Making a Rock Garden

My daughter Jessica and I took a break from our professional and academic responsibilities to make her a new rock garden yesterday. When we travel, she and I interview rocks large and small which might want to come home with us. This summer, Jessica and I each brought home a selection of boulders. I used mine to extend my informal rock wall which is both decorative – and keeps the dogs from racing through my flower beds.

Jessica dedicated her new boulders to a rock garden next to the driveway and then used the decorative river rocks that we took out of where the rock garden was installed to trim her street side planting bed.  For the plantings in her rock garden, Jessica selected:

  • Lithops – also called living stones
  • Aloe – descended from a single plant I gave her in college
  • Portulacaria – also called elephant bush (both green and variegated with red stems)
  • Sedum – or stonecrop
  • Echeveria – also called hens and chicks, with pink edges

After tilling the soil below, taking out larger rocks, and digging in soil amendment,  we used pieces of slate and flat stones behind the boulders to create basins of top soil for the news plantings – and to direct moisture away from the side fence.  The stones form the bones of the garden, the aloes provide form and structure, and the smaller plants and seashells add color and contrasting shapes.  We added two potted succulents in green pots for height and variety.  Jessica will extend the garden further when she adopts new boulders during future travels.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson and Jessica Dickinson Goodman.

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Starting Master of Arts in Social Transformation, Finished Revising TLB

Today is my first day of orientation at Pacific School of Religion (PSR) in Berkeley for the Master of Arts in Social Transformation degree.

Yesterday, I finished editing and revising the final document for the “Transforming Literature of the Bible” (TLB) program. I have been working on TLB since May 2018 and have finished two books, 36 sessions, 604 pages total.

This has been a busy few days but I wanted to finish TLB before starting studies at PSR.  Literary selections are included in TLB to provide a diverse context in which to understand some of the major themes in the Bible passages under consideration.  In addition to readings in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), the students of Book One also read:

  1. “The Welcome Table” story by Alice Walker (1973)
  2. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1955)
  3. “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” poem by Mohja Kahf (2003)
  4. “The Son from America” story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1973)
  5. “The Big Red Apples” story by Zitkála-Šá  aka Red Bird (1900)
  6. “My Last Duchess” poem by Robert Browning (1842)
  7. “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King (1963)
  8. O Pioneers! excerpt by Willa Cather (1913)
  9. “The Family of Little Feet” story by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
  10. The Gangster We Are All Looking For excerpt by Lê Thị Diễm Thúy (2003)

In Book Two, in addition to New Testament readings, the literary selections are:

  1. “At the Arraignment” poem by Debra Spencer (2004)
  2. “A Private Experience” story excerpt by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)
  3. “Sonnet XXVII” by William Shakespeare (1609)
  4. “Under the Poplars” poem by César Vallejo (1919)
  5. “The Grand Inquisitor” excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov, by Feodor Dostoevsky (1879-1880)
  6. Farewell to Manzanar excerpt by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston (1973)
  7. “XVI” poem by Emily Dickinson (circa 1890)
  8. “Limits” poem by Jorge Luis Borges (circa 1961)
  9. “A Discreet Miracle” excerpt by Isabel Allende, from The Stories of Eva Luna (1989)
  10. “The Fullness of Time” poem by James Stephens (circa 1900)

I am collaborating on the revision of TLB with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell who wrote the original course. In addition to revising Canon William’s 2008 course materials, I am running a pilot version of the class itself at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). I am grateful to my Co-Mentors Diane Lovelace, and my husband, John Plocher (with the Rev. Peggy Bryan as backup). This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy  (CIC) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.  Thanks to Collette Lynner of CIC for supporting TLB production.

More pictures from my PSR Orientation week:

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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The Way of Love – in Jail

Joel Martinez and I are Education for Ministry (EfM) Co-Mentors for a weekly class at Elmwood Jail in Milpitas, California.  We were recently part of a class to renew our mentor accreditation in the University of the South – School of Theology‘s EfM program.  During the training, Joel and I discussed how we could extend the theological reflections and discussions with the jail inmates.  We decided to use the structure of “The Way of Love – Practices for a Jesus-Centered Life” – a new program of the Episcopal Church, by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and Canon Stephanie Spellers.

Joel reviewed the published material and prepared a handout about The Way of Love.  I edited the handout and added more Bible quotes and passages from the Book of Common Prayer.  We distributed the handout as homework to the EfM seminar on 15 August 2018.  With permission of the inmates, Below is some of what they said in class 22 August 2018 about what they found valuable and world continue to work on in their lives. This EfM program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

More: Joel’s blog on 26 August 2018, discussing The Way of Love with St.Andrew’s Youth.

TURN

Meditating on issues, problems, and God – alone, without distractions when possible EfM, having a solo-cell, quiet time Pay it forward, doing nice things for others without expectation of reimbursement
Praying Spiritual discussions, joining EfM Meeting with spiritual advisor, EfM, prayers at night
Will continue to work with priest, other EfM students and mentors Pray at night and daytime – for other people and for my family .

LEARN

Compare scripture stories and verses to life experiences See an action that reflects what God wants us to do – doing the right thing for the right reason. Know that I am doing OK in this situation Reading scripture in a more modern context – seeing Jesus in the world today – “new age Jesus” – even among non-Christians
Imagining scripture scenarios inspires – look for wording to break down meaning – how it is presented Share with EfM classmates, cellie, my Mom Referring to prior Bible passages that were meaningful when I read them before

PRAY

Remember to pray at meals and certain times of the day – thank God throughout the day A single cell helps – quiet time Use the “Catholic Prayers” book – favorite prayers tied to times of day – grace at meals – say guardian angel prayer when I wake up
Grace before meals, thanks throughout the day Read “Daily Bread” every morning, pray with EfM class Devotions before dinner

WORSHIP

Saturday chapel, Sunday mass, read the Bible after church, read biographies of saints EfM weekly – being part of the class Only regular service in the jail dorm is Catholic, go to Episcopal service when available

BLESS

Talk about God a lot – show my faith through kindness and love, smiling, laughing Give people hope – spin negative to positive Opportunities to advise, counsel, bless, help feed when I can, give wisdom and encouragement – do what I can
Can try to advise but can’t always convince, bless the hungry and those truly in need, choose to help based on real need – try to be smart and not be taken advantage of Never say no – follow the example of St. Francis – learning when to set barriers .

GO

Programs  help – like RRR (Re-educate, Recovery, Re-entry), and MRT (Moral Recognition Therapy), and Enneagram, and EfM Outside programs for recovery – letters and certificates help to get in EfM, thanking God during the court process, talking with other inmates when in transit
Sometimes have good conversations in the holding tanks Coach and guide new inmates – scared people – reassure them .

REST

Meditation, working out, stretching Exercise, sleep, daydream Stopped being a dorm Trustee so could get more sleep
Rest in God’s grace – know he is sufficient – pray for help to get through this (not to get out of it) Meditation – close my eyes and breathe – meditate lying down: pull energy through body into the world Use “Be still and know that I am God” prayer for meditation, to quiet my mind – still trying

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The Way of Love image is from The Episcopal Church, 2018.

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Technical Women Inspiration Cards

My husband, John Plocher, just created a set of colorful inspirational PC cards for Technical Women, particularly TechWomen mentors and mentees. TechWomen is an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, a program which I helped to design in 2010-2011 and for which I have been a proud volunteer mentor since. John designs PC cards as a part of his model train hobby – so he regularly prints new designs for fabrication in Shenzhen, China.  These cards are 4″ x 2″ in size and have two holes in them so they can be hung as decorations. One side says Technical Woman / STEM Science Technology Engineering Math.  The other side says LEADER, with one of six quotes:

  • “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
  • “If it is a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.” – Grace Hopper
  • “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” – Marie Curie
  • “Every girl deserves to take part in creating the technology that will change our world and change who runs it.” – Malala Yousafzai
  • “Yes, I’m a feminist, because I see all women as smart, gifted, and tough.” – Zaha Hadid
  • “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” – Oprah Winfrey

John and I are talking about adding more colors and quotes.  Suggestions?

Here is how John made the cards – if you want to make some of your own.

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Photos Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Finished Shakespeare’s Henry VI

Since the St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California) Shakespeare Reading Group started meeting in 2012, we have read almost all of the Bard’s plays at least once.  We meet about every two months for a potluck dinner and to read a play – taking turns hosting.  Since April, we have been reading one of Shakespeare’s early hits, the three play history series on Henry VI and the Wars of the Roses.  Our group of 13 last night ranged in age from 92 to 16 years.  I am the group Mentor – sending out recommended reading and movie links in advance, assigning roles, and giving an overview on each play before we read.  The Rev. Stephenie Cooper prepares a role analysis to keep us from having too many readers being assigned roles who speak with each other. Melita Thorpe is in charge of the theater program for the parish. Some of us read from paper books and others from iPads.

The favored roles in our group are the evil characters.  Our 16-year-old reader of Richard of York (the future Richard III) enthusiastically murdered most of the other characters. John Watson-Williams, our 92-year-old reader, asked to read the role of the classic politician Warwick the Kingmaker.  I read King Edward IV whose unwise marriage to Elizabeth Woodville changes his reign.  My husband John Plocher read all of the messenger roles in his usual energetic and irreverent style.  We had a delightful evening!

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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Re-Binding Books for Jail

Part of my leading seminars at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California) is finding study materials for the inmates: journals and pencils as well as dictionaries, prayer books and Bibles. Books going into jail cannot have hard covers since those have the potential to be turned into weapons.  If hardcover books are donated to the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy, the covers have to be ripped off before use. Ripping off the cover makes a book more vulnerable to falling apart, especially in the rough and dirty jail environment. So, I figured out an alternative: how to re-bind books using manila folders and a hot glue gun.  Collette Lynner of CIC asked me to teach volunteers at Menlo Church how to repair and re-cover donated books so they would last longer in jail.  Collette and Rié Collett put together 30 volunteers in two teams.  On 28 July 2018, we re-bound 465 Bibles, enough for CIC to distribute in about six months.

This is bookbinding at its most basic – with a focus on low expense and high durability.  This method is not appropriate for valuable volumes but works very well for books that need to last a long time in a hard place.  Here are the steps:

  1. If the book’s back cover is loose, or some sections of printed text (called signatures) are loose, use the hot glue to stick them back together before starting the re-binding.  Running a thin bead of glue into the crack between the signatures will re-attach the book to itself.  Running a wide zigzag of hot glue between the book back (called the case) and the sewn-together paper signatures (called the text block) will attach them firmly together.
    • Hot glue is hot and it is easy to burn yourself. If the glue gets on you, rub it off quickly.
    • Hot glue only stays really hot for about 3 seconds after it leaves the gun – that is how long you have to adjust things before your glue gets too hard.
    • Put the glue on the book, not on the board.
  2. Remove the book boards (sides of the hardcover binding) by cutting carefully along the spine, leaving at least a 1/4″ hinge beyond the fold.  Leaving the spine binding intact protects the book better and keeps the original printing on the spine intact.
  3. Cut pieces of manila folder or heavy paper (about 50 pound card stock) to the size of the removed book boards.  There should be about 1/4″ of card on the sides beyond where the book pages end.
  4. Run a bead of hot glue under the hinge – at the cut edge of the spine – then push the cut pieces of heavy paper into the glue.  If you can do so without touching the glue, push the edges of the spine into the glue.
  5. Trim off any loose threads or extra bits of glue.
  6. Either write the name of the book on the new soft book boards, or use printed labels.

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson. Thanks to Collette Lynner for her photo of the Bibles in many languages.

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Starting Book Two

Last month, I finished revising and printing/binding 256 pages (in 17 sessions of Book One – “The Hebrew Bible“) for the pilot version of the new “The Transforming Literature of the Bible” (TLB) course. Today, I finished revising 140 pages in the first 9 sessions (out of 19) of TLB Book Two (“The New Testament“).  Production starts tomorrow.  I am collaborating on the revision of TLB with the Rev. Canon William H. Barnwell who wrote the original course. In addition to revising Canon William’s 2008 course materials, I am running a pilot version of the class itself at Elmwood Jail (Milpitas, California). I am grateful to my Co-Mentors Diane Lovelace, and my husband, John Plocher (with the Rev. Peggy Bryan as backup). This program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy  (CIC) and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.  Thanks to Collette Lynner of CIC for supporting TLB production.

Six students are finishing the 17 sessions in Book One this Friday.  We start studying Book Two next week.  The inmates are very enthusiastic, doing their extensive homework reading and participating energetically in in-class discussions and reflections.  There is a waiting list of inmates from two dorms to join us.

Literary selections are included in TLB to provide a diverse context in which to understand some of the major themes in the Bible passages under consideration.  In addition to readings in the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), the students of Book One have also read:

  1. “The Welcome Table” story by Alice Walker (1973)
  2. “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” story by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (1955)
  3. “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” poem by Mohja Kahf (2003)
  4. “The Son from America” story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1973)
  5. “The Big Red Apples” story by Zitkála-Šá  aka Red Bird (1900)
  6. “My Last Duchess” poem by Robert Browning (1842)
  7. “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King (1963)
  8. O Pioneers! excerpt by Willa Cather (1913)
  9. “The Family of Little Feet” story by Sandra Cisneros (1984)
  10. The Gangster We Are All Looking For excerpt by Lê Thị Diễm Thúy (2003)

The Book Two (New Testament) students will read these literary selections in Part One “A Journey With Mark“:

  1. “At the Arraignment” poem by Debra Spencer (2004)
  2. “A Private Experience” story excerpt by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009)
  3. “Sonnet XXVII” by William Shakespeare (1609)
  4. “Under the Poplars” poem by César Vallejo (1919)

One of the TLB students wants me to start another Education for Ministry (EfM) seminar in their dorm after I finish Books One and Two of TLB. Joel Martinez and I are Co-Mentors for a weekly EfM seminar which started in 2015 in another dorm where inmates tend to stay inside longer. I designed TLB to be finished in 5 months but EfM takes four 9-month terms to complete. I told him that if he can find ten other students who will be there for long enough, I will start another EfM class.

Other than my ongoing project as the Mentor for the Shakespeare Reading Group, TLB is one of the few times since I was graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in English (with a specialty in Shakespeare) that my knowledge and passion for literature has been of such use.  I am very much enjoying reviewing potential TLB selections.  Thanks to my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman for her advice on some of the selections, and to John for reviewing my drafts.

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Image Copyright 2018 by Katy Dickinson.

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