Giving Thanks

November 28th

I made my yearly pilgrimage to Sacramento for Thanksgiving this week and it was wonderful driving 75 miles to get there instead of 400.  It felt so autumnal, so many gold and orange and scarlet leaves falling all around.  Dennis had a huge pile of leaves in his street that we had to park around.  Apparenty the Sacramento street crew hadn’t gone around to pick them up.  I wanted to jump in them, but I restrained myself.  🙂    I even had the pleasure of hearing “Alice’s Restaurant” on the drive up, thank goodness.  It’s a yearly tradition with me and now my copy is packed forever away somewhere.  So glad KFOG played it!  It’s not Thanksgiving without hearing Arlo.

It was a lovely day, I made my famous pumpkin dessert and the turkey was delicious!  Dennis made his incredible homemade cranberry and pear sauce, I still haven’t gotten that recipe, and Chris made his BEST garlic mashed potatoes!  Yum!  It was wonderful to share this meal with Beverly and Kathy and Anthony too.  We held it at Dennis’s which we haven’t done in awhile for his house has been under construction for some time now.  It was amazing to look at, a transformation worthy of House Beautiful.  Complete with his Master bath equipped with a heated toilet seat and a bidet!  How decadent is that!  Oh but did the heated toilet seat feel good!  If I ever win the lottery, that is one item I want on my list.  No matter how cold in the dark of winter it becomes, the seat is always warm.  Is that not the epitome of America?  🙂

I was asked to say grace for the second year in a row and came completely unprepared.  Being a ministerial student, I should have known that grace would be on the table for me, (ha ha), but I really didn’t remember to prepare at all.  It was okay though, no matter what you say in gratitude, it always sounds memorable and heartfelt.  Gratitude is just that way.  It has been such a tradition for me to visit Sacramento at Thanksgiving and I love that I have that tradition.  I get a little sad during the holidays being by myself.  I always wanted to have children but that wasn’t in the cards for me.  So since I don’t have a family that follows the American norm, I have created my own.  My immediate family is me.  Me and 2 cats.  And the close friends I’ve collected around me.  Chris and I have been friends for 23 years now, which kind of amazes me.  And I had a chance to meet Gina and her family for brunch on my way out of town.  We ate at Café Bernardo, yum.  I splurged and had a Belgian waffle figuring I’m still on holiday and can weigh myself on Monday morning.  That was my deadline.  We all have to live a little sometime. 

I brought school books with me, but unfortunately they must have been glued shut as only 3 pages actually got looked at.  I just couldn’t bring myself to study.  Humanism and existentialism were a bit heady after meals of turkey and cranberry sauce and sleeping late.  It just didn’t fit into my schedule.  🙂  My rationale was I needed a break and actually I did.  The issue however is that there is a finite amount of time left to this term and if I put off too much studying, there will only be cram time left.  And I really don’t want to just cram.  So far I’ve not had to pull an all nighter, in fact the latest I’ve stayed up is 1 am the night before, and I find that fairly impressive.  But I still have 2 books to read, 2 papers to write and a group project to present in the next 2 weeks.  I hope 2 is my lucky number.  It seems to be popping up a lot lately. 

So I drove home with a steady drizzle coating my windshield, a turkey carcass from Dennis in the back seat for my future traditional turkey soup,  very grateful that I could enjoy a holiday weekend in Northern California.  Chris and I even took in Harry Potter and I believe it’s my favorite one yet.  Megan came and gave antibiotics to Sequel in my absence and I had a safe hour’s drive home without any consequences.  I had the opportunity to spend a loving, safe, abundant holiday with people I care about.  I felt loved and cared for and extremely lucky to be in the position to freely drive where I wanted and stay in a warm, dry safe place.  So many people in the world that day did not experience that.  My gratitude hopefully will spill over to help those who can’t or don’t experience such abundance in their lives.  Isn’t that what ministering is all about?  And it doesn’t have to be an opportunity just for ministers.  Anyone of us out there in the world can do that. 

Happy Thanksgiving from my little piece of Mayberry,

Jo

A Night Off

November  19th

There’s a steady rain outside.  It’s actually very soothing.  Midterms have passed and this month is nearly over.   I’ve been here over 3 months now and am a little surprised it’s been this long.  And I’ve decided to take the night off.  No studying, no typing, no reading of chapters.  I need a break.  I won’t get one however until December 15th.  I am SO looking forward to that day. I’ve got 2 papers and a project to finish by then; that part I’m not looking forward to.  But when I reach it my first semester back will be under my belt.

I had a momentary pang of homesickness the other day.  As the cabinet door was banging against the stove that will only open about 10 inches before it hits it, I was remembering my old kitchen with a dishwasher in it.  I don’t have one now and have a new form of therapy in washing dishes by hand.  I haven’t done that in about 20 years, but it’s like riding a bike.  It all came back to me.  In my little kitchen I can stare at my chicken picture hanging above the sink as I wash and rinse.  I did an experiment too the other day.  I can stand in the middle of my kitchen and touch the wall with one hand and the counter on the other side of the kitchen with the other.  How convenient huh.  Tee hee….. I do have a bar type counter on one side of my kitchen though and it makes it handy to have some counter space.  I’ve been looking at this kitchen wondering how in the world I’m going to make my 75 dozen Christmas cookies this year to give away.  That should be my worst worry.  I am so grateful to be in a one bedroom apartment.  I have fellow students renting out rooms and I think that would drive me insane.  One bedroom and a cat one friend has.  And the cat has to stay in the bedroom all the time.  Poor kitty.  At least my two have 3 rooms to run around in (I’m not counting the kitchen.  🙂 )  Sequel is on antibiotics, not feeling well once again.  But this time it seems to be much easier to keep him inside.  Maybe he’s resigned himself to the fact that I’m the alpha here and he’s begrudgingly letting me drop a capsule down his throat twice a day.  He gets a treat afterwards, so it’s not all awful.

So here I sit, listening to the rain hit the gutters and driveways and making little sprinkling sounds that is very soothing.  It actually thundered and lightninged and that hasn’t happened in years.  It doesn’t thunder and lightning in LA, at least for the 17 years I was there.  It may have once, but I don’t remember it and I don’t think it happened in the Valley.  This reminds me of my childhood, listening to the rain.  It’s turning everything cold once again.  So much for the lovely warmer weather we had.  The sweaters have come out again.  One good thing, I picked the best time in my life to move to the Bay area.  Now that I’m over 50, it doesn’t matter that I don’t wear shorts and halter tops any longer.  🙂 Sweaters and jeggings hide a multitude of sins.

So I’m taking a night off from reading about Calvinism and Unitarian identity; Universalist theology and their vision of the self – although I really am enjoying reading Clarence Skinner.  It’s interesting that in one of my past lives a Skinner was significant.  When I studied psychology B.F. Skinner was a major force in my learning.  And here comes along another Skinner.  I have tie-ins like that all the time in my life that offer me a bit of solace that I’m on the right path.  It might not mean a thing, but I give it meaning and it helps me to think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.  I must be tired; I feel I’m officially rambling now. 🙂

So ends my evening off in my little piece of Mayberry.  My thought for the night – Enjoy the sound of the raindrops and you will find peace.

Jo

The Circle of Life

November 10, 2010

I had an aha moment today.  Our project group in ECO class had met and were working on our semester project and we were doing a practice Chalice Circle.  In the circle ceremony we took a moment to speak about a sacred object we had brought to the circle.  I had brought my spirit bracelets.  These 2 bracelets that I wear every day were my mom’s.  Her name was Pearl and people bought her pearl jewelry all the time.  When she passed away , she left me all her jewelry.  Now she had a lot of trinkets, but not much that would be considered valuable.  I have 2 pearl bracelets that she actually used as extensions on a necklace that I discovered in the pile.  Ever since I’ve gotten them, I’ve worn them daily.  I decided that one stands for my mom and one represents my dad and I call them my spirit parents.  I was never close to my parents when they were alive.  We seemed to come from different worlds and didn’t understand each other.  But my spirit parents are awesome!  They understand me completely, they’re always there to support me, and I can talk to them.  I take them everywhere with me and it’s like I can share events and occasions with them.  When I went to visit my friend Katherine a couple of years ago, I took my bracelets with me on my wrist and told my mom, guess what Mom, we get to fly on a  seaplane!  I’ve always made a point to have my bracelets on especially whenever I embarked on a new adventure.  When I drove up here for my final trip, I said here we go Mom, we’re going to live in the City by the Bay!  It’s been a comfort to me to have my spirit parents to talk to and I’ve created more trust with them than I did when they were alive.  And it dawned on me today that I have them to share experiences with.  Both my parents are now dead, I never had children and am divorced and my brother is estranged from me at the moment.  I do a lot of things alone.  So I have someone to share experiences with that I can consider famiy members.  And I kind of like the sound of spirit parents.  There’s a certain magic to that thought that I’m peaceful with.  It’s like having guardian angels sitting on my shoulders watching over me.

On November 26th my mother will have been dead 5 years.  On October 13th last month, my father has been gone for 8 years.  It’s strange being an adult orphan.  And as the day approaches to the anniversary of her death, I get a bit apprehensive.  What I am grateful for though is that I got to say goodbye.  She had been in ICU nearly 30 days when the hospital and my brother called to say it was time for me to fly back.  It was two full days before my brother agreed that it was time to let go of life support the day after Thanksgiving that year.  Then began the waiting.  At one point he went to get us cups of coffee and I found myself alone with mom, nearly in a comatose state with tubes running crisscrossed against her body.  I took her hand and I said, Mom, I forgive you for whatever it is I think you did and I hope that you forgive me for whatever it was you think I did.  I am so grateful to have had that moment alone with her and say I love you and say goodbye.  It was truly a gift.   And I think of this as her anniversary of leaving here approaches.  She hung on till I arrived and could say goodbye.  Interestingly enough during Thanksgiving time.  I wonder what she would say to my going back to school to be a minister.  I would hope she’d be excited, but that’s the sad part.  I don’t know.  We never talked about important things like that.  But she did show me how to make my grandma’s spaghetti sauce from Sicily and those famous Christmas cookies.  I have some good memories and that’s the important thing.  With the memory of at least seeing her at Thanksgiving.  I love the feeling that gratitude brings to me.  I’m entering into my favorite time of year, Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s.  I’m a stranger in a strange land with a lot of firsts happening each day I stay here.  So it’s good to have a couple of angels on my shoulders steering me along.

From my little piece of Mayberry,

Jo

A Happy 1st Birthday

October 22nd

Yesterday was my birthday, my first birthday in my new city.  It was really interesting to turn 56.  Somehow my face found out and I have 3 new wrinkles.  How does it know?

So I’ve started to write this particular blog 3 times and I keep changing it.  It’s a hard one to write – to talk about age in America.  If you’re not in the 18 – 39 demographic, it almost doesn’t count.  Especially if you’re a woman.  I’ve been invisible for about 5 years now.  It’s an interesting experience being invisible.  Solicitors in front of movie theaters don’t see me; they walk right by and give their free gifts and coupons to much younger folk.  And yet I’ve never felt more alive, more serene, more happy.  I must be glowing so brightly I’m invisible.  THAT’s what it is!

So I had a low key birt hday this year and that’s okay.  My friend Victoria took me out to a wonderful Thai place and bought me dinner and Lee joined us a bit later.  My first birthday in my new adopted city and it reminded me of my first birthday in LA.  I spent that in a rented room eating Panda Express watching LA Law.  I had been in LA one week exactly.  It was a little sad in that I didn’t really know anyone and didn’t have anyone to celebrate with.  Even my mom forgot to call me on my birthday that year.  But I was excited to have moved there and I looked forward to my new adventure.   In my last birthday in LA last year two of my girlfriends took me out to dinner and ended up not having enough money to pay for my dinner.  That felt really weird when I had to contribute to my own birthday dinner after they asked me out.  So all in all this year’s birthday was actually many steps above!

Aging in America – that’s almost an oxymoron.  70 year olds strive to look 30.  I’ve always thought I’d live to be 126.  I’ve even put that on vision boards that I’ve created.  And it dawned on me the other day that if I actually live that long, I’m gonna have to look old.  I hadn’t actually thought about that before.  My goal is to see the Tricentennial because I think it would be so cool after having lived during the Bicentennial of this country.  Don’t you think that would be cool?  It never occurred to me however, that I will not look even 50 when I’m 126.  So then I had to think, am I willing to live that long and look so completely differently than I do now?  I look in a mirror and I see all the fine lines and mini crevices that were never there before, but that’s just an inkling of what to expect in the future.  So I have two choices: either fight Mother Time with all the tools at my disposal in the 21st century or….  Accept the fact that with age comes wisdom and also AGE.    It is part of getting older for the body to physically change.  So I need to prepare my mind for the changes in the body.  The thing is, I don’t feel one iota differently INSIDE.  I feel 25 inside.  And I think that’s where the conflict lies.  I know inside I’ll feel 25 forever.  I’m sure I will when I’m over 100.  And that’s the good part about aging.  What I feel on the inside.

So my birthday is now over and I have a new number to tell people.  I really liked 55 however.  It was a cool number.  Now I need to look for the coolness of 56.   56 Chevys maybe????  🙂

From my little piece of Mayberry,

Jo

The Saga of Sequel

October 19th

Finally a chance to come up for air.  It was a harrowing couple of weeks and now I feel like I can catch up on my life.  And I’ve missed talking to all the silent people out there.  I don’t even know who reads this, although someone is, cause when I check my stats, there are numbers there.  It’s always a surprise to see that you’re reading my words…. A nice surprise and it feels good. 

So I have this orange cat and he’s the second orange cat I had of much import so his name is Sequel.  And I’ve had him for 13 years.  He is a character and everyone loves him who meets him.  When I moved here, I made the decision to let him go outside, for in the condo complex, he wasn’t welcomed outside…. Those darn HOA’s.  And since I’m on the first floor, it was much more difficult to keep him in.  Now Callie the female, the rotund, bulbous long haired white female, will stare at the door and not go out.  But Sequel makes a break for it nearly every time the door opens.  One day I opened the door, and he wouldn’t go out.  I also opened a can of wet cat food which he’ll practically turn cartwheels for a tiny taste (actually I’ve gotten him to stand on his hind legs.. ..one of his tricks) and he turned up his nose after sniffing and walked away.   That’s when I began to suspect something was wrong.  He has an emerald green collar on with a little bell and usually when he scratches or runs around, it jingles a bit.  But he wasn’t jingling at all.   Having just moved here I didn’t have a regular vet, so one Saturday night when I started to really get worried, I took him to the Animal ER in Berkeley.  Now I didn’t even know they had animal ER’s but I guess if they were going to have them somewhere, it would indeed be in Berkeley.   So began the saga.  He hadn’t eaten for nearly 3 days I was beginning to guess, so I grabbed a textbook and with him in his carrier, we went off to the ER.  And returned 4 and ½ hours later.  They had tea service in the lobby and I got 100 pages read in between watching all the other patients come in and out.  Mostly dogs actually, but some cats, all with various ailments.  One poor mutt – fairly large actually – I think part lab, had been running and did something to his paw.  Another one had one of those umbrella collars on, which I think makes animals look so bizarre – kind of like a plastic clown ruffle.  And they can’t eat very well and it looks so sad. 

So the initial plan they presented to me, since they couldn’t find anything at first was $1200.00 worth of testing and staying overnight.  So I said since that is not an option, what can I do to help him tonight?  They gave him fluids after checking his vitals and gave him medicine to help with his nausea – he had been throwing up.  And we went home.  On Sunday morning after making it through the night he still was lethargic and had this semi-lifeless look in his eyes so this time we went to the Animal Care Clinic in El Sobrante that the ER had recommended since they’re a bit cheaper.  What a caring loving group of animal doctors live there!   We visited another 4 times and at the end of 2 weeks and a diagnosis of pancreatitis he is good as new.  During the following days though he received fluids and antibiotics and anti-nausea pills and I ended up giving him an appetite enhancing pill and subcutaneous fluids all by myself.  That was interesting and I felt like a nurse, finding just the right spot between the shoulder blades to insert the needle.  I hung the IV bag from one of the kitchen cabinets and held him on the counter and every time but once he sat there patiently while the tube’s liquid dripped down the tube until a mg was dripped in.  The one time he did pull out the needle I got it re-inserted without incident thankfully.  So 4 times in 5 days he visited the vet and got poked and prodded, having x-rays taken and bloodwork done and then after 5 days of fluids I brought him back for a clean bill of health!  He then got his shots and I could administer his flea drops and he was ready for the outdoors.  He’s been going out now for about a week and all seems okay.  I have to admit I worry.  The vet thought he was close to dying and this cat had never been to the vet all the 13 years I had him.  So I never thought of him as ever getting sick.  I’ve never come this close to losing him.  He is a great companion and the thought of him not being here was devastating.  I’d always wondered what my limit would be in dollars for caring for an animal and this actually got up to 800.00.  I’d had that happen once before with my rotund kitty, but I had gotten donations when I wasn’t working, for the ear surgery she needed and my outlay was only around 300.00 for an 800.00 episode.  I’d always hypothesized what my dollar limit would be and never could get over 1,000.  Now having faced this, I’m not sure if there is a limit.   I know that I might not have enough funds if this were to happen again or if it got worse and I’m not sure what decision I’d make.  Take my tuition money out?  Or raid my IRA?  I don’t know.  When I was younger, I always seemed to have concrete decisions in my head on what I would do in certain situations and the older I’ve gotten, I’ve learned it’s not so cut and dried until it happens to you.  During all of this I had to write a paper concerning the readings and discussions we’d had on war and the oppression of war and the Truth Commissions on Conscience in War.   I read Chris Hedges’ book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and my ultimate decision has always been – in my mind – that not under any circumstances could I kill another human being.   And I’ve had parents tell me, but if you had a child, you would defend her to the death.  And I can understand them saying that, but I still don’t know that I could kill someone.  And then I thought, if I don’t kill the person intent on killing another, am I then complicit in the death of the victim?  In that circumstance, does it then mean I would have to ultimately kill someone?  I don’t know.  I hope that never happens to me, but in my older wisdom, I now know better than to say what I would or would not do.  For I don’t know until it happens to me how I might feel.  I know that my intention would be to not harm another, but after reading Hedges’ experiences in Bosnia and Kosovo, it’s not an easy answer after all.  We never know how we will react until we are forced to find out. 

So now Sequel runs outside and plays during the day and comes running back to me when I call for him at night.  He’s eating heartily and I hug him incessantly and am so very grateful he’s still here.  It’s not that I didn’t appreciate him before his sickness, but there’s a bit of “in the moment” gratitude that didn’t exist before.  And I am very grateful for that.

With Sequel from Mayberry,

Jo

I Left My Heart In San Francisco

 Okay, so this post is a bit late…….

September 28th

I went to the City tonight.  Met Gina, my friend of 23 years (we can’t believe we’re this old or we’ve known each other THAT long!) and Nicole, her daughter, is now nine years old.  And adorable.  We met at the Ferry Building and had a lovely dinner outside the seafood restaurant and watched the water lap underneath the Bay Bridge until the lights came on when the sun went down.  It was so gorgeous and I have so fallen in love with this City.  Through some fluke of Yahoo and their contact list, when we thought we had lost touch, here my blog appears one day in her email.   And the friendship lives on!  It’s amazing what technology can do isn’t it?  It’s an amazing way to connect, but a not so much way to really communicate.  I believe that they say we are becoming less human and more isolated just being online too much.  I love human contact.  It’s wonderful to blog, I am really enjoying this when I do, but I could not exist without actually speaking to people and seeing them once in awhile.  I’ve learned this so much with my online class.  I miss the interaction in person; it creates much more fodder for dialogue and thinking.  My ECO class is dynamite!  I am getting to know my classmates and I think I’ve finally learned everyone’s names.  Maybe not their surnames, but at least I know their first names.  In my online class, I don’t know anyone, except for 2 people who are in my ECO class.  I can get a slight impression from their writings and responses to the units online, but it’s just not the same.  I really like being IN class.  Must be that Catholic upbringing and 9 years of Catholic school.  I am used to school desks and classrooms.

We walked up and down Market for a bit, looking for gelato, but everything was closed.  No worries, it was an absolutely gorgeous evening and I was CARRYING my coat, not WEARING it!  Balmy could almost be used to describe the temp, I think we set some kind of record  in the City.  It almost felt like back in St. Louis at the end of summer… except it was The City.  I love that they call it The City.  Which reminds me I need to get the next installment of the Tales of the City books and read them.  I’m really in the mood now.

So on the BART ride back, I had the most interesting conversation with a 14 year old.  As we both straddled the aisle and hung on to poles for dear life, we struck up a conversation.  I’m not sure how but we got on the topic of movies in the ‘80’s and this young woman knew about John Hughes and Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink and actually LOVED this era!  And could speak knowledgeably about it.  She lived in Sacramento and her dad had taken her into the City and spent the day.  She showed me a very cool lipstick she’d bought and she liked my nail polish shade.  We talked about DSW – must be the universal connection between all women no matter what age!  And coincidentally we both had footwear on from that store.  I really liked her boots.  And all of a sudden my stop was here and I had to jump off, which was sad as I was really enjoying my conversation with her.  There was no generation gap and we both spoke thoughtfully and respectfully with one another.  Nice.  And I had only a 3 block walk home to my nice warm bed.  What a lovely evening – a trip to Raleigh on a Saturday night … . . .

From my little part of Mayberry,

Jo

A Late Post from September

September 18th

Walking to the Farmer’s Market this morning marked almost 2 weeks of being a student and a part time Office Manager now.  I stopped by Peet’s Coffee and got a small Latte and more yummy vegetables.  They always look so much better at the Farmer’s Market.  The tomatoes are redder, the beans greener and the peaches more orange.  Or maybe it was the overcast clouds and fog that hadn’t quite left yet that were making the colors more vibrant.  Or maybe it was the magic of this place.  I picked up some tapes today from a woman to do transcription.  I can make some extra money that way.  She was so interesting and gave me tips on Berkeley as she moved here in 1970.  She has much wisdom.   🙂 The dilemma of being a student is also having time to earn money.  I want to do both, but that doesn’t leave much time for studying.  . . . .  Or sleeping.  So I will have to suffice on my savings as supplemental income for now.  At least I’m spending less here than in LA.  And I’m new enough that I don’t know a lot of people and don’t go out too much.  That helps.  🙂

So I’m learning the ropes at my new job.  It’s a tiny office and it’s Unitarian, so I’m thrilled to be on the inside learning track.  If I am to be a parish minister, this is the place to learn.  And it has so much potential here!  The beauty is I get to rearrange the office however I want, Rev Ben has told me, and that’s a bit intimidating as I’ve had someone else telling me what to do for a long time in past jobs.  I remember when I had my own picture frame shop that I managed eons ago (wow, another lifetime ago), I could arrange it however I wanted.  That was really fun and I’m looking forward to doing that here too.  I still feel like I have to pinch myself when I see myself doing something I love.  For so many years I didn’t.  This feels so much better.  And intimidating.  I have so much to learn.

Especially in school!  Oh my God do I have so much to learn.  I was intimidated from the first paragraph in my syllabus in my online class…..  “The course begins with an examination of the (alleged) antecedents to Unitarianism and Universalism in pre-Reformation Europe.  We move on to trace the theological and then institutional emergence of Unitarianism out of the Radical Reformation.  The Unitarian churches in Poland, Transylvania, and England will be considered in detail with attention to issues of sameness and difference in their development and declines.”   Really???  Really Seth and Amy???  I’m intimidated just by the syllabus – how in the world will I get through this class?????

Everyone seems so extremely intelligent and uses words like polity and paradigm. (a form of government of a religious organization) and (an outstandingly clear or typical example or archetype – respectively)   I have learned to use my Webster’s again.  I want to excel, but at the moment I think I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed to excel.  I’ve started to get to know some of my classmates and that’s cool. My online class seems to have me flummoxed.  I’ve never taken an online class before and it’s definitely different.  The last time I was in school they hadn’t invented computers yet that didn’t occupy an entire room, so sending in my homework over the Internet is indeed different.  The outside is the same though.  It is so beautiful on campus. We are located on what is known as Holy Hill and it really is a hill, so I’m getting exercise just walking out the door.  The Pacific School of Religion is down the street where my afternoon workshop is located and the library is at the end of the block.  I can’t wait until I learn where absolutely everything is.  I want to feel quite at home in this city.

So things are feeling more comfortable .  I finally got to work and school last week without using my Garmin or Mapquest!  I’m learning where the Post Office is and Target, and am going to church every Sunday with a congregation that is becoming more familiar to me.  I’m learning my classmates’ names and faces and walking around Holy Hill to see what is around on campus.  It’s getting a bit easier every day and that’s nice…….. so this week’s lesson?  Everything gets a little bit easier just by taking one step at a time.

From my little piece of Mayberry,

Jo



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