30 January 2015

Snow Day!

I realize that I missed a week on this blog - sorry if you are a regular follower!

On Tuesday, the school was closed for a snow day.  Remember that big storm that was forecasted to move up the east coast and shut down major cities like Boston and New York (and then didn't quite live up to expectations most places)?  It was forecasted to hit Halifax just before dawn on Tuesday, and so on Monday afternoon the school made the decision to close for the day on Tuesday.  Which was nice, because I was then able to disarm my alarm clock and sleep an hour later than I would have otherwise.

There was some snow and some ice pellets and some freezing rain and some regular rain.  All very lovely to watch from my window as I sat at my desk.  I used the day as a Paper-Writing Day (also known as a pyjama day).  I had a paper due on Thursday, and before the snow day was called, I wasn't quite sure when I was going to have time to write it.  And so Tuesday morning, I sat down at my desk and got all of my research done for it by early afternoon.  I then had a lovely nap; and when I woke up the snow had stopped and so I went out and spent an hour shovelling the driveway and front steps.

The way my brain works is that if I can get away from what I am working on, especially if physical activity is involved, my brain will write what I am working on in my head so then it is just a matter of sitting down and getting it from my head in to the computer.  That is what I did after supper, and with only an hour or so of typing, I had my paper done.  Final proof-read on Wednesday night, and I had my paper ready to hand in on Thursday (and it was a much better paper than it would have been if Tuesday hadn't been a snow day!).

(After shovelling the driveway, I headed out to the grocery store, as Tuesday is student discount day.  I called ahead to make sure they were open, and the second place I called was open.  The great thing about grocery shopping on a day when the city is essentially shut down is that at 4:30 in the afternoon, the store was practically empty.  Mind you, the freezing rain was starting as I left the store, so I drove home very carefully.)

No picture of the snow to go with this post.  I could take a picture of the snow shovel that I bought on Monday in anticipation of the snow, and then put to work on Tuesday, but that would be boring.  A picture of my sore muscles after my first time shovelling since last April would be more interesting, but a bit more challenging to take!  Plus they are feeling much better today.

19 January 2015

Spiritual Direction

Looking back over the past week, the most significant thing that happened in my world was probably my first meeting with a Spiritual Director last week.

Spiritual direction is not something that I have been very familiar with so far.  The role of a Spiritual Director is to accompany a person on her or his journey to become closer to God, or the divine, or the Holy, or however you choose to phrase it.  A Spiritual Director can listen, ask questions, and gently guide a person to a deeper faith.  Meeting regularly with a Spiritual Director is a requirement for the Anglican students at school, but not for those of us from the United Church.

Last term, through conversations both in and out of class, I started to think that this was something that I wanted to explore, even though it wasn't required.  And then, just before the Christmas break, I met a woman (not through school - through a massed choir that I sang with) and we connected before she knew that I was a student at seminary and before I knew that she was a Spiritual Director.  We exchanged e-mail addresses; and once I was back after the Christmas break, I sent her an e-mail.

Which brings me to last Wednesday morning, when I arrived at her house, not quite knowing what to expect.

She practices in the Anglican tradition, which says that the Holy Spirit is the only Spiritual Director, and so most of our time together was spent in silence listening for the Holy Spirit.  A lot of silence.  45 minutes worth of silence at the beginning of the session.  I am comfortable with silence and solitude, but this mutual, shared silence was different.  It was a very holy space carved out of that morning.  It took me some time to quiet my brain down, but then when I did, I was able to simply be and listen.  The only thing that I can compare it to is the holy silence that I have reached in the centre of the labyrinth on the few occasions when I have been able to walk the labyrinth.

Then, after I broke the silence, we spent some time sharing the thoughts and insights that we had received in the silence, with lots of space for processing, and then we finished with a shorter period of silence and prayer.

And I am looking forward to meeting again with her next month.

11 January 2015

Second Term

Week One of Term Two is now over, and Christmas holidays are a quickly fading memory.  I am reminded of my feeling at the end of week one of term one when I was overwhelmed with all of the assignments that I was going to have to do over the course of the term.  But I can learn from last term that everything will get done in time, and that panicking will not make it any better.  One class at a time,  one reading at a time, one week at a time, one assignment at a time.

It's all new courses - this term I am taking:

  • Supervised Field Education.  Yep, I get to do a placement for the next 3 terms at a real live church.  Except my supervisor is out of the country until the 19th, so I don't really get to start until he is back.  Today, I went to the Sunday morning service there - my initial impression was of a beautiful space filled with friendly people.
  • Worship Foundations.  Pretty self-explanatory, I think.
  • United Church Doctrine.  This one is interesting in that the evaluation is a choose-your-own-adventure.  We were given a list of possible assignments, and we get to choose what we want to do in order to make up a total of 100%.
  • Wisdom Literature.  A look at the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Job, and Song of Songs - all of the fun books in the Old Testament!
  • Biblical Foundations - Matthew and Method.  Last term was part one of Biblical Foundations (Old Testament), this term we get the second part.  One of our initial assignments is to learn the Greek alphabet - finally my science background is coming in handy, as I already recognize and can name most of the letters.  We've been joking that I could have fun with transliteration assignments if I do them by substituting the mathematical/scientific meaning rather than the English letter…

(this term's textbooks, minus 2 - one has been shipped and should arrive tomorrow, 
and one I am waiting on the St. Mary's bookstore)

4 January 2015

Favourite Books of 2014

It was my annual tradition over on my other (now defunct) blog to sit down on New Year's Day and list my top 10 books of the previous year.  Since much of my reading this year has been text books, it was a bit harder than usual to come up with 10; but here they are (in no particular order, other than the order in which I found them on my bookshelves!).

Dynamics of Faith (Paul Tillich):  This one was one of my textbooks, and I enjoyed every word of it from cover to cover.  As one of my friends (LM) said, "I love those moments when you read someone putting your unarticulated thoughts into precise words."  That describes this book.

An Everlasting Meal (Tamar Adler):  This was the first book on my Christmas-Holiday-Reading-List.  It is a book of essays all about cooking, with an emphasis on the ethics of cooking.  There are recipes scattered through the book (I've flagged a few that I want to try), and they include ingredients such as "3 pounds of meat from a tougher part of a happily raised animal."  The writing is beautiful - precise and poetic at the same time.

Adult Onset (Ann-Marie MacDonald):  I was so excited when I heard that this book was coming out, since it had been 11 years since her last novel, and the book did not disappoint.  It ended up as my bedtime reading through the late autumn when school was at it's busiest (10-15 minutes at a time over about 6 weeks); but I was invested in the characters and it was a pleasure to spend time with them each night before drifting off to sleep.

Stone Mattress (Margaret Atwood):  Let me just say that no one can craft a sentence the way that Margaret Atwood does.  This is a collection of short stories that I read in almost one sitting.  As soon as I finished one story, I wanted to start the next one right away.

Tell (Frances Itani):  There has been a bit of buzz about this book, as it made the short-list of the Giller Prize last year.  It is a gently-written book, set in southern Ontario (very near to where I grew up) in the aftermath of the Great War.  It deserves all of the praise that it has received.

Seconds (Bryan Lee O'Malley):  It has been a while since I had read a graphic novel, so I'm glad that I brought this one with me to read over my Christmas Holidays.  A quirky story, combined with brilliant expressive illustrations made this book a pleasure to read.

Pretty Girl-13 (Liz Coley):  I tend to download e-books from the library to read at the gym, since I can make the font nice and big and easy to read while I am on the elliptical machine and I don't need to worry about the book closing on me.  The trick is to find books that are light enough for gym reading (after all, the goal of going to the gym is to exercise!), and engaging enough to keep me from getting bored (with the added bonus that a very interesting book keeps me motivated to come back to the gym to keep reading).  I heard about this book from one of the blogs that I follow, downloaded it, and loved it.  In the Young Adult genre, with a puzzle to solve, it fit my criteria perfectly.

Wild (Cheryl Strayed):  Another book that has been receiving a lot of buzz recently, due to the movie that was recently released.  I downloaded this one from the library - not for gym reading but to read on a day trip to Winnipeg for a big interview in church-land.  With an early-morning flight there and a late-evening flight home, several hours to kill at the airport on either end, and some down-time after lunch before continuing the interview, this book kept me absorbed so that the hours flew by, and I was able to relax and read a few chapters after lunch so that I was refreshed for the second half of the interview.  I love going on outdoor adventures, and it was entertaining to read about someone else's outdoor adventures.

The Absolutely True Diary of a part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexie):  This was another gym read, but was an incredibly powerful book that made me both laugh and cry (sometimes on the same page).  He is blunt about the dark side of living on a reservation, but with an undercurrent of love and laughter.  This book has been banned in many school boards, but I don't understand why - it should be required reading for all North Americans.  We are all treaty people, after all.

Ready Player One (Ernest Cline):  Ending off with one more gym read, also in the YA genre - this time, a dystopian future.  Unlike some other YA dystopian novels (I'm looking at you, Divergent), this book felt as though it took place in a future that really could exist.  Plus, all of the '80s pop-culture references were amusing to read about.  I wasn't quite sure if the target audience for this book is young adults (the age of the protagonist), or those of us Gen. X-ers who remember the '80s!

And there is my list for this year.  Mostly fiction this time around - when I have time for reading non-school books, I tend to gravitate towards fiction as an escape.  I have also listened to a pile of audio books this year while driving - for the 8 months I was working, I spent one day a week working in the district with 6-7 hours of driving associated, plus there was the whole cross-country move.  None of the audio books made the cut though.

I think that this is the first year that any e-books have made the list.

So that is my list for this year - a pretty good list, if I do say so myself.  Wishing everyone who reads this a very Happy New Year, filled with lots of good books to read!