Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas Shout Outs: Paula Lewis for day seven

You are looking at what happens when you commission Paula Lewis to create a piece of art for you. I gave her some gerneral guidelines, then sat back and waited. I told her i was in no rush so she let my desires percoloate. Apparently Paula faces some danger as an enamalist, which is why she goes by Scorched Eyebrow Studio.

I do believe I only met Paula once and that was at a craft show. I stood in her booth amazed at her artistry and a seed was planted for the commission that was to become a part of my studio.

By commissioning others I am exposing myself to how others feel when I am commissioned. I also end up with a studio being filled with art by favored artists. I hope to keep this habit going. It's fun. But also a bit nerve racking as you don't know what it is you will be getting. But if others can trust me, I can trust others.

So while I am at it, let me celebrate the Jazz Tree I commissioned earlier in the year.


Monday, December 30, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas Shout Outs: Patricia Barber for day six


So whose website do I check more often than any other, in hope of seeing them live? Jazz composer, singer, pianist, and lyricist... and arranger ~> Patricia Barber. I hope that says it all, so here is an original, a Gershwin, and a Lennon/McCartney for your enjoyment.





Sunday, December 29, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas Shout Outs: The Neighbors of Surprises for day five

It was a terrible night. Screams woke us. Flames across the street scared us. Seeing someone jump from a house horrified us.

After that comes the gratitude that no one died and an even greater respect for those who put out fires. After that we got to know the five households quite a bit better as we greeted them when they returned to see the damage and when they returned to once again live across from our two studio row.

Three Christmas past, I lied for the man who survived that jump. I told his wife that we would not be able to get their house number done in time for the 25th. Side note ~> This year I once again lied to a friend when I told her the piece she wanted had sold, but left out that her husband had bought it.

Two Christmas past, this time the wife surprised the husband with a mosaic celebrating chili peppers.

So, when they came to our home show and commissioned a cross and a nightlight, I decided it was my year to surprise them on Christmas Day. The commissions sight unseen, plus a small bonus gift, were placed in a box and gift wrapped. It amused me that for the third straight year a surprise gift was being open, maybe not as much as amusing as the surprise created by telling fibs, and surely not as joyful as when they moved back, but it did amuse me.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas Shout Outs: Breakfast Buddies for day four

On the third day of Christmas, I mentioned the tradition of buying Mosaic Woman a young adult novel every year. Here is another tradition. Years ago, she bought me a waffle iron for Christmas. I have never operated the gadget. In our two studio row, I am the pancake dude.

So now I am treated to waffles every Christmas morn, not for all twelve days, but consistently on day one. Mosaic Woman and I have eaten breakfast out in many a location over the years and for that I am grateful. But I have a few friends who have breakfasted with me more than once.

In Oregon it was the friend who I met when she was assigned the challenge of supervising my student teaching. This morning it was an Episcopalian priest, who I met when I searched for a spiritual director to guide me through the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius. I also meet a young man, who has decided that I am the Uncle Wayne he never had.

So, I give thanks to those who are willing to begin their days with me and share their first meal of the day.


Friday, December 27, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas Shout Outs: Sharon Creech for day three

Here in our one bedroom two studio row, a tradition has come about; every year I buy Mosaic Woman a young adult novel for Christmas. I just squeaked it out this year as I bought her present during the final moments of the Scholastic Book Fair at my school.

And here we are on the third day of Christmas, and we have both finished the book. In fact Mosaic Woman had it read by the time I got home from the Christmas morning Eucharist.

I am no expert on the genre, I just wait for a book to catch my attention. And the cat did that. Sharon Creech's book does feature a rather hard to like cat and a boy who is missing his dog. But through a wise teacher, fine parents, and poetry, especially that of William Carlos Williams, the boy does come about to the understanding that not all cats are worthy of hatred.

I am also seeing uses in my classroom...

so much depends


a red wheel

barrow (electron, DNA molecule, gravity, mass, predator, root, seed ...)


Thursday, December 26, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas Shout Outs: Joanne Romano for day two

I have had some great conversations in 2013, and maybe some others will pop up during this Christmas shout out series. This morning as I created this Stratozpheric glass doodle for my friend Joanne, my mind went back to the day that she bantered with my snarky attitude (she did quite well) as she attempted to get me to buy tickets to a fundraiser my church was having. It was fun, the conversation that is because I never did make it to the breakfast. People who went said it was a hoot.

I love Joanne's voice and I am grateful that through it all she has remained a member of the band that creates music at my church here in Lansdale. Billions and billions of singers and instrumentalists have been in the band with her over the years. A flow chart may be in order.

After our home show, Joanne's name was pulled and I had the privilege of creating a sun catcher just for her. So here is to hoping she doesn't take his Sunday off.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The 12 Days of Christmas Shout Outs: Ken Doyle for day one

In the past 40 days, I blogged one time. I thought this blog just might have died and it might be on its way. But I had a thought and decided to make something of it. 12 days of Christmas, 12 shout outs.

And why not start with a friend I met while blogging in the early days of Stratoz. I now know Ken via other social media and I know a few things about him, but what has been clear from the beginning is that the man loves to write. I knew if his words were ever published, I would take the time to read them and I am glad that I did. His collection of stories took me into the people of Bombay and I met characters who filled me with hope for their future. Ken took me places, which I will likely never see and far from anything I have ever experienced. It was a wise choice to take the journey and it delights me that he has received positive reviews on goodreads. Keep writing.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Willow Weep For Me (b) ~> Renée Yoxon sings

Eventually I emerged from the tree, but I continued to spend time with the tune as my silent retreat unfolded. Turned out I had several versions on my iPod but only one with vocals. I was not disappointed.

Renée Yoxon sings it beautifully. LISTEN HERE

Willow weep for me

Bend your branches down along the ground

and cover me


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Willow Weep For Me (a) ~ Mourning the loss of Marian McPartland while on a silent retreat

It was the third straight phone call home during which Mosaic Woman announced a death she had heard about. Marian McPartland had died.  I had loaded my iPod with jazz by women and we own more music by Marian than any other artist. And there was Willow Weep for Me. So I headed out and sat in the green light.  It was a live version and as the music faded and the applause arrived, Marian said, "Thank You." (video found!)

Your welcome.

and thank you for being such a vital part of my path into jazz. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

21 pieces towards redemption ~> or I seem to be better at imagining gifts than giving them

One ~> Mosaic Woman finds a card I addressed in August. The friend was the 21st person to make a donation to my campaign to feed the hungry. I remember offering something to whoever was the 21st. What was it? Last night I chose scraps of glass, 21 pieces of redemption. I am imagining something new. An improvisation. A gift to a friend, who has been very patient.

Two ~> in my studio window hangs a mandala. Was it not supposed to go to Cleveland with me as a gift to friends who gave me a room with quite the view.

Three ~> a baseball card sits in my closet. Had I not planned to send it to a friend, who not only commissions stained glass, but also sends me amazing photos of them in their new home.

Four ~> a card rests on my drafting table. It is for a friend, who has shown me that she truly believes my cards are drawn with hope for healing by one commission after another. My friend has been in my prayers, and yes the card is a daily reminder to pray for her, but it is time to mail it.

Time to make the gifts become a reality.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Thoughts on testing my teaching

My students have many a river to cross and on top of that my PA Dutch grammar can baffle the average student. With that said, I can write tests that all will fail or tests on the same material, which all the same students will get A's. Too often us teachers see tests as indicators only on what students have learned. They are also an indicator on how the students were taught. If a question baffles many, then I need to try to teach the material differently or as a friend told me recently ~> ask the question differently.

My students would not be in my classroom if their only problem was test taking. I see this as my goal - to show them that a classroom can be a place that is not traumatic. So why fail them and have them leave feeling the same way about school. The other day in my bio class, I joined them at our communal table. I sat down at their level. I looked at them and said, "You have had a marvelous quarter. You have completed everything I have asked of you in and outside this room." It was the truth, however, I couldn't have said it to all my chemistry students.

"So now I need to see what you have learned in the past nine weeks. I really don't care if you have learned everything. I do care that you allow me to see what you have learned so I know how well I have taught you. You all have earned a fine grade from me. Don't fear this test." Then we reviewed.

The cool thing is this ~> when they are proud of themselves, I can be proud of myself.

Today my horticulture students were given a boatload of flowers and told to create something beautiful. They passed.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Pretenders take me to the night Specter beat Edgar

It started with hearing the news that Lou Reed had died and pulling out an old LP by the man (that also took me back to some old memories). But putting it back the next night is why I listened to The Pretenders.

I have only worked on one political campaign. I was fresh out of college. Bob Edgar lost. I was gathered with others who had worked on the campaign. A song came on the radio, and a woman next to me said, "They just don't spit vile like they used to."

I don't think I ever saw that woman again and her name is gone, but I so remember that quote. She needed music that was raw and angry that night.

Bob Edgar went on to do some fabulous things outside of politics.

Years later Arlen Specter would gain my respect for being a moderate in a polarized DC.

I had a student that once said, "Why jazz? Can't we listen to rock."

I said, "Sorry, I am no longer an angry young man."


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In Awe ~ Stained Glass and Sunrises at the Jesuit Center

When I said I wanted to continue to experience awe in my studio as I prayed in August and ever since, this is what I meant: please God, let the beauty of your light streaming through glass always amaze me. And, God never let me lose the amazement that friends and folk I have never met have trust in me to create unseen pieces of art for them.
I placed this piece in my room on the evening I entered silence in August. The plan was to give it to my spiritual director. But plans change if you allow them. The glass did not want to be in my room, so I moved it out to where folk wait to see their spiritual director. It faces east. It dug the sunrise.
Then an idea came to mind and I created a rather large and complex doodle for my spiritual director. On my last day, I handed the stained glass to a Jesuit and suggested a place it could hang. Today I got a post card from the Jesuit. They have decided otherwise, it will hang on the first floor, facing west. He invited me to come see it. That will happen. I dig sunsets too.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Delighted: Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

Back in the day, a biology professor handed me a book of short stories by Raymond Carver. It may have been the first collection of stories I ever read. I was hooked. Two years later, I met Mosaic Woman, who introduced me to many things Canadian.

There was a writer of short stories in that introduction, Alice Munro. Her stories amazed me. Someone once said that Munro did not have to write novels because she could get more into a short story than what is found in many novels.

I have at times searched through fiction settings in libraries and bookstores for stories. I find novels and novels and novels... and then at some point a collection of stories. The pressure must be intense. Forget stories. Write novels. Munro just kept writing stories and that impressed me.

So, I was delighted. An author, who tells stories in short splashes of color and who reminds me of those glorious days of falling into love with Margaret, was on the news. Good news indeed reached my spirit as I commuted this morning.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Beauty in the garden 2 ~> placing perennials

Our garden has witnessed my care on 27 of the last 33 days. It has been transformed, but as talked about in part 1, transformations take perseverance. I have pulled many more weeds, but I have taken the next step and have placed 30 perennials into the ground. I wanted some fall color in the front yard so this aster has been placed there. I am not much for garden design. I do know to plant tall things behind short things. But what I do is pick up a plant. Read the info on the tag. Find a place. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Things will die. Things will thrive. The garden will unfold. It will provide beauty.
The sunflowers are looking rather dead, but not completely and goldfinches have been around so these will stick around and provide comfort to the birds and my spirit this winter.

The dahlia,that returns each year, needed to be raised up from the ground upon which it had toppled. Blooms were broken off. This bud bloomed inside our kitchen. Pale in color but not beauty.

The first batch of perremnials came by way of Bowman's Hill over by New Hope. A place I had desired to see for decades and their fall plant sale got us there. This is how they looked on our porch.

So it was time to have my photo taken. New glasses, a transformed garden, a weeded patio/walkway. Now to keep those perennials alive. Who knows, with luck they will join this rosemary as plants that have thrived.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

A lunchtime moment in my classroom

Yesterday a student came in to my classroom. He had reached a level hat gav him the privilege to come to horticulture. His first words affirmed that it is quite the different place. One day it will be another's place to teach. For now, it is mine. And for that I am grateful.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My 1000th blog post: seeing the world through new glasses while hanging out with rosemary

sporting a new pair of glasses and one glove (?)
 and a most amazing rosemary bush

1000 posts on Stratoz, an enterprise started in 2007. I think a few were deleted, but most remain to help me reach a thousand ramblings shared on ~> God and Jazz. Glass and Science. Teaching and Gardening. Lansdale and Mosaic Woman. Food and Art. Probably some need some fixing up, but I am OK with an imperfect blog.

My posts are shorter these days but I think I still have the same focus. Celebrate the things I dig. Maybe it is a bit too diverse to get a rabid following from the masses, but I do have a fan base and for that I am grateful.  

I got new glasses on Saturday, much to the amusement of a friend at church. And considering the long week she had, I have no problem with bringing some joyful entertainment into her life.

This post does not show the 30 perennials I planted in the last few weeks, but it does show some Hostas that came with the house and may not be here when the next owner moves in. 

Violet and Green
Stratoz decided he needed some color

Thursday, September 26, 2013

With All Due Respect to Robert Indiana's Design, Our Take on Love

Original Lettering design by Robert Indiana
Adaptation and Letters by Wayne Stratz
Peachy background by Margaret Almon

Friday, September 20, 2013

Beauty in the Garden 1 - removing the weeds

I have gardened eight straight days and 16 of the last 18. Much of that time was spent removing weeds. Mostly from the backyard and from the dreaded brick patio and path leading to the garage. I am not done, but I enjoy weeding. Being on my hands and knees removing what I don't desire. The truth is, I will never be done. Gardening is about perseverance. Any of the world's great gardens, would not be so great without perseverance.

In the spring of 2008, I was coming off my best year of gardening. 2007 was a year of persevering. What happened? This and that. A new hobby turning into a new business turning into a true passion for glass.

But I like to weed. To be close to the garden. To watch bees being fed. To sit on the porch and take a break. To say hello to my two closest neighbors an to many more who walk past my house.

There are times I have wondered why I removed all the grass. The answer is beauty. This week my commute to work has started by being greeted by goldfinches feasting upon coneflower seeds in my front yard.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Looking Up 2 ~> remembering what I brought forth from the silent retreat at the Jesuit Center

looking up at trees sun and clouds
Jesuit Center Wernersville, PA
Saturday at Holy Trinity I reach my seat after communion having asked God to renew and cleanse me as I often do when I reach out for the bread and the wine. But since I came back from the silent retreat I count to seven on my fingers, hoping to remember the desires I shared with God.

Hope in all things
Love in my home
Grace with my friends
Jazz in my church
Joy in my classroom
Awe in my studio
Beauty in my garden


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Looking up at the Jesuit Center, seeing hawks

Hawk on UCC steeple Wernersville, PA
by Wayne Stratz
 One night in the midst of silence, I noticed a hawk on the highest point of the Jesuit Center. I wondered when crows would chase it away. I walked about. An hour or more later it was still there, which delighted me but also made me wonder if it was real, so I ventured closer till I saw its head turn. I guess it was enjoying the view.

The next evening I ventured out and happened to look up at the UCC church adjacent to the Jesuit Center. And there was a hawk at the highest point.

Hawk on UCC steeple Wernersville, PA
by Wayne Stratz
At no point in time did I see a hawk when I looked up at these two perches in the following days. But looking up is a good habit. There is much to be seen other than hawks.

Hawk on UCC steeple Wernersville, PA
by Wayne Stratz

Friday, August 30, 2013

Emerging From a Comfortable Silence

I drove up to sunflowers that dazzled me Monday at noon. The eight days of silence had gone as smoothe as any retreat I had been on, it felt comfortable from beginning to end. Well, except my spiritual director kept asking me how I felt about this, that, and the other thing. But that's her job, too take me deeper into my experience.

I fully expected to come home and storm social media with a last days drive to meet my campaign to feed the hungry. And it started that way, but it just didn't feel right. And the hours are ticking by to midnight in California turns the campaign to a pumpkin on August 31.

I want to write reflections, not flood the Internet with requests for help.

Nearly 30 years ago I was walking door to door trying to spread the good message of the environment. I was OK with getting folk to listen to me, but terrible at raising money. Thus I did not get paid to do it for very long. I am pleased to having raised over $1000.00. But I am tired of asking for money.

I have made Manna on Main known to my friends. I have passed along some information about hunger. But I feel more compelled to be in my studio, in my garden, and with friends then doing a final flurry. 

I once rode my bicycle to the Catskills. I would pull into campgrounds much to the amazement of those, who had arrived in trucks pulling campers. What I remember most from the trip is the desire those new neighbors had to feed me. I was far from starving, but I was much better fed when I moved on the next morning. I did not know where I would stop, but it always turned out that I was invited to a meal.

Now I am curious how that kindness might have led to a lifetime of supporting people who feed the hungry, and to the pleasure I have inviting folk over for dinner. As I write this, I am hoping to draw more cards of thanks for those who support my goal of 21 hundred dollars. But I am ready to be content passing on these final thoughts. 

Feed the hungry.

Donate to your local food pantry.

Volunteer, they need hands as well as money.

Put a huge basket for canned goods in your church or office.

Feed the hungry.

The journey ends where it began.

Friday, August 16, 2013

10 best things about the Jesuit Center in Wernersville

1. The Amish Room

as a Pennsylvanian German raised Lutheran, there is something very welcoming of being able to eat a pretzel anytime I want one.

2. The Grounds

as one who loves to roam, there is plenty of space to do that. But I have to admit that my favorite place to roam is into the UCC cemetery where I always have a good chance to see a bluebird.

3. Books

The library not only has the full set of the Oxford English Dictionary, but is also where I found the complete stories of Flannery O'Connor. The bookstore is well stocked and a fine place to visit. The only thing that stops me from buying books is knowing I own so many I have not read.

4. The Postage Stamp Messiah 

5. Stained Glass

The sanctuary has amazing glass and then there is the pleasant surprise of seeing my own piece on the third floor. A reminder of all the creative moments I have had at the Jesuit Center

7. The pool

I don't really dig swimming, but the last place I swam was there.

8. The Pool Table

I really do dig pool tables and rarely have a chance to play.  I have even had silent games when a fellow lover of the sport arrived upon the scene.

9. The Feminine Images of God Retreat

Sister Maria has developed this silent retreat that led me to know Sophia. How many pieces of art have I created with 21 pieces because of that week long retreat getting to know Lady Wisdom and her 21 attributes.

10. The Hildreth Meiere Mosaic

A reminder of how art can transform a life. It was seeing this mosaic that sparked the desire inside of Margaret to become a mosaic artist.