Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Feast Day of St. Luke

On October 18, we celebrate the life of St. Luke, a creator, an evangelist, and a healer. Some churches might have a healing service in honor of Luke’s role as patron saint of doctors and surgeons. But St. Luke was so much more: he’s also the patron saint of artists, students, and butchers. He’s given credit as one of the founders of iconography. And of course, he was a writer--both of one of the Gospels and the book of Acts. As we think about the life of St. Luke, let us use his life as a guide for how we can bring ourselves back to health and wholeness.

The feast day of St. Luke offers us a reason to evaluate our own health—why wait until the more traditional time of the new year? Using St. Luke as our inspiration, let’s think about the ways we can promote health of all kinds.

Do we need to schedule some check-ups? October is perhaps most famous for breast cancer awareness month, but there are other doctors that many of us should see on a regular basis. For example, if you get a lot of sun exposure, or if you live in southern states, you should get a baseline check up from your dermatologist.

Many of us don’t need to visit a doctor to find out what we can do to promote better health for ourselves. We can eat more fruits and vegetables. We can drink less alcohol. We can get more sleep. We can exercise and stretch more.

Maybe we need to look to our mental health. If so, Luke can show us the way again.

Luke is famous as the writer of the Gospel of Luke and Acts, but it’s important to realize that he likely didn’t see himself as writing straight history. He was maintaining a record of amazing events that showed evidence of God’s salvation.

It’s far too easy to ignore evidence of God’s presence in the world. We get bogged down in our own disappointments and our deeper depressions. But we could follow the example of Luke and write down events that we see in our own lives and the life of our churches that remind us of God’s grace. Even if it’s a practice as simple as a gratitude journal where each day we write down several things for which we’re grateful, we can write our way back to right thinking.

As we think about St. Luke, we can also look for ways to deepen our spiritual health. In popular imagination, Luke gets credit for creating the first icon of the Virgin Mary. Maybe it’s time for us to try something new.

We could experiment with the visual arts to see how they could enrich our spiritual health. We might choose something historical and traditional, like iconography. Or we might decide that we want to experiment with something that requires less concentration and training. Maybe we want to create a collage of images that remind us of God’s abundance. Maybe we want to meditate on images, like icons, like photographs, that call us to healthy living.

St. Luke knew that there are many paths to health of all sorts. Now, on his feast day, let us resolve to spend the coming year following his example and restoring our lives to a place of better health.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Last night, I did some packing for my Lutheridge retreat this week-end.  I moved some clothes out of the cottage closet where they've been since July.  I thought about the clothes that aren't in the closet yet, a few items I put in a big suitcase back in July because they are more wintry, but I decided to leave them in the big suitcase in the cottage.

All along, I've said that I hoped we could get the home repairs done by Halloween, but I'll be happy if they're done by Christmas.  People reacted as if I was joking.  I was partly joking, but partly serious.

The home repairs will not be done by Halloween.  But we are chugging along, so that's good.

I pour my coffee at the coffee station that I've set up in the bathroom.  Once, I'd have needed a microwave to heat the milk.  Now the microwave is in the bedroom, where it's been since late August.  I haven't had a special coffee beverage at home since then.  Once I bought a gallon of milk a week.  Now I haven't bought milk in weeks.  I used to drink hundreds of calories before leaving the house.  Now I drink my coffee black.  I wonder if I'll continue to do this once we have the new kitchen.

I know that some people are switching out their closets.  I'll do that too, when I return.  We will need the big suitcase for Thanksgiving.  And who knows--maybe we'll finally get a cold front by then.  In the past, we sometimes get a cold front by mid October, but not this year.  The heat is beginning to wear me down.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Subtle Seasonal Shifts

As I've been driving home, I've been noticing more houses decorated for Halloween.  I remember last year, amidst hurricane wreckage, seeing a house decorated here or there and feeling like we had lost a whole season, post-Hurricane Irma.  This year we have yet to have our first cold front make its way down here, so it's disconcerting to see the Halloween decorations and to reflect how late in the year it really is.

And yet the light is shifting.  Yesterday morning, as I walked up the outside parking garage stairs at school, I realized that the sun is rising more to the south now, and the building blocks the light.  In the summer when I climb the stairs, the sun is blinding.

The shift in seasons is VERY subtle this far south.  Some years, it's the scent of a cinnamon broom in a grocery store that first alerts me.  Other years, it's the arrival of pumpkins that transforms a church yard or a scarecrow keeping watch, even though there are no crops or crows.

This week-end, I will experience a much more wrenching seasonal shift.  I am off to a retreat at Lutheridge in the mountains of North Carolina, while my spouse stays here to take care of teaching responsibilities.  I hope to return with mountain apples and other goodies.

Once, I made this trip more often, but it's been a few years since I made an October trip--so I'm really looking forward to it.  The retreat is a 50 Forward retreat--a series designed for people in their 50's as they think about midlife and what's beyond.  Each year there's a different theme--this year's theme is "Simple Enough:  Living More with Less."  At the Create in Me retreat back in April, I saw the theme and had a pastor friend tell me that I should really attend this one--and so, I am!  I'm happy for all the help I can get, as we make choices about this house and about the future.

As I move about my mostly normal life, I'm deeply aware of all of those who have been disrupted during this severe hurricane season.  I feel more than a bit of survivor's guilt--it could have been me, and I'm so glad that it hasn't been so far.  As I make coffee in the bathroom each morning, I reflect on how much my mostly normal life continues to be disrupted by last year's severe hurricane season.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Poetry Monday: "Blistered Palms"

Before we get too far away from last week, and the week before that, let me record 2 publishing successes.  I got my contributor copy of Gather, which published my article "Praying with Medieval Mystics."  In it, I explore Hildegard of Bingen and Julian of Norwich--longtime readers of my blogs know that I've explored the lives of those women before, but I like the ways I wove the ideas together.

I also got my contributor copy of Adanna, which published my poem "Blistered Palms," which I wrote in the aftermath of last year's hurricane season.  It was one of those strange moments, reading the poem, when I recognized the inspiration for some of it, but not the rest; I don't remember the writing process, the way I do with some poems.  I remember driving by the huge piles of brush which had shreds of trash blowing in a breeze.  It was close to Halloween, and at first I thought I might be seeing a Halloween decoration that had migrated, a ghost in those branches.  I remember the time when it seemed that every morning, a different piece of jewelry broke.

Do I see this poem as hopeful?  Yes, in a way.  I also see some of the spiritual elements of my Christian tradition, that direction to try fishing again, maybe from a different side of the boat.  And of course, there is the title, which talks to me of both the palms of hands, whether they be crucified hands or hands blistered from clearing away hurricane damaged palm trees.

Blistered Palms

When the last china cup cracked,
we found the courage to face
the future. The oracle couldn’t tell
us, but we knew.

We needed no tea leaves; the blisters
on our hands gave the palm
reader all the information needed.

In this month of broken jewelry
clasps and missing wedding rings,
tattered ghosts haunt the hurricane wreckage.

Branches claw the debris piles of our hearts.
We see the water marks even though the floods
have receded. The decaying mums
keep watch.

I have dined on stinging nettles
before sunrise. But I am ready to jettison
this suitcase of loss and longing
that I’ve been lugging
through the fading autumn light.

I will steal a sailboat
and glide to the place
where the deep
waters of the ocean meet
the mouth of the Bay.

I will cast my nets again
into the depths.
I will wait for new fish.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Romero and Me--and All of Us

Oscar Romero is now officially a saint.  I've written about him many times before, but I can't resist writing about him again.  When I made this collage card, I couldn't believe that he'd ever be canonized:

I was alive when he was martyred, but I didn't hear or read about it.  I remember reading about some of the more famous murders, particularly of the nuns, and wondering why people would murder nuns or missionaries who were there to help--I had yet to learn of the horrors of colonialism throughout history.

In my first year of college, I was asked to be part of a service that honored the martyrdom of Romero, and this event was likely how I heard of him first.  Or maybe it was earlier that semester when our campus pastor took a group of us to Jubilee Partners.

Jubilee Partners was a group formed by the same people that created Koinonia, the farm in Americus Georgia that most people know because they also created Habitat for Humanity--but they were so much more, in their witness of how Christian love could play out in real practice in one of the most segregated and poor parts of the U.S. south.  In the early years of Jubilee Partners, when I went there, the group helped people from Central America get to Canada, where they could get asylum in the 1980's, when they couldn't get asylum in the U.S.

My consciousness was formed by these encounters and by other encounters I had throughout the 80's.  I met many people in the country illegally, and I heard about the horrors that brought them here.  Then, as now, I couldn't imagine why we wouldn't let these people stay.

At the end of my undergraduate years, just after Platoon came out, my college had a screening of Oliver Stone's Salvador--what a powerful movie.  Stone does a great job of showing the importance of the Catholic church in that war-torn decade of that country.

Many of us may think that those civil wars are over, but many countries in Central America are still being torn apart by violence.  The words of Romero decades ago are sadly still relevant today:  "Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brothers. Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God, which says, 'Thou shalt not kill'. No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you obeyed your consciences rather than sinful orders. The church cannot remain silent before such an abomination. ...In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: stop the repression."

But his teachings go beyond just a call for an end to killing.  His messages to the wider church are still powerful:  "A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed — ​what gospel is that?"

And even those of us who are not part of a faith tradition can find wisdom in his teachings:  "Each time we look upon the poor, on the farmworkers who harvest the coffee, the sugarcane, or the cotton... remember, there is the face of Christ."

If we treated everyone we met as if that person was God incarnate, what a different world we would have!

But for those of us who are tired from the work of this weary world, here's a message of hope and a reminder of the long view:  "We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own."

On this day that honors a man who was not always honored, let us take heart from his words and from his example.  Let us also remember that he was not always this force for good in the world; indeed, he was chosen to be Archbishop because the upper management of the church thought he would keep his nose stuck in a book and out of politics. 

In these days that feel increasingly more perilous, let us recommit ourselves to the type of love that Romero called us to show:  "Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Self Help from Saints and Others

Yesterday's leadership conference simulcast was about what I expected:  lots of self-help "you can do it" talk, with some nuggets of usefulness, with inspiring stories, with very little here is how you do it plans.

It was interesting to start the day by thinking of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who will be canonized on Sunday, Oct. 14, and then go to the leadership conference--such different leadership styles.  I thought of how much I would have to pay for the leadership simulcast, if I hadn't gotten a free ticket because of my faculty status at Broward College.  I thought of Romero, who broadcast his homilies on the radio so that all could hear.  I thought of John Maxwell, who feels we should invest in ourselves so he doesn't offer scholarships to his conferences.

Such different leadership styles.

I thought of Oscar Romero who used his platform to become a voice for those who had no voice.  I thought of his pleading for us to be better, his insistence that the killing must stop.  Romero had a vision of how his country could be a better place.  I thought of the presenters at the leadership conference who explained how they had become better, and how we could all be better--but not much talk of societal transformation.

Such different leadership styles.

I thought of Oscar Romero, who was chosen to be archbishop because he seemed like the bland kind of priest who wouldn't make waves or find trouble.  I thought of Romero, who could have had a fairly cushy existence as archbishop, but who couldn't ignore the call to do more.  Some of the speakers in yesterday's simulcast had a somewhat similar trajectory, most specifically Tyler Perry, who could have retired long ago and spent the gobs of money that he's earned--but he feels a responsibility to all the people who work for him.  There was a hint of the larger world, and I wondered what he might say if he was speaking in a different environment.

Such different leadership styles.

As I watched the simulcast while thinking of Romero, I thought I might be too judgmental.  Maybe the many people watching the speakers would transform their leadership styles, which might make the world a better place.  Maybe if we had hundreds of workplaces that were more "transformational" and "leadershift" styled, maybe that would be enough.  After all, at this point, most of the U.S. doesn't find itself facing the kinds of challenges faced by Romero's El Salvador.

And yet . . . and yet . . .

Friday, October 12, 2018

Leadership Trainings

Another week has zoomed by.  Today I will be away my main campus to go to a leadership event at the beautiful Bailey Hall of Broward College.  I saw an opportunity for a free ticket, and I asked my boss what he thought; in my last performance review, he had noted as an opportunity for growth that I go to management and/or leadership development.  He approved, and so off I will go.

I'm not sure what to expect; the event says it will "breathe new life into your leadership" by way of "a leader development experience designed to equip you with new perspectives, practical tools and key takeaways."   Although some of the names are familiar to me, I don't think of all of them as leadership teachers.  I'm thinking most specifically of Tyler Perry.

It's been an intense few weeks, both in terms of my work life (start of Fall quarter) and in the larger communities of my life.  While I expect that the retreat I'll attend next week will do more to rejuvenate me, I'm also looking forward to today.

If my boss had told me that I needed to do more to get training in pedagogy, I'd know how to do that.  If he had said that I needed to get some updates in my field of study, that, too, I would know where to seek out those opportunities.

But for leadership and management training, I've been a bit stymied.  I've seen a few conferences, but been astounded by their prices.  I've thought about working on an additional degree, which I could do for the price of those conferences.

To be fair, if I had to pay for this ticket, I'd be asking the same questions about the worth of the training.  But I'm an academic in outlook.  I want to know that what I'm learning is backed up by research, not just by the experience of the speaker.  The promotional materials for many of these workshops don't really stress that aspect of what we'll learn--how do we know what we know? 

Today is Columbus Day, the day in 1492, October 12, a lookout on one of Columbus' boats saw land after almost 2 months at sea. I’m always amazed at what those early explorers accomplished. At Charlestowne Landing (near Charleston, SC), I saw a boat that was a replica of the boat that some of the first English settlers used to get here. It was teeny-tiny. I can't imagine sailing up the coast to the next harbor in it, much less across the Atlantic. Maybe it would have been easier, back before everyone knew how big the Atlantic was.

It's interesting to think about leadership on this day when we celebrate that vision of Columbus, the day when some of us will think about who and what Columbus had to trample to accomplish his goals.  What kind of leadership do we need today?

We've had some interesting discussions of leadership in various communities of which I am a part.  How would our worlds be different if we praised kindness and compassion--not traits for which Columbus was known.

On this week-end which will celebrate the canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero, I'll be thinking of these leadership questions.  What happens when leaders think about the bottom-most rungs of societies?  Does that path always lead to martyrdom?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Reformation Collage

On Sunday, I was in charge of the interactive worship service.  I thought about the upcoming holidays--no, not those holidays (Advent, Christmas, New Year's, Epiphany), but the holidays at the end of the month:  Reformation, All Saints, and the various harvest festivals we might celebrate.  Oh yes, and there's Halloween and Day of the Dead.

I decided to think about Reformation by way of collage.  It's been a tumultuous time in nationwide politics, so I wasn't sure I wanted us to think about Reformation in a larger, nationwide sense.  I suggested that we think about Reformation of ourselves and our smaller communities.  What needs to be reformed?  We talked about the differences between reforming and just throwing away and starting over.

We started with prayer.  I prayed for insight and openness, and then I suggested that we go through the pile of magazines that I brought and just rip out what was appealing.  Then we'd see what might be revealed.

It's a variation of vision boards, of course.  I've always wondered what kinds of collages we'd have with a completely different set of magazines.  I had a half year's worth of  O (Oprah) and Eating Well magazines.  I had some Country Living and some religious titles.  It may not surprise you to see what we came up with.

Mine (below) looks very ragged.  We didn't have enough scissors for everyone, so I just tore a bit with my fingers.  You don't need a degree in Psychology to interpret mine:

I really liked this approach from one of my fellow creatives:

I like the spirit of the Rilke quote of course, but more than that, I like the willingness to do something different:

As we worked on our collages, we shared our highs and lows.  At then end of our creating, we talked  a bit about what leapt out at us.  We finished with communion.

Overall, I'm pleased with how the service went.  I'm not sure that Martin Luther would approve; he might argue that we should be reforming institutions, not our individual lives.  But these days, it seems that everyone I meet is very tired and ready for reformation.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Prayers for a Day of a Historic Hurricane

And so we wake on what might be a historic day in terms of weather:  the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Panhandle of Florida approaches.

There's not much that can be done right now.  Hopefully those on the coast have gone inland and up.  This storm looks like it will be pushing massive amounts of water onshore.

After the storm, we will all be needed.  Even if we can't be there to help with the rebuilding with our hands, we can give money; I like Lutheran Disaster Response, but we have plenty of options.  And if we can't give money, we can pray.

I'm not suggesting that we pray that the hurricane change paths; I don't believe that God sweeps in at the last minute because x amount more of us woke up this morning and prayed for that.  If my house gets hurt by a hurricane, does that mean that I didn't pray hard enough? Or that I'm spirituallly lacking, so that God pays no attention to me? Or that other people prayed better?

Those questions also show us the crumminess of a theology that says that if we just pray hard enough and believe enough and behave in certain ways, then we can control the world around us and control God.

We can't. That's the hard truth of the world we live in. No matter how good we are, hard times visit us all.

The Good News of the Bible is that we have a God who loves us so much that our God would come to our difficult planet to hang out with us. The Good News of the New Testament is one of grace: God will love us no matter our behavior.

Hurricanes are not punishment. On some level, hurricanes are the way the planet deals with extra heat and energy. Yet even those who would blame hurricanes on global warming (and thus see them as a fitting punishment for errant humans) would do well to look back to remind themselves of how hurricanes have always swept across the planet, even before we warmed it up so dramatically.

On this day when most of the southeast U.S. faces an extraordinary threat from Hurricane Michael, I'm not suggesting that we abandon prayer as a response. In fact, on a day where most of us can't do much more than watch and hope, prayer seems like a perfectly appropriate response.

Prayer for the Day the Hurricane Makes Landfall

Creator God, who fashioned this astonishing planet of atmospheric swirls, help us remember the abundance that our habitat usually offers us. Be with those who suffer from fear and anxiety. Remind us that you are with us, and help calm our fears.  Be our shelter in the storm.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Tuesday Ramblings

I didn't post yesterday because I slept until 4:30ish, and needed to be out of the house by 5:15 to pick up the day old bread at Publix for my school. 

I usually don't sleep well as Sunday makes its way to Monday, but this week was an exception.  I had amazing dreams in vivid colors, the dreams shifting but seeming to cover one narrative.  In each section, I was either a retreat coordinator or someone who was putting together a massive meeting in a beautiful setting.

I spent part of yesterday tracking hurricane Michael, which I assumed was barely going to make it to hurricane status, but today it seems possible that it may make it to something much more major.  We've had the lovely breeziness that comes from having a major storm in the neighborhood.  I don't think we'll get much more than breeziness and some squally rain.  But just in case, I moved the flower pots with the autumn mums to the floor of the porch, not the arches.  I don't want to return home to shattered flower pots.

This morning, like many Tuesday mornings, I was awake at 2:00.  I thought I might do some grading, but I haven't.  I've toggled back and forth, checking overnight hurricane coverage, downloading some photos, writing a bit.

I also ordered some of my favorite purple legal pads--I usually write the rough drafts of my poems on them.  I have extras, but they're in a drawer in the antique desk.  I can't get the drawers open, and I can't get to the lever that might open them.  The desk is not really put back together, so I can't tell what's really going on.  The drawers have always been a bit sticky, but not like this, which is why I think there might be a lever.  But the desk top is loaded down with boxes of china.  So I took the path of least resistance.

I am always amazed when I get up early and feel like I get so little done.  It is time to do the final preparations to get ready for spin class--where has the time gone? 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Autumn Ramblings

I have returned home from a quick trip to the grocery store.  My front porch is now festooned for autumn, although I won't have real pumpkins until our church gets them next week-end. 

It makes me inordinately happy.

Yesterday, we went on a quest for barn doors--not because we have a barn, but because they will be perfect for the door between the kitchen and the laundry room. We went to Flagler Village, a cool space in Ft. Lauderdale that's being reclaimed from derelict housing to cool coffee places and outdoor gardens and breweries and such. My first thought: let's move here!

What is wrong with me? We already live in a cool place with a village-like vibe. We don't need to move.

And then I watched This Old House, a repeat of the first episode of the season when they will restore old houses in Charleston, SC, where we lived for 5 years before we moved here in 1998. And I felt this longing and homesickness for a place I left long ago (and could have bought one of those houses they're restoring for about $20,000 in 1992, if I had had the money).

Similarly, we had planned to go out for dinner after the pet blessing service at church, but the place we wanted to try was already booked.  I felt a bit sad, but also relieved that we could come home and relax and eat the cheese we bought in the morning.

We went to the pet blessing service, which did, indeed, restore my equilibrium. 

I wrote a whole post about it on my theology blog.

And in the end, I'm glad we didn't eat out because we finally took the serious time it takes to plan the kitchen--which cabinet goes where.  If you haven't remodeled a kitchen lately, you'll likely be amazed at how many types of cabinets you can get--and not just in terms of finishes and styles.  Cabinets can now be fine tuned in terms of their purpose too.

We are torn about the color of the wood finish--so we ordered some samples.  We have plenty of time, in a way.

We finished the day by eating some cheese and crackers and having some wine.  It was a day with a strange assortment of happenings, but in the end, satisfying.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Exhaustion, This Week and This Time Last Year

This has been an incredibly long week.  Let me record a few highlights before I forget:

--The Great Flooring Project is complete!  It's fascinating to see the difference in the woods in the house.  The 2 bedrooms and the kitchen have new wood; we kept the old wood in the living room and dining room of the house.  They were stained the same color, and at first glance, they look the same.  But on closer inspection, the wood in the living room has much more variety.  I've enjoyed looking at individual boards and meditating on the differences between them.

--A room with wood floors and not much furniture has amazing acoustics.  As I opened the living room curtains this morning, I sang some prayers I learned from singing with the monks at Mepkin Abbey and marveled at the beauty of a human voice singing plainsong alone in an empty room.

--The first week of classes means long days for me; each week I've arrived at campus between 8:30 and 9 in the morning, and I've stayed until 6:15 or 6:30 to make sure that evening classes are running smoothly--and on Tuesday, I stayed much longer than that to teach the evening class that I only found out I was teaching on Monday.  But several evenings this week, my spouse and I sat outside to have wine, cheese, and crackers while we caught up with each other.  While it hasn't been cool, the withering overnight heat seems to have lessened, and we've had a good breeze.

--Meeting people's animals is one of the delights (and sometimes a challenge) of being at a place with a Vet Tech program.  Yesterday, the registrar's kitten came to visit me in my office.  She sat in a chair across from me, looking for all the world like a student with an issue.

--Today my church will have a pet blessing service.  Even though I don't have pets, I'll attend--my spouse will be singing and playing his violin.  I'll sit and sketch.  Oddly, I'm looking forward to this.  Or am I really looking forward to the dinner that we are planning to have after the 4:00 service?  It feels like a long time since we've had a proper meal.

--Although both my spouse and I are exhausted most weeks, let me look back a year for some perspective.  A year ago, the roofer came and told us that the water running down the laundry room walls was not from the roof.  A year ago tomorrow, we took gutters apart and pulled all sorts of detritus out of them.  A year ago, we had just completed various visits from insurance adjusters.  We are still not done fixing all the damage that the adjusters documented, but we are much further along than we once were.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Awake Before the Moon

I have been awake before the moon.  This week, sleep has not come easily to me--I fall asleep easily, but I've been awake between 1 and 2.  I usually get up and get some work done, whether it's online teaching work or writing.  I've had a lot of online assignments coming in this week, and this morning, I'm finally caught up.

There are benefits to being up before the moon.

Of course, the disadvantage comes around 11:00 in the morning, when I start to feel a crushing tiredness.  Yesterday, for a brief moment, I thought about taking half a vacation day just to go home and sleep.

Instead, I placed a lunch order for our campus for next week, and then I took a camera (by way of a Kindle Fire) and wandered around the campus.  Our social media coordinator has requested that we take more video, so I asked students if they'd be willing to be filmed talking about the first week of school.

I asked some basic questions:  "Tell me one interesting thing you learned this week" or "Tell me a highlight of your week."  I was surprised by how my mood perked up as I did this filming project.

As I often do, I thought about the parts of my job that I'm liking most.  It's been a week of issues that seem unsolvable.  These are not the kinds of problems that delight me.   But walking the halls and asking people to describe week 1 was a delight.

I thought about the elements of work that have brought me contentment this week:  serving as a historian of sorts, as I recorded a particular moment in time and setting out the day old baked goods for students to enjoy.

Historian and Hospitality Coordinator (I wrote Hospitalian, a word I made up)--I'm not sure that job title really exists anywhere--perhaps on a cruise ship?

I thought about the Faith 5 techniques that so many people I know practice to some degree.  One of the central tenants is to talk about the highs and lows of each group member's day.  As I walked around campus, I felt like I was crafting a variation of that exercise.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Working for the Week-end

This has been a very long week at work.  But let me think of the upcoming week-end.  Let me make a list of what has the potential to bring me joy:

--My spouse will play his violin and sing at our church's Blessing of the Pets service on Sunday.  The service is at 4:00.

--Maybe afterward, we will go out to eat.  It's getting increasingly difficult to eat here at the house.  The kitchen no longer exists in the big house.  The grill part of the grill needs to have its gas tubes replaced.  We don't have a place where it's easy to eat.

--I would like to get some sleep.  Naps may be in order.

--I haven't been home to see how the light shifts on the new and newly refinished floors that were done during the second half of the Great Flooring Project.

--And because those floors are done and have had part of a week to cure, we can move a few items back.  I'm looking forward to having a bit more space in the part of the house where we've been living.

--My clothes have been hanging in the cottage.  Now that the floors are done, maybe I'll move them back to the big house.

Speaking of those clothes that have been in the cottage, I need to go out there and decide what to wear today.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Back to the Onground Classroom

Last night, for a variety of reasons, I returned to teaching in a traditional onground classroom.  But since the class only has 2 students, it's not likely to be traditional in every sense of that word.

I still don't have a clear vision for this class, since I only found out that I would be teaching it on Monday.  I thought the two students might have a vision, but when I suggested that we had many options for how the class could operate, I got blank stares.

I forget what a strange student I was.  I spent years as a student thinking about what I would do differently, especially in terms of my English classes.  It's probably no surprise that I ended up teaching English classes for so many years.

In a way, it's good that my students don't have a similar experience--they might have requested that the class be run in a way that I couldn't deliver.  Now I have flexibility.

I thought I might be teaching it as 2 independent studies.  But I think it might work better to keep meeting each week, with some weeks as conference weeks, with conferences that can be scheduled at the students' convenience.  It will be a different kind of blended class:  independent study mixed with a classroom.

My students don't have much online presence, so we won't be having a blended class in the way that EducationWorld usually uses that term.

I do wonder if my students will be losing an essential element of an English class by having such a small class.  There won't be as much opportunity for peer-to-peer teaching and learning.

I first learned about the concepts of peer editing and removing the teacher-as-expert dynamic back in grad school.  The idea seemed so cool and important to me then.

Now that I am older, I am more skeptical.  Many of my students through the years have come from deeply impoverished backgrounds.  Many of them only have a minimal grasp of English as a means of communication, and I don't mean that to sound as critical as it likely does.  Many of my students are very new to English, both as a language and a discipline--does that sound better?  They're eager learners, but they have difficulty teaching each other.

We now have decades of teachers who have tried to be more enthusiastic and encouraging about student work, so I haven't seen the damaged students that shaped the work of the early Comp-Rhet theorists that so influenced my grad school days.

Although those theorists influenced me deeply, I can't remember their names right now.  I wonder if I still have those books on my shelf at school?

Last night reminded me of the importance of having a book to take to the classroom.  My students started writing, and I tried to get onto the Internet--the slow connection made me abandon that attempt.  Maybe I will use this classroom time as motivation to do more reading and writing of the old-fashioned kind:  on paper.

As the weeks go on, I will report here on the progress of my latest teaching experiment.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Weariness Update

I have a deep weariness.  It's interesting to pay attention to my levels of weariness, which are often only somewhat connected to how much sleep I'm getting.  This week's weariness has to do with last week's news, and the realization that this level of bad news of our incivility and worse is the new normal--or are we just back to what was always normal?  This week's weariness has to do with the fact that we're at week 1 of our new quarter, which means longer hours at work.  This week's weariness has to do with the home repairs, which are progressing, but we're still far from done.

I'm so weary that I can't even envision what would fill my well.  I want to write, but my brain feels dehydrated.  It's been awhile since I had a good meal, but nothing sounds appetizing.  I'd like to sleep, but in a room that doesn't also contain a refrigerator and other items stored there for a home remodel.

I realize that I might sound like I'm depressed, but I'm not depressed so much as I am just bone tired.  And have I mentioned that our daily temperatures are still in the 90's?  People in Social Media Land are beginning to post their lovely pictures of apple orchards and pumpkin patches, and I am so tired of all my summer clothes.  And my summer clothes take up most of the space in my closet.

Part of my brain says, "Let's shake off this weariness!  Let's remind ourselves of the ways we're blest."  I think of what has just happened in Indonesia, with the earthquake and tsunami.  My home repairs are nothing compared to that.  I remind myself that I have a job that I like and various communities that care about me.  I will write again--why, just last week, I was exulting over my first piece of flash fiction that actually works.  Along with my weariness at the thought of eating has come weight loss.

Let me go out to the cottage where my clothes have been hanging since July, when our Great Flooring Project started.  Let me choose some clothes for today.  Then I'll go to spin class. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

September Steps of Progress

It is already October--hard to believe.  It is the first day of the fall quarter, both at my current school and at my old school--but for the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale, it is the first day of the last quarter that the school will be open.

Ordinarily, I'd be changing out prayer books today.  I use Phyllis Tickle's 3 volume set, The Divine Hours, although in this summer of upset schedules, I haven't used it as much as normal.  I remember packing up the bookshelves and putting the other 2 volumes of the prayer books in the box.  I said to myself, "Surely the floors will be done by October."

The floors are almost done, but I'm not sure of the timeline for when we'll have everything back in the house, the books back on shelves.  When I think about how much we've gotten done, I feel happy--how far we have come.  When I think about the tasks that are still left to do, I feel overwhelmed if I linger on that list.

Let me continue to go one step at a time.

Speaking of steps, let me record a different type of progress.  On Sept. 1, as I took my morning walk, I reflected that it was the beginning of the month.  I said to myself, "What would happen if I resolved to get my 10,000 steps every day during this month?"

I knew that there would be some challenges, including my quick trip to Lutheridge.  But I made the resolution anyway.  And yesterday, I completed it!

Not much time to write this morning--there are day old baked goods to get from Publix on my way to spin class.  It's not really on my way.  But I still feel like it's helpful to have the baked goods available to the students.  I've had more than one share with me that they find it helpful to have some free food because they don't always know where they're getting their next meal.  So, they can get some goodies and a loaf of bread.

As with the house repairs and the moves towards fitness, sometimes the steps seem very small.  But the important part is to keep taking the steps.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Saturday Sanding

Yesterday was a day that felt like we fell out of time.  We began as we usually do on Saturdays these days:  a discussion of what needs to get done.  But unlike most Saturdays, we didn't get around to most of the items on the task list.

It was a strange day because we had the flooring guys in the house.  It's much easier having them there on work days, where we have a place we need to be.  But we're at the point where it will feel good to make progress, so we said yes to having them work through the week-end.

We had to stay outside of the house most of the day because the guys were sanding the floors--I can't believe how noisy that is. We moved our chairs to the back parking area outside the cottage, about as far away from the house as it's possible to be--we could still hear the sanders, but it wasn't quite as loud. 

It was more pleasant than I thought it might be.  There was still some shade, and we faced a variety of vegetation--along with some butterflies! We spent a lot of time talking about the possible approaches to the house. We're really liking the uncluttered feel of the rooms as they get sanded. We're thinking of getting rid of a lot of the heavier furniture.

We may get rid of all of it.  We've inherited a lot of furniture from a lot of places and settings.  We no longer have room for most of it.

So, we spent many hours in the shade of the back parking area talking about possible approaches to furniture. It was pleasant. By the time we were done talking, I didn't particularly want to run errands with the masses of humanity that were sure to be there.

Today, the floor team comes again. There's more sanding, I think--I think that, because they left their sanders here. And then more staining. And then, the polyurethane. They think they may be done by tomorrow. Amazing.

And now, we must move on to the next project: the kitchen. Time to make some cabinet decisions. We may go to Lowe's after church. Our contractor's cabinet guy doesn't have what we want.

It is hard to believe that this work of hurricane recovery will ever be done--but slowly and surely, we are making progress.

Saturday, September 29, 2018


Let me capture a few thoughts before the flooring folks get here to sand and destroy the quiet of the day.  My spouse asked me what I thought about them coming on the week-end.  I said, "Let's do it."  I'm ready to be done.

Here's a shot of what the living room looks like now:

I've now spent lots of time thinking about the emptiness and how much I like it.  How could we preserve it?

Let me stress that these floors aren't finished.  When they're finished, I suspect I'll be even more loathe to move back in all of our stuff.  Here's a close up of the in between:

Yesterday I ate lunch with a friend.  She talked about the books on her shelves that she rereads when she can't get to the library.  For years, I've kept books for that very reason.  But lately, when I return to them, I've wondered why I kept them.

Yesterday was the first day when I was tempted to just give away all the books that I have in boxes.  It would free up a lot of space.  I just don't read most of my books anymore.  Once I read them periodically.

Once, they also gave me comfort to see them on the shelves.  That's still true for some of them--but likely not the way it once was.

There's a batch of books that are underlined--perhaps I'll keep those.  I value the window into my past self that they give me.

It's been an interesting time.  I've gone from worrying about flooding rains while we have stuff stored in the cottage to a vague wish that the decision would be made for me.  Once I became aware of that wish, I've been trying to reflect on what it means.

I confess that I'm not sure yet.  Let me continue to ponder.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Friday Fragments of Happiness

Yesterday's hearing in the Senate (to investigate the new charges that the Supreme Court nominee sexually assaulted a women when both were in their teens) was worse than I thought they would be--and I didn't even watch them.  As I was driving home at 5:00, NPR was broadcasting live from the hearing, so I did hear a little of the nominee's testimony--or was it an opportunity for Senators to blab on and on?  I switched to a CD of Mavis Staples.

So, to make myself happy, let me make a list of what has made me happy this week:

--Yesterday morning, I met a friend for coffee.  How wonderful to have a friend with whom I can have coffee, and we can pick up right where we left off, even though we haven't seen each other in a month.

--There have been many moments at school where I have had opportunity to reflect how lucky I am to work where I do.  Yesterday afternoon I had a long conversation on the phone about accreditation requirements--and it was a joy, not a chore.  This week has had lots of good moments:  New Student Orientation, videos that I took at the Orientation that turned out to be better than I thought they might be, work on various projects, planning for future projects, and reminder and reminder of how wonderful my colleagues are.

--Yesterday after work, we went to our neighborhood friends for our regularly scheduled cheese, crackers, wine, and good conversation.

--We brought a bike for the daughter of these friends.  Her joy at seeing this bike that had been festooned with glitter and fake jewels made me so happy.  That bike was left behind by the last person who lived in our cottage.  I'm glad that we kept it.  If our friends' daughter wants to keep the bike, I'll be happy to let her have it.

--Our house has level floors for the first time since we have lived here--hurrah!  The remaining wood planks for the floor came in and yesterday, they were installed.  All this blather about trade tariffs has made me anxious to get all of our home repairs done.

--At the end of the day, I watched the reboot of Murphy Brown.  I loved this show when it was first on the air.  I'll keep giving this show a chance, but by the time it aired, I had already heard or read the good bits in reviews and previews.  I have to admit that I wasn't as much in love with the show as I once was.

--The show made me remember Monday nights in grad school.  A group of friends would gather at our apartment where I'd have made us all a vegetarian meal.  We'd eat and talk and finish the evening by watching Murphy Brown together.  I feel fortunate to have had that group, and I'm also feeling lucky to have similar community now.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Self Care on a Day of Many Triggers

I will not be watching or listening to the Senate testimony today.  I'm fairly sure I know what the Supreme Court nominee and his accuser will say.  I don't get to vote, so I don't feel the need to watch this coverage.

But I also confess that I am weary.  I am tired of these constant reminders of how brutal we can be too each other.  I do know that I enjoy a certain amount of privilege in that I can choose to look away.  I don't want to look away for too long.  But I also need to exercise some self care.

Recently I told a friend that no other administration had made me feel so unsafe.  But then I reflected.  Under the second Bush administration, I felt unsafe, but it was something different.  I felt a distinct threat from my government, as an activist, even as I admitted that if the national government was coming after such a small-time activist as me, then times would be pretty grim.

The current administration makes me feel unsafe in a completely different way.  Every day's news coverage reminds me of how unsafe the larger world is for many of us, and reminds me of how hard it is to find justice when the rich and the privileged are involved. 

It also makes me feel unsafe because something about this administration seems to make larger-than-usual swathes of the population feel like they've been given permission to act in unsavory ways.  I know that many of us in the U.S. have always been subject to this cruelty.  Again, I recognize my place of privilege, past and present.

I'm feeling a strange mix of anger and resignation.  How can we not be any further along towards a vision of a just world than we are right now?  How can we be decades after the Anita Hill hearings and still be no better at handling these kinds of allegations?

But let me also remember that these times are not those times.  This year, 2018, is still a better time to be a woman than 1918 or 1818--or even 1991.  A woman can bring a charge forward, and she has a better chance of being believed.  We are better at knowing what boundaries should be, even if those boundaries are not always respected.  There are laws that might protect us all--once those laws didn't exist, and the idea that they should would not have existed.

Still, we have not yet arrived at the future that I hoped for when Anita Hill testified, and I was a younger woman in grad school.   Let me hold onto that idea of a time when people's bodies are respected, when boundaries are maintained, when people will not trespass even when we are unconscious, when the powerful do not prey on the weak.  Let that time come soon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Reading N. K. Jemisin in this #MeToo Moment

I spent my time in airports and airplanes this week-end devouring N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, which is the first book of a trilogy--and it's a trilogy that's already complete, hurrah!  Each book has won the Hugo award for best novel, so I was intrigued.

Why have I not heard of Jemisin?  I listened to this episode of the NPR 1A show, and her books sounded fascinating--I was making an Amazon order, so I decided, why not?  The Fifth Season sounded right up my alley:  apocalypse mixed with race and gender analysis, and a different planet.

It was all that and more.  It reminded me of the best of Octavia Butler, with a splash of Toni Morrison thrown in.  But the world that Jemisin creates is so intriguing, with its similarities to our world, but its vast differences.  I can't imagine what it must take to create an alternate world like this one.

As I was reading, news was swirling about the Supreme Court Justice and the woman who claims he sexually assaulted her during their teenage years at a party.  It was interesting to read this book as a conversation about what and who oppresses us and how we are groomed to participate in that oppression.  In the novel, the oppression is about a race of people, but it also applies to our current time.

And again I ask, why have I not heard of Jemisin?  And there's that lurking fear:  who else have I been missing?

And then I did what I always do after a good book:  I did a search for author interviews and book reviews.  Here's a great interview that takes place in Feb. 2016,  just after the publication of The Fifth Season.  It's an interesting look at her evolution as a writer; she now works part-time and writes.

I will be ordering the next 2 books in the series too.  I decided not to check them out from the library--let me support a fellow female writer.  Plus I want them in time for my next autumn travels.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Disappearing Free Time

Over the week-end, one of my retreat planning friends turned to me and said, "So what do you do in your free time?"

My first thought was, what free time?  And then my next thought was that my free time activities sound so dull:  writing, reading, cooking (at times when my kitchen hasn't been removed from the house).  Most weeks, I also do some abstract work with my Copic Sketch markers.  Here's a recent one that I like:

As I was thinking about space, I was trying to make little round shapes that look like planets.  But I was also thinking about interior space.

I don't do as much with fiber art as I once did.  I don't do as much with anything as I once did.  I really am spending more of my waking hours at work.  If I'm not at the office in my day job, I'm also teaching online, which requires huge chunks of time during most weeks.

That's why I'm grateful for time away.  On Friday, it was very warm in the cabin after I arrived at Lutheridge.  So I spent the afternoon taking a very long walk.  And then I sat on the porch in a rocking chair and sketched:

I thought I didn't like the image, but I looked again this morning and was pleasantly surprised.

I've spent the week-end reading a wonderful book, The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin, which I may write more about later.

I heard Jane Fonda talk about her life on yesterday's edition of All Things Considered.  She talked about how many people have lots of experiences, but few people contemplate the meaning of it all.  But lately, I've been wondering if I need to have more experiences--but part of that may be the all-consuming nature of these last rounds of home repairs.

But let me think about the giant leaps we took in terms of home repair last week:  the fence passed final inspection, the problematic self-piercing valve was removed, all of the flooring on hand was installed, the kitchen floor is more level than it's been since we've moved in--no wonder I'm a bit distracted.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Travel Inspirations

Yesterday, I finished writing the blog post and decided to try my hand at flash fiction, a super short story.  I had the idea on Friday as I traveled, and after letting it percolate, yesterday I decided to give it a try.  The story came in at just under 500 words.

My spouse and I have been talking about how much we like the empty parts of the house, and on Friday, as we discussed kitchen cabinets, we talked about how much bigger the kitchen looks without anything in it.

As I walked around Lutheridge on Friday, I had an image of a woman whose spouse dies when the old kitchen has been demo'ed, but before the kitchen cabinets have been ordered.  She decides to keep the kitchen empty. 

As I continued to walk, I had a vision of the ending, where she breaks the china.  She's the type of woman who has several china cabinets, because she's inherited so much family china, in addition to her own.

Now I will go back and add a few details here and there.  What fun!

I also have a vision for a poem:  Noah, after the flood.  Noah looks at the wrecked landscape, thinking about how we long for a fresh start, never thinking about the mucking out process that must happen with every fresh start.

It's been wonderful being away--I can't always travel when I feel the need for inspiration, for a different way of looking at things, but when I can, I'm happy about the ideas that come.  I can't always pull them off, but it's good to have some fresh ideas.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Retreat Planning Wrap Up

Yesterday was a great day of retreat planning.  For those of you who have never done this kind of work, you may imagine that we sit there and discuss the schedule or what we plan to offer.  While we do continue to do some fine tuning of the schedule, this retreat is almost 20 years old, so we keep the schedule the same from year to year.

We do have some discussion about the workshops and drop in stations that we offer, but the larger conversation is about the Bible passage that will shape the retreat.  Once we offered every workshop or drop in station that people volunteered to teach, but now we try to offer the majority of creative activities that will tie into the retreat.

At the planning session, we also plan for the retreat for the year after the year of the upcoming retreat, so yesterday we turned our attention to 2020.  We have a 3 year cycle where we focus on a different aspect of the Trinity, so by 2020, we'll be back to God the Creator.

I suggested that we do the Annunciation story, God as Creator of the baby Jesus.  I suggested that if we felt very daring, we could have a conversation about sex and God.  We backed away from that, not because we're cowardly people but because in 2021, we'll be back to a Jesus year.  It's an interesting question:  is the Annunciation story more about God the creator, or the baby Jesus, or Mary?  Yes, to all of those.

I suggested we study Noah and the flood.  In 2011, we focused on a difficult aspect of God when we explored the second Genesis story, the expulsion from the Garden.  I said it might be time for a difficult subject again:  what do we do when we're surrounded by wreckage?  How do we create again?

Much to my surprise, we decided that we liked that idea.  So many of us will face such deep losses in a normal lifetime, not to mention the deep losses that some of us will experience in addition to the normal losses.  How do we reclaim our lives out of wreckage?

We kept planning the 2019 and the 2020 retreat until 3.  Then a group of us headed over to Hendersonville for a gallery hop.  Actually, we didn't hop much--we mainly wanted to see the display of one of our Create in Me potter friends.  At some point, maybe I'll post some pictures that I took; she's a very talented potter and assemblage artist.

After that, we went to the Sierra Nevada brewery; I think of them as a western brewery, but they actually have a huge brewery near the Asheville airport.  They also have a beautiful brewpub, where we had the kind of dinner I like best:  we kept ordering everything on the menu that looked good, sharing them until we were full.  I had 2 beers and tastes of everything that looked interesting on the menu, all for $35.

I am trying to walk 10,000 steps every day in September, so some of us went for a moonlight/flashlight walk when we returned to camp.  It was beautiful.

Soon my kind friends will wake much earlier than they would otherwise to take me to the airport.  It's been a good trip here, but it's time to go back.  I'm interested to see how much progress has been made on the floors.  I'm interested to see if my spouse has made any decisions about the kitchen cabinets.  I need to get ready for the week ahead--the week before another quarter starts at school.

But for now, let me keep breathing the mountain air.  Let me rest in the comfort of camp for just another bit of time.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Autumn Arrivals in the Heated South

Today we mark the arrival of Autumn--ah, the autumnal equinox.  I don't have lots of memories of this "holiday"--but I do remember an autumnal equinox in the Wellness Center for a Monday evening class.  The Wellness Center has windows in every direction, and it's on the 8th floor of a Ft. Lauderdale doctor's office building at the hospital.  We looked to the east to see the full moon rising, and we looked to the east to see a blazing red sun sinking towards the horizon--glorious.

This morning, I'm writing in Carla cabin at Lutheridge, while the sky is slowly lightening.  I managed to sleep until just after 6--wow.

I got here yesterday afternoon, after an easy flight on Allegiant Airlines.  Once Allegiant flew to Asheville only once or twice a week from Ft. Lauderdale; now they fly daily, although that may be a seasonal shift.  Since I had to pay in advance to choose a seat, I decided to treat myself to an exit row seat for $18, a good decision.

I had thought I would buy a meal at the airport, but nothing appealed.  I decided to buy snacks on the plane, pricey, but a treat.  Plus I was hungry, and I knew the plane would land at 3:15, which is a long time until 6:00 dinner.

I am happy to report that I lost myself in a wonderful book:  the first of N. K. Jemison's Broken Earth trilogy, The Fifth Season, which I heard about on this episode of 1A.   How have I not heard about this author and this series?  As I heard the show, I wondered if it would be a sci-fi book where I just couldn't get into the alternate world, but because it won so many awards, I decided to give it a chance.

As I walked through the Asheville Airport, I heard, "Welcome to the Asheville Airport y'all. Please enjoy some free ice cream"--how I love airports in small (smallish) Southern towns!  They offered a choice of 8 flavors--wow.  I am happy to report that I had the Cappucino Fudge Crunch.

When I got to Lutheridge, I was amazed at how hot is was:  85 degrees.  Carla cabin doesn't have AC, so it was stuffy, so I spent lots of time walking Lutheridge, thinking of how much the place means to me, all the times I've been here, all the people I miss.  I prayed as I walked, as I do in these spiritual places.  There's not much fall color, but that's O.K.  I'll be back here for a retreat in October.

We had a great night of planning the 2019 Create in Me retreat.  And then it was off to a peaceful sleep--although I did wake up at 3 in the morning to hear a distant chainsaw (or was it a motorcycle?  It lasted a long time and didn't seem to move like a vehicle would).  But I was able to fall back asleep.

Today will be another great day of planning and hiking the loops of Lutheridge--plus, perhaps some other fun events.  I feel lucky that I could be here to plan, unlike past years when a hurricane has been over my head, or I've been starting a new job and couldn't get away.  I feel lucky that I found a cheap airline ticket, so that the trip didn't wear me out.

Most of all, I feel lucky that I could be here for a time of renewal, even though it will be brief.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Fragments: Creativity, Anxiety, Travel, and Possessions

--Every morning as I blog, I wonder if I should be doing a different kind of writing.  But I also wonder if I'm creating and perfecting this form of writing--and will anyone care?  I think of the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth, and I think she'd be a blogger, if she was living today--although her poverty might have kept her offline.

--I am trying to think about my successes, not my failures.  In the last few weeks, I could have sent out more of my creative work.  But let me think about the fact that I've done some actual writing.

--I'm listening to the On Point interview with Ethan Hawke.  He talked about working on Boyhood, the movie that was made over 12 years.  He talks about it being a movie that was made without the element of having to sell it.  He says it was like being in your room painting watercolors with your friends or making music on Christmas Eve.  I love that way of talking about making art.

--Yesterday was one of those days when I felt frustrated about the roles I was asked to play at work, and I realized I was frustrated not because I felt they were beneath me, but because they weren't working for me.  I was trying to make technology behave for the people who couldn't come to an Advisory Board meeting and tried to call in.  It took an inordinate amount of time to set up the GotoMeeting software (is it software?), and then the sound didn't work right for the callers, and on and on.  I kept thinking, "Don't we have a tech person to help?"  We used to--that's what's frustrating.

--But we carried on, and we had a meeting that worked as much as it needed to--and eventually, one of the onground participants figured out how to fix the sound.

--Last Thursday night was more fun because it had less glitches.

We had an ice cream social at school to raise money for the Davie-Cooper City Chamber of Commerce scholarship fund that gives students scholarships for college.  There was plenty of opportunity for glitches, but I somehow managed not to stress over it.  Yesterday I felt mildly anxious all day.

--Another possible source of my anxiety:  I'm traveling today.  I'm flying to Asheville for the retreat to plan the Create in Me retreat.  I got a cheap ticket on Allegiant Air.   Part of me is thrilled to be able to zip up there.  Part of me misses the meditative aspect of the 12 hour drive (but I'll get that in October and November).  Part of me dreads the security line.  But I am also looking forward to the chance to read a book.  I'm taking N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season with me.

--Later this morning, I'll need to dig the suitcase out of the cottage.  During the July prep time for the Great Flooring Project, I used the suitcases to pack away some off-season clothes that I wouldn't need.  I assumed that the Great Flooring Project would be done by the time I needed them.  Luckily, I know exactly where they are.

--It's interesting to reflect on this time of house reconstruction.  My books have been packed away in the cottage since July (some since late May).  The CDs were packed away too.  I hesitate to admit that I don't miss them in the way I thought I would, which leads me to ask, "Do I  really want to keep them?"

--But I also have this vision of being a little old lady, the one who outlives the rest.  Will that little old lady want to read these books or listen to these CDs?  She might.  What will bring me comfort?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Shelter Week and Beyond

A friend asked me how we're eating, now that our kitchen has been dismantled.  So far, we are doing most of our cooking on the grill--the stove was moved into the front bedroom 2 weeks ago. Now that we have dismantled the sink, it gets a bit harder. Plus, I didn't realize how much I need countertop space until I didn't have a counter. So, we're eating simple things. My spouse made a pot of mac and cheese on the burner that's part of the gas grill--like having a one burner stove top ring to the side of the main grill, so that's been handy. I eat a lot of cheese and crackers and wine for an evening snack--my favorite, and if I added some veggies, I could almost count it as a meal.

During most weeks of the year, we don't have a regular evening meal every night, like some families do.   During regular weeks, I'll have more of a snack than an evening meal, so our current life doesn't feel too different--at least in terms of dinner.   Making coffee is a chore--I have the coffee maker set up on a small table that's usually an outdoor table.

I am in that summer phase of eating, where it's just too hot to eat, and I'm hungry but nothing sounds good. Sigh. So, having the kitchen dismantled isn't making me too grumpy. Later, when I wish I could bake something, it might.

But I have a house. I have that on the brain because my church is doing a shelter week this week. It's this program where area churches serve as temporary shelter for homeless families that are in transition to having a home. So families come to the church for an evening meal and to sleep the night. Church members sleep there too, just so that everyone feels safe.

This week, between two families, there are 7 children, all of them under the age of 4, except for an 8 year old. I went over after work Tuesday night. I changed out of my work clothes and helped get the kids fed, and then we did some reading together.

I had planned for this.  I had gone to the used bookstore that is near my school to pick up some kid's books--they had a great selection, so I bought a lot. It was a treat to shop for them.  I also picked up some used books that I have in mind for a Halloween display at the school library.

I envisioned that I would read and all the kids would gather round. Nope. But the bright girl who was only 3 years old "read" to me--she looked at the pictures and made up a story, with book after book. It was a delightful, though exhausting, way to spend an evening.

I know that I am lucky--I have a house to go home to, even if it's under reconstruction.  If I need a quiet evening, I can plan it.  I can't imagine being a single mom in charge of 4 small children with no home.

I am also thinking of all the people in the Carolinas who will be displaced by Hurricane Florence.  Some will rebuild; some will never recover.  I listened to the clip of President Trump yesterday promising that residents will have every resource that they need and promptly.  I tried not to laugh with bitterness.

I'm lucky.  I had savings, so I didn't have to hope that the government could help me.  The government wasn't going to help me, because I had insurance--again, I'm lucky.  My damages may end up costing me more than the insurance paid--we're trying to be frugal, while getting everything done properly.  But I stress again:  I'm lucky to have savings and other resources. 

I'm most lucky in that my house has been a livable structure while we've been working our way through these repairs.  The flood waters didn't swamp the main structure.  The rest of my South Florida community wasn't so damaged:  so I could work, and I could get supplies, and my friends didn't all move away.

I have these things on the brain today, the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria's devastation of Puerto Rico.  I know that my experience could have been worse.  And the ever present fear:  that there may be a worse time coming.

But let me try to move my brain away from that idea.  I've spent a lot of my life worrying about stuff that never came my way.  Let me stay as prepared as I can, while living my life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Triggering Times

So here we are, another Senate Judiciary Committee preparing to ask a woman about her claims of sexual misconduct (such a polite word for the behavior) at the hands of a Supreme Court nominee.  Now, as in the Anita Hill hearings in 1991, the panel will be white and male.

Now as 27 years ago, we are having a national conversation about what behavior is O.K.  I am startled by the behavior that some people see as normal.  Have I led that sheltered a life to be so shocked at this idea that boys will be rapists, and we should see this violent behavior as normal?

Let me stress that I'm not judging the Supreme Court nominee or his accuser--either now or in 1991.  I am judging the national conversation.  I don't think that adolescents of either gender get a free pass to behave in aggressive ways just because their brains aren't fully developed.  We train 2 year olds to behave differently, and I don't suspend those expectations once the child hits puberty.

It's a very strange time we're living in, with a variety of accusations of sexual awfulness swirling in the national news:  from priests to presidents to so many people across a variety of entertainment industries.  A few weeks ago, as the details of the Pennsylvania predator priests dominated the news, I told a friend that I was finding the coverage to be very triggering.  I said, "And I've never experienced that kind of abuse.  Just the normal stuff:  people hollering at me from cars when I'm out for a run or following me . . ."  And then I realized what I was saying--that I accept that behavior as normal.  I expect to tolerate it, just because I'm a woman out and about in the world.

I tend to dismiss it, even as those incidents make me feel a bit nauseated and distinctly threatened.  This summer has also been the summer of the missing college girl who turned up murdered in the trunk of a car of a man who wouldn't take no for an answer.  It's a reminder of the price of being female in the world.

When I was younger, I read all sorts of books about developmental psychology.  I was intrigued by the stories of women at midlife who reacted in various ways.  I read about women who felt invisible and wanted to prove their continued attractiveness.  I read about other women who finally felt free to evolve.

I have always felt a bit invisible when it comes to the male gaze.  I have a type of attractiveness, to be sure, but it's not the type that we see as valued across popular culture.  It's an attractiveness that I think of as sturdy, as opposed to bubbly and cute.  If you wanted a companion to homestead Mars, you might choose me.  If you need a woman on your arm who looks good in designer duds, you'll likely choose someone else.

Throughout much of my life, I've been O.K. with that, while at the same time knowing that this invisibility doesn't insure I am protected from the threats that come with existence in a female body.  I am yearning for the time when these sexual assaults are no longer front and center news stories.

I yearn for the time that they aren't front and center news stories because they no longer happen, not just because we outraged about something else.

Heart heavy sigh.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fence Finale!

Those of you who have done home repair/restoration/renovation may recognize this syndrome:  you plod along, or worse, you take 2 steps forward and something happens and you're back five steps--but then the day comes when you see the progress.  You may not be done, but you feel closer to that point.

This process perhaps describes more of my life than I like to think.  Hmmm.

Yesterday was one of the days of the "Wow, progress!" response.  How I wish I had more of those, but let me savor yesterday.

A year ago, Hurricane Irma destroyed our fence.  Actually, Hurricane Irma completed what the garbage truck workers had begun; in any case, after the hurricane, it became clear that we would need to replace the fence sooner rather than later.

Easier said than done.  My spouse knew what kind of fence he wanted, researched the fence companies who said they could install it, and waited for the estimates/proposals.  This process took several months.  As with so many housing decisions, we went with the company who returned our phone calls.

We needed a site survey to get the permit.  Another round of phone calls and waiting.  Then we had to wait for the historic rains of May to pass.  Then we had to wait for the city of Hollywood to grant the permit.  These processes take many more weeks than one would expect, if one has never tried to get a permit.

At the end of August, we had much of the fence installed, but with some problems, like a huge gap in the front, where the gate meets the post.  The problems were fixed, and we waited for the final inspection.

Last week, the fence failed the final inspection.  I was so exhausted that I just shrugged.  The fence company came out to do the adjustments.  The city inspector was going to come on Thursday, but then the appointment was moved to Monday.

And yesterday, sweet success!  The fence has passed the final inspection.  Onward to other projects!

Last night I made this Facebook post:  Some women have men who bring them flowers. Some women have men who wrestle the kitchen countertop and huge cabinet into the backyard all by themselves so that the women don't return home from work to have to help with this last step of getting the space ready for phase 2 of the Great Flooring Project. I am that lucky woman #2!

Here's a picture of what he moved, all by himself:

Here's a picture of the space where eventually, a remodeled kitchen will be:

Will it all be done by Christmas?  Is that too much to expect?  We should have all of the floors done by the end of September.  But we haven't ordered the cabinets or the countertop yet--if those items go into back order . . . but let me not think about that now.  Let me rejoice in the completion of the fence.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Medieval Monastics and the Work that Must be Done

Today is the feast day of Hildegard of Bingen; go to this post on my theology blog if you want to know more about her.

She's probably one of the most famous female monastics from past centuries.  A few years ago, someone told me that the Hildegard of Bingen channel on Pandora was one of the most popular. Then, as now, I doubted that fact.  And yet, it does speak to a yearning that so many of us have.

I think that many of us look to monastic communities past and present and idealize them.  But as I think and read about the lives of medieval monastic women, I try to think about what's left out.  Even as life in the abbey brought medieval women some freedom, they were still controlled by men, who may or may not have let them go in the directions that they thought would bring the most success.

When I think about their creative lives, I wonder if they created the art that most moved them or if they did the work that their communities needed:  music for the worship services, herbs that had medicinal/culinary value, weavings to cover cold walls.  What would they have done if they could have followed their true passions?

Very few of us have the luxury to follow our true passions.  Perhaps we don't really know what those true passions are, so shaped have we been by what our societies tell us our true passions should be.

Most of us have to balance many aspects of our lives, and many of us feel frazzled at this constant effort.  We will never achieve that true balance--attention to one aspect means that others go lacking (or waiting until later, whether it's a day later, a month, or years).  The lives of medieval monastics show us that it's always been this way.

We all face constraints of various kinds, and the life of Hildegard shows what could be accomplished, even during a time when women did not have full rights and agency. She was an abbess, and because being in charge of one cloistered community wasn’t enough, she founded another. She wrote music, and more of her music survives than almost any other medieval composer. She was an early naturalist, writing down her observations about the natural world and her theories about how the natural world heals us. She wrote to kings, emperors and popes to encourage them to pursue peace and justice. She wrote poems and a morality play and along the way, a multitude of theological meditations.

My theory: in the day to day, we feel we aren't doing much. But when we take the full measure of a life, we see how much a life can encompass.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


As we have been working on hurricane repairs, we've also been thinking about the maintenance that modern life requires.  There's all the maintenance that goes with a house, of course, but there's also other types:  relationship maintenance, car/vehicle, pets, friends, family.

I'm exhausted just making this list.

Yesterday, in the midst of getting ready for the second half of the Great Flooring Project which should begin this week (yes, it was supposed to be last week, but we had delays), we decided to have hamburgers for lunch--it would be quick and grillable, and we could keep working.

My spouse went out to light the grill, and I didn't see him for awhile.  Come to find out, the gas tubes in the grill are showing corrosion and decay.  We managed to get the grill going, but thank goodness we weren't planning to grill a brisket or something that would take all the burners and a long time.

I called Weber, and happy news!  We're still in the warranty time period of those tubes.  And the woman reminded us that we're near the ocean, and so we will have more corrosion than other locations.

Still, it's discouraging--and perhaps because we're just aware of how much decay and corrosion our house contains.  For example, our kitchen sink seems to have stopped draining properly.  Luckily, we have a bucket under the sink, and we're redoing the kitchen soon--but as I carried the second full bucket of water out to the pineapple plants last night, I felt a weariness.  Every other day, I empty the dehumidifier that runs all the time in the cottage. 

Some days, my life seems like an endless emptying of buckets.

The other day, I thought of one of my favorite Ann Lamott quotes.  Her quote from her friend John is one I come back to again and again: ". . . if you have a problem you can solve by throwing money at it, you don't have a very interesting problem" (Traveling Mercies 259).

I first came across that quote when I didn't have much money, and I thought about how not having money does make the problem more interesting.  And yet, it's better than having a health issue that money can't solve.

This past year, I have been surrounded by problems that could be solved by throwing money at them, and I do have the money--and yet, it's not as easy as it sounds.  It still requires a crew of workers and supplies and lots of disruption.  It still requires lots of coordination and creativity.  It still requires lots of patience and the courage to continue. 

No one talks about the exhaustion of it all, even if one is lucky enough to have a problem that money can solve.

But I keep my wits about me by remembering that eventually, these problems do get solved or they go away or other problems rise up the priority list.  It could be much worse.  Many people in the Carolinas will be waking up to problems much worse than the ones that I face; I keep my perspective by remembering that.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Dispatch from the Night Watch

I've been awake since 2:00 a.m.; of course, I did go to bed at 8 p.m.  My Fitbit tells me that I haven't been getting much in the way of deep sleep in the past week or two, which isn't a surprise to me.  But I have been getting writing done, a surprise to me too.

My spouse has managed to keep sleeping, although he went to bed at 7 p.m.  We are a worn out pair of people!  So I can't do much of what needs to be done today to get ready for the part 2 of the Great Flooring Project.  In a way, I'm not sad.  I love this very early morning writing time.

At 4 a.m., I went outside to look for the moon.  I had misread the moonrise chart--the moon won't be up for hours.  As I have been many times this summer, I was struck by the lack of any breeze at all.  I heard some dripping, but I think it was coming from the neighbor's house.  I'm always on the alert for leaks--so much damage can come on so quickly.

I heard distant noises from people who probably hadn't gone to bed yet:  motorcycles and some voices and a car here and there.  As I walked on the driveway, I thought about not getting too far away from the safety of the house.  I also carried my favorite Lutheridge mug, one that was created in 1985 to celebrate 35 years of camping.  I thought about the unwiseness of carrying it outside.  I try to take a Zen approach to possessions (the glass is already broken, so enjoy it while you have it), but I'm not very good at it.

I think of my fellow citizens further to the north, the ones listening to the rain and worrying about the floods that are coming (and have already come) with Hurricane Florence.  I told a spin class friend that I'd almost rather deal with wind damage than water damage.  You think you have water damage cleaned up and then, days/months/years later, you smell mold.  I don't know how we'll ever get the cottage back into livable shape.  But that's a project for a different year.

I have been listening to all the various programs taking a look back on the Great Recession of 2008, which many say began this week 10 years ago, when Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy--in fact, it was on this very day 2008 that it happened.  I remember reading reports of markets falling and thinking that I was witnessing history, the type of history I'd prefer not to witness.

I've heard many commentators say that at any point that there's lots of leverage/debt out there, we're in danger of this kind of crash.  I'm seeing lots of leverage:  high student loan debt, high debt that governments take on, and I'm not convinced that the mortgage market is in a stable state.

I've been hearing lots of horrible experiences that people suffered.  It's like hearing the #MeToo stories.  I feel relief to have escaped the worst of it, while also aware that my luck could change through no fault/action of my own.

As always, these days I cope by taking my days one at a time, keeping my focus on the one or two tasks I need to do to stay on track or recalibrate in all the areas of my life.  That said, it's time to think about getting ready for a walk. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

When Life Gives You Lemons . . .

I have been having a morning with a glitchy computer:  freezes, slogginess, very frustrating.  But let me try to write a post.

This week, in addition to the hurricane monitoring, I've been participating in a Facebook planning party to brainstorm ideas for our 2019 Create in Me retreat.  Every few hours, we responded to a question about various aspects of the retreat--and then we had fun responding to each other and having an online conversation both in real time and in suspended time.

I wanted to capture an idea I had:  Here's a title: When Life Gives You Lemons, How Do You Make Lemonade? I'm thinking of the kind of workshop I want: how to reinvent life when it becomes clear that something isn't going to work out the way you planned? For example, the good job after school doesn't materialize, the marriage fails, someone dies, the hurricane makes you realize that you must move. I'm hoping that the 50 Forward retreat covers some of this territory, but I think it could be useful at our retreat. Part of what we create is ourselves and our lives after all.

I'd like to attend a workshop like that--heck, I'd like a class that lasts a semester and covers all sorts of information.  I'd like to lead such a class.  I'd like to be a retreat leader.  I'd like to write a book.  So let me write all of this here so that I remember.