Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The work of craftsmen, and communion

One of my fascinations throughout my life has been with woodworking. I'd make a lousy carpenter - I am just a fumbler when it comes to tools, and I was the despair of my father when it came to something as simple as cutting two boards the same length. But I learned enough from my father to appreciate good wood, fine woodwork and beautiful finishes.

When my sister and brother-in-law suggested last weekend that we journey to nearby Archbold, Ohio to a woodcarver's show at historic Sauder Village, at first I was just going to go to keep them company. I am not, you see, either a wildlife enthusiast nor an artist; so birds and horses and fish and flowers carved out of wood just don't excite me all that much.

But to be honest, I'd been spending too much time in front of either the work or home PC, so the chance to get out and go sounded like a great idea. We debated not going, because the weather was supposed to be so much better on Sunday - but in the end, hopped in the car and headed out state route 2 to Sauder Village.

The drive out the old Airport Highway, through Swanton, Delta, and Wauseon was amazingly refreshing, especially after the nightmare of driving in Chicago. Five minutes west of the Toledo airport, there were open fields and spaces as far as the eye could see. Farmland was everywhere. The smells were fresh, and clean. I was amazed how much I had missed really open spaces and small towns.

Though I had lived in northwest Ohio for 17 years before I left in 1991, I'd never been to Sauder Village. Founded by the Sauder woodworking family back in the mid 1800's, the Village is a recreation of an earlier, simpler life. Along with the woodcarvers' show, it was also Butchering Day at the farm (something I was only too glad we arrived too late to experience). I probably saw a couple dozen youngsters proudly wearing "Butchering Crew Member" stickers - and I'm glad it was them, and not me, to be honest.

The strange part, though, began in the woodcarvers' show. While I could admire all the beautifully-carved critters, and the marvelously-crafted toys and walking sticks and every kind of geegaw, I found myself drawn, time and time again, to carvers who crafted dishes, platters, bowls and goblets. I admired the exotic woods, the satin and gloss finishes, the elaborate combinations of glass and wood. And it finally struck me, as I was holding a simple but beautiful platter made out of birdseye maple. I picked it up, admiring the shape and finish of the wood, and thought, "Wouldn't this be cool to serve communion with?"

And it happened again and again. The simple yet elegant glass goblet with the beautifully turned walnut stem. The incredibly rich patterns of burl in a large, flattened bowl. The cut-glass chalice with the stem and matching paten which would have so beautifully matched the wood of the altar in my church in Kansas. And it went on in the pottery shop, in the glassblowing studio, even in the tinsmith's shop. Time and time again, I pictured the folks I knew and loved, sharing a simple Eucharistic feast and then an elaborate potluck, gathered around these lovingly crafted implements of hospitality.

Now, you have to understand - I'm one of those heretics your pastor warned you about when it comes to communion. All the ritual and all the trappings all fall away with me, and I am left with bread, wine or grape juice, and the sharing of these simple elements. I don't need fancy linens folded just so or golden chalices or any of the rest of it. Nor do I need much of the complexity and ritual that has built up across the years of church tradition. (I know, full well, that these things matter deeply to others, and I value and honor their beliefs. I just am willing to see the act of communion in much simpler terms....)

One of the most beautiful communion services I have ever beheld was a group of friends from church, gathered around Bev and Jerry Amundson's pool one July evening, with a loaf of rye bread and a plastic chalice of grape juice passed from person to person. The group sang "Jesus, Remember Me," Taize' style, as the elements went from person to person. Birds chirped, cicadas may very well have been buzzing...and it is an image of true "communing" that will live with me for all my remaining days.

And so the ghosts of dozens of friends were with me as I admired the craftsmanship of women and men of great talent. I longed for the day when I could be part of a family of faith that would be free enough to share the simplest sacrament with each other.

And, as Sue, Jeff and I sat down to a prime-rib and fried-chicken buffet at the Essen House just outside of Archbold, I had this crazed thought that I needed to grab one of the corn fritters, and one of the glasses of Diet Coke, and share it with my sister and brother-in-law, sharing the ancient words with them.

In retrospect, I'm sorry I didn't.

Work at the Evil Telecommunting Empire begins in just under 6 hour, so it's off to bed I go.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The way I was made

I want to live like there’s no tomorrow
I want to dance like no one’s around
I want to sing like no one’s listening
Before I lay my body down

I want to give like I have plenty
I want to love like I’m not afraid

I want to be the man I was meant to be
I want to be the way I was made!

(Christian singer and worship-leader Chris Tomlin, "The Way I Was Made," from the CD Arriving)
Over the last two-and-a-half years of blogging, there has been one question that has come up more often than any other (both in comments and in email). In more than 300 posts (I stopped counting, after a while) I've never been questioned about my faith in Christ, my theology, or much of anything else.

No, the only recurring question I've been asked has been, "So....are you gay?"

And it started early on. There was my first topical post, where I suggested that the Christian church would do much better to stick to the challenges of Matthew 25 (feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit those in prison) than spend all the time and energy that it does exposing and condemning gays.

There was "my fifteen minutes of fame" post, Just How Shocking Is The Gospel?, in which I took the John 4 woman-at-the-well story and set it in the context of the ELCA and the gay "Boystown" neighborhood of Chicago. That set off a firestorm of inquiries, to be sure...

And there was another post where one commenter on that post who got the mistaken idea that "a friend of Bill" was the same as an um...friend of Bill (as in, "this is my, um, friend Bill..."). While about 3 comments on their own blog mentioned the theological issues they had with my John 4 post, the other 30 or so were about how I was probably gay, and I was twisting the story around to suit my supposedly-deviant lifestyle. (Whch was funny, given the fact that I'd been celibate for 12 years at the time...I guess I missed out on the whole deviancy thing.)

My position, for the last two years, has been simply to discuss whatever the issue was at hand, and leave "me" out of it. After all, if I said I was gay, the assumption would be that I was "just supporting the lifestyle." And if I said I was straight, the assumption would be that I was lying, anyway. So I just sidestepped the questions altogether.

I should confess, too, that I started this blog out of a great longing for acceptance, after having been rejected as a candidate for ministry by the ELCA (for financial reasons) back in April, 2004. I was feeling cut-off, alone, and 650 miles from my friends and supporters back in Kansas. I found acceptance and approval out here in the blogosphere, and I desperately needed that, at the time. So I had a vested interest in rejection-avoidance, for a good long while.

But I'm in a better place, now. And the move to northwest Ohio, and the act of starting life over again, has called me to be more open and honest about who I am - as a brother, friend, co-worker, and follower of Christ (not in that order).

So yes, Virginia, to answer your question, I am a gay man.

And I have been, all along.

Now, to be rigorously honest, for more than thirty-five years, I didn't believe that. I was sure that I could somehow "fix" this, or that God would help me fix it. Interestingly enough, I used every trick to deal with my homosexuality that Bill W. (the co-founder of AA) tried to use on his alcoholism - denial, will-power, avoidance, and self-knowledge. I believed that marrying the right woman would do it, that dating the right women would do it, that endless hours of tearful prayer or church life or even ministerial service to God would do it.

But even after being sober for a decade and a half, none of it worked.

Over the years, I've tried to be so open about so much of my life (especially my struggles in recovery). But somehow for all those years, even after I got sober, I never found the courage to take the last step of rigorous honesty, and "come out" to anyone - even to the people I love. There were a lot of reasons for that - but the two main reasons I never came out were simply

- I never wanted to be gay, and
- I was waiting for God to heal me - to fix me, to make me "right."

Ever since I was first afraid that I had this orientation, at least one silent prayer has always been, "God, please - make me straight, heterosexual, whatever the hell 'normal' is. Help me desire what people tell me is Your natural order, OK? If being straight is really Your will, then please - let it be done, and let it be done quickly. I'm ready to go. I'll suit up, show up, and try to play the part - fake it 'till you make it, they say. OK. I'm ready when you are..."

And for years, when certain people suspected my true nature, I'd give them the party line: Of course not! After all, I'm not, am I? I was just like a cancer patient - waiting for a cure. And up until the last two years, if I had the choice, I still wouldn't have chosen to be gay. Let's face it - on the surface, given society as it is, and the consequences of living as a gay man in it, who the hell would?

(As you'll see, I'm coming, slowly, to feel differently. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly...)

For more than three decades, I prayed that "fix me!" prayer. And the only thing that happened is that I ended up more lonely, more sick of living a lie, and more desperately "apart from" the world (instead of "a part of") than I have ever been. At first I just got tired of waiting on what I thought was God's provision for my life. Later, as I learned more, read more, and prayed more, I came to understand that "waiting to be fixed" was not part of God's provision for me at all. And I got tired of despising myself in the process. (And if an angel or a scientist showed up with a magic pill today, a la X-Men III, I'm not sure I'd take it....but more on that later.)

For seven long years, as I experienced a true call to a life in ministry, I was ready to give it all up. Really...it sounds stupid now, but at the time it made perfect sense. I'd deny my sexuality, abandon any hope of intimate relationships just as a priest would, and just continue to live the lie that I'd been working on my whole life. For all those years, I really, honestly felt that it would better to live acting as a gay-friendly member of the "straight" clergy (who might be able to build bridges and soften hearts) than as an openly-gay clergyman (who would just seem to be pushing his own agenda). After all, the rules of my faith community insisted on celibacy outside of marriage - so either way, sex was out. So why not be of service, eh?

Well, that road is closed, for now - seemingly for good. (And for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with my sexuality. According to the rules of my denomination - if not their standing practice and tradition - I could have been ordained as a celibate gay man. We can argue later about how likely that might have been...)

Regardless of all that, I've come to believe that God is healing me (though so far, that healing is coming in a much different form than I ever anticipated). I've been gingerly exploring a radical idea: that God gave me this faith, this knowledge, this training, and this "time apart" from the religious community to face the truth of my homosexuality, to come to accept myself as His child in this way, and to find a way to be a voice for the untold numbers of gay Christians who are tired of hiding, tired of living in the shadows, tired of denying what God would have them be.

And that's the reason for the song-quote at the beginning of the post. I have come to realize a truth I ran away from for years: that I was created this way. I have spent almost all my life trying to deny the truth of what I am. But once I came to that realization, I had a choice to make.

In one option, I could believe that my sexuality was some kind of Divine error (that the One who had "known me before I was knitted together in the womb" had somehow dropped a stitch or two), that my homosexuality (which I surely would not have chosen) was a manufacturing defect on the part of the Creator. Doesn't do much for God's omnipotence there, does it?...

I could believe that - or I could believe that I am a part of God's creation. A different part, to be sure; not the dominant part...but still a valid and worthy "part of the Divine design," nonetheless. Once I thought about it, I knew what my choice would be...

There's another lie I had bought into: over the last several years (especially at seminary) I had also convinced myself that my orientation didn't matter...that being overweight, greying, over 40 and unattractive (at least in my eyes) meant that I wouldn't find any companionship, regardless gender, ever. Finally, God put in my life a couple of friends in recovery who suggested to me that the issue of my sexual orientation wasn't about who I was living or sleeping with, but who I was, period. It was about being honest...and they helped me see that I'd spent my whole life living a lie.

So, back a year or so ago, I began sharing my true life with people - at first, with folks inside the recovery community in Chicago. Then, in person and via email, with my own family and my church family in Kansas. By ones and twos, the word got out, so to speak.

My friend Eric, who has been one of my longest-standing friends in the church, was one of the first group of people that I told, a little more than a year ago. His reply is instructive:
I'm sitting here with a little smile on my face having just read your letter. I wondered when a letter or phone call like this might arrive. And to think, I was concerned you were going to tell me something life shattering like you feel off the wagon or had AIDS! I've known for MANY years that this was a struggle within for you my friend. I'm very much looking forward to reading your blog on this one! And I'm sure this will make for some interesting discussions!!

Like the love of our Lord, my brother, I can love you no less for that love is not predicated on your sexual orientation but on your heart and very soul which is so beautiful to me!
And, to be honest, 99% of the rest of my "outings" have gone exactly the same way, as the journey has continued this last year.

Having said all that, I also have to say that this blog is going to continue to be about what it has always been - "reflections on a journey of life, faith, and recovery (from inside and outside the church and the 12-step communities) from a believer, seeker, theologian, and 'slightly more than part-time thinker'." That's not going to stop.

When I first started coming out, I started writing a lot about the experiences (imagine that) . And eventually I started posting them in a parallel blog, A Rainbow Flag in Narnia. (The name came from the fact that I still saw myself following "the One True King," but I had spent so much time deep in the closet that it was like a different world to me.) My first posts, I can see now, were deeply imbued with a "please accept me and love me, even though I'm gay" message. But, like this blog, I hope that my "rainbow" posts are on a journey to greater self-acceptance.

So I'm going to continue to post most of my gay-and-coming-out-in-the-church discussions over there, for now, at least. If you're curious about the process I've taken to get from there to here, that would be the place to look. But there is one item I want to cross-post here from "over there," because I think they're important.

Back at the beginning of March 2006, I was back in Kansas for my friend Eric's father's funeral. A couple nights before the service, I had the chance to have coffee with him, and just talk face-to-face for the first time since I'd come out to him via email. Eric asked an interesting question which, as best I remember it, was, "So really - why are you doing this? Most of the time, when people have come out to me, they are generally looking for approval of their adopting a homosexual lifestyle. Is that what you're looking for? And if not, why are you bothering?"

It's an important question - if only because in many ways I am coming out without the "carrot" of a same-sex relationship, and yet without the "stick" of gay-related disease. For a lot of straight folks, there would really be no other reason to come out. But (for better or worse) I have neither issue in my life, for now.

I gave this answer several times that weekend, when the question came up, and I think it's important to share it here:

First, because I'm tired of living the lie, and having the folks who care about me not really know me. For me, my sexuality is a non-issue, in many ways - but it's a non-issue that I've expended incredible amounts of energy to hide from people. So the first part of this is simply about being honest - with myself, and with you. It's just easier to be open and honest.

The second part is more general, if no less important: there is a very prevalent stereotype of homosexuals and the homosexual lifestyle that absolutely does not apply to 90% of the gay and lesbian folks I know. Everyone keeps talking about this 'homosexual lifestyle,' but so far I haven't received my
Homosexual Lifestyle Starter Kit, with the hot cabana boy, crystal meth and and a spandex outfit. (Maybe it was sent out, and I just wasn't there to sign for the delivery.)

But the only way that this stereotype is ever going to die is going to be when gay men like me are willing to step out of the closet and stop hiding their "gay lifestyles," which are so damn normal in so many ways!

The only way that people are going to come to understand gay life is when they realize the vast number of relationships that they already have with gay men and lesbians all around them. The fact is, it's simply harder to hate what (and who) you know.

And especially in the Christian church, when people debate "the homosexual question," when my straight church friends think about them, I want them to think, "Oh, yeah - they're talking about my friend Steve..."
So that's why I'm doing this.

And that's it, for now. Being gay isn't a big thing, and it's not going to be a big part of what I share here, even if learning to live "out" is a big part of my new life here in Ohio. But it's a small thing that I have spent an amazing amount of energy hiding from folks. So hopefully I can spend that energy on something more productive...

(It should also be noted that if you're going to post any hateful comments here, I may leave some of them up as a symbol of what folks are capable of...but for the most part, I'm going to delete them. I'm not putting up with hate or condemnation in this new life, especially from those who claim as their Savior the One who said, "Love one another, just as I have loved you.")

Perhaps it is appropriate that I missed "National Coming Out Day" on October 11th, and that instead I am posting this on Reformation Sunday - the day that the Lutheran Church remembers the beginning of the Reformation and the renewal of the Church. After all, I too am in a process of re-formation, of re-creation, renewal and rebirth...a process that is only just begun. Please forgive the length of this post - but a sub-text to my desire for acceptance is also a desire to be understood, even if I am not accepted.

For now, I leave this effort in God's hands, and leave you with my favorite prayer from the Lutheran Book of Worship - the prayer with which I ended my very first post on this blog:
Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
(Lutheran Book of Worship, page 137)

Amen, indeed.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The garage is finally empty...

...and the storage unit isn't even quite full, yet...

The last three weeks have been an interesting transition as Sue, Jeff and I have been sorting through our combined household goods, furniture, etc., and deciding what we can do without, what we can't part with (yet), and what we actually can keep here in the condo (with large walk in closets, but no basement, no attic). The garage was the "landing zone" when I moved, and the last three weeks have been stuff moving into the garage, and stuff moving out.

Saturday was the pack-up day, and Sunday was the move-out day. Saturday was cool and cloudy, but Sunday was misty-rainy and cold, with winds gusting 20-30 mph. Still, I'd rather take cold than HOT any day...

It's all done. Yet another Penske truck rental, and the haul-and-tote, and it's done. I once again have aches in places I didn't know I had places - but it's done.

There is a considerable pile of trash and broken boxes that need to go to trash on Wednesday morning...and there's a good-sized pile of boxes in my bedroom that will have to be broken into and stashed. But once the trash is gone, life will be a lot easier (at least for Sue and Jeff, who will be able to use the garage again as the weather gets worse).

I'm sure that come April, we will be having a garage sale, and will be downsizing the storage unit. But there are things that I'm not willing to part with - and I have to hope, at some level, that this caring for my sister will not be a permanent arrangement. Right now, we just don't know...she is still not doing well.

My buddy Poor Mad Peter reminded me that I have a profile on Blogger - and that it's been fraudulent for the last three weeks, so I've finally updated that. Ah, the little details.

And it's 7 AM central time, on Monday of what promises to be a particularly hellish Hell Week in the work-world. So it's off to the virtual Evil Empire...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Here we are...

Courtesy of Terraserver, here's an aerial photo of the new casa de Ragamuffin. The white area to the left (under construction when the satellite photo was taken in 2000) is now a completed second development of condos. The area to the right is a golf course, and the area up top is a field which was part corn and part soybeans this year.

Yup - it's pretty rural.

But while we're 22 miles from downtown Toledo, we're only 4 miles from downtown Maumee, where fast food, video rentals, and big-box shopping is available. So it's really the best of both worlds.

Life has been particularly insane this last twelve days. The challenge of trying to fit two households' goods into one two-bedroom condo, and deciding what to keep/store/toss, has taken more work than I (or anyone else) expected.

(Hell, everything about this move has taken more work and more time than I expected...) And the last week at work rather peaked the insane-o-meter (or is it "insane-OM-eter"?) with an incredible barrage of technical FUBARSs and new items getting set up which went almost completely wrong. My sister is not doing well physically, and that ain't good, to be sure.


But there are lots of positives.

I'm here, and able to support my sister. And there's an incredibly powerful set of realizations there. If life had gone "my way," I would be just getting back to school in Chicago after a year-long internship, with no appreciable income. My sister and brother-in-law would likely be on their way to losing their home. And I'd be spending time in a city with whom I had (at best) a love-hate relationship, dealing with street bums and horrific roads and an hour-plus commute.

The "spare bedroom/den" I'm in is sunny, bright, reasonably weather-resistant, and considerably bigger than my living room and dining room in Pullman combined. Even on rainy days like today, the scene through my half-moon window is clear and light. The high-speed internet connection means I have a better link to my data at work than some folks at work have.

As I've shared with other friends, there is a vast difference between "Chicago miles" and "Toledo miles." Sunday night, I went to an AA meeting just northwest of downtown - a journey of 16 miles - and it took 25 minutes. Living out in the country, I can pull out of the neighborhood onto Stitt Rd. (the horizontal line at the top of the photo) and sometimes wait 2 or 3 minutes to see another car go by.

I'm a long way from settled - there are things I'm still hunting for, including some things I need to send back to friends in Chicago. Getting a truck to move the rest of the stuff to storage this weekend will help - but it's definitely feeling more like home. My sister is finding blessing in having me here, and I'm slowly renewing old friendships and making new ones.

It's a different way of living, here. But it feels right. It feels like home.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The storm is over, the adventure begins

Well, I am officially a Buckeye.


After a 15 year hiatus (April, 1991 to September 2006) I am once again a resident of northwest Ohio. "Resident," hopefully meaning that I am not just a transient, anymore.

I came to realize, over the last two weeks, just how much of a transient I had considered myself in Chicago. Nothing ever felt permanent, because it was all going to change. When I was at seminary, I never thought of that as "home," because I was going to leave for chaplaincy, and then internship. When my seminary track failed, I only thought of where I was going to be able to find work. When I was living in Pullman, I was thinking of where I'd live when I got a "real" job, and could afford a "real" apartment.

Hopefully this time, I will think of making wherever I am "home," rather than looking forward to "the next place." It's been a long three years in the wilderness...

The process of getting here was ugly, because I really didn't plan the process or invest the time ahead in preparation and packing. The pack-up help I hired got the worst of the stuff in the truck, as far as the "weight times the number of freakin' stairs" factor goes. But the last 10% of the stuff - that took way too long.

I'd been up straight through the night Friday night into Saturday desperately packing, and the moving help showed up at 9:15. By 1, 85-90% of the weight was loaded, and they left. But then my part came - taking care of the last 10-15% that wasn't ready to be carried anywhere. And let me tell you - when you're already sleep deprived, and exhausted, about 10 more trips up and down those damn stairs, and I was done.

About ten more trips, and I was thinking of burning the place down rather than emptying it and cleaning it.

That's when I decided that it was time to find a room, crash for the night, and start again the next day.

By 3:30 Eastern time on Sunday afternoon, I was rolling, and the yellow Penske truck rolled into the Waterville cornfields at 7:30. It took until 10 to unload the stuff that was staying at the condo, and then until 12:45 to unload the rest at the storage unit. Back home by 1:30, in bed by 2, asleep by 2:01...

My brother-in-law woke me up at 6 to get the truck cleaned up and returned to Penske by 7:00 (because I hadn't found the box with the alarm clock in it!). Then Sue and I had breakfast, and by 10:30 got on the MegaBus at Southwyck Mall to ride back to Chicago - mission: to clean the apartment and pick up the car, and return home.

(By the way...if you're looking for cheap transportation in or out of Chicago, the MegaBus service works, IF you can reserve ahead of time. But if you're looking for comfortable, look elsewhere...)

Well, the schedule for the bus and the service were two entirely different things. We got on the bus on time at 11, but we arrived an hour and a half late at 3:00. We got on a CTA bus to Millenium Station, and the 4:08 Metra Electric line back to the south side. By the time we got the car, gave Sue a 5 minute drive-around tour, and got to the apartment, it was 5:00 straight up.

By 9, we had loaded the last of the apartment contents into the car, had cleaned the apartment to a state vastly better than I had received it, and had locked the door once and for all. We picked up McDonald's to go, and to the main title theme from Star Trek: The Voyage Home, hit the interstate by 9:00 Central (10 Eastern).

We got home about 2, and my plan was to be up at 7:00 to set up my office. When my sister came in at 7:15 to see if I was up, she found me moaning with low-back pain and aches, and interspersing muttering and cursing in a way that reminded her more of Ozzy Ozbourne than a former seminarian. (She actually got quite a kick out of it, for a bit.) Eventually, I got up, got enough of the desk and office put together to get connected to work, and begin the travails again at The Evil Empire.

The last three days have been predictable - unpacking for a couple hours in the morning, signing on to EE-land, and participating in their insanity, then Sue has fixed a couple great dinners, and I've spent time trying to find "the one thing that I really need" for the day in the pile of boxes in the garage. This weekend, we will go through them in more detail, get a truck and move the rest of the stuff out to storage.

And so it begins. The low-back pain and all the aches are slowly easing, and the world certainly looks better looking out my window in Waterville. As my friend Cobb noted commenting on my earlier post, it has rained all three days here in Ohio - but I've been checking the weather in Chicago, and it rained there too. But I haven't been accosted by any homeless people on my way to the mailbox, here...

I'm looking forward to checking out some churches in the area...getting back into the recovery community here, and having breakfast with a couple old friends. And who knows, making some new ones, too. For now, I'd like to thank everyone for their prayers, encouragement and support - and it's into the shower and into the work day.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The worst of the storm is over

In one of my more resentful moments this weekend, I came to realize that I have bought into my employer's insanity as far as my move is concerned. Here are the similarities between my projects and work and my move this weekend.

- The plan was overly optimistic, and relied on excessive time and energy commitments from staff/participants.
- Not enough of the right resources were involved early to get adequate preparation done.
- We missed the timeline, and caused all sorts of problems.

So, I had paid helpers to help with the heavy lifting up and down the stars. Unfortunately, they were not nearly as productive ad they needed to be, and I wasn't ready for them. I was still trying to get out of Chicago at noon on Sunday (when I had wanted to leave by 12:30 on Saturday. Finally, I called my sister Sue at 2:30, and said, "Space Command, this is Enterprise - ready to leave SpaceDock." And, with the main title theme to Star Trek: The Voyage Home playing on the iPod, the big yellow truck left Chicago for the Buckeye state.

I got to Toledo at 6:30 CT Sunday, 7:30 ET. The play was to dump everything in the garage, and then sort out where it was to go in the condo. We got done unloading and reloading the truck with what had to go to storage at about 10:45 PM. The truck was empty about 12:15 AM, but the garage is now full - more stuff that eventually will be going to storage or trash, and stuff that needs to go inside, you name it.

As it inched past 2:10, I realized how tired and sore I was. I'd had about 10 hours sleep in 72, and I was done like dinner, as a friend used to say.

I woke up this morning at 6 AM, feeling like I'd lost a round with a bad case of flu. I had aches in places I didn't think could ache, and absolutely exhausted. Swept out the truck, returned it to the local Penske dealer (if you ever have to rent truck, don't bother with U-Know-Who, go with Penske - every time), and took my sister out for breakfast. We are getting on the MegaBus back to Chicago to clean the apartment and pick up the car in 15 minutes, and I'm ready for someone else to be driving.

But we are here, the stuff is here, and no one ended bleeding on anyone or anything this time. Thank you all for your prayers!