Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Blip in the Radio Silence

Poetry takes absolutely forever.

I finally passed the halfway point to the minimum (10000) word goal for Camp NaNoWriMo. It's July 22nd.

The good news is, I surpassed my personal 620 lines of poetry goal days ago.

98% of my writing is very very rough draft. Dreck.

At the same time, about half of it is personal, dealing with things I'm still processing. So I'm spending the time quietly, not publishing.

But here's a piece that's exceedingly meta, because that's what happens when you take on NaNo.

Drawing drops of blood
from the heel of a
shrieking newborn.
Writing a poem
feels like that.
Except when the muse of loquacious imagery
points the fire hose of words,
blasting straight at your face
in your mind
out your pen
please don't run out of ink!

The muse gives no guarantee
of quality or satisfaction-
often you wake hungover,
faced with pages upon pages
of utter crap.
Still better than the empty page,
the taunting blinking cursor.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Battery Life

My beloved netbook has passed its fifth birthday. Apparently computer years are sort of like dog years, but even more so--the netbook is now a dinosaur.

Sure, it shows its age in a few cosmetic and functional ways--my dog popped the down key off years ago and some of the keys are persnickety.

The big issue, though, is the battery. It looks like it is fine, fine, fine, and then the computer shuts down with no warning. As best as I can tell, it turns off when the charge goes below 76%. Or that calibration is a lie--so it's draining quickly and not showing it.

Confounding matters further, the charger cable hooks into the computer only loosely.

I'm a week from vacation. Hard to say how I'm calibrated.

Friday, July 3, 2015


I got lost today. 

I missed a turnoff because I didn't see the sign, and my phone couldn't find my location to holler at me that I'd left my chosen path.

I did not realize I was lost until I ran out of highway, twenty-four miles from where I needed to be.

There wasn't a great place to stop, but I was in the middle of somewhat nowhere... with half my sense of direction, I came up with a new path, started driving again and called my lunch date.

Then traffic had me at a standstill. When we finally got moving, I turned at the wrong exit. And went the wrong way.

Stuck at a red light, I took the time to restart my phone, so I could know both where I currently was and where I was going. 

Amazingly, the journey made more sense. No more detours, I was at my destination within minutes.

(I let my compatriot drive us to lunch.)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

I could use a thousand spiders right now...

Wettest May on record...and June had its moments, too.

The mosquitos are carrying away newborns and making us all anemic.

Maybe not. But the bug bites may start a new fashion trend, or at least make us 3D connect-the-dots.

Put away your Sharpie, please.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Post #500!

I started this blog in August 2013. 

It went slowly at first, as I only posted when I felt like I really had something to say.

And then in late February 2014 I decided that I just needed to start saying. Every day. Sometimes it would be critically important and other times it would be just a bit above "I had a piece of toast."

For the most part I *have* posted every day. (Ok, I skipped two days last week. I was writing a sermon and preparing for a full day of LGBTQ weddings. Something had to give. And then I posted the sermon, so I think that gives me a bit of forgiveness, as it clocks in at a length about ten times my average post.)

I apologize for the toast posts. I offer you this rose as a small token of my appreciation for your gracious patience.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015!

Every November I take part in National Novel Writing Month, writing a truly horrendous first draft of a novel.

The same group also sponsors a "Camp" writing month in July, a little less structured but another chance to set a goal and hopefully achieve it. I haven't done the July challenge for a few years, but with my partner taking it on, well... why not?

So my goal is to write twenty lines of poetry each day in the month of July. I do not yet consider myself a poet, though I can throw down some haiku...

Maybe some of it will be non-heinous enough to share it.
(Probably not.)

If you'd like to join the fun, check out .

Monday, June 29, 2015

If My Dog Were In Charge...

If my dog were in charge (and she just might be)...

  • Anything that smelled good to her would be hers. None of this waiting for someone to drop it.
  • Speaking of smells, humans would have more appreciation for the unique cocktail of a dog's fur, and all that it takes to distill that fragrance.
  • The entire world would be a dog park.
  • Rainy days would be snuggle sleeping days. Required by law.
  • Humans would have extra arms just for petting the dog. And use the other arms for petting, too.
  • The vet would get down on the floor, instead of insisting on dogs coming up on the cold metal table.
  • There would be a bed, couch, or fancy dog pillow in every sunbeam.
  • Cheese and peanut butter would be available on their own, not just as pill camouflage.
  • I would never blog sprawled across the bed. It takes up too much of her real estate.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I Can't Adult! Sermon 6/28/15

Given at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston on June 28, 2015

Working from a place of playfulness, we had sermon bingo cards with fabulous prizes, choose your own adventure hymns, a time for all ages to share their childhood lovies, and our readings included Hyperbole and a Half's This Is Why I'll Never Be an Adult and Shel Silverstein's Listen to the Mustn'ts.

The aisle signs in grocery stores can be helpful--and existential. I saw one that said Adult Cereal.
I wondered --Is this cereal X-, or just R-rated? What shape are those puffs? Maybe it just has adult themes like… cannibalism or estate planning.

And yes, Kids Cereal was also an option. Careful investigation revealed that Kids Cereal means sugar and prizes and fun shapes and colors. Adult Cereal means… fiber.

Growing up is supposed to be Good For You. Make the sensible multigrain choice and don’t let it bother you that it’s beige and boring and an awful lot to chew.

Answer your email. Go to the bank and the grocery store. Clean all the things. Work. Pay the bills. Run the errands.
And do it all again tomorrow.

Above all, be mature. Mature is black slacks, polished shoes, matching socks. Mature is always on task, and serious all the time.

Who wants to sign up for all of that?? Truly, if it’s about drudgery and misery and never-ending responsibility, I Can’t Adult.

I am a proud member of Generation X. Born from the early 60s to the early 80s, we are stereotyped as disaffected slackers with a propensity toward flannel. Our generation came of age between wars and our parents were more likely to be dual income or even divorced. We were called the latch-key kids.

At this point, the youngest GenXers are in their thirties, and my oldest compatriots have hit their fifties. We’re old enough that our music shows up on Classic Rock stations. Heck, I am getting to the point where I’m looking forward to IHOP Senior Specials. And yet…

I used to think that I would wake up one morning and adulthood would make sense. Somehow I would have downloaded some sort of Competence program and instantly, I would be able to DEAL WITH IT.

In the meantime, a lot of us feel like we are faking it at being grown-ups. That at any second someone will discover us for the quivering frauds we are.

And here’s the secret—this isn’t just my generation. Many people older than I am have admitted to these same feelings…maybe not as loudly, and with a little less flannel.

Paul, in a letter to the Corinthians, says,
 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Every time I read Paul’s letters, I find myself arguing with him. In this case, why is childish such a bad thing?

Let’s start with the childish things we shared at the beginning of the service—our comfort objects. The stuffed animals and favorite pillows and blankets—these things serve a real purpose when life is hard. When you are terrified by illness and chaos, mourning losses both personal and global, you need some comfort. Something soft is a sweet start.Our culture tells us to deny ourselves comfort—that’s ridiculous. The Inherent Worth of Oneself gets lost in the to-do lists, the laundry, the needs of the baby the job the bills the struggle.

Yes, we must be careful that our comfort does not abuse another or ourselves, but it is also abusive to stick to stoicism, and to a rugged individualism that says you must handle it all yourself.

What if what we set aside was the Mythology of Grown-up and instead embrace some of these childish things?

As we reflect, know that I’m do not mean Misplaced Nostalgia—we’re not going back to an ‘easier time’—life is always challenging at all ages and stages, and childhood is not always happy. But what do we abandon when we leave childhood? What is dismissed as unimportant that might actually be a strength?

Edwin Friedman, a rabbi and therapist, was a real expert on how people tick and the various illusions that many of us believe to be true. One of these myths is that seriousness is deeper than playfulness.

Being playful is important. It is creative and freeing and welcoming. And as Friedman puts it, “playfulness can get you out of a rut more successfully than seriousness.”

So we have this Sunday service with bingo cards. A webcomic as a reading. Heck- there’s a word scramble in your order of service, and coloring pages to take home.

Playfulness opens us to JOY. How often do we let ourselves be really and truly happy, even if in tiny doses. There should be no waiting for someday when it comes to joy. Celebrate whatever you can. Children celebrate their birthday, their half-birthday, new shoes, pancakes, puddles, caterpillars.

And joy often accompanies Wonder.

<excerpt from Clark Dewey Wells's You Be Glad At That Star>

Be curious.
Forever learning.

As Unitarian Universalists, we hold that revelation is ongoing—new truths are always being revealed. When we throw on blinders, when we declare ourselves to be done learning, we hold in our very humanity.

Ours is a faith of Lifespan Learning-book clubs and adult religious education, and so many of us are reading or taking classes or discovering a new hobby. Most of our Sunday school teachers tell me that they sign up not because they feel obligated, but because they always learn something from the experience—from the curriculum and from the children and youth in the room.

Life will always have uncertainty. A spirit of curiosity keeps us vibrant and gives us hope.

And boy howdy, but we need hope.

Our five-year old selves knew that we could sing and dance and paint and be astronaut cowboy doctor unicorn-riding rock stars.

Somehow, over the years, many of us give these things up—pared away by scarcity of time but also by criticism and self-doubt.

We are continuously chastised for being Too Much and Not Enough

Have you ever been told that you are too loud?
Not talented enough?
Too angry?
Not ambitious enough?
Too weird?
Not happy enough?
Too pushy?
Not attractive enough?
What else?

And the lower your prestige and privilege, the more you get these messages. Stay in your place. Keep your head down. Do not cause trouble.

Dear ones—you are not too much. You are you and that is good and that is more than enough. And yes, I will write you that as a note if you need it, for your mirror or your wallet or your Facebook wall.

In the 1976 film Network, newscaster Howard Beale delivers that iconic line-
“I’m as MAD AS HELL and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

That, my friends, is the default setting of a young child. As little ones, we throw tantrums when we are angry, we wail when we are sad or hurt or afraid.

Over the years, our culture socializes us to tone it down. Be polite. Keep the peace. Girls, especially, are told they cannot show anger...or people won't like you. Boys are told that tears are an unacceptable show of weakness—Man Up.


Are any of us allowed an honest expression of our emotions? Can we say what we think, or must we carefully couch our terms and remain so reasonable? Be polite. It is a calmer existence, but it values the status quo over change, manners over justice.

Children are passionate beings and fairness is critically important to them. Yes, this starts with the personal—Mom, he got a bigger piece of cake than me! But they pay careful attention to wider issues—they notice how people are treated, and they are so very disturbed to see injustice. They do not minimize or reason it, pointing out the complexity of the situation. They see that it is wrong, and they want to know why, and how it might be fixed.

Using this passionate eye to justice, let’s return to that Network quote with a bit more context.

That’s a 1976 film. A whole lot of it still applies. What else comes to mind?

*Black Lives Matter – the extrajudicial executions of people of color by police, the burning of six African American churches in the past week, the assassination of an African American senator minister and eight other souls in an AME church in Charleston and still the Confederate Flag flies?

*While the Obergefell decision brings marriage equality across the land, many LGBTQ people are still denied basic rights of fair employment, life, and dignity. Trans folk, especially trans women, are being killed for who they are, then misgendered in police reports and the news. Nearly half of homeless teenagers are homeless because their parents kicked them out when they came out.

*Americans are increasingly financially insecure. Laid off when oil prices drop or industry moves elsewhere, buried in spiraling student debt, caught in stagnant wages. The minimum wage in 1976 went up to $2.30 …adjusted for inflation, that’s a little over $9/hr today. Better than our current $7.25.

When faced with the hurts and seemingly insurmountable problems of the world today, it is so very easy to flail, and to curl up in a ball in our safe living rooms. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel powerless and oh so small—I Can’t Adult! What can one person do?

This despair comes when I believe the lie of independence, a myth both pernicious and paralyzing. We all need help. We all need connection—to be part of an endeavor, to have friends, and to be held in circles of caring.

And big goals need many hands and many hearts and many minds. On the front of every order of service, on our website, our newsletter, you will find Emerson UU Church’s statement of identity— Our beloved community of faith, reason, and affection welcomes all to grow in mind and spirit as we build a better world.

Cindy Beal, one of my wise colleagues, reminds us that

The arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, and usually it's because we bend it….
The goal of justice has to be all of us, my people. And what if our goal was to create a society in which no one ever had to say "Stop killing us."
Every single person deserves dignity, respect, and physical, mental, and even emotional and spiritual safety and embodied joy. Yes, joy. We can set goals that are based on healthy embodied joy. That's what I'm aiming for.
Can you imagine a world where we set goals based on the healthy embodied joy of every person?

Embracing the strengths of childhood, of playfulness and joy, wonder, and authentic emotion, honoring our passion for justice, how might we build that better world? What do our five-year old selves call us to do?

Many things.

One, of course, is our upcoming LGBTQ Wedding Day—around the church you’ll find these gray panels of paper. Before you leave today, please draw a happy picture or write your congratulations to the couples who will be married here two weeks from yesterday. The papers will become the window coverings in rooms upstairs where these couples will make the final preparations for their long awaited ceremonies.

Out in the Gathering Place we’ve got a sign-up table for volunteers, with opportunities before and during the event, a chance to use your favorite or long-neglected talents and passions to bring joy to others.

And next Sunday, the Reverend Chuck Freeman will be in this pulpit, to share the uniquely Texan story of Mary and James Billings, Universalists who spread their message of justice over a hundred years ago, and more on our Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry, working with state legislators to bring about equality, peace, and compassion in this vast and complicated state.

In the meantime, dream big and talk with others here—what makes your heart sing with possibility? How will you share your joy and wonder with a world that needs it?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

That Nauseating Time

Where every word you write
           every reading you choose
           every element you've placed

Seems horribly wrong 
                          and        absolutely
 none            of            it                           is 

           sermons don't need to be 'ready' 
           until Sunday.

You just hope that they come before



Wednesday, June 24, 2015


A busy busy day today with many things accomplished.
Including driving the boys to their pool-sitting gig. (Yes, we are allowed to use the pool.)

Everyone can use an oasis of one sort or another, no?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Snark and Vacuum

verb (used without object)
to be critical in a rude or sarcastic way:
to snark about the neighbors.

rude or sarcastic criticism.

The term originated, we're told, around 1910-1915, with roots in the Dutch or Low German for "to snore".

I am fluent in snark--it may be my native tongue. But I also work on being civilized and mature, so I try to limit my audible snark, and keep it from my writing as much as possible.  When I can, I translate the essential points into something more polite.

Sometimes it takes me a while to do the processing necessary for that moderation. In the meantime, I am quiet, or at least rambling on other topics.
But do I ever get back to the matter at hand? Or does my blunt truth get forgotten in the distractions of the day?

There's a trade-off there, to be certain. Manners maintain the status quo, which may truly need to be overturned. Change most often involves some amount of risk, conflict, and someone will most likely be discomfited, if not royally ticked.

Speaking the truth in love is a delicate act. Our choices are to err on the side of obscuring truth or imperfect love. Apologies may be necessary.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Lessons from Jaws

This week marks the fortieth anniversary of the theatrical release of Jaws. I'm happy to say that I've finally seen it on the big screen.

It's an awesome flick for a number of reasons, but what sticks with me is the unlikely hero. (Yes, I'm avoiding spoilers on a movie nearly as old as I am.)

It's a lesson for life. We tend to wait for the experts--those with the specialized knowledge and training to do the big and scary things. Failing experts, well... won't somebody else do it?

Ducking behind our fear and our obligations and our busyness, we can come up with seemingly rational ways to claim that the work is not ours to do.

But no matter how gory and terrifying (or endless and uncomfortable), we just might be the ones to blow it all open and find the way through.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Half The Year Gone

It is the solstice.
It's too hot in Houston for me to truly celebrate this turning and yet it is an occasion to mark, and to take note of where we are and what we've done.

A personal progress check feels a bit brutal right now. That feeling of nothing being accomplished. My reading list has barely budged, my professional goals more aspirational than achieved.

Goals get made in calm moments of life, not considering upheavals of illness and chaos. The year, thus far, has been a bit heavy on the heaves.

So I gave the weekend over to having a little fun and giving myself a break. Sometimes survival is 'progress' enough.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Not Heading to General Assembly

Next week several thousand Unitarian Universalists converge on Portland, Oregon for General Assembly, a five-day conference with worship, business meetings, workshops and much more.

I'll be holding down the fort in Houston, catching some of the sessions online. 

Perfectly rational reasons for not attending GA, with happy plans of my own to look forward to, but it does not stop a certain amount of ache.

I will miss the excitement of so many people coming together.
I will miss seeing beloved colleagues and friends.
I will miss the learning and the rich discussions.
I will miss some really fantastic lectures and milestone moments.

My sons and I are already discussing the possibility of doing GA 2016 together. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Where We Sleep

There's a lobster in my bed.

It's proof that at least one of my sons was in the house today--otherwise I might not know. I left for work in the morning and they were off to a party before I got home. They called a few minutes ago to ask if they could spend the night with their hosts. So my partner and I get the house to ourselves. 

It was not so long ago that a night without the boys was nearly impossible--and now they are teens eager to have their own adventures.

I could wax poetic about milestones and the passing of time, lament about their eventual leavings, but hey, we have the house to ourselves!

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Last night a young white man walked into the historic Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC. He sat in their Bible study for an hour before pulling out a gun to shoot those gathered, killing six women and three men, including ministers and the sexton of the congregation.

   Cynthia Hurd
   Susie Jackson
   Ethel Lance
   Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
   Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney
   Tywanza Sanders
   Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr.
   Rev. Sharonda Singleton
   Myra Thompson

Horrible. It is hard to find words in the midst of such tragedy, and I am grateful to all those who have done a more graceful and powerful job of it than I can today.

Me, I'm raging. I am stuck in a mire of anger. 
  • Cynthia Hurd was a librarian. Who kills a LIBRARIAN? They are among the very best members of a civilization.
  • How come we only seem to call it terrorism when it disrupts the Powers That Be? 
  • No, Houston, we don't need another gun show this weekend.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Magic, With and Without Explanations

Behold, the pencil, floating in mid-air.

We came upon this on a walk--how amazing!

Looking more closely, we realized that the pencil was suspended in a spider web.

An explanation, yes. But no less amazing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Flowers For Everyone

Where did I find this floral arrangement?

In the women's restroom at Terminal B of Logan Airport in Boston.
Actually, in more than one restroom.

The whole terminal is lovely, clean and designed with travelers in mind.

A good thing, too, as we spent about five hours waiting for our delayed aircraft to arrive.

Home now, where the sunflowers and crape myrtles are blooming--possibly other things in the backyard, but it's been pretty rainy. 

This morning, bathroom flowers were a blessing.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

Tropical Storm Bill swirls toward Texas, toward saturated soil and roiling rivers.

Usually I would watch the rain at my front door. But I am nearly two thousand miles away, wondering if I'll be able to fly home tomorrow.

Absolutely nothing I can do about it. Staying up all night definitely would not help.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

All Things in Moderation

When you're on dietary restrictions, but it's Cape Cod...
Clam chowder is required.

So I had it with a sensible salad.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Limits to Extroversion

Reunion weekend

A hundred people I do not know, as it's my partner's reunion.

It's pretty exhausting to catch up with all those people I've never met.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Half-assed Photography

This, my friends, is a blurry picture of my hand covering the camera on my phone.

I take variations on this shot often. 

Notice something picturesque, grab the phone and turn on the camera, point and click. 
Sure, sometimes it happens when the glare or my sunglasses keep me from a clear view of the phone screen.

But often I do not look at the phone--I look at whatever I'm admiring and assume that it will show up on my screen.

This is a photographic version of The Secret. It's aspirational--hope for the best. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Importance of Hydration

Four-hour flight followed by getting lost walking around Boston on a hot summer day... it was 2 PM when I got to lunch and I was so very thirsty. The 8 oz. water glass seemed ridiculously small.

There's a cliche that everything's bigger in Texas, but I will say that I'm accustomed to getting a big ol' glass of water when I ask for water. My favorite places have a 24-32 oz. tumbler. And if I'm hot, I may drink two of them.

Thirst means that we're already dehydrated--gotta replenish quickly. This is true not only with water for the body, but the thirsts of our souls. Are you keeping up with frequent sips? Gleefully gulping? 

And how can we best offer up the good stuff to all those we meet?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Bachelor Life

The family has left on vacation. I have the house to myself. Mostly that means I control the remote and don't have to share my food.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


One of the reasons I love my line of work is there are always things to learn. Today's observations include:

1) Craft foam has a smell, particularly when you take it out of the pack. Seriously, let that stuff outgas FAR from your desk.

2) When someone approaches you with three concerns, the first one may not be the most important to them. Might even be the fourth or the fifth.

3) Resilience is for real. 

There's no telling what lessons tomorrow may provide. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

An Exhaustion of Shoulds

Some days just have more obligations than others. When there are just so many thinks you simply must get done. None of them especially whimsical or alluring.

Some days you just have to grind it all through.

It's all possible, but it's rather tiring.

And putting off the obligations just make for a more desperate day to come.

At least we should be able to wear novelty socks and play our quirkiest music.

Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Shortcut Decluttering

There might come a time in my life where I'm into KonMari or one of the other decluttering trends sweeping the nation. Until then, here's a simpler approach. Pretend it's a flowchart, OK?

Does it have dust on it? If so, you haven't been using it much. Dust it.

Do you want to dust it again in two weeks? If yes, put it back where it was.

If no, do you actually need to keep it? 

        If yes, find a different way to store it.
        If no, get rid of it. (If possible, donate/sell, but trash needs the trash can.)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Which Side of the Road?

Growing up in Wisconsin, I'm used to gravel on the side of the road--all the glaciers that once covered the state left us with plentiful rocks of all sizes from the gravel to potato-sized to giant erratics spotting farmers' fields.

The first time I visited my spouse's old stomping grounds in Massachusetts, I was surprised to see granite curbing. It's durable and interesting, and seemed quite posh, even if it is a local resource.

In Houston we pay big bucks for gravel and rocks of any size. Our geology is more about being river/ocean bed not so long ago. Lots of clay, expanding and contracting with the rain, a royal pain to dig. And I'm still startled and amazed when I come across an oyster shell just lying about.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Vice Loss

May was a bit of a rough health month, when swollen tonsils went to strep and then I found that I couldn't swallow very well. It was not so much painful as uncomfortable. And worrisome.

At its worst, I spent a week or so living on smoothies, pureed soups, ice cream, and when I was feeling wild, completely smashed guacamole with goat cheese.

By the time I could get an appointment at an ENT clinic, 
I needed answers badly enough that I was looking forward to someone sticking a scope up my nose and down my throat. 

The findings were not the worst case scenarios I'd been imagining, but now I have daily meds. And vast dietary restrictions.

  • No caffeine (coffee, tea... even chocolate*)
  • No carbonated beverages
  • No citrus, tomato, or other acidic foods
  • No spicy food
  • No fried or greasy food, and watch fat consumption (even avocados*)
  • No mint
  • No alcohol
I like to think that I have not been whining too much. Definitely not as much as I could be, but honestly, too much talking leaves me hoarse.

*I can be strict on most things, but when it comes to chocolate and avocado, I'm going with a steadfast attitude of moderation.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Accidental Blessings

I did not mean to take this picture.

I was stuck three miles behind a wreck (auto accident) that had shut down all but a single lane of a six-lane freeway. I snapped a picture of the "energy trees" on my dashboard, and put my phone in the hidey hole of the car door. 

Apparently I took this picture in the process.

It's of better quality and far more compelling than the pic of the dashboard. 

Sometimes we get lucky. It's important to say thanks, however the joy and the beauty come.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Summer Projects

The last day of school here was May 28th. 

My teen sons settle into new routines easily, and they're happily considering what they'd like to do this summer.
Beyond playing video games until their eyes bleed...

Rumor has it that firstborn will be making the squid body pillow and using his Raspberry Pi for a project I have yet to comprehend.

Secondborn has been going through his science lab kits, making note of the dangerous chemicals. He'd really like to work on fire starting, but not when there's no adult at home. 

So his project today was a first attempt at a flower press. The wood is plaques they made years ago when we were studying the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Both boys chose Judge Not for their enscription, not as a grand theological statement, but because it was the shortest option available. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Chumbawamba Sunflower

 A couple of months ago my son brought home a sad little sunflower seedling in a busted bucket. He cleared space in the front garden and planted the sucker.

I was dubious. Sunflowers are not generally transplanted, but he made it happen with daily watering and care. The plant is at least six feet tall.

We've just had the wettest May on record, including several punishing storms. The night we got eight inches of rain also featured winds and hail--the spindly plant was bent and barely hanging on.

A week later it's mostly upright again and has put forth more blossoms. 

May we all be so resilient.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Before Summer Begins In Earnest

Today I had to be a grown-up.

Phone calls to make appointments
So many arrangements.

I needed to be steadfast.
Calm but firm.

Important things to be done
or delegated.

And yet it was my day off...
so I did what I could from the patio.
Wearing shorts and a tank top, 
no shoes.

I give thanks for a dry day,
not too hot yet.

Soon enough we'll lock ourselves indoors

sunrise to sunset.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Study Reading Strategies

Oh geez--it's nearly June. Time to consider my summer study reading. 

My usual process- I grab likely titles from the books I've purchased but haven't read, and a book or two that I need to reread.

A stack of aspirations is one thing. Actually reading the books is quite another.

So, strategies--

Narrow down that pile. Thirty-seven books WILL NOT be read, and that's just a lot of hauling and getting daunted. Start with ten or less. A dozen if you absolutely cannot help yourself.

One book at a time. I'm easily distracted and often read several books in the same stretch of time. My brain doesn't appreciate this when it comes to professional reading.

Notes of some sort. If it's on my Kindle, I highlight and export the notes later. On paper, I have a notebook for my reading, with a page for each book-- I jot down a quick insight and the page number so I can come back to it as needed.

Small chunks. Most often I set a 10% goal. If it's a 300 page book, that's 30 pages until I take a break. (This is even easier when technology puts the percentage read right there on the screen.)

Rewards. Not just a burgeoning Goodreads number. Getting to read fiction, hang out in a hammock, find a frosty beverage, go for a swim.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

This is the song that never ends...

It's raining again. We'll probably get another two to three inches tonight, putting us around a foot for the week*. The backyard is a lake, but not currently threatening to annex the living room. Our street is not flooded, and we're hoping it stays that way.

Perhaps I can see it as a bonus that we're getting a test of our new windows even before hurricane season. Looks like the installers will need to come back soon to fix this one, and hopefully it doesn't short out the contacts for the alarm system.

Grand scheme of things, in a week where at least two dozen Texans have died in the floods and thousands have lost cars or houses, this a tiny issue.

*Average annual rainfall for Houston is just under 50 inches. We've gotten about half that since March 1. And hypothetically June is our wettest month...

Friday, May 29, 2015


Once in a while I have thoughts for a blog post and I start writing, only to realize that it is not ready. Perhaps it's an idea I'm still processing, intellectually or emotionally. Sometimes the post is bigger than I can tackle in the time (or laptop charge) I have available that day.

So I click the Save button and start something new, figuring that I will get back to the draft sooner or later. Or not, if the topic proves ephemeral. The good news is, draft blog entries, even if they accumulate, are tiny digital files--they take up very little space. 

As opposed to the piles of various projects partitioned out on my dining room table, forcing me to review papers on the floor when I run out of space up top. The work of possibility is rarely tidy.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


In trying weeks a bit of distraction can be a blessing. This week it's Call the Midwife. Thank goodness for Netflix.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Last Place You Look

That time when an important binder goes missing only to show up in a box of craft supplies... including the stash of empty tequila bottles for bath salts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Dry(ish) Night

The floodwaters at my house receded by morning. Parts of metro Houston are still underwater, and a number of people died in the storms. So it's very much on my mind again tonight.

They say that 162 BILLION GALLONS of rain fell on my county last night.
That's over a trillion pounds of water.

Tonight, if we have any rain, it will be a quick sprinkle.
At least, that's what we're hoping.

Rain, rain, go away.
Go to Cali-for-nye-ay.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Heads Above Water...

Rain coming down from the overhang
Here in Texas we've had rather a lot of rain this month.

And now we've had six inches this evening, with plenty of thunder and lightning and a few hailstorms to keep things interesting.
Water gushing over the
side of the gutter

Houston is a series of swamps, affectionately named bayous. They drain the city as they can.

Right now my street is its own bayou. The water is only halfway up my driveway and there's not much of a current, but there is still more than you would expect on a street.

A camera in the dark- it's a mystery
where it will focus.
Power's been out since the storms started, so I am writing on my phone. Picture captions and proper formatting will wait.

Power lost just as I scooped ice cream.
Alas, a candlelit treat

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Less Successful Deadline Excuses

  1. Golden Girls was on, and I hadn't hear that Sicily story before. 
  2. I wasn't feeling it.
  3. The colored pencils needed sorting.
  4. Chocolate chip pancakes do not make themselves.* 
  5. My kids were using my computer.
  6. I lost one of my idea socks.
  7. Mercury is in retrograde.
  8. It's not ready--I haven't thought of ten excuses yet.
*This one might work if there were leftover pancakes to offer as appeasement.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hidden Talents

My sons often play video games while talking to friends online. They have headsets so we do not have to hear the whole gaggle and the game.  

But this also means that to get their attention we have to raise our voices.
Or toss a beanie baby (or small throw pillow or sock) in their general direction.

It turns out that I have pretty good aim from the loft upstairs.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Not Necessarily Progress

Diva, it appears, has become a gender neutral term.

From a word-geek standpoint, this is sort of fascinating. Rather than coming up with a truly neutral term (moving from steward/stewardess to flight attendant) or settling for the masculine term as the default (actor), diva is the feminine form. Divo, I'm told, is rarely used outside of Italy.

From a gender studies angle, it's more frustrating. Diva is most often used in a derogatory way. Does the feminine form add a little emasculating spice? Are there examples of positive terms where we use the feminine form for all genders?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Learning By Play

(Everyone is OK. Just follow-up testing.)

Getting an MRI can be scary for anyone.

If you're lucky enough to get to do it at Texas Children's Hospital, though, you can figure it all out at this play station first. Give an MRI to a chicken, elephant, or robot (the gator was on vacation.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Marking Milestones

My spouse is in the next room, watching the final episode of Letterman.
It's likely the first episode he's watched in five years.

And yet. We feel compelled. To witness, and to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We know it will be a cultural touchstone, at least for the lunch hour tomorrow, or at a weekend picnic.

I'd be in there as well, but I'm still fighting this bug. 
Perhaps I'll watch the recording tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Accountability Measures

Today was deadline day at work. Newsletter and e-blast and reports. I struggled to get it all done, but I managed. 

And now I am home and there's a blog entry to put up? Honestly, I would rather find a movie to watch. 

I am going to be responsible and get the blog done and put myself to bed at a sensible time. More work to be done in the morning...

So a quart of ice cream is sitting out on the counter. I get a scoop of it as soon as I click publish.

Apologies for a short post, but I wouldn't want the ice cream to get too melty.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Couch Scenes

You might be a religious professional's child if you flip through religious magazines and read aloud the interesting tidbits.

It could be a time management strategy for me, no?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Unlikely Tools of Ministry

Confiscated water balloon, 9:50 AM
The preschool lesson involved balloons today, so one of my sons inflated a dozen for that classroom.

Balloons are among the most attractive of my ministry tools. They can be bounced up and around. The ends fit on our fingertips. An untied balloon can be released to fly off crazily, or stretched to make all sorts of ridiculous noises. We use them for cooperation and bonding, for science and music and energy breaks.

The minute one class has balloons, ALL the classes want balloons. And they want to take them throughout the church. We work hard on appropriate behavior, but manners just can't compare with the joy of playing with a balloon. 

And if someone finds a water source, suddenly there's a water balloon. And then everyone needs their own--water balloons are more popular than two-bite brownies.

We needn't outlaw joy. Sometimes, though, we need a few boundaries to make sure we don't trip or soak bystanders.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Returns on Investments

If I buy groceries and provide a recipe, the teens can make dinner. In this case, the mushroom bisque from Cook's Illustrated, and roasted parsnips, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. (The beige thing next to the soup is store-bought garlic bread. It was, by far, the least delicious thing on the plate.)

Granted, by the time I was their age, I could (and did) make meals for the family.

But now there is Google. The boys can research recipes and come up with their own ideas. And they also have a grocery store within a mile--many more possibilities than back in my day.

They still have lots of questions and need a certain amount of guidance. And granted, the texture of the bisque wasn't QUITE as smooth as I'd make it, and the Brussels got a bit crispier than I'd like.  And yet, I didn't have to do any of it.

Not even dishes.

And later, one of them brought me a dish of ice cream.

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Matter of Taste

I'm on day four of antibiotics (strep throat) and everything tastes yuck. Metallic and bitter and chemical-ish. Sour Patch Kids help some.

Four days down, six to go. I can handle this, though I have been whining.

But what about someone on chemotherapy, taste affected for months and months? 

Apparently miracle fruit may help, according to a small study and some testimonials and marketing on behalf of the fruit farmers. I've known a number of people who swore by pickles. The internet is full of tricks, few of which end up on the dieticians' lists of healthy choices. But considering the risks of cancer and chemo, pickles (or Bailey's Irish cream, or Sour Patch Kids) seem fairly sensible.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


It was two months ago that my son had his medical emergency. Life, in many ways, is back to normal-- school and work routines and all that. Our familial sense of humor is a bit darker, perhaps, and sometimes we worry about things we wouldn't have earlier.

Today, looking over the agenda for a conference call, I saw my name listed as a member of a task force. I emailed a colleague on the task force, sheepishly asking what that task force might be?

You see, I have a hard time recalling things that happened shortly before the crisis days. Even when I read over notes I took in meetings I attended, I cannot form a real picture. I'm told this is not uncommon--my brain got full of other things.

It just makes catching up interesting. Thankfully, I have understanding colleagues.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Radioactive Gifts

"The bright pieces have a half life of 12.38 years." 

So said my son as he handed me this necklace.

His gift to me was quite a production--the final piece just came today. He designed the heart and had it made on a 3-D printer. The diagonal lines contain bright yellow vials of tritium.

I'll wear it proudly, as soon as the vinegar scent of superglue wears off.

In the meantime, it's quite easy to find in the dark.