Thursday, December 28, 2006

cloneburger

i just heard on npr that the food industry (otherwise known as THEY) are planning to produce meat products from cloned animals. WHOA!!!!!!!! if i weren't already a vegetarian, this would send me flying into the arms of vegetarianism.
soylent green is people.
i'm amazed that as the food industry's bad practices are being exposed by films like Supersize Me and books like Fast Food Nation that they keep going on with outrageous ideas like this. we have only been cloning animals for a few years and we really, really, really don't know what we're about with it. ingesting cloned animals sounds like a potential stephen king disaster.
there's also a big political aspect to food. i teach 2nd grade in queens, in a working class neighborhood. i also teach sunday school at my church in an upper-middle class neighborhood. the kids at my church are all eating organic, hand-packed-by-mom lunches. the kids in queens are eating breakfast and lunch for free at school. the kids from queens could eat the same-age kids from the upper east side of manhattan! the queens kids are almost one and a half times the size of the kids from my neighb. i truly believe it's because of the growth hormones in the dairy and meat products that the working class kids are eating. it makes them taller and more obese than the kids eating the all-organic food. but, the kids from queens are not as educated about the detrimental effects of junk food and can't afford the organic stuff (i'd say at this point most of my disposable income is spent on organic and farmer's market food).
who do you think will be eating the cloneburger? not the kids in manhattan belown 125th street.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

christmas thoughts

i've been sitting, thinking about what christmas means for me as a post-modern episcopalian. i don't believe it's the literal birthdate of jesus. i don't believe it should be a big birthday party for jesus (that's how christmas strikes me in britain where they wear paper hats at the dinner table). i think of most church calendar events these days as symbolic, landmarks throughout the year to keep the comforting human element of routine alive in religion. i was listening to the infinite mind on npr today and the show was about religion. they mentioned a sect of christianity that has stripped away all the symbols and rituals. that so works for some people, but i need those landmarks, those calendar dates dotted with the death dates of saints, the liturgical seasons when we change colors, change gospels, switch to rite 1 or maybe use another country's prayer book. it keeps me going, especially advent and lent because i hate winter so. i like to have christmas and all it's lights to look forward to and i need lent to get me through the end of winter, spiritually hibernating and finally breaking out into the world after the gloom of the tomb.
i think i'll pull out my vegetarian goddess cookbook and find a good recipe for solstice and light my candles and plug in my tree and listen to christmas carols and meditate.
merry christmas and happy new year.
love,
sister mary alt.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

an immigrant child's story

i am teaching after school to 5th grade english language learners. today i had them write about an experience that happened in their lives. this boy wrote about his immigration story. this boy is from egypt and came to the states a few months ago. his story is typical of families coming to the u.s. the title is "too late"

When I was 4 year old I get up at 5 o'clock evening, my dad was carry a big bag. I'm asked, "Where you are going?" he said, "Somewhere." then he go to America and he don't come to me.
After 7 year, I'm coming to him with an airplane. I still in the plane about 11 hours. Then I'm stand 5 hours in the airport. Then i come to him.
He was late by 7 years, 16 hours, 43 minute and 3 second. He is not late, he is too late.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

dont' let the bed bugs bite

one of my students told me yesterday that her father hit her with a belt and that she lives with her mother, father, brother, and sister in a studio. her brother and sister share a bed in the kitchen. she sleeps on the floor with her parents. i asked if she sleeps on a mattress on the floor and she explained that they had bedbugs last summer and had to throw out the mattresses so she sleeps on blankets on the floor with her parents.
of course i feel for her and i told her how sorry i was and i referred this situation to the proper counsellors at school but i can empathize with the parents. all my students are immigrants ( i teach esl). they can't afford more than a studio because the neighborhood is becoming pricey. 5 people in a studio and they can't afford new beds - beds are really expensive. i can see how mom and dad would get really freaked out and angry a lot.
i think of the abuse i experienced as a child (although my financial situation growning up was better than this girl's, i still went through hell as a child) and how i've been working through that in my adulthood. those events are in the past for me. this girl is living it right now and can't change it or get out.
i was thinking of asking for money for new mattresses at my church but then i thought, what if those get bed bugs? there's a major infestation in queens and all over nyc right now. even if their apt. is fumigated, what about the neighbors? that problem is not so easy to solve.
it's not just about fixing one little, manageable thing. it's a whole system. my students have to take a state-wide, standardized english language test every spring and it is so hard that kids their age who are native english speakers could not pass this thing. i believe it's set up that way to keep the kids in esl (which goes at a slower pace than mainstream classes but also carries with it a stigma) because someone's got to be the gas station attendant and it sure isn't going to be the native english speaker.
living in the school's neighborhood is expensive and parents make sacrifices like this because the schools are good. i mean, i won't compare them to the public schools in my neighborhood. but, for example, at my school we got 30 laptops for the 2nd grade to share. i use those things whenever i can with the kids. that makes a big difference in their lives and their futures.
i'm not sure where to go with this but i think the spirit is leading me somewhere. i'll talk to the peace and restorative justice committee at my church and see what comes of that.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

help! i've become sr. francis!

i haven't written for so long because i had nothing much good to report. i last wrote that i wanted to be nicer this school year, loosen up a bit because behavior management is not an issue for me. well, be careful what you wish for. i have been the meanest teacher on the 2nd grade so far this year. i am my own worst nightmare, sr. francis, the meanest 5th grade math teacher (i'm assuming she had no vocation to the religious life or to teaching and that's what made her such a flaming bitch - honestly, if i could get my hands on her today ...).
i realize that this year, out of 18 students, 8 of them are total space cases. they just stare into space with their mouths open, not doing anything, totally zoned out. usually i have one or two kids like that, this year it's literally half the class. i teach esl but it's not a language issue, these kids understand english just fine, they've been at school in nyc since kindergarten. they understand me, they just aren't paying any attention. as a result i spend the most part of my day keeping these kids on task. simple acts like opening their notebooks and writing their headings take a great deal of time and focus. for some of them i have an idea of what is going on, for the majority of them i don't know why they are so tuned out.
i told one girl the other day that she had better start paying attention in class and showing me that she is a serious student because when she grows up a prince is not going to marry her and give her all the money she wants for doing nothing. instead, she will have to get a job, everybody has to work, and she will never go to college and get a good job if she doesn't know that 5 + 3= 8 because she has not been paying one bit of attention in math class. i told her that being cute does not get you that far in life, you have to know things, things that you learn in school.
oy vey.
i am noticing that when i get annoyed and yell at the kids that i am saying to them things that the nuns said to me when i was a girl. i honestly think that there are some depths of emotion for me to plummet here. maybe this third year of teaching for me is going to be about learning about my own childhood and becoming more compassionate towards my students. i certainly feel like i'm not being compassionate right now.
i'm focusing my prayer life and recovery work around my issues with certain children and my own childhood issues. i need to remember that god is in charge of my classroom and that i am but a trusted servant. it's easy to cross the line from organizing the class and creating structure to becoming a bossy, controll freak!
please pray for me - and my poor students - as i embark on this journey.

Monday, September 04, 2006

first day of school!

tomorrow is the first day of school and i'm so excited! i had a so-so vacation - mostly because i am not the type of person who should have so much free time. i'm a protestant, i have a strong work-ethic, my parents were raised during the great depression and instilled in me a drive to work, work, work. so be it.
i got my room all ready and it looks beautiful. i'll take some new pics and attach later.
every year i focus on a new goal in teaching. my goal this year is to be nicer. i have classroom management down pat. i went to catholic school as a child and i learned how to manage kids. they know i'm not kidding around. now i can lighten up a bit, loosen up the reins. teachers all say don't smile until december. isn't that awful? i did it the first two years, but to heck with that. we can have fun while learning.
one of the main reasons i want to be nicer is because it's not easy being a child. i remember when i was a kid i felt so powerless and out of control. i was always so frustrated and generally pissed off as a child. now i embrace being powerless and not having control because i know that god is in charge and i happily relinquish any thought of control over to her. but, back then i was under the rules of my parents, who were not perfect and did not come from perfect childhoods themselves and while they did the best they knew how, i felt unprotected and scared and angry a lot. my students come from other countries (i teach esl) and have a really hard time adjusting to life here. i want to create a safe space for them in the classroom. they spend more waking hours a day with me than with their parents so i need for the classroom to be a place they are happy to be. i can do that, while still maintaining class rules.
i'm pretty much scrapping the idea that to be "good" means to sit still and be quiet. that's no way to learn. and boys just can't do it. nor should they. girls can handle that ok, but it really sucks for boys. they need to be active in learning. active learning is good for girls as well.
i'm lucky to have two vocations.

Friday, August 25, 2006

retreat

i finally, finally, finally went away for three days to visit a family friend on the delaware shore. i can't describe to you how stressed out i was before going - all of my own making, i'm not bloody working or anything so i had to create stress and drama to keep my hand in you know, so i wouldn't forget or anything. there were other, hormonal factors at play in my stress as well. suffice it to say, i almost didn't go. damn this protestant work ethic. i was really feeling badly because i felt i wasn't doing enough.
in my spiritual life i strive to do less and to concentrate more on being. i'm not a human doing, i'm a human being. but, i forgot about all that and started to feel actually unworthy because i wasn't doing enough. meanwhile, the e.r. was becoming my retreat center because i was in fact doing so much i needed some quiet, quality "me" time and the e.r. was the only place i could find it!
I AM SO GLAD I WENT AWAY TO DELAWARE!!!!
in just three days i really relaxed. i stretched out on the couch and watched a lot of old movies with my friend. we went to the beach with her two grandsons. she and i went antiquing and then had lunch in rehoboth. it was so relaxing and pleasant and it reminded me that i deserve and need vacations and breaks and to get away. staycation does not really do it for relaxation.
now, like any native manhattanite, i cannot drive a car. i took lessons last year and failed the test and then grad school started again and i just didn't have time for more lessons and decided i've made it to 37 without needing to drive, i can just keep on going that way. but, i talked to another native ny'er the other day who told me she got her license at 34 by just taking lessons until she didn't suck anymore. i could do that in the spring, and in queens. i was taking lessons in manhattan which was terrifying. queens is practically bucolic (sp?).
i have fantasies of renting a car, throwing the dog in the back and just taking off for a weekend getaway or retreat at a monastery or convent. there are several around here that are great.
meanwhile, i can take the dog on the commuter train up the hudson to some cute colonial era towns for a day trip of lunch and antiquing. i can do that. i hereby resolve to get away more often for spiritual retreats and more secular ones as well.

Friday, August 18, 2006

little miss sunshine

i saw this movie last night and i cannot recommend it enough! it was hilariously funny and all the actors were perfectly cast. it was a joy to see steve carrell play it "straight" (although his character is gay but not playing one of his goofy characterizations). greg kinnear, toni collette, alan arkin were wonderful but the two children worked their comedic roles simply, without pushing the laughs, just natural, which is definitely not always the way of children actors.
i keep thinking of scenes from the movie today and laughing out loud in the middle of walking down the street - people staring at me, who cares? it's one of the few dvds i'll buy when it comes out.

Friday, August 04, 2006

broke again!

it seems that every week i have a negative bank balance. i have gotten into the very bad habit of borrowing money from my boyfriend, and then paying him back the next week when i get paid. i have terrible credit, so no credit card company will extend me credit. it's a cycle that i can't seem to break. i'm not living extravagantly - although, it's becoming more and more difficult to be middle class in manhattan these days. but, my rent is stabilized (thank god) and the most i spend money on is food (which is expensive here and i only buy organic and from the green market and i know too much about the food industry after working in it to go back to the grocery store so there it is).
now, being broke in the upper east side is a whole different thing than being broke in, say, africa or india. i'm only "broke" until the next paycheck comes, which is next week. i have a fridge and cabinets full of food. maybe not food that i am in the mood for, i'm not going to order in mexican tonight or anything, but food nonetheless.
i knew i had to work out my issues with men before i took on a vow of chastity, i didn't want to enter a convent to avoid dealing with men again (traumatic childhood experiences) and i think i need to seriously deal with my money issues before taking on a vow of poverty.
my parents were not good stewards of money. my dad was totally broke - in the extreme sense of the word. he went from being an executive to a concierge in a hotel while i was a child. my mother grew up during the depression and world war ii and believed in lack. she never thought there was enough of anything and taught me that. she didn't believe there was enough money, stuff, love, faith, god. i am trying to live in opposite land, the opposite of what she taught me. however, i am struggling to believe there is enough money.
at least i'm not alone. it seems that everyone had credit card debt. does that mean that no one can live on their salaries alone? that people spend their salaries, and then charge more stuff on top of it? i think the average credit card debt is in the tens of thousands, which sounds to me like people are living above their means.
i'm thinking of going to debtor's anonymous meetings. i need to break this pattern of belief about money. it does not reflect god's abundance in my life. and there are so many examples of that abundance. i just can't think of any right now because i'm freaked out about being broke.
it's good practice for the convent. although, when i'm in a convent, i'll be living in community. right now i feel as though i'm doing this all alone.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

if women ran the anglican communion ...

i get the feeling there wouldn't be this much of an uproar if the majority of movers and shakers (read gasbags and windbags in skirts) were women. i mean, when i read about all the communiques and letters to the archbishop of canterbury (THERE'S a job i wouldn't want) as if big daddy is going to make everything all right ... i get the feeling that a lot of these priests are running around with their cassock skirts over their heads, shrieking and screaming and stomping their feet!
i can say what i like now b/c i've got no vow of obedience yet. i'll settle down later when i have to say, "yes, reverend mother.
actually, i have been noticing something about the women priests i know. the more i meet, the less of them tell me they want to be rectors. i'm starting to think that the role of parish priest, as it exists now, does not suit women and the way we work. it's a model that was designed by men, for men, and despite the fact that women have been being ordained for over 30 years, there doesn't seem to be a lot of change. women priests seem to be expected to fill this mold that was created by and for men. i know when i thought about becoming a priest as a teenager it really didn't appeal. the pastoral part does, but the administration aspect, the fundraising, the being the boss in an officey/corporatey atmosphere does not appeal. i think it does not appeal to more women than just me. and i hear of women priests being scolded by other women priests for not becoming rectors, that there's a shortage of women rectors. however, i understand that pretty much nearly half of all seminarians are women now. so, if we have plenty of women being ordained, but not enough women rectors, perhaps it's the model of rectorship that's the issue.
hmmmm.....
maybe the episcopal church (815 that is) needs an idustrial organizational psychologist. oh, can you imagine? talk about cassocks up in the air and shrieking!

Monday, July 31, 2006

i'm a big girl now!

last friday i completed work on my master's degree in teaching english to speakers of other languages (that means i'm a 2nd grade esl teacher)! i've been working full-time and going to school at night for the last two years. not only that but work is in queens. uni. is in bklyn. and there's no subway that goes directly across from queens to bklyn (they're the same piece of land) so i had to go through manhattan (where i live) to get from work to grad school. NEVER AGAIN!!!!!! not only that but my first year of teaching, my mom died, which was really debilitating and exhausting and i couldn't take a break from uni. b/c my job was tied up with my taking classes. ugh. i just plowed on through it, knowing the end would be in sight. i made some really good friends, who i'll miss b/c i'm NEVER GOING TO BROOKLYN AGAIN AS LONG AS I LIVE. i grew up in nyc and could probably count on two hands the total amount of times i'd been to bklyn before this, let alone queens (not counting airport trips). manhattanites are very manhattan-centric.
i got my master's and teaching experience b/c i have a gift for it and working with children, but also b/c i hope as a nun to work with children and/or teach and i wanted to get a background in education in this country before joining an order.
i wrote back to the order in zimbabwe - czm and hope to visit there in early 2007. i get a week off in february - their summer so i would get a sense of how hot it is. i used to love heat and even humidity but this summer is a thing apart.
anyway, i'm so happy and relieved. i'm the first person in my family to have an advanced degree. i know my mother, on the other side of the thin veil that separates this world from the spirit world, knows and is proud of me.
now all i need is an mdiv!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

my thoughts on the latest communique from the church of nigeria

ACNS 4162 | NIGERIA | 4 JULY 2006

Communiqué from the Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican
Communion)

Episcopal Synod held at All Saints' Church Wuse Zone 5 Abuja from
Tuesday 27 - Wednesday 28 June 2006

Communiqué

The Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria met under God at All
Saints' church Abuja from 27th - 28th June 2006 with His Grace, The
Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, CON, DD, Archbishop, Primate and
Metropolitan of All Nigeria presiding. After sessions of deliberations
on issues affecting both the Church and Society, the Synod under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit issued this Communiqué.

1. CONGRATULATIONS

Synod notes with satisfaction the efforts of the Primate of the Church
of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), His Grace, The Most Rev. Peter J.
Akinola, in giving the Church of Nigeria, (CAPA and Global South a
purposeful and effective leadership. It further expresses its approval
of his actions and pronouncements against errors of revisionist
ideologies. With much delight and enthusiasm, Synod received his citing
by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 persons that shaped the World in
2005, and encouraged him not to relent in his efforts in exercising his
ministry.

2. THE ANGLICAN COVENANT

Synod is satisfied with the move by the Global South to continue with
its veritable project of defending the faith committed to us against
present onslaught from ECUSA, Canada, England and their allies. The
need
therefore, to redefine and/or re-determine those who are truly
Anglicans
becomes urgent, imperative and compelling. Synod therefore empowers the
leadership of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) to give assent
to the Anglican Covenant.

3. THE LAMBETH CONFERENCE

The Lambeth Conference which is one of the accepted organs of unity in
the Anglican Communion is due for another meeting in 2008. the Synod,
after reviewing some recent major events in the Communion, especially
the effects of the 'revisionists' theology', which is now making wave
in
America, Canada and England, observed with dismay the inability of the
Church in the afore­mentioned areas to see reason for repentance from
the harm and stress they have caused this communion since 1988
culminating in the consecration of Gene Robinson, a practicing
homosexual in 2003 as a bishop in ECUSA. Synod also regrets the
inability of the See of Canterbury to prevent further impairment of the
unity of the Church. It therefore, believes strongly that the moral
justification for the proposed Lambeth Conference of 2008 is
questionable in view of the fact that by promoting teachings and
practices that are alien and inimical to the historic formularies of
the
Church, the Bishops of ECUSA, Canada and parts of Britain have
abandoned
the Biblical faith of our fathers.

4. GLOBAL SOUTH CONFERENCE

Synod underlines the need for maintaining the age-long tradition of a
ten-yearly Conference of Bishops in the Anglican Communion for
discussing issues affecting the Church. It therefore calls on the
leadership of the Global South and Council of Anglican Provinces in
Africa (CAPA) to do everything necessary to put in place a Conference
of
all Anglican Bishops to hold in 2008 should all efforts to get the
apostles of 'revisionist agenda' to repent and retrace their steps
fail.


5. THE SO-CALLED RELIGIOUS RIOTS

Synod is worried that months after the mayhem unleashed on the nation
in
February 2006 by criminals, murderers and arsonists hiding under the
cloak of religion, no one has been brought to book neither any
compensation paid for the properties especially churches destroyed and
lives lost in the riots. It therefore, calls on the Governments of the
land to take urgent steps to prosecute these enemies of mankind and pay
necessary compensations in order to restore the confidence that every
Nigerian is protected any where in this nation.

6. HIV/AIDS SCOURGE

Synod continues to note with concern the ravaging effects of HJV/AIDS
and the threat it is posing to human society. More worrisome is the
mismanagement of funds meant for prosecution of the war against this
scourge in Nigeria; leading to the de-listing of Nigeria by foreign
Donor Agencies. While noting the efforts of Church in the HIV/AIDS
Programme, it calls on all Dioceses and Churches to be actively
involved
in this project with a view to ensuring that this ugly monster does not
further endanger the lives for which Christ died.

7. ISLAM AND MINORITY RIGHTS

While noting the spread of Islam in hitherto predominantly Christian
cities, especially in Europe and America, and their insistence on
minority rights, Synod is worried that this same Muslims have refused
to
allow people of other faiths into their (Muslim dominated) areas to
enjoy such rights. It therefore calls on our Muslim brothers in the
spirit of reciprocity to have a change of attitude and put an end to
intolerance and hostilities to Christians all over the world.

8. 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA

Synod is happy that the processes leading to the general elections in
Nigeria come 2007 are on course. While underscoring the need for
emergence of credible, committed and patriotic leaders for the nation,
it calls on all Christians to actively participate in all electoral
processes to forestall a situation where e lections are used to recycle
past leaders. Synod further enjoins the Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC) to ensure a very high degree of transparency in all
elections slated for 2007, so as to avoid the ugly consequences of any
electoral result that did not truly reflect the wishes and aspirations
of the electorate. While calling for a truly independent judiciary, the
synod insists that all petitions arising from the forthcoming general
elections should be handled with dispatch in the spirit of justice,
equity and fair play.

Signed

The Most Revd. Peter J. Akinola, CON, D.D.
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria

...
whoa, this guy is freakin' crazy. he's like the mussolini of the anglican church. il dulce.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

may you live in interesting times

no kidding that's a curse! oy vey! it's so troubling to see what's happening these days. i was elated over jefferts schori's election for a couple of days until the fit hit the shan with williams' letter. now, let me say that i am so glad i'm not in his position, i surely couldn't be the boss in the midst of this situation.
it's hard for me to be accepting of those who don't have the same beliefs as me. i truly believe that christ calls all to his table, not some. and when he was selective with his company, he chose the marginal people: tax collectors, adulterous women, chicks at wells, samaritans. gays, lesbians, bi-sexual, transgendered people are the samaritans of the day. christ compels me to see God in everyone, not just people that live like me. the trick for me is to see God in the ultra-conservative!
the crisis going on in the episcopal church and anglican communion does not affect the average person. even my rector does not feel affected in his position as rector.
i, however, am thinking of entering a convent in the anglican communion, in africa! ack. this does affect me. if it comes down to a schism, how will that affect episcoplians living and working abroad in the anglican communion? meanwhile, i enjoy reading the extremely opinionated father jake on his blog, father jake stops the world

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

the wizard of oz

today i showed my 2nd grade class a video of the wizard of oz. my students are immigrants so only a couple of them had ever seen the movie before. they loved it! when it went from black and white to color, they gasped. i was totally verklempt. when the witch melted, they were thrilled.
i really believe that the most important part of my job is to open them to new, wonderful experiences and to be supportive to them. they each have some difficult, all children do in some way, shape or form. it's simply the human condition. many of them spend more waking hours in a day with me than with their parents.
the last day of school is tomorrow, it's a half day, so today we had a party with pizza and ice cream cake. it was a good day.

Friday, June 23, 2006

general convention

ACNS 4159 | CAPA | 23 JUNE 2006

CAPA - An Open Letter to the Episcopal Church USA

We, the Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA),
meeting in Kampala on 21st - 22nd June, have followed with great
interest your meeting of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church
USA in Columbus. We have been especially concerned by the development
of
your response to The Windsor Report, which has been reported to us
quite
extensively. This is something for which we have earnestly prayed. We
are, however, saddened that the reports to date of your elections and
actions suggest that you are unable to embrace the essential
recommendations of the Windsor Report and the 2005 Primates Communiqué
necessary for the healing of our divisions. At the same time, we
welcome
the various expressions of affection for the life and work of the
Anglican Communion.

We have been moved by your generosity as you have rededicated
yourselves
to meet the needs of the poor throughout the world, especially through
your commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.

We have observed the commitment shown by your church to the full
participation of people in same gender sexual relationships in civic
life, church life and leadership. We have noted the many affirmations
of
this throughout the Convention. As you know, our Churches cannot
reconcile this with the teaching on marriage set out in the Holy
Scriptures and repeatedly affirmed throughout the Anglican Communion.
All four Instruments of Unity in the Anglican Communion advised you
against taking and continuing these commitments and actions prior to
your General Convention in 2003.

At our meeting in Kampala we have committed ourselves to study very
carefully all of your various actions and statements. When we meet with
other Primates from the Global South in September, we shall present our
concerted pastoral and structural response.

We assure all those Scripturally faithful dioceses and congregations
alienated and marginalised within your Provincial structure that we
have
heard their cries.

In Christ,

The Most Rev. Peter Akinola, on behalf of CAPA
Chairman, CAPA

you know, we women are taking over the world.
sr. m.a.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

zimbabwe convent reply!

i was just about to write to the convent in zimbabwe again (after allowing several months for slow postage or robert mugabe to personally intercept my mail) when i got a letter from them. the letter was from the archsister (that just makes me think she's sardonic) and she said it was their second reply to my letter from february. i never got the first reply so i'm glad they sent a second letter.
they not only don't have a website, the sister wrote the letter by hand on loose leaf paper! it seems they don't even have a typewriter! wow. still, i can survive.
i will respond to them this week and i hope to visit next summer vacation.
the sister said they take care of all sorts of orphans who get left with them. that sounds like wonderful work and i'd love to be of service to children in need.
god willing, we'll see.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

i didn't do it

the teachers from my grade had a meeting with the principal in the library today to plan which classes our students should go into next year. about halfway through, the fire alarm went off! we knew it couldn't be a drill, because the principal was sitting with us. she called the office and it was clear there was a lot of confusion going on. a secretary announced on the loudspeaker, "Custodians are trying to find out what the cause of the fire alarm is. Don't leave the buidling. Stay put!" which made us all laugh. the principal left our meeting and went to the office to find out what was happening. she came back later, laughing. she said it was a kindergartener who did it! at first, the girl tried to get out of trouble by blaming a boy from her class. the boy was wearing a t-shirt that said, "i didn't do it." the principal determined that the boy indeed hadn't pulled the alarm and she told this boy, "i'm glad mommy put that t-shirt on you today!" then, the girl finally admitted to having pulled the alarm by saying, "but i didn't mean it!" the principal asked her was it easy to pull the alarm or hard and the girl exclaimed, "oh, it was hard!"
kids are too hilarious.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

convent searching

CZM
Chita che Zvipo Zve Moto
(Community of the Gifts of the Holy Fire)
Founded 1977
The Community is a mixed community of nuns and friars, founded by the Revd Canon Lazarus Tashaya Muyambi in 1977. On a visit to St Augustine's Mission, Penhalonga, he was attracted by the life of the CR fathers and the CZR sisters. With the inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord, he saw the great value in staring a Religious community.

The first three sisters were attached to St Augustine's for three months, Sister Gladys being the first admission on 14 May 1978. The first convent was officially opened in 1979 and the initial work was caring for orphans at St Agnes Children's Home.

In January 2000, Canon Muyambi stepped down from leadership, believing the community was mature enough to elect its own leaders, which it did in March 2000. The Community have a Rule, Constitution and are governed by a Chapter. They take vows of Love, Compassion and Spiritual Poverty. The Community is progressing well with young people joining every year. Each member is qualified or skilled in one trade or another.

i found this on the anglican communion website . it sounds like just the place for a sister mary alternative! i wrote to them, it must be four months ago now. i took into effect that they probably don't have the pony express in zimbabwe, but i think by now that it's safe to say they didn't get my letter. of course there's no website. there's not even a tel. no. listed, but there is a fax no. so i guess i'll fax them.
i still have to pay off my student loans, that will take about 4 years or so. and i'd like to get more experience teaching.
this is one of the few times i'm willing to wait on god's time, as opposed to my own schedule! i do wish they had a website. it would take me a year to save up for a visit there as well.
meanwhile, i'll just keep on keepin' on. i finish grad school for good aug. 1 (!!!). i love teaching. i've got plenty at church to keep me busy. i have al-anon meetings, my boyfriend, my friends, my dog. i'm an associate of a convent here, community of the holy spirit so i've got a more than full life right now.
i'm happy to be nappy.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

holistic family center

i was having dinner with a couple of girlfriends the other night. one had recently had a miscarriage. the other is ambivalent about having children. we are all in our mid-30's. i will say in an aside that as i listen to my friends go through issues of marriage, family, trying to get pregnant, etc. i am more and more relieved that i will not be going through any of this. i'm happy to be a supportive listener and cheerleader. the whole night we talked about the miscarriage, friends who are trying to get pregnant, who are having babies and starting families. one friend mentioned a building in brooklyn where all the tenants are trying to get pregnant all at once and networking, sharing. it sounded fascinating!
i thought how all those people could use a community to help them work through all the stuff that comes with family.
in nyc, and my neighborhood especially, there is a baby boom. the population of infants increased in manhattan by 25% between 2000 and 2004! i had the idea of working with parishioners to create an holistic family center at my church. it could cover many areas of family - trying to get pregnant, single moms, new parents, parenting classes, playgroups for all ages, deciding not to get pregnant, activities for parents and teenagers ... it's not sunday school, it's for the whole family. it would be for the whole neighborhood, not just parishioners. i'm excited by the idea and interested to see where it goes.
i hope as a religious to work with children and families, specifically in africa with aids orphans. i definitely think this idea i had yesterday is divinely inspired and matches my vocation of working with kids. i hope to start this in the fall. should be exciting! i'd love to see your comments and ideas on this.

Monday, May 08, 2006

vow of obedience blues

i am becoming more impatient and irascible around church puffery these days. we had a service yesterday with a certain clergyman who is so full of himself i thought i would scream during his 40 MIUNTE SERMON in which he talked about nothing but himself and he was the hero of his own story. he threw in a few references to jesus for good measure. i kept thinking, how am i ever going to be a good nun and be obedient when all i want to do right now is freak out?
i am coming to realize there are two types of men in the world: mamma's boys and not mamma's boys. i have oh so little tolerance for mamma's boys. my background is english and irish and the irish in particular don't mollycoddle boys. no, everyone suffers together, boys and girls alike.
besides the excruciating sermon and the service that last TWO HOURS! i was really put off by the tone of the service which was patriarchal and patronizing. it was the church at its worst.
on another worrying note, the bishop was there to perform confirmation/reception. there were no children being confirmed. instead there were two older adults being recieved. eeeeeeek!!!!!!! they are lovely people and i'm very happy for them but what's happening at my church and many others like it? there were also very few people in the pews.
i love the episcopal church (when it's not like yesterday) and i think the church has a lot to offer people. but, people don't think so.
i'm the newcomer lady at my church and i read a statistical report put out by the diocese that breaks down the demographics of my neighb. and offers info. in several categories. the breakdown is in general that we have some of the wealthiest people in america in this zipcode, some of the highest educated, the neighb. is full to the brim with young people. there is a category in this report called faith and one section is receptivity to faith. for the people of my neighb. it's 6%! and for those who do go to church they like their service traditional. what do the other 94% of the people want from a spiritual community?
after yesterday i'm thinking of becoming a unitarian. ... just kidding.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

the wonder of god's creation ... in astoria, queens!

i am helping to cook for a fundraiser dinner and auction at my church. the event is may 5, so we decided to make it a cinquo de mayo theme. we're cooking mexican food. i teach in astoria, queens and there are many mexicans as well as other nationalities in the area so i went shopping for the hard to find ingredients (hard to find if you live in the upper east side that is). there's a store here called trade fair, it's like the queens' version of fairway (a specialty food store in manhattan). i was on the phone with our church secy as i shopped, checking on the required ingredients. this store was like a revelation to me! there were mexican fruit and vegetables, all sorts of cheeses, any food you wanted. but it didn't stop there. as i pushed my cart down the aisle, there was the halal butcher and sundried items. with, i swear i am not making this up, a woman in traditional muslim costume (the name of which escapes me just now, but they look not unlike nuns) buying a hookah and haggling over the price of meat with the butcher.
astoria is well known for a large greek population so there was plenty of food imported from greece. each country had it's own section of the store actually. i may never shop in manhattan for groceries again and i really need to learn mexican cuisine.
but, i had to stop and think about the wonder of god's people, all living and shopping cheek to jowl here in nyc. the u.s. gov't. wants to limit immigration and i am very much against their laws, especially as an English as a Second Language teacher. at this store alone, the stock people were mexican, the cashiers were arab, the butchers seemed irish american. it was fabulous!
i love ny.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

zucchini blossoms and ramps

i'm in grad school and over the next two weeks i have a term paper, a final exam in phsycholinguistics, and a comprehensive exam covering the two years of ESL methodology and linguistics i have been studying. once all that's over, my church's street fair hits on sat. may 13. i'm the co-chair. i may call in sick on the 14th. i have had moments lately when i think, how did i get here? how did this happen?
i'm busy but not entirely overwhelmed. i think the good weather helps.

i went to the greenmarket yesterday. i swear i meant to buy honey, bread, and eggs. instead, i walked out with four or five bags and made the following meal, recipes below. i'm becoming much more conscious of eating locally and seasonally. i'm buying more and more stuff at the greenmarket. i'm also becoming more and more suspicious of the food industry - i.e. kraft, nestle, etc. this is so not how god intended us to live. we came from a metaphorical garden and we're pooping all over it.

mache salad with olives and lemon juice

fried stuffed zucchini blossoms

ramp and mushroom risotto

strawberry rhubarb pie

zucchini blossoms are the flowers that grow on the zucchini plant. they are yellow and fat and gorgeous. this recipe is a traditional jewish roman recipe.

friend stuffed zucchini blossoms
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/8 cups chilled seltzer or club soda
16 zucchini blossoms, pistils removed if desired
fresh mozzarella cheese

Vegetable oil for deep-frying
batter stand 10 minutes. If necessary, thin batter with enough remaining seltzer to reach consistency of crepe batter.
Stuff each blossom with some mozzarella, pressing ends of blossoms closed.
In a deep heavy skillet heat 1 inch oil to 375 degrees on a deep-fat thermometer. Working quickly in batches, dip blossoms in batter, coating each completely, and fry in hot oil, turning, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until golden and crisp. With a slotted spoon transfer blossoms as fried to paper towels to drain. (Make sure oil returns to 375 degrees before adding each new batch.)
Sprinkle blossoms with salt to taste and serve warm.


ramps are wild onions that grow on mountain sides only during late april, early may - you can harvest them for about 4 weeks so they are a major specialty. this recipe should take a few minutes of prep and the risotta takes about 20 minutes to cook. it's easy but you can't walk away from the stove and you have to serve it immediately.

i cup risotto rice
4 cups vegetable stock
bunch of ramps
handful of mushrooms
white wine
parmesan cheese
olive oil

saute the shroom and ramps until tender
add rice, heat in pan for about 1 minute
add one or two ladlefuls of stock, let simmer
stir and as stock gets absorbed, ladle in more, a bit at a time.
when almost finished, add a jigger of wine and grate some cheese on top.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

post-modern angst!

i've been on the vestry of my church for a year and a smidge now and i'm having trouble with my conscience. my church is over 100 years old, it is comprised of a campus of four buildings (church, rectory, parish house, apartment building for staff)and the whole of it is absolutely beautiful. however, all the money we raise at the church goes toward maintaining the buildings. they are an albatross around our necks. rather than making money for us, they cost - a lot! the roof on any one of these buildings is always falling apart (to the point where as soon as one is repaired, another one starts to fall apart!)our utlities have gone up, like everyone else's. something always needs extensive repair at my church.
we do wonderful outreach at my church. we have a shelter for homeless men in our parish hall. we have an after-school program. we have a summer camp at a very reduced cost. we serve dinner for the homeless every saturday night. years ago, the past rector created a seperate organization to handle the outreach, hoping that organization would get foundation money that a church might not.
unfortunately, it feels like that entity and the church are becoming "us vs. them"
christ taught us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give money to the poor, not put all your energy and hard work to keep a bunch of buildings going.
i'm getting the "emerging church" idea that church does not have to be in a building.
i feel like our outreach program could do a lot more than it does, but is having a hard time raising money because people give their money to the church first. and there are never enough volunteers.
i co-chair a major fund-raiser for the church, a street fair that's coming up next month. this is my 3rd year on this event. it's starting to upset me that all the work i'm putting into this event is not to raise money for our outreach programs, but to pay the utility bill.
i'm meeting with my rector to talk about it this weekend. maybe when i'm done with my vestry term, i should sit on the board of the outreach organization.

Monday, April 10, 2006

we're in the home stretch

i was talking with a fellow episcogeek the other day about holy week and easter coming up. i can't remember what direction our conversation went in that it led to him saying, yeah, well, the cross is not the focus of my theology - i'm totally paraphrasing here by the way but it was words to that effect. i didn't have time just then to ask him, but i will later when i get the chance, how he reconciles that, or, what is his focus?
because the same goes for me. i am still trying to understand the crucifixion, resurrection, "salvation" and all that goes along with easter. i can't even understand a metaphor for all this that makes sense for me - and i gladly accept anyone's comments on this.
post-modern, emerging church, sr. mary alternative ...

april is poetry month and i'm teaching poetry to my students and i've been researching some good poems for them (i really hate treacly kiddy poems) so i thought i'd post this (it reminds me of grace, which is a christian concept i can totally groove on):

'Hope' is the thing with feathers
by Emily Dickinson

'Hope' is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

god box update

the other day i was thinking about how worried and stressed i'd been in the weeks before and how i was so stressed i got sick and ended up in the e.r. and i was trying to remembe what it was i was so worried about to begin with. do you know i couldn't think of all those things and i had to go to the god box and take out my index cards that i had written everything down on and go look at them to remember! as i looked at each card i thought, "well, that one's under control now. this one is not a problem anymore. this one is still something i have to deal with but i'm not so nervous about it now." that god, she's wonderful! she took all those worries off my shoulders (and out of my sinuses which is how the worry manifested itself in me). phew! hope next time i get this worked up i remember the god box a bit quicker.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

god box

i have been so stressed out about all these responsibilities in my life that i got sick and ended up missing several days of work and had to go to the e.r.
last night i hit bottom on freaking out. i'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
last night i took myself to my bed, read some spiritual literature, prayed (help me, help me, help me), meditated. then i took some index cards and a sharpie and wrote down all the things i'm worried about: work stuff, grad school stuff, homework i'm backed up on, exams, church duties, money, money, money problems. i wrote each down on a card and then put those cards in my god box.
a god box is a container that i put my worries into and hand them over to god. i turn over my worries and trust god to transform them into opportunities for me to grow, to expand my spirit and trust in god. i find a lot of my spiritual work consists of precedents. i try something different, just to see what will happen. instead of worrying, i try putting my concerns in god's hands. i usually don't do this until i'm totally desperate and on my knees. then, god transmogriphies my BIG PANIC issue into little, surmountable steps and i take one at a time. god makes my life more manageable. when i next come up against a monster, i remember back to that time i turned it over and how that worked out. i'm ready to try turning it over again, and again.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

frazzled in new york

i'm a full-time teacher.
i'm in grad school and go two nights per week.
i am on the vestry of my church.
i'm a co-chair of my church's street fair coming up in may.
i'm the literature person for two al-anon meetings.
i'm freaking out about money, as in, i don't really make enough.

well, looking at the above list, the word that stands out for me is "i" i i i i i i
i'd like to get away from i.
i'm feeling burned out and with a sinus infection on top of it all, i'm not at my best.
so, this is lent and while this lent is not as focused for me as in years past when i haven't had all this going on in my life, i can still look to lenten practice to quiet down, slow down, listen. god is not in the earthquake. she is not in the roaring wind. she's the still small voice. i am bottoming out and need to be still and listen.
i can do this any time, but lent, in it's dark, cold way, is a special time for me to be still and quiet and listen. in the mornings (esp. in winter) i hate to get out of my warm, cozy bed and go out into the cold. i pull the covers over my head and say, "five more minutes." i love to be drowsy powsy and cozy wozy for those few minutes of warm silence, fending off the cold. i love lent because it's my time of "five more minutes" with god.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

one week into lent and i'm still a b!t(h

i've been meditating every morning this week and usually when i meditate, i am a much nicer teacher and i do not yell at my students and scare them. howsoever, today i meditated and everything, but was a screaming mimi first thing in the morning. of course, i will say that trying to get field trip permission slips and money, signed half-day notice slips, parent-teacher conference appointment time slips from 22 7 and 8 year olds, half of whom are calling out, ms. goodnow! ms. goodnow! could make anyone a screaming mimi. it's like herding cats.
i've taken to reading al-anon daily meditations during my lunch time, that helps.
i've heard it takes five years to really get teaching down. i'm in year two so i forgive myself when i get frazzled. although, i will say that while i struggle with a concept of sin in this post-modern world, i do believe it is a sin to yell at children. big time sin. i can see their faces turn stony but their shoulders leap up. ugh. if i had a teaching assistant (yes, i'm all alone with 22 7 and 8 year olds), it would be easier. but, i don't so i accept reality and strive to meditate more, pray, pray, pray to be more patient, patient, patient.
and i want to be more patient and less like sr. frances, my 5th grade math teacher and personal nightmare, because these are among god's most delicate creatures. they are as vulnerables as little fairies. they spend more time with me than at home with mom and dad. some of them are experiencing pure hell at home. i can't save them necessarily, but i can make my classroom safe, serene. i can offer them love and compassion, which i have loads of for them but whoosh, they are so exhausting!
please pray for me that i do not become sr. frances ... or sr. elizabeth (another math teacher and personal nightmare who had really flabby upper arms and when she wore short sleeved blouses in june and wrote on the board it was like watching a car crash, i couldn't stand watching that arm flab flippity flop while she wrote and i couldn't take my eyes off of it either, i don't want to be sr. elizabeth.)
the patience prayer
god, grant me patience.
RIGHT NOW!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

lent for episcogeeks

i love lent. it's my favorite liturgical season. i love that it's once a year, i couldn't handle it more than that (so far i do not treat advent like lent). i love that it is at the end of winter, when it seems the coldest because the end is in sight. winter seems so much less bearable when the days start getting longer and there are a few warmish days sprinkled in.
i hate winter and one of my reactions to it is to sleep more. i have very little energy when it's so cold out and i love to snuggle under the covers for 5 more minutes on winter mornings. lent feels to me like the spiritual version of "5 more minutes" of quiet; cold outside, warm inside; winter light; cozy time with god. it's like snuggling down with god to pray and meditate. oooooh, i love it!
i tend not to give something up for lent, rather, i take on a spiritual practice. one year i went to 40 al-anon meetings in 40 days. another year i bought a tibetan buddhist meditation video and did that every day. this year i have some spiritual readings for each day and i really want to concentrate on my prayer and meditation practice, as well as exercise my body, which needs it badly.
i wish everyone a wonderful, meaningful lenten season.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

if mohamad won't come to the mountain ...

i have a student in my second grade class, mohammad. he is from pakistan and has been living both here and there for the last few years, being pulled out of school here to go live there for several months. he left last may and came back in november.
mohammad did not come to class on time, and refused to come into the classroom of his own volition. instead, he would have an entire posse of school psychologists, counsellors, parent volunteers, teachers, the security guard all clucking around him and encouraging him into the classroom. he would squat down on the floor outside the classroom and put his head in his arms. it would take around 45 minutes to get him to come into the room and sit at his table. then he would sit with his head on his desk and not do any work. but, after lunch, he would come to life and return to the classroom and do his work with no problem, raising his hand to answer questions and working independently and in groups. he's very clever and never lost any of his english skills while away in pakistan.
after a few days i asked him why he had such a hard time in the mornings. he told me that he misses his mom and dad (who are at work while he's in school) and he's so sad he can't work. he then told me that when he does start working, he doesn't think about them and doesn't miss them so much. i told him that it stands to reason that the sooner he gets to work, the less he'll think about his mother. i also told him that when i'm sad about something, i let myself feel good and sorry for myself for three days. i really wallow in it. and even if i want to stop after a couple of days, i still give myself that third day to really sit in my sorrow and pity. then, i move on and work with what i have. i told him he could have three days to feel sorry for himself and not come into the classroom until he was ready and he didn't have to work, he could sit at his table. but then after that three days, he had to get to work.
i also told the teachers and counsellors that had been bringing him to the classroom that i wanted to try having him brought to the doorway of the classroom, and then left on his own to enter when he was ready. the next day, a parent volunteer brought him to the entrance to the classroom, i told them to leave. i told mohammad i simply needed him to stand in the doorway so i could see him, and he could come into the room whenever he was ready. i also made sure that the rest of the class was doing something fun at that time so mohammad would both get bored out there on his own and be really curious about what everyone was doing in the classroom.
by the third day, he was coming in immediately on entering the school (still late). i told him how proud i was of this and after a few days i told him that i felt he was ready to come to the rug with his books when he entered the classroom, and do the work that everyone else was doing. i promised him stickers galore if he could do that.
once we got that down for a few days, i told him that now he was ready to come to the auditorium at the beginning of the day and come to the classroom with everyone else. he's just started doing that this week.
the first day he came into the classroom with everyone else, he then sat down at his table and refused to come to the rug and work. he put his head down and wouldn't respond to me or anyone. the first day that happened, i said that i could not teach until the whole class was on the rug. i said we would sit in silence until everyone was on the rug. it's not class 2cr3 and then mohammad, it's all of us together. we sat for 20 minutes in silence. it was excruciating.
the next day he did it again. i knew we couldn't sit there in silence again, i needed to come up with something else. i sent up a quick "S.O.S.!" prayer to god, asking for divine inspiration and i mean now! the expression, "if mohamed will not come to the mountain, the mountain will come to mohamed." popped into my head. i taught the children that epxression and then told them to stand up. i moved my white board easel (no one uses a blackboard by the way) across the room so it was in front of mohammad. i had all the children sit at desks or on the floor so they could see the board. i told mohammad to take out his notebook and a pencil and start copying what i was writing on the board. he looked completely shocked, but did it. the kids copied some notes, we talked about some ideas, and then i told mohammad that for the next part of the lesson i really needed everyone on the rug and was he ready? he said yes and off we went!
by spending time with nuns over the last few years i have learned to be comfortable in silence and i have learned patience. i also know that i have real gifts in working with children. i see christ's presence in each and every one of these children. i'm so grateful to be working in one of my two vocations and i really hope to continue working with children as a religious. there don't seem to be many teaching orders in the anglican tradition these days, but i am looking at orders in africa that work with aids orphans.
keep mohammad in your prayers ... and me too!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

new year's resolution - be more nunlike

or is it nunesque? resolved - that i will spend more time with religious, meditate more, work up the guts to tithe the full whammy. and resolve to do this all very gently throughout year and not beat self up if i fail to meditate more but do lose 15 lbs.

i am so glad that crummy 2005 is over. what a rough year it was for me. i feel like i'm starting to come out of a fog and i am moved to build a new life for myself. i sometimes think, what would i do if i found out i had 6 months left to live? this being because i now know so many people who have or had cancer that i'm wondering when i will get it. anyway, if i had 6 months to live i would ask to move into the convent of the community of the holy spirit.

when hippies become nuns ...

these sisters are seriously alternative - far out. if they were not in the northern hemisphere and worked more with children, i would seriously want to enter that order.