Thursday, June 29, 2017


A zibaldone much older than mine.

Not even sure how to label this one.

I've tried all sorts of organizational tools in my lifetime--planners and notetaking systems and project trackers of a variety of styles and designs--paper, web-based, apps, you name it. I've never found one that really and truly and completely works with all the parts together in one place--monthly, weekly and daily schedules, to-do lists, worship planning helps, journaling,prayer lists and contact information all in one--oh, and commonplace booklinks between them. It probably can't exist.

I've managed to create a system, though, that works for me, and actually, it is better this way. My journaling and prayer lists remain private because they are separate--so no one but me sees those prayer needs (mine or anyone else's) or my less-than-elegant attempts at poetry. I can actually carry it (my last stab at combining as much of this as I could ended up weighing more than my laptop--and was not available as an app for said laptop, or for its replacement tablet).

The catalyst for my epiphany was an article on a renaissance book called a "zibaldone," or commonplace book. These were carried about by renaissance writers and artists who used them to record, well, pretty much everything. Journals, yes, but also their expenses, the names of new people they met, the details of a deal they'd struck, a drawing of a architectural detail they liked, a flower that struck them, poetry, notes from a meeting, a sermon--anything they wanted to record. They were the smartphones of their day, without the separate Pinterest, cameras, Evernote, recorders, and spreadsheet apps. Always available, never need charging, can't get lost in the cloud... I started using one (I like Moleskine, but I just like their size and price and feel). I put everything in there--my journaling, notes from team and Board meetings, from community group meetings, from phone calls, anything I am likely to want to remember. Bonus--I can index them! I can write a word or phrase in the blank space at the top of the page to remind myself what I'm talking about on that page: "Food closet;" "Pentecost planning,"Worship team meeting," "Bonnie," and so on.

And then I found Moleskine's 18-month weekly datebooks. I've used daily planners for years and years--one side for appointments and to-dos, the other for notes and planning. It worked for a long time, until life started getting more complicated. As a full-time pastor, I am juggling way more projects and needs and things than ever before. I was continually transferring things from day to day to day. Even when I tried assigning tasks to days within the week (task A to Tuesday, task B to Wednesday, etc.) invariably task A did not get done, or not completely, and had to be moved to Wednesday, and then something came up and then of course I had tasks C, D, and E...all of which had to fit in Wednesday and Thursday...). But the weekly worked great--the days of the week on the left-hand page with their appointments and meetings, the right-hand page blank ruled for that to-do list. I rarely have more than two or three appointments in  a day, and there's plenty of room for that.

So. My zibaldone for journaling and notes, the datebook for planning (I do keep the dates in my phone, too--it's an extra step, but I do always have my phone with me, even when I am not "at work"), a prayer app for keeping track of prayers (so I can record prayer requests on the run and not only pray then but include it in my daily prayers and also
in the prayers of the people on Sundays), and contacts in my phone (which does link with the calendar in my phone).

Worship planning... well, I have several calendars in my phone which let me know Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Sikh, Jain and Hindu holidays. But that's not really something, I have discovered, that I can do in a planner or journal anyway. It's more of a "need to be aware of when setting dates" than anything else. Worship planning takes place over weeks, not days or hours; it's not something you really need in a planner, except to note the holidays/observances and make time for thinking about/working with the planning team.

Anyway, this system has been working for me for about four-five months, and I think it is going to stick. It has worked well with a seminar, with travel, with planning I am currently doing for a big capitol fundraiser for the church.

A journal/zabaldone, a datebook, a smartphone. Oh, and they all fit in my bag without hurting my shoulder too. Bonus!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Random Friday Five on a Saturday....

1. Health Care
So I am in that doughnut hole. Too old and with too many pre-existing conditions to get low premiums but not old enough for Medicare; make too much for Medicaid, but not really enough to easily cover my premiums, co-pays, and deductibles on my own. As a pastor, yes, I pay my own insurance. The current health care bills in Congress are pretty disastrous, not only for the severely disabled, for the folks we saw on the news protesting on the Hill and being dragged away by the Capitol Police, but for millions of people. I have several pre-existing conditions: cancer, migraines, a bleeding disorder (in my childhood, never had a problem in several operations since), a pregnancy complicated by a cesarean section (I'm of an age to never have children again), a couple of sprained ankles, a sprained wrist, arthritis, a brain cyst (completely benign, I was born with it). Only the arthritis and the migraines are a current, ongoing concern, and my neurologist and I have the migraines under control; my primary and I are doing all we can about the arthritis. Yes, the cancer could return, I grant that. The rest are unlikely or no more likely for me than for anyone else. And yet my premiums are pretty high--about 12%  of my yearly income, not including deductibles and co-pays--and that's for a bronze plan. I could skip it, living on pain meds when the migraines or arthritis flare up, praying the cancer doesn't return...but what if it does?  Here's my point--I am not the only one doing this calculus, trying to decide whether to roll the dice. Not get the insurance (possibly paying a penalty, if that's part of the final bill) and pray I stay healthy; or get the bare minimum plan I can afford that will cover cancer care, just in case, and scrimp by somewhere else (but what else can I cut back)? Catch 22. And I am not alone.

2. Family!
OK, this one's much happier! My son (AKA Tall One to readers of an earlier incarnation of this blog) was married last month, and I could not be happier. He married a wonderful woman, who is smart and kind and independent and gives him a run for his money and loves him--as he loves her. It was a beautiful wedding n Washington DC, officiated by a former mentor and friend. The whole weekend was wonderful (well, aside from the flight there and back--but that was only three or four hours out of the weekend). I got to see my mom, and my sisters and some of their significant others, and friends I had not actually seen in years, catch up with people I used to count as family--and who still are, really. What a warm and loving time to share with people who mean so much to me!

3. Chores
Why am I so reluctant to do them, even though I like having done them? Scrubbing the bathroom, doing laundry, mopping the floor....ugh. But I love having clean clothes, clean floors, etc. Human nature. Go figure.

4. Reading books
"And of the reading of books there shall be no end."
I have several books that I am stuck in the middle of, not because I am finding them boring, but quite the opposite--they are pulling on my emotions so strongly that I dread reading further. Underground Railroad, All the Light We Cannot See, and Barkskins are calling me back but I am dreading the emotional rack they will put me on. So I am reading other books, good books, but books that do not threaten my emotions, coward that I am. I should have checked them out of the library, then I would have had to get them read.

5.  Pride!
June is Pride month; June 28th marks the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in New York in 1969 that is the traditional start of the LGBTIQ rights movement. There were sit-ins and riots before that, but the Pride parade the next year was the first. As other civil rights and human rights movements took shape in the 60s, members of the LGBTIQ community (which had not really coalesced as such yet) began to take note and began to deman our civil rights too. The rainbow flag was created in San Francisco to represent the values of the LGBTIQ community; in some communities, a black stripe and a brown stripe have added to include people of color, which has roused some controversy. Still, the rainbow has come to symbolize inclusion, diversity, and welcome around the world. When attending a Pride event, the proper greeting is "Happy Pride!"

Clarence Darrow--Beyond Scopes and Leopold & Loeb

Personalities fascinate me--people do. One way I try to understand history and places is through people--which is why I love good histor...