Youth Sunday Kids small

Pentecost has quickly become my one of my favorite Holy days, maybe my very favorite. So much less pressure. So important the coming of the Spirit. We wear red and orange and yellow and throw streamers and release doves and have a day of joy and remembrance of the coming of the Spirit and the birthday of the church.

Youth Sunday, which I have taken point on the last several years, has been the first Sunday in June for the last several years, and so back in September the youth coordinator put it on the calendar that way. No one thought much about it until a couple months ago when suddenly people were disgruntled: What, no choir on Pentecost!?! What, we have to do Pentecost? But we want to do our own thing!

Since we are trying hard to honor our scheduling, we stuck with Pentecost, and the kids ran with it. In a way, for me, because our planning time was shorter this year as there was some transition in youth group leadership, I was grateful for the theme. We could take it and run with it, but not try to start from scratch (what do you want to do? I dunno, what do you want to do?).

Before we began, I asked the kids what they remembered about Pentecost, and what they might hope to include. They said they wanted to do some traditions like throwing streamers and releasing doves, and they wanted to do something new and they wanted lots of music. When we read the Pentecost story, the two things that stood out to them were the different languages–they didn’t remember that from past years, though we have sometimes had different languages spoken–and the 3000 added to their number through baptism.

Languages: The kids decided they wanted to use different languages. Several of them are fluent in Spanish, one has taken French in school, one has been learning Dutch on the computer, and one, who is a quarter Pilipino, offered to learn the Tagalog from his grandmother.

Baptism: I offered that they could do a remembrance of baptism ritual if they wanted. The two oldest had participated in one as confirmands and it had been memorable for them. Since we weren’t going to have formal sermons–they could have but didn’t want to; two are waiting for next year when they are seniors–this gave some substance to the service. They talked about what baptism meant and what it means to renew our baptismal covenant; they prayed over the water, and then they disbursed and blessed the congregation: Child of God, Remember your baptism and be thankful. (I cribbed, with attribution of course, from a Methodist service. The Methodists share their liturgies freely online and I am grateful.)

Music: We don’t have a CCLI license which is always an issue on Youth Sunday, so this year I stood my ground firmly and told them they needed to pick songs from the hymnals. There may or may not have been one exception, but we had lots of songs. The kids sang “Spirit of Gentleness” as the anthem with help from the younger kids on the refrain. It was the best anthem they have sung in years. I don’t know if it was because it was a hymn they knew or because we practiced it several times just before or because we have several kids who are involved in choirs, or because I asked a choir member to help us, probably all of the above, but it came together really well. The other songs were congregational songs, favorites of youth and grown ups, like “Lord of the Dance” and “We Are One in the Spirit” and, to add to the languages, “Cantad al Señor” with Spanish and a trumpet introduction. We closed with “As a Fire Is Meant For Burning.” And the choir did sing while we did the baptism remembrance.

It was a good Pentecost service. It was fresh and new and held on to what is dear to the congregation. Several people said, “Best Youth Sunday Service Ever,” for what that’s worth. Every year people say, “Best Youth Sunday Service Ever.” (Though a grandfather said it in front of his young adult grandson and then had to backpedal a bit.) I wouldn’t want it to become the custom to have Youth Sunday on Pentecost, because, how do you change it up? But it was lovely and meaningful and spirit-filled for this year.

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community college

Have I written about the community college gig yet? It seems like I’ve meant to, but it’ keat me kind if busy. If I have, feel free to forgive me and move on.

When I was young-ish and hopeful and maybe arrogant and in graduate school, I eschewed the very idea of community college because my perception was that that meant teaching almost exclusively composition, and I was willing to teach composition to get through grad school, but that was about it. A wise woman gently corrected me with her experience of loving the teaching and teaching both comp and lit.

When I finished graduate school, it was the height of the recession/housing bust–which hit the Inland Empire particularly hard–and there were no jobs to be had, full-time, adjunct, or otherwise. I also, at that point, had two very small children.

I made one attempt at a job search and didn’t even get a nibble, not even a call-back for more information. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

I began to work at the church, and the undeveloped call of ministry developed delightfully, but I always knew that teaching offered better pay, and that at some point, once the kids were in school, I should get back to it. But there was that original concern again in a different form, adjuncting, wherever it might be, private, state, or community college, meant teaching composition. I’ve had plenty of training and plenty of experience, but it has never been my first love.

Thanks to a church friend, I got a quarter’s worth of teaching business writing at the state college. The pay was good. The experience was demoralizing. I was definitely teaching for the paycheck. There were moments of course, and students, who made it “worth it,” but mostly it was just hard work.

And then a conversation in the hallway at church led to the discovery of a retiring literature professor at the community  college and an interview with the interim dean who was a friend of my friend. It turned out no one on the faculty wanted to teach the Brit Lit survey and they needed an adjunct for the job. Enter an adjunct candidate with an early Brit lit Ph.D. plus experience in both high school and college teaching. It was perfect timing, Providential even.

And so this year I have taught the entire British Literature survey + a developmental composition class this year. In the Brit Lit class each semester was different (c. 500-1799 and 1800-2017), but that meant that a handful of students carried over and took both semester. The comp class was the same prep which meant new students, but I got to use the same syllabus and refine what I had done.

Here is what I have learned: I love community college. I am totally enamored. The students want to be there and care about what they are learning in a way university freshmen never did in the comp classes I taught through grad school. There are a few kids straight out of high school, but most of them have at least a couple years of maturity and experience and defined goals for being there.  The two classes are at the extreme ends of community college: a comp class 2 steps down from English 101 and a fully transferable lit class. The composition students, at least those who stick with it, have a tremendous amount of determination and perseverance.  The lit students are bright and interested. Yes, there are concerns as these kids have work obligations and family obligations and life issues, and I worry about them, but they are really trying, and they tend toward kindness. And that gets me every time.

That’s the students. As a teacher, I have autonomy in the classroom, yet there is support for faculty, including for adjunct faculty. The sort of sad state of things that has most classes taught by adjunct faculty means that they have things well set-up for adjuncts. We have a meeting each semester that I’d part administration and information, part staff development, and part inspirational. There are also workshops all semester long, a number of which we can receive pay. My schedule hasn’t allowed me to take advantage this year,  but I hope to next year.

finally, I have found that my work in the church and my work at the college have complemented each other this year. I am a better teacher for what I have learned about minstry, and the work I do at the school helps keep me grounded for the work I do at church.

It’s hard work, and I’ve been busy,  but it feels like it’s all come together for this time and this place. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Posted in About Me, Church, Teaching | 4 Comments

maundy thursday and aunt beast

I read the foot washing text in our Maundy Thursday service, I served communion, and I snuffed out the candles, one by one, reminding us of the darkness between the betrayal and the resurrection, the darkness of the crucifixion.

And then I came home and I read the Aunt Beast chapter of A Wrinkle in Time to the family. Meg is in despair. Her father, the person she had counted on to save her, has disappointed her. Charles Wallace, the baby brother who is more than he seems to be is caught up in the forces of evil. And Meg has just been through the darkness, been frozen by the the evil of the Dark Thing. She must be thawed and warmed and fed by “Aunt Beast” before she can face her father and Calvin and the possible loss of of Charles Wallace.

The choir sang “Were you there” while the chancel was stripped. I snuffed out the candles. We heard the words of the mandatum: Love one another. The pastor snuffed the Christ candle. And we left in silence. Jesus has been betrayed and crucified and we leave him on the cross or in the tomb until Easter morning, when we will proclaim: He is risen. Because we know what the next chapter holds.

I finished the chapter with an angry Meg, terrified for her beloved little brother, and with the words of Mrs. Which: Wwweeee aaarrre hhhheeeerrre. There is hope because the 3 ladies, the guardian angels, the Messengers of God have arrived. But I am the only one who knows how the book ends.

The kids–and the spouse who has never read it–will have to wait until tomorrow to find out how Charles Wallace (and he is a Christ figure) will be saved. And all of us will wait until Sunday to proclaim “He is risen” and to sing “Alleluia.”

I didn’t plan the timing, but this literature doctor cum church staffer kind of loves it.

Posted in Books, Church, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

my mom, the pioneer

My English Lit Survey class was reviewing for the midterm today. We were talking aboutMary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and how, in the excerpt we had read, the main point was Educate Us! We can’t keep up with the conversations with men, not because we aren’t smart enough, but simply because we aren’t educated in those topics. I mentioned that this concern/issue/trend had continued, that it took a long time for women to really be educated equally with men. And I mentioned, kind of off-handedly, that in living memory, my mom had been in the first class at Cal Poly Pomona that accepted women. They could go to a lot of schools, liberal arts universities, teachers’ colleges, but engineering schools–that was different.

At the end of class, as they were packing up to leave, one of my students said, “Tell your mom congratulations for me. That’s really cool.” A couple of the other students who were still there nodded in agreement. This has always been a part of the story for me, so while it is one of my favorite parts of the story, I don’t think that much about it. My students were really impressed. So. Congratulations, Mom. You were a pioneer. Thanks for being a role model for me in so many ways, and for your continued support of women being educated through your AAUW support. You don’t just say it; you live it.

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2017 book adventure 1


I finished Great Expectations (A classic I never got around to) before my students started reading it. I have to admit, I really enjoyed it. Somehow, I never really “got into” Dickens the way I did Austen, Brontë, et al (except A Christmas Carol). I may have to remedy that. There is usually a reason that classics are considered classics, and I found it as I read Great Expectations. I rooted for Pip. I enjoyed the characters. I liked learning first hand about people and plot points that get referred to fairly often. I was happy to meet Wemmick and the Aged Parent I had read about in other books (that seem to assume one reads Great Expectations in about 8th grade). There is character growth and learning and redemption. What more do I want from a novel? I’m not sure how it will go with my students, but I’m ready to give it a shot.

My question now is, do I have to have a discrete book from each category? If Great Expectations is my “classic I never got around to” does that mean I need to have a 19th century novel? An author from another continent? (okay maybe Europe doesn’t so much count as another continent, at least for me). Also, do they understand that there aren’t exactly “books” per se in the 17th century, and, well, I’ve pretty much read all of them? I get that no one is grading me, so I get to make up my own rules, but still!

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bullet journal

I have been a journaller–off and on–for much of my adult life. When I was in college, I bought a leather journal cover at the Renaissance Faire that holds a plain sketch book. Mostly it’s been my prayer journal, though there have been times I’ve tried to carry it around and use it more widely. Some of my journals would have pages set apart at the back for “other” things.

I have tried to use calendars and to-do lists and failed again and again. I tried to go electronic with calendars and to-do lists and continue to fail. (My only moderate success is having our shopping list hooked up to the Echo and my phone. Now I at least have the list when I go to the store.)

For most of my life, I have been able to keep my schedule pretty well in my head and remember things I want to write down later. That has changed. I’m older. I have 2 part-time jobs, 2 kids, and a spouse. I’m trying to keep track of too much and I keep missing things.

In January this year, I discovered the beginning-to-be-trendy bullet journal. It has become my new best friend. What I like best about it is having everything in one place. I’m not messing with journals and calendars and random pieces of paper. My life is varied enough that it helps to have it all together. I also like the idea that I can go through the book from start to finish. I don’t have to try to block off 1/3 for church, 1/3 for school, 1/3 for life. I just go to the next blank page spread, write the page numbers in, and add them to the index.

As Ryder Carroll says in his description of the bullet journal, the key is the index. Write page numbers on every page and index it so you can find it again. Every time I start a new spread for an ongoing topic, I add it to the original index entry (until I run out of space). I star my “Daily Log” entry in the index so I can always find it quickly.

Let me note right here, that I have looked at examples of bullet journals online and they seem to be neat and pretty with flourishes and color coded and, well, neat. Mine is not! So this is the post that says one can keep a bullet journal even when it is fast and furious and messy. I aspire to be neat and color code and have beautiful doodles on my pages. Never. Gonna. Happen. It’s not me. My handwriting has always been barely passable, and that hasn’t changed. So. Messy journaling.

Things I have done well with the bullet journal: Having a place to keep lists and take notes, especially for things like worship series, class syllabi, each months’ newsletter. It’s been great as a place to take notes in meetings, or lecture notes when I was taking on-line classes, or using it as actual journal space. When I had an uncomfortable meeting with a student last semester, I went back to my car and wrote it out in my journal so I had a record of my version of what happened, and it was right there, and I could find it as necessary. When I need to write something, I take notes or start drafts in the journal. I have been keeping my lesson plans in the journal this term, writing lecture notes and class ideas, and then just having it open in front of me during class where I can add comments as needed.

Things I keep working at: The daily log. This is the to-do list part, and I use it more or less well depending on the week. The monthly calendar, I at least create every month (I might have missed one in the last year), but I don’t probably keep it up as well as I should as appointments come up. I’m also at a loss for whether and where to put the weekly things like carpool and piano lessons. As I looked through the journal for this blog post, I noticed one particularly busy week where I made a spread for the week to keep track of everything. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea.

What I haven’t done well: I lost track of the “running log” which is a place to keep ideas, notes, etc. as they come up. It would be useful. I am not good at getting up every day and setting up my to-do list as well as maybe have a gratitude page or a nightly examen page. So consistency is not my forte. Same with keeping track of hours for timesheet in my church job and just to know in my teaching job. It would be useful, and I haven’t done it yet. I’ve tried a prayer page but didn’t keep it up, and also meal planning. Those are things I’d like to do more of. I’m sure there are other things people are doing that I am not. I’m not great at using the symbols, and I don’t know if they would be particularly useful for me or not.

I want to re-watch the tutorial as I set up a new journal (I filled the first one), and remember what those basic ideas were.

It’s a tool, and at this moment in my life, with so many moving parts, it’s one that is helpful to me as I find ways to make it work for me. Index it!

Some pages:




Future Log


Daily Log


Monthly Spread


Blog ideas


Pentecost Worship


Sermon notes 1


Sermon notes continued


Newsletter page / Youth Sunday preliminary Notes


Lesson Plans


Posted in About Me | 4 Comments

catching up

School started. We have a 4th grader who misses 3rd grade and a 2nd grader who wishes school didn’t exist. ::sigh::

I am teaching at one of the local community colleges. In some ways it is just fabulous, my best teaching since I taught high school, and I will post about that sometime. In other ways it is exhausting. I have am 8 a.m. class and a 3 p.m. class. As the woman who recommended me for the job said, “Worst schedule ever” except the other guy she recommended who has 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. But it’s only Mondays and Wednesdays, so that’s good. After getting mostly MWF classes in a program that *claimed* they equitably switched back and forth between T/TH and M/W/F classes, I feel so relieved every time Friday rolls around and I don’t have to teach. The kids are doing the after school program on Mondays and staying at the car pool house on Wednesdays. On Thursdays, I am picking up the Transitional Kindergarten carpool kid at 1:30 and the other kids at 2:45 and bringing them to my house. So we’re all working it out and balancing. It takes a village…

The students in my not-ready-for-freshman comp composition class are reading Zach Anner’s book If At Birth You Don’t Succeed for their required Reading course. Anner will be speaking at the school in October. I’m reading the book along with them and using it in the comp class and am quite delighted. I am trying to figure out how to help these students negotiate college. It seems that in the 7 years since ShyGuy was born and I stopped teaching regularly, much has changed in both students’ absolute refusal to be disconnected from their technology and how they view their role and the teacher’s role. This may be a steep learning curve.

Meanwhile, we are not heading to my cousin’s wedding this weekend even though we would very much like to be there because driving 10 hours either way on a weekend, even a long one, suddenly felt prohibitive. We will miss the family gathering and wish everyone well. We are grateful we got to see my aunt and her partner on their way to the gathering. Since we are not going north, it seems we are going to join Computerguy’s friends by actually camping (though just 1 night) at their annual Labor Day Weekend camping trip (we usually come up for 1 day). So. Camping. It sound tiring to me, but the family is excited, so there it is. (I might rather drive the 10 hours and stay in the house my folks rented, but that ship has sailed. Camping with the college friends it is!)

Posted in About Me, Family, Teaching | 1 Comment