consequences, and works on his relationship with his father; the consequences are joy. The older son comes into the story almost as an afterthought, completely separate from the younger—no cut-ins to tell what he's enjoying when the younger son is suffering, no telling about how hard he's working—it's not a story about their relationship with each other, only about their separate relationships with their father. (I thought this was interesting.) The older son looks at what he's done and judges that he did a good job and deserves more—after looking at what his brother got. We don't have any information about him being unsatisfied until he looks over at greener pastures. He comes to his father with bitterness and complaints. He doesn't rejoice that he's been better off than his brother this whole time. I feel sorry for him: he doesn't go through so much pain and agony, but he seems locked up, and refuses to grow.

His father seems almost tough on the older son: there are no words of comfort other than, "Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours." This doesn't seem to be what the older son wants to hear: it doesn't focus on his jealousy at all. He has been feeling robbed by his brother's good fortune. There's not even a follow-up to say how he responded to his father's words. It's like a painting where the artist draws you out of the frame by having one of the depictions look out at you; the final words are for us, the congregation of here and now: "It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found."

Now that I think on it some more, this story's placement at the beginning of Lent is a good warning to keep your eyes on your own paper: you don't know what her spiritual father's dietary recommendations are; you don't know his struggle to do as much as he does. Concentrating on your own journey, retracing your steps to the Father in humble repentance is the example held up with the consequence of an invitation to the Feast of Feasts. Don't get stuck on the back porch, moping that "he got more than I did." Your Father is waiting, looking down the road, ready to start the preparations for rejoicing as soon as you come in sight.