Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day and the Feast Day of the Visitation

Today is the feast day of the Visitation, a feast day that celebrates the time that Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Both women are pregnant in miraculous ways: Mary hasn't had sex, and Elizabeth is beyond her fertile years. Yet both are pregnant. Elizabeth will give birth to John the Baptist, and Mary will give birth to Jesus.

Some feast days leave me shaking my head and wondering what modern folks are to do with them. Some feast days, like today's, make me wish I'd known about them earlier. I think about my younger self who was enraged that so much femaleness seemed to be erased from Christianity. What would my raging feminist self have done with this festival?

I'm not sure she'd have been appeased. I was also in the process of trying to assert that biology isn't destiny, while also acknowledging that I was one of the first generations to be able to assert that idea.

My middle-aged self is willing to admit that biology is often destiny, although not in the womb-centric way that the phrase is often bandied about. I'm seeing too many people at the mercy of bodies that they have increasingly less control over.

In an odd twist, today is also Memorial Day, a day where we will remember and honor those who have died in military service to the U.S.  It's another holiday where biology is destiny--young men have been expected to serve in this way, and when not enough of them do, they have been drafted.

As I've thought about the juxtapositions between the feast day of the Visitation and Memorial Day, I've thought about how both days celebrate those who are working in service to a vision that's greater than just themselves.  In fact, they may be working in service to a vision that they don't quite understand, but they have faith in the ones who have called them to the vision.

Of course, the difference is that the governments who use soldiers don't always have the best interest of the soldiers uppermost, while God, who called Mary and Elizabeth, was looking out for their best interest.

Nothing drives home the cost of war more than a visit to the Vietnam Memorial and seeing those 58,000 or so names carved into a black scar of granite.

How might our thinking about war change if we also added the names of all the maimed war veterans? What a cost.

And then there are the civilians. And the family members. So much wreckage on so many sides.

I'm thinking of the 2005 trip to France I took with my mom and dad and our stops at a variety of WWI cemeteries. That effect, too, is similar to the one that the Vietnam Memorial--those graves, stretching on as far as we could see.

So, on this day which has become for so many of us just an excuse to have a barbecue, let us pause to reflect and remember. If we're safe right now, let us say a prayer of gratitude. Let us remember that we've still got lots of military people serving in dangerous places.

And on this feast day of the Visitation, let us say a prayer of thanks for elder generations who look out for younger ones, who give them safe space to process what God has called them to do.  Let us give thanks for people of all ages who know what needs to be done to protect the mission that God gives them.  

Let us pray for all who need courage to do what must be done.  Let us pray that in the future, no blood needs to be shed to achieve and preserve freedom. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Of Housing Markets and Arks

We spent yesterday the way we often spend our Saturdays, talking about the housing market, talking about possible timelines for the end of my job, talking about seminary plans and what path to the future appeals to my spouse right now for himself (teaching?  grad school?  city government work?  something else?).  

I had this article from The Atlantic on my brain, along with the house sale news from our good friends in the neighborhood, who are no longer in this neighborhood.  The article argues for waiting to buy a house; it posits that the blazing hot housing market won't be hot forever, but also that there's not a crash in the offing.  It will be more like a return to normal.

The article argues that we're looking at a classic supply and demand issue that has been decades in the making.   And what do the experts expect?  One expert suggests looking at the supply of houses:  "After crashing to an all-time low in April, active inventory has actually increased for three straight weeks. That’s the good news. The bad news is, at its current pace, the number of houses on the market nationwide won’t reach normal levels for about 14 months, all things being equal."

So maybe it's no surprise that my brain returned to my poem series that looks at modern issues through the lens of Noah, Noah's family, and the ark.  Yesterday another idea for a poem about Noah's wife occurred to me. She sees the ark as a vehicle to a new life, and he sees it as a container to save the old life. How does this post-flood marriage survive?

I thought about also tying it into my idea about the cicadas.  Were they worth saving, if they are only going to be active every 17 years?

I do worry that others will find it tiresome, seeing everything through the eyes of Noah's wife.  But then again, I don't really have to worry, do I?  I'm not even sure I'm going to assemble it into a book.  It delights me, and that's what matters.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

My Glamorous Week in Administration: Plumbers and Health Inspectors, Oh My!

I have read the posts of academics who are convinced that administrators spend the bulk of their time thinking up ways to make the faculty miserable.  While that may be true of some administrators at bigger schools, as an administrator much of my time is spent trying to get systems back to working properly.  When I think back on my past week, I think about plumbers and IT and the inspector from the health department.

On Wednesday, I made this Facebook post:

"Yesterday, in my official duties as an administrator, I wrote an e-mail that ended with this plea: "If possible, could you please schedule a plumber or R____ to come to campus tomorrow? We are a campus of mostly females, and we need as many toilets working as possible." We were down to 1.5 working toilets, thus my desperate tone.

Today the plumber arrived and suggested that we hold the handle down for 45 seconds to attain a full flush. I refrained from saying, "Is that what they teach you in plumbing school these days?" Instead I said, "Yes, we've been doing that."

Then he took out all the toilet innards and replaced them. And now I don't have to hold the handle down for 45 seconds or pull on a chain inside the tank or be prepared to back away quickly when the toilet doesn't drain.

When I was in grad school, years ago, they did not offer a course in The Palimpsest of Plumbing and Poetics. Or a course in toilet repair. Alas."

Getting the toilets operational took more time than non-administrators might imagine.  Faculty seem to think that administrators have vast power, but I don't have the authority to pick up the phone and summon a plumber.  There's a person up the college ladder who is in charge of operations and the landlord to consider.

Yesterday I arrived at campus to find out that only me and the library assistant were there, and for awhile it was quiet, although other people did join us.  But it was not to last.

We had a surprise visit from the health department.  We are a facility licensed to deal with biomedical waste, so it was less of a surprise and more of an unscheduled inspection.  When the very nice health inspector realized it had been over 30 days since our last waste pick up, she said that she wouldn't waste either of our time, since that would be a violation that would trigger another visit.

She'll be back in 2 weeks, so we have time to have our waste taken away and for me to find the receipts and documents she'll need to see.  I did feel a moment of sadness.  Once we had an Allied Health Program chair who was in his office every day, and the visit would have gone more smoothly.

But those times are not these times.  I felt a moment of gratitude for that department chair who put together the notebook that I did find later in the day.  And I also felt grateful that I am not the one responsible for the reason that the health inspector will need to return.  I am not the one who decided to save money by not having enough pick ups of our biomedical waste.

So yes, when I read the social media rantings about the lives that administrators have, I smile bemusedly.  If only I had the resources that people imagine and the power to deploy those resources.  But most days, I'm grateful that the plumbing holds together and that we can all access the internet.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Cliche with Full Moon and Sunrise

The sweet potatoes got an extra scrubbing today.  I was standing at the sink, watching the clouds swirl across the moon, lost in the loveliness, as I scrubbed dirt off the sweet potatoes.  

It seems I should be able to use this nugget in a poem.  No poem comes to mind, so I'm collecting it here, as I often do.

The other day I remembered that I had an idea for a new Noah's wife poem, but I couldn't remember what it was, so I went to the blog.  Happily, I had recorded it in this post.  I had thought I would write about cicadas and husks and post-menopausal Noah's wife feeling like she, too, is a husk.   This morning, I'm thinking about cicadas and Noah's wife wondering why they got a space in the ark if they're only going to emerge into life every 17 years.

This morning, the sunrise was a gift of beauty that kept giving.  I left the house for my morning walk thinking I would walk west, towards the sinking moon.  But the pre-sunrise colors were so soft and purply-pink that I headed east.  I watched the colors shift from pale pink along the spectrum to salmon orange with whisps of purple.

Those whisps headed west and made the full moon look like something out of my sketchbook.  Imagine the picture below without the dark circles:

As I rounded the lake, with the moon to my west emerging from its cloud cocoon, the sun went from salmon to molten orange as it was coming through the clouds.  Amazing.

I wondered if it was something I could capture in inks or paints or if a sun rising through the clouds will always seem cliched.  I am also wondering that with words--will any poem that features a moon, even one that features a woman at the sink scrubbing sweet potatoes, can avoid cliche.

I tried, with a haiku-like creation I made yesterday, after I was not successful at seeing the eclipse:

No clear eclipse view,
and clouds obscure the sunrise.
Mysteries remain.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Items for the Christopher Guest File

One of my friends who is also a colleague at work is keeping a file of sorts, a file of the kind of moments that Christopher Guest would use if he ever decided to set one of his mock-documentary movies on a college campus.  But not an ivy league or a southern land-grant university--no, a much smaller campus, one without a quad.

The day began when I realized that several of us couldn't access Bamboo, which is an HR management site, the way that we request leave under the new ownership of my school.  So I wrote to the HR leadership to let them know.  Thus ensued 6 hours of working on this issue.

We got password resets and tried to use them.  Mine was successful.  I tried to help the other 2 with theirs, which weren't successful.  I sent an e-mail to the HR folks to let them know the difference between the attempts.  Back and forth we went.  In between times, I worked on other issues that come with a campus.  

The ultimate solution?  Changing browsers, of course, from Chrome to Firefox.  Ugh.  In a way I'm happy that the solution was easy--easy after 6 hours of troubleshooting and effort making.  Plus, it makes no sense to me.  Why could I change my password to access the system on Chrome, but not the other 2?

When we finally could call the technology question solved, at least for the day, I looked at my watch, astonished at how much time we spent on this.  Ugh.  Double ugh.

And finally, after I was able to approve the sick leave that my only direct report requested, I got the e-mail from HR that asked me in the future, to approve leave in advance.  But how would one do that, for unscheduled sickness?  I left that e-mail unwritten, unsent.

At the end of the day, I sent this e-mail to the person in charge of facilities and office supply orders:

"In the women’s restroom, the first toilet is still clogged, the second toilet is completely broken, and now the third toilet is not flushing correctly—it swirls, but it never really empties out. I’ve gotten it to empty out by holding the handle down for longer than I should have to, but that’s been working less and less well as the day has progressed.

If possible, could you please schedule a plumber or R____ to come to campus tomorrow? We are a campus of mostly females, and we need as many toilets working as possible."

Another item for the Christopher Guest file!

Monday, May 24, 2021

First Time Preaching Back in the Sanctuary, Masked and Distanced

Earlier this week, our church got the go-ahead from our insurers and our bishop to have more participation in the worship service, meaning we can now have others at the lectern as part of the worship service. My pastor asked me if I wanted to preach on Sunday, and I said yes. It's Pentecost, after all--the sermon practically preaches itself.  For more about the sermon itself, see this post on my theology blog.

It was strange to think about the past year:  I've preached to an empty sanctuary and to people sitting in the outdoors, in the back area of the church.  I've sent in pre-recorded sermons.  There was one moment yesterday when I thought about how long it had been since I preached in that church building with people in the pews.  And now, here they were, spaced out and masked.  It was strange but good.

Yesterday was different in so many ways than past times when I've filled in for the pastor and shook hands as people left.  Of course, we're not back to shaking hands yet, so that wouldn't have happened anyway.  But in the past, when I've preached, at least one parishioner shakes my hand and implores me to go to seminary.  In the past, I couldn't imagine circumstances aligning so that could happen.  But now, it is!

Yesterday, I did get a few positive/glowing comments about my sermon--in fact, my pastor said it was a good sermon, and he hoped that I could feel the energy amongst the congregation during the sermon.  I was glad to get that observation.

I realize that in later years, when I'm preaching all the time, I may look back to the guest preaching spots and miss them.  Or perhaps I won't be preaching because I'm at a different call, and at a different church where the pastor doesn't invite lay preaching.  I do realize I'm lucky that my pastor issues invitations and that I'm open to accepting them.

And I do realize how lucky I am to be able to see a path forward to ordination and in having all sorts of support on that journey.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Retired Equipment

Because my school was bought by Orthodox Jews, we had Monday and Tuesday off for Shavuot, which was just fine with me.  It was a strange, short week.  I arrived on Wednesday to find a pile of signs we won't be using, the temperature check signs, the social distancing signs, along with the thermometers and the wristbands that show that people have checked in:

It was almost a year ago that we first started doing these things.  Honestly, I thought we'd be doing them a bit longer, although for about the last 6 months, it's begun to seem more like pandemic theatre:  our students know how to answer the intake questions, and the thermometers have never registered a fever.

It's been strange to be on campus in the mornings and not be taking temperatures of everyone who arrives.  I had gotten used to it as a way to greet people.  I know that I can still greet them, of course.  I also laugh at myself, because I remember a weeping moment in the late summer of 2020 when I said, "I'm just so tired of taking temperatures."

And now, it's strange to retire that equipment.

On Thursday our internet went out, and I called the new IT people who asked me to go to the server room to tell them if I saw any lights blinking that shouldn't be blinking.  When I told them that no one on this campus was ever allowed to have the code, I could tell they were just dumbfounded.  Within a few hours, the campus had internet restored, and I had the code to the server room (those 2 events are not causally related).  I made this Facebook post:

"Because we have a new IT director, I have been given the code to the server room, a code which previously, no one but the few IT folks were allowed to have (much to the fire inspector's puzzlement). I have used the code to go into the server room. I expected to find a great treasure. I found old equipment, including an ancient fax machine."

On another campus, my former colleagues who have already been transferred have been sorting through the Christmas decoration storage rooms--yes rooms.  One colleague told me that they had found a combination DVD and VCR player.  I said, "You might want to hang onto that."

It's hard for me to imagine that we'll need those thermometers again, but of course, we'll hang onto them.  I've seen the inside of the server room.  I know we're hanging onto all sorts of things, just in case we need them again.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Best Work Mom Ever

I have always been deeply suspicious with upper administrator types who proclaim that at work, we're all one big happy family.  There are dynamics found in family systems theory that might help explain many a workplace, but I doubt that many of those administrators would be happy about the findings.

I returned from vacation to find this wonderful card with a note:

Ordinarily, I might have recoiled from this sentiment:  me, a work mom?  Does that mean I seem out of touch?  Smothering?  Demanding?  Old?

Well, as a woman who will be 56 years old soon, I am much older than most of my colleagues.  At times, it's been strange to overhear conversations about bad boyfriends and similar topics that I don't hear in conversations with people my age or older.  But instead of making me wistful for my misspent youth, it's made me happy to have arrived at this further side of midlife.

The card came with a note that I will treasure forever.  It was a note of gratitude for my leadership and thoughtfulness and generosity.  In short, it made me feel valued and appreciated, not old and washed up/out.

I have often joked that in our "work family," I am the kooky aunt, the one who wears frumpy clothes and bakes amazing creations which she brings to work to share.  I've joked that I'm the kooky aunt whose family members can't decide whether to take her seriously or not, the woman with life wisdom that is both attractive and terrifying, the woman with a bag that's bursting with creativity projects.

But I've decided that being the "Best Work Mom Ever" is my favorite designation.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Land Distribution and Intergenerational Wealth

If you wonder about poverty, if you think about generational wealth, consider these ideas about the development of the U.S. from Mark Bittman's Animal, Vegetable, Junk:  A History of Food from Sustainable to Suicidal:

"In all, more than a quarter of all the nation's land was given away or sold for cheap, and since much of that total (two billion acres) is unfarmable mountains or desert, that quarter represents the majority of arable land.  If you are looking for the roots of today's income inequality, you might start here, with a federal donation of land--the foundation of most wealth--to an exclusive club of white men" (p. 81).

Bittman then discusses the aftermath of the Civil War and how formerly enslaved people got some land and then lost their land.  He also discusses the Homestead Act, and all the people who couldn't take advantage of it, a fact I did not know before.

He concludes:  "Had there been a fair redistribution of land in the last third of the nineteenth century, one that acknowledged the rights of Indigenous people, of women, of formerly enslaved people, and of other people of color, the twentieth century would have looked much different, with millions of additional small and medium farms run by families concerned about their land, the food they grew, and the communities around them.  Instead, the federal government joined with former slaveholders to establish a system that remained unjust, and that increasingly focused on cash crops and monoculture" (pp. 83-84).

I have just started thinking about this dynamic of land distribution throughout history--I imagine that if we looked deeply, we'd see similar patterns in other countries.  It's an interesting way of understanding why some groups are ahead in terms of wealth, while the rest have been left behind.

Now if only I could see an elegant solution to this injustice . . .

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The Plight and Privilege of the Long Haul Poet

I had Monday and Tuesday off for Shavuot; our new owners are Orthodox Jews, and so, we have a new set of holidays.  Yesterday was my first day back on campus since the CDC announced the relaxed rules on masking for vaccinated people.

Of course, the problem with that guidance is that we can't tell who has been vaccinated, and our state's governor has been anti-masking, anti-taking precautions, anti-requiring proof of vaccination.  I'm not going to fling myself against that wall.  Most of our faculty and students are still wearing masks, so I was happy to see that.

It was strange to get to my office and find the detritus of past policies:

I feel like I should send them to some curator who is putting together cultural artifacts of the pandemic.  But I also feel like it won't be that interesting to future generations.

I thought of all the wrist bands that we still have, enough for a festival.  If only I could create a festival that would prompt the use of wrist bands.

Instead, I'm a poet, and like most poets, there's no need for wrist bands.  I am not in demand like that.  I don't know of many poets who are.  It's a blessing, in most ways.  If I was being paid to write poems, I'd be feeling fretful right now.  I'm not writing poems the way I did when I was younger.

There are days when I wonder why I bother at all.  One of the disadvantages of social media is that I see all sorts of people announcing all sorts of successes.  I remind myself that I don't know that these announcements are true, that I can't judge these books by their covers (both literally and figuratively)--that although it may feel like everyone else is getting their books published by major publishers, that may not be true.  I can't tell which books are self-published, which books came with big advances, which books are in bookstores or only printed when someone orders a copy.

My training in English literature serves me well--I remember all the great poets and how many of them wouldn't have been known in their own time periods.  I remember all the poets who were popular during their own time, to our current mystification about their popularity.

My knowledge of social justice movements also serves me well.  In my younger years, I was frustrated with how long social change seemed to take.  My wise elders counseled patience, and I've been alive long enough to see patience rewarded and to feel fretful about steps backwards.  Some times, the life of a long haul poet feels like that of a person working for social transformation.  I can see the goal, but the realization of it isn't taking the trajectory I expected.

I still send poems out into the world, and I still submit book length manuscripts here and there, but far less than I used to, back in the 90's.  In part it's about the expense, which Ren Powell has written about in this eloquent piece.  In part, it's because I wonder why I bother.  

But yesterday, I got a great reminder of why I bother.  I got notice of an acceptance:  my poem, "Leaving the House that Hid the Asylum Seekers" has been chosen by the Syracuse Cultural Worker's 2022 Women Artists Datebook.  How thrilling!

It's not the first time that this publication has taken one of my poems.  Two years ago, I got my first acceptance, and I reacted with the same burst of happiness when I read the news of this current acceptance.

I'm so glad that this poem has found a home, and a home that is the perfect fit.  But more important, this poem has sustained me for the past four and a half years.  

In the end, I write for one main reason, to document my life, to keep a record, to help me figure out what I'm thinking.  That record may be important to future generations or it may not, but that's not particularly important to me, especially since I don't control that aspect.  I wrote the poem in the early days of the Trump administration, and my mind has often come back to the last few lines, especially when I've felt discouraged:

You hear the voices of the ancestors,
colored with both reason and panic.
Go faster, they urge.
You are needed up ahead.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

What I Read During My May Vacation

While I was on vacation, I said to my sister, "This may be the last time I can read for pleasure."  We had been talking about my seminary journey, so I didn't mean it to sound as apocalyptic as it sounds a week later when I type that sentence.

I still have the whole summer to read, and I'm aware that the MDiv program may not preclude pleasure reading the way that my PhD in English did.  But still, this last time at a resort by a different part of the Atlantic felt like the last time I will read for pleasure.

So, did I bring the kind of novel that I expect not to have time to read in the near future?  No, it didn't come to the library in time.  I had planned to read Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for the Future.  It's 563 pages, and I often need a vacation time to tackle a book like that.  But maybe I can plan for a Memorial Day week-end reading fest.

Instead, I read a variety of books.  For my certificate in spiritual direction certificate program, I needed to finish The Enneagram:  A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, so that work wove its way through the week.  My spouse showed some interest, and I wanted to know what Enneagram number(s) he would assign to himself and to me.  We had some interesting conversations.

I did read one work of fiction, but it didn't take me very long:  Jhumpa Lahiri's Whereabouts.  It's a book for which the word "spare" was invented.  I find my thoughts returning to it, even though as I zipped through it, I thought that I wasn't finding it very compelling.

I read another book that was similarly slender of pages, but deep in content:  Anne Lamott's Dusk Night Dawn:  On Revival and Courage.  I rarely buy her books anymore, since until this one, a lot of her later books seemed similar to me.  But even in their similarity, I enjoy visiting the books again.

This latest book of Lamott's feels different:  less angry, approaching the spiritual stuff from a different angle.  Perhaps that's because the book deals with the navigations that come with a new marriage--and this marriage is one between people who are not teenagers.

Here's one of my favorite parts of this book:  "Most of these prophets were introverts.  Jesus definitely was.  He's never really doing all that much, if you think about it.  He doesn't even tell His own stories.  He'd be fired from most churches today.  He's in a world of great fear, there's evil, violence, and need all around him, so He often finds He needs time along--in silence, in the desert, on the mountain, on the beach, beneath the stars--to get strong and patient enough to go back and face Peter's lame and endless questions for the tenth time:  'Is now when we get to be in charge?  Is now when we take over?'"

I was most thrilled to be able to get Mark Bittman's latest book from the library and relatively quickly.  A book with the title Animal, Vegetable, Junk:  A History of Food from Sustainable to Suicidal is not one that we might associate with vacation reading, but it was great.  In some ways, it didn't tell me much that I didn't already know on some level.  But it gave me depth and perspective.

It was less about the individual types of food we eat, but more about how the food is produced.  In other words, it wasn't a diet book or a nutrition book, but it was a deep dive into agriculture practices.  I realize that's not everyone's idea of a fun vacation read, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

What I enjoyed most about my vacation reading is that I read more on paper, less on pixels.  I had the chance to do some deep reading in a way that I don't when I'm at home where there are so often chores to do and a variety of work for pay that needs doing.

And speaking of work for pay, it's time to get ready to return to the office.  I've been reading e-mails once or twice a day when I've been away; in some ways, it's easier than returning to the office to sort through so many e-mails with a rising sense of dread.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Catching Up with Campus Pastors

A week ago, we'd have been at Hilton Head Island with my parents and my sister.  We knew that family friends were vacationing in nearby Charleston.  They were willing to come to us for dinner, and we were willing to cook.  What a treat of an evening.

I am startled to realize how long I've known these family friends.  When I was a teenager in Charlottesville, Virginia, he was the UVa campus pastor with an office at St. Mark's Lutheran Church, and she was the choir director. My mom was instrumental in bringing them together; she had conversations with each of them, when each one expressed their interest in the other.  She asked each one if she could let the other know, and they said yes--that would be the best kind of matchmaker to be.  They've been together ever since. 

Later, he came to be campus pastor at the University of South Carolina, where I was a graduate student.  Every Wednesday, I headed over to the student center for dinner, worship/programming and fellowship.  Occasionally, we'd go to Sunday worship.  Those were great years.

Forty years ago, I was the crucifer in the wedding of these family friends, and when my spouse and I got married in 1988, we asked him to officiate, and he said yes.  In later years, we've all lived in a variety of places, but we've kept up with each other.  It was great to see them again last Tuesday night and catch up face to face.

I enjoyed hearing what everyone had been up to, and as a person who is headed to seminary, I was glad to hear about the trajectory of their lives, to remember that there are many ways to serve the church:  campus pastor, parish pastor, staff member/director of a regional group that supports campus ministry--and that's just in one life.

I also found his creative path interesting.  He's one of the few people I know who got a PhD in Literature and Theology, an intersection which he explored both as a scholar and a creative writer.  But in the last 20 years, he's been exploring visual arts, primarily photography and painting.  And here I am, exploring similar paths.  He talked about an opportunity that he had to paint and to retreat and to study in Assisi.  What a dream opportunity that would be.

There were moments throughout the last week away when I had that wrenching realization of how many decades I've already been on this planet, and how the same is true of everyone I love.  I am lucky in that I expect to have a few more functional decades.  I'm trying not to give in to anticipatory grief as I realize how old my parents and friends are getting, which is also anticipatory grief for me. 

There's also the realization of how many people I've lost track of:  other campus pastors who were important to me, for example.  At the University of South Carolina, the Lutherans were joined with Episcopalians and Methodists in one center, and the Methodist pastor was very important to me.  Her five year assignment ended, and she went on to her next call.

But let me be happy that she was there.  Let me be grateful for all the important people in my life to whom I am still connected.  Let me be happy that there are all sorts of trajectories that so many of us are still exploring.

Monday, May 17, 2021

A Repeat of a Perfect Vacation Week

Careful readers may have noticed a change in my blog in the past 10 days.  I have been away.  Often when I'm away, I blog as usual, but that's when my spouse is at home.  When we're both away, I try to be careful on social media.  

I do realize that my attempt to be cautious is perhaps laughable.  I doubt that burglars are monitoring my Facebook account and saying, "Now is the time to break in!"  No, anyone paying attention to the house day after day will realize we're away.  But still, it's wise to be cautious.

We had such a good time during our low-key, Hilton Head vacation in September that we decided to try for a repeat in May.  And we were succesful!

In September, my spouse and I drove up from Florida, and my mom and dad drove down from Virginia.  We only went out to do some grocery shopping, some walking on the beach, and exploring an outdoor park where there was a farmer's market of sorts.  We are lucky in that we all like to cook and eat the same type of food and that our idea of relaxing involves books, not outings.

This time was similar, even though we're all fully vaccinated.  We didn't go out to eat, and we didn't do much exploring of the island.  My mom is great at finding deals, so we were in the same beautiful Marriott resort.  That resort has done a great job of keeping chairs around the pool distanced, and we were at a quiet pool.

This vacation was different too, in that my sister joined us.  On Friday night, she flew into the Savannah airport, and we picked her up on our way north.  There were many places that plan could go wrong, but we had back up plans--and we didn't need them!  It couldn't have been more perfect.  We parked at the airport, waited for 10 minutes, and then her plane arrived early.  Hurrah!

In September, I had decided that I wouldn't be visiting any other friends, so that the potential for disease exposure stayed low.  This year, I made the same decision, in part because of disease exposure (my sister has only had the first vaccine dose), but in part because I didn't want to do the additional driving, the additional planning.  Hopefully I will have other travels where I can see friends.  I decided to keep the focus on my family this time.

In the upcoming days, I will likely do some additional writing about the trip we just took.  But now I need to go to an annual doctor appointment, one that was put off last year.  Another difference between now and September--I have 2 days off, today and tomorrow.  Our school's new owners celebrate the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, and so, I am off.

I've always wanted to have time off at the end of vacation to have an easier re-entry.  This time is the first time I've been able to do that.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Reasons to Hope

Recent insights from a week away:

--I saw an older man cooking two hot dogs on a grill, and at first I was sad.  Then I decided to see it as one of the most perfect expressions of love that I had seen lately.

--Similarly, I've seen gatherings of humans on the beach at early hours to watch the sun rise.  The planet puts on a good show, and I am heartened at how many people get up to see it.  If I had to argue for the redemption of humanity, for reasons to love humans, I'd use this fact.

--If you put vegetation back onto dunes, and if you do more than give the dunes sea oats, you'll get deer.  I understand all the reasons that people see deer as a curse more than a promise.  But seeing my fellow humans captivated by early morning sightings of deer made me happy this week.

--I am happy that more 12 -15 year olds will be vaccinated soon.  I'm happy to see those shots going into younger arms.

--I am afraid that we are loosening up on masking and distancing too early, right about the time that the virus variant from India will come crashing to our U.S. shores.  Why can't we learn from the mistakes that other nations have made?

--Let me return to earlier reflections.  Let me remember what I have seen that gives me hope.  I have seen young fathers and mothers who are involved with their children, couples who appear to be equally involved with child rearing.  I have seen older generations interacting kindly with their grandchildren.  I know that I should be able to take these things for granted, but I don't.  

--It is almost time for another walk to watch the sun come up, an event that happens every morning, but rarely fails to fill me with wonder.  


I forgot to mention what fun we've had doing music bingo and name that tune all week.  Yesterday's crowd was the biggest ever, and I want to remember people of all ages, remembering/singing all sorts of songs from the 70's and 80's, even the young teenage boys whose parents may not have been born when those songs first came out.  But they knew a lot of the songs.  Young teenage boys singing "Let It Be"--a reason for hope.

And the sunrise, each day; here's today's capture:

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Deer and the Photographer


The photographer wonders how to say in deer language: "I come in peace; be not afraid."

The deer wonders how to say in human language: "Breakfast is ready and there's enough for you. Come and eat."

Friday, May 14, 2021

Megan Rohrer, First Openly Transgender Lutheran Bishop

 Before we get too much further away from the event, I did want to note the May 8 election of the first openly transgender bishop in the Lutheran Church (ELCA version), the first transgender person to serve as bishop of any mainstream Christian denomination.  

Megan Rohrer has been groundbreaking for decades, so I'm not surprised at their election to be bishop.  Lutherans can be groundbreaking in elections to bishop; there are lots of previously marginalized people serving this way.  But when it comes to leading big congregations, we still don't see many women or people of color or people in same sex relationships or transgender people.  In the ELCA and in most denominations, the big churches are still led by men, and many of them are fairly traditional males, at least to judge by outer appearances:  older, whiter, not-disabled men.

In some ways, progress is so slow.  But I remind myself that back in 2008, Rohrer was serving a church congregation that had been kicked out of the larger denomination for having chosen them as pastor.   In 2009, the ELCA adopted a sexuality statement that allowed Rohrer and other ministers to serve officially and for churches to issue a call.  And now, almost 12 years later, a transgender bishop!

The sexuality statement is far from perfect.  It still allows churches and individuals to opt out of inclusiveness.  It's wishy-washy, or maybe it's revolutionary in its agree to disagree stance.  We won't change the hearts and minds of people by forcing a belief from the top down.  But opening the door and allowing people to serve might be the catalyst to change as people see that these humans once thought to be so different are actually quite similar.

I've often said that most of us have the same longings as humans:  we want to be safe and cared for, we want the children whom we love to be safe and cared for, we want the ones we love to be safe and cared for.  From these yearnings, it's not a great leap to want that same love and care for everyone, whether we know them or not.

I've been following Rohrer for years, and I am thrilled for this election.  Rohrer has been a source of hope and blessing for the San Francisco area for decades, and in the online arena too.  My hope and prayer is that more people can feel that level of hope and blessing and care.  The world is in such desperate need of that abundance.

May more of us be able to accept it.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Days of Ascension and Cloister

Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich, a female mystic, one of the earliest female writers in British literature.  As a 14th century anchoress, she lived in a small cell attached to a cathedral, in almost complete isolation, spending her time in contemplation. She had a series of visions, which she spent her life elaborating upon. She is likely the first woman to write a book-length work in English.

It is also Ascension Day, the day that many Christians celebrate as the day that post-Easter Jesus is taken up into Heaven.  It's not Pentecost yet, so the followers still don't have the sense of mission that they will exhibit later.

These stories remind us that there are many ways to be true to one's purpose, many ways to serve, many ways to be a witness.  Julian of Norwich took the world in a direction it hadn't been before. She's one of our first known female theologians written in English, and because she did it, others coming afterwards would take their own visions and their words seriously too--as did other people.

And yet, she didn't set out to change the world. I comfort myself by reminding myself that Julian of Norwich would be astonished if she came back today and saw the importance that people like me have accorded her. She likely had no idea that her writings would survive. She was certainly not writing and saying, "I will be one of the earliest female writers in English history. I will depict a feminine face of God. I will create a theology that will still be important centuries after I'm dead."

I imagine that most of those early disciples also did not realize how much they were changing the world and how astonished they would be to return to our modern Christianity.  They thought they were solving problems within their communities and their home faiths.  At least at first, they weren't looking to transform themselves into a group called Christians.

These days, I often repeat Julian of Norwich’s most famous quote: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” Would Julian of Norwich be pleased that so many of us derive comfort by repeating those words? Or would she shake her head and be annoyed that we have missed what she considered to be the most important ideas?

I remind myself that she would have such a different outlook than I do. She was a medieval woman who served God; she likely would not even view her ideas as her own, but as visitations from the Divine. If I could adopt more of that kind of attitude, it could serve me well on some of my more stressful days when divesting could be the most helpful thing that I could do.

In these days, divesting ourselves of our plans/expectations for the future, of our need to be sure of the future, of our worries and fears, would be helpful for many of us. Let us repeat the words of Julian of Norwich, even if we don't believe them:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

A Deer in the Dunes Makes All the Difference

Some days, you get a subdued sunrise.

On other days, it's downright apocalyptic. 

Then there are other days of gray gloom.

But a deer in the dunes transforms the experience.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Love Notes in the Sand

This morning, I walked on the beach.  My sister got great sunrise pictures on her solitary walk yesterday; I had decided to stay inside and catch up on e-mails and other social media.  While I didn't particularly want pictures, I do want to be more intentional with my time.

I was much too early for sunrise, but that's fine.  I needed to get a bit more exercise than I've been getting.  I walked and walked, and I came across this message on the beach, writing encased in a heart:

Married here


Ian and Jen

I spent part of my walk wondering about Ian and Jen.  Are they back to celebrate their 5 year anniversary?  Did their message mark the exact spot on the beach where they pledged their troth?  And if so, what was it about that stretch of beach?

I thought about how old they are.  I pictured young kids, just out of college, getting married on the beach because it was the first place where they got drunk and realized they loved each other.  But it's just as likely that they were two humans on a second or even a third marriage, two humans who felt lucky to find each other in the midst of all the heartbreak that a life can hold.

I suppose I should have wondered who was out there with me on the beach--I might have walked past Jen and Ian and not known it.  There weren't many people out there, and the message must have been put in the sand since the last high tide.

And of course, my poetry brain started thinking of the symbolism of it all, our loves and our lives washed out to sea before we know it.  Or perhaps, I should think of it differently, in a more planetary way:  matter is never destroyed, but simply transformed.  Our love may wash out to sea, becoming part of the larger ocean, the ocean that is coming for us all.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Music for Mother's Day

A year ago on Mother's Day, most of us were away from our mothers, separating Mother's Day (if we lived in the U.S.) from a distance.  This year, some of us might be fortunate enough to celebrate together, and I imagine that restaurants will do a booming business, as they usually do with these holidays.  Yesterday I was in the grocery store watching some people pick through bouquets of nice enough flowers, and I thought about all the mothers out there who would be getting flowers and chocolates and last minute gifts from the grocery store.  It's a better way of celebrating than many.

This year on Mother's Day, I could post a poem, but I'll post a link to the song that our church choir put together last year.  Go here to listen to our version of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." 

We were lucky--we were standing much too close to each other, singing and recording, but happily, no one got sick.  We were not punished.

I am not crazy about my singing voice in the video. Happily, my spouse sang the verses, and he really carries us.

I remind myself that we only rehearsed the song for about 20 minutes before the worship service. After the service, we ran through it several times, and then we recorded.

In this version, as our pastor is close to us, you can hear our individual voices. I think we sound better as a chorus when you can't pick out our voices. I've been feeling bad about my singing voice since--well, forever--and I wonder if now is the time for voice lessons.

But what I love about this type of music is that it can accommodate a variety of voices. If you listen to various versions, you'll hear people who would never be successful opera singers or featured choir members. Some of those people, like the Carter family, have become musical icons.

And in the end, it's not about how wonderful we sound--it's about the joy of making music together while we can, doing our best, looking for ways to improve, knowing that the important part is to show up.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Sketching Frog and Toad

I am always intrigued by the Twitter tweets and Facebook posts that get the most likes.  On Friday, I was surprised to see that my tweet on sketching Frog and Toad had gotten the most likes of any tweet I've ever made.  Here's the sketch I made:

I created it after seeing this post that someone else had tweeted:

And then I fell down a rabbit hole looking for information about which Frog and Toad book contained that image.  I'm almost sure it's from Frog and Toad Are Friends.  I got to see other delightful images from the books and made another sketch:

The next day, I had a vision of creating a series of sketches that combines Frog and/or Toad with other beloved characters from childhood stories.  Here's one I call Frog of Green Gables:

I thought it was slightly disturbing, and not just because I couldn't get the hat right.  But I also thought it was funny and charming in an off kilter way.

Will I do more in this series?  Will there be a Toad Longstocking?  Will I send Frog and Toad to a little house on a prairie?

Stay tuned!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Students and Food Stability

 In pre-pandemic days, I would go to Publix, our local grocery store, at 5:30 a.m. every Monday.  They would give me the carts of baked goods with pull dates that would send them to the garbage if I didn't take them away.  I would spend the first hour of Monday mornings at work unloading the car and putting out day old bread for students and staff to take.  Throughout the week, I would put out plates of treats for students and staff to enjoy.  Usually, I got enough day old treats for the whole week, and despite the pull date, they would last.

I knew that some of our students had food insecurities, and I often wished that I could provide more nutritious food.  I kept some of the bread aside and put it out throughout the week, and we always had a big jar of peanut butter.  I consoled myself by thinking that at least we provided some calories and some nutrition, and I knew that for some of our students, that food was an important supplement, and for some of them, it was all they had.

A year ago, students returned to campus for labs, and our goal was to get them in and out.  We didn't put out food; in fact, we locked the student lounge.  It was the early days of the disease, when we weren't sure of the best ways to keep students safe.  We were more afraid of contagion than of hunger.

A few weeks ago, I got the reminder that the issue of student hunger hasn't gone away.  We had a student who was shaky and out of it, and when we asked him what was going on, he said he hadn't eaten in a few weeks.  We gave him a granola bar and some peanut butter crackers with some juice.

We know we can't solve the problem of student hunger, but we started strategizing.  I applied for a microgrant from Thrivent, the financial group that used to do insurance only for Lutherans only (now they do all kinds of investments for all sorts of people).  Yesterday, we did our first shopping.

We plan to have a basket of snacks and treats always available:

And we'll have something more substantial in the cabinets.  Here's the start we've made on stocking the food pantry/shelf:

Because we know that students need more help than food here and there, we'll also keep handouts with up to date information about where to get more food.  Right now, there are plenty of opportunities; my church's food pantry has never been more well funded, for example.

I'm not under any illusions.  I know that the problem of hunger is far deeper than one food pantry can solve.  But it feels good to be doing a small part to help students stay nourished and stay in school.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Finding Our Way Forward, Fully Vaccinated

Two weeks ago, I got my second COVID-19 vaccine shot.  I am now fully vaccinated.  A year ago, I couldn't have imagined that we could really roll out safe and effective vaccines in the timeline that we have.  

I realize that the world still faces severe challenges; the situation in India is ghastly, and it's probably not the last time we will see the disease spiral out of control in a country.  I think this disease is here to stay, and we will never eradicate it or even come close, the way we have with other diseases, which are still here, but which rarely infect us because of how we've vaccinated most of the babies in the world.

But today I am vaccinated, and as they are available, I will get booster shots to keep my immunity high.  I may keep wearing masks too.  Like many people, my spouse and I have not gotten any sort of cold in the past year.  We usually get one doozy of a cold per year, plus times when we're fighting off a smaller cold.  Since March of 2020, we've gotten nothing.

I started using the phrase "I am fully vaccinated" after I got the second shot.  When I took the church deposit to the bank, I asked the person at the ATM if he minded if I came beside him and used the overnight drop box; for the past 15 months, I've asked this question, and so far, no one has ever minded.  The Sunday after the 2nd vaccine shot, I told the older black man at the ATM that I was fully vaccinated, and he said, "I trust God to keep me safe."  At first, I thought he meant something else, and then he said, "Trust God; don't trust the vaccine!"  

As is always the case with faulty theology, I thought about having a conversation.  But we were strangers, paths not likely to cross again.  I decided not to talk about a God who keeps us safe by giving us brains and scientists and vaccines.

There are moments when I think about all the events that have transpired in the past 15 months, and I catch my breath.  Have we really been living through a global pandemic?  Have we really experienced this level of devastation and kept going?  

Yes, yes we have.

Last night, I got a phone call:  friends/former colleagues were taking their nightly drive in their convertible and in the neighborhood; could they come by?  They did, and we sat outside, even though we're all fully vaccinated.  It was a lovely time of catching up after not seeing them for a year.

In fact, it was exactly a year ago that I brought a textbook to her house, which I wrote about in this blog post.  At that time, we were still reeling from what was happening in terms of the pandemic.  Now, we're still reeling in some significant ways, but we're finding our way forward.

Finding our way forward, fully vaccinated:  that seems like a label for our time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

All the Pastors I've Known--and Will Know

The other day my spouse said that he knew over 100 pastors.  At first I thought he was exaggerating, and then we started to count; sure enough, we do know lots of pastor people.  We grew up as Lutherans, so there's our past pastors.  We went to a small, liberal arts Lutheran college which prepared students for ministry, and many of them went on that journey.  We've gone to a variety of gatherings and stayed in touch with some of those pastors, and we've kept going to camp as adults.  Some of our pastor friends have pastor children.

Almost everyone I know is in the education field or the pastor field.  In part, that's because those are the only fields that give parents some flexibility.  I have known lots of single moms who are frank about their needs to have a work life that meets the vacation schedule of the public schools where their children attend, so they often find jobs in the public schools.

It's an interesting time to be planning to go to seminary.  This past year of COVID-19 has created lots of pastor burnout, and I know that many pastors are making post-pastor-life plans.  I am thinking of all the classmates I had who went on to seminary right after undergraduate school.  Some of them have already retired.

As I've been more and more open about my seminary plans, I've heard from one classmate who is also planning to attend seminary this fall.  Like me, she's already had one career.  Like me, that career was in education.  Another friend who I know from Create in Me retreats had been to seminary once before, but she didn't go the MDiv/ordination route, choosing instead to get a Master's degree.  After working in church settings, she realized that more doors would open if she had gotten that degree, so she went back to complete it.  She has just been ordained.

In fact, she's the one who told me about the scholarships that made me think it might be possible for me to go back to school.  I checked into the onground intensive coupled with distance learning approach of the only Lutheran seminary that offered it at the time.  Luther Seminary required a 2 week onground intensive twice a year, and two weeks away at one time is tough for an administrator.  It's probably tough for most people in a non-church setting.

We had a congregational meeting on Sunday, and it was the first time that some of my fellow church members have heard about my plans, the first time that they've heard that my campus is closing at some later point, probably this year.  We also heard that I will be the first seminary student that comes from my congregation since the early 90's.  In some ways, that says a lot about the trajectory of my local church, which is probably similar to many churches:  fewer families, fewer college age kids, fewer people with resources who can go to seminary.

It will be interesting in future years to read accounts of these times.  How many people are making decisions that they might not otherwise have made if the disease hadn't come along to show life in a different light?

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

The Violence of Collision: Interstellar Space, Flannery O'Connor and Other Inspirations

I've been thinking about how we conceptualize mortality:  do we use images of moistness (mold, exploding cells, rot) or dryness (bones with no flesh, aridness)?  This morning, I tried writing a poem that used those images along with cicadas.  I thought about incorporating ideas about breast cancer.  I read this article about menopause and thought about using some of those ideas.  I was listening to Friday news round up show on NPR, which covered the death of the astronaut who stayed in the ship as the two men walked on the moon for the first time.

From there, I started a new poem about astronauts and satellites and interstellar space.  And now I have 2 rough drafts and a head full of ideas about interstellar space.  The second poem makes the most sense to me, but the first poem made some unexpected leaps.

Now I will let it all percolate.  Maybe tomorrow I'll revisit these drafts or maybe I'll start with something fresh.

Let me record two other ideas before they fade away from me:  this morning I thought about returning to my poems that may be making a series, my poems about Noah and Noah's wife.  Perhaps the few that aren't about Noah's wife I should refashion into poems about Noah's wife.  And this morning, I thought about writing a poem about Noah's wife and cicadas who emerge after 17 years to mate for a month or two (or the whole season of summer).  I'm thinking of Noah's wife and menopause and sweeping away the dried husks.

And my other inspiration: one of my Create in Me female pastor friends made this Facebook post about visiting a congregation to talk about South Carolina retreat centers:  "How wonderful to eat ice cream in a cemetery on a sunny day surrounded by all the saints."

I loved this image--could I do something with it in a poem?  It also reminded me of the graveyard that was beside the campus of my undergraduate school.  Some people found it creepy, but I found it peaceful to take walks back there, to read work for class, to have the occasional picnic.  One of my college friends had his grandfather's grave in that very cemetery.

It also seems like a very Flannery O'Connor kind of detail, which made me think about possible short stories.  But so far, I've got nothing--except for this strange realization that much as I love O'Connor's short stories, they show a sort of meanness and cruelty.  I was thinking about the woman and the traveling salesman who is interested in her wooden leg and how she doesn't have perfume, so she dabs some sort of nasal spray on her neck.  Am I remembering correctly?  And I always see her as pathetic, but lately, I'm beginning to think I may be more like her than I want to realize.

Of course, that thought is so disturbing that I turn away.  Am I like her in her snootiness?  Am I like her in that I am a pathetic excuse for modern womanhood?  Am I like her in that I am vulnerable in ways I don't even like to consider?  Yes, to answer all those questions.

And if I'm a kind scholar, I would say that's the point.   O'Connor's stories work like Christ's stories:  to warn us, to call us to our better selves.  But yesterday morning, I had my doubts.  Maybe she was just delighting in the foibles of humans and meanspiritedly showing how we're all just dupes.  Maybe she sat aloof and judgmental and Godlike.  Her theology is not always (or often?) my theology, so I could see her view of God coinciding with ideas of aloofness and the violence of collision.

The Violence of Collision:  if I was writing a book of scholarly criticism on O'Connor, that's what I would title it.

But now, on to more mundane things:  time to get ready for a Tuesday work day, which hopefully will not include collisions.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Big Girl Trousers

I am having one of those mornings where I am tired of my clothes, all of which do not fit me, but each piece doesn't fit me in a different way.  I am thinking primarily of my pants.  I am tired of so much right now, but I know that I'm lucky to be able to feel tired in the ways that I am tired, not in the more catastrophic ways of feeling tired.

I am tired because I stayed up later than usual talking to friends.  I'm tired because I went to bed with a heavy meal in my stomach, and I realize I'm lucky to have a heavy meal shared with friends, a bed to sleep in, the AC temperature that I couldn't quite get right.

The night before last, I got a great night's sleep, and that, too, is a mark of fortune.  My spouse fell asleep in the living room where he slept through the night.  I went to bed early and instead of waking up at 2 or 3 a.m., I slept through the night.  Was it because I had the whole bed to myself?  Was it because the house was slightly cooler?

I have sent my online students their last e-mail, and now I wait for their last essays.  In the meantime, there's church that will be in person this Sunday, along with a congregational meeting.

Let me get ready.  I will put on my big girl trousers (I mean that literally) and head off into my Sunday.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Solidarity Forever: Happy May Day!

Here we are in the merry month of May--how can it already be May?  The first day of May has ancient roots as a celebration of Spring and new growth and the return of warm weather.  More recently, the first day of May has become a celebration of workers.

So let's think about some ways we could make the day special:

--The traditional way would be flowers, traditionally flowers that we would leave on dark porches for people to discover when they woke up.  It's probably too late for that approach, but it's not too late to appreciate flowers.  You could buy some flowers or a flowering plant.  Or, for future enjoyment, you could do what we did.  We bought 6 packets of flower seeds and planted them all in our front planter box.  We left them alone for the most part.  And now, 3 months later, we have a profusion of flowers:

Even as they decay, they're beautiful:

--It is probably also too late to weave long ribbons around a Maypole.  But we could braid ribbons or strips of cloth and meditate on the types of joy we'd like to invite into our lives.

--Today is a good day to think about workers, workers of all sorts.  We're having more of a national conversation these days about work, about gender, about who takes care of children and elders while people work, about the locations of work.  I look forward to seeing how it all turns out--I'm holding onto hope for positive change, even as I'm afraid we can never make the improvements that need to be made.

--If we're one of the lucky types of workers, the ones who aren't under threat by bosses or by globalization or by robots, we can support those who aren't as lucky.  Send some money to organizations that work for worker's rights. I'm impressed with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which works to protect the migrant workers in the fields of Florida, but you certainly have plenty to choose from.

--Can't afford to make a donation? Write letters on behalf of the unemployed, the underemployed, everyone who needs a better job or better working conditions. Write to your representatives to advocate for them. What are you advocating? A higher minimum wage? Safer worksites? Job security? Work-life balance?

--Today, Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Lutherans celebrate the feast day of Philip and James; others will celebrate May 3. These are not the most well-known disciples. Today you could reread the Gospels, a kind of literary Easter egg hunt, to try to find them.

--Can you create something that weaves these strands together? Here are some possibilities: a sculpture made out of ribbons that explores the world of migrant workers. A poem that celebrates flowers and contemplates the ways that we love some blooms (flowers) but not others (algae, cancer). A painting that uses weaving in some ways to think about the past century of efforts to enlarge the workplace and make it safer. A short story that updates the story of Philip--who would he be today?