Orientation Week

I’m sure you’ve been wondering up to this point what all this has to do with becoming a minister.  Well, I have finally gotten to that point.  The glorious wonder about all that has come so far is that I feel like the foundation is laid.  I uprooted myself in Los Angeles and now the roots are taking hold in Berkeley.  And I can breathe again and feel the sunshine.  So now I can move on to what’s next.  Orientation Week at Starr King School of the Ministry.  And don’t say that phrase lightly.

So we had a welcome on Sunday afternoon August 29th and I met fellow students of mine, other students who’ve been studying awhile, and family members of said students.  We had a yummy potluck on the courtyard and I wandered around the building getting to know it somewhat.  It’s only one building…. So that’s one less stressful thing I need to learn.  I thought I would have a lovely relaxing evening that night, but when I let Sequel out, he didn’t come back.  This was the first night he pulled an all nighter, but he appeared the next morning.  So much for having a half way sleepless night.  I will know next time to just have faith and know that he will return.  It wasn’t a great way to start orientation week, my first day lasted 15 hours on 5 hours sleep.  But I was on somewhat of a high being there.

And yes, you read that right, Monday the 30th went from 7:30 in the morning until 10 pm that evening.  Although they did feed us.  🙂  And there was lots of chocolate!  So much for the whole vegan feel of Berkeley… they still have chocolate here!  Yay!  We had an opening worship ceremony after breakfast that was so lovely and welcoming and then I met my advisor.  Her name is Jo!!!  Yes you read that right, we have the same first name.  Although she was born in Bombay and is short for something I can’t spell, we have the same first name.  I like that.  And I feel like she gets me already.  This whole overwhelming feeling of what am I doing here and how can I accomplish this; she knows.  We met all the faculty members and what credentials!!  Half of them somehow had a relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and I feel in awe of their knowledge and wisdom.  Each one that was introduced held an interest or a passion that I could relate to.  I feel completely inadequate!  And my fellow students also seem three times as intelligent as I!  I have a lot of work ahead of me and I really, really hope I’m capable of the challenge.

We learned how to register and use the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) library.  The last time I enrolled in college, we stood in lines for classes and prayed we could get in.  Now EVERYTHING, and I mean everything, is done online.  Hallelujah!!!  I went on Web Advisor and registered for my classes and then still have to register on Moodle to get documents or books I’ll be reading on line.  Moodle apparently can store anything that the professor loads and then we read and post our comments on it.  How 21st century of them.  This is an entirely new experience for me, one though that I’m really looking forward to.  One of my classes is actually an online class and there are pros and cons to that.  I pray my procrastinating tendencies do not get me into hot water and pulling all nighters.  I think that my advisor knows how to keep me on track.  At least it seems that she does already.

So on Tuesday the 31st we had a shorter day.  We were introduced to the staff and all that they could do for us.  What a kind and caring group of people.  I got completely registered and found out that I can get my health insurance through the school!!  And save money.  I raised my hand and asked, are there any age restrictions to this premium???  And there aren’t!  I’m finally getting a good deal!  Thank you all you younger students who are lowering the curve and saving me a bundle on healthcare!  I have to have Kaiser, but I’m hoping my experience with them is better than when I had them a few years ago.  At the end of the day we had a Key Blessing ceremony and were actually awarded keys to the building so that we can come and go as we please.  So does that mean I’m going to be living there???  🙂  No, it was really an honor to know they are entrusting us so completely and thank you Dakota for taking pictures throughout!!!  We have a visual record of all we went through thanks to him!  I actually got home by 5:30 that day too, how nice was that.  The following 2 days were filled with workshops with names like Truth Commissions and Spiritual Leadership for Social Change and UU Identity and Religious Leadership, wow!!  We also attended an outdoor BBQ in the courtyard of the GTU.  We met other students in the other seminaries, of which there are 3 Catholic, one Baptist, one Lutheran and then the Pacific School of Religion, which I’m not sure has a particular denomination.  They are all part of the GTU and I can take classes with them, which is totally awesome!  I can learn Hebrew, or take Buddhist or historical bible studies and they all count!  And yes, I’M A SEMINARIAN!!   I think it’s finally sinking in.  I feel as if I’ve been in somewhat of a fog, putting one foot in front of the other and taking the next indicated step, without really looking at the path.  All of a sudden I’m here.  And to call myself a seminarian sounds so very, very strange.

Thursday evening , September 2nd, the first year students, of which I am now called a first year M Div (pronounced em-div), short for Master of Divinity, were in charge of creating the Iftar meal.  It’s the meal that breaks the fast each evening of Ramadan and what a wonder that was.  We have a couple of students who are Muslim and they guided the ceremony and we ate wonderful food, learned some of the prayers and chants, and felt exhilarated.  It is so amazing to learn of other beliefs and see how other people of faith express their devotion.  We really are all the same.  I wish so many people could experience the sameness that I’ve felt in seeing other belief systems, and not what they perceive as differences.  It’s a very short life we live; why must we waste time in defiance with one another.

So I got my student ID (I forgot and wore my Art is Hell t shirt and it actually shows up on the photo, although Malcolm told me she thought it looks very punk rock 🙂 ) and paid my tuition… gulp…and I ended the week officially a student.  Now the classes begin and my new job begins and I hope to regain some semblance of a routine.  Nothing has been routine in my life since spring has sprung; I’m actually ready for some routine!  Although as I look over my schedule for the coming years of my life, I don’t see any time off till 2014!!!!  I hope I’m wrong!

I’m really settling in in Mayberry though.  This is the best decision I’ve ever made.

Sweet dreams,

Jo

The Last Drive

This last weekend I drove down to LA to make a swap.  I had boxes to give back to Garry and the chance to go to my storage under the condo to bring some things and take some others.  Nathan’s Little League winning streak prevented Katie from coming up so I drove down instead.  It really was a good thing.  I got to meet my new tenant also and go to the storage myself to store things and take others out.  And I swore this is the last trip I DRIVE.  It will have to be a plane or a train the next time, NOT an automobile.  I’ve traipsed the length of this state 4 times in the last 2 ½ months and I think I’ve overdosed on driving.  It’s time to cut the cord and find another mode of transportation.  Although on this last drive, I probably had one of the smoothest trips I’ve ever had albeit the shortest.  I drove 10 hours within a 30 hour period – a really quick trip.  I even got a personal best on the return home of 4 hours 54 minutes.  Bested myself by 6 minutes!  And it felt slightly nostalgic.  I’ve come to know the 5 freeway rather intimately.  I drove past some of my favorite exits, Panoche Road and Little Panoche Road, (I love those names for some reason) or the ones that sound so wistful like Buttonwillow and Crow’s Landing.   There’s Kettleman City and Wasco and Fink Road and Twizzelman.  Names that just don’t sound like California, but they are.  I reminisced about all the times I’ve driven up and down this freeway and I know it’s been at least 17 and it might be a couple more.  I’ve taken the train and the bus and actually have flown a time or two.  But there’s something more personal about driving.  I can look at the orchards and wonder if they’re almond or walnut trees (I know it’s one of the two) and see orange groves and vinyards.  There’s even a stretch of road where the owner has labeled the trees – Oranges, then the next orchard, Mandarins and finally Lemons Too! I had a nice chuckle reading those along the way.  There are hayfields and stockyards and dairy farms and horses and it really does feel like America’s breadbasket.  So it hasn’t been a total loss or a complete bore to do this drive.  The days have been beautiful and the mountains spectacular.  Going over the Grapevine can be exciting and tense, depending on how the traffic is going.  And I’ve always had my music.  This last trip was a bit mellow, usually Green Day and Nine Inch Nails are on the playlist.  But this time, I needed to hear Paul Simon’s Graceland and Neil Young’s Harvest Moon.  And my new friend Lindasusan gave me her latest CD and I got to listen to that.  The time went by so quickly I’d find myself there.  Both times.  And interestingly enough I found myself calling the Bay area home now.  I was driving back from LA and I thought, it’ll be nice to be home.  And I thought to myself, my that happened fast.  And I don’t think it’s that I miss LA as much as it’s, I’ve made a new home.  That’s when I realized that home is where you make it.  It’s not a city, it’s not a neighborhood.  It’s wherever you make it home.  I can be anywhere in the world and it will be home.

So I stopped by Katie and Craig’s to pick up my clicker for the gate and drop off Garry’s boxes with them and I got a chance to see my plants all newly transplanted!  They are taking such good care of my babies!  Although they’re not mine anymore, I have let them go and they can grow and thrive in another place.  And they look great there!  They can plant roots in the ground instead of living in a pot.  I wish I could have stayed longer but this was a business trip.  I had one thing to do and one thing only and that was condo related.  And I finally feel completely moved.  Whatever is in storage is there for a good long while and whatever is in my tiny apartment is there to stay.  I’ve officially relocated.

So I then traveled to Howard’s house and got settled in to spend the night and then Howard took me to dinner at the Bear Pit BBQ .  Howard is a dear member of the Onion and just turned 88 last month.  He even drove us there and lives completely on his own.  I hope that at that age I’m still as independent as he is.  I got a group together last month or so  to celebrate his birthday and he said, you are already my minister.  What a good feeling that was to hear.  We have great discussions on everything, including religion, and he is one of my biggest supporters.  And I had my own room which was nice.  I didn’t buy a single meal this trip as the next morning I stopped by Mike’s and he took me to Zig’s for breakfast, an LA establishment that seems to have been there forever.  And Penny has come back!  Mike saw her last week and she’s been coming inside for him to feed her.  She has become buddies with Mike’s cat, Tar-jay, and she has no intention of leaving.  I caught a glimpse of her running through the hallway and then never saw her again.  She has made up her mind she will not live in the Bay area, but Mike is fine with that as Tar-jay seems happy that she’s there and I can rest easy knowing that she’s being taken care of.  It would be a bit crowded in Mayberry I think with 3 cats so it all works out for the best.  I do miss her though.  She was very cuddly with me and would lay in my lap and keep it warm.

So the transition is complete.  I’m really here and really moved and really becoming a minister.  So it really is.

From my little piece of Mayberry,

Jo

September 5, 2010

The Magic Winds Continue

Well a week has passed.  Another great magical week.  I love these magic winds.  I hope they keep it up.

I have had many wonderful walks to my Nirvana shopping center.  It finally got warmer  and that was so glorious to feel the sun on my skin again!  I got to wear shorts and short sleeves and it felt like California once again.  I had my interview at the UU church for the part time Office Manager and I got the job!!  It feels so perfect to be there; I mentioned to my soon to be new minister/boss that it felt like it was an apprenticeship in what I hope to be.  I’ll learn the inner workings of what happens in a church.  I’ll need to know that some day.  Tomorrow on Sunday he plans on introducing me to the congregation (what will I wear) and my first day of work is the day after Labor Day.  I mentioned that this felt like a gift from God to have a position like this to learn from and he said he felt the same way about me!  A mutual admiration society already and I’ve only just begun.  Orientation is next week for school so it’s going to be a busy week.  It felt like God kind of planned a celebration week for me this week when the magic winds came in as it is just timed perfectly.  My bestie Chris came in from Sacramento on Thursday afternoon and we went into the City to see Wicked!  Me for the third time, he for the second.  It was as magnificent as ever of course.  And BART dropped us off RIGHT IN FRONT OF the Orpheum Theater!  How convenient.  We think Elphaba was the same actor as the show we saw in LA, but since my program is packed away, I won’t be able to compare for awhile.  We rode BART, on the way back and took the wrong train… tee hee… so we got to see lovely San Leandro from the rails above.  Conveniently we got off and took the RIGHT train back so there was not a connection needed.  And I got a lovely compliment from an inebriated gentleman about my fierce shoes…. Chris glared at him to keep him away…  🙂  Yeah that worked Chris… (actually it did)  But that’s the subway for you.

On Friday we went into the City again after a lovely brunch at the café by my home owned by Otis!!!   I have my own Otis.  I truly do have a piece of Mayberry.  Although this Otis never drinks and makes extremely good food!  Again we walked everywhere, in fact the 2 days Chris was here, we never used a car once.  It was feet and BART that got us around and that was really nice.  We met Chris’s friend Jay near Powell Street in the City and I found the DSW!!!  Now I know where it is and I can get my great shoe bargains…. Although I’m a student.  I keep forgetting. … 🙁   We stopped in Saks and got little free samples of wonderful perfumes by Bond, very cool.  We had a hearty late lunch before Chris started on his trek back to Sac and I had a free night!

I am all settled in.  I went to Ross and found a remarkable chest I can use for a coffee table and store all the bedding in for the sofabed.  Score!!!  And this time Callie can’t scratch it cause it’s wood… ha ha on you cat.  I have figured out ways to outsmart them.  That only took 12 years.  There was a tiny crack in the bottom that no one will ever see so she gave me an additional 20% off.  It’s magic.  I’ve had almost a daily walk to the Nirvana plaza and it feels good to start getting some regular exercise again.  I still haven’t heard from the landlord yet.  I sent a request in on an ingenious idea I have – to enclose the area under my 3 storage cabinets to store my bike in.  It’s still sitting in my living room…. Booo….  Chris thinks it looks cozy in here; that’s a polite way to say every bit of space is taken with something in it.

But I’ve hung all my pictures and trinkets and set out my still life of clocks and photos and tchotckes and it feels like home.  I’ve even made peace with my laundry room.  I’ve successfully had loads completed for about 3 weeks now and I generally only need one dryer round to dry out all my clothes.  Yay!  It costs 3 bucks a load to wash and dry and I’m REALLY missing my washer and dryer when I start to add each week to the total.  Man, it really pays to own.  Mom always said you have to have money to make money.  I would add, you have to have space too!

I’ve rented my condo, albeit it’s had a bit of drama attached to it, but it seems I have a renter and we’ve both signed the lease.  I put the top down on the drive back from the interview and got to enjoy some California sunshine.  I don’t want the winds to die down.  It’s been really enjoyable.  Let’s see what next week brings.

Sayonara from my own little Mayberry,

Jo

August 28, 2010