Saturday, December 10, 2005

December and January book list

To Begin at the Beginning: An Introduction to Christianity -- by Martin Copenhaver, wonderful book! There's nothing astoundingly new for someone who has grown up with Christianity, but Copenhaver states things in thought-provoking ways and raises many good topics to ponder. Would be a good book for a committed Sunday school or Bible study.

Just Friends: The Role of Friendship in Our Lives -- excellent, as well! The best nonfiction book I've read in quite a while. It explores kinds of friendships, social expectations around friendships, etc. Thoughtful and well-written.

The Mermaid Chair -- by Sue Monk Kidd (author of Secret Life of Bees), I actually liked it even more than I did SLoB; it's about a middle aged woman who rediscovers herself when she goes back home to help her mother; some of the morality I didn't agree with, but it's a great read!

Memoirs of Pontius Pilate -- drier than I thought it would be, but still fairly good. It's hard for me to tell how much of it is true. An interesting take on the life of Jesus in relation to the culture of the time, though.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

October and November book list

I'm finding that I'm going through books too quickly to continue a running book list. I've also decided that I'll clue you in on all the books I've read, even the ones I didn't like... just FYI.

The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd, wonderful! A quick and good read with many solid literary elements and lovely themes. Even a few proverbs here and there -- were I to teach a young adult literature class, I might consider this as part of curriculum)

The Writing Life (Annie Dillard, I wasn't thrilled with this book. It was too abstract for me and a bit rambling and hard to follow. It's short, though, so if you're curious...)

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (wonderfully irreverant, lots of sarcasm and cynicism but never crossed the line into despair. I appreciated the underlying message, too.)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (good quick read, better than #1. I wish I would have read the book before watching the movie.)

Friday, November 18, 2005

New York!

The most interesting thing going on recently was my trip to New York. I had been to Ellis Island once before but had otherwise not been to the Big Apple until I went last Sunday with Seth and Katie. We drove to a train station and then took public transportation the rest of the day. I was expecting really pushy people (here in Monterey, to be called a "New Yorker" is one of the worst insults possible -- they are thought of as pushy, demanding, noisy, and aggressive), but I found that they were not much different than people I encountered when I lived in Chicago. Some amount of pushiness and confidence (or over-confidence) is required for survival in a city, it seems. Barring that, New Yorkers were actually quite pleasant.

Grand Central Station is huge! Our train came into that station and we loitered for a while, staring at the constellations on the ceiling, watching people as they hurried to catch trains, and wandering past numerous little stands and stores.

We first went to the little red lighthouse of children's storybook fame (The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge). It stands under the George Washington Bridge, and, though it would be enormous in other settings, the lighthouse was absolutely dwarfed by the monstrosity of the bridge. Even more fun than actually seeing the lighthouse was seeing Seth's glee (and frolicking) at finally seeing it himself. It's been a long-time ambition for him. =)

Next, we were planning to go through Central Park but, as usual, things always take much longer in cities than you think they're going to take. Instead, because we were getting hungry, we went to an Italian restaurant in the theater district, via a corner of Central Park. There we found the plaque in honor of Seth's friend's half-sister and a very lonely woman sitting in front of it who wanted to hear all about the farm and tell us all about New York. After we talked to her for a while, she told us that we had made her evening. That conversation, in combination with the delicious pizza, the company of Seth and Katie, and a toast of wine "to Gould Farm and being away from it", made for a wondrously satisfying meal.

After we finished, the sun was setting, so we walked to Times Square and the Rockefeller Center, hitting 5th Avenue and Broadway on the way to and from. People were ice skating to classical music at the Rockefeller Center, making a romantic setting in the middle of the city. At Times Square the lights were so bright it was nearly as light as a cloudy day, regardless of the sun's having already set. That was a bit of a sensory overload for me... And as I was watching all the glitz and glamour, I tried not to concentrate too much on the five homeless people I had seen in the previous block, for better or worse wanting not to fill my mind with thoughts of injustice that I could not, at that point, combat.

Near Times Square we bought some candied almonds from a street vendor, which, after the NY pretzel earlier in the afternoon, felt like a nearly complete cultural food picture of NYC (all I need now is a Central Park hot dog). Oh -- I forgot to tell you about the two drummers with four drums and two stools who got on the subway at one station, sat down and did a five minute concert, and then got off at another station. Ah, the city and its diversity and possibility...

After all of this, the time came for the original reason for journeying into the city -- The Lion King at the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway! I was expecting it to be good but perhaps not as good as all the reviews I had heard. But, holy cow!, it was even better than the reviews had led me to believe it would be. The costuming and the music, the sets and the dancing... were simply incredible!! Definitely worth the money I paid (I won't tell you how much... it's somewhat embarrassing, especially in light of the homeless folk we passed. I'm a volunteer but I'm still pretty spoiled.)! The creativity was stunning.

Finally, tired and ready to get back to farm life, we went to the train station just in time to catch a train that would get us to the car by 12:00am and home at 1:00am, where we fell into bed, completely satisfied with a fun day in NYC.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Monterey UCC

This new link (both in the title of the blog and on the sidebar) is the website of the United Church of Christ I go to in Monterey. Just FYI. =) The picture on the website is the entire "downtown" of Monterey. The tallest building is the church (called the Monterey meeting house). The second building on the left (including the library, which is the tiny offset building on the left edge of the picture) is the Monterey General Store at which I work part time. The other buildings are town offices and, I think, a real estate company. You can't see the post office, but it's just past the general store. Isn't it a pretty town?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Attitude Check

A friend of mine just talked to me about how we choose each day how we are going to respond to life... Ah, how true... And yet how hard to live by! Isn't it so much easier to blame other people for our difficulties / emotions / attitudes? God grant the grace...
I am currently on vacation from the farm, taking a quick tour of Indiana before heading back. I am reminded once again of how many meanings the word "home" has had for me in the last few years. Now I talk about coming home to IN and then going home to MA. I suppose it's much better to have too many homes than to not have enough homes. =) I'm grateful for all the people who make my "homes" possible.
I am glad for the opportunity to step away from the sometimes-intensity of the farm. From the outside I'm seeing even more clearly how "right" it is (if there is such a thing as absolute right) for me to be in MA for the time.
K... enough rambling... I'm headed off to watch Will and Grace (one of my favorite TV shows; TV, incidentally, is something I don't have at the farm and don't often miss... but it's nice to have some time to veg in front of the tube for now). I apologize for the length between blogs and recommit myself (as much as possible) to go back to once-a-week posts. But in the mean time, feel free to let me know what kinds of things you would like to see on here -- sometimes I feel like I'm running out of ideas and thus typing without purpose.
Until I talk to you next, blessings, friends!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Farm Life in the Fall

I'm enjoying the fall here, even though the leaves aren't as beautiful as normal (so they say... I still think they're great). The summer's been dryer and warmer than it generally is, making the leaves reticent to change color which, some predict, will make most of them simply turn brown and fall off. Still, there are many vibrant colors -- my favorite is the Virginia Creeper, a vine that turns crimson-red and runs its way along trees and power lines, reminding me that I am indeed alive and capable of awe.

This past weekend was a rough weekend for Monterey. Rain came steadily for nearly 48 hours, without stopping or letting up more than twice. Many basements are flooded and many dirt roads are impassable. On the farm, Diane's Trail lost part of a bridge and is messy at the moment, and one of our front fields was partly flooded.

Work here continues as normal, with me feeling less like someone who is pretending to be a residential advisor and more like someone who really is a residential advisor. I am also feeling like I'm a real part of the community here. I'm starting to be able to relax back into who I am and not feel the need to be someone/something different; to be able to spend less energy trying to connect on what felt like a sometimes artificial level and spend more energy bringing my gifts and personality to every situation.

The choir is starting slowly but surely. I'm still having trouble finding music that people can gather together around. Hymns and classics have been good for the groups I've heretofore been a part of, but neither seem to work as well with this population.

I've had some really great conversations with guests here about the nature of community, the necessity of trust, and the impact of integrity and confidence, reminding me that every person has things both to teach and to learn. Besides that, I've gotten beaten in chess more times than I've kept track of, yet I've almost beaten one of the best chess players on the farm. So, my brother... your attempts to teach me chess did work at least a little bit. =)

Seth and I are just commenting on the idea of "smoosh time" and saying how much we love our boss... Shelly trusts us to use our 40 hours each week in the ways that will be most helpful to us and to the farm -- therefore, for example, I can work extra today and take an extra break on another day if that makes the most sense. It's so great that she trusts us that much. Far from giving us something to take advantage of, she inspires us to work up to our potential. How great!!

'K... I'm still in the residential office and even though I'm not working, I feel like I'm still at work. Time for me to go home and do some Laura stuff... In the mean time, here's a question for you to ponder -- What's the nature of Truth? (is it absolute? relative? knowable? incomprehensible?...)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Iona Community Link

I just added a link, mostly for the benefit of my friend Seth, but also for anyone who wants to know more about the Iona Community -- they are an ecumenical group in Scotland (and around the world) that has an intentional Christian community on the island of Iona. I spent 8 weeks there last summer as a volunteer housekeeper and really enjoyed it. Their resource group puts out some really great music and other books... check it out! If you have questions, let me know...

Monday, October 03, 2005

Book List

August and September Book list revised (new ones starred):
"A book is a great book when the characters make us care enough about them to let them live, love, and hate on in our head long after their final epitaph on the page." ~Renita Weems

*Listening for God: A Minister's Journey Through Darkness and Doubt (at least, I think that's the title... by Renita Weems, well-written, exceptional content, good reference and not a really long or intense read)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (not bad... a good light / quick read, I recommend reading it before you watch the movie)

Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers (really great practical and humorous look at the life of an author, esp. a fiction novelist, written by Carolyn See)

The Art of Being a Healing Presence (a pretty good description of what kinds of things my job entails)

An Unquiet Mind (memoir of a psychiatrist who struggled with bipolar -- a really great discription of the disease)

The Day the Voices Stopped (memoir of a man with schizophrenia -- another really good discription of mental illness)

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (like the movie, only a bit better)

Reviving Ophelia (good points about the effects of culture on adolescent girls; perhaps a bit outdated but still good)

Gathering Blue (if you liked the Giver [a must read, by the way] you'll probably like this one too)

(Also, be sure to look at comments for more suggestions [and comment yourself]... some wonderful ideas of books to read... So many books, so little time!)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Parent and family weekend

This weekend has been full and interesting, as parents and family of guests have been around. That brings a lot of energy and a different complexity to guests' lives / farm life.

The stages of dealing with mental illness are strikingly similar to the stages of grief, both for family and for the people dealing with the illness: shock, denial, anger, guilt, despair, acceptance. It seems to be this way because coping with mental illness involves, at least in part, a redefinition of self; grieving for the "past self" and defining a "new self" is a difficult but natural part of the illness. Thus, it has been really enriching this week to see parents in the various stages of that grief process. Also, guests here struggle, as do many adults, it seems, with finding a good adult child relationship to their parents.

The new energy and conversation that the parents and family bring are great to have on the farm. It seems we get used to our routines and patterns of interacting, and having new folks here is a good reminder to continue to examine our interactions with each other.

In other news, the first day of fall brought chilly weather, making the broken windows in my room more than just a "thing to fix eventually". Cate, the top executive here, offered to arrange a tuner for the piano at Fairview (my house)!! (at this point, it's so badly out of tune that I can't handle playing it)

Time for me to go to church... Take care of yourselves and each other.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Residential people

These are people on my team (again, names you might hear now and then):

Shelly -- our supervisor, energetic, new dog owner, artist, really good at making her needs known in a helpful way, thoughtful and compassionate, intentional about most things she does

Michelle -- staff, process oriented, working toward being a nurse, quiet and straightforward, likes driving (which is good because many of the rest of us don't, particularly)

Mark -- staff, methodical and deliberate,
{I must stop and tell you this... the parrot outside the window, between laughing and asking for a cigarette, just acted like a chicken... Ya gotta love Patron, the man-eating parrot! Back to Mark...}
just got medication certified with me, used to be a lobster boat sailor, has (among other antiques) two pair of antique glasses frames that he uses

Rebecca -- staff, great curly hair, artist, wears huge-brimmed hats and looks good in them, laid back but very effective at what she does, very trusting and yet not naive, leads things like tubing trips, massage therapist, hoping to study dance therapy

Seth -- volunteer, very Catholic and very proud of it, thinking about becoming a priest, loves to laugh, is more anal than I am, and (get this...) asks even more questions than I do, compassionate and intuitive

So, as you perhaps can begin to see, it's a strong team with wonderful people who are different but balance each other out in their differences. Unfortunately we're usually all in the same place for only about two hours a week... And there's room for at least one more person (though there's a proposal for more staffing down the road), so if you know of anyone... give them a nudge. Or if you are that person, check out the link to Gould Farm and then give me (or the farm) a call or an e-mail or something.

Alright... I'm off to rest and see if I can make friends with this noisy imitator of just about everything who has a penchant for eating fingers... Yay, Patron.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Hebrews 10:24 scripture jam

As promised, I will occassionally include some of my writing, etc. I welcome feedback, and I would love for people to use the writing in whatever way they find it helpful -- one thing I ask is that you let me know if you use it (perhaps when and for what).

Hebrews 10:24
N: And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds
1: provoke
2: I like that word
1: provoke
2: to anger
3: to incite
2: to agitate
3: to antagonize
N: And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds
4: WAIT! Provoke has to be the wrong word.
1: provoke
2: to incite
3: love?
4: It’s too strong. Why not “let us encourage one another”?
N: And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.
1: provoke
2: to stir up emotion
3: emotion that must become action
2: Emotion…
3: called out…
2: to become action.
1: provoke
4: tangible love
3: love called out
2: called out so strongly
1: that it must grow hands and feet
2: love that must be living
3: and breathing
2: in the world.
(pause)
4: But how?
(pause)
N: And let us consider
[read on top of each other so it lines up as shown (vertically)]
1: And let us consider how to provoke
2: think about how
3: how to provoke
4: provoke
[separate again]
1: spur on
2: incite
3: call out
1: living love
2: daring good deeds
4: But how?
(pause)
3: Brothers and sisters,
1: let us consider, together, how
All: to provoke love and good deeds

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Schedule

I am part of the residential team, which provides support to guests during nights and evenings and provides daytime driving for guests and support to other teams.

I work two dayshifts each week, driving people to appointments and doing random projects like cleaning up the video room, helping the garden team if they need more hands, organizing games and proposing more games to buy for the community, etc.

I also work three night shifts each week, being mostly at one guest house from 6pm to 9am. That includes talking and listening to guests, playing games and fostering good time use, helping people organize personal and common spaces, helping develop a "living room culture" at the house, helping people develop and use coping skills (in a very limited and careful way, but especially surrounding sleep) , and observing for anything unusual. In many ways during that time I am eyes and ears for the clinical staff. When I'm on at night, I'm one of only three staff who are working (although there are always at least two others who are on call). I can sleep from 10:30p to 6:30a but am always available to guests by knock on my door. Thus, some nights I get great sleep, while other times sleep is limited and/or segmented. This part of my job, especially, is like being paid to be a healing presence (still a bit of an amazing concept to me...).

Two days a week I work at the Monterey General Store. That is nice because it helps me make connections off the farm and in the surrounding community; it's also a very tangible and immediate and process-based job (a good contrast with my farm job, which is intangible, long-term, and more of an art than a set process). Besides, the money will be nice (they call us volunteers at the farm for fairly good reason).

Hope that helps those of you who were wondering...

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Fairview People

These are the people who live with me in my house -- you'll likely hear their names every once in a while:

Edd -- former mayor of a small town in NY, in his 60s, quite boistrous with a great radio voice, loves to talk about anything that involves opinions, maintenence man extraordinaire

Ben -- Church of the Brethren by birth, in his early 20s, maintenece man extraordinaire two, calm but confident young man who thinks deeply and works hard.

Sarah -- psychology graduate from Missouri, 22 years old, quite bubbly, has a boyfriend and a hampster, one of which we are pet sitting for the week ;), part of the Roadside team and the McKee School team.

Marcelle -- mellow, compassionate woman of 37ish, garden team, dancer, worked in a mental hospital before coming here, from TN, family was living in New Orleans.

Blue Skies

smilin' at me! It's absolutely gorgeous here -- the crisp fall air creeping in, making every image just a little bit sharper.
It's been a busy week here at the farm. It's harvest season for some new things like squash and corn, and hay has been needing to come in, making lots of work for the farmers and gardeners here. Sushi "came fresh" (Sushi, the cow, had her calf) this week. Another volunteer got fired very quickly -- for good reason and with good process this time, but it still creates more stress. A new volunteer (Sarah) from Missouri came to live at Fairview and is fitting in amazingly well. Last night we had pizza made in the brick oven one of our farmers built (mmm, nummy) and icecream (wow, was it good!). One of our guests provided guitar improv music for the bash. What a great time!
Tanglewood was wonderful. I got some pictures that are probably not much good, but... at least they're something. Did you know that John Williams composed music and was music conductor for over 100 films? I knew he was amazing, but I guess I didn't know how amazing. He's a great conductor to watch for tips.
Monday is labor day, so most of the people here are off work then. Residential team doesn't get holidays off, but Mondays are my day off anyway. I'm organizing and leading a waterballoon tossing contest and there are many other festivities going on here, as well.
I've asked around about interest in a farm choir and am getting emphatic "yes!"-es from all corners. It's even spread through the rumor mill and made it's way back to me... So now *all* I have to do is find time and find music. If you know anyone who would have old music they would be willing to donate, let me know!
I began going to a Bible study in Monterey that reminds me a little bit of the Bible study mom and dad used to host at our house in Kokomo -- a pretty good age range (especially now with me included) and some interesting theological differences, along with good individual and communal support.
I've not had time to write individual letters... I'm hoping to get some time this evening or tomorrow evening, but tomorrow promises to be a fun but full day with friends coming to visit and a volunteer meeting that I somehow got roped into facilitating... And I thought my facilitating days were over with college... =)
Blessings, friends.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Exciting news -- someone donated to the farm 20 Tanglewood shed tickets and money for dinner for 20 people. Thus, I'm getting to go tonight to see the Boston Pops with John Williams conducting and Josh Groban singing!! I'll let you know how it is, though I can't imagine it being anything but incredible.
Links I just added: I've been thinking a lot about the similarities and differences between the Church of the Brethren (the denomination that has my heart) and United Church of Christ (the denomination that has my presence at the moment). Thus, I included the links to both and would love to hear your feedback. Also on the sidebar is a link to Gould farm's website and a link to the Massachusetts Government website that has some varied information about MA.
The church I'm going to here in Monterey is incredible -- the pastor is a young woman who is scholarly, prophetic, and sensitive; the congregation is a small one but a vital one; the services include much silence, singing, and a time for the congregation to talk about personal reflections based on the pastor's sermon. It will be a fun church to learn from and be a part of for a while. (Plus, they have a piano that I can use to practice on...)
Today I will be doing one of the more tangible parts of my job here at the farm -- I'm driving guests back and forth to Great Barrington, a town about 20 minutes away.
On that note, I will leave you to your jobs and your play...

Friday, August 26, 2005

I think I've finally figured it out.

It's taken me a bit of time, but I think I've figured out how to do a blog. Because it's late, I'm not going to post much more tonight, but I wanted to say hi to all of you and to make sure this dang thing works before I head off to bed.
I'll be doing this in place of mass e-mails while I'm here in Massachusetts. Thanks for being part of the group who chooses to accompany me on my journey.
By the way, before I head off, the title of my blog comes from the poem that's on the sidebar. It's one of my favorites of the poems I've written, and yet it's still a bit of a work-in-progress.
Have a lovely evening...
Signing off affectionately,
Laura