Sunday, November 25, 2007

leaping again

This coming weekend I will be leaping into life. This leap has been a long time coming. Mosaic woman needs the credit. To get into a recent craft fair she had to get a state tax ID or some such thing, so with that bit of legal nonsense completed she decided it was time to create a business. I grabbed her shirt said I am going with you, and as her spouse it is relatively easy to free fall with her.

Friday we will be driving north to a craft fair at the Palisades Middle School for a show that goes from 3-7pm if you trust the info they sent us and 4-8pm if you trust their website (I guess we need to check on that). Then we will drive a bit farther north to see my sister who is flying in from California this week.

Saturday and Sunday we will be at the Oak Lane Day School for a craft fair being run by the acppa . Well, I won't be there on Sunday, that is strudelfest 2007.

That is usually an event that happens in October, but it was put off so my sister who has been quite ill could participate this year. I will get some assistance from the family. Mosaic woman's role of helping me roll the strudels will be given to someone else as she will be at the craft fair. I make apple, potato, grape and cabbage strudel as my Mom Mom taught me over ten years ago since she died I have taken on the role as strudel maker. It takes hours and we end up with enough strudel to feed us for a few days and I will take a bunch to work.

I have been making and giving way art for eons. This weekend I dive into the waters of selling. I made this dive once before, nearly 20 years ago. I failed and never tried again. Thanks to Mosaic woman I am giving myself a second chance.

Oh, so I decided to make some stained glass.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Enjoyable reading came home one day with M. She brought A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. Now I have seen three movies based on his writing but have not touched one of his books, so I went for it. The premise is this--- that on New Year's Eve four people head to a favorite spot in England for suicidal leapers. They unexpectedly meet each other on the roof top and leave the roof together. Hope that they will survive to the end of the book comes from the fact that all four take turns narrating the story.

I used to have a fantasy and once wrote a short story about getting a fatal disease and just hiking into wilderness to die. Times have changed and the internal angst that led to such thoughts have faded. I am glad that I was not a leaper out of life.

But am I a leaper into life? into faith?

I go slowly and how I entered a swimming pool for the first time in years this past summer is a good example. It took some hot days before I got there. Then I showed up not prepared to swim, but did immerse my feet. Eventually steps were used to enter the pool, but by the last day at the retreat center I did leap into the deep end with the desire to touch bottom.

This week when talking about following Christ with my spiritual director, I said how if I chose to stay back something inside of me would die. Imagining this I sense a void of hope and faith that would leave me empty. But I also said that if I followed Christ something inside of me would die. Writing that now I think of what I just wrote above. A desire to be dead has died.

I want to know why things come together like this when I am blogging.

I see choosing a life with Christ as a leap into a mystery. Like I said, I am not good at leaping. Even so, in the past ten years I have gotten wet.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

10, 20, 30, & 40

I have read some amazing reflections lately on what has happened in the lives of bloggers 10, 20 and 30 years ago. I am stretching it to 40...

10 years ago... I settled down and returned to church, and I just thought a job search had ended and that we were moving to Lansdale. After 30+ interviews I was hired at one. I am still there. After renting an apartment, then a house, and now buying a house we have been in this town ten years. Previous ten years had us living in PA, then MA, then OR, then IL, then back to PA. ten years later I am still at the school, but now I teach horticulture.

20 years ago.... under the full moon of April, I kissed my future and current wife for the first time. 5 months later I followed her to Massachusetts where I first became a special education teacher.

30 years ago... My parents and I went on a vacation by automobile... we saw the Badlands, Yellowstone, the Rockies, the Tetons, Devil's Tower, Canyonlands... my love of nature was sealed.

40 years ago... my urinary tract got infected again, and a urologist, using best practices of the day, told my parents what must be done. By the time I was ten I was an old pro having been through the treatment 20 times. My brain did what a brain does when traumatized, it erases memory. I can not tell you a single event from elementary school. I only know what I have written here because I read my medical history.

what huge events.... life keeps unfolding.

1o secs ago.... I find a package on our porch sent from Canada. M's best friend from her years growing up there,who we have not heard from but mentioned last night, has remembered Margaret.

100 secs ago... walking home, friends from church drive by honking waving and smiling.

1000 secs ago I was eating Chinese dumplings

10,000 secs ago ... I was buying locally grown veggies for which we will be thankful tomorrow.

I couldn't say this for most of my life, but I am grateful for the urologist who desired for me to be alive when I hit 44. Gratitude is far from what I have thought of for the past 40 years.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

end of sin and a journey into Colossians

The first week of the spiritual exercises have come to an end, no more sin. Well, not really, but wouldn't that be nice. Before it ended I spent some time reflecting on my own death. The first attempt was not a highlight in sharp focused thinking. I did not focus. The second attempt went better. I imagined myself fully grey and near death and wondered what I wish had gone differently.

Becoming a spiritual director came to mind. Chestnut Hill College, where I am fully not matriculated, has redesigned their program and with it has lessened the time given to earn the degree. Do I want the degree bad enough that I would take two classes a term? Is this suffering? Is it possible? One class keeps me busy, but maybe if I didn't want to spend time gardening and making stained glass and blogging and praying and teaching and being a husband and being a friend and being an active member of my church and watching movies and reading books. "Maybe I have too many interests," I tell my spiritual director. Yet again he is pleased that I am thinking about things.

I wander back to my death bed and try to see my response to not having a degree and not having the experience of helping others develop their relationship with God. The second would clearly cause me more angst. So what would the degree do for me, what has taken me to enroll in two classes. Is it the desire to be 'legitimate?" a desire to be more spiritual myself? a desire to learn the skills and knowledge that will help me to help others? I don't need the degree. I desire the degree.

Luckily some of Sophia's wisdom flowed into my head before I could scrap the idea of getting a masters. I sent off an e-mail to the woman who started the program and very briefly stated my concerns and my desire to talk. Her response gives me hope, and she too has a desire to talk. That will happen on the 29th.

since I am still a student, I guess it is time to start my next paper-- Colossians 1: 15-20-- and by coincidence it is where the exercises have turned to for this week. Christ the King. Having spent time with sin, I am now spending time with the ultimate invitation. Can I reject Jesus calling me into his Kingdom? Why Colossians? It is seen as a connection between wisdom and Christ. I am curious. Did Paul write it? I could flip a coin or randomly pick one scholar.

as for the work incident that I struggled with..... I spoke to the student, asked if he wanted to come back. He said, "yes." He has really gotten into drawing anatomy, strangely I discovered his passion for drawing when he drew a hateful drawing of me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

more on the price of hand made crafts

I stopped myself while writing the last post which was about having fun, but I did start and delete some of what follows. The last two craft fairs which I attended were high-end. Nothing that we could afford. We are close to poor and we are close to rich. We are at the median income for our county, which also means we are far from the poorest and far from the wealthiest. It was that latter group who were buying this weekend. If my mental math was correct, then the average take of a booth last year was $17,000 dollars. That's a good pay for 4 days. But please add in the time and cost spent designing the craft, developing the craft, buying supplies for the craft, creating the craft, advertising, commuting , display cases, packaging.......

M and I know this phenomena.

When she makes mosaics and I make stained glass.

Do we want to take this passion seriously and be able to leave our day jobs? Do we want to one day be elite and only have the wealthiest folk buying our stuff? How do we compete with mass produced pieces made by low wage workers? How do we value our time and what is a fair price?

we see people selling mosaics and stained glass for so cheap that you wonder if they value their time at all... OK this is from the man who tends to give all his art away... next blog post....

As in all things there is a middle ground, the land between expensive and cheap. That is where I want to land.

-- tonight at my church I led a discussion on the two creation stories. one in the room had done exegeses on the first, others had not read them in years, some didn't know there were two. "How does this relate to me in my everyday life,"one asked near the end. Remember it is good. remember you were created in God's image, remember that your marriage is a mystical thing inspired by the human need to be in communion with others. Remember it is good, and you are part of it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Paired Down II, crafting elite, and strange trio

M and I have had few dates over the last two months, we strung three together, starting Friday night when we drove to Easton.

First we got bogged down in traffic trying to get to a Vietnamese restaurant in Telford , but the service was fast and food amazing as ever.... well there was the time I stretched my taste buds into the realms of preserved lime beverages, but that was amazingly salty.

Easton was our destination to see the second in what I will be calling the paired down concerts at Lafayette College . Mulgrew Miller (piano) and Roy Hargrove (trumpet), didn't talk much but gave us nearly two hours of duets. Each took a break, for the other to play a solo... Mr. Miller played A Child is Born by Thad Jones.

Saturday started by getting on the train to Philly at 8:48 am and the short-lived mystery as to why it was so full.... Temple did not beat Goliath, but that was fine for most folk on the train were Penn State fans. We met a friend and headed off to the convention center.

I think I scared M a bit when I announced the sighting of a student of mine. But I told her this one was safe, as are 99.9% of them 99.999% of the time. He came across the street and I made the introductions. This young man will not fail because of a lack of social skills, and I hope they can carry him through his life.

We then spent the day looking at crafts which we could not afford. But we went in knowing that that would be the case and saw it more as going to a museum then to a store; and this event is one that brings talented folk from across this country and Canada. Midway through we took a break for some Burmese food in Chinatown, where we were greeted by a collage of what is happening there and a written plea to help. For one who gets his news by radio, photos are eye opening.

As we walked back to the convention center, I said that I needed a longer break from the crafts so I sat and had a beer and then caught up to M and our friend.

M told me about a benefit concert at a local Friends meeting house as we came back on the train, so after a brief rest we headed out for Japanese food (yes, an Asian food explosion did occur this weekend). The jazz trio at the local Friends Meeting House was led by Brad Litwin, a local guy who plays guitar and is passionate about the early days of jazz and blues. The trio consisted of guitar, violin, and tuba. Don't know if I will ever experience that combination again.

Was this all a flee from my troubles of this past week, well kind of, but the Easton concert was planned months ago, the craft show tickets were bought in advance a few weeks ago. This was a leap into things we love and have not found time to do as of late. It came at a time we needed a break from what has been keeping us busy. We needed to have fun. The 28 hour date was a blessing.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Nearly two years ago I joined the local YMCA to gain weight. So I started eating yogurt, bagels, and more nuts, while at the same time doing aerobic exercise at the gym and doing free weights at home. It worked.

Last night I got myself out of the house and to the gym. I like the exercise equipment, while M gets bored and walks laps. Lately she has started to run and walk the laps. I was a copycat and have been doing some running.

I do this exercise for many reasons, but I think what prompted me the most was how slowly my body was bouncing back after winter. The garden at school would call out and I would leap into it and my body would lag behind. The last two springs have been much better.

Last night I ran to exhaust myself. This sin stuff has led to a bit too much guilt over what happened nearly a week ago. I have played the situation in my head and I did not make any monstrous mistakes, and I have made those in my teaching career. Nobody has questioned my actions, even the teacher whose class was most affected.

So I ran and I walked and I ran..... It is fun. It was exhausting. Then as I cooled down, wisdom flowed into me. I am imperfect. Sometimes my imperfections will pass by with little consequence and some times it will lead to chaos in the world. I stopped on the track and confessed to God because no matter what chaos did occur and it started in my class.

Yesterday a student asked if I had "worked things out" with the student, his friend. I hadn't because the student has not been on campus. Today he was back, but not to my class. He was being escorted around campus near the end of the school day and stopped by my classroom. He was in a good place. He showed me some work he had done and was proud of completing. It was good work. He turned to go. After a few steps he stopped, turned around and apologized. He said he was sorry. I told him that I was sorry that he had had such a rough time.

Later I was told it is my choice if he ever returns to my class. Maybe I should flip a coin for I am truly uncertain what to do.

Monday, November 5, 2007

passing peace

"Peace be with you." I love saying those words. Yesterday I had a craving to hear those words as folk, who walk the church, came by offering their hands and peace. I am still during this time of worship. I shake hands with those close by, then stand and wait for those who move about the sanctuary. I had risen Sunday morning to thoughts of what happened on Thursday, had an intense time with the spiritual exercises, and an honest conversation with M.

So there I was in church with folk saying, "Peace be with you." How glad I am that I was in the present moment and realizing what a great gift I was receiving. I love these words, but repetition week after week has made it into more of a Hello, than a deep desire for the other to experience the peace of the Lord. I came home typed up some thoughts about the issue at work, shared them with Margaret, and felt that peace. Things need to be done at work, but I felt confident that I would act. I did little ruminating for the rest of the day.

So may not only peace be with you, but also joy, hope, and love.

I wrote these words Monday morning, what I did not mention is that Friday afternoon I saw another student in emotional crisis. As I walked up the hill from the parking lot this morning I heard trouble had come in threes. Our afternoon staff meeting's agenda was scrapped and we talked about what went wrong over the last several days. Truth be told I love my students and have lots of fun with them. Today we ripped out annuals, hung rosemary, sage and parsley to dry, took stem cuttings of thyme, potted up some rosemary which had spent the summer outside.... and in the morning my anatomy class pondered what life would be if we had a skeleton made out of putty or steel. All this was done with laughter and joy, and nearly without incident. There is peace in this troubled world.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


I would like to think that what happened Thursday morning will be the roughest hour I experience for a long time. I now have some time this weekend to consider my safety, the safety of my students, and the needs of one student. In many ways the week at school was great, but my mind has not been turning to how we planted garlic, took cuttings of lavender and rosemary, got more leaves raked and dragged to the garden...... Instead it is what happened in one class that draws my energy.

And I continue to pray on my sins these days. Thinking about a certain school bus driver brings me shame. Thinking about her going home at night after putting up with my friends and I, makes me feel how wretched I can be. I know what a bad interaction with a student can do to a person. Thinking about how God's creation was beautiful when I was separated from God, helps me to remember and be grateful for this very creation which taught me to care when I was in a dark place. I think of the chickadee that came by garden on Thursday after the incident, as the students were mulching the garlic beds. What happened in my classroom on Thursday brings up thoughts of times I have been angry. I think about a God who did not strike me dead or refuse to reconnect with me no matter how I far I strayed.

Thursday afternoon a friend suggested that I turn to my spirituality. 90 minutes later I was walking a labyrinth. It helped me to pray for the young man in crisis. I wish I knew with certainty what is best for him, my other students, and myself. I take it to God and hope for the wisdom to face this.