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...


Thursday, October 16, 2008

thoughts on hair

Yesterday in the ed office I announce, "The stars are aligning. I may be nearing a hair cut."

I've had two in the past 9.5 years. That photo was taken this past Sunday.

It has not always been long and it matches my time teaching horticulture.

before we moved to Lansdale I walked to a barber and paid minimum wage rates and the jobs were done better than what I ended up paying here in Lansdale.

My students assume I do drugs. I tell them, "not since my hair was short." They shake their heads.

I say to Mosaic Woman, "I am not going to get a hair cut this summer." Years later I donate 10 inches to Locks of Love. If you don't have hair, I am sure they are willing to take cash. They do good work.

Years later another ten inches are donated. I say, "I doubt if I will grow it out again." I was wrong. It is longer than ever before.

This summer those good folk in the ed office and my ex-supervisor ponder out loud... "Why have such long hair if it is always braided?" Hmmm. "I say you will see it soon, when my wife is out of town." I don't like the knots that form.

A friend from church recently asked if she would ever see it unbraided. I say, "Maybe." Later I realize that when I get back from the Walking With God retreat, my hair will be loose and I can get to the meeting at church. She sees my hair.

How much water is wasted in taking longer showers?

A good friend in the ed office says, "Consider cutting it short." I say, "Hmmm." Maybe if we have a drought.

At Walking with God a woman approaches me and asks about how long my hair has been free to grow. She cuts hair. The next day I ask her where she works. Kutztown is a distance from Lansdale. I say, "well, if I only get it cut once every so many years...." In silence at the Jesuit Center that conversation would not have happened, except the first dinner and the last breakfast when we eat in noisiness. I envision a spiritual haircut. The stars begin to align.

In the ed office they say, "the stars?" I say, "Well I was headed out to the gym last night so when I locked myself out, I had nothing better to do than stare at the full moon and such till my wife got home." They continue to shake their heads at my goofiness.

I have said on many occasions, "If I cut it short, I will not grow it out again." A staff ID showing the stage when it was not quite long enough to pull back reminds me why. But I have incorrectly predicted the future before.

I like my hair.

Mosaic Woman braids my hair every morning and then lets it flop with gravity. I claim serious spinal cord damage. She also reacts to my goofiness. Then she dries her hands on my clothing. My life is hard.

I can't remember when exactly those two hair cuts took place. My memory is not as amazing as my hair.

I used to be self conscious about my long hair. Now it is a part of me. I have thus considered getting it cut short. It won't happen. For now.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Silence with music

Giggles asked...Does silence count if you are listening to your ipod??

Yes it does.

When I am at the Jesuit Center I take music to listen to. It stays in my room except when I go to the exercise room. The Jesuits provide a music room that has a piano, a stereo and music to play on the stereo. There have been times I have sat in the hallway listening to another silent person play piano. So, I see no problem with listening to music in my room.

On my first 8 day retreat I was told some good advice---- when praying, try to last for an hour during each of the three daily prayer times. When not praying, don't pray. give it a break. This is not always possible, but it is more so if one has distractions.

I was also advised against bringing novels and books on spirituality (though they sell these in the book store). I was advised to read a biography if anything. I do little reading, other than my Bible.

so what do I do when not praying, eating, talking with my director, sleeping, or attending the daily mass...

exercise, walk, art work---- lots and lots of art work, math puzzles, shoot pool (and I have had games against other silent folk), play basketball, swim, be massaged, slam a tennis ball against a handball wall, and ...

listen to music especially when doing art work.

now. if I could find a way to be silent when calling Mosaic Woman each evening to say goodnight. and no, a text message just would not meet her needs.

unfolding through the iPod

Sunday morning at the retreat center, I was still craving silence. So after a breakfast conversation, I move to an empty table, take out my iPod and fill out the evaluation form.

I think some of the classic jazz standards speak volumes. This one showed me yet again that God's unfolding kingdom can come at us after being digitalized and shuffled.

Etta James steps backs from the blues to sing about a longing and love that is as deep as the ocean
How far would you travel? How far is this journey? and if this love was lost, how many tears would flow?

Thanks to Irving Berlin for wondering about love.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

not quite silent

It has been three years since I attended a Walking With God Retreat, and I was not quite up for one. too much noise for this silent guy. so I adapted.

Friday morning, I being not on top of things asked.... What is the topic of this retreat I am packing up for?

Mosaic Woman.... Dark Night Of The Soul.

Me..... I signed up for a dark night of a soul! How stupid is that?

MW..... Hmmmm

I largely signed up to see some good folk, especially WC. We each consider the other a spiritual master. I may be right. And there she was as I entered the building. Soon enough we were laughing. She is like that, exuberant.

I tell WC..... we need to talk. We set a time.

The Mennonite Catholic (she loves singing hymns with the first and the daily mass of the second) who presented on St John of the Cross and dark nights of souls, makes it clear to me that I have been in a dark place for the past 4-5 weeks. I begin to think that maybe, just maybe God remembered what I had signed up for and said, "OK, so now is a good time to have his past crash back on top of him."

I skip the first workshop which I had signed up for and head to the labyrinth in the woods. It actually loops around a few trees! I have walked them many times and this may have been the deepest a labyrinth has taken me. I went places I won't go to here, but God, WC and Mosaic Woman have agreed to go on the journey with me and it just goes to prove that no matter how much one thinks one has healed, there is room for more. I need to go there. Or I can stay where I am. Wholeness is not all that it is said to be.

I skip the second workshop and head back to the labyrinth. I am calmer. I go take a nap.

I sit with WC and she listens. I ask for help. I swat mosquitoes away from her.

After dinner. After the Taize service. After the Eucharist. After the campfire. After the chat with a stranger in the dining hall, who clearly does not understand personal space isssues... gave me a hug this morning. After I drive down to another part of the camp.... another car pulls into the parking lot. A young woman is looking for someone. It is a name I know. A woman I know from many retreats. I say, "I can take you to her."

Riding back up the hill, I find out that the husband of my friend is in the hospital. Soon I will be in bed listening to Keith Jarrett's piano soothe me as I think of friends who have received bad news while retreating with God.

The next day, I offer up a prayer to these two women.

Then I am helping a Mennonite Catholic prophetess with her luggage. You never know who will bring you out of the darkness by taking you deeper into it. WC seems to think I need to contact this prophetess. So I ask her for her e-mail. For now, the perennials I planted last week need some water.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

tis the season

A student told me the other day that fall was his favored season, I told him that if Spring did not exist I would agree with him.

But fall is good.

Mosaic Woman and I stand away from the crowds, who are walking on the paved paths at Peace Valley Park. We are watching colored leaves fall into the river and flow through mini rapids casting shadows on the stream bed.

A box filled with several varieties of garlic shows up and thus becomes the hope for next year's crop.

Concert series begin at local universities and if it was not for Hank Jones canceling his US tour to make bigger bucks in Japan, I would be seeing him this weekend. Yes, I am annoyed.

Planting discounted perennials in my yard.

Walking With God, a yearly retreat held by some local UCC spiritual folk happens (I need to pack).

As our garden brings us less fresh produce, we turn to Willow Creek Farm. Mosaic Woman is trying to eat new and different food these days so when we went the farm store last weekend, I stared at the celeriac and said, "I never ate that." She of course notices the recipe cards and I turn 180 degrees and pick up these three pears. Pear and celeriac soup. Yes, it is also the season to start making soup again. Those floating chives did come from my back yard, unlike the sour cream.

and at work I struggle to keep the momentum moving forward... the student I blogged about last week will be gone from the school in less than a week. It is sad, but hopefully things will go better at the new school.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

riding the rollercoaster

That is my life. The meeting that threw me into my childhood memories or lack of memories a few weeks ago riled me up good, even to the point that I blogged mysteriously (as one would say) about that time. I seemed to have ridden that crest and even have returned to a solid prayer life again. When I did return a week ago, it was to find a quote about remembering what our teachers taught us. I should have laughed, or cried.

This is all I have to tell about the story for now.

Mosaic woman and I were on the verge of marriage and master's degrees when a large brown envelope came in the mail. The urologist had died and my medical records were in my hand. For the first time in my life (well I do have that memory problem) I found out why I had gone through what I had gone through. It was two severe infections, one at age three, one at age four. To save my kidneys from more damage I was treated with the best practices of the day. I read the dates of the visits. The frequency. Six times that first year.

Mosaic Woman read it too. She said, "You have to take this to a doctor. You can't just keep ignoring this." Love can help you do the hardest things.

And ever since I have taken my story to doctors as we have moved across the states. And their message to me.... "If everything is working OK, why do anything." I can live with that.

I stopped the treatments when I moved away from PA 20 plus years ago. I just have to wonder... when could they have stopped? Life is a mystery.

That's it on this subject.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mosaic Woman and the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen

Mosaic Woman's next show is the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen Fine Craft Fair at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell. Her mosaics will be in the Bucks Chapter Booth, #301, right by the food.

Saturday October 18th 10-6
Sunday October 19th 11-5

The Fall show used to happen at Tyler State Park, so don't head over there. MCCC will be different including paved parking.

Can't make it but absolutely need to buy a mosaic... go to our ETSY site.

Just want to see more of her mosaics, go to my FLICKR site

want to see recently completed projects and refuse to click on a link or drive to SE PA, just take a look below. want to see them larger, click on the image...

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I've noticed that if I can admit to something, I will then repent. First off I have not been impressed with the garden this year. Wasn't it SUPPOSED to be better. What's wrong with it anyway?

It got some attention during my break from teaching in August, but since then it has been neglected. Oh sure, I am willing to go out and gather for dinner, but otherwise I should be arrested.

Last Saturday I went out in a light rain to gather leeks, a pepper, an onion, and some herbs. I opened my eyes and I was far from happy.

The garden stared back and clearly was even less happy with me. Yes, not only plants but gardens speak and have emotions. Just believe it and you will hear from them. I often speak of happy and sad plants at the school.

This week at school I was introducing a unit on slime molds in Biology class by talking about entropy. I spoke of what a lack of energy flow had done to my garden. My students berated me.... WHAT KIND OF HORTICULTURE TEACHER ARE YOU!

Sadly one who is disappointed by a garden that he just may have not given enough attention this year.

I am spending the rest of this afternoon being kind to the garden.

by the way... slime molds are way cool!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

oooh child, I have hope for you

Today as I pulled into the school, my I-pod randomly decided that I needed to hear a song.

As I signed in, my supervisor told me one of my students was in crisis mode and I shouldn't expect the student in my classes. She asked if I could come to a problem solving meeting. I didn't make it due to a lack of coverage.

oooh oooh child... not my version this morning, but it is the one I heard as a child.

I don't know which is worse, when you have good rapport and others don't, or when you don't and others do... this case is the former.

OOOOHHHHHHH, one day it can be brighter. For now I will hope for you to see that day...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Doubt-- being of two minds

last night...

I wrote a post which I can't quite get myself to publish, maybe later.

I turned on fans, opened windows, put on my mask, and cranked up a pre-jazz era CD. I hate soldering, but maybe one day I will get better at it. for now I have to hope that my designs and my color choices will impress folk.

I took it to the bathroom sink to wash off the flux. In my studio, I held it up to the light, and I struggled to see it. It was dark outside so I couldn't hang it in a window and back up. It was inspired by a friend's grief. And until that moment it was just an idea. It is the light that brings it to life.

as I struggled to see it as a whole, this song came on.... Mary by Patty Griffin

I came down to fit some prayer time in before Mosaic Woman got home, and skipped my opening ways. The Jesuits taught me that one should start prayer by saying hi to God. So I breathe, In and Out.... Here..... I am.

I skipped to writing down blessings and it started dark... Thanks for the challenging job, turned to the sweet peppers brought in for dinner, then I wrote... "Do I want my job? what went wrong today?"

I look back now and just see it as being tired. so so many emotional fires to put out for one stoic guy to handle.

I am a man of doubt. Every Sunday I sit in church and wonder how I can believe such stuff, then it passes. A hymn touches my heart. The Eucharist touches my soul. Most days at work I wonder if I will last long at my job, then it passes as I have fun with a class. Today I ran into an amazingly bright student, who just can't get his thoughts on paper, as he gathered to go to his off campus apartment. I told him he was running out of time to prove to me he was as bright was we both thought he was. I told him I would be in my room. He showed up after making a deal with his residential staff. He knew his stuff as I asked him questions. We brainstormed ways to get him to college. Like I said he is bright and he could list several things holding him back. When I told him to head back. He rose and put out his hand to me. He frustrates me greatly at times, but I will go back tomorrow, and at some point ask the Lord, who I don't always believe in, to help me through. I will remember that hand. That gesture.