Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oh to be in England, now that October is here

The phrase is actually, "Oh to be in England, now that spring is here..."

I've had the pleasure of being in England in late October a few times and look back on those days very fondly. I am one of those people who look forward to fall and to the return of sweaters, a warm fireplace, and a hot cup of tea. Add a good book, knitting, or even better, great company, and I am in heaven.

This works for me anywhere, but, especially in England.

Our family members there include my lovely niece, my sister and her intended, my first brother-in-law and his family. Over the past 16 years, we've visited them when we can in southeast England, Suffolk. October is my favorite month of the year, and one of my favorite months to visit England.

On a cold, rainy, dark day like today, my imagination takes me on a mental vacation to England. A couple of locations come quickly to mind. Cambridge and the growing twilight surrounding King's College Chapel. Sitting in the chapel and listening to Evensong. An afternoon of antique shopping in Clare and taking tea near the oak-timbered fireplace of The Bell. The early evening bustle of London at Trafalgar Square and a wonderful meal before taking in a play.

Transforming Iowa into Ipswich, Norfolk, Cambridge, or London, isn't easy to do, but anything is possible in our imaginations. My corner of England is off-the-beaten path, not a heavy tourist location, and that's just fine with me. People ask you to repeat yourself because Americans just aren't that common in this corner of England. I rather like that.

When your autumn day is grey, overcast, and otherwise feeling nasty, take a mental vacation to England and find yourself with a warm fire, a spot of sherry, and a cup of tea. Don't forget to bring along your favorite person and enjoy the time away from the everyday. Let's go now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Still Crazy After All These Years

This esteemed group of 40-somethings, minus the boy in front, all met as teenagers through youth events, camps, and retreats, of the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ.

After all this time, we came together for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Arlene Nehring's ordination in Reinbeck, Iowa. Arlene is in the front, blue shirt standing next to me.

Next to me is Kim with my son John. And that's Jim on the far right. Mark and Sally are in the back on each side with Ar's twin, Mar, in between. (Was I always this short?)

We developed a bond, a friendship beyond friendship, into love and chosen family. For Ar, Kim, and I, it's about being sisters. We've been there for every major life event no matter where we were. That is until last week. Arlene and her partner of 16 years, Stephanie, were married at Eden UCC in Hayward, CA, where Ar is the senior pastor. Both Kim and I had to make the difficult decision to not attend. Family and work schedules and finances kept us from being witness to Arlene and Stephanie's wedding. It felt weird as Ar said, that we weren't together for this major occasion.

Arlene and Stephanie met through church, just like the rest of us. What an amazing Spirit that has brought us into each other's lives and what an amazing experience we've shared over the past 30 plus years. Biology can physically create a family, but its love makes us a family.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Road Not Taken

"Turning 40 was a peak: I could look forward and I could look back, and I had to start thinking about the things I wanted to do."

Thanks to the insightful person who wrote that. I wish I knew.

Standing in the "middle years" of one's life affords us a long view of where we've been, decisions made, adventures taken, accomplishments that fulfill dreams. It's a time to re-evaluate, to determine "what's next." When we get to this place in our lives, our experience teaches us that some opportunities only come by once. Bonnie Raitt said it well, "life gets mighty precious when there's less of it to waste."

As a younger adult, the world lay before me and all I had was time. The choices I made didn't seem as consequential as they do today. We spend time as youth figuring how who we are and what we want to do with our lives and who we will share it with.

I've been challenged to write about pretty ponies on rainbows - chasing unicorns and life being all sunshine and lollipops. However, I like the image of the ruby slippers and how Dorothy spends 90-minutes on a journey through Oz desperately looking for a way home, a place she really didn't want to be until she couldn't figure out how to get back there. It isn't until the very end of her journey that she is told that she always had the power to go home, to control her own destiny. How often we wish things were different in our lives, our careers, our relationships and come to the realization that we always had the power to make the changes. Life can have more sunshine and ponies on rainbows if we make it so by clicking our heels together and believing it to be true.

October continues to be a melancholy time, a time for reflection and looking ahead, revisiting those moments that have been mountaintop experiences. I've come to a place where I realize that some of my dreams aren't going to come true and that's okay. It's now about finding new dreams for what comes next and I realize there are more options for me today than there were before. I'm learning from life-changing missed opportunities and finding my voice to share myself more, to feel more empowered and confident about what the future holds for me. Those feelings of sadness and regret will still be there and I'll nurse those carefully for now. There's much more yet to do and I'm eager to collect those opportunities that are beginning to rise for me. Its a wild ride and I am excited about what lies ahead.

And When October Goes

I love October - it is my favorite month and always has been. The colors, the early evenings, the turning of the leaves... it's wonderful. I find I am rather sentimental about October. It evokes a time of reflection as the calendar year winds down and another school year begins.

There were a few times I walked back to my apartment on Lincoln Avenue from the music building in Iowa City around sunset in the fall. I purposely walked through the residential neighborhood not only because it was shorter in distance, but fed my desire for "home" and the warm glow of windows at dusk. I sang a song to myself as I walked, this lovely song that Barry Manilow put music to and Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics for. It fits the melancholy mood of October so very well. And, it seems very appropriate today.

"When October Goes"
And when October goes
the snow begins to fly
above the smoky roofs
I watch the planes go by.
The children running home
beneath a twilight sky.
Oh, for the fun of them
when I was one of them.
And when October goes
the same old dream appears
and you are in my arms
to share the happy years
I turn my head away to hide
the helpless tears
Oh how I hate to see October go
I should be over it now, I know
It doesn't matter much
how old I grow
I hate to see October go.

I Spent a Week There One Day...

Last week, my family and I traveled from Omaha to Salt Lake City on Amtrak. It was quite an adventure. I highly recommend it on a few conditions. You must be very flexible with your travel schedule because delays, significant delays, are common. You must be patient. (see previous.) If you are traveling through amazing scenery, it negates the other two.

After a ton of people boarded the train last Sunday at Glenwood Springs, Colorado - a picturesque mountain resort if there ever was one - we started on the trek to Denver with the plan to arrive by 8:30 a.m. Unfortunately, just past Winter Park, a freight train in front of our train broke down. It's a single rail up there and we had to pull off until the freight train could be moved. We rolled into Denver at 2 a.m. Those passengers who had not planned on spending the night on the train were in the middle of a bad dream. And that's unfortunate because they won't be riding the train again any time soon. Improving Amtrak is a chicken and egg kind of thing. More people need to ride to garner the funds to improve but more people won't ride if trains end up delayed so significantly. The orginal timetable brought us back to Omaha at 6:15 a.m. on Monday morning. We didn't arrive until 4 p.m.

I'll ride again though. It was relaxing and so very different from airline travel these days. No one assumed I was a terrorist because I had shampoo in my carry on bag. No one interrogated me about my plans and I was allowed to walk around the train from car to car. No seat belts, no getting show-horned into my seat and out. It was actually a very pleasant adventure.