Saturday, July 26, 2008

better than free time

As the meeting stretched out Thursday afternoon, the e-mail entered my brain and took shape. It would point out to my supervisor that by volunteering to help cover a summer club for two days I had not had any prep time in my classroom. I asked for some time on Friday. Then I wrote unless...

I do not go on the weekly summer field trips. I see it as a chance to work with the younger students at the school who go on trips earlier in the week. So as I was sending out my homeroom students to meet up with their trips, I was also aware of a missing student and the presence of a group of younger folk ready to garden. They were being patient as I talked over the situation with my assistant... she would try to locate the missing student.

With my floppy hat in hand, I was one step out the door when the phone rang. I was called to the phone. The missing student was in crisis. A meeting had just occurred with student, residential staff, a nurse, and a therapist. The field trip was out and the student had voiced that she could spend the day with me. ahhhh the unless had arrived.

The student helped me and the younger folk harvest green beans, zucchini, red onions, green beans, cucumbers, patty pan squash, and more green beans for nearly 2.5 hours. Then she ate while I ate during part of my prep time, before it was over the student was back. We washed dirt of veggies and weighed out green beans.

I stepped outside to dump some dirty water and saw my supervisor. She seemed upset. She explained she had worked hard making my request to have a free afternoon come true, then she had gotten a call from the nurse explaining how I had volunteered to take a student for the whole day. As our conversation ended she said something about nice guys losing out. However...

Then I did something I had not done yet this year and much at all the last few years since I had gotten an assistant. The student and I covered the entire campus selling veggies. The student did the talking for the most part when we first entered the room. But then I chimed in and we joked with folk... "You only have ... You never come here first..."

I heard that a lot when I used to go out selling with students. My response to these staff, "Let me paraphrase... You SHOULD always come to my room/office first and if I'm not here, you should not sell anything till I get back," I go on, "However buy our last onions and your good deed may plant a seed which will blossom to get us to come here first next time." She buys one of the four onions.

The president of the school buys the last three and we head back to my room to snack on some more of the lavender brownies that have been fueling us this day. We save one for her good friend who loves them.

as I sent the students, who had returned from their field trips, forth for their weekend, I was tired. But glad for the day. I cut a lavender and rosemary brownie and walked across campus on my sore feet to visit a friend.


Friday, July 25, 2008

spreading the word

I started thinking about my lack of being an Evangelist for Christ when I read my friend's post about going door-to-door in his past. Then came an unexpected e-mail. Then before I could write about anything, another friend, who in the midst of describing what I did to my parents 30 years ago by describing her own son, informed me that the origin for martyr is a Greek word meaning witness. We have associated the word with what happened to early witnesses of the faith.

I am not one to go door to door, go on missionary trips, talk to strangers about faith, preach on street corners...

I do tell folk at work who ask, "are you going away over break," that I'm off for 8 days of silent retreat, and I do blog about how my walk through life is actually a journey with God. And that just may be what led to reading this line in the above mentioned e-mail...

".... Thank you for your good work in helping Catholic teachers and catechists with their faith mission."

As a man who is not Catholic I was impressed that I was managing this act, but considering the e-mail was addressed to some character named Statoz, yes the 'r" was missing, I am assuming this employee of Loyola Press ( a Jesuit press) had found my blog. It would not be hard to read all or some of the posts I have tagged: Jesuit, Ignatius..., and make the assumption that I was a Catholic.

So I am grateful that this woman sees my writing as a help to those trying to plant seeds of faith, for who knows, maybe my writing here has helped someone. I did not tell her I was not Catholic, but I did ask her to send me the review copy of a soon to be published book which was offered to me in the e-mail. It may just help me plant seeds as I continue this journey with God.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

PA invades Delaware-- PA Guild of Craftsmen take over the Chase Center

Mosaic Woman recently was reading to me about when Connecticut invaded Pennsylvania because King Charles the 2nd had given them the Wyoming Valley (later the state out west would be named for this valley). Anyway this coming weekend the PA Guild of Craftsmen invade Delaware for the summer crafts show. These events of one state entering another, one for a valley, one for convention space make little sense to me. But hey, next weekend if you are travelling I-95 to the shore... stop by the Bucks Chapter of the Guild (Booth 351 in Governor's Hall) and check out her wonderful mosaics. Mosaic Woman will be there Friday, and I will travel down with her on Sunday afternoon. Saturday other folk will man the booth.


Here is her first box with a quilt design called broken dishes.

a recent mandala with a dichroic glass center and some gold smalti and lots of stained glass (I wonder who gave her the scraps).

She saw this variation of the classic quilt design (square within a square) and created this mosaic.

Don't look for this one in Delaware or Pennsylvania or even Connecticut or Wyoming for that matter. Her mom commissioned this when Mosaic Woman's Uncle got married. He is in Colorado.

Friday, July 18, 2008

how our own laws drag us down

I've been reading about how Jesus dealt with legalism. You know all those shouldnt's that he did. Let Mary hang out by his feet while Martha did what women folk were supposed to do.

I am amazed at how a person chooses to read a psalm can drive my inner spirit into a frenzy. I favor breaking the verses in half so the call and response has the first part of the verse read aloud, then the congregation and myself reading the second half of the verse. It is so clear that this is the BEST way to read a psalm. SHOULDN'T it be done this way. However, most Sundays it does not go this way at my church. We switch at the verse. I swear I am ready to condemn folk to hell for this blatant sin, well maybe not that far, but it could get ugly if my thoughts leaked out of my mouth. Then I read in the Book of Common Prayer that the normal way for my church is the most popular way Episcopalians do such things. So I could throw the whole lot to hell, or relax. I think I am doing more of the latter lately.

On Wednesday a student asked if I had any veggies for them to sell, and I said.... No, but maybe on Friday.

Surprise surprise... he came back Friday and his memory was not that I said maybe. I grabbed a scissors, and headed off into the approaching heat advisory. As I climbed back up the hill, one hand filled with lime basil, the other carrying a bag of basil, I saw a student, who was hotter than the temps outside.

I sent a few students out to sell the herbs and several golden beets harvested on Thursday, and with one hardy student, headed down to take on green bean harvesting. The hot student was still in turmoil. The field trip van was about to pull out, as I approached the scene and asked for one minute. My message was simple, "you don't want the possible consequences. trust me." I almost got him to give in to the legalism thrown at him that morning, but failed.

5 hours later he thought his day had turned out OK. Then a staff member stopped by with a message for the student, I took it. Thought it best to wait till I could chat with him alone. Then forgot.

Which is fine, because I want to make sure I have the message from the administrator (passed down the line to me) right before I chat with the student. A battle of control is taking place. Being low on the chain of command my student needs some wise advice. The other night when praying on my day, I asked God for wisdom when I spoke to my students. I will be asking for the guidance again this weekend...

and most likely many years to come.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

shooting for 50, a family tradition

My sister flew home to celebrate my parents big year. Turning 75 this spring, they are within a few months of reaching 50 years of marriage.

Not that long ago I thought, music, we must have music from 1958. I found lists of number 1 hits, best jazz, best country, top 100 songs, and then I went through my jazz Cd's. Let me say that there were a bunch of folk sounding like Elvis back then. I put together 50 songs from that year. My dad, sitting to my right, was heard singing a line here and there. But my youngest aunt proved to be the music lover in the group. My one aunt and uncle were appreciative of the country hits including Johnny Cash and Kitty Wells.

50 years... I celebrated when both sets of grandparents made it that far. At the dinner, the aunts and uncles who had survived to see the day had already celebrated 48, 48, and 54 years of marriage. Though my sisters are older, I am the closest to 50 as Mosaic Woman and I have celebrated 16 anniversaries. In the year 2042... at age 78, I hope to be listening to 50 tunes from 1992. Wonder what I will remember?

As for the big hits of 1958, The Everly Brothers competed with Elvis and the Chipmunks hit #1 twice, but I left the Chipmunks off the Cd's, which allowed room for some 1958 music I own, including Lets Fall In Love by Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges. A tune I once listened to as I drew a card for the one I love.

... and Since I-tunes had no 1958 Elvis tunes which I could burn as an audio file, I pulled out my one Elvis CD, which meant the evening had one gospel tune... Praise be to Elvis for being a man of faith, may that wondering spirit find some peace.

Don't know if this is the exact version, but here it is.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Kabat-Zinn police

Yesterday in my classroom I introduced my students to the Kabat-Zinn police.

It started many places but here are some of them.

  1. Quantum Theology Woman wrote some posts about Latin in the past year, which made me wish I knew some Latin.
  2. Years ago we bought a book called Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  3. Sitting in a meeting with staff working the summer program, I blurted out, "I'll teach an English class." My offer was accepted and I was handed the best readers on campus for this summer.
I knew what I wanted and the bookstore had it. A book which had Latin and Greek words, their meanings, and the English words which have sprouted from them.

which brings us to Thursday night when I read about ESSE, which means to be. Many a word have come from this word, some being ... essential, absence, essence, represent, interests, is, and present.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a doctor at the University of Massachusetts, has had great success treating people with chronic pain by introducing them to the concept of mindfulness... living in the present moment.... choosing to be.
Many a wise person has entered our lives and they often seem to speak of mindfulness so when Mosaic Woman gets stuck on a thought for days and days or I can't keep my mind on the present moment because my mind floats to 10,000 thoughts in 15 seconds, we say... "The Kabat-Zinn police are going to be knocking on our door." Yes, arrested for living away from the present moment.

A Jesuit once preached to me that it is a great sin to miss out on God's unfolding universe. There it was again. To be stuck in the past or the future and to miss out on the present moment... being unaware of what God is creating in our life is truly a sad thing. We are being absent from God's presence which is essential... being of the utmost importance

Maybe those Kabat-Zinn police are angels sent by God, you know...representatives.

It made for an interesting lesson, but I left out that final thought. The angels came about at a more recent moment and would have been stretching what I am to say in my secular classroom.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

will or lack of it

An unfinished person got me thinking about will.

First off in a message left here he asked if I had an account at LastFm because I had linked to a Michelle Shocked song at that site. I responded that it looked good but I should avoid another on-line activity.

I lacked the will power to avoid and I have been enjoying finding music by some classic jazz folk and some musicians who Mosaic Woman and I saw playing jazz in Rochester. You can also let it select songs based on what they think is similar to a favored musician... I did that with a singer named Kurt Elling. Can't say I was impressed with all that arose but one truly caught my attention. Last Train to Clarkesville, the Monkeys song, being sung by Cassandra Wilson

Later in the day traveling to the school to water some plants, I was listening to American Routes on NPR. And what did I hear, but Cassandra Wilson singing Last Train....

The host explained that it was about a man wanting to spend one last night with his love before being shipped out to war, in that case Vietnam. That is why it was so important to be on that train. Never got that as a child watching the Monkees on TV.

Secondly... The unfinished person is reflecting on words written by St. John of the Cross who wrote...
"Faith resides in the intellect and love in the will."
Last night I willed myself to spend time with God. Or is it that I did not have the will power to resist God's invitation. Or is it a bit of both.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Phlox tribute

Phlox tribute
Originally uploaded by stratoz
After gardening at work and home this spring it was truly strange to leave them to listen to jazz, and then to be silent retreat guy. I did lose some sleep the first night at the retreat center, but an e-mail to a friend at work was what the doctor ordered. It turned into a family affair as her sister, mom and dad would visit the garden in the evening to give the plants some water. In gratitude I said, "some weeding would have been nice."

Mosaic woman kept an eye on things at home, and every night when I briefly broke silence, usually in the UCC cemetery next to the Jesuits, she would tell me that no rain had fallen. She also told me what was flowering, and what looked ill.

Returning home, I stopped by the school, watered inside my classroom, and checked in with Mosaic Woman as I walked about the veggies. I told the plants I would be back and headed home. At home I checked out the garden, and looked up what appeared to be causing the illness.

The next two mornings I spent gardening at the school, trying to get caught up a bit, but could not go out into my own garden, because I knew what I had to do. I had to kill a plant. On Wednesday, I threw it into the garbage.

Earlier in human history including Biblical times it would have been burnt which is what Jesus says will happen to those vines that don't produce. I don't see it as hell, just using best horticultural practices in his metaphor.

And removing that plant was humane. The plant was going to die, and letting it live out it's days only threatened the health of those around it. Luckily for us, there is something called forgiveness. We can get as spiritually diseased as we can manage, but God will take us back. There was and are times in my life when I am not exactly bearing good fruit. I hope God remembers the fig tree, so that I will have an advocate that says, "give it another year. Lets give it some manure (Love) and see what comes forth."