Every Campus a Refuge

The Friday Photo
November 20, 2015

photo by Guilford College studetn Kat Miller
photo by Guilford College student Kat Miller

The Guilford College Community practices its cornerstone principles. #everycampusarefuge

Now she really is GuilfordJane

The Friday Photo
August 28, 2015 

photo credit Guilford College

Jane K Fernandes is truly #GuilfordJane now. She was presented with the original skeleton key and lock to Founders Hall during her inauguration Wednesday  as Guilford College’s ninth President, and the first woman to serve in that role. 

Jane preferred a community-based event that celebrates Guilford. No academic regalia was required. The lei Jane wore was a gift from her in-laws as a remembrance of living in Hawaii when she and her husband Jim were first married.

I already have a recipe for potato salad

The Friday Photo
October 10, 2014

Life Is A Verb camp

Last summer a guy posted a satirical Kickstarter campaign for a potato salad recipe. He ended up raising $55K. Fortunately I have a couple of good potato salad recipes, including the slightly spicy one from the Vortex in Atlanta (no fundraising required).

What I realized I don’t have in my cookbook is a recipe for finding my way to whatever my next job will be. I’ve got a lot of ingredients but what I don’t have is a way to find the right recipe.

Some friends suggested I step outside my comfort zone and make an ask for help to go to Life Is a Verb Camp in early November. The Camp Director, my friend Patti Digh, has planned teaching and learning sessions that include poets Naomi Shihab Nye and
Ellen Bass, nonprofit leaders that span the spectrum, an Ambassador for the Alzheimer  Association, artists, writers, and health leaders. I’m not going because I want to learn how to write poetry, but rather because I need to figure out how to think differently about the ingredients I already have.

Wednesday afternoon I got two unexpected gifts outside my Go Fund Me campaign, one that included a message, “Do not put this effort down.” As Progressives know, much attention and money are focused on heated campaigns across the country, not exactly the best time to launch a smaller one like my camp campaign.

After I let the unexpected generosity soak in overnight, I was able to cut my goal be more than half. Now I’m really close to going to my first ever sleep over camp on November 6th and I need your help to top the $500 mark by Monday.

This campaign isn’t  beholden to a bunch of PACs, but I am offering to work with donors on their own marketing/nonprofit projects as a return on their investment. If you make a donation of any size, of course I’ll be grateful. If you can share the link with your friends, that will help a lot.

I’ve stretched way beyond what I thought possible. It is scary, but a good campaign requires a candidate that is willing to make The Big Ask. This camp candidate is asking for your help and support now.


A burning take on the Ice Bucket Challenge

This was posted on my friend, Derek Maingot, on his Facebook page on August 21. He kindly agreed to let me repost it here.

Michael Jack
Michael Jack

I’ve been asked by several hundred (slight exaggeration) people now why I’ve not done the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Two WEEKS ago Zhan was the first person I saw on the internet doing this, and he challenged me. 

This is long before it took off and I kind of feel proud to have been one of the first to get challenged.

He challenged me because my dear friend Michael was slowly beaten down by this disease. 13 long years of fights. 3 years ago, on August 22 he sent us an email that he’d prepared, saying that he finally succumbed to ALS. The subject of the email was “That’s all she wrote”.

So why have I not done this challenge? Yet?

Well, I’ll be honest, I’ve been having a BLAST watching this thing go viral. I originally promised Zhanny to try (TRY) and do something at Burning Man next week. Those of you know know me know that this disease is the one that I’ve always raised money for over the years and marched in Washington several times with Michaels Fund Raising Team the JackALS.

So I donated and I’ve sat back happily watching my nephews and friends’ kids talking about a disease that they previously knew nothing about. Awareness has gone through the ROOF and so have funds to help people living with the disease. Michael hugely benefitted from these funds from the ALS Association. It’s not all about ‘research’ and the idiot haters out there obviously know NOTHING about how non-profit organizations operate and how they help people with ALS. As that amazing kid said on his video, you’ll soon return to watching cats. For now this is a great spotlight.

Anyway, I’m just so FREAKING happy that this is all happening. We would fight to raise 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars at our walks in DC, and as of today, people have donated a thousand times that amount. I can only smile and know this is all good.

My challenge might be probably among the last to get done, even though I was one of the first to get challenged, but my heart swells to see how great this has worked. I’m proud of everyone.

I hope (HOPE) to get to it next week! But don’t misunderstand my participation. I love EVERY one of you who have helped in whatever role you played!!!

As Michael wrote in his final email “Whatever role you played—friend, family member, colleague, lover, bridge partner, co-conspirator—thank you. Thank you for humoring, befriending, entertaining, enlightening, enabling, abetting, loving, and/or tolerating me. My life was richer for your presence, and I hope you got something in return.”

Derek Maingot accepts the Ice Bucket Challenge at Burning Man 2014
Derek Maingot accepts the Ice Bucket Challenge at Burning Man 2014

I did old friend. I did.

Just chill

Karl Stephan "Chill"
Karl Stephan “Chill”

My friend Karl Stephan posted a gorgeous piece of art work yesterday inspired by the ALS Ice Water Challenge. Karl is stepping up to the challenge too. This is what he posted on Facebook:

I will donate ALL proceeds from the sale of this painting after my expenses*: half to ALS and half to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Message me to make an offer. Anything over $75 (plus MA sales tax) will be divided between the two worthy causes. Karl

Contact Karl today before the 24 hour challenge runs out and then “chill” for the cause.


Bid Day

The Friday Photo
August 15, 2014

Bid Day, Georgia College
Yesterday I had to meet someone at Georgia College in nearby Milledgeville. I snagged a great parking spot facing the campus quad shaded by tall trees and surrounded by beautiful buildings.

I happened upon sorority Bid Day announcements, a ritual that is taking place across college campuses now.

I’d never seen a Bid Day because my alma mater, Guilford College, doesn’t have Greek organizations.

A throng of young women stood together while shrieks and cheers erupted among them. They were standing in groups with matching t-shirts and tank tops while the newest members pulled their new shirt over what they had worn to the quad. Women around them hugged and smiled.

They were a homogenized group-slender attractive young white women, most with long hair, standing on suntanned legs below short shorts. They looked excited in their uniform colored groups.

I wondered about the young women who didn’t get their first choice,  who couldn’t participate because of the cost (it is easily thousands with dues, clothes for social events, etc), who thought they were too heavy, not pretty enough, too dark skinned, had no legacy to claim as leverage, or who didn’t make it to Bid Day at all.

A social worker told me she once worked shifts for the suicide/crisis phone line in Athens during Bid Week at UGA.  The phones rang off the hook with young women who were falling apart due to the outcomes of rushing a sorority. What a hard way to begin a college career.

I hope leaving the quad with a much coveted t–shirt won’t keep those young woman from really stretching themselves well beyond the confines of their sorority house and Greek life.

When you are among Friends

If someone says, “I went to UGA” or any large college or university, most people can readily identify something about that school (football, agriculture, technology, etc). When someone asks an alum of a Quaker school where they went to school, sometimes the person asking the question looks kind of lost if they follow-up and ask what type of school that is and the answer is a simple, “Quaker”. (I have on a few occasions extolled about one benefit of being an alum of a Quaker school is the lifetime supply of free oatmeal. I should not prey on the innocent.)

Quakers are not Shakers (but they can and do shake things up sometimes), or Mennonites, or Amish. Quakers are Quakers just like Methodists are Methodists. They come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and varieties. Flaming Liberals-yep. Middle of the Road-got plenty of those. Conservative- there are some of those too.

If you are wondering who Quakers are and what they do, The Huffington Post ran an article in June, “4 Things We Can All Learn from One of America’s Oldest Religious Communities” which does a good job of explaining some of the ways Quakers work together as a faith community (and as a result in their communities beyond their church).

There is a new family living in Ragsdale House, where the President lives at my Quaker college alma mater, Guilford College. The search to hire our ninth president was unusually transparent when compared to how many schools hire their administrative leaders. When the College announced that Jane K Fernandes had accepted the offer to join the Guilford community, there was a huge outpouring of genuine and heartfelt excitement. Jane said she truly felt called to Guilford, and her passion for the values of Quakers, a Quaker-based education, and Guilford are palpable.

Why am I calling Guilford’s Ninth President “Jane” instead of “Dr Fernandes” or “President Fernandes?” Rule 5 of  22 things only someone who went to a Quaker school would understand, written by a Guilford alum, explains it (slight NSFW language).

Rule 1 about bumper stickers? So true, as a Friday Photo from Rural and Progressive a few years ago demonstrates:

Guilford Alum, Class of 1961, leaves no doubt about her politics
Guilford Alum, Class of 1961, leaves no doubt about her politics






Worth reading again

The Friday Photo
May 30, 2014
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
I read ” I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” during my first semester at Guilford. All freshmen were required to take an interdisciplinary studies course, and the topic that year was Freedom. We worked our way through some challenging material that semester, which also included Dostoyevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor” from The Brothers Karamazov and work by theologian Paul Tillich.

Most of the books I saved from college and grad school were donated to a library book sale a few weeks ago. I don’t know what happened to my copy of “The Grand Inquisitor” but I put “Caged Bird” and the Paul Tillich book in the box taken to the library. While I was in Augusta yesterday I bought a copy of “Caged Bird” to read again.

My classmate Dan Carpenter and I still talk about how high the bar was set for us that first semester by our professor, Jonathan Malino. Dan is still one of my dearest friends, Jonathan’s teaching still informs my work and ideas, and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is still worth reading.



Got poetry?

Poem in Your PocketTwo years ago my friend (and poet) Dennis Kirschbaum opened my eyes to Poem in Your Pocket Day (His piece “The Useless Machine” is brilliant). Dennis was kind enough to give me a poem about coffee to have that day, which I have kept with me since then (I confess to making a note once on the back of the folded paper).

This year I invited friends who know and love poetry to share a favorite poem with me in anticipation of Poem in Your Pocket Day. I’ll be posting their choices here.

I’m beginning with Dennis and a poem he wrote.

Blessing for Coffee
Dennis M Kirschbaum

Make the sun shine on leaves and let their roots
drink rain. Strengthen arms and backs to pick

the cherries and wash away flesh to reveal seeds.
Steady ships on the inscrutable sea carrying them

green and raw in burlap to arrive in New York,
L.A. and where the Mississippi empties.

Give wisdom to the roaster bringing heat,
revealing character neither pallid grass nor

so burnt that the surface bleeds pungent oil.
Guide the barista’s tattooed hands as he grinds

fourteen perfect grams into the yawning mouth
of his portafilter and fits it to the group head,

an offering of gifts at the stainless altar. Hold fast
the laws of physics, scramble electrons, build heat,

pressure, force steam through puck into ceramic.
Grant through fortune and the labor of my hands,

spare custom to bestow for this crema capped,
dark measure. Now, while this brain is becalmed

in haze, help me recall the miracles that delivered this
to my lips and let me be worthy of it as it fills me.

Dennis Kirschbaum
Dennis Kirschbaum

Dennis M. Kirschbaum grew up in Baltimore. He has a B.A. in English from Guilford College and an M.A. in Jewish Philosophy from Baltimore Hebrew University. He is an Associate Vice President at Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and an Adirondack 46er, having climbed to the summit of the highest mountains in New York State.  His chapbook, Clattering East is available from Finishing Line Press and on Amazon. He lives and writes in Washington Grove, Md.

addition: Dennis is also featured at Author Amok today.



So many firsts

Yesterday the Guilford College community burst into celebration as the next President of the College, Dr. Jane Fernandes, was announced. After an inclusive and exceptionally open search effort, the campus community and far-flung alumni were anxious to know who would be living in Ragsdale House in July.

Jane FernandesJane will be Guilford’s first woman President, our ninth to serve  the campus since the College was chartered in 1837. She will join the Guilford community as we celebrate the 40th year of Women’s Studies on campus.

Much is being made of our first female President, and rightly so. Guilford isn’t immune to the common barriers in higher education.

The second sentence of the College’s long-awaited announcement read, “Jane, who is deaf, will become the first woman to hold the post on July 1 when she succeeds Kent Chabotar.”

Twitter and Facebook echoed with “It’s a woman and she’s deaf.”

Both firsts. Her gender and her deafness have surely shaped her experiences and ideas, all making her Jane Fernandes, Guilford’s ninth President.

When Guilford’s current President was announced 12 years ago, it was noteworthy that Kent would be the first non-Quaker to lead the College. I don’t remember anyone saying “and he’s single and he has no children.” Those were firsts too.

There have been many good firsts since Kent took up residence at Ragsdale House, and I am grateful.

Welcome, Jane. I am one of many holding you in The Light as you begin your many firsts at Guilford.




A year’s worth of happiness

The Friday Photo
January 24, 2014

I don’t keep a diary or journal. As 2012 was winding down a friend suggested collecting the high points throughout the course of the year, writing them down, and keeping them in a container. At the end of the year it could serve as a reminder of happy moments that were worth writing down. This is what my 2013 container looked like.

On January 3rd I recorded my first contribution for 2014: New Year’s Day with Brenda, Diana, Maia, and Karrie (close in my heart).

We begin again

Another year comes to a close. I learned an awful lot in a year that I decided to be more fully present in, for myself, my family, and my friends.

It has been a good year for me (most of them are, having really cheated death at 25, and showing early stage cancer who’s the boss at 50).

In January I stood silently with strangers for marriage equality on a brilliantly sunny winter day. Seven months later in late afternoon July heat I stood for equality with my sister, nephews, and Guilford friends. In Washington I was proud to see a young man I met while he made his way though college lead Georgians in our country’s biggest climate action.

I didn’t paddle 12 rivers in 2013, but I did nine, and loved everyone one of them (including the weekend we chalked up three).

This year allowed me to stretch beyond the confines of fighting Plant Washington. I am no less passionate, but glad to have fewer sleepless nights as this project continues to wither.

And again, I circled back to welcome another year with women I have known and loved for decades.

I’ve got plenty to do as the New Year eases in. My middle-aged body will have to work harder to whittle away this season’s eggnog. Adequate sleep needs to be a priority (said she who is up after midnight, again for the second night). Less time in front of a monitor and more time reading is a priority.

It is a New Year. Be present and look for the good in it and each other.

As we ease into the shorter days of fall

imagesA few years ago I read an article in the AJC (I think) about how Labor Day and the return to school impact people, even those who have long ago sent their last child to school. The article described the way we remain tied to the traditional school year. As school buses slow traffic, adults often find renewed vigor in picking up projects abandoned in the excitement of spring and the heat of summer. For those of us in the soggy South, gardeners are still hoping for a few good tomatoes, yards have grown tall, and dogs have been told too often “We can’t go walk in this storm.”

In June, six months after welcoming 2013 with three of the finest women I am so grateful to call my friends, I took measure of the first six months of this year and checked in to see where they/we are. We will spend the last hours of 2013 together too. Sizing up, bidding farewell, celebrating, and welcoming anew, all rituals of the seasons.

In the mean time my list is full. There are at least two rooms and one porch floor to paint, pictures to hang, and furniture to sell, donate, or put to use where we see better purpose. I have a new website and Etsy shop to launch for my handmade goods. My goal of paddling 12 rivers in Georgia finds me with the plans to make the Savannah the ninth on the list in two weeks. I’ll spend a weekend with college friends and feel like we never left campus at all.

The summer long project I have called The Big Shed will continue until the content of every box we have stashed away is explored, and every drawer opened. I have too many clothes waiting to be listed on eBay that no longer fit my life or my waistline. In a few weeks I’ll have a “you pick, she picks” with my daughters to send things to their households.

I don’t long for the short dim days of winter, but I love what fall has on tap for me.

Get ’em while they’re fresh!

534004_10201873820473551_597983911_nWe got a new stove last week (the old one only lasted about 20 years) and I asked friends for an easy recipe using fresh blueberries. My friend Louise Baxter has one that is a real winner and will be repeated in the fall when the pears growing in our front year are ripe.

You can find Louise’s recipe here and others that have been kitchen and family tested under Fuel Resources.

When a tax credit becomes a poll tax

The North Carolina Legislature’s slash and burn budget includes eliminating a $2,500 tax credit for families with college students by tying it to voter registration. SB 667 will require college students to vote at home if their parents claim them as a dependent and receive a $2,500 state tax credit. Students who register to vote where they attend college will also be required to move their vehicle registration 60 days prior to voting.

Connecting college tuition tax credits to where a college student votes and pays taxes on their vehicle sure does seem like a poll tax to me. Why would the Republican controlled North Carolina Legislature want to do this? Could it be because counties with heavy student populations where students traditionally vote Democratic (think Appalachian and Chapel Hill) could see students turn out in heavy numbers and threaten Republican control of state and Congressional seats? Is this a back door effort for legislators to add tax dollars to some counties via car taxes while taking it from others? Nope. It is a poorly veiled effort to control what would be legal student voting via a family’s checkbook.

Fortunately thousands have packed Halifax Mall outside the state legislature on Mondays to shine a bright light on the efforts to roll the clock back decades, if not centuries. Doctors in their white coats, faith leaders in vestments, teachers, retirees, attorneys, and hundreds of other tax paying, voting citizens have come forward to be arrested.

Wake County law enforcement officials went to work today knowing today is Moral Monday 12. Come rain or shine, the citizens will be there to peacefully demonstrate for a state that values equality, fair pay for teachers, Voting Rights, clean water and air, and a woman’s right to make her own health decisions.

Checking in at mid-year

This year I decided to be physically present in my beliefs by showing up. I started 2013 with wise and funny women at the North Carolina coast. Being Present has led me to stand silently while same-sex couples requested, and were denied, marriage licenses in Decatur. Being Present has taken me to a TEDx conference, the nation’s largest Climate Change action in DC, and a ribbon-cutting for the Dublin High School solar energy installation.

Next week I’ll Be Present with Guilford College alums at an unofficial Guilford College Reunion organized by alum Tom Dawson. We’ll come together in Raleigh, North Carolina at Moral Monday outside the state Capitol. Tom’s call to gather includes:

Why: This is not an official college reunion. Our truest reunion will always be in the field helping others.

We’ve seen so many Guilford friends representing their communities and the highest principles of their education and selves. Let’s meet up for a common purpose and represent together. This is a good way to connect across communities and bring out people who haven’t come to a Moral Monday yet, but are concerned about North Carolina.

When: 5:00, July 22 rain or shine

Where: Come to the word “Awed.” You can find it under the you are “a child suitable to be awed” inscription on the Public Instruction Department building on the left side of the commons facing the general assembly. Closest streets are the North Wilmington and East Lane Streets.

Who: Guilford alumni, students, faculty, kids, partners, friends, it’s complicateds, Quakers, strangers you meet on the street who have that certain “glow” about them. It’s a big field. Let’s fill it.

What: Wear Guilford colors if you like. If the spirit moves us, lets form a “Silent Bloc.”

My sister, Guilford College ’88, and her sons will go with me to Raleigh. She’s already working on a sign to carry. I’ll probably make mine with my nephews after I arrive.

It is important to me that I stand with my family for them, for my friends in North Carolina, for my high school and college alma maters, and for the millions who call the Old North State their home. I’ll be in the best of company.


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