Friday, February 23, 2024

Infographics and How We Learn

Today I started a file to store the infographics I've been creating for my Foundations of Worship class.  I've had 3 assignments now.  They're not exactly sketches, although I don't have qualms about putting them in that file.  But it seems better to give them their own file, now that I have three of them.

I've created three of them:  a lectionary season wheel, an infographic that explains how we came to worship on Sundays (the first Christians were Jews, after all, who likely added a communion-like observance to the end of Shabbat observance), and an infographic that explains baptism.

It's an interesting assignment, both from an artistic angle and a teaching/learning angle.  Let me be clear that we're not being graded on our artistic skill, which is good.  I've been happy with what I've produced, although it's not always matched what I had in mind.  The lectionary wheel was closest to what I had in mind when I started:

For the infographic on Sunday worship, I didn't even have much in mind for the graphic part of the assignment.  I added some sunrise/sunset colors and a drawing to suggest Shabbat and called it done, even though it's more info than graphic:

I'm not going to include the baptism infographic since it hasn't been graded, and I don't want to risk that the antiplagiarism software would flag it if I post it here before my professor grades it.

From a teaching/learning perspective, it's been interesting.  For the most part, we're condensing what we've read into key points, so it lets our professor see if we understand the reading.  Even if someone had absolutely no sketching or doodling skills, one could do this assignment, either by using fewer illustrations or by collaging.  And of course, there's now a whole world of computer generated stuff that one could create or find, if one had computing skills.

Could I use the idea of an infographic in my English classes that I teach?  It's obvious how I could use infographics in Literature classes.  But could I use them in a Composition class?  Let me ponder this.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Voting in the North Carolina Primary

Yesterday, we voted in the North Carolina primary.

I have fond memories of voting in South Carolina primaries in the late 80's and early 90's.  The state was just as Republican then as it is now, so we knew that almost any vote for a Democrat wouldn't matter in presidential contests.  In primaries, I voted for Jesse Jackson in 1988, and at the time, I thought it unlikely that I'd ever see a candidate who wasn't white win a presidential bid.  I'm thankful I was wrong.

I voted for a woman, too, but I can't remember which one.  It was likely whichever candidate the Green party had chosen.

Last night, I tried to remember why we hadn't voted in Florida primaries, and then I remembered.  The only people who Florida allows to vote in primaries are people who choose a party affiliation when they register to vote.  I have always registered as an independent.

North Carolina allows independents to vote, but only in one of the primaries:  Democrat, Libertarian, or Republican.  South Carolina used to give everyone the same ballot, as if it was a regular election day, and the voter could mix and match between parties.  They may still do that, but I haven't voted in a South Carolina election in decades, so I can't be sure.

Yesterday, I voted in the Republican primary.  In many of the races, that's the candidate who will win in this electorally strange state, so I want to help winnow that field.  On the Democratic side, I'm less concerned about ruling out any of those candidates, so I felt less compelled to vote in that primary.  As for Libertarians, we live in a time where third parties don't have much of a chance, so I'm not wasting a vote that way.

Yesterday we went to vote at the local public library which is nestled between a public high school, a public elementary school, and several churches that have been in existence for longer than the school or library buildings.    I thought about what this country has built, what it has deemed essential for the public good (schools!  libraries!  institutions that house multitudes!  separation of church and state!  caretakers of the souls who are living and dead and the graveyards!).  I said a prayer, both of thanks and supplication that they may continue to exist and thrive. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Good Kind of Tired

I feel tired today in ways that mystify me, as if yesterday was a heavy duty day.  Of course, in some ways, it was:  I drove down to Spartanburg, spent the day teaching, drove back, helped my spouse with a job application (much more cumbersome a process than it sounds, with all the information needing to be entered on a job portal that was clunky and repetitive), and then went to a neighborhood committee meeting.

Today I've got some writing to do for seminary in the morning, two different Zoom sessions this evening and quilting in between.  I shouldn't feel tired, but I do.

Let me also remember that I got a lot of work done on Monday, which also leaves me tired.  And all of this tiredness is the good kind of tired.

I feel grateful that I'm at a time when I have a lot to think about, but it's all stuff I want to be thinking about.  My brain is not filled with accreditation issues.  I am not stressed about money or home repairs (yes, we have lots of home repairs that need to be done, but I'm not stressed about them, at least not today).  I feel very lucky.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Teaching Performance Review

I only have time for the briefest of writings today.  Soon I need to get ready to head down the mountain to teach my English classes at Spartanburg Methodist College.  It's that time of the semester when I'm not sure which technique is best for my English Composition classes, but I'm about to decide on a week of mini-conferences next week and a time to write together on Thursday.  

I always feel this odd guilt, like I need to be the "sage on the stage" for every single minute that they are in class--that they've paid a certain amount, and I better make sure they get their money's worth.  In our entertainment culture, I often equate "money's worth" to "good performance."

But a time of writing with others also writing is something we don't get to experience very often.  A time of writing with a writing teacher nearby probably feels special.

Let me return to these thoughts later.  It occurs to me that I might need an additional handout today.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Week-end Update: Ups and Downs and Ups

It has been one of those week-ends that was a mix of happiness and depression.  The depression came from having a drywall person come and be less than enthusiastic about our project.  In some ways, we should have bounced back; we will want a person/team/company to do the taping, mudding, and sanding/finishing work.  We have a team scheduled to come in and hang the drywall, which at once point seemed impossible to find.  We will find someone to do the rest of it, or we'll do it ourselves.

But Saturday afternoon, we both felt dejected at the same time, which is a difficult and sometimes dangerous time for us as a couple.  If only one of us is dejected, the other can be rational and reassuring.  We didn't have that Saturday.  So we watched Pure Deviltry, a strange movie with subtitles, about two demons who have to go to the regular world to find two people who most deserved to go to Hell.  It turned out to be oddly charming.  We started it Saturday night and finished it last night.

Yesterday was a good day at Faith Lutheran, in Bristol, Tennessee.  I finished I getting the children ready for First Communion (for more on that, see this blog post).  After worship, my spouse and I went over to the house of the church council president for a lovely lunch.  When we got home, I went over to the house of a Lutheridge friend who is selling her house and selling stuff.  We don't need much stuff, but she does have a cool glass birdbath that will be ours.

It's strange to think that I always thought of this neighborhood where we live as a place where most people wouldn't leave, but that hasn't been the case.  I understand, but it does make me sad at points, even when people aren't going far.

The sunset last night was absolutely gorgeous.  I captured some shots that might find their way into a sketchbook.

I made this Facebook post this morning:  "It seems a first worth mentioning here: I'm washing a white robe to get the Ash Wednesday ashes out. The care instructions say to treat the robe like a delicate creature, even though it's probably been on the earth longer than I have. It seems like one of those rugged poly-cotton blends designed to outlast humanity, but I'll treat it as if it was made of hand-tatted lace. We should all get that kind of treatment occasionally."

A few other points from the week-end worth mentioning:

--I need to apply to United Lutheran Seminary to be affiliated with them (as a Methodist who wants to be ordained in the ELCA, I need to be affiliated with a Lutheran seminary, and ULS does a better job with distance students and midlife students than most Lutheran seminaries).  I need 3 people to be recommenders; one must be my home pastor and one must be a professor, so I have fewer people to choose from in those two slots.  Happily, I now have a yes from each category.

--Why is it hard for me to ask for this favor?  In part, because I've already asked for what feels like a big favor, and now I have to ask again.  In part because this application process is cumbersome.  Let me get this wrapped up this week so I don't have to think about it in this way again.

--We had a great Bible study by way of Zoom on Saturday.  It's so cool to be able to stay connected with the women from my Florida church this way.  About half of us have moved somewhere else, but we still want to stay in touch.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

When a Day Zooms By

At 7:45, I started getting ready for my 9 a.m. Zoom call with my quilt group friends, the Zoom call before the Bible study on parables that I lead for my Florida church once a month at 10 a.m.  Did I need 75 minutes before the first Zoom call?  No, I did not.  I was an hour off.

Happily, I realized that I was off, and no harm done.  But it's unsettling, nonetheless, especially in this current news climate where we're always yammering on about the mental fitness of the two elderly men who are likely to face each other in the U.S. presidential election.  More than ever, I find myself thinking, does this slip of my memory signal decline?  Of course, I'd likely wonder that anyway, with a history of elders with memory issues on both sides of my parents' family tree.

Speaking of those elders, last night I dreamed about my grandmother on my mother's side.  She was living in her house, which unlike some of my dreams, was not changed from when she lived there.  We were sorting fabric together.  It was a lovely dream.

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt like I got a lot done, but because it wasn't a lot of school work, it felt like I got nothing done.  I went to the library and to the Fresh Market, where I got a lot of Valentine's treats and a mix of 3 hot cocoa tins for 75% off.  Hurrah!  

I connected with the person in charge of CPE in Spartanburg.  After talking to the person in charge of CPE at the Asheville VA Hospital, I thought it would be wise to check out nearby possibilities because the VA Hospital has limited summer possibilities (none this summer, next summer perhaps but hard to say).  The Spartanburg option has lots of flexibility, and unlike Asheville, they don't do as much in the summer as they do in the fall and spring for people who only need one unit of CPE.

I helped my spouse with some renovation chores to get the house ready for the drywall team that will be here March 4.  Soon it felt like the whole day had zoomed by, and it had.

Speaking of zooming, soon it will be time for my Zoom calls, so let me get some breakfast! 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Friday Threads, Ash Wednesday Weavings and Star Shapes

It's been an unusual week, with a midweek worship service which meant that I moved the English classes that I teach online yesterday.  I've felt the week feeling like I'm not really sure what day it is.  Let me collect a few threads here, parts of a weaving that I don't want to lose.

--I went for a walk right after I got back from my drive to Spartanburg on Tuesday.  As I was walking down a steep hill (for those familiar with Lutheridge, it was just after passing Efird, heading down the hill to the main entrance), I heard a rustle and looked over.  At first I thought I was seeing a bird swooping low, but as the creature ran away, I realized it was a deer, and the white tail was what I thought was a bird.  Wildlife sightings that aren't birds still feel magical to me.

--On Tuesday evening, we went to a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper at the Lutheran church that is right around the corner from us, a church where we have lots of connections, but I wasn't sure that we'd see anyone we know.  Still, we wanted to support the youth who are raising money to go to the nationwide youth event.

--It was a great event, pancakes with all sorts of toppings (berries, chocolate chips, whipped cream, syrup, real butter), pancakes that we ate on real plates.  As one youth said, "The church has these dishes, so we might as well use them."  The church also has an industrial dishwasher, which makes that decision easier.  We sat a table and caught up with people we don't see as often as we would like.

--The pancake supper started at 5:30, which meant we were done and back on our way by 6:45.  I need more events like this one.  Our local church also does a Pub Theology night, which I have enjoyed when we've gone, but it doesn't start until 7:00. Why is it hard for me to want to go to an event on a school night that starts at 7:00?

--It was great to have conversations with the youth group member who was our table's waiter.   And one of the youth members had a friend who was part of a jazz band that sounded much, much older (in a good, smoky-voiced kind of way) than their years.  These kind of events give me hope for the future.

--I had a great day on Wednesday baking bread.  I am still experimenting as I try to bake a bread that's tasty and easy for me to tear into bite sized pieces for communion.  One loaf got quite a rise.  This picture encapsulates much about my current life, from bread cooling to the two coffee makers on the counter to the poinsettias, still red and healthy:

--We had a lovely drive to Bristol,  TN on Wednesday afternoon, and on Feb. 14, that felt lucky indeed:  no snow/rain, and the setting sun was never in our eyes.  We heard a radio ad for term life insurance, which we both had as termite insurance.  The ad promised in a very gender specific way that an older man could get term life insurance (or, as we heard it, termite insurance) even if that man had diabetes or heart problems.  Hilarity ensued as we tried to interpret what we thought we had heard.

--I got this comment on one of my worship contextuality assignments:  "Thank you for your thoughtful reflection, Kristin. You have a keen and analytic eye."  My first thought was, me?--a keen and analytic eye?  I went back to the assignment, and yes, I do see why my professor said that.  What's more interesting to me is why my first impulse is to deny that I have a keen and analytic eye when it comes to my academic writing.  Hmm.  

--I know why, of course.  When I did my English Literature graduate work, I went straight out of undergraduate school, and I went from being a star student to being part of a group of stars, many of whom I perceived as shining more brightly than I could.  Looking back, I realize that was likely untrue.  Most of them just knew how to talk a good game.   The men were convinced of their brilliance, but I never saw their writing or our professor's feedback to their writing, so I have no way to judge.  However, decades of experience have shown me that those who blather on about their brilliance are not as brilliant as they think they are.

--Speaking of brilliant stars, I'll remember driving back across the mountains Wednesday night and seeing a star decoration shining through the night, a star made of Christmas lights strung in a star shape on a big board.  I had seen it as we drove across and wondered if the house still lit it up at night.  Wednesday night, the star shone brightly.