Saturday, 28 August 2010

Settling In

I've been living in my new apartment two weeks now, and it's beginning to feel like home.  Aubrey and I finally got our living room furniture arranged - the first week, it was just all dumped anyhow, as we were still waiting on a few items from her parents' house - but now we have chairs and television placed, decorations hung, blankets draped on chairs.  I love how the apartment has come together; it is what my roommate's family likes to call "Early American Attic" - that is to say, mismatched, in a variety of styles and periods - but it all works together well enough.  And more importantly, it's comfortable.  We have big squashy armchairs, useful tables, lamps.  Nothing too fussy; nothing difficult to clean; nothing really unnecessary.

I took all these photos in the evening, so you don't see the incredible sunlight we get from that huge window in the mornings; I'll have to take a morning photo someday.  It's wonderful.

The kitchen is small, but useable.  And use it we do indeed!  We're both tea fanatics; we joke that half our electric bill will be due to our boiling of inordinate amounts of water.  I keep us supplied with fresh bread, and we both cook.  Last Sunday we sat down and planned out the menu for the week (and stuck to it, lol!) and we did the same again this afternoon.  We've found it seems to work best to cook about four times a week; Wednesday evening I eat at church and Aubrey fends for herself; the other nights (and some lunches) we eat leftovers.  We take turns cooking, and we like the same sort of things, so it works out really well.

Classes started again on Tuesday.  I'm going to have a very full semester, but I'm excited about most of my classes.  We started out with a rush in the music department, with the select choir performing twice by themselves (to dedicate a new classroom building and the new dorm quads) and again combined with the other choirs for Convocation yesterday.  That was a lot to prepare in just a few rehearsals!  But we carried it off well and I'm looking forward to the rest of the semester.

I'm taking a history class; my professor (who attends my church) is an elderly gentleman whose lectures seem at first look to be quite vague, rambling, and off-topic.  But when you think back you realise that not only did he actually cover his whole class outline, but you remember everything he said.  That takes talent!

Probably my favourite class is "Plays of Shakespeare", which I'm taking as part of my English minor.  The teacher is incredible - he is one of the main reasons I came to this school, actually; when I visited I was debating between majoring in English or music, and I set up a meeting with him, thinking we might talk for 5 or 10 minutes -- I spent nearly an hour in his office!  His class so far is living up to that; it's fascinating and well-taught.

I'm taking Vocal Literature, which is of course for my major, and I'm really excited about that one too.  There are only three of us in the class, and both the other girls are close friends of mine.  And the teacher is my voice teacher!  We meet in her office and we spend lots of time just listening to music, which in my mind is perfect :-)

About the only class I'm not thrilled about is psychology.  It's a required core class, so there's no way I can get out of it, but after only two meetings I'm frustrated.  I'm not convinced psychology is a necessary science; the useful parts of it just seem like common sense to me, and the rest is just nonsense.  I'm going to have to work hard at staying motivated, I think.

Oh!  Here is the bed from my last post, with my not-quite finished quilt at the foot :-)

All in all, I'm excited about this new semester.  I think it'll be crazy, but good!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A "God Thing"

Well, here I am in Tennessee again, all moved into my new apartment!  I love it; the location could hardly be more ideal - as close to campus as you can get without being on campus; fairly secluded; east-facing, so we get all the gorgeous morning sunlight and none of the heat of the afternoon.  I'm still revelling in the space; we have a living room!  A dining area!  A kitchen with enough cabinets!  My room holds my extra-long twin bed, a bookshelf, and a recliner with no trouble at all and has room for a desk when I find one.  I have my own bathroom, for that matter!  And a walk-in closet!

More than that, I have a delightful roommate who shares my love of vegetables, Jane Austen, and good tea; who cooks and organizes and decorates and thinks much the same way I do.  Our mothers like each other, too :)  I think this is going to be a good year!

We loaded up the car last Wednesday and drove down Thursday (and I was convinced that I had forgotten something major, because even with my upholstered recliner, a pile of bricks and boards for my bookshelf, a good-sized TV cabinet, and the television itself, there was still space in the car.  I still don't know how we managed this!  But I don't seem to have left anything large at home, so perhaps I just figured out how to pack this year.)  Friday we signed the lease and moved in a lot of stuff, then headed back to my roomie's house for the night, since I would be moving some furniture from Memphis and she's a lot closer than the apartment is.

I should back up a little.  Last spring some friends of mine in Memphis offered me some furniture for the apartment: a couple of chairs and a full-size bed.  I said yes, because who turns down free furniture? but I didn't think a whole lot about how we'd get it from Memphis to Jackson.  I figured it would fit in the minivan.

Well, the week I was moving back my dad took some measurements and announced that there was no way a full-size box spring was going to fit in our van, even with all the seats out.  So we were looking at renting a trailer.  I got online, did some research, and Wednesday evening put in a reservation for a 5'x8' U-Haul trailer.  I knew I was cutting it fine, and after reading some very negative reviews of U-Haul's service online I was a little nervous, but figured all we could do was pray it worked out.  They were supposed to contact me by "6 PM of the day before your reservation" to let me know the status, pick-up location, etc.  But I realised that the reservation form hadn't had a place to specify time, and we really did need it at a specific time; the person I was picking up from had other plans that day and needed to be out of the house fairly early.

So I called, Friday morning, and talked to a woman at the regional office who was extremely helpful.  She noted down the time I said and my preferred pick-up location, and said they were still working on locating a trailer but she'd call as soon as she knew.  It wasn't until almost 8 PM that she finally called back.  "I'm afraid we still don't have any 5'x8' trailers available," she began, and my heart sank, "but would you be willing to take a 6'x12' for the same price?"

For the same price?  You bet I would!  And it was available at 8 AM, the time I needed it, and at the location I'd requested.  Prayers answered.  So we showed up at the time and place specified, signed papers, drove around back, and got hitched up.  The owner and his assistant were very pleasant and friendly, and we were feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

And then the lights didn't work.

There was a problem with our wiring, apparently, and neither tail lights nor turn signals were working on the trailer.  After some consultation they announced that they didn't have the mechanic to fix it at this location; if we wanted to go down to another location they could fix it for us, but it would run us $55.  If we wanted to go and get the wiring fixed up, we could come on back and pick up the trailer, no problem; if we decided not to, they'd reverse the charges on the trailer, no fee for backing out.  We decided to call my dad, but thought we'd drive on to the other location anyway, in case he said to go for it.  I think it took three phone calls but we decided that, between the almost $100 price of the trailer rental and the cost of fixing the wiring, and the fact that I was after all only borrowing the bed and would have to return it, it would be almost as cheap just to buy a new bed.  So we decided to just head over, pick up the chairs, and figure out a bed later.

We missed the turn to the highway.  Mum was driving, and she's usually three steps ahead of herself, so this was unusual.  As we pulled into a parking lot to turn around, I happened to look across the road.  And there was a flea market - with a bed frame and mattress sitting out in the parking lot.

We thought we would have a look.  We did have a look, and we found that there was a very nice wooden bed frame and an extra-long mattress and box spring set - and they were on sale for $100, the price we would have paid just to rent a trailer.  AND they fit in the car!  Not only that, but they fit in the car with the two chairs we were picking up.

We decided that God really does work in mysterious ways - but he works.  So many things "went wrong" - the bed wouldn't fit in the van, I was worried about using U-Haul at all, then they didn't have the trailer we needed, our lights didn't work, we took a wrong turning.... but all that, in a convoluted way, led to my possession of a very nice bed for an unbeatable price.  It truly was "a God thing"!  And I'm pretty sure he was sitting up in heaven chuckling.  I'm so glad our God has a sense of humour.  I'm so glad he cares even about the little things, like procuring a bed to sleep in!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Be Careful How You Walk

...or rather, where you trip...

We ate Sunday dinner out on the deck today, as usual on lovely days, and we'd gotten to the dessert stage - peach-blueberry cobbler, fresh out of the oven.  I realised we'd left the whipped cream inside and jumped up to get it.  Going a little more quickly than usual up the stairs and through the door, I caught my foot on the sill - the runner of the screen door.

Caught it a little harder than I'd realised, because when I stopped hopping up and down and gasping in pain long enough to look at my foot, I found I had a gash in my second toe and was bleeding freely on the tile floor of the hall.  I'll spare you the gory details, but I'm fairly sure my toenail is at least partially detached - the end with the quick, not the "dead" end.  Lovely.

So I have spent the afternoon in a considerable amount of pain, with my toe first being iced and then bandaged, and elevated as much as possible.  I'm already tired of sitting in one position, and it hurts.  I usually have a fairly high pain tolerance, but this eventually made me cry, and it's still throbbing.  To make it worse, I'm scheduled to leave for Tennessee on Thursday morning to move into my apartment and make ready for my senior year of college, and I haven't started packing yet.  That was supposed to be the work of Monday through Wednesday.  There's a half-bushel of peaches that need to be put up before I leave, and I had two dresses I wanted to finish.  None of which can be very handily done from a recumbent position on a sofa, with one's foot propped up on pillows.

So if you're the praying sort, I'd appreciate prayers that this toe of mine would be feeling better by tomorrow morning!  I've got an awful lot I need to do - deadlines to meet, and no one else can do the work.  I'll hobble around and get it done as best I can, regardless of the pain - but it'll be so, so much easier if this throbbing would subside a bit.

(And, just for vanity's sake, pray too that I won't lose the toenail completely.  I can't tell exactly how bad the damage is but the cut is in such a place that I'm honestly not sure whether it'll grow back.  Which is pretty minor when you think about it... but still!)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Traveling by Train

This past weekend I went to Memphis for the wedding of two sweet friends from college.  Jordan has been my saviour in music theory, tutoring me through a couple of tough semesters when he really was the only thing between me and failing.  Shelby has been a dear friend for a couple of years, especially last year when she and her sister - and her roommate! - transfered to Union after their school hit financial difficulties.  I was able to be "behind the scenes" when Jordan finally proposed, and the piece I was part of a quartet to sing at the wedding was one that he wrote and I helped sing for the proposal last fall.  (I made cheesecake for the proposal dinner, too.)  It was an honour to be asked to sing at the wedding as well!

I took the train because it was cheaper than flying, and that way no one had to drive to Nashville to pick me up.  It was fun!  Plus, I didn't have to deal with strict baggage restrictions, security checks, or getting to the station two hours early.

There were two stages, from Ann Arbor to Chicago and from Chicago to Memphis - and then in reverse to get home.  The first stage was about five hours, more or less a commuter train, so people got on and off more frequently, there was less space, and it went more slowly.  On the way down, I was blessed to be in a car with two couples, headed to Chicago for the weekend, who had decided it would be a good idea to bring with them a cooler of beer, a bottle of vodka, and various other strong drinks - and to drink the entire cooler en route to Chicago.  Oh my.  They were very, very relaxed and happy by the time we got there!  Not to mention loud.  I have no problem with the drinking of alcohol in reasonable portions, in moderation - but this was a little much.  I was glad to be rid of them!  The long leg of the trip was overnight; the train had a lot more leg-room, a nice "cafe" or snack car, and was in general very comfortable, but it got COLD at night!  Brrr. Next time I'll pack a heavy sweater!

Chicago was really lovely.  I had about 3 hours between trains on the way down, 4 on the way back, and so both times I was able to get out of the station and explore the city a bit.  The first time I stuck close to the station; I got dinner, then sat in Starbucks and watched the city go by.  (People-watching is fascinating!) On the return trip, I had a bit longer and was more confident; I found the opera house and drooled outside of it for a while, then walked down to Michigan Avenue, explored Millennium Park, and discovered the harbour on Lake Michigan.  I probably walked two or three miles, but I'd spent so much of the weekend just sitting around that the exercise was welcome!  I took a few photos on my phone - and I think I can transfer them to the computer, but I'm not sure yet, so you might have to wait a while ;-)

The wedding itself went off well - Shelby was such a calm, relaxed bride!  I ended up with the task of pinning on corsages and boutonnieres, which I would not say is a particularly enviable job - especially when the pins provided are about a half-inch too short - but I did enjoy pinning the groomsmen's, because they were so relaxed and low-key about everything.  Really there were very few hitches; the only thing of great note was after the wedding, after the reception, and after most of the cleaning up had been done, the bride's mother thought to take the marriage certificate out of its envelope and examine it.  Only to find that the minister had forgotten to sign it!  Much hilarity and a certain amount of consternation ensued, and several people tried to contact Jordan; I'm not sure what the eventual upshot was, but in my opinion it was nothing to worry about.  They were married in the eyes of God and in front of a whole slew of witnesses: let the minister sign the paper tomorrow!

Whilst in Memphis I stayed with my roommate-to-be, which was a lot of fun as this was the first time I've met her family.  They were absolutely lovely - so welcoming! - and I felt like family from the very first.  I look forward to seeing more of them this year!

This seems like a very disjointed post and I don't think I've done either the wedding or the travelling justice, but that's about the best I'm going to manage today.  I think the heat is affecting my brain!