tomorrow starts national novel writing month, otherwise known as nanowrimo. this will be the third year that i've attempted to write a 50,000 word (heh. for a moment i typed page) novel. it ends up being 1666.6 words a day, which may or may not sound like much to you, but this entire post is only (369) words long and took me about 25 minutes to compose. so yeah. it's a chunk of time, even if you can type like a fiend and can just pour the writing out of you. and that never, ever happens when you want it to. smarty-smart me made a lovely xls file that not only tracks my progress, but re-calcuates my words per day needed to meet the goal based on how many words i've written so far. it can get discouraging after a few days of 500ish words when you know you've suddenly got to start churning out 2500 word days if you hope to make it. the first year i started out fairly strong (for about 5 or 6 days) and then got stuck. the second year (last) i couldn't even get my idea off the ground and started writing a few random things before abandoning the process entirely. this year, however, i'm a step ahead. i've already got a (legally allowed) outline for my story that is 12+ chapters long and i have a good idea where it goes from there. the trouble may be getting it all wrapped up in 30 days. i've never finished a story before. my largest effort is currently hovering around 96K words, and it's only about 2/3 complete. it has large, gaping holes and i have no way to connect the pieces, which is why it's been repeatedly abandoned, but it's there, a 1+ MB file of original words, if not necessarily original characters. anyway, yeah, i've got an edge this year. i spent some time a few days ago looking at some of the story ideas i've fleshed out into an outline and found one i think i like well enough right now to spend a month with it. so, if you don't hear from me until december, you know why. :)


you know what's frustrating?

i'm experiencing a lull in my responsibilities at work. i have been for over a week now. when it was about to happen i sent an email to my team lead (C) who said "great! thanks for the update, we'll try to find something for you to do." a day later, she came back with, "It looks like S (an architect) could really use your help on the XYZ application. he should be getting in touch with you soon." two days went by. i get a brief message from S where he re-states his intentions to give me something. i include in my status report (which C, S, and a bunch of other people see) that i've been promised work on XYZ, but haven't gotten it yet. earlier this week (but not monday) i get yet another confirmation from S that he's got something for me to work on soon. we talk briefly about the fact that it'd be better if this was a java and cold fusion thing vs a just-java thing because, being new to java, i'm faster when at least part of what i'm doing speaks my language. he points out that the dual-language issue is more complicated than the just-java one. i make it clear this is not a problem. he promises to send me something "soon." that was the last i heard of it. today, i am greeted by this email from the boss-man (E is S's team lead): We have an "all hands on deck" issue today. We must meet the XYZ client's expectations for Monday. S and E are aware of what needs to be done. I ask that all of you be ready to help if needed. <<snipped stuff you don't care about>> Please make yourself available as needed. This may mean OT for some this weekend. C and E will assess that need later today, hopefully that will not be the case, but just in case, I wanted everyone to realize the possibility. Thank you for your understanding and support on this critical delivery. seriously. i've been sitting on my little ass for more than a week saying "please give me something to do!" and nothing has happened. it's not like i'm one of those useless "if we give it to her it'll slow us down" employees, either. i'm a go-to girl. i'm one of the few people on the team they're comfortable dumping into a new mess and expect fast fixed turnaround. but this. i just... ugh. if i have to work overtime this weekend i'm gonna be very, very upset.


weekend in chicago: brought to you by starbucks. friday: when you factor in the metrolink ride to the airport, waiting for the plane, and then waiting some more because the (vice) president was also flying out of the city that night, the 45 minute train ride from the airport to the stop closest to the hotel and the 6ish block walk, it may have actually been faster to drive :) it might not have been cheaper, however. our restaurant of choice on friday night had a 1.5 hour wait when we got there at 9:30 (and/or the host may have just been trying to scare away our jeans-wearing party of 4) so we walked around until we found a sushi place that sat us immediately (one restaurant over). this was my favorite meal of the trip. the atmosphere of the restaurant was perfectly japanese, from the flatscreen tv that displayed japanese cooking shows over the bar to the lighting, the ... whatever you call plates and glasses and things (serving ware?) ... to especially the trendilicious waitresses who had that extremely meek/shy japanese girl attitude that compliments the food so well. and the food. i know what red snapper is supposed to taste like now. the portions were bigger, the fish was fresher and it was about the same price as anything you'd find in st. louis that wasn't uber-pretentious, although that wasn't really a surprise. while i cannot truly comment on the originality of the rolls until i've eaten more sushi in more cities, they were considerably more creative/tasty than most things we've come across in st. louis. the majority of them (which are separate from the standard rolls on the main menu/website) were named/themed by color (white, red, green dragons, arizona sunset, winter, summer, etc) and they were oh-so-tasty. my favorite of the bunch was the white dragon which had tempura shrimp and some misc veggies (cucumber maybe?) on the inside and was topped with white tuna (yum!). it was decorated with some white roe of some sort (not masago), and little dollups of red sauce as spikes. the dragon was complete with carrot slices of ears and flame, a tongue, and eyes made of octopus circles topped with mayo and a tiny black dot of roe for each pupil. it was so cute i almost didn't want to eat it :) hans's camera has a picture of it somewhere. total visits to starbucks: one (airport) saturday: otherwise known as the day of walking. we started early, with a trip to starbucks soon after 9am and then made our way (entirely on foot) along the riverfront to shed aquarium, where we walked around several exhibits. the new wild reef is incredible, even if you're afeard of sharks to the extent i am. i've never seen a tank so big and so full of predators. also impressive (but not new to me) were the dolphins, beluga whales, and the amazon exhibit. after that we walked to the nearest train stop (appx 7 blocks away) and hitched a ride to the loop for lunch. it was probably only 4 or 5 blocks away from where got the train, but we had day-passes, so it didn't matter. we wandered for a bit, looking for the expected cluster of restaurants to pick from but didn't really find something. hans and kristan led us to a known restaurant they ate at during a previous trip. it was not incredible, but filling and warm, which was important. i do not think there was a starbucks stop during all of that, but i find that sort of hard to believe. after lunch we hopped a train back to the hotel where we rested our feet for a few minutes and parted ways. kristan and i walked the magnificently crowded mile while the boys went...elsewhere. because it was actually between the hotel and our nearest train stop, it was entirely on foot as well. did i mention the strip was crowded? i'm guessing the two world-series games that weekend had something to do with the increased level of crowds, but it was nuts! at several stores we had things in our hands to buy, but turned and looked at the lines and decided it was not worth it. also on the strip, i developed a sudden and searing animosity towards the american girl phenomenon. i was dimly aware of this phenomenon before we went, but hadn't really understood what it entailed before we got there. in addition to a line of $90 dolls and coordinating outfits, there is a 3 story "store" where a girl can bring her very favorite doll or 2 and spend the day with her. the doll. there's a salon (for the doll!), a glamour-shots esque photo studio, a restaurant (complete with seats/serving ware for the doll) a theatre...the list goes on and on and suddenly everywhere we went for the rest of the trip there were little girls clutching their dolls to their chest while mommy/daddy/grandma trailed along with brick-red bags full of merchandise. cuz that's the genius of the thing. the dolls are time-period specific, so you can't put felicity's 1784 frock on melody because melody is from 1934 (note: i made those years/names up, so please don't correct me, because i don't really care). i just wanted to rip the dolls out of their hands and destroy them. i don't know why the ridiculous excess made me so violent, because destroying the $90 doll in her $30 outfit certainly wouldn't help the problem, but oh man did i want to. kristan and i were going to hit starbucks on our way home, but the line was so obscene and we really just wanted some water/propel so we abandoned it for a convenience store along the route home. i heard a rumor that the boys managed one on their walk back to hotel, though. dinner saturday night was at a real pizzaria uno, the kind where you order when you get there and even after your 1.5 hour wait for a table, your incredibly tasty slow cooked. deep dish pizza is not ready for you. while we waited in the bitter cold rain, we hit another SB. it was so much the caffeine or the thirst, it was the warm liquid while you walk/wait in that cold, bitter rain. the pizza was worth the wait. i picked up the sausage and instead of bits of sausage all over the pizza, it was one giant piece. very clever and very smart. by the time dinner was over, the first game of the world series had started, so the streets weren't incredibly crowded. we picked up some previously coveted items at the apple store and eddie bauer before heading to the blue man group show. we got to take the train for part of our journey, but there was still about 15-20 blocks of walking from dinner to the show and back home again. there would have been some soul-warming sb on the way back, but it was late enough they were all closed. i was much much more impressed with blue man than i expected to be but it was hilarious and entertaining and all things interesting and good. there is no describing what bmg is. its improv, it's music, it's absurd and it's hilarious. the general "plot" is these 3 alien-like guys explore whatever gets put in front of them. this includes drum sets, bottles of paint, boxes of captain crunch, bags of marshmallows, pvc-pipe musical instruments and of course, the audience. they even find time to mock our concept of "art" and the excessive amount of media that's thrown at us on a daily basis. if you have the opportunity to go to a bmg show, then go. that's really all i can say. total visits to starbucks: two (three if you're a boy) ... although i may be forgetting one or two. that number seems low. sunday: after the day of walking, we were all pretty beat. my shoes and i were not getting along, but they seemed to level off with the amount of pain they would give me. after the first 20 or so steps after any break, the pain leveled off and was ignorable. besides shoe-induced pain, there was some ankle/calf quirks happening, which were less comfortable. we started the day at west egg cafe(no decent link), brunching with some in-town practically-family friends. more tasty, tasty food. after that, we walked to the pier and did some more people watching and shopping. we got sort of stuck with figuring out what we wanted to do with the rest of our visit. yesterday had taken a fatiguing toll on all 4 of us so while there was plenty we could do, motivation was pretty low. eventually we decided to wander around the bit of the mag mile we (the girls) hadn't gotten to yesterday. we hitched a ride on a free trolley from the pier, which (to me) was worth the 20 minute cold-rain wait. there was still copious amounts of walking to be had as we wandered around inside and out of shops/malls for a few hours. the football game kept the crowds to a healthy minimum, so that was nice. eventually we wandered back to the area of the loop we had trained from the day before, and found an old navy where scarves and gloves were bought, and to a smaller, less chaotic H&M than the one we found on the opposite end of the shopping district. egged on by the "Y chromosome votes" actual commerce in considerable amounts transpired. i was happy :) stores with multiple stories also make me happy. it might not be any more floor space than your average strip mall version, but it feels bigger. after shopping we took the train back to the 10 or so blocks we called "home" for the trip, ate dinner at a tasty italian restaurant and picked our bags up at the hotel. we hung out in the lobby and then a nearby starbucks for a little bit, we headed home. o'hare is just as twisted of an airport as they claim it is, and i'm not sure if the construction helped or hindered navigating through it. we passed several kiosks of SB (for one last bit of vacation silliness) before arriving at our destination, but the one near our gate was closing down and less than remorseful that they did not have the things that ryan and i wanted. i ended up drinking the rest of the bottle of water that was in my bag instead. i swear my laptop gained 35 pounds on the way, too. when we finally got home, there was a will waiting for us, and in true will fashion, had reserved a few of his "hooray st. louis" white castles for us. nothing tops off a crazy whirl-wind mini-vacation like cold bacon cheese castles at 1 am. total visits to starbucks: two (three if you're not a stephenson) total visits the entire trip: (5-7 depending on who you are)


bathroom setbacks

painting a bathroom can be hazardous to both your physical and mental heath. during coat 4 (while in a particularly awkward and stressful position to pain behind the toilet), something in my back snapped and made the rest of the paint job pretty challenging. ryan offered to finish up for me, but i declined. he hates painting and i wasn't in too much pain. two weeks later, i'm still in “not too much” pain. it's dull, it only gets aggravated when i'm sitting down and/or leaning forward (like say, at a computer screen) or when i'm actively challenging it (like say, painting) but those sorts of things rarely happen...for less than 9 or 10 hours a day. it is less than fun. if it's still bothering me after this next weekend (where i will be in chicago, doing less desk/chair sitting) there will be a doctor visit. it's not a ruptured or slipped anything, i don't think. i would expect much more pain and some bizarre leg feelings were that the case. it's just my back, between the shoulder blades until i put too much stress on the rest of my back and i start getting lower back pain. heating pads either take the pain away, or distract me from it, so i'm a fan. i tried ice because someone suggested that it's inflamed and taking away all the heat might soothe it. it worked great during, but once my back started warming up, there was twitching and spasming. heat doesn't give me that, so i sit with a pad between me and my chair for pretty much the whole day/night now, shifting it up or down depending on where the pain is the brightest. but not too big of a deal right? we've only got one more bathroom to paint, right? wrong again. there were some novice mistakes made during my painting blitz. tape needs to come up almost immediately after painting or not used at all. i left the same tape on the walls for all 4 coats, over a 5 day period. bad. lots of paint and primer coming off the drywall. even when it's cut, it's not sealed, which is badder for bathrooms than normal. also, after spending all that money on the bathrooms and then paint and supplies, we decided to save a couple of bucks (literally, i think it was like $2.50) by buying the cheaper disposable rollers. cheaper, full of loose fuzz rollers. which got all over the walls and ceiling, making the paint job look super-duper crappy. the fact that neither one of us liked the color we picked suddenly didn't matter any more. the whole place had to be sanded down and painted again anyway. feeling crappy for doing the crappy job, and knowing that ryan is not a fan of the painting, i bit off a bit more sanding than i could chew. he was, after all, responsible for all the edge trimming/tape removal stuff since there's no way my back was gonna let that fly. that probably pushed my back-healing back a bit, so we decided to take it easy. after all, we hadn't picked out a new color yet...or a shower curtain that didn't suck... time started to creep away from us, and it was looking like this was going to be another project that got away from us and was hastily finished later. considering the amount of money we spent to get the bathrooms this far, this was more frustrating than usual. we're expecting a house guest next week, who might appreciate having someplace to wash up, so we started pressing on with the re-paint this week. being physically restricted from fixing it added greatly to my stress, because nagging is not something i want to ever engage in, but ryan's pretty much on his own right now. i did the easy work of using the rollers. it didn't take long (and only hurt a little) so i tried my hand at edging. it hurt too much to do, and the pain was adding to my frustration so i quit before i threw a bahia green colored temper-tantrum all over the bathroom. ryan spent the rest of the night painstakingly getting new-coat 1 on the walls. tonight we'll do coat 2 and a coat on the ceiling. tomorrow we'll assemble, just in time to leave for the weekend. this could be going smoother, really. oh! and we have not even begun work on the master bath, because we’re waiting on a vanity resolution. it’s just untreated drywall, still.


to do

i'm not saying it's the best list, but time's 100 best english-language novels is a good place to start. i've read a total of 9 so far. many of these books/authors i haven't even heard of! (hands head in shame) ah well, i guess it's time to get a library card, huh?



at least we can still beat chicago.


i smell layoffs!

our yearly assessment process involves this online tool. we go in and set goals for the year (which are actually pre-defined by higher-ups but they pretend like we do it) and then each quarter we mark down how we accomplished them. At the end of the year we update it for the whole year, approve it, our boss approves it, gives us a "grade" (does not meet, meets, exceeds, or far exceeds expectations -- another rant on it's own), and that grade determines how much of our boss's pot of money for raises and bonuses he gives us. this end of the year process usually starts up mid-november and finishes up late january, with the actual money game hitting in february. this year, because we have to "focus on the business at hand" (read: merger) all of this needs to be accomplished asap and be completely done (except the money) by mid-december. and it's so that they have an even better idea who to layoff as soon as the merger goes through. honest.


latest sign that i've become a mac-head

i only resize windows from the bottom right corner. also: i've mapped the thumb button on my mouse at home to do expose'. i probably try to expose' my work computer at least 2 or 3 times a day, despite the fact that there's not even button there.


so it turns out...

that while leaving primer on the walls over night before you paint the next day is a good idea, leaving it on your skin over night (since you're just going to paint more the next morning) is not. it makes it very very hard to get off your skin without taking two or three layers with it...and only then when you use a loofa and your own fingernails. in completely related news, the hall bath has 2 coats of primer and a coat of color on it. i'm not sure how i feel about it, but we'll see. pictures will come after coat 4 and hardware have been installed.


bathrooms - day 6

two pictures really say it all for the dramatic differences in the master bath. the tub is gone and is now all shower. we've got a minor issue with the vanity--it's not the one we thought we picked out. the glass in the catalogue looked simply frosted, not etched like "grandma glass." this was disappointing, but dalco's being very accommodating. ryan's picking up a catalogue from dalco tomorrow and we'll pick out a new one. if it's fancier, we'll have to pay the difference, but other than that, they're taking care of it. that's more than i would have expected. and that's it for a few days. we're going to prime and pick out paint and paint within the next couple of weeks. we also need to pick up some accessories (towel bars, etc). when it's all done, i'll take (hella) more pictures so you can see it all polished up. :)

bathrooms - day 5

my previous post has drained me of my words, so this will be short. nothing much happened in the hall bathroom. there was some patching and spackling and such, but nothing picture worthy. in fact, there won't be any more hall bathroom pictures until we paint. here's some shots of the master bath including the new shower nook, grout-less tile, the hole where the medicine cabinet goes (receding it means better light in the room), and the tile where the hole under the sink went. no more trashpiles or stuff piles either. so sad ;)

shine like the sun

i'm taking a break from the bathroom updating. don't worry, pictures have been taken and i'll post day 5 and 6 later today most likely. there's some stuff that's been mulling around in my head for a few months now and i had an epiphany of sorts on sunday. purging onto paper is always a nice way to help sort out my thoughts/path forward, so that's what i'm going to do. let's start with a disclaimer, though, shall we? i mean no offense to any one currently practicing an organized religion of any sort. i am of the belief that it's all good, and just because your church does not meet my needs does not mean that i think it's "wrong" (or a waste of your time, or whatever). if that one statement offends you because you do believe that your church is right and the rest of us are going to burn in hell (or not attain enlightenment or whathaveyou) you'd best move on. you're not going to care for what happens next, and i'm not going to apologize for having an open mind. next i suppose we need some history, so that if you read this, you know where i'm coming from, and why i might think the way i do about certain things. i'll try to be brief, but if you know me, you know that's not possible. ...sigh... i just wrote a 5 page essay and i hadn't even gotten to the point... let's try this again. i was a late-comer to catholicsm (about 6th grade) so learned it from a slightly different perspective than most of my peers. i attended a catholic high school and a jesuit university. i went from being so devout at 14 that i seriously considered a life of service (i.e. becoming a nun) to so angry at the church/god i couldn't see straight at 18. eventually i mellowed into agnosticism. i still found the idea of religion fascinating though, and took pretty much every opportunity to research and talk to people from all sorts of faiths (not just christianty). when i figured out (for myself) that there was value in the journey in this life regardless of what happened in any next life, i turned to paganism. why paganism? because it was a build-it-yourself sort of religion where i could explore ritual on my own without centuries of other people's ideas to really get in my way. looking ahead, i knew that i would eventually get back into organized religion. it's the natural progression that we go through culturally and individually. i assumed it would be christian-based. you stick with what you know, and even though i craved the intense, ancient ritual of juadism or islam, it's too different from what i wanted. i also knew i'd be steering very clear of the evangelical, born-again, charismatic christian churches. i still have not lost the belief that every faith is just a valid as another, so a religion in direct, active opposition to that belief was not for me. i was on the fence about it resolving back to catholicism, because that's the one i've picked apart for it's flaws more than any other. i figured the first foray would be to universal unitarianism, but it turns out, my next step was to UCC (united church of christ). i didn't even realize it until yesterday, how does this happen? my husband's parents are UCC and we'd been going to the big celebrations (christmas and easter with a few random sundays throughout the year) there for a few years. we were married there. while i kept myself at arms distance, i still felt welcomed and that my personal journey/philosophy was not in conflict with the church's views. i actually took communion when it was offered. to me, coming from and rejecting catholicism, this was a big thing. two years ago ryan and i joined the choir because i need to sing and it was a great way to spend time with his parents. i know what you're thinking. you take communion, you attend regularly, and you sing in the choir. how do you not feel like a member of the church? i don't have a good answer for you, other than it just snuck up on me. the music is what gets me. singing along with music in my car, even when it's choral/sacred stuff just doesn't cut it. it helps, and not being able to do that compounds the stress it's supposed to relieve. there is something about singing within a congregation or a choir/chorus that fills a void inside me. i am happier when i'm in a choir. i just am. i would hate getting up on a sunday and go to mass, but once i was there, and the music started, i'd feel better. it kept me going to mass long after i started distancing myself from catholicism. so we sang with the UCC church. it wasn't the same as the music in a catholic church, but it worked. there was very little in the service that i actively objected to. it only happened during baptism. i forget the actual wordings, but the stuff about original sin i cannot agree with. it's a beautiful baby who hasn't done a thing to hurt anyone. how can you say it's evil/impure? anyway, let's not get too tangent-y. we're approaching that 5 page essay again, and just now getting to the point. this summer i attended 2 catholic weddings (one was full-mass) and a memorial mass. that's more mass in 3 months than i'd experienced in the 5 years before that. and the music. oh god the music. i'd forgotten how much i loved the music. the glory to god, the alleluias, the hosanna. not to mention all the songs interspersed in the mass. it brought tears to my eyes (it's doing so right now, actually). its amazing how the same music can sound so joyful, and yet can be such a release for sadness as well. after the memorial mass, which was itself an intense reminder of how much faith can bring to a person's life, i started thinking about checking out the catholic churches around my house. i went so far as to figure out which one was "mine" as well as get some advice from a friend who happened to be catholic, in the same general area, and shares my feelings about the music. i sort of let the idea die since then. i'm shy and socially awkward, and actually going into an unfamiliar church where they might descend upon me with enthusiasm i could not match freaks me out. then sunday happened. for all sorts of reasons, we hadn't gone back to the choir at the UCC church for the fall session (there's no choir over the summer). ryan's parents invited us to brunch and the late service to sing with the choir anyway. the music is simple enough, and we're both decent enough singers that sight-reading puts us on par with the choir as a whole, that this was not a daunting idea. the church had changed over the summer. perhaps things might have gone differently if i had been introduced to these changes one at a time, but they didn't just move my cheese, they served me hummus instead. i'm a fan of hummus, but not when i'm expecting cheese. to start with, the church's population was aging rapidly, without a real influx of youth, so they were (and have been) trying to get more young people involved. the last service of every sunday was now a "celebration" service with more (and trendier) music and a slightly different format. they had been doing this on the 5th sunday of every month with the old pastor, but either i'd never attended one, or the format got juiced while i was away. there was an excessive amount of 80's pop-esque music about how much we love god, and it's great to worship and the like. it's the sort of music that turns my stomach because of the schmatlz factor. it's not a choice i'd make, and if the whole thing changed to this format, i would be unhappy, but it didn't bother me that much on sunday. none of the bits of music that are always sung were sung, though, and i missed that. adding just a bit to freak-factor of sunday was the first song we sang at the service. short of christmas music, the odd spiritual that snuck its way into the choir, an arrangement of beethoven’s 9th (or 5th?) symphony, and this one hippy pop song from the 70’s (morning has broken) we have never, ever sung a song at this church that i’ve sung in a catholic church. nothing that i associate with my love of catholic music anyway. until yesterday when we stared with “on eagles wings.” was it a coincidence or was it providence messing with the music director’s mind so that the first time i’m back at my church after entertaining the idea of going back to a catholic church i sing my favorite catholic song? what was the point? to say “you don’t belong here?” or “make this your home?” i will never know. i’m glad i was there to sing it, though :) it was also "world communion" day, one of the 6ish days in the church calendar that they give communion, and for this service they did things a little different than the others. instead of passing around a plate of bread and a tower of little cups of wine, there was a plate at the front and a single glass of wine and the patrons were welcome to help themselves. do what? coming from a catholic tradition the sigle cup wasn't too too off-putting except that there was nobody policing it. it was just sitting there. i don't think anyone touched it. one of the things that i like about communion at this church is that everyone takes it at the same time. the cups/bread are passed out (one then the other) and once everyone's got a piece we eat. because it's something we do together, as an expression of our community. apparently a very long time ago (30+ years?) they used to do it "the catholic way" (their words, not mine) and everyone progressed to the front. they tried that last holy(maundy) thursday because some members thought it might be a nice change, but it was not well received. what made this service a little irritating was that instead of the standard white-bread, you also had your choice of matzo crackers, pita, or flat german rye-bread to eat. because it's world communion day, you see, and other religions (including the ones that UCC evolved from) have different ways of breaking bread. there was no host. there was no mention of catholicism as an origin. nothing. unconsecrated hosts are not hard to come by, just head to your local catholic supply store and pick some up. i think they're pretty cheap, too. i don't think anyone there (besides me maybe) would have touched it, but if you're going to play both the "whole world" and the "our origins" card, you need to make the effort. it's rude, disrespectful, and feeds old anti-catholic sentiments not to make mention of it. and then there was the new interim pastor. (here's were i'm going to try not to get offensive, but i probably will) the old pastor retired earlier in the year, and this was the first service i'd attended with "the new guy." in a nutshell, he is everything that comes to mind when i think of a protestant minister. his voice was weak and high-pitched. he was constantly drawing attention to his mic as he turned it off and on. he was already acting like every one's best friend, even if he didn't know you from adam. his sermon was about finding salvation and all the things we can do now to secure ourselves a place in heaven. he reminded me of a car salesman who's primary method of selling you the car is to talk to you as if you've already decided on it. i was not there because i was worried about eternal life. i do not do good things because it earns me points in some great book. he made reference to giving money several times, and not in a "please help your church" way, but in the "giving us money makes god happy" way. his entire attitude felt false and superficial to me, but i can see how in another church, with another congregation he would be very well received. some religions are based on redemption, and with them, he'd fit right in. it's just not what i'm about, and not the message this particular UCC church had ever sent me. you do good because doing good feels good, and makes everyone's life easier. jesus was a very good example of this. it always amazed me that some protestants weren't "loyal" to their sect of choice. but sitting there, next to ryan's sister who kept saying over and over "this is not my church" i understood how important the pastor/lead minister was to a church community. in an hour, this man had destroyed the comfort level i had developed over the past few years. this wouldn't have happened in a catholic church. sure, the pastors come and go and certainly their personalities have an effect on the church community, but not mass. mass is mass is mass and for all the cheese moving and the song changing that might take place, it's still mass. and that's when the epiphany hit me. i'm catholic. i need to sing in a choir (or with a congregation if there's enough general singing going on). the UCC church, under the previous leadership was doing okay, but only because i had really forgotten about the power of the music of the mass. if i'm going to "sit through" all that other stuff so i can sing, why not do it in a place where you maximize the power of the music, where the ritual itself resonates on some level and won't get all shaken up when someone new shows up. i'd be happiest singing in a catholic church, but some serious issues still remain. i stopped taking catholic communion long before my self-excommunication because i felt it would be disrespectful to their tradition. i wasn't playing by all the rules, after all. so, i can't just walk up there next time like nothing happened. i have to go to confession first. except that one of the things i dislike most about catholicism is the concept of the sacrament of reconciliation. ironically, my reaction to "not wanting to confess my sins to a priest" is to think "i need to find a good priest and talk about this stuff." i still don't know if i can bring myself to attend a mass, though. the shy factor is still there, and there's another one: pride. it infuriated me in high school when teachers found out about my not-real atheism and agnosticism and nodded wisely saying "you'll be back" and negated pretty much my entire exploration. i really, really don't want them to be "right." yes, even though they're the narrow minded jerks and i'll never see them again, and my pride/stubbornness shouldn't affect me in that way, it still irritates me. my husband, while being very supportive and a good listener, and is willing to attend mass with me (some/most of the time) has a completely selfish reason to be excited. turning catholic and living in st. louis pretty much means we have our pick of communities to live in, regardless of the public schools, which will make affording our next house possible...it also negates the main not-money reason we can't buy a loft. it should be noted that is not to say we’re going shopping any time soon, if ever, no matter what ryan tells you.