Wednesday, August 31, 2022

First Week Fragments (but in a good way)

Yesterday was my most hectic feeling day at seminary so far, but hectic in a good way, hectic meaning that almost every moment was full with no time to ponder and barely time to eat.  Perhaps jam-packed would be a better descriptor?  In any case, here are some snippets of reflections:

--I went to chapel yesterday, my first time worshipping in person with the Wesley community.  In some ways, it feels like the first time ever; when I tried to join remotely in the past, the sound has been terrible.  I loved the worship service, although I did note that there was more male gendered language for God than I would have expected.  I suppose we can't abandon all the old hymns.

--The sermon was so wonderful that I wrote a post on my theology blog to try to capture it. 

--It was strange to be in person, with most of us masked.  I knew that some of my professors would be there, but I wasn't sure I recognized anyone enough to go up to them and say, "Dr. ___?  It's me, Kristin."

--I've now attended 3 of my 5 classes.  They all sound promising, but more important, the professors are all enthusiastic.  You might think that professor enthusiasm should be a given, but I'm always grateful to find out that professors still want to be teaching their subjects.

--One of my classes is hy-flex, which means some of us are meeting in person, with the rest of the class on a Zoom session.  My professor is doing all she can to have it be a truly blended class.  For example, when we break into small groups, each group will have both in person and Zoom members as part of the group.  I'm interested to see how it works out, but I'm glad I'm not the teacher who has to work with all that technology.

--As I left my evening class at 9:30, I was happy that I just had a short walk to my seminary apartment.  At one point, my spouse and I found a fixer upper of a house in SE DC, which gave me pause for all sorts of reasons.  Last night, I was glad that I wasn't hiking to the Metro station and facing a long commute home.

--I am still not unpacked.  I had thought that I would have Wednesdays be museum days, but today may be a getting organized and fully unpacked day.  As I went to class yesterday, I realized that the classwork pace will soon crank into high gear, and I need to be organized by then.  I'm headed to see my parents in Williamsburg on Friday morning, so time is running out.

--Perhaps today's museum day will be the Wesley gallery.  I thought about AU's museum, but it's closed until mid-September.

--Off to call the health and dental insurance company to make sure that the very easy buying of insurance process on Saturday actually worked.  [Update:  it did!  We are good to go, and for just $66.84, so much less than we were paying--thank you President Obama who created this exchange!).

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

First Full Day as Seminary Resident

Yesterday was my first full day as a resident on the campus of Wesley Theological Seminary.  My day revolved around unpacking, which doesn't make for an interesting blog post, but it must be done.  I will have space for everything, but I already knew that.  So far, I haven't figured out how to hang anything on the cinderblock walls.

The stove works as I expected, even though it's a bit rickety. And wow, is it a small little stove.  But it works.  I won't be cooking elaborate meals.  I had to call the director of housing when I couldn't figure out how the shower works.  I wasn't sure of the protocol--do I call an RA?  Happily, the housing director was able to tell me that the diverter was a ring right at the edge of the faucet accessed by reaching under the faucet--turn the ring, and voila, a shower!

I decided to use my morning walk to go to Wegmans, a grocery store a mile away.  They don't have plastic bags, so I walked back with a paper bag tucked under my arm.  I bought broccoli, carrots, parmesan cheese, cut up cantaloupe chunks, and butter. I walked back a different way and was pleased that I could get back to Mass. Ave., where Wesley Theological Seminary is located. I walked long city blocks, and only after I got home did I realize I'd been carrying about 5 pounds of groceries.  

I was able to get my parking sticker and the key to my mailbox.  My brief trip across campus to the administration building was my break from unpacking.  When the weather gets cooler, I want to take an afternoon walk, but there were heat advisories yesterday, so I decided not to push myself.  Plus, I had plenty of unpacking to do.

I'm still not done unpacking.  I know that I'm the kind of person who won't do much reorganizing once things are put away, so I want to think things through as I unpack.

I had my first seminary class last night.  My main frustration was with my new laptop.  I've noticed that when I'm on a Zoom call, I have to turn the volume up to 100%, so I bought speakers.  Last night, I couldn't get the speakers to work.  I knew it was not a problem with the speakers because the two sets of headphones that I had nearby also did not work.  As I tried to troubleshoot, I knocked over a glass of tea.  Happily, I had a lid on it, but I still spilled some, which left me a bit frazzled.  It was before the class started, so I'm hoping that my classmates didn't notice too much.

After class, I was hungry, but I don't have too much in the apartment.  I roasted some pecans in a pan and salted them--the perfect bedtime snack!  I was still trying to troubleshoot the speakers, so I went to YouTube and selected a full recording of George Winston's Autumn.  Suddenly, the speakers worked for reasons that aren't clear to me.  I just sat and let the music wash over me as the sky got fully dark (just because of night descending, not anything more sinister).

I finished the day with this Facebook post, which is a good way to finish this blog post.  I need to get my walk in before the sun gets too high in the sky (yep, back to that kind of climate, but with more trees than South Florida).

From the window of my seminary apartment, I can see at least one American University dorm stretching to the sky--lots of lights on. Most of us have had at least one class of our new semester today. I'm listening to George Winston's "Autumn," which I used to play constantly during my first year of undergraduate school; I made a cassette tape of my dad's LP, but tonight I'm using YouTube (probably technically also a bootleg recording). Here I am, living in student housing, not sure what year it is anymore.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Last August Moving Trip

I knew that I would make the last August trip to seminary by myself.  I planned to leave at 5 a.m. so that I could get to the area in the early afternoon with enough time to have lunch with my sister and to unload the car.  

As is usual for me, I had trouble sleeping the night before.  I got up to make coffee and to check the weather.  We'd had a string of foggy mountain mornings in the last week, but yesterday, the reports were clear.  I decided to go ahead and get on the road at 4:30.

It was fog free, but I had forgotten how dark it gets with very little ambient light.  It's been a LONG time since I felt the need to turn on my bright lights.  Happily, I was one of few cars on the windy interstate, so I could use my brights.  Later, the fog rolled in over the Virginia mountains.  I felt like I was driving alternately through a bucolic watercolor painting or a Halloween movie set.  The sun was rising by then, so the fog didn't stress me as much as it would have at 5 a.m.

My sister and I had a delicious lunch and figured out how to use Google maps on the phone.  I don't have an app downloaded that would talk me through the navigation, but that was fine with me.  Knowing that I could figure out my way if I got lost was the key thing.

I made my way over to the seminary campus.   I got a bit turned around; I drove by the Target where we shopped after the first moving in, but I couldn't remember the cross street that would take me to seminary. Happily, I just kept going, hoping that the street would intersect Massachusetts Ave, which I knew it had a good chance of doing--and it did!

I worried that the parking lot might be completely full, but there were only a few more cars there than there were when we first arrived with carloads of stuff.  I unlocked the apartment door and took a quick check before unloading the last carload of stuff.

I did a bit of setting up, but it will take more than just a Sunday afternoon to get completely unpacked.  I'm fine with that--it's my moving in style, and I have only myself to consider.  I thought I would go to bed early, but I was too wound up for that.  Eventually, I drifted up, but I did wake up very early--just too excited to sleep.

I want to make sure that I am intentional while I am here, that I don't waste a minute of my time in DC.  I really want to see the new African American history museum, the newest Smithsonian museum.  They are still using timed entry tickets, so I thought I'd sign up for Wednesday.  Ha!  The next available Wednesday is Sept. 14, so I signed up.  I did some strategizing.  On Wednesday, I'll go to the Renwick Museum, which is close to the African American history one, so it will be a test run--finding the Metro, getting myself there.

This morning, I'll walk over to the Wegman's off Wisconsin Ave.  I'll buy a few things, like some butter and some parmesan cheese.  I bought some non-perishables at the end of last week, plus some tomatoes at the farmer's market and a loaf of bread.  I brought the leftover bakery bread from last week's adventure which will be better with butter.

I may forgo an afternoon walk--we've got heat advisories.  Or maybe I'll take a leisurely walk and expect to sweat.  And then, tonight is my first class--it's an online virtual class.  I don't have my first in person class until tomorrow night.

I can see the beginnings of daybreak out of my east facing window--how beautiful.  Let me wrap up this writing and get ready for this first full day on campus and in DC.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Desks and Dreams

This morning is the last morning in North Carolina--well, until I come back for a Crafts for Christmas retreat, where I'll sleep in my house, but go to the retreat during my waking hours.

Today I'll head back to my sister's house, have lunch with her, and then I'll go to my seminary apartment.  I'll begin the delightful work of unpacking boxes and figuring out where everything should go.

It will be the first time I've lived in a place where I get to make these decisions without thinking about what housemates/family members want.  My spouse will be back and forth, but I expect that he will spend the majority of time back in our North Carolina house.  I'll set up the seminary space in the way that works for me, which probably means more twinkly lights and seasonal decorations than we would have if we shared the space.

I am thinking of these weeks at this desk in this house in North Carolina.  

I tried to get back to writing poetry, but it happened in fits and spurts.  My writing time was disrupted by travel, but that's OK.  It was necessary to get me to seminary housing, where I'll be more intentional about setting up a schedule that includes time for creative writing.

I think back to the summer as a whole, the summer that was not hospitable to writing practices beyond blogging, but necessary to get us to a place and space that will be more hospitable.  I'm thinking of this summer as a summer of the upheaval of moving to not just one place, but two.  As we packed, we marked the boxes that would be going on to seminary.  We had a system, but I have to believe that moving to 2 places was a stress that would have been reduced if we had just been moving to one place.

My desk at seminary will be just as battered as my current desk.  My seminary desk will have a history, but unlike my grandparents' desk, which is now mine, I don't know the history of the seminary desk.  I wrote my first short story that had publication potential at this desk, back when it was in my grandmother's house, back when I was in college taking a short story class wondering if I could do something similar with my writing.  I remember scrawling the story as I sat at that desk, never dreaming it might be mine some day.

Hopefully, I will have similar memories about my seminary desk.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Technology Fails and Wins: Of Cell Phones, Ice Cubes, and Cookies

Yesterday I called to see whether or not my cell phone would be fixed.  I thought that my issue had been elevated, but the person on the phone told me that it hadn't.  He said he elevated it; I've been told that before.  

I looked at other plans, but the Spectrum plan is cheapest.  It's the best deal, if they can get my cell phone working.  Insert a heavy sigh here.

So, we will keep the phones for now.  When I travel to seminary tomorrow, I'll take the one that's working.  I primarily want a cell phone to summon help in the case of car trouble.  Sending a text is not really what I have in mind.

If Spectrum can't get the phone with the ported # working, we'll probably cancel the whole deal--I can mail the phone back to my spouse or drive it back.  We have 2 weeks from Tuesday, August 23.

On a happier note, the used refrigerator that we got from the consignment store is working beautifully.  It is a wonderful thing to have a gallon of iced tea that can stay cold and to be able to have ice cube trays that freeze ice.  The fridge was plugged in at the consignment store, so we weren't taking much of a risk.  But we saw the fridge in a warehouse type of showroom that had no air conditioning, so of course it would feel cool when we opened the door.

We are going to a potluck community picnic today, so I wanted to make some cookies.  The oven part of our stove has been coming on, so I decided to risk using it--might as well see how it behaves, right?  But I hedged my bets.  The recipe for butterscotch bars is very forgiving.  The oven stayed on for 10 minutes, then it turned itself off.  I tried moving the dial, with no results.  I left the bars in the oven with the dial turned to 375.  Ten minutes later, the oven turned itself back on, and the cookies finished baking.  I turned the oven off, and I wondered if it would turn itself back on, even with the dial turned to off.  So far, that hasn't happened.

What a delight to have homemade cookies from our own oven.  We haven't had that in months.  In case you want the same joy, here's the recipe.  This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks:  Beatrice Ojakangas' The Great Holiday Baking Book.   She's got a recipe for every conceivable holiday and great ways to celebrate the passage of the seasons.

Butterscotch Bars

1/4 C. butter, melted
1 C.  packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 C. flour (partial whole wheat works well)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 C. nuts (I prefer pecans, but you might like walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 375.  Butter a 9 inch square pan.

Beat the brown sugar, butter, vanilla, and egg together until light and fluffy.  Stir in the flour and baking powder, and when combined, the nuts.  Spread the batter into the pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the center is firm to the touch.  A tester may not come out completely clean--the bars will solidify as they cool.  You should cut into serving size bars after 10-20 minutes of cooling.

This recipe is easily doubled and baked in a 9 x 13 inch pan.  You could also add chocolate chips into the batter or melt 1/2 c. of chips and drizzle across the top of the bars.

Friday, August 26, 2022

My Groceries Had a Wild Ride

I began my day yesterday reading about the student debt relief plan announced on Wednesday.  It's worth reading the plan itself, not just people hollering about the plan (go here to read the plan).  Throughout the day I noticed how many people in my social media feeds were making religious connections.   Maybe it's not strange--I follow a lot of people who define themselves as religious in some way.   As I said to a colleague long ago, I tend to follow lefty Christian thinkers and creative writers and fiber artists which makes my Twitter feed much stranger than that of many people.

This morning, I wrote a longer post for my theology blog about Christianity, debt relief, and structural issues.  

Yesterday's highlights include the arrival of our refrigerator from the consignment store.  When we first saw it in the store, I couldn't imagine why my spouse spent so much time with it, when we had a different fridge strategy in place.  But I'm glad that he understood the value of the fridge, and I'm glad we bought it.  Because it is a basic model, with the freezer on top, it fits in the current space for a fridge.  It may be awhile before we get to the kitchen remodel, and I'm glad to have the options a bigger fridge gives us, like having a pitcher of tea or having the ability to freeze food.

I was also relieved that the delivery went so smoothly.  We have a gravel driveway and 6 steep steps up to the door--it's not easy, but the delivery guys yesterday had no trouble.  Relief!

My grocery trip to Ingles was not smooth.  I am OK, the car is OK, but the groceries had a wild ride.  To make space for the new fridge, I started to pack my car for the trip to seminary on Sunday.  I had the front passenger seat free for the groceries, but that door can only be unlocked from the driver's side by leaning over to unlock the door manually.  I parked the shopping cart, unlocked the car, and unlocked the passenger side.  When I got out of the car and came to the back, the cart was gone.  I looked around each side of the car.  It had vanished.

And then I saw it--in the distance, past the parking lot, past the exit lanes by the gas station that Ingles runs, down by the main highway.  It had tipped over, and a guy was working to pull it up.  I went down to it, and we both stared at the mess, a bit befuddled.  

Up close, the guy appeared to be in his 20's, and I think he was acting out of good samaritan impulses, trying to clear an exit lane.  He put the groceries in the cart and handed me 3 surviving wine bottles.  He pulled the sopping wine bag off the pavement and asked if it was OK if we threw it away.  He took the bag back up to the gas station trash can and even peeked in it to make sure there were no bottles intact.  I went back and got the bigger pieces of glass off the road and swept the smaller pieces to the side with my foot.

Throughout it all, I was impressed with how calm people remained.  No one made angry gestures because they had to go around the mess.  No one yelled.  I was most impressed, of course, with the young guy who got out of his car to clean up a mysterious mess.

It could have been worse.  The cart didn't hit a car.  It didn't go out into the main highway.  I don't know if a runaway grocery cart coming down a hill would hurt a person if they were in the way, but I'm glad not to have that knowledge.

I felt frustrated with myself, even though I had wedged the cart against my car bumper.  I felt annoyed at the mess, even though it could have been worse.  I went back to the store, bought more wine, and headed home.

I spent part of the afternoon at Spectrum trying to get my cell phone to work.  In a way, it's a relief to find out that it's a strange issue, not one easily solved by me, or apparently by the company.  It's also a bit disconcerting, that no one understands why my phone was working once and now it's not.  How can I be sure it won't happen again?

I can't be sure, of course.  Poets and philosophers have told us over and over that we can only be sure of change.  So today, I'd like the phone to go from being unable to make a call to reclaiming its purpose of making a call.  I'd like the Spectrum people who have my Tier 3 problem to fix the thing.  

Thursday, August 25, 2022

A Blog Post in the Midst of Planned Disruption

It has been a morning of planned disruptions.  The Nissan Rogue needs its CVT oil changed.  In the olden days, we would call that transmission fluid, and lots of folks could change it.  Now it's in some kind of sealed part of the car that only the dealership can access.  So we dropped off that car and came back to the house so that we can be here when the fridge is delivered.  It's the fridge that we found at the consignment store, and while it may not be our forever fridge, it will be good to have something that's better than the dorm fridge that was a good stopgap measure.

It's been a week of getting stuff accomplished.  On Monday, we had an easy time getting our license plates for our cars.  On Tuesday, we went to Spectrum to implement a new approach to cell phones:  new smart phones and a plan for 2 lines.  We rearranged our internet/phone/cable plan to get rid of the "cable."  I thought our luck of the week had held, but by Wed., my phone wasn't able to make calls--and it's the one where we ported the old number.  So back to Spectrum I will go today.

I was afraid I would have some kind of issue, which is one of the reasons I resisted making this change for so long.

I've made progress getting a new health insurance plan, so that's good.  We will save big bucks if it works out.  I've packed the car for my Sunday trip to seminary; I packed it early to get the stuff out of the way so that the fridge has a place to go.

Yesterday I met a friend who was part of my small group for the spiritual direction certificate program.  We met at her favorite winery in Hendersonville.  It was a beautiful afternoon, watching threatening clouds in the distance, warm but not humid.  We have both been going through changes that might have been shattering, had we not been on the lookout for ways to change our lives for the better anyway.  She's headed back to the intentional religious community in England, and I'm off to seminary, so it was  good to able to meet at this intersection.

We also had our first bear sighting from our back deck.  Two bears ambled through our yard, both the same size, so we don't think it was a mother and cub.  We were far enough away to feel safe--and awed.

I am seeing more and more non-green leaves on trees.  I am glad to have been here as the season starts to change.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The Shimmers and Shivers of Time

Yesterday I went to buy a sketchbook.  My right hand/wrist/arm finally feels like I might be able to return to this practice--fingers crossed.

I walked into the store and was overwhelmed by the sight of all the autumnal merchandise.  It wasn't the presence of autumnal merchandise itself, with the glimpse of Christmas merchandise just beyond.  I'm used to seeing stuff that seems out of season or at the wrong time.  I know that capitalism is moving on a different timeline than I am.

I saw a few glittering pumpkins, and I was taken back to autumnal decorating at my old job.  When it looked like the campus would be closed by September 2021, I saved a box of autumn decorations even as I threw out the Christmas decorations.  At the time, I thought there was a remote chance that they would keep the campus open until the end of the year, but I assumed there wouldn't be enough students to justify decorating.

The campus stayed open longer, but by the time for holiday decorating, the new owners had declared all campuses would be decorated the exact same way, and they didn't deliver the decorations until very late in the season.  We put up the banner, hung up a few of the complicated snowflakes, and called it done.

However, before that, we did put up the autumnal decorations I saved.  And seeing all those glittered pumpkins brought that time back to me, that time when we could decorate however we wanted because no one higher up was paying any attention to our campus.   I felt this weird wave of grief as I thought about all the people who were once employed there and are no longer.  Even if we had stayed, we wouldn't have been allowed to decorate that way again.  It was a strange, end-of-times workplace, even as it didn't end the way I was anticipating.

It was strange to wander in the autumn decorations, even as we spent the week-end awash in summer produce:  cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatoes, and the best corn on the cob I've had in years.  But again, I'm used to that disconnect.

From there, I wandered back to one of the thrift stores we visited a few weeks ago.  I will be in great need of lamps at my seminary housing, and one of the thrift stores had a great deal.  The store still had that great deal, but they had other deals too.  I left with 2 lamps that hadn't been there 2 weeks ago.  I paid very little for them, as much as I would have paid for just the lampshade, if it had been new.  They look like they were made in the 60's, with curved lines out of wood, probably designed to remind us of Tahiti.

It's another way of falling out of time, these lamps that evoke a different time, headed with me into a future that I can only glimpse as it shimmers in the distance.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Harper's Ferry and the Looming History

My August travels have taken me through Harper's Ferry several times.  I haven't stopped at the national park that is there, but I have driven over the bridges that cross the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, and I've reflected on the beauty that led Thomas Jefferson to declare the spot one of the most beautiful on earth.

I've also been thinking about John Brown, that fiery abolitionist who led a raid on Harper's Ferry, an act for which he died.  I've been thinking about the ways that our culture seems to come back to John Brown again and again and the different ways we frame him, from hero/martyr to wacko to deeply disturbed but honorable.

This past Sunday, I thought about our current time, as I watched a truck with kayaks driving by on the other side of the road.  The truck had several Confederate flags flying on poles off the truck, and one of the flags had wording which I couldn't see clearly:  resist or revolt or some other word?  I thought of all the ways that I could interpret this truck with kayaks and flags.  Maybe I was seeing a white supremacist drive by.  Maybe it was someone who just wanted to yank our collective chain.  Maybe it was someone who needed to transport kayaks and could only use his brother-in-law's truck that had flags permanently attached.

Do people today really want civil war, the 1860's kind of civil war?  And if so, do they have some ideology worth dying for, the way that John Brown believed he did?  Did ordinary people in the 1850's have a sense of what was about to come blazing at them?  Do we?

I feel we live in scary times, but to be honest, most years I feel that way, and in years when I don't, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I grew up reading and loving apocalyptic narratives, so it's not unusual that impending apocalypse colors/tinges my outlook.  During the early months of the pandemic, as an apocalyptic scenario fell on our heads, I was amused at how reluctant I was to believe that the apocalypse I had long expected had finally arrived.

I don't think we are headed towards a full blown civil war, but I do think we're going to be in a tumultuous time for the next decade or two.  But part of me wants to do more research on the 1850's; I suspect that most people in the 1850's would have told you the same.  They'd have seen the John Brown types in the same light as I did the driver of the truck with the kayaks and the Confederate flags, if indeed they registered the John Brown types at all.

I keep thinking that there should be a poem in all of this.  I have written a poem about Harper's Ferry before, but it was over 15 years ago, long before the rise of today's dysfunctional politics.  Let me post that poem here, and continue thinking about Harper's Ferry as metaphor.  This poem first appeared in the Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, and it's also part of my second chapbook, I Stand Here Shredding Documents.

Hiking Harper’s Ferry

The family finally splits asunder
at Harper’s Ferry. Brother pitted against brother,
and the mother finally secedes from this union,
at least for the afternoon. The father watches
her hike away, shakes his head
over his boys slugging each other on this slope.
He, too, turns his back. Maybe no one will realize
he brought these murderous children into the world.

The father ducks into the John Brown museum.
None of his family members will think to seek
him here. He sits in the dim light watching
the films loop again and again. He wonders
how it would be to have that wild-eyed
conviction in a cause. He sits in the mock
courtroom wondering when it will be safe to come out.

The mother stands at the crossroads of the Appalachian
Trail. She thinks of her younger self who backpacked
up and down the spines of continents
and wonders why she never tackled this one.
She thinks of doing it now, turns north,
then south. To hike to Georgia or Maine?
She ponders her young girl self, so different
from the woman she has become.
Paralyzed by her past, she can do nothing.
She sits on a rock and stares at the junction
of three rivers, this spot that Thomas Jefferson
declared the most beautiful in the New World.

The parents return to a field of calm.
Their boys have recruited other disaffected
children. They’ve created a game with inscrutable
rules. The parents discover that the boys have devoured
the best parts of the picnic. As the sun skips
west, they munch carrot sticks and apples as they watch
the children play, making up rules as they go along.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jog

Here I sit, at my little house in the mountains, waiting for it to be light enough to go out for my morning walk.  There are many markers of seasonal change, some smaller than others.  When we first moved here, back at the end of July, I could go for a walk at 6:00.  I still could, but now I would take a flashlight.

In South Florida, because there is so much ambient light from overdevelopment, there's never a need for a flashlight.  But I would much rather be here, where there are hills to challenge me, and trees and a wide variety of creatures.  So far, I haven't seen a bear, but I have seen a fox and bunnies, along with the usual critters, like birds and squirrels.

On Thursday, we drove the loaded car to my sister's house, the same trip I took 2 weeks earlier.  It was interesting to see how the trees had changed in subtle ways:  a yellow leaf here and there, trees with a more reddish tinge than green.

Yesterday we drove back to North Carolina.  We had thought we might spend a few days in seminary housing, but we have some last tasks in North Carolina to take care of (like getting license plates), so we decided to come back early.  A much earlier plan had been to drive up in 2 cars and leave me there while my spouse returned to North Carolina.  In so many ways, I'm glad we changed our plans.  It was much easier with 2 drivers and 1 car.  Driving 2 cars and trying to stay together was tough when we did it back in July.  I'm glad we weren't trying to do it again.

We had thought we might have a more leisurely morning and leave at 11 or so.  But after looking at the radar, we decided to get a head start on the weather that was expected to roll in.  All along the way, we watched the clouds all around us, wondering when rain would fall.  For the most part, it held off, which made for a good trip.  I prefer to drive under cloudy skies, not sunny, not raining.

I was still fairly exhausted when we got home at 5:00.  I tried to stay awake, but finally, I decided to admit defeat.  Plus, I was feeling a bit chilled and shivery, which made me worry about what my body might be fighting off.

Happily, this morning, I feel a bit better.  I had hoped that I was feeling shivery because it was raining and chilly last night, and I think it's the case.

And now, on to the tasks of the week:  getting driver's licenses, getting smart phones, moving money so that I can pay for seminary classes, doing some shopping for my seminary apartment.  I am going to need some lamps, and I'm trying to remember where I saw them in our thrift store shopping a few weeks ago.  Plus I may do some food shopping so that I get to campus with some time before I need to shop.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

A Saturday Sail

You may think that I spent all of yesterday unpacking at my seminary apartment.  I did not.  There will be plenty of time for unpacking and organizing later, when my loved ones have gone back to their regularly scheduled lives.

We took advantage of the good weather yesterday and went for a brief sailing trip--although there was no wind, so I don't know that we should call it a sailing trip.  Maybe an outing on a sailboat.  The day offered hot sunshine, which made my spouse and sister happy.  My brother-in-law is at his happy place when he's on the boat.

As we made our way through the towns on the Chesapeake Bay, I thought, we used to sail more often; what happened?

Well, for one thing, the pandemic.  In 2020, everything was cancelled in terms of family gatherings.  In the summer of 2021, we were still being very careful.

As I got ready for our outing, I thought about all the places I've gone this summer, all the times I brought a swimsuit.  This trip, I didn't.  But I didn't really need it.  The nephew who once begged for us to go with him to the pool at the marina now has his own summer job--as a lifeguard at a pool near his house.

It was a hot day on the Bay, and we weren't going to jump into that water because of all the jellyfish.  I'd rather sit and sweat into my cotton clothes than a swimsuit that will stay soggy all day.  It worked out.

The best part of the day for me was the drive home.  While my spouse slept in the back seat, my sister and I had a great conversation about all there is to do in the DC area.  We didn't just talk about museums and theatre.  We talked about all the great worship opportunities I'll have:  weekly chapel at seminary, the National Cathedral nearby, and the chance to go to other religious institutions, along with regular churches.  I have always been amazed at what the churches in the DC area accomplish, and I'd like to check them out, along with the intentional communities that so many of them have founded along the way, like the Sojourners community.

Or maybe I'll commit to Luther Place--I spent some time this morning exploring their website.  Long ago, in the 80's, I did volunteer work with their homeless ministry.  It looks like they've continued to do important social justice work.

But before I can start implementing my plans for maximizing opportunities over the next few years while I live in DC, I need to go back to North Carolina.  I've got some last tasks to do there:  getting license plates for the cars, getting smart phones set up, finding new health insurance.  The Lutheridge community has their annual picnic and meeting on Saturday at the lake.   Then on Sunday, I'll drive back up here, this time to settle into seminary housing on a more permanent basis.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Mostly Moved In (But Not Unpacked)

Yesterday we headed over to my sister's storage unit, loaded up her car with my boxes, and then followed her down to the campus of Wesley Theological Seminary.  It was the first day that anyone could move into on campus housing, and I expected it to be packed.

Instead, the parking lot was empty, and the buildings were locked.  We called the number for the RA and explained why we were here.  He came out with a box of keys, showed us how to unlock the doors, took us to the apartment, and then, after he left, we strategized about the best way to unload.

We kept the apartment door propped open, but there were still 2 doors between the apartment and the car.  I took a smaller box with each trip, unlocked the door, held it for my spouse and sister, and then zipped to the next door to unlock and hold.  It was a surprisingly smooth process.

In part, it was smooth because of the location of the apartment--we didn't have to go up stairs.  Even though it's on the first/ground floor, there's a floor beneath, which means that none of the windows are on a ground level because of how the building sits on/in a hill.  

After we unloaded the cars, we strategized and decided to go to a nearby Target.  On our way out, we saw 2 deer munching on greenery on the campus grounds, as if they weren't in an urban setting:

Here's a closer shot.  Look at those antlers!

I wanted to price ready made bookcases or shelving units, but Target had none.   We got some of the supplies I'll need, like a small trashcan for the bathroom, some cleaning supplies, and a mat for the front door.

At the Container store, we hit the jackpot:

The shelves are solid wood and because they flip and fold, no assembly was required.  They could be stacked on top of each other, but they felt more secure side by side.

We didn't do much unpacking, but my spouse and sister were invaluable when it came to rearranging the furniture.  If it had been up to me, I'd have left it where it was, but they made it much more inviting:

You can see the kitchen in the background, and that's about the extent of it.  There's a sink and a work space to the right, and nice refrigerator.  There's minimal countertop space, but I can make it work.  My spouse loves cleared off countertops, so happily, I'm used to not having all the appliances out on the counters.

Overall, I'm thrilled with the housing.  We think the carpeting is brand new, and the mattresses are fine (that had been a big concern I had).  The wooden surfaces are scarred, but workable.  I am happy that I brought a variety of placemats with me to cover the dining room table, which has really seen better days:

I'm also glad to have a separate desk, although I won't be surprised if I sometimes migrate to the table to get work done:

I'll post more pictures as I get unpacked in the coming weeks and create a cozy nest.

Before we headed home, we showed my spouse the campus.  The library was open, so we wandered through the stacks.  He was impressed with the Philosophy section, and he is almost never impressed with the Philosophy section of bookstores or libraries--hurrah!

I thought of my discovery a year ago that the library would ship books free of charge to students.  I was thrilled, but I never actually utilized the service.  I look forward to exploring the library in person.  I'm more a browse in the stacks than a browse the online card catalog person.

There's so much I look forward to discovering.  It's going to be a good year.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Move In Day!

Today is the day!  In a few hours, we'll go to my sister's storage unit, where we will load up her car with my boxes, and then we will drive to seminary housing.  We hope to get the keys to my apartment and to unload the boxes.  We will probably not spend much time unpacking boxes, since we will be moving them from car to apartment box by box.  I am thinking we will be ready for a break by the time we get the cars unloaded.  And there's plenty of time to unpack later.  

As I drove through the mountains from my house in North Carolina to the DC area, I thought about the coming year, how it will be both familiar and different.  I've taken seminary classes before, so I know that I can slip back into that rhythm.  But this year, I'll be taking a mix of online and in person classes.  This year, I'll live on the campus, where I hope to have amazing opportunities.  But I'll also be living by myself for longer periods of time when my spouse is fixing up the house in North Carolina.

Yesterday as I drove through the mountains, I thought about how I could structure my days and weeks.  I want to get back to doing more creative writing.  I'd like to do that early in the morning, and then go for a walk a bit later, like I have been doing for the past month.  I'd like to do more submitting to journals, if I can still find some that don't charge high submission fees, which I define as anything that costs more than a few stamps would cost.  I'd like to spend afternoons either going to class or getting ready for class.

And of course, I want to make sure I explore DC.  The other day, as I read an article in The Washington Post about the re-opening of the Kennedy Center and what it means for restaurants in the surrounding area, I thought, I wonder if there are still any tickets to Hamilton, which is in town for two more months--and there are!  In the past, there used to be a way to get great same day prices on tickets that hadn't sold yet.  I never figured out a way to do that in South Florida.  I'm going to figure out how to see some great theatre in the next 2 years while I'm here.

I know that I'm claiming a huge gift.  I will likely never be able to afford to live in a city like DC again.  I want to make sure I squeeze everything out of it that I can.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Moving Right Along

Today one phase of moving into seminary campus housing will begin.  But it's a slow motion move.  I will be back in North Carolina next week, and then again the week-end after Labor Day for Crafts for Christmas at Lutheridge.  But after those trips, I won't likely be here again until November.

It's a big life change, but readers of this blog know it's not the only one.  I talked to one of my college friends who has known me longest, and he said, "Wow, this has been quite a year for you guys!"  In his voice, I could hear that he understood both the negative and the positive.

I want to remember the progress I've made in healing from my broken wrist.  A month ago, I was still having trouble getting into and out of my clothes, which means I was doing it mainly with my left hand.  A month ago, I still had only 3 positions in which I could sleep because I still had so much discomfort in my right arm and shoulder.  A month ago, I could barely tie my shoes.

And here's a milestone which I want to record, though most people won't understand the significance.  My driver's license now lists my hair as brown.  The very nice DMV employee said, "Hair color.  Brown?"  I thought, yes, it really isn't blonde.  I can't even claim strawberry blonde.  Rust probably isn't one of the options.  I wish I could claim the color "chestnut," although in certain lights, that's how I see my hair--and again, it's likely not a color on the drop down menu at the DMV computers.  I said, "Brown is fine."  Will I color my hair again?  It's hard to know.

On a less mundane note, I had 2 different Zoom sessions last night.  One was with my Mepkin journaling group; we're discussing Thomas Merton's New Seeds of Contemplation, and we had a vigorous discussion of Merton's view of Mary.  I also met with my small group from my spiritual formation class that I took across my first year of seminary.  I thought about how long it had been since I've been deeply engaged with theology and how much I'm looking forward to diving in again.

But first, the packing of the car, the getting settled in a new place.  Onward!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Driving after Dark

When I was younger, my grandmother lived by a lot of rules that made no sense to me:  "You don't want to be a woman driving when it gets dark."  "It's not good for a woman to make more money than her husband."  "You can't do any work on a Sunday" (except, of course, for making a big meal for after church).

As I get older, I'm seeing some wisdom in her words.  I thought of her often on Monday.  I had scheduled a quick trip to Columbia, SC to return a borrowed countertop oven to one friend and to have dinner with another friend.  If everything went according to plan, I thought I could be on the road by 7 or 7:30.  I wanted to be up through the mountain passes before it got really dark.

My plan fell apart.  I never got a text from my friend saying she was done at work and to meet her at the restaurant.  Finally, at 6:40, I texted her, and she texted back asking if I hadn't gotten her texts.  And only then did my 3G flip phone show me with an inbox of texts.  I had held the phone for hours with no notice of incoming texts.  Grr.

And yes, replacing that phone has been on my to-do list all summer.  I will get that done by the end of the month.  I will join others in the 21st century and have a smart phone.

Come to find out, my friend had been waiting for me in the restaurant for almost 2 hours.  She was very gracious, and we ended up having a great dinner, despite my distress about missing her texts.  My other friend offered to let me spend the night in her guest room, and I said yes.  I really didn't want to go to dinner at 7, eat, and then drive 2-3 hours back to my mountain house.  

I didn't have any overnight supplies, but that was OK.  I lucked out because my friend had an extra contact lens case and disinfecting solution.  I slept in my clothes, got up in the morning and after a delightful time of frothy coffee drinks, I was back on the road.  My eyes felt better, and it was easier to see.  I thought of my grandmother who told me that truth years ago.

My first thought was that I don't deserve these good friends, and I'm intrigued by that thought.  My friend who sat at the restaurant waiting for me to show up said, "I know you're not a flake.  It's not like you not to show up.  I knew that something weird had happened."

We spent yesterday at the DMV.  We went to the office at Brevard, hoping for better odds of getting this chore done.  We were successful, but we did have to wait in line for 4 hours before being seen.  We each brought a book, so it wasn't too bad.  I was reading William R. Forstchen's One Second After, about a nuclear blast as experienced by the residents of Black Mountain, which is only half an hour from my mountain house.  I found it absolutely compelling.

I woke up this morning with very sore feet from standing much of yesterday and with the surrealistic feeling like I had fallen through some sort of hole in time or space.  Today we load the car, and tomorrow we drive to my sister's house in Maryland, and then on Friday we get access to seminary housing.

In short, I expect to feel displaced again this week.  But I also expect to feel a sense of homecoming.  I'm also thinking of driving after dark as a larger metaphor:  for my life, for gender, for heading into the future.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Imposter Syndromes

Over the week-end, I realized that another course shell for seminary had opened.  On Saturday, I spent a bit of time exploring while at the same time trying not to feel panic.  Some part of my brain watched from a distance, amused at the panic that I was trying to fight off.  I've done seminary classes before--why would I feel panic?  

I earned a Ph.D. in English--why would I feel panic?  And for that matter, where does this odd case of imposter syndrome come from?  I expected to feel like an imposter when I started grad school right out of undergraduate school.  But now?

To be clear, it's not a sense of imposter syndrome about being prepared for ministry.  It revolves around the issue of school itself.  It's partly about fear of being able to do the work--but I have been around enough decades to know that much of that ability is a time management ability, not an intellectual ability, and I have both time management and intellectual abilities enough to do MDiv level grad work.

I also feel weird about the money and the time that going back to grad school requires.  That's part of my imposter syndrome too.  I don't feel judgmental when I read about others who go back to school.  On the contrary, I feel a bit of envy.  But when I follow these opportunities?  My ugly inner voice sneers, "Who the heck are you to think that you deserve this?"

Along the road to this point in seminary, I've met so many women who decided to go to seminary in midlife, and that decision seems to have worked out well for each of them.  I am going to hold fast to the vision that they offer and the support and encouragement that they've give me.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Strange and Yet Familiar

What a strange week it has been in so many ways.  And yet, in some ways, the strangeness feels familiar.  Here I'm thinking the news of the FBI raid and classified documents hundreds of miles from where they should be stored, in the possession of Donald Trump in Florida--in some ways, it seems unprecedented, and in other ways, I shrug and say, "Of course it goes this way."  Traces of polio in the NY sewer system?  Of course it goes this way.

All yesterday, my brain returned to Salman Rushdie, who was attacked on Friday night by a man with a knife.  Yesterday morning, the news came that he was on a ventilator, and I dreaded where this story was headed.  But this morning, he's speaking.  Still, his injuries are so severe that in some ways, it seems shocking.  Yet in others, it seems like the logical outgrowth of the times we live in--and a fearsome road sign.  How does this trajectory end?  In armed civil war, as in the nineteenth century in so many countries?  Or with more of us taking more precautions of all kinds?

As I thought about Rushdie, about attacks on artists, my thoughts drifted to my own work.  While my mean inner voice sneered that I needn't worry, my rational brain thought about my work that would challenge those of a traditional Christian faith . . . or those with a traditional view of gender . . . or those with specific views of what should be taught in the classroom.  While most of us won't face the kind of severe threat that Rushdie has faced (hopefully we won't), we are none of us as safe as we might think we are.

I have been getting back to poetry writing, after a season of being mostly away--in part because of my broken wrist, in part because of moving.  Three weeks ago, these lines came to me as I thought about my spouse and myself and the ways that we have such different interests and how it can be hard for me to understand his approach and how he might be baffled at my midlife shift to seminary:

He's never seen a wall

he didn't dream of moving.

She rewrites every sacred text.

I thought these lines might make a good poem, and I tried.  That approach went nowhere in the first incarnation.  

But as I read updates and tweets and posts from the Churchwide Assembly* for the ELCA (which is the group of moderate, mainstream Lutherans which is one of my current worshipping preferences), my poem went a different direction and became something more interesting.  I had a glimpse of it and wrote this tweet:

"Wrestling with a poem that will include this line: 'She rewrites every sacred text.' It will include chickens and drying herbs and a churchwide meeting in a far away place. And some sort of art with fabric."

I am at the point with this poem where I am not sure if it is finished.  Does it have more to offer?  Should I just leave it alone?  It feels like I have more to say, but I'm not sure exactly what or how.  Once I might have been sure I would sort it out.  Now I am just as likely to wander away and never come back to this poem.  Is that O.K.?  Is some essential part of myself being lost?

Yesterday, I ordered books for seminary classes this fall, lots and lots of books.  I made this Facebook post:  "Just ordered all my books for Fall seminary classes and am now enjoying multiple freak outs: Can I really read all of these books in one term? Can I really do this work? Each book is inexpensive, but all of them together cost how much? And I know that the answer is that I am a strong, capable woman who can do this work and afford these books, but my inner freak out voice is not easily banished. Note to self for future terms: perhaps order the books one class at a time, instead of all at once."

Again, a process so strange, yet so familiar--I've successfully completed one year of seminary studies.  Why am I having anxiety now?  And yet the anxiety is familiar.  And perhaps that is why my brain returns to these patterns, so strange, yet so familiar.

*For more on what a Churchwide Assembly does, see this post on my theology blog.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Junk and Treasure for Sale

I have never been a person who loves thrift stores.  I don't mind an occasional quick trip, but I'm not a person who can go to store after store; I'm not interested in spending hours in a show.  In part, it's because there's not much there in my larger size, so I'm less inclined to go on a hunt for clothes.  In part, it's because I don't have much patience for searching through other people's junk on the off chance I'll find a treasure.  I already have too much stuff in my house.

Yesterday we went on a quest for a soup pot.  When I first thought about seminary housing, I thought I would buy a new set of pots and pans and leave the older stuff at home.  As I was packing, I thought it was absurd to buy a new set when we had almost 2 complete sets.

I don't have a large pot with a non-stick surface, so that's what I was looking for yesterday.  We headed down to the nearby town of Fletcher, which has some wonderful thrift-type stores.  But when I looked at the prices at the first store, I realized we were in the world of consignment shops, not thrift stores.  The prices seemed similar to what I would pay for the product new.  And they didn't have a soup pot.

They did, however, have a refrigerator.  It wasn't the one we'd had our eyes on, the model we bought for our kitchen remodel of 2003. It was a basic model, freezer on top, stainless steel outside.  It wasn't significantly cheaper than the model we could get at Lowe's--IF we could actually get that fridge.  We didn't buy it right away, but we did circle back later in the day to get it and to pay for delivery.

We went to a more traditional thrift store, the kind that supports a pet rescue, where we bought a microwave.  It's an older model, high power and rather huge as microwaves go.  We don't really have a good surface for it in our present kitchen.  Our countertops are too small for the microwave, which tells you how big it is or how small countertops were back in the 70's when our kitchen was installed.

So, at the end of the day, we bought a fridge and a microwave:  a kitchen remodel!

We also went to a more traditional thrift store, the local Good Will store, where we didn't find much, but the stuff was much cheaper.  We also went to my favorite kind of thrift store, where there were various venders, and many of them offered all sorts of trinkets from the past, like old bottles and kitchen equipment and such.  It reminded me of the big warehouses where we used to go in grad school, warehouses full of junk and treasure for sale, warehouses that would later be transformed/bulldozed into apartments and restaurants for a trendy section of town  (now the Vista, back then just Huger Street in Columbia, SC).

It's interesting to go thrifting, or any kind of shopping, after having spent a season paring down our possessions in advance of our move.  Part of me thought about all the stuff we jettisoned--could we have made money?  Of course, we'd have had to haul it up here to make money.  And it's hard to know if any of it would have actually sold.  I don't think we got rid of anything that was actually vintage instead of just old.

I understand the appeal of thrifting, the thrill of the hunt, the challenge of making something new out of other people's castaways.   But I'm also wary of the potential consumerism of it all, the amount of time it could take, not to mention the money and the storage space that might be required.  And let me back away from my judging tone here--I'm wary for me, not for the whole world.  For the whole world to be saved, we might need more thrifting, less of the other kinds of shopping.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Natural and Unnatural States

During my walk yesterday, I saw a fox.  At first I thought I was seeing a cat, and I wondered when Lutheridge had a cat of its own.  Then I realized it was bigger than a cat.  I had a moment where I thought it might be a bobcat, but I realized I was back to the basic question:  Coyote or fox?  I quickly decided on a fox because the creature was small and more like a cat than a dog.  I think of coyotes as more dog-like.

You might wonder what the big deal is--after all, our new house is close to 600 acres of undeveloped land.  And I saw foxes on my morning walks in South Florida.  But when I walk at Lutheridge, I'm expecting to see bears or turkeys.  It was cool to see a different animal than the ones that everyone else has been seeing/photographing.

I did spend some time thinking about natural settings and unnatural ones.  In a way, the fox has a great set up, with so much forested land nearby.  But there's also fairly high density development nearby; there's nowhere at camp where I escape the thrum of nearby traffic.  It's a vastly different situation from when I was a child.  In the 70's, if you forgot a rain poncho, you did without for the week of camp.

In some ways, that fox sighting was the highlight of my day.  Later in the morning, we decided to go to get our drivers licenses.  We didn't have an appointment.  I tried to make one online, and the soonest available was November.  To be honest, I thought something was wrong with the website.

We decided to go to Hendersonville instead of Asheville because we thought it would be less crowded.  That might be so, but the line didn't move any faster.  We waited for an hour, and the line didn't really move at all.  There were 8 people ahead of us, and it was already 11 a.m.  We decided to come back much earlier on Tuesday and to clear out the whole day for the task.

I thought about going to Wells Fargo to see if I could make any headway in the fraud issue that my South Florida church is still trying to resolve, but I just couldn't face that task yesterday.  My spouse did get a haircut, and we had a good lunch.  We ordered a screened canopy so that my spouse will have a place to smoke on the deck when it rains.  When we tried to put it up, I was reminded of why I am glad that I will be living at seminary housing when he does home repairs.  In many ways, we have never worked well together on those projects, and I'm tired of trying.

At least now I have a right hand and arm that is not as functional as it once was--we can blame my inability on that.  It makes me feel slightly less incompetent.  

We went to bed extremely early last night--I fully expected to be awake for the day at 1 a.m.  Instead, I slept through the night, through the rainstorm that made me wonder if I should get up to check on things, but instead, I rolled over and kept sleeping.  I slept right through until 4:30, one of my normal wake up times.  

I've decided to forgive myself for all that I did not get done yesterday, and to be happy about getting over 9 hours of sleep, a most unnatural state for me.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Laptop Love

Last week, I got a new laptop.  Unlike my experience with the last 2 laptops, I started using this one right away.  With the last two, I bought each one during a tax free time in August and then waited months for it to be the right time to start using it.

This year, my old laptop had been giving signs that it was giving up the ghost.  It took longer to start up and had more freezes.  But these issues were intermittent, and I wasn't sure that they were aggravating enough to justify a new laptop.

A month ago, at the end of Music Week at Lutheridge, I couldn't close the laptop without a horrible sound.  A hinge had broken.  I was able to open and close it a few more times, but clearly, it was about to be a much less portable computer.

My first inclination was to fix the broken hinge, which isn't as easy as you would think.  I had visions of bringing it to some sort of old-fashioned shop, the kind that probably doesn't exist anymore, the kind of place that would have just the kind of hinge I needed and the expertise to install it right then and there.  No, I would have to leave my laptop for several days of analysis and diagnosis.  It would likely cost at least $75.00 for the diagnosis alone, and then more for the repair.  

For that much money, I could buy a new laptop, so that's what I did.  I had been using my old laptop for about 4 years, so it wasn't likely to last a lot more years.

So far, the transition to the new laptop has been smooth, but I still have a bit of work to do.  Even though most of my documents seem stored to the cloud, I still want to back up all my data from the old laptop onto an external drive and then also load them to the new laptop.  When I first started using my old laptop in 2018, I was unsure of whether or not I wanted to use the cloud, so some of my data may not be there.  And I'm aware that the cloud relies on someone else, probably several someone elses, to keep a server (or 2 or 3) up and running.

I am still exploring whether or not the services that I had for my old laptop, like Office 365 and McAfee security software, have downloaded to be used on the new machine.  It's confusing because the new laptop came with a trial subscription, so until that runs out in a few days, I can't be sure.  I've already paid for these services which are supposed to cover several different machines, so I don't want to pay for them again.

It's that kind of aggravation, or potential aggravation, that keeps me from buying new technology as frequently as other people do.  I am not anti-technology, as some people assume.  But I am tired of devoting so much time to technology, the updating, the troubleshooting, the backing up and running scans, the overall neediness of the technology.

And each updated laptop comes with a loss.  My first laptop had a port where I could connect the old flat screen that we had for a desk top, which meant a much bigger picture.  That feature is gone, as is the DVD/CD drive of the last laptop.  It does make for a slightly less heavy laptop, but also a slightly less functional one.

That said, I am loving my new laptop.  So far, it's been one week, and I have yet to get the message, "Google Chrome is not responding."  Hurrah.  So far, I open the laptop and it, too, opens, ready for me to get going.  It holds a battery charge much longer than the last laptop ever did, and it recharges more quickly too.  It's not running so hot that I fear it might warp the wood of the antique desk.

Let me forgive myself for waiting so long.  Let me be happy that I took action before the laptop situation reached a crisis point.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Wednesday Postcards

I have turned in grades for my online class.  I spent much of yesterday grading, grading, grading.  Let me make a blog post that is a collection of snippets from the past weeks that I don't want to forget:

--Last night I saw a mostly full moon, shaded by fog and the dark branches of pine trees (I almost wrote palm trees).  It seemed another seasonal shift, much like finding apples at the farmer's market.

--It is hard to eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies each day when one only has a small refrigerator and no freezer.  Yesterday I went to the deli at Ingles (a local grocery store) to see if I could get some veggie sides.  The guy in the line behind me told me which sides were worth it and which were hit or miss.  I didn't pick up any pick up vibes--he just seemed genuinely helpful.

--It is also hard to stay hydrated with no fridge that can hold a gallon pitcher of tea.  Sigh.

--We spent the last weeks in the condo checking every cabinet and drawer to make sure that we didn't leave anything behind.  We were in our new house one week before we realized we had forgotten to get the items in the drawer in the bottom of the oven.  Overall, it's not a huge loss--lots of battered cookie sheets that needed to be replaced anyway.  We did lose 2 high-end pizza stones that I bought in the summer of 2020, but we had been using them less and less in the past year.

--I have begun thinking about all the small items I'll need to buy when I get settled in Wesley campus housing, things like small wastebaskets and paper towels and such.

--I should also start ordering books for my classes.

--This morning I woke up thinking about the fact that American University is right beside the Wesley campus--literally, the 2 campuses sit beside each other.  I thought about reaching out to their English department to see if they need any last minute faculty.  I went to the website, and they are advertising openings for adjuncts to teach their College Writing classes.  I will send in my information later today.

--As I walked up the hill to the chapel this morning, I thought about how much easier it is for me to make that trek than it was during Music Week.  And then I thought that it was a month ago that Music Week began.

--So much has happened in the past month--and so much will happen in the next month.  Deep breaths!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

First Fruits

Blog writing time is short today; I have online grades due tomorrow.  Let me record some Facebook posts that I made:

Inspired by the agricultural efforts of friends and family, and by a great breakfast made entirely from their gifts to me (eggs, peppers, chives, basil, tomatoes), I decided to seek out more produce at the Western North Carolina Farmer's Market in Asheville. It's not far away, but I was more impressed with what I brought home with me from my Appalachian road trip. I did get the first of the apples--the season is shifting.

Sad to hear about the death of Olivia Newton John. I absentmindedly sing her songs while reading about her life. There's the whole "Grease" soundtrack of course. But there's also stuff from that mid-70's album my dad had: "Have You Never Been Mellow?" and "I Honestly Love You." And "Physical" from a later year. Also feeling a bit sobered to realize how old I am, how that music is from such a long ago space.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Driving and Memories

Yesterday, I returned home from my quick road trip to take a car load of boxes for seminary up to Maryland.  I made this Facebook post:

"I left Maryland at daybreak and pulled into my North Carolina driveway at 1:35. Five states between dawn and noon: Maryland, W. Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. From the Interstate, I waved hello to my mother's birthplace (Winchester, Virginia) and my grandmother's birthplace (Johnson City, Tennessee). I waved hello to various schools that dear friends attended--too many to name. I crossed beautiful rivers and waved hello to the Appalachian Trail and other places I hiked in my youth. I said a prayer of thanks for all the green trees and the hope that resurrection of a tired planet might be possible."

I spent much of the drive awash in memories of previous road trips across these mountains.  While I've made the trip from Florida to the North Carolina mountains frequently, this past road trip took me to Virginia, where I haven't been in years/decades.  And I haven't been to Johnson City, Tennessee since I was in my late teens.  I have a memory of my mom and sister and I stopping in as we went from Knoxville to Charlottesville on time.  My maternal grandmother came from a farm in Johnson City, and my maternal grandfather's first call was to 5 churches in that area--that's how they met.

Instead of my zippy, subcompact Prius, I drove the SUV, a Rogue with all sorts of safety features and room for many more boxes.  I learned to drive on a 74 Monte Carlo, so you'd think I would be used to larger cars.  I am not.  It feels like a significant achievement to take a road trip in the Rogue all by myself.

There are many moments when I think, when did I become this timid person?  I used to take long road trips, back in the days before cell phones, in cars that leaked copious amounts of oil and were held together with chewing gum and good wishes.  I guess that one of the hazards/blessings of growing older is the awareness of all that can go wrong.

I am looking forward to the next road trip when I'll have another driver, and I can spend time looking at the views.  I was so focused on the road that I didn't really feel like I could take in all the mountain vistas.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

First Time on Seminary Campus

My original plan had been to be back on the road yesterday--7 hours up to Maryland on Friday, and 8 hours back to North Carolina on Saturday.  But as I looked at the calendar, I realized I could spend an extra day.  And yesterday, I was glad that I did.

I was glad for all the regular reasons:  time to recover from Friday's drive, time to enjoy a day with my family.  An unexpected bonus was our trip to see the campus of Wesley Theological Seminary, where I've been taking classes online for a year and will be taking classes in person in just a few weeks.

We headed down about 11:30 after a fun morning of walking the dog, going to the Amish market, and eating treats for breakfast.  My sister was the driver, and she knew exactly where she was going, which made it easier.  We pulled into the deserted parking lot and took a look around.

We couldn't get into housing, which was a plus in a way.  If I'm living there, I don't want anyone from off the street to be able to wander through.  There was a number we could call for assistance, but I didn't see the need to interrupt anyone's Saturday, just to show us the inside.  I'll see it in 2 weeks, when we move in.  We did look in a few open windows, and it looks like pictures I've seen.

The classroom building was open, so we wandered through.  It looks fairly modern, in terms of seating and equipment.  But there's lots and lots of art throughout the building, a wide variety of subjects, mediums, and approaches. We were also able to see the chapel.

My sister snapped a few pictures.  Here's the courtyard, where we both said, "Oh, there's more to this campus than I thought":

And here I am, standing next to a high bell tower:

Here's the bell tower at full height:

We didn't take a picture of either of us standing at the iconic statue of Wesley.  That would have been a long walk down a grassy field.  I'm glad that the seminary is set back from the road.  I'm glad that there are so many trees and green spaces.  I'm glad that there are so many high windows to capture that sense of being nestled in nature.

After our brief exploration of campus, we headed down Massachusetts Avenue.  I was reminded once again of how much DC packs into a very small geographical space:  embassies and universities and all sorts of organizations.  Oh, yes, and the three branches of the federal government.

DC has always been one of my very most favorite cities, and I'm looking forward to exploring it again.  And I'm happy that I'll have a home base on the seminary campus to come home to each day.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Road Tripping Across the Appalachians

As we packed boxes at our condo in South Florida, we marked with pink packing tape the boxes that would go on with me to Wesley Seminary housing.  As the movers unloaded the moving van at our Arden house, we kept those boxes in one area.  We decided it would be a good idea for me to take a load of boxes to my sister's house in Maryland, which is very close to the seminary.  I've got a lot of boxes coming with me.

The seminary housing is furnished, but I still need things like dishes, cookware, sheets, and towels.   And art supplies and cloth for the quilt(s) I plan to make.  And books--lots and lots of books.

Yesterday I left my friend's house in Charlotte; I was returning her cooler and picnic basket and also enjoying the chance for a quick visit.  She's lived in the house for 15 years and transformed a basic suburban house into an urban homestead, complete with chicken coop.  What an amazing space.

From Charlotte, I travelled up I77, which was delightfully empty, once I left Charlotte.  After an hour, the climb up the mountains began.  I'm sure there were amazing vistas, but I was concentrating on the winding road.  I was in the larger car, the Nissan Rogue, that I don't drive very often, so I felt the need to stay hyper vigilant, even though the car has more safety features than my Prius sub-compact model.

In Virginia, I hopped in I81, which still offers plenty of lovely mountain vistas.  Here and there, I caught site of a beautiful farm, the kind of farm that is the larger version of a homestead like the kind my friend is creating in Charlotte.  I spent many formative years going back and forth across these mountains; I went to high school in both Charlottesville and Knoxville, so these ranges feel familiar.  It's been so many decades, yet much remains the same in terms of what one sees out of the car window.

I enjoy a long car trip, and I was lucky to stay within range of NPR stations.  The car is so unfamiliar to me that I forgot to bring my CDs, just in case I needed them.  These days, I tend to listen to the radio on a long car trip; gone are the days of mix tapes made specifically for a road trip.

I made excellent time--I was at my sister's house by 2 p.m.  We put my carload of boxes in her storage unit, picked up some provisions, and got settled in before the afternoon thunderstorms rolled through.  We had a great time catching up, and it's wonderful to realize that, with luck and grace, the coming years should offer more opportunity for similar visits.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

The End of My Website

Yesterday I canceled my domain name and my website.  It was a clunky website, hard to update, impossible to make it look like I wanted.  But that's not the main reason I canceled the whole package.

I was paying a monthly fee of $21.00 to get the more accessible web design package, and that was on top of the twice a year fee of whatever it had gotten up to ($70.00?).  That starts to look like a lot of money.  That's part of the reason I canceled the whole thing yesterday.

I created the website back in 2008 or so.  I was late to creating an online presence.  I started a website and a blog.  I decided that I was serious about getting my creative work published and part of being serious meant that I needed to have an audience in place for that future time when I had a book with a spine published.  Maybe having the audience in place would make book publishers take a second or third look at my work.

That idea seems like such a long time ago--that a simple website might be enough to build a brand.  I was happy to do the blogging and to post on Facebook.  I was late to Twitter, but it doesn't seem too onerous.  But as the years have gone by, I just can't keep up with the various platforms.  But that's not the reason I canceled my website package.

The main reason:  my approach to writing has changed.  I no longer think that a book publication will change my life substantially.  Once I thought a book publication would lead to a better teaching job.  Maybe it would have once, when I was younger, when enrollment numbers at schools were rising.  The world is a different place now.

And I am in a different place now.  I'm no longer pursuing publication like I once did.  When I think about how much I've paid in entrance fees . . . well, I try not to do that.  It could have been worse.  I usually only sent my book length poetry manuscript to a few places a year, and I saw the fee as a contribution to the press.  I only submitted to presses I wanted to support that way.  I didn't spend money on nonfiction or fiction, although I did query agents here and there.

I will always be a writer, and poetry comes most easily to me.  Even when I'm not publishing, I'll keep writing poems.  It's a way of seeing the world, a way of gratitude, a way of forcing myself to take notice.

I will also send poems out here and there in the hopes of publication.  But I'm also a seminary student so my focus has shifted.  And because I'm on a platter like Twitter, I have an even more visceral sense of how many poems are out there and how few slots there are for publication.  I don't think a website improves my chances.

If I do get a contract for book publication, I'll revisit these decisions.  Is a website an important way to reach readers?  I do know that the website that I had was just as likely to lose a reader as to gain an audience--it was just that clunky.  And part of the fault was mine--I just didn't want to mess with it.  

It feels good to have made that decision just to be done with it.  Like so many parts of my life, I felt bad about my inability to do what needed to be done with that website, to update it, to make it look better.  It's good to just call it quits.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Rabbit Holes of Wonder

I've fallen down a bit of a rabbit hole this morning, listening to (and occasionally watching) the videos of Paul Simon at the Newport Folk Festival--he sung words I needed to hear this morning.  And so did Rhiannon Giddens--I had forgotten how searing "An American Tune" can be.  "We come in the nation's most uncertain hour"--no matter which year/hour it is when I hear that song, it seems so piercingly true.  This morning, it seems more true than ever; but of course, I would have said the same thing in 2016 or in 2002 or 1984 or any of the years in between.

That rabbit hole was a good one to fall down.  Paul Simon singing "Graceland"!  Paul Simon singing "The Boxer"!  Paul Simon singing "The Sounds of Silence"!--there are worse ways to spend the better part of an hour.  But not all of my rabbit holes have been as positive.

On Monday afternoon, I pulled up my bill for my upcoming term at Wesley.  That bill was much more than I expected.  I did a bit of calculating, a bit of looking up past bills, just in case my memory was faulty or in case I was doing math the wrong way.  I looked up the fee schedule and the cost per credit hour, and just to be sure, I doublechecked the catalog.  I did the math again and again.

I called the business office of the seminary and left several messages.  Yesterday, I wrote an e-mail and finally got a response--yes, there had been a glitch.  But by then, I had gone down a different rabbit hole, thinking about the cost of seminary, thinking about the cheaper options I had rejected, wondering if I was stupid to do this at my age.  Even as I observed my brain following these directions, even as I tried to redirect my thoughts, my brain continued down unhelpful paths.

Yesterday, I needed a break, so I suggested we go to a nearby county park to take a walk.  What a good idea that was!  Fletcher Community Park in Fletcher, NC is by a stream/river/creek, Cane Creek, with places where one can swim or wade.  The paths had a good mix of sun and shade, so the walk was pleasant.

My family gathers in the area most Thanksgivings, so I also had pleasant memories of being at the park in a different season--me walking by the creek while my dad went for a run, a round of frisbee golf, bringing dogs to the dog park, figuring out how the new fitness equipment worked, sitting on sunny benches with the littlest ones while the more energetic/older family members played soccer or football.

The whole area is full of these kinds of sites that send me tripping through a hole in time--a different kind of rabbit hole.  I remember all sorts of mountain paths that I hiked during earlier school days.  I remember thrift stores and book shops, some of which are still there.  There are versions of the Fresh Market that seem straight out of the 90's, while others seem a pale imitation.  There are mountain vistas that remind me of endless car trips, staring at the vistas, dreaming of a house to call my own.

And now we have such a house.  Yesterday we looked at various seedlings as we wondered what they could be.  I thought about calling the NC Agricultural Coop Extension--such a good resource in most states.  It's the kind of government that we used to be so good at, at every level.  On a day when the Speaker of the House of Representatives landed in Taiwan, it was good to remember my roots in a different way, good not to fall down the rabbit hole of worrying about nuclear war apocalypse.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Cross Quarter Hinge Point

Early August is a hinge point in the calendar.  In some ways, it's not as obvious a hinge as the autumnal equinox or the summer solstice; in fact, it's the time directly between those two hinges--we're as far away from the start of summer as we are from the start of autumn.  But in some ways, it's just as significant a point of seasonal shift.

August 1 marks the Celtic festival of Lughnasa, which Christine Valters Paintner describes in this blog post: "Lughnasa (pronounced Loo-nassah) is one of the ancient Celtic feasts celebrated on August 1st marking the time of the beginning of the harvest and the gathering in. It is said to honor the Celtic sun-god Lugh who was an ally to the farmer in the struggle for food. With the Summer Solstice six weeks before, you can start to really feel the shortening of the days in August in Ireland. There is a subtle shift in the light and the air that leans towards autumn’s crispness and cooler days. The energy in the world is changing."

We may have slogged through summer long enough that we may feel that nothing will ever change--it will be hot and humid forever.  The light hasn't changed significantly, the way it will in a month or two.  But we are losing more daylight each day as we hurtle towards a different season.  Students aren't in school yet, but the time draws closer.  Most of us aren't agricultural people anymore, but if we were, we'd be seeing crops in their final ripening.  Harvest would be coming soon.

Now is a good time to take an accounting.  Have we been planning some summer festivities that we haven't gotten to do yet?  Now is the time.  Do we need to adjust our trajectories for the rest of the year?  Let us make some plans.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Endless Summer

Yesterday was one of those days when I looked at my watch at 4 p.m. and said to my spouse, "Really?  It's not bedtime yet?"  It wasn't a particularly bad or tough day.  It just seemed to go on and on and on.

Finally I went to bed at 8 p.m.  The sun hadn't set yet, but the golden light stretched across the pines, maples, and oaks that I can see out of the bedroom window.  It was wonderful falling asleep with a view of the forest.

Admittedly, the word "forest" is a bit of a stretch.  While this part of western North Carolina is surrounded by all sorts of forests, I live in a neighborhood that has a lot of trees, a neighborhood between hundreds of acres of Lutheran church camp and a strip of shopping development (think Walmart and Lowe's and lots of fast food chains).

Here we are at the beginning of August.  Summer isn't over yet, but the end is in sight.  Here and there I see a leaf of autumnal color on a tree or on the ground, and it seems a harbinger.  At the same time, it seems that summer will never leave.

It's been a long summer for many reasons.  Would it have seemed as long and endless if I hadn't broken my wrist on April 15?  I know that buying a house was not on my radar when I thought about this summer.  We had an unexpected opportunity at the end of April, which meant that we had to put our moving plans on fast forward.

Years from now, when I think about this summer, I'll likely remember the endless packing of boxes.  Will I remember the stress of moving out of a condo?  Probably.  Will I remember how stressed I felt about our gravel driveway and the mountains?  Perhaps, but I'm realizing that a variety of deliveries happen in this neighborhood, and everyone is much more sanguine about the challenges than I was before I moved here.

Much like endless days, I look at this first day of August, and I say, "Really?  It's not October yet?"  But the light has shifted at both end of the day.  It's clear that the seasons are shifting, although one must be alert to notice it.  It's not the flamboyant changes of October, the chillier air, the pumpkins, the leaves changing colors.   But it's there, for those with eyes to see.