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Slow Sundays and Fall Festivals

The past two Sundays have been marked by slowness, which is how I prefer my Sundays. After a full week with family members going in every direction, we need a day of rest. I know I do, and I imagine that you do, too. Right now, I'm teaching a large course load and the grading is real, especially now that we've hit the midpoint of the semester. On the home front, we're working to help our kids navigate their own challenges with school, emotions, and life, a process that often feels weighty unto itself.


But Sundays? Sundays invite rest. Last weekend, this rest came in the form of a quick trip to a fall festival. For as long as I can remember, barring the year that disappeared to Covid, we've enjoyed this festival as a family for its hayride and pumpkin patch. This year, I attended solo. My only goal was to pick up take-out quarts of their homemade vegetable beef and ham-and-bean soups, homemade rolls, and a few whoopie pies for an indulgent dessert. Dinner should be simple on Sundays.

I was in no rush. I skirted the crowds who waited in line for the hayride, and I smiled at my own memories when I watched parents taking pictures of toddlers who rode the train pulled by a John Deere tractor. Those days with my own kids feel long ago. I walked the perimeter of the festival as an observer more than a participant, taking in the bins of colorful gourds, the barnyard animals, the corrugated metal outbuildings, and the stacked pumpkins.

While I know there's nothing simple or easy about running a farm, as I crossed he grounds in my boots and flannel, everything felt simpler, as if I had momentarily stepped into a scene that -- at least for the day -- was designed to bring comfort to the body and the soul.

And today, one Sunday later, in between the standard tasks of going through my email inboxes, completing paperwork for upcoming school conferences, making a grocery list for the week, and knocking out more grading, I took an hour to visit an outdoor field sale. A dozen vendors had set up booths, displaying their wares like one large eclectically gathered yard sale.


It felt right. It felt right to walk through a field, my hands tucked into my pockets since I'm not yet acclimated to October's crisp temperatures. It felt right to browse the merchandise, decorations, and trinkets. It felt right to chat with a man about his homemade soup recipe, to tell a woman that she definitely should buy the jacket she was considering (it looked great on her), and to listen to the stories from the woman who had displayed several precious old photos of her late mother's classmates from when they had been high school students in the 1940's. I pored over those black and white photos of nameless young women, wondering what the years had brought them. Had they found love? Had they faced loss? Had they married? Had children? What heartache and joys had they seen? What stories could they have told me?

In part, the time felt right because the hour was spent meandering, moving slowly, letting myself take in the scenes, the people, and my own thoughts. Someone had placed a fire pit in the center of the field, like a wheel axle that all vendor booths revolved around, inviting me to stand and warm my hands.


Thank God for slow Sundays, fall festivals, and rest. These festivities and events aren't insignificant or superfluous. In a small way, they're holy, like a brief reprieve from relentless weeks. Slow Sundays are sometimes just what our souls need.

Let's Chat: Breaking Out All Things Fall

I'm not sure how it's happening, but we're flying through the month of September. All the markers are pointing to fall: we're five weeks into the semester, I've been watching college football, I pulled out my pumpkin decorations, and I'm ready to wear cute sweaters and boots. It's high time to celebrate the new season with an official Let's Chat post!


Let's sit together for a little while! Pour yourself a drink (iced tea? pumpkin spice latte?) and we'll let conversation meander, just like a leaf lazily falling to the ground in the autumn breeze. 

I cut bangs. It's true. After many months of scrutinizing my masked reflection, I concluded that I could use a little extra something. You know, something that would soften my features, or revive youthfulness, or make me appear effortlessly chic rather than effortfully tired. Enter side-swept bangs. And then -- of course -- also enter four straight weeks of 98% relative humidity where side-swept bangs expand and coil into Mufasa-like proportions. I know I'm guilty of faulty reasoning to suggest that my hairstyle choices somehow control the country's weather patterns, but the timing here is suspicious.


Classes are still in person. The first week back was an adjustment to navigate campus, learn a hundred new names, and remember how to dress professionally, but it's refreshing to teach in real classrooms again. Last week my students completed their first speech assignment (my first round of grading for the semester), and we're all still standing. We're masked, we're resilient, and we're no longer in our bedrooms. Let's go!

I spoke at an event. Late in August, right after completing the first week of the semester, I shared at a women's event at a local church about overcoming fear and worry. Due to the pandemic it's been over a year since I've spoken at any public event. I had forgotten how much I cherish these opportunities to gather and encourage! As a bonus, I wore cute red heels, so that's a win.


I'm mourning the demise of a cell phone. Okay, not the phone itself, as it held no emotional connection, but I'm mourning the loss of pictures. I thought my photos were backed up, but sadly, as my four-year-old phone blinked its last pixelated blink, several months of pictures disappeared into the ether, never to return. I have two main thoughts about this. One, I should have known better. I've lost photos before when my phone has gone on the fritz. Two, the loss made me appreciate the ability to document life with photos in the first place. Sure, I'm feeling a glaring gap of a few months of missing pictures, but there were entire generations that never had any photos to commemorate their lives. Pity.


This might not be a good idea, but...  I'm trying to teach myself how to skateboard. A few weekends ago I bought a decent longboard at a garage sale on a whim. My youngest daughter and I now practice in our garage and driveway together. I'm in the just-balance-and-try-to-move-forward-without-breaking-any-bones phase. She's progressed to the cruise-some-distance-and-flip-kick-the-board phase. Ah, youthfulness.


It's been a good season for DIY projects. Over the course of the pandemic year, I painted our entire house (read that again, friends: OUR ENTIRE HOUSE), minus one bedroom and the laundry room. Those final two rooms are coming. But even better than painting rooms, I've gotten back into the habit of completing small DIY projects. Given that I vaporized months of pictures, I don't have documentation of summer projects, but my most recent endeavor is a small white table that I picked up at a garage sale for $3. I liked the size and shape, and I knew that I could upgrade the appearance with gray paint and some new hardware.

What do you think? Do you like the finished product? I love that it now resembles an apothecary table or card catalogue! There's something about before-and-after pictures that does my soul good. And speaking of soul...

Even in the waiting. As my husband and I took a walk one evening last week, we talked about our kids, our jobs, Covid, and the general state of the world. I felt a sudden heaviness as I swallowed the realization that things still aren't normal, whatever "normal" means anymore. Quite frankly, so many areas are a mess, and I feel like our youth -- the most vulnerable among us -- are under attack with so much confusion, distraction, anxiety, and mistruth. It's discouraging.

But, thankfully, we can encourage our hearts in the Lord. At the women's event, I shared that when we worry about our futures, we often project ourselves into scenarios without remembering that God will be there. God will be in our futures when we get there. Whether good or bad, He'll be with us. His presence that's sustaining us today will be the same presence that sustains us through whatever we encounter in the future. That's good news. Even in the waiting and unknown, we can trust that God is working.


Friends, as always in these chats, I wish that I could hear back from you to learn how you're doing. Are you eager to start wearing your fall clothes? Do you have any good stories to share? Of course, I'd tell you that your hair looks terrific, because, hey, even if you're wearing yesterday's sweat pants today, you're gorgeous. Remember that. 

As always, thanks for chatting!


Back in the Saddle (okay, the Classroom) Again

Do you remember the scene in Titanic where old Rose prefaces her recollections about the fated voyage by saying, "It's been 84 years"? In a roundabout way, that's how I feel about returning to teach on campus tomorrow. For me, it's only been 18 months since I've stepped foot into a real classroom with real humans, yet tomorrow still feels monumental somehow.

Over the past few weeks, I've set up course websites and syllabi. I've attended orientation meetings. I've updated my parking pass. I've troubleshot technology. I've tried to recall all the various passwords that enable me to access my office, the mail room, and the copy machine. (This last task was a tall order. I stood outside my office door facing this keypad, unable to conjure the 5-digit code from my long-term memory, hoping my fingers retained it in muscle memory. They didn't.)


But, more than any other concrete task, what solidifies the start of the semester is when I tour my classrooms, walking up and down each row, praying over each desk and chair, asking God for protection, favor, wisdom, peace, and well-being for every student who will share these next 15 weeks with me. This is when the semester starts to become real. This is when I feel ready to go. This time of consecration settles parts of me that feel unsettled during the transition into a new school year, especially this year, which feels unfamiliar and tenuous. 

I don't know what these next months will hold. Will we remain in person the whole semester? Will we pivot back to online classes if the Delta variant causes Covid rates to surge? How might the influx of 50 thousand university students affect our local town or our local K-12 school schedules? I don't know. Nobody does. We're still living with more questions than answers.

In spite of the questions, after 84 years -- okay, just 18 months -- I'm eager to meet new students masked face-to- masked face tomorrow. And no matter what happens in the weeks that follow, God goes before me and with me. All will be well.

How To NOT Get Rid of an Air Hockey Table

Friends, this is a recent post, copied and pasted here verbatim, that I shared on my local Buy Nothing Facebook group. It might be the favorite advertisement I've ever written.

We are gifting a large working air hockey table. But before anyone gets excited and thinks, "Oooh, this will add hours of enjoyment for our family, children, guests, and/or dexterous and competitive pets," you need to know a few things.

Namely, when my husband disassembled the table to extract it from our basement, he realized that it weighs three tons, give or take. Neither he nor I have any recollection how we originally got it into our basement. Did we rent a crane? Did we somehow build the house around the air hockey table? Were we actually body builders ten years ago and just forgot this aspect of our identities? We do not know.

Also, given its ample tonnage, we invited (okay, extorted) another person to help us lift the disassembled pieces out of our basement. We now owe this individual a major favor in return. To everyone's credit, there was not one curse word uttered as we finagled it across the basement, around a corner, up a staircase, down a hallway, out a screen door being held open lackadaisically by our eleven-year-old who kept saying, "This looks hard," and into our garage. To our discredit, we needed to set the table down at various points while climbing the steps, which prompted impressive snapping sounds as various pieces came off.

This being said, to our knowledge, all pieces are still accounted for and can be reattached. Our eleven-year-old even sagely noted, "There's nothing that duct tape can't fix" as she looked over all the components strewn across the floor. Clearly, she's wise for her young years.

You will simply need patience, mechanical aptitude akin to assembling IKEA furniture, a large vehicle to transport the pieces, and a strong person who you can invite (coerce?) into helping you carry it into your house. Also, a sense of adventure. And, of course, duct tape. Obviously.

These pictures of the table are all BEFORE disassembly and transport. I am consciously choosing not to post the after pictures of the pieces in my garage to ward off collective discouragement.

Is this gift offering a blessing? Is it a burden? I'm not sure. The jury is still out. Regardless, I thought I'd post it here before we earn the everlasting disdain of the garbage crew during Bulk Trash week this fall.
Addendum: the post has garnered a fair amount of comments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, we haven't yet found a person to take it from us. If you're looking for an air hockey table (and a healthy challenge), just reach out.
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