New Routines and Tiny Gratitudes

Hello, dear readers! We’ve made it to another Thursday. My week has been decent, but underlined by a background anxiety that I’m not going to be able to figure out how to get all my homework done in time. New routines are hard – all change, even if it’s positive, is hard to some degree – and I’m worried I’m not up for the task. I’ve already had to turn down some social plans in favor of getting homework done, which doesn’t feel great. But the work is all really interesting so far, and I really appreciate my classmates and professors.

I realized in therapy last Thursday afternoon that I was particularly anxious for my Thursday night class – Religious and Theological Interpretation. After talking through some things with my therapist, I realized it was largely because the last time I had engaged academically with stuff like this, I was in undergrad at a small, conservative bible college, where I was coming to grips with the fact of my queerness and watching interpretations of religious texts be weaponized against people like me. So it makes sense that I was anxious! Thankfully, I was able to name that, not only in therapy but also in class, and it seemed to resonate with a lot of people. I’m really grateful to have landed where I did.

I’m going to wrap up this post with a brief little list of things I’m particularly grateful for right now:

  • Supportive communities. My husband and I have incredible support networks (some of which we share, and some that we don’t), and I’m so grateful to know that there are multiple communities of folks looking out for us, both when life is particularly chaotic and when things are really wonderful.
  • New (to me) ideas. My classes are introducing me to concepts I’d never considered before, and I am enjoying the challenge.
  • FAWM. While February has not started yet, the FAWM website is up and running and people are starting to gather. I have no idea if I’ll write any music this February, but I’m excited to listen to what other folks come up with.

And, as always, here’s your weekly dose of Nova:

School Days, School Days

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday. I’m a little discombobulated around what day it is – I woke up feeling rather under the weather yesterday and ended up taking the day off, which was needed and lovely but also threw me for a bit of a loop in terms of my internal calendar. Thank goodness for my calendar and to do list keeping me on track!

It’s been a big week – I’m officially a seminary student! I had my first class on Tuesday, and it was great. It’s a small group (there are 10 students and only four of us are in person, with the rest of the class Zooming in), which I think will be particularly great for this particular class, which is “Introduction to Personal and Spiritual Formation” – basically looking at who the person is that you’re bringing into this seminary journey. My other class (“Religious and Theological Interpretation”) starts this evening. The professor normally commutes up from Chicago to teach on Thursdays, but due to Omicron, he’ll be zooming into class, and invited the students to do so as well. While I tend to learn better in person, this is a larger class, and I think for the time being I’m more comfortable with attending virtually.

I’m already a little overwhelmed by homework and figuring out my new routines, but I’m trying to remember to be gentle with myself as I learn how to navigate these new responsibilities. The class material is already very engaging and I’m excited to continue to dive into it.

I don’t have a lot of other news this week. I leave you with this photo of Nova, with some very sweet context – she fell asleep like this, leaning on my arm as I held her paw, for a solid 30 minutes last weekend. (What the photo didn’t capture were the tiniest little snores.) She is truly the sweetest doggo.

Sweet, snoozy Nova

Anxiety Management

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to Thursday! It has been an up and down sort of week. We had a lovely time with my husband’s family on Saturday (it always warms my heart when my gluten-free self can eat everything on the table, and it was delicious). Then on Sunday night, I got super sick with a stomach bug out of nowhere. I powered through work for most of the day on Monday (I did end up signing out a little early in the afternoon). Tuesday I took the day off because I had a physical in the morning and I didn’t know how I’d feel after getting poked and prodded, and I also got my flu shot and my covid booster while I was there. I cannot tell you how happy I am to have found this doctor – she is so affirming and pragmatic and it’s such a relief not to have to educate my doctor or be continuously advocating for myself in a medical setting.

This afternoon I have an intake call with a potential new therapist. I’m tentatively hopeful that this will be a good fit and that I’ll be able to get back to working with someone on expanding my toolkit for dealing with anxiety. I also started on blood pressure medication this week, which I am hoping will also help with the anxiety, since anxiety and high blood pressure tend to create a horrible feedback loop (I’m anxious, and my blood pressure is high, which my body interprets as anxiety, etc.). A friend listed out all the things I have going on right now in a text to me this morning, and it really put it into perspective that yes, it does make sense that I’m under some stress and should be utilizing every resource I can to manage it. So that was a good reminder.

I learned yesterday that the university that partners with the seminary I’m starting at next month to do the Spiritual Direction courses is actually discontinuing their Spiritual Direction program, but that it shouldn’t impact my journey – next semester is the last cohort of new students they’re taking for the program. So that’s an additional level of stress that I’m processing. Fingers crossed I’m able to finish all the courses I need to there before the program closes (slated for 2025, so my chances should be pretty good).

Today and tomorrow I’m going to be spending a significant portion of my time between meetings writing performance assessments for my direct reports. I think it’ll actually go pretty smoothly, but getting started is always the hard part with these. I’m grateful for these rockstars and I want them to know they’re doing well, but I also want to give whatever constructive feedback I can to help them continue to grow and excel.

That about does it for this week. As always, here’s your weekly dose of Nova:

Wild Week

Hello, dear readers! We’ve made it to Thursday. Yesterday felt like a Friday here, so the fact that it is only Thursday is a bit of a bummer, but I will survive. I hope you’re all hanging in there.

It’s felt like a wild week, although in reality it’s been quite mild compared to all the drama with Nova’s medical stuff the last couple of weeks. Last Thursday afternoon I registered for classes for my first semester of seminary (eek!) and ordered all of my textbooks for those. Friday I got my financial aid information, so I spent the weekend figuring that out and returning those forms.

Work has been particularly wild this week, for a whole host of reasons I’m not going to get into here. I have a lot that needs to get done before Thanksgiving next week (next week already!), and I’m not really sure how it’s going to happen, but I’ll figure it out somehow.

It snowed here a little bit last weekend, and Nova loved it. I am both excited to see how she reacts to a real proper snow, and also nervous about getting her enough exercise once winter really hits and I’m in school two nights a week. I should probably start researching dog walking services here to get us a little extra help. She really needs at least 4-5 miles a day, and the loop that I can handle taking her on in the dark when I get done with work is about half that. Usually my husband can take care of the rest during the day, but they’re also looking for work now, so that will probably change soon. So, uh, dog-owning friends in the Twin Cities, hit me up with your dog walker recommendations!

It’s time for me to go get more coffee and figure out how I’m going to get my work done today. I’ll leave you, as always, with a few Nova photos from this week:

All the News

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday! This blog is going up a little late today because it is Veterans Day here in the US and that means I have the day off, and I decided to let myself sleep in. It’s been a long week and I have so much to share.

First things first: I got accepted into seminary! I am meeting with someone this afternoon to go over the plan for classes for next semester. I’m so excited. Definitely also nervous, but mostly excited. Since I’m sure some of you are curious about what in the world is going through my head that I feel like seminary is a thing I want to try, I thought I’d share the “personal statement” I submitted with my application:

I am not necessarily the first person you’d expect to be interested in pursuing a seminary degree. I’m queer, trans, nonbinary, more-or-less agnostic, and have a complicated history with religion, to say the least – I was raised in a church tradition that I thought was safe when I was younger, but that does not accept the fullness of who I am as an adult.

I am, however, often the first person my friends and chosen family turn to when they need a listening ear and some insight. I am called upon for pragmatic opinions as well as intuitive tarot readings. I don’t follow an organized spiritual tradition, but am deeply interested in life’s big questions, even if I don’t feel the need to have the answers to them like I did earlier in my life.

I believe that everyone deserves to be able to make meaning out of “big life stuff” in a way that works for them, and to connect to something larger than themselves if they want to. I am deeply committed to creating and holding safe spaces for people to ask questions and try on a variety of answers. Rather than running from the unknowable, I see it as an opportunity for play and experimentation.

I have watched several friends go through spiritual direction certificate programs and/or pursue ordination in their chosen spiritual tradition, and they have each opened my eyes to new and different ways of engaging with that “something larger,” through everything from music to tarot to roleplaying games and beyond. I carry each of those relationships and experiences and ideas with me into this course of study, and I am excited to see what new ways I might find to engage with spirituality.

While I don’t intend to pursue a career in spiritual direction, I am hoping that this degree will give me a better toolkit to come alongside fellow travelers in the world and hold those open spaces of safety, to engage with a variety of spiritual traditions with openness and curiosity, and to find my own opportunities for further spiritual growth.

So, with that excitement out of the way, on to the other news of the week.

Right around the time that I got the email saying I’d gotten into United on Friday afternoon, we discovered that Nova had managed to chew up and swallow 2-3 inches worth of a beef shank bone we’d given her a little earlier. She’s had these bones before and has only ever gnawed on them, never tried to actually eat them, so I thought she’d be fine and we weren’t paying very close attention until we realized the bone was significantly shorter than it had started out.

(Before I go any further, I want you to know that this story has a happy ending. Nova is fine.)

We called our regular vet, who was about to close for the day and suggested we call an emergency vet. We tried three different places before I found somewhere that was opening in a little over an hour. We decided to drive there and be there right when they opened. Thankfully they were able to see us; they did X-rays and discovered a few pieces of bone in her stomach, but thought they were a size and shape that she should be able to pass on her own. We went home with instructions to follow up with our regular vet in the morning.

We did that – they did follow-up X-rays and there were still pieces of bone in her stomach, but she seemed okay otherwise and they were hopeful that she’d be okay passing things on her own. Sunday passed pretty much without incident – she was a little slow and sleepy but she seemed like she was starting to feel better.

And then Monday morning she refused to eat and had to be practically dragged out the door to go outside. When she remained lethargic and was clearly uncomfortable all morning, we called our vet again, and they recommended we take her back to an emergency vet. We called three different places again and finally got through to the U of M veterinary center, who agreed to see her.

More X-rays, more exams, a lot of waiting. The conclusion was that the bones had made it out of her stomach and had broken down enough that they didn’t show up on X-rays anymore, but her GI tract was just really irritated from processing all of that, which was why she wasn’t feeling well. We went home almost 6 hours later, exhausted but less worried than we had been.

The last couple of days she has been noticeably improving – she’s still pretty tired (and annoyed about that), but she’s clearly feeling much better. She hates getting the medicine I have to give her via syringe 3 times a day to help calm her GI tract down, but she hasn’t murdered me in my sleep yet and we only have a couple of days left of that. I have spent SO. MUCH. MONEY. on her in the past week, and it’s been so scary not knowing if she was going to need surgery. But she’s worth it. (We also signed her up for pet insurance in the middle of all of this, which of course covers none of this week’s adventures but should cover us the next time our sweet little trash goblin decides to eat something that’s not food.)

Thank you for coming on this journey with me! I’ll close this one out with a couple of photos of Nova’s recent convalescent naps:

Waiting

Hello, dear readers, and welcome to another Thursday. I hope you’re hanging in there, wherever you are in the world. Here in Minnesota it is cold, autumn nosing its way toward winter. We had early morning snow flurries on Monday, though none of it stuck around. The air smells like snow is coming, and if we forget to add layers before taking the dog out we regret it pretty quickly.

This is a week of waiting for me. I’ve been hinting for the last few weeks that I had some big plans in the works, and now that I’m done with my part and waiting on the official answer, I think it’s time to spill the beans: I applied for seminary!

I know this is probably really weird to read. I am not exactly the first person most would expect to be interested in going to seminary. But one of the local, more progressive seminaries in the area has a program that I’m really interested in – a master’s program with a spiritual direction focus – and I decided now was a good time to take the plunge.

Assuming I get in, it’s going to take about four years of part time classes. I don’t intend to make a career shift out of this (now that I’ve experienced being valued for my work and paid accordingly, I don’t think I have it in me to go back into nonprofits), but this is something I’m passionate about and deeply interested in and I’m excited to learn more.

My application materials were all officially submitted on Monday; I’ve been told I should hear a decision in the next week or two. I am doing my best to be patient.

I will leave you with some festive photos of Nova in the Halloween costumes I went overboard ordering from Chewy: