Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 17, 2014

Of early days and lazy times

Cathie Shaffer
The Independent

ASHLAND — It’s been a long time since I sat in a classroom sweating out a grade. Yet last weekend, I was in a chair at 7 a.m. — two days in a row! — listening to an instructor.

I’m enrolled in something called the Course of Study, 400 hours of training required by the United Methodist Church for those of us who become local pastors. There are options to take some classes online, but I decided I wanted to do my learning in person to gain the benefit of being with fellow students.

These classes are akin to a master’s degree. Reading assignments and papers are to be done before the classes begin, and there’s plenty of both to keep us busy.

I’ve chosen to take my classes on weekends at an education and retreat center in West Virginia. The setting is beautiful; my fellow students are interesting, friendly and fun to be around.

And even thought it’s a pretty intense educational experience, going away for the weekend gives me a nice break from my regular routine.

Yes, I was literally up before the crack of dawn. But after those 7 a.m. classes, we all headed for the dining hall where food cooked by someone else waited for us.

Other people made the coffee, brewed the ice tea , set the table and did the dishes.

That was definitely a nice change.

My room was in the third retreat cottage and my classes were in the first one. I soon discovered that the cottage, located between my two destinations, was where the coffee and snacks were. Thinking makes me hungry sometimes, and it was nice to be able to grab an apple or bag of chips someone else bought, brought in and put into bowls for us to have.

Being in a cottage, I had a bed that was already made with sheets, blankets and pillows. The dorm folks weren’t quite as lucky; they had to bring their own bedding. Granted, four of us shared one room and one bathroom, but that made it kinda like being at church camp, only in the winter.

Best of all was how driving a couple of hours to an isolated retreat made the rest of the world go away. I didn’t wonder once what came in the mail while I was gone or if the thermostat was set up too high.

With no television, I was blissfully unaware of what was going on in the world. If something important happened, I figured we’d find out.

I did take my laptop computer, but didn’t feel the need to check my email or update my status on Facebook. I could have; there was a wireless connection. I just didn’t want to.

For the last couple of summers, I’ve been determined to take the dog and go camping. That’s pretty easy around here given the number of state parks and private campgrounds. Yet I never quite got around to it.

My weekend away reminded me to start making those plans now. I have everything I need for an outdoor stay from the inflatable bed that fits in the back of my station wagon to folding chairs, fire starters and cooking pots. Everything’s been ready all this time except me. There always seems to be something more important.

Call me selfish, but come warm weather, call before you come by. I may just be lazing on a grassy lot with the dog at my feet as we watch the world go by.

CATHIE SHAFFER, executive editor of The Greenup News, can be reached at cathieshaffer@zoominternet.net