Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: A Look Back

I began this post in mid-December, in an attempt to boost my mood.  I've been trying to jolt my way out of my sadness with cups of hot tea and buttered toast, and by the middle of the day, I decided to do something more intentional.  I finished this post this morning, on the last day of the year and the last day of a decade.

Let me take a look back at 2019.  Let me take stock.


My goal was to read 100 books.  One of the unexpected benefits of increasing my reading amount was that I read so many more good books this past year.  As the year has come to a close, I've been trying to think about what book would take top place, if I had to choose the best book of 2019.  So many choices!  Perhaps I will write a future blog post about all the good books.

I remember the days when I would read 100 books in a summer--of course, they were shorter books when I was a child or a teenager.  I began this year feeling a bit dismayed about how my reading habits were slipping away.  I wanted to be more intentional, and I have been.  Hurrah!


I'm calling this past year a mix of success and falling away from patterns that lead to success.  I'm happy that I started a novel, and I am frustrated at the ways it's hard to stay faithful to novel writing.  At times, I've written lots of poems and had no lack of ideas.  At other times in the past year, I've wondered if I'll ever have even a glimmer of inspiration again.  Most days I write a blog post, some days two--I try not to compare my output to past years when I wrote 2 new blog posts almost every day.

Writing Submissions:

My goal was 100 submissions.  At mid-December, I had 110.  I'm counting all submissions:  poetry packets, book manuscripts, short stories, essays.


I know that some people have seen that their publication rate increases with a goal of 100 submissions.  That's not the case with me, but that's O.K.  This is the year that my book-length poetry manuscript was a semifinalist in not 1 but 2 competitions:  the Wilder Prize (Two Sylvias Press) and the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry.

I had a poem included in the Women Artists Datebook, published by Syracuse Cultural Workers group; I bought my first Women Artists Datebook from them decades ago, but never would have thought about submitting there back in those days.  Being included thrilled me.

I am also thrilled to have a poem appearing in Sojourners again.  When I wrote it, I thought it would be perfect for that magazine.  I'm so happy that the magazine agreed.

Culture/Getting Out of the House:

It's been a year of trying to do more cultural stuff.  During the first part of the year, I went to at at least 1 concert a month, from the professional ones (Carrie Newcomer!) to free concerts at the beach.  Summer disrupted that record.  I also went to more author readings:  Colson Whitehead, Te-Nehisi Coates, and Patti Smith, plus too many to list at AWP.

I don't see much TV, even though we're living in a golden age of TV, and some of the stuff sounds good, if I had various streaming services, which I don't.  I also don't make it to many movies.  Most of the movies I don't care about missing. 

I've been trying to stay connected to friends, which seems much harder than it used to be.  Sigh.  It's not that we don't want to be connected.  It was easier when we all worked at the same school and/or lived in the same county.

Cool Events for Students:

I began the year by creating a station in the break room where students could create vision boards.  I created a butterfly garden in late June that captivated us when we had butterflies emerge from their chrysalises.  And then we had a Come Out of Your Chrysalis Party.  We also celebrated the Dog Days of Summer with frozen treats and Pi Day (March 13). I helped with the Teal Takeover which raised awareness for the American Lung Association.  Not all of our events were new:  I'm overly fond of the pumpkin decorating, and it seems to be popular, as is the Halloween costume contest.  The bloodmobile comes to campus every eight weeks or so.  Let me remember that I do these things, and that they are important.

Social Justice

I admire people who write a daily letter in support of their social causes, but I am not that person.  Still, let me remember that I participate in a variety of social justice causes in an effort to build a more equitable world.  I give money on a regular basis, I support our church's food pantry, I show up at various assemblies to show that a critical mass of people demands justice.

And of course, I write letters to those in Washington D.C. who make decisions, but I have done less of that this year.  My representative will vote the way I want, so I tend to write thank you letters instead of letters demanding action.  My senators are not likely to be swayed by my letters.  And it's useless to write to the president of the U.S.

I also continue to go to Publix every Monday to pick up the bread and treats that would be thrown away.  I redistribute them:  I set out treats in the morning and the afternoon for students, and I leave the bread in baskets for anyone who wants them to take them home.  Is this justice?  Charity?  Just my grandmother's instinct to avoid waste?  It feels important, even though I often wish I was offering more nourishing food.

Unexpected Delights

When I started the butterfly garden, I fully expected the plants to be dead by August.  I think of myself as not being good at keeping plants or any living things flourishing.  I need to change that inner narrative.  When I arrived at work yesterday, all the milkweed plants were in full bloom.  Some of the other plants are scraggly, but they may make a comeback.  Yesterday, a monarch butterfly flitted across the plants.

The butterfly garden has given me joy every day.  Setting out bread and treats for students has given me joy most days.  I love creating events and book displays for the library and bulletin boards.  The days when the writing goes well--sheer joy.  Sketching--also joy.  Having bread in the oven and coffee brewing makes me happy--as does a cup of tea at work when the work coast is calm.  Let me keep remembering these delights.

Spiritual Developments:

This past year, our church moved away from the weekly interactive service, which was often a creative activity.  I still miss that service terribly.  It fed me in ways that our current approach does not.

But I did create some creative opportunities for my church.  We did journaling:  a weekly gathering for Lent and a one opportunity for one evening in Advent.  One Sunday when I was in charge, we wrote prayers on scraps of cloth and tied them to a huge hoop.  I continued to help with making the sanctuary more interesting in terms of visual elements.

I went to the Create in Me retreat and a retreat at Mepkin Abbey.  I am the social media coordinator for the Create in Me retreat, and I love elements of that work--should that love be telling me something?  I also love doing that kind of work at school.

I was asked to be part of creating a prayer chapel for Synod Assembly.  I created a station with a weaving frame, and I got good feedback--plus I was asked to be part of the process again.

What feels like the biggest development:  in January, I will begin a certificate program in spiritual direction.

Work for Pay

My online teaching progressed as usual.  In this way, 2019 seemed the same as 2015 or 2013 or any other teaching year.

When I reflect on the situation with my full-time administrator job, it's no wonder that I'm feeling a bit whipsawed.  In the beginning of 2019, we had 3 full-time Program chairs and 2 part-time.  During the first half of the year, 2 of the full-time chairs left; we replaced one but not until September and one full-time position was changed to a shared position with another campus.  In the beginning of 2019, my boss was only on campus one day a week, and now our campus is his only focus.  And of course, we had an accreditation visit which became all-consuming for almost 2 months.

Planning for the Future

The recent flooding reminds me that it may be time to get serious about making alternate plans, but what should they be?  Moving to higher ground?  Giving up on the cottage but enjoy the house for a few more decades?

Let me try the approach which has worked in other settings.  I am in a period of discernment--that sounds better than being paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong decision.  But let me also get a bit more intentional about actually discerning a good direction.

Monday, December 30, 2019

The Last Sunday of 2019

Weeks ago, my pastor asked if I would preach on Dec. 29, and I said yes.  He gave me a choice of texts:  Herod killing the babies of Bethlehem in an effort to get rid of a possible rival that had just been born, Jesus being presented in the temple, or Jesus at age 12 staying behind during a trip to the temple and scaring his parents half to death when they realized he had been left behind.

I preached on Anna last year, and the Jesus in the temple story is much less interesting than Herod.  I chose Herod, and the sermon went well.  I walked a delicate line between including politics and backing away from it.  I thought about talking about our inner Herods, but as I spoke, I decided that including that part took away from the main message, the threat that Christianity poses to Empire.

It seemed to go well.  No one stormed out in a huff, which has happened when I've been in charge at church and brought politics into the mix.  On the contrary, several people thanked me for giving them something to think about.

After church we had to count the money, both for yesterday and Christmas Eve.  We had extra help, so it was easier than I was afraid it would be.

After church, we went to pick up ingredients, primarily a brisket.  We're hosting several events this week, with little time to shop, so we grabbed the opportunity. 

Yesterday afternoon was one of the events.  We have lots of members of my spouse's family living in South Florida, and yesterday, some of them came over.  On Wed., some of them will come back again along with those who couldn't come yesterday, while one of yesterday's group flies back to see other members of the family far away.

Yesterday I spent time enjoying coffee while watching the lights on the trees--so little time left to enjoy the lights on the trees.  Yesterday was the low prep day--we put out leftovers from our Christmas travels and enjoyed being together.

And now it's time to begin the return to normal life, much as I would prefer to be on a balcony pondering the slates and greys and greens of the Gulf of Mexico or watching the trees twinkle.  Today it's back to doing the bread run and getting to spin class.  And then to work, to get ready for the term that begins on January 8.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Season of Broken Things

It has been a season of broken things.  In the past three weeks, my spouse's Fitbit went dark and refuses to be revived.  His laptop went to the dreaded blue screen, and we await a visit from the tech wizards to see if it can be fixed.  One of our hybrid cars may have been drowned--again, we await, this time for the insurance adjuster to tell us what the insurance will cover, and we'll go from there.

When I pull the camera back, I can see this pattern of brokenness, and perhaps this pattern is appropriate for autumn.  But it's often felt like a more wintry brokenness.  Since late August, I've had lots of moments of self-doubt about various aspects of my life.  I thought my self-doubt might have been triggered by our impending accreditation visit, but after a successful visit, the self-doubt didn't lift.

And perhaps it's been more than self-doubt.  Usually self-doubt encourages me to have some reflection, do some course correction if necessary, and keep going in the same trajectory.  This season of brokenness has made me doubt the trajectory.

As I look back on this season, I wonder how much of the trajectory doubting comes from not doing the creative work that has fed me through the decades.  For example, I've been doubting my poetry trajectory, but nothing substantial has changed.  I send work out, a bit of it gets accepted, more of it gets rejected, and there are kind words with a few rejections.  But this season, I have had to beat back the "Why bother?" blues.

What has changed?  I haven't actually written as much poetry.  I haven't done as much other creative work either:  cooking, sketching, sewing, journaling, any writing at all.

I've also been teaching more online classes than I often do.  There have been weeks that have felt like a long grind:  8 to 10 hours of work in the office, with every scrap of free time dedicated to grading, grading, grading.  I have let my good disciplines fall by the wayside:  cooking nourishing meals, reading the work that can talk to the negative voices in the larger culture, doing some creative work each day that keeps me rooted in my core values, core values that aren't often found in the larger culture.

My time away has been refreshing and renewing.  I have a bit of fear as we move forward into the new year--the grind begins again.  But let me reframe my thinking.  Let me do some planning in this last week before the pace picks up.  Let me think about schedules that can keep me more grounded.  Let me find a way to nurture new growth.  Let my wintry season melt into a good spring.  Let my season of broken things give way to a season of mending.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Vacation's End

Today my vacation comes to an end.  I am having one of those vacations where I wish I never had to leave--what a gift!  We've all been healthy and in good moods, with a good mix of together time and do-your-own-thing time.

If the vacation wasn't ending today, we'd have more time to explore Marco Island.  I still haven't gotten to the beaches that are great for birding.  It would be cool to see Little Women with my mom or to go to the new Star Wars movie with the whole family.  There are restaurants we never visited.  If we stayed here longer, we might get tired of cooking and clean up and venture out more.  Or maybe we'd just do more of the same stuff that's brought us joy this week.

Of course, I don't want the vacation to come to an end for other reasons.  We go home to a flood-damaged cottage and a car swamped by flood waters that won't start.  I have no idea where we go from here, as we haven't had a chance to assess the damage or talk to my sister-in-law.  I haven't let myself really think about the situation, in terms of making a plan and a back-up plan, with three variations just in case we need them.  Once that would have been my approach.  This year, I didn't want to ruin my vacation.

And then there's the old damage to repair.  Just before we left, my spouse's laptop died--AGAIN.  Can it be fixed?  Is it worth fixing?  The IT guy comes on Monday to find out.

There's also the prep I need to do for my online classes.  One class has changed completely, so I need to work my way through the content--in an ideal world.  At the very least, I need to plug in dates and change all the parts of the course shell that need changing every term.

Of course, one of the reasons that I don't want to go home is that this place is neat and clean, with a balcony that has a magnificent view.  Home just isn't the same, even in the best circumstances.  These days, it feels like we'll never have the house reassembled again.

Let me remember that these problems can be solved.  Unlike some years, we're not facing health issues.  We still have most of our loved ones with us.

And let me look forward:  I am starting the certificate program in spiritual direction.  There's much to look forward to.  Let me not plunge into despair.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Vacation Snapshots in Words

Let me remember some moments from this week that might slip away if I don't record them here:

--Last night we played Pictionary.  My dad is surprisingly good at the drawing part.  He had trouble comprehending the rules, which do seem arbitrary--when do we roll the dice?  What do these categories mean?  He had to draw Dynotrux--I have no idea what this thing is--something from pop culture, I assume, since that was the category.  His dinosaur did not resemble anything when he drew it.  His teammate guessed and my dad said, "I haven't even drawn the head yet."  Then he proceeded to draw a truck, and the rest of his team shouted "Dynotrucks!"

--We've doing a variety of resort activities:  playing Bingo, playing Holiday Name that Tune, etc.  These events have been sparsely attended, which means my family members have won things:  a water bottle, a satchel, bragging rights, a free ice cream sundae, $20 food credit at the 2 restaurants.  I should not be so happy about this.

--Because these events have been sparsely attended, the employees who put these things together seem happier than usual to see us.  It doesn't feel like fake happiness, although I know it's in part because they are paid to be pleasant and personable.

--The weather has seemed more changeable than I expected.  Happily, that means that storms come and go, and there are some periods of intense sun for those of us pursuing a tan.  There are also periods of gloominess that enhance the cozy feelings of the season.

--I have really enjoyed the ability to sit on a balcony and gaze at the ocean.  I've watched the sky change and the ocean change, and it's been amazing--but in a different color palette than I'm used to.  Lots of grays and silvers and subdued blues--there's a slate and flintiness that keeps the colors away from the Caribbean colors on my side of the Florida coast.

--The views from the balcony are very cool.  We've seen flocks of pelicans flying past--including one with a fish in its claws.  We've had beautiful sunsets, and a sliver of moon setting, once the sun gets out of the way.

--One of the books I've been reading has been Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, the Booker Prize winner along with Margaret Atwood.  When I first picked it up and flipped through it, I thought I wouldn't be able to make my way through it.  There's a startling lack of punctuation and capital letters, except when there's not, and that kind of inconsistency usually drives me nuts.  But the content is so good that I don't even notice.

--Most of the people in my family are beyond the age of enchantment.  It's been great being on vacation at a resort area where there are plenty of little ones who are still enchantable.  There's a melancholy, too--missing the times when we had enchanted littles amongst us.  But enchantment can still be found, even if we must now try harder for ourselves.  And if we can't manage it, we can smile at the wonder of others.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Sandcastle Symbolism

Today I feel a bit fragmented--sad that Christmas is over, sternly telling myself that I have two more days in this glorious vacation location with my family and not to ruin it with my post-Christmas melancholy.

Part of me wants to wail, as I want to wail every year on Dec. 26, that my favorite part of the year is over, that time from early October until Dec. 25, and I feel like I hardly got to enjoy it and if we could just rewind, I promise that I will savor every single moment.

My inner critic scolds that I didn't savor it the first time, and why would this time be different?

My inner contemplative reminds me that there will be unexpected joys in January and February--for overlooked/unappreciated months, those months bring their own rewards, even if there aren't special foods or twinkly lights.

And yes, I have been researching, looking for some sort of Valentine's twinkly decoration.

Let me remember the lesson the beach offered me today:

From a distance, we noticed a sandcastle that we couldn't see until the light shifted on the beach.  We marveled at its elaborate nature.  We couldn't help but notice the tide that might soon sweep it away.

In the end, it wasn't the tide.  Children out for their morning walk stomped it away.

Symbolism abounds.

Coda:  Symbolism abounds indeed.  From the balcony of our resort, it only looked like children were destroying the sand castle.  In fact, they were adding improvements. 

In a few hours, they had added a mermaid, as well as embellishments to the existing structure.

The structure is ringed by all sorts of sand animals, from a dog with a bone

to a crocodile

to a turtle

Well done, sand artists!  It's truly turned into a community project--I watched all sorts of people join in the fun.

So the next time I feel despair--about missing my favorite time of year, about the larger political landscape, about the future of the arts--let me remember the lessons of the sandcastle.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas Eve in Strange Spaces

When I was younger, my family always went to church while we were on vacation.  I did wonder what it would be like to be a family that didn't do that, but the decision wasn't up for discussion.

My family no longer goes to church while on vacation, except when we do.  And I can't remember a Christmas Eve when we've been together when we haven't gone.  I always thought that Christmas Eve would be a relatively safe service, that we could go to any denomination of Christianity--most of us sing the same songs on Christmas Eve, and the message isn't likely to be too strange.

Usually we can find an ELCA Lutheran church, but there wasn't one nearby this year.  So we went to a Missouri Synod Lutheran church--for those of you unfamiliar with church variations, Missouri Synod Lutherans are fairly conservative.  They don't ordain women, for example.

We went to the 5 p.m. service which was packed--every seat in the room taken, literally.  I wondered if their 9 p.m. service was the smaller one, or if it, too, would be packed.  Did all these people live on Marco Island?  Is it a hotbed of conservative Lutheranism that I didn't know about?  Is the island big enough to have a this kind of critical mass of any religion?

In some ways, it was like falling back through a hole in time to wake up at a Christmas Eve service in 1959.  The congregation was very white--the only person of color sang in the choir.  We sang the older versions of hymns and prayed that a male God who had choirs of angels proclaiming good news to men, not humans.

In some ways, it wasn't 1959.  Most women wore pants, which surprised me.  And this church did allow women to serve communion; I'm told that some Missouri Synod Lutherans don't.  And the music was amplified--very amplified.  We got the words to the hymns both in the paper bulletin and projected on screens.

The older I get, the more I yearn for a contemplative service, and this yearning doesn't change on Christmas Eve.  I wondered what the Mepkin monks would be doing--probably much of what they usually do, with a special something, but not a showy something special.  They would probably not hear a sermon about the world as smelly stable:  all the ways that humans make it so smelly with the horrible choices they make.  But hey, good news:  God can be found in the smelly stable.

I'd have rather sung more Christmas carols, but it was not to be.  Christmas Eve doesn't really need a sermon, but perhaps there would be complaints if there was no sermon.

We used the gender neutral bathrooms before heading back to our home away from home--another sign that the church might be a tad more progressive than their God language indicates.  They also had a meditative garden space that I could see from inside the church, but I didn't explore.

We drove back through the glitzy lights of a resort area.  I thought back to Christmas Eve in San Diego, where we greeted the homeless who were making their camp for the night--what did they think of this jolly troupe of strangers wishing them a Merry Christmas?

I'd prefer a message about who is included in the stable and who can't even find a stable when there's no room at the end--but that message, too, might have irritated me.  I much prefer the Advent reading of Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark:  Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities.  She reminds us that success is really much more ambiguous, as is failure.

Here's a message for our Christmas morning:  "The term 'politics of prefiguration' has long been used to describe the idea that if you embody what you aspire to, you have already succeeded. That is to say, if your activism is already democratic, peaceful, creative, then in one small corner of the world these things have triumphed. Activism, in this model, is not only a toolbox to change things but a home in which to take up residence and live according to your beliefs . . . " (pages 80-81).

Let us begin to live like the communities we're creating already exist.  Let us create a larger home in the world for the changes we need to see, the ones we're creating, the ones that humanity desperately needs.

Happy winter holidays, to all who celebrate the return of daylight to our world, slow minute by slow minute, each day a bit brighter.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve: from the Profound to the Mundane and Back Again

It has been a stranger Christmas season than most.  My sister-in-law moved into our cottage in September, and it's the first time we've had anyone living there longer than a week.  Since our last long-term resident moved away in 2016, we've had lots of work done:  an on-demand hot water system that supplies both houses, a new AC/heat system for the cottage, new landscaping that affects the back parking area, just to name a few.

I've been holding my breath, waiting to see what might go wrong with a full-time resident adding stress to the systems (water, electric, AC, etc), many of which are quite old.  And I had just started to enjoy the realization that everything seemed secure.

We went off on our week-long vacation, only to get a panicked phone call at 2:30 a.m. on Monday morning:  serious flooding in the cottage.  The good news:  we had left our keys with my sister-in-law, so she had a dry place to wait until morning.

Yesterday morning, she sent this picture:

Yes, that's our front yard under all that water.  The blue car in the background is the one we left parked on the street.  This time, the water made it to the porch, but didn't flood the house.

We have never seen that kind of water outside of Hurricane Irma.  We had no hurricane, no tropical system.  But we had enough rain in a "normal" weather pattern that this kind of flooding happened, which affected not only houses and roads, but the airport, which was closed for part of yesterday.

Insert a heavy sigh here.

We spent time yesterday trying to figure out what our response should be.  Should we go rushing back across the state?

In the end, we decided it made sense to stay where we are, vacationing with my side of our family.  We have a bed here in Marco Island, and by staying here, my sister-in-law can stay in our house while the cottage dries out.  The water has receded, but the drying out will take some time.

Last night I collapsed into bed early and slept soundly.  This morning, from the balcony, I could see stars over the ocean, a sight I rarely see on my side of the peninsula.  Even though the southeast coast of Florida tries to darken itself during sea turtle nesting season, it's minimally effective.

I stood on the balcony and took in the heavens.  I thought about the fact that it's Christmas Eve.  I thought about all the glories proclaimed from the heavens that some of us will celebrate tonight (and hopefully, we celebrate year round).

And then I came inside and unloaded the dishwasher and reloaded it. 

From the profound mysteries to the essential tasks of a life incarnate--that line we walk, the balance we try to maintain, that idea seems to be an essential one of the year-end holidays.  I wish us all peace, no matter how we're celebrating.

Monday, December 23, 2019

All the Ways We Watch and Wait in Advent

This is not the kind of Advent watching and waiting that the prophets advised.

A few hours ago, I got a phone call from my sister-in-law who is living in our backyard cottage.  She said that water had come into the cottage, and because she knew she had power strips on the floor, she worried she might be electrocuted.

Happily, those fears didn't come to pass.  But I could hear the water as she waded through the cottage assessing the situation.  I'm two hours away, across the state.  I thought about getting in the car and racing back.  But it was dark and would be for hours.

She moved what she could, and we corresponded by way of Facebook.  We agreed we would wait for daylight to see what we should do next.  She's got the keys to our house, so she was able to make it there.  So far, there aren't flood waters in our house, but I'm not sure that either of our cars will be O.K.  And of course, there's the issue of the cottage.

Let me remember that many of us are keeping watch this Advent (and every other season too), and it's often not for cheery reasons.  I think of the phone call I got almost exactly 15 years earlier than my sister-in-law's phone call--my mother-in-law had fallen and was in the emergency room.  That was a horrible time of watching and waiting.

I think of those in Australia who have been evacuated because of the worst wildfires in Australian history.  They, too, watch and wait.

I think about those ancient prophets and about our Advent texts.  This kind of watching and waiting is not so dissimilar from the larger Advent watching and waiting that our Advent texts describe.  Joseph awakened out of sleep because of a message from the angel--yes, I can relate, although I'm not yet sure what this middle of the night message really means.  My early morning thoughts are to move to higher ground.

But I also think of other Advent texts, the messages that seem like disaster at first glance (a surprise pregnancy) but are blessings in disguise.  Let me remain open to the mysteries.

Let me also say a prayer for those who watch and wait, especially for those who will not be getting any blessings in disguise this Advent season.  Let me pray for us all, that we can continue to do create new life out of so much wreckage.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Book List for a Spiritual Director Certificate Program

A week ago, I placed my order for the first 2 books on the reading list for the spiritual director certificate program.

I confess that when I first looked at this list, I felt a bit of a panic.  Could I really do this program while also working both as a full-time administrator and an adjunct English faculty member?  I worried that I might not be able to be able to read this much--and then I had to laugh at myself.  It's not like I'm being asked to master ancient Greek or Hebrew.  Of course I can read a book a month and write a report.

I worried I might not be able to find the books, but in our modern age, that's not likely to be a problem.  I did feel a bit of relief to discover that they're available and affordable.

I wondered, as I always do, if I should just get them from the library.  I already have so many books.  But I want to be able to mark in them if I feel so inclined.  I don't want to have to keep track of when library books are due.

If one of these books turns out to be ghastly expensive, I might change my mind.  Of course, my public library might not carry that kind of book.  Right now, I don't have access to an academic library.

I'm lucky--right now I have the resources to buy the books I need.  So I went ahead and purchased the first two books on the list.

In case you are interested, here's the whole list:

2020-2121 Reading List

Report Due
The Practice of Spiritual Direction
Wm Berry & Wm Connolly
Open Mind, Open Heart
Thomas Keating
Healing the Soul Wound
Eduardo Duran
Primary Speech
Ann Ulanov & Barry Ulanov
Thich Nhat Hanh
Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative
Practices of the Black Church.
Barbara Holmes
The Orthodox Church[1]
The Orthodox Way[2]
Timothy Ware
Kallistos Ware
Holy Listening
Margaret Guenther
God's Voice Within
Mark Thibodeaux
Soul Feast
Marjorie Thompson
Spiritual Friend
Tilden Edwards
Celebration of Discipline
Richard Foster
Seeds of Contemplation
Thomas Merton
Revelations of Divine Love[3]
St. Augustine
Julian of Norwich
Reaching Out
Henri Nouwen
The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective
Richard Rohr
Take the MBTI online; no report.

Spiritual Pilgrims: Carl Jung &Teresa of Avila

[1] This version includes a detailed and helpful history of the Orthodox church; for those of you who love history, we would suggest this one.
[2] This version omits the history portion and focuses solely on the practices of the Orthodox tradition.
[3] A really good edition of Julien of Norwich is The Sayings, translated by Mirabeau Starr.

Friday, December 20, 2019

A New Voice Calls for Trump's Removal

When people look back at our current political age, and even those of us living now, one of the questions that will be asked is how Donald Trump had the support of so many people who called themselves Christian.  That said, I'd like to know for sure, with solid numbers, how much support is actually there.

I don't know many people personally who support Trump and actually practice their Christianity.  I know one or two who may have started out as Trump supporters but have grown much more uneasy.  I don't know many people who are willing to give Trump a pass on his bad behavior because he's getting them some of the things they want to have, like Supreme Court justices.

I do know some people who aren't thinking about it at all.  My cousin's spouse said it more succinctly, "Most people I know are just looking for their next meal or their next fix and aren't thinking about this at all."  She works with some populations who are living in the deepest margins of our society, so she's got a view that I don't have.

I was struck by the editorial in yesterday's Christianity Today.  You may or may not know that the magazine was founded by Billy Graham, and it's thought of as one of the more important voices of the evangelical movement, which is often one of the more conservative streams of Christianity.  Billy Graham's son Franklin has been very vocal in his support of Trump.

Nonetheless, yesterday's editorial called for the removal of Donald Trump, and it concluded eloquently:  "We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now. Some have criticized us for our reserve. But when it comes to condemning the behavior of another, patient charity must come first. So we have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump. To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern."

Well said!  Here's hoping that this voice travels to those with ears to hear and unstops the ears of those who don't want to hear.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

What History Demands of Us

In later years, will I wonder why I don't write more about impeachment?  Maybe.  I was struck this morning when the NPR newscaster reminded us that on this day in 1998, Bill Clinton was impeached.

I've listened to a bit of the process, but it bores me for the most part.  After a few speeches, one knows what everyone is going to say.

Last night, my spouse watched something online that had a split screen--one side showed the votes coming in, and one side had a live telecast of Trump at a rally.  I decided I would rather read a book, so that's what I did.

I was able to get up early and work on my apocalyptic novel, which I've been describing as The Handmaid's Tale meets Graham Greene.  This morning as I walked through the windy, rainy darkness, I thought about how long it's been since I've read a Graham Greene novel--since grad school, and that's likely the only Graham Greene novel I've read.  I can't for the life of me remember which one we read:  The Quiet AmericanThe End of the AffairThe Confidential Agent?

Whatever it was, it was a quick read, and much more entertaining, on some levels, than the other books we read, like A Clockwork Orange and some of Iris Murdoch's weightier tomes.  On some other level, Murdoch seemed much more important.

Perhaps I should read a few of the Graham Greene novels again, just to be sure that I'm remembering correctly.  I'm remembering that he depicts a world of moral ambiguity--I wonder if I'm doing that?  So far, I'm not sure.

This novel is one of the only works I've ever written where I didn't already know how it was going to end.  For awhile, I thought I'd keep writing to find out what happened, but then life got in the way.  It's good to get back again.

Let me loop back to impeachment.  I have been impressed with Nancy Pelosi since she became Speaker of the House in a vote that happened almost exactly a year ago.  I wasn't sure that she had the leadership skills needed for this time in the life of our nation, and I'm delighted to have been proven wrong.  I want to believe I would feel this way, even if I felt differently about whether or not Trump has done impeachable things.

Let me be clear--I think that Trump got off easy, that he's committed many other crimes that make impeachment necessary.  The fact that there were only 2 articles of impeachment distresses me a bit, but I do trust that Pelosi knows what she's doing.

Yesterday as I drove to Trader Joe's, I thought about my great grandparents.  I was wondering what it would be like to be in much older age right now.  One can't be confident about the future and the stability of the country, the way one might have, if one had been older in the early 1960's.    I tried to calculate whether or not my great grandparents would have died in the 1930's or early 1940's, a time that seems similar to now, in terms of facing an uncertain world future.  My grandmother's father was still alive when I was little, so maybe I'd have to go back to great great grandparents.  I feel a bit of shock that I can't tell you exactly when my not-too-distant relatives died.

I'm not sure what it is about this week that has triggered ponderings of death and the significance of the historical times we live in and what history demands of us.  I've been thinking about Patti Smith, who outlived so many of the ones she has loved.  Thinking about her made me think about the people in my life who have died, particularly my best friend from high school.

And of course, there is the fact that we are only 6 days away from Christmas, and I feel like I've done nothing--NOTHING--of the things I usually do to enjoy the season.  Sigh.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Living Legends and Legendary Traffic

"Why don't you go to Miami more often?  You live so close, and I get the idea that you hardly ever get down there?"  The friend who asked me that question lived in Jacksonville, which is a small, Southern town.  The friend who asked me that question doesn't drive, and if he did, he rarely faces the kinds of traffic snarls that many South Floridians face every day.

The last 2 times I've gone downtown to the Adrienne Arscht Center for a literary event, we've had an amazingly easy time in terms of traffic.  Last night was not that kind of night.

Even before we got to I 95, the place where I expected congestion and boondoggles, we sat in backed up traffic for half an hour because of something going on with the railroad tracks.  Sigh.

We had stop and go traffic on the Interstate, and if I'm from here and got confused about which exit to take and how to get to parking, imagine if I was from out of town.  I had hoped that we would have time for drinks and dinner, but we barely had time for a drink.  And I needed one after the drive down.

We got ourselves settled for the evening with Patti Smith.  I enjoyed the people watching, and the cocktail made me less judgmental.  The woman beside me talked with her friend about her latest obsession which is looking at wedding cakes.  At first, I heard her say "wedding capes," and for a few minutes, I imagined this latest fad:  dracula capes, superpower capes.  But then I glanced at her phone and realized my mistake.  The woman confessed the strangeness of her obsession since she doesn't particularly want a wedding cake to call her own.

The crowd was an interesting mix of older folks who might have been part of New York City, back when it was gritty and scary, the New York City that Patti Smith documents in her magnificent Just Kids.  There was a wide variety of younger people too, predominantly white, unlike the audience of Ta-Nehisi Coates.  One young guy carried a copy of Horses, on vinyl, and I thought about how unusual it is to see anyone with a record album these days.

I got us great seats--we were 6 rows away from one of the great artists of our time.  I could see the expressions on her face, that's how close we were.

I wish I could give you words of wisdom straight from the lips of one of our great living artists, but it wasn't that kind of evening.  Patti Smith seemed rather bemused that we might want to know about her artistic process or about her experiences with some of the other great, once-living artists of our time (Robert Mapplethorpe, Sam Shepard).  She did talk about feeling the presence of her loved ones, even though they're dead.  She talked about her need to be alone, but it's not like she doesn't have friends.

She sang two songs, but I didn't know them.  She encouraged us to vote.  She read from her book, and my spouse, who had been reading the book before the show started, said it was better hearing her read than reading it himself.

It was not a moutaintop kind of experience, like I expected.  Still, I'm glad I live in a place where I can hear/see one of the great legends--even if it does mean braving horrible traffic.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Patti Smith Tonight!

Back in September, in The Washington Post, I read an article about Patti Smith, and at the end, it mentioned that she would appear at the Lisner Auditorium.  I felt a stab of jealousy, a yearning to live in a place like D.C., where more of the culture that means something to me comes through those crossroads.

And then, days later, I got the email from the Arscht Center in Miami that announced that she would be here December 17.  And the ticket included a copy of her latest book!  And I could get a ticket for a friend for just $10 more.

Back then, Dec. 17 seemed so far away.  I knew that my online classes would be over--how fortunate!  I knew that we wouldn't be traveling.  I knew that I could get away from the office. 

I felt almost obligated to go.  I thought about my past self, that woman in 1996 who wanted to live in a different place, a place where high culture didn't mean another NASCAR race, as I so snootily articulated my yearning back then.

So I bought the tickets, watched anxiously for them to arrive by mail, and then stashed them in a safe place.  I looked forward to this evening--until last week, when I started to feel exhausted by the thought of it.

I will still go of course.  Almost every type of evening commitment, particularly those on a school night, makes me feel exhausted in advance.  I can't just stay at home, going to bed at 7 p.m., the way my inner toddler wants me to do.

Whenever I feel the strong desire to move far, far away, to a place that has more ______ or less ______, I remind myself that as long as I still need to work to provide for myself, the rest of my life isn't likely to change substantially.  There will still be only so many hours in a day.  I will still need to work hard/consciously to achieve that work/life/play/nourishment balance that seems so elusive on so many days.

And so later today, I will brave the Miami traffic and the high cost of parking.  I will go to the beautiful performing arts center to the south.  I will hear the words of Patti Smith and hang tight to her latest book and be reminded of what I want my life to contain more of.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Back to Spiritual Journaling/Sketching on Sunday

I was startled this week to realize that the last time I sketched/journaled on Sunday was All Saints Day, WAY back in November.

Of course, there are really good reasons for that:  I was out of town for several Sundays in November, for a WELCA retreat and during Thanksgiving travels.  During two Sundays, I was in charge of the service, and I rarely sketch when I'm in charge.  And I've sketched in other journals--I have a journal just for Sunday sketching during the service.

Still, it was strange to realize that I've let my Sunday journaling fall away.  So yesterday, I made this sketch:

As I often am this time of year, I was struck by the words of "O Come, O Come Immanuel":  words about exile, words about loneliness.  I wrote a haiku-like thing:

True selves in exile
Captured in a lonely place.
Let free flight erupt.

I wrote some other non-haiku things; in the lower left:

Ransom us!
our chains!!

I also wrote down words from my pastor's sermon at the top left:
The angel invites
Joseph to do
the crazy thing.

For those of you who have forgotten the story of Joseph and the angel who appears to him in a dream, Joseph had been planning to quietly divorce her because she's pregnant, and the child isn't his.  He could have had her stoned, but he's doing the humane thing, the sensible thing.  But the angel appears to him in a dream and invites him to do the crazy thing:  Go ahead with the wedding to Mary, who has been impregnated by the Holy Spirit.

And that's what he does.

It was good to get back to this discipline.  I like to think it helps me focus, and I do love being able to go back to remember what my pastor preached and what else was going on in any given Sunday.  It's a different twist on journaling, and I'm grateful for this discipline.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Advent 3

--We enter the third week of Advent.   I want to do more--more sketching, more walking through the paths lit by holiday lights, more listening to all the holiday CDs we've accumulated.

--Maybe I should just settle for remembering to light the Advent candles more regularly.  And it's difficult to remember to open the Advent calendar when it's in the fridge to keep the free trade chocolate from melting.

--It's the time of year that I want to commit to my superpower:  my body can store calories in advance of a famine.  We hear from nutritional experts that many citizens will gain 2-3 pounds during the holiday season, to which I say, "Amateurs!"

--But I also want to age gracefully, which means I want to be the feisty, old woman who can both carry her groceries in from the car she can still drive safely and put them away.  If I gain 10-20 pounds during every holiday season, that dream dies.

--I also want to be a feisty, old woman with friends, which means I need to keep maintaining my midlife connections.  Thus we went to dinner at the house of friends last night--sobering to realize that the last time we were together was July--subsequent get-togethers were disrupted by Hurricane Dorian and later, a November PAC meeting.

--I realized I had news to share, news of my acceptance into the spiritual direction certificate program.  The one friend who didn't know of my news said, "Wonderful.  We've been talking about how you should do this for over 10 years.  It's perfect for you."

--Let me remember how many people, almost everyone, has responded similarly.  Even when they ask, "What will you do with that?" and I say, "I'm not really sure yet, but I could work in a church or at a retreat center or have my own practice, like a life coach would do"--even in the face of that uncertainty, people say, "It's perfect for you."

--Some people say, "And then you can go on to seminary and be a preacher, right?"  Let me also remember that.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Holiday Festivities and Regular Life

Once again, it's been a week that's been exhausting in its pace, but with moments of grace and beauty.  I have spotted Christmas trees and been staggered to realize that we're almost to the end of the year--and the end of a decade.  But let me just focus on some of the highlights of the past week:

Holidays:  Festivities and Contemplations

--Last night, we walked to downtown Hollywood.  We thought we would meet friends for happy hour at the Olivia restaurant that's part of the Circ Hotel, but happy hour isn't offered on Friday.  So, we moved to a table and had a dinner of heavy appetizers and adult beverages.  It was good to catch up and good to remember why we live here and good to do more than just work, work, work.

--I've been taking more walks in the evenings--beautiful lights. 

--I've also been enjoying driving with the holiday lights twinkling.  Some neighborhoods are just too distracting though--when I drove a friend home after our Wed. night journaling at church, I found the blinking and blaring of the lights made it difficult to see the street itself.

--I am trying not to feel the preemptive grieving that often comes this time of year when I think about how quickly this time of year is zooming by and soon we will be to the darker times of January when there will be no twinkly lights and my favorite holidays are very far away.

--I thoroughly enjoyed my journaling time on Wednesday night.


--Yesterday I wrote to a friend, "My plan for the holidays is to return to my apocalyptic novel, which I've begun thinking of this way: Margaret Atwood meets Graham Greene (novelist, not actor) in a compelling exploration of the choices we make at midlife, whether the apocalypse is upon us or not.  Should I weave the aspect of gender into my elevator pitch?"  This week I went back and read the 72 pages of the novel I've already written.  I also wrote a bit this morning.

--Yesterday I had an idea for a new character in the apocalyptic novel, the woman they called Pre-Raph Rosie, the woman who came to a Saint Lucy's Day party with a wreath of candles in her auburn hair.

--I also got a new poetry manuscript put together.  I want something new to submit when Copper Canyon re-opens.  They're pretty clear about not submitting a manuscript that has been rejected in the past.  I'm not sure about whether or not to resubmit Ash Wednesday at the Trinity Test Site to other presses where I've submitted before--those presses aren't as clear.  I think that the manuscripts are significantly different from each other, but I should probably look at the two of them side by side.  Are they really that different?  The new manuscript has fewer of the nuclear war poems.  It's composed primarily of poems written since 2014.


I went to the library to pick up books that I'd put on hold, and browsed the new books shelf.  I picked up On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong.  I had decided not to buy it because I didn't love Night Sky with Exit Wounds as much as I expected to.  But when I saw the novel at the library, I decided to give it a try.  I read it in one big gulp on Thursday night.  It was wonderfully written in places.  I liked the first part of the novel best, the part that explores what it means to be an immigrant, what it means to lose a country, the weaving of those ideas with the monarch butterfly.  The later part of the book that deals with two young gay men realizing that they're gay and having sex and getting lost in drug abuse--that part didn't feel as revelatory as the first part.

Does it work as a novel?  It reads more like a lyrical memoir.  There's a bit of narrative arc, and I've read some articles about Vuong's intentional, non-western approach to putting a novel together, meaning there's not the rising action, climax, falling action classic Aristotelian approach to plot.  I'm not sure I saw that.  There was conflict and a sad sort of resolution that comes with every coming of age story.

In short, it was a good book, and I'm glad that I read it.  Does it make my best books that I read in 2019 list?  No, and maybe I'll make a separate post about that.  I've read a lot more books this year, and I've made a conscious effort to make sure that more of them would be worth my time, so Vuong had fierce competition.


--I got grades turned in for my online classes--which meant I spent every scrap of free time grading, grading, grading.  But it's done.

--I solved the issue of affordable gifts for externship sites, which shouldn't feel so important to me.  One of my colleagues told me about a great deal on a large box of gourmet chocolates at Aldi's--$3.99 vs. $10-15 for the boxes of cookies we've given in past years.

--I put together a going away party for a colleague--a feat both sad and satisfying.

--I will try not to think about the frustrations that come with the search for a replacement for that colleague.

Spiritual Director Certificate Plans

--I got some materials from the program, and I had this moment of panic as I wondered if I could really do this program.  But it's been that kind of work week, and I reminded myself that not every work week would be like this.

--I also reminded myself of Julia Cameron's idea of escape velocity that she talked about in The Artist's Way.  She reminds us that the world has a way of trying to derail/prevent/disrupt those of us with plans for a different future and that we should stay steady and constant.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Sketching the Feast Day of Santa Lucia

Today is the feast day of Saint Lucia--Saint Lucy's Day, as it may be more commonly known.  I've written a lot about Santa Lucia through the years; this blog piece will give newcomers to this feast day some background.

This morning I saw that one of my online journaling friends had created a sketch, so even though I didn't have much time, I sketched too. 

I like the haiku-like creation more than the sketch:

Early morning dark.
Braid of bread, braid of candles.
Lucy lead us home.

Here is the sketch by artist and pastor Jill Ross that inspired me.  Her Facebook post delighted me too with these words:  "Tomorrow is Santa Lucía Day. Not only does she bring light but also bread and coffee."

Yes, I'd have rather been baking bread and having a leisurely coffee morning, but that's not the Santa Lucia morning I will have this year.  I have been nourished in other ways.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Mid Advent, Midweek Journaling

At church, a group of us had talked about creating a regular series of Advent gatherings where we could be creative together.  As we compared schedules, it was clear that we would only be able to get together one day during Advent.  We decided that one day was better than no days, and we agreed to meet on Wednesday, December 11, at 6:00.

Thanks to Facebook, I realized that there was a meditative journaling guided exercise (4 modules of them) in the December issue of Gather magazine, an exercise created by Vonda Drees, the same woman who led the online journaling group that was so profound for me at the end of 2018.  In the interest of time, we did one of the modules in the article.

I had had a vision of something larger, with a series of stations and all sorts of images, but in the end, I didn't have time to create that, and in a way, it didn't matter.  We only had about 45 minutes, so I'm not sure why I thought I needed to create something grand and big.

Last night I arrived at the church to discover that someone had left the lights burning on the trees--they're electric lights on fake trees so it didn't matter.  It was lovely, but we couldn't do a journaling exercise in the dark sanctuary.

We began by reading Isaiah 2:  1-5.  The meditation had us draw a high mountain and then make dots leading up to it.

Halfway through, we read the verses again, listening for words or images that leapt out at us.  Then we drew dots, thinking about the word as we made each dot.  My word was instruction:

I was intrigued by how different our images were.

One woman wrote the part of the verse that she wanted to be sure to preserve, the part that spoke to her:  "He'll show us the way to work, so that we can live the way we're made."

We had a bit of time for sharing, which was lovely.  The four of us gathered together have known each other for many years, so we were inclined to share.  It would have also been fine with me if we had just sat together in silence at the end.

My spouse came for choir rehearsal.  He had his mandolin.  As we talked about our images, he rehearsed "Go Tell It on the Mountain."  He swears he didn't realize we were sketching mountains, and I believe him.

I went back to turn off the lights so that we could all experience the loveliness I got to see when I was the first to arrive.  One of the journaling group caught the moment of video (you'll have to turn the volume way up to hear the mandolin):

As the choir gathered for choir rehearsal, we returned to our other tasks.  Like so much of my life, gathering together to journal was something I didn't know I desperately needed until I had done it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Poetry Tuesday: "Nativity Scene"

I have been up for hours.  I wish I could say that I was working on some sort of creative project, but it's the time of year for grading, grading, grading.  I have most of my grading done, and in the next 30 hours, I'll turn in my grades.

Then, hopefully, I'll have time for grading.

Will I decorate?  I'm not sure.  We don't have the surfaces (table tops, mantles, bookcases) that we once had to display our holiday nativity scenes.

I've had nativity scenes on the brain.  This scene at Claremont United Methodist Church has popped up several times in my Facebook feed, from a wide variety of FB friends:

Some call it irreverent, some love it, while others are perplexed.

My own approach to nativity scenes might be seen as irreverent.  The poem I'm posting below is for everyone who is similarly irreverent about the season. In our own nativity scene hangs a purple plastic monkey from one of those games where you try to create a chain of monkeys--Pick-Up-Monkeys or some such thing.

And for those of you who are up for it, there's some interesting theology embedded in the poem. Think about all the castaways that followed Jesus and then read the poem again.

Of course, if you're not in a theological or Christmasy mood, you can see if I captured a sense of whimsy.

Happy Decorating!

Nativity Scene

Through the years, the stable attracted
the odds and ends of our childhood toys:
a plastic soldier, his rifle chewed and mangled,
migrated from the war zone;
a horse, which once helped herd
plastic animals, now riderless and alone;
a Magic 8 ball with murky
water, the answers to our questions, obscured;
a nutcracker dressed in festive finery, but missing
its lower jaw, its mission in life undone;
lonely Barbie, hair shorn from too many experiments,
now loveless and forlorn;
a matchbox car, once prized, now missing
a wheel and limping along;
a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll with other refugees
from popular shows of past years;
a gingerbread boy gamepiece, knowing he belongs elsewhere,
neglecting his duties in Candyland, so compelling
is the baby in the manger.

from my chapbook, Whistling Past the Graveyard

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Advent in a Time of Climate Change

These thoughts may work their way into a poem or a more sustained piece of some sort.  Or maybe not.

--For many of us, our most beloved Advent/winter holiday traditions emerged during a time of planetary coldness.  What does it mean to create these snowscapes in a time of global warming?

--Earlier this month, a climate conference meeting in Key West adjusted the expectations for sea level rise upward, ever upward.  We now expect at least 17 to 31 inches of sea level rise by 2060.  Not 2100--2060, which is only 30 years away.

--My floor boards are two feet above sea level.  Have I mentioned that?  Are people tired of me mentioning that fact, obsessing over that fact?

--Maybe I should be more accurate.  In the spring of 2017, when we had the site survey done to get  the maps that we needed to do the Hurricane Irma repairs, my floorboards were 2 feet above sea level.  Now they are probably 23.9 inches above sea level.

--We could stay here into retirement.  Retirement, voluntary or otherwise, is catapulting at us faster than sea levels--maybe.  We could be like older people in the wintry climes.  I think of those people who don't have to leave their houses when there's a snowstorm--they don't have to plow and shovel, and so the northern climes are tolerable.  Maybe we'll just stay inside during times of flooding.  If we're retired and a storm might be coming, we could leave early.

--Of course, if a big storm wipes out the house . . .

--But I digress.  Back to twinkly lights and candles.  We may be far to the south here, but sunset comes early during Advent.

--As I walk through the Advent darkness and consider all the decorations, I think about their contribution to climate change:  the plastic trees made by processes that pollute the planet.  The real trees and evergreen boughs shipped to us from far away--the trees no longer living and capturing carbon, the big trucks belching fumes that warm the planet even faster.  The electricity that it takes to light the lights and blow up the yard creatures into life--electricity that is probably not delivered by way of solar or wind farms.

--A week ago, on Giving Tuesday, I gave to a group that shipped me an Advent calendar with fair trade chocolate.  That calendar arrived yesterday.  Some of the chocolates from the first 8 days of Advent that I ate to catch up, some of them were solid.  Some of them I had to dig out of the calendar because they had begun to melt.

--Should I keep my Advent calendar in the refrigerator?

--I think of the saints of Advent, the feast day of Saint Nicholas, the feast day of Santa Lucia.  Hundreds of years from now, will we have a different set of saints?  I'm thinking of saints who swim with dolphins, saints who tried to save the corals.  Maybe we will have some scientist saints who learned how to create new corals in a lab, who figured out how to slow the acidification of the oceans.

--Maybe hundreds of years from now, we will have new Advent images:  jellyfish, for example.  Maybe the words of Advent about watching and waiting will seem different when we're waiting on the arrival of fierce storms and the water that is always looking for a chance to reclaim what it has lost.  Maybe we will see nativity scenes of Mary and Joseph camping in the ruins of a culture wrecked by savage weather.

--The Advent message has never seemed more relevant:  rulers that ignore the signs and portents, the work of God breaking through in unexpected ways, the margins where the important work is done.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Quilted Christmas: Crafting a Doorscape

When I think back on this week, perhaps I'll think about the two sketches that I did or the poem that I wrote about Jesus going to the Black Friday sales.  Or maybe I'll remember creating this--what shall I call it?  This doorscape:

One of my colleagues wanted to have a door decorating contest, and she went all out, even creating a small roof over her door:

Not to be outdone, one of my other colleagues got busy creating with styrofoam cups.  Eventually his door looked like this:

I spent a good deal of time over the week of Thanksgiving wondering what I should do. I don't particularly want to win the contest, but I am happy creating library displays, calendars, and bulletin boards.  Perhaps a door would be the same sort of thing.  I thought about mermaids or something spiritual/religious.

But as I sat in my office, I thought about how much of my office space is devoted to textures, colors, and fabrics.  I came up with the concept of a quilted Christmas first.  I thought about doing all kinds of quilting, but time grows short.

Long ago, one of my colleagues at a different school gave me an unfinished quilt saying, "You'll know what to do with it."  I'm not sure this display is what she had in mind:

I thought about a variety of techniques for the door itself, from actually quilting every word or gluing fabric scraps to approximate a quilt.  The process for the letter Q took so long that I abandoned this idea:

Later, though, the idea of a wreath came to me, along with more possible ideas than I could use.  I wanted to quilt something new, but in the end, I went with what was quick.  I had some panels of strips in holiday colors already sewed together, and I wrapped them around a paper plate with the center cut out:

I am most proud of the bow.  I know that it's a ridiculously easy thing to do, but it's one of the few bows like this that I've made.

The trees at the base of the display answer the question:  "What should I do with the trees that don't light up anymore?"  The lights that you see are a battery operated string of fairy lights that came separately.  I love the chance to display some of my favorite ornaments.

The tree skirt was not made by me.  My first Christmas in grad school my mom sent it to me; she got it at a craft show at church, and I crocheted the stockings to go along with it:

For years, I resisted decorating an office--but in later years, thinking about how much time I spend in my office, I usually have something seasonal decorating this space.  Still, I've never gone as all out for Christmas as I have this year.

In my younger years, I worried about offending those of different religions--which is funny, because in my younger years, I wasn't living among anyone who didn't celebrate Christmas in some fashion.  Now I'm in a much more ethnically diverse place, and I've decorated my workplace to the hilt.  I've not tried to be ecumenical at all.  I feel a smidge guilty.

But I am surrounded by items from my past which bring me contentment and joy--and I still don't have space at home for all of them.  So let me take my joy where I can find it, and let me trust that I'm not offending anyone by my offering of a Quilted Christmas.