Growing Edges


I am at the dining room table with folders, cup of tea, scripture, a couple of pens and my music going. This seems to be a space where I can get the writing done.  The project this week is to gather the paperwork together for a Clinical Pastoral Education Equivalency.  To be certified by the Association of Professional Chaplain one needs to have a Master of Divinity degree, four units of CPE- that’s the clinical pastoral ed thing- and then 2000 hours as a paid chaplain.    I have completed the MDiv, have two accredited CPE units done with a third starting up at the end of May and one year of field study that should qualify for the equivalency unit.  You are allowed one of the four units to be an equivalency.  So there are the details.

The bigger picture is that I have been going over what I did in chaplaincy work my second year of seminary.   You have to do field work as part of the requirements for the degree and most seminarians do their year at a church because they are following a call to ordination as a minister within some sort of denomination.  I am called to be an interfaith chaplain which is a bit different and so I did a field study placement as a chaplain intern at Newton Wellesley Hospital through Harvard Divinity School.   Now I am looking back to see what my goals were then and how I attained them, or changed them or found out I needed some more work in certain areas.  We call that our “growing edges”.  God I hate that term.

Seems like every field; ministry, business, psychology, all comes with terminology.  And every association or grouping of folk have their rules and regulations that from the society for which they congregate.  I get that.  I get that we form groups with like-minded folks and have rules by which we play.  But sometimes the rules become its own game.  And I don’t like that either.  I want to get to the actual doing of stuff, working with people, rather than getting stuck in the details.

It is not that I don’t need more training.  I do and I hope to remain teachable and open to learning more about the art of chaplaincy and pastoral care.  But the whole paperwork thing drives me buggers.  To the point where I will do almost anything to get around what it is I should be doing.  I have been know to clean the bathroom instead of writing the paper.  I also just took up running again, not to get into shape, but most likey to avoid the paperwork.  If I run myself tired I won’t have so much angst about the paperwork.  And it is really not that bad.   Not like a theological systematics paper  for Prof. Heim or a Christology paper for Prof. Valentine.

And here is what I know about myself.  I get all caught up in the angst of getting the paperwork done, rather than just sitting down and answering the questions and writing the papers.  Nothing has changed much there.  I would rather blog, with the hope that by clearing my voice and opening up the flow of writing, that the writing I need to submit will come easier.   And that my friends, all comes down to being judged as being acceptable by how I write and what I say.   Old wounds from Jr. High School where I learned I am dyslexic and became fearful that what I wrote was wrong because I never understood what exactly people were asking me to do.

OK, so stepping back, I have a folder of work I did for a field study through Harvard.  They thought it was good enough to pass me through.  I guess my “growing edge” is to accept that perhaps what I did should count for something.

Where do you shop?


Coming out of Roche Bros, a Westwood la-de-da supermarket where they have baggers who will take your loaded cart to the car, load it in  and return the cart for you, I saw a Trump bumper sticker.  And I wondered who in their right mind would be voting for that guy, let alone announcing their political point of view to the world.  Then I thought about the location and where entitlement exists unchallenged. This is an old money supermarket.  There are a lot of Volvo’s here.   We like the way things have always been because we have always been in charge and we like it that way.  We will vote Trump because he would get the job done and you can’t have an angry woman in the oval office.


I like to go to Star market because the folks that go there, people who shop and work there, come from all sorts of different places and cultures.  We are all there just doing our weekly shopping or working our shifts.   I feel like when I buy an avocado  from South America there will be someone who is from there either putting it on the shelf or in their shopping basket.  Same with the local cod.  Someone has a fisherman in their family. The woman who serves up slices from the deli on the Sunday shift as her second job also massages me on Monday and then takes off right after work to pick up her kid from sports practice.   For the most part high school kids ring you out and you bag and haul your own groceries.  Star Market is also closer to home.   We are just trying to live life, get all the errands done and get back home in time to help the kids do their homework, get supper on the table and we drive all sorts of different types of cars.  Some are beaters and some are brand new, but most of them are practical and with some sort of Boston Sports sticker on the bumper  and on the back windshield.

ackNow I could go across and up the street a bit and hit Wholefoods, which is a whole different world. Nestled right at Legacy place, the high-end shopping mall in town,  I feel like I have to put on my yoga pants and carry trendy canvas bags to into the store.  I would also have to take out a mortgage to shop there, the fruits and veggies look pretty perfect but the prices are often double of what they are at Star.  The other thing is that I notice that customers strike a certain pose of celebrity hiding from the press with their baseball caps and bug eyed sunglasses and the staff (vs. regular employees) are not very friendly.  It is like I am at the wrong club and everybody in the store knows it. This is a nouveau riche market, a poser wanna be nouveau riche market, where going green is not really understood, but it is a trend so therefore watch me shop organic with my Gucci bag.  There are Teslas and Mercedes SUVs and Lincoln Navigators and if there is a bumper sticker, it is an  ACK .  Too self-absorbed to even vote and if they did, it would be for whoever is most popular in the Wall Street Journal’s Weekend editorial.  Not that they actually read the editorial, but that they can spot the name on the headline from across the shopping isle.

Now I am being a bit cheeky with my descriptions of the various markets around town. My sharpness is showing in that I am making generalizations about the people that shop at different stores and that somehow the store I choose, and the the people that go there are, better than the others.   I am challanging the elite while being elite in my own thinking.

I think that human nature tends to have us group in like styled tribes,  we stick together with those that are most like us because it makes us feel like we belong.  I belong in a group of mixed marbles, some broken and cracked, some perfect pinkies or yellowed Tiger eyes. Most of the marbles are scratched up a bit.  But,  I grew up going to the market with my mum who still goes to Roach Bros. in her Volvo wagon * I traveled up to Roche Bros. the other day because they have loose leaf tea and Star only has bagged tea. Very elite of me.

However,  I thought about why I now go to a different market and I think it because I have learned that I feel better in my group of mixed marbles then in the tribe I grew up in.

Where do you go to market?  Do you pick the place due to style or location?  Do you feel apart of when you go or out of your element?  Funny how something so simple as a market can be a statement of who we see ourselves to be.

*Mum is not voting for Trump.  She vigorously defended her market choice and has said in the past that it was easier to get to when she was teaching in Westwood, she knew many of the students that bagged groceries there and she is a creature of habit.  Why change now?

Inaugural launch of the River Rat Gang

As expected; I mustered, got up, got dressed, and walked out the door.  Down the street and to the church. The sermon started out with a congratulations that we had come to church on such a beautiful day.  A recognition that we could all be home reading the Sunday paper, getting ahead of the neighbors with yard work or taking the day to be outside, but we didn’t. We came to church. Which according to the priest, was the correct decision.  Why?  Because God graces us with the holy spirit when we worship Him.

Now theologically I am not so sure I stand on the same page, however the priest’s next few lines addressed that too.  Roughly paraphrasing he said, “Now people who are intellectual, well read, analytical have a difficult time with this.” He nailed it. ” People like me who need the grace will take it.”  Boom, shut it down.

I over think, almost everything, I am pretty sure.  Wait, let me think about that.  Yup, I think I over think. I am such an alcoholic.  My silly little dyslexic, addicted brain likes to go to the default of over thinking almost everything.  However I am learning how to let that all go.

Best thing to do on a hugely nice day is to kayak.  Get outside and out of my head. Phone rings and it is a peep from the program.  “What are you doing today?” they asked.

“Going kayaking” I say.

” I wanna go too” ……well now I am in a jam, I have two boats, two paddles and two life jackets.

“Ok, well have you ever kayaked? ”  Total stall.

“No, but I have canoed”   I am thinking, not the same thing.  This is the Charles river, dirty and spring level high, someone new in a boat could get into trouble.  Plus I am still grumpy and not wanting to give a lesson.

“Well the river is high and I haven’t checked it out yet” truth ” So not today but maybe later in the spring when the water warms up.

“OK… well, have a good time. ”

So I got one of the boats ready and not having roof racks that fit my leased car and not wanting to scratch the top of the car trying to get the boat on top, I decide to put the boat in the car and tie it down.  It almost fits the full way in, then I give it another slight push and crack the inside of the windshield.   It splinters out like a spiderweb the size of a dinner plate.

I call my peep back and offer to meet up and go over to the different spots on the river to see how it is flowing. We meet  up and drive along to where the put in sites are.  A few trees down, one by the Bridge Street bridge which would cause trouble if you don’t know how to read the river.  The current is fast and the tree is pushed up against the bridge right where one would paddle.  I am thinking I made a good decision on not  bringing a new-bee out on a first run.

Then around the bend comes a group of paddlers, all having a blast.  Another put in point and more paddlers.   And my peep really wants to go.   Starts pleading.  Says we can scratch up the top of their car to go.  Deep breath.  Ok, let’s do it.

30 minutes later both boats are strapped down and we roll to the put in point.  Quick lesson on dry land on getting in and out of the boat, and we shove off.  It is the inaugural  outing of the River Rat Gang. They get the hang of it and we travel for about an hour up-stream and then  back.  The water is dark and swift in some areas, but no white water to get nervous about.  They have a great time and it is a new world to them.  Service 101.

To get out of your head, do something nice for someone else.  Be a friend.  It took a busted windshield to get my head out of my ass and  do the next right thing.  God works like that.  I sometimes need a sermon launched in my general direction.  I need the confession and absolution and sometimes, when that doesn’t get me all the way, I need to be stopped in my tracks and redirected.

Thanks be to God.


Getting ready for church, maybe


I should be getting ready to head to church.  But as I look at the clock next to my bed, I still can jump the shower and get dressed and get out…maybe a few more minutes musing. I have a love hate relationship with going to church. It is perfectly sunny and warm out today, something that we have been waiting for all winter.  And I have my kayak and paddle within reach.  The river is close by and high enough that I can do the loop.  I can very easily justify that I am having my worship time in the wilderness of the water with turtles and bank beavers as my fellow congregants. Why waste a morning inside sitting in a pew reciting creeds that are hundreds of years old.  I am not preaching, or teaching Sunday school, so today could be a good skip day.

This past year I was busy during the week visiting patients in the hospital as a chaplain intern.  To translate that, as an intern I was not paid rather I was enrolled in a Clinical Pastoral Education -CPE- unit that was extended over the course of the fall and winter.  I need 4 of these units, plus my M.Div to be board certified as a chaplain. There are a few other bells and whistles that I need as well, but the point of this ramble is that I was working as a chaplain in a hospital.   I had overnight on-calls and 24 hour shifts where I could be paged to respond to some horrific situation.   Death and dying, that is why a chaplain gets paged, for the most part.

So Sundays for me was the place that I refilled my cup so that I could then give to others in need.  That is the thing about our cup, it is more than half empty or half filled.  Cups are refillable.  I didn’t enjoy having to preach on Sundays when I was also being a chaplain.  I wanted to limit my pouring out and keep a balance for my own self care.   I agreed to teaching a unit of Sunday School for April and May because I am in between CPE units and there are several off weeks when I don’t have to teach.  I can handle 6 classes.  Kinda.

Now that I have the day off of teaching, I am wanting to ditch.   Or even go and visit the Mormons, I miss them a bit.  I miss the inclusiveness they practice when you show up to church*.  The protestants of New England could learn a lot about hospitality from them. I like being able to walk to church and I like that many of my neighbors attend the same church so there is a community feel.  What I am reluctant about is … well… I don’t exactly know.  I am just wanting to blow it off.  Perhaps once I get up, shower and dress, eat some breakfast, put one foot in front of the other, I will get there.   Put your body in the place and the mind then the heart will follow.  Perhaps my cup is so low I just don’t realize how much it needs to be filled.   Not sure.

I do know that this whole Easter tide of Christ coming out of the grave has not been felt. I actually skipped Easter service this year.  Was at the end of my unit and was moving back and forth between Boston and East Charlotte.  I  felt crappy and stayed home.  Perhaps I am still burnt out.

But this is what I know to be true.  Even chaplains and those in ministry sometimes what to ditch church.  And I know that this to will pass and most likely now that I have bitched about ditching I will pull myself together and get up, make the bed, get dressed and eat breakfast.  Most likely I will walk out the door and head down to church.  Most likely I will feel good about the decision.



*I am so very aware that the Latter Day Saints have some regressive stances of women in the priesthood and same-sex marriage/families/ children of same sex parents.   No church body is perfect.




Upgraded to a flip phone


Mum, your reception sucks.  You keep dropping the call.

I thought it was the iPhone.   It was time to swap it up and the price difference between the new android edge and the iPhone was pretty close, so I went with the edge.  I have been more google than I-anything; cloud, music, you name it.  So I got the phone that had a better camera.

The problem was that the smart phone was smarter than me.

Over the past year I found that I was feeling lost without my phone. As if the instant connections through text and Facebook posts were actual interactions with live people. I started to watch when I was using the phone and what I was using the phone for.  Sometimes people would call, but more often it was a text.  I took tons of photos and hyper-documented  who I was with, what I was eating, where I was going.  I became my own paparazzi and saw that instead of checking in with my higher power at the beginning of the day I was checking to see if someone had pinged me or I was looking for the newest post on stupid cat videos.   At the end of the day I would unplug by making sure my phone was plugged in.  I was plugging the phone into my car to use the audiobooks, or to use the music, or to be able to use hands free calling when I drove.  I would look at other drivers using their phones while driving and would feel superior that I was “hands free” regardless of diverting my attention to the hands free dash while I selected the next call or the next song.  And my calls would drop.

“Can you hear me?”  “I can’t..he…ca… ter…” Click.  Out of range. Out of service. Out of control.

So off to the Verizon store to get a different brand, and I went in with the resolve that what I needed was just a phone.  After a 30 minute wait for the solutions specialist Abe, I went into a deep consumer spiral, the one where feelings of inadequacy  and the need to be like all the hippy hipsters overshadowed logic and resolve  and I ended up getting the Edge.  I will admit that I liked that there was a better camera.  I liked that the phone quality was better, sometimes. I thought I liked all the apps.

But the phone is smarter than me.

Too many options and apps.  I was swiping at the thing trying to find the right screen which would mute the volume, then I would forget to turn it back up.  It pinged at me with notifications from faceplant.  And then I realized that I was getting ads.  Like pop up ads from google called “promotions” and options to have my voice mails translated into texts so I could read the phone call reminder from CVS to pick up my scripts.  Those options came with a cost that was automatically billed to my Verizon account.

I assumed the pose with my head down and attention on the screen and forgot about what or who was around me.  I had become one of those annoying people who are consumed with their digital reality instead of engaging in life.  I had bought into the trend of connecting with minimal emogies to express my feelings.  And the new phone dropped calls too.

The enchantment was over.  I was standing right next to the router and the calls kept cutting out.  Time to old school and go back to a flip phone.   I might actually get a land line too.  I know that I have not been writing or reading much lately, so perhaps this will bring me back to a place where I wrote letters to friends and scheduled time to meet up over a cup of tea.  At the end of the day I want to be the old woman who looks up to see and be in life rather than then looking at my phone trying to take a photo of it.


Time to write again

alex and brutus

It has been a while since I have blogged. The farm seems like it was so long ago and lifetimes away.  What started as a way to market my sheep and wool ended up as a way for me to find myself.   My routine of writing either in the morning or at night came to a halt this past year.  At first I thought that it was due to  being burned out from writing in seminary.  Then I realized that I was a bit burnt with self-reflection.  Too much of it being done in CPE.  Too much of it being done while discerning my call to head back to Vermont and to see if I was called to ordination as a parish minister.

I am not. I am neither called to ministry in a parish nor to Vermont, though I did give it my best shot.  I really did try.

And blogging while in the process would have been a total fluster cluck.   I was in a town that was too small, in  a state where everybody knows everybody else, while  also knowing what you happened to buy at Lantman’s for supper.  I lost my fearlessness for writing freely and started monitoring and censoring myself.

But I have missed it,  writing freely as if no one is watching.  And perhaps with this blog it will be like that, like no one  is watching.  At least that is the stance I am going to take.  My best writing is done when I don’t think to much about the reader.  I think only about what needs to be told.  Often I have no idea until I am done with the writing.  Then I sit back and I read my words and I write things that sometimes I wish I had the courage to actually say.

It feels good to write again.  I am glad to be back.