Archive for January, 2012

photo from “Dominican Saints 101

Today is her feast day.  She was whisked away to a Dominican cloister by her father, to save her from invaders. Young Margaret took to the life like a fish to warm water, and practiced study and devotion for years. Because she was so young when she took the habit (at the age of four), many thought she would grow out of her devotion, but she never did.

Many take her story as a reminder of the seeds of great spirituality in children, and as a reminder to we who educate them to not dismiss those callings, but foster them so that they might flourish.

As a Sunday school teacher, I have always thought it was wrong to take a position of “I know and you don’t; listen carefully.” The Latin for “educate” means “to lead out.” That is, to create circumstances and opportunities that might lead a young person into discovery and reflection.

My most delightful and holy moments in Sunday school and in public school teaching were when I trusted a Gracefullness that surrounded all of our curiosity, conversation, and endeavors… when I trusted to let go a bit, listen to the kids, and regard what they had to offer as valuable.

This is harder than it sounds! I have a lot of energy, and a million ideas a minute, and like to be in charge. I pray, today on Margaret’s day, that I might be ever mindful of the gifts and passions of those I teach, and teach from a posture of welcoming and celebrating them.


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I’m with Matt, Remy, and my Mom and Stepdad on Catalina Island. Gorgeous. Very islandy. We took the ferry from Long Beach early this morning, with front row seats on the top deck. I think it does something biologically to gaze out on blue sky and blue sea. I saw my first dolphins! Dozens of them from the ferry, leaping. I told Matt that I’ve seen so many dolphin tattoos and trinkets over the years, I kind of forgot they’re an actual, incredible animal.

We had an incredible lunch (scallops, two kinds of shrimp cocktail) and then rented a golf cart to see the whole island. There’s some kind of old casino from the 20s, very Art Nouveau, and a botanical garden. We’re in an amazing little inn, with a balcony and view of the water. For dinner, Matt and I (and Remy) went back down to the waterfront and had more incredible seafood near the water. We saw more dolphins (the innkeeper said a pod more than a thousand) from our balcony.

Apparently, there are bison all over the island, left over from some long ago movie shoot– the studio couldn’t be bothered to take them back off the island. According to local lore, there are also perhaps some wild black panthers running around– I saw this old movie poster today. Apparently, the movie has to do with turning black panthers into women?? There’s something about these old movies, and strange connections between “science” (or the promise of science?) and sexuality. Strange.

Last year, the museum on the Island hosted an exhibit called, “Before she was Marilyn: Norma Jean Baker on Catalina Island.” I’ve never been in thrall to Monroe, but there’s something really poignant and compelling about the idea of “her year on the island as a newlywed teen.” I recently read that when all of her belongings went up for auction, it was noted that she didn’t actually have that many clothes or luxury items– but she had a lot of books, especially first editions, and had spent a lot of time trying to educate herself. There’s something so American about that, and equally American in that no one knows or remembers that.

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I love giving dinner parties. Dreaming about dates and reasons to party (saints’ days, old feasting days like 12th Night, anniversaries of literary things, or dogs). Thinking over menu ideas, things we have to make, the artichoke dip everyone loves, the olive spread I’ve been wanting to try.

Matt and I gave a small 12th Night Party last weekend. Seven guests, and Matt went all-out cooking. Homemade tamales (with a sweet potato and black bean filling), a kind of Georgian (the country) filled cheese bread, quesadillas, dukkah (a crushed nut and spice mixture you can eat with bread), homemade salsa and hummus, fresh bread, olives, cheeses. I made white sangria, Matt made from-scratch lemonade. Homemade shortbread (yummiest cookie dough ever) and Mexican hot chocolate for dessert.

As usual, even in a small apartment, everyone ends up in the kitchen. Or near the kitchen, standing, eating the cheese bread and getting excited for fresh tamales. Oh, we ate. And drank and laughed. A few guests remarked that this was “pastoral,” and a good time for feeling cared for, before the semester began. That is, we work so hard, and those in the ministry spend lots of energy taking care of others– it’s nice to come to a party and be feted.

Back in the box of old photographs my cousin Larry and I looked through, we found that our Grandpa had saved the menu and program from a long-ago Navy base Christmas dinner. I love the lettering and the vaguely deco-reindeer.

I’m struck by how fancy everything has gotten, in this instant-everything global community. Chicken noodle soup. Fresh frozen peas. Coffee, tea, and milk.

Once in Chicago at Christmas, as an adult, my oldest childhood friend and I were taking the escalator at the Marshall Field’s on the Magnificent Mile. Even though we were adults, we were dazzled by the displays, the immensity of it all. We remarked to each other that we were glad we’d grown up in a very small town, where things were simple and often poor– and that now as adults we could still be dazzled.

I guess I’m also glad that I grew up in a time and place when the grocery store having bell peppers (which we, strangely, called “mangoes”) was exotic, as were Jell-O jigglers. I still get dazzled by the abundance of foods at my fingertips. Isn’t it crazy, in a way, that I can read any recipe on-line or in any cookbook, and feel certain that I could make it this very night? All ingredients are within my reach.

And yet, Sunday morning, for what did I have the most intense craving? Biscuits and gravy. We were up early and went to a great diner that never closes (the best kind) and I indulged. Not as good as my Grandma’s, or my Mom’s, or even mine… but still delicious. And not the kind of thing I’d make for a dinner party, but some of the best food I know.

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