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Making the President Irrelevant

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I like to pretend that the President of the United States is entirely irrelevant to my life. I’m sure many disengaged Americans have always felt this way, but I’m not normally one to ignore current events. I’m a social justice activist at heart, a bit obsessive about politics, and I think it’s our responsibility to pay attention and speak up when, say, a president threatens to blow another nation off the map.

Still, in the interest of my own sanity, I am trying to detach, to pretend that everything is normal. Sometimes I can manage it for hours at a time. I plant herbs in my garden, chop up broccoli and carrots for dinner, scrub the bathroom floor, read a gothic novel, all without a thought to the unspeakable cad in the Oval Office (a term my mother reserved for the most despicable of men and which I think fits exactly).

But then I’ll knick myself with the kitchen knife and wonder if I’m going to lose my health insurance, or I’ll notice how fast the basil and cilantro go to seed in the record-setting heat and then I’ll wonder how on earth anyone could possibly deny climate change, most especially the people in charge of our environmental and energy agencies, and I’ll say out loud to my cat that the only person in this gd administration who seems to accept climate change is the former CEO of Exxon who has no business being in the Cabinet anyway.

I try to reel it back in, to let go of the string of anxious thoughts, to focus on the smell of the mint I’m chopping for the cucumber salad, but all I can think about by then is a mushroom cloud rising somewhere in the vicinity of North Korea and I scream at my cat, “Who threatens to ‘totally destroy’ a nation of millions of innocent people??” and my cat says “meow” and I continue my tirade, “Who, WHO goads a madman with nuclear weapons??”

“Another madman,” my cat answers, only of course she doesn’t, but I think she’s sympatico; anyway she’s seems perturbed.

A couple of world leaders at the United Nations referred to President Tweet as a rogue.

Nail on the head.

And everyone knows that a rogue elephant is never irrelevant.

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Was This Teaching Thing All a Mistake?

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WAS THIS TEACHING THING ALL A MISTAKE?

The closest thing I can liken it to is that feeling you get when you’ve been in a car accident and you step out all wobbly, gingerly testing every part of your body. You think you might be OK, but then again you might be missing a limb and not feeling it because you are in deep shock. Everything seems vivid and clear and surreal. You are glad to be alive.

You take deep gulping breaths and blink back tears, tears that have been lurking since you ate your PB&J sandwich at noon and waited for the kids to come back from recess.

Today you have been sad, mad, and despairing, but mostly just powerless.

Over first and second graders.

My first day as a substitute teacher might have been better without the second grade boys in the mix. In fact, it most definitely would have been. The paper airplanes wouldn’t be stuck on top of the ceiling light fixture and the four-foot-tall stack of plastic tubs would not have careened to the ground and scattered all the regular teacher’s folders and papers all over the floor.

I just thank God that the head of the school did not walk in at that moment. With two boys denying responsibility at higher and higher decibel levels and a third boy sobbing his heart out and the rest of the class staring at me with saucer-sized eyes, wondering if I was going to hit someone.

The girls mostly got into fights with each other over sharing toys and where things such as rocket ships and flags were supposed to be stored. There were raised voices, there were tears, there was one who sat in a corner and sulked for ten minutes. I asked her if she wanted to talk and she shook her head so I left her there. She seemed to bounce back.

I don’t know. Was this whole idea of substitute teaching a massive mistake?

My Facebook friends were so encouraging! “You’ll be amazing . . . you’ll be great . . . you have so much wisdom . . . you’ll change lives!”

Not so much.

There were moments. Helping a little girl learn to read the words “ice cream and cake” was cool, and reading Horton Hears a Who to an exhausted class at the end of the day with one small child cuddled next to me was five minutes of well-earned bliss.

A little red-headed girl who was only with my class for an hour of spelling and writing came running in to give me a hug after school.

And A, despite being in tears several times during the day, presented me with this:

A’s Gift

I don’t know whether that is a TV or a couple of aliens coming in through a window, but it matters not. I will keep this picture as a reminder of my first day as a teacher. Someday I hope to laugh about it all. Right now, my stomach hurts. I have to go back tomorrow.

Abstract Children

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ABSTRACT CHILDREN

I don’t have children, which is usually fine with me. Every once in a while, I think it might have been nice. Once a long time ago I had a dream of my daughter. She was freckle-faced with wispy blonde hair and we were standing on a cliff in the wind. My heart nearly burst with love for her. Sometimes I wonder if she exists in an alternate universe.

But most of the time I’m quite happy to be in this universe, psychically and emotionally independent. I greatly value my freedom, and I am just as glad not to have large pieces of my heart galavanting around the world getting hurt or getting into trouble. I have way less to worry about than parents do, and I’m grateful for that.

I joke about not liking children in general — they can be noisy and they are often covered in jelly or chocolate — but every time I get to know one as an individual, I fall in love. The love affairs started with the birth of my nephew and niece, continued as the children of my friends grew into beautiful, fascinating beings, and is now in full blossom as the oldest of my six grand nieces and nephews start their college days.

Children in the abstract I can take or leave, but children in the flesh make my heart sing. Not much makes me happier than watching little ones dance around our church sanctuary each Sunday, “making a joyful noise to the Lord” on tambourines and cymbals and drums. Even if they are covered with raspberry jelly and bits of doughnut.

A New Direction

So although it has come as a great surprise to me, I suppose an observer might not be at all surprised that I have chosen substitute teaching as the next step in my circuitous journey toward becoming my best self. It makes sense that I would eventually be drawn to spending more time with real, actual children, even though I am intimidated when packs of the older ones stampede down the hall, jostling each other and causing lockers to vibrate with their riotous laughter.

Yesterday, I began my new career at a nearby Quaker school by joining a class of 1st and 2nd graders that I’ll be subbing for next Thursday and Friday. Never having done the classroom thing before, I wanted to watch a real teacher in action. Ms. S was impressed that I volunteered my time to get to know the kids, and she was generous with her time in preparing me. I ended up spending the whole day with her fourteen students, rather than the three hours I had planned.

Stay tuned for further adventures in the life of a CIA clerk turned Sierra Club lobbyist turned freelance writer turned pastor turned teacher.

As Dr. Seuss says, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose!”

On the Journey

Politics, Prayer, Tiny Pee, and a Poll!

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Here’s something I’ve never done before. Since the voyeurs among you seem to enjoy my occasional “journal snippets,” how about a peek into my Facebook page?

“Spare us!” you cry. I know, it sounds dull, doesn’t it? It most certainly will be for my FB friends, but for those of you not fortunate enough to receive my daily gems of wisdom, humor, and insight, witness a week in the life:

↓        ↓          ↓            ↓              ↓

Sad to leave the Bernie Fan Facebook page that I’ve been a part of for so long. But the vitriol and conspiracy nonsense has gotten to be too much. At first there was a good back & forth after Bernie stepped out of the race, but now they won’t approve my posts anymore – only one opinion welcome there, and it ain’t a vote for Clinton.


Oh my, trapped in the gym for forty minutes with a woman who does not believe that humans have anything to do with climate change. And she knows cause she’s a high school history teacher. I will say two things:

One — I have grown up A LOT (though my tongue hurts from biting and my throat hurts from choking back the passive-aggressive bile.)

Two: I hope our gym schedules coincide again. My heart rate was two points higher than it usually is when I do the same workout.


I was trying to remember the name of an author who wrote a little book on prayer many moons ago, so I googled it. Mistake. Now I’m getting all kinds of ads for tacky prayer books. May favorite so far is: The Battle Plan for Prayer: From Basic Training to Targeted Strategies.

And — would this be praying to the Prince of Peace?


The Most Hippie Towns in All Fifty States: This article calls for a long road trip!


Somehow I never pictured myself sitting at home on a Friday night reading The New International Commentary on the New Testament. And my guess is, neither did any of my friends! At least there’s cabernet involved.


An amateur photographer catches a bee peeing in mid-air. Cutest pee ever!

Bee Pee

Bee Pee


I shared quotes from two of my favorite authors:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Annie Dillard

“To be open to the world is a dangerous way to live. It threatens us with learning things we’ve always been taught to reject.”

Joan Chittester


One hundred years ago today, August 20, 1916, one of the kindest, big hearted gentlemen of all time came into the world: Balous Frederick Griffin. Happy birthday, Daddy. I look forward to celebrating on the other side!

photo (79)


Now, so my blog readers don’t feel left out of my exciting Facebook life, I’ve designed a special poll just for you! And, like my Facebook page, it’s all about ME! Join the fun, how do you feel about ME and my Facebook page? (Actually, I’ve just discovered this polling function, so I’m playing around. Expect to see more polls, until I get bored with them.)

Carefree

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I’m sitting on the weathered wooden deck behind my cottage in rural New Hampshire watching an orange butterfly flit among orange day lilies and admiring my orange toenail polish. Presidential candidates not withstanding, orange can be a nice color. This deck is my “safe place,” the place I bring to mind when I’m working with my therapist and need to get centered and calm.

I’m supposed to be working on a sermon, but let’s be real. I am not. Instead I am in that sought-after but rarely found state of mind referred to as “mindfulness,” “being in the present moment,” or “abiding” in pastor-speak. A human being rather than a human doing. Care-free.

Usually the soundtrack in this safe place is the chiming of the grandfather clock through the open window, the chittering of goldfinch and chickadees at the feeder, and the ssshhhush of leaves being caressed by the wind. Today though, I also hear my nephew’s kids chatting over board games and reading each other comics — at least one is engaging in that fave teenage pastime of rifling through the fridge to see if there might be different snacks than there were five minutes ago.

Choosing to Be Childlike

This week marks the beginning of my annual month of hosting Jeff and his four kids here at Quiet Hills, just as my aunt hosted me all my growing-up years. Being with kids reminds me of how glorious it is to be a child, and I grow younger when I’m with them. I feel carefree.

Budding Archaeologist

Budding Archaeologist

 

Field trip to a local quartz-mica mine

Field trip to a local quartz-mica mine

Of course there are cares I could entertain, such as two un-done sermons, my cluttered home and overgrown yard at home, an upcoming meeting with my new financial planner who thinks I am insane for keeping this old house and would no doubt disapprove of the ice cream budget this month — or even the fact that a narcissistic orange megalomaniac might become president. But today right here, right now, I choose to set aside those grown-up cares and be carefree.

I’ll Save the World Next Month

I have yet to process or write much about the Wild Goose Festival that I attended just before coming here, filling my head and heart with the cares of the world: poverty and hunger, oppression and injustice, racism and white privilege, homophobia. I have pages of notes from workshops and dialogues, and the margins are full of scribbled ideas for next steps I can take to nourish my soul and save the world. There is no shortage of work for those of us trying to bring hope and healing to a hurting world — “plotting goodness” as my friend Brian calls life with Jesus.

But this month is about peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and maple walnut ice cream, day trips to the swimming hole and late-night story times, evening walks to the beaver pond and midnight-marathon board games.

Story Time

Story Time

Thanks for the carefree word prompt, WordPress Gods of the Blogosphere.

Losing Track of Ourselves

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Today I am much involved in the wheres and whens and hows of logistics for a road trip, strategic plans for church, antibiotics for a tick bite, appointments for car servicing, blah, blah, and blah.

Having no useful words in my own head, I offer a few from the head of Frederick Buechner, one of my favorite authors. May they expand your world today, if only for a moment:

“We are much involved, all of us, with questions about things that matter a good deal today but will be forgotten by this time tomorrow — the immediate where and whens and hows that face us daily at home and at work — but at the same time we tend to lose track of the questions about things that matter always, life-and-death questions about meaning, purpose, and value. To lose track of such deep questions as these is to risk losing track of who we really are in our own depths and where we are really going.”

Frederick Buechner

Where are we really going?

Where are we really going?

Grateful for Gratitude

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I know I need to write about Orange Man — I know I do. But words fail me. I just can’t do it yet. I felt genuine terror yesterday when I read that our security agencies are about to brief him on highly sensitive matters.

“Don’t tell him anything!” I wailed, right out loud. There’s simply no regulator on his tongue, and his only allegiance is to his own bloated ego, which is getting more and more inflated like some giant dirigible full of toxins that’s casting a huge shadow over my country and it’s going to burst and cover all of us with his Orange Poison of Hate.

So, you see, I’m not ready to write about what the Republican voters have done.

I also considered writing about my father, who passed away forty-one years ago tomorrow, while I was at my college orientation. I hadn’t wanted to go, but Mom said he would want me to, and she was right. But thinking about my Dad dying from alcoholism at just fifty-eight makes me sad, especially when I worry about other loved ones possibly be headed for the same fate. (If you wonder about yourself, I urge you to consider getting help.)

I’d like to write about the lovely spring weather and flowers and such, but it’s been raining for a week straight. My pansies have been flooded out. Plus, I’ve lost my umbrella.

DSCN4932

In case you haven’t guessed, I woke up a bit low this morning.

So I made a gratitude list in my journal, and I’ve decided that’s the best thing to share with you today. Here’s an excerpt:

My father being a kind man. My mother, my brother, my sister. My cats. My teal bedroom and the new matching quilt. Avocados. Cookbooks.The Bible. Books!! My drum. Airplanes. Candles. Music. Turtles. Cheese. Cheese pizza. Elephants. Rain forests. Brightly colored frogs. Having health care. The beach. Hummingbirds! Having an African-American president. Lilacs. The scent of vanilla. Fireflies. Stars. Prayer. Tea. Thank you!!

There you have it. I highly recommend the practice of gratitude. How can you be grumpy when you’re pondering brightly colored frogs?

Have an awesome weekend, my friends.

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