As a faculty member, I’ve always loved graduations. It’s the last bastion of pomp and circumstance in our regular world. It’s the last vestiges of historical (European) scholarly life, where the gowns were the uniform of the scholar. By showing up and robing up we mark the occasion as important, we tell the students that they matter.

Because of my niche, teaching the British Literature survey, I get to have students who are at the sophomore level, many of whom do actually graduate as they transfer and some of whom walk at graduation. I had about 8 students whom I had taught for 2 semesters graduate last night. One of them was the reason I had pushed myself to go to the ceremony. I had just written him a letter of recommendation for a transfer scholarship, and he said in his email, “maybe I’ll see you at graduation.” I had wanted to go in past years, but we had always had church camp over this weekend and I hadn’t pushed it. Church camp got moved, Jack said, “maybe I’ll see you,” so I went. And he had a thank you card to give me.

I was sitting with a couple of English faculty members. My department chair teaches all composition and he had very few students graduate, but when he did, he called out to them with pride, and for one young person he jumped out of his spot to greet her on the stage (chancel?).

Selfie getting ready

When I received my Ph.D., my friend Jim gave me his robe. He was a retired community college teacher from Canada who came to California to live by the beach and finish his Ph.D. He graduated the year before I did. He really wanted the regalia (UC Blue instead of rented black), but would likely never need it again. He justified getting it by passing it on to me with the idea that I would probably be involved in graduations in the future and would wear it again. I finally was and did last night.

Sunday morning at the lectern

The funny thing is, and neither Jim nor I had any idea about this, I wear the gown a lot more often than once a year at a graduation. Because along with graduation ceremonies, there’s one more place the historic academic garb hold sway, and that is the reformed churches. When the reformation was happening, the clerics chose academic garb as their ministerial robes because it didn’t set them apart as priests. In mainline churches we wear robes on the chancel not to set ourselves apart, but to mark the occasion, to show that it matters, to note the sacredness of the function and the moment, and, particularly as women, to not call attention to ourselves and what-we-are-wearing. When I was commissioned as a pastor, I was given a simple white robe that I wear more often, bit there are times I pull out my UC Blue Geneva Gown with dark blue Ph.D. stripes. And I love every minute of it.

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gratitude post 3 days 5-11

day five: a song I am thankful for

This is where I got stuck, trying to find the perfect song. So. There is no such thing, but a couple youth were asking each other their favorite church songs last week and “Gather Us In” and “Lord of the Dance” were their answers, and that makes me pretty happy.

day six: a place I’m thankful for

A week ago, I went “up the hill” to have lunch with my friend who stood with me in my wedding. We haven’t gone up to Lake Arrowhead for awhile, especially to the village area (we camp there with church on Memorial Day weekend and CG’s friends Labor Day weekend), especially in the fall, and I was reminded of its loveliness so close to where we live. We ate lunch overlooking the lake, and it was beautiful and peaceful. It was a Friday and it was busy but not weekend busy. Computerguy and I got married there and we used to get up there fairly often.



day seven: a gift I am thankful for

While I was there, my friend gave me a Brontë Sisters mug. It’s a great mug, and a fun, thoughtful gift.

day eight: a family member I am thankful for


My mom and my kids. Thankful for all of them.


How do you choose? We celebrated my mom’s 75th birthday last month. The kids have Thanksgiving Week off and they are flying to her on Saturday. We will going them on Thursday. So this month, I am truly thankful for her. And I am always thankful for her.

day nine: a simple pleasure I am thankful for

morning coffee.

day ten: a possession I am thankful for

Since I’m working on it right now, I suppose I am thankful for my MacBook (and all my Macs from the past). It’s a pretty great machine.

day eleven: a gift from God I am thankful for

Words and the word and The Word. Words.

(The Rev. Traci Smith, who wrote Faithful Families, a book we bought all our church families, offers a November 2018 Gratitude Every Day calendar. The calendar has just a small box in which to write a gratitude, but I haven’t blogged for a long time, and it’s November, so I though I might try blogging my gratitudes.)

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gratitude post 2 days 3 & 4

Day Three: A Freedom I Am Thankful For

The first freedom I thought of was freedom of the press, which I translate to mean, freedom to speak out and freedom to be critical of those in authority. This is a freedom I learned as a child. My parents modeled and accepted our questioning of actions and words of those in authority. That didn’t mean we could be disrespectful, but we were always encouraged to question.

My second thought was a freedom I’ve granted myself: Freedom to substitute in a recipe. I still remember an advent devotion I read years ago (written by a woman in our congregation) that talked about the concept of “mise en place” having everything ready and in its place before starting a recipe. I am a complete failure at this. I OFTEN get part way through a recipe and realize I am missing something I need. And so I go to my friend the interwebs and start checking for substitutions. Friday I was making a pasta salad for a Saturday luncheon and I realized I had only half enough mayo (we don’t use it often enough to justify buying big jars.) I did have Miracle Whip, but that has too much flavor of its own to work in recipes (I’ve tried). So I thought, Sour Cream! I checked the interwebs and sour cream or greek yogurt were the big suggestions. I made my salad with half mayonnaise and half sour cream and did NOT have to go to the store. Freedom!

Day Four: A Taste or Food I Am Thankful For

I’m writing this in the morning, so coffee becomes obvious. I’m drinking a gingerbread flavored coffee this morning, so that, too, seems right. I am thankful that gingerbread exists. I am especially thankful for soft gingerbread with icing. And I am thankful that it only comes at Christmas because it does seem like an indulgence.

(The Rev. Traci Smith, who wrote Faithful Families, a book we bought all our church families, offers a November 2018 Gratitude Every Day calendar. The calendar has just a small box in which to write a gratitude, but I haven’t blogged for a long time, and it’s November, so I though I might try blogging my gratitudes.)

Posted in About Me, Gratitude, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

gratitude 2018 post 1 days 1 and 2

The Rev. Traci Smith, who wrote Faithful Families, a book we bought all our church families, offers a November 2018 Gratitude Every Day calendar. The calendar has just a small box in which to write a gratitude, but I haven’t blogged for a long time, and it’s November, so I though I might try blogging my gratitudes. People have mixed feelings on Gratitude posts every day in November. They can seem like bragging. I hope the prompts on Smith’s calendar are more reflective. I missed yesterday which might be a boon. I can’t be perfect if I try.

Day One: A memory I am thankful for: This may be my single best story. Picture it: Taiwan, 1981. Pre-Americanization of the world. No McDonald’s. No Dr. Pepper, though plenty of Coca-Cola. Very little beef on this Asian island nation. Had to be bought special. Special dinner. My dad is barbecuing (grilling for midwesterners) steaks. He asks, “What would you like to drink.”
I say something I hadn’t said before and wouldn’t say again in those years, “Coke, I guess, but I’d really rather a Dr. Pepper.” And he pulled out a Dr. Pepper he had bought at an import shop for me. Perfect moment for both of us, I think.

Day Two: A color I am thankful for: Well, purple of course. It was my favorite as a kid. I had a purple room. It’s my favorite now. And it’s Computerguy’s favorite. So we had a purple wedding, and it was all good. It’s also the color for Lent and Advent (though we do blue in our church).

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things that capture our attention 3: land of stories

Image result for land of storiesThe girl chose The Land of Stories book 1 a year ago when she was gifted a choice of books on her way to sleepover camp. She picked it because it was good and thick. She didn’t get to the book then because they kept them busy and her counselor read to them during rest time, but she read it soon after. She really enjoyed it and ran through the whole series of 6 books quickly. I saw how intrigued she was, and I liked the premise (2 kids find themselves in the world of fairy tales), so I asked if I could read one. The series was written by Chris Colfer of Glee fame, so I had my reservations, did he get to write it just because he was a celebrity? In fact, from the first book, it was super clever and imaginative. The writing wasn’t fabulous, but the ideas really were. Twin brother and sister find themselves in the world of fairy tales and go on a quest to find spell pieces so they can return home. The fairy tale characters were fun to meet and main characters Alex and Conner were well drawn. It was worth reading. I continued to slowly read the second book, and by the third I was hooked. They continued to be clever with surprising twists and turns. I could guess some, but not all of them. They are long books, and maybe could be a bit shorter; I got bored at a few points in the penultimate one, but by and large they are fast moving and exciting. It’s a series well worth reading if you like books and fairy tales and teenage angst. The minor characters are filled in more and more as the series on and the writing improves quite a lot between 1 and 6. Really fun read.

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things that capture our attention part 2: wordgirl and jean little

Image result for Look through my window jean littleI’ve shared many books with my girl; it’s one of my great delights of mothering a daughter. We’ve read or she has read and we’ve talked about Harry Potter (all 7!) and Anne of Green Gables (all 7!) and Little Women (3 out of 4) and The Chronicles of Narnia (3 out of 7) and Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin Family series (the first 3 anyway). She’s also read a bunch of series I don’t know anything about (Benedict Society, something about spies and clones) and a 5 part series (Land of Stories) I began reading at her request (it’s taken me awhile, but I’ve enjoyed it).

For all the fantasy and science/speculative fiction series and fun, the girl says that her favorite books are realistic fiction. She’s been on a kick right now of historical fiction around World War II and the Civil Rights era. But her first taste of realistic fiction is still her favorite, and it utterly delights me.

Jean Little is a Canadian author of books for middle grade kids (or, as I like to say, books about 10-year-old girls, though she did eventually expand that slightly). As a 10-year-old-girl (or 8-11), I felt a resonance with the girls in her books that I didn’t feel with any others, even Madeleine L’Engle’s protagonists, whom I loved. Jean Little’s protagonists were so normal and so me. They read a lot. They never quite felt like they fit in. They tried anyway. I think my first one was One to Grow On. Janie doesn’t quite fit in with her family. She doesn’t fit in at school. She wants to be like the popular girls except that she doesn’t. It just resonated with me. And then the school library in Taiwan (grades 4-6) had a bunch of the books. And I read them all. And re-read them. I lived and laughed and wept with Sal who comes home from a special needs boarding school to live at home and go to regular school for the first time and Anna who comes from Germany as an immigrant and learns she has vision trouble, and Jenny whose twin brother died in a car accident, and Janey who’s just a normal misfit kid, and Laurel who is shy and protective of her little brother, and Emily who writes poems and is lonely. And then, my senior year of high school, Little’s autobiography came out. I read it, and in some ways I could have been reading about myself. I understood why I resonated so much with her characters. We were so utterly alike. Part of it is the third culture kid thing, but part of it has to be just deep and intrinsic personality. And so. As a grown-up, I slowly collected all her books that I had loved as a kid (Yay for trips to Powell’s Books first and later Amazon). And so it was with some trepidation that I handed the girl a Jean Little book. The girl was and is not me. For starters, she is not a third culture kid. By the time I was reading these books, I was living in my 4th country. She has lived in one house her entire life, gone to one school, one church (except when she was tiny). but she was a 10-year-old girl, and she liked to read. So I took the chance. And it was good. She has read and re-read them. She is surprised and a little put out that they aren’t well known, that no one has made movies of them (“they’d be easy movies to make, Mom”). They are akin to Katherine Paterson’s books and Paterson’s books have recently been made into films (and the girl has read both Bridge to Terebithia and The Great Gilly Hopkins) (and the writers know each other– Little discusses the connection in her second autobiography), but Little’s books are smaller in scope and they are Canadian, not from the US. The girl’s very favorite, a little bit to my surprise though it shouldn’t have been, is Look Through My Window, the story of Emily, the lonely only child who lives in an apartment in the city and writes poetry who suddenly finds herself big sister to 4 small cousins living in a big house in the country. The girl child has always wanted younger siblings. Emily gets to live out the dream. This is not just Wordgirl’s favorite Jean Little book, it’s her favorite book. Period. The one she keeps in her bed and reads when she can’t sleep or just needs something to read. It’s THE book.

So, slightly obscure books written by the almost blind daughter of medical missionaries from Canada. The things that catch our attention.

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things that capture our attention part 1: the boy


Battlebots 2018 (I’m taking a photo of Computerguy taking a photo of Mathkid holding the big trophy: the Giant Nut.)

What did you love when you were a child? What are you hoping to introduce your children to and have them love? Which of those are working and what do they love that is new to you? (also, the balance of finding the right timing to introduce something you are dying to introduce.)

My son (now 9 and headed into 4th grade in the fall) asked why we were different in our media consumption (maybe not those words) than his friends’ families. We admitted we are older, whiter, and geekier. (Side note: the boy’s friends tend to have young Latinx parents. Most of the boys are the oldest or middle of several siblings. The girls’ friends are more diverse in gender, ethnicity, and family make-up: a youngest child of a blended family, the much younger brother of older sisters, the boy with an older father and younger mother, etc., as well as young parents with, as she likes to remind us, grandparents about our age. Anyway…)

Computerguy was a big fan of the original iteration of BattleBots. Enough so that he showed the kids old videos, we followed the first new season, and since have gone to a couple of tapings. The boy loves it! He knows all the bots and their trainers.

We do family movie/game night on Fridays. We take turns choosing an activity. We’ve introduced movies to our kids this way. They have enjoyed The Swiss Family Robinson and Escape to Witch Mountain, 2 of my favorites, but haven’t run for the books or wanted to re-watch them or anything.

The kids have been on a new Pixar appreciation run. The had enjoyed DVDs of Pixar shorts and Inside Out, but the boys was never a Cars fan in spite of it being all the rage when he was little (It was hard to find little boys things that weren’t Cars themed). He was much more interested in Star Wars (which he did like early much to my spouse’s delight) and shorter pieces like Dora and Diego and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. And Pokemon. It took our kids a long time to like movies as well as TV shows. The kids are surprised when we tell them we used to get babysitters so we could go see the new Pixar films. The boy is entranced by Up right now and we watched The Incredibles before we went to see The Incredibles 2 (and all 4 of us agreed we liked the second one even more).

Computerguy and young Mathkid did a run of Roald Dahl books this year. That was fun.

So, the boy likes some of the things we like (and I’ll talk about a few more in the both kids section), but he also likes a lot of newer stuff. His favorite books to read himself are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. He loves Captain Underpants. His new obsession this summer are the Origami Yoda books.

He loves the Paddington films. I had loved the books, but missed really getting the kids into them. It’s fun to see this new experience (and the films really are terrific!)

He loves YouTube and has favorite YouTubers. We try to keep a watch on what they are, and they seem to be pretty unobjectionable so far. Most of them are either game players or funny videos.

He loves Teen Titans Go!, and I have to admit that I appreciate it, too. There are so many references to the 80s, that it sucks this parent in. Some day we will show him The Breakfast Club  and My Cousin Vinnie and he will recognize them from TTG! (Also, Frogger and Oregon Trail and a ton of other passing references.)

One of his most interesting things to me is Wild Kratts. He has loved this show since he was small, and he still does. He and I were talking about it this morning because there were new episodes (an exciting morning!). He was waxing nostalgic about watching it with his grandfather and sister before he was even in school, and he still loves it. We have our Tivo set up so that it records all the episodes and deletes none, and he still goes back and watches them. And he knows more about animals than I ever will. He can pull up facts about animals anytime, anywhere (like during jeopardy), and it’s pretty much all thanks to Wild Kratts.

So we will continue to share with him the things we love, and we will continue to learn to love the things he finds. There is such an abundance of imaginative stuff out there. What a world to discover!

Posted in Books, Films, The Kids, TV | 2 Comments