Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tech Purgatory Continues

In some ways, we've made progress at the office.  Two weeks ago, we arrived at the office to find we had no technology:  no phones, no computers, no e-mail, no server, no internet.  By the end of that first week of Tech Hell, we still had nothing, and when our tech person arrived with a mi fi hotspot device, it was a defective one.  That week, I drove back and forth to the office twice a day on most days--once to open the campus since I'm one of the few of us with all the keys, and then back to my home office, where I had working technology.

A week ago, we got the working mi fi, and for a few days, we could do some work out of our offices.  We finally got all of our e-mail passwords reset, so we could access current e-mail, but not past e-mail.  We had working phones by the end of the week.  It seemed that if we lugged our own equipment to the office, we'd be back to normal-ish.

Of course, we still don't have a good way to print from our laptops.  If the document can be transformed into a PDF, we can save it onto a USB drive, take the USB to the printer, and print that way.  But not everything can be transformed that way.  Grr.

Yesterday, we figured out how the library assistant could bring her laptop to campus and how we could keep the laptop safe; the library is much too open to leave it out in the open.  We looked at the available offices, and she chose one to work in.  She went home to get her laptop so that she could spend the afternoon cataloguing.  She returned and got set up.

You know where this is headed, don't you?  The mi fi device went out at 11:30, and when I left in the late afternoon, it was still out.  The library assistant took her laptop and went back home to catalog.  I stayed to be the person in charge of the mostly empty campus.  I have a lot of my books for my seminary classes on campus, so I have now read ahead.  I wrote the first essay that's due Sept. 8, a 3 page spiritual journey kind of essay.  I answered the phones, which were still working.

I have no idea what to expect today.  We did discover, by way of someone's smart phone, that our mi fi provider was having issues as of 8:30 yesterday morning.  Will they be resolved today?  Who knows.  I've downloaded the additional materials from my seminary course shells, so if I need to spend a day reading, I'm prepared.

What a strange month it's been with all sorts of issues that I never anticipated would be part of my working life.  Here's hoping that it gets sorted out in September.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Monarch Butterflies: The Late August Report

If you need a sign of hope, here's a monarch butterfly sighting for you:

Two weeks ago, my spouse moved milkweed plants from the other house.  Did we also transport monarch eggs?  We had six caterpillars at one point.  We ended up with at least 3 chrysalises, and yesterday, a butterfly emerged out of one of them.

The chrysalis was hanging off the table, and we tried to avoid the area for a week.  Yesterday morning, our efforts paid off.  We watched the butterfly for a bit, and then we went to church.

My spouse returned in time to watch the butterfly fly away.  Was it confused by being six stories off the ground?  It did take some time for the butterfly to adjust to the strange way the wind works in the U of the condo building.  It landed on the top of a palm tree and then it flew away towards the Arts Park.

And this morning, the 2 other chrysalises have butterflies emerging.  

We may not have the kind of thriving butterfly gardens that we've had elsewhere, but there are 3 monarchs in the world today that weren't there last week because of our little 6th floor balcony butterfly garden.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Existential Anxiety and Hurricanes

While I am not in the path of Hurricane Ida, I can't stop monitoring the weather blogs.  Often I do that just in case the hurricane does something unexpected, but it doesn't look like there's any possibility of weird jags with this storm.  Oh, storms with a name that starts with I, how I dread you!  I'm thinking of Hurricane Irma which ruined so much in my own life, Hurricane Irene which my parents experienced in Williamsburg and has left my dad forever spooked about the power of hurricanes, and then there was Ike before that, and Isabel.  Ida is expected to be a category 4, and it's going to strike on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, another storm that ruined so much in my life.

Of course, when I talk about ruin, it's material stuff, and if I made a list of the stuff, most people would shrug.  The furniture was old when it was damaged, and not the antique old, but the tired, tattered kind of old.  Both houses sustained damage, but they were repairable damages.  But oh, how long those repairs took.

I am not one of those coastal folks who just shrugs off a storm.  I'm not someone who can live in a damaged house while repairs are being done without reflecting on how everything that seemed solid really isn't.  It's even harder to live with the knowledge of the precipice we all teeter on with the early stages of climate change pounding us.  I want to head for higher ground, and I don't really mean the condo we live in now.  I want to run for the hills.

Of course, I have friends in the Asheville region who in some years have had worse hurricane seasons than I have.  I know that I've said it before, but it's worth repeating.  Still, my Asheville friends have only had 1 bad hurricane season, and it's not something they need to fear for six months out of every year.  It's a freak event, not a regular one, at least not yet.  

I think about those people in the path of Ida, people who still haven't recovered from last year's Hurricane Laura.  And that's what haunts me most, the knowledge that a coastal region can be hammered again and again and again.

It was Hurricane Irma that made me realize in a deeper-than-intellectual way that we couldn't stay in the house into retirement.  The seeds of our move to this condo were planted then.  My spouse might disagree.  He might say the seeds were planted with this blazing hot housing market that makes him hope we can make more by selling the house than he ever thought possible.  But for me, it's the deep desire to run for the hills.  This condo is our compromise.

At some point I'll write more about these early weeks in the condo.  Right now, they are marked by a different kind of existential anxiety, the need to sell the house we left behind.  This morning I will go for my walk, and then my plan is to head over and spend a few hours cleaning.  The painting of the exterior is still happening, which is fine, since we couldn't have gotten the house ready for an open house this week-end.  Hopefully we will have an open house on Sept. 12 and move quickly to a sale.

For this morning, let me work off all my existential anxieties through movement and sweat.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Passing Torches

Earlier this week, I was walking, as I do almost every morning.  The sun rises later each day, which is fine with me.  In late June, it's almost impossible to avoid a sunny morning walk, and I prefer the time just before sunrise.

I'm also noticing fewer people out walking their dogs.  Is it because dog walkers wait until there is more light?  That seems probable.  If one must scoop dog poop, one would want to be able to see it.  I also think that as in-person school resumes across the nation, we have fewer people vacationing in the short term rentals in the neighborhood, and fewer dogs here with vacationers.

On Monday, I made this Facebook post:  "Early morning, just before sunrise, a gray, grizzled guy on a big Harley rides by, strains of music trailing behind. No, not "Born to Be Wild" or "Bad to the Bone." Nope, early REM: "Radio Free Europe" or "Don't Go Back to Rockville." The torch has been passed."

It is strange to think that the bands I once saw as so cutting edge--REM, the Police, on and on I could go--are now staples of classic rock stations that no one under the age of 50 listens to.  What will music look like 40 years from now?  What will it sound like, and how will it be delivered.

Time will tell.  But in the meantime, off to work I go, loaded down with lap top and cell phone.  It's a passing of a different kind of torch.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

A First Look at Seminary Classes

This fall, I return to school as a student.  I'll be an MDiv student at Wesley Theological Seminary.  Although classes don't officially start until next week, students get access to the course shells in advance, and I've been trying to take advantage of that.

I decided to keep a copy of the syllabus separate from the course shell, just in case I can't access it at some point (power failure, system being upgraded, that kind of thing).  And in light of the total technology failure at work, I also printed a copy.

Yesterday, I started downloading course materials for the same reasons.  But I won't print all of them, at least not yet.

The most important thing I've been doing is thinking about the course requirements:  the readings, the discussion posts, the essays.  I'm intrigued at my responses to the course requirements.  Once I got the textbooks for the classes, I wasn't as worried about the readings.  And I have continued to write in a variety of ways in the years since I graduated from college, so I'm not worried about that.

I am relieved that the course papers don't seem to require access to a research library, but I'm also relieved that the Wesley library will ship books to me, at least according to the new student orientation course materials.

In fact, what's strange for me is that I'm looking at the page requirements and worrying about my ability to be concise.  When I was in grad school for my advanced degrees in English, I fretted the other direction:  how would I ever write 10-20 pages?  Now I think, hmm, only 4 pages required?  Can I really develop these ideas in just 4 pages?

I feel fortunate that I've been writing daily during all the years between undergraduate classes and now.  Not everyone will have that part come so naturally to them.

One of my classes, the Hebrew Bible class, has a map quiz the first week of class.  My immediate reaction was panic, but then I reminded myself that I have plenty of time to study, that I have study aids, and that I'm allowed to use those during the quiz.  It's doable!

"It's doable!" was my reaction to many aspects of my classes.  I haven't been real sure what to expect so finding out that it's doable is a relief.  I won't let myself think about how many of the pieces of my life need to stay stable for this to be doable.  They are likely to remain stable, and if something happens (sickness, internet access, computer crash), I know how to pivot.

Decades of teaching means that I know how to be a good student.  I will be a good student.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Ides of August, Seeds of Hope

There is something about late August that makes me feel doomed.  Let me document this year's ides of August.  I realize that we're almost two weeks out from the 13th, when the actual ides would be, according to the Roman calendar.

Actually, as I think back, August seems to be a sinkhole of a month, the month of beginning a war or launching an invasion (which will often start a war) or pulling out of a disaster of a policy or ignoring the intelligence which will lead to a disaster which will lead to a war (here I'm thinking of September 11).

Sadly, I don't expect U.S. policymakers to learn anything from our time in Afghanistan.  Reading this article about all the fruitless ways we've intervened in the world, starting with 1950's Korea, makes optimism a tough sell, and reading this article about Afghanistan in particular leads to despair.  But perhaps instead of looking back, I should be looking at our present.  What's being ignored?  What will we shake our heads at, 20 years from now, wondering why we didn't behave differently?  I suspect it will have something to do with the weather and the climate, something August foretells.  

It feels like it will be hot forever, the kind of hot that smothers, the hazy hot, not the clear heat.  I used to love to run in the middle of the day when I lived in Knoxville, Tennessee, where the high was 85 degrees, without much humidity.  I came home from a run feeling cleansed.  Lately, I've been coming in from my morning exercise feeling like I've been mugged.  It feels like the world is either on fire or being flooded.  This year, that feeling seems more like fact than metaphor.

I've been tripping over my feet.  This doesn't happen every August, but I do remember a few years ago commenting on my skinned knees.  This August, I'm pulling my left hamstring over and over again.  I've tripped over a suitcase, tripped over a palm frond, tripped over a seam in the parking garage lot at work.  I've kept myself from falling, but at cost to my hamstring.  It will heal, but it would heal faster if I didn't keep pulling it.

If I did a Google search of important artists who died in August, would I be surprised at how many of them have been important to me?  The death of Charlie Watts, the Rolling Stones drummer, makes me ponder, while this article in The Washington Post made me smile at the idea of this person with a jazz sensibility making an interesting artistic life.

When I lived in places with more of a sense of seasons, it was easier to tell myself that in a few weeks, we'd get our first break in the heat.  Down here at the southeastern tip of the continent, I dread the uptick in the hurricane season, while also knowing we won't get a break in the heat for another 2-3 months.  Sigh.

And yet, let me not overlook the signs of hope, even if it's not the hope of autumnal weather and changing leaves.  My 6th floor condo balcony now has at least 3 chrysalises.  The mi-fi hot spot at work performed well yesterday; I can spend time complaining about how many e-mails I get in a regular day at work, so I was surprised to realize how anxious I felt when I was receiving no e-mails at all.

This morning, as I went on my morning walk/jog/run, I enjoyed a breeze that felt miraculous after weeks of moribund weather.  And I reflected on the poet HonorĂ©e Fanonne Jeffers, whose first novel The Love Songs of W. E. B. DuBois is an Oprah pick, while also getting a magnificent review by Ron Charles in The Washington Post.  

And let me remember that I got a correspondence yesterday letting me know that the article that I wrote for Gather will be published, and sending me forms to fill out for payment.  What great news.  It came after a day of internet restoration at work and me beginning to feel like I'm going to be able to be successful in seminary classes.

Many seeds are sprouting--let me focus on the ones that give me hope.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Enchanted Mi-Fi Forest

This morning, I woke up with the tired feeling of having made it through another work week--but of course, it's only Tuesday.  I am not sure why technology issues leave me feeling SO exhausted, but that's the week I'm having.  I think it's especially exhausting because, much like the pandemic, we don't know for sure when it will be over, and we're not sure exactly what we're dealing with, how it may shapeshift, and so what to do with our hours right now.

I took my laptop to school because we were expecting the tech guy to come with a mi-fi, a hotspot that would allow us to access the internet.  Of course, it will only allow us to access the internet if we bring our own devices to connect.

When I got to campus, lo and behold, it appeared the internet had returned.  But it hadn't returned to every computer--odd.  And then, later in the morning, the internet on the desktop computers blinked off--even odder.

As the morning progressed, and our tech support did not come, I made several phone calls on my cell phone, paid for by me, because we don't have phones either.  I finally got to our Chief Information Officer, who said, "Why don't you use one of the company iPads?"  I tried to keep my composure as I said that our campus had never received these iPads, and even if we had, we had no way to connect to the internet, and only one of us had had success with following the instructions to have our e-mail restored.

I was told that a lower level IT tech would be heading to us in about 15 minutes.  I requested that he also bring a HTMI cable, and was questioned about why we would need it.  I said, "So that our faculty can connect their laptops to the TVs in the classroom so that they can teach classes."  No wonder I feel tired.  I realize that not everyone comes from a teaching background, but it's been decades since people taught by writing on a board.  Now we show videos and use PowerPoints and all sorts of other technology that we need to be able to deliver.

The past 9 days have made me want to go back to writing on a board, but that's neither here nor there.  I am also astounded at the assumption that we'll all be perfectly happy to use our own devices to do school business--and at the larger assumption that we all have laptops and cell phones ready to be pressed into service.  I don't have a smart phone for a variety of reasons that I've specified elsewhere:  budgetary, wanting to resist the technology taking over our lives, wanting tech-life balance.

Hours later, the tech did show up with a mi-fi, and unlike Friday when he showed up with a wi-fi, this time, it worked.  I was able to log on with my laptop, and then I was able to reset my passwords and access the new school e-mail account.  It's a different Outlook format, and it irritates me in the way that it shows me the e-mail chain.  I have trouble accessing the older e-mails on the chain if I want to just answer that e-mail.  At some point, I'll see if I can tinker with the settings, but yesterday, by the time I could finally access my e-mail in the late afternoon, I just wanted to see what I had missed.  Others have had their e-mails restored since Wednesday, so I'm behind.

So perhaps it's not surprising that we ended our day in a bit of hilarity, as we decorated the spot where the mi-fi will live:

I'm calling it the Enchanted Mi-Fi Forest--all it needs is a gingerbread cottage.  For those of you who are wondering, the horse is a Vet Tech teaching tool, where students can see bone and organ structures.

I am glad that the technology upheavals happened before my classes at seminary start.  At the same time, it makes me fearful about my ability to keep all of the balls I'll be juggling up in the air.  But I do have some back up plans in place, if technology fails again.  And the internet at our new condo has been upgraded in the past year, and we've had no disruptions there.

Going forward, fingers crossed!

Monday, August 23, 2021

The New Condo: A Virtual Tour

I know that a lot of people would like to see the new condo, so I thought I'd create a virtual tour here.  We're on the 6th floor, near the elevator. We still need to hang pictures, but we're getting fairly settled.

When you enter, the kitchen catches your eye:

The kitchen, from another angle, with the great room that opens onto a balcony:

There's also a wine bar.  

If we had a traditional set up, this would be on the wall opposite a dining table, but we're using that area for the piano and other instruments that aren't pictured here.

We have a living area, which we're also using as office space:

Office space and TV space:

Our bedroom has our most traditional furniture.  I find it cozy:

We have a walk in closet that's big enough to share:

And the master bath is much huger than any bathroom we've ever had:

There's also another bathroom, a smaller one, but it still feels roomy.  Eventually, we'll have a shower rod and a shower curtain:

The second bedroom is still a work in process.  Eventually, it will be both a guest room and an office:

But I suspect that the room we'll love the best may be the balcony.

On Saturday, I wrote this Facebook post:  "In the foreground: sourdough bread dough rising in the yellow mixing bowl that once belonged to my grandmother. Beyond that you see my spouse, reading a Philosophy text to get ready for classes, sitting at a teak table that once belonged to my parents. If you look closely at the reflection in the door just beyond him, you can see the reflection of downtown Hollywood, FL."

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Summer 2021: Things Fall Apart

This morning, I reflected back on the month of August as a month where I came to realize--once again, and over and over again--how much of the world seems to be held together with tape and a patchwork of chewing gum and maybe a thin veneer of paint here and there.  But frankly, the whole summer has felt that way, and perhaps this whole pandemic time, and maybe it has always been this way, but many of us can go for months or years before we're forced to reckon with this knowledge again.

Humans like to think that we're in control, and many of us will go to great lengths to maintain that illusion.  For me, this summer has brought week after week of almost daily reminders that we're not.  Those reminders have ranged from the small to the huge, from the personal to the global.

When I think of the early days of June, I remember a time when it seemed that we might be turning a corner with the COVID-19 crisis.  Vaccination rates continued to chug along, and we finished a K-12 school year with few student deaths and not as many outbreaks as I would have predicted.  The world at large seemed calm--or am I remembering it wrong?

Then the condo building in Surfside Beach, just south of here, collapsed, and suddenly, it seemed that more buildings than we'd have expected have serious structural issues.  And here we are, two months later, and it begins to feel like all of our foreign policy has collapsed and lies in ruins.  The domestic political situation has felt like rubble for over a decade now, so that's not anything new.

This month has been particularly difficult at work.  We've had several days with no AC in part of the building, we've had an AC unit leak in the server room, and this week, unrelated to that leak, we've had a total lack of technology.  It's been a month where I've been moving from a house to a condo, and tried to get the house ready for the market, and that has come with some surprises.  It's exhausting.  It's no wonder I'm feeling a certain amount of stress.

Yesterday I got access to one of my seminary classes, and as I explored the course shell, I had conflicting thoughts.  The larger part of me thought, OK, this is doable.  The fearful part of me thought, what on earth am I thinking?  

I met with my small group for my certificate program in spiritual directing.  We check in with each other when we first log onto the Zoom meeting.  I said, "I feel like I'm holding everything together, but I also feel like I'm teetering.  I tell myself, 'Keep looking straight ahead--don't look down!'"

Don't look down--it's what a yoga teacher told me long ago.  Keep your focus on a distant spot, and it's easier to keep your balance.  

May we all be able to keep our balance.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Technology Fails

What a very strange week it has been.  When I began my work week on Monday, I was not expecting to be dealing with a total absence of technology at work:  all week, no phones, no computers, no internet access.  I've been impressed with how quickly faculty have been able to pivot.

I've been reminded of how important it is to back up electronic data, and to back it up in a variety of places.  At work, I've been saving documents on a shared drive and on the hard drive of the computer.  I often e-mail items and assume that I could reconstruct documents from e-mails if I needed to.  But those e-mails are to other employees, not to my private e-mail file.  Once in awhile, I've backed up to my personal files in the cloud.  But I've rarely backed up to physical drives that are portable.

I'm realizing that I had been working on an assumption that at least part of the system would be operational.  Someone might wreck the files in the shared drive, but I'd have access to my personal files and my e-mail.  I've assumed the server was fairly permanent and backed up.  

When I was younger, I was more conscientious.  I often backed up onto floppy discs, and I did that at least once a week--and I printed all the work that I did in any given day.  I was so aware of how easy it would be to lose that data.  I was often working on large projects, like writing a novel or writing my dissertation. 

Am I sloppier now because I'm working on smaller projects, like poems?  Perhaps.

But I think I'm sloppier now because I have data crashes and failures less frequently.  Computer platforms used to be much less stable, and computers themselves seemed more prone to failure.

It's been interesting to observe how the rhythm of my work day has changed with less technology available to me.  I've gotten a lot more reading done, but less writing done, because I have some time, and I have some hope that our access will be restored soon.  I've had to leave the office to come back to my house, where I have internet access, to be part of meetings that update us all.  But I can't really work from home, since we have so few people with keys. I've been going to campus, opening up campus, hanging out to make sure that classes get going and everyone has everything they need, returning home for a few hours for meetings that require internet access, and returning to campus to make sure everything is going smoothly and to lock up at the end of the day.

It's as exhausting as it sounds.

Today, I'll also tend to technology issues, but I'll hope to also return to older technology.  I have sourdough starter that needs to be used.  It might be a good day for homemade pizza.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Spare Time, Spare Change, and Changing the World

 My spouse and I have been talking about our moving process, about how moving itself feels like it takes at least a year, and then it takes an additional year to feel like we've really unpacked.  He said, "How did we used to move every year?"

We went through the usual reasons:  we were younger, we had less stuff.  But I think the real reason may be that we had fewer demands on our time.  Sure, we were grad students, with a bit of teaching work on the side, with friends and volunteering/social justice work in our spare time.  In a way that sounds like what we're doing now, with the primary job and the adjunct teaching jobs on the side, with friends and volunteering/social justice work in our spare time.  But if I count up the hours involved, it was less in the 90's than it is now.

As I think about what makes us overextended and often overwhelmed, I think about people doing heroic work.  I think about the people and organizations that have hurried their work in getting people to safety away from Afghanistan.  Sure, my volunteer work with my local Lutheran church helps keep the food pantry going, which helps keep all sorts of families going, but at the end of the day, does it really matter?

I do know that quantifying our efforts makes no sense.  Of course our charity/social justice work matters.  It matters to the people who get the food and thus have something to eat.  Does it eradicate hunger forever?  No.  If there's a path to that kind of eradication, humans haven't found it yet.  Yet even as I type those words, I think of some human societies that have made more progress to that eradication than the U.S.

I also understand the folly of comparing efforts.  The work of getting people out of harm's way is essential, as is the work of getting food to hungry people.  

It's also important for people like me to remember that giving money to relief efforts can be important too.  I can't fly a plane to Afghanistan, but I can give money to groups who can organize that kind of effort.  I don't have personal connections to individuals who need to escape, but I can give money to groups like Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services who help get people settled.  I know that we don't all have money to spare, but if we do, we can do some good with those dollars.

The work of repairing the world is vast and varied--there's room for every effort.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

First Day of Public School in Our Endless Pandemic

Yesterday, I made this Facebook post:

"Today is the first day of school in my county, Broward. On my walk, I saw a young woman in a cheerleading outfit and pom poms. She said, "Yay, first day of school," and she gave the pom poms a shake before loading the car.

Even though I know that the school situation in Broward county is fraught with peril for everybody, her enthusiasm made me happy. And then I said a prayer for safety, a prayer to the Creator, our greatest cheerleader."

I noticed the uptick in traffic even as I walked.  I need to give myself a bit more time to get to school, and I need to remember where school zones are so that I can avoid them.  I came home at 10 to get ready for an 11:00 Teams meeting; I needed to come home because we still have no technology at school.  It was notable how empty the streets were, once the K-12 students got settled into school.

I left my campus for the day at 5, and I was surprised by how many school busses are still on the road at that time.  I was behind a bus and a guy my age in a speedy convertible.  I wondered if it's annoying to have to keep shifting because of the bus, or if the joy of a stick shift is part of the appeal of a car like that, even if one is shifting between first and second gear on a neighborhood street.

I thought of convertibles, what they represent, that freedom, even though most people I know who have had convertibles have had issues with leaking.  I had a sudden urge to be driving a convertible on a deserted road where I could drive faster than I was going, behind a school bus and a slow convertible.  And then I got an idea for a poem, which I will write today at school, during day 4 of our technology being inaccessible.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Technology Free Office Days

We arrived at work on Monday to find no phones, no internet, no access to material stored on the server, and some unusual error messages about unrecognized users.  At first, we didn't think much about it--several times a year, our system goes down, although usually we can access part of it.  But on Monday, we couldn't even use programs like Microsoft Word, and we couldn't access our e-mail from a distance.

We found out that the Ft. Lauderdale campus was experiencing the same thing, so we thought it was a multi-campus server kind of issue.  But by the middle of the day, we found out that it was some sort of cyber attack, and yesterday, nothing had been restored.

I am amazed at the ways that our faculty invent work-arounds.  We're near the end of the term, so much of the work left to do is hands-on work in the lab.  It still surprises me how much that work needs some computer access, and some of that access works better when the network is up.  But even if it's not, there's some other ways.  Most of us have been teaching long enough that we remember how to teach with markers when we can't use our PowerPoints.  And we're still using paper textbooks for the most part.

My work has ground to a halt.  I do have some of the documents stored elsewhere, and I could edit, but I'm waiting just to see what happens.  In the meantime, I've got a lot of reading done.

A few months ago, I got the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler's Kindred, but I found it hard to read it the way I would a traditional novel.  But on Monday, I finished reading it in the morning.  I needed to stay on campus through the afternoon, so I picked up The Handmaid's Tale; as I had driven to work hearing about the fall of Afghanistan, I had thought about that novel, and it was in the office, so why not?

It was interesting reading the two of them on the same day, interesting to read two different texts that are essentially about the same process of how humans adapt to situations that seem unthinkable at first.  Both novels hold up well, but in fact, I'd go beyond that.  They have a timeless kind of quality, and both authors show such skill and talent that most narratives never approach.

Yesterday I came to the office late, because we had a Microsoft Teams meeting at 9:00.  This situation has reminded me of why a smart phone might be a good tool to have, but I don't have one yet.  And even if I did, my fellow campus directors haven't been able to access Teams on their smart phones, so I wouldn't have taken the risk yesterday, even if I had a smart phone.  Yesterday afternoon, I read The Close, Chloe Breyer's memoir of a first year at seminary back in the late 90's.  When I checked it out from the library, I loved it so much that I bought a copy.  Reading it again, I'm not sure I need to keep it, although it was one of the books that made me yearn for seminary.

Does it still make me yearn for seminary?  Perhaps.  Or just to be so young and unencumbered again.

But I am not young and unencumbered.  Let me finish getting ready to go to the office to see what the situation is there.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Snapshots from a Full Week-end in the New Place

--I started a load of laundry this morning, and as my noisyish washer got its work underway, I thought about neighbors.  But then I did a quick calculation and realized that the washer was against a wall that has a communal hallway on the other side of it.

--Although I'm trying to be mindful, I still can't quite figure out how sound travels in this condo building.  Happily, I don't have a lot of habits that will impact neighbors.  I don't like loud music anymore, after decades of being subjected to the loud music of others.  I'm not up at 2 a.m. dancing.  I do have a heavy footstep, but so far in this building, I haven't heard feet.  I hear the occasional voice in the hallway, which is strange.  Even the apartments we had in grad school didn't have this kind of enclosed communal hallway; it's more like being in a dorm.

--It's been a week-end of various noises, but happily, not nearly as unbearable as last Sunday's soca festival in the arts park.  I've heard tree frogs, sirens, voices, stray music from a car, cars roaring down streets, rain sweeping through, and of course, the humming of hundreds of air conditioners. 

--We got a lot of unpacking done this week-end, in large part because we were looking for the remote for the T.V.  My spouse had just tossed it into a box, but he didn't label the box.

--I did walk to the grocery store across the street to get ingredients to cook for dinner.  But I also drove the car to the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market to restock our food stores.  We'd been trying to eat everything in the pantry so that we had less to move to the new place.  It's good to have enough food in the house to have some choice in what we eat.

--I went back to the old house very early on Saturday to meet my brother-in-law and his wife to take them to the airport.  Their car is now parked in our driveway.  I like that it makes the house look lived in, particularly while we're still trying to find someone to fix the gate.

--After I returned to the condo, I walked downstairs and went to the Danish bakery.  In a time that seems like very long ago, a colleague brought in treats from that bakery to work.  Saturday's treats were not as tasty as the work treats, but they also didn't have the cinnamon pecan creation that I remember eating long ago.

--On Saturday, we took a break from moving to sit on the balcony waiting for the rain to sweep through.  We played Yahtzee, drank some wine, ate some cheese, and decided that our time for moving was over.  We unpacked, and we figured out how to connect the television to the cable that comes as part of our rental fee.

--Wow--there are so many cable channels.  We haven't had cable since the 90's, so it's astonishing how many more channels we get with today's cable.  But now as in the 90's, most of them are not ones that interest me, not even remotely.

--As we've gotten settled in, my mind occasionally goes to other places we considered renting.  I'm glad we decided not to rent the one bedrooms.  It's much easier with two bedrooms, plus with this new variant of COVID-19, we might still need to have the ability to isolate from each other.  It also gives us more options with remote classes.  I'm glad we decided not to go to some of the sprawling complexes in the western part of the county.  I like the character of this neighborhood, which is still part of our old neighborhood in many ways.

And now it's on to the next project:  getting the old house ready for market.  Today the person who is pressure washing and painting arrives to get started, while my spouse continues to do painting touch up on the inside.  I will wait for that process to be over before I do a deep clean.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Consolations of Nature, Even in a Condo

Yesterday morning, I woke up thinking, I have heard frogs all night long.  In our old house, that would not have been unusual; in fact, we had some drama in getting a frog out of our house in July of 2020.  It was a tree frog, so with every jump, he seemed more and more impossible to catch.

But we're in a condo, in a part of downtown Hollywood, Florida that seems increasingly paved over.  I didn't expect to hear frogs.  We are across from an Arts Park, and I remember when the park that was there before was ripped apart to create that Arts Park--large trees taken out, and small trees put in.  But that was 20 years ago, and now those small trees have gotten big.

Our condo building is built in a U shape, and our balcony looks out into the center of the U.  There's a courtyard on the ground floor, and that courtyard has a huge fountain.  It's there in part to be a lovely focal area with tables, but I also think the 2 story fountain blocks some of the traffic noise.

Yesterday we took a break in moving and watched a storm moving in.  We can be on the balcony, and because it's in the curve of the U, we don't get wet when it rains.  I watched a bird flying frantically to get ahead of the scouring wind and rain; it seemed the bird was trying to get above the building, but it ducked into a balcony across and above us.

On Friday, I arrived home to find that my spouse had moved some of our larger milkweed plants over to the balcony.  Will butterflies find us?  I hope so.  In the summer of 2019, I was delighted when butterflies appeared in the garden I created at the picnic area on the concrete deck of the parking garage at work.  Will butterflies be able to find our 6th floor milkweed?  I hope so.

It's been a week of intense sunrises.  The other day, I was walking and looking towards the east, where the red sky made me think about the sailors taking warning.  When I turned and looked west, I was stunned by a gorgeous rainbow in clouds tinted pink and purple.  I don't walk with any gadget that has camera capacity, so it will just live in my memory and in these words.

This week has held so much sorrow:  the climate change report, fires, disease spikes, the death of Nanci Griffith, the fall of Afghanistan, and the list could go on and on.  It's been a good week to be aware of the consolations of nature.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Across Decades, A Woman Weeping for Afghanistan

I spent much of yesterday returning to a state of tears over Afghanistan, while at the same time marveling over how many decades I've spent feeling weepy because of what's happening in Afghanistan.  My first memory of knowing about Afghanistan as a country was the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the boycott of the Moscow Olympics, which made my teenage self both angry and weepy.

As I prepared for my wedding in 1988, Afghanistan was in the news because the Soviets were pulling out.  I joked that we should have gotten married earlier because peace seemed to be breaking out in the most unlikely places in that summer of 1988.

Ah, the foolish optimism of youth.  I was astonished that Afghanistan seemed to fall back into the middle ages once the Soviets left.  The 1990s brought all sorts of misery to Afghanistan, particularly to females.  It was shocking to me that a country could go backwards that way, in terms of women's rights.  I thought about Margaret Atwood's claim that anything that was in The Handmaid's Tale was something that was actually happening in the world as she wrote the book in the early 1980's, and I felt a shiver along with my weeping.

For the past twenty (20!!!) years, many events in Afghanistan could provoke weeping, but I held out hope that the U.S. presence in the country helped stabilize it.  I predict that events in the coming weeks will solidify that claim, as the U.S. leaves, and once again, the country will head to a place that's very unhealthy for females.

As I listened to coverage of yesterday's events in Afghanistan, I thought of the scene in The Princess Bride about the classic blunder of getting involved in a land war in Asia.  When I first saw that movie in 1991 or so, I heard the line and thought about Vietnam.  Afghanistan has been another part of Asia that has a long (very long!) history of being very challenging to invaders, from Alexander on to the U.S., century upon century of sorrow.

Not for the first time, I wondered why anyone would want to have the U.S. as an ally.  I thought of our history of abandoning those who tried to help us.  Some of my earliest political memories are those of the exit from Saigon, those images of people clinging to helicopters and trying to push their way to a safe exit.  As the news from Afghanistan has gotten progressively worse as the U.S. leaves, I've thought of the South Vietnamese, of the Kurds, of all of those types of people in Afghanistan who have tried to help the U.S. and will now be in great peril.  And I've thought of the females, who are also in great peril, solely because of their gender. 

My life has shown me the folly of trying to save everyone.  My life reminds me again and again that I can't even keep my closest loved ones safe, so why should I think that I can somehow protect the vulnerable in other countries?  Why should I think that I can save those who didn't win the lottery of being born into a safe body, a safe country, a safe situation?  

Why do I believe in safety at all?

As I waited for the AT&T person to finish making my phone line communicate with the outside, I ended my day by reading Patricia Smith's brilliant and terrifying Blood Dazzler, a good reminder of all the aspects of life that threaten us:  hurricanes and poverty and bad information and poverty and learned helplessness and poverty and forced helplessness.  I loved this cycle of poems that revolve around Hurricane Katrina, and each subsequent reading only increases my appreciation of the work.

I wondered about my own ruminations throughout the day and wondered if I could create some sort of poem cycle that connects Afghanistan and the health of a nation and the personal health choices that lead to ruin.  Or maybe I want a simpler poem, a poem about a woman hearing about the dire circumstances of Afghanistan's women and children, a woman sobbing in the car as she goes to pick up her books on hold at the public library, a woman who has spent her day at work trying to make the educational path easier for college students.  Let my brain ruminate on that a bit before I attempt to catch it on paper.

This morning, I came across this magnificent blog post, where Dr. Wil Gafney makes connections between Afghanistan and the ancient prophets of the Hebrew Bible.  Her work always makes important connections, so I wasn't surprised to find her continuing to do so.  I am grateful for a solid spiritual dimension to my reading about Afghanistan this morning.  

I am grateful to know that I am not alone in weeping.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Wedding Anniversary in Year 2 of a Pandemic

A few days ago, one of my friends asked, "When you met your spouse, did you immediately know that he was the one?  Did you immediately envision growing old with him?"

I said, "It was 1983 when we first met.  I thought we'd be dead in a nuclear war soon.  But I did think he'd be a good partner in surviving the immediate aftermath before the radiation slowly killed us."

She laughed, but indeed I was serious.  I think of myself as the last of the Cold War babies, the ones always scanning the sky for a mushroom cloud.  My elementary schools had both tornado drills and nuclear drills, which were the same:  take a book, crouch against the wall in an inside hallway, put the book over the back of the head and spine, and hope that it's all adequate protection against a failing foreign policy/the result of warm air meeting cold.

In 1983, when I first met my spouse at our small, southern, liberal arts college, I chose a major based on what I liked, not on what I thought would take me into the future.  People asked, "What are you going to do with a major in English?"  I said, "We're all going to be dead in a nuclear war.  What does it matter?"  I read various survival scenarios.  I kept my 74 Monte Carlo longer than I should have because it had an ignition that would survive an electromagnetic pulse.

Even though I was expecting a nuclear war, I still got married on this day in 1988.  People gathered, we made our pledges in the same church where my parents made similar pledges, and off we drove for a short honeymoon in Asheville, NC, before we had to be back for grad school orientation.

This week, we've begun transitioning to the next phase of our married life, as we have moved to the condo that we're renting.  I don't know if this is true for everyone, but moving brings out the best and worse in our relationship.  My thoughts have returned to those post-apocalyptic scenarios.  My spouse would be very good at making a shelter out of the ruins.  Why is moving so hard?  I would be very good at gathering and reassembling the scraps of society into something useful.  Why is it so hard for me to take a household and move it a mile away and figure out which item goes on which shelf?

One of the benefits of having been together for decades is that I know our patterns, and on my good days, I'm patient.  On my best days, I know how to get us to a better spot, out of our frustrations and anger towards the ideas that we had of how we were headed to a better spot.

We still have so much work to do, but we are further along than we were this time last week.  I no longer expect that we will soon be dead in a nuclear war, but I do realize that we're at a slightly higher risk of that scenario in our post-Cold War time.  During my childhood, the U.S. knew who had which nukes.  Now we don't.

A global pandemic that has produced a highly contagious variant is not the pandemic I planned for, but here we are.  And now we are doing the kind of planning for the future that some people do in their younger years:  looking at our finances, looking at our expenses, making some judicious moves that will net us the best return on our investment.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Pivoting, or Not

The intensity has increased, the intensity of the "What to do about Fall term 2021" tweets/posts/articles.  I'm seeing parents agonize, teachers ponder, administrators making one pivot and then another.  We're all pivoting.  Or we're standing fast, hoping for the best, wondering what exactly it is that we're hoping for.

As a school administrator of a very small campus, I feel fortunate in many ways.  We've never abandoned the measures which we adopted in the no-vaccine days of the pandemic.  We still wear masks, we still try to stay out of each other's breathing spaces as much as we can, and because we were a shrinking campus in the pre-pandemic times, we've kept our class size small.  I used to chafe at the restrictive ratios that come with a Vet Tech program, but now I'm happy for them.

I also know that it's not sustainable, running a campus with these small numbers, but others will make those larger decisions about viability and timing.  For now, I show up and try to shepherd the campus through each day's challenges, and each day brings different challenges.

In darker moments, I cannot imagine how we're all going to get through this, and in my darkest moments, I have some trouble even putting into words what "this" even is.  This new Delta variant is so very contagious.

I do know the history of diseases, and that most virulent variations of a disease burn themselves out, becoming milder versions that don't threaten their hosts as severely.  I also know, but don't often say out loud, that the process of becoming a milder disease often happens across centuries, not over a year or two.

I pray the most classic of prayers:  "Help us, help us, help us, oh Divine Creator with a longer view than ours."

As a teacher, I know that some of us have been advised to make alternate plans, in case we need to go all remote again.  I know that some of us are in schools that are committed to in person, no matter the cost.  I am tired of wondering why the governor of my state of Florida is so opposed to masks.  I confess that I've come to appreciate some of the other aspects of masking.  There's the germ avoidance, of course.  But there's also not worrying about having something in my teeth or about lipstick or whether or not I need a mint.

Yesterday, I got some communication from the seminary where classes start in just a few weeks.  It's interesting to watch all of these angles from the student side.  I chose remote classes back when I wouldn't have thought we'd be having this kind of disease surge.  Yesterday we got a letter from a dean advising us that our teachers might be making different choices in learning modalities.  I'm assuming that he was telling us that in-person classes might turn out to be a combination of in person and remote, or perhaps all remote, if conditions worsen.

I am glad I have chosen not to live on campus.  I don't want to pay for campus housing if I'm going to go there just to log onto my computer.  I can save major amounts of money by doing that from the space I share with my spouse.

I was never considering living on campus this term, since I expected to be employed for part of it.  But this situation raises interesting questions for the future.

As a student, just like as an administrator, I don't have enough information to make plans for 2022 yet.  Let me just keep tending to the work of each day.  For now, that is all I can do.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Thrum of Every Air Conditioner

Long ago, we bought a condo in a 55+ high rise for my mother-in-law.  When I spent time there, I was amazed that we could hear the neighbor's TV which was loud enough for me to keep up with plot lines.  I worried that we would have that experience in our current condo situation.

I did not anticipate hearing the low thrum of everyone's air conditioners.  It doesn't bother me the way that a neighbor's music would, but it's always there and noticeable.  And they thrum in different ways.

Why does my hearing loss keep me from hearing my spouse's low register voice, but I can still hear other types of bass notes?

The other irritation of the last few days:  we have never had both vehicles able to access the parking garage at the same time.  I am holding onto the hope that this will be fixed today when the City of Hollywood updates the two non-working access cards that I currently have in my car.

Even with our parking hassles, we've still managed to move a lot of smaller stuff over to the new place:  box after box of smaller stuff.  We have a lot of the kitchen organized.  I have most of my clothes and shoes here.  

I am glad--so glad--that we've been able to access the internet.  Speedier, more reliable internet that's paid for with the rent was one of the big selling points of this condo as opposed to other housing choices, and if we couldn't access it, I would have more trouble fixing that.

My writing time is shorter this morning.  My car is parked back at the old house, since I can't get into the parking garage.  I'll shower there and leave for work from there.  I'd say my morning routine is disrupted, but I don't really have a morning routine here yet.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

When the Wait List Turns into a Seat

It feels like a very long time ago that I signed up for seminary classes.  I put myself on the waitlist for the first half of the church history class.  Week after week went by, and the wait list didn't seem to change.  In the meantime, I had been thinking that maybe doing 4 classes was too ambitious anyway.

And then, yesterday, I discovered that I now have a seat in the class.  What to do?

The obvious answer:  buy the books and get ready for the class.  Why did I put myself on the waitlist if I wasn't planning on taking the class?

When I first signed up for classes, I wasn't sure that my job would last very deep into the fall.  In fact, I thought that I might be let go in early September once we moved all the labs over to the Ft. Lauderdale campus.  I put myself on the wait list knowing that if I ended up unemployed, I'd be happy that I had given myself the possibility of an extra class. 

Fast forward to now, and it's clear we won't be at the Ft. Lauderdale campus in the next few weeks.  The Vet Tech program has specific lab requirements.  The school can't just plunk them into an abandoned surgical tech lab space.

Still, I might be able to handle the additional class.  My school observes Jewish holidays, and we've got a lot of them in September.  I could be focused and get a lot of the heavier reading done in September.

My online orientation to seminary class seemed to say that the classes will open in Blackboard 2 weeks before classes start--2 weeks is Monday.  Hopefully, I can look at all the classes and get a sense for the work load:  the reading schedule, the assignments, and the due dates.  I know that I have until week 2 of classes to withdraw and not be charged.

For so much of summer, I felt like I was in a holding pattern.  And now, suddenly, the pace has shifted.  I have some decisions to make, but there's still time--not as much time as there once was, but there is time.

Monday, August 9, 2021

First Blog Post from the Condo

Here I sit in the new (new-to-us) condo, with soca music pounding in my head.  There is no soca music playing; I'm hearing all sorts of mechanical sounds that it will take me some time to get used to, but didn't interfere with my sleep as Saturday moved to Sunday.

No, I'm hearing soca music because there was a soca festival at the arts park across the street from our new location, loud, thudding, SO LOUD music, from the time we got back from church until we went to sleep.  And I went to bed later than is usual for me because the festival lasted until 10.  Sigh.  But it won't always be that way.  People paid $50-$80 for that concert--no, it won't always be that way.

On Saturday night, there was a blues/rock kind of concert, and we were able to sit on our balcony and enjoy it.  Yesterday was the kind of concert where my spouse put on his ear protecting headphones, the kind that you use at a gun range, to go out to have a smoke.

Our move on Saturday went as well as it could.  I'm glad that I got the 15 foot truck, not the 20 foot truck.  We barely had enough time to unload the smaller van.  The security guard rode the elevator with us, and it was a smallish elevator.  I don't know how people get a king size bed up to their condos.

So far, we have unpacked most of what we brought over, but most of what we brought over was bigger furniture, the kind we need to move with a truck.  This morning, half of what I had planned to wear to work is here with me and half a mile away at the old house.  I'm still not sure how I'll structure my morning.  

My mood vacillates.  Until yesterday afternoon, I was mostly happy with this decision, although I'm glad that we're renting, not buying.  Yesterday morning, I had a delightful morning reading a book, reading the old-fashioned way, a book spooling out across paper pages.  Yesterday afternoon, despite the pounding music, we managed to find the wi-fi here, the internet access that is included as part of our rent.  It took me many attempts and a different log-in key, but here I am, writing a blog post.

I am glad that I did my seminary orientation right when the course first opened up.  I knew that August would soon be filled with other obligations, and it looks like I am correct.  Packing, moving, with more packing to do, more addresses to change, more figuring out of how to transport the old life to this new location.  And then getting the house ready to go on the market.

Now to get them all taken care of before seminary starts at the end of this month.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Moving to Higher Ground

Today is moving day.  As I look around, it will probably not be the last moving day.  Today is the day we move the big furniture, the kind we need a truck to move.  My spouse's brother will help us.  Because we are moving to a condo, we can't just move in any day we want.  We decided to pay the extra $100 to be able to move on a Saturday.  We have a 3 hour window.

We had a plan.  We got the U-Haul yesterday, and my spouse had planned to load the van while I was at a conference.  I needed to stay at the conference until 4:15 yesterday afternoon to get my CEU credits.  But my spouse could get a lot done without me, with just himself and the dolly.

The condo we're moving to has a landlady who lives states away.  We've discovered the locks to the balcony aren't working like they should, so we've spent the week trying to arrange to have a locksmith come in.  Yesterday, the plan was that my spouse would take an hour out of packing to go meet the locksmith at the condo.  

Well . . . the day didn't go as planned.  The locks weren't easy to change, and in fact, the guest room door to the balcony appears to be permanently locked.  The sliding glass door won't lock, and the master bedroom door has a lock that's not exactly fixed, although the door can now be opened.  The condo is on the sixth floor, so it's not as big a security problem as it would be if we were lower, but long story short, my spouse lost 5 hours of his day.

And then, when he was positioning the U-Haul in the driveway, he hit the gate--no damage to the truck, but the gate will likely need to be replaced.  He lost another hour trying to fix the gate.  

By the time I got home from the conference, my spouse's spirits had sunk.  We ordered a pizza and reassessed.  We went to the condo and tried to strategize.  I've been liking the condo more, as we've seen it empty.  When we first saw it, back in June, just after we had signed the lease, I felt despair.  Two guys were living there, and nice as they were, the condo looked so different than what I had imagined from the pictures.

I am not sure we will love living there, as we will have some irritations, like the parking garage.  But it will cut our housing expenses in half.

It's not like when we made our last move in 2013.  Back then, we were sure our quality of life would improve.  I remember feeling terrified about the finances of it all, and the house needed lots of work.  Now it's just the reverse.

I was less worried about climate change, although I did know that our old house was in a higher spot in Hollywood, literally 6 feet above sea level, not 2 feet.  But at the time, I thought we might be able to retire in the new house.  But here we are, moving back to higher ground.

The new report on global climate change comes out on Monday.  It's going to be grim.  I do feel like we're getting out in the nick of time, and I will feel more that way once we get the house sold.  The condo building was constructed in 2007, so it will be the first place we've lived in South Florida that's built to modern hurricane codes.  It has never lost electricity during our storms--it's on the same part of the grid as a local hospital.

We're not sure what the future will bring, as I start seminary in a few weeks.  So we'll keep our housing options open and a bit cheaper.  And we'll get to experience a different aspect of South Florida living.  We'll be across the street from the Hollywood Arts park, which is the focal point of several streets of wonderful restaurants, cafes, and bakeries.  

It's probably not what we want for the rest of our lives, but it will work for the next few years--or if it doesn't, we'll figure out what to do next.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Pandemic Conferences: the In-Person Edition

I went to a conference yesterday, an in-person conference.

The last time I went to an in-person conference was the AWP in San Antonio in March 2020.  I wrote a series of posts about it at the time, as people decided not to come in the face of this new flu-like disease.  We didn't wear masks, but we were fairly safe as very few people were in the audience of any given session; we practiced social distancing, even though we wouldn't have called it that at the time.  Because it was spring in San Antonio, we ate almost every meal outside.  Looking back, the conference itself wasn't a huge risk to my physical health, although the air travel was.

I wasn't sure what to expect yesterday as I arrived at the Marriott resort and conference center.  I went through the resort lobby, where everyone was wearing masks.  I had my mask on too.  I walked through the outside courtyards and pool area to get to the conference center.  I saw a huge ficus tree--surely they designed the resort to leave some of the old growth trees standing.  The whole effect made me feel like I was in a compound made of ancient stone, on some distant tropical island, all by myself.

Sadly, that feeling did not last when I got to the splendid conference area where I was the only one wearing a mask.  I checked in under the glare of fluorescent light and risk taking humans.  I want to believe that we're all vaccinated, but now I know that even vaccinated people can contract and spread the Delta variant.

I was at a conference of Florida people who work in post-secondary schools; have they not been reading the reports I have?  I've been hunched over disease rates and hospital statistics like an old wise woman over her tea leaves and runes.  I've been thinking it's time to cancel large events like this conference and the graduation we have planned for the end of the month.  After I checked in, I thought about adding a second mask to my face.

I found my group of fellow administrators here for the FAPSC conference, and I put my stuff on a chair.  I went to check out the breakfast, which I had assumed would be limp pastries and not-hot-enough coffee.  I was so wrong.  I have rarely had such a beautiful offering of chunked fruit.  And there were eggs and breakfast meats.  If one wanted limp pastries, there was a table, but I loaded up on fruit.

Since we had all taken our masks off to eat, I left my mask off for the keynote address.  When it was time to go to breakout sessions, I kept my mask on.  I was amazed that the rooms for the breakout sessions were arranged as if for pre-pandemic times, which is a shame, because there was room to space the chairs out.  I took it upon myself to move my chair out of its neat row.  

During the day, I kept an eye on who was sitting near me.  I am fully vaccinated, but I've read the reports, and I know better than to place all my bets on vaccination.  If I was sitting near someone outside of my table group, I kept my mask on.  If I could do it, I moved my chair away.  When I was out in the main areas, moving from place to place, I kept my mask on.  I washed my hands a few extra times here and there.

It felt both strange and scary and wonderful to be back in a glitzy conference facility, with delicious food served throughout the day.  The breakout sessions had some nuggets of information that will be useful, along with premises that don't apply to me, like that I have an Admissions team, one that I can fire at will.

During our breaks, I kept my distance and read the book I had chosen for the Sealey challenge, Jane Hirshfield's After.  I thought about literary conferences and wondered if it would ever feel safe to be in big groups like the AWP.  I let Hirshfield's poems comfort and inspire me.

On to the next day of the conference and hoping I'm not attending a superspreader event.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Notes from the Next Wave of a Plague

--Yesterday at work, when asked if I thought we were in the 2nd wave of the pandemic or the 4th, I said that it was the 2nd wave if you think of it in terms of a variant that's significantly different than the original disease, which I think Delta is. But, if you look at waves in terms of spikes, I said it would be at least the 4th, because we had a spike in March 2020, summer 2020, winter 2020-21, and now.

My colleague and friend said, "There's no one I would rather ride out a pandemic with than you," and I think that's the best compliment I've gotten in some time. And my inner Apocalypse Gal says, "Plague states for the win!"

--As I drove home yesterday in the late afternoon, I heard the announcement of local hospitals suspending elective surgeries.  I have heard rumors of patients being housed in conference rooms and auditoriums at the local hospitals, but I don't know if that's true.

--We have been eating our way through our stockpile of food, mainly so that we don't have to move it to our new condo that we'll be renting.  Occasionally, I feel strange about letting our food stores get low.  But as a friend pointed out yesterday, it is hurricane season, so at least we don't have a lot of frozen food.  Of course, we don't have much canned food either.  But often after a hurricane, I have no desire to eat because it's just too hot with no AC.

--My pastor has been planning a September where we will look at themes of exile and restoration.  I'm intrigued to see where he goes with this.  He is planning worship on Sunday and a midweek study of some kind delivered by Zoom.  He asked me if I wanted to do something before worship on Sunday, something that incorporates a creative activity.  Of course I said yes, but I do realize that our South Florida COVID spike may put those plans on hold.  Where will we be by September?

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Weariness/Wariness Report

I am bone tired, and it's only Wednesday.  I had trouble falling asleep last night after I spent time on the phone with a program chair, troubleshooting pandemic protocols.  That phone call came after I went to our new condo to take photos of the balcony door locks that need the attention of a locksmith.  That trip to the condo came after an afternoon at work, being present and available in case the visiting corporate team needed me.

No wonder I'm tired.

I think of all the packing that I had planned to do so far, and I've made progress, but there's still so much to do.  There's a reason why we've been resistant to moving.  Even with all of our attempts to downsize, we still have a lot of stuff that needs to go into boxes or suitcases before we move.  We're just moving a mile away, and we'll still have access to the house for awhile, so the situation could be worse.

But it could be better, and that knowledge makes me tired.

I am also tired because it's clear to me that the autumn that I thought we might be able to pull off is not the autumn we are about to have, with this new variant that can infect even those of us who are fully vaccinated.  With more students heading back to in-person classrooms in the coming weeks, how on earth will this end well?

I am beyond fatigued with pandemic protocols.

Listing out the reasons for my weariness doesn't make me feel perky and energetic.  But it does remind me that there are valid reasons for my weariness--it's not just some lame excuse. I really am tired.

I have taken to reading Psalm 91 again.  Some of those verses are used in the Compline service at Mepkin Abbey, and last March, during the worst of my pandemic insomnia, those were the phrases that came to me, in Plainsong no less. And this morning, as I was writing, Heidi Rodrick-Schnaath's post came across my feed; the end has references to other sacred texts that have given me solace today, and the post itself is a reminder that I am not the only one feeling this exhaustion and fatigue.

So far all of us feeling exhausted, and I suspect that all of us are feeling some variation of exhausted, we have valid reasons, and probably even more than we first realize when we sit down to categorize.  But now it's time to go to work, where I resolve to treat myself with kindness and with countless cups of tea.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Wisdom from the Good Will Drop Off

I have been sorting, sorting, sorting.  I do worry that I'll get to be a widow woman, with no friends left alive in later life, that I'll wish I had some of the stuff I'm letting go of now.  But at the same time, it's hard to imagine that I'll want to read the notes we wrote to each other as bored school girls in high school Trig class.  

Let me make some notes triggered by trips to the Good Will drop off station:

--I fully expect to lose weight, now that I've given away all the pairs of shorts I have that are smaller than the shape I am in the summer of 2021.

--On Sunday afternoon, we sorted through the top shelves of the kitchen, the shelves where we put the items we don't use very often.  We had a huge collection of glassware spread out across the counters.  We tried to remember how we had come to have them, which family they came from, or was it a yard sale, or maybe the condo we bought that came furnished.  Might they have value?  In the end, we decided to give it all away.

--I am astonished by how much bubble wrap costs.  Still, I wrapped every item.  I ended up with a box that was almost too heavy to move.

--How did we come to have so many canning jars?  I was never under any illusion that I would do real canning, preserving of food.  What project were we going to do with all these jars?

--This sorting process leaves plenty of room for miscommunication.  I packed all the items in the china cabinet, even though we don't use those items either.  We may decide not to keep all of those items as we unwrap them, or maybe they'll go right into the china cabinet, these decisions put on hold until our next move.

--As I looked at all the glassware, I thought of our younger selves, the ones who wanted to have a glass for every possible type of drink.  Have we ever made margaritas or martinis?  No, but if we do, we have the glass for it.

--I gave away the one, lonely wine glass, the first one I ever bought, at a store near the B.Dalton's in a mall long ago.  I bought it the summer after I graduated from undergraduate school.  I imagined that a grown woman needed a wine glass.

--Why did I think a grown woman only needed one wine glass?  And why is it so small?

--How did we end up with so many pillowcases?  Where are the sheets that once went with these pillowcases?  Do the pillowcases miss the sheets that have gone on to other destinies?

When I got to the Good Will drop off station yesterday, I was surprised to see a line of cars.  I patiently waited my turn, watching the people pop out and haul their stuff to the pile:  a pair of shoes, a child's scooter, bag after bag of stuff.  And then I added my two bags of stuff and my carton of glassware.  I pondered the basic question:  what will become of all this stuff?  Will it go round and round and round again?

There are larger questions, of course.  Do others really need my cast-aways?  How does the earth bear this burden?

In the end, I left my additions to the pile and drove off, determined to downsize, determined not to add more to my own pile of stuff, stuff that's all destined for the Good Will drop off station.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Pandemic Insomnia

And so, my pandemic insomnia has returned.  I found myself snapping awake shortly before midnight, with a kind of panic clutching in my throat.  I got up, got a sip of water, took my sleeping spouse's glasses off his face, and turned off the TV.  But I couldn't fall back asleep.

That tickle in my throat?  Did it signal any invaders?  These night sweats:  menopause, too many covers, or a symptom?  How on earth will humanity work our way out of this?

Once my brain starts whirling that way, sleep isn't going to settle in, so I got up to read a bit.  I'm partway through Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles, which has been on a waitlist at the library, so I can't renew it.  What a gorgeous book--not as good as her Circe, but wow.

I tried to sleep again--no good.  So I got up and looked through both my Facebook and Twitter feeds.  I decided to try again, and finally, two hours later, I was able to drift off.

On some level, I don't mind this insomnia.  I've gotten reading done, and in the past, writing.  It did occur to me that I could pack a box or two.  The impending move is also on my brain.  More on that later.  Now it is time to get ready for my work day.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

The Sealey Challenge Begins

One of the advantages of joining Twitter in 2020 was hearing about the Sealey Challenge.  It wasn't the first year of the Challenge, but it was the first I had heard of it.  I wasn't sure that I could do it, but as the month unfolded, I realized--once again--that I have more time than I think that I do.

Last week-end, I looked through my bookcases and chose some of the books I'll be reading.  Last year, those books were packed away, and soon, they may be packed away again.  I've decided that this year, I'll only be reading works by women, and most of them will be volumes that I've read before.  It will be good to revisit those works again.

Last year, I made a post each day of what I read, and I plan to do that this year too, although this year, I may skip a day or two.  I also tried to create an interesting photo that commented on the poems in some way--this blog post will show you some samples, along with a narrative.  That was fun and meaningful for me, and I hope to do it again, but I may not do it as regularly as I did last year.

Last year, I didn't have as much going on--we were still in semi-quarantine, and our goal at school was to get students in and out quickly and to avoid congregating, which opened up a lot of time--not just time to read, but some mental space to plan what I would read and to plan the picture and the micro review.  I can't be sure that this year will be the same, with a move coming up and getting the house ready for market and then seminary starting at the end of the month.

I can't be sure that I can read one book each and every day, but I know that if I don't try, I definitely won't succeed.  So let's see what happens this year.