Monday, February 28, 2022

The Fourth Week of Underemployment Begins

Three weeks ago, I awakened to my first Monday of underemployment.  The world has changed radically since then, or maybe it hasn't.  It is hard to know.  Let me collect a few snapshots here.

--I am still adjusting to the idea that my schedule has a lot more flexibility than it once did.  I continue to think about the balance of writing, walking, and other practices that make up the best morning.  I am also aware that it may change in 2 weeks when we go back to Daylight Savings Time.

--Similarly, I am thinking about more travel than I once would have, back when I had to consider how much vacation time I had accrued.  One of my church friends asked me if I had considered going to the God Spa retreat.  I am now considering it.

--My replacement arrives today at my former campus, just a month before the accreditors come for a big visit.  When I took the job that brought me to my former campus, we had just a month to get various accreditation documents ready, but that was a much easier task than getting a campus ready for a visit.  I wish her luck; she will need it, but she might not realize that she needs it.  She's coming from a University of Phoenix campus, so she won't have had experience with the accreditors that will be coming at the end of March.

--This is also the week where lots of people on the academic side will be moving into and out of offices at my old campus--or at least, that was the plan when I left.  I don't miss that aspect of campus life.

--Over the week-end, I signed a publishing contract for one of my essays to appear in a book of essays about assembling poetry manuscripts.  It has been so long since the initial acceptance that I assumed that the project had fallen apart.  What a pleasant surprise to realize that it has not.

--Whenever I get this kind of news, I wonder if I should be doing more to attend to my poetry career, such as it is.  But then I look at various submission guidelines and feel that jolt of shock at submission fees.  I saw one journal this week-end, one that was fairly new, charging $5.00 to submit.  Nope--not doing that unless you're a journal where an acceptance might actually further a poetry career.

--And even then, part of me has to laugh at the idea of a poetry career.  I don't think anyone is making a living off of their poetry book sales.  Even poet laureates have teaching jobs.

--And yes, I do understand the precarious economics of literary magazines.  I do not feel called to underwrite those economics with my poetry submissions, but I am not criticizing those that decide to play that particular lottery/game.

--I came across this article in The New York Times yesterday, an essay that looks at these developments in Ukraine through the lens of 80's popular culture.  It calls the coverage the worst kind of nostalgia programming:  "There was the buildup of tensions over a supposed “military exercise,” the scenario that opened “The Day After” in 1983. There were the columns of tanks, an image out of the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Soviet newsreels and the 1984 movie “Red Dawn.” There were the maps of Europe, with arrows diagraming pincer attacks and fire-red explosion graphics."

--That article ends this way:  

"You could see this as evidence that we were still living in the same world that we lived in last week. You could assure yourself that this did not fit the apocalypse-film script, that this was not, in the end, 'The Day After.'

You might also remember, though, that that is exactly the sort of thing someone always says in the first 15 minutes of the disaster movie."

--Here's hoping that we can back away from this brink in the way that a pop culture movie script would not.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Prophetic Street Theatre

I began yesterday feeling a bit of despair knowing that I had to write a short discussion post on Ezekiel and feeling like I had absolutely nothing to say about that prophet.  The assignment also included this bit:   "Where do you find prophetic street theater today?"  I knew what I wanted to say about that part, but Ezekiel?  Happily, once I looked at the passages from the prophet and looked back over my class notes, I was able to formulate an approach.

I was buoyed by getting my grade for my Jeremiah project, which required us to imagine ourselves as a talk show host like Ellen or Oprah and how we would interview Jeremiah.  This discussion post required a video, not a piece of writing.  I created a very short video, posted it, and spent time worrying that I had done it all wrong.  I imagined my professor saying, "Well, as a piece of creative writing, this is great, but as a response to this assignment, she's out of her depth.

Happily, my professor did not feel that way.  Here's the response that I got, along with the score of 100/100:  

"This is good, creative work, Kristin. Your video demonstrates understanding of the nature of prophets and prophecy. It also considers the larger social context of Jeremiah where you reflect on how "the geopolitical business" is a blunt instrument.

Good use of Brueggemann about grieving coming before resurrecting."

I spent some time yesterday trying to figure out how to export the video out of Blackboard (Wesley's Learning Management System) so that I could share it or keep it.  Alas, so far, I haven't figured out how to do that.  I was able to download a transcript, so at least there's that.

In the middle of the day, my spouse's brother and his wife came over for lunch.  Our grown niece (daughter of spouse's sister) came over too, and we had a delightful time.  When they came in January, we made a burrito/fajita buffet, and that worked so well that we just did a repeat.  It's a great way to feed people with a variety of food needs and preferences.  And it leaves us delicious leftovers!

When we went out on the parking deck to watch the sun set (and for me to sing silently "Dona Nobis Pachem"), I heard lots of horns honking, sustained honking, which I thought was odd.  When I went out onto our balcony a bit later, I continued to hear honking, so I went back to the parking deck, which has a better view.  I heard some chanting.  Was there some kind of demonstration in the Arts Park?

My spouse and I decided to go see.  Lo and behold, there was quite a gathering:

There was a presentation from the stage, mostly in Ukrainian.  

There were people draped in Ukrainian flags and wearing sky blue and yellow:

I saw a wide variety of signs.  I did wonder if they were all saying the same things.  The "Choose Peace" and "No war" signs--what did they suggest that Ukraine do?  Or was it about the U.S. not sending troops?  I did not engage in this kind of conversation.

I was most enchanted by the art project.  People brought sidewalk chalk for the children and the children got right to work decorating the pavement.

As I watched the festivities/protest, my mind went back to the discussion post I wrote earlier.  I thought about writing an additional post to talk about the street theatre that I was seeing, but I decided against that path.

Still, I thought of my professor's question as I walked back through the empty Arts Park this morning.  I went out for my walk and felt a few sprinkles, and I knew the chalk marks wouldn't last for long.  I walked through the pleas for peace, the flowers and the flags, the vow to stand with Ukraine.  As I prayed (for peace, for wisdom, for courage), I thought of the promises of some of the ancient prophets, like this one, in Isaiah 61: 4:

"They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generatio

Saturday, February 26, 2022

The Urge to Knit Socks on the Second Day

On Friday night, I wrote this Facebook post which I then shortened into a tweet:  "I have this strange urge to knit socks for the war effort. I realize that there is no such war effort yet, and that there are factory produced socks that will be much better for any war effort yet to come than anything that I can knit. But still, the urge to knit is strong--and I prefer to crochet, so I find it even stranger that I have a yearning to knit."

Various friends responded to remind me of the other things I might knit/crochet for other populations that need care, or other ways, like planting seeds, I could show defiant hope in the face of geopolitical madness.  Indeed, we did contribute to a fundraising campaign of a teenager that we know at church who is raising funds for further schooling.  Later this week-end, I will give money to Lutheran World Relief, as I always do, when there's a crisis.

But giving money seems like such a small thing to do, even as I know that money to assist refugees will be important.  I realize that no one needs the lumpy socks I would create, but it would keep my hands busy.  I am not going to fly to Europe to make my way east to fight.  I am a middle-aged woman with arthritic feet and limited ability with weapons.  I am not going to be the freedom fighter/spy who defeats Vladimir Putin; I do not have that level of skill or beauty.

Of course, it's not going to be a "normal" war, whatever that means.  It will not be won with socks or victory gardens or spies who pass secrets--maybe.  In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman says, "This is the first war that will be covered on TikTok by super-empowered individuals armed only with smartphones, so acts of brutality will be documented and broadcast worldwide without any editors or filters. On the first day of the war, we saw invading Russian tank units unexpectedly being exposed by Google maps, because Google wanted to alert drivers that the Russian armor was causing traffic jams."

Last night we went to the top floor of the parking garage to watch the sun set.  My spouse brought his violin, and I brought our copy of With One Voice, which has the music to "Dona Nobis Pacem."  I thought of people playing their instruments in the  rubble of past cities torn apart by war (Sarajevo?  Did it really happen or was it a scene from a movie?).  I watched people leaving their offices and other people arriving for Friday night festivities.  My spouse played his violin, I prayed, and the sun set on the second day of this war-like situation.  

Friday, February 25, 2022

On the First Day of a Land War in Europe

Let me capture some vignettes from the first day of a full scale invasion of a sovereign nation in Europe; Russia invaded Ukraine in a hot war kind of way yesterday.  Years from now, we may look back on these hours/days/weeks as the last or the first of some sort of new world order/ruins of old world order.  

--Periodically throughout the day yesterday, I looked at the brilliant blue sky with its beautiful cloud sculptures.  I thought of ICBMs and wondered where Russia has them pointed these days.  I can still sing all the words to Sting's "Russians," or at least the refrain.  Does Putin have children?  Can you imagine having Putin as your dad?

--My friend sent me this message:  "I wish I could come over and we could have tea and bake things and not be in wwIII"; I responded, "I can arrange tea and baking but there may only be 1 man who can help with the decision not to go towards WWIII--and I don't think Putin shares our love of tea and baking."  I spent the rest of the day thinking about tea and scones with Putin and remembering a different song composed by Sting, "Tea in the Sahara."  

--My friend and I also shared an interesting exchange about women in previous world wars, plucky women in war rooms, and what would that look like today?

--I thought about electromagnetic pulses and all the ways our data can be destroyed.  I asked my spouse if we should take a screen shot of our bank balance page, print it out, and save it.  My spouse told me about the special nuclear weapon that Russia has that will do something to the stratosphere and wipe out humanity immediately.  I said, "So I'm hearing you say we don't need to bother printing proof of our bank balance?"

--My spouse wrote his thesis for his MA in Philosophy on the morality of the ambiguous bluff in a world of nuclear weapons.  It may have been the last academic writing to refer to the Soviet Union, which was coming apart in those days, but no one could have imagined this world we currently inhabit.

--I had an appointment with my spiritual director yesterday, who lives in Cutler Bay, which is about 45 miles from my house.  What if Putin did something spectacularly stupid?  I decided to make the trip; if Putin is going to do something so spectacularly stupid that I am stranded and have to walk home, it probably won't be on the first day of the invasion of Ukraine.

--It was a fruitful appointment.  I'm glad I went.  I'm glad I made it home.

--I listened to a bit of Biden's press conference.  I thought about all the Russian investment in the South Florida area.  So far, no analysts have thought about what sanctions might mean for the real estate market, at least no analysts that I've read/heard.  If the bottom falls out of the real estate market, I predicted it here first.

--My spouse cooked while I was away.  He took a can of coconut milk, reduced it, and made a spectacular sauce for our rainbow trout that I got in the freezer case of Trader Joes.  I bought the fish months ago, when an actual invasion of Ukraine seemed like a very remote possibility. 

--My sister called to try to figure out which nuclear war movie from the 80's she was remembering.  I am inordinately proud of the fact that I was able to tell her.

--It is strange to discover that normal life continues in the face of a land war in Europe:  dishes must be washed, and I had class to attend last night.  Before I settled in front of my computer, we went to the parking deck, to the top floor that is open to the sky.  From our perch seven stories above the city streets, we watched the sun set.  We sang "Dona Nobis Pacem."

--I will continue to sing that prayer for peace, today and every day.

Thursday, February 24, 2022


It looks like the invasion of Ukraine is underway.  In some ways, I'm not surprised.  Putin is not a subtle man, and he's been pretty clear about his intent.  In some ways, I'm shaking my head and saying, "Wait.  We're not done with the global pandemic part of the apocalyptic narrative.  Now we're moving to a land war in Europe?  In Europe????"

In the face of this bad news, it seems a bit frivolous to write about a piece of good news that I got yesterday:  I got a scholarship to help with my seminary studies!  But I will have plenty of time to write about Ukraine.  I don't know that I'll get a scholarship on a regular basis, so let me take a moment and preserve this piece of good news.

It's a scholarship for seminary students offered by WELCA (Women of the ELCA, the largest, most liberal branch of Lutherans in the U.S.).  In the days to come, the group will let me know how much they will be giving me, once they know how much money they have to distribute.  

It's not a scholarship based on need, and it's not really based on merit, although one must have a certain amount of merit to be in a seminary program.  I see it as affirmation, and I'm grateful for it.

I almost didn't apply.  I had written myself notes, and still, the Dec. 15 deadline snuck up on me.  And then, the PDF wouldn't let me fill in the various fields.  I answered one question, and all the question boxes auto-filled with the answer.

So I filled in the application in a more old-fashioned way.  I didn't write by hand, although I was tempted.  I filled out one box, printed the form, filled out another field, printed, and so on.  And then I literally cut and pasted the answers onto a new form.

I wasn't sure I was really eligible.  I'm affiliated with a Lutheran seminary, but I'm taking classes at a Methodist seminary.  My church had a WELCA group that came to a screeching halt with the start of the pandemic, and we haven't really gotten it restarted.  Indeed, we're still pivoting back to remote worship on a regular basis.  But I decided to answer the questions honestly in my application and let the people in charge decide if I was eligible.

Yesterday I got the news that I was eligible and that I was one of three applicants to get a scholarship.  Hurrah!  And then I settled back into seminary studies.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

World Orders and Ancient Prophets

Almost an hour ago, I wrote this tweet:  "Thinking about geopolitical conflicts of my youth, watching young versions of old rock stars in 'Sun City' video, thinking about Reagan and constructive engagement, looking at a map of Ukraine/E. Europe, feeling doomed, writing blog posts into the void/madness."

But I have yet to actually write a blog post.  I have toggled between opinion/analysis pieces and old videos:  "Sun City," "Silver and Gold," and "No Easy Walk to Freedom," with a side trip to "El Salvador," a Peter, Paul, and Mary gem that I had forgotten.  I have resisted the temptation to revisit old videos, like The Day After, although the last line of Timothy Snyder's piece in The Atlantic made me want to do just that (his lines:  "The creativity and historical awareness of the Biden administration has made war costlier for Russia. Of course, there might be another level to consider: that the mobilization (or even an invasion) is meant to divert our attention from something else.").

I have heard the drumbeats of war, and I've heard every analyst declare that we will not send U.S. youths to die for Ukraine.  I've heard these similar sentiments my whole life.  What that really means is that we'll be careful not to show the images of caskets on TV.

I read this article in The New York Times which includes a very useful map of Eastern Europe and Russia, and I've thought, we're doomed.  In the days before George H. W. Bush's excursion to protect Kuwait, I went out to put gas in my car.  In these days of underemployment, I don't drive much, so I don't really need gas.  As I've been on my morning and afternoon walks, I've listened to accents, and I'm realizing how much more I'm hearing accents from Eastern Europe than from Latin America.  My pattern-making mind wants to see the larger picture.

I want to believe that saner minds will prevail, but I look at Putin and I see the bad boyfriends and abusive husbands that are the worst kind of afflictions for female safety.  He looks out and sees a world of enemies.  Here's another gem from Timothy Snyder's piece:  "However that may be, the habit of provocation might be making it harder for Putin to read the outside world. Just because you live in a house of mirrors does not mean that you can find the exit."

I think about the nuclear weapons, and I know that if we have nuclear exchanges of any size, these past two years of pandemic will look like a time of bliss.  But I also know that there have been many other times when my fearful brain has thought about the possibility of apocalypse, and the world walked back from that brink.

May we be at a similar time, backing away from this precipice.  

Now I will go for my walk as if the world isn't hanging by a slender thread.  I will do my seminary homework due today analyzing Paul's letter to the Galatians.  I will then turn to my project that asks us to consider the ancient Hebrew prophets and the role of the prophet today.  That project could go in so many ways.  I will let the drumbeats of war remind me to pray throughout today.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Ponderings on Presidents Day

Some assorting ponderings on Presidents Day--will they hold together as a post?  Yes.  As an extended essay?  Probably not, hence the format.

--While I like having less traffic on a Monday morning walk, I feel this odd resentment.  As an underemployed person, if everyone has a work day off, one of the benefits of underemployment seems to disappear.  Happily it will return tomorrow.

--Does this Ukraine tension underscore the need for strong presidential leadership or show the futility of wishing for it?

--Anne Applebaum's essay headline in The Atlantic sums up Ukraine nicely (accurately?):  "There Are No Chamberlains in this Story:  But there are no Churchills, either. And Ukraine will fight alone."  The bleakness of this headline makes me feel a piercing sorrow.  You can read the whole essay here.

--Why would any gathering of foreign leaders happen in Munich ever again?  The symbolism and the optics seem impossibly bad.  Of course, that might change, depending on if this week-end's meeting accomplishes something we can't see right now.

--The older I get, the more I realize that people in leadership positions are by and large, just regular folks, thrust into leadership position.  Maybe they have special skills.  Maybe they will rise to the occasion.  Maybe not.

--I understand why we want a president who will save us.  But viewed one way, there have been very few political leaders who were able to pull that off. 

--It's more likely that history will be made by groups of ordinary people, people not in charge on a national level, people making change on a regular basis.

--And we'll only remember if we have people who are writing it all down and/or recording those efforts in some way.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

The Unemployment Benefits Application Process

I did not plan to apply for unemployment benefits yesterday.  I planned to apply eventually, but I had plenty of time, since my last day of pay was Feb. 18.  But I finally got onto the website, so I decided to start the process just to see if it was as hard as I had heard.

I have never met anyone who said that the website was easy to navigate, and just to figure out which website was the actual one was no small thing.  In fact, I still wonder if I was in the right spot.

Applying for unemployment benefits wasn't as hard as verifying my identity.  I needed to upload pictures of my driver's license, and I tried with every camera in the house, including my computer camera, but I still got a "too blurry" message.  I needed to let my computer camera take a close up of my face, and I tried that several times.  Finally, the site decided I would need to have video call to verify my identity.

Would it have been easier if I had a smartphone to do all of this?  Maybe.  Would I have felt less secure using a smartphone?  Yes.

So, then I needed to upload the same documents in a different spot, which I did, and wait for a video call.  I waited ten minutes, and then got a message that I would get a follow up e-mail.  Twenty minutes later I got an e-mail that told me that I was now clear for the video call.  I clicked the button that took me to a waiting room, where I was told I would have a waiting time of an hour and 27 minutes, which is exactly the amount of time it took.

During this time I did some other tasks.  I got some grading done, the kind that doesn't take as much mental energy, like discussion posts.  I did not do seminary work, because I wasn't sure when I might be interrupted.  In retrospect, I could have done more, but the morning didn't feel like a total waste of time.

Finally, I got notice that my wait time was over.  I had five minutes to click on a button to start the video call.  Happily, I was at the computer at the time.  The video call went smoothly, and I was able to make my way back to the website where I was able to apply for unemployment.  

The actual application was fairly easy, especially since I had my tax documents in a pile beside my desk (getting taxes done is another one of my big projects).  I did finish the submission, but I do feel a bit uneasy because I didn't get a chance to do a final review.  I will keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best.  And if I get turned down, I can appeal.

I had heard all sorts of reports about how the unemployment process in Florida is unnecessarily hard, and it's true.  There are no offices where one can get help.  One must have a computer.  The website is clunky.  The website didn't want to accept my documents, but maybe that was because every camera in my house was inadequate.  I know that I'm lucky in many ways:  I was applying in a slow time, and I have resources.  Plus, I have all my documents.  In fact, I had downloaded all my paystubs, just in case, but so far I haven't needed them.

Fingers crossed that I get the benefits I'm entitled to have, since I was let go through no fault of my own.  I didn't get much else done yesterday, since the process took from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., but getting that done felt like enough of an accomplishment for an overcast Saturday in February.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Saturday Doubts

I am in a bit of a funk this morning.  Yesterday morning, I was having fun, thinking of my approach to this seminary assignment:

Pretend that you are Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Colbert, Maria Bartiromo, Tavis Smiley or some other TV/radio host and you are going to interview the prophet Jeremiah on your show. What question would you ask him and why? How do you think he might answer that question and why? Be creative AND be sure to include texts/quotes from Jeremiah and information from the assigned readings to support your points as either the interviewer or Jeremiah. 

But this morning, I am second guessing myself.

I spent much of yesterday afternoon working on a video.  I typed out the script I planned to follow, and then I spent some time practicing.  I knew that 4 minutes max was the guideline for the time we had, so I wanted to be sure.

I must have done at least 20 videos--grrr.  In a way, though, it was a plus, because I had the script mostly memorized by the time I did the final take.

What's got me in my funk right now is that the final take doesn't have to be the final take.  I did already submit it to the Discussion thread, but I could submit another version.  I have spent the past few hours thinking of how I could have done it differently.  

I have also spent some time thinking about the video that I was planning yesterday morning and what I ended up with.  I had this idea for costume changes, but I gave up on that.  In the end, when Jeremiah talked, I had on a pair of sunglasses; I took them off for the announcer speaking.

I tried to walk a line between explaining too much and leaving some things unexplained.  For example, I wrote lines for Jeremiah when asked about Jeremiah and God having lunch on a regular basis:

"You were expecting what? A burning bush? That would upset my neighbors. Sure, we have lunch. There’s a great kosher deli that you should check out before you leave. They have the best strudel. It’s like the word of the Lord made into pastry."

I didn't explain that Jeremiah had a vision of eating the words of God.  Was I too subtle?

I did do what the assignment required in terms of referring to the book of Jeremiah and the readings and lecture videos.  Did I do enough to to explain the why of the question? I no longer know.

I could spend the morning creating an alternate version and not be any more reassured.  I like my final video, but I do see all the ways it could be better.  I know that I could spend the whole morning and not end up with something that would take away all my doubts.

And here is the larger issue:  I have other seminary work to do.  This discussion post is not a larger project.  I know that on one level, I'm overthinking it.  On another level, I am still so unsure of my ability to deliver what my professor wants, particularly when it comes to video.  I am much more comfortable with my writing skills.

I will likely leave my effort as it is and trust that it will be O.K.  Time to move along.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Creative Writing in Seminary

I've been enjoying my seminary writing, even though it's not exactly the kind of writing I would be doing anyway.  Wesley Theological Seminary has created an exegesis template which has elements of what I've done before, like the background of me as a reader, combined with tasks I've never done, like analyzing some of the Greek words.  Much of our theological writing follows that template, or it's more like a response or class homework that I wouldn't be writing for a blog post.

This week, I've been enjoying the chance to do some creative writing.  Here's our assignment for Hebrew Bible class:

Pretend that you are Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Colbert, Maria Bartiromo, Tavis Smiley or some other TV/radio host and you are going to interview the prophet Jeremiah on your show. What question would you ask him and why? How do you think he might answer that question and why? Be creative AND be sure to include texts/quotes from Jeremiah and information from the assigned readings to support your points as either the interviewer or Jeremiah. 

I'm part of the half of class that has to do a video, but past experience has showed me that having a script is a good idea, so I'm writing it out.  Fun!

I am also planning a creative project for my Speaking of God in a Secular Age class.  Yesterday, I made this proposal:


The syllabus says that we can propose a creative project in lieu of a critical essay, and I have a proposal.

Several years ago, I read this interview with the poet Jericho Brown.  I was intrigued by his description of how he wrote his duplexes:


PP: It's so interesting to hear you mention this process. As I was reading, I was definitely curious about the form’s origin story.JB: With all my poems, and with the duplexes especially, but with all my poems, I really just try to use everything I have. I really want to imagine a world in which we have everything we need. And if I can imagine that world in my poems, I hope I can make that world come true in real life. People talk about what they do in their writing day or what they do with their writing time. One of the things that I’m doing is I’m really excavating lines that go back. There are lines in "The Tradition" that go as far back as 1999, and I’m going back and looking at all of those lines and trying to put them together, trying to use what I couldn’t use before because I should know now. I should be a better poet now than I was then, and yet, even then I was a poet and therefore, I had lines that worked. I just didn’t know how to make them work in a poem.So that’s how the duplexes were made. I quite literally took every line that I had ever written in a poem that didn’t work, or every line that wasn’t yet in a poem that was 9-11 syllables long, and I put them all in a file. I printed them out. I cut them up. And I started working with them as little slips of paper.


Back to me:

When I first read that interview, I wanted to try that technique; I, too, am a poet with lots of lines in lots of poems that never came to fruition.  I love the idea of printing the lines, cutting them out, and arranging them to see how they speak to each other.  So far, I have never tried his approach, so this class seems like a great opportunity to do that.  I would also be happy to write a process paper to go along with the poem sequence to explain my approach and how I experienced the creative process.

I propose that I will create 15-25 duplexes, each line 9-12 syllables, each duplex 14 lines long.  In an ideal world, they would speak to each other and hold together as a small collection, a chapbook of poems.  But even if they don't work as a chapbook collection, the process of creating the series will be valuable.  Since the work of Jericho Brown features prominently in this course, this creative approach will give me an even greater appreciation for his work and what he has accomplished.

I am open to modifying this proposal, and I look forward to your input. 


My teacher responded:


I love this idea! But 15–25 duplexes is an ambition target. I would suggest 5 as it's a very complex and challenging form, and I will ask you to also write a theological reflection on the process of writing them. Let's touch base soon about details.


I feel like the luckiest seminary student in the whole world!

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Transformations and Tiredness

Yesterday was one of those strange up and down days.  Here's a metaphor:  I made pumpkin butter, the full recipe, which means I have more pumpkin butter than I will eat over the next few weeks.  So I decided to transform some of it into pumpkin bread.  It was a decent experiment, edible, but missing something that I couldn't articulate.

I got some seminary work done yesterday, but I am never as far along as I would like to be.  There are always tasks that need to be done.

I managed to get access to the HR site where my pay stubs from my former full-time job are housed, and while I had the access, I decided to download them all.  That took a bit of time.  It will be valuable, when I apply for unemployment benefits.  But there was something mind numbing about it.

Similarly, in the early afternoon, I got information about married student housing at Wesley Theological Seminary, and I had a nice phone chat with the Director of Residence Life.  She sent a document that has pictures of a 1 bedroom apartment, and she said that in her 7 years of being in the Residence Life department, they've never had to turn students away.

The apartment looks about what I expected:  a bit spartan, with sturdy furniture like one might find in a dorm or at camp.  Our current furniture is a bit scruffy, so on the one hand, it won't be an adjustment.  On the other hand, it's a bit spartan.

I went to the site to see what other kinds of apartments are available in the seminary zip code.  As I suspected, the seminary is a good deal in terms of money.  It's a good deal because the apartments haven't been updated.  But it's not like I've spent a majority of my adult life in ultra sleek, modern versions of kitchens and bathrooms.

The process of seeing what's available in other apartments was draining in the way that internet searching can be.  There's something attractive about being on the campus, after all.  But getting an unfurnished apartment at Wesley is not an option.  I am happy to get rid of most of our furniture.  but we may want to keep enough of it that we would have storage costs or a cramped space.

My spouse and I ended the afternoon by playing Yahtzee on the balcony as the rain swept in and swept out and swept in again.  There was sadness at the thought of not having a balcony in DC.  There was happiness knowing that we no longer own a house in a flood zone.  There was tiredness, both the good kind and the less good kind.

Let me go for a walk and greet this new day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Bits and Pieces from the First Thirteen Days of Underemployment

A week ago underemployment was fairly new to me.  It's still fairly new to me.  Let me write down a few notes that likely aren't substantive enough for a single blog post, but are worth remembering.

--There are still days when I feel startled, like I'm supposed to be in the office, but I forgot to go to work.  There are still days when I'm a bit disoriented here and there, but it quickly passes.

--I do not miss clocking in.  I have not had to clock in since the Reagan administration, and I never got used to it.

--I still have plenty of work to do with my online classes that I'm teaching and my seminary classes that I'm taking.  It's wonderful to be able to do that work in the order that makes sense to me and not to have to squeeze all of that in around a job that requires an office presence for 45+ hours a week.  It's wonderful not to commute.

--It's easy to feel wonderful right now.  My last day is Feb. 18, so I still have health insurance and a paycheck.  Will I feel differently when I'm paying the full cost of health insurance without my old salary to support all my expenses?

--Last night, before my virtual synchronous seminary class, some of my students talked about finding out the our professor is part of a nearby church service (giving the sermon?) on Sunday.  A group of them are planning to go.  I felt a pang about being so far away--but that pang is cushioned by knowing that we are planning to be there by fall.

--Today I will call Wesley Theological Seminary and get more concrete information about married student housing.

--It is delightful to have time to cook, especially on days that would have been heavy with meetings if I was still employed at the full-time job.  Last week, I made lemon muffins.  This week I'll take the pumpkin butter that I made and experiment with turning it into pumpkin bread.  My pumpkin butter recipe is essentially cans of pumpkin, spices, and sugar.  Next week, I'll try turning pumpkin butter into a ricotta cake.

--My pumpkin butter recipe makes WAY too much for one household, and I make it so seldom, that I always forget.

--I am delighting in lunch dates with friends.  It's good to reconnect with people, while at the same time sad to realize how unconnected I had become.

--I do like having time to walk, although there are days when I feel like Dorothy Wordsworth.  Of course, a life of long walks, cooking, and journaling about it all does not seem like a bad deal to me.

--I am reminded of a friend who was reading a biography of Wordsworth and came away convinced that British citizens in England had gobs more time in the early 19th century regardless of social status,  She may be right. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Field Notes

When I was a child, one of my favorite books was Harriet the Spy. I would have had the book with the  cover that looked like this one I found in a Wikipedia article: 

I saw Harriet both as inspiration and cautionary tale.  I wanted to keep a notebook of observations, the way that she did, but the 1970's suburbs of Montgomery, Alabama did not lend themselves to the same kind of field notes that Harriet kept in the city of New York.  I didn't want to make notes about my classmates; even as I read about Harriet's exploits, I knew that nothing good would come of writing snarky and mean comments about one's classmates.

Still, there's something compelling about the process of keeping a field journal of sorts.  Years ago, one of my friends had a teenage girl who took her old canoe out on one of the tiny lakes that is part lake, part drainage area.  Every day, she sat in her canoe and made notes about the birds she saw, about the plants that grew, about the water quality.  Here, too, I wanted to follow her example, but I didn't have a lake or a canoe.

Yesterday, I sat down to make sense of an assignment for my Spiritual Formation for Ministry seminary class.  A large part of this class trains us to be neutral observers, which is not as easy as it might sound.  We observe without judging, without making suggestions, without imposing meaning.  And you might ask, like my spouse did, why it's important for ministry, and I would have trouble explaining, but some part of me understands, even as I can't put it into words.

In a non-pandemic world, we would be given a social service type agency and observe them at work.  Because we're taking the course online during a pandemic, our task is to go to any setting that's easy for us and make observations.  We are to do this several different times and to use one of the approaches in the resources for this module. We could approach the task from a quantitative angle:  counting and categorizing.  We could map the location--seating charts or traditional maps.  We could listen to conversations.  We could do something more prayerful and/or meditative:  lectio vicinitas.   

I decided to use this opportunity to get out of the condo and take a walk around the Arts Park across the street.  So yesterday at 1:43 p.m., I took my small, red notebook and walked the perimeter of the park.  It was Valentine's Day, so I saw couples having a picnic in the middle of the day.  I saw teenagers sequestered beneath some playground equipment.  I saw kids on bikes, and I saw more stuffed animals than I expected, fewer real animals.

It was fun to take notes in my notebook, although the making meaning part of my brain kept trying to interpret:  why so many police?  Why so many teenagers on a school day?  Where were the birds?  Why so much traffic on Highway 1 which circles the park?    What would the founder of the city think about all these tall condo buildings that now ring the park that has a dedication to him?

The creative writing part of my brain wanted to make poems and stories.  The good girl part of my brain wondered if anyone wondered what this middle-aged white woman was doing as she walked the park and took notes.

I thought of Harriet the Spy and all the characters, both fictional and real, who have spent so much time keeping a field journal.  When I was a child, reading about those characters, it seemed so easy.  In a way, it is.  In other ways, it is not.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Love and Holidays Manufactured from Feast Days

Here's one of those strange feast days, a feast day that's more popular in the general culture than it is in the church culture that pays attention to saints and their days. 

To me, this feast day has morphed into a festival that is essentially a manufactured holiday, yet another one, designed to make us feel like we must spend gobs and gobs of money to demonstrate our love.

Every day, ideally, should be Valentine's Day, a day in which we try to remind our loved ones how much we care--and not by buying flowers, dinners out, candy, and jewelry. The past two pandemic years should serve as stark reminder that we don't know how much time we have left to let the people we love know that we love them.

Valentine's Day is traditionally a good day for love poems, so let me post one here.  It's one of the ones I read in 2009, when I was chosen to read love poems at the Library of Congress.  I had to submit 5 poems; two of them could be mine, and three had to be from three other poets.  It was a lunch reading, free, and about 75 people came.  It was clear from the way that they were dressed that most of them were on their lunch break--lots of suits and professional outfits.  The event was near Valentine's Day, hence the love poem theme.

And now, soon, I may be back in D.C., living there for a year or two or three while I finish my MDiv degree at Wesley Theological Seminary.  Soon, I, too, can go enjoy poems on my lunch break.  I will leave the poem the way that it is, although the reference to my 15th wedding anniversary shocks me.  We will celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary this August.  That sentence, too, shocks me.  Am I really this old?  Am I really this lucky?

The Art of Marriage

I am tempted to say, as everyone says,
“Marriage is hard work.” And everyone leaves
the matter at that, as if all is explained.
Hard work—evokes factory lines and mind numbing
routine, which marriage can certainly be: the factory
work of the same old argument that a couple has at least once
a quarter, as dull and repetitive as bolting
part after part to automobile after automobile.

Thankfully, my marriage doesn’t involve
much of that kind of work. Some years, the work of marriage
breaks my back, like clearing land for a garden.
I lie awake and sweat out possible solutions
to our problems, how to keep the family fed
and sustained until the present trauma subsides.
And if I can endure the pain, the flowers
bloom beautifully, and our love feeds on fresh vegetables.

Too often, if I’m not careful, my marriage resembles
the kind of work most of my friends do.
They show up at an office, keep their seats warm
for the requisite hours, and claim their paychecks.
Nothing heartbreaking, but no passion either.
A companionable way to fill the hours.

At its best, marriage is an art form,
the musician bent over the instrument,
the artist splattered with paint,
the poet drunk with words.
I submerge myself in my art,
lose track of time, and look up to celebrate
my fifteenth anniversary.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Dispatches from a Disordered Planet

Today will bring us the warmest Super Bowl ever--highs are forecast to be in the mid to high 80's in L.A. today, and there is a heat advisory and a Super Bowl there.  Just another dispatch from a disordered planet.

Of course, I say it's a disordered planet because I've been alive for awhile, and I remember Super Bowl Sunday where we could serve chili and not need to turn the AC on.  I went out onto our balcony just now, at 5 a.m., and it's humid, no wind, like a summer morning with a temp already in the 70's down here in South Florida.  It's mid-February, and we've had about 3 chilly mornings, and it's occurred to me that we might not be getting any more this winter.  Sigh.

I think of the population 100 years from now, people who will be amazed that we could play a huge football game so close to the traitorous coast, people who will see highs in the 80's as temperate, not hot.  I heard a news report yesterday about the millions of dollars that a Super Bowl ad costs.  Will those costs continue to rise?  Will populations 100 years from now look back and be astonished at what companies paid for ad time and be amazed that so many of us cared?

I heard a podcast yesterday that talked about inflation, not the inflation of Super Bowl ads, but regular inflation.  One of the podcasters said, "Inflation has never been this high in our lifetimes."  I thought, easy, there, youngster, of course it has.  I remember gas lines both from childhood (early 1970s) and teenage years (early 1980's), and I know that steak cost more then than it does now.  When we bought our first house in 1993, we got an interest rate of 7%, and I said, "We will never have interest rates this low again."  The house we just sold had a mortgage with an interest rate of 3.9%.

We had gotten used to super low prices and supply chains that could deliver us goods the next day, and we had gotten good at not realizing how fragile it all was.  Another type of dispatch from a disordered planet.

I think back to a presentation at the onground intensive in January at Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC.  I think about the presentation by the man who created  Axiom Farms. They have all sorts of initiatives to reach out to underserved, minority populations, to bring them healthier food and information about how to grow one's food and most importantly, to inspire people to have hope. They have created a garden on the grounds of the seminary. There's plenty of room--the seminary sits back from the road, and between the buildings and the road is a huge expanse of lawn. 

During the presentation, the man said, "We can grow everything we need right here!"  He said it as if it was a revelation, but I was thinking of how once we would have said that in a matter-of-fact way about much of the east coast and midwest.  Will that still be true 100 years from now?  How much of the east coast will be under water literally?

I heard that tone of wonder and amazement:  "We can grow everything we need right here."  As we moved towards future days on our disordered planet, that seems like an important consideration when choosing our next place to live, much more important than how much inflation will make the value of the home price rise.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Possible Pilgramage

Thursday, I made this Facebook post:

"One of my seminary requirements requires credits in intercultural immersion, either done overseas or in the U.S. I just found out that in May of 2023, 2 of my professors will be leading an intercultural immersion trip to France where we will spend some time in Paris to recover from jet lag and then continue on to spend a week being part of the Taize community. The flyer says, 'Immerse yourself in monastic life at one of the world's most iconic sites of Christian pilgrimage.' Yes please!"

Immediately, many of my friends wrote to make sure that I knew that I should go.  Here is one of my favorites, from a friend I made through an online journaling class, a friend who had a similar seminary journey at midlife:  "I jumped on every chance to go somewhere as ‘intercultural’ work. I learned so much and met cool people. And i asked for credit for a trip to language school in Guatemala, and got it by journaling and reading some interesting books. Did you ever imagine what time and doors could open to you as you set out on this journey? Enjoy."

I found out about the opportunity because one of my seminary professors sent an e-mail of invitation to the whole class.  My first thought was that I couldn't go in May--and then I realized it's May of 2023.  Now, I could go in May of 2022, as I think about it; there's no full-time job keeping me here.  But it's easier to plan for May of 2023.

I hope to get class credit, but even if that's not possible, the trip itself seems reasonable in terms of anticipated cost:  $3,200 (Includes airfare, ground transport to/from Taize, meals, 3 nights stay in Paris, and the stay in Taize).  Even if I have to pay more to get class credit, it still seems reasonable.  I realize that I'm lucky; it seems reasonable because I have resources.  We've sold our house, so I have resources and fewer responsibilities.

I am also lucky in that I really love all of my seminary professors so far.  I completely trust their ability to lead this kind of trip and to make it even more worthwhile than it would be if I went on my own.  And I also feel lucky in that I really think that one of them meant it when she wrote to me, "I hope you can come!"

I hope so too.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Enchantment, Sweaters, Poetry, Portals of All Sorts

This morning, I wrote a poem.  You might say, "Of course you did.  You're a poet."  But I'm a poet who does more writing in other genres these days:  blog posts, e-mails, seminary writing, social media updates.  I've been here before, so I no longer fret.  I know that Poetry Kristin is always there, observing, making connections, tucking details away for later poems.  Poetry Kristin can outwait everything that competes with poetry for my attention.

I always feel like I am not having much luck creating whole poems, but this line came to me this morning, as I was getting a sweater out of the back of a closet and wishing I had a door to Narnia back there: we pass our planetary wealth in sweaters. I sat with this line--and these ideas of enchantment, sweaters, closets, cheap junk jewelry, portals of all sorts--and I slowly began to see a poem shimmering through.

Who needs a portal to Narnia when a poem shimmers in the pre-dawn?

I tend to think that I'm not writing poems, but my poetry legal pad tells a different tale.  The last time I wrote a poem was January 31--not that long ago, especially considering that was the week that I was severed from my job.

It seems so long ago, but it was only last week.

One of the joys of the Religion and the Arts class that I'm taking in seminary this term is that each class includes a close reading of a poem.  I have done close readings of poems many times, of course.  I've led close readings of poems during decades as a teacher.  But what a treat to return to it again, and with a community that knows the importance of poetry, of close readings, of knowing that art and literature can inform the theology readings we are doing.

Poetry Kristin smiles, knowing that this work too will nourish her.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Self Care and Cooking

Yesterday was a rainy day, which was delightful for me.  My spouse headed off to do his in-person teaching after doing his online teaching in our living room.  I sprung into action.  I had a vision for dinner:  a quiche and lemon yogurt muffins.  I decided to make the pie crust from scratch, which is not one of my strong suits.

I made this FB post, which I shortened into a Tweet; this detail will be important later:

"On today's docket: cooking as self-care. I will make pumpkin butter to spread on toasted slices of homemade bread, lemon yogurt muffins, and a quiche for tonight. Yes, I am still making the food that I first learned to make from Mollie Katzen's "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest Cookbook." But decades later, I no longer need to consult a recipe."

Even before I started baking, I knew that I might not have any muffin pans.  Once I had 2 pans that made 12 muffins.  I knew that one had rusted beyond repair in the post-hurricane Irma flooding.  I thought back to my summer sorting.  Would I have given the other one to Good Will? I can see myself scoffing at the idea that I would ever have time to make muffins again. I can see myself pledging allegiance to my loaf pans.  Happily, I kept the small loaf tins, and they worked perfectly.

As I talked about yesterday, I was happy not to be on campus on a Wednesday.  Near 11:00, I made this FB post:  

"In a few minutes, my colleagues at the school that severed me will go to their weekly Campus Directors' video meeting on Teams. That meeting will last at least 90 minutes. Meanwhile, I am about to bite into a fragrant lemon loaf, fresh and hot from my home oven. Ahhhhhh."

At the end of the day, I hadn't made the pumpkin butter, but we did have quiche, roasted broccoli, and lemon muffins for dinner.  Actually, I didn't eat the lemon muffins.  I had eaten my fill earlier in the day.
After I got flour all over the kitchen, I swept and mopped the floors, which was something I had planned to do even before I knew that I would be baking.

Just before my evening seminary small group, I went back to check on Twitter.  Much to my delight, Mollie Katzen had responded to my tweet!!!  I made this FB post:

"I took the post below about what I would cook today, and what cookbook inspired it, and I turned it into a tweet, tagging the cookbook author Mollie Katzen. SHE RESPONDED TO MY TWEET!!!! She wrote, 'Perfect, all of this.' It's the modern day fan letter--and I got a response!!!"

Back in 1982, my mom gave me The Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook for Christmas;  it was the cookbook that most shaped me.  I am so glad that Mollie Katzen is still alive, still doing good in the world and responding to fan-girl tweets that tag her.  I am so glad that I am still able to cook that kind of food, that I can practice self-care in these underemployment days, in the form of cooking.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Lunch with Friends and Other Dreams of the Future

In these past few days of underemployment, let me record a few impressions that aren't substantial enough to warrant a whole post, but which I want to remember:

--I have realized that I now have time for lunch with friends.  In 2016 when I went to what was then my new job, I was amazed that no one ever went to lunch--not with each other, not with friends from other parts of life, not with professional contacts.  I suspect that few of us even ate lunch.  When people would come to my office to find me eating, they often apologized profusely, which led me to believe that few of us ate.

--At the time, I was not a campus director.  I did wonder if it would be possible to change the culture of the campus, but I did not feel brave enough to move that way on my own.  I did continue to eat lunch and snacks at my desk, but I rarely met a friend for lunch elsewhere.  When I did meet someone off campus, I always felt the clock ticking.

--In the position that I was just severed from, I sensed some of the campus culture changing in ways that made me sad.  The odyssey of the library is one that I could offer in this public place.  When I arrived in 2016, the campus had the smallest library I've ever seen, in terms of the number of books on the shelf.  But the library itself had a good vibe, with 8 computers and a glassed off study/tutoring/testing room with more computers.  We had a huge collection of electronic resources and opportunities.  We had a full-time staff person.  We had a credentialed librarian who came to campus twice a week.  When I left, there had been talk of not having a library at all, which was the preference of the new owner, or putting it in a computer lab, or transforming the smallest room on campus into the library.  When I left, the Allied Health lab was doing double duty as a computer lab, and the plan was to move Allied Health supplies out of the cabinets, take the doors of the cabinets, and put the books in there.

--Again, I am so happy that I will not be there when the accreditation visit happens in late March. 

--On Monday, I didn't feel as relieved not to be at work as some people might on a Monday.  Mondays on our campus used to be slow days, a slow re-entry from week-end to work.  Today I am relieved not to be at work.  Wednesdays are the most hectic days on campus, with classes in every room.  The day for me was broken up by a mid-day meeting with people from multiple campuses, and as a result, the meetings were long, and not every item seemed relevant to me.

--Once those meetings were every other week, and we decided to have them every week so that they wouldn't be as long.  It may or may not surprise you to find out that they were every bit as long.

--Yesterday, instead of my usual mid-morning snack of two slices of homemade bread toasted, I made myself a grilled ham-and-swiss sandwich.  It was delicious, and it ended up being more like an early lunch, in terms of calories consumed during the day.  But I am going to need to be more mindful during these days of being underemployed at home.

--Let me also remember that I went on a two hour walk yesterday.  What a joy to have time to do that.

--I am resisting the urge I have to fill up every scrap of free time with productivity, which for me often translates into something that will bring in money.

--But I also want to think about spending some of this newly free time working on projects that might bring in some money.  I am a certified spiritual director now.  I could register with the synod for my church and with the national database.  When I first got certified in January, I didn't have any time to devote to this career.  Now I do.  Let me think about what this might look like.

--My spouse has started going to campus again, in the limited way of adjunct faculty.  It occurs to me that I have rarely had the place all to myself since the pandemic.  I am looking forward to cooking as self care:  some pumpkin butter, lemon yogurt muffins, and a quiche for tonight. I plan to make some phone calls to friends, to catch up on seminary work, to catch up on grading for my online classes . . . it will be wonderful!

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The Rhythms of Underemployment

At some point, I expect to settle into the rhythms of underemployment.  But today, I want to continue to document the experience.  I think of future Kristin who will be grateful to this morning's Kristin for her writing, for her determination to capture these moments.

Yesterday was a strange mix of feelings.  At first, it felt like any Monday.  My spouse teaches from home on Monday morning, so just like most Monday mornings, I needed to be out of the way by 8:00 a.m.  Unlike most Mondays, when I would head to the car and drive to work, I simply went into the second bedroom that serves as my study.  I worked on various projects at the antique desk as my husband taught Philosophy to college students.

The rest of the day was both familiar and strange.  I made tea, as I often do, but it was in my kitchen, not the faculty/staff break room (I do not miss that faucet with no water pressure).  I answered e-mails from students and did seminary work, but I wasn't having to do that in the margins, during my lunch break, and I wasn't interrupted with any school situation that needed me.

In some ways, my underemployment Monday felt like a week-end.  My spouse and I went downstairs to the condo building game room to play pool; we don't usually do that on week days.  I took the chicken noodle soup that my spouse made for dinner on Wednesday and turned it into a mac and cheese dish.

I'm glad that I did that; by the end of the day, I would need some comfort food.  In the midafternoon came the announcement that my replacement has been chosen.  She will start on Feb. 28, but she will be on the campus today, Feb. 8, to meet everyone.

I won't deny that it stings a bit to know that my replacement was chosen before I was even gone.  And as I have said before, if I had had any inkling that my performance wasn't up to the level needed, I might have a different set of emotions.  If I had been on some sort of improvement plan, I'd have an inkling of what might have been coming.

In some ways, I did have an inkling, in terms of personnel decisions that have been made since the new owners bought the school.  There are not many people left who were there before the purchase, and very few people in leadership positions remain.

But let me keep perspective.  I do not envy my replacement--she is walking into quite a lot of work that will need to be done.  Her first day will be 30 days before the huge accreditation visit.  I am happy that I was let go before the bulk of that work got underway.

And now, because my schedule is more flexible than it has been on any Tuesday since about 1998, let me go on a longer walk than usual!

Monday, February 7, 2022

Underemployment Monday

I spent the week-end feeling like I had fallen out of time, not being sure what day it was.  I'm not sure why.  I had a fairly regular work week, although I did leave the office much earlier than usual on Friday.

I spent the week-end working on my online classes, working on seminary classes, getting groceries, cooking:  in short, a normal week-end.  But there was also the putting stuff from the office away, the talking to people on the phone and through social media to assure them that I'm OK, and my mind returning to the severing at the end of the week.  It has begun to seem like a strange dream.

I have had other bosses, and if they had let me go, I would have known exactly why.  In the past, I have been told the  ways I'm not a good match for my position.  But in my current job, in the past 6 months, I had reason to think that people above me were pleased with my performance.  So it's odd to be let go the way that I was.  I don't feel anger or bitterness or even sadness; after all, I spent much of 2021 being told my job would end.  But I do feel a mild curiosity about my own performance and about the future of the campus.

Here we are on a Monday, the first Monday since 1998 that I don't have to leave the house to go to work at a job.  Even during pandemic lockdown, we were still going to the office, all 5 of us who were left.  Of course, I still have work to do:  seminary classes, online classes that I'm teaching, and the chores of daily living.  But as I've written before, not going to an office will free up a lot of time.

I look at my closet, and I wonder if I should keep all these clothes and shoes.  I will not be doing office work for the foreseeable future.  I am planning to go to DC in August to do in-person seminary work, so I'm not likely to need most of these clothes in the next few years, and perhaps never again.  It is time to purge!  

I will keep my jewelry, even though I don't wear jewelry when I'm working from home.

I am thinking about other things that will change.  I will have more time for my morning walks.  I could also go for a walk at other points in the day.  I will have more time for all sorts of endeavors:  creative work, seminary studies, reading, napping.

I will need to pay attention to my food.  One of the advantages of structured week days is that I take lunch and veggie snacks and homemade bread for my food for the day.  On the week-ends at home, my good habits often fall by the wayside, but I don't worry too much about it, because I know I'm headed back to the office.  Now I will need to be intentional.

Maybe I will model my eating after my grandparents and have the big meal of the day at noon.

In short, all sorts of possibilities have opened up, from the less consequential, like meal times, to the more substantial, like the increased course load I could do as soon as May (I could go to Wesley for Maymester!).  I look forward to seeing where this all takes me.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Purchases and Severances

I contemplated several purchases during my lunch hour on Thursday, just hours before I was laid off.  I did not make one big purchase:  my sister and I had talked about meeting at my mom and dad's for her birthday in March, but because I have so little vacation time, I would have had to fly on peak days, and it just didn't seem worth the $400+ that the airline ticket would cost.  Plus, I was thinking about what would happen if I got sick because of being exposed to so many people while flying--I do have (did have) sick days, but would I have enough?  I was leaning towards telling my sister that I couldn't do it, but I thought I would wait another week or two; maybe there would be a mid-February sale.

Usually my splurges are much simpler things.  Just days before I was laid off, I ordered more tea.  I buy from Harney and Sons, and because I drink so much tea at work, I buy the bags of 50 tea sachets.  I have the tins lined up on a shelf, and I fill the tins from the bags.  When I order the economy size of teas I know I like, I often also buy a tin of a tea that sounds interesting.  Occasionally, I find a new favorite this way.

That tea arrived at my residence on the day I was laid off.  I guess I could return it.  In the past, I have tended not to drink tea throughout the day when I am at home.  But I have usually only been at home on the week-ends.  I've decided to keep it.  It won't go bad, after all.  And it's quality tea, so it will retain its flavor.  And who knows?  Maybe I'll continue to drink tea on week days when I'm at home.

Above is a picture of the fabric that I bought just hours before being laid off.  I had done an internet search for the amazing fabric store, Sunshine Fabrics, that used to be in Broward county.  I found a phone number and called, expecting to hear that the number had been disconnected.

Instead, a woman answered the phone, and I explained that I was looking for Sunshine Fabrics.  She said that the store was online now.   I asked if she still sold fabrics, and she said yes.

I have never bought fabric online before.  I don't trust the photos, and I want to feel the material.  But since I was familiar with the store, I was willing to take the risk.  

The fabric is even more beautiful than the pictures promised.  Hurrah.  And I was able to get the ends of some bolts, which means I paid $5 a yard for fabric that had been $15 a yard.  If you're in the market for gorgeous fabric, go here.

I can't return the fabric, but even if I could, I wouldn't want to.  I'm going to add it to the fabric that I bought in January and I'm going to make a quilt in this time of transition.

I have time now, and I've saved up money--I can go to Quilt Camp in April and to the Create in Me retreat.

And yesterday, I bought a plane ticket to go celebrate my mom's birthday.  Because I no longer have to schedule around work, I could get a round trip ticket for hundreds of dollars less than the ones I decided not to buy, hours before I was laid off.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

The Last Day of Work, the First Day of Underemployment

Yesterday was a very strange day, but strange in different ways than almost every other work day that came before it.  For one thing, it wasn't a work day, although I did drive to the office at the same time as usual.  But I was dressed so very differently:  I kept my workout tights on, with a pair of long shorts over it, and my running shoes.  For a shirt, I asked my spouse, "Do you think the Harriet Tubman or the I Chose Wesley shirt?"  I went with Harriet Tubman, in part because of what's printed on the back:

Keep Going
If you are tired, keep going;
If you are scared, keep going;
If you are hungry, keep going;
If you want to taste freedom, keep going.

Did Harriet Tubman really say that?  I have no idea.  Did anyone notice what my T-shirt said?  I have no idea, but I liked knowing.

First I had to unload the car; when I got home Thursday night, I had to get set up for my seminary class and then go to class, and after class, it was too late.  I unloaded the car, and my spouse and I headed to campus in separate cars.

We packed up one car, and he headed back to the condo we're renting.  I packed up the rest of my office and put the boxes in the car.  It was strange, and I realized I've never packed an office in these circumstances.  Usually I've been leaving because of my own choice, so I felt it was important to leave things in order for those who came after me.  In my last job, I even went so far as to digitize the departmental files for the person who came after me.

With this severance, I wasn't able to access my electronic files, so even if I wanted to be helpful that way, I couldn't be.  I took my personal items out of desk drawers and file cabinets, but whoever comes after me still has a lot of cleaning to do.  Some of those files and piles of paper were there when I joined the college in 2016.  And now the filing cabinet of doom will be someone else's task.  

I left all sorts of holiday decorations that I don't want.  I left books.  I left box after box of masks, gloves, and other supplies.  In the past year, I got several microgrants from Thrivent to buy food for students, and I left that too.

I put the last 5 boxes of stuff in my car, left the office keys and fob on the desk, and drove away.  I got home, unloaded the car, and drove to Total Wine to stock up.  The traffic was terrible, and I reflected that now I can run errands at whatever time is most convenient for me.

That's the strangest part of this severance.  When I was laid off in 2012, it was because of a restructuring, and I had a good chance at securing a similar position in the new structure.  So I kept going to work, doing my best, so that I would be chosen (and I was chosen, much to my relief).  When I left my job in 1998, it was to move to South Florida, and I had the summer to decide if we would stay or if we would go back to South Carolina to my job there--it was a teaching job where I could take summers off, which I did, so I immediately started working on finding permanent work.

In my current situation, I spent much of 2021 thinking I would lose my job, so I/we made decisions to get ourselves into position to weather that storm.  And when it looked like I wouldn't lose the job, we had already put processes into place--we had rented the condo, put a lot of money down, and decided to sell the house.  We decided to continue with our plan to sell the house because of the burning hot real estate market down here; if one sees one's house as an investment and one lives at the coast, one must sell when it's time.  It was time.

I spent much of the day realizing that I don't have to go to work on Monday.  I will still have online classes to teach and seminary work to do--but not having to be in an office for 45-55 hours a week will free up so much time.  And I won't be commuting twenty minutes to half an hour each way.  And I don't have to be desperate to find another full-time job; my plan is to go to seminary in the fall and live in campus housing.

I have never left a job and had that kind of time open up.  Yesterday, I thought of all the ways I could start to fill that time, and I instantly thought/prayed, let me not screw this up.

Yes, let me not screw this up.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Play List for Job Loss: Higher Ed Bad Boyfriend Strikes Again

In some ways, yesterday at work was a normal day, the new normal, where there's construction noise and whimpering animals and people who show up with no notice asking to be let into the server room.  During my lunch break internet ramblings, I found the web site of a woman who used to operate the most amazing fabric store for quilters in all of Broward county, and I ordered some fabric to go with the fabric I bought in January. I'm starting to formulate a vision for my next quilt!  I have dreams of quilt camp.

After lunch, at 2:00, I was on a video call interviewing a candidate for Director of Career Services when our HR person sent a chat through Teams asking if I was available for a quick meeting at 2:45.  I replied "yes" and spent the next half hour wondering what was about to happen.  It occurred to me that I might be let go, but I thought it was more likely that I would get a heads up about someone else being let go.  I thought it was even more likely that I might get an innocuous question.

Nope.  I was let go.   I got off the call, packed a few boxes, then it was on to home and my seminary class that I'm taking on Thursday nights: "Speaking of God in a Secular Age." It was surreal to be taking a class that discussed Catholic and Protestant ideas of grace when one has just been laid off.

It occurs to me that this is not the first time I have experienced a lay off (see this blog post for more details about the last time I was let go from an administrator job).  And like last time, this time was not entirely unexpected.  After all, I spent much of 2021 expecting that the campus would close, and my job would vanish.

But then the campus didn't close, and in fact, the new owners announced expansion plans.  Construction is underway.  Some part of me still expected to be laid off at some point--but it's strange when it actually happens.

On Tuesday, in fact, we had begun to think about plans that might be possible if my job lasted as long as the lease on the condo, until August of 2023.  Even as my spouse was running figures, some part of my heart urged caution.

I have begun to think of Higher Ed as a bad boyfriend, who breaks one's heart again and again, and apologizes profusely, and each time, one thinks it might be different. Not an abusive boyfriend, in that one's face isn't broken and it's not bad enough that one knows to run away. There's potential--one wants it all to be different. But the Higher Education bad boyfriend breaks one's heart in so many ways.

Let me hasten to say that I feel fortunate in so many ways.  Since we spent much of 2021 thinking I would lose my job, we made alternate plans.  I am so grateful to Feb. 2021 Kristin who went ahead and applied for seminary and candidacy.  I am so grateful that we have sold the house.  I am so grateful that I have a vision of an alternate future.

While I will miss many of my colleagues, I am also grateful that someone else will have the task of leading the campus through the accreditation visit in 2 months.  I was not looking forward to many of the changes that were barreling towards us.

I will return to the campus today for a final time to box up books and load up the car.  When the HR person asked if I had any questions, I thought, I have so many questions.  But the one I asked was "I have more personal stuff in my office than I can get home today in my little car.  How do you want me to handle that?"

This morning, after a night of restless sleep, I woke up with a Meat Loaf lyric in my head:  "I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you." Thanks Higher Ed Bad Boyfriend! Now listening to Jimmy Buffett's "Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On." That man doesn't get enough credit for his skillful lyrics.

This morning's complete play list, minus Meat Loaf:

"Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On" by Jimmy Buffett

"Further on Up the Road" by Bruce Springsteen

"I Shall Be Released" by the Band

"The Wanderer" by Johnny Cash and U2

"Midnight Rider" by the Allman Brothers

"After the Gold Rush" by Neil Young

"Surrender" by U2

"Straight Lines" by Suzanne Vega

"Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Up Early, Studying for Seminary

I was up early, catching up on seminary classes. I've watched and taken notes on 2 lecture videos about the prophet Amos, a lecture video about Howard Thurman, and a lecture video about Henri Nouwen that included an ending quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I've proofread my short paper on the ideas of grace and sin in some secondary readings.

And yes, I realize the lack of women in this morning's studies, but happily, not every week has this gender imbalance. I do like the presence of theologians of color.

I woke up even earlier than usual, feeling behind, so I decided to just get up, buckle down, and not get distracted by social media. And now, while I'm not ahead of my seminary studies, at least I'm not feeling like I'll never catch up.

When I thought about going to seminary, I imagined stacks of books and lots of reading. I didn't imagine all the lecture videos I would need to find time to watch. I find them as enriching as most class lectures would be, but finding time to watch them can be a challenge.

Let me close with the Desmond Tutu quote. It's one I want to remember:

“Discovering more joy does not, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreaks without being broken.”

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Halfway through Winter: Candlemas and the Ways We Celebrate the Longer Lengths of Light

We are at the halfway point of winter--halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Today is Candlemas, where Christians celebrate the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, and pagans long ago celebrated the goddess Brigid (and the feast day of St. Brigid was yesterday), and some Wiccans today will be celebrating at Imbolc, or a variation of any number of pagan holidays. It's also Groundhog's Day. It's one of those times when we can almost perceive the shifting of the seasons. It's not spring yet, but it will be soon.

And even medieval people tried to predict the rest of the weather for winter; witness this rhyme:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

If you're a candle person, in medieval times, the monastery would bless the candles for the coming year on this day. It seems like a good time in the life of our nation to light some candles and pray for illumination.  You might ask, "When is it ever not a good time in the life of our nation to light some candles and pray for illumination?"

I am feeling both weary today and grateful.  Yesterday my spouse had both a colonoscopy and an endoscopy at the same time.  The preparations for the scopes were not as difficult as we had heard it could be:  nothing explosive, nothing uncontrolled in the emptying process.  And the scopes themselves and the recovery were easier that I was afraid that they might be.

In the last months of 2021, my spouse had been having lots of digestive upset and pain and blood, so the good news of yesterday is that there is no lasting damage.  There were some polyps, very tiny, which could be removed.  And it didn't take as long as we thought it was, which was both good and bad.  I spent most of the morning in the car, which was fine, although I had looked forward to some alone time in the condo, some time to get some seminary work done, which is easier when I am alone.

Instead, we had a lovely afternoon of fried chicken, wine, and cheese and crackers.  We talked about various options for the future.  My spouse crunched some numbers, and I crunched them in a different way.  Last week, I had read my offline journal as I wanted to remember how we had come to the decision to sell the house.  I am acutely aware of how we travel the decision making process thinking we are planning for one thing, only to find ourselves navigating something else altogether, while at the same time being blown offcourse by all the elements we can't foresee.

Yesterday I had an idea for a poem which I want to record here, in the form of a first line:  On the feast day of Saint Brigid, I drive my spouse to the colonoscopy.

I am dreading the rest of the work week, as we gear up to combine campuses.  Today is a day of planning for our accreditation visit--of course, I thought we would be doing that planning last week too.  While on the ground, I can't imagine how we will ever get the campus back into shape in the two months that we have before the accreditors arrive.

So, let me go for a walk.  Let me look for the light seeping back into the sky.  Let me get a bit more centered before facing the day.  Let me look for longer lengths of light.