Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Agamospermy--- virgin births in the realm of botany

most flowers require pollination so that fertilization can occur, so that seeds can form... Dandelion ovaries can set seed without pollen. Is this a miracle? However, knowing (please let me give plants all kinds of cognizant abilities) that diversity arises from sex, the dandelion only does this with 99% of its flowers. One percent of the flowers will not create seed without pollen.
The rule in biology is to never say "all" or "none"... too many exceptions to the rule.
Maybe it should be that way in our own lives. All this thinking I have been doing about eternal life led to a cassette leaping out at me. See I had found a box of old cassettes in my studio closet and I transfered them to a new location. And there was Bruce Cockburn's Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws. Mosaic Woman, who grew up in Cockburn's native land... Canada, introduced me to this music. He is a man of faith and doubts and I give him some of the credit for bringing me back to a life that includes worship.
So there I was walking down Broad Street in Lansdale searching for cumin humming and doing a bit of wondering where the lions are... and I am thinking about how my life has unfolded, and I am feeling ecstatic. Never say never. If you made it this far with me... Happy New Years.

Sun's up, uh huh, looks okay
The world survives into another day
And I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren't half as frightening as they were before
But I'm thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
Walls windows trees, waves coming through
You be in me and I'll be in you
Together in eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
Up among the firs where it smells so sweet
Or down in the valley where the river used to be
I got my mind on eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...
Huge orange flying boat rises off a lake
Thousand-year-old petroglyphs doing a double take
Pointing a finger at eternity
I'm sitting in the middle of this ecstasy
Young men marching, helmets shining in the sun,
Polished as precise like the brain behind the gun
(Should be!) they got me thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...
Freighters on the nod on the surface of the bay
One of these days we're going to sail away,
going to sail into eternity
some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me
And I'm wondering where the lions are...
I'm wondering where the lions are...
----------- BRUCE COCKBURN

Monday, December 29, 2008

eating out in Lansdale--- The Oasis

Settling down in Lansdale, PA... who would have thought! After living in college towns in MA, OR, and IL... I end up in a small working class town. But I think things have turned out well and so here is another promo for my new home town (of 12 years). This blog post may just be about the restaurant I have eaten at the most during my whole life. and why not... tasty. inexpensive. healthy. exotic.
First off it took us over a year to find this place, which we likely drove by as we went to eat falafel in a restaurant that did not last long in Harleysville. It is on the first floor of a four square house at 821 West main street between Charles Cleaners and Lansdale Pizza. I went with camera in hand last week and splurged a bit so I could have lots of photos.

Mosaic Woman and I are water drinkers 90% of the time we eat out, but his ice tea is amazing. Fresh fruit and mint! When I say he, I mean the owner, who greets you, waits on you, cooks for you, and cleans up for you after you pay him. Go on a weeknight and he may be the only worker. Go for 8 years and he becomes part of your life.

Soup... Mosaic Woman starts the majority of her meals with this one. Fasoulada is heavy on garlic and one of the few soups I have come across with pinto beans. Two types of lentil soups are frequently ordered by myself.

Sandwiches... I have worked my way through the entire list but here is my highly favored one. Chicken Shawarma! He also makes versions with eggplant and one with london broil.

Now do yourself a favor, when he asks if you want sweets, say, "Yes" at least once. The man will bring a tray of middle eastern pastries and plop it down on your table and walk away. He knows what is missing when he comes back for it later. I ordered some Turkish coffee and walked over to the home of the deserts and chose a piece of nammoura (cake like pastry dipped in honey syrrup).
And finally let me add... this is a great place for vegetarians like Mosaic Woman.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

immortality... is like a bright light in a dark room?

Immortal genes have withstood the test of time. Mathematically they should not exist. Mutations occur more often than we think. In fact it is estimated that each of us on average have 175 mutations among the 7 billion letter code our DNA carries. We are all mutants in one way or another.
so it goes like this... There are more than 500 genes that all life have in common. From the bacteria living in our digestive tract to the carrots we eat, to us, to whatever pet you ever owned. A mutation that shows a very very very slim benefit will survive (except for random events). These immortal genes remain even though mutations should have changed us completely from bacteria. For much more on this read The Making of The Fittest by Sean B. Carroll.
The last time the adult group met at Holy Trinity we spoke of the "church" but ended with eternal life. Humans so want to be immortal.
I like a simile Joe Paprocki makes about purgatory in his book, A Well Built Faith, even if I don't know if I believe in purgatory. Being met by God's cleansing love is like a bright light being turned on after we have adjusted to the dark. Paprocki claims it is painful and that is why Catholics pray for those in such a place. I can sense this. Can you imagine leaving this world to another? Being met with a forgiveness we can only imagine? Who knows it may be a gentle slide, but it could be quite a rough transition.
I was cleaning out my studio today and ventured back into a deep thin closet. In the dark, I grabbed a large frame and then brought it out to the light. I can't say that it is a highly favored photo and it may be why I never wear bright red these days. But lately I look at this ghost of myself and ask, "did you know what was going to hit you." He didn't. He may have thought it was hip to wear a red jacket and a bow tie, or he may have thought it was the worst thing he would ever go through. A mutation would change his life. Some mutated genes are not meant to be immortal. Without doctors I would have died.

Today I walked a few steps over to Mosaic Woman's studio and said, "I think I will hang this up."
She said, "Go for it."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

something new for Christmas Eve but will this become tradition

I have a friend who needed a change from a tradition she loves. So she travelled far from home for Christmas. She is clear on why she needed to take a new road. What happened to me? Could it just be life.
Did it start last June when I asked a friend to water the garden or when it was difficult to take her out for dinner for her kindness, or when I suggested I give strudel making lessons over break?
Plan strudel for Christmas Eve day and your life will change. For one thing the annual shrimp and garlic pizza I make, gets moved to little Christmas Eve.
The last strudel is in not even in the oven when it becomes very clear that the gift was in the teaching, not in the feeding. She leaves with a handful of strudel and a dough to make new traditions at home. She leaves me with a lot of strudel.
Did it start when another friend accepted a new job while the housing market collapsed?
Two years ago they would be gone to where the new job is located. But last Tuesday I was reintroducing my body to yoga at their house. "I will give you strudel for lessons and dried lavender."
4pm you are napping when the phone rings. "Will you really bring us strudel?" I will.
6:30pm I go to church carrying a large tray of strudel. I find a friend and say, "I want this eaten, maybe I will be back at 11 pm."
11pm You are at the yoga friend's house laughing. This seems to be where you are meant to be.
Did it start with how hectic life becomes when you add craft fairs to the advent season?
I turned into a pumpkin for it is Christmas Day when we arrive home. I see the church is still lit up, and head inside my house. We had decided to give presents on Epiphany because we did not want to go shopping with the masses. I joke that I can't try to get a present before morning this year. Mosaic Woman surprises me by giving me the only one she has bought. It is a new drum to replace the one she accidently broke this year.
We fall exhausted into bed. I wonder if any of this will become a new tradition?
Merry Christmas.... may it be filled with Joy, as my Christmas Eve was.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

exit onto 209 could have been a mistake, but who knows

So we made it up the Deer Head Inn. It went quite well on the way up. I can't say I heard of Sweet Sue Terry before, but why not have two straight trips north to the Deer Head to see female sax players (Last time we saw Virginia Mayhew). But I did take note of the piano player, Peggy Stern, by whom we own a CD.
And this time I remembered my camera to catch a shot of a cool stained glass panel which always catches my eye. The inn is located in the town of Delaware Water Gap, which is much much smaller than the geological wonder by the same name which is just south on 611, the road we would have taken if not for the storm on Friday and the storm on Sunday. The jazz was great. The food was wonderful. The sleep went well. We woke up to light snow and packed up and headed down stairs to get some coffee and food in us before we headed south.
I took out my camera while the food was being brought into the dining area... It almost makes me want to do realistic stained glass of geological wonders. 

three more thoughts..
This is Mosaic Woman just looking dang hip as I roamed about taking photos of the Inn before we headed south. I opted to take 209 to 33 to 309 instead of taking 80 into the Poconos to get to the turnpike. So maybe PENN DOT decided that it hadn't snowed on 209. Hmmm. well we made it to 33 and got behind a wall of plows to eventually take the risky walk up our icy stairs.

I may not have bought a CD, but Sweet Sue wrote a tune inspired by the Parable of the Vineyard. Solo sax is cool, check it out.
and finally, reading Jim's thoughts this morning I wrote this...
your post made me think of this... chatting with the pianist at the jazz concert, she was clearly done with Christmas. 4 gigs demanding it in one day had drained the joy. She thought I would be grateful to not have to listen to any more. I said I wouldn't mind hearing one. The set began with a sax solo ... a medley of Christmas tunes. Then the piano player and band joined in for "one" tune, if we sang along. Four tunes later we were still singing along. She had, I thought, had enough and dove immediately into Take Five by Dave Brubeck, which she then morphed into yet another carol. Then it had passed and the jazz set list took over.
OK, enough already.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Barenaked Ladies hanging out with Sarah McLachlan

Oh so much to blog about, but what I most want to share with the world is this...


God rest ye ...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

emptiness--- fears and exposures and responses, OCD

I have been pondering this post for a few days now, but it was reading this meditation on Mary that tied a few things together.

In my life I have gotten to know quite a bit about those who suffer with OCD. The rituals that get our attention are ways to cope with fears that the person cannot release from their brain (and heart and soul). I am contaminated... I must wash my hands again. I ran over someone... I must circle the block 5 times. I must make the right decision... I will ponder and research it endlessly. I don't know if the door is locked, I will circle the car 20 times. They desire absolute certainty in a world not designed for it.

My mind is much more akin to the anti-obsessed end of the spectrum, and the students with ADD following their names. However...

winter weather can creep into my brain and while my brain will flutter away from the thought it will come back and back and back. I want certainty that I will be safe, that I will not get stuck, that I will be able to park, that that that that...

One of the best treatments for OCD is the old prescription for fears..."get back on the horse."

It is called exposure and response prevention therapy... here is link to a book by an expert in the field , Jonathon Grayson

contamination--- touch a garbage dumpster and eat without washing. locked doors---- leave them unlocked on purpose. decisions--- flip a coin and admit to your self that it may have been the best or worst decision that you have ever made and move on. Feel the fear and anxiety and see that you can survive. No guarantees, remember this is not about certainty.

So Tuesday night I drove out into a winter weather advisory to do some yoga with a friend. Last night I drove out onto roads that only needed a degree or two drop to become black ice to attend the school's holiday party, and today is a big test. Facing your fears does not mean you won't get an infection, make a wrong decision, or get stuck in a snow bank in the Poconos, but it means you will have emptied yourself. And even though you feel the ritual is a treasure that protects you, releasing it from your life is realising it is not magic and is a release that can lead to greater joy, peace, and hope.

So there is the connection to the meditation. emptiness.

I won't drive out into a northeaster, but I may just be listening to jazz tonight instead of feeling I protected myself by staying home.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

uncertain blendings --- bee purple, eternal life

My Biology students continue to read Anatomy of a Rose by Sharman Apt Russell. In the chapter on color she speaks of bee purple, something we can only believe in.

Pet peeve--- purple is not violet. As humans we can see a small range of colors, or a large range depending if you focus on wavelengths that we can't see or those that we do see. They range from red to violet. If you make a circle of that range and bring the edges together, you get purple...the blending of red light with violet light.

Bees see UV light. If you twist their range into a circle and blend... bee purple is created. Color only found in our imagination The fact that flowers look so amazing to us, is amazing. They could care less what we think. They want to catch the eye of a pollinator which sees true flower colors.

I am driving to work thinking about bee purple and wonder what would happen if we blend opposite ends of our thinking. What if we blended fear and joy? Purple visions of eternal life float through my brain. Fear of death. Joy of Resurrection. The Thrill of Hope.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Gratitude 6--- mass production and 133%

We needed a new printer and a trip to buy one showed us the world had changed. Machines that printed, and did many other things were relatively cheap and one has become a valuable ... "tools of the trade."

I went into a bit of a crafting fury as the recent shows approached. I had a relatively new design which I liked but thought it would be cool to have it larger, in fact 133% would work just fine so ...


Both sold to friends of mine at the Belsnickel show.

Having sold my last heart I broke down and made four new hearts, while at the same time I came up with what I am calling a star flower...

orange star flower

So finding God in all things from erasures to my imagination to glass grinders. I am glad I can do my own form of mass production so much easier using our multi-tasking Canon MP470. Last Thursday though when I felt some peace from the craft show frenzy. I liked that stillness and have slowly been working on a series of three star flowers that have all 6 colors of the rainbow and the color that emerges when the two extremes of our vision are blended... more on that color on another post.

see more at our ETSY shop

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Amy Hempel introduces me to Mrs. Carlin

The other night Mosaic Woman and I were invited by a friend for dinner. We were fed well. As we were given a tour, we passed a small table on which a book had been placed. We were told it was a book about China and a few depressing facts came our way.

I said, "I try not to read depressing books."

I used to read many a book about life on this planet, but grew tired of the opening chapters which could have been entitled, "I have to convince these readers that the planet is in terrible terrible shape."

I know it is. But I am also skeptical of claims of it ending. Those claims have been around for a long long time.

So I decided to read a short story by Amy Hempel before bed that night... "At The Gates of The Animal Kingdom" in which I am introduced to a character named, Mrs. Carlin.

Mrs. Carlin is haunted by voices (from the evening news) telling disturbing stories of how humans treat pets and wild animals.

Suddenly I am 25 years old and I am walking up a hill to my house in Ware, MA. I have just heard about the Exon Valdez Oil Spill. Something inside of me is dying.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

introducing Mosaic Woman

Mosaic Woman has re-entered the world of blogging. It has not been an easy journey, but the desire to have a a website with her name on which she can eventually sell mosaics got her moving again. Those of you who have been journeying with me here in the land of Stratoz are on a first name basis with her, well some of you are known as a twist of your blog name around here...

She is going to be writing about her experience with art, other and her own, and maybe even me at some point in time. So check out Mosaic Woman's website and feel free to say howdy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gratitude 5--- the smell of baking bread

Scents build loyalty. Bees return to favored flowers just as we return to favored foods. They look good, but more importantly...they smell good.

Returning to the kitchen seemed like the wrong thing to do. Two craft shows in two weeks had consumed me and even though I had spent a bunch of time on Sunday prepping, the idea of stopping for ingredients seemed daunting. The idea of not baking bread after finally setting up kitchen time at school, seemed daunting. The man of two minds.

The middle road. Cut back--- make the whole wheat sage rolls, skip on the lemon thyme tea bread. I pull into the grocery store parking lot. I hit the school with ingredients and checked the e-mails that had arrived since I had left on Thursday, too many caused sighs. Read the notes from the sub. Organize my notes for biology and geology. I felt like a wreck. I like to ease into the day. I did not want to be this rushed. Baking was a mistake, clearly.

But OH MY, the smell of the bread baking. Was I a honey bee that dances to indicate to others a favored flower location, or a bumble bee that releases pheromones mixed with the scent of the favored flower to inspire a feeding frenzy? I handed warm bread to students.

Spirits rise and fall. The volatile chemicals produced by flowers enter the air and in unpolluted air will be caught by a moth antenna 1200 meters away. Zig Zag, till like any hungry critter, a beeline to the food. Add ozone to the air and the smog will destroy those chemicals after only 200 meters. Busyness destroys my ability to receive spirits of joy and peace. A cleaned kitchen, a final batch of rolls in the oven, a sharing of bread with students.

My hope is that my students will make beelines to good bread for the rest of their lives.

And here are some flowers that smell great and are just waiting for winter to be gone to brighten my nose and spirits...

morning after deluge 7-- pink rose opening

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gratitude 4

Gratitude goes to what I was told when I said I wasn't...

"ready to state beliefs."

The conversation was between me and the man who guided me back into a life of faith when I was in my mid 30's. The conversation was about becoming a member of the church he ministered. I said ... "I won't lie and say I believe in this or that..."

He said, "All you have to say is that you will join us by taking a journey." Sometimes I think it would have been easier to lie and skip the journey. Not as fulfilling, just easier.

A week ago I met some folk who think I am the leader of our adult group at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church here in Lansdale. I throw something out then sit back and listen. They are on a journey too.

So with 15 minutes to go I threw out, "Lets talk about death, fear, resurrection..." Then sat back.

As I was reading Joe Paprocki's A well Built Faith to prepare, I was taken by how my heart seemed ready to try to fill it with the belief that death was conquered by the cross. It seemed so much a core of what it means to be a Christian, yet here I was filled with a desire to finally believe in my mid 40's. So I offered it up to God with much joy.

Also what lingers from that Monday night is a pain in my heart. The dagger was not meant to hit me, but the comment struck hard. The comment may or may not be true about our life after death. The sadness it created was true. I will offer that up to God too.

The journey continues. Creation unfolds and we step into it.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

brought to you by the number 21

ever since reading about the 21 attributes of Wisdom, it has become my favored number.

I use it to pick out things.

today it led to this... 21st Christmas Song on I-Tunes.

and this photo...

last before the batteries died... "A Peacock's Tale" by Terry J. Grusendorf

Friday, December 5, 2008

to meet the customers... craft shows

In a recent comment my buddy Jim pondered about better ways to sell our craft than going to craft fairs. There probably are, however, here we go again...

a few interactions from the Der Belsnickel show stand out (besides the visits from friends) and may explain why we are headed back to another one at the Pen Ryn School ...

1. A large man in a trench coat stands mesmerized by Mosaic Woman's wedding cross. Eventually I introduce myself and with no great difficulty speak of the talents of the woman who created the piece. Like many others at the show he praises our art, lingers as the glass and light bounce about in his brain, then walks away empty handed. Mosaic Woman relieves me at the booth, and I tell her about the man in the trench coat. I return to find him and his wife searching their bodies for enough money to own...

Wedding Cross mosaic

2. A young woman still in high school is grabbed by a mosaic picture frame, mom is across the way.... "Mom, Mom, Mom, MOTHER!" The mosaic is eventually purchased. With much joy and joking around between us.

3. A young man practically runs back into our booth, grabs

and says.... "I ditched my wife. Quick, I want to give this to her for Christmas."


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gratitude 3

I am blessed... color vision, glass, macro photography and the love of a good woman, who asked me to document her mosaics...

mosaic macro 6

mosaic macro 5

mosaic macro 3

mosaic macro 4

mosaic macro 2


Monday, December 1, 2008

Pen Ryn craft show approaches, my back gets stretched if not rested

My back feels a bit better this morning and that is a good thing. On Friday we do it all over again at Pen Ryn School's Craft Show...

Friday December 5th 6 - 9 pm
Saturday December 6th 9 am - 3 pm

Why is that anything sounds possible when you sign up for events that are months away. Why is it that they seem impossible as they creep closer? Then you don't skip out of 99.9%, so they take place... so why think they are impossible? I know, I know.

Here are two of our pieces that caught a lot of attention, but came back home.

my green vine....

and this mandala by Mosaic Woman...


They are ready for more compliments and they seek a good home outside of our storage bins. For now they also reside at our on-line shop.

as for my back...

A communal changing of the altar was taking place when I showed up to my church on Sunday. I chat with a friend watching from afar, then chat with the rector from up close. It seems there are enough bodies on any one high altar, but I linger long enough to be asked to bring out an advent wreath. sounds easy. But that brass part that it sits upon did add some weight.

Crouched over in my studio cutting, grinding, foiling, and soldering stained glass...

I deserve to be in lots of pain, but it is less than yesterday. I did stretch quite a bit.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gratitude 2

stamina for the Belsnickel craft show--- well my back gave out yesterday and now aches where it never ached before, but I survived the 15 hours yesterday and the 12 hours today.

success--- We have heard if you make 6-7 times what you pay for the booth, then it is a good show. We did 9.6 X. Yesterday was good. Today was great. 22 of our pieces have new homes.

Diner food after a 15 hour day---

Diner Food!

add to that, a huge piece of banana cream pie.

Friends--- nine of those invited showed up, including two who live in my neighborhood.

Bribes--- "I will give you pie, chocolate, and beer..." was the phone message waiting when we got home from the fifteen hour day. message to SK--- We got your stuff, and your marriage is safe for this one sold...

poinsettia mosaic

sleep--- last night I slept straight through, 8 hours.

Our neighbor at the craft show --- Kristen Von Hohen and her mom were upbeat and joyful. The ceramics and their smiles made a long time easier to take. And they graciously sold me a vase filled with hope.. "I will fill it with flowers next year," I told Mosaic Woman...

Lace pottery vase by Kristen Von Hohen

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gratitude 1

There is so much to be grateful for...

There is a young man whom I love. Like myself he has had his ups and downs and I have been worried about him from time to time. Not so long ago he was expelled from an institution as I was about his age. Today we gathered in a historic hotel, family. We feasted for two hours and chatted around one of the best tables they had to offer. We had a grand view. Then when we said good bye, he turned professional, for he was "manager on duty" for the next eight hours.

He did not take the usual route, but who does? He opted out of college. Coming home after the last venture turned sour, he started as a doorman and the promotions have come fast and furious. He will have more ups and downs.

My greatest thanks for the day was that he was happy and doing well.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

tugged by Christ, some responses

While taking a break from preparing for the Belsnickel craft show, I read a short story while my oil was being changed...

Near the end, a woman decides to help a person who was asking for food in order to feed his dog. She turns and sees a man with an empty tin cup...

He had seen. And I was giving him---- nothing.

How far do you take a thing like this? I think you take it all the way to heart. We give what we can----- that's as far as the heart can go.

from ..Nashville Gone To Ashes by Amy Hempel.
This past Sunday I heard the great Judgment classic sermon on Christ is King.

Over at Quantum Theology, my friend Michelle wrote about trying to see Christ in the poverty poverty one experiences while walking the streets of Philadelphia.

How to respond? I will steal the above... The key is to take it to the heart. The response will arise and we may all respond differently.

donate, volunteer, write, work, play, love, struggle, bring joy, or...

what you can do is respond with music and lyrics...

A plane carrying "deportees" crashes and Woody Guthrie's heart responded, "Is this the best way we can..."

Years later his son Arlo Guthrie and EmmyLou Harris make a video of the song...

Arlo Guthrie and Emmylou Harrris - Deportees

Monday, November 24, 2008


My buddy Jim at Brainwaves speaks about a spirit filled life, centered on being tugged... "Did you do your best to follow His tug on your reins, to commune with him at the well," he wrote at the end of a recent post. I think Saint Ignatius would have agreed.

So here I am one day away from my first day off from teaching since Labor Day, and I will be filling two days getting ready (with a break to feast with family), two days attending, and a Sunday resting... a craft show.

I have been tugged my whole life to draw designs. Glass is relatively new, but I may have made a discernment that it is where I am being tugged.

I have a friend named Bud Hohlfeld, who is a wood worker. A talented one at that. He used to be tugged by glass. He has a lot of stained glass. He has given us a lot of what he calls scraps. I went to his house to check out his glass and he said he wanted to sell all the big pieces. He told me a price. I am being tugged.

For now I am still working on washing the "scraps" he gave us and the old dishwasher as dish rack trick is working out nicely...

Bud's glass

When I got to Bud's house, I tried to take a look at his glass pieces, but the sun was setting. One was a large rose. The next "original design" I drew reminded me of it, and I used seven types of Bud's glass in it. Bud's own rose had a greater likeness of a rose but the center reminded me of a Rennie MacIntosh rose. My center does that too but I spiral out differently than Bud did. Here is what I have called Bud's Rose... one up close shows the colors, the other shows a cool sky... well what sky isn't cool????

Bud's Rose-- macro

Bud's Rose-- stained glass with sky

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Of pugs and friends-- at spirit group, work, and flickr

I was the last to arrive for group spiritual direction on Friday night, two trains... one to Philly, one from Philly kept me by a red light for 6 minutes. They are ready to enter into silence when I get there, and so am I.

The rule is this, if the spirit moves, then speak up to 7 minutes... silence... then others can try to guide you closer to God... silence... the spirit moves another to speak our story and the cycle goes on till we have all spoken.

I have a friend, who I know from inside these groups. She may have never gone first before this past Friday. She is a lover of pugs.

In October she spoke of ...
a degenerative disease draining the life force from Molly, the pug.
a cart that brings joy to Molly whose hind legs are no longer supportive.
a woman who fell in love with Molly while watching her for my friend who was out of town.
She breaks the silence. She says, "Molly has died." I listen to her story.

My mind wonders back 5 hours as she speaks. A friend at school was wondering a bit about whether or not it is right to donate money to an organization that provides carts to dogs in need when humans are starving.

I say, "I have this friend... the cart brings joy to the dog who is OK except for those hind legs... my friend is struggling with knowing the right time to bring peace to Molly...

I listen in silence and I hear the struggle leading up to Molly's last trip to a vet...
Calling the woman, who fell in love with Molly, to be part of Molly's passing.
Calling her son to come say goodbye to the first dog he ever had.
Molly's sadness of being unable to be joyful.
When she falls silent. I let the others speak first before I tell her that just that day, my school had made a donation...

Saturday morning, this post is forming in my head. But instead of blogging I go to say hi to some Flickr friends and there I was greeted by ...

All rights reserved

it seems my friend Blamstur has a pug... meet Olive, who if one can believe titles is "Always thinking..."

How did I find this new friend, who has a pug? I remember. A while back, I did a search at Flickr for a small town where I lived while teaching in Massachusetts. Here is what I found...

All rights reserved

There are some things that even I can't forget. Besides that sign I remember autumn in New England and I joyfully watched it happen at Blamstur's site...

All rights reserved (clicking on any of the photos will take you to it's page at Blamstur's site)

My friend who lost her dear pet, speaks of not being able to love as deeply as Molly did. If she heard her voice Friday while I sat in silence, she might have less doubts about her ability to love.

peace, hope, joy, and love...

... keep unfolding

Friday, November 21, 2008

Matthew 25: 1-13

This parable always baffled me.

I think it was in trying to make sense of it as I considered some other parables. What do you mean the door is closed? Since when is the door closed. The lost coin? The prodigal son? The workers who show up at the end of the day? The door to the Kingdom was not shut for them, but you better not be a foolish virgin who didn't buy enough oil. Your outside. You are chastised.

Like I said it baffled me.

A recent sermon at my church pointed out that this was an end of time parable. Now the scientist in me wants to challenge God right here and now to end time. Seems like quite a feat. But even my foolish self thinks that challenging God to stop time could backfire, so for now if time stops, it is not because I put some money against God.

So I start thinking, if time ends and we are... not aware, or in the dark, or separated from the love of God, or lost in our own internal wilderness, or heading back for some oil so that we can find our way to God... The door swings shut.

We can knock but there is no getting in? It makes more sense, but I am baffled.

So let me go to my favorite metaphor... God's creation unfolds with time.

Tonight in my spirit group a friend spoke of meeting a person, who she is so happy to be making friends with. It unfolds. My friend was awake and got the prize, a new friend. What if I had not seen Mosaic Woman? Time would have kept moving. But I would have missed an amazing unfolding of God's creation.

If time stops. If creation stops unfolding. Two days ago I told my students to imagine a world without color, just shades of gray. I counted to 20 as they pondered this life without color. Then I said imagine your favorite food... gray. That was scary. This happens to people. As creation unfolds their color vision goes away.

I am still baffled.

For now, I will be glad to wake to an unfolding creation, and hope I have some oil for the journey.

UPDATE: THE NEXT MORNING.... time moves on and as I searched through photos to add to flickr I found this one from our trip to Rochester in June ...

can you imagine time ending?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

irreconcilable differences

Mosaic Woman and I have some.

She loves pickles and I can listen to the same piece of music over and over and over. So tonight having our studio space to myself, I went to the song I had left off at, and hit repeat. It played over and over as I cut and ground glass. And it was so so much of what I needed to hear.

There are times at work when we sit as a team to solve problems and we admit that we are failing. It is hard on this man of hope. I want to see the healing that is possible. But sometimes it is not yet the time and place for it to happen.

I recently heard that by your mid 40's you are at your peak in your climb up the career ladder. That is no surprise as I have no gumption to become a principal, but is my energy unlimited to do what I now do?

I sat on a table in my classroom as the parking lot cleared out. Wondering. Maybe it is all those, "old man" comments from my loving but mocking students. Oh, why do they take after me.

Then I came home and told the woman, who I differ from, that I wanted a coffee date before she headed out to a meeting. I walked home alone as she drove off. I hit "repeat."

I so want you to hear this, but I admit defeat. I even remembered the Joan Baez cover, but failed there too.

Here are the lyrics...
You're Aging Well
Dar Williams (© 1993 Burning Field Music, ASCAP, Administered by Bug)

Why is it that as we grow older and stronger
The road signs point us adrift and make us afraid
Saying, "You never can win," "Watch your back," "Wh
ere's your husband?"
Oh I don't like the signs that the signmakers made.
So I'm going to steal out with my paint and my brushes
I'll change the directions, I'll hit every street
It's the Tinseltown scandal, the Robin Hood vandal
She goes out and steals the King's English
And in the morning you wake up and the signs point to you

They say,
"I'm so glad that you finally made it here,"
"You thought nobody cared, but I did, I could tell,"
And "This is your year," and
"It always starts here,"
And oh, "You're aging well."

Well I know a woman with a collections of sticks
She could fight back the hundreds of voices she heard
And she could poke at the greed, she could fend off her need
And with anger she found she could pound every word.
But one voice got through, caught her up by surprise
It said, "Don't hold us back we're the story you
And no sooner than spoken, a spell had been broken
And the voices before her were trumpets and tympani
Violins, basses and woodwinds and cellos, singing

"We're so glad that you finally made it here
You thought nobody cared, but we did, we could tell
And now you'll dance through your days while the orchestra plays
And oh, you're aging well."

Now when I was fifteen, oh I knew it was over
The road to enchantment was not mine to take
'Cause lower calf, upper arm should be half what they are
I was breaking the laws that the signmakers made
And all I could eat was the poisonous apple
And that's not a story I was meant to survive
I was all out of choices, but the woman of voices
She turned round the corner with music around her,
She gave me the language that keeps me al
ive, she said
"I'm so glad that you finally made it here
With the things you know now, that only time could tell
Looking back, seeing
far, landing right where we are
And oh, you're aging, oh, and I am aging, oh, aren't we aging well?
I placed the last of the cut and cleaned pieces of glass on the pattern and sat on the stairs to listen one more time. I turned my head and there hanging in my studio... A gift from the woman, who I have so much in common with... Cross For Wayne

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

taking on Der Belsnickel

I've been at this blogging stuff for over a year and I have failed to mention that I am a Pennsylvania German. My one grandfather spoke the Dutch to his best friend. Anyway...

My people are given credit for this character, Belsnickel... St Nicholas in furs is what it means and unlike the more modern Santa, this guy showed up earlier, just before bedtime. Treats in one hand, a switch in the other. This guy is said to be a precursor to that naughty or nice stuff. I read that he did give the bad boys and girls a chance at redemption, recite a poem or sing a song and you may not get the switch. Anway...

The 2008 Der Belsnickel Craft Show is happening soon, November 28-29, 2008. Yes, I finally get some time off from teaching (first day off since we started in September) and we will exhaust ourselves. The hours are 11AM to 7 PM on Friday and 10 AM till 4 PM on Saturday.

It is a fundraiser for the Boyertown Area Historical Society, which in our minds is a way cool thing to support. It also gives folk to buy some handmade presents for those who have at least attempted to be nice.

and we still have our ETSY shop ... Nutmeg Designs, for those of you who are not fortunate enough to live in the land of Der Belsnickel.


Monday, November 17, 2008

I'll be seeing you... a sentimental post

The two e-mails that greeted me at work were not unexpected, pancreatic cancer will finally take the last breath of those we care for, and services follow...

My friend lasted three times as long as he was given, but in the end he was placed in a comfortable chair and as his family read psalms and encouraged him to let go... he took that last breath. I am in awe of this journey, this end.

Without Ipod to provide jazz, I grab the one CD that is in the car. Finally the last track arrives and the music reaches into my heart... Regina Carter, thank you.

I'll be seeing you, my friend, as I stand by the red and the yellow day lilies you loved so much. The ones I divided to thin out of your wife's garden soon after I heard the news. I transported them from your garden to the school and then students, who cared, placed them into the ground. I will let everyone know to stop by next summer when they bloom. I will remember you.

Last night I read about flowers at graves. The author wondered why.

I say this... they remind us of the beauty in those who have left us.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Flickr Sundays-- elize.avery

Here is how she describes herself in her profile... "Grew up in Asia, live in the US rustbelt (where we get an average of only 55 sunny days per year) . I'm an artist, writer, mom, mosaic maker, and great fan of anything silly."

It isn't always silly at her site, but when she is focusing on vintage LP's and magazine ads... I often call mosaic woman over for a laugh.

her stained glass mosaics (which I hope to see more of)... she makes mosaics on clear glass so that the light can sign through... very cool. click on any of them to see her title, her comments, and the comments of those who love visiting her. if you need beauty click the top one, need a laugh go to the bottom.

childrens book illustrations:

and old advertisements: here a recent one from a 1930's Redbook.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Faith of a Child

The field trip ended as the last parent drove off with their child. Since then I have been of two minds of taking students on field trips. I took these minds to my students, my wife, my friends, then last night I took them to God.

It had been a long time since I sat at the end of a day and settled into a space with God, "Here I am..." I took my fears, my desires.

This morning I had breakfast with the man who guided me through the spiritual exercises of Ignatius. I brought up my two minds.

I see these two minds finding some common ground. I see some peace descending.

Mosaic Woman headed out and I went into my studio to finish copper foiling my latest design. The songs of Native American, Bill Miller played. One by one I wanted to share his words and music with the world. This one, Faith of a Child, took me back to the field trip (among other times and places).

As we headed down the gorge trail, (well, once we got back to it after taking an interesting smaller trail which I guided the masses down) the river was far below us to our left. Great outcroppings of red sandstone (formed when Pennsylvania was just below the equator) were to our right. At one place it was eroded away and caught our interest. Off the trail we went and the students got to stand under a red sandstone ceiling (a mini-cave?). We climbed a bit higher.

Going up (even a short distance) is usually easier than coming down and some students needed some help, but I taught how to use the land and trees and ledges... whatever it took to fight gravity. I went first, grabbing a tree, moved a bit, and waited for a student to make the same move.

That day was filled with a billion emotions, at that moment, I felt confident in my ability.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

if you truly knew me...

... you would know I hate field trips.

and there I was that first week of September promising field trips to my geology class. With fall fading to winter, time was running out, so with the help from another teacher, a trip was organized.

I won't go into the many reasons why this field trip could or should have never taken place, but that promise and this desire made it happen:

I so wanted my students to dance on boulders and to peer into gorges.

and they did.

Monday, November 10, 2008

you have always been soothed by music...

... that's what my mom said, or something like it, a few years ago.

An hour in Gilead is exhausting for this stoic guy. An hour has passed and I repeat what I had said 20 minutes earlier, when I had imagined my six year old self driving home in deep silence...

Why am I doing this?

My dad says... We don't want you to get another infection.

I waited 39 years to hear those words. Finally in my imagination they arrive. Finally I break the silence.

To my same question, my guide to healing says... You desire wholeness.

A fascinating look inside the Obama campaign gets me half way home... Not quite do anything to win, but the man is a politician and that said they have one goal--- win. However, when he was being attacked for saying he would talk to our enemies, his aides began writing a memo to back him away from his comment. He told them to stop and charged them to take a higher road... convince people it is the right thing to do.

Talk to our enemies... Talk to our demons.

I stop at a WAWA and resist the junk food. I am biting into a banana as I run into a co-worker outside the store. A quick hello and I am back in the car in search of soothing, enough news.

It comes randomly through my iPod. A tune from the only CD which I have ever bought, which I had owned in another format.The vinyl version goes back to a music exploration class in college 23 years ago: Blues on Bach by The Modern Jazz Quartet.

It took me a long time to find a place where you can hear it, and so I invite you to listen to some jazz inspired by Bach.

I was so ready to stop before the hour ended ... but the guide takes me deeper and deeper, then as she did twice before, I am invited to bring Jesus into it.

week 1. Jesus rips at the "bubble of pressure."

week 2. Jesus lifts the burden of being overwhelmed and while offering no reassurances except that he will walk with me... and something about a yoke.

week 3 Jesus takes my hand and my dad's hand and we form a triangle. He says ... Peace Be With You.

all that Jesuit training in imaginative prayer has led to this place.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

shower curtain art, mosaic and mandala

It goes like this...

You get a phone call from your friend who lives down the street.

You tell your wife the woman from Texas is on her way.

She arrives with two things in hand--- her most highly favored shower curtain, and her medicine cabinet door.

She tells mosaic woman to match the colors.

You cut strips of glass that match the colors. You make a pile of the glass in case more strips are needed.

The mosaic....

You draw a mandala and need to pick colors. You see the pile of glass you had made. You could put it away, or you can use it as inspiration. The shower curtain Mandala comes to life...

side notes...

to see our ETSY shop click here.

another glorious trip to Willow Creek Orchards... they still have peppers and tomatoes from PA! we also got Chinese cabbage, radishes, cheddar cheese, milk from pasture fed cows, maple cream, sweet onions, potatoes....

I am going to make bread tomorrow. I've been itching. Mosaic Woman has been craving.

I am going to see The Turtle Island String Quartet tonight play some standards favored and written by John Coltrane. Here is story on NPR about the Love Supreme with links to their music.

Searching for a cassette by The Cure, I found another memory from 1986: a sweet voice that led me down the road of folk music...

The album ends with a song that is sad yet hopeful...

Nanci Griffith: The Wing and The Wheel

The wing and the wheel... they carry things away
Whether it's me that does the leavin' or the love that flies away
The moon outside my window looks so lonely tonight
Oh, there's a chunk out of it's middle... big enough for an old fool to hide

Where are all the dreamers... that I used know?
We used to linger beneath street lamps in the halos and the smoke
The wing and the wheel... came to carry them away
Now they all live out in the suburbs where their dreams
Are in their children at play

There's a pale sky in the east... all the stars are in the west
Oh, here's to all the dreamers... may our open hearts find rest
The wing and the wheel are gonna carry us along
And we'll have memories for company... long after the songs are gone

Friday, November 7, 2008

no longer...

Mosaic Woman and I just watched a music video from the 1980's. We laughed. We remembered. We were scared.

I play lots of jazz in my classroom, you know anything to rile up the masses.

One angry young man used to say..."Why don't you play rock music?"

My answer.... "I am no longer an angry young man."

So what took us to a place of wanting to watch a video by the Cure. It was a rather cool movie called Starter for Ten, which was set in 1986 and the lead was a freshman at university. The soundtrack was a flashback. I graduated from college, toured the Catskills on my bike and ended the year cutting my hair to teach at a military academy. I owned jeans with many holes. Mosaic Woman was beginning her college days in her purple high tops and a pin of a snake with a nuclear missile in its mouth. I think you could say we were angry about a few things and we listened to rock music.

so here is the video: The Cure: A NIGHT LIKE THIS .... not one of the several The Cure songs featured in the movie, but was on an album I owned/own.

where were you in 1986?

By the way... I am still angry at times, I just like jazz these days. However, I see myself digging into my musical past as I spend time in my studio this weekend...

The shower curtain mandala was soldered last night, now I just need some sunlight and my camera.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

two minds, where I often am these days

Intelligent Design is a phrase that can explode my mind, but I have two, so the other says, "bring on the mystery."

There are those that look at life on this planet and say that it could only be this way if there was an Intelligent Designer behind it. This phrase is somehow supposed to be scientific. Yet, they mean God.

There are those who say it is all rational and can be explained by science. They then claim that that is proof that God does not exist.

I disagree with both. You cannot prove an existence out of confusion (and it is not science) and you cannot disclaim something out of certainty of something else.

Recently when a student raised his hand and asked if we were going to talk about how life started, I said, "No." Then we talked about it. Briefly.

I told him it will always be a mystery. It goes against thermodynamics to go from simple to complex, to go from dead to alive. Energy had to be involved.

It mystifies me. I like that there are mysteries. It does not prove God exists. But it opens up a place to believe. To imagine that spirit blowing across the waters...

I did not say that last part. I did say, "The more certain someone is about how life started, the more you might want to doubt them." You can't prove anything by certainty either.

I am glad that I am writing about the joy of being uncertain, because it shows I am feeling less overwhelmed and more comfortable with the mystery.

back to grades.... 1/4 of the year has passed by.

Monday, November 3, 2008

tired, but who could guess why

  1. maybe it is falling behind watching the World Series
  2. maybe it is trying to keep up at work, simply impossible even if you don't do number 1
  3. maybe it is pending election
  4. maybe it is what happened while telling my story last Tuesday night, maybe it is avoiding and not avoiding what happened
  5. maybe it is preparing for a pending craft show
  6. maybe it is making strudel all day
  7. maybe it is the short days and dying plants
  8. maybe it is the off gassing of the wall panels I took out of boxes
  9. maybe it is a list of things I could do around this house

but I am feeling overwhelmed, behind everywhere, no chance of ever catching up.

it happens from time to time, doesn't it.

creation unfolds at a rate that I can't keep up.

but do you know they located ...

Genes For Musical Aptitude In Finnish Families

10....... maybe it is wading through more information than I could teach in 1000 lifetimes.

I have ridden these waves before and I have hope to ride this one to where it takes me...


If I go to sleep I trust God will create a new day, then I move on and do what I can along that cresting wave.

OK, I needed to rant. if you stuck it out, thanks. The shower curtain mandala is all foiled and will be completed Wednesday night. That's the plan... Look for photos and a story after that

to CS and SK... we dealt with the Trinity again tonight so although you were missed, we did not move on. I am filled with hope. Thanks for your hard work

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Flickr Sundays-- Atelier Teee's Riverwalk Fountain

Riverwalk Fountain
Originally uploaded by Atelier Teee
Flickr Sundays, a new habit. Sunday mornings before church I have dedicated to my Flickr site. I thank and comment back to folk who have visited my photos, I post new photos, and I visit my friend's new photos where I leave a comment on a photo that speaks to me. I am all about the communication

I want to show of some off these wonderful folk to my blogger friends, so lets start with Atelier Teee. Have you been to Chicago. This man is documenting the city and I think he should be on their pay roll. He has a great eye for architecture. Check him out. The Photo is called Riverwalk Fountain, click it to see it at his site. I commented on this one two months ago.

Mosaic Woman and I lived down state Illinois for two years, but did get a five day weekend in the big city before we headed east. I was introduced to Jerk Chicken at Taste of Chicago. Timing is everything. Maybe I should dig out some of my Chicago photographs and post them, I know one person who would get a kick out of them, just like he knows I will be drawn to his captures of stained glass.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

strudelfest 2008

I need Advil. I have a fridge full of strudel. My mom asks if I remember seeing the Phillies win the world series. I say how could I forget and laugh at myself for saying such a thing. My dad and I try to remember some details of that night.

I started at 11:00 am. By 7:30 it was cleaned up. My mom is an amazing cleaner.

I put a bit too much salt in the new strudel... potato leek. If I was a manager for a losing team I would say I have no regrets. I do. It smelled so incredible in the oven. Couldn't the manager be sad for losing and joyful for an incredible season? Are they not allowed more than one emotion at a time? How many did I have today?

I dug into my box of memories and found tickets and a world series program from 1980. My dad remembers the night we sat in a fancy box at a Flyers game. I remember a Monday Night game in which the Eagles got trounced.

My mom even watched the world series this year. To 2:00 am.

I prayed before I started. Thanks Michelle.

All the doughs (7 batches were stretched) were good to great. You can tell as soon as you pick one up to stretch it. Bad ones take forever, well it seems like forever. The joy and relief of feeling a good dough.

The last time my grandmother made me strudel, was the day she taught me how to make it. Soon after a stroke put her in no shape to bake anything let alone strudel. Before I sat down to write this I was in my studio thinking of that day. I dug though old photo albums. There were my grandma's hands stretching dough. How blessed am I?

My sister did not feel well and did not come down. She was missed.

I just feel so groggy. Now that I am filled up on carbs, it is time to hibernate.

How many emotions? good thing I am stoic or I would feel something.

well, I do feel something.... off for some Advil.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Life after the series

364 days ago I blogged about how cool it is to live on my street. Tomorrow night it will be filled with tricksters in search of treats. Hundreds. Maybe billions and billions.

On the way home I am going to stop at willow creek orchards for apples, potatoes, and cabbage... Saturday is strudelfest. I will be stretching dough for hours. No better way to show my dad love. New for this year... potato leek.

The shower curtain mandala is all cut out and I started foiling before coming down to blog. The new rule was not forgotten... studio comes first.

One of the strange things about my school is that we go from the first day to Thanksgiving without a day off. About now whines are beginning to emerge, a tradition. And while it is true we all need a mental health day, students and staff, I always think of how little time most Americans have off from their jobs. Does not make our need any less, it just makes me sad for all tired folk who could use a break to renew themselves. And I am so glad for all the students who are skipping school tomorrow. May they enjoy the celebration parade for the Phillies.

Right now at this moment, I am going to sit with the hope of renewal, the pain of the past, the joy of healing.

Sometimes reality unfolds and you just have to flow with it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The World Series (first event on TV I have watched since the Olympics) has me deprived of sleep, prayer time, journalling, blogging, school preparation...

My dad created a sports fan, however years ago I decided I didn't want the majority of my life to be spent watching sports, but I do from time to time. I can appreciate talent and be in awe of an amazing catch as much as a jazz pianist doing a solo.

I can't remember my first trip to see the Phillies with my dad, but in 1980 as my senior year in HS began, we drove down to see the Phillies win the World Series. There is very little in life as amazing as being among 70,000 fans celebrating a championship or driving through the city afterward.

At church on Sunday our Rector said this during the break in time for blessings... "and FOR BASEBALL GAMES." I liked that. Not for our team to win, but for the game itself.

We did not stand around after the service talking about Christ and our spiritual journeys, but more so about our team and our hope for victory. The lasting joy of course is that we will be back this Sunday no matter what happens in the stadium. What draws us is not only our friendship and shared interests, but the 2000 plus years of celebrating a man's return.

Today at work I ventured through the wind and rain to see a friend who was at the stadium last night when a northeaster roared up the coast and hit southeast PA. Tonight 50mph gusts of wind and temps in the 30's is a lingering but strong reminder of how mighty those storms are. She was ready to go back to Philly tonight, but really desired a break from the cold. She, knowing me as a man of God, asked for a prayer to cancel the game till Wednesday. I told her God and I were close and it would be taken care of. 30 minutes later she called to say the game had been delayed. So I guess my one prayer request that will be granted so quickly is a done deal, used up for a friend who needed a warm night at home. ;')

time for sleep.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

today in photos

I finished the blue background of what will be aptly titled.... My good friend's shower curtain inspired mandala. maybe MGFSCIM for short.. when the project is done I will tell the story

then I broke down and cleaned my glass grinder

glass sludge after the water was drained off

then a splash of yellow, and a bit of green

after a trip to a quilt show, we stopped at Willow Creek Orchards for some local food... zucchini, apples, carrots, cheddar cauliflower, bell peppers, some rolls from the Metropolitan bakery and Willow Creek's own style of Jumbleberry Jam-- strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.

then as I added 7/25 of the red and orange glass, I listened to some Victoria Williams. Here is a video of a childhood memory I share with the woman... sitting in an automobile counting train cars and how cool it was to see the caboose.

Train Song Video

OK, time for the Phillies to show they truly do know what to do when one of their team mates is standing on third base, well it is time for the rain that has been falling since before I arose this morning to stop so they can show their stuff...

Friday, October 24, 2008

a story... how to become a teacher

You are in High School and allow a guidance counselor to choose your major and college. Who licensed her or was it a him? You may never understand that conversation.

Three semesters later you are grateful that your parents will even consider giving you a second chance. You remember the night it all turned around, but first that day you will have to drive 600 miles with your dad to clear out your dorm room.

You study something your interested in. You are honored as the Biology student of the year. You fall in love with life, the kind with photosynthesis.

Your senior year friends and professors will want to know where you have applied to graduate school. Some think your going to save the planet. You are on fire, who knows you may save a wetland.

You say to them, "No, I would rather go on my bicycle to the Catskill Mountains."

You meet your life goal.

At home, waiting for you, are thirty large envelopes: 10 from each degree you imagine yourself getting... Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Law, Public Policy.

You tutor at a community college. You see the woman of your dreams. You check the want ads. "Teachers needed... We Place Teachers"

Your teaching at the Valley Forge Military Academy. Now you know your whole life is unpredictable. You are going to barbers weekly

You fall in love, but she is leaving soon for Massachusetts.

You will choose love over the military academy.

You apply to every private school you can find in MA. You become a special education teacher.

You go back for a second year to prove you can do what you failed at the first year. It couldn't be that awful again. It could be, but of course your love is still close by.

Teach a third year then follow your love to Oregon. Say, "Hey where are all the private schools that need my uncertificated uncredentialed self."

Work as a teacher assistant for a year with the neediest of students. It will help you when you have assistants. Washing a student in a shower just may teach you humility.

Go to the U of O. Say, What do you mean you eliminated most of the education dept.

You get a degree in special education instead. Teach for a year in a dieing timber town. It will teach you more about life.

Teach for two years surrounded by prairies, I mean corn and soybeans. You will crave the hills of your childhood

Move back to your home state. And if you are blessed your wife will get a job at a Jesuit University, and you will lose a job when your school sells your satellite campus to a developer.

For one night she will come home sad and you will go back to that Sunday paper and apply for the two positions you skipped over, and your job search will finally end at a place that will unexpectedly turn into a very good gig.

Your love of plants that laid dormant for many years will return.

and all that time you give to the Nature Conservancy, because you still want to save wetlands.


so Kathryn.... what do we have in common?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

becoming a stained glass artist

My new blog friend, Kathryn J, over at Colloquies with Kathryn, spoke about how this internet stuff can lead to problems.   I agree, so I made a new rule... 30 minutes in my studio before I can write anything on my blog.

So I just spent 30 minutes with paper, pencil and erasure working on something big, well it will be big for this stained glass artist.

This is my favored stage and until the final stage of the process--- it is all downhill in my book.

I have doodled since the beginning of time and now my brain is adapting to the constraints of glass. In my current design something new is happening. It is being created as I play with lines on paper.

what are those other steps as they descend in pleasure after creating the design...

choosing the colors/glass
cutting and grinding the glass
foiling the glass
soldering... now we have hit rock bottom
cleaning the finished project and holding it up to the light.

so this post was to be about how I became a teacher. That is the idea that floated up and apparently floated away, but if I continue to read Kathryn's journey to become a teacher (not my route at all, well maybe we have something in common????). I will be reminded of the blog post that could become, like one of my unfolding mandala designs inside a ten inch diameter circle...

looking at this I want an erasure. It is not quite done yet... what would you erase?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

indecision... "should I cool it or should I blow..."

here are two songs that have been in my head for the last several days...

one floated in as I was walking through Lansdale and comes from back in the day...
the Clash

one popped up randomly on my Ipod last week
Nnenna Freelon

the paper in my pocket has instructions to get to Gilead or the phone number to cancel.

the candy wrapper in my pocket from a few hours ago says, "Be Good to Yourself."

God's creation keeps unfolding, and it is very cool when dark chocolate and words of wisdom are found inside.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

three reasons to not straighten up my classroom

Believe me, please, my intentions were pure, the distractions were real.


I leave an in-service with an hour and a half to spend in my classroom. I take an apple and sit out in the sun. A friend walks by. The day before she told me she had given her two weeks notice. I invite her into my classroom and we chat the day away. Because I know that I will miss her and ...


I will be at the school. Last year I missed Walking With God retreat because I was required to be at the school. The trainer was from NC. She had been at the school in August and would return for two more Fridays in the springtime. I kept thinking, "she could be a cool person to befriend," but said nothing. After she left that final time I sent her an e-mail. I was right she has become a cool friend. She came back to train another group of staff at my school this year. In August we had her over for dinner. I had arranged to pick her up at the school, meet Mosaic Woman at the craft fair, go out to eat later. Then I got to really wanting to finish that stained glass yesterday and barely got to the school before my NC friend had finsihed training my colleagues and was at my classroom. I planned to go back on Sunday...


I drop Mosaic Woman off at the craft fair and head to the school with a promise: I will be back to help her pack up and driver her home. I am in my classroom less than ten minutes when in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, the phone rings. Mosaic Woman says, "Your parents are here." I throw a bunch of stuff in a bag and head back to the craft fair.

Clearly God did not want me to be productive inside my classroom. Maybe tomorrow.

PS... Saturday went best, and by the end of the show 14 mosaics had found a new home. A favored mandala is headed to NC with a cool friend, who really needs to move to PA.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I had a blog post forming in me head as I walked from south central Lansdale (Mosaic Woman left with the car from where we had coffee to be at the craft show), east to a Labyrinth, south into woods than jagged north and west past political signs and their houses to a diner, then back east walking past my old church and thinking about war and its sadness till I turned north and finally made it home.

But things change as God's creation unfolds and opens your eyes...

I go into my studio to work on a gift. This week a friend at work passes by and tells me she is leaving; her house was broken into. As she leaves I hope for the best, you know one of those burglaries where they take 5 things that were headed to good will, do some dusting, than fix the smashed window on their way out.

It didn't go that well.

She tells me about it two days later when she returns to work. Tears fill her eyes.

So I am back in my studio creating something for both her and her house and I notice the CD I played while soldering the last piece I made. I go to the song MARY, by Patty Griffin and press the repeat button.

these lyrics jump out during the third time it repeats...

Youre covered in treetops, youre covered in birds
Who can sing a million songs without any words

And your mind goes to the friend who loves birds, who is in grief, who you held that stained glass up to the light for... and your mind stays with the other friend who cried telling you about the invasion into her house.

your own tears form and you keep foiling stained glass, MARY keeps repeating.

Then these words blast your soul open

You cast aside the sheets, you cast aside the shroud
Of another man, who served the world proud
You greet another son, you lose another one
On some sunny day and always stay
Mary, mary, mary

and you say to yourself, how did you not see the connection before? how blind were you to God's unfolding creation when you held up that stained glass.

tears stay as I finish the foiling.

Last night in my first spirit group meeting in two years, a friend asks me to elaborate "how did Jesus come to you in hell." Truth be told, he did not come first, it was Mary I imagined into that doctor's office. It was Mary who first greeted me with compassion as I sat alone in silence, in desolation cursing God. It is Mary I send out to comfort my friends.

While the angels are singin his praises in a blaze of glory
Mary stays behind and starts cleaning up the place...

and I praise a God who with the help of a repeat button, allows a goof like me to see...