Thirty-two years…

…that’s how long Mom and Dad have worn little rings on their fingers and said small words that meant big things like “forever”, ” ’til death do us part”, and “for better, for worse”.

Thirty-two years. They’ve had brat children for most of those: Doug for 28 of them, me for 22. In fact, that’s the first time I’ve thought about it that way–my parents were married almost ten years before I came along and added to the joys and miseries of being parents of such obtuse children as Doug and I are.

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Moving Forward, Looking Backward, Running Sideways

I surprise myself sometimes with the way I act in a large group. I can both be Mr. Introvert and Mr. Extrovert. Anyone who’s ever gone bowling with me knows that I am usually E to the max there–people on other lanes look at me and shake their heads when I do something stupid, like Sumo Bowling or Snap Count Bowling. I usually infect other people with my taunting and nutty antics.

Then there’s time like last night at Casa de Wondergeeken, where I sat in a director’s chair off to myself in the corner. Sure, I made snide comments about both Blade and The Mummy, but a lot of that is a defense mechanism for me when seeing blood, etc. [Hint: I’m not a huge fan of gore, whether bloody or Al or Tipper.] But I sat off in the corner viewing everyone.
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Final Look at Last Fall

Well, I’ve finally looked at last fall’s grades. Many of you who know me know that it really was the semester from hell. But I have motivation to go forward now.

1. My GPA is still above a 3.0. Barely. I mean, barely. I actually have to work to pull it up this semester, but that should be easy, with MAE 488 being not too tough and two 100-level librul arts classes to slag through. Should be a nice 4.0 summer, which would mark the second time I’ve done that.

2. I will graduate from UAH with 156 hours, only 116 of which actually have a grade attached to them. Thank you, MSMS.

3. Looking at how bad my GPA was last semester, I have motivation to kick ass. Actually, I’m pretty angry with myself for shutting down last semester as I write this and think back. I was actually coping with it all through September and early October. It was in mid-October that I pretty well gave up and packed it in. I really don’t know why.

I know part of it was the stress relieving from me when my mom got out of the hospital. I know another part of it was the realization that engineering isn’t the be-all, end-all for me. But the big frustration for me is that I’d had a string of several really-good semesters since my fourth one at UAH, Spring ’99, where I hit a nice apathetic funk. Last semester royally screwed that up, and with some easy and fun classes left to finish my degree [21 hours and counting!], I’m damned near home free. I’d really like to finish that string up with a 4.0 this semester followed on by a 3.5+ next spring [I’ll be realistic–Stability and Control is kinda tough, and I have all my design hours then, too].

But other than as a motivational tool, this is the last time I’m worrying about last fall. What’s past is past, and life ain’t no rear view mirror. Full speed ahead.

Sleep…Perchance to Dream

Well, I watched a little TV last night at Ralph’s mom’s apartment [she winters in Florida and summers in Chicago, which is probably a good idea, and she doesn’t come back to Chicago until mid-April, so I’m staying there], and then I woke up around 9:45 last night. I probably woke myself up snoring. =)

I flipped the TV and most of the lights off, and I trekked into the single bedroom. It’s a sparsely-furnished apartment–Ralph says his mother fixed up the living room and sitting area for $100 out of garage sales. Makes sense: no need to toss down lots of money on a place you inhabit by yourself and only spend half the year. The bed sits in the middle of the room, and the purpose is clear: this is the place to bed, and that is that.

I wonder what kind of woman Ralph’s mother is. I think her name is Dorothy; I have gleaned that from notes left by family members who have stayed there. She obviously paints–the walls are adorned with her artwork. A calendar has a one-line description of her days; many of them say, “Painted–but not well.” I’m not sure I believe that, but maybe she has just those few inspired days. Rich Mullins used to say about his albums, “What you’re hearing is the only inspired 60 minutes I had in that year.”

Being a creative type, I understand the sentiment–self-criticism is highly important to motivation. It can become self-damnation, of course. That’s one reason why I both love and hate to have creative types as friends. In some ways, they bring sunshine into my life, because they have their own unique experiences to share. In others, they bring sadness into my walk, because their self-criticism reminds me of the near-disease that inhabits the creative community:

“Never be satisfied; never give up. Push, push, push.”

It can wear you out.

That’s where I was–I had pushed, and pushed, and pushed in all the areas of my life. I’ve got TOTK and SGA, each of which could be a full-time part of my life if I let it. I’ve got the variety of stuff at church, including the youth musical drama I put together in no-time flat…amazingly. I’d pushed until…my body pushed back.

And I’m back today, pushing again. I type this while writing a piece for TOTK Today, talking to Ralph as he walks in and out for smoke breaks, answering the various questions about sports and TOTK that the DigIn folks always seem to have for me, etc. Heck, I left this entry for five minutes while I pinged around to do something else, and I still have an baseball preview article that I’ve been trying to read for an hour.

We often kvetch about how life is harder these days. I don’t believe that for a second. But there are times that I do enjoy the simple-mindedness of purpose that existed 100 years ago. You didn’t have so many things to worry about, really, because they were all part of one larger problem. But now, we’re so fractionalized and factionalized, and technology enforces that upon us. Those of us who try to do everything live shorter lives in the process. =)

I still wonder what type of woman Ralph’s mother is. I assure you that her life is simpler than mine, but it’s creative nonetheless. What a joy that would be: to be creative but focused.

Home, Hearth, and Happiness

Just got off the phone with the folks. Glad to hear that Mom sounds just a little stronger than before. Also good to hear that her left eye is tracking a little better, and that surgery is possible to rejuvenate the nerves and such should the need arise. She may always have double vision in her left eye, but the ability to use both after the stroke she had in August is amazing. =)

It’s really frustrating to be too busy to go home as often as I should. Last time I was home, I cut the trip short because the Governor was coming to town and it was our opportunity to protest. Since then, I hadn’t successfully made time; and then I turned off sick this week, unable to visit. Such frustration. With elections and church stuff, it may be late April before I get up there. I hate that; time with my parents is precious, especially when you nearly lose one of them. I treasure the time I get to spend with them, even if we don’t “do anything”.

Looks like home is indeed going to change. Plans for me to move back on campus are progressing, and Jared is certainly transferring to UNA. Glad that he found what he wanted to do to make himself happy and rich before he was too far to change majors, unlike myself.

It makes me wonder why I didn’t decide to change majors earlier. I should have. I had every opportunity to do so; I resisted them all. I resisted my calling, which is as much of a sin as getting a degree you don’t want and wasting taxpayer dollars. =) It leads me to wonder: “Why am I doing this? How will God use this to change me?” I think it’s just further evidence that He knows better than I do.

I’m reminded of Jeremiah 29:11: ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD.” It’s frustrating to be a recovering control freak and not to know what those plans are. I find the answer in the next few verses. I do yearn to be brought back from captivity; I feel trapped into the exile that is the engineering career I am not happy with [despite my supposed ability to do it rather well] and the future for myself that seems so bleak without following a calling.

I’m reminded of a conversation with Jennifer where she reminded me that vocation is really just calling in a different context, “voca” being from the Latin, “to call”. Of course, when I hear of vocation, I think of the Vo-Tech, guys with 85 IQ’s thinking their only way in the world is to tinker with cars, punch metal, or something similar. “Teach ’em a skill and keep ’em safe and out of sight,” society seems to say, but that’s not really fair, either. Of course, I’m sure society’s treatment of people who leave high-paying jobs to work for a God who is both always visible and always invisible will be interesting, too. But we are to be in this world, and not of it. That’s a struggle, but I get a little closer to it some days.

In all of this, it probably seems as if I’m down. I’m not. I’m refreshed. But I also recognize that some of the hardest work of life lies ahead, and here I am, unready to take it on. I must get in shape, in all ways, for the days to come.