Tuesday, October 17, 2006

For y'all who have given up on my ever blogging again...

So, there's no excuse. So I won't even try to give one.
Here's some of what's going on in Laura life.

I'm learning organ from a man in Pittsfield and getting to play on some pretty awesome instruments. What a power trip! And my feet are finally starting to do what I'm telling them to do. My organ teacher is trying to have me build a repertoire for a funeral so that I can start playing for some of those and making money.

I'm on Parish Council for the UCC church (for which I'm also church pianist), and the pastor and I have started having weekly "staff meetings" (just her and me). On Parish Council I'm Mission Chair.

Our new team is coming along. Seth and I have found ourselves doing constant orientation, but people are nearly always holding their own now. We have Mark and Molly at McKee House, Kellen and I at East House, and Seth and Ellen at Orchard House. Pattie switches between the houses and is our manager.

The farm just had another board weekend and is looking toward the holidays -- Halloween being the first... all the way through New Year's.

I've not been reading a lot, but I have been cross stitching a lot again. Soon it will be crocheting weather. Watch out for crocheted Christmas presents... I'm hoping to curb my hands and not go that overboard, but... who knows.

I'm still teaching one of our guests piano and am loving that... making me think that I might offer my services in that way more later in life.

Speaking of later in life, I'm half-heartedly looking into grad schools... but I think I might stay here for another year (making 3 years total)... I have yet to decide that for sure, though.

The pond was cleaned out (all the weeds were raked off the surface) so that we can have a good skating surface when it freezes. I can't believe it's already that time of year again. This year and three months has seemed to fly past.

That's all for now. Feel free to ask me questions -- let me know what you are interested in knowing about. This has become so normal to me that I don't really know what things are exceptional to you / what things you don't know and would like to know.

Take good care of yourselves!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

New Links

Check out the links on the sidebar -- I've now added a link to Sarah's blog and Monica's blog. Both Sarah and Monica were super good friends in college and remain important people to me, and both are incredible writers who have amazing adventures... Happy reading. =)

Monday, June 05, 2006

What should I call this one...?

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've updated my blog... time is getting away from me. There's not all that much new happening other than the normal new stuff -- new volunteers, new guests, new empty rooms...

Katie is leaving in a week or so. :( She will be missed, but she's ready to head out. She'll go to Colorado for a bit before going to Oregon via Australia. Then hopefully she'll become a children's book illustrator / writer. When she becomes famous, I'll loudly boast that she was my friend at Gould Farm...

Orchard House (the brand-spankin'-new guest house) is now open, making residential team stretched. Then add to that the fact that we are at 5 full time people on our team when we should have 8 full time and 1 part time. And then additionally, we are losing our team leader, our most reliable team member, and an important mentor, leaving the most senior person on our team as a person who has been on residential for about a year. Aaacckkk... We'll make it... We don't have much choice about it. But it's going to be a hard summer. Don't be surprised if you don't hear much from me.

Orchard house is beautiful and the guests are loving being there. There's already a living room culture, which is quite refreshing. Some of our long-time guests are leaving, which is really exicting and really sad all in one. It is certainly what they need and it is certainly an opportunity for them to use their many gifts in the world.

I got my computer to work, which means that tomorrow I'll see if I can do some picture taking of my apartment and cats and put them up here. If not tomorrow, it'll be soon.

Thank you, Manchester, for sending us some volunteers. I haven't gotten to meet them much yet, but they seem quite nice, if a bit quiet. And they know how to play Euchre -- it's been 10 months or more since I've played real, seriously-taken Indiana Euchre, and I'm going through some serious withdrawal... I'm trying to get the culture started around here, but it's flopping mostly, unfortunately.

So, if you are the praying type, please pray for the farm in it's staffing crisis and the residential team in it's super-tiredness and long-summer-ahead-ness. If you are not the praying sort, please blow us some good thoughts or something. And regardless of whether you pray or not, please, please, please send anyone you know that might be even somewhat interested in the farm this direction!!!! (every single team on the farm is understaffed right now, with the exception of farm and administration... lots of opportunities!)

Not much else for now... I'll get to updating my book list soon.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

April and May Reading List

DreamGiver -- written by the same man who wrote Prayer of Jabez (a book I refuse to read). Had I not figured this out after reading half of the book, I likely wouldn't have read it. It's okay -- a kind of cutesy, feel-good theology that tends to be too conservative for my beliefs but with a few interesting / important points. But it's a book a friend of mine will love... So I'll pass it on.

Same Soul, Many Bodies -- lent to me by a guest, about reincarnation and healing through hypnosis and progression / regression into past and future lives. It was fascinating and slightly convincing (I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to reincarnation). But I'd still have to see it to believe it. Really interesting read, though.

Angels and Demons -- prequel to DaVinci Code with much the same structure. If you are careful not to believe most of the pieces presented in the story, it's a great read. Picks up as a theme the tension between science and religion. I'll let you know more of what I think when I get it finished.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Welcome, Mud Season!

Spring is sprung,
The grass is riz.
I wonder where the flowers is...

It's mud season -- how appropriate for lent -- which means that it's raining a lot and dirt roads (which are plentiful here) are pretty much impassable. But, it is certainly the herald to spring!

Blessings to you all as signs of life slowly (or quickly in some cases) reappear!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

February and March Reading List

State of the Union and Democratic Response -- interesting, frustrating, well done in spots, worth reading, especially if you want to feel like an informed citizen and happened to be working on the night when it was delivered.

1984 by George Orwell -- I'm listening to it while I crochet and it very much gives me things to think about... disturbing in its "this-could-happen-ness". I love his thoughts around language and newspeak. I had to return it before I was finished with it... bummer. I'll pick it up again sometime, I'm sure.

Papal Encyclical given by Pope Benedict XVI -- I was quite impressed both with writing and organization and with his dealings with the subject matter. Some of it is really, really Catholic, and many parts are good challenges for any Christian. I have a much different opinion of this pope now than I did before I read the encylical.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman -- Excellent! Fantasy / future novel with quite a bit of substance -- theology, sociology, philosophy,... -- as well as entertainment value. The first in a trilogy called His Dark Materials. I love the way he gives people's souls form with daemons (each character has a different animal that "personifies" his or her psyche).

Out of Her Mind: Women Writing on Madness -- a compilation of essays of mental illness and its treatment. It includes pieces by Dorothea Dix, Nellie Blye, Charlotte Perkins Gillman, Kate Millet, Zelda Fitzgerald, and other famous women writers. Interesting fact: madness (hysteria) was originally connected very strongly with women and their wombs (hyster=womb). This book does a good anecdotal history of mental illness as it affects women.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham -- I love his writing style! And the way he interweaves the stories is fascinating. It's one of those that I'm having a hard time putting down (which hasn't happened for a while). I'm going to have to read Mrs. Dalloway next, because The Hours is strongly based on that story, evidently. It does have several hard themes... but deals with them well, I think. (Also, it was made into a movie, which is quite good as well.)

The Odd Sea -- like the jacket says, a good book for a first novel. I wasn't hugely impressed, but it was worth reading. I'm sure that if this author writes more he will find himself quite sucessful. I didn't quite get the connection with the Odyssey, though, or with Hamlet (both of which were invoked).

It's not Easy Being Green -- quotes from Jim Henson and about Jim Henson. Cute little book and extremely quick read.

The Trouble With Poetry by Billy Collins -- great collection of poetry (his newest, I think). He is quite quickly climbing my list of favorite poets!

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh -- I had a really hard time getting through this but read it on Seth's recommendation. Thus, it must be that some people (like Seth) really enjoy the book and find the dialogue witty and fascinating, while others (like me) find it too Jane-Austen-esque to be very interesting... So perhaps you all should try reading it sometime and tell me what you think!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

More exciting news...

I now am the owner of two beautiful and very nice cats. Elsa, 1 year old and gray and white, is super skinny right now because she just decided to eat this morning after starving herself for four or five days -- she'll get more beautiful as she fattens up again. Gabby is a gorgeous 2-year-old brown tabby with white nose, bib, and paws. She has a permanent grumpy-face -- her nose is too big and her ears are set too far back -- but she is one of the sweetest cats I've ever met (which is saying a lot!). They both slept with me last night (progress, as they haven't up to this point been able to be on the bed together) -- Elsa at my calves and Gabby under the covers by my side. They are both huge cuddle-butts but are getting more playful as they get more used to their surroundings. I'll try to post pictures as I have them (and as I figure out how to get pictures from my camera onto the computer).

Can you tell I'm excited about having cats? It's been five years (way too long!) without cats...

Oh, and I got fabric to make curtains for my apartment. How exciting! Now, if only I had my sewing machine and sewing box here with me... Thanks to Shelly for letting me borrow hers.

But for now, my apartment looks hurricane-ravaged. So it's off to do some cleaning before I head to Stockbridge Festival Chorus.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Help! Too many beautiful cats!

I'm in the process of picking a cat (or possibly two). Here are my choices at this point:
Lyra -- white calico with lots of energy, eight months old. Like MacGyver (my brother's cat) in that once she starts playing, she never wants to stop, but she can be quite affectionate in the right moment.
Gabby -- gray tiger (looks like Ernie, one of my former cats). Shy but not defensive. 2 years old, trusting, definite lap cat. Not sure how playful she is... Great motor.
Brie -- black with white nose, eight weeks old. Kitten-like playfulness. Doesn't really like being held but is sociable and would probably become moreso.
Elsa -- white with gray splotches, one year old. Lap cat and shy but more curious and outgoing than Gabby. Also has a good motor.
Such a hard decision...! Any suggestions? =)
PS: as of today (Monday), I think I'm going to adopt Gabby and Elsa tomorrow... we'll see...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Exciting news...

Some of you heard that my original housing situation stopped working a while ago -- personal and farm conflicts made it a bit of an unpleasant place to live. I've been living in a room in a tiny house, but I applied for another house on farm. I was just told yesterday that I was given the apartment in Avalon!! Avalon is a family house with an apartment attached, and the family that will be moving in is a great family. Stephanie and Matthew are my age with a very well-behaved son named Benjamin (now 14 months) and another baby on the way. My apartment is attached to their house and yet is enough separate that I can completely treat it as my own space -- the best of both worlds (shared housing and individual housing). I have a small bedroom, a large living room, and a nice bathroom. Laundry is in the basement (I'll be sharing it with the McMahons). The house is less than a minute walk from main house and a three minute walk from Topside (the volunteer house). And I can now have a cat!!! It'll take a bit to really move in and figure out what furniture I need / want... and I don't have a phone yet... but I'm uber excited!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Correction of assumptions...

For the sake of clarity, which is usually, I find, a good thing:

I don't know how far the word has gotten that I have a boyfriend... so I'm choosing to correct it with my blog rather than trying to catch it individually. I do not, in fact, have a boyfriend. I have a friendboy who is really important to me (Seth), but with whom I have no dating or marriage future -- he wants to be a priest, and I can think of nothing better for him to be. This does not disappoint me when I think about it -- I am quite happy with our friendship, I am sure that we will be committed to our friendship regardless of where we both go, and I remain generally content in my singlehood. So I appreciate the concern/excitement and desire to know/understand that has prompted the rumors, but I wanted to make sure the rumors are truthful before they spread any further. I promise that if/when I have a boyfriend I will let you all know and pass around pictures, etc. =)

I love you all...!

Winter Olympics, GF style

As Shizuka Arakawa skated flawlessly to gold in Torino, as Sasha Cohen came in a disappointing second, as Bode Miller got disqualified right and left, and as China won their first Winter Olympic medal, the real drama was being played out in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachussetts...

The opening ceremony this year, Wed, Feb. 22, did not involve togas, but it did involve trumpets and a bonfire and a torch and a German "wolunteer" (couldn't resist, Bastien) running around the pond. After that, the big news was that Tim won gold in woodsplitting and then came back to be quite competitive in partner sawing, winning a second gold with Edd. Between the opening ceremony and the wood splitting, there was a pick-up game of curling with brooms and logs on the pond. Evidently no winner was able to be determined.

Thursday was packed with events as Kevin and Matt swept the field in the Fox and Socks speed reading competition, coming in a full minute ahead of all the other competitors. Who knew that people's tongues could go that fast. It was reported that their tongues were indeed numb at the end, requiring some special treatment from the medics on site. Also on Thursday were the Blind Seed Relay Pair Competition, akin to planting a garden blindfolded, and the Olympic Taste Bud Competition, in which competitors tested their knowledge of ingredients by tasting four kinds of Harvest Barn squash soup. Are we out of squash yet?

The Olympics then took a break for the weekend, resuming on Sunday with the Maintenence Iron Person Competition. It was reported that two kitchen folk were reminded of how they were not "cut out" for Maintenence men after coming in nearly last and both cutting themselves in the process. Too bad the only safety equipment they were required to don was on their heads... The medics looked at the cuts, looked at the burns the two had earlier gotten from the kitchen, took into account the high pain tolerance of kitcheners and shrugged.

Monday, the farm team sponsored two relays. The van pull required competitors to pull the Blunder Bus (there is speculation that it has more duct tape than metal in it) from one side of the tarmac to the other in teams of four, with one person steering the vehicle and drinking coffee and doing something else that reporters can't remember right now. The other relay at the farm involved wheelbarrows and sawdust and pigpens. The same day at dinner was the chili cook-off, sponsored by the kitchen, in which Gould Farmers stuffed themselves on chili and then voted on their favorite. Evidently number five was only for the most daring of ingestors, as it was essentially fire in a bowl.

Today Olympics continue with the Roadside Store Pancake Relay, where teams of three appoint one person to make and flip a pancake, one person to catch a pancake on a plate from across the room, and one person to eat the entire thing. Knowing Roadside pancakes, reporters are agreed that all three jobs would be hard, but the last is perhaps the most strenuous. We will await the results with mouths watering. Administration is also sponsoring a scavenger hunt at one this afternoon. Stay tuned to find out who wins that event.

Tomorrow, the last day of the Olympics, a late-breaking event has been announced based on the constant fascination with those little number squares that has passed over the farm like an epidemic. Finally, logicians will have their moment in the sun (or snow, as it may be), putting their skills to use tomorrow afternoon during lunch. And then, on Wednesday, February 29th in this year 2006, GF Winter Olympics IX will close with awarding of medals. Stay tuned for the results.

(Contributed by the GFP)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Katie has such an active mind...

Poem written by Katie, GF volunteer extraordinaire... we never know what kinds of creative, odd, random, hilarious things are going to come out of her super-active brain...
To be sung to the tune of "My Favorite Things" or some other waltz (and still a bit unfinished):

Llamas and peanuts and happy nice people
who love you and hug you and fly to the moon,
roses and teacups and smelling the angels
and having a party with someone you know,
nice apple flowers that talk to the towers
of Doppler and radar and peachy fleece cheese.
There is a notion that comes from the ocean
that creases vice velveteen Spanish rice sneeze.

On that note, have a great day!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Ah, time....

It's been a while, eh? (that seems to lately have been the first line of all my IMs and e-mails, unfortunately)

Things here have been complicated of late, but nonetheless fulfilling and important. The clinical director left the farm rather abruptly, causing some difficult discussions among staff. Two guests were asked to leave the farm and two more were suspended for bringing and using alcohol and drugs on campus. The discussion around that has been very life-giving; we are tackling hard subjects as a community and are coming out better for it. And yet it's still quite difficult to be in the midst of at times, for guests and staff alike.

Orchard house, our newest guest residence, is soon to be occupied -- furniture arrives next week and people will probably be able to move in near the end of February. That means some gearing up in the residential team to help coordinate the move and figure out paperwork and systems in the new house. Also, the other two houses are getting new furniture and carpeting... how fun!

There are quite a few new guests and some new staff, making the community morph in different directions, some of which are unclear as of yet. It continues to be amazing to me how much the community acts as an organism in itself and how much the feel of the community as a whole changes with the entrance and exit of individuals. Thus, the interests of the community are constantly changing; a few months ago chess was huge, then music, now theater and movies and Scrabble... It makes planning a good activities calendar a fun challenge.

In the mean time, I keep wanting to learn how to iceskate backwards and keep not having a chance -- the weather is cold one day and warm the next, making for bad or nonexistant ice. Instead, I've been crocheting an afghan and reading and practicing piano and socializing with friends on my off time. I hope to find a way to learn pottery soon, but have yet to find a teacher.

Last week, on a bit of a whim, I went to the Atlantic Ocean in Connecticut and watched a sunrise on the beach, collected some great shells, and generally enjoyed being on my own in the peace and quiet. It reminds me of how much exploring there is to do around here and of how much I need to continue to plan that into my time here.

Today I'm working on laundry and practicing piano for church on Sunday before I head back to work tonight. Sometimes I just love working nights and having days off!

My friends are incredible and my church is amazing, as I continue to tell you all... it continues to be true, in fact becoming more and more true (or at least I'm noticing it more and more).

In all this and other things, I find that God has drawn me to precisely the place I need to be -- I couldn't imagine being anywhere else right now. God is good, inspite of (more accurately perhaps, because of) the mystery of Her ways.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I finally get around to saying "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year"

It's been a busy and intense month, and yet it's been lots of fun. There are many traditions at the farm around the holidays, and the residential team, as farm activities planners, was in charge of coordinating all of them. The biggest tradition was "bringing down the tree" in which we sing carols as we travel up the hill behind main house, where we find a perfect tree that has magically (by way of Forestry and Grounds team cutting it down and "replanting" it at the top of the hill) grown there. We then "cut it down" and drag it back down the hill and into the living room, where we continue singing and telling stories and making ornaments while we decorate the tree as a community. It went quite well and was fun for all involved, but it also involved a lot of ahead of time planning and stress.

Other traditions include the following: lighting of a tree outside while singing carols (this year it had to be a maple because our spruce has grown too tall); Christmas eve dinner; New Year's eve dinner; yankee swap (white elephant gifts); gift giving to the guests; Christmas brunch; Christmas day activities; New Year's eve activities (dance, etc.); sending Christmas cards to the families of all the guests who have been here over the year; wreath making; decorating the farm; and it feels like I'm forgetting things... That's all on top of our normal duties at night and driving during the day. And we are understaffed (6 people on our team). And half of our team (Seth, Michelle, Rebecca) went home over Christmas. Needless to say, it's been lots of work and lots of extra hours that didn't get recorded.

So I hope you'll forgive me for not having blogged for quite a while...

All that said, it has really been fun seeing the holidays play out here at the farm and seeing all our hard work being rewarded through the excitement and "at-home-ness" of many of the guests.

I also had a lot of fun with music this season -- I was leading a farm choir that was quite proud of itself (and I was quite proud of it) because most of the people who sang had little previous choir experience; I was part of a choir (quartet / quintet / trio) at church that sang for Christmas eve service and Christmas morning; I got to play piano for the first Sunday of December, the Sunday before Christmas, Christmas Sunday, and New Year Sunday (playing out of my new Chris Rice piano book that I LOVE!). I think the music did a lot to keep me sane through the busyness.

I also was working my normal shifts at the general store (14 hours a week) but am now finding that I can't maintain that level of commitment to the store and still maintain my mental health. Thus, I've cut my hours there in half, leaving me only working one day a week. Also, my schedule at the farm changed to a schedule I'm really excited about... I now work Tuesday night, Wednesday day (at the general store), Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday day (at the farm), Saturday day (at the farm). Thus, I get the following time off: Thursday from 9-5, Friday evening, Saturday evening, Sunday all day, Monday all day, and Tuesday until 4. It's like having a three-day weekend every week! and that comes after feeling like I had a 0-day weekend... I'm not sure I'll know what to do with myself! ;)

In the midst of all that, here at the farm I'm cultivating a couple of the most significant friendships I've ever experienced -- it's amazing to me how quickly I've gotten to know people deeply here. Much of it comes from living, working, and playing with the same group of people most of the time. I'm also still loving the connections I have with the church folk and with the town (through the general store). Our Bible study has taken a break for the holidays and I'm noticing how much I miss it!

Mom and Dad and Matt came to the farm just after Christmas and seemed to enjoy themselves here. Unfortunately, they were only here for two and a half days... but we packed those as full as we could! It was good to see them and to be able to introduce them to people and show them around my stomping grounds. Maybe they'll come back again in the spring when it's not such cold weather. =)

K.... I should go do more laundry (there's lots of it that I, not too surprisingly, haven't gotten to for a while) and let you get on with your lives... Please know that you all are loved and missed... come visit sometime if you get a chance!