Monday, January 28, 2008

Let me preface this by saying that in almost every way I enjoy my new apartment. That said, let's get on with the diatribe!

11:30am – Bored at work (the inbox ridiculously empty), I decide to take a half-day of personal time to run some errands and get stuff done at the new apartment. Seeing as how I haven’t really spent any time enjoying the new place, or even inhabiting it, this seems like a beautiful opportunity.

11:45am – Arrive at swanky grocery store and do some shopping for Dinner & Dexter. See delicious looking man in produce section, we follow each other throughout store and make delightful chit chat. Sadly amounts to nothing.

12:00pm – Knowing I will fight with deadbolt a minimum of 15 minutes, I leave everything in my car and attempt to unlock my apartment door before actually thinking I will be able to enter. Nothing doing.

12:15pm – Seriously, this is really starting to piss me off.

12:30pm – Call absentee landlord and tell him I am locked out of apartment. Call transcribed thus:

M: Hi, I can’t get the door open.
L (who lives in Chicago): Damn, I really don’t know what to say
M: Well…seeing as how it’s my only point of entry to my apartment…

L: Hm…Really? It worked before and then it just stopped working?
M: Oh, it’s never really worked in the true sense of the word. It’s definitely gotten progressively worse, and now it doesn’t work at all.*
L: Well, I’m going to call a couple of guys in the area and get back to you.

M takes up arms by way of snow shovel, and bravely hacks away at melting ice on driveway. Surprisingly this does naught to ease her tension and frustration. If only Grocery Store Guy were nearby.

12:53pm – M sees she has missed a call on her phone (how the heck that happened, we will never know). Voicemail from L:

L: I couldn’t get a hold of anyone, so I left messages telling them it was an emergency. Are you done with work for the day, or do you have other places to go?
M: Oh no, I’m done with work for the day.
L: Well, can you go kill an hour or so until I can get a hold of someone? It’s expensive for me to call a locksmith right away, so if I can’t get anyone over there by 4pm or so, then we’ll call a locksmith
M: Fine** (FU, I’d rather call a locksmith myself and send you the bill, thankyouverymuch)

M extremely pissed off at this point. That half day of personal time is burning a hole in her pocket so she returns to work, cancels the personal time, immediately does a Google search on how much locksmiths cost ($50-$200 depending on services needed), and continues to write scathing blog post that is neither mean-spirited nor scathing enough for her level of rage.

2:00pm – Unidentified Milwaukee number calls M’s phone

U: Hi, I’m at the apartment to check the lock?
M: Yeah, I went back to work.
U: Oh, do you know when the guys will be home?
M: 5pm? 5:30? Do you need me to come over there now? I can be there in 15 minutes.
U: Oh…no. I’ll just come back at 5pm or so and try to get this working for you. It worked fine when I installed it. Hm.
M: (Bullshit)

*Actual response not necessarily as verbose
**Never, ever means “fine” when coming from a woman. Ever.

That episode brings us to this blog post. I have a real bad feeling about not being at the apartment when Unidentified Handyman arrived – who knows if he will actually return? But damn if I was going to let a perfectly good ½ day of vacation go to waste when I wasn’t sure if anyone would actually show up before 4pm.

I got a twenty that says U.H. will have to call a locksmith anyway, and seeing as how I’m not returning to the apartment until 9pm tonight, I got another twenty that says I may be sleeping in my car tonight.

Milwaukee Housing strikes again.

Don’t move here. Ever.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Part II of the Unplanned Series: Finding a Church to Call Home

A History of my “Churched”-ness

Based on the research of observation, I elect that many people practice the religion they were taught as children. Traditions and values instilled in us since childhood are hard to break, especially if one is unmoved to do so by any care or catalyst.

Thus I am a Lutheran.

I don’t know if I believe in that particular Christian doctrine because I was taught it from birth, or if I took to the teaching because I intrinsically believed in the doctrine at the onset. I don’t know if I enjoy the traditional service because that’s all I’ve known from my childhood LCMS church, or if I enjoyed those services because I liked the style to begin with. These are the age-old “chicken or the egg” questions, and I leave them to you to ponder.

What I do know is that, by going to college and exposing myself to other types of Christian doctrine and styles of worship, I’ve come to appreciate the nuances. I’ve come to change my views so that they better reflect what I truly believe, not just what I’ve been taught to believe.

I still have a great fondness for the LCMS church, as displayed by my tenure as an LCMS missionary. However, some of my beliefs and opinions have changed toward the doctrinal truths preached by the synod, as I spent time learning about other Christian denominations. This caused some, shall we say, friction during missionary training. Bygones.

It is my personal feeling that one must continually question and challenge one’s beliefs in order to get to the heart of the truth. At Campus Crusade for Christ I met a man who spent his life learning about other religions for the simple goal of making sure that Christianity was his truth. How was he to know, he argued, if Christianity were true, and Christ the only savior, if he didn’t first research the matter from all angles? He was of an analytical mind, you see.

Much like the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, this man’s research turned out to be an enormous benefit when he later served as a missionary. He was able to build relationships and share Christ in a most informed way – truly an advantage when reaching the lost.

Another friend of mine attended a church in Minneapolis lead by a Christian author. My friend loved this church and eagerly received everything the pastor taught. At one point, my friend pulled back and said, “I think I need to stop going to this church for awhile. I find myself blindly following every word [the pastor] says.”

My friend was not saying that his pastor was incorrect, or that the teachings were of no value. What he was saying is that to blindly follow can be a dangerous practice, and that one must learn, research, and find the truth in the teaching for themselves.

Call me skeptical. You can even call me cynical, but I constantly question what I’m told. If I receive a chain email that says a certain drug causes cancer, I Google that topic and make sure it’s not a hoax before supporting it and forwarding the message. If a supervisor tells me to do something without thought or reason, I usually do it, but not before wondering why or if there may be a more effective or efficient way. If a church leader makes a statement regarding faith, I want to know his or her Biblical foundations for saying so.

I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m giving the impression that I think my way is the only way. But I do believe in the benefits of self-education – that you can support something whole-heartedly (and defend it) if you’ve truly made an informed decision.

More to come.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Finding a Church to Call Home

“When men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear" (2 Tim 4:3)

Since my move to Milwaukee, I’ve been looking for a church to call home. I value the Lutheran doctrine and tradition I grew up with, however I’ve also been looking at local non-denominational churches as well. In my experience, non-denominational churches have great support for believers, and many ways to be fed beyond weekly worship whereas the LCMS churches (in my humble experience) do not. At my church in college, Hope CC, there were many ways to get involved beyond 1 hour a week, and many of the classes and small groups were designed to get to the meat of God’s Word. I get excited at the thought of finding such a place in Milwaukee.

Since my search began I’ve visited a few LCMS congregations that are mirror images of the one I grew up in: church on Sunday, Ladies’ Aid, and Sunday School. That’s it. Sermons being preached off a synod-wide printout, and little to no way of being more involved or delving deeper into scripture. Needless to say, I’m a little disappointed. Not that there aren’t great LCMS churches for mature Christians where we can grow in our faith, just that I haven’t gotten to them yet. But that isn’t the purpose of this post.

What I’ve come across lately are Mega Churches, also known as Seeker Sensitive churches. You know the ones I’m talking about: they purchase billboard ads to promote their latest “relevant to your life” message, they have videographers and worship teams that make you think you’ve walked into Hollywood, and they focus on creating an “experience” that will drive in traffic and reach more unchurched people.

So what’s wrong with reaching the unchurched? What’s wrong with using your talents at videoediting, singing, or playing guitar to help fellow Christians worship God? The problem is when the noise of the experience drowns out the Holy Spirit.

I feel that my knowledge is not adequate to fully explore this issue and argue my point, nor do I want to plagiarize another man’s work, so I will direct you, faithful reader, to a site that discusses this problem using Perry Noble as an example of a pastor committed to the Church Growth Movement (where the success of a church is defined by number of congregants, not quality of faith and teaching). Read Perry’s thoughts here, his rebuttal to the negative feedback from those thoughts here, then a series by Scott Oliver that explores Perry Noble’s statements and compares them to biblical teachings here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tale of the Crazy Lady Part 3

Newly settled into the hotel for the evening, I think through the events of late. My neighbor is certified Crazy. She screams all night long, and has now turned her menacing threats against me. The local police seem to think that I am not safe in close proximity to her paranoid Crazy, and that I should not return to my apartment unless it is to move out


I make plans to stay at my Lawyer Friend’s house whilst I figure out my now variable living situation. Meanwhile I head to work and the power of the Internets.

During the next day I research the landlord behind my apartment manager, and the property management company behind the landlord. My apartment manager had given me a handy list of phone numbers to every level of management within said company, and so I start making calls.

City Manager – Voicemail. I leave a message detailing the situation and how I would like it to be resolved (i.e. me being absolved of my lease)
Regional Manager – Voicemail (see above)
Company Manager – Voicemail (see above)

I see a pattern developing.

Then I remember a handy President’s hotline number listed on my lease. This number is for any questions or comments tenants may have, and dials directly into the CEO’s special voicemail. A proverbial “red phone,” if you will.

Calling this number, I leave a detailed message outlining the situation, and almost cannot finish I get so worked up with repressed emotion. I hang up only to call back a few minutes later to finish the message. I am embarrassed by this display.

A few days later, after receiving no response to my phone calls, I begin to feel that simple voicemails are not enough.

Thus, I begin typing.

I list every incident of Crazy Lady’s mayhem, including a thorough description of the latest evening’s events that led to the infamous C.O.P.S. reenactment. I also list the names of everyone I called in the company, who have yet to acknowledge my existence and plight with a return call. My plan is to put this together with copies of the previously filed Incident Reports and send it on to Mr. CEO via facsimile transmission.

At approximately 2:00 pm I send out the fax.

At approximately 4:30 pm I arrive at Apartment Manager’s office to discuss my options for a change in living situation.

Her first words are, “Ms. Quarter, what did you do?”

I look a bit confused, and say, “What do you mean?”

She explains, “At 2:30 this afternoon I had every level of management on conference call with the President of the company. They asked what the heck what going on down here, and I told them that they knew exactly what was going on, had refused to return your calls, and so you took matters into your own hands.”

“Now tell me, what did you do?”

I explain to her all of the steps in my David (me) versus Goliath (property management company) Plan and continue to explain that I have several more steps in the works.

She tells me that no such steps are needed, as The Company will be moving me to another building, to a bigger apartment, for the remainder of my lease. I need only to keep paying the amount of rent I have been paying, and Crazy Lady will also be evicted.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Tale of the Crazy Lady Part 2

After telling me that my new neighbor is certified Crazy, my apartment manager kindly hands me a stack of blank Incident Reports to fill out every time this woman’s psychological problems make an appearance.

Skip to two months and a dozen or so incident reports later, and I am back in my now God-forsaken apartment, listening to another late-night scream fest between Crazy Woman and the other personalities in her head. For weeks I had been listening to her threaten Unknown Persons, but tonight was a turn for the worse.

In the midst of one of her tirades I hear her threaten to come upstairs and do unspeakable things to whomever she was threatening. At this point, seeing as how I happen to be the one “upstairs,” I decide to not take any more of her threats and thus call the police.

Seriously, who knows what these crazy people will actually do versus what they are currently threatening to do. I wasn’t taking any chances.

The police show up in full C.O.P.S. fashion and speak with the woman downstairs. This author must mention that the moment they pulled up to the apartment complex, Crazy Lady shut her trap.

After speaking with her a bit, Officer Tom knocks on this author’s door to find me visibly upset. Asking if I am okay, I blurt, “No! That woman scares the sh*t out of me!”

Officer Tom goes on to explain that Crazy Lady is accusing me of all manner of things including, but not limited to, breaking into her apartment to steal her toothbrush, breaking into her apartment whilst she was in the shower to cut her rug, and being a crack whore with men coming to my apartment for “servicing” at all hours of the night.

He suggests I find a hotel room for the night and find a way to move out of this disability-check-as-rent-payment accepting hellhole as soon as possible for my own safety.


I must mention that in relating this tale to my best friend, LB, she replied simply with, “Well of course you’ve been breaking into Crazy Lady’s apartment while she’s in the shower. We all know how you love to cut a rug.”

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Tale of the Crazy Lady Part 1

I moved to this fine city last year – almost one year and one month to the day. Having found a relatively inexpensive one bedroom in “the ‘burbs,” I thought I was settled in for the long haul.

Enter: Neighbor Troubles

Being the organized person that I am (some would say borderline obsessive compulsive, others merely shrug and call me a neat freak), I finished unpacking rather quickly. Shortly thereafter I was enjoying a night of retiring early. I had just settled into bed when an argument broke out in the apartment below mine.

Apparently the woman was yelling at someone on the phone, as there was only the one voice and, therefore, a one-sided argument. From what I could tell, she was a mite disgruntled at this Mystery Caller, and threatened all sorts of mayhem in retaliation, including but not limited to, inviting her cronies from West Allis over to rip this poor Mystery Caller a new one. (That bit about the West Allis cronies is not an exaggeration.)

Good lord, what kind of low-level tenement housing had I gotten myself into?

Fearing for my safety should the phone argument later escalate into a face-to-face fight, I remained awake for most of the night.

Imagine my extreme dismay when such screaming matches became de rigueur and, like clockwork, the woman started yelling at 10:30 pm every night.

I took to visiting the family every weekend to find a bit of peace.

A handful of wakeful nights later, I bring the issue to my new apartment manager. Not wanting to appear the Troublemaker, I calmly explain the situation and ask if I should be concerned.

After listening politely to my tale, I am taken aback when the apartment manager replies with, “Oh yes, that woman is Crazy!” Capital C intentional.