Monday, August 28, 2006

Customer Service

Bad: Bell Canada

"Hi, I'm trying to set up an online payment, but my customer ID number has 14 digits, and the bank requires 16 digits, and"
(cutting me off) "Call your bank."
"But I"
"Call your bank. Or pay it in person."
"I'm in the United States, and"
"Western Union."

Good: PC Financial

"Hi, I'm trying to set up my online account to pay my Bell bill, but there are only 14 digits in my customer ID, and the website requires 16 digits."
"Are there Z's in your account number by any chance?"
"Yes, there are, actually."
"Try setting it up as a "Bell - One Bill" instead of as "Bell - Residential Bill", that should work."
(navigating the website as I talk) "Thanks. You'd think the Bell guy could have told me that."
"In their defense, they've recently changed their billing format, and some of the bills have been coming with the wrong number of digits, so they might not really know what the problem is."
"Okay, it worked. Thank you so much."
"No problem. Have a great day."

Thanks, PC Financial. Not only did you fix my problem, but you actually stood up for the jerk at Bell who blew me off. That was a Macy's Santa moment if there ever was one.

Because I'm sure it gets googled often...

tim good: we humans are strange creatures
jule ann wakeman: as are we vellernatians
tim good: ok, i give. what's vellernatian?
jule ann wakeman: a word i just made up to insinuate that i am not human
tim good: haha
jule ann wakeman: did you google it?
tim good: ...maybe
jule ann wakeman: haha
jule ann wakeman: i should post this conversation on my blog and then i'll be the number one result for vellernatians!
tim good: yay geekiness!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Yay, Ocean!

Spontaneous trip to the shore today. I love having an ocean less than two hours away.

Some thoughts:


  • I need to get a sunscreen in between 30 and 8. Last time I wore 30 and came home white. Today I wore 8 and came home red. (Or maybe I just need to reapply after swimming in violent waves.)

  • Something in the currents or weather meant that there were 700 billion jellyfish at the shore with me today. It wasn't so bad once you got out past the first few breakers, but it still was a bit of a damper on the fun. I think one stung my ankle. It's kindof stingy.

  • On a windy, currenty day, you can't just float on the waves, or you end up a mile away from where you started.

  • Stardust makes for a fantastic read-aloud.

  • If you are someone who loves being in the water, the best beach company is someone who enjoys it as much or more than you. I think we easily spent more time in the water than on the sand. That's a proper beach day in my opinion.

  • It's not a trip to the shore unless you stop at WaWa on the way.

  • You can entertain yourself for hours trying to retrieve what you believe is a giant conch shell which is under just a bit too much water and protected by just a bit too strong currents. It's the one that got away (and I have an injured toe to prove it).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Counterpoint to Silliness

Consider this an invitation to discussion (which I will inevitably back out of before everyone feels they have said all they want to say, and I will feel bad for dropping the subject, then, but I will be sick of fighting.)

Tell me what you think about Calling.

Does God call each of us to something specific? Is there one thing that is "my calling" to do, and if I'm not doing it, I'm missing out?

Does God "Call" some people only, those he desires in specific ministry positions, and the rest of us simply have a general, lowercase "calling" to serve him in whatever we choose to do?

If you miss your Calling can you still do something worthwhile?

And here is what is really on my mind...

Summarized greatly: When I was in high school, I felt that God was calling me into ministry. He refused to pin a definition onto that calling until I was getting ready to go away to college, when he threw me a little bone and told me it involved going to law school.

I came up with all kinds of theories in which going to law school was the stepping stone for ministry. The one I liked the most involved working as a criminal defence lawyer for homeless teenagers. I also kindof liked the one where my courtroom skills laid the groundwork for a career in preaching. Some less interesting theories involved things like being a useful church board member because I can read and understand legal documents.

So, I went to college, then I went to law school. Then I didn't know what to do next, so I took a job articling for a criminal defence lawyer for ten months that crushed my spirits almost beyond recognition. Then we moved to Philadelphia where I am not allowed to practice law even if I wanted to. And I'm wondering what good I am to God with crushing student loan debt, a couple of degrees I'm not using, and a job that barely makes the loan payments, let alone anything left over to live on.

God, I know you're reading this, so tell me: Did I miss something?

I struggle with this aspect of God's person. I must admit that it seems a little sadistic to the outside observer to call someone to do something, and then snatch it away just as they are warming up to the idea. I suppose it is foolish to think that I could even begin to understand what's going on inside that great big head of his, but doesn't it seem logical that God would couple a calling with some sort of enabling to do that calling?

A beloved pastor of mine from my childhood church felt a calling to go to India for most of his life. Yet every attempt he ever made to go to India was thwarted until the day he died, too young, in a tragic car accident.

Did God change his mind? Did he hear the call wrong?

I was struck by this same idea, today, reading Sandy's account of her return from Sudan. It was her post that got me thinking on all of these questioning lines, although I doubt that was her intent. I wonder if it would be easier to handle God's redirection if my calling had been clearer to me, but I suspect that it would be just the opposite. But whatever the call, the yearning that it creates is real and painful.

A book that I read in college comes back to me in snippets whenever I consider my calling. I never bought it, because I didn't think I would ever read it again, I simply borrowed a housemate's copy before our discussion times. The book was Mariette in Ecstasy, and I apologize to the author, because I will be quoting fuzzily from an eight-year archived memory rather than from the actual page that I never bought. I also apologize because I am going to spoil the ending in order to make my point.

The book is about a young woman whose only dream in life was to join a convent and become a nun. At the close of the story, as she is being ejected from the convent for a variety of reasons that you'll have to read the book to find out, she asks the Mother Superior a question very similar to mine: Why would God call someone to something and then not allow them to follow through? And her answer, poorly paraphrased, has stuck with me ever since: Maybe what God wants the most from you is not the thing that you desire, but the desire itself. If you find the thing that you are seeking, then you will stop seeking it. But a constant yearning for something that you can never quite reach is what worship really is.

And, while I am quoting books that I don't own, I suppose this comes close to what C.S. Lewis would call Joy. (This quote I found much more easily on the internet, thank you.)

I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described (except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale and remote) and then...found myself at the very same moment already falling out of that desire and wishing I were back in it.


So, perhaps, God in his infinitely infuriating wisdom gives us desires for the EXPRESS PURPOSE of not allowing them to be fulfilled. Because desire is the highest form of worship.

Perhaps I ought to be channeling my frustration into the desire for the Calling, rather than into complaining about not being able to do what I want to do. Perhaps I have answered my own questions. Well, some of them anyhow.

I must confess, however, that a little part of me has given up on the call completely. Decided that I had it wrong, or God changed his mind, or I screwed up somewhere along the line and missed my chance at it. My yearning has faded from the intense longing that it should be to more of a dull memory of something I used to like, but really can't tell for sure anymore, since I haven't had it in so long. Therein lies the real challenge, I suppose. How does one reignite the flame for something that deep down, you've really mostly given up on?

My first official shift as the supervisor on duty

"I would like you to make me a drink."

"What do you want me to make?"

"I don't know. But I want it to be sweet and caffeinated."

"Let's see, that would be an eight-shot tall white mocha."

"That wouldn't be sweet enough. I think you need eight pumps of syrup as well."

"But then it won't fit in a tall cup anymore."

"Hmm, I guess you'd have to make it a grande, then."

(pause)

"Wait, are you actually making that?"

"Sorry, there was only room for about half an inch of steamed milk."

Of course, I had to label my drink so that no one else would drink it by accident.

Jule Ann's Death Drink


P.S. No, I didn't finish it. I think I actually would have died.

P.P.S. Yes, I know I'm a geek.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Internet Geekery

Today, a friend of mine set up a streaming online radio station just for me so that I could listen to the same MP3s as him. I love having geek friends.



Some days, television commercials are more entertaining to me than the actual shows. I shouldn't admit this, considering where I work, but I love Dunkin' Donuts' summer ad campaign. But I can't help that, I would love a poop on a stick ad campaign if They Might be Giants was writing their jingles.

Unfortunately, I do not need coffee, so the Dunkin' Donuts ads won't be having an effect on me. I do, however, need a cell phone and a credit card at some point, so I might just have to succumb to the influence of the two best ads on television right now: Cingular's not fighting mom and daughter and American Express' Roddick vs. Pong. If you haven't seen these commercials yet, thank the internet gods for YouTube.





Always glad to be a good consumer.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Untitled

I probably won't publish this post. Fine, I'll publish it. But I'll probably wish I didn't.

Saturday night, someone brought a baby to Jon's party. I wasn't expecting a baby. I was expecting single guys and childless couples. You know, the kind of people who will go see a midnight showing of Snakes on a Plane. Somehow, this baby caught me off guard, and I had to avoid saying anything for the next few minutes to avoid crying. Babies didn't used to make me cry. They used to instill a sense of wonder, and longing, and hope for one day, when I would have children of my own.

I guess I'm feeling pretty hopeless lately. And I haven't really been blogging much, because I think my bubbly side is much more interesting. My husband is still sick, we still don't know what's wrong, and all of those things I used to get excited planning for have been put on hold. No kids until hubby is better. No house of our own until hubby has an income again. The future doesn't excite me anymore, it just brings me down. Who wants to read about that?

So I do my best to live in the present moment only. At least inasmuch as the present moment distracts me. I actually have gotten pretty good at just enjoying camping, board games, a book, a good shift at work, a dumb movie. But it's only a temporary fix, and when the distraction ends, the feelings of helplessness and frustration come flooding back.

I miss having dreams. Oh, I still have ample bizarre nocturnal entertainment; I'm referring to the "I wanna be a pilot when I grow up" kind of dreams. When the baby's mother and I were chatting on Saturday night, my job at Starbucks came up. And all I wanted to do was defend myself and explain, "I'm a LAWYER in Canada!" like I did with all those real estate agents, engaging her empathy that someone so smart and successful like me should be cheated by the bar of Pennsylvania and denied the right to practice law, and how sad that I am being kept from my full career potential. Alternatively, I wanted to defend my decision, praise Starbucks for their benefits package and flexible scheduling, share in semi-confidence that we are planning on starting a family soon, and I'm working at Starbucks so that I can be the kind of mom I want to be.

I ended up sharing neither. "Yeah, I work at Starbucks. I really like it there." Because neither story really felt completely believable anymore. I don't picture myself practicing law again. I don't picture myself with a family, anymore. I picture myself living with my in-laws and my sick husband forever. Which is, of course, no more realistic, but it's how I feel.

I hate this negativity, and I hate that it's keeping me from blogging. I hesitate to use the word "depression" on my blog, because it either conjures up images of self-absorbed emo kids or pretends to place me in the same league as people with severely debilitating illnesses that have it so much worse than me. But you know, this life lately, it's getting me down. And I just don't have the same spring in my step as I used to, and I miss that. So go ahead and judge me for being a "poor me" blogger if you'd like. Go ahead and tell me that I'm whiny, and that other people have it so much worse than me. I'm feeling pretty poor me right now, and I thought I'd try a bit of honesty.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Snakes! On a Plane!

Okay, I will confess. I saw Snakes on a Plane last night. And I loved it. LOVED IT! So there. I honestly don't think I have laughed that much at any movie EVER. Of course, I suppose the right company and late showtime helped, too. A snake biting someone on the nipple is a lot funnier when it's midnight and everyone around you is laughing as hard as you are. In fact, snake attacks probably shouldn't be funny at all, but somehow, this movie manages it. I can't imagine how disappointed I would have been if I went in expecting a proper dramatic thriller, however...

Warning: Not recommended for anyone who can't see the humour in graphic violence. Um, yeah, sane people probably should avoid this film.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jeremy Update

Well, the MRI showed some abnormalities, but nothing that would explain Jeremy's current symptoms. This is good news, since it means he doesn't need spinal cord surgery, but it's still frustrating to not know what the problem is. As the neurosurgeon said, "I'm sorry you don't know what the problem is, but at least it's not one of my problems." So, I guess we are back to square not-quite-one, and will go back to the specialist who ordered the MRI and see where she would like to go from here. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Camping

Well, I am back from camping, and slowly returning to normal life. I went to Rickett's Glen State Park in Northeastern Pennsylvania with a group of college friends and friends of college friends. This is the third year we've gone camping as a group (well, I couldn't go the first year, but it's the third year the group has gone), and it has become something I really look forward to. Last year, we decided we could save money and have a little more privacy if we booked one of the group camp sites, which simply required that we have regular meetings and an elected official in order to qualify as an organized group. Well, we meet once a year, which is as regular as a birthday, so we voted ourselves a leader and officially became "Yarr". And no, it doesn't stand for anything. Although I like to think that it stands for "yearly annual redundancy reunion", because I'm a dork like that.

(Aside: My story of last year's trip can be found here.)

The group sites proved to be ideal for us. For most of the time we were there, we never saw anyone but each other, as the nearest site was almost out of sight, and unoccupied for all but the first night. We couldn't even hear the people from the other sites, but occasionally encountered them at the bathroom. There was no electricity, so water had to be heated on the stove, and after-dark bathroom trips had to be made by the light of a flashlight. We had plenty of space to sprawl out in our ever-growing number of tents, and had plenty of picnic tables to spread out our ever growing number of camping supplies. Every year, a couple of us bring something new, and I think that before too long, someone will find a way to bring a kitchen sink. I came close this year, as when I went to dig out my dish pan, it happened to be in the same bag as my dish drainer, so I brought that along too. Now, I don't know how I ever camped without a dish drainer. Most useful random extra thing to have camping ever.

Perhaps most exciting for me was the fact that Maryalice and Dan were able to join us on this camping trip with little Ayron. Ayron's parents and sister were all killed in a car accident earlier this year that left him seriously injured. You can read the full, amazing story on his site. Ayron just turned five, but the injuries from his car accident set him back quite a bit in his development, so it was really more like having a big toddler around. It was incredible to see his progress, and to see the love and encouragement that he has from his new parents. It was also nice to be able to help out Maryalice and Dan a little bit, so that they could sit and rest for a few minutes occasionally while I blew bubbles for Ayron.

One of the highlights of every Yarr camping trip is the food. Sara and Rachel and I had a blast doing the menu planning and shopping, and everything turned out really well. Of course, we got too much food again, but that's not the worst problem in the world to have. If you have never had a foil packet dinner or banana boat cooked directly on the coals of an open fire, then I am sorry, my friend. Your life is just not complete yet.

The weather cooperated the entire time, in that it didn't rain. It was, however, a little on the cool side during the day and downright cold at night. On several nights, the temperature dropped to the 40s (single digits for you Canadians out there). But, cold nights = great excuse for warm fires, so we didn't complain too much. Except when we were trying to sleep and no amount of blankets seemed to be enough. Seriously, one morning, I took my temperature and it was 94.6 F (34.8 C)! That's officially within the range of stage one hypothermia. I guess I've gotten spoiled by having a warm body beside me most nights for the past five years. Note to self: make sure Jeremy can go on next year's camping trip.

I have decided against a play-by-play account of this year's camping trip, since I'm afraid that I would begin to ramble, and this post would become a novel without conflict. Well, without much conflict. There would be the occasional heated religious debate, and overcoming trials such as what to do with the glowstick that was accidentally dropped in the fire. And we did play a lot of board games in a screen tent by lantern light, most of which were competitive in nature. But we were very cautious about our food and garbage and didn't encounter any bears, and mostly just had a really good time. Thanks, guys!


Back Row: Justin, Dan Y., Phil, Tim, Meghan, Aaron
Center Row: Sara, Dan H., Maryalice, Rachel
Front Row: Ayron, Me
Missing: Jon (who could only come for one night, and had already left by the time this picture was taken)

Credit where due: Photo taken and edited by Justin Chalmers-McDonald on a Canon 20D with an 18-55 lens at F-11, and edited on Photoshop CS2.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Little Bit Whiny

When day camp ended a week and a half ago, I thought, great, now I'll have free time, and can be a good blogger again. But it's still summer, and I have to pack an entire summer's worth of fun into one month! I may not be working two jobs anymore, but I am a pretty busy girl. And my husband is still sick, so I spend a lot of my spare time worrying about him, rather than blogging, since blogging about being worried makes for a depressing blog.

So, briefly, without elaborating too much on how much the whole situation is stressing me out, here is the update on Jer's condition. He finished the second course of antibiotics, which seemed to be doing next to nothing near the end anyhow. The specialist (the fourth doctor we've seen since this whole thing began) informed us that whatever was wrong at first is no longer wrong (if it ever was, which I am beginning to doubt as I look back over the ER doctor's original notes), and the problem is something else. She gave him more drugs and no real answers and told him to get an MRI and make an appointment with a neuro-surgeon. This is a pretty scary suggestion to me, because "neuro-surgeon" brings up images of sunken-eyed, bald children with bandages all over their heads. But apparently Jeremy has a common spinal cord problem that could be causing these symptoms. Then, today, his toe became swollen, and his family doctor suggested that we might be adding gout to the list of problems he is having. Month four of this illness is shaping up to be the most eventful and troublesome so far.

Over a month ago, I booked this weekend off of work. I thought that my husband and I could go camping or to the shore or something, since we hadn't really had any quality time together since the illness began. As August crept upon us, and Jeremy got worse instead of better, I started trying to make alternate plans. In the end, I just gave up and kept myself entertained while Jeremy slept uncomfortably through most of the weekend.

But, preoccupation with a mysteriously sick husband aside, I managed to have a pretty good time this weekend. Sometimes it helps to put your worry aside and just have fun, remembering that you can't worry yourself a longer life. The weekend started with a bit of good news, when my store manager called me up and offered me a promotion. I'm really happy about this, and I'll be starting my shift leader training tomorrow. Then, I whipped up a batch of chili and a few of our friends came by for dinner and board games on Friday night. Jer was even able to sit and play with us for a little while before he had to lie down again.

The nasty, unbearable heat wave we have been having broke on Friday, too, which worked out perfectly, since I had been hoping to make it to the shore this weekend. Saturday was a perfect day for the beach, so a friend and I started out at about 10 am, armed with sunscreen and beach blankets, for Ocean City, NJ. It should have taken us about an hour to get there from my friend's house, but apparently everyone else in Philadelphia had the same idea we did, and the traffic managed to stretch the trip out to two hours. We fared better than the other two friends we were meeting there, however, who were coming from about 30 minutes further away and were delayed by two hours longer. Poor Brian, who had to work that night, had to turn around and drive right back home within five minutes of arriving. The rest of us had a good time, however, and I only got a little bit sunburned.

Sunday morning, I went to church, and after the service, went out for lunch with some church friends. We had a nice visit, and I even managed to persuade one of them to go to an open house with me at a home near the church that is for sale. It was fun to dream, but the house was about three times what I would like to pay for a home when we do finally get our lives in enough order to make the second biggest purchase of our lives (the first, of course, being our collective educations). I thanked my friend for her company, then headed home, stopping at another, slightly more feasibly-priced but still out of my league, house a few blocks from where we are currently living. Fantasy house-hunting had the opposite effect that I had hoped it would, however, because in spite of confident reassurances from both realtors that lenders have all kinds of programs for first-time home-buyers, I came home to my sick husband and the bubble burst. I know in my head that this is just for a season, that he will eventually be better, but sometimes, I have a hard time imagining him being healthy and back to work and us being a normal couple with a house and a garden and a mini-van and kids. I was dwelling unhealthily on the negative, so, I ditched my bad attitude, visited another church for their Sunday evening service, and spent the rest of the evening playing old school arcade games at a friend's house. So, all in all, a bit of a roller coaster weekend, but I am trying to focus on the positive. I got a promotion, I had a great time at the beach, the weather has been beautiful, and I spent a lot of time visiting with friends. We have a place to stay, family that loves us, and friends who care for us. I know I have it pretty good, and I'm trying to suppress my inner whiny brat. Thanks for putting up with me.

P.S. Judging by the responses I've been getting to my last post, it appears that I have forgotten, once again, that tone doesn't always translate well to print. I wasn't offended by that comment. I posted it here because I thought it was clever, creative, and really, really funny. But maybe you had to be there.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Sweat Diet

"Yeah, I lost ten pounds at day camp this year."

"You know, I was going to say something. But actually, I didn't notice."