Thursday, October 31, 2019

Ghosts of Girlhoods Past and Other Thoughts on Costumes

It's been one of those strange weeks where I haven't gone home after work.  On Monday, I went to dinner with friends in Delray Beach, Tuesday was a BOLD Justice assembly, and last night was a PAC meeting at the Ft. Lauderdale campus.  As I've driven through the evenings, I've loved seeing the occasional house decorated with Halloween/autumn lights; one house was strung with lights and autumnal garlands which transformed the tiny cinderblock house into something glorious.

I've also been intrigued by all the Halloween pop-up stores--they're here for a month, and then they're gone.  It must say something about the economics of our capitalist Halloween culture that it's worth it to some business entity to do all that work for a month.  And then what?

I read an article in The Washington Post about a costume company.  Most of the year, the company sells costumes to people who will use them for sex stuff.  At Halloween, they do ten to twenty times the business selling the Sexy ______ costumes, with or without matching handcuffs, to adults who are dressing up for Halloween.

Yesterday we had a great spin class with Halloween music.  Some years, we've had a decorated spin class room, but not yesterday.  Our teacher did wear her cat ears headband--the ears have LED lights.  I found myself thinking about them all day, and that's how I found myself in one of those pop-up Halloween stores last night.

I pulled into the parking lot and reflected about the years I would have gone shopping in the smallest Publix ever.  Now that Publix has moved to the glamorous condo building across the street, and the old space has been transformed into a Halloween wonderland.  O.K., wonderland is a bit of a stretch.

The store was organized according to theme:  steampunk, medieval, Star Wars, etc.  But nothing that lit up.  I was secretly relieved.  The check out line was very long, as I might have expected the night before Halloween.

As I drove home, I thought, what's wrong with me?  I have lights of all sorts.  Why aren't I creating a costume?

In part, because I don't have time--I didn't start early enough.  In part, because I have a few disparate supplies and a vague vision.  I did pull my wedding veil out of the closet, and I'll take it to school, along with the lights.  Maybe I'll play at some point today.  We do have a costume contest after all.

It's been one of the kinds of week at school that I really enjoy.  I set up the pumpkin decorating station earlier this week, and I've enjoyed having the art supplies out and watching people drop in.  Each day, I set out a few more pumpkins.  Even the people who aren't creating seem to enjoy being around the pumpkins and the art supplies and the people creating.

Should I be thinking about the fact that I enjoy setting up creativity stations more than I enjoy the policing aspects of my job?  Lately, I've been thinking a lot--A LOT--about what I think makes a good manager and the ideas of other people about what managers should be doing.  But I may write more on that later.

Now it is time to think about the day.  I've added some dolls to the wedding veil and the battery powered lights.  Perhaps I shall create a Ghost of Girlhoods Past costume.  Or maybe I'll write a poem on that theme.  Or maybe both!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

World Series Memories

I don't always pay close attention to the World Series, but I'm always aware of it.  Let's be honest--the World Series isn't always as interesting as this year's is.  Often the teams seem mismatched from the beginning.  Often the Series goes exactly as predicted. 

My spouse played baseball as a child and always regretted that he didn't continue to play as he went through middle school and high school.  So he watches the game differently.

One year we listened to the game.  We were traveling to Jacksonville, and we listened to the game on the radio.  I had trouble visualizing what was happening.  At one point, my spouse said he almost preferred the radio to the TV.

My earliest memory of the World Series is from 1980.  I was old enough to take my sister trick-or-treating.  My maternal grandparents were visiting.  My grandfather watched the World Series, even when he could have been celebrating Halloween.

I have since met many people who would arrange their social lives around baseball.  Their numbers get fewer, as other sports have taken cultural priority.

I remember the year that Boston got into the Series after a long dry streak.  I had students skip our evening class to watch the game.

In the autumn of 1992, I was finishing my Ph.D., but I was entering the stretch where many students get bogged down:  Comprehensive Exams and the dissertation.  That autumn, the Atlanta Braves, which had once been not much better than some Little League teams (according to my sneering spouse) began to change their fortunes.  I tried not to see any one game as a sign and get spooked. 

I have been alive long enough to see many teams that once were the losingest teams in baseball become World Series champs--and sometimes go back again (hello Marlins).  I know that it's simplistic to see this idea as a metaphor for larger life.  But in years like this one, the metaphor is irresistible.

If I had more time, I might write more about that.  But my spin instructor has put together a special ride for us--it's not only World Series time, but Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Delray Beach Musings

Last night, a friend and I went to see our other friend who sold her very big house in Ft. Lauderdale and moved to a glamorous apartment in Delray Beach.  We had a glass of wine at her place and then went downstairs to see where we wanted to eat.  We ate at a seafood/sushi place.  We ate outside, which sounds lovely, but it was sweltering.

I realize that just as I've spent the last weeks complaining about my weariness, I may have also mentioned the unrelenting heat.  Ugh.

As I drove home and heard about the fires in California, I thought about sweating through autumn.  We've usually had a small cold front by now, but there's nothing that looks promising to our north.  I thought about how I no longer know whether my sweating is due to global warming, menopause, and/or some fever flaring occasionally.  I wondered if I could write a poem about that.

As we looked at restaurants, I ruled some out because they seemed too loud.  At some point, I told myself to quit being so fussy, which is how we ended up sitting outside.  There were ceiling fans above us, but they didn't offer much resistance against the humid, hot air.

Am I becoming a little old lady, years before my time?  But in some ways, I've always been a little old lady:  I like the early bird special (none to be had at Delray Beach, or maybe we weren't early enough), I like a quiet environment so that I can hear my companions, I go to bed early (although there won't be many early bedtimes this week).

When I think about my friend's new location, it seems so perfect.  But I remind myself that calories are still calories--she can't eat out every night for the same reasons that I can't (calories, price, calories, price).  And while part of me sees the swarms of people on the streets as a sign that a place is happening/vital, part of me years for something more contemplative.

Contemplative and cooler--by which I mean the temperature, not the hipness.

I think about when we first moved down here, back in 1998.  I wish we had stretched a bit financially, bought a shabby house just off the main drag.  But even then, it would have been too much of a financial stretch--and Delray Beach is just far enough north that commuting back to our jobs in Broward county felt like a challenge.

To be honest, we didn't really consider it--that's a memory created by reflections in hindsight.  Maybe I should write a Wordsworthian poem:  Lines recollected at midlife influenced by reflections in hindsight. 

But I do remember taking out of town visitors to Delray Beach, exploring the interesting shops, wondering what it would be like to live there.  And once, long ago, my in-laws stayed in a time shore just across the ocean--which is a different setting in Delray Beach than in beaches to the south.  The beach side of the road isn't developed, and there are dunes protected by vegetation.

And now it is time to get ready for the day:  spin class and then off to work, followed by a county-wide church justice event.  Let me pack some extra veggies.

Monday, October 28, 2019

A Week-end of Treats

--I confess that we have eaten not just one, but two bags of Halloween candy.  By we, I mean primarily my spouse.

--We live on a street where we get 9-20 trick-or-treaters.  I'm not sure why my spouse felt the need to load up on candy.  One bag wasn't even the kind of candy he particularly likes (think Butterfingers, Baby Ruths, and such).

--I made sure to have some treats of my own this week-end.  On Friday night, I made the dough and assembled the pumpkin cinnamon rolls.  I baked a pan on Saturday morning and another pan on Sunday.  Delicious!

I tried taking a picture from above--trying to capture a bouquet of autumn flowers too, which was another kind of treat.

--I also worked on a small scale art project for church.  I volunteered to shift the worship space decorations from green to red.     I needed an element to fill in a hole:

I knew that we would be having an interfaith service--so what would be ecumenical and still speak to Reformation?  I thought about a flame or a labyrinth or spiral.  My spouse suggested a butterfly.  In the end, I went with what I knew I could pull off:

Here's a close up:

I though it worked nicely in the space:

--There was something so satisfying about swirling the paint on the cardboard, blending the colors, and it turned out exactly how I envisioned it, which doesn't always happen.

--I was thinking about past Halloweens and past autumns and at one point, I said to myself, "How did I have time to do all of that?"  And then I thought, because I was only working one job.  I thought about tying in this idea to the idea of tricks--that we tell ourselves we can handle some part-time gigs so that we can afford more treats.  And then, at some point, it morphs into being necessary just to cover the bills.  Sigh.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Turning Point of Reformation Sunday

Fifteen years ago, I celebrated Reformation Sunday in a chapel at Mepkin Abbey.  Let me be clear:  I may have been the only one celebrating.  We had no red paraments or stoles, and nobody wore red.  We did not sing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."  We went much further back in church history chanting Psalms the way that people have for several millenniums.

I was there with a Lutheran and an Episcopalian.  The Lutheran was relieved to have a reason not to go to the high church celebration that her congregation planned for Reformation.  She said she was in the mood for the severe honesty of the Psalms, not the self-congratulatory language that often crept into Reformation Sunday.

I was happy to be able to get to the monastery.  I'd fallen in love with the work of Kathleen Norris, and I wanted a taste of what she experienced at a different monastery.  Of course, I discovered her work years after I moved away from South Carolina, where I would have only had to travel 10 miles to discover Mepkin Abbey.  In 2004, it took a plane ride.

I've since traveled back many times.  The monastery has changed, and I have too.  After that first trip, I felt transformed.  Re-entry was tough, and I yearned to go back permanently, even as I knew it was impossible.  I know I'm not the first person to fall in love with an object we cannot have, but I don't know how many people fall in love with a monastery.

As I reflect further on that week-end, I realize it was a confluence of holidays.  That year, Reformation Sunday fell on the actual day that Martin Luther nailed those theses to the door:  October 31.  Of course, it was also Halloween.  I remember sitting on a bench where we could see across the river, and I realized that we were watching children trick-or-treating.

At one point, my friend and I walked as late afternoon was shifting to dusk, with Spanish moss hanging down off the majestic trees, and we saw two monks walking ahead of us.  They looked as much like ghosts as they looked like monks.

It was 2004, the year of a big election which was just days away, and one of the monks asked if we were going to vote.  We assured him that we would.  He said, "I hope you vote for the right one."

I've always wished that I had engaged him more, asked him to elaborate, but in those days, I worried that engaging with the monks would seem disrespectful, especially if we talked about politics.

I think that it was that visit when one of the older monks prayed that our nation would wake up to realize how morally wrong it was to send our women to fight in wars and that we would soon bring them home.  I thought about how that might have once offended me, when I was a younger woman, but as an older person, I found it touching, even as I might have prayed that we bring everybody back from a war.

Looking back, I am shocked to realize how much longer that war in Afghanistan and Iraq would last.  I am shocked that we still have troops in both countries and that it feels more like a pause than an end to those conflicts.

On Monday, November 1, I realized that the chapel had changed.  It was All Saints Day, and we gathered in a dark chapel lit by candles that morning.  There was a framed print, and I'm almost sure it was John August Swanson's River of Souls.  At that point, I'd never been part of a church that used art in that way.  We had flower arrangements and banners that had been made decades before I was born and paraments and music.  I had attended churches that changed the paraments as the liturgical seasons changed, but that was it.

That week-end, and the visits I would make later combined with Create in Me retreats, ignited a yearning to be part of a church where we did more with the various elements to deepen worship.

In a way, I am now part of a church like the one I envisioned.  It's far from ideal--I'd like to have more of a team of people who inspire each other.  I miss the interactive services that we used to have.

But at least I have a pastor and  church members who are open to these ideas.  There's no altar guild with a stranglehold on the sanctuary.  Most of the church seems to support the idea of creative elements in our church--or at least, there's not a lot of active opposition. 

There are advantages to being part of a very small congregation.

This afternoon, I will have my own celebration of Reformation.  I'm going to finish my application to the spiritual director certificate program.

Maybe 15 years from now, I'll look back on this Reformation Sunday and think about the turning point of a different Reformation Sunday.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Just a Week Ago . . .

A week ago, I'd have been getting ready to go to work--yes, on a Saturday.  We are now required to give up part of a Saturday each month, one of us per Saturday, to have management presence on campus.  I requested the Saturday before the accreditation visit because I knew there might be work to do.  Knowing that I was working on Saturday relieved a bit of pressure during the week.

When I arrived on campus, my boss was already there, much to my surprise.  He, too, was anxious, so he came to campus, just to go over a few things and make sure he was ready.  We looked at the box of documents one more time.

Then he went home, and I kept preparing.  I bought some fruit juices and mixed fruit from the grocery store so that we'd have it on hand for breakfast for the accreditation team.  I added some documents to binders.  Our registrar read an e-mail which prompted her to stop by after her workout at the gym, and we created some documents so that we didn't have to think about getting that done Monday morning before the team arrived. 

We left, and I spent the rest of the week-end trying not to fret. 

In retrospect, I was fretting about some items that wouldn't give us trouble in the end.  My boss had heard that the accreditor that would be looking at our Business program had also been at the Miami campus, and he was spooked by their report of interactions.  His anxiety fueled mine, but we needn't have worried.  Our lead faculty member for Business and the accreditor had a great time talking business and education and the future of the field.

My colleagues across the campus had similar experiences.  We had no trouble talking to the accreditors.  We had good conversations, in fact.  Over and over again, we heard about our well-run campus, about the satisfaction of our students.

Let me remember that nugget in the days to come.  Let me remember that the visit went well.  Let me remember the positive feedback.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Planning for Joy

This week has been one of the more exhausting weeks of my adult life:  it began with an accreditation visit, and I haven't really recovered.  Actually, this week has been exhausting not because of the week itself, but because of all the weeks leading up to it.

I am still waiting to feel the happiness about a fairly successful accreditation visit.  Part of the reason I am still waiting is that we have shifted to some of the policing parts of my job that I like least:  who is letting their class go early, who is voicing emotions that should not be expressed to others, how to explain the need for more staffing.  It is the grinding stuff that wears me out.  It reminds me of how many of us can't rest in grace but need the harshness of law and judgment to feel comfortable.

Or maybe I'm reading theology where there is none.  The lack of theology would help explain many a situation.

Yesterday I decided I needed to insert spots of joy into my week-end.  I have plans to bake pumpkin cinnamon rolls.  I will write something that brings me joy--I have written many accreditation documents so I deserve a different kind of writing.

I will take some time to enjoy the pumpkins on the porch.  At work, I have been enjoying the pumpkins I bought for next week's pumpkin decorating station:

I even found the bewitching fabric remnant that I got a few years ago and set aside for myself:

And I couldn't resist this bit of whimsy (even though I was sad that I couldn't stay up until 8 p.m. on Tuesday to watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown):

Let me also hope for some sleep this week-end.  Part of my lack of joy and my irritability stems from deep exhaustion.

And I will also get some reading time in.  On Wednesday, my copy of Tressie McMillan Cottom's Thick arrived and I consumed half of it on the spot.  I will finish the book this week-end--the thought of doing that brings me joy, as does the actual reading.

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Yesterday was another day that began in exhaustion and ended in some rather severe self-doubt.  There's a voice in my head that says it's been a month/year/lifetime of severe self-doubt.

This morning, as I felt that spiral tighten again, I said out loud, "You have always been too hard on yourself."  I paused and said, "And you're being too hard on yourself right now."  I laughed at the sharp tone of voice that I took with myself.

When I am operating out of a place of exhaustion, it's much easier to be much harder on myself.  Yesterday was the kind of day when I would put a few things away and then have to sit for awhile to regroup.  Usually, life isn't this hard for me, but yesterday it was.

It's amazing how many things there are to put away after an accreditation visit.  Most of my faculty files had been taken out of bins and left in unalphabetized piles.  The hanging file folders themselves had also been removed.  

I suspect that I will spend the next few months finding piles of paper that I stashed in drawers in a last hour effort to clean the surfaces of my office, so as to be presentable to visitors.  Most of that paper will go to the recycling or shredding bin.  But in the last hour effort, I didn't have time to sort in that way.  I hung onto many piles just in case we were ordered to redo the binders and files.  Now I need to remember that most of those piles won't be important in the months to come.

Hours later:

I started writing and then got sidetracked by taking a walk and grocery shopping.  Grrrrr.  

Let me remember to be gentle with myself.  Just because everyone else has jumped right back into pre-accreditation life doesn't mean that I can do that too.  They can do that because they didn't have to use so much of their time and energy getting ready.

Let me remember that I am actually accomplishing more than I feel like I'm accomplishing.  And this week-end, I'll make sure to take some time to get some baking done, some writing done, some visioning done.  I can hang on a bit longer. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Day after the Accreditation Visit

I expected to be euphoric, but I am more exhausted than euphoric.  The process has been more like the long slog of dissertation writing and defending, and less like the comprehensive exam part of grad school.

We had 2-3 findings.  They weren't what I might have expected.  They revolved around our Allied Health Program chair and whether or not she had the right credentials to oversee the Medical Office Administration program.  She is the Allied Health chair on 2 campuses, so we might also have that as a finding.

These are fixable findings.  They are also a surprise, because the other campus didn't have the same findings.

Let me remember some of the good feedback of the accreditation visit.

Let me record them, because I am much more likely to remember the negative.

Over and over again, we heard that the students are really happy to be here. Hurrah! That piece makes me happiest, although perhaps I should be happier about the other aspects, like the records maintenance.  But the fact that students reported their satisfaction--that fact makes me happiest of all.

Auditors talked about our warm and welcoming environment. I have often said that I’m not good at hospitality, by which I often mean that I just dump the donuts on a tray, instead of arranging them artfully. But the overall hospitality piece, I think I have mastered. People need food and the key to the bathroom and a choice of beverages. People need as much space as you can spare. People need to arrive and have people greet them with smiles. Those people might be students or auditors or people who are trying to find a different organization that shares our building.

I talked to several auditors about our watchlist process and about how we track students who are in trouble, and while I’m not really convinced that it makes a difference in ways that we can turn into quantifiable statistics, at least it shows that we’re making an effort.

The team leader asked me basic questions about records and SAP and schedules, and I was able to answer them. The Business auditor asked me all sorts of questions, and I didn’t blow it.

At the ending session, the team leader talked about how well organized everything was. We have put an amazing amount of effort into our binders.  We have spent weeks revising and revising, and I genuinely think that the very first efforts that we showed the Corporate team would have been just fine. We added some elements that made the binders slightly easier—more tabs. But did it really make the difference? Doubtful.

Let me also remember the team of people who report to me. I led a very disparate group of Program chairs to a successful visit. Our CVS chair was very new—I coached her and helped with countless revisions and she made important observations/discoveries. The CVS auditor was very thorough—and we were successful. The Business lead faculty member was key to our success in terms of personality—in terms of binders, I did all of the writing and much of the compiling. Our team has a wide variety of skills and personalities, but we pulled together and got the job done.

And now it's time to shift gears again.  Time to return to the business of running a campus.  Let me get ready to start reassembling my life. I need to get back to spin class. I need to get my office organized. Let me start with those 2 things.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

On the Last Day of an Accreditation Visit

We have had one day of our accreditation visit; today is day 2, the last day.  I don't want to say too much about the visit now.  It seems to be going well, but I don't want to jinx anything.

Let me just record a few things, and I'll say more about the visit in the days to come.  A few years ago, when the auditors came, I had closed toe shoes, which became excruciating during the first day of the visit, and I changed into more comfortable sandals.

Those same sandals were the ones that I wore for the first part of yesterday's visit.  They became excruciating, so I changed into flatter, wider, more comfortable sandals around noon.  I'm trying not to read too much into this shoe situation.  It might have been the same regardless of the shoes I wore.  I hit 10,000 steps by 1:00.

Last night was the kind of night where aches and pains woke me up.  Was it the shoes?  The cold I've been fighting off?  The last minute set up?  The weeks leading up to the last minute set up?

It is strange to be going through an accreditation visit while fighting a cold.  It's the kind of head cold, where I'm very aware of my sinuses.  In the wee small hours of Sunday morning, I got up and made a cup of chocolate mint hot tea.  I did go back to sleep, with my fingers at my face, inhaling the chocolate mint smell that reminded me of old friends and Christmas.

On Sunday morning, I dreamed that my grandmother was preparing breakfast for the accreditation team.  In real life, of course that couldn't happen.  For one thing, my grandmother has been dead for years.  And for another thing, it wouldn't be ethical.  Or practical.  And of course, there's the death aspect.

Still, it was a dream that made me smile when I woke up.  One of my friends at church said she thought it was a visit from my grandmother to let me know that she was with me.  While I'm not sure that I believe that the dead visit us in this way, I'm not sure that they don't.  It was an interpretation that comforted me.

One doesn't need to believe in visits from the dead to hear what my subconscious mind is saying.  And my conscious mind is saying that it's time to make the final preparations at home so that I can go home to make the final preparations at school:  buying some Diet Coke for the team, replenishing the candy dishes, setting out some more snacks, making sure there are napkins and other paper goods.

Let me take a minute and offer up a prayer:  for those of us who are being judged, whether it be by external auditors or inner voices, be with us today and every day. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

Accreditation Day Arrives

It is finally here--the first day of our accreditation visit has arrived.

The files have been checked, re-checked, and checked again--likewise, the binders.  The room is set up with extra electric cords and plugs.  We have food and beverages of all sorts.  If I walked into the room, I'd find it welcoming, which is my goal.

On Friday, I carried a basket of coffee pods and a basket of a variety of teas.  One of the students asked about it, and I told her that I was getting the room ready for the auditors who would be here and that I wanted them to feel welcome.  She said, "You do that really well."  And then she went on to tell me about how she really loved the campus and felt a bit sad that she was in her last quarter. 


But back to today.  Let me take a moment to visualize success.  We are ready.  We do good work, and we can talk about that work in a coherent way.  We have documentation to back up our words.

Let it begin.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Aging in 30 Year Increments

When I was in my 20's, I didn't expect to ever miss being in my 20's.  The parts of being in my 20's that I do miss, now that I am 54 years old, are not what I would have expected to miss.

When I was 24, I thought that 54 year old Kristin would miss her younger body.  But since I've always had a love-hate relationship with my body, I thought I would miss my less wrinkled face and my younger hair color.  At 54, my face just has a crease here or there, and my hair has enough colors, as it always has, that the greys blend in.

Yesterday I felt pain in my shoulders and realized I had spent a week or two with my shoulders squinched up around my ears because of stress and anxiety.  That was my everyday posture in my 20's.  Happily, it is not my posture these days.

I miss the non-arthritic feet of my 20's, and the back that could go for a run shortly after rising.  But my legs and arms are still strong, and the pain in my back does ease at some point during the day.  I am grateful for spin class, which gives me a way to get a vigorous work-out without the ruinous impact on the joints of the long distance running of my youth.

What I miss most about my 20's is the sense of hope in the future, a multi-faceted future where the main difficulty I had was deciding what bright and shiny path to follow.  I'm also certain that when I was in my 20's, as now, I felt a crippling fear of making the wrong choice, missing opportunities, and such.  I'm pretty sure the 84 year old Kristin will miss the opportunities and wide vistas that 54 year old Kristin had.

I also miss the newness of my marriage that I had in my 20's.  We'd been together long enough that I no longer had that fear of screwing up. There was the hope for the future. We were still new enough to each other that we were romantic and worked hard to keep each other.

Now it's just grinding day after grinding day--no one's fault, but I miss being younger--having more time.

I don't exactly want my spouse to be different. I just want our lives to be different. I still have hope that life can be different, but exhaustion at the thought of making it different.

The one comfort that I have is that most people I know, of all ages and across the economic spectrum, are feeling the same way.  We're all exhausted.

Let me share a benediction, a prayer like hope:  Let us remember all the ways we love each other and the good qualities we have, even if they're not the qualities we wish we had.  Let us be aware of all the blessings that we have, no matter what age we're in.  Let the sorrow for what has passed away move through us quickly, leaving us grateful for what remains and hopeful for all that we have yet to discover.  Let us be alert to the possibility of discovering new hope and yet undiscovered delights, no matter what our current age and circumstances.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Butterfly Garden Gratitude Lessons

I don't want to keep starting blog posts by talking about how weary I am.  But I am so weary.  Let me also record some gratitude.

--I have been writing a bit in these days of weariness.  I have also been reading a bit.

--Yesterday I wrote this Facebook post:

"The milkweed is blooming this week--these are plants that have been eaten back to bare stalks several times since I bought them in July. They are hardy souls.

We are too.

The monarchs have returned to the milkweed to enjoy the new growth. Even the non-poets can see the metaphor."

--I have been taking very small breaks at school to enjoy the colors of the flowers in the butterfly garden.  Yesterday I took my camera.  And lo and behold, a monarch butterfly came, and I captured this great shot:

--I am in the process of finishing my application for the certificate program in spiritual direction--by which I mean that I've gotten the paperwork to the people who will write letters of recommendation.  I will write my essay over the next 2 week-ends, and have the application in the mail by Oct. 28.

--Let me remember the gratitude lessons from the butterfly garden.  Shriveled plants can regenerate.  What looks like abandonment might not be.  Concrete vistas can be transformed.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Lost in the Weeds: Monarchs in the Milkweed

At school, for the past several weeks, I have been racing from pillar to post (what an interesting phrase!) getting ready for the upcoming accreditation visit (Monday--gulp!).  I've worried a bit about the effect of it all on the folks who aren't as much a part of the preparations.  I've tried to be present and stop whatever I've been doing when a non-accreditation task needed attention.  But I know that some of the intensity can't help but be felt by my colleagues and the students.

Yesterday one of my colleagues stopped by to say, "I thought you'd want to know that the monarchs have returned to the milkweed plants."  And we had a short conversation about how we hadn't seen the butterflies lately and how great it was to have them return.

It was a small moment, but it reminds me of how people have cared for me during these intense weeks.  There have been numerous conversations where people helped me process conversations, plans, and directives, where we came together to figure out the best approach.  You might argue that those people are just doing their jobs when we put our heads together.  I would argue that they are going above and beyond.

Similarly, the cleaning crew came in and got the accreditation room cleaned up once the drywall repair was done.  Just doing their job?  In one way--but in an important way, their thorough work meant that I had one less task.  A week ago, the decision was made to change the room, which meant that time to get it ready has been running out.

As we've moved through the weeks, I've thought about what these stressful times reveal about the character of us all, both as individuals and as a group.  I've thought about one of the best compliments I've ever gotten, where a grad school friend was watching the PBS show about Pioneer Valley, the show where 21st century people try to live the way pioneers would have in the later decades of the nineteenth century.  She said that she and her spouse agreed that if they had to live this way, they'd want me and my spouse along--we know things that other people don't, and we have a can-do spirit.

Not everyone has a can-do spirit.  In my younger years, I assumed that people were more like me than different from me--and thus, in my younger years, I've been surprised by how people respond to stress.  This year, I'm less surprised.

I've also been thinking about the department chair at a different campus who turned in her letter of resignation shortly after the accreditation visit was announced.  This month has been the kind of month where I understand.

The milkweed is blooming this week--these are plants that have been eaten back to bare stalks several times since I bought them in July.  They are hardy souls.

We are too.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Parables from the Pumpkin Patch

I have often wondered about the parables of Jesus.  Most of us church going folk have heard them so often that they've lost their power to shock or surprise.  Most of us forget (or have never been taught) how shockingly bizarre they would have seemed when people first heard them.

As we were offloading pumpkins, I thought about what insight the pumpkins, the patch, and our work together might offer us.  Let me play.

The Kingdom of God is like a patch of pumpkins that have been separated from the true vine.  But as they gather together, they can remember what life was like before the separation.  They can act as if they are still connected to the life giving vine and the earth--and in doing so, they will eventually find the true vine again.

The Kingdom of God is like a patch of pumpkins.  They see themselves as vastly different one from another, and yet they are more alike than they know.

The Kingdom of God is like a patch of pumpkins:  some are big, some are small, some are deep orange, some are white, and some are shades in between.  God delights in this variety, and we should too.

What does the Kingdom of God look like?  A small church that comes together to take pumpkins off a truck.  Some of the members scramble on the truck to get the pumpkins from the back to the front.  Others walk slowly with pumpkins in their hands.  Those who can't walk create a line and hand pumpkins one to another.  Those who can't stand will help with sales.

The Kingdom of God is like a pumpkin.  It can be made into a sweet pie or a savory soup.  It binds disparate ingredients together into a whole.  It grows slowly but surely, in environments that would kill less sturdy plants--and thus, a patch of pumpkins can sustain a tribe in a harsh climate.

The Kingdom of God can be used in many ways:  the purely decorative gourd or ingested from the skin to the seeds.  The Kingdom of God can provide the nutrients and fiber to keep our bodies full.  The Kingdom of God can soothe our aesthetic yearnings.  The Kingdom of God nourishes us in ways we didn't know we needed.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Bloviators and New Waves

When I heard that Harold Bloom died yesterday, my first thought was that I was seeing an old piece of news that had made it into my Facebook feed.  I thought he had died several years ago.  But no, it was yesterday.

I thought, how appropriate that Bloom dies on the same day that both Margaret Atwood and Bernadine Evaristo won the Booker prize, in spite of the rule that the prize can only go to one author.

I confess that I haven't read the work of Evaristo, but I plan to.  I am also rather astonished to realize that I have never finished a work written by Bloom.  I understand his importance, but his work seems important to a different century.

If I was a younger student in grad school, perhaps I would write a paper considering how the anxiety of influence is different in our current age, where there can be such a variety of influences, and it seems harder to know which mediums will shake out to be most important.  Maybe I would argue that one of Bloom's most important ideas isn't really important anymore.  Or maybe I'd see it as more important than ever.

During my own grad school years, in the late 80's to early 90's, Bloom seemed like a rather shrill voice, going on and on about the traditional canon and how women and minorities were ruining it all.  Or maybe that's just how he was interpreted by the larger news outlets who still gave him a voice.

And yet, here is Bloom once again bulldozing his way into a post that had been intended to celebrate the accomplishments of female writers.  Can we never get away from these old white guy bloviators?

So, let me shift the focus.  Hurray for the Booker prize, celebrating 2 female authors.  Hurray for the 2 authors, accepting the prize graciously.  Will they be splitting the money between them?  Will they both get a full share?

I just looked it up.  They will be splitting the money.  I'm guessing that the publicity is more valuable than the prize of 50,000 pounds, which is worth roughly $63,000.  Atwood doesn't need the money or the publicity, but I'm glad she got the recognition when once again she didn't win the Nobel.  I had never heard of Evaristo, but now I will seek out her work, and I imagine that many other people had the same response.

I've read several articles about the prize, and I'm struck by Evaristo saying that she was motivated to write by the absence of women of color as characters in British fiction--it's a motivation that Harold Bloom would likely scorn, but it's always been important to me.  I'm grateful for writers who get up every day to record stories that aren't getting recorded any other way.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Week-end Retrospective

It was a great week-end.  On Friday, we had planned to have hamburgers with my sister-in-law who is staying in our cottage.  But torrential rains had set in, so we shifted plans.  We made a quick chili mac kind of dish--or was it a spaghetti and meatballs?  It was pasta with little meatballs and several types of cheeses.  I might have put beans in it and some tomatoes.  But it was delicious nonetheless, and we ate our supper on the porch, watching the rains sweep through, catching up with each other.

On Saturday, our once in a blue moon book club met to discuss Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys.  This book club is amazing, even though we're only 4 people total.  They always notice some parts of the book that I overlooked.

Our host made his famous-to-us cinnamon rolls.  Yummmmm.  And we agreed that we will go down to the Arsht Center on Nov. 4 to see Ta-Nehesi Coates.  I need more of those kinds of events in my life.

I spent Saturday afternoon at the pumpkin offload at my church.  I thought it might be too humid or rainy, but the rains held off, a breeze picked up, and we got the pumpkins off the truck.  Saturday night we had our delayed hamburgers, and then we relaxed on the porch for a bit.  The porch now has pumpkins on display.  And even better, we watched the family across the street decorate their house for Halloween.  The older child, who is five, tried on a variety of Halloween costumes.  At one point, he had on a hockey mask and a toy chainsaw, and he greeted the people walking by with a friendly, "Hi!"

Sunday morning was a big event at our church.  We had the vote to see if we will sell part of our property.  The motion to sell got a unanimous vote.  I was part of the team counting the votes.  It was a drama free day, and as we all know, it could have been otherwise.

My morning shouldn't have wiped me out--I had gotten a lot of sleep from Saturday to Sunday, but I did take a 2 hour nap yesterday afternoon.  That set me up to have trouble falling asleep.  But I did get a lot of online teaching work done.  I have another class starting tomorrow, and I needed to get all the dates entered into the course shell.

And now it's off to do the bread run and spin class, and a long day at work, visiting classes to let students know that in a week, our accrediting team will be here.

A week.  Wow.  Let me get on with the work of the day.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Pumpkin Offload 2019

Today I am sore.  But it's a good kind of sore.  Yesterday was the annual pumpkin offload at my church.  We buy part of a truckload (the 18 wheeler kind of truck, not the Ford F150 kind of truck) of pumpkins that come to us straight from the fields of New Mexico.  We have to get them out of the truck and into the front grassy area.

Some years, it's taken over 5 hours.  Yesterday we did it in just under 2.  Because it was a Saturday afternoon we had a lot more help--it's been tougher in years when it's a school night.

Because it was a Saturday afternoon, we had some people we didn't know show up:  3 kids on bikes and a homeless guy   We also had teenagers of church members that we hadn't seen in awhile come to help. 

Not everyone can help.  But that's fine.  They can cheer from the sidelines or just enjoy the parade of pumpkins.

This year we got a larger amount of the smaller pumpkins.  Over the past several years, we've noticed that people don't buy the bigger pumpkins like they used to.

Because more of us are using pumpkins and gourds for decorating than for carving or cooking, we got a lovely assortment of those.  Bonus:  the littlest children can set those up, while those of us with bigger muscles can get the bigger pumpkins off the truck.

Here and there we found some rotted pumpkins.  Back to the earth they go.

At the end, we swept the hay out of the truck.  We put it on the pathways between the pumpkins.  Does it protect the grass?  Does it protect our shoes?

Some children further north get to jump in leaves.  Our children jump in hay.

This year, our pumpkin offload was tinged with even more nostalgia than usual.  There's the usual nostalgia--children whom I have known since they were in elementary school are now teenagers.

And then there's the larger nostalgia--our church is in the process of possibly selling the front part of the 4 acre property.  If the sale goes through, we will build a new structure in the back.  Where will we be this time next year?

We may be in exactly the same place, offloading pumpkins, transforming a church yard into a pumpkin patch.  We may not.

Of course, that's our situation every year.  We just aren't always as aware of it.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Noah's Offspring

Although I have been up for hours, I don't have much time left for blogging.  But that's O.K.  I have returned to writing my apocalyptic novel--what joy!  And let me be clear, my lack of writing has had more to do with my lack of time than with being blocked or scared or unsure of where to go next.

I also had an idea for a poem, which has been fun.  I've been thinking about Noah's descendants choosing their majors in college.  Of course they would be influenced by the family stories about the flood.  I'm not done with it yet, but it's been good to feel the poetry juices flowing again.

Last night we had plans to grill burgers, but the weather was rather Noah-like, so we shifted to a chili mac kind of creation.  We ate on the front porch, which was lovely--watching the rain, drinking some wine, enjoying good food.  It was a satisfying end to a tiring week.  I went to bed early, so being up in the wee small hours of the morning (even earlier than those hours, truth be told) has been O.K.

Soon I will head across town to my once in a blue moon book club.  We will discuss Colson Whitehead's The Nickel Boys.  What an amazing book.  The violence wasn't as graphic as I was afraid it would be.  We will eat amazing cinnamon rolls and enjoy good conversation and good company.

Later today I'll work off some of those calories by offloading pumpkins.  Yes, it's time to help out my church.  One of our big fundraisers is a pumpkin patch.  The pumpkins come to us on a big 18 wheeler, and we have to get them off the truck and into the front of the church.  It's as close as I get to harvest activities this time of year.

And maybe later, we'll grill those burgers.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Running, Running, Running

Today, I am exhausted, and yet, I cannot sleep.  I've been up since 2 a.m., fretting about our upcoming accreditation visit, thinking about things that have been said in these days running up to the visit.  I'm fairly sure we're ready, yet what might still be lurking?

Our sister school to the north just had their visit with no findings, so that's a good sign.

A member of the Corporate team came yesterday and decided we needed to have the accreditation team in a different room.  So yesterday was a day of moving furniture and moving plans that had been in place for months.  My brain has trouble catching up in these situations.

Yesterday was also a day of many meetings, one of which included lunch.  Lunch was delivered, but not set up.  So it was a day of running up and down the stairs when I got tired of waiting for elevators.  It was a day when I achieved my goal of 10,000 steps before 1 p.m., which almost never happens.

And of course, there's the clean up afterward.  Happily, my campus has many people who are eager to help.  But yesterday, I found myself cleaning up long after others had gone back to work.  And then there were people with paperwork talking to me like I had been at my computer all day and could shed light on whatever problem might be in the paperwork. 

I had not.

Today I need to restore some order to my office.  At some point during yesterday's clean up, people started leaving supplies in my office for me to put back into place later.  Late yesterday afternoon, I decided that later could wait.

In these wee small hours of the morning, I've gotten some grading done, and I made an attempt to write a poem.  So it hasn't been a total waste of time.  Still, today may not be my day of sharpest mental acuity.

I wish that today could be a day of autumnal weather and autumnal outings.  I'd love to go to an apple orchard.  But that day will not be today.

Maybe it can be a day of early bedtimes.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Betrayals Major and Minor

In times like these, do I turn to punk music or the old spirituals?  Should I listen to Rage Against the Machine on the way to work?   Or should I listen to Rhiannon Giddens sing "Freedom Highway"?

I am distressed at so much this morning.  Another morning, another invasion underway.  The U.S. has been betraying the Kurds for most of my adult lifetime, but each time, it makes me feel ill. 

Closer to home, the old white guys bluster and huff and puff and maybe all of our houses will come tumbling down.

I tell myself that I'm a grown woman with a mortgage and people counting on me so I must be sensible.  I tell myself that I'm a grown woman with a great credit score and no unsecured debt.  I tell myself that I'm a grown woman with a real doctoral degree in a real discipline from a state school that's been in existence for over two hundred years.

I spent the first half hour of the day reading essays about T. S. Eliot in these Me Too days.  It was an interesting modernist lit website I'd stumbled onto. But it also made me realize how much I used to know about this literature and the literary criticism about this time period--and how much I haven't kept up.

This is the day that the Nobel Prize in Literature should be announced.  I hope it will be Margaret Atwood, but the Nobel committee doesn't usually choose writers who have had popular success.

I am back after my shower--nope, the Nobel will not go to Margaret Atwood.  Once again, I do not know these writers.  But at least I know Margaret Atwood.

I find myself being judged by people who do not know Margaret Atwood.  Of course, those people would probably be aghast by my lack of knowledge of their cultural/artistic touchstones.

I should finish getting ready for work.  I think it will be Rhiannon Giddens on the way to work.  "You can take my body, you can take my bones, you can take my blood, but not my soul."

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Shredding Iron Curtains

On this day thirty years ago, the Iron Curtain shredded.  More specifically, there were protests, soldiers didn't shoot, and one month later, East Germans began to dismantle the wall that separated them from West Germany, and soldiers didn't shoot them.  It's a story that could have had a much worse outcome.

Instead, it changed the face of Europe and the larger world.

Many people don't realize that part that prayer played in this story.  Months before the pivotal moment, a Lutheran pastor who began to hold weekly Monday meetings in his church to pray for peace. This movement spread to other churches, and soon it was a mass movement of thousands of people. Communist officials later said, "We were prepared for everything except the prayers and candles" (quote from this story on All Things Considered).  People waited for the bullets. But the power of peace defeated the forces of violence.

For more on the prayer meetings, including pictures of the church, see this post by a Lutheran bishop, Mike Rinehart.

I am also struck by the administrators who played a part in the story. In a story in The Washington Post on November 1, Mary Elise Sarotte tells about the East German official who was holding a boring news conference when he announced that travel restrictions would be loosened. The journalists immediately began to ask questions, but he hadn't read the briefing very carefully, so he made it up as he went along, announcing that the changes would be taking place immediately. The journalists reported, the ordinary citizens began to assemble, and the guards at the border were overwhelmed:

"Before long, the guards at Bornholmer Street were outnumbered by thousands of people; the same thing was happening at several other checkpoints. Overwhelmed and worried for their own safety, Jäger and his fellow guards reasoned that the use of violence might quickly escalate and become uncontrollable. They decided instead at around 9 p.m. to let a trickle of people cross the border, hoping to ease the pressure and calm the crowd. The guards would check each person individually, take notes and penalize the rowdiest by refusing them reentry. They managed to do this for a while, but after a couple of hours the enormous crowd was chanting, 'Open the gate, open the gate!"

After more debate, Jäger decided that raising the traffic barriers was the only solution. Around 11:30 p.m., the decades-long Cold War division of Germany ended.

Throughout the night, other crossings opened in much the same way."

I think of that boring bureaucrat and the blundering news conference, and I am reminded that even if we have the most dull jobs in the world where we feel like we affect nothing, we still might be an agent for social change. I think of those border guards who chose not to shoot. Even if they did it for fear of losing their own lives in the chaos that would ensue, that choice changed the future.

So in these days where many of us need hope that individuals may be able to have an impact, let us remember the autumn of 1989, where prayer spilled out of churches, people held candles, gates were opened, borders breached, and no bullets fired.

Let us remember that peaceful protests can change the world.  Let us light our candles.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Bread and Butterfly Initiatives, and All of our Arcs

Today is the last day of week one of our Fall term.   There are many difficulties with a term that starts on a Wednesday--this week, I've been feeling like we've been going through week 1 for about a month. 

In addition to the week 1 tasks, we've been getting ready for our accreditation visit.  There are binders and folders and a room to get ready. 

Today the accreditation visit happens at our Gainesville campus.  We've been hearing how ready that campus is, but it still must be a bit of a nervous time up there.  Let me send them good wishes.

In addition to this intense time of impending accreditation visit, there are all the various reports that need to be written, rewritten, and revised yet again.  And we really should be doing some of the activities that those reports say we will be doing--many of the reports are improvement plan reports, so we need to actually do the work of improvement.

I am that kind of bone tired.  I am thinking of the last few miles of the half marathon I ran back in 2001.  I remember being so thirsty and having a quarter of an orange that I kept in my parched mouth.  I just kept putting one tired foot in front of another and inched ever closer to the finish line.

Yesterday a student asked if I had an extra notebook; her mom hadn't had time to do the back to school shopping.  I said that I didn't have a notebook, but I had paper.  I gave her a legal pad.  When she returned it to me, she had written me a note, thanking me for all I did to make the school a better place.  She specifically mentioned the bread and the butterfly garden.

When I think of things I've done to influence retention, I, too, think of the bread and the butterfly garden.  I do not think of increasing the Average Registered Credit (ARC), that idea that if we could just get every student to take one more class, all sorts of problems would be solved; every male administrator to whom I've ever reported has been a big believer in increasing ARC.

Let me record a poem thought that just jabbed me.  I've been at with a group planning a retreat around the theme of Noah and that ark--let me write something that weaves together that ancient thought of an ark, and the modern idol of the ARC.  Let my subconscious chew on that--maybe on Thursday I'll have a poem.

I also thought about writing a poem in the voice of the water.  I've also thought of the fairy tale of the Little Mermaid and her sea foam destiny.  Sea foam and dead sailors and some explanation for why the sea always wants to swamp us.

I feel better knowing that I have poems percolating, even if I don't have time to do much writing these days.  Two weeks from now, we'll be at our last day of accreditation visit, and I anticipate having a bit more time and energy for other projects once we get to that point.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

A Quick Trip to Lutheridge

I am back from a quick trip to Asheville, North Carolina--or more specifically, Lutheridge, the church camp just outside of Asheville.  It's very close to the airport, and Allegiant has added one more daily flight to Asheville, so it was an easy trip.

On the way up, I got to go through the security line that's easier--I didn't have to take off my shoes.  I was through the line before I knew it.  Yesterday, in the much tinier Asheville airport, I had to take the books out of my backpack and put everything on the conveyor belt in a specific order.  A female security agent patted me down and said that something about my hair had triggered the closer investigation.  Was I wearing product?  She stared into my hair, and I thought of the bit of grits that had somehow gotten into my hair at breakfast.  Happily, I was allowed to go on my way.

Allegiant is the kind of airline that charges for everything.  I paid the $20 for an exit row seat--well worth it.  I did not pay the $30 each way to be able to bring a carry-on bag.  I stuffed everything I needed into my back pack.  Since I was there only one night, it was doable.  I left my laptop at home, along with my camera, and all the various creativity supplies that usually go with me.  I wore my black jeans, which are some of the most comfortable pants I have when it's not too hot.  I left for the airport from work--otherwise, I would have worn shorts for the whole trip.

On the way up, and in the long wait in the airport before the trip up, I consumed the new Atwood book, The Testaments.  It's one of her best books since Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood.  Wow.  I won't say much more because I don't want to ruin the book for anyone.

I flew up for a retreat to plan the Create in Me retreat, the creativity and spirituality retreat that happens the week-end after Easter each year.  I am amazed at all that we manage to accomplish in such a short period of time.

Unlike some years of the retreat to plan the retreat, I didn't have much time to do anything except for retreat planning.  But I did take a walk yesterday after lunch.  It was overcast but not rainy, and finally some autumnal temperatures.  I could take a walk in black jeans and not sweat!

In days to come, perhaps I will write more about my dreams and hopes for the future, my fears about the various climates that are impacting my life.  Today I must get on with the activities of Sunday--off to church and various church-related activities.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Traveling on Feast Days

This week has been another week of long hours at work, dizzying twists and turns in the national news, lots of grading--I begin to wonder if this kind of week is going to be more the norm than the exception.  I know it will be the norm for the next 3 weeks, as we get ready for the accrediting team visit.

This week I missed two days of blogging.  Sigh.  But I am caught up on my grading for my online classes, if only for this moment.

Today I go to spin class, then I go to work.  I will go to the airport at 10; I'm travelling while my spouse stays here to hold down the home front.

Today I hop on a plane and go to North Carolina for one day--I return tomorrow afternoon, home by 6 pm if all goes well. It's extravagant, in a way, but I got a cheap airline ticket. I'm going to the retreat to plan the Create in Me retreat, the creativity retreat in the spring that I go on most years. I get to stay at the camp for free, and I get a quick vacation. One year I tried being on Skype for the retreat to plan the retreat, and it was very frustrating--the technology didn't work, but in a glitchy way, so that I kept thinking it was something I could solve. It's much better to meet in person.

One reason why my ticket is cheap is that I didn't pay for any baggage.  Allegiant charges even for carry-on bags, which I think they define as anything that has to go in the overhead compartment.  I have a back pack where my flannel pajamas and the books I'm reading take up all the room, with socks and undies packed in the edges.

I have 3 books in my backpack:  The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari.  I plan to begin with Atwood.  I feel like I have important books with me--and even better, there will be some time to read!  I am so happy that I still look forward to having time to read and that there are still good books.

If I was traveling by car, I might take a different assortment, a larger assortment.  I have not read many volumes of poetry this year.  Perhaps when I return.

I will not be taking my laptop--that would cost more money, so it stays at home, meaning that I will have more time to read.  I won't be doing much writing.  Or maybe I'll surprise myself.  I do have a legal pad and pens.  There's always paper.

I am looking forward to being away, to seeing friends I have known for decades as we gather to plan the retreat.  I am looking forward to being on the plane, where I won't be connected to the wider world.

I will feel better, as I always do, when I'm through the security line.  That's what always makes me most anxious when I contemplate air travel.

Today is the feast day of Saint Francis.  This morning I've been thinking of the last few times I've traveled on feast days.  I often get some poem ideas.  There's something about the intersection of the feast day and the change of scenery that sparks my poet brain.

Today I can't imagine what that spark will be.  That's part of the wonder of it, part of what keeps me wanting to write poems.  The surprises in poetry delight me more than the surprises in any other kind of writing.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Softer Grief of Autumn

--Today we start a new quarter at my school.  Some years, we've had a restful break.  This year, I feel like I've had no break.  Usually I use the break between classes to get caught up or maybe even to work ahead.  This year, I worked at a fever pace to get ready for our upcoming accreditation visit.

--I wonder what tasks I've neglected in my fever pace.

--Usually by now, I might have sent out dozens of poetry packets.  Sadly, I have done very little in the way of submissions this season.

--Today I am thinking about my friends from school days past and school years present.  I am missing them.  I am wishing we had time to brew a pot of tea, time to make pumpkin muffins together.

--I am wishing we had the cooler weather that makes me want to make pumpkin muffins.

--This morning, I tried to remember the name of my high school best friend's sister.  She had a Biblical name which she shortened to something much more American and 20th century.  For a few minutes, I couldn't remember, and I felt sad.  Then it came to me:  Miriam, shortened to Mimi.

--I won't likely ever find Mimi, however.  She got married, and I don't know her married last name.  I'm not sure that our modern social media means of finding people have solved that issue.

--I want to find her primarily to share sadness that my high school friend died too soon.  Maybe it is good that I can't find her.  She might not want that kind of encounter.

--Or maybe it would make her feel less alone in the time of mourning that often emerges out of nowhere once we're through the piercing time of grieving.

--What is autumn but a symbol of that time of softer mourning?