Do Not Thwart the Will of the Gods

I recently switched positions in the University. I could not survive on what I was making in my old position and the state refused, for over seven years, to give merit-based raises or cost of living increases to all state employees and the retirees living off the state pension. It was only this year (and election year) that they finally gave us a 2.5% cost of living increase.

State employees and pensioners are still making 7% below the cost of living in this state. (So whenever someone talks about “fat cat government employees,” I tend to get stabby.)

I got a job offer at a higher salary band in another division of the college. It looked like a good situation, but just in case, I consulted my Tarot cards.

Now I know many of my atheist, agnostic and monotheistic religion readers will scoff at this, but I’m a Neo-Pagan. It’s what I do.

In response to “Should I take this job?” that cards said “No.” (Simple three line “Yes/No” reading.)

I really needed the money. I have been pet sitting, selling off my comics, going around the college collecting old textbooks and selling them. Trying to sell antique books and furniture. I was barely scrapping by and I had Navient (Sallie Mae’s collection agency) breathing down my neck. So despite divine advice, I took the job.

It’s been a  nightmare ever since. First of all, I screwed over my old department as they lost my position when I vacated it (the college would not allow them to hire a person to replace me) which dumped a load of work on the lead admin and the part time worker. I feel horrible about that. Training here has been confusing, which is not helped by the lack of information and organization in the department. I have been very frustrated at point because people would ask for thing that I had no idea I was supposed to give them. No one told me. And I would express myself. Either by being snappy, being silent, or by being loud. Not a the best choices, not the most professional of demeanors, but this place is a mess. And I have been taking any anti-anxiety meds in the middle of the day and having a drink every night just to unwind from this place.

And then someone told an outright lie about what I said to someone else. The person instantly recanted when confronted in front of my boss. Since then, her and my dealings have been nothing but professional and cordial. I treated it as a misunderstanding and let it go.

Out side of work, I got into an accident that took off my passenger side review mirror, which, while cheap, took over a week to replace. While in the rental provided by my insurance, I got pulled over because while my own car had the headlights on all the time for safety, the 2017 Sonata did not. So I was driving at night without headlights.

When I got my car back, I was pulled over this morning because neither of my brake lights were working.

During all this, Navient started calling 14 times a day. No shit. Fourteen times in 24 hours. Months ago, I had sent them everything: My pay stubs, my bank statements, my budget, everything. They had *all* the information on hand of my financial situation. Yet every time I talk to them I have to go over it all again while they try to hard sell me into taking a deferment, which allows them to rack up more interest and extend the period of time they can take legal action. I refuse. Nothing is going to change in three months anyway. I am not going to suddenly get a job that pays $100K a year. I send them what I can afford to send every month (their version of an “income based payment arrangement” is to take half my monthly income, over half if I drop down a salary level). That is all I can do. I dealt with them one week. I thought I had it settled (again). And then the following week they called back from another number to trick me into picking up.  I got upset (this was in the middle of the car accident stuff, and I was being harassed)  and I raised my voice.

After getting sympathy from my boss over everything, last week, right before the holiday, I was slapped with a disciplinary letter for my temper. They included the lying incident, which really does not have anything to do with my temper or behavior, but it just spiteful way to make me look even worse, despite the fact the person who made the accusation backed off it when confronted.

Now I am being treated as a simpleton, with my boss acting as if she assumes the tasks that I know how to do I am totally ignorant off. She also likes to rush in when I’m talking to students and ask if everything is O.K..

I have never in the entire time, the seven years that I have worked at this University, gone off on a student. Not ever.

I started looking for another job weeks ago. I have applied to positions that pay less than this one because this place is just horrible. Coming here was one of the worser decisions I have ever made. And I was told it was a bad idea.

So…when getting a hint from the divine. LISTEN.

P.S. Aaaaand my alternator went. For the love of you Gods I’M SORRY!

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Karmic Retributiuon

           So my karmic adventure for the week.  Karma because Monday evening I forgot to take my sleeping medication because I was reading this awesome three book fictionalized history series about Alexander the Great ($3.99 sale at Bookbub). So at 3:30 am I know I’m not getting any sleep, so I go into work, clear off my deck and e-mail in sick.
          So yesterday, after a couple hours of sleep, I did all kinds of housework; kitchen, bathroom, floors, etc. Not merely because it was desperately needed, but because I needed to stay up and moving to get back on a regular sleep schedule. Toward the end of it all at about 6:30 pm, I wash all the rugs and put them out to hang dry on the balcony.
          Immediately after which I discover I have locked myself out on the balcony.
          Each of my doors have two very old locks, probably original from when this place was built. One of the locks is in the door knob and sometimes they can flip themselves. I have known about this since the first week I was here and locked myself out. So I have always been very careful about carrying my keys all the time.
          Except this time.
          I knocked my my neighbor’s door (we share the same balcony, though there is a five foot separating wall between her half and mine). But she didn’t answer and I figured she wasn’t home.
          Fuck.
          So I’m on a second story balcony, alternately screaming for help, trying to either flip the latch with a plastic plant label or trying to force the door by slamming my shoulder into it (ha), screaming for help, considering how to climb down, and screaming for help for at least 15 minutes.
          Finally, her downstairs neighbor comes around wondering what the hell is going on. Fortunately, she is very nice and offers to call the property management company.
          The problem with the dogs loose inside, I don’t just need a locksmith, I need to climb down and be at the front door when a locksmith jimmies it because I don’t know what Pilot is going to do with a complete stranger essentially breaking into my house. Taeda (the pit) would just run and hide, but I couldn’t predict what Pilot would do.
         So the downstairs neighbor calls the property management company, who makes her call a locksmith because it’s after hours. The locksmith is not a problem (though it’s $60 I really can’t afford), it’s me being at the front door when he opens it that’s the problem. So the downstairs neighbor called the property management company back to just send one of their on-call guys out with a ladder so I can get down, but their messaging service is just hearing “locked out” and sending her to the locksmith.
          Finally, my upstairs neighbor (with whom I share the balcony) cracks her door open and, Thank the Gods, lets me come through her apartment and hang out while I wait for the locksmith.
          To do so, I have to clamber my fat butt over the wall. Grace not included.
          Though with all my screaming she also called the cops before she opened the door (which I can understand), so I had to go out and explain and apologize to them. (They were very nice about it.)
         Of course, all this is after I have not showered for a couple days (I had Monday off) and have spent all day cleaning, so I’m politely trying to be both grateful and keep everyone five feet away because I stink.
          So the locksmith comes out, after struggling (because the locks are so old) gets the front door open while I reassure Pilot that I’m here. Pilot comes out and is perfectly happy to meet a stranger locksmith person (she is always very happy to meet people while we’re walking outside or when she is with me, I just could not predict what she would have done had I not been there) who thinks she’s beautiful and cute and “Oh we would have gotten along just fine!”
         Moreover, in utter adorableness, Taeda has come to the front door and keeps peeking around it to see what is going on.
          So that was my price for placing fun reading over work: $60 and a heap ton of embarrassment.
         And this morning when I tried to lock the door from the outside, I discovered the locksmith had broken the lock and when I called the company, they said, in essence, “tough shit.”
        But the books were great.
        And I need to figure out something nice to thank my neighbors for their trouble.

TL;DR: Toxic People

When I was a kid in a tiny town in Maine, I was the designated the “kid to be picked on.” Parents arguing this morning? Go verbally or physically bash on Kip to make yourself feel better and more in control. Feeling insecure? Put down Kip to make yourself look better in the eyes of your peers. In the fifth grade I had one girl, one of the most popular girls, ask me how much my father made. I was ten. How the hell would I know? So that line of ridicule got cut off, so they went back saying I had sex with my dog. That is life in a small town: You establish an identity, or society establishes one for you , and you are stuck with that forever. And when we had the multiple Junior High Orientation at our local high school, I could pick out the kids who filled the same role I did in their schools. They looked like plucked birds, shivering with their backs against the wall, waiting for the next attack.

It was so horrible, my parents were trying to get me into a private school, even though I have no idea how they were going to afford it.

But by the good grace of the Gods, instead of that, we ended up moving to Southern California for my Dad’s work. It was awesome. While my Maine peers had nothing to do but steal six packs of beer and go back in the woods to practice betting pregnant. (I asked what happened to all 94 of them after they graduated high school. Half the graduating class got married. To the other half! I think a couple married people from neighboring towns. Only three escaped into college and the military.) Meanwhile I had a movie theatre and mall within a 15 minute walk, a bigger mall within a 15 bus ride, and the beach and the Redondo Pier within a bike ride. If did didn’t mind a 20-30 minute walk up the way to Hermosa Beach, there was the Either Or Bookstore and awesome coffee shops and restaurants. As I got older, I could go into L.A. proper and experience the Art House theatres, the Museums, the international cultures I was exposed to through food and visiting Temples, etc. And then I got older and it was the club scene on Sunset. And my best friend was dating an older guy in a band, so we were always on the list, despite being under drinking age. By the time I turned 21, I had already been there, done that.

So in many ways, it was perfect. At the time when kids as teens need to find the space to expand their experience, establish an individual identity, all that, I had what the majority of my peers did not. And I ended up with two awesome friends to share it with.

However, coming from that background of abuse and isolation, it left me vulnerable. First I was defensive against everyone because that was how I had to operate back home. It took me a while to figure out in a school of 450 kids, no one knew me and no one gave a fuck. When people did reach out with friendship, I was shocked, relieved, and most of all, grateful. One of the first was a girl who I will not name. She was beautiful, brilliant, creative. Top of her class, head of the school paper, she wrote music. Her Mom was self absorbed and not around much  and she lived in a house that was practically a museum of antiques, but I was so grateful she wanted me to be her friend, wanted to share tine with me. Plain old scruffy allycat me.

The second was a down-to-earth, funny, pet-loving, modern-hippie with no patience for stupidity and would say so to your face.

Needless to say, she and I got on like a house on fire.

And during high school and afterwards, it became the trio of us and we went everywhere and did everything together and raised hell and did and experienced fantastic stuff and generally had the time of our lives as 17 to 22 year olds will given the opportunity. And I am eternally grateful for that time and their companionship.

But there came a point of clarity where I realized that the first girl, my first best friend, the perfect one, viewed me not so much as a friend but as a High Priestess to her cult. And she was creating a cult of worshippers, which I understand. She was beautiful and extremely intelligent and wildly fun and she made it seem like a privilege to be around her. A very intoxicating brew. Especially men who she would come on to (rather grope-ily if she was drunk), yet remain out of reach. (And the rare few that did manage to get her into bed…well, let’s just say as much as she loved the flirting and making out and attention it got her, the actual sex she did not like). She became more demanding of attention and less willing to give it in return. I finally just drifted off among the crowd, completely unnoticed by her in the midst of her worshippers, but glad to be shot of her.

And sometimes I felt guilty. I had my own personality problems that made me hard to deal with at points. Back in High School and shortly thereafter my bipolar II had not been diagnosed. (It would not be diagnosed until I was 36.)  Mood swings, sudden withdrawals from contact and yes, self-absorption and selfishness sometimes to the point where I was really blind to other’s problems or the impositions I thoughtlessly put on them. And I mean stupidly blind. Did I have a right to judge her?

She eventually got married to an a-hole and that marriage disintegrated very badly, resulting in an instance of physical abuse (him on her) after which both of them realized that was the end of the marriage. He apparently already had someone on the side. She got a divorce. Everyone had to come commiserate with her about her abuse, her horrible husband, and the divorce. She said she reached out to me on Facebook via one of their messaging systems, but I never got it. What I did eventually get was this two page screed about what a horrible person I was for not responding to her in her hour of need, etc. etc. etc.

I had not talked to this woman in nearly 20 years.

I told her this was *not* the approach to take if she wanted my ear. She calmed down. I called her and listened to her unload her woes and gave her some insights for two hours. Then she asked, out of politeness I am sure, how I was doing. But when I started to actually tell her, she kept trying to get off the phone as quickly as possible.

We friended on Facebook, where it quickly became apparent that she had not changed at all. In fact, she had become worse; more self absorbed, less able to listen to other’s opinions. She endlessly posted selfies, mostly at the angle that looked down her cleavage. She posted about constantly going out and all the traveling she did. And in the midst of all this good fortune, she raged against Latino immigrants (she really lived in the wrong part of the country for that) and the homeless. She especially loathed the homeless in her beautiful coastal suburb of L.A.. She considered them all drug users and criminals. The fact we are coming out of one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression did not seem to have entered her consciousness. The idea that these are people or families who have lost everything did not occur to her. That they are senior citizens who’s social security checks can’t keep a roof over their head or that  %20 to 40% of the young people on the street are LGBT teens kicked out by their parents does not exist in her world.

Homeless people make her town look ugly, like litter, so she hates them and wants to run them out of town. And she was actually running for town council on a “get rid of the homeless” platform. That was her entire candidacy statement. Online she would tell people online IN ALL CAPS to “NOT TO GIVE THEM MONEY OR FOOD OR ANYTHING!” O.k. money I get, but food? WTF!? And I checked, her town has a single homeless shelter which is probably filled to capacity. And she complained “We take everyone’s homeless!”

Honey, if you took all the homeless in the greater L.A. area, you would not be able to walk down all the sidewalks in your town without stepping on multiple people. I used to work for a non-profit low-income housing organization in L.A.. I know exactly the extent of the homeless problem and who the homeless are. And the majority of them are not drug users, not welfare cheats, not criminals. Most of them are people like you and me that life just kicked the shit out of.

And knowing these facts, plus having been on the edge of homeless myself simply because the job market was in the toilet when I got out of school, I argued with her a couple times on this issue: That these people were human beings, that they were not all criminals, that they deserved to be helped (maybe by creating more shelters and programs to get these people on their feet again), not run out of town.

Well, these were “horrible personal attacks” and she unfriended me.

(Granted, our final exchange did involve the line, “Jeez, when did you become a Tea Party Republican?” But that was the only personal comment made over several exchanges about politics, etc..)

I just felt relieved. She had gone from being charmingly self-absorbed to a callously self-involved cunt with her head jammed so far up her ass, she was trying to view the world out of her belly button. I had made the right choice 20 years ago, and she has made the right choice for me now.

Now this modus operandi might sound familiar to people who know my online journey of the last few years. And I spoke with a mutual friend who, with some others, believes that my former High School Bestie has a narcissistic personality disorder. This, of course, is not a professional assessment, but is probably familiar to people who have known a certain internet community in its middle/growing stage. A certain person behaved in a similar fashion, with exactly the same reaction to topical disagreement, and was also dime-store diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.

So you know, when you run into people like this. Don’t even bother. They are not worth your time. It’s not even a drama thing. It’s that they cannot see outside their own myopic worldview. They do not view you as people, but followers/worshippers, and only show the care they have to in order to reinforce the bond, not because they actually care about you. People like that are a waste of time.

P.S. And I will ad that as grateful as I am for the cosmopolitan experience of living in Los Angeles area, and I am truly grateful for that experience, I am at heart a small town girl. Or rather an-extremely-rural-out-in-the-middle-of-woods girl. I did not cry when I left L.A.. I felt relieved. I cry every time I leave Maine. Someday, soon hopefully, I need to go home.

And This is Why I am No Longer a Christian

I was raised Methodist in Maine, which means we never got carried away by zealotry. My mother was a lay minister in our church. When I was 18 I left Christianity behind.

And as much as I complain about the out of control zealotry and hypocrisy of right-wing fundamentalist evangelical “christians.” (note the quotes), that’s not why I left. I have known some good, decent Christian human beings who tried to embody the teachings of Christ, not just in church, but their everyday lives.

For me it came down to the mechanism at the basis of the Christian Faith.

Joshua Duggar (and family and their supporters) claim that because he is “christian” and has prayed for forgiveness, he has been forgiven by God so we should all shut up and forgive him too (despite the fact he that he got away with it for over a decade without paying the price demanded by our society/justice system and is a massive hypocrite claiming the be about “family values” who preaches that homosexuality and homosexuals harm children). This is at the basis of the Christian faith: Because Jesus died on the Cross, he paid the price for our sins, so we are forgiven for ours.

How does that work exactly?

I get the Jesus was an incredibly nice guy who was wise and wanted to help people and wanted people to be good to each other and help one another. And it *sucks* that he was persecuted, tortured and killed for basically showing how corrupt the major sect of Jewish faith had become at that time. (All major religions seem to fall into stagnation and corruption and then have a major upheavals to get them back on track. Jesus was the kind of the Martin Luther of his time.)

And maybe he was was the son of God, or maybe his followers just thought so (was he really saying “believe in me as a person,” or “believe in what I am teaching,” after so many translations from witness accounts, who can be sure?), or he was saying we all are children of God, or maybe he was slightly off his rocker. Genius, madness, thin line. You know. But I don’t know either way.

But even if he was the son of God, how does he dying 2,000 years ago forgive me of my wrongdoings now? I don’t get how that works. The mechanism of it.

If I were to, I don’t know, steal a candy bar. Doesn’t the responsibility for the righting that wrong fall on me? Shouldn’t I make amends (pay and apologize). Isn’t it the store owner/person that I wronged’s forgiveness be the forgiveness that I should be seeking? The forgiveness that actually matters? He/she’s the one I hurt, not God (or does an omnipotent God get personally harmed by someone stealing a candy bar?), so why does Jesus come into it at all? How does him dying 2,000 years ago mean I am absolved of any wrong doing for stealing a candy bar?

So as wise as I think Christ was, and as well as I know my scripture, and as nice as I know many Christans to be, I am not a Christian because I don’t believe in the core of the faith: That Christ died to forgive me of my sins. It’s something Christians take on faith, but I can’t have faith in that because it just does not make sense to me.

And as for Heaven/the afterlife, we only have control over what he do here and now, so isn’t *that* the most important thing to care about? Isn’t making this world the best it can be matter more than something we really have no control over, what may or may not happen to our souls after we leave this world behind?

(I do believe in souls. Any question I had about that was answered when I watched my father die. He did not just stop, he changed. Something about the way his physical body looked different. Something was missing. The being he was had fled.)

And as for the fundamentalist belief that all human beings are inherently sinful. B.S. Maybe the fundamentalists are, but I don’t think most people are. I don’t think we’re all inherently saints, but we aren’t all inherently bad either. As we have seen with the Duggar case, it’s just a rationalization fundamentalists use for doing wrong. “We’re all sinful, so you shouldn’t judge me! Excuse me while I go judge this gay couple.”

Y’know, these people. The ones that treat Jesus as a “Get Out of Hell Free” card:

Coffee with Jesus

Now They’re Just Somebody I Didn’t Used to Know – And More Decisions

Back when the first LOTR trilogy came out, I joined a free-form group of fans on a message board. The majority of these were Tolkien fans, following the development of the films. Like any community, contributors began to stand out. One of these was Nate. Nate was a geneticist turned bartender (wiling career choice) with an exhaustive knowledge of Tolkien and an open hand with questions. He was a gentlemen and a scholar and very generous with his time and knowledge on whatever subject. And over the years online, the group “virtually” supported him through his career change, through the forest fires that came practically up to his front door,  through his engagement.

Now, if you think I’m full of piss and vinegar now, this is nothing compared to what I was like 14 years ago. (I was designated “board dragon,” that’s how difficult I was.) But Nate was one of those that could somehow get through the flames and get to the real, or at least reasonable, me. We got to be friends. We even spoke on the phone. (He was engaged and I was crazy so it was completely platonic.)  I lived in L.A. at the time, he was in San Diego. We kept saying, “One of these days I’ll drive up/down and we’ll have dinner.”

And then I came online one day and found out that Nate had died of a fatal arrhythmia. No warning. He was only 30 and he dropped dead in the walk-in refrigerator at work.

And I spent a long time kicking myself for not getting in the car and driving those three hours to meet this guy, look him in the face when we talked, give him a hug.

And I swore I wouldn’t do that again. I would not miss an opportunity to meet a friend.

This morning I came into work to find a coworker had died in a car accident over the weekend.

Academic department staffs are usually very small, a team of two to four people (depending on the size and complexity of the department and programs). David was our IT guy  (between GIS, terrestrial laser scanning, atmospheric sciences, etc. we have a lot of computers going in this department). David was quiet and good-natured, funny, hardworking, devoted to his siblings and parents. Seemed like an interesting guy, but we didn’t interact a lot. Like me, he had cut his degree short to go to work on campus and was completing it one class at a time. He was 24.

And that’s all I really knew about him.

And he worked twenty feet away from me for almost two years.

Now my unselfish-self sends prayers and wishes for his family and friends to find comfort during this dark time. But I’m not going to wax poetic about the fleeting nature of existence and how life is unfair. It is.

But goddamn it I should have taken the time to get to know him better. I should have walked over there and talked to him more.

So Caty (and Nell), I’m coming to visit. I don’t know how or when, but I’m definitely getting on a plane to come see you. And if I can ever get up the scratch, I’ll make it down to see you too Augie.

Decisions

Last year was just wretched and took a lot out of me, and just the time off over the holidays…

…and a new muse…

Athos

Dear Sir, I have a bodice in dire need of ripping. Please attend, soonish. Yours, Kip

…got me writing (a bit) again (something I have not enjoyed in years). On the advice of my friend, my shrink and one of the faculty members here, I’m taking at least this semester off to recoup and regroup.

And write.

My problem is I suck at being proactive and self-motivating (I don’t have an instant gratification monkey, I have an instant gratification gorilla), and I need a schedule/structure to function best. Being on the ship taught me that, so I have to create some kind of schedule and stick to it.