Monday, May 27, 2013


I took Gwendolyn today to the graveyard which is under the care of our congregation. We walked among the tomb stones and took note of all the flags--US, firefighters, and one New York State flag for a member of the State Police. I remembered with her the few that I have buried in my six and a half years here pointing to names on glossy head stones. I remembered for her that her Grandpa George is buried in a cemetery in Pennsylvania, and that she won't get to see him in person until we get to glory. In her sensitive four-year-old way, she told me that she "missed him very much," even though she never met him. We remembered in prayer all those who have lost to war, and the Prince of Peace who we hope will arrive soon to put an end to our self-inflicted suffering.

In spite of my own ambiguity toward nationalism and national pride, I want my daughter to remember, among so many other things, those who have departed this world in theaters more strange and dangerous than most Americans will encounter. So today we remembered.

In Memoriam:
George Tyler, MD
Vietnam 1970-1971
Army, 1st Cavalry Division


all The Boys he could not save
who lost their lives
out in the boonies
far from home

~ emrys

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Spontaneous Creativity

Gather a bunch of high school students together in your home, and fascinating things will happen.

Invite anyone over the age of ten to play with wooden blocks, and they will take offense. Blocks are for little kids, their faces will tell you.

Invite kids over the age of ten to hang out in the vicinity of an open container of blocks, and they will inevitably begin to build things. As long as they have not been asked to do so.

Last month we had some high schoolers over for brunch during their spring break. Here's one of the many constructions that grew out of our living room floor:

Note the four-year-old spectator on the left, dressed in pink fleece. She wasted no time including herself in the engineering work.

Let's hear it for creativity and the most basic of toys.

~ emrys

Anti Monkey Butt

During my chaplaincy internship I was paired with another woman from my seminary. The work of our internship included in-depth examination of how the stresses of chaplaincy revealed our strengths and weaknesses as pastors. These revelations came to us in many and varied ways, but usually within interactions with other people.

At one particularly stressful point in our work together, she and I gave each other nicknames which allowed us not-so-passively to express our consternation with the circumstances. The nicknames stuck long after our internship ended. Since that week, I have called her Freak Show. And she has called me Monkey Butt.

Imagine my glee when, a few months ago, I came across this product in the hardware store:

Here's to you, Freak Show!

~ emrys

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Creative Learning

 We purchase an annual membership to a national association of children's museums and science museums. Ever since we encountered the Discovery Center in Binghamton with a toddling Gwendolyn, we have discovered great joy in spending quality time in these paragons of civic effort. During this week's vacation in Durango, Colorado (our home away from home), we found that our membership pass gets us into the newly established Durango Discovery Museum.

Discovery Centers, Science Centers, and Discovery Museums have the twin goals of hands-on education and fun for kids of all ages. I do mean all ages; here is Jill climbing up a stylized tree house, finding her inner contortionist:
 As part of a promo weekend, the Discovery Museum had a set of Imagination Playground blocks--imagine Kinex magnified and fashioned from blue foam--of which Gwendolyn availed herself for about an hour.
 She systematically collected blocks from the scatter created by other kids' work; I did, on occasion, need to remind her that cannibalizing blocks from other children's projects-in-process was not allowed. She was quite determined to include every possible block in her architectural wonder. She required little help except to learn how twisting a foam noodle helps to thread it into another block.
 I took great joy in watching her creative vision play out on the sunlit patio. I also took great sobriety in watching the young children interact and noting that without parental intervention our offspring would have played out a version of Lord of the Flies. There was lots of enforced sharing and rebukes for stealing blocks. But aside from one meltdown among a group of twelve or thirteen kids, the afternoon's activities went off without serious incident. And a foam city brought concrete expression to the heart of my four-year-old daughter.
If you ever have the opportunity to engage the joy and learning of a children's museum . . . engage!
~ emrys