Monday, July 30, 2007

In lieu of a real post

Via JM. Not much surprising new information here, but it's still interesting...

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The noise from my apartment?

I really am alone. I promise. There isn't some beautiful woman here with me.

That noise you heard? It was me eating some fresh sweet corn from the farmers' market.

Honest. It really was that good.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Introvert much?

The past week was busy. The assembly meeting for the denomination with which the seminary where I work is affiliated was a great opportunity for me to meet prospective students and others who know of possible students. For five days straight I worked 10 to 12 hours, a large portion of the time spent talking to people at the seminary booth in the exhibit hall, at a dinner and luncheon sponsored by the seminary, during a workshop I led, and over meals with colleagues and friends.

I managed the week really well. I returned to my hotel room relatively early each evening, though I did spend much of the time before bed on the phone. I ate well, drank plenty of water, and got up most mornings to run or walk. My energy level stayed pretty steady throughout the week, which, frankly, is a new experience for me at these things. In fact, I found the face-to-face time relatively energizing. It was a great week!

I returned late Wednesday night and went into the office yesterday. I was starting to wear out at that point, but kept my energy level up to visit with a prospective student who came to campus yesterday afternoon. I went out to dinner with some friends last night.

This morning I got up early to run, and after I returned and took a shower, I crashed and burned. I laid back down to sleep for a bit and woke up two hours later. I had a headache that made me nauseous. I got up to eat a little bit, answer some e-mail, and read. I fell asleep for another hour. I went out for a late lunch and came home exhausted. I read for a bit and then fell asleep for another three hours. My mom called and woke me up. We chatted for awhile, then I did some grocery shopping, and shopping for new shorts (smaller size again!!!!), then came home to a long phone conversation. The headache finally went away around 8:00 this evening, and I feel fine now, but to my surprise, I'm ready to go to sleep now. I guess it all caught to me today. Having a day to myself has helped tremendously.

Tomorrow, I'm getting up early to try to run 4 miles. It will be the longest I've run so far. Later in the morning, I'm going hiking with a new friend I met a few weeks ago. I hope after that to get some cleaning done in my apartment, and to write some about last week.

It's good to be home.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Return to PhD city: Day 1

I drive into town on a caffeine buzz. The mocha purchased an hour ago was an effort to undo the drowsiness from the allergy medicine and the lack of sleep for the past few days. It’s my second trip to PhD city in less than a week. Midweek I traveled to dream college town about the same distance away in the other direction. There’s been a lot of time on the road and my body feels it.

The northern edge of the city provides a view that I liken to hell. To the west just off the highway sits a monstrous monument to extravagance and wastefulness. An outdoor stadium built for car races, which occur maybe three or four times a year, sits empty most of the time. Its sheer size inspires awe, but in a horrifying way. It’s a scar on the landscape. To the east, a hilltop view reveals an endless sea of nearly identical rooftops, very little space in between, people riding on the wave of suburbia.

The traffic is already bad. I can see rain bursting out of the clouds to the south, tail lights and brake lights springing on like the high kicks of chorus girls at perfectly timed intervals as cars drive into the rain. The traffic slows and stops. I look ahead, but can’t see any problem. It starts up again, and just as quickly as it stopped, it resumes normal speed.

I’ve watched the city approach on the horizon for miles. I want to like this place in the same way that I want to like everyone I meet. It’s a city. It hasn’t done anything to hurt me. I called it home for eight years, but my return this time is met with the same lack of enthusiasm I felt as a kid when we visited unfamiliar relatives in Tennessee. No, it’s more like the yearly visits to the dentist when I was kid. Inside I’m kicking and screaming, desperately trying to break away so I can run as fast as possible in the other direction, and I probably would turn around, if only the drivers to my right would let me over to exit.

It seems silly to feel this way. It’s just a city, one that’s familiar to me. There are good things here. I don’t really understand why I loathe it so much. Last week I brought along a friend, fresh, unsullied eyes to see the place from a new perspective. It didn’t help. She started feeling sick about an hour outside of town. Coincidence? I think not.

I'm kidding, of course, but I do wonder why I have such strongly negative feelings about this place.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


For weeks, maybe months, now, I've looked to the coming week as a hurdle to get over before I can move on to some things that I've been anticipating for awhile. I'll be on the road for the better part of the next several days. When I return, there are several changes that await...
  • We've had several changes in our office over the past few weeks, all of which have been good. I'm looking foward to those continuing changes, and am finding that indeed the decision regarding the position for which I interviewed in March went just as it should have. I'm anticipating good things to come at work in the months ahead.
  • I've cleared some space in my second bedroom and pulled out the boxes marked dissertation. Though it causes some trembling to admit this, the plan is to begin writing when I get back. I just want to see what I can accomplish between now and October 1. I'm going to take a week or two off in September and head to a lake cabin that belongs to a friend and do some more writing. That should enable me to assess by October 1 whether or not it makes sense to petition for re-instatement. If there seems to be adequate progress, I'm going to ask about re-admission in October.
  • I had a good chance to see some progress with running today, and efforts are being made to push myself with that. I'm anxious to see continued progress meeting some distance goals while I'm gone and after I get back.
  • I'm taking some steps to become more involved at church. When I return, I'm going to look into joining the lay care team. My excitement about the possiblilities of helping in this area are growing. I've had some real desire to be doing pastoral care again.
  • Some changes are going to happen with the blog and my blogging habits upon my return. I've been contemplating several possibilities, but haven't decided what I want to do yet, but will decide while I'm out of town.
Wishing you all well in the coming week. I'll check in when I can.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Am I dreaming?

Since I left work this evening, I've had a series of encounters that leave me wondering if I've actually awakened from a long nap. It started when I left work in the middle of a severe thunderstorm. Rather than wait it out at work, I decided to brave the rain and go on home. I had a late night last night and an early morning today, so I thought I might catch a nap before my evening kicked into full swing. I should have stayed at the seminary.

The pouring rain that I ran through at work to get to the car turned to serious lightening, then hail that sounded like five-pound bricks hitting the car as it came down. Cars were pulling off to the side of the highway and lining up under overpasses attempting to escape the hail. I drove on, again, desperate for a few minutes sleep.

When I got home, I waited in the car for a few minutes but could tell that the rain wasn't going to slow anytime soon. Since the hail had stopped, I jumped out of the car and ran to the front door of my apartment building, key in hand ready to unlock the door and burst inside. Except the front door was jammed, and the lock would not turn. I had to run around to the back of my building and up another flight of stairs to my back door to get in. By the time I got through the door, I was completely soaked. I stripped down and only after I collapsed on the bed did I realize that the electricity was out.

I don't need electricity to sleep, so I closed my eyes, and within a few seconds was sound asleep. The phone woke me about an hour later. The electricity was still off, so after I chatted with a friend and made a plan to talk more later this evening (thank the gods for the nap!), I went out to get some dinner. I chose a place with wifi so I could catch up on some e-mail and read a few blogs. When I walked in the door, there was a table on my right with a sign that said "Meet up," and on my left as I walked forward to place my order, I saw an older man holding a plate under the mouth of a young man while he threw up.

I'm not sure why I didn't just turn around and leave.

The only table with an electrical outlet was directly across the table from the one with the "meet up" sign. Two guys were seated next to each other, engaged in conversation, but not making any eye contact with each other while they talked. Snippets of their conversation floated over the restaurant noise and it became immediately apparent that they were waiting for some women to arrive. One of the guys was telling the other that he always thought you learned more when you listen than when you talk. One woman later showed, and the other guy proceeded to tell stories about his childhood. He was bent over at the shoulders, his arms resting on the table, his hands folded, but nervously wagging while he talked. The other guy looked the other direction and the woman listened with a disinterested look on her face. After awhile they got up and left.

A few minutes later the guy who was looking away walked up to me and asked if I was Marie or Amy. I told him no, and he went on to ask if I'd heard any of the conversation they were having. I looked at him curiously but didn't answer. He explained that they were there with meetup dot com and this guy showed up who was, in his words, "STRANGE!" He wondered if I was one of the two women who were supposed to meet them and had decided to sit close and just check them out.

Like I said, I should have just left earlier.

He left and another guy sat down at the table next to me, plugged in his computer, sat back, and proceeded to pull at his crotch. Not once. Several times.

And by golly, if I had electricity at home, I'd have left this restaurant by now. News headlines say there's a downed transformer in my neighborhood. It may be a long night.

I'm glad I took a nap.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Returning to former state

I'm going to my PhD town on Sunday for the day. It's the first time to return there since I moved in August of last year. A friend of mine is being ordained (and it will be a fabulous celebration), so I'm going down for the service. New friend from city west of here is going with me, for which I'm extremely grateful. Later next week I return to PhD town for nearly a week on business.

But, I'm really dreading going back there....


Just thought I'd point out that someone from New Jersey just found my blog doing a google search for "proper way to eat grits."

Sugar and butter. Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An old post

I dug up this old post (May 2005) from the Friday Mom blog days to pass along to a friend last night. Since it was one of my favorites, I thought I'd post it here....

To Welcome the Tears and Not Be Afraid

There are days when SFW cries without any apparent discernible reason. It's different than the times when he cries because his head hurts or because he's anxious about a test at school or because he's mad at someone. We can ask questions, get answers, suggest solutions, and help him return to his usual state of happy when the tears have words. Other days when he cries, he's inconsolable. His tears seem to come from a primal place deep within him, an expression of something that no improvement in his cognitive capacity or speech function would ever give voice to.

When the inconsolable tears come, we don't urge him to talk. We give him space, let him cry without the burden of a lot of questions and the need to comfort us by giving us an explanation for the way he feels. He could never express it, but he has a way of making sense of it himself. It never lasts long, a few hours at most. Our first clue that it's over is the blaring stereo from his room. He sings along at the top of his voice, dancing wildly to the music's beat. The tears are his sackcloth and ashes. His dance is ritual, a way of marking the end of his sadness. The music bathes him in joy, washing away the darkness of the longings and loss expressed in his tears. Whatever it is that births the tears gives way to a contentment and joy that is equally devoid of explanation.

I don't know what it means for him. There's always a temptation to put words to his experience. His speech disorder invites that kind of power-over response. We work hard to understand the ways in which he does communicate with us, but there is a fine line between understanding and interpreting. All too often, I fear, I cross that line. I hate that it takes away what little voice he has.

I don't try to interpret the meaning of his inconsolability because I believe there is much about his life that it is painful and for which there is nothing that brings comfort. The space to cry affirms his sense of anger and outrage, of despair and longing that comes from being made fun of or ignored because he's different or from wanting something more out of life. The emotions proclaim loudly that he deserves better. I believe he needs to hear their message.

While I don't want to interpret his experience, reflecting on it has become a window on my own life, making visible the depth of sadness and anger that I sometimes feel with or without explanation. The weeping comes and I can't explain it. It scares me. I'm afraid if I welcome it, it will never leave. I fear its power and worry that it will consume me.

SFW has taught me to practice hospitality toward my own emotions. I'm learning to welcome the sadness and anger when they come, even when I can't directly connect the feelings to a specific experience. I think the tears that come from a deep place in my soul are planted by the winds of a spirit that connects me to the universe, to the generations that have come before me, to a world that groans with the pain and suffering we cause for ourselves and others. They play the part of prophet, a messenger of God naming my brokenness. They speak of what's not right and demand justice.

I still fight sadness and anger when they show up, but I'm learning to welcome them as trusted friends in my life. I don't always like what they tell me. But when I listen, they speak truth and bring healing. They don't stay forever, and when they do go, I find that they've left gifts. Peace and strength take up residence in their place, giving me freedom to embrace all that is good, to enjoy God, to celebrate this human life.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Letting go of the side of the pool

I let go of the side of the pool today and found out that it wasn't what I had expected or hoped for, but it's what I needed to do. I've seen that I can do what scares me most. Even if it doesn't end the way I'd hoped.

I'm going to take a break from the blog for a few days. See you soon.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Company's comin'

....and I went shopping. It's a convertible couch that will fold down into a full-size bed or double chaise lounge.

....and I went shopping. It's a convertible couch that will fold down into a full-size bed or double chaise lounge.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Two things...
  • I registered on Facebook earlier this week for the sole purpose of getting JM's new phone number, since she announced on her blog that her contact info was available that way. I just wanted to know how the unpacking was coming and all, so really, a phone number was all I needed. I couldn't imagine that navigating Facebook would be all that hard, but well, it was. Somehow when I registered, it pulled up everyone in my gmail contacts and had them checked to send e-mail invites to "friend" me. I went down the list carefully unchecking everyone except Julie.

    Or so I thought.... If you read here and maybe have commented a time or two and you got an e-mail request from Facebook saying that I wanted to "friend" you, please understand that, while I'm sure you all would be wonderful friends and all, that e-mail was sent because I'm pretty sure Facebook just randomly selected you. It couldn't be that I screwed up. No, it couldn't. I don't really intend to do anything with Facebook. I already have too much online stuff to occupy my attention.

  • I went shopping for a futon for my living room this evening. I want a nice loveseat or small couch, but um, well, I needed to get something sooner, so I thought I'd get a futon that I could move to the second bedroom when I buy a loveseat/couch. I didn't find anything I liked in the first store I went to, but when I came out of the store, I noticed that one of my front tires is nearly bald and there's a bad spot on it. How did that happen?!? I knew I was getting close to needing new tires, and had planned to do it after the next payday. I can't believe how bad it is!

    So, tomorrow I'm buying two new tires and the seating for the living room will have to wait. Do you think if I should happen to have company before then, like maybe this coming Sunday, that we could just go sit in the car and admire the new tires while we try to have a nice conversation?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

I went to the doctor today for my well woman exam. My organs? Still normal.


P.S. And the cough that you don't know about? It's most likely allergy-related and may be early stages of asthma.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Protection revisited

I've been reading Eat, Pray, Love a little at a time each morning. The book is written by Elizabeth Gilbert. She writes about a year that she took to travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia. In it she chronicles the rich spiritual insights she gained from her journey. I like it because it's honest and vulnerable and deeply connected to real life. I'm not very far along in the book. The chapters are short, so I read a little each morning and find some rich things to think about.

The chapter I read this morning brought to mind last week's post about protection. In that post, I stated that I needed to find a new image of protection, one that leads me to engage rather retreat, one that encourages trust in the universe instead of assuming that I'm alone to face the world. In this chapter she talks about the painful process of waiting for her divorce to be finalized. When it reached the point of the ridiculous in terms of her ex-husband's insistence on contesting details of the settlement, she ends up on a small publicity tour for a book she'd written. She took along a friend whom she describes as having some sort of special round-the-clock connection to the universe.

Conversation during a long day of driving turned to Liz's divorce and when Liz exclaimed her wish that she could petition God to just end it, her friend encouraged her to do just that, to write a petition to God, explaining that Liz, as a member of the universe, has the right to petition and make her feelings known. So, in the car at that moment, Liz wrote a petition to God and signed it. Her friend told her she'd sign it too, then asked Liz who else she thought would sign it and so she begins to name people she knows, and then others whom she could imagine standing with her on the issue of her petition. Her friend encouraged her to call on anyone, living or dead, and start collecting signatures, and the list grew and grew. This is how she described it:
The names spilled from me. They didn't stop spilling for almost an hour, as we drove across Kansas and my petition for peace stretched into page after invisible page of supporters. Iva kept confirming--yes, he signed it, yes, she signed it-- and I became filled with a grand sense of protection, surrounded by the collective goodwill of so many mighty souls.
And there it was for me, in black and white, my new image for protection. Maybe what I need to do is take some time to write my own petition asking the universe to help me engage rather than retreat. And then I can imagine all those whom I think would sign that petition and in the moments when I find myself starting to retreat remember "the collective goodwill of so many mighty souls," and find the sense of protection I need to turn and engage instead.

I think it just might work, with some practice of course.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Learning to swim

I didn't take to the water naturally when I was a kid. My mom didn't know how to swim and for some reason, I absorbed her fear. When I was in first or second grade, she signed me up for a week of swimming lessons at the public pool, two hours per day for five days. For the first eight hours, I sat on the edge, my feet dangling in the soft, cool blue water, the scent of chlorine filling my nostrils, while I watched friends splash and swim and enjoy themselves.

I don't know what I was afraid of. It went completely against my character to be afraid of something of that nature. And in reality, the water in the section of the pool where we were taught wasn't over my head. If I'd felt myself struggling when I swam, all I would have had to do is stop beating the water and stand up.

But my fear kept me firmly affixed to the side of the pool for four days. The teacher patiently offered me opportunity after opportunity to join the class, and I politely declined each time.

On the last day of our lessons, I was suddenly motivated by the realization that the promised trips to the public pool throughout the summer were dependent upon me being able to swim. Thoughts of being the only one left behind in the neighborhood full of kids in which I grew up compelled me to dig deep for some courage and jump in to join the rest of my class on the last day of the lessons. Fortunately, I was a quick learner. I even managed to swim the length of the deep end by the end of the lesson, enabling me to use the diving board throughout the summer.

I've been thinking about that experience all weekend. There's something strikingly familiar about that particular fear that has crept up on me over the past few weeks. And I can just feel that I'm on the verge of jumping in.

If I could just let go of the side.

Monday gratitude

I am grateful today for unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes through my cellphone service, because gas ain't cheap and there are a lot of miles between here and city of west of here. :-)