I have returned from Florida. I hesitate to say "Sunny Florida," as it was only moderately sunny for one day while I was there. Otherwise, it was overcast and cool. Though it did not even compare to what I was greeted with when I returned home, so I shall not complain.
It was a great time. I am, indeed, glad that I had the opportunity to go. Even though I did need to get up at the butt crack of dawn to get to the airport, and the ticket and security lines were much longer than they needed to be for that early in the morning. But I got through the lines uneventfully, and had no trouble getting to my designated gate at the appropriate time. I had a brief layover in Charlotte, NC, and the plane that took us there was small. There were only two seats on each side of the plane, as opposed to three, which is what I'm used to. And the man who I was sitting next to felt the need to sit in his chair at an angle so he could stretch out his legs, which meant that his shoulder was taking up part of my space. So I just leaned against the wall and fell asleep.
As I was getting on the plane in Charlotte, to fly to Tampa, I ran into a guy who does youth ministry at a church in my synod and is even in my local network (my local network is NOT from a cellphone company, but is a group of area Lutheran youth directors who get together about twice a month to connect and network and have discussions). We ended up being on the same shuttle from the airport to the hotel once we got to Tampa, too, so it was nice to see a familiar and extremely friendly face on the way there.
When I got to the hotel, I knew that my friend and hotel roommate Nate Dawg (not to be confused with this Nate Dogg, who is not my friend) was already there, but I had not put his new cellphone number into my cellphone, and had erased the voicemail message where he told me what room we would be sharing. So I didn't know how to get a hold of him, and didn't know where to go, so I decided to wait and see if the front desk could let me know. However, as I was standing there, he walked out of the gift shop and yelled, "You don't need to check in!" It was great to see him. So we walked up to the room and then he took me over to where we were supposed to register. On the way I ran into a lot of people I knew, including EMo, one of my good friends from seminary. Then I ran into some friends who are still at seminary, as well as some other people I had met through various synod and churchwide activities. It was great to reconnect with a lot of people I have already known and met, and to connect with new people, from my synod and beyond.
There was one unsettling moment when I was walking down the hall and was stopped by someone who looked at me as if she knew me, point at my nametag and said, "Stumbling toward divinity?" I stopped, and looked at her. "Umm.. yeah..." I stammered. "How do you know?" Then she told me that she lived near one of my friends from the Mothership. "Oh! So that's how you know about my blog!" I said. "No," she answered. I was confused again, after that brief moment of thinking I had it figured out. "[Her real name] is my REAL name..." she said. Brief moment of silence. "Oh! Ruth!" I said, to which she smiled and nodded. She admitted to having fun watching me be briefly uncomfortable. It was great fun to meet her, and to be able to put a face to the blog I often read, though I do have to admit, this whole meeting someone who I already "know" through a blog, so I sort of know them but don't really know them, and they know stuff about me... It still is a bit weird sometimes.
Anyway, back to the extravaganza... There were a lot of good workshops, I attended one on ministering to parents of adolescents, and another about storytelling - weaving our story with God's story - and another on ways to make confirmation an interactive learning experience. There were two other times I could have gone to workshops, but I skipped one out of protest because it was scheduled over the noon hour and I thought it was more important for me to eat lunch and network with others than it was to hurry and scarf down some food in between workshop sessions. The other workshop was missed because I went to a fun area of town with a combined group of friends from seminary and friends from my camp/youth director days (which is another weird thing about this event... people from different parts of my life coming together in one place...), and we opted to stay there instead of hurrying back to get to the next workshop. So, instead, we enjoyed margaritas and chips and salsa and sat outside on the one afternoon where the sun decided to show itself.
I know I said I'd take pictures, and I did bring my camera, but I did what I often do in these situations and left it in my room most of the time. I did bring it to our closing worship, but only had one picture taken with it. It was worth it, however, because it's a picture of myself with the Reverend Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA. He was sitting at the table next to us going over notes for his sermon that day.
So, then I left the 60-70 degree weather and flew back here, to the frozen tundra. While I was away I had lowered my thermostat to 60 degrees so it wouldn't be too cold when I got back, but it would also not keep my empty house warm and toasty. I returned to a freezing cold house, and looked at the thermostat and saw that even though it was set for 60 degrees the temperature was far below 50. It may have been below 40, for all I know, but the old thermostat doesn't go down that low. So I cranked it back up to 68 or so degrees, and the furnace kicked on. Finally, by this morning, it had broken 60 degrees. We have yet to reach a temperature where I feel warm.
It also started snowing sometime early this morning, and I had intended to drive this morning to the kennel to pick up Pogo, but the roads I needed to take had not been plowed, so I turned around rather than attempting to drive there and ending up stuck. As I was getting back to town, the snow plow was just coming out on the one highway, and I slid right into the path of the plow. Luckily it wasn't that bad of a slide and the plow had plenty of time to slow down, and I recovered control of the car before it got too close, but it was NOT a fun experience, regardless.
So, anyway, there's a brief taste of my experience this weekend. I'm already looking forward to next year, when it will be in Anaheim, California! Yay!!!