Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tales from Last Week: 24 Hours of Driving

As I sat in the car on Sunday afternoon driving to Plattsburgh, New York, I tallied up all of the hours I had spent driving that week. I was feeling kind of irritable at this point and wanted something to be upset about.
"So it was 4 hours for thanksgiving, 8 for my trip to Toronto, 4 hours for Punpkinferno, and 8 for this trip. That's 24 hours!"
Amanda shared my amazement for a moment. I had spent an entire day out of the past 8 in our car driving. How does something like this happen? Well it's pretty simple.

First you have to have a car. Amanda's parents blessed us greatly when they bought us one back in May. There's a whole story there about how we got the car but I think I'll save that one for another post. Having the car opens up all sorts of things that we'd normally have to say no to though.

So for example last Sunday when it was Thanksgiving, we were invited up for dinner on Sunday night. I had to work Monday morning and so normally this would be out of the question, but with the car we were just able to pop up and back and so that's what we did. Two hours there and two hours back with a Thanksgiving meal in between. We do this drive all the time so it wasn't really a big deal. It doesn't even feel that far now that I think about it.

I returned on Sunday night and worked on Monday and Tuesday. We served Thanksgiving dinner and I helped to clean up camp after the Thanksgiving weekend. Tuesday afternoon I set out for Toronto to stay over with Jason and Victoria. I had a class to attend on Wednesday and since Amanda and I no longer have an apartment in Toronto, I use the time to visit with friends. 4 hours up (traffic was pretty good but it's still a ways away). When I arrived, I was informed that we would be attending a birthday celebration for one of Jason's groomsmen named Patrick who was present at our joint bachelor party in the summer. "Sounds good to me" I said. I'm trying to be ok with being spontaneous. The birthday party was actually a lot of fun. We went to a Japanese restaurant called Guu. I even have a relevant photo...

On Wednesday I went to a class at school (my reason for being in Toronto), and then drove back home that evening (4 hours back). I caught up on some podcasts in the car and enjoyed some music. Driving was still enjoyable at this point in the week. On Thursday I was at the church. I was moving pews while having conversations with Paul. A pretty typical day for me thus far. On Thursday night the fall staff had planned an outing to this thing called "PumpkInferno" which is an event that features thousands of hand carved pumpkins at Upper Canada Village. It's two hours to get to Morrisburg and two hours back. There were four passengers in the car on this trip so it was lots of fun. Good conversations were had.

On Sunday, Amanda and I were in the car again and on our way to Plattsburgh, NY to see a doctor who specializes in Lyme Disease. Plattsburgh is kind of far away so that meant another four hours there and four hours back. This is where I realized I'd been in the car a lot that week. We tried to make it fun though. We got to stay in a hotel Sunday night and they had a hot tub so we sat in there for a bit. On Monday when we were driving back, we stopped at Wal-Mart. Amanda made a couple of new friends.

I think I could probably deal with less driving in my life. It feels like dead time because I can't do much except think and talk. There's no writing to be done, no reading, no playing. Just staring straight ahead and going the same speed. At the same time, it meant that this week was a lot more interesting than some other weeks I've had. And it makes for a good conversation starter when I can say "I spent 24 hours driving in the past 8 days.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Zero's Mix: September 2014

When I was in high school, I ran a podcast for three months. It burned out after a while because I was in high school and didn't make good decisions but that's a story for another time. One of the things I started doing after the podcast was making mix cd's every month that compiled all the music I was listening to (I was buying lots of stuff from iTunes). Sometimes I go back to them and I enjoy the feeling of remembering what things were like through music. I'm starting to do something similar again,  so I'll be dumping my monthly mixes here.

1) You In Your Were - Kevin Drew
2) Hot Tonight - Tokyo Police Club
3) Summer - Calvin Harris
4) Latch - Disclosure
5) Beautiful Head - The National
6) White is Red - Death From Above 1979
7) Got to Give It Up (Part 1) - Marvin Gaye
8) Come and Get Your Love - Redbone
9) III. Telegraph Ave. ("Oakland" by Lloyd)
10) Change the Sheets - Kathleen Edwards
11) Invitation - This Will Destroy You
12) Waltz for Debby - Bill Evans Trio
13) Milk - Moderat

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Every Hour: Saturday October 12, 2014

Yesterday I was watching a bunch of Casey Neistat videos. His life looks really interesting. It probably helps that he's really good at editing and making movies and it also probably helps that he's incredibly efficient (check out a tour of his studio there). Anyways, he posts stories of his days online and it made me wonder what people would see if I posted a picture from regular intervals of my day. So here is the tale of my day. Each photo was taken at half-past the hour. Here is the story of my day.

At 9:30 AM I posted a short piece about what my mornings are like. I didn't post it on social media, just left it there. I do that sometimes when I don't feel good about a post. My parents read it and that's pretty much it. I'm ok with this. Not everything I write is meant to be consumed but if people are interested in me, then it's there.

On Saturday I worked a 10-6 kitchen shift which meant that at 10:30 I began making grilled cheese sandwiches. I think I was supposed to make sixty...

...And here is me nearly finished preparing them an hour later. It takes a long time to make a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches. There's a lot of butter to spread.

I did some other stuff, but by the time I was finished making the sandwiches, it was time to grill them which is what I am doing here. If you are wondering why no one seems to be working with me, it is because I didn't feel comfortable taking photos of people without asking them. Maybe that will change.

After I finished serving lunch, It was time to eat my lunch. Here is the aftermath of that. Yes I did eat lunch alone. It only took a few minutes to eat so it's ok.

After my lunch, I started making muffins. They were supposed to be blueberry buttermilk but I didn't blanch the blueberries so they ended up being blue muffins. They still tasted good, they just looked hella weird.

After muffins it was time for a break. I went to the bathroom on my break. I thought you might not want to see the aftermath of that, so I took a photo of the toilet paper. This is the most interesting feature of the kitchen bathroom seeing as how there is no reading material in there. I make a point of not pooping in there because it's boring.

I baked the muffins and did some other things and then it was time to cut the meat. This is the beginning of that process. The block of roast beef had to be cut into slices for warming. It was still partially frozen so this whole process was a little hard, but I got it done somehow.

I thought dinner was at 5:30. It turns out it was at 5:15. Somehow we still managed to serve everything on time though. This is the counter after the first round of food went out. There are people out of frame in this picture. I probably could have photographed them, but I still have some shame.

Then I ate dinner and Amanda came and got me and took me back to the apartment. We ran into Becky in the Mule on the way back. Someone else was there too (although I can't remember who). The Mule is our small vehicle that is used for moving things that are too heavy to carry. This includes wood, garbage, or my hulking carcass when I am too lazy to walk places (I don't get to do that very often though).

We decided to watch an episode of the TV show Veronica Mars We're plowing through it right now. Oh the mystery! Amanda is holding a concoction we made from liquids in the fridge. It's half lime Perrier and half rose wine. The Perrier makes the wine taste less terrible. I used to drink beer but we're trying to be extra thrift right now because we made a bunch of poor decisions in the summer and had to do some expensive things.

Then a whole bunch of people came over to visit (there are four people out of the frame of this photo). It was nice to have visitors.
We sat around and talked for quite a while. Emily makes an appearance in this photo along with Jessie's foot! A real person! See, I do have friends.

And that was pretty much the day. I hope you enjoyed this journey with me. Tune in next week when we try something similar except maybe this time I will take pictures of other people.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

5:30 every morning.

My phone starts ringing. I startle out of my slumber and manage to find the button on my phone that says "dismiss". The sound stops. Every time my alarm goes on, I panic as I struggle to turn it off before Amanda wakes up. Amanda is a deep sleeper and probably doesn't even notice the alarm going off, but that doesn't stop me from worrying. Your brain doesn't work so well at 5:30 AM.

The first thing to do is go and turn on the kettle. Since it's dark, I notice how the light hesitates for a moment before turning on to show that the kettle is in fact working. Coffee's already in the pot because I ground it last night. The coffee snob in me knows that this is a bad idea because all the aromatics will have disappeared by the time I brew it in the morning, but I don't really care about the subtleties at this point. I just want something hot and bitter to help me wake up.

I walk around and assemble the comforts that will make the morning that much better. A fluffy towel, a lap desk, my mug still stained from yesterday's coffee. All get thrown on the floor of the bathroom. By the time the kettle clicks off, everything is ready. I pour the water into the pot and place the press on top and then bring the whole thing into the bathroom. Once I set it down I start a time on my phone and begin counting down the five minutes. While I'm waiting, I start to read.

This is my morning. Each day starting with the same collection of rituals. Some days it's a struggle to get out of bed at 5:30 and I sleep in. Some days I don't complete every part of the ritual. Some days I'm away and have to tweak it. It helps though. It gets me settled for the day. When it's all over (and believe me, there are a few more things that happen as part of this), I feel prepared to face people.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tales from the Week: Preaching

I just spent twenty minutes looking at cell phones. I was watching this video this week and it left me with an interesting thought. If I started taking pictures of my days as they unfolded, how would people respond. My first thought was to buy a new cell phone so I could start doing this. After twenty minutes I realize that there was no way I could justify buying a new cell phone right now just to do something like that. Now I'm here, in the compose window writing you this piece.

This whole thought comes from the problem I have with making conversation with other people. I'm talking to someone and they ask me "so how was your week" and I rush through the description and leave out most of the detail because I think I'm boring them. My weeks involve a lot of time staring at the computer and doing the same thing over and over again. Amanda jokes with me about this because almost every time I come home and she says "how was work" my response is "we made food. It was good". Not very imaginative but this is how I feel about others interest in my own life.

Stories are supposed to be exciting and interesting and have all kinds of drama. My life just doesn't seem to have a lot of that. Instead its like a bad television show repeating the same cycles over and over again. Describing it like this is making me realize that I may be underselling which is why you are about to read a tale from this week about preaching. May the unedited events of my week enlighten and entertain you.

This week I had to preach. A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a local pastor who I had done pulpit supply for a few months ago (pulpit supply: when you speak/preach in place of the regular preacher. You take their place on the pulpit). I'm trying to be open to this sort of thing and so I said yes. This gave me several weeks to prepare. I picked a passage a couple of weeks later and then read over it and started reflecting on it. I chose "The Binding of Isaac" which is a story from Genesis which is important in Christian circles as its full of symbolism and it has Abraham (always a popular guy to talk about). Though I didn't do any writing, I started to think about what I would say. I crafted the outline in my brain so that I knew what I would write once I got to sitting down and writing.

Because most of the writing I've done has been on this site (335 posts over 7 years) I end up crafting sermons a lot like how I write a blog. When I blog, I come up with an idea and once I have enough there to write about I sit down and write the whole thing down in one sitting from start to finish. I make a point to avoid outlines just because I'm lazy and don't want to flip back and forth from outline to final copy. By working in one sitting I try to maintain a consistent thought. So when I write sermons I do something similar. I'll spend a lot of time reading and thinking about the passage and crafting some ideas in my head and then a few days before I'm set to speak (or maybe the day before), I'll sit down and write out the whole manuscript in a sitting or two. It looks like I'm procrastinating but I'm actually devoting a lot of brain space to the sermon when I'm mindlessly washing a hundred plates at work.

I'm sure it would terrify anyone who was supervising me. Progress is supposed to be words on a page. If you write two pages per day, you will need to start writing your fourteen page sermon seven days before Sunday. It's like a progress bar right? Not really for me. One day my progress bar is empty (even though I've been thinking and planning in my head) and then 40 minutes later its full.

So this week was a battle to decide when I would sit down and write the sermon. Normally I would try and write between 6 AM and 8 AM which is after I've finished drinking coffee, journaling, reading my book, and reading my bible. This week though I got sick so when I wanted to write my brain said no. The conversation would go sort of like this.

"Brain, you need to write this sermon. Sunday is coming."
"Ok but maybe later?"
"We'll see"

"Ok brain, time to write."
"But you said..."

You can see where this ends up. I was going to write on Monday but I had to clean at work and after a cleaning shift I sit in my chair and stare blankly at the computer until my body recovers enough to eat dinner. I was going to write Tuesday I had to work in the morning baking 18 pies (and 5 different kinds) and that took the entirety of my 8 hour shift. I would have written that night but I had agreed to play saxophone in a charity event with my high school music teacher. On Wednesday I was supposed to be at the church but then Amanda wasn't feeling well so I stayed home and took care of her and by the time the day was over, my brain was being extra defiant.

On Thursday (a mere four days away) I completed the first writing on the sermon. I had only completed about a third of what I wanted to say though so I decided I would try and finish it on Friday night after work. But then Friday came and after work I had to take Amanda up to Ottawa for a bit and so I could not write while driving (the person who invents a system for long form writing while driving will win a small fortune of thanks from me). I realized I would need to write it on Saturday morning, just over 24 hours before I was schedule to preach. This would probably cause anxiety in those of you who are prone to it. I was getting a bit nervous at this point, but I always try to relax as that makes writing easier.

Saturday morning I woke up, made my cup of coffee, and completed the rest of the sermon in one brief writing session. I got the added bonus of feeling very good about what I had written. All of the worrying I had been putting off was for naught. That evening I made a few edits and printed it off. This morning I went in and preached and felt pretty good about the whole thing. I think I'm getting used to this preaching business.

And that was the tale from this week. Writing it all out like that makes my week look much less boring. Maybe I'll do this again something. Until then...