You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘reflection’ tag.

I dressed in black for work today. It matched my mood and I felt emotionally the way I did after 9/11. The flags should be lowered as after any national tragedy. The people around me were unnaturally subdued.

I did wear red and black socks, with flames. I put them on as part of my intentional choices in wardrobe: my prayer bracelets, so I’d have Julian of Norwich and Saint Francis’ prayers and my family with me; the flame socks symbolizing the burning rage I felt.

flamesock

I wore a blue pantsuit to work yesterday. When we passed a line of people at a polling place on the Muni, the stranger next to me and I chatted about looking forward to the results and how we’d both already voted. He was a Hispanic man.

After work, I gathered with good friends to watch the returns and celebrate with sparkling wine in Hillary glasses. We had hotel rooms so we could celebrate and not have to drive.

As results came in, I was saddened but not surprised to see Indiana go so heavily for bigotry and hatred. I was still optimistic until about 8:45 Pacific time. Worry won out and I lost my appetite for food and drink, and was very quickly completely sober.

The level of stress in the room was climbing, and Whisky felt it, and always more nervous around men, barked more, and I became more tense. My anger grew at the margins by which Hillary was trailing in key races – margins less than the number of votes given to 3rd party candidates in key states. I wanted to yell at the TV commentators, at something. Every time Whisky barked I was ready to snap and when I snapped at her, that just made me angrier at myself. A vicious cycle.

I was – and still am – horrified that so many people in the US could support a candidate who exemplifies the worst in us: misogyny, bigotry, racism and xenophobia. I grieve for the damage the President-elect has said he’ll do to the climate that the entire world relies on, and what that means to my nephews and their families. If that happens, it won’t be recoverable. I am heartbroken.

The damage done to the lives of those persecuted, scapegoated and demonized may be irreparable. The damage done to the Presidency and our collective reputation and the values espoused in our Constitution pale in comparison.

Finally, we could not continue to watch. I needed to be alone, so Whisky and I went home. Whisky was anxious and somewhat fearful of me, adding to my distress. I tried to sleep, and woke up multiple times, only to remember what was wrong.

I cried. When two women I know asked how to explain to their young girls that we could elect a person who thinks it’s OK to sexually assault women, and who vilifies people who aren’t white, there are no acceptable answers. A man raising twin four-year-olds with his husband, said he’d read the first thing is to tell your children you’ll keep them safe, and then reinforce the values we teach our children. I work with many people who are first and second-generation immigrants. I was emotionally fragile all day – near tears multiple times.

So, I dressed all in black for work today, except for those red flame socks. My rage has no outlet that I will allow myself to express, without sinking to the level of the President-elect, and that I will not do.

I have read what far more eloquent people have written to process the election results. I read and later watched, the leadership and caring exhibited by Hillary Clinton in her remarks today. Once again, she put service to the country above self. Once again, President Obama showed his grace and ability as a leader, exhorting us to support the President-elect.

I’m not there. Right now, I’m not sure I will ever be able to support the Executive branch while the new President-elect is in office. He’s despicable. I’m closer to The Audacity of Hopelessness from Roxane Gay, and No, Let’s Not Congratulate Him from Connie Schultz than to the speeches either Hillary or Barack made. Especially – and maybe always – what Connie wrote.

My rage still burns, but I’m working to be able to channel it productively. I won’t need to wear the flame socks to remember that. I will use the rage to forge an even more steely resolve to work on what must change.

It feels like forever since I posted to this blog, possibly because I’ve had so much I wanted to say, but didn’t feel I could in a public forum. I’m on vacation now, through the first of October. The job with which I started the year is now over. On the whole, I think it will be a good thing for me, but it’s not been easy.

I’ve known since a conversation in early June that this role was coming to an end, but it took nearly 2 more months to get to the point where I could begin to talk about looking for the next opportunity. Even then, I was so busy I could hardly begin to look for another job. That was one of the challenges, of course. I’ve been running sprints and dealing with too much stress since February. Of course, I lost Phoebe at the end of June, and continue to miss her, particularly when I came home after a rough day. Despite her failing health, she was always a source of comfort, and distraction to take me out of myself. In particular, it was emotionally draining to experience the culmination of 9 months of work, then say goodbye to my staff and colleagues last week.

Now, I’m headed for a short, much-delayed visit to Indianapolis, to see Mom and other family. Hoping for some time to reflect, re-engage with what’s important, and recharge for the next steps on my journey.

Fathers Day had me reflecting on Dad. He’s been dead since 1995 and was gone for some time before that, because of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. As the years go by, it becomes easier to forget the bad moments and tough times, but also hard to remember some of the good times, as they get further back in time.

Dad with me and the new antique clock

Dad with me and the new antique clock

I took a digital picture of this snapshot of Dad holding me as a baby in front of a Civil War era clock he was proud of (although I’m not sure Mom thought they could afford it). I have this clock, which is not currently running, and a cuckoo clock, which I keep running, although it needs to be wound twice a day. Dad loved clocks, and I enjoy them in memory of him.

Other gifts and lessons I attribute to Dad:

  • A love of hiking and fond memories of family hikes at Indiana state parks
  • Enjoyment of Gilbert & Sullivan, Mozart and other melodic music
  • An insistence on correct pronunciation of my last name (pronounced kreeger, with 2nd vowel long as in German)
  • The importance of a good set of sharp desk scissors, and knowing where they are kept
  • A love of dessert – Dad always wanted some baked good, and the more choices, the better
  • Childhood stories being read to me and my brother, including Winnie the Pooh and folk tales in dialect
  • Knowing to stand for three songs: your school song, the National Anthem, and the Hallelujah Chorus
  • Rooting for you own team is good, but not rooting against the opponent
  • Knowing what a bed warmer is on sight, after all the stops at all the historical sights along the road
  • Independent soft ice cream places are the best, even though as a kid I pretty much only wanted chocolate/vanilla swirl
  • Minnows and tiny snails and snake grass at Coldwater Lake in Michigan, while we vacationed and Dad painted during his summer break
  • Appreciation for wood grain from Dad’s woodwork and hand-rubbed linseed oil finishes
  • Being frugal about energy and water use – Dad has solar panels on the house in the 70s, always made sure we didn’t leave the lights on, and always wanted us to take “Army” showers
  • Dad in the kitchen – making steamed puddings and bread, and making home made candy canes with me one year
  • Inspiring me to look for work that I enjoy doing, because he wasn’t happy with his choices along the way.

Although Dad would have been more likely to play Sir Joseph Porter than Captain Corcoran, here’s a slight alteration to Gilbert & Sullivan to close this out:

He was the captain of the Pinafore.

And a right good captain, too.

He was very, very good, and be it understood, he commanded a right good crew.

As evidenced by some of the lessons I still recall from my youth ….

Thanks, Dad!

I just finished weaving in the tail end on my spiderweb shawl this morning. I actually finished the crocheted border about a week ago, but didn’t want to take on the weaving-in at night. I did get some done watching/listening to NCAA basketball games, and finished it while watching Skyfall on DVD. I got much better at keeping the slippery yarn on the slippery crochet hook, and did establish a feel for the pattern, so I didn’t have to stop and count stitches as often. It may have taken me 20 hours to finish, but I really didn’t keep track.

I look forward to wearing it this afternoon – it is silky-soft and so fine it compresses into scarf size.

Now that it’s finished, I will miss the work of it – the feel of the soft fiber slipping around my fingers – and leaving a blue stain behind, and the rhythm of the stitches. If you want more information on the pattern and materials, you can find those here.

I will have to come up with another project, but not just yet. Life is a little crazy just now. Of course, that may be the best reason to find another knitting project.

 

Hexagonal lace shawl knitted with hand-dyed indigo silk fiber from A Verb for Keeping Warm.

Hexagonal lace shawl knitted with hand-dyed indigo silk fiber from A Verb for Keeping Warm.

After many months, I picked up my spider’s web lace shawl again. I finished the last 2 rounds yesterday. (I know now that they’re called rounds – not rows – when knitting in the round.) The final round had 1092 stitches.

Since I started it in 2010, I had managed to keep working on the project sporadically, and knit a couple of small projects in between. Nearing the end of the pattern, I knew I’d need help with the binding off, so I set it aside until I knew my knitting-expert friend could help me. He removed the belly-button start and showed me how to do the crochet bind-off called for in the pattern. It’s designed to make the ruffly, open edge. Turns out, it calls for 14 crochet stitches for every 2 stitches that get bound off.

Yep. To bind off the final 1092 stitches, I’m going to have to crochet 7,644 stitches.

I did find that knitting the pattern could be a meditation. In fact, when finishing the last pattern round, I found that a mantra of “all will be well, and all will be well, and all will be well, and all will be well if I put some effort into it” worked for the repeating series of knit 3, yarn-over, 3-stitch decrease, yarn-over pattern. (If you’ve never knit, just take my word for it.) Partial credit to Julian of Norwich.

See photos for the lacy, curvy edge, and a sense of what the whole thing looks like – remember, it’s a full circle. In the photos, I had bound off 39 stitches.

A bit more stretched out to show the shawl pattern.

A bit more stretched out to show the shawl pattern.

Detailed shot of the edge. For scale, the bright green tip is about 3/8" at the widest point.

Detailed shot of the edge. For scale, the bright green tip is about 3/8″ at the widest point.

Because the piece is still mostly on the round needles, it can't be spread out much, but this shows the edging effect nicely.

Because the piece is still mostly on the round needles, it can’t be spread out much, but this shows the edging effect nicely.

I am not finding that this bind-off lends itself to a mantra, so far. It takes too much concentration to keep the slippery silk fiber on the slippery crochet hook.

So.

I have 1053 stitches left to be bound off, and it seems to take me about 2 1/2 minutes to complete one 14-stitch set when I’m focused and working pretty smoothly. That’s 1,316 minutes or 21.9 hours of pretty focused work.

I would like to think I could do this during the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament games, but I know I won’t be able to if I want to actually watch the action. (Doing needlework like this while watching TV is good, because it forces me to look up and focus at a distance regularly, and reduces eyestrain.)

Unless I increase watching TV that I’m fine with mostly listening to, it may take me another 2.5 years to get this done. Stay tuned – but don’t hold your breath.

A friend wrote an eloquent blog post the other day about his faith. (He’s a writer and generally eloquent. I won’t attempt to compete.) Here’s a link to his post: http://www.punkmonksf.com/blog/?p=367.
As someone who also does “the whole God thing,” this made me think, and inspired me to reflect and write about what I believe and why. I agree with what Karekin says, by the way. One of the things I believe very strongly is that no faith tradition is any more “right” than any other, assuming it is helping you to live a good life in a way that makes one a whole human and sustains self and community. I also agree that that doesn’t require a faith tradition.
My faith community helps me, and sometimes the trappings of the Christian calendar and Episcopal church help me, too. It is also helpful for me to talk to God and feel as though God is listening and helping me find answers I need.
This may or may not turn into future posts here, but I encourage you to read Karekin’s post and consider his position, and your own.
If you want another resource on this general topic, I recommend Fenton Johnson’s book, http://www.betterworldbooks.com/9780618492374-id-9780618492374.aspx.

Peace

This passage from President Barack Obama’s speech illustrates the blend of individual and collective rights and responsibilities on which our nation was founded. I personally believe that We are more important than I am, but understand that I play a critical role in the success of We.

“As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility, and we celebrate individual initiative. We’re not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk- takers, the entrepreneurs who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system, the greatest engine of growth and prosperity that the world’s ever known.

But we also believe in something called citizenship — citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, a word at the very essence of our democracy, the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.

We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better.

We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family’s protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes — and so is the entire economy.

We believe the little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the next Steve Jobs or the scientist who cures cancer or the president of the United States — and it is in our power to give her that chance.

We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we certainly don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules.

We don’t think the government can solve all of our problems, but we don’t think the government is the source of all of our problems — any more than our welfare recipients or corporations or unions or immigrants or gays or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles — because America, we understand that this democracy is ours.

We, the people — recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which asks only, what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.

As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together — through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe.”

You can find the text and audio of the entire speech here: http://www.npr.org/2012/09/06/160713941/transcript-president-obamas-convention-speech

Over the past couple of years, I’ve separated myself from my Holy Innocents Episcopal church community. This year, I started to come back, knowing that I need community support on my life journey.

A few years ago, I was very much into the whole Lent-Holy Week-Easter “do”, taking on a Lenten discipline, being a member of the altar party in most Holy Weeks services, and swinging 360’s with the thurible at Easter services. I hung out with friends who were very much into church, and I immersed myself in the experience with them.

Then I ran into some challenges as my friends split up for reasons both good and bad. I was disillusioned and angry, and my connection to the liturgy was largely lost. I paid attention again to what was being said in the liturgy and sermons, and how I felt about it. I’d never believed in the fact of resurrection and of Jesus as a sacrifice for sins. Central to my faith about Easter was the experience of Jesus’ life and teachings continuing on in the experiences of his disciples – both female and male – and I increasingly felt the sting of the male-dominated church history. Our altar at church and liturgical language became less inclusive, and that gave me another reason to separate myself.

Jesus’ teachings about social justice and his radical opposition to the religious authorities of his time got him killed. He spoke truth to power and was unwilling to be silent, ultimately paying the price with his life. That was the sacrifice – non-violent protest, refusing to fight fire with fire (except in theological debates with religious authorities.) The fact that his message was powerful enough to be felt after his death is the resurrection experience that is true for me.

The Easter Vigil service has a special place in my heart, from the storytelling of faith perspectives to the drama of the light arriving and the first “Alleluias.” At one of my favorite Vigil services, our response to each reading was “And God isn’t finished with us yet.” I had missed the Vigil service for at least two years, but I went this year. I received an important message and insight from the service: a way to become an Easter person again, even though I don’t believe in “awaiting Christ’s coming in glory”. Our preacher at the Vigil, The Rev. J. Cameron Ayers, gave me the key that night that unlocked the door in my spirit the next morning.

The Easter story is one of redemption and the triumph of love. There are many examples of redemption and the triumph of love in today’s world if we look for them. They just tend to be drowned out by injustice, violence and greed. Jesus the man is dead, but his example lives on. As Christians, we are required to be Christ in the world today – seeking out injustice and trying to right the wrongs, returning violence with powerful but non-violent responses, and calling out the powerful to take action.

It’s our job to eradicate injustice, violence and greed, so that love really does triumph, throughout the world. I can be that kind of Easter person – or at least try to be.

My Presidio Graduate School course on Culture, Values and Ethics requires me to engage with a culture with which I’m uncomfortable or unfamiliar, and extract learning from the experience. When the course assignment was being described, the idea of walking out with a San Francisco Night Minister was one of the first things that came to me. Although I have learned to treat the homeless with dignity in some circumstances, I still find myself quite uncomfortable around them, especially after dark. Also, although I understand the concept of “ministering to the least of these”, I was profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of actually doing it myself. All in all, doing night ministry would mean drawing on abilities that do not play to my strengths. I contacted my friend David, an Assistant Night Minister, about going out with him, and we arranged a date.

We met shortly before 10 PM, and began our walk from the Cathedral Hill area. It was a chilly night, but thankfully not raining. David is an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and wears a clerical collar and dark clothing. I wear dark clothing as well, to blend in with him. He set a course that rambled around the Tenderloin, Civic Center, South of Market and Central Market areas. On mapping what I recall of our route later, I estimate we walked nearly seven miles. We walked slowly, which was my first adjustment, as I normally walk fast, especially in less-salubrious areas. David acknowledged that he’d learned to adjust his pace during this ministry.

I asked David how he decided when to stop, or to speak, and when not to. He said that generally, he finds that people in groups are less likely to engage than those alone. He offers eye contact, and if eye contact is returned, a greeting. If the other person responds positively, he pauses, and sees what happens from there. Almost all the people we spoke with were standing, not sitting or lying on the ground. When we stopped to speak with someone, we introduced ourselves using first names, and shook hands. David always removed his glove to shake hands, which I noticed, but never managed to think of in time to emulate. David had a bag with some gloves, hats, scarves and socks, which he offered to people during our conversations until he ran out.

We had conversations with several people during our walk. Some recognized David from prior encounters. Multiple people asked if we were with the Night Ministry. A few asked for money. We declined but David offered to pray with them instead, although no one accepted the offer. Some saw David’s collar and simply called out “God bless!”

I met Brenda, Chris, James, Ron, Wesley and Willie: a man with a trumpet, a woman selling Street Sheets, a Vietnam veteran and poet, a man with a joke about the cold, and a woman who got edgy and anxious when others gathered as we spoke with her. Two people told us they had housing to go home to, and were out that night by choice. Another one had been staying overnight on Stevenson Street for 15 years. We only said a prayer with one man, a storyteller and philosopher. He shared parts of his life story and philosophy with us, and we held hands and David said a prayer before we continued on our way.

At one point, David said that he never felt unsafe while out on his walks, despite being alone. I was initially very aware of my surroundings, but as we met and spoke with people, I got more comfortable. Being with David helped, as we talked and laughed together on our walk. I was most uncomfortable in arguably the worst and best areas we walked in. Signs of drug use and sex for hire were prominent in the Central Market area, so I avoided looking too closely at clusters of people. In Polk Gulch, a truck cruised the streets with bikini-clad women dancing inside the glassed-in trailer, promoting a strip club. The objectification of sex made me slightly ill.

Stevenson Street, which usually seems to be the overnight home for many people as I walk to the parking lot there, was nearly empty for some reason. (I saw only four people on the block between 5th and 6th Streets.) We asked someone who stays there, but he didn’t know why it was so empty, just that he liked it quiet like that.

After a break at Bob’s Donuts to warm up, we made our way back to our starting point at 2 AM. I’m told it was a pretty quiet night. I headed home. David was going to pick up a heavy cardboard container he’d been saving to give to the friend who stays on Stevenson Street, and continue his ministry until 4 AM. I still need to translate these experiences into lessons for my leadership development, but the beauty of sharing the night with David and the people we met touched my heart.