Planet RMFO Blog

October 16, 2014

Daniel -

what is she

i roll your words on my tongue
impressively alien

they break my jaw
their many many layers

could i have thought that? i think
you would not have thought that

she does not lie unblinking
ceiling rapt

numbers cycle behind half-
slumbered eyelids

she hasn’t won the lottery

i bend your words to my form
a spoon

stirs as always
what is she

& what is she

by ddeboer at October 16, 2014 08:46 PM


what I have been reading (less reading than normal edition).

People always ask if I really read all these books. The answer is yes! And also I go through periods where I tool around on the internet just like everyone else. Lately I have been doing a lot of tooling around on the internet and also I am sloooowly working my way through The Wire for the first time. But I do have some books to post about.


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (purchased by me)

Despite the fact that we North Carolinians like to claim Dr. Angelou as our own, I had never read all of this book. I read a few different excerpts at different times during school, but never the whole thing. After she passed away this spring, I put it on my summer reading list. What is there to say except that her extraordinary story lives up to every bit of hype and if you haven’t read it, you really should.

Blankets by Craig Thompson (from the public library)

This is a huge graphic novel – almost 600 pages. It tells the story of Craig’s childhood with his fundamentalist parents and his first love. It’s always on those lists of must-read graphic novels and I can see why – it’s a beautiful story with beautiful drawings.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (from the public library)

Not quite as good as the first one but still a great mystery with fun characters. Hits the spot for me and I just love the J.K. Rowling voice you can hear in there when it comes to the descriptions and the dry humor.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown (from the public library)

I have some friends who swear by Brene Brown, and I didn’t disagree with anything but I am not sure that vulnerability is my issue. Great book to discuss with a friend who knows you well.

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson (via Blogging for Books)

I was not sure I wanted to read this memoir about Whiston-Donaldson losing her son in a freak tragedy at the age of 12. While it is an incredibly sad story, it was somehow not as bleak as I thought it might be. An honest portrayal of a mother’s grief and her family’s attempt to pick up the pieces of their broken life. I appreciated that it did not reach for easy answers or shy away from the intense pain and questions that Whiston-Donaldson was feeling, to the point that I am still not sure whether her marriage will survive the tragedy. The story is stronger than the writing, but the story is enough to keep you engaged. Unsettling but ultimately hopeful.


I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (purchased for me by Mike)

There’s a lot of buzz around this story about twins who were once close and who are now barely speaking to each other. It alternates back and forth between the past and present with the two narrators, Noah and Jude. I really did not like it. Hated the writing style with the quirky asides, hated one of the narrators (Jude), hated the story, kind of hated the magical realism aspect. I wanted to like it! But it was not for me. Recommended for: NO ONE. But if you want to read it I will lend you my copy.

Wildlife by Fiona Wood (via NetGalley)

This is about two girls in Australia who go for a term to an outdoor education camp. One, Lou, has recently lost her boyfriend in an accident and is covered up in grief. The second, Sibylla, was recently featured in a marketing campaign and is seeing new social doors open for her. They are in the same cabin but don’t forge a friendship right away. I liked this book for its depiction of life as a teenager in Australia as well as the focus on female friendship. Recommended for 12-16 year olds.

Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston (via NetGalley)

Kaz works in a laundromat and has a mother with a weird disease. He sees Zoey and falls for her, but their relationship doesn’t make sense. Zoey isn’t developed as a character, and Kaz’s inability to see her as more than a cool hot chick makes it hard to feel sorry for him when it turns out Zoey isn’t who she claimed she was. Basically a mess and it’s a shame because the characters have a lot of potential.

Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake (via NetGalley)

I am a huge fan of The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake – it comes in and out of my library almost every day and it’s a book that I love and love to read with students. But I could not get into Unstoppable Octobia May. I enjoyed the portrayal of time and place but the story was hard to follow. I couldn’t see myself giving it to a student when I could barely read it myself. Huge bummer for me because I was excited about it and was hoping for more. There’s a good detective story in here and I could see some of the antics playing out so well if they had been described a little bit more clearly.

Currently reading:

We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren (via NetGalley)

I have a rocky relationship with Brian McLaren – I have seen him speak and really enjoyed his words, but I have also read some of his other books and felt like he was condescending and . . . almost unkind. But this book? I am loving it. It’s structured as a year-long study so it’s hard to read straight through but I am working through it a little at a time and the reflections on scripture are wonderful. I could see a Sunday School class getting a lot out of these discussions. Highly highly recommended!

I received copies of some of these books from the publishers but, as always, my opinions are my own (and boy did I seem grumpy with this set).

by Kari at October 16, 2014 01:09 AM

October 15, 2014

Daniel -

Small Animal

That small animal who goes out in front of me
Who precedes me always
Simply asks to have his feathers ruffled
To make a new friend
To tell you about his day
For you to listen for a little while

If you ask me whose small animal that is
I will make unplausible noises
He is not mine I say
He just happens to be here I say
He is an escapee perhaps I say

As I reach down to ruffle your feathers
I notice behind you a him
Who is he? I ask
He is not mine you say
He just follows me around you say
Waiting to be fed you say

by ddeboer at October 15, 2014 02:32 AM


for blessing on this list i pray
for this tree which grows wild mushrooms
        the colour of dust about its base
        the foliage of tomorrow
        i do not recognize it
for the planes that fall out of the sky
        like fruit splitting open
        the seeds of which fall
        into our backyards
for the ever-surfacing munitions that we
        pile at the corners of fields
        for densely coated men
        to lead away
for the volcano who gathers rumblings
        who is not becalmed
        with sertraline or conversation
        who will not say what
for the mongol hordes who melt before
        to form up behind
        even their horses drink blood
        cries the sodden earth
for the child who knows nothing
        but must have her way
        whose father and mother also
        know nothing and do the same
for blessing against this list i pray

though it will not avail at least
not much

by ddeboer at October 15, 2014 02:14 AM

October 14, 2014

Daniel -

The Season

Appropriate, as if the language of leaves could be
mine and wielded,

to the season. Graduating from primary plaid and jeans
to collegiate leggings and fur linings,

an all knowing rectangle in one hand,
a pumpkin in the other.

That is to say, we are all tumble dried and turning
from green to yellow to red to

unironable parchment. Whose words are these,
they demand, what do they mean.

Why should I read them anyways? These letters
stink of quills and ink and

spotted hands,
they say, moving in packs united by irrepressible gluttony.

The gaggle knows what the goose does not:
The lean, sinewy season comes:

We must eat it all before it disappears.
We must trample underfoot the evidence of an

earlier time.
Appropriate, as if the language of death could be cleaved

from its mothballed antecedents,
to the season.

by ddeboer at October 14, 2014 02:10 AM

October 04, 2014

Daniel -

They Will Kill You

These are the lines I speak
that I have been told to speak
to speak else is not to speak

The right combinations of words
to speak over and again until words
no longer resolve as words

No one asks how they were written
They were assembled and not written
from things assembled and not written

Except this one madman whose brayed laugh
from the back row catches and we laugh
though we don’t know why we laugh

The same man says,
You can make something new
that has never been said before now

You can say it
but they will kill you

So these are the lines I speak
that I have been paid to speak
I open my mouth but…

by ddeboer at October 04, 2014 04:45 AM

October 01, 2014


been talking ’bout the way things change.

One night this summer, Atticus stayed at my mom’s house overnight so Mike and I could have a date night, which ended up being an early dinner so we could come home to watch House of Cards. (We are very exciting people.) When Atticus wanted to Facetime with us, we agreed, but it turned out to be a bit of a mistake. Even though he loves loves loves staying at Grammy’s house and being with Grammy, he was tired. Seeing us but not being able to be with us so close to bedtime was confusing and upsetting to him.

It was upsetting to us, too, a little bit. We are used to his clinginess and his tears (and we were in the middle of a big clingy phase at that point) but as he reached for us through the screen he had a look on his face that neither of us had seen before, sadness and confusion and tiredness all mingled into something new. Tears filled my own eyes as I watched him try to make sense of what was happening.

I would have told you that I knew all of his faces, the tired silliness at bedtime and the sly side-eye when he’s doing something he knows is questionable and the quiet nervousness of a new situation. He might be a big three-year-old now, but I grew him as a tiny baby inside of me, so of course I know his faces.

But I didn’t know that one because I was seeing something he had never experienced before.

I have thought about that face a lot over the past couple of months. When Atticus was tiny, I reminded myself often how steep the learning curve must be to a little person. But now he walks (runs) and talks (yells) and I forget that there are still so many things he hasn’t seen, hasn’t felt inside.

As a parent, I think we talk more about the positive feelings that we get to watch our kids experience as they learn: pride at an accomplishment, joy at seeing something new, self-control in a hard situation. It’s more difficult to think about the things that will make him sad and scared and confused in the future and give him all sorts of new feelings he has never felt before. It’s scary for me, too. The baby stage was hard because so many people had opinions about what we were supposed to do, but this part feels hard because Atticus is uncharted as a person and it’s becoming so clear that there is no guidebook to help us discover who he is.

I don’t want to pivot to platitudes or an easy answer here. I work with middle schoolers so I am crushingly aware that these feelings of uncertainty are only going to increase over time. But I do mean it when I say that despite feeling like a terrible responsibility, I am aware that it is such a privilege to watch him work these things out and help him learn what to do with all the things he takes in. It has helped me realize how many new feelings and experiences I have had since becoming a parent, too, and that we are all three in this together.

Two Atticus faces to close us out:


Hmm, what is in this box?


Ah, yes, it is chocolate cake.

by Kari at October 01, 2014 01:36 AM

September 21, 2014


let’s go adventuring, darling.


This summer we finally gave up the stroller for walks, so we amble together down the streets and notice things. It took me a couple of months to realize that I was taking walks my way (to exercise or to take him to the park) when he had his own ideas about what we should be doing (stopping constantly to look at rocks and sticks, picking up rocks and sticks, throwing rocks and sticks into the drain and the lake, saving rocks and sticks to take home).


Shifting my perspective on these walks has made them feel so much more like an adventure. We feed the birds and we check the dam and we pet all the dogs. We climb on and jump off everything, and we chat about the things we see and hear, making mental lists of the curiosities we have to describe to Daddy when we get home. We sing a song he made up about hiking. We often get very dirty. And we barely glance at the playground equipment.


My bag is full of snacks and a handful of rocks. This time I remembered some wipes. Let’s go adventuring, Atticus. It’s one of my favorite things to do with you.

by Kari at September 21, 2014 01:45 PM

September 15, 2014


a poem for sunday.

“Little Girls in Church” by Kathleen Norris


I’ve made friends
with a five-year-old
Presbyterian. She tugs at her lace collar,
I sympathize. We’re both bored.
I give her a pencil:
she draws the moon,
grass, stars
and I name them for her,
printing in large letters.
The church bulletin
begins to fill.
Carefully, she prints her name–KATHY–
and hands it back.

Just last week
in New York City, the Orthodox liturgy
was typically intimate,
casual. An old woman greeted the icons
one by one
and fell asleep
during the Great Litany
People went in and out,
to smoke cigarettes and chat on the steps.

A girl with long brown braids
was lead to the icons
by her mother. They kissed each one,
and the girl made a confession
to the youngest priest. I longed to hear it,
to know her name.


I worry for the girls.
I once had braids
and wore lace that made me suffer.
I had not yet done the things that would need forgiving.
Church was for singing, and so I sang.
I received a Bible, stars
for all the verses;
I turned and ran.

The music brought me back
from time to time,
singing hymns
in the great breathing body
of a congregation.
And once in Paris, as
I stepped into Notre Dame
to get out of the rain,
the organist began to play:
I stood rooted to the spot,
I looked up, and believed.

It didn’t last.
Dear girls, my friends,
may you find great love
within you, starlike
and wild, as wide as grass,
solemn as the moon.
I will pray for you. if I can.

by Kari at September 15, 2014 02:25 AM

September 11, 2014

Daniel -


Even the rusted bowl,
yellow, upside down,
twiddling its wheel, hushed
for that perhaps-twice-
yearly moment
when it might shed
its perpetual darkness–

They took even

by ddeboer at September 11, 2014 09:08 PM

what’s what

its avatar
chiselled manslab

slips into suit
points at horizon

knows what to do

when he speaks we listen
but he is dead

we huddle around the radio
remember remember


what’s what

by ddeboer at September 11, 2014 08:50 PM

September 08, 2014

Daniel -

Other Houses

I am not sure of me
Who can be found

As bundled wire
A signal carrier

Those layers
Can break your jaw

All at once
Or little by little over time

Who says
I am a mirror

A bit of glass
Who admits nothing

I am house built
Of other houses built

Of other houses

by ddeboer at September 08, 2014 11:42 PM

September 07, 2014

Daniel -

the wings

the wings who
is broken

torn shroud
tangled in mortal coils

in errant feathers
tumbling contoured

dove down
weak in peace

by ddeboer at September 07, 2014 07:25 PM

September 03, 2014


what I have been reading (back to school tired brain edition).


Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (borrowed from a friend)

When some butterflies that usually winter in Mexico end up in a valley in the Appalachian mountains instead, what happens to the community? What happens in particular to the families closest to this miracle (that could, after all, be a tragedy caused by climate change)? Maybe not my favorite Kingsolver (I have a special place in my heart for Prodigal Summer), but I loved the setting and the ways that Kingsolver cared so deeply and respected the poor people she was writing about. What good is science when your family is just getting by, and how much can farmers care about butterflies when climate change is affecting their own work? I really enjoyed this one. Recommended for: the science-minded among us, those who can see themselves in tales from a small town, anyone who has ever felt their lives were small and they wanted more.

Undistorted God: Reclaiming Faith Despite the Cultural Noise by Ray Waddle (via NetGalley)

Two quotes from this book sum up what I liked about it. “That’s the secret about religion: it better be worldly. Don’t live it all in your head, doing the math of perfectionism. Don’t forget the shaggy, swarming world.” And, “That’s what a church with its beckoning art should inspire when you sit down inside a sanctuary or assembly hall or approach a labyrinth of stone altar–the long view, a consoling sanity, a renewed search for the undistorted God.” This is mostly a story of finding God in unexpected places and learning how to differentiate the things that point you to God from God. Recommended for people who have trouble seeing glimpses of the divine in their daily lives.

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller (via NetGalley)

I have been hearing about this book for years, so when I saw I could request a copy with 100 additional pages, I was thrilled. It’s basically everything I love in an oral history, juicy behind-the-scenes gossip, scandal, and some people who are clearly very pissed about their experiences with the show and/or Lorne Michaels all these years later. SIGN ME UP. I flew through this and loved it (perfect airplane reading, by the way). My only complaint was that some of the new material seemed a little too current for the contributors to have really reflected upon what it meant culturally or even to themselves. I hope in 10-20 years there continue to be discussions with those actors and writers involved about their experiences on the show. My one suggestion for making this book better would be if the digital version had links to all the sketches that they are talking about. How great would that be, to read about a sketch and then just click to watch it yourself? Someone please make this happen. Recommended for: fans of SNL, people who kind of hate SNL, people who love oral histories and gossip.

Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life by Robert Benson (via Blogging for Books)

On my last day of summer vacation, I took this book with me as I got a pedicure, and I read almost the whole thing. It’s a quick and easy read about writing. Benson talks about what works for him as he writes and edits drafts, what does not work for him, and gives general tips from his years of experience. Rather than being dry or imperious, the tone is warm and friendly, and I took away several ideas for my own writing. Recommended for: writers and friends of writers.

Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible by Peter Enns (purchased myself)

This was recommended in the comments here one day and I finally got around to ordering it. Rather than reading the traditional Old Testament stories with your child, Enns recommends focusing on the parables with small children, then moving to some of the more complex/confusing stories in middle school, and bringing the Bible into more cultural and historical context in high school. I liked this plan because I don’t really want to read Atticus stories about Noah’s Ark or genocide at this point, and without some guidance it is easy to step back from the Bible and be afraid to read it altogether. We obviously are very new to this (and I didn’t buy the curriculum), but if you have a young child and are nervous about reading the bible with him or her, I recommend this book to you.

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonski (via NetGalley)

Grayson lives with his aunt and uncle and cousins after his parents died in a car crash, and he hides from them his darkest secret: he is really a girl stuck inside the wrong body. When he tries out for the female lead in the school play, a lot of feelings that have been tucked away in his family and his community come to the forefront. What I liked about this book was that it focused on middle grade concerns. Grayson most clearly articulates the idea that he is a girl by wanting to wear girls’ clothes. Obviously there is a lot more that goes into being a transgendered person than simply switching wardrobes, but Grayson’s expression also seemed appropriate for that age. You will root for Grayson to feel the support and love he needs and admire his(her) inner strength. Recommended for: middle schools.

Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels edited by Jennifer Grant and Cathleen Falsani (via NetGalley)

If you have ever read a devotional and come away with more questions than answers, this is the book for you. After years of quiet times that left me unsettled, I enjoyed these thoughts on scripture that don’t depend on everything wrapping up neatly at the end. While of course some of the essays are stronger than others and some resonate more than others, they were consistently good and thought-provoking. My favorites were from Karen Walrond, Ian Cron, and Ellen Painter Dollar. Some other authors you might know are Brian McLaren, Eugene Peterson, Caryn Rivadeneira, Karen Swallow Prior, Susan Isaacs, Debbie Blue, Christian Piatt, Katherine Willis Pershey, Amy Julia Becker, Anna Broadway, and Gareth Higgins. This book is packed full! My only regret is that I was reading it during the first week of school, when I really did not have the mental energy for something so smart.

Nest by Esther Ehrlich (via NetGalley)

Nest is set in 1972 and is about Chirp, an eleven-year-old girl who loves dancing and the outdoors and wild birds. When Chirp’s mother gets sick, her world is turned upside down. Where can she find a safe place? As I was reading this, I felt as if it was a not-quite-as good version of Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt because of the bird themes and the neighbor Joey who is suffering from abuse. However, I can’t think of a student who would enjoy Okay for Now, but I do think this one would find a place on my shelves. It paints a realistic picture of depression and the stresses that many children face in their home lives. Recommended for middle schoolers.

I received some of these books for free but my opinions are my own.

by Kari at September 03, 2014 12:30 AM

September 02, 2014

Daniel -


up the foot hewn passage
to a conference room on stilts

wagons circled
lightly dusted ankles

to do the math
would Jesus approve

stops humming rock music
tucks away bra straps

finally to another
conference room on stilts

where we open the book
and find ourselves

or more likely not

by ddeboer at September 02, 2014 01:36 AM

August 31, 2014

Daniel -

Stockholm syndrome for our own problems

I have a garden that wraps around the perimeter of my backyard. It’s been a bit of a chore to keep going. For most of this spring and summer it was a a patch of waist-high weeds drowning out all the perennials I had planted in years past. There were some fairly hearty ferns in there, and a few hostas as well. But even they were being drowned out by these weeds.

This is a fairly well-solved problem. There are interventions, certain things you do, to take care of gardens.

But I never seemed to do any of those things. Why not?

By the time I decided to do something about the weeds, they had not only taken over the garden but had started migrating into the grass as well. And to be honest I felt pretty bad about this. I would go out into the backyard and feel pretty lousy about all these weeds.

So I pulled them all out. It took a fair amount of time but I felt pretty good about it. Thing is, the weeds were back in a week. So I pulled them out again, and the next week they were back, and the plants weren’t recovering, and the gardens looked pretty terrible. Every time I pulled out a weed I would feel good, and every time it would grow back I would feel bad… and so the cycle goes on.

I like to think of this cycle as a sort of Stockholm Syndrome for problems. I got so hooked into working hard at pulling out weeds that I never had time to really sit back and think about why the weeds were growing in the first place.

Until one day. I got so sick of pulling out weeds, of spinning my wheels with this whole garden thing… I was ready to trash the whole idea and just throw down some grass seed.

Until I sat back and looked at what I was doing. And I felt pretty dumb, because what I was doing was dumb. I was fighting weeds, but I wasn’t fighting why weeds. I wasn’t asking the question that would have cut my workload by 90%.

I’ve seen people get so deep into this cycle they never take that moment to step outside the problem and take a look. They beat themselves and other people up for not working hard enough or being smart enough or whatever. I mean, I could have thought to myself, Dan, you’re so lazy. Look at these weeds! You should work harder to get rid of them. You’re not doing your job, man!

But my job was stupid. And of course eventually I would have stopped doing it altogether. And so the weeds would grow waist-high until next year when I got frustrated about my shitty backyard and started all over again.

Now, this all seems fairly basic stuff. I mean, I laid down some mulch, made a boundary that separates the garden from the grass, 90% of the weeds stopped growing, and when I go into my backyard and weed the garden it’s just a few things here and there.

Gardens are fairly easy that way.

But what about at work where things are more complicated? Sure, you could genuinely work with a bunch of idiots who just can’t do their jobs… but it’s it more likely that you have a problem you just haven’t sat down and taken a look at.

My garden problem was that I had a lot of exposed dirt, and weeds like to grow in exposed dirt. I had a lot of grass in my garden because there was nothing to stop the grass from crossing the grass/garden boundary. Until I fixed those problems I was stuck in that cycle of weeding.

The mulch I laid down and the stones that separate the grass and garden do their jobs wonderfully and have the added benefit of looking good. Now when I sit out in my backyard I don’t think, “Boy that backyard looks terrible, I’m doing such a bad job of keeping that garden clean, I’m lazy and need to work harder!” Instead I think, “Hey, that looks pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good.” And I don’t feel bad about myself or my backyard. There are improvements to be made, but they’re incremental instead of revolutionary. The hard part is over because I found the root cause… and then fixed it.

I think I’ve belaboured the metaphor a but much. But you see what I’m saying.

At work on Friday we had these tools come back from a customer. When we started fixing the issue with this particular tool, we found another problem. We got everyone together and started to figure out why this tool was this way. And nobody could say because the paperwork wasn’t clear, there was no specification, the drawing and the work instruction were different, the order of operations was wrong, and the operators weren’t communicating with each other and passing each other garbage. They weren’t validating their work (because there was nothing to validate against), and so the customer got garbage that was made wrong in more than one way.

Now we could have spent a lot of time fixing just that problem (and we will, obviously). But we also have to acknowledge that this isn’t the first time this has happened. It’s the fifth… this week. And it’s easy to run around yelling at people and calling them stupid because no-one caught this mistake.

But that won’t fix the problem. It will fix A problem. But it won’t fix THE problem. It’ll just make everyone feel terrible, and some people who get yelled at will start hiding their problems and trying to sneak them out the door hoping that no-one will notice so they don’t get yelled at again. And then someone will yell at them because they’re stupid and sneaky and lazy… and the cycle continues.

In fact fixing A problem is pretty easy compared to fixing THE problem. That’s why THE problem has never been fixed. Because it’s hard and time consuming and everyone’s too busy working on all these problems that result from THE problem.

Someone needs to step back. Someone needs to ask the big questions. Take a good hard look at why we’re doing something, why that something is resulting in a bunch of repeatable quality issues, and then do something about it. Questions like:

Why are we making tools with no specification?
Why does the paperwork have the wrong order of operations?
Why is an operator adding a feature to the tool that isn’t called for?
Why did it leave the plant without anyone validating it?
Why is there no history we can look at to figure out what went wrong?

Which leads to another set of deeper questions:

Why is management sending stuff out to plant floor without proper documentation?
Why are operators accepting garbage paperwork?
Why are operators accepting garbage tools from the last process?
Why are operators not performing in-process checks?

And the answers are not really fun.

Management is more concerned with getting tools out the door quickly than anything else. If a tool is “rush”, a whole bunch of critical steps are often skipped. We end up having a bunch of napkins lying around with arcane notes on them. Maybe the napkin gets lost. Maybe someone drops some coffee on it.

Then when the tool comes around next time the guy making the paperwork doesn’t know enough about the tool to know that he’s producing garbage paperwork and sends out a workorder with incomplete information.

Operators know that it’s more important to ship than to do it right, so they do a bunch of guesswork (“Other tools that look like this tool have this particular feature that isn’t on the drawing!”) and kind of make something. They know this isn’t great so they don’t sign off the processes properly or at all and send it along to the next station.

The next operator also knows it’s more important to ship than to validate so he overlooks the issue (if he sees it all; the paperwork is garbage, remember), does his guesswork, and sends it along.

Eventually it ships and someone shreds the paperwork.

Then the customer sends back the tools, and the cycle starts again. The beatings continue until everyone does everything right 100% of the time.

Doesn’t that sound crazy? Who would voluntarily work like that?

But we do. And this isn’t just my workplace. This is a lot of places. The fixes are usually fairly easy. They just require some attitude adjustment, all the way down the chain, from management to shipping. Two sentences:

Don’t accept garbage. Don’t send out garbage.

Management has to do some work upfront. Operators need to know what they’re doing. They need to have specifications and and paperwork with the proper order of operations and instructions, all crystal clear. The operator needs the proper material, etc. If the inputs aren’t right, if the operator doesn’t have that, they don’t know what they’re doing.

And if the operator doesn’t have what they need, they should fire the whole thing back to wherever it came from. These inputs can be posted on a wall or on a queue or something so everyone knows, If I don’t get what I need, I’m sending this back. And when they’re done with their process, they sign off on that process and send it along.

If they send it along to the next process without something — in process check report, something isn’t done, something doesn’t look right… fire it back. Don’t take on other people’s problems. Send it back and it becomes their problem again.

This happens all the way down the chain. But it’s important that it starts with management. There needs to be a commitment to quality. Not getting stuff out the door for this particular set of customers regardless of paperwork quality and tool or process validation. A commitment to quality, repeatable quality. We have a different set of tools at our disposal to make sure those “special” customers get their tools when they want them. We have escalations for that.

Management’s job is to make sure we have the means and procedures and culture in place to do this. Not running out onto the plant floor all red in the face yelling at people for being stupid and lazy. If someone IS supid and lazy (and trust me, these people exist in spades) we also have the means and procedures to take care of that. This is what progressive discipline is all about, for instance. The end result is either you have a non-stupid, non-lazy person or you don’t have that person at all.

This seems like a lot of work. And it is, at the beginning. But it’s so much less work and stress and yelling and getting stuff back and fixing it and making new tools to replace garbage and running around trying to figure out what to run! In the long run the absolute chaos of everything being murky and unclear is far more counterproductive than the 1-time few hours (max!) of work per workorder it takes to do things right the first time.

It’s way easier to do the heavy lifting (mulch and stones are not light!) once, than pull waist-high weeds every week.

by D.S. Deboer at August 31, 2014 07:44 PM

August 24, 2014


two prayers for the first day of school.


Tomorrow is the first day of school here. I am entering this year with a mixture of determination, terror, and hope. Let’s pray together.

O Eternal God, bless all schools, colleges, and universities,
that they may be lively centers for
sound learning, new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom;
and grant that those who teach and those who learn may find
you to be the source of all truth; through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen.
(from the BCP)

And this one is specifically for the public schools of North Carolina, not that I don’t care about other kinds of schools or schools in other places. Just that we are in some serious weeds here and need some special prayers of our own.

Great, loving God, on this day, we pray for the students and educators of every public school. As people of faith and as concerned citizens, we pray for the wisdom and courage to stand up for a just and equitable education for every single child in our state and in the world. May our feet keep marching, O God, until our elected leaders recognize and value our children and teachers. We pray this in the name of our great teacher, Jesus. Amen. (from Reverend Nancy E. Petty)

by Kari at August 24, 2014 11:58 PM

August 19, 2014


what Atticus Finch taught me about watching the news.

Before I read To Kill a Mockingbird, I read a book that has been lost to history that quoted Atticus Finch: “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” I have always thought of that as Atticus Finch’s most famous quote, but it is not my favorite. Good advice, but who wants to stand in Robert E. Lee Ewell’s shoes? Perhaps I am not yet ready for that level of compassion and empathy.


As a parent, I see things more clearly from Atticus Finch’s side. The ways he tries to do right and the ways he fails and the messages he wants to teach his children through it all. He is a pragmatist, not a prophet. He sees things the way that they are and he points his family in the direction of change, change that looks like a young girl surprising a crowd on a tense night, change that looks like dignity in the face of defeat, change that looks like respecting the dignity of others no matter their situation. His benign neglect is not going to help win any parenting awards, but his values are helping him raise smart, brave, informed kids who are learning to think of others.


I have thought a lot about Atticus Finch this past week. He is with me often enough on a regular week, but the news of the past week has been so terrible. The shock from Ferguson and the death of Robin Williams took over most of my feed last week as we as a country wrestled with injustice and loss in the physical sphere. (And in the case of Ferguson, we continue to do so.)

There were a lot of compassionate responses. But then there were the others, the ones who claim that Mike Brown was a thug who deserved to be shot, or that Robin Williams was a selfish sinner for killing himself. There’s not a lot of nuance in that kind of story. There’s only a list of what you must do to be in, and in both cases, the central figures are most definitely out.

This is human nature, to try to set up systems that help us understand the problems we see before us. This is understandable. And it is wrong. To jump to these conclusions is to deny that the person you are discussing was created in the image of God, carries that life and light inside.

No matter what happened with cigars or pot or jaywalking, there is no reason for Mike Brown to have ended up dead on the street, shot six times (twice in the head). If you think that he was a menace, you should ask yourself why. If you don’t understand why the community is upset, you should ask yourself why. And if you feel okay with trusting the police in this situation, you should ask yourself why. Why do you think the community is having such a different response? Is it possible that they have experienced things you haven’t that make it hard for them to trust the police? Wouldn’t that make their responses just as valid as yours? Try putting yourself in the shoes of a community member. Read some books and listen to some stories about race in that area and what it is like to be young and black in this country. That’s not walking around in someone else’s shoes, but it’s a good start. Maybe you should find out a little bit more before you speak about such a large and complicated problem.

As for Robin Williams, he was never my favorite comedian, despite the places I hold in my heart for Dead Poets’ Society and Good Will Hunting. But he taught me Whitman and he taught me not to be so afraid and I love him for it, even if he didn’t make me laugh as much as he did other people. All I can think about is how terrible he must have felt, the despair that must have been surrounding him as he chose to end his life. Anyone who would reduce such an experience to a judgment call about sin and selfishness, I have some questions for you. Have you ever suffered from depression that made it hard to get out of bed? Depression that made you feel so wholly unconnected to your body that you weren’t sure how to move or speak at a normal pace? Depression that stretched into nothingness? It’s not the same as being sad when your dog dies. Maybe you should find out a little bit more before you speak about such a large and complicated problem.

Listening to Atticus Finch is teaching me what I learned as a small child, the importance of a faith that prioritizes imagination. Holy imagination draws us closer to God by allowing ourselves to see God at work in places we might not expect. We see God’s presence around us, God’s image in the people we meet.

I think we could all use a little bit more Atticus Finch in our lives this week, a little more of taking off our own shoes and trying on someone else’s. As you watch the news, especially the news from Ferguson, give that holy imagination a try. Embrace compassion. Consider what you might not know. And listen to those who can offer you a different perspective.

Some resources:

-12 Things White People Can Do Now Because of Ferguson

-Black Bodies White Souls by Austin Channing Brown

-Robin Williams’s death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish

by Kari at August 19, 2014 12:15 PM

August 11, 2014

Daniel -


she who
to say something is
to have said something

no stone unturned
burnished & arranged in
strange patterns

she who
who knows what to do
exact change

who has no
no she doesn’t
except for

me who
if i could

by ddeboer at August 11, 2014 03:44 AM


what I have been reading (end of summer womp womp).

I have to go back for training in the morning so my summer is pretty much over. I would ask you to feel sorry for me but I don’t really even feel sorry for myself. This summer was just the break I needed. More about going back to school later. But first, here are some books I read this summer that I haven’t told you about yet.

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince (via NetGalley)

I have been trying to read more graphic novels, not just for my students but also for myself. This one is Liz Prince’s story of growing up and being a tomboy, never knowing exactly where she fit in. I am not sure I am qualified to judge artwork in graphic novels, but I liked the drawings and I really enjoyed this story. I particularly liked how she is a tomboy who is straight because often this type of character would be gay and I like to see a diversity of experiences represented (I boycotted the color pink for about a decade, so I feel some camaraderie with Liz myself). In the end, Liz comes to see how she is also contributing to the marginalization of girls/women by refusing to be “girly” and I loved how that discovery brought her some peace in the end. Recommended for: fans of graphic memoirs, girls who are tomboys, people who struggle with gender conformity. Oh, and it would be great in high schools, I think.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud (via NetGalley)

Here’s another graphic novel, but this one is a novel and not a memoir. It’s about David, a man who makes a deal with death to be able to sculpt anything he wants. He uses that power to make incredible street art, but when he falls in love with the woman of his dreams just before his time is up, everything changes for him. This is the kind of graphic novel that is not totally my jam – kind of like a superhero story (special powers) and kind of like magical realism, neither of which are my favorites. And yet! Despite all that, it was un-put-down-able. I raced through it because I had to know what was going to happen. I especially loved the art he would create throughout New York City in the middle of the night. I’m not totally sure who to recommend it to, but it was a really engaging story.


Landline by Rainbow Rowell (via my husband, for my birthday because he is awesome)

I am on record as being a Rainbow Rowell stan so take all my opinions with a grain of salt. On one hand, there is a certain amount of ridiculousness to this story – Georgie can’t go on her family’s Christmas trip which seems to be the thing that has finally ruined her relationship with her husband Neal forever . . . until she finds a landline in her parents’ house that somehow allows her to call Neal in the past and help her work things out with him. That sounds kind of clunky, right? Plus there’s the fact that we don’t get quite enough of how and why Georgie and Neal like each other to begin with. And yet! I still really liked it. Rainbow Rowell writes characters who are so appealing and so real despite phones that can communicate with the past. Four out of five stars with the caveat that you are going to have to just accept some ridiculousness (but hopefully you won’t mind too much).

A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace by Brian Zahnd (Amazon was giving this one away for free a while back)

This is a book about pacifism. I basically agreed with everything Zahnd said but man was it boring. (Insert joke here about how books about peace can’t be very exciting.)

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (via the used bookstore)

This book is narrated by Sutter Keely, a senior in high school who is a drunk. Not just a guy who drinks too much at parties, but a guy who needs a drink first thing in the morning, who drinks all day, who is the life of the party and has beer in the trunk of his car and who can convince you to go along with his crazy plans. He’s incredibly charismatic, which makes for a great narration as you see the truth despite what he is telling you (and himself). It was a tough read because Sutter is so deluded and it doesn’t wrap up neatly at all. But definitely enjoyable. Great high school book, and I can’t wait to see the movie.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (via the public library)

I decided to go ahead and read this one because I know the movie is coming out. It’s about a girl, Mia, who is in a coma following a car accident that killed the rest of her family. Essentially she has to decide if she is going to stay on earth or pass on to the afterlife. Several of my friends have reviewed this one and none of them gave it more than three stars but it was an enjoyable page turner and I cried twice so I give it four stars. Recommended if you are prepared for the melodrama.

In Darkness by Nick Lake (lent to me by a fellow librarian)

This is a difficult book to explain – it’s about a young black man in Haiti who is trapped in the rubble of a hospital after the earthquake in 2010. As he drifts in and out of consciousness, we also hear the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture, who helped liberate Haiti from France in the late 1700s. I’m not going to lie – it was difficult to understand and get through at points. But I learned a lot about Haiti and it was masterfully told. I could see some bright high schoolers latching on to this book (and obviously the Printz committee could, too, because it won in 2013). I know that I will not be forgetting it any time soon.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman (via the public library)

When I finished If I Stay, I said that I wasn’t going to read the sequel. But I went to the library with Atticus and the sequel was right there on the shelf! So I checked it out. This one is narrated by the (ex) boyfriend of Mia and tells his story of what happened after the accident. It was okay but I liked the first one better.

The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith by Joanna Brooks (via the public library)

I have been on a little bit of a Mormon kick this summer. There are a lot of blogs written by Mormon women, did you know that? I didn’t really until recently. So I am kind of fascinated by the whole thing, especially how similar evangelical Christianity can be to Mormonism and yet there are some big differences, too. Several people recommended this book, which, oh my gosh. This book is amazing. It just shines, a beautiful jewel of a story. I sat next to the pool and read it and kept wiping away tears (of course I had forgotten my sunglasses, so I had nothing to hide behind). This is the book I wish I could write, where she has such affection and understanding for the way she used to be. I give it all the stars!

When “Spiritual but Not Religious” Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church by Lillian Daniel (via the used bookstore)

From what I can tell, Lillian Daniel wrote an essay on Huffington Post about the perils of being “spiritual but not religious” and decided to write a book on the topic but didn’t really have a book’s worth of stuff to say so she just told stories instead. I liked the stories in this book but there didn’t seem to be any structure to it. Also, a few (not many) of the stories were anecdotes I have heard from other speakers/preachers. I feel like that can work in a sermon but it doesn’t work for me in a book. In the end, I didn’t feel like she made a convincing case that being in a church is important (which I think is what she was trying to do). With a different title, this book might have worked better for me. As it is, it felt like it needed more focus.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (via NetGalley)

This is essentially a transcription of her TEDx talk so if you can’t sit and watch the video, perhaps try this instead. If you have only heard the clips that Beyonce used in her song “Flawless,” you should definitely read or listen to the whole thing. A quick read, but a powerful one. These are the things we should all be teaching our children, boys and girls alike.

I received some of these books through NetGalley but my opinions are my own.

by Kari at August 11, 2014 02:37 AM

August 09, 2014


Take a step

It was the winter that I was 3 years old. Maybe 4. My mom had recently married Dennis, and we had moved into his little trailer, situated among soybean fields and curving country roads. That winter was one of wool mittens drying on the wood stove, their scent spicy and musty. The chill from outside seemed to leak into our house, and the floors and walls always felt chilly. I sat close to the stove, and my hair always smelled smoky.

A winter storm blew in, dumping snow, then ice. It hid everything that was familiar, the grass and mud, and drifted up to the bottom of the tall window in our living room. One morning mom put on my favorite blue coat, my brown hat with the pom pom on top, my fuzzy snow boots and my mittens. Dennis opened the window, removed the screen, and lowered me the few inches to the snow.

I held my breath. Everything was beautiful and glittering and terrifying. I could feel the thin sheet of ice settle under my feet. And the deep snow underneath was waiting. I couldn’t move.

I am a fearful person. The things that keep me up at night burrow deep in my mind. These are not unique things that I am afraid of. I am afraid that I will get sick. I am afraid that I will be hurt. I am afraid that I will lose loved ones. I am afraid of being alone. Some nights, in those dark seasons, the fears take my breath away.

It’s not always at night. I can be sitting across from a friend, laughing and talking, when I feel the icy cold fear. What if I mess up? What if they leave? What if I break things beyond repair? And just like the little girl in the bright blue coat, I am paralyzed by that fear. I can almost feel the ice shift under my feet, afraid that one wrong move will ruin everything. But then I remember.

I craned my neck and looked back towards the window where Mom and Dennis stood, smiling and waving.

“It’s fine,” Mom called. “You won’t fall.”

I took one small step forward, my boot sinking just an inch in the snow. The thick crust of ice held me up.

I took another step.

Slowly, slowly, I made my way. My steps were the first on the fresh snow, and everything, from our old shed to our skinny crab apple tree, was draped in shimmering frost. I explored the yard until my cheeks burned and my nose began to run, until the chill reached through my mittens and to my fingertips.

And then I came home.

At the window, Dennis leaned down and lifted me up. My mother peeled off the layers of bulky winter clothes and I listened to my mittens sizzle on the wood stove.

I don’t think I knew what the word brave meant as I sat on the couch, an afghan spread over my lap, and drank hot cocoa. But I do remember smiling so broadly that my chapped cheeks burned. I knew what it meant to be paralyzed by fear that day. To lose my breath and stand frozen.

But I also knew what it felt like to take the first step.


Copyright © brandy campbell [Take a step], All Right Reserved. 2014.

by Brandy at August 09, 2014 08:49 PM

Go To the Mountains

“Who has better mountains, Colorado or Washington?”

It was a throw-away question on a random couch in a stuffy room. Creative small-talk, a few steps above talking about the weather. But the dialogue was lively. We argued about vistas (grudging point to Washington), accessibility (point to Colorado) and aesthetics (a draw).

But days later, the idea of mountains has lingered, tickling on the edges of my mind. What makes me love the mountains of my youth in Virginia? What makes me miss the Colorado mountains when I travel? I crave the ocean, love visiting the shore and walking on the cool sand, satiny and slurping under my feet. But it is the mountains where I live.

I saw the Blue Ridge Mountains from a distance as a child. There were whispery gray, the color of blue afternoon mixed with purple twilight. The color of a bruise. In the summer, we drove the parkway, a cooler in the back loaded with deli meat, white bread and American cheese, grocery bags filled with apples and Utz potato chips. We put the window down and traveled the winding roads, the station wagon groaning in protest as it pulled us up the switchbacks. Finally we pulled over and set up at a picnic table, its wood soft from the fog and the rain and time. I can feel the weeds scratching my legs, smell the loamy leaves. The breeze was cooler here, the grass greener, the mountains bluer. I knew they were the color of the ocean before I had even seen the ocean.

I left Virginia when I was 22. And for four years there were no mountains to give me a sense of place or direction. Everything was flat and I got lost in the sameness. Some days, at sunset, if I squinted just right, I could pretend a bank of clouds were mountains. But in my heart I knew they weren’t.

I arrived in Colorado seven years ago. I flew in on a May afternoon, tired and overwhelmed. The mountains here were close, and shockingly brown. Pike’s Peak still had a thin cap of snow, but it was fading. I longed for the blue-gray mountains of my youth, the distance that allowed me to see them layered among one another, nestled and rolling and soft.

But these Rocky Mountains have grown on me. I have hiked to crystal lakes where veins of snow blend with wild flowers in ways that seem impossible. I still gasp on wintery mornings when Pike’s Peak is covered in snow–dressed for a party, it seems. I have camped by icy streams, stumbling out of my damp tent, rumpled and wrinkled, to watch the sunrise.

There is a favorite park in Colorado that I go to sometimes to walk. The views there are lovely, stretches of icy blue mountains–more the color of a thunderstorm over the ocean than a bruise. But what I love is the orange dirt I walk on. It reminds me of the mountains of my youth as I stand at the foothills of my present.

So, I will concede that the Washington mountains are lovely–spectacular even. They are craggy where the Blue Ridge are soft. They are lush where the Rockies are stark.

Let’s just call it a tie.

“Chasing angels or fleeing demons, go to the mountains.” ― Jeffrey Rasley



Copyright © brandy campbell [Go To the Mountains], All Right Reserved. 2014.

by Brandy at August 09, 2014 08:33 PM

I Ache for a God My Size

I felt bruised when I walked into the sanctuary. I could feel it in my posture, arms wrapped tight across my chest. It had been a difficult week, and I longed for the things of home. Simple things like my coffee mug and the window in my bedroom that faced the mountains and let in the rustling sound of leaves. More complex things like the kind words of friends who knew me and believed the best of me and could tell by my crossed arms that I was frayed.

I slipped into a chair in the front row. I smiled shyly at the woman next to me. She was a well-known poet whose words I had read and loved. But as I sat beside her, her sleeve brushing my arm, I felt detached and unmoored. Even as a line from one of her poems came loose from a corner of my mind, I stared hard at the floor.

But I ache for a God my size to bring me hot chocolate, brush my hair, slip between my sheets, read to me in bed.”*

The service swirled around me, over me, near me, never through me. The poet stood at the front of the room and held a simple white bowl with a puddle of oil. I found myself standing in front of her. She placed her hand, cool and soft, on my head. She murmured words that I don’t remember, but can still feel the weight of. She dipped a finger in the oil, slid it over my forehead. Down. Across.

I walked back to my seat, and touched the spot where her smooth fingers crossed. The oil shone on my fingertips. I was surprised that it was a simple olive oil. It was neither cloying nor exotic. It was pure and rustic.

It brought me home. Standing in my bare feet in front of my stove, splashing oil into a pan from a slender glass bottle. Stirring in onions and garlic and pulling my hair back. The oil coating my fingers was what I mixed with spicy red pepper flakes and dried oregano on little white plates, served to friends with chunks of fresh bread. It was light and easy, friendships and grace.

The oil dipped with nimble fingers from an unassuming bowl was salve.

The poet came back to her seat. We all stood and sang together, the air thick with the fruity smell of olives. The song was familiar, one I had sung as a child standing between my mother and stepfather at church. But there were more verses, ones I had never sung as a little girl.

This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.

I felt a hand slip into my mine, the same smooth fingers that had anointed my forehead moments ago.

“It’s a beautiful song, isn’t it,” she whispered, her own golden cross glowing from her forehead. I nodded. She gently squeezed my hand and then slipped out of the room.

I felt my body loosen. Arms hung , shining fingertips brushing against my side. I was ready for home–no longer as one damaged, but as one renewed.

*Omnipotence, by Luci Shaw


Copyright © brandy campbell [I Ache for a God My Size], All Right Reserved. 2014.

by Brandy at August 09, 2014 08:32 PM

Brown Butter Soft Ginger Cookies

I don’t really have time to blog, what with all of the holiday craziness. But you guys. I can’t keep these from you. They are delicious. Two people said they taste like Christmas. And I can’t disagree with that. They are gingersnaps without the snap (I like my cookies like I like my pillows…soft…and I apologize, for that was very cheesy). They have brown butter, which is my new favorite thing, all nutty and caramelly and so so good. And they have coconut oil, which I’m beginning to fall in love with (I mean, I put it on my face, I put it in my cookies, it’s basically a Christmas miracle).

I will stop talking and give you the recipe so you can go bake right now.

Get the full recipe at my cooking blog!


Copyright © brandy campbell [Brown Butter Soft Ginger Cookies], All Right Reserved. 2014.

by Brandy at August 09, 2014 08:30 PM

2013 in Lists and Gifs

2014 is going to be a brand new year on this blog! But I’ll tell you all about that later. Because first, I must give you the obligatory list of my favorite things of 2013 (along with some gifs for your amusement and joy).

Top 5 Books I Read (note, not the top 5 books of the year, because I like to read things way after they’re popular)

5. The Fault in Our Stars I stayed up way too late to finish this book and then ugly cried. So yeah, loved it!

4. A Girl Named Zippy Even though someone told me “You should read this book, she’s doing in her memoir what you’re trying to do” I didn’t hold it against the author. Really enjoyed this one :)

3. Gone Girl I waited a while to read this one, but really ended up enjoying it!

2. Miriam’s Kitchen It’s about food and religion and family and culture and so beautifully written.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird How in the world had I not already read this? I loved it so much and am wondering what other classics I’ve missed out on!

Top 5 TV Shows I Obsessively Watched on Netflix

5. The Walking Dead Yes, I hate scary movies. Yes I’ve made it through a season of this show. I’m a walking conundrum. But it says so much about human nature and protecting self and loved ones. But I can’t binge watch it. I learned that quickly!

4. Orange is the New Black Okay. So I wondered about putting this show on my list. It’s pretty risque. But I found it completely fascinating, and I think I watched the entire season in a two-week span while I was sick. I’m curious to see where they’ll go in season 2.

3. Parenthood I’m not really sure why I never watched this show, but I’m really enjoying the first season. Great characters, and an honest portrayal of family, in my opinion :)

2. 30 Rock I only watched this show sporadically the first few seasons, so it’s been fun binge watching it on Netflix :)

1. Scandal Oh this show slays me! So so good! And it was perfect to work out to because it gets my heart rate up. Literally.

Top 5 3 Movies I Watched (um, apparently I don’t watch many movies)

3. Iron Man 3 What can I say, I’m a sucker for Robert Downey, Jr.!

2. Captain Phillips I went into this movie with no expectations, and walked out loving it! Such a fascinating movie, and the final scene had me in tears (and renewed my love for Tom Hanks!)

1. Saving Mr. Banks I really loved this movie! I just saw it this week, but it has so stuck with me. Loved the characters. Resonated with the idea of writing something and then being scared to let it go.

Top 5 Things I Cooked

5. Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Strawberry + Rhubarb + Orange = I can eat the whole pan

4. Turkey Pumpkin Chili I never actually posted a recipe for this (except maybe on Facebook?), but trust me, it was tasty :)

3. Roasted Strawberry Cake See #5

2. Triple Berry Lemon Cake This cake is summer, pure and simple. Sometimes I make it with frozen berries when it’s cold out just to pretend like it’s summer. It’s that good.

1. Brown Butter Soft Ginger Cookies Two people told me “These taste like Christmas!” That was enough to put them in the #1 position :)

Top 5 CDs I Listened To

5.  What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, by Regina Spektor Regina Spektor is deliciously weird. Her CDs are always a mix of “Wow!” and “Huh?” for me, but even the off moments are so delightful. I especially liked Small Town Moon on this album.

4. Five Good Reasons to Meet Me, by Over The Rhine I was just introduced to this duo over the summer and really love their songwriting. Wonderful lyrics with lots of intensity. Good stuff :)

3. CMYK Project, by Justin McRoberts I was a fan of Justin McRoberts for a long time, and then he sort of slipped off my radar. But when he came and performed at my work a few weeks ago, I immediately purchased his latest project. Incredible stuff!

2. American Kid, by Patty Griffin I am never more happy than when a new Patty Griffin CD comes out :) That Kind of Lonely was one of my favorite tracks on this one.

1. The Civil Wars, by The Civil Wars I really really love this album. I know there was lots of drama, but man, some really good music. So glad I got to see them before they broke up. Favorite track is a tie between From This Valley and The One That Got Away.

Top 5 Places I Visited This Year

5. Virginia In January, had a sweet visit with my family that included road trips and laughter and my sweet niece’s face.

4. Emily Dickinson’s  House While at a conference this summer, I was able to visit Emily Dickinson’s house on a free day. I stood in her bedroom and even sloshed through a cemetery to pay my respects at her grave-site. Highlight: Sneaking a picture of myself in her “no photos allowed” bedroom :)

3. Baltimore While Baltimore is a lovely city, it was more the occasion of my visit that made this one so special. Highlight: Graduating from Goucher College with my MFA! Oh, and head-banging in a bar with my lovely friend Beth to Bohemian Rhapsody.

2. Boston Traveled here for a conference, and as always had an amazing time. Boston is one of my favorite US cities–not least of all because of the food :) Highlight: Finding Dr. Quinn’s house (or her street at least :) )

1. Bolivia Was able to get my international travel fix for the year by traveling to Bolivia for the first time. Cochabamba was my favorite stop, such an amazing place! Highlight: The kids, of course. I love traveling for work and loving on adorable kiddos!

So what are your “top 5″ lists for the year?


Copyright © brandy campbell [2013 in Lists and Gifs], All Right Reserved. 2014.

by Brandy at August 09, 2014 08:29 PM

August 04, 2014


3.5 and 35


When Atticus was turning three, several people sidled up to me and said, “I don’t know whether to tell you this, but the terrible twos are nothing compared to the threes.” Wait, what?! I went out of my way to insist that the twos weren’t as bad as advertised and this is how the universe repays me? Also, why is this not public information?! I needed more time to prepare.

I’m not going to lie, turning three was hard on Atticus (and therefore on the rest of us). He was more volatile and he couldn’t deal with difficulties like sharing, transitions, or anyone looking at him. You know, the usual stuff. Getting out the door in the morning was pretty frustrating, and his hair often went uncombed. A few times I had to strap his underwear-clothed body into his carseat and get him dressed at school because he would calm down there. Clothes, mama, why are you making me wear these terrible clothes? And stop looking at me!

So just imagine how I felt when I read this blog post about 3.5 year olds and how they are even more fearsome than three year olds just a few weeks after Atticus’s third birthday. He has a few friends who are about six months older, and their parents all confirmed for me that 3.5 was basically the worst thing that ever happened to their otherwise sweet and adorable children. Meanwhile, I was shaking in my boots since we were already having a hard time. All spring I pictured the summer as alternating between a screaming match and a grudge match. I knew everything would be terrible and I was kind of bummed that it was the part we would be home for.

But you know what? It’s been mostly great. A few bumps but not the horror show I was expecting. Maybe he worked that nonsense out of his system back in the winter/spring, or maybe we’re wearing him out at the pool, or maybe he decided to go through it when his friends did (syncing their cycles). Whatever it was, it’s been a summer of happy memories at the pool, time with friends and family, and ice cream sandwiches.

3.5 is full of contradictions, the things he says he can do on his own and the ways he suddenly cannot operate any of his limbs when we ask him to pick up his toys. He has trouble trying things that seem hard but there is wonder and discovery. He is desperate to see his friends but after a few hours he can’t really share with them anymore. He can’t stand for his shirt to get the tiniest bit wet but he spends hours playing at the pool. He is as stubborn and sweet as he has ever been. I’m sure that the transition back to school will be challenging but I feel so much more confident about who he is and what we can weather.

Atticus turned 3.5 just a few days before I turned 35, and besides enjoying the symmetry of the numbers, I have decided that we aren’t so different. I have been known to house some contradictions myself, to be a little stubborn and to need some alone time. Here’s to my bright and beautiful boy for defying the conventional wisdom and being not quite as cranky as everyone expects. Most of the time, anyway.

by Kari at August 04, 2014 11:03 AM

July 31, 2014


set me as a seal upon your arm.

No sense in burying the lede: Mike and I went on our anniversary to get tattoos. Neither modern nor traditional lists name ink as a fourteenth anniversary gift, but maybe they should. Maybe it’s even a little bit Song of Solomon: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is as strong as death.

It was an act of love, both with the man I love and as a mark of love upon myself. I have long been an expert at hating my body, but after it started suffering signs of aging and post-pregnancy, I reached a new level of loathing. I could allow, yes, that carrying and nursing a baby made me see a new strength inside myself, that I shouldn’t look now like I did twenty years ago, but the outside doesn’t offer a view that I am happy about. Even things I did that were ostensibly for my health like taking medicine and training for a half marathon left me changed in ways that made me uncomfortable.

It has been hard to accept that the changes my life has made to my body will be carried with me, are part of me going forward. There is no going back to who I was. My mind knows that and sees it as a beautiful picture of growth, but my body looks in the mirror and does not find it good. I realized a couple of years ago that making a change of my own choosing might help.


I started walking a local prayer labyrinth after Atticus was born, and it has become a powerful symbol in my life. As I walk those twists and turns, I breathe more deeply. The path is not straightforward, but neither is any step wasted. You must stay in the present, one step at a time, without looking too far ahead. Walking the labyrinth has given me a way to accept those aspects of life by helping me unwind the knot around my heart. I never thought I was a tattoo person until I considered getting a labyrinth tattoo, and then I knew immediately it was the right choice.

I doubt that tattoos are on any list that talks about aging gracefully, but for me, the ability to accept, even in a small way, that my body has been shaped by what has come before is a gift. It was empowering to mark myself with a symbol that is important to me as a wife and a mother, one that helps me pray and breathe and think. I will carry it with me just as I carry other scars and stretch marks and sags. Just as I carry all those younger versions of who I used to be, none of them wasted, each building on the ones who came before.

Mike and I went on our anniversary to get tattoos. I have to say that I love mine. It makes me feel strong and I think it is beautiful.

(Mike loves his, too. He got a sea turtle because of the time he spent working with sea turtles in Costa Rica.)


by Kari at July 31, 2014 06:52 PM

Jeff H.

Anberlin – Lowborn review

“We’re heading nowhere/It’s not close to them/Even horizons can fade
Hope says she’s never a saint/they’re all waiting on a prayer/If we’re heading nowhere”

Anberlin released their final album, Lowborn this week and it is an album that definitely has a feel of finality about it. It is easy to view the album through the colored lens of knowing this is the last album to pull out the parts that spell a closing, but I wonder had we not known would we read the clues in between the lyrics and figure it out? I suspect so.

I’ve seen faces I may never see again
I’ve been places I never could have dreamt

The album is a bit of a change for a band known for fist-pumping anthems. I’ve always wondered if they were a band simply born 20 years too late. Lowborn is a much more ponderous, somber album. The instrumentation is simpler and guitar fireworks are limited to a few songs. Some of the songs, like “Stranger Ways” and “Hearing Voices” feel more rooted in the 80′s alterna-pop of New Order and Depeche Mode. “Dissenter” is the odd track out. With the screaming and industrial drumming, it feels like a relic from the early days when the pre-Anberlin band was ending the band Anberlin was beginning. The lyrics on the album, often cryptic in past albums seem more razor sharp here, as if Stephen Christian is running out of time to say what he has to say.

I’ve loved where I’ve been
Yes I love where I’ve been
But my heart’s where I’m going

The song order is different than the typical Anberlin formula. There is no climatic end to the album. The album was constructed in three different studios and fortunately it has meshed well together, it doesn’t feel very disjointed. However, it is telling that album was put together in so many locations. This is a band that didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the same room to work this out.

Memories circle like birds of prey
Waiting for the right mind to drive insane
Don’t look back there’s nothing to see
Regret is nothing more than a lovers disease

Vocalist Stephen Christian says he has been looking for a way out of the band for over a year now. When he approached the rest of the band about leaving, everyone else confessed that they were ready for a break as well. It’s not the stereotypical fight and bust up and that ends the band, but more five people slowly drifting each in different directions.

Not sure what tomorrow brings
Not sure why a caged bird sings
Don’t ask cause I don’t know
No idea just where to go
High hopes and higher dreams
May not have everything

So, with no future planned, it’s impossible to escape the finality of the album. Over and over again, the songs reference not looking back, not having regrets, and soberly accepting the present. It’s possible there might be solo works or a new different band formed out of the remnants of Anberlin, but if so, no one is talking about it. Instead, what we the listener are left with is the end of an era.

Everyone wants to know God
But they’re afraid of what they’ll find
Everyone wants to know God
But they want to live like he died.

I can identify with the end of an era. It feels like I’ve been mourning one for a while now. There are people and places in my life that I will probably never see again. One lesson that I have been painfully learning this summer is that God will forgive sin, but most times He will not remove the consequences or events from the sin. There are wounds that will not heal and relationships will sever forever. I’ve witnessed a lot of this during the past few months. I am thankful that I am not the one wounded, but I also left wondering who I have wounded and scarred with my words and actions.

I feel as if I am in a transitional period of my life. When I was younger I was always eager for the next stage of life. I wish I was as optimistic as I used to be. I don’t really know what is coming next, my children are slowly starting to write their own stories and I feel like I am slowly having to loosen the rope, let them go a little more. We’re still a long ways from cars, boys, and even (gulp) college, but it’s approaching. I feel like much of my story has been wrapped up in raising them and now as I’m releasing them I have to find my own story again. I’m comforted, however, that I have strong support from home. If we are to enter another new unknown, I’m glad to face it with my family.

It’s not losing it all, if we have each other
In the end it’s all, in the end it’s all that matters
If we take this chance, and it falls to pieces
In the end you’re all, in the end you’re all that matters

How could I say goodbye?
We’ve come too far to turn back now
Who are we without each other?
Too entwined to untangle now

by jholland at July 31, 2014 03:11 PM

July 29, 2014

Jeff H.

The Choir in Music City


When The Choir released their newest CD Shadow Weaver they also promised to record “the definitive live album” in front of a small audience. The tickets were affordable and when I found out some other friends were going to the show, I decided I should do a weekend in Nashville. It was a whirlwind trip but I circled all around the city, visiting famous landmarks and eating some pretty good food.

I arrived in town early on Saturday morning, so I decided to walk around Bicentennial Mall near the Capitol for a while before the day got too warm. As luck turned out, there was a car show in the park so I got to see some Ferraris, Lambourghinis, Porsches, and even a Tesla up close. After a little while, I drove down to Franklin to meet up with Jerry Ray and Julie for lunch. We ate a Music City Dog House which co-owned by Choir bass player, Tim Chandler (though according to Steve Hindalong, maybe not anymore.) I had a giant Italian Beef sandwich which was pretty tasty. We walked off our big lunch at the battleground near Franklin and then drove up to Opryland Hotel. I’ve always been to Opryland during Christmas time when it is decorated up and very, very crowded. Things were a little low key this time around (so much so that I drove in a broken parking gate and pleaded my case to a security guy so that we didn’t get charged parking), but it was nice to walk around in the air conditioning and walk through the gardens.

For dinner, I finally ate at the much-recommended Baja Burrito. While we were there we watched the live stream of the early concert. We were definitely living in future by eating dinner and watching the show we were going to. We had some extra time afterwards so we walked around the Parthenon at Centennial Park for a bit before driving over to the show.

As for the show itself, the show was located at Studio Instrument Rentals, a warehouse surrounded by razor wire which was filled with instruments to the ceiling, but it also had a couple of studio rooms with room for about 100 people. The sound was as high quality as I’ve ever heard at any concert I’ve been to, thanks to some seriously high-end equipment and some very talented engineers behind the boards. The sound was loud, but not painful and every instrument could clearly be heard in the mix. The band was the four essential members, though Tim Chandler was under the weather and sat in a chair for much of the concert, though he did stand up to rock out some of the extended outros. They were joined by Marc and Christy Byrd as Marc provided his Hammock sounding noise layered on top of the songs and Christy provided beautiful harmony vocals and some additional percusion. The set list had some pleasant surprises with some of their recent songs and since they had been well rehearsed from their recent tour, a block of Chase The Kangaroo songs. Then they settled into some of the classics ending with a fantastic drawn out “Circle Slide” a punchy version of “About Love” and then “Beautiful Scandalous Night” to wrap things up.

The band had a table of memorabilia laid out on the table from all eras of the band, including awards, original master tapes, Dan’s version 2 lyricon, and even some hand-written original lyrics. The crowd was also a who’s who of Nashville residents and visitors. We enjoyed talking to Bruce Brown and members of the band milled about. (Steve approved of our dinner choice at Baja Burrito.)

The next morning, Jerry, Julie, and I met up with the LaFianza’s for a mini-Cornerstone reunion at Copper Kettle. I also had a quick opportunity to take a stroll down memory lane on the David Lipscomb University campus before brunch which was right across the street. We had some great food and great conversation and then it was time to drive home.

I’m very much looking forward to the live album. The songs sounded great and the house sound was so great that I think the album will sound incredible. The whole weekend was kind of a quick blur, but I’m so glad I went and hopefully soon we’ll have an album to remember the trip by.

by jholland at July 29, 2014 12:49 AM

July 21, 2014


Hands Off My Red Handle

I was 12, maybe 13 years old. It was winter, and my cousins and I had spent the morning sledding. We sat in the living room, cheeks burning, clad only in our long johns and T-shirts, our jeans thumping gently in the dryer.

“Here are your clothes,” Grandma said. One cousin grabbed my pants from the top of the still-warm pile. He held them up.

“Oh my gosh, these are huge!” he said, laughing. I snatched them away and quickly pulled them on, the metal button burning hot into my soft stomach. I pawed through the pile, looking for my sweatshirt, when I felt a poke to my upper arm.

“Geez, you have hamhock arms,” he said. And in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to hit him. Make him cry. Make him feel some fragment of the pain I was feeling. But I did nothing. Simply pulled on my sweatshirt and tried to tuck myself into the corner of the rough tweed couch. Tried to be small.

I thought of that girl, that shame, recently when I read an article on National Public Radio about what writer Linda Holmes calls “red handles.”

Read the rest at the Soulation blog.


Copyright © brandy campbell [Hands Off My Red Handle], All Right Reserved. 2014.

by Brandy at July 21, 2014 08:33 PM

Virginia Street

When I moved to Missouri in 2003, I was shaken and disoriented. It felt like I had been in a prolonged period of free fall, and Missouri is where I finally hit the ground. It knocked the breath out of me.

In that sleepy town on the muddy banks of the Mississippi, I felt loneliness and sadness and confusion with blinding clarity. It was as though every  nerve had migrated to the surface of my skin, and even the pressure of the humid air was painful.

Of course, I didn’t really let any of that on to the people I met. At work I was bright and cheerful, bringing in bundt cakes and pies to share–to win everyone ever. At church I smiled and was interesting, jumping immediately into serving in the children’s ministry.

But at home, in that quiet little townhome on Stardust Drive that I shared with two new roommates, I couldn’t always keep my mask from slipping. It was a season of crisis, of deathss and car accidents and sickness, all happening to family and friends in Virginia. The 900 miles between my family and me might as well have been a million. More than once the roommate whose room was next to mine slipped into my dark room and held my hand while I sobbed.

“I’m sorry,” I choked through the tears. She just nodded.

One day that roommate came home and told me she had a surprise for me. She was always up for an adventure, a trip to a darkened, supposedly haunted theatre, a late-night drive looking for the northern lights. Even her car was exciting, a low-slung yellow sporty thing that made me smile in spite of myself.

She grinned as she drove, and I fiddled with the air conditioning vent, hoping I could pull some excitement up past the sadness. She drove through a drive-thru and got us both ice cream. I licked a sticky blot of vanilla off of my wrist as she drove down St. Mary’s Avenue. Where was she taking us? We turned onto Bird street and passed blocks of worn, dingy houses. Mark Twain Elementary was quiet, the lawn patchy and dry. And then she pulled over, rolled down the windows and turned off the car. I looked around.

There was nothing here.

At first I was annoyed. I could still be sitting in my room feeling sorry for myself. But her wide smile told me I was missing something. Finally she pointed out of the window to the green street sign directly in front of the car.

Virginia Street.

“This is as close as I could get to taking you to Virginia,” she said. Her smile softened. Hopeful.

I dipped my face down, could smell the sweet vanilla from the half-melted ice cream in my hands.

This was the nicest thing anybody had ever done for me.

“Thank you,” I said quietly. She smiled, turned on the radio, and we sat in silence and ate our ice cream, a whispery breeze carrying the scene of fresh cut grass through the car.

I left Missouri seven years ago, but I still remember the kindness of that roommate. She saw my brokenness and pain, and instead of shielding herself from it, she walked into it. She took me home the only way she knew how.

I am reminded of her when I see people in my life who are sad and lonely and hiding. I think of her when I must make the choice. Do I turn my back?

Or do I go to Virginia Street with them?


Copyright © brandy campbell [Virginia Street], All Right Reserved. 2014.

by Brandy at July 21, 2014 08:18 PM

To Whom It May Concern–Now With Gifs!

Dear Movie Makers,
Look. You can make scary movies all you want. I have no doubt there’s a market for that. But give a girl a break! I go to great lengths to avoid things that scare me, and when I’m sitting on my couch watching “The Voice” or some equally mindless television show, the last thing I want is for a scary preview to come on. Because then I get all paranoid. And I have to go check and make sure that there some children of the corn haven’t moved into my basement. And then I can’t sleep because I’m pretty sure that some being is walking up my stairs. See. I just made myself scared. Sheesh.



Dear Spring in Colorado,
You know, for a while I didn’t think you were coming. I thought maybe you had decided to take the year off. I believed that Winter had possibly funded a long vacation in Paris for you. But I’m so glad you’re here, and that you brought your blue skies and blossoms and sunshine with you. Don’t tell the others, but you’re my favorite.

Your Friend,
The Girl in the Flip Flops

P.S. Could you maybe tell summer to hold off just a little while? I’m in no rush for bathing suit season.


Dear Person in the Red Honda,
I would like to sincerely apologize for the “incident” last weekend. You see. It was a lovely, Spring day. The windows were down. I had my new Patty Griffin CD. And I may have forgotten that the windows were down in my car. And I was possibly singing at the top of my lungs. Top. Of. My. Lungs. I didn’t mean to frighten you, or your small children. I just got a bit caught up in the moment. I will try to remember to put the windows up next time.

Loud, Off-Key Girl in the Green Saturn


Dear Self,
It seems that you are a bit out of practice in the kitchen. That, combined with your love for cooking shows, has perhaps created a perfect storm of disaster. This week alone you have burned, cut and spilled with abandon. But tonight, when you tried to flip a pancake without a spatula, because it looked “so easy” on TV, you perhaps paid the highest price. Pancake splattered on the floor, and cold cereal for dinner. I hope you’ve learned your lesson.

Crying Over Spilled Pancakes


Copyright © brandy campbell [To Whom It May Concern--Now With Gifs!], All Right Reserved. 2014.

by Brandy at July 21, 2014 08:17 PM

The Seven Stages of Workshopping (in gifs)

It’s pretty much a rite of passage for a writer. You write something–even if it’s a story about a unicorn who belches rainbows it’s personal, for the simple fact that YOU wrote it. And then, one day you send it to a group of strangers. It feels like sending your first-born child to summer camp. But somehow, it feels more fragile than that even. Your child is sturdy and strong and can make friends. Your writing feels more delicate than that, somehow.

And then, one fateful day, you sit around a table with those strangers. In their hands they hold your words, your story, your creation. And they workshop it. They hug it. They squeeze it. They slap it around a bit. And you sit there, a fake smile plastered on your face so long that your cheeks ache. And you go through…

The Seven Stages of Workshopping

1. Detachment–”I am a professional. I am distant and have no personal attachment to this writing. Nothing said can hurt me.”

2. Hope–”But I hope they like it. I think they’ll like it. Do you like it?”

3. Anger–”You don’t like it? HOW DARE YOU NOT LIKE IT! You have no idea what you’re even talking about.”

4. Ambivalence–”Whatever.”

5. Confusion–”Wait. That’s what you thought that meant? You thought the belching unicorn was a symbol of war? I…I don’t even know what to say.”

6. Shock–”Whaaaaa?” (While this stage is similar to confusion, it is more cold and sweaty.)

7. Exhaustion–”My brain is broken. I need a nap.”


And there you have it. The seven stages of being workshopped. (I mean, sometimes there are additional stages of growth and understanding and improvement. But there aren’t any fun gifs for those.)



Copyright © brandy campbell [The Seven Stages of Workshopping (in gifs)], All Right Reserved. 2014.

by Brandy at July 21, 2014 08:17 PM

Story Time With Brandy–The Almost House

As a child, I found that there was a slim sliver of magic just below the trailer we lived in. As an adult I tried to rediscover that magic, armed with a handful of markers and a dry-erase board :) Hope you enjoy!



Copyright © brandy campbell [Story Time With Brandy--The Almost House], All Right Reserved. 2014.

by Brandy at July 21, 2014 08:17 PM

Taste and See

I wanted to write a lovely post about strawberries. I wanted to talk about how strawberries, warm from some idyllic strawberry patch, bring me back to my childhood. I wanted to tell you a “Strawberries for Brandy” version of the children’s story “Blueberries for Sal” (but perhaps without the bear).

Alas. That was not my childhood. I don’t have many warm and fuzzy memories of food (although I did love working with my stepdad in the garden). Instead, I have memories of picking through my food. Of smashing everything flat on my plate so I could more easily drag my fork across stray onions and peppers, pulling them to the edge of the plate to grow cold and slimy. Of building carefully constructed motes between my mashed potatoes and meatloaf so they wouldn’t touch. Of realizing the delicious bread I had been eating had been contaminated with zucchini–and the thick throat and eye watering that comes just before throwing up the offending food.

I honestly don’t know how my mom did it. She had to chop vegetables more fine than even the most trained chef to hide them in sauces and soups. She watched without comment while I rinsed off my plate between every food item so I wouldn’t cross-contaminate them. And she waited, patiently, while I ate my fruit loops, one color at a time.

It would take a long time before food was something I would truly enjoy. I was in college when I first ate hot mushroom soup, chasing little round croutons across the surface with my spoon. I was working at my first job when I had jerk chicken, spicy and charred, scooped on a fork with rice. I’ve eaten Indian food with curry-stained fingers and Ethiopian food balanced carefully on tangy injera.

I think much of my pickyness as a child resulted from a desire for control. There was so much I couldn’t control–but food was easy to spit out, to hide under a napkin. Perhaps, as an adult, those illusions of control have dimmed. That desire to deny myself the good things, full of flavor and heat and complexity, have diminished.

So, I may not have a “Strawberries for Brandy” story from my childhood. But I have the adult version. Of sweet strawberries mixed with tangy rhubarb. Of strawberries nestled in orange scented cake, sprinkled with sugar and baked into little pockets of jam. I have found a way to taste and see. And it is good.

 photo 2-1


Copyright © brandy campbell [Taste and See], All Right Reserved. 2014.

by Brandy at July 21, 2014 08:15 PM


on taking a break from church (a review of how to be a christian without going to church by kelly bean).

I haven’t been to church in a couple of months. I needed a break, not from God but from some of the dynamics that inevitably appear when you attend a church for over a decade.

It’s been nice in some ways, a relief. But in other ways, I feel a little bit unmoored. My Sundays have no particular shape, so I end up feeling even more disappointed on Sunday night when I have to go back to work on Monday. I have been a churchgoer all my life, so this much of a break is a big change, and I am not sure it is for me. I think I might be a church girl, and I have been glad to have the chance to figure that out for myself. Those uncomfortable dynamics aren’t going to be fixed when I decide to go back, but it’s nice to feel that I can choose them for myself rather than feeling stuck inside of them.

Soon after I decided to take a break, I requested a review copy of How to be a Christian Without Going to Church by Kelly Bean. I did it sort of as a joke, so I could read it and Mike could raise his eyebrows at me. (He’s been going to church a little bit.)

christianwithoutchurchThe book, as you might imagine, is about what it looks like for many people who are faithful believers but who no longer see traditional church as a priority. I should say that some of the most faithful Christians in my life are not regular churchgoers, so it was not difficult to convince me that there are other options than showing up in nice clothes at 11:00 on Sunday morning. Bean writes about other ways that practices and faith are possible even without Sunday morning services and Wednesday night Bible studies. These are not necessarily mind blowing things – home services, gathering for meals, and serving your community are not new ideas, but I appreciated how she framed them as opportunities for connection and spiritual growth. I was also challenged to consider how much I compartmentalize my church life because I can easily return to it every Sunday rather than letting it be a natural outpouring of my daily life.

One of my strongest objections to the book as I was reading it is that the author had experienced a certain amount of privilege in the ways that she experienced “church” even as a nongoer (her term). For example, they had a home large enough to house people who needed it and money and food enough to share as well as time to give. I was impressed with how she addressed this at the end of the book after experiencing some financial setbacks within her family.

I think How to be a Christian Without Going to Church addresses issues of vulnerability and authenticity (even though those are kind of cliches) that many people feel when it comes to living out their faith. It’s a good read even if you are comfortable with your church attendance because it offers so many practical suggestions for connecting with those around you. Even though it turns out that I am probably a church girl, I enjoyed reading this book and having the opportunity to figure that out for myself.

I haven’t been to church in a couple of months. I needed a break, but I think I will go back. Reading this book helped.

Does the title of the book still bug you? Kelly Bean addresses that well here.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley but my opinions are my own.

by Kari at July 21, 2014 07:42 PM

July 20, 2014


what I have been reading (beach reads edition).

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) (via the public library)

I probably don’t need to say much about this book since it’s by J.K. Rowling, but I enjoy a good mystery novel and this one hit the spot. I could sort of see the pieces coming together but couldn’t quite guess how it was going to work out, so the reveal at the end was satisfying and enjoyable. It did drag a bit right in the middle, but I was reading it so quickly that that hardly mattered. Recommended for: mystery enthusiasts, people who like to discuss celebrity culture.

The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics by Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina (via NetGalley)

This book listed a different subtitle on Goodreads, but I think this one is slightly more accurate – the book is more specifically tailored for Catholic readers than Protestants or other faiths. I was hoping for some ideas about church year practices that we might include in our family celebrations, but it wasn’t structured quite like that. The first half was a discussion of the history of feasting in the church and the second half did get into more specifics about some holy days. I learned several things about the Catholic church that I had not known but didn’t pick up anything for our family. Recommended for: people wanting to learn more about celebrations within Catholicism.


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (via the public library)

Americanah is about two kids growing up in Nigeria and it follows them as one, Ifemelu, travels to America for college. Obinze, her boyfriend, is not able to get a visa and instead spends time in London. I enjoyed Ifemelu’s story (and her blog posts on racial issues in America) more than Obinze’s, especially in the middle of the book when he was bogged down in legal/visa issues. Recommended for: basically everybody, because this is a great book about the modern-day immigrant experience.


Spiritual Misfit by Michelle DeRusha (via Blogging for Books)

I read Michelle DeRusha’s blog a few times many years ago when it was called Nebraska Graceful. I remember enjoying her sense of humor and her way of looking at the world, so when I saw that I could request a copy of her book, I was excited to do so. Michelle grew up in the Catholic church but did not consider herself a person of faith. After some conversations and experiences at church with her family, she decided to be more open to spiritual ideas and began to see God moving in unexpected places. This is her story of faith and doubt and not fitting in. One of the things I liked about her blog bugged me a little bit while I was reading the book – she is great at finding the humor in situations and is careful to make herself the butt of the joke and to protect her family. After a few chapters, I began to wish we had had more information on the people around her to balance out her portrayal of herself as a bit of a grumpy goof. The book quotes a lot of authors I have read (especially Kathleen Norris) and there were times I felt that she was not adding a lot to those quotes. Still, I would recommend this for people who have struggled as outsiders in their faith, especially those who converted as adults.

The Misfits by James Howe (via my own shelf even though I had never read it)

I decided to read this one because I am thinking about doing a book club with it next year, focusing on students who are outsiders and possibly doing our own No Name-Calling Week. If you have read this and have ideas for me, let me know! If you haven’t, it’s a good middle grades book that helps students think about bullying.

A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness by Marlena Graves (via NetGalley)

Marlena Graves grew up with an alcoholic, mentally ill father which has helped her to see how God is present in the wilderness. She writes about different ways that God has spoken or moved in her life in the wilderness and testifies to the faithfulness of God using scripture and examples from her own life and others. I found the first half of the book to be slow and I couldn’t tell where she was going or understand what point she was making. The book picked up about halfway through, but even so, I wished there had been a stronger structure on which to hang the book, because the wilderness metaphor did not seem quite right for a lot of her stories. In the end, it didn’t feel a lot different than other books that I have read about trusting God in difficult times. I saw so many good things online about this one, but I have to say it didn’t work for me.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (via the used bookstore)

I’m probably the last person in the world to read this but in case you don’t know, it’s about Walls’s experiences growing up in neglect and poverty in Arizona and in West Virginia. I had put off reading it because I had heard people say it was as tough as it sounded like it would be. Agree, but it’s also a captivating story, and it’s made easier because you know she managed to pull through (since she did write the book and all).

Some of these books were provided to me by the publishers (as indicated above) but my opinions, as always, are my own.

by Kari at July 20, 2014 04:02 PM

July 10, 2014

Jeff H.

Silverbacks vs. Fire – US Open Cup


This has been the summer of soccer. The World Cup has been on TV in our house all month and I, like most everyone in our country, was held captive by the US Men’s National Team as they advanced into the Round of 16.

In a couple years, the MLS is coming to Atlanta and we will have a team in the big leagues to root for. Until then, our local NASL club, the Atlanta Silverbacks are doing a pretty good job themselves. In the US Open Cup, they had already defeated two MLS clubs and were looking to get a third scalp from Chicago Fire. I rode over to the stadium with a friend and saw my first game in action. The impressive run ended with a loss to the Fire, but it was really closer than the 3-1 score indicated as it was tied up until the 82nd minute and Atlanta held possession for large parts of the game. I had a lot of fun and maybe when the NASL kicks off again in the fall I’ll try to get to a game or two.

In the meantime, enjoy my photos from the game!

by jholland at July 10, 2014 06:22 PM

July 04, 2014


the world cup at our house.


I never updated about how Atticus’s soccer season went, and that is because it was bad. He did okay, for the most part, but he is stubborn and a little bit nervous around crowds. I think that even if he had had a coach who was good with his age group and who had shown up to all the games and practices, he would have been shy about the part where everybody runs together to get the ball. But the problem was that he didn’t have a coach who showed up for all the games and practices, so he never really got a chance to get comfortable. It was a disappointing shame, and if you live in my town, I don’t recommend the YMCA soccer program.

I wanted him to play soccer because the idea of it was so cute with the little jerseys and the shin guards and the running. There is something more, too, and I can’t quite explain except to tell you that he was in my stomach kicking away four years ago and I watched those World Cup games and hoped he was taking them in. Those were my first ever soccer games, and loved watching them with my friends (and Twitter). I dreamed of watching the games with him in 2014, of cheering on the national team and showing him the countries on the map. Signing him up for soccer seemed like a good way to encourage that.

Before the 2010 World Cup, soccer was something that was sometimes on at other people’s houses. I have a hazy memory of being in a friend’s apartment for what must have been the 1999 women’s world cup, but I didn’t watch the game. All I could see and think was that the field seemed so big and that no one seemed to really have control of the ball. I am a basketball girl at heart, raised on Dean Smith and his four corners and a 45 second shot clock. I couldn’t get my mind around soccer and I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

I have thought about that a lot over the past few weeks, that sense that the game was too big and wild. Soccer still seems like that to me when I turn it on, but after a while I get into the rhythm of it and I see the fluidity as a beautiful thing rather than a barrier.

There are many things in my life that seemed big and out of control until I was able to focus in and understand. In my teens and 20s, I think I made a lot of decisions based on fears of wild, untamed feelings and places I wasn’t sure how to handle. It was only when I saw the wildness as a welcoming place, a place where understanding could be found, that I was able to heal.

I have learned to enjoy soccer for the quick touches and the long game, maybe even as a metaphor for life, the ways that things might seem out of control until we look from a different perspective. I think learning about the World Cup in 2010, entering into that confusion, was good practice for me as a parent, because those are skills I have used many times since.

Atticus has not watched an entire game during this World Cup, but he has seen a lot of soccer over the past few weeks. We have talked about good guys and bad guys and goalie goals and believing that we will win. It has exceeded what I hoped for him four years ago when everything I knew about him came from his active kicks. I don’t know if we will sign him up for soccer again but watching the game with him has helped me get over the bad experience we had with the YMCA, reminding me that taking steps into things that you don’t understand can turn out to be pretty fun after all.

by Kari at July 04, 2014 02:05 PM

Jeff H.

Cornerstone Memories (Again)


It’s the week of Cornerstone Festival again and there is no Cornerstone. I am looking forward to a weekend in Savannah with my family and think we will have a good time, it’s a different fourth of July celebration that what I’ve been used to, but we will enjoy it.

In the meantime before we leave, I need to get my mind off everything else on the Internet today. So, since I’m feeling the ache of an empty cornfield in Illinois, I thought it would be fun to write up a quick take about every year I went to Cornerstone Festival.

1998 – My first year at the festival! My friend Joel and his friend Elaine were my guides to aid me as a newbie. My biggest memory, other than just taking it all in for the first time was the Rich Mullins Tribute as his friends played his songs for three hours.

2000 – David and I drove up together in my little car for this one. Of all the years I went, I think this year might have had the best lineup. There was a great mix of old bands and new bands. I remember having to make the agonizing choice between Over the Rhine and The Choir on the final night and I’m glad that I now have full recordings of each show.

2001 – This is the first year that I rode up with Jerry and I rode with him every year after this one. I remember Stryper on the last day was the big topic of discussion. I’m not a huge Stryper fan and I actually ended up skipping the show to see The Violet Burning (who were freaking amazing.) I was really into Over the Rhine at this time and this was the third festival in a row that they were the final show of the festival for me.

2002 – Adriene went with me this year, the only year she went with me to the festival. It was a total sauna. My favorite memory from this year was on the last night at the Sixpence None the Richer show. Adriene and I relaxed on a blanket on the hill and looked at the stars while they played and there was not a care in the world for one evening.

2004 – There was a lot of rain this year, so much that the rain leaked between the seams of the tent during Over the Rhine’s show. I remember the pyro-technics from the P.O.D. show. I also the remember the last day at the Gallery stage had a fantastic lineup of Denison Witmer, Unwed Sailor, and Ester Drang. The tent was full and buzzing with teens and I remember thinking this must be what it’s like to be with the cool kids.

2006 – This was the year where Mute Math broke Chuck’s brain. This was also the first year I started to blog for the festival and I really enjoyed getting to know the organizers of the festival and learning how the festival worked from the inside.

2007 – The sunsets this year were the most of amazing of any year I went to Cornerstone. In between shows I couldn’t resist standing outside and taking picture after picture. One of my favorite memories was between shows. The sound crew played Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and kids that weren’t even born when the sound was popular were singing right along, even taking over when he cut the volume.

2009 – I skipped 2008 due to the birth of my girls, but in 2009 Adriene and her mother held down the fort so I could go. This year was weird because it was so cold and windy. This was also the year the generator stages started to take over. I saw a lot of bands I didn’t recognize at all. The deluge of rain on the final day sealed the fate of the location of mainstage down by the lake, but it also gave us a surreal final day of hardcore music on the normally mild-mannered Gallery Stage.

2010 – Switchfoot kicked off the new mainstage location and did a fantastic job starting off a new era at Cornerstone. I also remember Paper Route having the best show at the festival, leaving everyone speechless and amazed. I was also sick for a majority of the festival so now I guess this is what it’s like to go to a music festival under the influence because I was pretty incoherent for most of the festival.

2011 – The Jesus Music day was pretty special this year. I got to see a lot of artists that I had never seen before and might never see again. I also remember getting a call from home on the last day that my grandmother’s death was imminent. Michael Gungor’s worship music was a healing for me as I prepared for a week of grieving.

2012 – The last festival was a particularly poignant one. Even with only two main stages and a bunch of generator stages, there was still a lot of good music to remember. The heat this year was oppressive and it was hard to think about anything other than the heat. When the festival was over, it was hard to process the mourning of the end of Cornerstone because I was just so glad not to be subjected to the weather. The Viking Funeral was a strange, but totally Cornerstone way of having closure and The Choir, the first band at the very first Cornerstone, gave a nice bookend as the last band at the last festival.

Those were my memories in short takes. Please, share your memories of your years at Cornerstone!

by jholland at July 04, 2014 02:31 AM

June 30, 2014


god and the gay christian by matthew vines.

god and the gay christianSince I bought Torn by Justin Lee, my copy has been passed around and my best guess is that it’s been read by eight or nine people. I think the combination of Justin’s story (I call him Justin because he lives in NC and therefore we are basically buds) and the seriousness with which he talks about his faith make that book a winning combination, but the analysis of scripture is only a part of the book rather than being the main focus. While our lived testimonies are an important part of Christianity, the gap between what people believe the Bible says about being LGBT and what they hear from their friends about their lives is confusing to many.

Enter God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, which takes a full chapter for each of the “clobber texts” that are often used to condemn LGBT relationships and discusses them in depth. He also takes on some of the ideas about gender that influence the ways that we talk about relationships and marriage. Vines considers the words that are used in scripture and also brings a lot of information about the context of the day and time that are helpful. If women are considered to be less than men (and, let’s not be coy, they were in Bible times and continue to be in many denominations despite linguistic trickery like “first among equals” and “equal worth, different roles”), then it is considered a degradation for men to take on a “women’s role” in a relationship. If you believe that men and women are actually equals, there is more room for relationships founded on love and mutual respect regardless of gender.

I was a little bit concerned about reading this book because I listened to an interview that Justin Lee did with Matthew Vines and I did not think that Vines came across very well. (To be fair, I think Justin Lee is possibly the nicest person on the planet, so maybe all of us would suffer in comparison with him.) In this book, though, Vines puts forth a view of scripture that appears to be even more explicitly conservative than Justin’s, and he seems kind and thorough.

Should you read God and the Gay Christian? I say yes, even if you are convinced that you will never change your mind about LGBT relationships and the church, because this is the most comprehensive take I have seen that is written for the layperson, and I believe it is better to read and understand for yourself. The scripture analysis will not be new for people who have already looked into this topic, although I did learn a few new things about the history of same-sex relationships, and I enjoyed the fresh appeal to the egalitarians among us. (Interestingly, I think that is the part that has his critics the most nervous as it undermines their theology in multiple ways.) I also recommend Torn, and these are great companion books to one another.

Other resources for you:

-This the study that I did at church a few years ago when Mike and I were first reconsidering this topic (it has been updated a little bit).

-Matthew Vines’s video (and transcript) that were the basis for this book.

I did receive this book for free from the publisher but I was not obligated to review it. As always, my opinions are my own.

by Kari at June 30, 2014 03:46 PM

June 29, 2014


the cross and the lynching tree by james h. cone

the cross and the lynching treeWe have been watching a lot of the World Cup here. Atticus, who is very into superheroes, wants to know about the good guys and the bad guys. That hasn’t been a big deal to me until the USA/Germany game when I noticed that there were some jokes about Germany being bad guys on Twitter. Nothing too extreme – nobody went so far as to actually reference Hitler, but it’s clear that those of us who grew up learning about WWII and the Holocaust have some conflicted feelings about how to talk about Germany.

I’m not going to claim to be an expert on an enormous topic like WWII and the Holocaust, but I do think it’s interesting to see that we as a country are more comfortable referencing the difficult history of another country than we are with our own. In my education, the treatment of Native Americans and the history that Ta-Nehisi Coates discussed in his reparations article were covered and dismissed as quickly as possible. Let’s face it, when the majority gets to write the history books, the stories of the minority are going to continue to be marginalized. Those of us who grew up with these imperfect understandings of the relationships between different racial and ethnic groups in our own country should take it upon ourselves to seek out other perspectives.

One book that I recently read from a different perspective was The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone. Once you consider the idea, it is not a stretch to see how the lynching tree, where innocent men and women hung after being tortured by angry mobs, could be connected in the minds of many black Americans to the cross on which Jesus died. The book explores the lynching tree in the black community and makes a powerful case that it should be a more prominent symbol in American Christianity as we wrestle with our sins as a nation and specifically as white Christians who did not act against this terror.

I came away from this book with a strong sense of how white my Christianity has been, and a desire to broaden my perspective. It is challenging and moving to read about other ways to view God, especially when you suddenly see through the eyes of the oppressed rather than that of the oppressor. This is a short book but not a light read. I hope you will consider reading it, and I would love any similar recommendations of books that have challenged you to see history or your own faith from a new perspective, especially from a minority perspective.

by Kari at June 29, 2014 06:23 PM

what I have been reading (falling into summer edition).

Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power – And How They Can Be Restored by Marcus J. Borg (via the used bookstore)

The title basically says everything here. The book covers ideas like redemption and sin as well as words like mercy and belief and tries to put them in a biblical context rather than the cultural one we are most familiar with. Would make a good Sunday School or small group study for a progressive group that is interested in reclaiming and/or reevaluating Christian language.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier (via my school’s library)

I assigned myself some school summer reading, including a few graphic novels. This one is a delightful school story about drama – both relational drama and actual theater. Recommended for middle and high schoolers, especially the theater ones.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (via another school’s library)

This is another one I assigned myself because I want to know if I should purchase it for my middle school. A high school librarian kindly let me borrow it over the summer so I could see. As you can probably tell from the title, it is about bullying, but I thought it was more realistic about what it looks and feels like to be bullied than many of the books I read on The topic. I felt as I was reading it as if I was stuck in that same overwhelming situation with Piddy. I liked how it was resolved without everyone hugging and making up and that the consequences of what happened would continue. I think it would be a good fit for my school.

Mortal Blessings: A Sacramental Farewell by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell (via Netgalley)

Early in this book, O’Donnell quotes Andre Dubus: “A sacrament is an outward sign of God’s love, they taught me when I was a boy, and in the Catholic Church there are seven. But no, I say, for the Church is catholic, the world is catholic, and there are seven times seventy sacraments, to infinity.” A few paragraphs later, O’Donnell says, “Holy objects or ‘sacramentals’ hint at this presence of the divine in the ordinary, but an imaginative engagement of the world enlarges our ability to see that all objects are potentially holy–or ‘sacramentals’–as are all human activities and, most important, all human beings.” This book is the way that O’Donnell explores these thoughts about finding the sacred in the moments of caring for her ill mother. The topics vary from the serious to the somewhat silly, from the importance of speaking to and with her mother to the afternoon they spent watching Dirty Dancing. (Any book with a section entitled, “The Sacrament of Dirty Dancing” is going to be okay by me.) Mortal Blessings is a thoughtful book that I would recommend for anyone who is caring for an ill parent.

The Rise and Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman (via Netgalley)

I never finished Tom Rachman’s first book, The Imperfectionists. I checked it out from the library and had to return it before I was done and never felt compelled to get it again. I found the characters in this one, especially the main character, Tooly, to be more interesting but the book takes its time letting you know what is going on and how all of the story fits together. Recommended for: people who are willing to be a little bit lost during the story, people who admire well-structured books.

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig (via Blogging for Books)

Mike and I both read this one because we were intrigued by the idea of teaching Atticus Shakespeare. Ultimately I think this is probably a little bit more intense than we want to be about teaching him passages, but it has great tips on how to work on memorization that I can see us using for important texts – Shakespeare, yes, but also poems and speeches and the Bible. I feel like I have an adequate knowledge of Shakespeare, but there are some big plays that I have never read, and Ludwig explains the plots and the importance of some famous speeches with great enthusiasm and passion. I learned a lot from the book and am glad I read it. It would make a great textbook for a high school or college class on Shakespeare as it puts so many of the plays and lines into context. I could also see it being a big hit in homeschool groups. The resource list at the back is excellent.

I received copies of some of these books from Netgalley and Blogging for Books, but all opinions are my own.

by Kari at June 29, 2014 01:26 PM

June 18, 2014

Daniel -

YouTube & its Indie Labels, or, A Long Slide Into Evil

I’ve been covering the deteriorating situation at the once-golden Google and its various products for quite some time.

Now this: Google is set to block Indie label content on YouTube. Over licensing terms for a new service.

Now, as an article by The Guardian points out, this might be a misunderstanding. There are a few options:

One: YouTube is indeed threatening to block the videos of indie labels: if they don’t sign up to the terms of its new paid music service, their videos will be removed from its free service too. Although Vevo-run channels seem likely to stay up.

Two: YouTube will block indie labels from monetisation of their videos on its free service. It’s possible that YouTube will leave labels’ videos up, but block them from making money from ads in and around those videos – as well as from using its Content ID system to make money from ads shown on videos uploaded by YouTube users featuring their music.

Three: This is all just a big misunderstanding. If indie labels choose not to sign up for YouTube’s new paid music service, their videos will be blocked on it, but left alone on the existing free service.

I think it’s probably a misunderstanding, too. As Chris Hubbs said on Twitter, it’s hard to imagine Google giving up its “YouTube is all the videos” platform just to squeeze some indie labels.

But it might, right?

So I expected to hear Google & YouTube put out a strongly worded statement to the contrary. But, to the contrary, this is what they said:

“Our goal is to continue making YouTube an amazing music experience, both as a global platform for fans and artists to connect, and as a revenue source for the music industry. We’re adding subscription-based features for music on YouTube with this in mind — to bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year. We are excited that hundreds of major and independent labels are already partnering with us.”

Now that, my friends, is a absolutely shitty non-response. It’s the sort of thing that makes you think… Oh. Maybe it’s true after all.

Two points. One, Google of today is not the Google of yesterday. And I’m not even talking about whether they used to have ideals but now don’t, blah blah blah. I mean they used to get good press and now they don’t.

Say what you will about Apple, they get a metric shit-tonne of good press, so much so that the bad press is pretty much drowned out. Google doesn’t get that. These days they pretty much just get bad press. This is a pretty fantastic change from a few years ago when Google was the open-source idealistic saviour of the internet.

Two, they should have been out in front of this, offering a plain, frank denial. Even if that denial was a half-truth. Instead some intern was given the task of crafting their message, which was basically “talk about something else”.

We’re not stupid, we can tell when you’re trying to “change the message” or “redirect the conversations” or as we call it, “change the subject”. Especially when done abruptly and awkwardly.

by D.S. Deboer at June 18, 2014 09:20 PM

June 16, 2014


what I have been reading (summertime is upon us edition).

El Deafo by Cece Bell (sample via NetGalley, whole book via publisher)

This is a charming graphic novel about a young girl who loses her hearing at the age of four. When she starts school, she has to wear a hearing aid. This is okay when she is in kindergarten with other kids just like her, but when she begins a mainstream class the next year, she faces difficulties and embarrassment. One way she deals with her feelings is by imagining what her alter ego, El Deafo, might do in these situations. This book would be really cute for middle grades. I thought the subject was explained well and in an engaging way. I loved the section on context clues – great thoughts for conversations as well as books, and a good way to remind kids how to be thoughtful and to pay attention. It would also be a great discussion starter for how to speak to and about people with disabilities, and a good way to explain to kids that a disability doesn’t keep people from having regular feelings like friendship and crushes. It’s also just a sweet and funny story and I liked the pictures. (I got a sample of this book from NetGalley but it didn’t say it was just a sample, so after I finished those 50 pages I asked the publisher where the rest was because I was enjoying it so much. Thanks to them for sending me a copy.)

Seamless Faith: Simple Practices for Daily Family Life by Traci Smith (via NetGalley)

I loved these ideas for families to practice faith and follow the church calendar. The different activities are marked by age and offer variations. I will be picking up a physical copy to put on my shelf with To Dance With God by Gertrud Mueller Nelson and The Circle of Seasons by Kimberlee Conway Ireton. I love all three books, but this is the one that is the most activity-based. If you are familiar with the rhythms of the calendar year and are simply looking for ways to celebrate it, I highly recommend this as an option.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (via NetGalley)

I mean, if you have read a book about a curmudgeon who is saved by the quirky family who lives next door, then you are familiar with what happens in this story. But it’s sweet and funny and well-executed. And, dang it, I totally cried at the end. It really should be made into a movie.

The War for Late Night by Bill Carter (via the public library)

I don’t think my parents watched The Tonight Show, so the whole Leno and Letterman thing was not really on my radar. When I met Mike, he explained to me that I had to be a Letterman person to be married to him, and I happily agreed. In our younger and more vulnerable years, we did stay up late and watch Letterman (and we went to a taping once, which was very cool), but we are much too old for that now. I never watched Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, but I do feel very strongly that Conan got screwed over by Jay/NBC. This book is very insidery and I did have a hard time keeping all the lawyers and publicists straight but I enjoyed it a lot. I thought it was very fair to everyone involved (and includes coverage of people like Kimmel and Letterman and Stewart) and made it clear that Jay is not some kind of monster, just that he was kind of a workaholic. I wish Carter had gotten Jay to articulate why he didn’t want to leave – that was the one thing I think wasn’t explained well. In the end, it seemed like Conan cared more about The Tonight Show as an institution than Jay and NBC did, and I think that was his downfall. (I have to admit I cried when I read the account of Conan’s last show and his reminder to work hard and be kind and not to be cynical.) The only bad thing about this book for me is that it sent me down a rabbit hole of internet clips. Other than that, solid and fun read.

by Kari at June 16, 2014 07:01 PM

June 15, 2014

Daniel -

A visit to the walk-in clinic

Today Laura and I took Audrey to the walk-in clinic. She’s running a fever and tends to get ear infections so we took her in just to be safe.

It was a bit of a hassle. We went to our usual walk-in and there was a wait, so we went to the other on across the street where we waited 15 minutes or so. The doctor told us to give her some ibuprofen (done!) and lots of fluids (done!) and sent us on our way. No ear infection, no bad news. We were in and out in a half hour, just presented her health card and away we went.

I had a moment of disorientation leaving the clinic. It seemed wrong somehow that we were leaving without paying. Every other time I leave a place like that I end up paying for something, whether it’s a grocery store or a hardware store, I have to pay.

But here we go leaving the health care store (I like to call it that) and we pay nothing.

I think that’s fantastic.

So when I talk to people about Ontarion’s healthcare system I get all the usual responses. There’s a sort of love-it/hate-it spectrum. I’ll enthusiastically agree with people who love it. I’ll have a conversation with people about what needs fixing–as with every system everywhere, there’s something to fix of course!

If you hate it, well, I don’t like to denigrate opinions, but your opinion sucks. It’s a stupid opinion. I’m not saying you’re stupid. I’m saying you’re wrong. The data on this issue is immensely and frighteningly on the side of socialised health care.

I’ll never say that in person, of course. I’ll say something different. But when I do say something, no matter how nice, I get one of two responses. Either I get the whole politicised diatribe about how (what they think is) socialism is bad, laying bare the ideological clockwork that allows them to believe against their own interest…

Or I get an anecdote. Now if you’ve read this blog for a while, you already know what I think about ideology, or you can probably guess.

But anecdotes. Man… they’re everything that’s wrong with the human condition.

I don’t really care to get into the healthcare debate. As far as I’m concerned it’s not a debate. It’s just a matter of time. I would like to talk about anecdotes, though. This is a bit of an odd direction to take this, but bear with me.

Humans are pattern observers. We look for patters in everything, no matter how insignificant the thing or non-existent the pattern. This means we’re really good at staying alive on the savanna but not terribly good at public policy.

An errant patch of grass moving against the wind is could be a predator. (At least that’s how I imagine staying alive on the savanna might be. I’m not an expert here!) This is only a single data point, but it’s a very important one. It potentially means life or death for you.

Your aunt who had a bad experience in the hospital is a single data point as well but (sadly for her) not an important one. And if we take the anecdote of her experience as a signpost for how we deal with an entire healthcare system full full of people, it means life or death for someone else.

It means life or death for a couple who have a child. The child gets sick, but not very sick, at least not at first. They delay going to the doctor because they can’t really afford to pay the deductible. Or maybe they can afford it but it’s just enough disincentive. The child gets sicker and sicker until when they finally do make the move, it’s too late.

That story is a load of hogwash. I mean, it could have happened, but it didn’t, at least not to me, and not to anyone I know, and probably not to anyone you know either. But to me, it has the same value as an anecdote. You seek out anecdotes to confirm your beliefs, I write a story to confirm mine.

Data doesn’t lie.

You can make it lie. You can make it do all kinds of things, especially when it’s that sort of slim, unsubstantial data that might say any number of things. But you can’t make a preponderance of data lie.

Once you’re confronted with the evidence, you only have ideology to fall back on. Once the anecdote is stripped away, the clockwork of ideology is revealed.

But that’s a post for another day.

by D.S. Deboer at June 15, 2014 02:58 AM


a poem for father’s day.

From “Listening” by David Ignatow

Standing beside you,
I took an oath
to make your life simpler
by complicating mine
and what I always thought
would happen did:
I was lifted up in joy.


by Kari at June 15, 2014 02:45 AM

June 11, 2014

Daniel -

Everyone’s Got One

You shouldn’t have married that early, I say,
because I didn’t marry that early.
It should be at the right time, I say,
otherwise my timing was wrong.
You should stop eating so much bread, I say,
to ease my burden of not eating bread.
You have too much money and should give some away, I say,
because I can’t afford a brand.

I call you

When I could call you

You’re always exactly the same, I say,
looking at the ever-shifting ground.
You never change, I say,
looking at myself.

by ddeboer at June 11, 2014 09:05 PM


Who told you
you’re not welcome?
As always the self-appointed gatekeepers
admit only themselves.

You are:
I admit that.

by ddeboer at June 11, 2014 08:56 PM

June 09, 2014


in defense of young adults and their literature.


I try very hard to be a parent who respects her child and sees his intelligence as he figures out the world around him. It’s made easier by the students I have worked with over the years, the ones who make bright and funny observations all the time and who have taught me to give them more credit than we usually do in our culture. There are things that we lose as adults that children and teenagers can remind us: the immediacy of the world, the imagination that it takes to live in it. There are big questions about who we are and how we figure out our places in the world that we adults are supposed to have figured out.

This is part of what troubled me about Ruth Graham’s piece last week that stated that adults should be embarrassed to read YA literature. Graham made it clear that she’s not an expert on the topic. Well, I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I do work in the field, so I have to be more qualified to talk about it than she is. I took grad school classes on YA literature and I participate in discussions of it every year. I read it, both because I like it and because it’s my job. I defend it not simply because I enjoy it but because I believe it is worth defending as art and as literature.

I agree with many of the other critiques of her article, such as the ones that point out that books for children and young adults are often dismissed because they are written by women (see also every discussion about John Green that ignores all the great female authors writing YA) or the ones that point out that she didn’t even seem to understand the very smart books she was putting down or that there are YA books beyond the bestseller lists. She also seemed to dislike any happiness or resolution in a story while not noticing that some of the most popular series (I AM LOOKING AT YOU, HUNGER GAMES) don’t exactly have satisfying endings. I especially agree with the very nice people who have calmly pointed out that we who work with teenagers mention To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye not because they were published as YA books but because they would surely be marketed as YA now, as they are coming-of-age stories told by young people. But other people have gone over that stuff. There’s just one other thing I want to say.

To me, the YA debate is a question of respect. If you believe that children’s literature and young adult literature are so far beneath you that people should be ashamed to read from those categories, then you are saying that children and young adults are beneath you. You are saying that their concerns are no longer important in your life. You are saying that their literature is stupid because that is the only level they can comprehend. You aren’t giving kids enough credit—any credit—and I hope you don’t work with them or have any of your own. I don’t feel defensive about YA literature because I work with it. I feel defensive about it because to dismiss it out of hand is to be disrespectful to young people who deserve our respect. The teenagers in my life are smart people who are learning about the world and who are asking big questions. One of the ways they do that is through books. It is a privilege to be able to do that along with them.

I learned about that respect both when the adults in my life did not belittle my reading choices and when they handed me different things to read. I learned about it by being reminded (by John Green) to take teenagers’ feelings seriously. And I learned about it from Madeleine L’Engle, who always advocated for treating the children who read her books as smart.

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” – Madeleine L’Engle

“The writer whose words are going to be read by children has a heavy responsibility. And yet, despite the undeniable fact that the children’s minds are tender, they are also far more tough than many people realize, and they have an openness and an ability to grapple with difficult concepts which many adults have lost. Writers of children’s literature are set apart by their willingness to confront difficult questions.” -Madeleine L’Engle

“We need to dare disturb the universe by not being manipulated or frightened by judgmental groups who assume the right to insist that if we do not agree with them, not only do we not understand but we are wrong. How dull the world would be if we all had to feel the same way about everything, if we all had to like the same books, dislike the same books . . .” -Madeleine L’Engle

I don’t know yet what kind of reader Atticus is going to be, but I hope he has teachers and librarians in his life who respect him as a reader as well as a person. I hope they encourage him to ask big questions rather than putting down his interests and tastes. I hope he knows that learning isn’t just an adult-to-child activity. And I hope he tries new things and rolls his eyes at the gatekeepers. I hope I do, too.

by Kari at June 09, 2014 06:04 PM

June 08, 2014


what I have been reading (almost summer edition).

Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste by Carl Wilson (purchased a copy)

I heard the author of this book interviewed on this episode of the Slate Culture Gabfest and I think I ordered the book before the interview was over. It sounded so fun and interesting and it did not disappoint. It’s about looking at taste and snobbery by examining Celine Dion, who you will probably see in a different (more sympathetic) light after reading more about her life and her fans. I love books that challenge expectations, and this one is marvelous. The new edition has essays by different authors who respond to the book, and those are hit or miss but I did enjoy some of them. Recommended for: music snobs, people who secretly sing along with that one Celine Dion song when it comes on the radio.

Why Do Buses Come in Threes: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life by Robert Eastaway (via NetGalley)

You have probably seen some of those math problems on Facebook where people are outraged at how their children are being taught through Common Core. Besides being totally out of context, those people are missing the fact that the problems are focusing on number sense, understanding how numbers work and how they fit together. This book is basically about number sense and how it applies in the real world, covering things like cooking and traffic and botany. It reminded me of The I Hate Mathematics Book by Marilyn Burns, which I loved as a kid. I could definitely see a teacher or a parent talking about these ideas with kids.

No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace (via NetGalley)

Olivia and Liam are twins who fall for the same girl. The novel switches from Olivia’s perspective to Zoey (the aforementioned girl) but the transitions are not completely smooth because the characters aren’t fleshed out enough to remember which one is which (except that one girl is rich and one is poor). I was struck by the banality of it all – apparently we as a culture are ready for LGBT teen romances that are just as formulaic as the straight ones. Quirky younger sibling: Zoey’s younger sister is not so much quirky as fragile.

Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah (via NetGalley)

This book is about a family that was torn apart by wolf attacks even though wolves supposedly don’t live near their small town. My big problem with the story is that the description of it seemed at odds with what was happening in the first few chapters, so I spent a fair amount of time being confused. Once I finished it, I understood why some of that had happened, but it was still pretty frustrating as it was going on. I can see this being a big hit with high school students who enjoyed books like Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater or who enjoy thrillers or mysteries. Just make sure they know to hang in there even if they are not totally sure what is going on. Quirky younger sibling: makes crafts to protect them from the wolves, has gone missing and left clues as to where she might be.

Words and Their Meanings by Kate Bassett (via NetGalley)

Anna had an uncle who was raised as a brother to her, and she idolized him. In the year since his death, for which she blames herself, she has practiced “coffin yoga” by lying still every morning and by turning herself into Patti Smith. There is a mystery aspect to the story as she realizes that she didn’t know everything about her cousin, and there is a nice romance (that I did not totally buy even though the character was sweet). I enjoyed the story until the end, when something is revealed about her cousin’s actions that I found to be totally jarring and unbelievable. I also raised an eyebrow at the idea that Anna spent all this time on Patti Smith’s words but hadn’t read Just Kids, which turned out to be part of the resolution. There were a lot of vivid and interesting things about this book, but the end fell flat for me. Quirky younger sibling: a sister who likes to hide in small spaces, even the oven.


Life After Death Row: Exonerees’ Search for Community and Identity by Saundra D. Westervelt and Kimberly J. Cook (purchased a copy)

I go to church with Saundra and taught her son in Sunday School. What a gift it is to know people who are so smart and who share their expertise. Saundra and her friend conducted interviews with people who were wrongly convicted and sentenced to death but then subsequently released. There is no automatic compensation for them, no assistance as they transition back into the outside world, and there are barely any apologies from the state. Exonerees, though they were wrongly convicted, have to go through a complicated legal process to get their records expunged (and if they don’t, their records will be flagged when potential employers run background checks). If they do receive compensation, it takes an average of four years for the money to get to them, but of course it’s needed much earlier as they are trying to find housing and start over. The parts of the book that I found most moving were when the exonerees discussed their conversations with the victims’ families and how much those apologies meant to them. I also really enjoyed the discussion of the ways that exonerees deal with the pain of their wrongful convictions. Some of them turn inward and believe that there were things that they needed to learn or that God used that time to teach them certain lessons. Others take that pain and use it to fight against the death penalty and for more assistance for other exonerees. This is a smart, well-organized discussion of the exonerees and their experiences, and I recommend it for a peek into the injustice of our justice system.

Some of these books came from NetGalley but my opinions are my own.

by Kari at June 08, 2014 02:29 PM

June 06, 2014

Jeff H.

SHEL at Decatur Court House


I haven’t figured out the right age or band for my daughters’ first concert. I heard about a free concert in downtown Decatur by the Colorado band named SHEL and I thought that would be perfect. However, we played pretty hard during the afternoon and by the time the evening came around they were already starting to wear down and I decided it would probably be smarter to leave them with the grandparents. It was probably the right decision, I think they would have enjoyed the show but I don’t think they would have had the patience for the whole thing.

That’s too bad, because SHEL probably would have been the ideal band to see. The band is composed of four sisters with bluegrass influenced pop. I compare them to a less technical, more whimsical version of Nickel Creek. That’s not an indictment on their talent. There’s not any Chris Thile-like fretboard runs, but they still make beautifully interwoven music on mandolin, piano, violin, and drums. The youngest of the sisters even adds a little bit of beat-boxing, which makes me laugh for some reason. Their songs range from light-hearted songs like “The Latest and Greatest Blueberry Rubber Band” to the more serious “Try To Scream.” There was a short intermission and while the sponsors raffled off some prizes, the ladies milled around the stage, even posing for pictures and letting little girls try on their custom designed hats.

Atlanta is not as quirky as a city like Austin or Portland, but if there is an unusual part of town, it’s Decatur. I enjoyed people-watching during the show. There was a guy with the Coors tall boy dancing around by himself and I was afraid there was going to be an incident when he approached the stage. He asked the mandolin player a question and I don’t know what her response was but he laughed and walked away. There was a bride and groom that emerged from the courthouse, going around the building and back in, presumably to their reception. In the middle of the concert he shouted out to everyone, “WE JUST GOT MARRIED!” I also like spotting the people who were on “date night.” There were the couples that were on that Date Night, the one you get every couple of months thanks to the babysitter. Then there were also the couples that clearly weren’t married yet and were still dressing to impress each other.

The only complaint I had was that the band wasn’t really visible in the gazebo (as seen in the picture above.) The fence around it made it difficult to see very much unless you walked right up to the stage, and I wasn’t going to be that one creepy guy standing at the front staring at four teen/20′s girls. That’s a small complaint though. The night seemed certain to be rained out but instead I enjoyed a pleasant night on my own on the square in Decatur.

by jholland at June 06, 2014 06:33 PM


#weneeddiversebooks like the great greene heist by varian johnson.


Last month, I followed and participated in the #weneeddiversebooks discussion that was sparked (at least in part) by Walter Dean Myers’s article in the New York Times.

This is a topic close to my heart because I am constantly searching for books that reflect my students’ lives and their experiences. Like all middle school students, they love books that feature “drama.” And I’m sympathetic, because I don’t always enjoy reading books where nothing happens. When you are 12 years old and everything seems extreme, of course you want books where extreme things happen. But, to be honest, it bugs me that the books that feature characters who look like my students will often have plots that feature violence or teen pregnancy. Many of my students live in difficult situations and I want them to see that there are stories about people like them. But that is not all of who they are, and I wish for them to read about other, less charged drama, too. I thought about this a lot this winter when we read The Snowy Day to Atticus and I marveled at how it portrayed a young boy just being a kid. My students deserve to read books about kids being kids. They deserve funny books and science fiction and fantasy. They shouldn’t be relegated to the “urban” section.

great greene heistThat was one reason I enjoyed The Great Greene Heist so much – it was about a diverse group of kids dealing with a rigged election at school without having anything to do with darker kinds of drama. School drama is drama enough sometimes! Especially when you, like Jackson Greene, come from a family of con artists. Echoing Ocean’s 11, Jackson gets his team back together to pull the con to end all cons – re-rigging the election that the principal has already rigged, thanks to a generous donation from a parent.

I think that this is a book that will appeal to a lot of smart middle school students (especially the troublemakers). There were a few parts where it was a little bit challenging to follow until I read the passages with Oceans 11 in mind. It was obviously written with that tone: funny and sharp with great pop culture references. And it features a diverse cast of characters without feeling forced. I hope there are more books featuring Jackson Greene and his friends, because it was a pleasure to read. (And Mike enjoyed it, too!)

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley but I also purchased a copy of my own (from our local independent bookstore).

by Kari at June 06, 2014 05:08 PM

Daniel -

they have no jesus

they are small
& have no jesus
to swoop down in glory
separate the sparrow from the hawk
& gather them under

this man
who is not anything
sits in a place that is not anywhere
and distributes

christ-sized bits of bread
into their open

by ddeboer at June 06, 2014 02:47 PM

June 03, 2014

Daniel -

April 30 is over

It only took me 3 weeks longer than I wanted. But it’s done. At the beginning of April I committed to write at least something ever day. It went well for a while. But then I got sick. I haven’t been hit that hard for a long time.

I feel a bit like I’m eulogizing myself right now. But don’t worry. I survived. I finished the task. And here, friends, are the links:

  1. “I”
  2. The Story Has Been Told
  3. The Scapegoat, Lifted High
  4. We Forgot The Kettle
  5. Some Advice About Length
  6. Benefit Cheque
  7. Weather
  8. Nothing When It’s Done
  9. A Burn Victim
  10. Clutched Prize
  11. Gold Fillings
  12. Last Year
  13. The Face
  14. Story I
  15. Story II
  16. Story III
  17. Story IV
  18. Jump, Fly
  19. Last Horse
  20. Kenosis
  21. Minimum Wage
  22. The Lamb
  23. North
  24. Inflationary
  25. Senseless Beast
  26. My Liking Precedes Me
  27. Butterflied
  28. The Wine of Now
  29. Viscous Liquid
  30. Sonnet XI

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

by D.S. Deboer at June 03, 2014 01:00 PM

May 31, 2014

Daniel -


more and more
now the wick

that was
but not is

who murmurs

a dark smudge
of breath escapes

who orders


who waxes
on and on

by ddeboer at May 31, 2014 01:10 AM

May 30, 2014

Daniel -

Viscous Liquid

Inspired by Value.

In the cup of my palm
an opaque, viscous liquid.
It defeats economists:
Common but incalculable.
There’s no market for that,
no currency except

by ddeboer at May 30, 2014 04:48 PM

Sonnet XI

The house falls down. There’s nothing to be done
about that. She reclaims the things they stole.
Studs rot. Drywall crumbles. Her fingers run
up walls to grasp, down foundations to hold.
Whole continents move. Even those whose bone
lies calcic in its unmarked, homemade tomb
are ground under. Part limestone or part loam,
all lost. Yet vacant bellies hold a womb
whose children are a million years apart.
Gills or no they swim to fill the sea
with grandchildren. They casually discard
that parent who they curse as absentee.
Beside her deathbed they erect a town,
but she’ll outlive them all to tear it down.

by ddeboer at May 30, 2014 04:44 PM

The Wine Of Now

So many words
How could you have said anything
We have
left off paying in volume

Then sit in silence
As worship
this is among
As fealty
this is also

The moment of bread
The wine of now

The gifts
intentionally confusing
of who
for who

Are those strings
full of electric words buzzing
We have
left off singing in volume

by ddeboer at May 30, 2014 03:53 PM


The body
injected with plastic
cracked open and
vaguely obscene
organs arranged
some of them even

This is the kidney
you need just one
but you have two

It occurs to me that
if you take slices
close enough everything
resembles everything else

But if you take a slice
here and a slice there
everything is different
and you might ask

How can these things
fit together?

Which is an honest question
and the honest answer is
there’s a lot of same old same old
until everything has changed
and you just didn’t notice it
because you think about it
too much you think about it
all the time you think about it
and it makes you think about it
deeply think about it
madly think about it

by ddeboer at May 30, 2014 03:50 PM