Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Car-Free in Tennessee-still hoofing it in December

Yup, we're still at it. And it's not been too bad with the exception of a couple of frustrating moments. On Thursdays, we usually leave the house to catch the 3:00 bus, go downtown, hang at the library for a while and then walk to aikido where Hammy picks us up at 6:15. Last week, we left the house on time but got to the creek to find it higher than it had ever been and impossible to cross (we'll make it to the library, "Lord willing and the creek don't rise"). Zed really needed a book about carbon atoms from the library for his science project so we walked to the local library branch and then caught the next bus which gets us downtown with just enough time for us to walk briskly the mile or so to aikido. We did get there on time.

Yesterday, was another story. I've been given some "listing" work in preparation for the next work project I'll be starting in February. I had to go to to speak with someone who is knowledgeable about the size of the buildings at the local airport and a university. Hammy took an afternoon off work last week so I got the university gig done last week. Yesterday, I decided that I would try taking the bus to the airport rather than driving Hammy to work, sitting in rush hour traffic, coming home, going out the airport, coming home and then sitting in rush hour traffic to pick him up again. I got to the bus stop probably 10 minutes before the bus was scheduled and waited. and waited. and waited. When the bus was about 15 minutes late, I called the customer service number to ask where it is and it apparently came early. Arrrrgggg. I feel strongly that bus drivers should be required to try and get around town by relying on the bus schedule. Buses running early are just as inconvenient as buses running late. So, I had to wait 30 minutes for the next bus which wound up being and additional 10 minutes late. My whole schedule was pushed off, so I had to call Zed to look on-line to find when the next bus to the airport would run.

Once downtown, I had a half an hour to wait before the next bus showed up. My favorite dressy-but-comfortable pair of shoes broke a heel last year so I took them to the shoe repair shop in the Arcade. It is one of those kind of places that is like walking into a time warp. In it the shelves are piled high with decades worth of stuff; they look like the strata of a cliff. The old cobbler fits the part amazingly well. He has an accent from someplace where the men are swarthy and thick-mustachioed. Imagine a cobbler... what you picture in your mind is exactly what this guy looks like; he had on the green cobbler apron and everything. He could be typecast to play Gepetto.

Anyway, I caught the bus to the airport, wound my way through the behind-the-scenes hallways of the airport to the corporate offices, spoke with the man who answered my question and then had to wait almost an hour for the bus. I had the same bus driver as my ride there and we joked a bit about my quick trip to Cancun and he warned me that the bus would fill up with the after-work light-industrial workers. By the time we got downtown, it was standing room only with exhausted factory floor workers. It was a long trip back downtown.

By the time I got back downtown I figured there was no point in paying for another bus ride and walking in the cold dark home from the bus stop since Hammy would be leaving work soon. I called him and waited at the library for him to pick me up. Declan was hanging out downtown with a friend of his, so he met me at the library.

I have to say, I LOVE being with Declan in public simply because people look at us with such a funny range of emotion. Declan looks like a punk. He has a thick mohawk pulled back in a short ponytail. He wears a leather biker jacket with a big red anarchy symbol painted on it. He has chains dangling off his clothes. He looks angry and intimidating. I'm his mom. I look like a mom. We're standing together talking, comfortable. People look at us with fear, horror, curiosity, amusement, bewilderment all in equal measures. Mothers of younger sons are the one's who look horrified as if they are thinking "what if...?!" I love my son and am proud that he is finding his own way, expressing himself as the individual he is. He wouldn't be caught dead wearing a corporate logo, which warms my heart no end.

Anyway, I'd been planning on being away from home fewer than 4 hours. Zed is 12, almost 13. He is a good babysitter and capable of handling things at our house for an afternoon. I felt really uncomfortable, though, when I got home 6 1/2 hours after I left. When buses don't run on schedule, it can really mess things up. I'd been thinking I might try to work this next project without a car, since it's mainly Mon-Fri 9-5 hours contacting businesses but I see that our bus system is not reliable enough to allow me to do that. I'm going to have to either borrow my dad's truck again or we're going to have to buy a car. I don't want to do either but I don't see any other choice. I could get a scooter but that doesn't really work for me in the bad winter weather (which, admittedly, we have little of around here) nor does it help with getting the kids around.

Oh, and I got a letter from the human resources department at work saying that I have been approved for a substantial raise beginning in the new year. Yowza! I will be making more than I ever imagined I could make in this kind of job. If I were to work full-time, I'd actually be making a livable (albeit modest) wage. The raise has certainly put looking for a new job on the back-burner for the immediate future.

Monday, December 17, 2007


I've written before about my belief that the meaning in tragedy is the meaning we create from it. Again, I own the fact that I have never experienced real tragedy; I've never suffered any serious losses, no one I love deeply has ever died, except grandparents who's time "had come". I write about this with awareness that someone who has suffered real loss, anyone who is experiencing real tragedy could think my statements as naive and trivializing of their pain. I certainly do not intent to minimize the significance of any person's experiences. What I suspect, though, is that when people look for meaning in loss, their actions are the meaning. Like when the women created MADD after their children were killed by drunk drivers or that Brady guy who lobbied for stricter gun control after he and Reagan were shot. I'm not saying that every person has to do something on a National level, the meaning could be as simple as learning to be kind to one's neighbors or to recycle or to buy the Christmas goose for Tiny Tim's family.

A couple of weeks ago someone shared a story during Meeting for Worship. This is a Friend whom I like very much. I've often had the sense that this Friend's sharing is not, shall we say, Divinely inspired; rather, more like things this Friend is emotionally moved to share. The story this Friend shared was something easily dismissed, seemingly not spiritually rooted but it lead me to think, then meditate and then pray about, something which I would not usually have in my awareness in Meeting for Worship. I was able to create meaning from his message through the context of my own experiences and the Grace of God.

There have been one or two occasions in which a person has spoken in Meeting for Worship from a place that seemed very rooted in ego, sharing a speech which was obviously prepared in advance and centered around something pretty esoteric. In years past, I've gotten really annoyed when this has happened and I've been in Worship with others when the whole vibe was annoyance at such happening. Lately, though, it's as though our whole meeting congregation has been able to find meaning in these messages, allowing the message to take on a weight and depth that I don't think the original speaker could possibly have imagined. Sometimes, the meaning has nothing to do with the words that were spoken so much as a general feeling of love and support for the need of the speaker to feel really listened to. We have taken the situation and put it in the context of a nurturing community and made something beautiful and hopeful and unifying.

So, I'm trying to see more things in this context. What meaning do I create from any given experience? Yesterday, my teen and I had a fight. What did I learn from that? What do I take from it? What positive chance can I carry forward? What is the meaning I take from this moment? What meaning to I give to the next?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

From the Pulpit of Amos Townsend, Church of the Brethren of Fictional Jonah, Indiana

I found Haven Kimmel's new book "The Used World" at the library last week and read it over the weekend. I discovered her writing through the memoir "A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small In Mooreland, Indiana". I guess I was first drawn to her writing because we were both born in small-town Indiana in 1965. I spent 2 years living in Muncie, Indiana which is the big university town next door to Mooreland. The emotional and geographic topography of her writing is both comfortable and a challenge to me.

Also, turns out that Haven has Quaker connections, having studied at Earlham (and she named her son Obadiah, which was my first choice for Carmac's name).

"The Used World" is the last in a trilogy about a fictional town called Jonah, Indiana which is very similar to Mooreland in size and sensibilities. Here are some quotes from the book:

"...And now we are told that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, that it's here, that it's coming, all at the same time. ...The Kingdom...is, for some, the Church. The Church is the kingdom of heaven and the world is not, and the Church becomes the status quo. Everything Jesus said, everything in the biblical tradition, is then used to uphold the status quo, because that's what it means to enter the kingdom. But when the Kingdom is seen as transcendent, or beyond the Church, there is a call to revolution, in defiance of old customs and conventions. That's where we get the Jesus I find more attractive: the radical overturning the money changers' tables, the man who, in fact, turned everything upside down, the Jesus Who is not on the side of any empire or principality, but Who is concerned with outsiders and sinner and the sick. ...I believe that the Jesus we have come to know spoke in parables because there is no other psychically adequate way to address the human condition and that while it seems that what Jesus is saying is that the Kingdom is like a naked singularity, a trick of physics, it's equally possible He's saying you have to choose. What you choose determines the life you live, quite simply. If the Kingdom of Heaven is here now, and that requires from you a fearful clinging to the status quo, then that's who you are and what your life meant. If it's ahead somewhere, and out of reach in this lifetime, you will spend your days accordingly. For me-I speak only for myself now-the Ineffable, the Eternal, the Kingdom of Heaven seems to be inbreaking in our lives all the time, every day. I think it's here, just beside us, and if we turn out heads we'll enter in. I think all kinds of people, especially dogs and Buddhists, have gone in ahead of us, but there's always another chance. The Kingdom of God is a door perpetually opening, and it makes me, as dear Emerson said, 'glad to the brink of fear.' "

And later in the book:
"Imagine the distance collapsed, the one between God and your every decision; it would be like walking down a dirt road in perfectly bright sun, followed a hawk, or some bees. That is our Messianic dream, no division between God, the light, the road, the Man or Woman."