IMG_0541When I took my girl to Fort Lauderdale, there was too much traffic and we had too many things to do to get to drive along A1A and see the ocean.  I am giving a workshop at a church conference tomorrow and this is the view from my window this afternoon.  Earlier today, there was a thick crust of frost on my car and before we took off from the airport in Montgomery, the plane had to be de-iced. Even here, the wind cuts with its chill and I don’t have the clothes to get close to the water.  But I can stand on my balcony and hear the whoosh of the waves and every time I look up from my laptop, I watch them rolling into the beach.  I have missed the ocean.

I took the hotel shuttle in from the airport and and got to chat in Swedish with the shuttle driver–a Swede from Stockholm who has retired here on Amelia Island.  I’ve gotten to speak in Spanish to lots of people here too.

Ocean, Spanish and Swedish? I must be back in Florida…


After wretchedly cold days, yesterday afternoon we warmed up to 45 degrees and I could finally go out without a jacket again.  Today has been even warmer–68!!!  That made it possible to open the door so the peeps could go downstairs and do some ‘splorin in the rest of their house.  First, they all lay in front of the doorway and snoozed and contemplated the possibilities.


And then, they got bold.  A whole new world opens up…


Lovin’ me some peeps and looking forward to meeting the 5th and final member of the fam, Ivy, a little Americana…

The girls

DSCN2256The girls are at the awkward, tenderly ugly stage between baby and grown up.  Most mornings when I come in to see them right after I wake up, they look like they have a bad case of bedhead.  They have become skittish and easily spooked, and they fuss with each other all the time.  They especially fuss at me when I’m doing their housekeeping.  We are having a cold snap so we can’t let them have the run of the whole roost yet, even though the Chicken Palace is in the garage.  Today, I’m getting one more biddy, who will be fostered by my friend Pat for a couple of weeks. She’ll be an Americana–a breed that lays very light blue eggs.  Yesterday, the Mallowman spent most of the day in deep thought, refusing to go out into the cold, designing  the hen yard for the girls.  With Maria doing extraordinarily well back in South Florida, the days are busy in a Green Acres sort of way.

in Just [almost]



I literally gasped. I’d gone out to take fresh stuff to the compost bin. Headed back into the garage to pull flannel sheets out of the dryer, and a big pot of winter squash soup on the stove, plans of making Croque Monsieurs for dinner with our friends tonight to knock off a bit of the edge of raw cold, I was preoccupied.

Then too, the second blizzard is still roaring over the northeast. Yesterday, the weather forecaster said there is a small chance of ‘wintery precipitation’ around here–first time I’ve heard that since we’ve been here. Tomorrow’s high will be around 41 if the forecast is right.  And these are so very small–about the size of a casino chip, each of them–and easy to overlook. But still.  There they were, waiting to be seen. As I stared, all I could think of was this:

In Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame baloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old baloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and



baloonMan whistles

ee cummings

What I do these days


I miss parish ministry.  Sometimes, I miss it a lot.  And when I stop and allow myself to consider what I am getting to do, I realize how incredibly fortunate I am with the kind of work I am doing.  My primary work this past year brought me back to Leadership and Organizational Development, this time, for the Episcopal Church.  When I graduated from Seminary and decided I would never, ever, be involved in the Church, much less continue to pursue ordination, I methodically worked through What Color is Your Parachute and landed in the field of training and development. I have finished designing and developing a curriculum for team-based, collaborative leadership in the Episcopal Church.  It does not engage the profound theological questions and challenges of our time, but it does give clergy and vestries (the core leaders of a congregation in my denomination) some different ways of working together that are less hierarchical, less turned inwards, and more capable of taking risks on behalf of the Gospel.

We are now at the stage of piloting my work.  The Diocese of Alabama has graciously agreed to serve as our first partner in this phase of the work.  Over the next months, I will work with three congregations and a couple of people from the Diocese to test and refine my work.  A variation of this core curriculum targets seminarians and we are now actively developing a partnership with Virginia Theological Seminary to integrate our 5-day course into their standard curriculum for people on track to be ordained as parish priests.  In early March, that work will take me back to Alexandria.  We are introducing our work in all kinds of ways across the church so along with my trip to DC, I will also travel to Amelia Island in Florida, and to Philadelphia in the coming weeks.

My colleague and friend, Joe Duggan, and I continue to collaborate in ways that are deeply meaningful to me.  Joe has written a book that I will contribute a chapter to.  We have a second book concept we are developing as well.  Joe is the founder of a knowledge activism organization called Postcolonial Networks and in the next few weeks, I am going to be working on a publication process for an e-book being published by Borderless Press, a part of Postcolonial Networks.  Through Joe, I have also gotten to know Stefani Schatz, his wife who is a priest and Canon to the Ordinary (akin to the head of operations) of the Diocese of California.  I will be doing some work with her and clergy of the Diocese in San Francisco in March as well.

And finally, I do supply work around the diocese of Alabama. It look like I may be helping out quite a bit during the next few months with the parish of St. Andrew’s in Tuskegee.

It’s a patchwork that sometimes leaves me feeling pulled in a lot of different directions.  On the one hand, I am part of an esteemed and traditional organization of the church  which means I have things like head shots and a lot of attention to protocol.  That work is in constant dialogue in my heart and mind with the challenging, sometimes exhilarating, and often disturbing, questions raised by people who do work in the Postcolonial field.  And all of it makes most sense, and I make most sense to my own self, when I get to do parish ministry, even when it is as a supply priest.

I could not have imagined anything like this even a year ago, though by then, I knew the ground was shifting under me.  I couldn’t do this work without the farm.  The earth –it’s smell, the feel of it between my fingers, the discipline of cleaning up after my chickens and tending to seedlings–keeps me sane.

The day after


Sophie, Serafina, Lucy and Bitsy grew some more while I was gone. They are now out of their crate and in the Chicken Palace in the garage. Daisy and I played a quick game of fetch outside a few minutes ago. I hadn’t checked the temperature but there was a thick enough coat of frost on my windshield that I would have needed to do some scraping if I were going out somewhere. Now, she, Spot and I are hanging in front of the fireplace, warming back up.

My trip went well. There were some moments of sheer joy. Maria is back at BARC with the roommate she loved dearly, C, back even in her own bed. One of the other residents in A House is excruciatingly shy. I had considered it a huge accomplishment in the past, when she would give me a quick wave before turning her head and studiously ignoring me. On Monday afternoon, she shook Maria’s hand, and mine, just beaming. Literally, there was jubilation in the welcome Maria received from the staff and residents alike. Our girl has a fancy new Android cell phone (there are better parental control apps for it), and I am getting almost hour by hour accounts of life via text. That life is good!

I was also able to have a short visit with the Latino part of the faith community I served. I walked into the parish hall of the Lutheran church they are now a part of where there were easily 35 children, most of them sitting at tables, still working on homework. The women who were there once thought they had no value. One of the things we discussed was that in a few weeks, they will mark the anniversary of Marion’s death at the hands of her boyfriend. We all know it could easily have been any of them. Now these women are growing into leadership roles in the program that is poised to expand in ways that go beyond my wildest hopes. I am grateful for the love and respect we have for each other, saddened that there wasn’t a place for this ministry in the Episcopal church, and absolutely certain that my leaving gave these women, all of them, the space they needed to become the ministers God has called them to be. I could not be prouder.

This was the sweet mercy of release that made it easy to be back in Fort Lauderdale and know I can go back as often as I need to without the oppressive sorrow I had felt before. Now, on the day after, I am home.

“This is my journey”

We are sitting at a gate at ATL, waiting for our flight to Lauderdale. Friday, we got all the paperwork completed. We also tackled the F-150 truck bed-load of things we brought to Lowndesboro from TDC. There is deep poignancy in that process. My girl, like her daddy, is a pack rat. It’s the oddest little things that trace the paths of her life. We got it all down to three medium and one small box of things that were shipped Friday and will get to BARC on Tuesday. Yesterday there were some sweet goodbyes with new friends. I packed for us. Early this morning we drove away from the farm, through thick fog, headed to Atlanta. After napping for a while, Maria looked at me and said, “you know Mom, this is my journey”. I don’t pretend to know exactly what that means but I do know that more and more, I am able to see how Maria inhabits her own life.

This time around, it feels like taking my daughter to the college of her choice–such pride, admiration and gratitude for her ability to go on her journey. I have all the information I need to arrange for her to fly back here on her own once a quarter and before too long, she’s going to be a pro.

We parked my car in the “economy” parking lot and each of us took a bag and headed towards the terminal. Just inside, I felt her slip her hand in mine as we walked towards the ticketing area. It wasn’t for long. Just enough to reaffirm all that is good about life.



The judge has ruled on our petition and we are able to transfer Maria to BARC in Ft Lauderdale as soon as the paperwork goes through at the Agency for Persons With Disabilities. We are beyond relieved. If we had forgotten or started second-guessing ourselves, this time has been a stark reminder that we lack the resources to provide our daughter the space she needs to continue to grow, and hopefully, thrive. And if the stress had pushed everything else to one side, the reality that by this time next week, she will likely be there and we will be here, makes my heart seize up just a bit. Our beautiful girl is growing up and I have to let go some more…

Small and tattered miracles


In the early fall last year, I noticed that our camellia bush was covered in buds and read that they’d bloom sometime early this year.  Until Maria came back with us on the 21st, I had been checking those buds faithfully each day and it seemed like they would never open up and bloom.  In January, after we got hit with the hard freeze, I saw how the buds looked a little browned and frayed around the edges and I also heard they were likely to fall off without blooming.

These past two weeks, getting through each day has been about what I had right in front of me, and nothing more.  When Maria woke up this morning, she was spoiling for a fight, refusing to take her meds and adamant that under no circumstances would she return to TDC.   Sherod and I spent a good part of the morning with adrenaline zinging through our veins, with emails flying and phone calls back and forth to the attorney in Tallahassee.  And finally, finally, the log jam has begun to clear.  First, Maria’s teaching staff at her school in Tallahassee prepared a letter describing in painful detail how frequently Maria arrived to school with no grooming or personal hygiene, how resistant the TDC staff was to work with them to address this issue.  With that letter, we finished gathering all the extra documentation and our attorney prepared the petition.

All the legal parties involved have agreed that the documentation we’ve provided in support of the transfer is strong enough not to require a formal hearing.  If (and of course, the operant word is IF), the judge sitting in for the judge who would normally render a decision about our petition, is able to review our documents tomorrow, by the close of business, the permission may already be granted.  Everything indicates that latest by Friday, the approval will come in.  The Agency for Persons with Disabilities will have to follow through on a few last steps.  It has helped enormously to let our girl know that it looks pretty good for us to head to Fort Lauderdale in the middle of next week.  Pray God, that will be the case.

At lunchtime, during a brief lull in the drama, I went out to get the mail.  A small flash of color caught my eye and when I looked, it was the camellia bush, with many of the buds beginning to bloom.  They show aftereffects of the deep freeze and with another one coming tomorrow, who knows how much of a bloom we’ll get.  But it was one of those moments when the only thing you can do is fall on your knees because even if it was small, and a little tattered, it was still the miracle most needed.  We have to get through the next few days, but somehow, we will.

Winter, still.

The process of getting Maria moved to BARC has gotten excruciatingly balled up in the legal system.  Every day or so, we’ve been advised of one more hoop to jump through–reports, evaluations, delays because the judge is not available or because someone else has now decided they have a part to play in the process.  It’s bad enough that this is running in the thousands of dollars in legal fees already.  But we are no closer today to knowing when the transfer will be approved than we were 10 days ago.  It gets harder each day for Maria and for the past week, I have basically had to stay engaged with her all through the waking hours to keep her on an even keel.  The last three days, I have had to talk her down from the emotional ledge at least once a day. We thought we were making the right decision when we brought her home but we also knew there was risk involved. Now,we are gathering ourselves up to cut the visit short and return her to TDC until we get through the process with the court.  That decision is hard for a number of reasons, but we and she all need to be safe and the longer this extends, the more the risk.  We simply can’t set her up for failure.

This afternoon, our dear friends P and L had her over for a while and she got to help bake Valentine’s Day cookies.  When it was time to go pick her up, I grabbed my camera and stopped and took a few shots along County Road 29.  My girl’s eyes were sparkling and she was laughing when I picked her up and now it is back in the harder space of anger, fear and despair.  Her dad is watching her for a while.

Cold wind blowing, more grey than light and what seems to be an interminable wait…