friday five: school days

Hard for me to pass up this Friday Five though I am late to the party.

So, as students wrap up their years or maybe their academic careers, let’s reflect upon our school days in today’s Friday Five:

  1. Favorite class during your many years of schooling

Undergrad: Emily Dickinson. We studied her poems and her letters for a whole quarter. Best class ever. I did a presentation with my roommate. We got my mom to let us tape her singing our poem to the tune of “Yellow Rose in Texas”. Fun stuff. I still love Dickinson. (Also, the only class in my undergrad for which I earned an A+.)

Graduate School: Shakespeare and Film. It was a great class and I wrote about 10 Things I Hate about You and Never Been Kissed. A year or so later, talking about possible dissertation topics, I opined about wishing I could just follow up on that paper and my friend Young Jim said, “why not?” And I thought, “yeah, why not?” And so I did. More or less.

  1. Toughest class you have taken

Computers for the Liberal Arts Major. It wasn’t. We had to learn programming. Shell programming. I still have no idea what I was supposed to do in that class. On the other hand, I learned about newsgroups and connecting from home via modem and spent a whole lot of time reading ST:TNG newsgroup posts (and that was the term the Great Bird of the Galaxy passed out of the galaxy (Gene Roddenberry dies), so it was quite poignant). But I didn’t learn a thing about programming and it was a singularly unhelpful class for this liberal arts major.

  1. Class you would love to retake

Hard to say. I would like to have done better at some of my GE classes, but that doesn’t mean I wish I could retake them. Probably one of the English classes I was too busy to do all the reading for. More than “retake” I would like to be able to go back in time and take the Shakespeare Comedy class in my undergrad. It was taught by the woman who was eventually my committee chair and dissertation advisor for my Ph.D., but I never had her as an undergrad.

  1. Favorite seminary or theologically-themed class

I’ve taken 8 classes in my Certificate in Ministry Course. 5 have been excellent, 1 fine, 1 mediocre, and 1 poor. Not a bad average. I am enjoying the Worship and Preaching one I am taking right now because that’s what I am doing, and I get to wrote what amounts to more or less a poem a week, but I am pretty well ahead of the curve in this class thanks to great opportunity and mentorship. The surprising ones have been the Pastoral Care class (who knew you could do that online) and the Church Leadership class. Those were terrific!

  1. Dream class – if you could design the ultimate undergraduate/graduate course, what would it be?

Literature and Ministry. Not sure what it would look like, but I think at minimum we would read Gail Godwin, Marianne Robinson, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, William Shakespeare, and Jane Austen. I could write the syllabus right now. I want to teach this class. I’d start with The Winter’s Tale and move on to Mansfield Park. Then A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Then Gilead and Evensong. Maybe some Vicar of Wakefield in there and a few episodes of the Vicar of Dibley and Rev thrown in. It could be a really fun and thoughtful class. (other suggestions?)

Posted in About Me, Friday Five, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

friday five: transitions

3dogmom has lots of transitions happening, and wonders about our own:

My life is overflowing with transitions at this time: losing a beloved family homestead, welcoming a new grandchild, starting a new call next month, packing up our home in anticipating of a move 1000 miles away… Those are the markers that are easy to identify. Inner transitions are taking place, too, which leads me to offer this week’s Friday Five:

What transitions are taking place in your life? Consider physical, vocational, spiritual, psychological, educational, geographical… you get the idea. Please share five transitions that are most present with you at this time in your life.

We have smaller transitions going on, but transitions nonetheless.

  1. We are clearing out the guest room to give the kids their own rooms. I am excited because with a little more space, I think we can limit the chaos of things everywhere and we can move some of their things from the common living spaces into their rooms. They are excited as they think about having their own space and what they will do with it. The big drawback is, we lose a dedicated guest room and it has been nice giving my parents a place of their own when they come and stay (not to mention any other guests we may have). I am sure we will work it out, but it complicates things a little. (We are waiting until my folks next two visits are complete to make the move.)
  2. Related to (1), the guest room has also been our storage space, especially my academic book space, so I am going through my books and trying to figure out what I may or may not need in the next few years. Some are easy. About others I am really torn. What if I do teach literature again? I have some nice Norton Critical Editions of things that are actually in my area. The internet has made some of it much easier. Reference books are easier to send on their way knowing that 15 years ago it was nice to have them handy, but now, I would go to the computer for that information first even if I did have the book. There is that thing, though, of looking something up in a book and getting caught up in other entries. However, I suppose it’s not unlike looking something up on-line and suddenly having 5 tabs open from links.
  3. My work at the church is transitioning a little. I am working more on my own, developing worship series and planning regular–not special–worship services. I’m trying to figure out what and how much I should be doing and if there are some things I should back off from as my role continues to slowly change and become.
  4. I am looking to apply for composition jobs at community colleges this year. I know I have said that before, but last years’ sudden work at the state college put that on hold. I think now is the time.
  5. Health: I gave in to my own stubbornness and downloaded MyFitnessPal and am using it to track what I eat. I’m only 10 days in, so I am reluctant to claim much, but the age-old wisdom of just keeping track, just writing it down, seems to be helping me to make good choices and be healthful. I’m also using my phone to keep track of my steps and trying to get to that magic 10,000 a day number. Part of me wants to join the fitbit train and part of me wants an apple watch, but for now I’m just trying to always keep my phone on me.
Posted in About Me, Friday Five | 4 Comments

happy deathday william shakespeare


“Shakespeare knew everything” –Vincent, Beauty and the Beast

Shakespeare died 400 years ago today. So… Seems like I ought to write something. I am, after all, one of those people who would claim that Shakespeare is simply the best writer in the English language (and maybe all of the languages).

Claire at Part-Time Priest writes a lovely essay about how she first encountered Shakespeare and what his plays have meant to her. I have been thinking of my own story since I read her post this morning. In the end, I studied Shakespeare (as in “subject of my dissertation”), but I kind of came to it kind of late, accidentally, by way of an outstanding teacher of Shakespeare: Me.

It’s not that I didn’t like Shakespeare.

When I was in 5th(?) grade, the high school put on Much Ado About Nothing. In my mind, this was my mom’s favorite Shakespeare. My mom read us the Lambs’ Shakespeare version of the play–a couple times I think–and we went to see the high schoolers. The single thing I remember most were the costumes. I still have a vague picture of the dresses in my head, and I was fascinated by the fact that the “couples” wore matching costumes. I don’t remember if I understood any of the words, but thanks to my mom and Charles and Mary, I understood what was going on, and my memory of the experience remains strong and positive.

In high school we read Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and probably Macbeth (because I know it was in the curriculum. I have no actual memory of reading it). I was not caught by any of them, though I enjoyed reading West Side Story (which we did in conjunction with R&J) and being fascinated with the parallels (shades of future interest).

My freshman year in college, we read 1 Henry IV in the English Lit survey class and I took and thoroughly enjoyed the Tragedies, but in my undergrad, I was more taken with metaphysical poetry and Emily Dickinson and creative writing classes for which we received English credit. (side note: I had the same professor for both of those classes, and he may have been my favorite professor ever. He was old-fashioned, but always learning what was new. He called us Mr. Smith and Ms. Long. He had us read aloud in class. He was brilliant. He loved teaching at UCR and living in the community. He was fabulous, and he was still teaching–not emeritus; he never retired–at age 82 when he died earlier this year. I had the privilege of being able to make it to his memorial service.)

And then I became a high school English teacher. And I taught Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Macbeth. And I was good. Suddenly, as I taught the works, Shakespeare came alive to me. The artistry of Romeo and Juliet where the prologue is a sonnet, the rhetoric of Julius Caesar, the perfect form of Macbeth, these are the things I discovered as I read these plays with students, as I taught them. I taught them differently than I had been taught them. We read them together, as a class, discovering them as we went along. And it turned out that I had a knack for close reading, for helping students understand as we read, for pointing our words and images and themes as we heard them, for teaching plays and poetry. When I finally got to teach AP, we would read Macbeth for its perfect form and I would add another Shakespeare depending on the personality of the class, Lear or Midsummer. I’m not a fabulous teacher of novels. I get bored when something takes that long to read, and I don’t know what to do with it when they have to read it on their own. I did okay with short stories with the 9th and 10th graders because we could read them in class. But my forte was reading poetry and plays and talking and interpreting as we went, and that’s when I discovered how amazing Shakespeare really was. There’s nothing like reading something twice in a day, for 7 years in a row, and never growing bored of it, to figure out that there is something special about it (and I could say the same thing about The Importance of Being Earnest, but that another story).

There’s always more to say about the Bard, but, for Me and the Bard, I think that will do for now.

Posted in About Me, Shakespeare | 1 Comment

happy birthday beverly cleary

I read an article a few weeks ago about Beverly Cleary turning 100, and it caught my fancy. We celebrate authors’ 100th birthdays, and 200th birthdays, and 500th birthdays (Shakespeare!), but how fun to celebrate an author’s 100th birthday and know that she is celebrating, too (evidently with a piece of carrot cake in her assisted living residence).

The kids got to wear pajamas to school today for a Drop Everything And Read day. The cnn article I read said that Scholastic was encouraging schools to do this. Our school has such a day every year around this time, so we’re not sure if this is coincidence or planned, but it works out!

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 8.11.22 AMThe girl child reached the 1,000,000 words club this week, and got to sign her name on the poster in the library yesterday. The reward is Pizza with the Principal at the end of the year for all the kids in the club. She’s not so sure about the reward, especially since all the other kids in the club are in higher grades than she is. She does somewhat know one girl in 4th grade who is almost there. If S makes it, she will be happier about the prize.

Part of her million words was a mad dash through Beverly Cleary books. Bezels, Ramona, Henry Huggins, Ribsy, Ralph S. Mouse continue to entertain. Kristin writes more about them, and the ordinariness of them (when she was small, Cleary was disappointed that none of the kids in the books she read were just normal kids. So she wrote her own books about normal life and normal kids.)

So Ramona lives on and Beverly Cleary can enjoy knowing that she has made a difference in a whole lot of ordinary kids’ lives. How fun is that!?!

Posted in About Me, Books, The Kids | 2 Comments

birthday fun

The girl child wanted to take her friends to the mountains to play in snow for her 9th birthday outing. And then we had a week of high 80s low 90s weather. We changed the plan from a snow day to a beach day (because we live in Southern California) and promised we would go up the mountain the next time it snowed.

pizzaIt was a good day. 4 girls–3 3rd graders and 1 5th grader–plus the 3rd grade birthday girl. kids made their own pizza for dinner, goofed around, and finally put on episodes of Teen Titans Go! as they settled down to sleep in the living room.

On Saturday, we got up and I made french toast and bacon for a birthday breakfast and then the kids made their sandwiches for our beach picnic (“we made all our own meals except breakfast!” someone said.)

Shyguy had a lot of fun with the girls during the party, but he opted out of the beach trip which made things a little easier for me. I could watch them without having to entertain him or make sure he was doing okay. Also, with just the 5 girls, they could all sit together in the back of the Highlander.

So I played chauffeur and lifeguard and they had a great time. It was overcast most of the time we were there so the kids played at the edge of the ocean, building in the sand and getting their feet wet. picnicWe had our picnic. Finally, knowing we needed to leave soon and they wouldn’t be cold all day, t gave them the go ahead to go in as far as they wanted. That’s when the sun came out and the waves got good and they had a blast standing at the breaking point. No one wanted to leave. Alas, one of the girls had another commitment and I had promised everyone we’d be home late afternoon, so we had to drag ourselves away. (We stayed about 1/2 hour longer than I had planned, but it just got so nice!)

It was really one of those magical days where it all kind of goes right. Wordgirl and I were looking through photos this morning and agreed that the one that represented the day was the one of the 5 girls holding hands int he breakers, helping each other stay upright. As she said, “you didn’t even have to pose us, Mom.”


Posted in The Kids | 1 Comment

happy christmas

We’re home for Christmas this year, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. The kids have hung out with friends, and we’ve begun to find our own take on Christmas traditions. I don’t know how often we’ll get to do this, but I will savor the moment.

10492198_10206617052920026_2686759596359694141_nThe kids went with friends to a kids’ museum and ended up having a sleepover, giving me 26 hours to work and finish shopping. When I picked up my kids, I brought all of 5 home, giving their mom a couple hours.

On the 23rd, we had our “fancy” dinner (Red Lobster. Not that fancy, but nice and the kids are crazy about seafood.) and then went to Disney on Ice: Frozen. Left: The kids who dressed up. Right: the kids who didn’t.

Christmas Eve. There was something special about being in our own church. Christmas Eve is Christmas Eve, and I enjoy the services in my in-law’s church, but when I help shape the whole service and then leave, it is disappointing. This time I got to fully participate, I got to see it come together, we got to worship among the same people we see week after week. My colleague and I did not grab candles from the ushers, so we took candles from the vestry, smallish pillars. They didn’t have the plastic cups around them (obviously) and I managed to drip candle wax down my shirt. But if that was the worst that happened, we’ll survive. Also, in a gesture of theological symbolism, we lit our candles from the Christ candle and expected to start the light around the circle outside, but some practical, efficient person had already had the candles started, so we came out to already-lit candles. Oh, well. Again, if that’s the least of it… (above: our chancel and little boys in tie sweaters.)

Christmas Day. Here we are. We got everything ready last night after the kids crashed at about 10. At 6, we got up and filled stockings. We told the kids they could come out at 7 (our standard weekend time). They came out at 7 and were excited first to light the Christ Candle (we made them wait until Christmas day) and then they were as excited as could be about their stockings. Now they are playing with Legos and BeyBlades, and we are having a relaxing Christmas day. We have tickets for Star Wars this afternoon, and will head to my parents’ in Arizona tomorrow where my dad’s extended family will be gathered.

I am trying not to spend the day cooking. We had our dinner out on the 23rd and I made a Prime Rib yesterday afternoon for our fancy dinner. Today I made bacon and eggs for breakfast and we have fun nibbles plus leftovers-before-we-leave-town to put out for the rest of the day.

Now, on to Christmas cards!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

family moment

The kids do presentations more or less monthly. The 1st grader’s presentation this month was on a “family holiday tradition.” He decided to do Advent because “I get to eat candy.” (Every other kid did Christmas. My kid did Advent. I consider that a win, not that we’re keeping score.)

Since he needed at least 3 sentences, he thought he might mention lighting candles as well. (I might have suggested that.)

We have done minimal Christmas decorating this year (and every year) for various reasons, usually because we will be with the in-laws in Idaho on Christmas; this year because I’ve been teaching. (Also, Computerguy never did much decorating growing up because they always went to his grandparents, so it has been an uphill battle to make decorating our own home a Thing, and with either a church or academic life, I am really busy as Christmas comes, so I haven’t had the energy to make it a big thing without having a partnership on it. But with the kids, that could be different.)

So I bought a plain wreath and some candles (red were the only ones I found, but I’m okay with that) and put up a wreath so we could take a picture.

Meanwhile, the boy child puts on his pajamas and then says, “Superheroes wear their underwear on the outside” puts on a pair of underwear over his over-sized hand-me-down Christmas pajamas and says, “I’m Super Snow Man.”

Later, we are lighting the Advent candles, and I am taking photos so the boy child can paste one on his poster. All is well. Until Wordgirl says, “So he’s going to have his underwear on the outside on his school presentation?” Yeah. She doesn’t miss anything.

He takes off the extra underwear and we take another photo and all is well.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments