in-between times: beach, beer, bikes

It feels as if we are entering a time of in-between times. I have a sermon to write for Palm/Passion Sunday. Maybe that’s what I will write about: the in-between times.

This week is my spring break and the kids’ first week of 2 weeks. Computerguy took Monday off and we went to the beach. It felt completely ordinary and totally extraordinary. I’ve been going to the beach during Spring Break as long as I have lived in California. I have never seen a Southern California beach so uncrowded. There were people here and there, more closer to the pier, but once we put our things down, we had our entire stretch of beach to ourselves. It was a little surreal, like this other world of the Pandemic still exists in pockets even as daily things (grocery stores, gas stations) seem to be as bustling as ever.

The peace of the ocean came over me as I watched the waves and the birds. We never go to the beach as much as I long to; I get too caught up thinking about traffic and crowds and sand everywhere. I need to remember how much it is worth all of that to just be at the beach. The kids had a ball. They got all the way in and played in the waves and the surf. And then they froze.


We finished the day by finding a deli for a late lunch. We were going to get our sandwiches take out and eat in the car or go back to the beach for a picnic, but the place had a lovely little patio that was completely empty, so we decided to eat there which meant I could order a beer with my sandwich. It’s a funny little thing. I don’t much buy beer to drink at home, but I love to get a beer from a tap when I go out for a casual meal. We hadn’t eaten a meal on the premises of a restaurant in over a year. So we sat on the patio and ate our delicious sandwiches (and tomato soup for the boy) and I drank my beer and slowly people came in, but everyone was cautious and finding tables as far from others as possible (and they were already widely spread out). Without being a big deal, it felt really good.


We started heading home and decided to stop for ice cream. It was delicious. Then we drove home. We hit some traffic, but it wasn’t too bad. And so. A really nice day.

We dusted off the bike rack and took our bikes to the beach, but we never got to them, so I left them on the car and on Wednesday the kids and I took them to a riding trail. It was a really nice trail along the train route more or less (Pacific Electric Trail). I enjoyed just riding the trail more than the kids did, though. The girl wants “to ride to some place,” not just ride to ride. I may check it out again some afternoon on my own.


On the way to the bike trail, we got the call that the girl had been accepted into the high school program we were hoping for. It was kind of fun, taking the call on the car’s bluetooth with her sitting right next to me. The trail was fairly close to the school, so we drove by on the way home, and then drove from there to the boy’s new school (for which I have formally pre-enrolled him) which is close to our house. They… look like schools. If all goes as it seems to be going, we will have a Hawk and a Cougar this fall.

Finally, yesterday the kids and I picked my mom up and went out for ice cream. For her first outing in a year without having to quarantine for 14 days after, I think my mom would have liked to do a little more (go shopping), but our time was limited and I wanted the kids to come. It was nice. And again, it felt like an in-between sort of moment. We picked her up, got ice-cream, but had to sit outside. Then it got cold and we ended up sitting in the car. The nice thing is, I can take her shopping next week. And starting next week, I will be able to go in to the building, up to her room. And we’ll be able to bring her to church on Easter. And then we can do something the next week and the next. And maybe even the week after that. This makes me glad. The hardest part of the year for me was that we had brought my mom to San Bernardino, but we couldn’t actually do anything with her. Now we can.

So we make our way through. We’re not back to anything, but we are on to what’s next. We’ll see how it goes.

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one year later

Sometimes the kids say to me, “remember when we thought we just had an extra week of Spring Break?”

I’m not sure I have a lot to say on this anniversary, but, as I have been doing occasionally, I wanted to note it for later.

My mom has been fully vaccinated for a month, but nothing has changed with the assisted living place. I try to visit her weekly behind the plexiglass. They have a meeting with the licensing folks this coming Thursday and are hoping things will begin to open up.

I’ve been vaccinated thanks to the community college job. Yet the fall semester is still planned to be virtual for me. Computerguy has had his first dose thanks to his job with the superintendent of schools office. They are talking about trying to bring people back to the office because “if teachers are back in the classrooms we should all go back to work” which seems like the same logic they used to use that forced him to wear a button-up shirt and tie while sitting at his computer because “the people who work with people have to wear button-up shirts and ties.” I am longing to be back in the classroom, but he is unenthusiastic about going back to the office. He has enjoyed working from home.

The elementary students at the kids’ school have gone back hybrid. The middle schoolers will go back 2 days-a-week after Spring Break. The girl is fine with the idea. The boy is unsure. He, like his dad, kind of likes school from home, especially since he and his friends have begun to hang out on GoogleHangouts and playing games. Last summer, before any of them had connected on Google, he was having a hard time.

On the same day above, my colleague and I made the decision to cancel church for Sunday. We were among the few who canceled that first week. Most waited until the next week. None of us knew what was happening or what we should do. Now we’ve been recording worship for a year and are wondering if we can or should meet outside on Easter.

There are also other things moving forward. Our kids have been at a charter school since kindergarten, but this year that changes. We’ve entered the girl child into a lottery for the local school district high school program we’d like her to get into. I have no idea the chances of her making it. We’re planning to enroll the boy child in the neighborhood school. We would have done so this year because he has been struggling with the dual immersion aspect of the charter school, but with the pandemic, we and he decided less change was better.

We’re working on fixing up bicycles so we all have something to ride. We brought my mom’s bicycle back from Arizona for the girl. We’re hoping to get out on them regularly.

I have no great thoughts about this year. We’ve been living through it. We will remember it. And since the kids can’t get vaccinated, I’m not even sure how much will change how quickly.

This Lent (our second year of Lent), I am receiving a word each day with the invitation to write a 3-line-poem. As I check email in the morning, when I get to the one with the word, I find my page in my journal and write what comes to me. I’m good at working out syllables, so I am sticking with the 5/7/5 format. Aside from that, I am not spending the suggested time reflecting and questioning; I’m simply writing what comes to me in the moment. A few days ago, the word was “Imagine.”

Can we imagine
What comes next? The first embrace.
Singing for great joy.

And now I head off to grade close readings on Romantic Poetry.

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star words and inaugurations

We did star words just this week. My word is celebration. I liked it from the moment I heard it. I will have a half-century birthday this year, so celebration seems appropriate (not sure whether we will be in pandemic mode or not at that point, but I will still celebrate).

And then I thought of the vaccines people are getting, and thought of the celebrations we will be having. They might be subdued. For a time, we might return to worship, but outside and masked without singing. But it will still be a celebration. I am not a hugger; I never really learned how, of Northern European stock that I am, but I look forward to the moment when I can hug someone who is not my spouse or child (and I am grateful to have been able to hug my spouse and children throughout the pandemic).

And I think of the other side of celebration: lamentation. We will celebrate, but we will also lament.

And that brings me to today’s celebration. That Biden and Harris began their celebration with a time for lament spoke volumes. I thought the brief ceremony on the mall was achingly lovely*. And I was touched that President Biden included a moment for lament in the inaugural speech (even if it seemed shorter than the “count to ten or last as long as you possibly can” I advise lay readers when they are praying and offer a moment for silence).

So President Biden is a man who has known deep grief and come through it while never forgetting it. And I think Vice President Harris has as well. And one of the deep connections between them is grief over Beau Biden, son of one and dear friend and colleague of the other. That’s not something to be dismissed.

So we finally are allowed to lament, together.

Meanwhile, there is so much celebration. I was a Warren supporter and dismissed Biden back in ’88 (my senior year of high school). But I have come to believe that he is the right man for the right time. I think he is the only one who could have actually gotten elected, an ideal that I find truly repugnant. The elderly white man is the only electable candidate. But he has become more than that for me. He has bided his time. He accepted the vice presidency and was humbly second to a black man his children’s age. He put his differences with Harris aside (he was hurt that his son’s friend could be so hard on him in the primaries) and chose her not as a “name only” candidate, but as a partner. He is married to an educator with a doctoral degree who will continue to teach in the same venue in which I teach, and he has chosen a public school educator with real public school experience as secretary of education (yes this matters to me and Betsy De Vos doesn’t even count, but I was disappointed in Obama’s Ed Secretary choice). I have come to believe he is a good man who is doing what he thinks is right for the country. His is all in with his very soul.

Side note, when the first religious figure was a priest, I told any daughter to expect more Roman Catholics in positions like that because we hadn’t had a Catholic president since… I started going back through the administrations in my head: Trump, obviously not. Obama UCC. Bush Methodist with evangelical tendencies. Clinton Baptist. Bush Sr Episcopalian. Reagan Presbyterian. Carter Baptist… Okay, I didn’t really get that far when it dawned on me. I knew the answer. No one has been Catholic since JFK. The largest Christian denomination in the US, and we have not had a Catholic president since 1963. Biden is only the second (and he is, I believe the one;y Catholic VP). The Supreme Court is oddly weighted Catholic (and secondly Jewish) with Gorsuch a raised-catholic-attends -his-wife’s-episcopal-church slight outlier. The Speaker of the House (who has not gotten nearly the accolades I think she should for both her political acumen and for being the first and only female speaker of the house) is Roman Catholic. So it is fascinating that the top slot has not been. And now he is, and it’s really not something that is high in the conversation. But I digress (you can see what interests me).

(I’m still a Warren supporter.)

Also today we saw the first Latinx Supreme Court Justice swear in the first Female, first black, first South Asian Vice President who is from California!! We haven’t had a Californian as VP since the unfortunate Nixon. So many of our national politicians still come from New England or as far west as all of Chicago, Illinois. It’s nice to represent. This is a short paragraph, but I cannot even put into words what Harris’s inauguration means. I wept quietly throughout the whole ceremony, but especially about this.

We also saw a changing of the guard in the senate. Vice President Kamala Harris swore in the first Jewish and first black senators from Georgia and the first Latinx senator from California. I celebrate Ossoff and the Rev. Dr. Warnock with all my heart. I will celebrate Alex Padilla for who he is: the first Latinx senator from California (long overdue), and from Southern California at that, a surprisingly rare thing for California politicians these days (though both Nixon and Reagan were So Cal folks). It is no way on Padilla that I am disappointed that the male governor of California chose him. But… two women have been representing the state of California in the Senate since 1992, and less than a quarter of the senators are women. I do not believe for a minute that there was no qualified Latina he could have chosen. Again, it’s not Padilla’s fault that he is not a woman and I think he’s great. I’m just disappointed. But I am still celebrating who he is and that Senator McConnell–who I believe has a long list of sins of omission regarding legislation and a Supreme Court justice nomination he left sitting on his desk–will be the minority leader.

Finally, the celebration was capped by the poet. Wow! I am still in awe. Her poetics were beautiful: subtle rhyme, word play, sound devices, as well as content and theme. Her performance was smooth and sophisticated and powerful. It was stunning.

Finally, my grandmother’s birthday was January 20, 1923 (just over a year younger than Betty White). She was a lifelong politically active Democrat. She gave to politicians (including Hillary Clinton) and rode on campaign busses and was part of the process. In her later years, she opened up her garage as a polling place. I think she would have been glad about today’s celebrations on her 98th birthday.

I look forward to celebration this year, and I have claimed celebration today. What a day it was. In a historical year, unprecedented in so many sorrowful ways, this day was unprecedented in so many celebratory ways. Let us take a moment of celebration.

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Epiphany. The Magi make it to the child Jesus, but not before stopping by and seeing Herod. Herod, a leader terrified of losing power. This year, Epiphany may be more about Herod than about the Magi or the baby.

Last night, I went to sleep hopeful but not particularly optimistic about Georgia. I woke up to great news. And then… (doesn’t negate the great work of Georgia, though.)

I don’t have a lot to say about today, but I wanted to acknowledge it. It’s not everyday there is a coup attempt, a president inciting insurrection.

I’ve been reading Humankind: A Hopeful History by Dutch historian Rutger Bregman. I became intrigued by him when I read the story with which he opens the book, “The Real Lord of the Flies” about boys shipwrecked on an Island who formed a community and survived together for over a year. The story was powerful for me because I found Lord of the Flies so disturbing. It may be the most disturbing book I have read; it is certainly the most disturbing book I *had* to read for school. I always made a different text choice when I became a tenth grade teacher at that same school. The idea that shipwrecked boys would not revert to savagery was hopeful to me, so I pre-ordered Bregman’s book.

For me, it’s a pretty dense book. It is historical and philosophical, and scientific, and sociological. My background in all those things is scattered at best. But I’m learning. There is a section on evolution of Homo Sapiens, and I have realized I know next to nothing about evolution. I attended a public high school (I mean, we had to read Lord of the Flies), but the community was largely LDS, SDA, RC, and various types of Evangelicals. My biology teacher was LDS. He prefaced the chapter on evolution by saying, “I have to teach this. You have to take a test. That is all.” I don’t remember any of it. At the state university, evolution was a given, but I took quirky niche science classes (“The Cosmos Factory,” “Entomology,” a really interesting class and a field in which the school is world renowned, but I don’t think we learned the evolution of insects, though we may have), and never really learned it. So, now I am intrigued to learn more, though I’m not sure where to start.

Humankind is a good book, and I am enjoying it, but even it admits that Power Corrupts and we have let Capitalism run amok. Changing people’s perceptions of how humans are at the core is a difficult proposition. In my own denomination we ostensibly believe in the depravity of humankind. That I never quite have makes me naive at best and probably heretical.

While I was reading Humankind for study, my reserved copy of the prequel to The Hunger Games became available on the library app (I love Libby, the library app), so I read it for… pleasure? I was intrigued, this story of the making of the monster Coriolanus Snow. I almost stopped reading. I was much more disturbed by this book than I was by the trilogy when I read it a decade (more or less?) ago. (So why am I still more disturbed by Lord of the Flies? I think because Hunger Games examines consequences and Lord of the Flies has none, and also Lord of the Flies is “realistic” where hunger games is dystopian fantasy.) So here is a book that looks at the worst of us. At least in the trilogy we saw idealism and love and consternation and consequences and change and sorrow. It was the story of the creation of an ambiguous, ambivalent hero. Nothing about it was okay. In this book, Snow is chilling and we see him become moreso. It is the story of the creation of a villain. So.

So the question for today seems to be about humanity. Who are we at our core? I don’t know these days, but this I believe, whatever I bring as a person, I am beloved. Grace abounds, and we are God’s beloved children. All of us.

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new year, new day, new post, new shows

Christmas Eve Dinner with my brother and his wife.

Here is how I finished our annual family Holiday letter:

So… it’s been a year. It’s been different, but easier for us than for many. We are healthy and together and muddling through somehow. We rejoice and celebrate the new year and the light at the end of the tunnel that we are now seeing (even if it seems to be a long tunnel).

This is what I said about myself earlier in the letter:

This fall semester I taught my regular Brit Lit class as well as a college comp class for High School students. I remembered how much I love teaching high school seniors. I also spent 3 months stretching myself as point person (lead pastor of sorts) at church while my colleague was on sabbatical. It was a good experience AND I’m glad to have her back.

So it was a really busy fall even though all classes and all meetings were from the comfort of my own home via Zoom. I loved it all, though it was probably a bit too much. I didn’t blog (though I wrote a lot of sermons); I didn’t exercise; I didn’t eat healthfully. I thought I would be able to, but time just slipped away. So if I have a hope–no resolve–for the new year, it is to try to walk and be a bit more healthful in my habits (so what else is new)?

I did manage to continue to watch television in the background as I worked on computer stuff. This was my AppleTV+ Fall. In spite of being intrigued about Dickinson since last January, I had resisted the pull and cost of yet-another-streaming-service. And then came Ted Lasso. My friend started singing its praises to me, and I think she wanted someone to talk with about it. Ted Lasso. Sheesh. It has no right to be as good as it is. It is as everyone says: it is sweet and funny and touching. It made me both laugh and cry. More than once. It quoted Anne LaMott and used A Wrinkle in Time as a plot point, referenced 80s films and Broadway Musicals. Characters one despises at the beginning become sympathetic. There is grace and redemption. I watched it straight through twice. Who would have thought?

So then, I turned to Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet. It is a reflection on the creative process with nerdy programmers as its main characters. It presents the world of gaming and touches on social media and YouTube influencers and the whole milieu. I love the female programmer who has to create the vision of the male creator. I like the glimpses it gives me into a world in which my 11-year-old dwells.

And finally I turned to Dickinson. It is bonkers, really utterly bonkers, but it is great. Television critic and podcaster Kathryn Van Arandonk says it was made for her. Well, it could have been made for me as well. Maybe not quite as much as Ted Lasso (sports show!!??!!) was made for me, but made for me nevertheless. So maybe made for every English Academic who loves television. It is a contemporary young adult show using the characters of Emily Dickinson and her world and the themes of her poetry and death rides in a carriage (“Because I could not stop for death / he kindly stopped for me”) and there is a human-sized CGI bee. It does make me remember how much I love ED. My favorite undergrad class–the only one for which I earned an A+–was the Dickinson class, and she was one of two poets we were assigned for Master’s Exams (ED and Philip Larkin, the latter has stood me in good stead teaching, but Dickinson is just the best). Dickinson season 2 premieres next week. I expect it will be bonkers, and I expect I will love it.

I’m enjoying a little time between semesters. Church remains busy, but the lull in school is nice, and the kids still having another week is sweet. Then I get one more week after they go back, so I can pretty much ignore my syllabus, a Learning Management System etc. until then. I am teaching just Brit Lit II, and I will use the textbook I’ve used the last several years, so mostly it just needs to be updated for this term. We will be online again with Emergency Remote Instruction (they may be calling it something else by now, but the idea is these are Face-to-Face classes and not online or hybrid offerings, but will happen online), and the administration is asking faculty to teach them as synchronous Zoom courses at the times listed in the schedule. Last term I let the students choose to discuss in Zoom or via discussion boards. Not sure what the parameters the administration is requesting will allow for in that flexibility which the students found really helpful, but the directive is emanating from student requests for more face to face interactions and instruction.

That’s probably plenty for now. Happy New Year on this 8th day of Christmas.

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7 on sunday

  1. I finished Star Trek Voyager. I liked it well enough. I think it’s a solid science fiction show. I kind of liked it better before it became the 7 of 9 show, but she grew on me.
  2. I realized if I wanted to be a Star Trek completist (and who doesn’t want to be a Star Trek completist?), I would have to actually watch The Original Series. I have seen some of the better-known episodes (The Cage, City on the Edge of Forever, the Trouble with Tribbles, Mirror Mirror), but not the majority of them. So I’m on episode three and wondering if I can enjoy it as an artifact of its time with some solid science fiction stories, or if I’m going to have to give up the dream. (Will also need to watch The Animated Series, but I am somehow more intrigued by that one).
  3. Reluctant to let Voyager finish, I watched the series Sweet Magnolias on Netflix before I watched the last few Voyagers. I understand that this wouldn’t be everyone’s glass of sweet tea, but I liked it a lot. I appreciated how they gave different characters’ perspectives. One actually feels for the young, pregnant “home-wrecker,” and the “mean girl” is absolutely complicated. They also seem to get mainline church right. The church everyone attends is pastored by a young black woman who is everything a pastor should be. They come back to the church throughout the 10 episodes and in the final episode the pastor finds and talks to the boy everyone is looking for and she calls his mother. They don’t name a denomination that I noticed, but it felt Lutheran to me–though that seems odd in the south, I think of Baptist or Episcopalian–and a google search shows that the Lutherans have indeed claimed it ( In the first episode the church scene shook me because everyone was gathered together and hugging one another and shaking the pastor’s hand on the way out. I reconciled myself to it, but it still made me wistful.
  4. We are continuing to record our worship services. My colleague is on vacation. I preached for today and will preach for next week. This is usually “hymn sing” week, but we couldn’t get anything together for that, so I preached and a retired pastor and I celebrated communion (standing at opposite ends of the table with 2 loaves and 2 cups). I’m not sure how I feel about “virtual” communion, but we had done it before and then skipped a month and people had asked for it. (Sunday Worship)
  5. During “Hymn Sing” week, we usually sing a couple of patriotic songs. I tried to figure out how to honor that this year. I couldn’t bring myself to use “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies” this year, so I asked our music director to sing “Mine Eyes have Seen the Glory,” a hymn we usually eschew, and then I talked about it in the sermon. I have received one positive comment, but mostly I’m hearing silence. I have to admit that I am fond of the song (from my childhood) and I know there are people who miss it. There are also people who would be glad to never hear it again and are annoyed that it made it into the Glory to God hymnal (I believe it was not in the previous hymnal). And, in fact, I asked the music director to sing it from the hymnal as a visual statement. We’ll see if I get pushback from people who generally like me a lot. He finished the service with “This Is my Song.”
  6. We’ve had a “quiet” 4th of July weekend. Yesterday we made sausages and watched the 1996 Independence Day film and went outside to watch fireworks from our cul-de-sac. For a year when there were no official fireworks, there were plenty to see and hear. So it wasn’t really “quiet.” My son came out at 10:30 or so unable to sleep for the noise, so we watched an episode of Floor Is Lava as a mindless distraction. By the time it was over things had somewhat quieted down.
  7. I’m taking Equity 101 through a program for Community College instructors. It’s an online course, and it’s really reflective and thoughtful. I appreciate how it is organized. It’s helping me think through my own practices and the places I have been reluctant to engage, particularly in composition courses.

Enough for now. I hope everyone is staying sane as we find ourselves in month 4 of the Time of CoVid.

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quarantine update (mostly for me)

Yesterday was my 49th birthday. It was surprisingly busy. I got up early and wrote a sermon and then went to the church to record it (4 of us distancing in a sanctuary meant for something like 600). The others left, and I preached to our young adult videographer. He liked my message. I picked up lunch for Computerguy and me from a local Mexican place (kids were still asleep. It’s been strange times.) He took his lunch back into the office and got back to work. I sat at the table and ate alone. (This sounds sad. It really wasn’t.) The kids woke up eventually and offered me very sweet birthday wishes. The girl had drama class and we did piano lessons. Then the boy and I made ribs. The kids made a cake. When the ribs were finished I cooked steaks. We had dinner and the girl had to go off to a special evening class meeting. After her class was over, we had cake and I opened cards. I got lovely text messages and Facebook messages throughout the day, and my friend from Tennessee called as she always does. It was a good day, but it was an odd day. Everyone was busy with their own stuff. Sunday, Mother’s Day, was much more focused on me. A Tuesday is still a Tuesday.

My mom continues in assisted living. She has grown tired of not going out, not seeing us. We did take over a gift for Mother’s Day and saw her through a window, darkly. This is the hardest thing for me. Photos below: My kids and my mom on Monday. My brother and me and our mom many years ago.

Today is my last class day for the Spring semester. Given issues of accessibility for students and the nature of our emergency online instruction, I have tried to be super flexible. I’ve offered Zoom meetings every class time, but I have also offered written discussion boards and made them either/or. There is a small group of students who have shown up every class. There are a few other students who have floated between Zoom and discussion board classes. We had 3 presentations that needed to be done, and all of the involved students were able to make it to Zoom on those days. I recorded those presentations, and other students watched and commented. While I’ve really appreciated the involvement of my little group of Zoomers, I’ve been impressed with the students who have diligently shown up on the discussion boards as well.

For this one day, I am attempting to recreate my in-class final day of the semester. On the last day, I ask the students to choose one piece from the semester to read aloud to the class. I don’t ask them to explain themselves, just to read. If someone chooses the same piece as someone else, they are welcome to read the same piece. If it’s worth reading once, it’s worth reading as many times as it’s chosen. The students don’t tend to take me up on that. If someone else reads their piece, they choose a new one. Mostly, with 2000 pages of text, they don’t pick the same pieces. Many read poems, some read excerpts from novels or plays. It’s always fascinating to see what they choose. When they finish, I offer them the opportunity to comment on the pieces and, if they wish, to explain why they chose their piece. I am encouraging students to come join the Zoom, but I have also set up a discussion board with a record function for them to record themselves if they prefer. I’m also offering a place on the final exam to fulfill this requirement if they were not able to do it in another why. I’m trying to take all situations in account.

Some students have been sporadic, and I am concerned about them. At least one student is thriving in a way they weren’t before. They had trouble making it to class, but they are making it to every written discussion board. We have been told we will continue to be online in the fall. Knowing it ahead of time and not transitioning suddenly to online learning, I am wondering how to shape the course. I am not sure I can sustain a double class, and I’m not sure how the Zoom group will work when the students haven’t lived in to the routine of circle discussions every day in my class. I’m also finding a discussion board every class day + discussions for group activities + regular discussion boards we were already doing is way too much. If I teach it as a true online course, I would limit that considerably. However, it’s still not a true online course. It’s a face-to-face class being taught online in emergency circumstances. I’m not sure how to parse that, but I have a summer to work it out.

One aspect of this that is satisfying to me, my spouse is working from home in the same office and he is enjoying listening in on my classes.

The kids are doing okay. Their school is giving them work, but not overdoing it. They have Zoom meetings a couple times a week. Mostly they’re working on their own. The girl is managing her schoolwork herself, and we’re having her do online drama class some weeks. The Girl Scouts are trying to work on some online badges. The boy needs a little more parental supervision. A fun part of this is the book his class is reading is one that was given to me by a student many years ago, and we are enjoying reading it together. He’s also become very interested in cooking “from scratch.” So that’s been fun to watch and support and encourage.

I suppose that’s enough for now.

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reading challenge

At the beginning of this year, I challenged myself, for my study reading, to read only books I had already purchased on my Kindle App, but had never actually read or finished.

Click book for Howard Merritt’s website

I began with Carol Howard Merritt’s Healing Spiritual Wounds. I found it difficult to get through; it made me so sad. The amount of hurt inflicted in the name of Evangelical Christianity hurts my heart. While I’m trying, especially in these times, not to minimize anyone’s pain, especially my own, it made me grateful for my parents, and that I came out relatively unscathed. I appreciated Howard Merritt’s offering of herself and her own pain and healing. I appreciate knowing that healing is possible, even when the pain is great. I appreciated the stories and the suggestions. Had I read it 20 years sooner (long before it was written), it might have been a lifeline. As it is, I have done much of my own work and found a lot of healing in the last decade, and so it served as more of a reminder for myself and for others with whom I come in contact.

Once I finished that book, I added a layer to my challenge. I realized that I read almost exclusively books by women; therefore, I decided to try to make every other book a book by a male author.

Click book for the Center for Courage and Renewal website

Last year, my friend and colleague discovered that I had never read Parker Palmer (I’ve heard him interviewed on On Being and such, but never sat down and read him), so she sent me a Kindle copy of The Courage to Teach since I’m a teacher. I struggled through the first half of it. The copyright is 1998. I became a teacher in the humanities in Southern California in 1994. What seemed innovative and daring and contradictory to established norms to him seemed natural and obvious to me. It also felt a little condescending. By the time I got to the second half, I found myself much more interested. Maybe I just had to get used to his voice. Maybe I had to let him get through his defense of his thesis to the real meat of his experience. I highlighted a fair amount of stuff in the second half and have quoted from it in a sermon. There are definitely good bits, and it’s a worthwhile read. Even the first half is a good reminder of how some of education was and still is.

I had a similar experience with Borg, but I think I’ll save that for next time. Next post: Enuma Okoro Reluctant Pilgrim (a cheat. It was not on my Kindle. I bought it to read.) and Marcus Borg: The Heart of Christianity.

Posted in About Me, Books, Church, Teaching | 2 Comments

a record, for me, of these days

Spring Break was approaching. We had lots of plans. My mom was moving from Arizona into an assisted living residence near me. My uncle would bring a load of things on Saturday. We would take my kids out of school a day early before Spring Break and bring my mom over the following Friday. We could spend the intervening week preparing the room, and since the kids would be on Spring Break, we’d have lots of time to visit and hang out and help her get used to being in a new place.

3/11 We were hearing talk of virus and quarantine. On Wednesday, we talked in our worship committee about ways to gather safely, about how we would celebrate communion the next time we celebrated (not until April 5).

3/13 On Friday, we threw out all our carefully thought out plans and cancelled Sunday. Also on Friday, we got notification from the school that the students would not go back until after Spring break (that date keeps getting moved further into the future). And on Friday I learned that my community college students would get an extra week of Spring break as teachers prepared to move classes online.

3/14 On Saturday, my uncle came and we did move my mom’s furniture in. I borrowed a 15-year-old from church to help. The facility had just started quarantine procedure: they took our temps and we filled out a form. 15 probably shouldn’t have been allowed (officially no one under 18 was supposed to come in).

3/15 Everything moved so quickly that we didn’t have anything in place for Sunday. I wrote a note that was sent out, offering streaming services from other communities. It was an odd Sunday morning. My colleague and I met at the church, to be there in case anyone didn’t get word we were cancelling. My daughter spent Sunday night at her friend’s house to celebrate the friend’s 13th birthday. We didn’t fully understand what was going on.

3/16 On Monday, I started getting worried about being able to bring my mom from Arizona. I called my aunt who was with her and I called the assisted living facility, and we moved things up from Friday to Tuesday.

3/17 The kids and I didn’t go to Arizona but my aunt, my uncle, and their cousin drove my mom over. My aunt and I were allowed to go in and help her get settled. We saw my mom Tuesday and again Wednesday morning, they reluctantly let us go in. That was the last time I have seen my mom in person, but we’ve been FaceTiming and texting.

3/19 My spouse had been going in to work every day. On Thursday, he finally got his contract to work mostly from home. Out of their department of 25, they have 5 going in each day, staggered so no one shares offices. My spouse’s office day is Friday.

Since then, we’ve grown used to our quarantine life. The girl has watched a lot of TV and listened to a lot of podcasts. The boy has played a lot of FortNite. They’ve played MineCraft together and several games of monopoly. The girl has baked cupcakes. The boy has made hamburgers and chocolate chip cookies. They’ve both moved naturally to night owl hours, so I have the quiet of the morning to myself. My spouse comes in to our office here at 7:30 and emerges around 5 (coming out to grab breakfast and lunch). We are figuring out how to share the home office (mostly I’ve moved my stuff to the other room. That may change on Monday when I have a scheduled class time.) My spouse has picked up take out. We’ve each gone shopping, sparingly, carefully. We’ve had Zoom meetings, Circle and Session. It works better, I think, for the chit chat catching up meeting than for the trying-to-make-good-and-hard-decisions meeting, but we got through. I’ve been part of recording a couple of videos for worship. The first time we sat together in the chancel. The second time we stayed several feet away from one another. I’ve reluctantly restructured my class to online discussions. I will offer Zoom for students who wish to check in that way, but it’s too difficult (and privileged) to simply move what we once did in a circle in the classroom to squares on the computer screen.

We are privileged. We have devices and good internet. We tend to be homebodies anyway. The stores still have food (empty ramen shelves, empty TP/Paper towel/Napkin shelves). I had bought a pack of TP because we were running low a week or so before the hoarding began. My mom is safe and being well-cared-for even if this isn’t the ideal way we would have moved her. I have a robust Zoom account thanks to the college. I’m teaching just one 200-level class with students who are at the top of the CC game so to speak.

I feel a little odd even posting this. We are in this bubble right now as we continue to live in the poorest large city in the US. The church is working on keeping the food closet going without endangering 75-year-old volunteers. We’re trying to pay our childcare staff though the center is closed. We’re trying to keep faith with our community from our homes. I don’t know. It feels a little desperate and yet my little family is tucked away and glad. That might change when we start to do school of some sort, but my kids are old enough and I am me enough that we don’t have these pretty scheduled charts about how we’re moving through our days. For now, we’re pretty much playing it by ear and savoring this time alone together.

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I watched a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was in high school and college over its first run. My friends were geeky sci-fi folks. We gathered and watched it faithfully. Deep Space 9 premiered January my last year of college. I’m sure we watched it that year, but I never followed up. I moved on. I lived with non sci-fi roommates. And it didn’t totally capture me. Also, I was intrigued by Babylon 5 which in one of those weird TV convergences was a space station based show that premiered the same time.

One of the things I liked about Babylon 5 was that it was not disdainful of religion. It allowed people to have faith and ritual, both humans and aliens alike. It didn’t try to show how all religion was primitive.

After Star Trek being peripheral to me for a long time, I have slowly eased back into it. I’ve tried showing my family Next Generation episodes with less than enthusiastic response, but I have been watching Discovery and really enjoying it. So listening to TV podcasts (ATV PodCast Pilot: ST:TNG vs. ST:DS9) and such made me intrigued regarding Deep Space Nine.

I had always kind of assumed I had more or less watched it, but as I began to actually watch it a few months back, I realized I never had. I think I’d watched just that first season and maybe 2 or 3 additional episodes along the way. I have a vague memory of trying to watch some in the final season and being completely lost (vague memories of Odo and a swamp or something). I gave up trying to finish it out.

This is such an intriguing complex show, that I really couldn’t just dip into it. Watching it from the beginning, I began to understand why it is the critically acclaimed one. It has character arcs and story arcs; people change and grow and big stories and small stories get told. One of the most fascinating things to me about the final season was how many one-off episodes there were. In the old days of TV, seasons had almost 30 episodes (and that was a short season) and so, in the middle of this story of war, there were some more or less standalone sci-fi episodes like holographic baseball and section 31 episodes, cult leaders and Ferengi culture episodes. They barely moved the greater story forward. I enjoyed them, but I also found myself getting impatient for the main story.

I had heard a lot about the show over the years Spoilers ahead–
(Worf joins the cast. Worf marries Dax. Dax dies. Sisko becomes The Emissary. Jake gets tall.)

Most of those details made sense, but I had no idea what it meant that Sisko became the emissary. It turns out, Deep Space Nine incorporates faith every bit as much as Babylon 5 did. The earthlings might not be religious, but it does not disdain Kira’s faith as a religious adherent. It shows both faithful and hypocritical faith leaders. It shows the discomfort the humanistic StarFleet has with ideas of faith and the way Sisko ends up embracing his role. It offers possibilities for what faith and religion mean. It’s really thoughtful with the way it handles this part of human existence. It is the first Star Trek series to be developed without the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself (Gene Roddenberry) who held humanist values very deeply and offered a hopeful and positive vision of the future, but seems to have had a post-religious world view. Grappling with the idea that even advanced civilizations hold on to mystery and faith was what appealed to me about Babylon 5, and, it turns out, one of the lovely elements of Deep Space 9.

A few other thoughts:

  • I kind of hated the Keiko becomes the teacher storyline. It felt regressive. I was glad when they ended it and let her be the botanist that she was.
  • Some of the Ferengi stories got tedious, but I liked what they did with Rom and Nog.
  • I thought having Deep Space 9 always remain a Bajoran station was brilliant. Having Star Fleet folks interacting with other people who were ongoing characters and relationships and not the alien-of-the-week allowed it to be really interesting.
  • I loved Dax. I loved Dax from those first few episodes I saw in 1993. I was waiting for them to kill Jadzia.
  • I always loved Worf, so it was fun to have him come in and I liked the continuation of the Klingon story from Next Gen.
  • I really got to love Kira as she developed through the series though I did not love her with Odo.
  • Julian and Miles’ friendship was pretty great.

I’m sure there is more to say, but I need to log off.

Live long and prosper (they kind of left the Vulcans out of DS9. They are back strongly in Discovery. I’ve watched 2 episodes of Picard but finished DS9 instead of watching the rest of that. I supposed it’s next, though I am also interested in dipping back into Babylon 5).

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