Tuesday, September 30, 2014

DANCING DINOSAURS WITHOUT BONES: My husband is more than a presenter...he is a dancing ichnologist!

DANCING ABOUT DINOSAURS. Anthony Martin, my husband, dances the presentations of his book, Dinosaurs Without Bones. He is essentially, the dancing ichnologist! (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah for husbands who are smart, playful, and expressive! Hallelujah for creative science communicators, especially ones who write about ichnology and interpret behavior in the fossil record! Hallelujah for the dancing ichnologist in my life!

Yes, I am talking about Tony Martin, paleontologist, ichnologist, educator, artist, and author of Dinosaurs Without Bones. He is my husband, and simultaneously, he is one of the most terrific science speakers I know!

Even if you subtract points for marital bias, there is no disputing that Tony Martin is one of the most entertaining of paleontological presenters, and that his audiences adore him! Since his book, Dinosaurs Without Bones: Dinosaur Lives Revealed by Their Trace Fossils, was released in Spring 2014, he has been energetically giving presentations in a variety of venues. Each time, his presentations morph to fit the particular situation. However, one thing remains the same--he continues being the dancing ichnologist. Only he gets better and better!

Here are a few examples of his diverse speaking engagements in our beloved state of Georgia: 
EMORY UNIVERSITY BOOK STORE. Speaking to his academic community on the Emory Campus in Atlanta, Georgia, and only a short walk downhill from his office in the Department of Environmental Sciences, Tony is able to speak without a microphone and podium. He almost appears like a visionary as he waves to light streaming in from the window. One day, the entire world will know what the term "ichnology" means! (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
TELLUS SCIENCE MUSEUM. Some might consider this dancing ichnologist a rare sight! However, strolling like a fashion model (here on the stage of the Tellus Science Museum) has become surprisingly routine for Tony. He likes to demonstrate the stride of a theropod dinosaur to his audiences, which range in age from five-year-old children to senior citizens. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
MOON RIVER BREWING COMPANY, SAVANNAH, GEORGIA. At Moon River's pub garden, set on a busy street in one of Georgia's beautiful coastal cities, Tony resourcefully used fiddler crab antics and other choreographed dances to illustrate an alligator, sandhill crane, raccoon, and other animals that reside on our state's barrier islands to talk about another book he authored (Life Traces of the Georgia Coast), along with Dinosaurs Without Bones. The audience loved him! Many who had come to Moon River for an evening out with the family became intrigued listeners and, more than likely, learned something about modern and ancient ichnology. See Tony's blog post about this event and more photos at his website, Life Traces of the Georgia Coast. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
DANCING DOWN THE AISLE
Just when I thought the ichnologist in my life had danced all his moves during a presentation about Dinosaurs Without Bones, I was pleasantly and delightfully surprised! Last week, when we went to Georgia College in Milledgeville, my Chiboogamoo (my nickname for Tony) rose to new heights in his performance. 

I gasped as he ran past me where I was seated in the front row and down the aisle towards the rest of his audience demonstrating the theropod stroll. The fingers on his hands split to form theropod digits and he moved with speed and ferocity! Oh my!


After that, he squatted to demonstrate the nesting dinosaur, Troodon, staying true to its theropod arms and digits.
DINOSAUR NESTING BEHAVIOR
When the question-and-answer period came around, Tony enthusiastically embraced his audience's excellent questions. What ichnologist would resist dancing the answer to this question: 


"How can you tell how fast a dinosaur is moving?"

Not Tony Martin! No, he wakes up each morning, hankering for this challenge to communicate the science of dinosaurian ichnology using his physicality. Here are two photos illustrating his moves (there could have been many more):
DINOSAUR HIP HEIGHT. Here Tony is using his hand to show hip height, which can be calculated for dinosaurs by measuring their footprint lengths and multiplying that number by 4. Notice how he is also striding, to show how his hip height relates to how far he can step without running. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
LONG DINOSAURIAN STRIDES SHOW SPEED. With his arms, he now gestures the distance between the dinosaur's tracks: the farther apart its tracks, the faster the dinosaur was moving! Isn't math fun, especially when it is danced? (photo by Ruth Schowalter)
DANCING WITH AUDIENCE MEMBER AT THE RECEPTION
When the audience was sated with the dancing explanations of ichnologist Tony Martin, we all progressed to the paleontological art exhibit, "Cruisin the Fossil Freeway," featuring art by Ray Troll and writing by Kirk Johnson. There, audience members remarked about Tony's energetic presentation. One retired Georgia College professor speaking to me at the reception (pictured with Tony, left), praised Tony for his physical eloquence. Together, we coined the expression "dancing ichnologist"! Dancing science speakers spur all kinds of creativity and collaboration!

Before concluding the festive paleontologically-themed evening, I asked my science communicating husband and his support team that night to pose for a group photo. Enthusiasm is contagious! Science communicators can connect with their audience members in all kinds of rewarding and effective ways. Creativity enlivens any community! Look at the photo below to see the evidence for yourself!
SUPPORT TEAM ICHNOLOGY. It takes a village to host a dancing ichnologist! Milledgeville was a warm, friendly city and the Georgia College campus welcoming. Tony's enthusiasm was contagious! (photo by reception hostess)
Let's embrace "dancing" as one of the tools in a science presenter's toolbox, or at least a speaker who has "embodied" his knowledge and uses physicality to express his ideas and connect with listeners.
DANCING ABOUT DINOSAURS. Tony, embracing his book, Dinosaurs Without Bones, and me, Hallelujah Truth, in front of artwork by Ray Troll on the opening night of the exhibit, "Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway," at Georgia College. As you can see from the bend of his knee, he is still dancing after his presentation and while at the art opening (photo my kind person).
THE DANCING ICHNOLOGIST
That's Coffee with Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me about your dances with dinosaurs, science, or any field of life you enjoy pirouetting in!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Sheila Collins, for her book performances using the improvisational tools of InterPlay of Warrior Mother and how she has opened our eyes to a new way of communicating books to audiences.

Monday, September 29, 2014

AFFIRMATION AND NOTICING: InterPlaying while tutoring English as a Second Language

ATLANTA SKYLINE. This photo was taken from the fourth floor of the Scheller Collge of Business at Georgia Tech from a breakout room where I was conducting tutorials with Chinese graduate students enrolled in Quantitative and Computational Finance. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, ESL language coach)
One-on-one English tutorials with international graduate students are intimate and supremely rewarding for both the language learner and the instructor.  Having taught English as a second language at the university level for more than 20 years, I have met thousands of bright, talented and motivated people of the world and supported their efforts to gain a comfortable fluency using their “academic” language—English!
 
Now, as an InterPlay Leader-in-Training, I have been experimenting with ways to use the principles of InterPlay in my language instruction. Before I go any further in this discussion, you might want a working definition of InterPlay. Well, there are many definitions, but here is a simple one for starters:
 
INTERPLAY is “easy, fun, and life changing. It is based in a series of incremental “forms” that lead participants to movement and stories, silence and song, ease and amusement. In the process, we discover the wisdom in ourselves and our communities.” (from the InterPlay website)
To understand how these life changing and incremental principles of InterPlay can be used in language instruction, let me explain a few applications I am currently experimenting with in my one-on-one tutorials with Chinese graduate students majoring in Quantitative and Computational Finance at Georgia Tech.
 
ESL TUTOR AND TUTEE SELFIE. Arthur (his English name) and I took this selfie at the conclusion of our one-hour one-on-one tutorial. I learn so much each time I have the opportunity to meet individually with students, especially now as I integrate the principles of InterPlay into my language instrutction. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, ESL language coach)
AFFIRMING THE GOOD.
As I train in InterPlay, I am learning to discern the good and name it with a greater frequency than I did previously. Affirming the good is one of the tools of InterPlay. However, as a language instructor specializing in pronunciation, I am trained to recognize and record where English language learners are deficient in producing English with an American accent. That is, to point out “the bad” –the opposite of “the good.”
 
This noticing and focusing on the deficiencies is what students demand. After all, that’s what I get paid for, and in their belief system that is the “only” way to make improvements. Acknowledging their achievements, areas of spoken English in which they demonstrate strong skills, is quickly skimmed over, and dismissed as being insignificant in the learning process!
 
Previously, before InterPlay, I excelled at outlining my students’ flaws so I could lead them down the avenue towards accuracy. I disregarded their “humanity” and honored their hunger to achieve. In my rich past, I once had a student from Colombia pout during a meeting where I was explaining why she was failing my advanced-level pronunciation course. She was not impressed with the detailed document, which recorded her speaking errors over the academic session. “In your class, we call ourselves the D students,” she told me. My endless hours spent evaluating the shortcomings of their speech was not proving to be the way to motivate them individually or collectively.
 
I had failed in my ruthless ambition to show them precisely where they could improve. Thus began the reformation of my teaching. My pedagogy evolved. I transformed my role from “evaluator” to “coach.” Instead of grading students based on their performance observing a strict course agenda, I would set up overarching course goals, observe their individual behavior and cheer them on as they meandered on their personal language journey. I developed a new course using the acting tool of improvisation to teach fluency in a manner that enrolled me as “coach” (see this blog, blog, and blog for examples).
 
Once I had figured out the “content” of teaching language using improvisation along with the collaboration of my improvisation teacher, I needed more of a “how” in order to implement these improvisational tools. Discovering InterPlay has become THE HOW!
 
Therefore, “affirming the good” is the first thing I am practicing in the one-on-one tutorials I am conducting now with my Chinese graduate students at Georgia Tech. This affirmation practice requires me to retrain my teaching brain. Really focusing on the positive outcomes of each student’s speech demands patience and being present to the individual.
 
At the beginning of the hour-long session, then, I set up a way to “playfully” interact with the “tutee” and allow him/her to speak for 10 minutes or so without any correction. We do this “playing” while standing up and moving, using our hands, feet, and entire bodies. We have already warmed up our voices and played with vocal variation.
 
Once I have set up an objective, for example, “Tell me about a former work experience,” or “Give me your ‘elevator speech,’” I keep the student on his/her feet moving about the room, experimenting with their delivery while strolling. I stroll or walk with the student too. Once the “walk about” is completed, we sit down and AFFIRM THE GOOD. This begins with NOTICING, another InterPlay term.
CHOOSE A VOWEL. Often English language learners need multiple ways to perceive how to produce target language sounds. Here Boya and I pose with a mirror as she chooses to work with the "ahhhh" sound, which is a low-mid vowel requiring the mouth to be wide open as if having the back of your throat examined by a doctor. Using different lip, tongue, and jaw muscles in another language feels clumsy and makes it difficult to produce sounds accurately. A student's ability to move towards accuracy is greatly increased when having fun, experimenting, being permitted to make mistakes and recover, and then to make choices about future ways to implement these English vowel sounds. Affirming the good in the students progress greatly enhances their optimism in becoming successful communicators. (photo by Shi Tang, QCF student)
 
NOTICING: COLLECTING BODY DATA, BODY KNOWLEDGE, BODY WISDOM
 
InterPlay teaches us to “notice” what our body is experiencing; that is, to tune in and see where we might be feeling tension or energy. Is the tension residing in the neck, the stomach, the throat? In InterPlay, we call these noticings, “body data.”
 
As a language instructor, I am very interested in having my students connect with English and the wider American culture. For me, this connection to our U.S. English speaking culture is more than just intellectual--it is emotional and physical. Having the students be more in touch with their “total” beings, seems a positive way to support their successful language learning. Fluency results from ease and comfort, from connecting with the self and extending that sense of self to others. We use language as a social tool in addition to a cerebral one.
 
Although it surprises my Chinese “tutees” when I ask them how they are feeling and to share what they are noticing in their bodies, it makes sense to them as we continue our tutorial session. Let me explain....
 
Well, InterPlay offers a way to use the “body data”! After I, the instructor, has listened carefully to the student observations of what feels good or bad in the body when speaking English, we discuss “why” these feelings are occurring. In InterPlay, we call this “body knowledge.” For example, one of my students expressed feeling more ease when slowing down his speech and making it more musical. Using his hands to punctuate a key idea felt different (slightly awkward) but effective resulting in a feeling of accomplishment.
 
Many international students learning English for academic purposes equate fluency with speed. The faster one talks, the better one is at communicating. This is a false assumption since their hurried speech generally results in a stream of unstressed words devoid of musicality resulting in a breakdown of meaning.
 
Well, “noticing” how they felt during the tutorials with these Chinese students revealed that when they speak fast, they feel nervous about finding the right vocabulary and cut off from the listener. Relying on being solely in their heads while speaking distances them from experiencing a fullness when communicating with others.
 
“Body knowledge” is knowing when these good and bad experiences occur. I’m experimenting with teaching students to be aware of what feels positive and effective when they are speaking English and to practice those behaviors to increase the frequency of fluency. And then the reverse, if something feels bad when they are speaking English to reduce that behavior—like speaking fast but incomprehensible sentences. Implementing what you have learned from body data and body knowledge is called, “body wisdom.”
 
Whoever thought that as a language instructor, I would be teaching “body wisdom”! As I work and play towards integrating the principles of InterPlay in my ESL teaching, I am surprised, pleased, and expanded!
 
CONCLUSION. You probably won’t be surpised to learn that I have a lot more to say about this topic of using InterPlay to teach English as a second language! I really really do!  I want to tell you right now about “witnessing” and explore the concept of “incrementality.” But, for now, I will stop with this incremental step, this blog entry about the InterPlay principles of “affirmation” and “noticing”!
 
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: I thank my Chinese graduate students for their earnestness in learning English. They elected to take this “accent reduction” course and are very open to trying new strategies and tools to increase their fluency. I appreciate their trust in my methodologies and vulnerability. What a gift you are to us all.
SELFIE WITH TUTEE. Such fun! A new found way to relax and speak English both on a personal and academic level. I am convinced that academic English cannot be pursued without making personal connections at a very warm human level. (photo by Ruth Schowalter)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

EMBODYING ENGLISH: Integrating the tools of InterPlay into my language instruction

EMBODYING ENGLISH. Photographed at the end of a 2-hour "accent reduction" class at Georgia Tech, these 9 Chinese graduate students majoring in Quantitative and Computational Finance, are energized. We were up and moving constantly through out the classroom, as a group, pairs, and two groups of five (one student is missing from this photo). Some goals for today's lesson? Volunteering, having fun, and connecting! Oh yeah, and learning how to express the rhythm of English in strong beats and weak beats! (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for InterPlay and its improvisational tools! Hallelujah for the opportunity to instruct English to internationals at the university level who willingly "step into" the playful environment I create in my language classroom!

Imagine putting these three particular over-arching goals on my whiteboard at the beginning of my "accent reduction" class (I call it "accent enhancement"): 

Have fun!
Make connections (with yourself and others)
Learn new language skills (familiarize and experience)

Afterall, I am teaching "communication" and shouldn't we all have fun? Isn't it possible that in a highly energetic and happy environment, we might all have an increased opportunity to learn something about ourselves and others? 

The tools and forms of InterPlay (way too comprehensive to explain here) allow individuals to "expand." Yes, by creating ways for international students to move, engage with one another, play with their voices, tell stories, and work with the target language skills, encourages each one to use English in a new way.

Perhaps through play, students will discover a memorable and useful way of speaking that can become part of their "tool box" of communication strategies.  

For example, yesterday (September 24, 2014) in the accent reduction course I am currently teaching to graduate students majoring in Quantitative and Computational Finance at Georgia Tech, I did some of the following activities to teach the concept of syllable and word stress and reduction.

VOLUNTEERING. 
At the beginning of the two-hour class, I contextualized the pronunciation exercises by teaching the 10 Chinese students to use physical actions to volunteer a response. These physical activities took place in incremental steps (which is an InterPlay concept):

GATHERING IN A CIRCLE
1. A brief InterPlay warmup: To activate our bodies in order to use all our resources to learn we moved by shaking one hand, shaking another hand, shaking a foot, shaking another foot, shaking what you sit on, breathing and releasing your breath three times each time increasing the sound with your breath.

2. Vocal warmup:  To continuing warming up our voices and to start playing with vocal variation (pitch, speed, and volume) needed to express the language goals of stress and reduction, we played around with three vowels sounds, moving our arms and modulating our voices from high pitch to low pitch and back again.

3. Jumping in: Several times, we practiced together jumping into the unknown, raising our arms high above our heads and making appropriate noises to accompany the journey into new experience.

4. Before leaving the circle, I asked everyone to find a partner and to make one hand-to-hand contact and to feel the heft and weight of the other person by pushing the other off of their "spot." (This kind of hand-to-hand contact is a tidbit of InterPlay)

TEACHING THE RHYTHM OF ENGLISH.
While instructing on how to produce stress and reduction to create the rhythm of English when speaking either one word or an entire sentence, I had students "play" with scripted words and sentences while engaging with one another by standing up and sitting down, clapping, performing together in two groups of five, and creating original sentences while standing and being "danced" out with gestures, feet, and head bobbing.

PLAYING AROUND WITH ACADEMIC WORDS AND VOLUNTEERING.
Once everyone felt "familiar" with how to produce the strong and weak beats of English and had embodied it for more than an hour, it was time to incorporate the rhythm of English using academic words from the world of quantitative and computational finance.
EMBODYING VOLUNTEERING. Two groups of five students each took turns asking and answering questions about an academic concept in Quantitative and Computational Finance. Everyone in the answering group practiced raising their hand even if they didn't know the answer! It was great fun to hear a student when called upon to say, "I don't understand the question." Or "I don't know the answer." They were actively involved in communicating and embodying English. An incremental step toward increased fluency and comfort in this American culture and classroom. (photo by Ruth Schowalter, aka Hallelujah Truth)
 I broke this exercise down into two parts: 

Part One Volunteering in Pairs. In this large auditorium classroom, I had pairs go to corners of the room and practice enthusiastically volunteering a response to a question. This incremental step allowed them to gain comfort and ease when speaking in English about their terms specific to their field of finance. Many of them had only spoken about these topics in Chinese. Therefore, they achieved two things in this pair work: 

1) Increased fluency speaking about field specific terms 

2) Increased ease in their bodies while speaking English which leads to future confidence when speaking

Part Two Volunteering in Groups. 
After speaking "privately" in pair work, it was time to get a "bigger" perspective on speaking after volunteering, so we divided the class into two groups and students would speak publicly (see the photo above).


SELFIE WITH THE QCF WOMEN AT GEORGIA TECH.
Oh I could write more about this class, but I will stop here for now. At the end of the class I asked the students to pose for the class photo, which is evidence of their enthusiasm and energy generated during this English language class. 

I asked them if we had achieved the overarching goals that I had proposed at the beginning of the class: 

To have fun.
To connect with yourself and others.
To familiarize yourself and experience new language skills.

The answer? They all VOLUNTEERED this answer: 

YES! 
That's Coffee with Hallelujah! How will you embody English today? 
 




ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: First of all, thank you to the 10 Chinese students I am teaching "embodying English" to at Georgia Tech. I appreciate your willingness to play with English and to try something new for you. I am very grateful to Jane Chisholm, who generated such amazing pronunciation materials for this accent reduction course--they are rich and comprehensive! Many many thanks to the InterPlay community, from which I am learning so much about new ways of teaching.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

ATLANTA BELTLINE ART: Discovering the wealth of creativity in our own backyard!

BOTANICAL DWELLINGS.  Rose Barron and Margaret Hiden (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Discovering the art in your own backyard can be so rewarding and satisfying! My Chiboogamoo and I journeyed to a part of the Atlanta Beltline we don't visit very often--the southern part of the east line near Memorial--and found such a rich environment along this part of the rails to trails and beyond!
A TEMPIETTO OF THE NINE MUSES.  The Atlanta Collage Society. My Chiboogamoo for scale! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
Posted here are some of the "tastes" we experienced on a sun-drenched fall day. The breeze blew, visitors strolled, and we marveled at just how lucky we are to live here in Atlanta. Enjoy!

WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND.  Julio Ceballos and Christine Lu. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
PART OF THE BELTLINE ART?  I'm not sure if this is random art or part of the Beltline Art exhibit. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
RANDOM ART?  Does it matter? I love it! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
LEAVING THE RAIL TRAIL.  On our journey, my Chiboogamoo had to trek awhile along the road leading to the amazing Krog Street Bridge, which then took us to our favorite part of the Beltline past the Old Fourth Ward and to Piedmont Park. Immediately when we left the trail we saw this beautiful mural. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
EVER PRESENT CONSTRUCTION.  Lots of construction going on surrounding the Atlanta Beltline. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
FALLEN ART.  It is slightly alarming to see an artist's work "fallen" or destroyed along the Beltline. I am glad I saw this work in its "newness" a couple of weeks ago. I am sure it will be repaired. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
CLOUD SCULPTURE. Sorry that the Instagram made the sculpture yellow, when in fact it is nice and white! I am having fun seeing this sculpture at different times of the day.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
THE FAME STAGE.  Atlanta is a warm friendly place, especially along the Beltline. The creator of "Paying Your Dues Fame Stage" stopped his repair work to chat with us. Musicians sign up to play on this cart that is pulled by a bicycle.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
ART IS EVERYWHERE.  From the Atlanta Beltline, it is possible to see a lot of "building" art! How cool are these ants? And there were red ants too! (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
A really exciting surprise? Performances along the Atlanta Beltline! Check this short video out of work by Mausiki Scales and the Common Ground Collective: 


 
That's Coffee with Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me. Which images do you like the best? Why? Will you or have you journeyed out to the Atlanta Beltline? Do you have such a recreational place in your city?
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to my Chiboogamoo, my soulful play companion for finding pleasure in our hometown.  (photo by Chiboogamoo, aka Tony Martin)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

FREE FALL CREATIVITY: 10-Continuous Days of Sharing Your Uniquities this Autumn Equinox

FREE FALL CREATIVITY. Happy Autumn Equinox! Join me and my Facebook community on THE DAILY CREATIVE PRACTICE for 10 days of posting your UNIQUITIES from September 21st to September 30. (art by Hallelujah Truth)
Hallelujah for our UNIQUITIES! Hallelujah for our COMMUNITIES! Hallelujah for warm online communities that allow us to maintain our CREATIVE PRACTICE! Hallelujah for the cycles of nature that alert us to our inner natural cycles!

On Sunday, September 21st, 2014, those of us on the Facebook group, The Daily Creative Practice, will begin a 10-day creativity challenge! Please join us!

FREE FALL--10 Days of Continuous Creativity
Free FALL in the next 10 days. What in you longs to be released? Jiggled? Cajoled? Especially when we think of FALL? This seasonal change is often associated with a coming of fruition--harvesting ALL that has been sown, nurtured and lovingly brought to maturity during the spring and summer seasons. 

Then there is the sense of increasing periods of darkness--a season of death, that period which follows growth. WINTER.

As we Spiritual Art Pilgrims travel from Summer into Fall, I invite you to 
F
R
E
E

F
A
L
L

from any previous expectations...what might FALL 2014 BE for you now? 

Share your UNIQUE PERCEPTIONS with us! What is going on in your INNARDS? How do the cycles of your SOUL correspond with the cycles of the MOTHER EARTH?

That's Coffee With Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me and share your responses to my UNIQUITIES and a link to where I might find yours. You are invited to join us on The Daily Creative Practice!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to all the wonderful members on THE DAILY CREATIVE PRACTICE who flow from day-to-day with their creative practice and support me in mine. A resounding applause and bow to ALL OF YOU CREATIVE SOULS OUT THERE.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

OF DEATH AND LIFE: Celebrating Veronica Martin on my 56th birthday in symbols and rituals

HONORING VERONICA MARTIN (1926-2014) photo by Hallelujah Truth
Today is September 9th, 2014, my 56th birthday! Two days ago, September 7th, 2014, would have been the 88th birthday of my mother-in-law, Veronica Martin. However, one week ago, she passed away. So today is a sobering day, one on which I would like to reflect on the cycle of life and honor of Veronica.

Her life was rich with symbols so I depend on these photos of symbols to convey some of my feelings. I hope you will understand and look for deeper meaning than I can explain.
TERRE HAUTE, INDIANA (September 2014). Veronica lived blocks away from downtown Terre Haute in the same house for 50 years, a home my husband, Tony Martin, grew up in. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
I met Veronica some eleven years ago in the summer of 2003 when Tony and I traveled there to Terre Haute to announce our engagement.  Well into her 70's, she had almost given up on Tony ever getting married. Therefore, although I was in my mid-forties, this devout and high-spirited woman who stood under five feet tall was welcoming to me, her son's prospective bride. She believed in marriage and was glad that her fifth-born child had finally found love.

I can't remember what we talked about after Tony announced our engagement, but I know she acknowledged the love we had for one another.  Over the ensuing years, we developed a correspondence and Tony and I thoroughly enjoyed her letters. I believe Tony gets some of his writing talent from his mother.
VERONICA MARTIN. Always smiling, ready to laugh, and loved to sing.( photo from wedding photos of Christopher and Kandace Martin, 2009)
Veronica was kind and generous. These words from Stephen Grellet, a prominent Quaker missionary, express who she was to the best of her abilities to give: 

“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”--Stephen Grellet

As I tip-toe across my mid-fifties onto the other side of 55, I give pause to think about my life and eventual death. What can I embody from Veronica's life? Surely it is love, laughter, and generosity of spirit. Thank you Veronica. 

In the last thirty or more of Veronica's life, her faith grew, and she dedicated herself to deepening her understanding of Catholicism. It was fitting that her funeral services were held at Saint Joseph University Parish, where she attended mass every day walking there with her son Leonard until her knees no longer allowed her too.
SLIDE SHOW MEMORIAL. Tony and I spent one day making a slide show of Veronica's life. Reflecting on her life through photographs was meaningful, and friends and family stood in front of the memorial slide show mesmerized. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
All of Veronica's five sons attended her funeral. Her daughter, Madonna, was unable to come from her Tennessee home because of health problems. In addition to her sons, three daughter-in-laws, five grandchildren, and one granddaughter-in-law were present. Everyone remarked that the funeral was carried out in a way that would have pleased Veronica very much. We all took a lot of satisfaction in that.
SYMBOLISM OF THE WHITE PALL. All five sons, Tim, Pat, Leonard, Tony, and Vince joined together to cover Veronica's coffin with a white pall or piece of cloth at the beginning of the mass. The pall has significant symbolic value. It represents that all who have been baptized have "clothed themselves" in Christ and will join Him in the resurrection. In other words, the shift in the Catholic funeral mass goes from mourning the death to the hope of a new life.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
AFTER THE MASS. Hallelujah for ritual, for ritual guides us each step of the way when we are in the grips of grief. Once seven of us had lifted Veronica's coffin into the hearse, we stood around outside Saint Joseph's and received condolences from friends. When almost everyone had left, the funeral procession to the cemetery began. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
FROM ST. JOSEPHS THROUGH TERRE HAUTE. Our short journey from the cathedral to the cemetery engaged us in the sweetness of a small town and its patriotism. The American flag seemed to be also a symbol of Veronica's life. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
THE WEIGHT OF LIFE. Before taking Veronica to her resting place in the cemetery beside her husband Richard, we had a beautiful ceremony in the cemetery chapel. We sang "Amazing Grace" and sprinkled Veronica's coffin with baptism water. We appreciated the soft rain outside afterwards.  (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
SHARING A MEAL. Saint Joseph parishioners prepared a hardy meal for us. As we ate we told stories about Veronica and remembered her quirky firecracker self. It was a good time. This was the window over the buffet table. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
After sharing a meal together and before leaving Saint Josephs, I asked everyone to join me on the cathedral steps for a family photo. As I reflect on this moment now, I am so grateful. Veronica has left us, but she had a rich, full life. Her death brought the Martin family together in a new meaningful way. We connected. We learned more about each other. You might say, we fell in love. 

I have chosen to celebrate Veronica and her passing on my birthday. It feels right to have done so. Thank you for joining me.
THE MARTIN FAMILY.  (photo by family friend)
THE NEXT GENERATION OF MARTINS. What a pleasure to meet such sweet young family members. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
SAINT MARY-OF-THE-WOODS.  At the end of the day, Tony's brother, Pat Martin, who had watched over his mother in her last years of her life, took us to St. Mary-of-the-Woods college campus, where Veronica had been cared for in recent months the senior care facility intended for nuns only. This is a photo of an image of the founder of the oldest Catholic liberal arts university for women in the United States. Theodore Guerin, who was canonized as a Saint in 2006, is known for her advancement of education in Indiana. Veronica saw Sister Theodore's image and coffin every day at mass in the beautiful cathedral there at St. Mary's, where she sat in her wheel chair. (photo by Hallelujah Truth)
That's Coffee with Hallelujah. SOUL BLOG with me. Share your cycle of life stories and who you are celebrating.

Friday, September 5, 2014

ARTICULATED SOUL: New land for a new day, experiencing boy energy

DREAMTIME HALLELUJAH JOURNEYS. (all art by Hallelujah Truth)    
Hallelujah for speaking! Speaking in words! Speaking in image! Speaking to each other, certain or uncertain, we speak... And in speaking, we travel into old or new lands. Recently I began to travel and would like to share one small aspect about my experience...

Travel begins with an invitation... 



Would you like 
some coffee?

Travel depends of your engagement with the environment... 
 

Humus is rich organic material,
and worms wait for 
your fingers 


Travel introduces "otherness."
 

You, with your boy energy,
how hot will it 
get...
before I understand
the maturity
behind your 
playfulness?
 

That's Coffee With Hallelujah! SOUL BLOG with me. You are invited to articulate your SOUL.