Out of place at the Stations of the Cross

I felt like an anthropologist today as I sat in a pew behind rows of plaid-clad Catholic school students “doing” the Stations of the Cross. It’s a ritual that occurs every Friday afternoon during Lent at this particular school. (Apparently the Stations of the Cross are done weekly at Catholic churches as well during Lent.)

I followed along in a child-friendly booklet as the assembly of 1st through 8th graders read aloud passages describing Jesus’ experiences as he carried the cross toward his death and resurrection. The passages were in the second person, as if addressing Jesus directly. For example:

Description of the 7th Station of the Cross

Description of the 7th Station of the Cross

Each station was introduced with a call-and-response praise led by one of the older students standing at the pulpit . One student also carried a cross to painted images of each station hung along the walls. That student, robed in white, was flanked by two more students carrying candles.

Students and teachers stood while reciting passages about the station, and then knelt (or genuflected, as one 7th grader put it) to recite a prayer that applied a lesson from that station to today. For example:

Stations prayer

Prayer accompanying the 7th Station of the Cross

Despite spending Easter in Jerusalem a few years ago, I knew next to nothing about the Stations of the Cross before today. Throughout the ritual, I found myself caught up in piecing together the story of the end of Jesus’ life and forgetting to pay attention to what was going on around me.

So how did I — neither a student nor a Catholic — wind up in this chapel? (Is chapel the right word in a Catholic church? I fear this post is riddled with the “wrong” labels for different parts of what I saw and heard.) The religion editor at my newspaper asked me to write a story about how the crucifixion is taught in religious schools for our Good Friday edition. It technically relates to my beat (education); however I’ve felt less confident than usual during the interviews because of my utter unfamiliarity with the topic. And observing the Stations of the Cross practice was as foreign to me as being in a Buddhist temple.

But while it may make it harder to write a news (/feature) story, that foreign-ness stoked the embers of an anthropologist’s heart that while not blazing lately hasn’t quite been extinguished.

Spoken Word for Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday, a linkup which I’m hosting today, is here to kick my blogging butt. This is my first post all month! Can you tell I’ve been busy? My new job is great but also non-stop so when I get home I don’t really want to be on the computer.

It turns out to be a great week for me to host Poetry Friday because in my role as an education reporter, I just attended a youth poetry slam at a local afterschool program. I witnessed some awesomely talented Lancaster city kids laying down rhymes about serious topics like imperfection and imperfection, and silly ones, too, like a poem about drinking too much tea before swimming. The latter one cleverly ended with the line, “Now the pool is just an ‘ool’ because I took a pee.”

Eighth grader Ayleene Martinez won the slam with poems about her generation and dreams.

Poetry Slam at The Mix

The slam was part of a spoken word program called “We Rock the Mic” at The Mix at Arbor Place. I had visited one of their classes last week to learn about it and interview some students ahead of the slam. I also wound up sharing a poem of my own with them, and got asked to do it again today. It was scary for me, so I know it took a lot of courage for the kids to do it in front of their own peers.

In honor of those kids, the poem I’m sharing for Poetry Friday is a spoken word piece, “Knock Knock” by Daniel Beaty. I learned about this poem when I read the picture book version of it last November. Bryan Collier won the Coretta Scott King Illustration Award for the book, and I reviewed it for my newspaper last month.

Now it’s your turn! What poem are you sharing with us this week? Click on the frog’s face to add your link.

Celebrate today! #CelebrateLU


Each week Ruth Ayres hosts a celebration link-up at her blog, Ruth Ayres Writes. Check out what other bloggers are celebrating this week!

1. Celebrations

I’ve missed several weeks of celebration blog posts, but I’ve still been celebrating in my mind and my journal. I even used the question “what are you celebrating this week?” as a closer in a team meeting this week. I’m grateful to Ruth Ayres for inspiring so many of us!

2. 50/60 degrees!

I spent the afternoon walking around Charlottesville with my boyfriend, who’s in business school down here. We only had to wear hoodies, not coats! It’s kind of bizarre that it feels like spring in February, but I’ll take it.

3. Writing (journalism)

A couple of articles I wrote on local teachers using Twitter in the classroom and beyond came out today. I love that these stories share teacher and student voices (as opposed to the frequent superintendent-focused stories I do), and I really love doing stories that involve multiple angles and great graphics. These stories are part of an ongoing ed tech series.

Hempfield teacher engages students through social network 

Teachers using Twitter to drive professional development

How teachers use Twitter

4. Writing (non-journalism)

This month has flown by, and starting it with a trip/conference threw me off track with my children’s writing goals. But in the past few days I’ve dedicated more time to that. Hooray!

What are you celebrating today?

Slice of Life: Preparing for Takeoff

Slice of Life

On Tuesdays, bloggers share a “slice of life” and post the link at Two Writing Teachers. I wrote this slice of life post in mid-air.

On my flight to New Orleans, that is.

Early morning flights go like this:

I get on board.

I write a little till I feel it’s too close to take-off. (I’m not scared of flying but the anticipation makes it hard to focus on writing.)

I stow my journal and pen in the seat back pocket. I close my eyes and wait.

The plane starts to lumber/glide forward on its tiny wheels. It’s like the motion of a rolling suitcase over sidewalks cracks — but instead of dragging the luggage behind me, I’m inside it.

Somewhere between the initial movement, the plane’s nose lifting skyward, and our peak altitude, I fall asleep.

My nap lasts only 10 or 15 minutes every time, because sooner or later…


A speaker above my header broadcasts the announcement that we may now turn on our portable electronic devices.

I can’t fall back to sleep after this.

I’ve taken more than 30 flights in the past 7 years.

How have I not thought to bring earplugs before now?

Andrew saw me off on my first two solo flights. (Solo as in traveling alone, not piloting.) The first was to visit friends in England. The second, shown here, was to Egypt to study abroad in Cairo in winter/spring 2008.

Andrew saw me off on my first two solo flights. (Solo as in traveling alone, not piloting, of course.) The first trip was to visit friends in England. The second, shown here, was to Egypt to study abroad in Cairo in winter/spring 2008.

Poetry Friday: A Spider’s Feast

It’s Poetry Friday, hosted by Renée at No Water No River. This little verse accompanied my Slice of Life description from a few weeks ago. It’s a bit unfinished but sometimes that’s how life goes.

Spider's feast

Click to enlarge.

Crumbling Sochi … and what’s crumbling at home?

I just read a short news article about the unpublicized sides of Sochi and the upcoming Winter Olympics. It reminded me of the types of issues anthropologists like to explore. Here are a few excerpts:

While state-run TV trains its cameras on luxury malls, sleek stadiums and high-speed train links, thousands of ordinary people in the Sochi area put up with squalor and environmental waste: villagers living next to an illegal dump filled with Olympic construction waste, families whose homes are sinking into the earth, city dwellers suffering chronic power cuts despite promises to improve electricity. …

“Everyone was looking forward to the Olympics,” said Alexandra Krivchenko, a 37-year-old mother of three who lives on Akatsy street, “We just never though they would leave us bang in the middle of a federal highway!” …

When an AP correspondent asked the Sochi mayor last year what had changed in the city for the better, Anatoly Pakhomov started talking about a new shopping mall and a Louis Vuitton store as symbols of positive change.”

“Economic development” is usually framed as a universal good – for a city, a county, a country. But we’re not talking about the Works Progress Administration anymore. Rather than creating jobs and infrastructure that benefit the poor, these projects almost always have negative consequences on society’s most vulnerable. Politicians, businessmen, and often media outlets, hide or ignore these parts of the lauded development.

Occasionally these effects cross our radar from international examples, like Sochi. We don’t refer the dilapidated buildings in which broke people live in the U.S. as slums, so maybe it’s more titillating to hear about such problems in “Other” places. But how often do we notice or look for those examples at home? Are forms of economic development in our own backyard really bringing dignified jobs to people or who need them most? Or are they just a boon to those who already have the most?

Occupy Erie

Protesters at Occupy Erie (Pennsylvania). November 2011

Celebrate Today! #CelebrateLU


Each week Ruth Ayres hosts a celebration link-up at her blog, Ruth Ayres Writes. Check out what other bloggers are celebrating this week!

This week I’m celebrating Jake. Together, we celebrated one year of dating on Sunday. When we met, Jake and I both lived in Perry County. Now, neither of us does, and we live four hours apart (when there’s not traffic on the beltway, which is almost never). Skype talks with him are often my favorite part of the day. Even better are the times when we can visit each other.

A few years ago, I spent a lot of time wondering how hard was too hard in a relationship. Jake has re-taught me what a healthy relationship feels like. And that in great ones, you both grow and learn and help each other be who you’re meant to be.

Jake is wonderful at that. He listens. He shares. He is one of the kindest souls I’ve known.

Together, we laugh. We talk. We reflect. We dance. We hike. We love — each other and those around us.

I’d like to celebrate many more years with Jake, but even if that’s not possible, I’m so grateful I get to enjoy this one with him.

What are you celebrating today?

Me and Jake and Hannah the corgi. October 2013

Me and Jake and Hannah the corgi. October 2013

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D.C. Cherry Blossoms

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