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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Critical Thinking

Wherein our heroine explains what’s going on in her world, and the hobbitses (and hirsute elves) realize how little it takes to derail her life.

~brb emailed me recently, warning me to keep an eye on Maj Tom. With Karen and Audrey so sick, he figured my beloved must be next. The next week, Maj Tom got yelled at by his boss; the week after that, we came to the startling, horrifying suspicion that he may be allergic to beer.

No, nothing dangerous or urgent, but we have been inundated with changes and paradigm shifts and altered plans, and it’s taking time to find a groove again.

First, some background. We met in Great Falls, MT, in 1993 when we were both stationed at Malmstrom, AFB. I was aircraft maintenance, he was a missileer. We got married in ’95 despite his fear that I’d follow my unit down to its new home in Tampa Bay. Luckily, I sucked at my job, so I bailed in ’97.

Fast-forward 13 years. We’ve PCS’d four times, gained a dog, lost a dog, gained another dog, and got ourselves a kid off the rack in Bangkok. We settled in CSprings, knowing we probably wouldn’t leave for a very long time, I got into writing, he got a job trying to teach cadets how not to be idiots.

I also got a part-time, on-call, mostly-at-home job building and maintaining kitchen cabinet databases. It’s cool, and I like it enough. Unfortunately, I don’t have what it takes to move up to kitchen designer (that would be the ability to talk to strangers and convince them to give me money).

We are at the end of that phase in our lives, though. Last month, I started working a little at gotquestions.org. Next month, for the first time in nearly ten years, I’ll have a real (part-time) job as an admin assistant/scut worker. (I even have an office!) Hopefully, this will transition into a full-time job by June. Because if it does, upon his retirement in May, Maj Tom could do the unthinkable and get a job that doesn’t require ten hours a day. Something he actually likes. Probably something to do with telling younger people how to live their lives, but maybe just asking if they’d like a scone or a muffin with their mocha-cherry-frappe-yummy. We don’t know what he’s going to do yet, but between his retirement and my paycheck, he could actually have options in his life—something he’s not had…ever.

Ironically, this new job of mine that has already taken away much of my writing time will probably have me writing—in addition to tracking donations, passing out assignments, and an inordinate amount of copying and pasting. I really didn’t expect this to happen. I took the summer off from novels to work on short stories, thinking that as soon as the Creature started school again, I’d be off and running. The week before, boss #1 gave me a new catalogue to create. Shortly after, I got the new job, as well. Plus the whole homework/Boy Scouts/babysitting thing. Sadly, not only have I not had time to write, I haven’t had time to think about writing enough to figure out what to write for the site—let alone for the cartoons.

Right now, the biggest turmoil in our lives has nothing to do with writing or the Air Force. The week before last, some good friends (who happen to be our pastor and his wife as well as the parents of The Babysitter) invited themselves to our datenight. There, they explained that they’d been looking for a new church elsewhere and were moving to Phoenix at the end of the year. As long-time military, our churches are our lives—our families. They’re leaving because we don’t have enough people to support them. Which doesn’t bode well for the survival of the church as a whole.

This rather ruined our plans. We had planned on growing old with these people, and now they’re moving to Arizona? What were they thinking? What should we do? Granted, we do know how to church-hop. And it might be nice to find a place were we weren’t each in about six different ministries. Maybe even one that had a building and didn’t meet in the YMCA gym.

We are used to moving. We were always the ones to leave. But we had picked this church knowing we probably wouldn’t. Maj Tom is very people-oriented. He doesn’t want to leave our friends and look for new ones. Ironically, my boss #2 and his wife (who works two doors down from him) are our best friends there. He’s afraid that if we work together, we’ll get sick of each other, and if we switch churches, he’ll never get to see them.

My biggie, though, is the worship team. It’s not easy to find the perfect confluence of style, size, and grace that will take an electric geetar player/alto who doesn’t really know what she’s doing. And, despite what pastors hope, worship style is a major part of any given church. If our worship leader goes, that may be the final nail in the coffin.

Sunday, the head elder stood up and said the elders had decided to stick it out. Without having to pay a double-masters pastor with one daughter in college and another wanting to go to Columbia, we can save money for someone cheaper. The Y really is very affordable. Then the “church mom” stood and said she and her husband have been through this before, and it is very doable. Then the worship leader gave a convoluted baseball metaphor that made me think he was maybe thinking about staying. Perhaps.

The Monday after the initial announcement, we had another couple over for spaghetti, cheese, and whine. She, a pastor’s daughter, was amazingly optimistic. He, an elder (yeah, I think half of the men in our church are elders), said we might have to change some things, but would it really be horrible to not have to hook up the sound system every Sunday?

That actually got me excited. “Church unplugged.” We could meet in a smaller room, I could pull out my acoustic, we could even put the folding chairs in a circle instead of pew-like rows.

But I told him my biggest concern was that The Powers That Be would try to convince us we weren’t being what we were supposed to be. The Springs has enough mega-churches, and we ain’t it. I said I just want the grace to be who we are. Do what we can do, and not be made to feel guilty because we can do or be more.

This was all after I got the email from ~brb with his ezine proposal. I’m Protestant, but I’ve got a healthy dose of Irish Catholic in my genes, and I feel horribly guilty every time I don’t get an article or a cartoon in. All self-imposed expectations, btw. And, once I get the cabinets done and start the new job, maybe I’ll have more time. But right now I’m on the verge of drowning.

Still, I’m not ready to go down yet. As the church is my RL family, you hobbitses (and hirsute elves) are my SF and writing family. There’s gotta be some changes, some morphing into who we are and what we can do. No guilt. No unrealistic expectations. Just a transition into the next thing. Although we are constantly reminded that the publishing industry is changing, we forget that teh interwebs is relatively new. We can figure this thing out. We are science fiction/fantasy writers/fans with a butt-load of computer experience. And, you know, jobs, family crises, and no time. But that just makes the conditions real enough to be relevant to future generations.
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