Friday, April 25, 2008

A Lighthearted Friday Five

After all that PONDERING yesterday, and being as I have been passed out most of today on meds for what is apparently a major allergy disaster, it's nice to have something fun from the RevGals to respond to:

Yesterday I had two separate conversations in which people were musing about how much change is occurring. The WW II generation, of which my mom is a part, went from horse and buggy to automobiles, saw the lessening, or even the end of many diseases, went from widespread use of kerosene lamps and outhouses (in the country, and most folks were rural)) to a totally electrified and plumbed society. The fastest means of communication was a telegraph. The second conversation--gulp--was about MY generation and how much change occurred in the last half of the 20th century. The person said his 13 year old had not seen a vinyl record album until a few days before, couldn't remember a time without cell phones, and on and on.

As for the questions!

1. What modern convenience/invention could you absolutely, positively not live without?

Google and email are tied. I managed a computer-less life when I was on retreat last summer for 8 days, but I couldn't live my regular life that way anymore.

2. What modern convenience/invention do you wish had never seen the light of day? Why?

Call-waiting. I think it has had a major effect on what used to be known as common courtesy.

3. Do you own a music-playing device older than a CD player? More than one? If so, do you use it (them)?

I don't think so. There might be a cassette player around somewhere.

4. Do you find the rapid change in our world exciting, scary, a mix...or somethingelse?

It's exciting and wonderful as long as there's a young person around to get the technology to work. Usually I can't even find the on and off buttons without assistance.

5. What did our forebears have that we have lost and you'd like to regain? Bonuspoints if you have a suggestion of how to begin that process.

I might have to think about that one. I used to be a real Laura Ingalls fan and think that I was meant for pioneer life in the 19th century, until I grew up and came to understand how much labor and inconvenience lay behind those stories.

Oh -- I know! Elegance of language. Think Jane Austen: the intense emotional power embedded in the most composed and restrained conversations.

In general, I think we've gained a lot from the past century's advances in science and communications. I love learning about the world and universe, I love that we are all becoming better aquainted with one another (in the global sense), and I love my cameras!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Parts of Our Lives That Slip Away

I've had a really bad day, which I would define as a combination of a bad cold, a major relationship mistake (the kind that makes you doubt your capacity ever to be of any good to anyone), and being left out of something in which I would have liked to have been included.

And overshadowing it all, a telephone call last night.

I have had four families of origin. Two years after my mother and youngest brother were killed in a car accident, my father remarried. Our new stepmother and her two youngest children moved 1200 miles and into our house. Eight years later, when she died, her children moved back into the orbit of their father and older siblings in the south and a year later, when my father married again, the process of Total Disconnect began. That was 35 years ago. I have been in very intermittent contact with those siblings over the years, but virtually none at all in the most recent decade.

And so I did not, for instance, know that my older stepbrother, the one with whom I had the most tenuous relationship even when we were officially members of the same family, died of cancer a couple of years ago, or that the stepbrother who is exactly my age, and to whom I was at one time extremely close, has also had cancer. I did not know that the youngest had lost his partner to death some time ago.

People sometimes think, I know, that I write about loss rather too much. But my youngest stepbrother was pulled out of his home and into a new one when he was four, was the first to find his mother after her death when he was twelve, has since lost two stepmothers and his father and a brother, and now most recently his partner. Loss tends to permeate our family.

There was a time, very long ago, when we were all children in Florida. Our parents were all alive and were friends, and played cards together while we kids were left to our own devices in the early evenings. I know now that there were difficulties among some of the adults, portents of the realignments that would occur after my mother died. In fact, sometimes I think we were characters in a John Cheever story. But I did not know then.

We were not entirely innocent. When I was in first grade in Florida, the ambulances raced past our house one evening during dinner, and the subsequent phone calls among the mothers revealed that a boy in my class had died during a family picnic on the beach, a couple of blocks away. He had suffocated on a balloon. (I never forgot that night, and there were never any balloons at any of my children's birthday parties.) So yes, we knew that things happened.

But we did not know quite how many.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Springtime in Ireland

Courtesy of The Lovely Daughter

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I'm Not at Glendalough

I'm on a bit of a blogging break.

But The Lovely Daughter has been here, so I now have a folder named "Ireland" and I thought I'd share.

She's off to Poland tomorrow.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Issues Issues Issues

None of them bloggable.

For those who have asked: I have 6.5 weeks of school left, including exams, and then a (very) few days off before starting CPE at Giant Famous Hospital. GFH offers the double benefit of a wildly diverse patient population and a wildly diverse array of medical challenges, meaning that opportunities for pastoral care will be boundless (none of which is, of course and ironically, beneficial or good news in any way to the people in said population presenting the conditions which create said challenges). I am not going to be able to carve out time to go away on retreat this summer (which is making me just a little crazy), but the aforesaid GFH is a 2-mile walk from my front door, so I guess I will have a couple of mini-retreats each day, provided that the skies do not turn black and gush forth water on too regular a basis.

The Lovely Daughter will be home and will perhaps return to her camp counseling job in North Carolina, which may garner me a short hiking-and-waterfall sojourn in August. The Son Who Has Been Looking For A Job For Months starts one this coming week. Chicago Son and Charming Girlfriend will perhaps host us for a summer week-end, which will perhaps include tickets to WICKED (!!!!!!).

In the meantime, there are a lot of things that I need to know by tomorrow morning that I don't. Know. And a lot of issues bubbling up on every front.

I leave you with images of Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine, which does not look remotely Presbyterian, but is surely one of my most favorite church buildings ever. Who could not love a building with an interior dome painted the color of the sea and an address on Sevilla Street?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Y'all know I love to walk in the cemetery, and one of the reasons is that, no matter how well I think I know it, I can almost always find a window tucked away in a mausoleum that I haven't noticed before.

I remain astonished by the labor and creativity put into artistry that almost no one sees. I mean, if I don't know about a given window, what are the chances that anyone else does?

They aren't easy to photograph -- sometimes I find them but at the wrong time of day. The sun, obviously, needs to be behind the window and at the right place and angle on the horizon, so often my new discoveries require return trips. And some people have put vases of flowers on the ledges in front of the windows -- most of which are on the back walls of mausoleums -- and left them there for, oh, I don't know, maybe the last 50 years? The dried-up stalks are something of a distraction.

The only distraction I found here lies in the Nordic characterization of Jesus. I kind of expect him to be calling a reindeer rather than a sheep. But it's still a gorgeous window.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Don't Move. . . or Do I?

So this week's Friday Five asks about your experience of the marvels and madness of moving...

1. How many times have you moved? When was the last time?

As indicated by the title, I don't move. We moved into our home on January 16 of 1984. It was 16 degrees below 0 and the interior of the house was about 50 when we finished. I was newly pregnant with twins (although I didn't know about the twins part), and at the end of the day I crawled into bed and waited to die, barely emerging for the next few months except to puke.

Or maybe I do move. Every week I drive back to seminary and stay at the dorm for three to five nights. It occurred to me the other day that I have lived something of an odd life. I moved into a dorm in a Catholic boarding school when I was twelve (~ yes, go ahead and think Hayley Mills in Trouble with Angels and you would be right on target ~) and here I am, doing it again.

2. What do you love and hate about moving?

I hate the packing up every week, and I'm sure I would hate it more for a real move. The organizational skills required are beyond me.

If we were to make a real move, I would love the opportunity for real change. Different spaces, different colors, different furniture, a different neighborhood. Twenty-four years is a long time.

3. Do you do it yourself or hire movers?

We woud have to either hire movers or set a fire to the place.

4. Advice for surviving and thriving during a move?

Just don't do it?

Seriously, I have no idea. Around here, people don't much move, except for those who want a smaller place (we are now in that category) or those obsessed with re-habbing ( we are definitely not in that category, although opportunities abound). Most of my friends and aquaintances have been here as long or longer than we have. But I have a number of friends in my online moms group who have moved several times, and they bring such positive attitudes and energy to what seems to me to be an insurmounatbke task that I am in awe of them. They also seem to share a remarkable capacity for remaining unattached to inanimate objects, like rooms or yards or entire houses.

5. Are you in the middle of any inner moves, if not outer ones?

Well, duh.

Bonus: Share a piece of music/poetry/film/book that expresses something about what moving means to you.

Hmmmm. . . maybe Carole King's So Far Away. I'm sure that part of my resistance to moving comes from my ability to return in the blink of an eye to the lost and sad feelings of the summer of 1971, when I had just graduated from Boarding School Number 2. Boarding school is a strange life ~ the 24/7 companionship of adolescents living almost entirely in a world of their own forging ~ and the break when it ends is profound and devastating. In a pre-email, pre-Facebook world, I think most of us were at something of a loss that summer, and I know that we all listened to Tapestry and Blue until the grooves wore out.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Basement Dreams

In real life, our basement is basically a square with unfinished concrete walls and floor. The washer and dryer are down there, and so are heaps of disorganized clothing, papers, camping equipment, soccer stuff, Christmas decorations ~ the debris of 24 years of living in the same place.

Last night I had another one of those dreams, the dreams in which I go downstairs and discover an endless sequence of rooms.

They were all flooded.

I slogged through about a foot of water, room after room after room.

"We will never be able to sell this house, " I said.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Buying Gas

So I stop at the gas station as I am leaving for the drive back to seminary today, and the gangly young man who waits on me is as spacey as he was last week. I wonder in exasperation if any transaction here is ever handled with the slightest modicum of efficiency.

"So," I say, "you're kinda havin' a goofy week."

"Yeah. . ."and then he brightens: "This is my last day here!"

I think this is probably a good move on his part.

"So, what's next for you?"

"Well, I'm taking three weeks off, and then I'm going into the Navy, so Boot Camp is next."

Now all thoughts of efficiency (not to mention the cost of the gas I just put in my car, which is actually relevant to the ensuing conversation) have vanished from my pea brain. I am 100% attentive to the very -- VERY -- young man in front of me.

We establish that he is 19, a recent graduate of a local Catholic boys' high school, has nine weeks of basic ahead of him in Chicago and then probably school in Pensacola, hopes to work on software security, and has signed on for six years in the hopes of landing a good job assignment.

And that his name is Stephen.

I wish him the best of luck and tell him that he will be in my thoughts, which he will. I'm not too sure about how kind this world is to the Stephens out there.

I feel very much like the mom of young people I am.

Friday, April 04, 2008


I. I may need to make a few stabs at this. I have things to say about work and transitions and call and energy and drive and time and material goods and priorities, and it may take me several tries to get it right.

II. I took on a lot this year. A fulltime seminary committment, a 137.4 mile trip from my driveway to the seminary parking lot, a drive which I make there and back weekly, twice every other week. A certificate program in spiritual direction that meets on Wednesdays during those every other weeks. I am often frustrated and discouraged; I have to spend about 80% of my academic time on a subject for which I have no aptitude, meaning that the things in which I long to submerge myself receive short shrift indeed. I balance competing theologies and loves, making my both/and-ness a wearying grace at times. And yet I am utterly filled with a deep sense of joy and a tremendous inner energy. I love what I am studying, I love the conversations, I love the way my life has opened up. I am astonished and delighted and amazed by what fills me, swirls around inside me, and flows out of me.

III. I took on a lot this year because I could. I am old enough to know that some days the phone rings and life as you know it comes to an end, and that when you emerge months later it is to a foreign and not altogether friendly country around which you must erect a new and shaky scaffold. At the moment, everyone for whom I care and am directly responsible is healthy and functional, and so I have a freedom that enabled me to take on a lot. And so I did.

IV. Nevertheless, it all hangs together by a slim thread. Today, with a couple of hours allocated for errands, I went to the vet to pick up the dog's prescription food, headed to the local college to pay a bill and order transcripts, stopped by our old church to pay for reservations for the luncheon after the dedication of the new wing next week, ran into Borders to purchase some cards for a friend who has just had a very serious emergency surgery,and walked over to Office Max for yet more paper and dividers. And when I got home, it was to a message that I had left my checkbook in the college cashier's office. For a moment, I thought I might actually cry. There was NOT another half-hour in my afternoon to drive back there -- but, of course, I had to wave my magic wand and make that half-hour materialize.

V. The phone call came as I was sorting through clothes, preparing to discard as much as I can. I am painfully aware that one thing is simply not happening this year, and that is: any attention at all on my part to either the mundane or major tasks required to maintain a household. And so I have started to give some concentrated, albeit tentative, thought to the spirituality of sustaining material life, and some fragments of time to the effort.

VI. And so: I cleaned out two dresser drawers today. Do two dresser drawers merit an essay, or even a paragraph? Perhaps.

VII. The dresser itself I would like to discard. Empire style, curly maple veneer. Too big, too old. We are no longer the young couple who frequented Amish auctions for furniture. We are no longer the young professionals who bought the big old colonial in the inner ring suburb (although it seems that we still have it, along with Mortgage Number 8,000). We want less -- less house, fewer pieces of furniture. The dresser makes me think of the (then) young man named Tim at one of the auction barns -- he was gorgeous (!) and could lift a 19th century wardrobe into the air as though it weighed nothing. My friend Rachel and I both had crushes on him. (Rachel and I were both married, both corporate lawyers, both living staid and conservative lives; our admiration of Tim was a pleasant byproduct of our enjoyment of antique auctions.) The dresser needs to go the way of that past life, but first it needs to be emptied.

VIII. How many swimsuits, exactly, have I purchased at Lands' End over the years? Does the Lovely Daughter still want the tank suits that might serve her well as a camp counselor this summer? I want the St. Augustine t-shirts, yes, but not the long and dowdy skirts purchased for teaching in an Orthodox Jewish environment. I want the almost-fuschia velour long-sleeevd t-shirt that never has fit well enough to wear for Christmas dinner, but not the lovely soft pink sweater that makes me look like a linebacker. (I don't actually know what a linebacker is, but the analogy sounds right.)

IX. What it all comes down to is this: I am changing. I am 54 and I don't know what furniture I want or what clothes I want. I don't know how I want to allocate my time. My priorities are not what they were and not what they are going to be. I am really, really happy, and really, really bewildered.

X. And so the dresser and most of its contents need to go.

Easter: Another Era

With all of us all over the place, I got to thinking about this photo (I'm guessing it's from some kind of Instamatic) and this period of our lives:

Easter 1989 in St. Augustine.

Gannet had abandoned the practice of law to become a fulltime mom-at-home. The Guys were five and in Montessori school; The Lovely Daughter was two and full of glee; life that week, judging by the photo album, was primarily about The Beach: sand castles and super-squirters.

What I remember most: being filled to overflowing with a constant sense of sheer joy.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Just a Day

Greek Class: By the time I understand the question that's been raised, we are on to the next one.

New Testament Class: Hard to transform my gooey Greek-saturated brain into one that moves with the speed of my NT professor. Hard to accomodate her (yes, I said her) positions on language, roles, leadership, etc,, with respect to women.

Lengthy meeting with Greek professor in my continuing attempt to understand -- something, anything, one little thing. I suppose we make some progress.

Quick meetings with administrators and professor about internship (next year) and money (next year) and recommendation (this year). Schedule meeting with another professor to discuss thesis possibilities.

Eat ice cream.

Drive home (2.5 hours.) Manage not to get ticket.

Eat spaghetti.

Finish paper for class tonight. Not happy with what we are reading. I scrunch a little further (if that's possible) to the theological left every day, but I want sound and thorough scholarship to back me up. This book doesn't fly.

Ahead this evening: 3.5 hours of spiritual direction class and 2.5 hours of driving. I will love the class, despite the one reading, and I will tolerate the drive. I got a flat on my way back to seminary a couple of weeks ago, so I'm hoping that's it for mishaps this year.

Just a day.