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 in....as 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.