Confessions of a Craft Nut

Secretly, I’m a bit of a craft nut. I’ve been embracing it more and more in the last couple of years, in part because I discovered amigurumi (a type of crochet that makes delightful little stuffed animals – see the last two pictures if you’re wondering what that looks like). Could be I’m just getting older and turning into my mother.

Anyhow, for our anniversary (Four years! Woohoo!) Chuck got me a Cricut machine – and I’m thrilled! It cuts paper into all sorts of fun shapes, depending upon the design cartridge one is using. Not the sort of thing I would have wanted ten years ago, but now I’m geeking out about it.

What can one do with these little paper cuttings, you ask? For starters, I’m working on homemade tags (for gifts as well as for the crocheted critters I may be selling around Christmas this year, if I get cracking…). They’re not quite done – I plan to give them a coat of modge podge to make them shiny/strong – but wanted to share them anyway. Enjoy:






Utoya… (Memories and Hopes)

**Note**  I wrote this on July 22, 2011 – after hearing about the massacre that took place on Utoya that day.  Because I was at camp, and because I felt too raw to do anything beyond scribbling it out in longhand, the post didn’t make it here until today.  Much has come to light in the days that have followed, but this post does not reflect any of that information.

In 1999, the summer after my junior year of college, I was sent to Norway to represent the Council of Ecumenical Student Christian Ministries (CESCM) at a World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) conference held in honor of a milestone anniversary of the Norwegian Student Christian Movement.  Though I flew into Oslo and spent the afternoon finding my way through the city and its famous sculpture park, the event actually took place on a tiny island outside of the capital: Utoya.

It was the first time I traveled outside of the US completely on my own, the first time I was the only US student present in a large gathering of people from around the world, the first time I found myself in a position where there weren’t others who shared my assumptions, my norms, my cultural biases.  And it was the last time I traveled internationally before 9-11.  The experience was transformative…and it hurt.  

There were various speakers called in to discuss the concept of utopia and whether or not it has a place within Christian ecumenical dialogue/work.  The talks were fascinating, but not what I carried back with me when I returned home to Texas.  What’s stuck with me were the one on one conversations, the relationships formed in the in between times.

In between speakers and other scheduled activities, we had large spans of free time to mingle – time that turned into me fielding questions and accusations about the US government’s involvement in world affairs.  Whether I liked it or not, I was the only representative of the US on that island, so every question, every grievance fell in my lap.

In particular, a Serbian student named Lazar took every opportunity to lay into me for the NATO bombings in Serbia.  He’d never met an American, and I’d never met a Serbian.  We only knew what our respective news outlets and politicians were telling us – so it started off with some rough encounters.  There wasn’t much I could say because I was so ignorant of the situation, the history, the messiness of it all (on all sides).  He’d accuse, I’d listen.  He’d raise his voice as he recounted events I’d never heard of.  I’d quietly take it in, awash in disbelief or horror or anger or grief.    

Somewhere in those encounters, a miracle took place.  We became friends.  Noting my silence, Lazar started asking questions instead of lobbing accusations.  Together, we started wading through layers of propaganda, both Serbian and American.  Together, we discovered gray in the midst of black and white.  Together, we learned humility.

Transformation took place on that island.  Relational webs were woven from that point on the globe and stretched across borders, oceans, ideologies.  Dayanthi in Sri Lanka, Marcus in Finland, Thandiwe in Zambia, Lazar in Serbia, Moatlhudi in South Africa, Thorsten in Germany, Lara in the US…we (and many others) experienced a taste of what utopia might bring.  In those moments of listening, laughing, straining and stretching, we caught a shimmer of the Kin-dom of God.


So much has changed in the years that have passed.  Though the world was never “safe” or “secure”, the specter of terror has crept into new markets.  That relational web still remains, but the ground beneath it has shifted and begun to crumble.  These last twelve years I’ve teetered between cynicism and hope – one moment knowing the hopes we shared on Utoya are a pipe dream, and another moment trusting that even in the worst of times the Kin-dom is still breaking into the world.  

And then, today, during nap time at our high school summer camp, I got word via Twitter of another attack.  Oslo is trending – a bomb has gone off in the city – and Utoya has also become a hashtag.  Today that island, upon which my life was changed, is stained with the blood of children – campers the same age as these teens sleeping around me.  Campers murdered by someone who would do anything to destroy these webs that draw us near to one another.

In the midst of this terrible news, and this consuming grief, I’m completely at a loss.  What can be done to counter such hatred?  What can be done when utopia is stained with the blood of so many innocent kids?  

I have no idea – except that I know the web must continue to be woven.  

Thy Kin-dom come…on earth as it is in heaven.

Let’s Talk…About Sex?


A Gathering Voices Post

This weekend I’ll be leading workshops on some hows and whys of talking about sex(uality) and embodiment in our local congregations. It’s a tricky subject and one that, though I’ve somehow managed to acquire a “local expert” label, makes me uncomfortable every time I prepare to talk about it. Creating the slides, choosing the right words, preparing the handouts – in all of these things, I catch myself fighting back anxiety by holding my breath. Which, of course, begs the question: If you’re so uncomfortable, why talk about sexuality at all?

Seriously, should we talk about these tough topics in church? I not only believe we should, but also that we must – and here’s why:

  • Because sex(uality) and embodiment make us uncomfortable. Avoiding and repressing things that make us uncomfortable inevitably creates space for those things to twist up and fester. Whether the topic is money, or power, conflict or sexuality, when conversation is taboo it becomes all the more likely that abuses will flourish.
  • Because sex(uality) is about more than just sex (that’s what the parentheses are all about!) – it is about relationship with self, with others and with God. It is about how we feel in our own skin, how we love and relate with our own bodies. It is about being completely vulnerable with another human being. It is about a sensual nature woven within us by our Creator. To only talk about sex(uality) in terms of individual sex acts is neglectful, inaccurate and even dangerous!
  • Because sex(uality) and embodiment are matters of life and death. Often this reality gets condensed down to a simple “sex kills”. Yet while that can be true, there is even more at stake than potentially life threatening STIs – there’s also the fact that shaming others about sex, sexuality and their bodies has the power to kill. Too many GLBTQ people in our communities, young and old, have taken their own lives or been murdered because of both our words and our silence about sexuality. Too many people (across lines of age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation) have taken their own lives because they either hated their bodies or hated themselves for past sexual choices. When we refuse to discuss these topics openly, we are complicit in the violence – and when we create safe space for open and loving conversation about sex(uality), we are given the power to save lives.

The truth is, we are going to disagree – especially when conversation leads us to questions about “the” biblical understanding of sex. Some of us will insist that the “traditional way” is the only biblical way, and some of us will point out biblical passages that don’t fit neatly into that traditional understanding. Some of us will advocate for programs that teach about everything including contraception, and some of us will demand abstinence-only curriculum. At times, our conversations may will be painful and frightening – but none of these realities are an adequate excuse for not talking about sex(uality) in our congregations.

So I wonder:

  • How are you making these conversations a part of the life of your faith community?
  • What part of talking about sex and bodies makes you the most uncomfortable? Or, is this not a source of discomfort at all?
  • Are you willing to risk discomfort and disagreement for the sake of greater spiritual and sexual health in your faith community?



This spring has given me an incredible amount of joy.  One moment winter clung to us with ferocity, and the next moment God brought out the highlighters… pink, purple, yellow, green – color first creeping and then exploding into the world.

I’m not always all that good at joy. But, as usual, new life came and shook me up just in the nick of time!

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Friendship as Spiritual Discipline

(Originally written as a Gathering Voices post on April 8, 2011)


As I type these words, I’m sitting in a Catholic retreat center in Saint Louis with two dear friends/colleagues.  The official purpose of this meeting of the minds is a writing retreat (we’re chewing on something that has the potential to be pretty exciting!).  Computers are out, keys clicking a symphony of ideas – and we really are getting some serious work done.

Yet, in many ways, the real work is happening aside from the writing.  We laugh.  We feast. We pad around in bare feet for late-night conversation.  Words ebb and flow, dancing from silly to vulnerable and back again.  We dream out loud.  Exhausted, we sleep hard so we can get up and do it all again.  This is the labor of soul friends.

Friends have always been important to me, and at the same time, friendship has often been difficult.  As an “army brat”, moving from place to place, I learned early on that friendships can swiftly evolve or end and take lots of work to maintain – especially over geographical distance.  Often, it was easier to just move on.

As a minister, I’ve moved with the same sort of frequent irregularity that is becoming more and more characteristic of young adults across the board.  Consequently, I have sometimes found myself living in a new place, isolated except for the rich tapestry of friendships that exist beyond my physical locale.  But I haven’t always reached for the tapestry.  Hiding behind my “introvert badge”, I’ve instead savored my isolation, even wallowed in it – only to discover somewhere down the road that (go figure!) my spirit was literally starving.

I’m beginning to understand that friendships aren’t “just” friendships.  Friendships (and the work of cultivating them) are a form of spiritual discipline, just like prayer or scripture reading or mindful eating.  When I don’t pray, my spirit suffers.  When I don’t spend time reading the Word, my spirit/mind become impoverished.  When I don’t eat mindfully, my spirit/body become stressed and broken.  And when I don’t practice the art of friendship, my spirit begins to turn in on itself.

As it turns out, I’m not alone in this.  The friends who journey alongside me need this too.  It is part of the human mold, this yearning to be connected in meaningful relationship.  So now, we carve out time.  One small group of soul friends meets every fall, another meets for both business and relationship twice a year, and this trio will meet each spring.  We stay in conversation via social media throughout the year, but we also need this time set apart to laugh and cry and dream “in the flesh”.

While, to a casual observer, there’s nothing about these gatherings that screams “work”, this is holy work all the same.  It is part of our vocation (not just as ministers, but as Christians) to be the best friends we can be…and that requires practice!

Speaking of which, my friends are waiting and it’s time to get back to work…

  • Who are your soul-friends (friends who walk with you on your journey through life)?
  • How can the Church help us to cultivate deeper, life-enriching friendships?
  • What other seemingly-mundane activities could actually be spiritual disciplines?

Forgive Us Our Trespasses…

(This was originally written for Gathering Voices – The Thoughtful Christian Blog, a blog which I highly recommend you check out in the near future!)


Having grown up in a border city, it is safe to say that I know more (at least experientially) about the US/Mexico border than your average Midwesterner.  So, when I went to our local ministerial association meeting this week (knowing that the topic was immigration and border issues), I was attending in order to be supportive of the presenters and the people affected by our immigration policies.  I didn’t anticipate that I would learn much and I certainly didn’t expect to have my mind blown.


Luckily, a mindset tinged with arrogance is just rigid enough to be broken open…


There was lots of information presented that was new to me.  I’m most familiar with the stretch of border that runs between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, but the presenters had attended a program in San Diego/Tijuana.  The program, run through the Daniel F. Romero Center for Border Ministries, provides immersion opportunities in Tijuana as well as space/language for theological reflection about immigration and the economic disparity that exists between the US and Mexico.


The stories shared during our meeting piqued my interest and tugged at my heart, but for some reason what really got me was a single photograph of an official sign on the border.  The sign reads:  US Property – No Trespassing.


Trespassing When I saw the sign, the word “trespassing” struck me like lightning.  I’ve long been familiar with the language of the immigration debate: illegal, alien, undocumented, migrant, immigrant, and so on.  I’ve heard the arguments back and forth – the position of scarcity (“those people are taking our jobs, our resources, our money”), the position of abundance and welcome (“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”), the Hebrew Bible mandates for welcoming the stranger and caring for the alien (passages like Exodus 22:21-24 and Hebrews 13:2).  But for some reason I’d never connected “illegal immigration” with trespassing.


Personally, I have always been more swayed by the position of abundance and those passages from the Hebrew Bible.  In my mind, immigration and our treatment of “the other” has always been about justice and the dignity of all people as children of God, yet justice, dignity and abundance don’t seem to be values universally claimed by those who claim the name of Christ.  Finding the language needed to explain myself to Christians who are passionately against undocumented immigrants has always been difficult for me – but now that I’ve seen that border sign, I think I’ve found another track, something so basic that all stripes of Christians know it in their bones:  the Lord’s Prayer.


If, at its core, this immigration debate is about trespassing (as that official border sign asserts), then it makes sense that we followers of Christ would contemplate the issues and people involved in light of the prayer that he taught his followers.  As a person committed to thoughtful Christianity, I won’t come down and say that you must come to the same conclusion to which I have come (I know my own tendency towards arrogance well enough to see the danger and hypocrisy in that).  But I do hope that each Sunday, as we ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” we all might take a moment to meditate upon the lives of the undocumented immigrants who live amongst us – and use our holy imagination to contemplate what such forgiveness could look like if we (and they) were to live it out in the world.

“Nobody Puts Jesus in a Box!” (Sermon – Transfiguration Sunday)

Scripture: Matthew 17:1-9 (NRSV)

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

SERMON – “Nobody Puts Jesus in a Box!” (Notes from sermon preached at Hillside Christian Church on March 6, 2011)

In this morning’s lectionary text, we are presented with Matthew’s rendition of the Transfiguration. It’s an odd story, both in terms of what it paints for us and in the way that it ends as quickly as it begins.

Here’s a quick recap of the story:

Jesus takes Peter, James and John (his trusted three, or the three stooges, depending on the day) up a mountain. Jesus is turned inside out: the divine radiance inside of him bursts forth, captivating and frightening his trio of disciples. Moses and Elijah show up for a chat and Peter interrupts the three saviors to suggest that he build them each a dwelling, presumably so that they can stay on the mountain…indefinitely. God interrupts Peter with simple instructions: “This is my beloved son. LISTEN to him!” And then, when the fearful three look up from the dust, it’s simply Jesus standing with them on the mountain. Presto, chango… and back to normal. On the way back down the mountain, Jesus tells Peter and the two J’s not to talk about what happened, and they don’t. It’s not spoken of again throughout the rest of the gospel.

Now, there’s a LOT that we could talk about in this passage. It is filled with tidbits and examples of the big three aspects of scripture: human culture, human nature and the active presence of God. If we hit at the cultural side of things, we could spend hours talking about the importance of holy mountains in both the Bible and other religious texts, or we could talk about the link between this passage and the Jewish Festival of Booths. We could really dig into the presence of Moses and Elijah – and the reasons why each are considered saviors of the Jewish people. All are worthy topics.

But this morning, I’m most interested in the tension that exists between human nature and God’s activity and presence in the world.

Usually, when preachers talk about “human nature”, we’re pointing out huge sinful behaviors – the really radical stuff that is obviously at odds with the Kin-dom of God. There’s none of that nonsense going on in this morning’s text. Instead, we’ve got something different, something smaller – something that isn’t always a sin but is absolutely a part of the reality we call “human nature”.

In this morning’s text, we’ve got the desire to keep things where we can see them, the yearning for things to remain the same.

This time, the culprit is Peter. As you’ll recall, while radiant transfigured Jesus is chewing the fat with Moses and Elijah, Peter butts in and offers to build a dwelling for each of them, right there on top of the mountain.

It sounds like a thoughtful offer, albeit an odd one. I can almost hear Peter saying it: “Oh Shiny Ones, let me be of assistance! I’ll make a booth for each of you right here, to protect you from the elements. Time will no longer matter – you’ll be able to talk here as long as you like… forever, even! It will…”

But before Peter can finish his speech, God Most High cuts him off. Have you ever been interrupted by God? Usually when someone interrupts me, I get a little irritated…but when God cuts you off, you can’t help but be quiet. At least, that was the case for Peter. One moment he’s being oh so helpful, and the next, he’s face down in the dirt listening to God speak:

God politely ignores Peter’s suggestion to make “dwellings” for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Apparently, God also ignores the presence of Moses and Elijah. Instead, God gives Peter and the two J’s some pretty basic instructions: “Jesus is my son, my beloved. I’m pleased with him (he brings me pleasure). LISTEN TO HIM.” And then, just like that, God is “gone”.

With an incident like that, it’s reasonable to ask: what the heck is going on here?

This is what I see happening in the story: Jesus has just been transfigured. He’s been turned inside out so that his most trusted disciples can see all of him – the divine as well as the human. They’ve been given an opportunity to take him in, to steep in the totality of Jesus in all of his complexity – in all of his paradoxical nature (God and Human, all rolled into one)…but rather than being still so that it could sink in, Peter does what so many of us often do: he jumps into action and tries to contain the situation. Faced with something glorious but unexpected, he tries to put Jesus in a box – perhaps so that he can keep things from changing again.

In a way, it reminds me of the movie “Dirty Dancing”. There’s a character, “Baby”, who is on the right trajectory to live up to her father’s rigid expectations. She’s going to become a doctor, or a lawyer, or a member of the peace corps. But on holiday, something new is revealed about Baby. It turns out that she can dance. I mean, she can REALLY dance. But her father doesn’t want her to dance – sure, part of that has to do with his disapproval for the guy who’s been teaching/dating her – but the core issue is that daddy doesn’t want to see his daughter in a different light. In a way, Baby’s been transfigured – and she’s glorious. But her dad doesn’t want her to change any more than she already has. So puts a kabash on the whole thing, and sticks her in the corner at the final dinner and dance show of the summer. But Johnny (her teacher/boyfriend) won’t have it. He strides in, takes Baby by the hand and says that famous line: “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” And then Baby gets up on the stage and dances so beautifully that even her father is forced to admit that she is more than what he’d thought.

Back in our Matthew text, when the Creator interrupts Peter, it’s like God is saying “Nobody puts Jesus in the corner.” Or, in this case, nobody puts Jesus in a box.

Peter knew Jesus well – perhaps better than anyone else of the time. But even he didn’t know all of Jesus – even he couldn’t contain him with preconceived notions of who or what he should be. Yet, we fall into the trap so frequently. Conservatives, Liberals, Fundamentalists, Progressives…whatever labels we’ve applied to ourselves – sometimes we get so wrapped up in making Jesus fit in our “boxes” that we forget to listen to him.
No matter the issue (abortion, taxes, worship style, and so on), we want to be the ones who are right about Christ, and we want others to know he’s on our side of the argument.

At the end of the day, Jesus challenges each one of us, albeit in different ways. If we listen first and argue later, if we sit still and steep in his wholeness, we may end up so challenged and so moved that we also become transfigured. Heck, we might even forget to argue altogether.

As we move towards this year’s Lenten journey, let us open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds so that we can listen to Jesus – instead of forcing him into yet another box.

When I Look in the Mirror…

I’m trying something new this week.  In an attempt to start posting more here (I’ve been focusing on writing for The Thoughtful Christian Blog, sometimes at the expense of my personal blog), I’m participating in “Five Minute Friday” – a blog project started by The Gypsy Mama.

Each Friday she shares a prompt, and folks who dare will write with reckless abandon (no concern for editing and other such restrictions) for five minutes.  Only five.  Sort of the blogging version of those inkblot tests: here’s a thought, and GO!


When I look in the mirror, I see…


When I look in the mirror, I see white hair.  A year ago there was one, but lately more and more of them keep cropping up.  When my hair is down, you can’t really see them, but when it is back in a ponytail (and, more often than not, it is) there they are, poking up through the less unruly “normal” tresses.

I like to laugh about it, to say that I don’t mind them.  But that must be a lie.  I know it’s not true because they are the first thing I see each morning as I peer into the mirror.

I’m not sure why they bother me so much.  Is it fear of aging?  I don’t think so.  I mean, most days I don’t feel old at all.  Perhaps that’s the issue – that I associate white hair with advanced age, and I’m not there yet!  But, my grandmother’s hair went stark white at an early age (in her thirties, which is where I’m at), and I’ve always loved her shining silver-white mane.

I wonder if she felt this way back when those first snowy sprouts emerged…

The Best Smell in the World…

…is the scent of a living, breathing, uninjured husband.


Today I’m giving thanks that my husband and puppy are alive and well.  Earlier this afternoon they were involved in a hit and run accident.  The car is likely totaled, but they are fine and that all that really matters to me.

I would ask that prayers be lifted up for the people in the other car.  It turns out that they left the scene of the accident due to a number of warrants out in the car owner’s name.  I’m not sure what the warrants are for, but they were enough of a motivation to make the driver and passenger flee the scene, ditch their car and then run from the police in another vehicle.  No matter who they are, I pray that they (and everyone in their path today) are safe.  As for justice, we’re going to spend the weekend praying on whether or not to drop the charges we agreed to file against them.

A final thought this evening is this:  thank God for all the people who went out of their way to help us today.

  • Thank God for Kelli, my friend and coworker who drove me to the scene of the accident, waited with us, walked and entertained our dog, and drove us to the rental car facility!
  • Thank God for the police officer who came to the scene.  He treated Chuck with dignity and genuine concern – and clearly considers his job to be a calling.
  • Thank God for my other co-workers (Shandra & Rodger in particular) who kept us laughing, the kind and efficient insurance agents who got us into a rental car quickly, the tow truck drivers who stopped to help and ended up tracking down the other vehicle, and all the friends who sent prayers and other messages our direction.

It’s been a rough day, but also a day when we’ve experienced the best of people.  In their faces and actions, I have seen God.

Tucson: What Have We Learned?

In the wake of the horrifying shooting spree that took place outside a Tucson supermarket last weekend, the airwaves have been clogged with talk that mostly centers around two things:  the details of what actually happened and who we should blame.

While those are both pressing and important concerns (especially the details that help us to celebrate the lives of those who were killed or wounded), we would be remiss if we did not take some time to think about what we’ve learned since Saturday morning.  As a society, we’ve got a bit of a problem when it comes to difficult and/or catastrophic events: we rarely take time to truly process, grieve, learn.  We jump straight from calamity to blame to action, and rarely look back (until, of course, it is too late and our reactionary measures have helped to cause another catastrophe).

So, let’s take some time to practice together.  What are we learning in the wake of the Tucson shooting?

My learnings include the following:

  • Words matter. It’s not about blaming one person for an event.  It’s not even about blaming an entire movement or group of people for an event.  It’s about acknowledging that words have both creative and destructive power and should be used in thought-full and care-full ways (something that most all of us seem to have forgotten).  If we Church folk really do believe that God’s creative power is/was exercised through Word, if we really take seriously the belief that Jesus is the Divine Word, the Logos, then we have to be more intentional with our use of language – and be willing to be held accountable when the words we choose are destructive.
  • Guns still kill people. Yes, you’ve got to have someone deranged or serious or desperate or enraged enough to pull the trigger… but guns still make it a heck of a lot easier to do so.  Does this mean we should ditch those 2nd amendment rights?  I don’t know.   But I do know that our love affair with guns is wedded to our love affair with violence.  Eventually, if we truly yearn for peace, we’re going to have to start talking about that with honesty and transparency.
  • Mental health care is crucial. You’d think that this would be obvious by now (what with suicides on the rise amongst both military personnel and civilians alike, depression rates climbing, etc.) and yet so many people who need help never receive it – even when their words or behavior cry out for it.  In a society where mental illness is considered weakness, it is little wonder that people don’t get help…  We must do better than this – and church folk can begin by talking openly about mental illness.  We’ve helped to create the stigma by propagating ideas like “depression is just a lack of faith”, so now we must repent of that petty judgment and fearfulness by working for the wholeness of those with mental illness.  If one is wounded, so is the whole Body.
  • Good leadership requires humility. So, when we leaders make mistakes, we need to own up to them.  It can be difficult and painful to do this, and sometimes we need to set boundaries as we are held accountable (for example, while some politicians are absolutely guilty of using violent rhetoric they should not be held personally accountable for the shooting in Tucson), but we DO need to own up to our errors in judgment or intention.  If we don’t, we are poor leaders.  And if we try to shift the blame onto others or make the situation about us instead of those who are hurt, we are abusing the power others have entrusted to us.  Period.

    I’m hoping that this will become a conversation of sorts and that, together, we might begin to shift the dialogue taking place towards mutual learning and relationship.  So, tell me, what have YOU learned this week?