Friday, November 24, 2017

A Centering Photo Meditation for Black Friday

Once the Friday after Thanksgiving launched the Christmas shopping season; now we see Black Friday leaking into other parts of November.  Today, before/as we launch ourselves fully into the holiday season, let's take a minute to think about these winter holidays. 

If we're Christians, can we hold onto the true meaning of this season?  It's not about the gifts under the tree, it's about the baby in the manger.

For some of us, it's about the family gatherings and traditions.


Now, before the holiday madness overwhelms us, let's remember why we're celebrating.  Let us hold onto those reasons.

In this time more than many, it's important to remember that we have a mission--and it's not to get the best bargains.  Could we transform our holiday season so that we're doing something to heal the world?  It could be something as simple as adding socks for the homeless to our shopping list or adding compost to our gardens.

Or maybe it will be something that transforms the world!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Gratitudes

This past season has been a tough one; I have begun to wonder if I will ever recover from Hurricane Irma.  But for today, let me remember to be grateful.

I love the holiday of Thanksgiving.  It's a clear cut holiday, although I know we are headed for the time when it becomes part of the Black Friday shopping frenzy.

 For many of us, Thanksgiving is about a day off, a day to eat a good meal, a day to spend some time with the people we love.  It's not loaded with emotional traps, like Christmas can be.  It's not loaded with such potential for disappointment, like Valentine's Day can be.  It's fairly straightforward.

It's a good day to remember to be grateful.  It's a spiritual discipline that most of us would do well to incorporate into our lives more frequently than just once a year.

So, let me begin today.  I'm grateful that the hurricane wasn't worse.  I'm grateful we have resources to deal with the aftermath.

I am happy with my job, a year later.  In fact I like it even better now than I did when I first started.

I'm grateful that my health is still fairly good, even with my diagnosis of arthritis in my feet.  My spouse, too, is holding on.  Would I change anything in terms of health?  Oh yes.  Most people who make it into their 50's have health stuff that they'd like to change.  But I'm grateful for what's not in our lives:  no cancer diagnosis, no diseases so severe that we consider suicide.

But mostly, I'm grateful for friends and family.  I'm grateful for the good things they're experiencing.  I'm grateful for all the good times we've had together.  I'm grateful that we continue down life's road together.

I'm hopeful that the coming year will be better than the past one.  I'm grateful for my optimism that may flag, but always undergirds my outlook.

Let me not get so lost in my luckiness that I forget to be mindful of those who can't be so grateful.  Let me work to create a world where we all will have enough.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tables of Gratitude

Tomorrow, we will sit down at our tables of gratitude.

Some will have spent the past month working on the meal.

Some will show up empty-handed.

Some of the arguments will seem familiar.

But some of us will find fresh connections.

We walk through this labyrinth both alone and together.

Can we find the common ground?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Creative Thanksgiving

For many of us, Thanksgiving is a time where our main creative efforts will revolve around the meal.

But maybe we can find time for other creative pursuits.  Maybe it's time to transform the pumpkins of Halloween into Thanksgiving decorations:

Maybe we can remember childhood, even if we don't have children in our lives who will draw with us.

We could make an autumnal arrangement.  It needn't involve expensive flowers.

Maybe we only have time for a gratitude haiku; here's mine to get us started:


Travels behind us,
We gather for food and fun,
Deeper nourishment.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Turkey Acquisition and Other Tasks of the Modern Administrator

Today is my only day of work this week, so I anticipate that it will be a full one.  We have a holiday lunch for faculty and staff today;  I found myself in charge of the turkey acquisition.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.  At first, we thought we could piggy back our order on the Ft. Lauderdale campus order, and we publicized the event.  And then it turns out that we couldn't piggy back our order.  I thought, how hard can it be?  We couldn't get a similar deal, and so I spent more hours than I would have thought possible in procuring turkey.

We don't have a stove on campus, so many of our options weren't possible.  I also wanted the turkey carved, and perhaps it's not surprising to find out that many places will sell a cooked turkey, but you must carve it yourself.  We went with Doris' Italian Market, in part because we got a decent deal, but in larger part because they could deliver a cooked, carved turkey.  We ordered 3 of them.

I've spent the week-end dreaming about this event today.  I've dreamed that we could cook on campus.  I've dreamed that we just had an ordinary dinner.  I've woken up worried that the turkeys won't come.

I keep reminding myself that it's just one meal.  I'm not feeding homeless people--we'll go on to have dinner.  And we're bringing dishes to share, so it's not like anyone will go hungry.

And I keep reminding myself that I didn't volunteer for this task, and I've done the best job that I can do.  If for some reason the turkeys do not satisfy, it won't be a job ending moment.

I'm intrigued by how I feel responsible for it all, and how I'm trying to keep it in perspective.  I remember when I was a much younger woman in grad school, and we were warned against being the one who would always make the coffee or bring the cookies--our female mentors thought that it would be likely, since we would be one of few female faculty members.

That may have been true, had I gone the research university, tenure track route.  And yet, I wasn't studying Engineering.

At my current campus, we have far more women working than men.  I don't mind pitching in to procure food, especially if I have more time to devote to that project than others might.  I've even been known to bring in cookies.

I've been surprised by how many people have expressed their worries about the sign up sheet.  I even had one person suggest to me that I should be doing more to organize the pot luck, perhaps assigning food groups to people.  But that's a bridge too far, for me.  I want everyone to bring foods they love, and if we end up with more starchy side dishes and desserts than nutritious veggies, I don't care. 

I return to my central point:  it's one meal, for well-fed, Western, working folks.  If we leave hungry, we'll all go home to have dinner.

Update:  the turkeys were delivered--carved and hot and right on schedule.  We had several tables of food that people brought, and it was all delicious--think of the best church potluck you've ever had--it was like that.  People relaxed and laughed and talked and it was great.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Will I Decorate Today?

I usually decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving so that I have plenty of time to appreciate the decorations.  If I wait, it will often be early December before I can decorate--or that's what I tell myself.  It's not like our decorating takes a long time, though.  We don't have to haul boxes out of the attic, and we don't go out to cut our own tree.

I thought I might decorate last night, when my spouse was likely to be zoning out in front of the TV.  But I found it oddly overwhelming, the thought of decorating.   I have two new autumn placemats that I managed to quilt--but my placemat storage space is limited.  Of course, I'll take the Advent/Christmas placemats out of the drawer, but that forces me to face the sad state of our dining room table with its insurance documents that have taken up permanent residence.

Today I will once again try to get some decorating done.  This shouldn't be so hard.  But there it is--in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to record these moments.  I blame them on both post-hurricane blahs and the week that I've felt which has left me so worn out and worried about being at a breaking point which I'll only recognize later, when I'm surrounded by shards.

But yesterday had its good moments.  I wanted to do self-care yesterday, which for me does not mean exotic bath salts or a massage.  It means that I cook good food, so that I'm not living on cheese, crackers, and wine all day--and so, we made a wonderful pot roast with all its yummy veggies.  I went to JoAnns to get some backing fabric for a baby quilt.  I got grading done.  I did some writing.

I will strive to have a similar day today.  And maybe by the end of today, some small trees will be twinkling on some of the surfaces of our house.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Let Me Remember My Weekly Creative Efforts

Let me take a look back at my creativity this week.  I want to remember what I've accomplished, even if I feel I haven't accomplished all that I wish that I could:

--I sent out 8 poetry packets and short stories.  Let me note how much I get done if I don't waste an afternoon in Internet surfing.

--I wrote 2 new poems, one of which I like.  I also took some poem fragments and wove them together.

--I worked on short stories, especially the linked collection of activists at 50—which has grown into something that is so much more. I figured out that even though a lot of the characters are administrators and having similar conversations with students, they aren’t the same conversations. I figured out how to use one of my all-time favorite stories (“Day of the Dead”), written before I was working on this collection.

--One night, my spouse and I turned off the TV and broke out the art supplies.  I had a good night with watercolors.

--I made a delicious pasta dinner with shrimp and lemon juice and zest.  It's always a delight to realize that it's easy to cook a satisfying meal even if one is short on time and ingredients.

--I did some administrative writing which felt more important than most administrative writing that I do:  I helped revise a nomination letter for a student scholarship, and I wrote a nomination essay for a group to be recognized for community service.  Will anything come of it?  I have no idea.  But I was heartened by the e-mail that I got from a student from years ago who got into Georgia Tech, in part because of the letter of recommendation that I wrote for him for his files.

--I also created a work event:  Pie and Gratitude.  One of my colleagues volunteered to buy the pies at Sam's Club, and I accepted her offer.  On Thursday, I cut pies and put them on plates and throughout the day, I invited everyone to have pie.

When I left Thursday afternoon, we still had lots of pie, and I thought we might be eating pie for the next few days.  But the event was much more popular with evening students--they ate every scrap.

I know that some students experience food scarcity, so I'm trying to create events that involve food at least every few weeks.

It's been a good creative week--I don't always remember that I've had good creative weeks unless I catalog them periodically.