The Boredom of Holidays

When you’re retired and have no family living near, holidays can be incredibly boring.

I would love to go somewhere and do something, but the heat (note that it is 9:30 in the morning, and there’s an expected high of 92 deg today)

dictates doing something indoors, and Big Al’s back means it can’t be anything that involves walking any distance.  So we spend the holiday weekends just like we spend every weekend – only an extra day of it.  We don’t have the funds to go anywhere overnight, and any decent scenery to drive through is more than a day – round trip.  We have to save our sheckles for moving to Tacoma.

And as retirees, weekends don’t feel any different than weekdays, except for church on Sunday.  At least we get to play bridge during the week on Wednesday afternoons (Big Al plays at the church and I play at a ladies’ bridge group at Barnes & Nobles).

If and when we get moved into Franke Tobey Jones ( in Tacoma, we’ll be able to just walk across the street from our house to find a bridge game, get lunch, attend a class or even use the exercise equipment.  And we won’t have to worry about the heat!

People wonder how we’ll cope with the constant grey skies, and rain in the Pacific northwest.  We lived in England for 6 years, and I didn’t think it rained enough.  You just buy a good raincoat and an umbrella, and maybe some wellies, and you go out and live your lives (without sweating as soon as you walk out the door.)

We enjoyed the beginning of our annual West Wing marathon last week.  We finally gave up and opened some of the boxes we packed 18 months ago, and got out our own copies of the show. At least now we don’t have to carefully plan our viewing to be sure we get our Netflix delivery on time.  I’m eternally grateful that we can watch instant movies with the Sony DVD Player and Netflix.

So now it’s back to working with Facebook to see whether I have all the ladies in the Presbyterian Women Interest Group friended and on my list.

Why You Should Buy My House

You are tired of driving 30 minutes or more (and paying for the gasoline) to get to work.  With DART at Walnut Hill Station, you can be on the train in 5 minutes.  Just think – you could enjoy your home without spending hours in the car.  And you’d be home in time to barbecue in the evening.

Check out all the particulars at

There will be an open house on Saturday, May 28, 2011 from 2-5 p.m.  Come by and see it.

Or if you don’t want to wait, contact our realtor, Liz Applewhite, 214-789-7399 or

Words Matter

Presbyterian Women’s Peace and Justice Committee has made available a new issue of Words Matter, the resource I used during Lent for some of my blogs.  This issue features three stories from three different people who noticed the importance of words.

The first story tells of a woman who received a grant of money to purchase musical instruments for her students with learning disabilities. Along with the grant came to opportunity to speak to the executive committee at the next conference. She was very intimidated, but placed herself in God’s hands. “My Creator gave me strength to speak with confidence and…the grant was increased for the next recipients!”

The second story is from a man who, as a child, saw a sign in the church choir room that said, “Peace on earth and good will to men.” Only someone had scratched through the word “men” and written in the word “ALL.”  He says, “I’m grateful for that bit of godly graffiti in the church choir room…we are called to read between the lines, listen to voices from the margins, rewrite exclusive and oppressive stories, and proclaim the good news of the gospel:  God’s gift of grace and peace for all.”

The third story reminds us that the Hebrew name for God, YHWH, can be read as “I will be whomever I will be.” The author says, “I could LOVE God who refused to be defined by human language that is a product of patriarchal culture…My God is a verb, ever evolving…”

In Genesis 1:1-5, God spoke the light into being. And in John 1:1-4, we read “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

What is the power of our words? How might we use them?

Presbyterian Women On-Line!

I think my last post was when I was on the train on the way home from #UNCO11. I know it was a long time ago, but I’ve been really busy trying to begin to implement some of the things we talked about there. I told you that we thought we would start Presbyterian Women On-Line with a small group of 10-12 and grow it as we went.

OH MY GOODNESS! Before I even got home on Friday (this is less than 48 hours since the words were first spoken) we had a Facebook group with over 160 members – ladies who were interested and enthusiastic about having this opportunity. Do you think it’s possible that we found a need? Among that 160 members are several from the national organization of Presbyterian Women who had been wondering how to tap into social media with the group.

I spent most of Friday afternoon and Saturday morning thinking and contemplating and worrying about what this thing that we’ve birthed was going to look like, logistically.  As an ex-CPA, and an ISTJ, I get jumpy if I can’t get organizations categorized and sorted and into some sort of shape. It can grow and change from there, but I feel like we need to have some starting point.

So, as a CPA/numbers/database person, I started a spreadsheet from the list of women on the Facebook page, and matched them up with Twitter handles that I knew about.  Then I started collecting the data of where they were located (Presbytery), what their ordination status was (Deacon, Ruling Elder, Teaching Elder, Laity), what generation they were ( 20s, 30s, 40s, etc. – I got that from high school graduation dates on Facebook), and what causes they were particularly interested in (that came from comments to posts on the Facebook site).

In order to get some sort of form to the organization, I took ideas from everything that I’ve seen on Facebook, and what was said at #UNCO11, and this is what I came up with. The whole point of this is to strengthen and use the existing structure of Presbyterian Women.

I envision a three-part structure for Presbyterian Women On-line.

  1.  Bible Study
    1. Everyone will be assigned to a 10-12 person Bible Study Circle
    2. These circles should have a wide range of ages represented
    3. These circles should have a wide range geographically represented
    4. These circles should be balanced with laity, deacons, ruling elders and teaching elders represented in each one (if possible).
    5. Each circle should be free to decide what form their circle wants to take for the Bible study – discuss by commenting on a blog, discuss in real-time via Skype, discuss in a private chat-room, something else I haven’t even thought of.
  2. Mission Work
    1. Mission work would be structured around “Causes”
    2. Women could self-select their Mission Teams based on their own passions
    3. Mission Teams would be separate from the Bible Study Circles, although a particular Bible Study Circle might decide to take on a mission project if they wished
    4. Someone would need to keep track of which causes were active so people could be directed to the right place and to keep from duplication of effort.
    5. The Mission causes could be (certainly not limited to) – Accessibility Issues, Racial Issues, Peace and Justice Issues, Sexual Orientation Issues, Hunger, Clean Water, something else I haven’t even thought of.
    6. This is where we would need resources and help from the national body
    7. The mission teams could do their work by any means they want to – Letter writing campaign,  handicraft projects (knitting baby caps, making
      tray favors, etc.), Fund raisers locally or on-line, Choosing a particular mission field to pray for and support monetarily, Something else I haven’t even thought of
  3. Fellowship and Relationship Building
    1. Everyone would be sorted geographically as well so they could greet each other at Presbytery meetings
    2. We would encourage meeting geographically for lunch/coffee/supper a couple of times a year
    3. We would encourage social groupings like a recipe blog, knitting connections, book discussion group, etc.
    4. Something else I haven’t even thought of

We hope to have the thing fleshed out and running in time to begin the Horizons Bible Study in September. We are so lucky to have Margaret Aymer Oget, the author of the study, as part of the Visioning Group, and she has committed to helping with the monthly lessons, perhaps with a webinar that every circle can hook in to.

If you are interested in other initiatives and projects coming out of #UNCO11, see Carol Howard Merritt’s blog where she lists other folk’s blogs and impressions.

If any of my readers are Presbyterian Women who may have had difficulty in attending face-to-face Circle Meetings, and want to get involved in an on-line circle, please let me know in the comments, or send me a message on Facebook (Abbie Watters) or on Twitter (@abbiewatters).

Leaving #UNCO11

This morning began with an opportunity to reflect on our conversations of the past days.

We broke into 6 groups to talk about what will come out of this experience.


Carol Howard Merritt led us on discerning the areas we wanted to focus on, going forward. I joined a group led by Margaret Aymer Oget (twitter handle @mayog) talking about how we could take our ideas and thoughts and use existing organizations without reinventing the wheel. Our discussion focused primarily on Presbyterian Women as a healthy, but aging vehicle for mission, and peace and justice issues and action.


By tweeting our desire to start a Virtual Circle of Presbyterian Women, we found that Laura Viau has a commission from her Presbytery to do just that. She will be the circle leader, Margaret will be the study leader and we already have five members of the circle. We’ll see how it goes, but we will try to keep the membership under 20. When it gets bigger than that, we will split it and form two new circles. Because it is virtual, we hope to reach younger women who may want to participate, but who, because of family and work responsibilities are not able to attend regular meetings.

Following the breakout sessions, we met again for closing worship.


Worship included communion led by a husband and wife ministerial team along with their three children. The kids (ages 5, and 3) knew all the words of invitation and repeated them along with their mom who held the baby as she spoke the words of dedication. Then the 5 year old helped his dad distribute the elements, as we took communion by Intinction.


After we sang a hymn we departed to lunch and our own homes.

At #UNCO11

I got up a about 8:15 this morning, although according to my body it was 7:15 and took a long, hot shower. It felt really good, since I hadn’t had a chance to shower for several days. I have a nice room here at Stony Point Conference Center. Janet Bohren and I were originally scheduled to be roommates, but when we got here, our names had been left off the list. The nice lady at the desk found us a room in a building that wasn’t being used, but when we got over there it turned out the room had one double bed. We are both old ladies and are not used to sleeping with anyone but our husbands, so we were stretching it to room together, much less share a bed. They had plenty of rooms, though, so they left me in the double bed and gave Janet another room with two twin beds. It turned out really very well. The bathroom and toilet are down the hall, but there are three shower rooms and three toilets, so we have our pick and there’s nobody else here so there’s no conflict on who gets to use the shower first. 🙂

I confess I was late for breakfast and missed worship this morning, but I figured I was entitled. I also didn’t go to the breakout session. Most of the participants here are pastors and were very interested in talking about things like BiVocational Ministry and Reimagining the Sacraments.  I took that opportunity to write my blog for yesterday.

In the second hour I went to Lay Ministry for Lay People. It was very interesting to hear what everyone else thought. We agreed that most ministers assume anyone working in the church REALLY wants to be ordained, and those of us in the room agreed that we didn’t really care about ordination. Hopefully one of the outcomes of nFOG, if passed, will be a greater valuation of Ruling Elders by Teaching Elders.

After lunch I attended a session on Volunteers v. Disciples. We talked about how to help move folks along who thought of themselves as volunteers and help them start thinking of themselves as Disciples. We did agree though that God is the one who is in the business of making Disciples. What we really need to do is get out of Her way.

The final session of the day I sat in a group with Margaret Aymer Oget who wrote the Presbyterian Women’s study for next year of the Beatitudes. I think if the women in PW take it seriously, it will end up changing the church, and maybe changing the world. It’s going to be very powerful.

I then stopped in on the Prayer Stations and talked to some kids about Praying in Color.  They seemed to enjoy it, and were very interested to see my notebook.

I’m now going to supper. The food here is amazing. The Center grows most of its own vegetables, and bakes its own bread, so we’ve eaten responsibly as well as tastily.

Arriving and Arrival at #UNCO11

I boarded the Lakeshore Limited right on time about 8:00 p.m. on Sunday evening. The train pulled out at 9:30 on the dot. I crawled in bed as soon as the attendant put down my bed and was out like a light. I woke up in Cleveland only because the train was stopped at the station for a while.

I figured I’d get up and to breakfast as soon as they started serving. So I struggled to dress in about 2 sq ft of floor space and got to the diner shortly after 6:30.


(Gee, that looks like the same thing she had yesterday!) Another cheese omelet, etc.

The day was spent trekking across the northern tier of the US. The weather was damp and dreary the whole way and the rivers were all running full or flooding.


The Hudson, even upriver from Albany was put of it’s banks. Lunch on the train was pretty good, even though the dining steward conned me into the special. He described it as flatiron steak, infused with ancho chilis in a light chili sauce, thinly sliced over a bed of rice. It turned out to be chunky chili over rice. It was pretty good, but hardly as advertised.

Down the Hudson River Valley, the tide was in and with the flooding upriver, it looked like the train was running with it’s wheels in the water.


We pulled in to Croton-Harmon station and my ride from Doug and Janet was waiting. They were on their way from Ohio and stopped to get me. After 10 hrs of traveling, they had arrived about 5 min before the train!

We got to Stony Point Center in time for a little dinner. And then to opening Worship.

During Worship we were asked what we were offering to the Unconference. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I guess I offer perspective. The perspective of age and, since many here are struggling with failing churches, the perspective of a large, successful church in a large, fairly successful Presbytery.

On my Way to #UNCO11

I woke up when we were somewhere in Missouri. I finally figured out how to struggle around and get dressed in about 1 sq ft of floor space! Then I scurried down to the diner for breakfast.


We rode along right beside the mighty Mississippi. It was high, but no longer flooding. They said the water was over the tracks last week, but we even saw some barge traffic on the river.


The old Union Station in St. Louis has been turned into shops and a hotel.


We go right past Busch Stadium and then we cross the Mississippi and get a great view of the arch.


There were lots of barges tied up, so I guess the river downstream is closed.


We seem to have been consistently 1 hour behind the whole trip. Every time we would make up 15 minutes, we would get stuffed on a siding to wait while a Union Pacific freight went by. But we really never lost any more time.

We got in to Joliet about an hour late, even though the internet was swearing we were on time, so I called my son to alert him.


When the train pulled in, there was Ray waiting for me. We picked up my checked bag and and put everything in the 1st Class lounge in checked baggage. Then we sat and visited a while and the went out to look at the Chicago River just outside the station.


It had turned really cold. I got yesterday’s sweatshirt out and wore both today’s and yesterday’s and I was still cold so we came back inside and sat in the lounge where there’s wi-fi, and I wrote this post.


We’ll go to supper in a bit and then I’ll board the Lakeshore Limited to arrive finally at #unco11 tomorrow.

On my Way to UNCO11

I spent the morning going back over everything to be sure I didn’t forget anything.

Today is local elections in Dallas, so Big Al and I left the house about noon to go to the polls and do our civic duty.

Then, finally, it was time to get started. We went to El Fenix for lunch since I’m going to be seriously Mexican food deprived while I’m gone (I just know I won’t be able to get really good Tex-Mex in the wilds of New York state.)

Then we headed to downtown Dallas and Union Station. I had been checking Amtrak on-line regularly and they vowed and swore the train was on time.
We got there about 3:00 – the train was supposed to arrive at 3:20 and pull out at 3:40.

WRONG! It actually pulled in at 4:25, but we were on our way in about 10 minutes. They had us standing on the platform, waiting when the train came around the corner.

Once we got underway we moved right along. My sleeping car attendant had made me a reservation for the 5:30 seating on the dining car.

That’s pretty early for me to eat, especially when I’m stuffed full of Mexican food, but I took myself to the diner when the call for 5:30 came. Now I’m stuffed with a steak dinner! It was really pretty good except that they were all out of chocolate ice cream for dessert.

We’re sitting in Longview and have made up about 15 minutes, so we may be back on schedule by breakfast.

(sorry, I have several pictures that I was going to include in this post, but I haven’t figured out how to get them in there. You’ll just have to imagine them in the appropriate places. :-))





It has been suggested that we document our travels and activities to #Unco11. Hereby begins the tale.

On Monday, May 9th, it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t have a rolling suitcase and since Big Al wouldn’t be accompanying me or assisting me in schlepping my junk, I’d better get something I could manage.

I purchased a lovely red one that matches my backpack nicely.

On Thursday, May 12, Big Al was overcome with a fit of jealousy in anticipation of me getting New York Deli food (possibly) and so we went to Gio’s for lunch.

Thursday evening, I laid out all my clothes for “pre-packing”.  Sweatshirts…


and underwear and socks (I know, TMI).

All the electronics (Netbook and plugs, Nook and plug, iPhone plug), a change of clothes, and my Praying in Color pens and notebook fit nicely in the backpack.

I’m so ready to leave it’s a miracle that I’m not going to spend the night at the train station.