Friday, December 31, 2010

Out with the old...

I can't say I'll miss 2010 for many reasons, some of which I can post in this blog and others I can't. But being unemployed seven months and counting has meant a dent in the finances and has put the kabosh on any traveling. Which is why it was so nice for Oma and Opa to fly *here* and experience their first East Coast Christmas in more than 30 years. A huge snow storm dumped snow all around us but it completely skipped us in the DC area which delighted us to no end, being that shoveling snow gets very old very fast.
So....for Christmas Eve, we repaired to St. Andrew's in College Park, which had a no-rehearsal kiddie pageant in which Veeka dressed as an angel. I remembered that I was exactly her age (5 1/2) when I too dressed as an angel at St. John's, an Episcopal church in Bethesda that we were attending back in 1961. How odd that nearly 50 years later about 20 miles away my own little girl would be dressed as an angel on Christmas Eve. As shown here, Veeka had to wait in a pew, her halo a tad askew, with some other little angels, before they trooped up to admire the baby Jesus.
On Christmas Day, Uncle Rob showed up (see family photo) for the morning as Veeka opened the lion's share of all the gifts. A kind friend of mine sent a large box of gifts for her as I was not in a position to spend much at all. So Veeka splurged on puzzles, videos and other goodies. I'd hoped to take the family for a walk but it was so cold that day, we didn't leave the house. We did get to the Washington cathedral the next day and then out to lunch with Rob and his new fiance. Yes, you read that right; he and Jan announced their engagement Christmas Day. This was the first time I'd met Jan; ditto for my parents. We're all hoping 2011 will be a much better year for us all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oma & Opa arrive

This is a photo of Veeka playing in the snow we got last week. Fortunately most of it had melted away by the time Oma and Opa flew in yesterday on Alaska Airlines. In fact the weather here is very breezy but quite sunny; probably a relief to pilots everywhere.
Wish I could say there was more news on the job front but a decision on one of the positions I was counting on has been delayed until next month. The last weeks of December are useless in this regard; simply no one is in the office anywhere to take calls. Which is fine for now; it's nice to just hibernate away for now. Veeka is thrilled at having so many people around the house to talk with and last night Opa helped me install a new router, albeit with a bit of guidance from Verizon operators. Now if he can help me get my fireplace to work...
Here is one more Economist blog that I wrote on Nancy Pearcey's new book "Saving Leonardo" which has gotten very little notice in the evangelical press. Nancy's the closest heir to Francis Schaeffer there is right now. The sexism in the major evangelical publications continues to amaze and confound me, as this book would have gotten major billing had the author been a man.
The stack of Christmas gifts (90% for Veeka) continues to pile up in the hallway. I'm very indebted to Joey Marguerite, a friend from Seattle, who sent me a large box of things for Veeka, as she knew I'm basically not doing gifts this Christmas. Being 6 1/2 months out of work takes a toll.
For those of you anticipating Christmas cards, those will be a tad delayed as well but hopefully they will be out before Lent!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Avoiding St. Nicholas

Finally some of my articles are finally seeing the light of day - the latest being this piece coming out in Sunday's Washington Post magazine. The story is about all the folks who took the Huffington Post buses down to the Stewart/Colbert "sanity rally" on Oct. 30 and ended up getting there so late, they missed most of it.
A week ago, this piece came out in the Economist along with a nice photo.
On the home front, the other photo shows my reluctant child at a St. Nicholas Day brunch. She was clearly overwhelmed by this huge person in a miter and red suit and beard and refused to sit on his lap or either look at him. When I snapped this, she was about to let out a protesting screech. So much for all the money I shelled out for that event. Actually it was a cheapy brunch; it was in a local historic mansion but we got food on paper plates; the waffles were from some store-bought package and the goody bags the kids got were minimal. A day later I took her to an exhibit of cool gingerbread houses which she liked a lot better.
Things are finally percolating on the job front. Can't reveal what's up but there's some movement after all these long months. In fact today I was presented with two opportunities; the latter which showed up in my in-box later this afternoon. I spent part of my day exploring the other of these opportunities plus giving a lecture on the history of the Episcopal charismatic renewal to a class at Virginia Theological Seminary. Fortunately I'd kept a lot of old magazines, photos and conference brochures from the 1970s, ie the first Anglican charismatic event in 1978 in Canterbury, England. I passed a lot of stuff around the class show-and-tell style. One person who came to listen was Mark Dyer, the former Episcopal bishop of Bethlehem, Pa., with whom I compared notes about why so many of the communities went off the theological tracks.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving thanks

We spent Thanksgiving this week at the home of Canadian friends who were trying their hand at their first American Thanksgiving meal ever. The cooking was superb and I loved simply driving there and relaxing and not having to cook myself. Quelle relief.
Every Thanksgiving morning I take out a certain blue notebook that I only write in one day a year. It's an informal Thanksgiving diary where I note all that went on the past year and what happened to give thanks for. Like, not getting laid off last December when 110 other Washington Times staffers were getting the boot. The five-month reprieve I got was vital in that I got a three-part series into the paper (in April) that I'm hoping will be a contest winner.
This is not the first time I've lost a job over the years and each time the switch has ultimately proved to my benefit which is how I hope this experience will work out. This time is the first time, however, that massive amounts of people have also been without work alongside me, plus I am quite a bit older than I was last time I jobhunted. Which is not helpful in today's job climate.
Pictured here is a photo of Veeka and I at Sun Mountain Lodge, a gorgeous resort in Winthrop, Wash. Which was one of our nicer experiences of 2010.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Requiem for St. Luke's

In the last day or so, news has come out that the venerable St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Seattle is splitting and that 3/4 of the parish is leaving to form a new congregation that will join up with CANA, one of the new Anglican jurisdictions hoping to supplant the US Episcopal Church. I knew of this six weeks ago when I spoke at St. Luke's one Sunday morning, then had lunch with the rector and his wife: John and Holly Roddam, at a local Thai restaurant.
It was a most enlightening repast for we compared notes about all sorts of things. I found it really odd that when I was in high school in the early 70s, St. Luke's was packed with people. John said 700 were members back then; nearly a megachurch by Episcopal standards. When I showed up there Oct. 3, there were less than 50 people there. It was a sad contrast to Mars Hill, a church barely a mile away, which has multiple branches and last I heard was at about 7,000 people. It's probably larger than that now. But 30 years ago, St. Luke's was packing them in.
St. Lukes, for those of you who do not know it, was one of three major charismatic Episcopal parishes in the country. The other two were Redeemer in Houston and St. Paul's Darien in Connecticut. I've been at 2 of the 3 churches this year. Redeemer had barely 60 people at a Sunday morning service and their rector left at the end of the summer. The parish is barely able to pay its bills much less afford a new priest. In fact, St. Luke's will revert to mission status to serve the handful of people left there. John told me he guesses the financially strapped Diocese of Olympia will soon sell it. The real estate in downtown Ballard is just worth too much money.
I have not visited St. Paul's, but a friend who knows the place well says it too has reverted to barely-making-it status although at least it -unlike the other 2 churches - at least has a rector. I can't help but wonder if there is a sign in all this; that 3 of the liveliest parishes in the denomination have been or are being snuffed out.
Not much personal news; jobhunting has been fruitless and I just finished doing the WPost magazine article after the deadline was moved up one month. Am including a photo of Veeka at her new gym class. My little Olga Korbut just loves to flip about.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Covering the HuffPost bus tour

"A half moon is shining over a crowd of 20-somethings, clumped together like so many penguins in a futile effort to avoid the chilly wind. Clad in all manner of Halloween costumes, hoodies, jeans and woolen scarves and clasping signs, they stand in a long line at the vast parking lot surrounding Citi Field, home of the New York Mets just south of LaGuardia Airport in Queens. But nothing is too big a sacrifice for the cause: in this case a massive meeting 209 miles away on the Mall in Washington with the odd title of “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” starring Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, most known for their late-night antics on “The Daily Show.”

To add to the drama, internet diva Arianna Huffington had announced Sept. 28 on The Daily Show she personally would fund “as many buses as people to fill them” from New York to help fans get to the Oct. 30 rally. After well over 10,000 people enlisted, her web site,, closed registrations Oct. 24. And so here we are, about 10,000 strong in pre-dawn 42-degree weather. ....

That is the beginning of a Washington Post Sunday magazine piece I am writing about one of the weirder adventures I've had recently. The night of Oct. 27, one of the editors messaged me via Facebook, asking if I'd care to take an unusual assignment. They'd had a liberal journalist follow some Tea Partiers around at the August Glenn Beck rally. The Post was looking for a conservative journalist (me!) to follow tons of left-of-center folks as they boarded one of 200 free buses - courtesy of Huffington Post - at the crack of dawn in Queens. The only problem is I had to be up in New York Friday night to do this thing.

Now I was spending all day Friday in Baltimore as a panelist at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion pushing the "Fire and Glory" book. Plus there was the small detail of who'd take care of Veeka. But on Thursday I decided to take the assignment after I found friends willing to watch her (bless you!) until I could get back home late Saturday afternoon. And thus began the strangest adventure beginning with my catching a train to New York from Baltimore, then taking another train to Queens and staying in the same hotel I did when covering the 2005 Billy Graham crusade.

The next morning, I was up at 4 and within an hour, I was in Citi Field interviewing tons of shivering people who were waiting for these free buses to Washington. It was 42 degrees, I later learned and my hands were so cold, I could barely write. A nice photographer called Robert Woudenberg took this photo of me interviewing some college students who were dressed up as - and spoofing - the Chilean miners. It's about 5:15 a.m. at this point. I ended up on the same bus as the "miners" and when we pulled into RFK Stadium around noon, a Post photographer was there to meet us. Together we followed the "miners" about this huge rally which we saw almost nothing of. The organizers didn't know that actual attendance would be quadruple their projections; there were far too few jumbotrons and the speaker system was totally inadequate. All those wonderful HuffPost buses ended up bringing some 10,000 New Yorkers there hours too late. All the good seats were taken hours before.

But the signs! So many people were hoisting about the most clever signs and the weather was gorgeous. I was being paid for being there but I felt sorry for the poor folks - some who'd flown in from California - who were crowded out of the rally. As a local resident for almost 15 years now, I've learned one does not attend rallies on the Mall because of the sheer misery of getting there and standing there so chances are I would have never been there on my own. So it was a real kick to see this close up.

When does the article run? Either December or January, so stay tuned.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The joys of the Methow

Wanted to say the last part of my sweep through Washington state involved a 3-day visit to the Methow valley, a fertile green finger of land sandwiched between the dry hills of Washington's arid center. We got there over the North Cascades Highway and the middle photo is of Veeka shivering at the Diablo Lake overlook. Mountain lakes are emerald green in that part of the world just south of the Mt. Baker wilderness.
We swept through Washington Pass and ended up in Winthrop, a small town in the eastern foothills of the North Cascades where my friends Dick and Pam Ewing have lived for 25 years. They moved there in the mid-1980s and built a gorgeous log home there which Veeka and I adored running about in, especially the new and gorgeous spiral staircase connected the 2nd and 3rd floors. We spent the first day driving up through a pine forest to Sun Mountain Lodge, the local posh resort, which is surrounded by all manner of paths that turn into cross-country trails in the winter. We wandered down one ringed by aspens (see photo of Veeka and Dick) to a beaver pond although we unfortunately did not spot a beaver. Veeka hiked nearly 3 miles that day, a record for her.
The next day, we repaired to Rainy Lake, a hike up in the Cascades to another gorgeous mountain lake and through typical moist Northwesty forests complete with tons of firs, pines, mushrooms, ferns and other opulent flora. Back at the house, Veeka loved running around the property and petting the kitties and exploring the two large gardens that Pam kept up.
It was a lovely reprieve for all too soon we were back in the Washington area, facing an October of no job possibilities and a complete dry-up of even freelance work. Turns out I'd slated some work to be done on my bathroom (it's a wreck) so I've been more than busy running back and forth to Home Depot for supplies. And then this past weekend, a church kindly helped Veeka and I attend - for free - a gathering at the lovely diocesan retreat center of Shrinemont in the foothills west of the Shenendoah Valley. The fall weather could not have been more perfect - and we visited wineries (a national sport in Virginia) on the way home, only to run into a 9-mile backup on I-81 going home and a Beltway with the nastiest traffic. And then someone thoughtlessly rearended me as I was exiting said Beltway.
So this morning was spent with a chiropractor. Back to earth, we are.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My little flower girl

There are times when Veeka can surpass all expectations and yesterday was one of them. Dressed in a deep purple flouncy dress with black shoes, she was absolutely perfect as she marched up the aisle with her purple flowers and stood by her older cousin Lindsay as Carley and Jed said their vows. ALL the other flower girls - and ringbearer - wandered off during the ceremony but Veeka was the only one who stood there in place during the sermon, vows, songs, you-name-it. She loved being up front, wearing lavender eyeshadow and lipstick and being a little star. She thought that seeing Uncle Rob in a tux - attire one must have when giving one's daughter away - was pretty cool.
Unfortunately the sun hardly broke through the clouds the entire day, making it a cloudy Saturday but that didn't dampen peoples' spirits as we all gathered in North Bend for the church ceremony, then drove nearly an hour away for a reception in a farmhouse that gave new meaning to the word "isolated." We were deep in the woods east of Duvall in territory even my parents had never driven about.
Am including some photos here of Miss Veeka in her finery, Carley and Jed saying their vows and the happy couple holding my little darling.
It's been a fun few days in Seattle where I've either been at a wedding shower, rehearsal or the event itself. Today (Sunday), I spoke at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on my newest book and tomorrow Veeka and I head to the Methow Valley for a few days. Veeka is enjoying her time with Oma and Opa and all the other relatives.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


It really was a foretaste of heaven; driving south on Highway 67 from Divide, Colo., toward the tiny town of Victor, the highway became like a golden tunnel, full of the famous "quaking aspens" that high-altitudes in this state are known for. I had to drive to 9,600 feet to see them and it was delightful jumping out of the car and clinging onto those birch-like trees whose leaves rustle in the mountain breeze like nothing else I've ever heard.
Seeing the aspens was one of my goals for the two full days we've spent in Colorado Springs. I first tried ascending to the heights via Gold Camp Road, a very old route through the mountains that takes you through canyons with dizzying drop-offs with no guard rails. I made it up the first few miles of this road - in sheer terror in my rental car - before finding out that the rest of the bottom half of this road had been closed for years due to a cave-in; somehow this vital point was not included in my tourist literature. So we returned to the Springs and drove up the much wider Highway 24 to Woodland Park, then headed over to Divide and then south.
Just north of Victor, I discovered the western half of Gold Camp Road and drove down it a half-mile and the beauty of that route through a high mountain valley cannot be described. Again - didn't want to get caught somewhere with a flat tire and no cell phone service so drove back toward civilization which - in the case of the nearby gold mining town of Cripple Creek - has meant being given over to casinos. Veeka napped part of this time as I hopped in and out of the car snapping photos of the aspens. The weather could not have been warmer and brighter which was a real gift considering how cold it can be at those altitudes.
On the way back, had a strange experience visiting the site of what was once the Colorado branch of the Community of Celebration which I wrote about in my "Fire and Glory" book. I was last there 30 years ago in 1980 - in late September in fact - attending a conference on Christian communities that was at an old Episcopal church camp that the Celebration folks fixed up. The site has since been sold to a company that rents out cabins there; the same cabins I'm guessing that were built or refurbished several decades ago. It was the oddest thing walking about on that property, feeling the ghosts there. The only thing left that hinted that a religious community had been there was St. Martin's Chapel, pictured here, a quaint wood structure way back then but now in much disrepair with junk piled high inside of it. Let's hope it's been deconsecrated. So many trees have grown on that acreage that it no longer has the fabulous views of Pike's Peak that I remembered from back then as a 24-year-old who drove 3 days from Oregon to get there.
Today, Veeka and I visited Garden of the Gods, a fabulous park of bizarre red rock formations with cool trails everywhere. Veeka saw one man rappelling down one of the sheer faces and she was fascinated as to why someone would do such a thing. Her little world has been much broadened in the past few days with all the things she's seen, such as the big-horned sheep that casually walk about where we're staying. That's at Glen Eyrie, a conference center and hotel owned by the Navigators that is in a canyon next door to Garden of the Gods. Veeka has been much taken by the lovely castle where we eat our daily breakfast. The grounds are fabulous and it's a site where Billy Graham almost relocated his ministry to before deciding to stay put in North Carolina. His loss, I think; what a place to base a ministry.
Veeka and I went on a hike this morning and in spite of all the wailing about being 'too tired' to make it to the top of a very short peak known as Dawson's Grave, she actually enjoyed it once she got on the trail. We also enjoy the magpies about the grounds and other cool wildlife not seen back east.
Off to Seattle on Wednesday for Carley's wedding. Also want to say the Economist ran my first blog post today here which was a triumph in that my first two attempts didn't fare as well. Small victories.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Three days in Denver

So far, so good; gorgeous weather in the 80s and sunny. We spent 3 days at the Westin Tabor Center in Denver for the RNA conference where Miss Veeka got ahold of a notepad and practiced interviewing friendly people. She's been at 2 meetings of religion reporters - at least - and has become like a little mascot there. Everyone seems to love her - even people who I'm not sure like ME - and the Little One has a way of talking her way into peoples' hearts and onto their laps.
Today we headed south to Colorado Springs, stopping at a lovely home for lunch with friends near Monument, Colo., then continuing on to the Garden of the Gods area where we tried doing some late-afternoon hiking before heading north to Castle Rock for dinner with yet another friend. This state is so lovely; the highways so clean, the weather so perfect - I wonder if the locals know how good they have it. I understand they do have lots of snow but they also have skiing! Would move here in a minute if I could.
Today my father turned 86!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Off to Colorado

Finally a long-awaited vacation in the Rockies followed by a trip to Seattle for Carley's wedding. We are stoked. I've been slaving away all summer sending out resumes and freelancing my heart out to try to make ends meet. In case anyone wonders whether freelancing pays the bills - it doesn't.
A few bright spots: last Saturday, I got invited to a media preview of a new movie, "Secretariat" about the Triple Crown winner, naturally. SUCH a good movie. I took a 13-year-old with me and there was nothing objectionable and lots in there about perseverance and hanging on during tough times and believing the best about the future. A really timely movie for these days when every other person I encounter is depressed about something. It opens Oct. 8 and go see it.
Anyway, will be in Denver for the Religion Newswriters convention, and am taking along the suit for a little jobhunting here and there. I then plan to do some R&R near some mountainous spot for a few days. Miss Veeka will be along so it'll be scenic but not restful. She doesn't do naps these days so I'm on duty all the time although when we get to Oma and Opa's place near Seattle, I hope to hand her over for some free babysitting!
The photo is of the little one outside the botanical gardens in downtown Washington. A friend was meeting with us and Veeka nabbed the scarf so she could practice looking soulful and wistful.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On the campaign trail

When you work for newspapers, you're never allowed to engage in politicking, so it was with some trepidation I agreed to be a poll worker earlier this week. By that, I mean standing in front of one of the local polling places handing out literature in favor of a candidate.
That candidate was Tom Dernoga, described here, who was running for state's attorney. He was a conservative Democrat and I'm a Republican; nevertheless, a friend of mine who was doing local organizing for the campaign was desperate to get someone to do the 7-9 a.m. shift at the local middle school. I'd heard Mr. Dernoga speak and felt I could back him. Prince George's County is overwhelmingly Democrat and few Republicans even bother running for office there.
So I showed up, clad in a Dernoga T-shirt and looking like I'd just crawled out of bed. Which I had. A sympathetic neighbor took Veeka to school while I pounced on voters walking through the parking lot, asking them to consider my candidate. Many of them simply wanted to avoid me and the other folks who were passing out literature and so parked within the 100-foot perimeter where one is not allowed to approach people.
You could tell who the pros were at this business. I arrived right at 7 a.m., planted three yard signs by the entrance to the parking lot, then stood awkwardly while others lounged in camping chairs, leaping up only to accost the voters. One helpful woman, who was campaigning almost hopelessly on behalf of someone who was running for the local Democratic central committee, loaned me her chair. We talked about her trip to Israel.
Then someone who was working for immigrant rights showed up with a sample ballot with "my" candidate listed as one they endorsed. That was a relief as two other groups were passing out sample ballots listing other candidates. People would grab those, walk into the voting booth, then just vote the whole slate. Unfortunately Mr. Dernoga came in second to the winner, who, I was told, was backed by the local party machine that runs the county.
Other interesting news. My freelancing for the Economist (they've bought 2 articles) finally bore fruit today. I'd gotten an email last Friday asking if I could dash over to the debut convention of Ralph Reed's newest non-profit: The Faith and Freedom Coalition, and do 400 words on what transpired there. So I dashed downtown Saturday morning to the Mayflower Hotel after foisting Veeka off on Rob who fortunately was hanging out at the house that morning. Met Mr. Reed himself as soon as I walked into the ballroom. It wasn't hard to pick up quotes that morning and I was home by early afternoon. The article is here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Scottish September

Our summer would not have been complete without a visit to the Scottish Highland Games over Labor Day weekend. It was a visit to those games 14 years ago that resulted in me winning the I-wish-I-could-play-the-harp contest whereby I beat a dozen or so other contestants with my rave rendition of "Morning is Broken" (it was for people who'd never played the harp before) and with my victory got a free loaner harp for a year which started me to learning how to play this fascinating instrument. Sadly, I hardly play at all these days; a situation that must be rectified somehow. Veeka does not have the concentration to learn and I no longer have the reasons to play that I used to. Weekly lessons, concerts with other harpists and competitions kept me practicing like crazy each week for many years. The height of it all was attending an international harp convention in Edinburgh, Scotland in the spring of 2001.
Anyway, Veeka, her uncle Rob and her mommy went to this year's festival where the sunny, breezy weather was so beautiful, it hurt. The festivities were marred a bit by Veeka's habit of wandering off whereby I and Rob spent an anxious half hour searching for her. She had wandered into some kind of tower, the little minx. And then, after a friend gave her a Scottish frisbee, she promptly lost it.
The photo shows Veeka and her uncle sunning themselves in the back yard as temps are still in the 90s during the day. But the nights have cooled down quite a bit now and little pumpkins are starting to pop out in my garden.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Veeka starts kindergarten

After much thought and agonizing, I decided to switch schools on Veeka, sending her to a place where she will learn a "classical" curriculum made famous by Dorothy Sayers' essay "The Lost Tools of Learning." The big new trend now is for kids to go to these classical schools where the focus is much more on memorization and reading classical texts and - for kindergarteners - learning the histories of ancient Egypt and Rome.
Veeka began going there today, happily sporting her new uniform which was a tough switch for me in that she's never had to wear uniforms before. But nearly all the schools in this county do. My little one's closet is overflowing with lovely outfits that she can now only wear on weekends. And so I've spent the past two weeks trying not to break the bank in buying her shorts, gym clothes and blouses in all the right colors.
The other switch is that this school is Catholic whereas she'd been attending an Episcopal preschool earlier - where she was quite happy and where I'd been planning to keep her for kindergarten. Then I found out that the local Catholic school was bringing in a classical curriculum; something I'd always wanted Veeka to enjoy. This particular school spent an entire year putting together a new curriculum and there's a lot riding on the hopes that it will work. Things look promising so far and people have been quite kind.
Will say there was some sticker shock involved in nearly $500 in registration, books and equipment fees that I was not aware of when I first approached the school. This was a serious hit to the pocketbook, being that as of Sept. 1 (tomorrow), it will have been three months since I was laid off. Only today was there a story on how the paper was sold back to Rev. Moon for $1 after one of his sons made a mash of managing it. Who knows whether all of us will be offered our jobs back or not; the lucky ones have moved on whereas the rest of us gallantly freelance for not much more than pennies! Things need to change soon on the job front or Veeka may end up leaving her lovely classical school and going to public kindergarten - a sad possibility I'm hoping to avoid.
Happily, she told me she enjoyed her new class, where she's outnumbered by little boys by at least 2-1.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Amish chairs

Take a close look at these beautiful new light maple chairs in my kitchen because I spent much of the day driving to an Amish settlement about 50 miles away in St. Mary's County to pick these up. A few months ago, I was driving around on some back roads and saw a sign (one of many) advertising furniture making so I drove down a long driveway to a large shed where there were all manner of chairs in various woods and stages of manufacture. Out walked Raymond Yoder, an Amish carpenter right out of Central Casting who discussed with me what sorts of woods and chair styles I wanted. He gave me his business card but refused to take any money for a deposit. Amazing.
Three months later - the chairs were ready. He'd used some community phone to get ahold of me the week before and I sent him a letter back (no email with that group) telling him when I'd show up. And I did, with some friends in tow who wanted to see where the Amish lived. So they've perked up my dining room quite a bit. Now that I am unemployed, I'd think twice about such an expense but I put the order in just before I lost my job.
Still....various things are going on the fritz, such as my Olympus camera, which just bit the dust after 6 years. The camera shop was doubtful they could fix it for less than $200 and they said I could get a pretty decent Canon for less than that. And there are expenses such as Veeka's school, also a chunk. And don't get me started on the horrific expense that COBRA health payments are costing me.
Meanwhile, things are still pretty crazy at my old employer according to this piece as it seems that half of Washington is waiting for the paper to bite the dust. Which it refuses to do. Meanwhile I've moved on to hopefully better things. Am freelancing pieces like this (about Jewish singles) plus others that have not been posted yet, so I can't brag about them but let's just say I haven't sat around this summer.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

At the communities conference

This past weekend, I had one of my more interesting encounters of the summer at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference which can be explored at this outdated link here. I'd visited Twin Oaks, which is northwest of Richmond in the middle of nowhere, central Virginia, 10 years ago to do an article so I was familiar with this group of 100 or so people living on 400+ acres. Every year they sponsor a communities conference which I thought might be the perfect place to interest folks in my new book.
Well....nice idea but the workshop I had on Sunday morning (on bringing the Spirit into community life) never had more than 10 people (some wandered in and out) listening at one time. I realized that all my talk about the religious roots of community was meeting with mostly non-comprehending stares. Most of the people listening had not a clue of what I was talking about even though I tried to simplify my terms, double-explain things and so on. Later, during lunch, it was raining and so a bunch of us took refuge on the floor of one tent - the photo here shows Veeka trying to sit cross-legged and looking pretty sopping wet as were we all - and discussed our ideas of God. I played devil's advocate and shot down some peoples' ideas as God being whatever one wants Him - it - She - to be. I insisted that God is not our projection but we're His projection. Also, I heard a lot of folks talking about absolutes while denying the possibility of God. I asked them what gave them the right to speak of absolutes when they were denying the standard - and standard-Giver Who makes those absolutes possible?
I got told I was being soooo dogmatic and basically ruining the discussion! Getting frustrated, I plunked Veeka on my lap and said if everything was relative, what was to prevent me from throwing her in a river? No one really answered that question. One woman broke in to say that she was offended that we were talking about God at all, especially God as "He." I really didn't care how offended she was but the rest of the group was more concerned about her sensitivities. That was how our discussion went; some of us would be in the midst of a debate and an outside person would break in to say how their feelings were getting hurt by just picking up some of our vibes.
Anyway, we were all at a camp site 1/4 mile from the Twin Oaks community, which had gone to great pains to set up some very nice clearings, space for preparing meals, tables and a wonderful little hollow with things to do for kids. Veeka loved camping and loved sleeping in a tent and relaxing in the colorful hemp hammocks that were everywhere. (Hammocks is one of the industries that Twin Oaks lives off of). Since we were a long way from a road, I could let her dash about and not watch her constantly as I usually have to do every day of my life. So mark that down as an enjoyable weekend.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Uncle Rob arrives

The Layoff was two months ago and in a quirky coincidence, my take on the risks of going on the record - and how little appreciated this sacrifice turned out to be - made into a web site: Big Questions Online. Please check out my story here.
While I jobhunt, I've gotten a new housemate for the next few months; my older brother Rob. Turns out that his desire to leave Seattle - after several life reversals - coincided with his ability to find a job here a mere eight miles north of me. Today was his first official day of work and they've given him a schedule of all the people he's to meet, things he needs to learn, etc. Seems like a super nice and very professional place and we're hoping he can take all that window sales knowhow he learned in Seattle and apply it back East in what I believe is the largest Weathershield distributor in the country.
And so he needed a place to land while testing out this job and whose home should be nearby but mine? And so Veeka is sleeping in my room and Uncle Rob is esconced in a room full of stuffed toys, piggy banks and kiddie Bibles. There are even stars painted on the ceiling which I'm sure he's finding to be quite inspirational.
One of my requests is that, while here, he'd help me with a lot of things that need doing around the house and so he's spent the last 10 days working on my mud porch. We thought that we needed to just repair one windowsill; well now he's had to paint multiple surfaces, tear out all sorts of stuff and repaint shelves and walls and so on. So the first day he showed up you'll see - not wearing a whole lot. In the blue underwear photo, he's holding some trim he got at Home Depot, a place he's gotten to know really well this past week. The brief attire is because it was 105 degrees out. In the porch photo, he's painting a shelf while Veeka poses with God-knows-what in her mouth. She of course is fascinated with this large being who has suddenly shown up in her home and with whom at one point she conked out in front of the TV.
Right as the porch was getting done, some nasty bug struck down my painter, who spent much of the weekend in bed. But, I'm sure he'll be recovered by next weekend, at which point he'll start on the painting of my dining room. Yes, the room and board come at a price. And so I've gotten more face time with Rob since he arrived July 25 than we've had ever since he left for college in 1971.
Rob's pronounced himself quite taken with our muggy climate which is a nice switch from the drizzle he's endured after 39 years in Seattle and thinks he'd like to hang around these parts for good. Yes, it's true the winters here are sunny which they sure aren't in the Pacific NW. Last weekend we took a drive to our old haunts off Bradmoor Drive in Bethesda where he first attended elementary school and I was age 2-5. The lovely willow tree is gone but the house at 8932 Bradmoor Drive didn't look all that different after 48 years. And the "big woods" at the end of the street is still there with its trails and stream. As I was snapping Veeka standing in our old front yard, it felt so eerie to realize that 49 years ago, I stood in the same spot when I was 5.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We are now on Twitter

I never thought I'd give in but after Koki Smith - a friend in the neighborhood and a web genius - gave me a tutorial last Friday on how to enter Twitterdom, I caved in. I am now contactable @juliaduin. Which is a Twitter address, I think. You can see my Twitter home page here.
Of course I have no idea how to work this new technology but it's like the iPhone; buy now, figure it out later. Which is also why I just bought "iPhone: The Manual" or something like that. It cost me plenty at Barnes & Noble.
Other big news today is I did not get selected for a jury. For the past two months, have been dreading this day as I really didn't want to get roped into a trial. Several of us were taken into a room where we were questioned by a judge re our participation in a civil suit having to do with a car accident. But I was not one of the lucky finalists. Must say there were about 150 of us crammed into the jury room at the Prince George's County courthouse this morning BUT the surroundings were humane. We were allowed to bring in a lunch, store it in a fridge, use a microwave, sip free coffee and use our lap tops. Much nicer than the Fairfax County courthouse where they berate you if you so much dare to walk in with a cell phone or computer that has a camera attached.
Above photo is of Miss Veeka posing on a swinging bridge that we found up in the mountains.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Virginia mountain high

Well, we did escape to the mountains of western Virginia - not WEST Virginia, but Highland and Bath counties which are in western Virginia. I'd always driven through those counties on Routes 39 or 250 but hadn't really stopped there to see some of their charms. The last time I drove back from West Virginia (where I've done quite a bit of exploring), I swore I'd return to the "drive-by" portions of west Virginia.
And so we did. The top photo is of Veeka seated at our B&B, a paper airplane on the table. She learned how to fly one of these contraptions during our stay, an accomplishment that delighted her to no end.
The bottom photo is of Veeka posing at a mountain pass near the entrance to Highland County near where Confederate troops dug in for a nasty winter until the Union guys dislodged them. Didn't know that this region was a major thoroughfare for troops back then as there was a road through those parts that ended up in Parkersburg, WV. Then we came to our place for the next three nights: Laurel Point Bed & Breakfast just outside of Monterey, a very small town that is the tourist center for the county. My goodness, what a stunner of a B&B. We pulled up around the curve on the gravel road leading up to the place only to see a 180-degree swath of gorgeous blue ridges. Folks I talked with in town told me the B&B has "the best view in the county" and I think they're right.
Mike and Lorraine White, the hosts, were as nice as could be and the first night, I woke up at some ungodly hour and decided to go out and look at the stars, which of course were gorgeous. Couldn't sleep so sat out on the patio to watch dawn arrive, accompanied by the family dog. As the day progressed, Mike took Veeka and I on a tour of this lovely property on 104 acres to show us the Scottish highland cattle (furry beasts with quite a rack of horns) next to his large garden. Eventually we set off to explore and got lost, ending up at a charmer of an Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd a few miles north of Monterey in the tiny village of Blue Grass. (See photo of church with red door). So we wandered in and got to do Morning Prayer, as there's no regular priest within miles - nearest one is 2 hours away in Harrisonburg. The natives were friendly and everyone liked Miss Veeka who behaved rather well.
We drove some more, ending up near the Homestead, a large resort in Hot Springs. We decided to go high culture, attending a chamber music concert at Garth Newel, a high falutin music center just north of the Homestead. Again, Veeka was very good sitting through some of the weirdest compositions I've heard in a long time. They had all the esoteric stuff that Sunday but at least lemonaide and cookies were served. On the way back I got lost on a country road in a thunderstorm but finally landed on a road along the Cowpasture River in the early evening twilight.
After a second night at the B&B at 3,000 feet, we met one of the couples from the church at Evelyn's Pantry - the local hangout - for lunch, then headed for some water. Eventually ended up at Lake Moomaw, a great mountain lake nearly on the West Virginia state line. Took forever to get there but Veeka loved dashing into the water and there was almost no one else there. I noticed this quite a bit during our three days in the area. Highland County is not exactly awash with tourists. Our first night there when we had dinner at the Highland Inn, only two other tables were occupied. However, as I looked for maps of the area and brochures on things to do, I found both hard to find and not well organized. Local road maps were very approximate. There was no staffed chamber of commerce office that I could find anywhere. I had to use several maps to find my way around country roads in these places and I got lost more than once. Plus, especially on Sundays, restaurants in Monterey just shut down and we had the worst time finding dinner. Finally Veeka and I had to just make do with Dove Bars found at the local BP gas station.
Our final day, we had a delightful visit to the Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs, which are large octagonal buildings over hot springs. Thomas Jefferson supposedly spent time here which seems astonishing when you realize how isolated this area is. It took me many hours to get here by car. I can't imagine trying to get there by horse. Anyway, Veeka had the greatest time splashing about and actually getting her swimming strokes down with the help of a floatie stick. She did not want to leave. I wished we had stayed there, as a thunderstorm followed us nearly all the way home. No matter whether I drove east or north, I battled hours of nasty, heavy rains almost until I reached the Beltway.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Going to the mountains

Pictured here is Miss Veeka on a road trip we took a few weeks ago at the eastern entrance to I-68, which is the back way to Pittsburgh. On Saturday we're heading to the mountains of western Virginia for a few days. I've always wanted to spend more time in Highland and Bath counties which are just stunning in the beautiful mountain views and drives. Soooo, found a B&B that takes kids and costs less than $100 a night and so off we go.
People ask how the jobhunting is going. There are some flashes of hope but it being summer, everyone is away or just coming back or just leaving for somewhere. I spent much of this week picking up some freelancing, trying to figure out how to get unemployment benefits through the DC government's web site and wrestling with the COBRA folks re health benefits. The premium I am now having to pay is pretty stunning. Can't do that for too many months.
And so I am taking a few days off from all that.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 4 at the beach

Once a year we try to get to the seashore so I thought this year I'd try something different: going to Rehoboth over the Fourth of July weekend. I'm glad we went but a lot of collateral damage came with going at such a time.
First, we chose to be there during a heat burst that struck the Washington area with 106-degree temps. Come to think of it, maybe we did well to be on the beach at that time. Back at home the local water authority decided to levy water restrictions on 2 Maryland counties, including mine, meaning that when I got home tonight, some of the nearly $500 I planted in landscaping this spring is in danger of dying. Yes, there are water restrictions in place during a HEAT WAVE. Someone wasn't thinking when they decided that one. I am sure some folks are quietly hosing down their back yards but mine looks very peaked right now.
Anyway, Miss Veeka and I left Friday for Rehoboth to spend a few days at the Drift Inn, a child-friendly B&B that's about 100 yards from the beach and which is neat and clean and very cheap! We did all the usual stuff: Amusement park rides, lots of beach time, swims in the very cold surf, watching the jellyfish wash in with the tide, lots of ice cream consumed and plenty of restaurants sampled. The night of the 4th, the fireworks were on the beach just down the street from our lodging so we all parked our lawn chairs on the sidewalk and watched. Well, almost all of us. Veeka dashed inside and I found her curled up under the sheets in our bed.
The folks at the B&B loved Veeka and the shot of her in the bike thingy is with Judy - a nice woman from Pennsylvania who took a liking to the tyke - and spoiled her rotten. Veeka didn't pull too many of her let's-run-down-the-beach-and-see-if-mommy-can-catch-me routines mainly because my left foot is still not so great and I yelled at her if she wandered off. She loved being her little princess self - see her pose beneath the umbrella - in the sands.
By Tuesday morning, we were ready to pull out which is when I discovered my car would not start. I spent all day - dripping with sweat - trying to figure out what was wrong as the battery was new. Waited for HOURS for the tow truck from my insurance company, which never arrived. Finally broke down and ordered a tow from elsewhere, but the car didn't get to a garage until late in the afternoon. By then I and several helpful folks from the B&B had discovered even more problems with car, ie it was leaking anti-freeze everywhere. Great.
So Veeka and I arrived on the beach at 5 pm. which is a lovely time of day; the air turns bluey in the late afternoon sun, the crowds have left and the water had finally warmed up to being swimmable. But to my surprise, Veeka had no interest in the water and just sat on the beach and pouted. Or sang and danced. A friend of mine told me later that her kids basically get bored with the beach after the third day which amazes me in that I used to spend weeks at the shore as a kid. But the novelty had worn off with Veeka who basically wanted to either watch TV or her videos. The fact she had no one to play with was a factor.
So we sat around the B&B all day waiting for the garage to call me back. When they didn't by 4 p.m., one of the angels at the B&B - name's Kelly and she's the owners' daughter - called the cell phone of the garage owner to find out what was what. Then she drove us to the garage with all our luggage. Yes, the car could run, they told me. Problem was, the cooling fans were not working. Just turn off the AC and drive over 35 mph, they told me. Do not under any circumstances idle in traffic more than 5 minutes or the engine will overheat.
WELL, I about collapsed in terror - the thought of a car breakdown on the Bay Bridge uppermost in my mind. Plus I knew the insurance company was none too quick with furnishing tow trucks. Apparently tow companies all over the Delaware peninsula were busier than one-armed paper hangers all weekend long because everyone's cars were breaking down. Kelly, who had not struck me as a particularly devout person on first impression, lectured me on trusting God to get home. My knees quaked. Put me to shame, she did. So we piled in with the windows down and I flew home in 2 1/2 hours through Delaware and eastern Maryland with no problems. Veeka didn't even complain about the windows being down or about being hot, even when her DVD player shut down in the middle of "Finding Nemo."
Thursday morning, el carro heads for the Subaru dealer.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Humid days

In case some of you wonder why my profile on this blog is empty, well....I just spent an hour trying to compose something under 1,200 characters and NOTHING works. No matter what I do, Google simply will not accept what I write, so I've chosen to have nothing on my profile as the site basically won't accept anything I type into it.
Anyway, a month into this jobless gig, I've been lining up some freelance assignments plus I've been agonizing over whether or not to continue with COBRA, which triples my health-care payments. Please read here some of the issues at stake. I have to shake my head at the antics of the GOP leaders who oppose the subsidy and thank God there are Dems with a conscience. If this subsidy is continued, the US government picks up 65% of my payments, which would help beaucoup.
We have fun these days too, including a trip to the local Six Flags last Friday where Veeka experienced her first roller coaster (which was very tame and small). Her mommy no longer has the stomach for such rides, alas. And Veeka also behaved quite well at an Orthodox wedding last Saturday, which I informed her was warm-up for October, when she will be a flower girl in her cousin Carley's wedding. She can't wait!
This weekend, it's off to the beach. Might as well take the R&R when it's available.

Monday, June 21, 2010

June is bustin' out all over

Uncle Rob with Veeka

Now that life has settled down, I've been unpacking boxes, lots of them. Out pour memories of 14+ years of work. I've got souvenir booklets of Benedict XVI's visit, a Christmas card from the Church of Scientology, piles of notes from my 2006 trip to India, a list of Hindu holidays, documents about radical Hindu persecution of Christians in Orissa, notes on ethics dating back to the Clinton era, directories for the local Catholic archdiocese and Episcopal diocese, several dictionaries and AP style books, a Kurdish flag, my coffee mug, piles of business cards, notes on Chinese dissidents, two copies of the Book of Mormon with my name inscribed on the cover, files on abortion, Planned Parenthood and a nasty procedure called "selective reduction" whereby a woman pregnant with several fetuses arranges to have some of them killed right there in her womb. That was one of the toughest stories I ever had to write. Also a back rest, a few biographies of Billy Graham and piles of other religious books, many of which I'll be giving away.
It is pleasant to rest; to be reading "Stones Into Schools" (the book that comes after "Three Cups of Tea") and to actually have to try out an exercise club and meet someone for breakfast, which is how I spent this morning.
One thing I'm mulling over is whether to re-start my weekly religion blog and publish it here. "Stairway to Heaven" really did have quite a few fans, as I'm learning now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June's lazy days

Veeka learns to swim

Actually, June is proving to be quite busy; had no sooner returned from Pittsburgh than my brother Rob was in for a surprise three-day visit. Of course I put him to work mowing my lawn. In the 27 years I've lived away from home, this is the first time he's visited me. Veeka of course was glad to see someone with testosterone around the house so she clung to him a lot. Now she prays for him at night, along with Carley and Lindsay.
Yes, the resumes are going out, for those of you who are curious about such things. I am also resting. Other than a three-month maternity leave, half of which was spent in sub-zero Kazakhstan, I've had no break in more than 14 years so I am enjoying this time. One top priority is getting my foot healed, which is taking longer than I'd like. I finally managed to squeeze said foot into a sandal today before hobbling about the supermarket.
Meanwhile, Veeka is busy with her swim lessons at the University of Maryland and there should be a photo here of her in the arms of an instructor as he coaxes her to float on her back. (She refused).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Off to Pittsburgh

WELL - after an unexpectedly eventful week, we are off for two speaking engagements and one TV appearance 250 miles away in Pittsburgh. Veeka and I are going to stay with a family with seven children that includes a little girl Veeka's size and age. I, for obvious reasons, need a rest.
Post-Gazette scribe Ann Rodgers previewed my visit with this piece here.
On Thursday, I picked up the Post Style section to see myself - looking hot
and sweaty - and Veeka by the masthead plus the same photo - enlarged - next to an inside story. Veeka's daycare folks were excited to know she'd made the big time. Even more emails and phone calls poured in. Other articles of note ran here and here. Also learned Thursday there was one more layoff. Lots of rumors out there as to what's next for the newsroom.
As for us, out the door....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First day out

By now I am sure you've all seen this blog on the WPost web site that quickly spread to some other journalism blogs. I've been amazed all day at the weird breaches of ethics I've run into; when I sent a private email to one blogger, he published it! And a woman supposedly doing a story on me for a web site all but accused me of lying about my situation. She was so abusive, I finally clammed up on her. It's sure enlightening being on the other side of the reporter's notebook.
I've noticed photos of me do not show the unfortunate foot that underwent surgery so just to prove that I was disabled, here is a photo of me bandaged up. The stitches were taken out today but I am still hobbling about.
Veeka is over her fever today, thank God. Visited the Adventist bookstore in Silver Spring and could not believe how in the 14+ years I've been here, I've never before visited this place. What an amazing amount of stuff - and so I loaded up on music CDs and a toddler Bible more geared to Veeka's level. Tonight we raced through Genesis, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Esau.
I've appreciated the gracious emails and Facebook messages I've gotten from so many people. My brother Steve weighed in this afternoon with this which I thought pretty funny.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Laid off from the Washington Times.

Well, the other shoe dropped today: Remember the story that ran a month ago today in which I was quoted in the Washington Post about snakes in our newsroom? If you want to see it, please go to the "birthday month" entry below.
I thought journalists were truth-seeking types. Also, I am always trying to coax people to go on the record. Isn't it a bit hypocritical of me to not do so as well?
Alas, my employers felt differently. I knew things were going south when my articles were either cut in half, tossed out of the print edition or placed at the back of the paper. An one exception was this piece which got snuck onto the front page when the editor was away. Then we just had a new design of our web site and I couldn't help notice that "faith" was missing from the home page whereas "entertainment" was prominent on the navigation bar, even though we have no entertainment reporters. Then I heard last week that my religion blog had been killed.
But I was out sick most of that week due to surgery on my foot. Then Veeka came down with a fever over the weekend so I spent the morning of Memorial Day in one of those emergency doc-in-a-box clinics getting her antibiotics. So when I went into work today, it was on crutches with a bandaged foot, with Veeka in tow and a bottle of kiddie Tylenol in my purse. We were going to stay 1-2 hours while I gathered up some notes and prepared to do the rest of my work from home. So I was starting work on a column and Veeka was watching one of her videos when Sam Dealey, the editor, walked up. Now he has refused to speak to me since the Post article, so I knew something was up and sure enough, he invited me to his office.
He said the Washington Times is going in a different direction and that religion coverage would not be part of it; hence my job was being done away with. Yeah, right: for an organization whose four foundational principles are family, faith, freedom and service.
I flatly told Sam this was payback. Plus there I was having to pack 11 heavy boxes in a few hours containing 14 years of work - no easy task. And with a bum foot. Within about two hours, my phone and email were cut off. When dozens of Times reporters were laid off last December, they got two days to go through their email but hey, things have gotten nastier, haven't they?
Seeing what was going on, a few very nice employees took Veeka downstairs for lunch or out for a walk, just to help me out. Am including a photo that a helpful intern - Hillary May - shot on my iPhone of me sitting at the back of my car trunk after packing some of the boxes. Veeka began to cry so it took several tries to get her to smile a little. Poor little girl: having to be with her mommy during such a nasty day.
Hearing of this mess, the Levys, my neighbors across the street, ordered in Chinese and had Veeka and I over for dinner.

Friday, May 21, 2010

School nears its end

The photo here is of Veeka - in hot pink pants - singing a song with her classmates called "On top of spaghetti." She graduates from pre-K next Friday night.
Meanwhile her mommy is recovering today from very minor foot surgery which means she is pretty much confined to the house this weekend. Again, thank God for health insurance, although the premiums will being going up this year. Last night before the surgery I was out madly planting half of my new shade garden because it's pretty hard to use a shovel when you're on crutches for two weeks.
Because Mommy is feeling so pokey, Veeka is being farmed out overnight to the very kind parents of the little girl sitting in front of Veeka in the wagon. The girls really like each other although together they can be pretty devilish. Not long after I snapped that photo, they both joined hands and bolted out of the front yard, ran half a block down the hill and crossed the street alone. I and her parents were tearing out our hair looking for them.
Oma and Opa arrive Sunday for a few days and Veeka asks about their arrival every other minute.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Birthday month

It's been quiet here - sort of - as we await Oma's birthday this Saturday and mine next Wednesday. I got into lots of hot water at my workplace for getting quoted here in our competition about the sudden presence of reptiles in our newsroom because - among other expenses to save money - my newspaper is no longer paying for an exterminator to keep out the mice and snakes. Which is a little dicey when you're situated next door to the 400-acre National Arboreteum where creepy crawleys abound. The story came out the morning of the White House Correspondents Dinner, so to say the top brass at the newspaper was less than pleased would be understating things a bit.
My brother Stephen commented on the story here. My snakes quote got picked up everywhere. Not quite the notoriety I was looking for.
Veeka is fine and she and I are posing next to a fountain at Rice University where this photo was taken two months ago.
My parents, I must add, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on Thursday.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Happy May Day

Last week some friends and Veeka and I went to a cool garden show at the National Arboreteum and joined some folks dancing around a maypole. Can't say I have ever done that before. I am off to the side in bright green and Veeka, of course, is smack in the middle in her multi-colored raincoat.
Have worked like a dog this week churning out various religion articles. Things at my workplace are as unsettled as ever. One of the cuts made is that of the exterminator who used to keep mice from entering our building. Well...we are next to the 400-acre arboreteum and now not only mice are ranging about the newsroom but so are snakes. We discovered a 3-foot black snake curled up behind the door of the conference room earlier this week. Apparently there's been at least two more. Just the sort of thing to liven up the workplace: a creepy crawly hiding under my desk.
I am busily making plans to remodel the second-floor bathroom with some Christmas money and today the new washer arrived.
Discovery of the week: the guy who does massages for $1/minute at Union Station, which is a very cheap rate for this area. Was racing through there to a press conference and had a few minutes to spare when I saw this massage stand near the escalator. Ten minutes after having the knots in my neck rubbed out, I felt so much better.