Have I really not posted since last April?

It’s been a year. The girl finished middle school with her Principal’s Honor Roll K-8 intact, the only one in her class with that particular achievement. The boy made it through 6th grade.

The girl started high school at one of the IB schools in the local district. It has been going well. She got involved in drama right away, and that has given her a focus and a group of friends. She is doing well in her classes and likes most of her teachers. She performed in her first high school play. She will be taking the AP Human Geography exam next month. I’m impressed. She also did confirmation class this fall and was confirmed in the Presbyterian Church.

The boy started a new middle school at the neighborhood school. It is a 7-8 school, so he started with all the other 7th graders (and none of the 8th graders had been on campus last year, so the whole school was starting new in some ways.) About 6 weeks into the school year, he was moved into a new cohort. He said the biggest difference between the two groups is that the students in the new classes engage. There is a lot to unpack in that, but this probably isn’t the moment. He has made some school friends. He wishes he had friends who weren’t just school friends.

The school year started in person with mask mandates. Masks became optional last month. With a few exceptions, so far, mostly kids are wearing them and teachers are not.

The community college was in-person with masks in the Fall. It was good but challenging. There was a lot of attrition in attendance. With the Omicron surge, we started Spring semester via Zoom and moved to the classroom 6 weeks later. The mask mandate at the college has been extended through the end of the semester.

I have had a nice run of 6 years teaching British Literature as an adjunct. For the first time in those years a full-timer has asked to teach Brit Lit. I have enjoyed my niche, but sharing is good. The professor who wants the class is suggesting an every other year trade-off–which he doesn’t have to do–and the department chair is working on getting me good classes in the interim. I have the opportunity to teach a Distance Education Women’s Literature class in the fall. It will be some work, but it should be totally fun. I think I will also be teaching a dual enrollment English 101 at a nearby high school. I did that in Fall 2020 virtually and enjoyed it. I do enjoy high school seniors. This will be in person 4 days a week, one hour a day.

Computerguy is back at work fully in person for the last year. They have given no consideration to allowing people to work from home (If any employees have to be in person, all employees must. They used to use the same argument for why the computer guys had to wear button up shirts and ties every day.) Right now he is in Idaho visiting his parents. He will drive back their 2012, 53,000 mile Plug-in Prius for us. That will give us a reliable car and allow us to have our 2005 Prius for the girl to drive next year (!!!???!!!). I was telling our neighbor and remembering he and his wife coming over to meet the newborn baby girl. Wow!

I came over to the blog to write about the confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. I don’t have much to add to the discourse, but it makes me glad.

I guess that’s the last year in a nutshell. In some ways it was harder than the first year. There has been a lot of pivoting. It was easier to just hunker down. I continue to try and think of how we can come out of this different. I don’t just want to go back to “normal.” I don’t think “normal” was healthy. But I’m not sure what I am hoping.

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springtime talk

The boy is serious about his chess.

I managed to get my talk written yesterday afternoon and evening as my spouse and son talked computers and then played out the final match-up of the family chess tournament my son orchestrated. (His dad won, but the newly 12-year-old played an excellent game. If he didn’t occasionally miss something, he would win every time, I think.) Anyway, it doesn’t feel like anything super profound, butI like it well enough, so I thought I would go ahead and post it here. Some of it is verbatim what I said yesterday and a big chunk is me quoting Kristin’s blog which I will link instead of paste in here. It’s better with the photos anyway.

I love Spring. It has always been my favorite season, and not only because I have a spring birthday.
To me, springtime speaks of cool but not cold weather, possible rainy days, our green season, and bright blooming flowers. Also, my birthday.
If, like I did, you grew up watching Bambi, Springtime is the time for love, when all the animals are twitterpated.
In Chaucer’s medieval England, Spring is when folks “longen to goon on pilgrimages” to see the sainted St. Thomas a Becket at Canterbury Cathedral in the Canterbury Tales.
Symbolically in literature Spring is youth. Spring is youth. Summer is the prime of adulthood. Fall is middle aged. And winter is aging.
So springtime is green and blooming; it’s time to get out of the house; it’s time for love, and it’s the epitome of youth. But it’s more than that. In the Christian tradition, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, Spring is the time of the resurrection, and it reminds us every year that it is a time for resurrection and renewal. The date for Easter is determined by the first full moon after the vernal equinox, so Easter will always be in spring. When we celebrate the cycle of the year, the idea that what has died is now alive again, we also celebrate THE resurrection. I love Eastertide, this season of looking at the resurrection appearances of Jesus. He appears to Mary in the garden. Now there’s an spring image. Or at least it always has been for me. Enough so that Mary thinks he’s the gardener. We see Mary and Jesus among the plants and flowers as he speaks her name, and she recognizes who he is. Other resurrection appearances also feel like springtime moments: a walk on the road to Emmaus, breakfast on the beach, an outside gathering before he ascends. All of these are springtime moments: the disciples on the road to Emmaus see Jesus with new eyes, a new understanding. Peter is given a second chance in that breakfast on the beach. You denied me three times, now three times I will ask you if you love me and command you to feed my sheep. And just before the ascension, all of those listening are given a new mission, to go beyond their little group in Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and all the ends of the earth, sharing the good news and baptizing people into new life in Jesus’ name. Renewal for the whole earth. That is a springtime command if ever there was one. We need all of the seasons, but it is in Spring that renewal, new life, growth happens. As Jesus said earlier, “look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.” Spring is the time of new life so that fullness of life may come.
The resurrection appearances are certainly moments of Springtime, and each year they remind us of that ultimate truth, that God is more than death, that resurrection is possible. I think it can be helpful, while remembering the ultimate resurrection, to look for small resurrections, moments of renewal, moments of redemption wherever we are. I think of Peter raising Tabitha from the dead in Acts. Here is a woman who has done good her whole life, and Peter shows the power of God by raising her. I also think of Saul who becomes Paul and his conversion and redemption on the road to Damascus. There are resurrection stories all around us. When people are able to change their minds and see things a new way, that’s a resurrection story. When people are reconciled after being estranged, that’s a resurrection story. When we listen to one another and really love our neighbors, that’s a resurrection story.
There are also resurrection moments in Springtime in the natural world around us. Nature suggests the resurrection all the time. Butterflies are a symbol for us of the resurrection as they move from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. My blog friend Kristin tells this story about Spring and butterflies and resurrection. Nature in the Butterfly Garden, Bewitching and Terrifying.

And so we see resurrection and redemption in everyday life, in the butterflies emerging from the chrysalis, the snake saved from drowning that doesn’t eat the butterflies. The butterflies flying away to new life.
This is springtime: Resurrection appearances in the Bible, resurrection and redemption moments all around us, resurrection and redemption in the natural world.
In this year, Springtime seems particularly poignant. As we very slowly move from a year of winter, a year of lent, into what’s next, it really does feel like SPRING, all caps. As people are being vaccinated, as we slowly move into a new way of being outside and around one another, as life slowly moves forward after a year of minimal movement, spring seems to have an all new meaning, at least for me. But this isn’t a California spring, a few weeks of beautiful weather, green mountains, wild flowers and then summer is here. It may be more like a midwestern spring: one day it’s snowing and then another day green is peeking out of the ground and another day the frost hits again and finally there are sure signs that the trees are budding and frost may hit again, but it won’t keep spring from coming. Spring is coming. It may not be as swift as we would like. It may not be as easy as we would like. And it won’t look exactly like it did. But spring is coming, and we can say with the poet of the song of songs,
“for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.”
As we cautiously move forward, let us watch for spring and notice the moments of joy and redemption and resurrection all around us, and let us know that the time of singing will come.

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assignment: springtime

I was asked to speak at a women’s club tomorrow. The theme or topic is Springtime. At the time I said yes, I thought it was a great topic for this moment, but I haven’t had much chance to think about it, and I’m coming up a little blank.

The last time I did this was in November, and I was asked to talk about gratitude. I was finishing up covering for my colleagues sabbatical, so I wrote a sermon about gratitude and then revised it for the talk. Then I felt kind of bad because several of the women were from my church, so they heard more or less the same thing twice. So maybe this way is better. If I can come up with something.

I do love spring. I’m not sure here in California it has the impact that it does elsewhere, but it’s definitely our greenest season, and our most colorful one. I would like to be able to say, “Let’s all go outside and look around and breathe deeply of the spring air.” Alas that is not what they are looking for and the club is on a very cemented in city block.

My birthday is in Spring, so I have always had a fondness for that. My son’s birthday is also in Spring. In fact, it is today, and so I am skipping LiveStream worship leadership to help him celebrate his second Covid birthday, so I probably have about an hour before he wakes up to write what I can before the day is dedicated to him (and to chess, his choice of birthday activities). Nope. I finished that sentence and he woke up.

So… Spring. Time of renewal. This year spring seems especially renewing as we slowly work our way out of the deepest restrictions. Vaccines are offering us a new kind of spring. But it may not be a California Spring. It may be a midwestern spring (or at least what I understand a midwestern spring to be) where one day it’s snowing and then another day green is peeking out of the ground and another day the frost hits again and finally there are sure signs that the trees are budding and frost may hit again, but it won’t keep spring from coming.

And then we will be able to say with the poet, “for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land” (Song of Songs 2:11-12).

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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.

Posted in About Me, TV | 2 Comments

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 (https://www.livinglutheran.org/2020/06/a-faithful-witness/). 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.

Posted in About Me, Teaching, The Kids | 3 Comments