Sunday, February 18, 2018

Zenith of Zentangle

Last weekend, I had a marvelous getaway at a Zentangle retreat at Copper Beech.

Before classes started, I wandered out to the labyrinth, which was covered in ice.  I was nervous about walking on the ice and couldn't do the whole loop, but I enjoyed the solitude and the view.  I even left behind a token I had stamped with the word "peace."  I especially liked all of the other footsepts around the labyrinth which were frozen in the ice.  Just the idea of everyone walking the path separately.  It reminds me of that meme (though it existed before internet memes) about footsteps on the beach and there only being one set at times, when God carried the person.  For me, the footsteps at the labyrinth were the community walking separately but together.

Then it was food and tangling.  We always eat well at Copper Beech!  Salads, baked cod, chicken parmesan, tasty veggie sides, fresh-baked cookies, honey butter with bread.  Mmm, mmm, good.

And on the tangling!  So many great projects, including our double-heart-string puzzle, a piece of which was given to someone else to tangle and returned to us at the end of the weekend.

And the gorgeous bleeding tissue paper that colored our opus tile for our tangled heart.  I experimented with lots of "frills" or "doodads" outside the heart, also with random white dots to highlight the patterns.  And of course, I don't usually work in color.  This was a great way to use color without worrying about coloring or painting in the tangles.  

We also made gratitude bouquets (the vase is made from acrylic paint applied onto paper with baby wipes!), a little book (acrylic paint scraped on paper with a gift card or hotel key card), and a little Bijou tile book which will contain 26 tangles A to Z.  I made the book but will add the Bijous later.  I was mostly focused on the bigger, higher concentration projects like the heart and the puzzle.

I really liked the group of women (and one man) who attended, several of whom I'm now in touch with online.  Of all my Zentangle classes, this one really stands out.  Just lots of fun and inspiration.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Here we go, more achievements and affirmations:

  • part-time hospice work (about 15 hours a week, for 300 hours in 5 months)
  • starting CPE modules and unit cohort work (about 200 hours)
  • Zentangle retreat--DRIVING myself, lots of tangling, walking to the very icy labyrinthe!
  • Driving--30 minutes to hospice, 40 minutes to see a play with Girl Scouts, 55 minutes to Zentangle retreat--new personal records all in one week!
  • Girl Scout overnight--archery, sleeping on the floor, walking on snow in dark
  • bike riding on a few warm days in a row, going fast (for me)
  • treadmilling at my highest rate yet!
  • applying, interviewing, and earning spot in CPE spring unit!
  • Speedskating weekend, including:
    • driving farther than I have since my back issues
    • driving after a blizzard (though the roads were great!) at night
    • lugging all the supplies for the competition
    • taking care of Sis by myself out and about for the whole time (pretty easy, but still!)
    • overseeing the hospitality room at the competition
    • working the hospitality room for 10 hours!
    • driving home despite being tired
    • and then driving to church the next morning!!!!
  • our trip to DC, with very cold weather and full day spent at museums
  • holding down the household when Mama had the flu
  • braving a back spasm in October and recovering after a few days
  • not wearing my brace for hospice, shopping, birding, piano playing, zoo, etc.
  • restarting my treadmill habit!
  • walking in ice and snow, which usually scares me
  • wearing jeans (which have bothered my back, in the past)
  • and a few I didn't ever list from last year
    • all the sightseeing in NJ in the awful heat
    • Hog Island Camp, especially the full-day hike!!!  
    • Opera, Broadway shows, and lots of movies (all that sitting)

For the old lists, see my original list of Affirmations is from March, AprilOctober 2015, then March and June 2016, and June 2017 and here)


Here are some notes on the week since the Super Bowl:

  • I'm so glad the Patriots didn't win.  Yay, Eagles!  It was a pretty good game.  
  • My mom arrives in about an hour, having canceled her last trip when my uncle died and then not coming for Christmas.  I don't think we've seen her since the summer.
  • My back is out.  A cocktail of lots of driving, lots of sitting at the Zentangle retreat, starting my period, stress at hospice, and sitting in a booth for lunch ended with my standing up from lunch and not being able to take a step.  Mama even had to come fetch me and get me to the car in a wheelchair.  With meds, rest, and my great adjustable bed, I'm already taking a few steps on my own.  Still, I had to skip hospice today and it was a bit embarrassing to be so helpless there yesterday.  And a good reminder to take it easier.  I had been making back progress though--I don't wear my brace at hospice and I've been on my treadmill a lot recently.  Just bad timing, I think.  
  • Zentangle retreat:  another beautiful experience at Copper Beech Mindfulness Institute for a weekend of Zentangling.  I'll write about it later.
  • I had fun at last week's speedskating practice.  While sitting in the stands watching, I met a young girl, who was interested in skating, and her mom--who had been on the national speedskating team AND been an alternate at the Calgary Olympics.  So cool!  And Sis had a big fall--she was letting it fly in a race, letting go of all caution, and wiped out trying to pass the leader.  It was too fast even to get nervous--I saw the fall and she slid a lot and then hopped back up.  Whew. Relief.  It was only nervewracking after the fact.
  • It's Chinese New Year season and Bud has had a lot of kung fu performances.  I think there's at least one this weekend and then perhaps two the weekend after.
  • I'm really enjoying the Olympics, as is the whole family.  Bud picks up on the lingo of whatever sport he's watching--luge, slopestyle snowboarding, half pipe, figure skating.  Sis is excited about all of the short track speedskating, her own sport.  One of the team members even got his start on her team, though way before us.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Weekend

We're watching the Super Bowl, though we have misgivings about the NFL.  And about the Patriots, even if they are widely loved up here.  The kids wanted to understand football and what all the other kids are excited about, so it's on and we're sorta watching.  I've explained the mechanics of the game. And we're evaluating the ads.  Liked Toyota's ad on the Paralympics. And Chris Hemsworth promoting Australia.  Not impressed with Dodge Ram using MLK's words to sell trucks, a focus on "service" or not.  The meanness of the Cure ads were funny, just barely.  And we're ready to see Solo. We liked Justin Timberlake at the half, though we didn't know most of his songs.  Bud liked his dancing, which is like the moves of the K-Pop band BTS that he likes so much.  We liked the tribute to Prince and the Trolls song.

Otherwise, it's been a busy weekend.  Mama worked from home Friday and we were able to have lunch together at a local Indian buffet.  As we were driving to the restaurant, I spotted a lump on a branch in a tree by the river.  An adult bald eagle!  Mama turned around and we were able to cross the road to see the beautiful bird, still at a safe distance from us.  I even got a few pictures.  You could see its head moving back and forth, presumably as it scanned for lunch, because several minutes later, it took off.  Gorgeous.  In fact, now we've seen eagles in pretty much the same area three days in a row--one on Friday (twice--before and after lunch!), two on one branch--one adult (with the telltale white head and dark body) and one juvie (splotchy brown but still really big) on Saturday, and then one adult today.

And of course we're rooting for the Eagles!  Friends think it's a sign that there are Eagles in New England territory!

Friday night, the kids had a birthday party dance to attend--one of the first kids to turn 13 in their group.  Mama enjoyed our second "date" of the day by eating pizza and watching Wings of the Dove, featuring lovely Venice.  Saturday had Sis helping with pony rides and Bud performing in a kung fu show for Lunar New Year.  Today we were similarly split, with Bud off for another performance.  Sis was supposed to go to speedskating, but her tummy was upset so she stayed home.

Ponies and horses are a bittersweet topic around our house these days.  We learned a week or so ago that the farm where Sis rides is going to send her beloved leased pony Murphy back to his owners in Vermont because he's too old to be ridden often and is having some leg troubles.  Sis is heartbroken.  We are heartbroken.  He was her first pony, pretty much, and can't ever be replaced in her heart.  And so she wants to see him as much as possible but knows that time is limited.  He'll probably leave in March.  Her coach has invited Sis to go to Vermont to help choose the next horse to come back to Connecticut.  And while she's sure she still wants to lease and loves horses, she's just so sad when she thinks of them right now.  It's going to be a tough month.

Okay, confession:  this is going to be long because I already wrote it as one of my papers for my CPE.

I had a wonderful experience in the religious education (RE) class I co-teach.  As I think I've explained, this year the focus is on the “Neighboring Faiths” curriculum, which requires participants to learn about various religions in our area, speak with their practitioners, and, when possible, attend a service.  Thus far, the class—with our kiddos included—has visited a rabbi from a conservative Jewish synagogue, a Roman Catholic mass, and a Presbyterian service.   This class is particularly important for Unitarian Universalists (UU) because we value the voices of prophetic men and women from many faiths.  We also recognize that we live in a global community and believe that multicultural competence, including interfaith dialogue, is an important part of being a citizen of the world. 

We have been preparing to visit a mosque and so met last week with a Muslim woman (NOTE:  Islam is the religion; Muslim is the practitioner) who travels the area teaching “Islam 101.”  She gave a wonderful presentation to our students, explaining core beliefs, the Five Pillars (belief, prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage), the reasons behind and techniques for the wearing of hijab, the timing and format of five prayers a day, the gestures and verses that comprise those prayers, and more.  She taught the children how to sing a song about the months of the Islamic calendar, recited many of the 99 names of Allah, and shared with us some sweet bean pie, a traditional African-American Muslim dish.  She spoke of her love of scarves and different editions of the Quran.  She even showed us her special app that alerts her to the time for prayers each day and also orients her towards Mecca for those prayers.  The kids were fascinated by the niqab she passed around so that we could look through the sheer material that would cover a woman's face and intrigued by the bowing and kneeling and rituals of her prayers.  As she had hoped, she made Muslims seem just like everyone else—not weird or scary or dangerous.  And she thanked us for inviting us because she believes it will help our world if we all understand and respect each other. 

On Sunday, we visited a local mosque and met their Imam, youth director, and young members of their community.  We were welcomed heartily into the mosque, removed our shoes as a sign of respect, and then sat in chairs in the main room.  The Imam talked to our group about the basis of Islam, focusing on the Six Pillars of Belief (as opposed to the practices of the pious that we learned about the week before):  1.) God (the Oneness of God, as opposed to the Trinity) 2.) Angels (“The Unseen,” like Gabriel 3.) Sacred Books (The Quran, but also the Torah, Psalms, and Gospels--aka Bible) 4.) Prophets (The Quran names 25, including Abraham, Noah, Moses, John the Baptist, Jesus, Mohammed is the last.  Jesus is not meant to be worshipped, only a messenger) 5.) Judgment Day (there are three lives—spiritual life before birth, terrestrial life, and then resurrected life after Judgment) 6.) Free will (God knows everything, but we choose.)  The students in our class were overwhelmed by all the teachings—especially when one of the adults tried to ask about jihad and Sunnis and Shi’ites. The Imam was very careful and clear in his disavowal of violence and hatred between faiths and races.  But he was talking to such a young group that many of them didn’t understand his words in quite the same vein as the adults.  Soon we shared doughnuts and the kids from both youth groups were smiling!   The Imam also based out thematic translations of the Quran in English to each student and adult present.  (We were all surprised to hear the telling of Jesus’s birth, when he spoke out as an infant, which appears in the Quranic book of Mary.)

We also witnessed the afternoon prayer, starting with the Athan called by the youth director.  I remembered my college summer in Tunisia when I was on an archaeological dig in Carthage and we could hear the calls to prayer resonate across the city from its many minarets five times a day.  Then, with the Imam going first, the long row of men and a shorter row of young women further behind, bowed and knelt repeatedly to pray.  In all, it lasted about 15 minutes.  Though, the Imam didn’t point it out, I could see the door to the area for ritual cleansing that many of the men who had stopped by for the afternoon prayer entered.  Apparently, there is a separate room for women—for their privacy, the Imam said—but they do not have to pray in there but can pray in the large room.  Still, the rows in front are for men, to protect the modesty of the women, who are behind.  (We had noticed separate entrances for “Brothers” and “Sisters” but they did not insist on their use today and had us all come through the Brothers’ door.  Also, one of our female teachers went to shake hands with the youth director who politely declined touching her.)  We were told later that it is important to pray close together—even touching feet—because it consolidates the spirit of the prayer.  I wondered why the men were so close together (even the carpet, with its decoration demarcating separate but small spaces, like individual prayer rugs.)  At our UU church people would never sit that close to anyone but spread out as a form of politeness and personal space.

I'm really loving this RE class, especially when we're looking at religions I don't know as well, like Islam.  It was all really interesting and great for the kids, and for me in my work as a hospice chaplain.  Soon, we'll study Buddhism, visit a Hindu temple, meet with some Quakers, and go to an AME church.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Today's the Day

My CPE (clinical pastoral education) unit officially starts today!  In the next five months, I will do 300 clinical hours at hospice and 100 educational hours.  That's about 16 hours of volunteering a week, plus seminar and study time.  Already this week I have two papers due.  But I realized last night that I haven't forgotten the format of a footnote in the 15+ years since my dissertation!  Nor have I forgotten academic anxiety and stress, unfortunately.  And I've never been a student or a worker while caring for a family.  I know so many people do this--and more--but it's going to take some getting used to after more than a decade as a stay-at-home mom.  Still, I know it's a challenge I'm (and we're) up for.  And I'm not forgetting down time to recharge.  In fact, meditating everyday is part of the learning goals I have to submit in a week.

So, here I go!  Time to shower and be off.

Monday, January 22, 2018

For . . .

Lambeth's a jolly, good fellow.
For Lambeth's a jolly, good fellow.
For Lambeth's a jolly, good fellow,
which nobody can deny.

Which nobody can deny,
Which nobody can deny,
For Lambeth's a jolly, good fellow,
which nobody can deny!

We love you and hope it's a day even half as wonderful as you are.