Friday, December 26, 2008

Nicest Christmas Ever

I took Emma and Soren to the Christmas Eve service, and the children's choir and some of the adult choir did a pageant about the kind innkeeper. It was so well done, and the kids really enjoyed it. The service ended with candles being lit around the sanctuary and singing some carols. I wish Jude would have gone with us but he really wanted to stay home, so Tom stayed home with the little ones.

This is the first Christmas that the girls have been with me on the eve and morning, and we really looked forward to it. I let go of my pretensions about "lying" about Santa, and we talked it up, filled stockings after they went to bed, and put all the presents under the tree. The girls woke up at a reasonable time, and we had a frenzy of present opening and joy. Then I made dinner, and my ex-husband, his wife, and my MIL came around 11. We had a delicious meal, and everything turned out perfect.

There was something about turning 36 this week that has been defining. This is also the first Christmas that I have hosted in entirety, and made dinner for. I finally feel the age that I am, I think. (maybe even a little younger for the first time in over 15 years). You see, I was 30 for years and years, and now I've finally grew into my own skin. It felt so good to have Christmas in my own home, serving dinner that I made at my own table, with good silver and matching plates. With family and happy children who got what they wanted, and were joyful and loved. No fighting, no drama, exactly the Christmas I have always envisioned, and that I never had growing up.

It was really, really perfect. Today I will take MIL home and the kids to the museum, then come home and pack to go to visit my mother this weekend (who was pretty much vile on the phone yesterday - the only blemish on an otherwise perfect day).

I feel like we really celebrated the spirit of Jesus' humanity, since we don't accept his divinity, other than in the way that we believe in the spark of the divine in everyone.

I am grateful for the wonderful holiday that we had!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Quoted

I forgot to say, that I got quoted in this article today, and I also got interviewed by the local news about the Greater Good project. Way cool!

My Solstice cheer is fading

The day started out great, with Soren and I headed to church and speaking at both services about how the Greater Good project has impacted our lives. The rest of the service was phenomenal, and made my newly-trying-on-that-cool-cynical-attitude daughter cry, which made the snowy drive worth every mile.

The girls came home early from their dad's so we wouldn't have to drive in more snow later, and everyone went outside sledding and snowshoeing. (I let Jude open his snowshoes from my mom today for Solstice, because, well...there's a LOT of snow!).

After all the drama of getting coats and hats and mittens and snowshoes on, and sleds out, it felt like they were outside for about 30 seconds. Lucy hated the sled. Jude needed dry gloves. Emma and Soren came inside fighting and yelling at each other. I'm exhausted!

I'm ready for turning off the lights, lighing some candles and enjoying some quiet enjoyment of the dark.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Judgement vs. Judgmental

Obviously, they come from the same root. One is something we do to survive and to get through each day. One is something that hurts us and others.

judgement:
2. the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, esp. in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion: a man of sound judgment.
3. the demonstration or exercise of such ability or capacity: The major was decorated for the judgment he showed under fire.
4. the forming of an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion, as from circumstances presented to the mind: Our judgment as to the cause of his failure must rest on the evidence.

Judgmentalism is my personal burden. I am constantly struggling with this inner demon.
  1. Of, relating to, or dependent on judgment: a judgmental error.
  2. Inclined to make judgments, especially moral or personal ones: a marriage counselor who tries not to be judgmental.
My minister called me yesterday to let me know that in her reference letter, this was the place that was a "growing edge" for me. I'm putting it out there, because I really believe in my need to be more transparent and to be held accountable, and because I need help to get past this hurdle. I reassured her that this was something I was actively working on with my spiritual director, and that it is something that I self-identified as a weakness in my Meadville Lombard interview. And then proceeded to give a judgmental answer to the next question ;).

From some post on UUpdates yesterday, I ended up at this link. I think it was supposed to be funny, but I found a lot of it just mean. And I have certainly done my share of bashing Christians and the lack of real Christian thought and adherence to Christian morals in those who identify themselves as such. This is the kind of thing that I could easily find myself doing about group X though - making moral judgments in a way that is hurtful and not loving or kind, and that is not judgement for the sake of making informed choices, but as a way to diminish another group. That is not a UU value that values the worth and dignity of every person.

So where is the line between judgement and judmentalism for others? It's sometimes very blurry. So this will be a place of internal reflection and growth for me going forward - and not just reflection but action. I have struggled with this for years and it's time to start transforming it into something else, if I can just figure out how.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Little Monkey!

Lucy is two today. (I TWO!!)

I alternately can't believe that the time went so fast, and that there is so much I've already forgotten about the last two years.

Two years ago, I was resting and probably eating something yummy after 8 hours of labor at home. She shot out like the proverbial cannonball, making the transition and pushing stage non-existent. She's still kind of like that!

She teaches me about joy and laughter every single day. She is funny, talks a LOT, and is compassionate and sweet. She loves sleeping with her big brother and we find them snuggled up in the wee hours, with her hand crept up inside his pajama top to touch skin, as they lay tangled together. He is kinder to her than anyone. She is considerate and caring when he gets a bump. They laugh like hyenas at everything together. They are the best of friends and run (I runnin'!!) around like crazy people all day long, laughing and screaming (Rawwwwwr!) (Savages!! Savages! (no, I have no idea)) and experiencing life. (We will run together!! says Jude) (Get 'im! grins Lucy) (until she says, "Leave me 'LONE Jude!)

Two is such a fun age! (one, two, FREEEE!)

I am so very blessed.

They know how to show up for life!

(I'm not goin'!) to bed of course.

Promised Pictures

Jakob is hoping against hope that someone will drop some cake. It's a party right?














Soren, very happy to win 6th place all around, in the 10 year old division.












Decorating the huge Christmas/Solstice tree. The first time we cut down a tree, Emma cried. This year we planned on getting a potted plant and Emma thought they were too puny. See what 10 years does to you?









Lucy's 2nd birthday party. She really loved being able to open her presents! Soren made her a purse, and put money, a necklace, and a stuffed dog in it.











The Lilac Children's Garden Solstice spiral. I felt blessed to be able to get my inner bowl filled with light.















Before caroling at the nursing home. I love that they have the same goofy grin!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Solstice Approacheth

I had the pleasure of attending the Solstice celebration at one of my kids' programs today. It's a Waldorf-based homeschooling class that meets weekly, and I just love it. They set up a gorgeous pine bough spiral into which each family walked and lit their family candle. Then we all sang together and then had a little feast. It was lovely, as it always is. This is our fifth year. The older kids were a bit restless and noisy this year, so the sacred was not as quiet as it usually is though.

I bought a chalice finally. I have been looking for just the right thing and found it at the festival today. I'll post a picture at some point. I'm also getting two chalice pendants for my birthday/wedding anniversary next week, so I am looking forward to that as well. My chalice is beautiful and is making me feel all warm and fuzzy to meditate by! I really need a little altar area soon that is truly devoted to my spiritual items, now that I have some.

I have been very cranky lately and am having a hard time balancing real life and my need for inner solitude and reflection. I feel this overwhelming need for everyone to just leave me alone so I can meditate, read, reflect, and do nothing at all if I feel like it. I'm sure it's relief at finally graduating, having a plan for grad school and also just the darkness of the year.

I feel almost physically oppressed by it. I am anxious for the Solstice to pass and the incremental advance of the Sun on my days. I am craving warmth and find myself tending our fire almost obsessively and drinking in the sunlight when it makes brief appearances. We are to get 4 to 8" of snow tonight and tomorrow, so I kept my daughter home from gymnastics tonight so I wouldn't have to drive to the city tomorrow to get her. I know we still have a few months of cold and wet yet, and I wish I could flee! My eldest is going to Fla. in Feb. and I am so jealous (though I wouldn't choose Fla. for my sun - more likely Hawaii, Mexico, or Aruba!).

My husband loves Nakai, and I found this Solstice prayer. I hope it moves you.

Nov. 4, 2008

Worth watching!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Weekend musing

I had a busy weekend. We put up our tree; the largest tree I've ever had! The kids love having a tree; me, not so much. It's already dropping needles, adding lots of work to my already overwhelming vacuuming chores, but it does look pretty, and will be nice when I get the presents around it!

Yesterday was crazy. Got the kids out to door for church, and then had a negative interaction with two people over the speaker in the lobby not working and spent most of the service and afterwards in tears. I couldn't figure out why I was so upset, but then I realized that it takes me a lot of effort to get everyone to church, and then when I wasn't able to listen to the sermon when Lucy got too restless for the sanctuary, and did not get the kind of radical hospitality I would like to think I would offer to help someone get what they needed from church (AND got nastily shushed by someone else even though I was whispering and the other person wasn't, it just drove home for me how much I need that hour of worship and community. Radical hospitality: everyone should take the workshop.

Anyway, then off to tree trimming party in a child-free house, with child-friendly people, but lots of breakables. I left Tom on his own after an hour to take Soren to her gymnastics meet. She took 6th place all around and placed on 3 events. She was very pleased with herself and made a lot of improvement since the last meet 3 weeks ago.

Lots of cleaning today - wish I could find a way to make it a pleasant duty, or meditative, but I pretty much am just bored by it.

Then another call from my mom. She went home yesterday but had to be readmitted today with fluid in her lungs and still no exact reports from pathology about her surgery. Lung disease, unspecified. They're sending the tissue to Hershey Medical Center, so maybe results later this week.

Wellspring tonight. Thank goodness. A respite. More to write, no time. Off to the races!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I love Egan

This is a great NY Times editorial about what's fit to print. Not Palin, apparently.

Friday, December 12, 2008

These guys look cranky

Vatican Issues Instruction on Bioethics


Seriously, what's up with all the glumness in this picture. Doom and Gloom.

Cookies





This is what we did yesterday:

We had so many cookies that we had to freeze half of our gingerbread dough, because the kids ran out of steam. This is the first time we've made cookies in three years . The three oldest had so much fun cutting out and decorating, and so did I! I only snarled a little when middle girl dropped a bunch of flour on the floor.

We went Christmas caroling with our 4H group last night at the county nursing home, and we weren't very good, but I loved seeing some of the residents singing along and really enjoying themselves.

The littles were SO good, and I got some Christmas pictures that are passable while they were all dressed alike.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Humor, School, Life

A sense of humor is important. I love this last note on my professor's assignment:
A conclusion that should provide a thoughtful reflection of what you have learned in developing a campaign and your understanding of the theories and concepts that we've examined throughout the semester. I want to stress that this should be a thoughtful reflection and not merely that tiny paragraph you write because you want to be done with your assignment.

I really need to stop procrastinating and just write this stupid paper. It's the last one of my BA career for crying out loud.

___________________
I got an acceptance call from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School today! That's good news, because it means that I can take classes there as a non-degree student, which makes me happy :). And I have a meeting with admissions at ML tomorrow to try to sort out some of my questions.

___________________
I finally called the hospital since I hadn't gotten a call about my mother. She's still asleep and had a hard time coming out of the anesthesia, so they gave her some medicine to bring her out of it. She will have a chest tube for 3 or 4 days most likely. They may have results tomorrow with some answers, so I left a message for the doctor to call me in the afternoon.

Tomorrow is cookie making day around here, and Christmas Caroling at the nursing home with our 4H group, so I'm hoping that I get some good news from the doctor to make a round, cheerful kind of day. Miracles happen all the time.

Facing Mortality

My mom is in surgery right now. They must be really concerned to have rushed her in this week. She called me last night and was really anxious. In the midst of it all, she was still her typical annoying and manipulative self.

For instance, I told her what I had already bought my daughter for Christmas, and she went out and bought the same things. Typical. And she passively aggressively mentioned that the doctor asked if she would have family at the hospital, and then when I pointed out that sitting in the waiting room with all four kids when she wouldn't be feeling like visitors in the ICU for a couple of days seemed counterproductive, she snapped "I didn't ASK you to come!" Well no, not exactly ;).

Anyway, I have been convinced for years that my mother would live forever (if just to torture me), but I'm starting to believe in her mortality, and to see the things she does as petty annoyances. I've been slowly trying to change the way I see her, because I know that if I keep using her as my foil, it will be harder when she's gone. I mean, who will I fight with, or blame for everything? (kind of tongue-in-cheek).

So for the last year, I've been working to reframe our relationship, and to offer love instead of rancor and frustration and defensiveness. Yes, she was a horrible, abusive mother. She has tried to undermine my friendships and marriages. She has guilt-tripped my kids, mortally offended my husband(s), and dissed me to people who are already angry with me. But someone like that obviously needs love. A person who is almost impossible to love needs our love desperately.

It doesn't mean that I don't continue to have strong boundaries, or to be careful what information I give her, or that I don't protect my kids from her nuttiness. But it does mean that I try to see her as a hurting person, who isn't going to get mentally or physically better. I don't want to spend her last years being hurt by petty stuff. Of course, living 250 miles away helps. I've been thinking and meditating on loving-kindness a lot lately, and trying to send it out to those who need it the most. My mom usually comes to mind.

Family Virtue

via Boston Unitarian. This is a great post!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Update on my mom

My mom met with her doctor today to follow up on the biopsy she had last Tuesday. They weren't able to tell what is going on, but it's not cancer, it's not TB, it's not a tumor...but they don't know what it is.

What they do know is that she has some kind of crap in her lungs, specifically causing problems with blocking her alveoli, and her oxygen is compromised to the point where she will need O2 soon if things don't change. She can't even walk to her mailbox anymore without gasping for air.

She sees a surgeon tomorrow for a consult and will have an actual piece of lung tissue removed either Wed. or Fri. to try to determine more clearly what is going on, since we know what is not going on. They have to deflate her lung and put in a chest tube and she is quite unhappy. It may take her lung a few days to reinflate because of her O2 problems, so she will be in the hospital for several days at least.

I'm anxious but she is a walking disaster and has been for years, and manages to keep bouncing back. At some point, I'll have to face her mortality and figure out what to do with without her as my foil, but hopefully not quite yet.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Good Read and Good News

Peacebang has a great post today. Go check it out.

Oh, (I say that tongue in cheek, as if it's an afterthought!), and I got my acceptance letter to Meadville Lombard today! Sushi and wine for dinner tonight, in celebration.

It sounds trite, but I couldn't stop crying when I got it. I just couldn't believe it really. Me? Going for a masters' degree? In what? Wow. I feel so much gratitude to those who have had everlasting faith in me and supported me over the last 20 years that have led up to this day.

Now, I have to start learning a whole new paradigm. Seminary, the UUA obligations I have to fulfill, internship, etc. I can't wait!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dog Wisdom and Miracles


Jakob and I had our morning spiritual journey yesterday, and discovered that my neighbor had put out some of those lawn reindeer that light up.

Jakob was seriously offended by their appearance, and was immediately suspicious. He tried to leap the ditch to investigate, and instead fell into the ditch, coming out with muddy feet and offended sensibilities. And he was still upset about the intruding reindeer.

My friend Keith has a Golden Retriever too, and he barks at anything that he doesn't think belongs. If I put my bag down in their chair, he gets quite perturbed about it, because there isn't supposed to be something in the chair. Eventually he chills out though.

I think we can take a lesson from this. Things that are new and unknown can be scary, but we don't need to be afraid of them. We can explore them (as long as we have a long leash), and we can even get used to new things and accept them. Dogs are smarter than humans.

In more news of blessings coming out of difficulty, I lost my cell phone today in a city park. I went back 4 hours later and it was still laying there. I call that a miracle, even if I had to drive 2 hours to retrieve it. For humor value, I lost it while trying to get a urine sample from Jakob, who has UTI and had to go to the vet today.

Life is never dull!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Baaaa

Seen everywhere!
Life Long Goals or Bucket List: Bold is what I have done

Started my own blog, a few times
Slept under the stars
Played in a band

Visited Hawaii

Watched a meteor shower
Given more than I can afford to charity

Been to Disneyland/world

Climbed a mountain
Held a praying mantis
Sung a solo
Bungee jumped

Visited Paris
Watched lightning at sea
Taught myself an art from scratch

Adopted a child - No, but I was a foster parent

Had food poisoning

Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
Grown my own vegetables
Seen the Mona Lisa in France
Slept on an overnight train
Had a pillow fight
Hitchhiked

Taken a sick day when not ill
Built a snow fort

Held a lamb
Gone skinny dipping

Run a marathon

Ridden in a gondola in Venice
Seen a total eclipse
Watched a sunrise or sunset

Hit a home run
Been on a cruise
Seen Niagara Falls in person
Visited the birthplace of my ancestors

Seen an Amish community
Taught myself a new language - well, took Spanish through high school and college
Had enough money to be truly satisfied
Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
Gone rock climbing - indoor

Seen Michelangelo's David
Sung karaoke
Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
Visited Africa
Walked on a beach by moonlight
Been transported in an ambulance
Had my portrait painted
Gone deep sea fishing
Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
Kissed in the rain
Played in the mud
Gone to a drive-in theater
Been in a movie

Visited the Great Wall of China
Started a business
Taken a martial arts class
Visited Russia
Served at a soup kitchen
Sold Girl Scout Cookies

Gone whale watching
Gotten flowers for no reason

Donated blood, platelets or plasma
Gone sky diving
Visited a Nazi concentration camp
Bounced a check
Flown in a helicopter
Saved a favorite childhood toy
Visited the Lincoln Memorial
Eaten caviar
Pieced a quilt
Stood in Times Square
Toured the Everglades
Been fired from a job
Seen the Changing of the Guard in London
Broken a bone
Been on a speeding motorcycle

Seen the Grand Canyon in person
Published a book
Visited the Vatican
Bought a brand new car
Walked in Jerusalem
Had my picture in the newspaper
Read the entire Bible
Visited the White House
Killed and prepared an animal for eating
Had chickenpox
Saved someone's life
Sat on a jury
Met someone famous
Joined a book club
Lost a loved one
Had a baby

Seen the Alamo in person
Swam in the Great Salt Lake
Been involved in a law suit
Owned a cell phone
Been stung by a bee
Ridden an elephant


Monday, December 1, 2008

Universalism

This week's Wellspring group centered on the history of Universalism, specifically a reading from Universalism in America: A Documentary History of a Liberal Faith and a lecture on "Hospitality and Grace" by Rev. Robert Hardies at 2006 GA.

I found this whole bit quite fascinating. My first UU was extremely Unitarian. Very intellectual, above the neck sermons and people. Certainly there was social justice work and things that often moved my heart and soul, but I still see it as primarily working from a Unitarian tradition.

First Unitarian Church of Rochester, at least with its current ministers, seems much more Universalist to me. (I really must go and visit the other 3 churches in my area this year to get more perspective). There is so much work toward the heart and spirit. I go home from each sermon with homework, a mission, an action item. I feel impassioned and my spirit is moved to show up for life and make a difference.

In Hardies' lecture, he says that the one great miracle of Universalism is Radical Hospitality. I have been to a radical hospitality workshop at my church, and I have to say that putting Universalism, or the idea that we will all be saved, and are all welcome, in the framework of Radical Hospitality, turned on a very bright lightbulb for me.

I really think that it has given me a new twist in my path - UUs are sworn heretics. We are thoughtful and action-oriented (at our best) and smug and self-congratulating at our worst. I really see a need in our faith to highlight the heart of who we are - the Universalism. Whether you believe in universal salvation or not, I can believe in filling up someone's bowl. I can believe in showing up for life, and for holding out the welcome mat to UU. I can be evangelistic about our faith in that way, without witnessing or praying for someone, or being pushy. I can just be ready to welcome whoever shows up in my life, to what my faith means in my daily life.

I can be the change - I can be open and welcoming to those who cross my path, and if they show up at my church, I can shake their hand and look them in the eye, and make sure they get what they need (even if that is just a quiet corner from which to observe and experience).

I believe that for UUism to grow and thrive, we need to truly learn how to practice radical hospitality - that is action that we can all get behind. It's the butterfly effect - why does evil exist? Why do bad things happen? How can one believe in a God who "lets" that sort of thing go on? I don't know...I believe that spirit is neutral, but I also believe that we can act out of our own free will in ways that can potentially ward off evil, and that we have a responsibility to live out our values to the best of our abilities and to show up to life with open arms.

There's a couple of Rumi quotes:
There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
of walking in the noisy street,
and being the noise.

Close both eyes
to see with the other eye.

Open your hands,
if you want to be held.

Sit down in this circle.

Quit acting like a wolf, and feel
the shepherd’s love filling you….

Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.

Flow down and down in always
widening rings of being.



There's a strange frenzy in my head,
of birds flying,
each particle circulating on its own.
Is the One I love everywhere?

and

Well, I can't find the second one, but I'll post it later.

In other news, I had my ML admissions interview today. Now let the waiting begin.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Update

The pupster went home. The neighbor across the street called (got my number from dispatch - guess how?) and it was his girlfriend's dog. Turns out Snert the dog is deaf! He just moved in with the girlfriend.

Turns out Soren and I were both right - he's half Australian Shepherd and half Dalmation. Jennifer (the girlfriend) was tearful and thankful - a happy Thanksgiving ending!

Thanks be...

It was a lovely Thanksgiving. We were surrounded by loving friends and family, had wonderful food, and got to attend a really cool interfaith service at our church.

We sang America the Beautiful as our closing hymn, and this was the first time in a long time that I could sing that without feeling disgust at where we are at as a nation. I feel hope.

Now, because we are always lacking in excitement around here, I had to call the police when we got home. Nothing urgent, but a beautiful blue-eyed shepherd mix came up to my dog and daughter when she took him out and we were unloading the car. I saw him this morning when I was walking Jake, and he barked at us from a distance, so I took him up to the house, but she didn't own him either.

So I called the police, but since we live in podunk, the animal control officer can't come out, because he only responsds to bites or dangerous animals. The visiting doggie is locked in the studio right now barking his fool head off, because I'm not sure he and Jake can play nicely. They did a little dominance dance that I didn't witness, but I'm not willing to risk anything with the babies asleep, so I'll drive the pretty boy down to the humane society in the morning. I will have to take a picture before we go - he's stunning. White with some brown markings, and glorious eyes. He's friendly and recently shampooed, collar but no tags.

I'd keep him in a heartbeat, but the barking would have to stop ;).

Lots to be thankful for this day. Puppies who are safe and not in the road, even though they bark; health, love, friends; my own glorious pupster and psycho kitties; enough food and warmth. I am not thankful that our new taxes kicked in and I have to come up with an extra $200/mo for our mortgage for the forseeable future. I'm not so sure about that. But I'm thankful for Carrie, and my subscription to The Sun; for technology and email and blogging; for my big comfy bed; for my wonderful husband and kids; for my quiet country road and little piece of heaven (though not for broken lawnmowers and snowblowers); and for the spiritual connections that tie me to those I love and that large interdependent web we're all a part of.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good thoughts

My mother is always having some medical crisis, but she has to have a lung biopsy on Tuesday morning. From the symptoms and CT Scan, we suspect pulmonary fibrosis from her autoimmune disease, but will find out more next week.

If anyone feels like lighting a candle, or praying, that would be nice.

Naked for Peace

Stolen from The Socinian, I had to post this, because I love it, someone from First Unitarian Church of Rochester is in this video, and it is powerful.


Living Into

That's what my minister calls it. Living into...whatever. Your dreams, your values, your calling, your beliefs. Maybe she didn't coin the phrase, but she's the first person I've heard say it, and I really like it.

I met with my spiritual adviser today, which is always a good thing.

When I was a teenager, I was in therapy, and grew a lot as a person, and dealt with a lot of childhood baggage. When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I went to therapy again on and off, and was really ticked off that I still had so much growing to do. I recognize that it's a good thing to realize how much growth one has ahead of them, but it would be nice to just get to perfect sometimes, you know? Heh.

Anyway, my personal timeline looks something like:
Teens: Living in crisis
Twenties: Learning to live without creating crisis
Thirties: Learning that there is no crisis; just living everyday life, a day at a time (Alcoholics Anonymous has been on to this for years, by the way).

When I was 30, I got a tattoo of the Japanese character for serenity, because God knows, I had little in my life - I am not particularly patient, have lots of kids, a busy life, and frenetic energy. I got the tattoo though, out of self-awareness - I need to be intentional about finding serenity in my life, and about creating it.

Since being called to the ministry, and actively living into my spiritual beliefs and needs, I am seeing a difference in so many areas of my life. I am finally realizing that just because, as my first husband says, when I walk into a room, the energy changes, I can channel what kind of energy I want to put out to the universe. There are stranger things than karma, folks.

I know this all seems kind of rambling, but there's a point - and it's this. Living into one's being and "showing up" for life, being intentional about it, is a gift to oneself and everyone around you.

I am still an agnostic on my many levels. I don't really believe in the supernatural per se, but I do believe in mystery. And I believe that there are many natural things that we don't understand, that are mysterious, and that effect us on a cosmic level outside of our intellectual capacity to understand them. I do know that every day, I make an intentional attempt to be open to the connections that make up our days, our relationships, and our universe, and since I have started to do that, some amazing things are happening for me.

My marriage is stronger. I have stronger, more transparent relationships with my children and my friends. My actions are more intentional. I have a lot more joy in my life.

I will always have a lot of growing to do, but I hope I can embrace it and not run from it. Sometimes it's hard and scary, but ultimately, it is what Living Into is all about.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

That makes me maaad ...


...in my best little Droopy voice. Does anyone remember him?

I suddenly started getting a subscription to The Sun after almost a year of not renewing. It was odd (I suspect you Carrie!), but a true gift. I really love this magazine, and it always has thought-provoking articles and photographs.

There was an interview with Chris Hedges this month.

Anyway, he has a M.Div from Harvard and is a very well known journalist, and has done his time in the trenches of the world, both domestically and internationally.

Anyway, he just released a book called I Don't Believe in Atheists, but in this interview, he talks a bit about liberal religion, and what he had to say made me mad and defensive, I think because my husband has said the same thing about UUism, and even our church, especially when he's feeling disconnected. I think there is a grain of truth in it, or maybe more than a grain, but I have also seen a wider range of people from all walks of life seeking out the UU, and I do think that we're getting more in touch with the idea that we need to get out there and change the world.

"Since it lacked the spine to stand up and fight back, the liberal church has nothing to offer anymore excpet a mild message about inclusiveness and tolerance...their decline is their own fault. They are the products of a self-satisfied, bourgeois upper middle class...where they talk about "empowering" people they've never met."

And he talks about how we let the fundamentalist Christians lead the debates and set the topics.

However, he also says something that I think is very true of many UUs that I know:
"I think it's hard to sustain resistance to injustice without a spiritual core...if you have a spiritual core, then your fealty is to moral imperatives....resistance is what gives you strength..."

I think that UU churches and ministers are finally starting to see that we need to offer a path, and some guidance to those tha come to our doors seeking - not to just say, well, UUism is about finding your own faith and putting all the responsbility on our members. Studies show that churches that set the bar high, and offer guidance, grow and succeed and make a difference.

There's a lesson to be learned from harsh criticism, even though it's really hard to hear. And being pissed off can be a good kick in the butt to keep the good things moving ahead in our faith.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Media Project II

video
This is my second media project for class. Better heard with headphones, as audio is poor.

I just realized I have an 8 page paper to write as well, so thought I better get this done early!

It was fun to look through all the photos and just see how much we DO all the time!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

On the homestretch

I have less than a month of school left for my BA. I am having a good semester. I just got another perfect score on a paper - that is the 5th one this semester, and I anticipate another two as soon as I get my grades for my latest projects. The comments from my professors have been uplifting and helpful, which is a gift.

I've also been studying UU history through Wellspring and am enjoying the reading we're doing. The curriculum is listed at the website if anyone is interested. It's a great primer! The last two sessions we covered For Faith and Freedom: A Short History of Unitarianism in Europe, by Charles Howe.
• Chapter 1, “As For the Trinity….”
• Chapter 2, “The Life and Death of Michael Servetus”
• Chapter 3, “The Double Life of Michael Servetus”
• Chapter 6, “Francis David and the Rise of Unitarianism in Transylvania”
• Conclusion
and

Universalism in America: A Documentary History of a Liberal Faith, edited by
Ernest Cassara. Read Chapter 1: “Two Centuries of Universalism, 1741-1961:
A Brief Historical Sketch”

I find it absolutely fascinating, and am for the first time in my life, truly taken by history. I do feel handicapped going into the ministry lacking much education on theology and religious history. I'm overwhelmed by the sheer number of denominations out there in Christianity alone, and the history of them, but at least the UU piece is becoming a tad clearer to me.

I have one more media project and an essay, a final paper in one class, a short paper and a final term paper in the final class, plus weekly discussion topics for the next 4 weeks. I am so anxious to get through it all! I have my Meadville Lombard interview coming up in a couple of weeks, which I very excited about! I haven't heard anything from Colgate, but I know my application must be going to committee soon as well too. I've also sent for Harvard application materials as well, just for grins.

I'm also thoroughly addicted to the TV show Lost now, and am pacing myself to give myself time to do school work ;). I'm on my own with the littles tonight, so am taking a quick study break to journal before I wrestle them into bed. I actually got a short catnap with the baby today, which was lovely! That hasn't happened in a long time.

Jakob and I had a wonderful walk this morning. He frolicked through the falling snow - we got several more inches, and I absolutely relished his unfettered joy. He has such a love for the fluffy stuff; it gives me a daily appreciation, which is good, since I'm already about tired of it! We have at least 8 inches on the ground now. Incidentally he's the first dog I've owned that could destroy a Kong toy.

My daughter's first gymnastics meet is tomorrow afternoon, so no church for me; it would be a rush to leave and get across the city. She's with her dad, so I already wished her good luck, and I can't wait to see how she does; she's been working really hard from what I can tell.

It has been a quiet weekend, filled with study and small child needs - Lucy is asking for Dada right now, but he's at work till 2 a.m. We had a nice family day today though (minus him chopping wood for quite some time), and I'm looking forward to another tomorrow.

I am very much looking forward to Thanksgiving week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Decade

Yesterday, my daughter attained what she calls "double digits," which was a big personal milestone for her. She spent her last days being 9, in a "thoughtful" state and sees this as a new era. So much changes in 10 years.

10 years ago:
I was snuggling with a newborn who flew out in 4 short hours of labor at home.
I was learning how to tandem nurse.
My first husband and I had just finished a 5 years stint of being foster parents
I was a stay-at-home mom for the first time ever.
I published my first article
I still lived in my hometown of State College, PA
I didn't own a cell phone
I had a lot more money
My oldest, who will be a teenager in 4 months, was just 2 years old.
I was doing a lot of volunteering (that hasn't changed).
Technology was very different
I had just visited a UU for the first time

So many things have changed in those 10 years, but most of all, I have changed.

My daughter, who is now 10, has been an instrumental part of creating me, of teaching me, of showing me what love is. Every year has been an adventure - filled with joys and challenges, lots of love and snuggles. She is creative, bright, crafty, has a killer smile and an infectious laugh, and lights up my days.

Happy birthday, little one!fa

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Greater Good

My family is doing the Greater Good project again this year - it's easy to do when you're already just outside the poverty zone anyway. I'm really uninspired about presents this year. They just seem so meaningless. We have everything we need and I buy mostly second-hand now. Even Emma can't think of anything she needs, or barely anything she needs. I find that admirable. Not all of my children feel that way, but that's OK ;).

But here's some great direction in case you don't have a church that you belong to, or an organization who's doing something similar. Found originally here. Even if you aren't Christian, the idea that Jesus was a good role model and good to emulate is inspiring.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Snow and contentment

It is an absolutely delightful, fluffy, wet, dog snuffling through it, kind of snow here. I just grinned through our whole walk this morning, at Jakob's joy, at snowflakes on my nose, at stamping it off my boots, at the silence it creates.

It was a wonderful way to begin my day, hot cup of coffee in hand.

The woodstove is cranking away, laundry drying in front of it, sending up extra good smells, and the kids are rushing around getting ready to go out and play. How much more content could I be? This is the life I envisioned myself in, and here I am.

I enjoyed Wellspring very much last night. I had signed up to lead a prayer, and did a loving-kindness meditation from Pema Chodron's book, The Places That Scare You. I think that it went well. I was nervous, but just gave myself over to fate. I practiced it on the older girls first, which was a hoot, because we were fighting and crabby and rushing to get out the door yesterday and they just insisted I do it with them anyway, and it really changed our whole mood.

The group had an interesting discussion Unitarian history, and as always, the different viewpoints are enlightening. As always, the lesson I take away is to listen. Attend.

I was up very late night chatting with a friend and studying but I slept better than I have in several weeks, and the littles slept through the night for the first time in a long time as well. I feel rested and warm and fuzzy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

It's so good to be home again. The kids and I left early Friday morning for a visit to my hometown and my parents. We had a great trip both ways in the car - nobody got beat up or grounded (there may have been occasional loss-of-dessert privileges however), and the gas prices were $.50/gal. cheaper in PA than in NY which was a nice treat.

We went straight to my dad's nursing home, before my son's head exploded. He had been asking for a week if it was the weekend yet, and we could see Papa George. My dad was as "on" as I've seen him in two years. We visited three times and all the visits were wonderful, with very little inappropriate stuff on his part, and much joy and fun on Jude's part. It's harder for the girls because they're intimidated by the dementia/Alzheimer's patients, who are lonely, and lost, and a little too in-your-face to kids sometimes, but Jude was a joy. He talked happily to everyone, and cheered up the whole floor. The elderly women there just love him to death, and I wish he could visit everyday. He spent most of the first visit standing next to my dad's chair with his elbow resting on dad's shoulder, talking a mile a minute.

It was really hard to leave him today - the patients make me so sad, and I hate leaving him; I'm glad we have plans to go back next month for the holidays.

We also visited with my mom, and we had just the most amazing discussions about my calling and religion and spirituality. I think really, the most honest and non-confrontational talks we've had ... ever? Really. I look forward to more of the same. I left her with my copy of A Chosen Faith, and we cooked together and she made ham sandwiches for us to bring home on our trip. Nobody makes a ham sandwich like my mom. Despite all our differences, there is something about being fed by my mom that keeps me connected to her.

We also had the joy of visiting with my friend Jane, who always nurtures us. We stayed overnight and the girls got to visit with her girls, so they all disappeared and great fun and conversation was had. It's always like we've never been separated, which is the gift of true friendship. We also visited with my newly married friends Keith and Erica, who made us delicious pancakes for breakfast and provided me with a wireless fix! They also kept me plied with my morning coffee and I got to snuggle with their golden retreiver, which made me miss Jakob a little less.

We also got to visit the UUFCC, which was SO great. The sermon was on Ethical Eating, and having been subjected to one recently that made me mostly pissed off, it was great. Rev. Mark is a wonderfully conversational minister, which I had forgotten, and it was a joy to hear him speak again. It was also wonderful to see so many old friends and to realize that those connections have stayed strong. The funniest part of the service was the Opening words. Mark said the words and went to light the chalice, and Lucy, quite clearly said, "Ohhh Kayyy!" It was a perfect toddler Amen! I listened to 1/2 of the service from the nursery, which they have kindly added speakers to since I last attended.

And I must have one of their cool new coffee mugs!

The older girls went to class and had a blast with their teachers, one a former mentor of mine - I can't wait to visit again. I was tickled to look out the sanctuary doors and see Nittany Mountain while listening to my former violin teacher play the prelude.

We missed home and it's good to be back, but this trip was remarkable for it's ease. The kids are getting so much easier to travel with. And Tom and Jakob were happy to see us, and Tom got his chores done and even vacuumed and made chicken soup for our homecoming!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Seen everywhere in the blogosphere

"If you saw me in a police car, what would you think I got arrested for?"

Answer in the comments, then post this question in your own journal.

Prayer and Humor

You know, I have mentioned here that I'm rediscovering prayer in a my own eclectic UU way, and I had a spine tingling experience a few weeks ago. Then yesterday, I was back in that kind of financial despair place that is so familiar to me, and was just trying to be open to knowing that it will all be alright.

So the money came through that we were waiting for, and then I took the kids to Wendy's because I knew it was going to be a long, only-parent kind of day since Tom was working late, and when we went to pay, it took a really long time. I was getting really worried that something had gone wrong with my bank account and the money wasn't showing up, when she opened the window and told me my lunch was free. What? Yeah, the credit card machine is broken, so your lunch is on the house.

So the universe has a great sense of humor apparently. I pray, and what do I get but a free lunch? It is to laugh with delight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ministerial stuff

I know that my application goes to committee at CRCDS this week or next. I got a call from Meadville Lombard that one of my references seems to have gotten lost in the mail. I called the person and they mailed it over a month ago and now have to recreate it, since they did it by hand :::sigh:::. But after that, they will schedule an interview.

I also followed up with the NERSCC, and am officially an applicant now. I can do a couple of pieces of paperwork and once I'm accepted to divinity school, I can become an aspirant.

Feeling tearful and joyous. It was good to go to the prospective student conference at CRCDS this weekend or I wouldn't have been jogged to check in with the office about my application.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Visiting Seminary

I had an opportunity to attend a student orientation at CRCDS this weekend. I was not the token UU there, which was nice - there was at least one other UU there, someone who has been to the UU, and there are three UU students there (out of about 100, 3% isn't too bad!).

I felt like my faith was very respected; of course, the school is Christian, so there was a lot of mental filtering going on for me, but out of the whole conference, I enjoyed the worship and prayers services, as well as the workshop/class we got to attend best. The prospective students spent a lot of time together, and they fed us well.

They had some good suggestions for financial aid as well - loans, grants, scholarships, and funding for tuition or even just books from your local congregation. They said that one student even had family and friends donated to her account before she even started school and she started out with several thousand dollars! (I'm open to that, for the record ).

I so, so, so wish I could go to the prospective student conference at Meadville Lombard next week. I am really wanting to find out more details about the modified residency program, intensives, and how that works for students who are doing it. I want to see the actual space, meet some professors and staff, and see how it feels in comparison to CRCDS.

Positives about CRCDS is proximity, and in-person class attendance - this is also a bit of a negative, as they don't offer any online coursework, and it would mean evening classes and/or much juggling at least one day a week for childcare. I really liked all the staff and faculty that I met. I had some interesting conversations with current and prospective students. And I felt really good about my ability to articulate the UU faith and my own position within it. I had one man almost haunt me and asked me many, many questions.

I also had several very interesting discussions about homeschooling, faith, and values. In other news, I should really be working on my paper that is due tomorrow, because I have written 3 paragraphs of a 10 page paper, Tom is working till 3 a.m., and I have plans to go to church tomorrow. Ahem.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What a week

This week has been amazing. (You thought I was going to whine, didnja? Admit it!).

The election was amazing. I am enjoying reading all the wonderful posts of others about their joy at Obama's election. I am so excited to have an articulate, intelligent president, who wants to work with others (preconditions or no!). I can barely stand it. I cannot wait till Jan. 20.

I am doing a student orientation at Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School the next two days. I am apprehensive and excited. I can't manage the Meadville Lombard one next week, but must go in October. I haven't gotten my final technical approval of my degree from ESC yet and it's stressing me out but I can't wait to send my new and final transcript to ML and hopefully get an acceptance letter soon so I can start in August for sure.

I met with my ministe today after I had a little freak-out this week. I walked out feeling so much better. I just need to talk to someone who would get it about the joy and anxiety and gifts and burdens of being called to the minstry. We had such a wonderful conversation about a wide range of topics - identity, others' perceptions, church politics, minsterial paths, joy, fear, vulnerability and caring for oneself - it was all very helpful to have her put some things into words for me that I've been struggling with, and that most people just don't understand, much as they might want to.

Much writing is to be done for school over the next three days, but I only have 7 weeks left! I am still struggling with senioritis, but mostly because I am SO enjoying my 4 year old right now! He is still headstrong as hell, but he is so interested in everything! He says the greatest, funnest things, and I totally blow off schoolwork just to listen to him talk to me and ask me questions, and to enjoy his new engagement with the world, and the written word, and to watch his joy in his friends of all ages.

I am also connecting with people - even close friends - on a whole new level. Things are so good. Crises happen, but they don't have to define life.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama

I couldn't make it to the end awake, but was pretty sure of the results. I woke at 2 a.m. (the baby woke up), and immediately turned back to the NY Times. I immediately had tears running down my face. I am watching /listening to his acceptance speech, and the tears keep running.

I am so, so grateful and awed. What a historic day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Not exactly live-blogging the election

So Obama has taken PA and OH. I could not wait to vote this morning. I was so excited. I took Soren with me and we had a good talk about the electoral college. I have been waiting all day to listen to NPR!!

I am listening live, and am supposed to be studying, but am finding it impossible. I'll have to catch up tomorrow I guess; I am obsessed. No matter how you cut it, this has been a historic campaign, and I just can't wait to see how it all pans out. The Senate and House voting is almost equally compelling. One can almost hope for some serious change...I'm too superstitious, given the last two elections.

It was a gorgeous day, which is mystically supposed to bode well for Democrats, historically, so we'll see if myth holds true.

Behind the political scene, I had a Wellspring meeting last night, and a meeting with my minister on Thursday, and a student orientation at Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School on Friday and Saturday. I am feeling somewhat overwhelmed at the moment. I thought that when I was called to the ministry that I knew what transformation meant, but I really didn't have any idea. I think that I'm just now starting to find out. I'm finding it joyous, exhilirating, and terrifying at the same time, ergo the meeting with my minister to try to find my footing.

This potential election result is not about me - it's not personal, but it's certainly a reflection of a series of continuing connections and events that are leaving me with a disbelief in coincidence and a healthy respect for mystery.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A cure for resentment

This may seem simplistic, but I found that stacking 7.5 face cords of wood leaves you too tired to hold on to petty resentment, and gives you a lot of time to meditate. It also gives you sore muscles and a strong sense of accomplishment that you can see.

The wood stove is in, the house is warmer than I ever felt it when using the oil furnace, and it's full of good smells and toasty heat. Even the far reaches of the house are warm with judicious use of some floor fans to circulate air.

It's hard to worry about petty things when you're tired, warm, and well-fed.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Being in convenant

Peacebang has a great post this morning in relation to church, but I think it applies to all of life, and really resonated with me (and reminded me of things I need to work on) this morning.

Being in covenant with the people in your life, whether through church or family, friendship, or lover, requires a lot of work. But those who need us most are the ones that can be most difficult for us to be there for.

I'm leading a prayer at Wellspring in a couple of weeks, and this is the whole gist of it. Coincidence that this is coming up over and over again in my life? I think not.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Autumn - a time for good smells

You know, like the leaves as they're turning colors and falling? This weekend will be full of them. We raked today, which turns up scents of soil, wet leaves and grass. There's the musty scent of the studio, where we stored our summer outdoor furniture today.

Emma made banana bread this week, which smelled of cold days an warm baking, and they brought in the crisp smell of snow, when they bundled up and went to catch the first flakes on their noses on Wednesday. And the dog smelled of snow and wet, and snuffled through the cold leaves with joy and vigor on our walk.

And tomorrow, universe willing, will be the smell of woodsmoke. (Just in time for it to be in the high 60s and 70s next week). Our new wood stove arrived this week with the chimney liner, and the wood is dumped in the front yard today, ready for me to stack tomorrow (bet I'll be sore on Sunday). I love the smell of wood smoke. And I can't wait to have a warm bedroom for the first time (well, other than summer) since we moved in. The woodstove is going in the laundry room, hardly a place to sit and have cocoa, but I plan to put a chair in there anyway!

Halloween-y

I'm sitting here waiting for the baby to fall back to sleep after our drive home from her first real trick-or-treat. Being a dork, I forgot the camera, but I'll get some pics tomorrow, since it was just a witch dress and the hat got ditched very early on.

Jude, my 4 yo, was in a fever of excitement all day. "Is it time to go yet?" He ran (with ghost wings trailing) to each house with joy and excitment, tallied his candy at the end, and wanted to know when Halloween would come again. "Next year." "NO, that's too long!" "Yep, when you're five." "I don't want to trick or treat when I'm five! I want to do it again soon!"

Ahhh, all the anticipating, and then just a short hour of fun, a bag of candy, and the waiting begins again. His birthday begins a season of celebrations in September. He won't know what to do when things wind down in January. The other kids were just as excited. My 9 yo wore three different outfits for three different events today. she just couldn't decide! She started out as the Cheerless Cheerleader (what I call a Goth Cheerleader), at the farm market and hay ride we went to earlier; then she was a sheepdog for actual trick or treat, then Super Girl to visit her stepmother at Starbucks. She looked great, no matter what.

My oldest ditched us to go out with her friends. Jude said that Halloween wasn't nearly as fun without her there. Awww. But I'll bet she had a blast. She was dressed up as Arwen. She's growing up way too fast.

In between all the festivities, I got a message from my mom. She called to let me know that her cataract surgery on Tuesday had been canceled, because her X-ray from last week's ER visit showed a blockage and that she has possibly had a heart attack, and she has to have a stress test on Monday.

Then, later, I got another message that she was heading into the hospital; they found on further tests that she tested positive for a blood clot (in her lung I think), and I haven't been able to reach her on her cell, so I'm waiting till tomorrow to call the hospital.

I'm sending good energy her way. There's no point in me making a trip there with the little ones; I dont' want to expose them to hospital germs, and it's too hard to manage them in that setting and have a meaningful visit. But I'm tempted. Despite all the history between my mother and I, and her spurious (and real) health problems over the last 5+ years, it's no picnic to be alone in the hospital.

I think I might be moving closer to that healing and forgiveness that my spiritual director talked about with me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Snow

It is snowing, and it snowed enough to cover the windshield of the car overnight. Eldest daughter is not amused. Middle son is excited. Dog thinks it's the best thing since stealing bagels.

We had our morning walk this morning, a tad late, with snow blowing in my face, and he found every snow covered leaf, burrowing his nose into it, and fully enjoying the experience. There's a lesson to be learned from that.

I had a hard time focusing this morning, alternately filled with apprehension and joy, but I felt better after my walk, regardless. And the new wood stove is here, ready to be installed, pumpkins will be carved, and seeds roasted today, and so fall ends, warm and filled with love.

And life calls, as the toddlers scream!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Being called

I met with my spirital director today and had a really good visit with her. We talked more about prayer and discovered that the desire of my heart for prayer is to be able to access the universe by consistently putting ego aside - to have a pure experience. And I'm supposed to figure out what's behind my anger with people who use religion and prayer (aka witnessing) as a tool.

So, for anyone who's out there reading that's in seminary, or considering it, or is a minister...how did you find your path? What was being called to the ministry like for you, if you're comfortable sharing such a thing. What does it feel like to minister, to preach, to pray, to have spirit move through you, so to speak?

I am lately feeling like I'm on a fast train that I can't get off of, and that spiritually, things are converging for me in a way that's vaguely frightening, exhilarating and joyous. It is almost impossible to talk about it to people without sounding like perhaps I have come up with some new mental illness.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Prima Donna

I had a serious melt-down today. I have no idea why; maybe PMS? But boy, was I cranky and I warned everyone away because I was not fit to be around. After I had my fit, I came in and worked on my video project, which was healing.

I was really angry at a friend who did what he thought was a favor, but just created a bunch of difficult work for me, and wasn't what I wanted anyone to do, and he didn't ask first. I yelled at Tom about it, who called our friend, who called me, and I wouldn't answer his call, so he drove all the way out to my house to apologize.

Can you believe that? I am so blessed with friends who love me and put up with my very occasional fits of insanity.

I wasn't even angry anymore when he got here; just embarrassed at my own fit of pique.

Storytelling Assignment

video

I made this video about my dad for a digital storytelling class I'm taking (Hi Prof. Tom!). I hope my readers enjoy it. It was more emotional that I expected, and it's certainly not perfect, but it sure was satisfying.

One of the things that came up about digital storytelling is that it takes a lot of trust to put yourself into a story like this and share it - one can't control audience reaction, or even who the audience necessarily may be. The class reminds me a bit of the Circles of Trust that Parker Palmer discusses though - at least in this setting, it's about the story, not about judgment or critique.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NYT Endorses Obama

Here's the latest.

I am becoming more and more invested in this election every day, to the point where it is painful to be tied down by school and family right now and not able to help in some way.

Be here now is a hard lesson sometimes.

Self-sufficiency and Dating

The dating first I think. My husband and I have not had a date since Sept. 12, 2007. No, I'm not kidding. With no money, little ones who don't like anyone but mama or daddy at bedtime, and no regular babysitter, there was just no way. But last night, we had a date to see Great Big Sea, one of our favorite bands (adults and kids alike). I bought tickets months ago, and was going, hell or high water.

Turns out, the band almost didn't make it - they missed their flight and pulled in 5 minutes before they went onstage. I was so grateful. It was an incredible show. I think this is the 5th time I've seen them, and this is the first time I've seen them come back for two encores. It was a full house, sold out show, and the house was rocking!

My MIL watched the kids and the dog (my oldest took responsibility for getting the baby to bed, which was apparently a Herculean effort, bless her little heart), and fed us all dinner before we went, and then we stayed overnight after the show. I was so grateful. MIL sent us home with enough food for a week I think.

I was intentionally letting loose a bit, and danced and sang and shouted and jumped up and down with the best of the 20 year olds! It was soooo much fun!

Then today, (yes, this is more on the saga of the still-broken lawnmower), I learned how to replace a lawnmower battery which was very hard work, only to find out that the replacement battery was shot too GRRR! But I was SO proud of myself and I didn't swear once at the machine. I felt so good about doing this work - another step toward not having to rely on someone to fix something!

I also sold 5 ads toward gymnastics booster club, and did an hour of volunteering today. If I sell enough ads, I won't have to do any more fundraising, thank the stars. I abhor fundraising.

Now I have to study, as I am truly behind and am alone with the littles for the next three days, with a promised museum trip, a promised science museum trip, and an all-day cheerleading competition on Sunday to look forward to. I wish I could listen to my textbooks on tape in the car.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Alaskan View

Found elsewhere in the Blogosphere, an article on Sarah Palin by Nick Jans, one of my favorite Alaska Magazine contributors.

Morning Meditation - Gratitude, Duty, and Forgiveness

It was a rainy, cold walk this morning. On the way out, it was also blurry, as the rain was coming toward me and completely obscured my glasses by the time we got a few feet. That was metaphoric for the walk. I was awash in thoughts and un-had conversations about my family - my parents and my sister. About my duty, my resentments, gratitude, and forgiveness.

Well, not much on forgiveness; that's one I've been working on for many years without much progress.

Anyway, I tried to let those thoughts come and go, and on the way home, my glasses cleared, as the rain was behind me, and the way was clear! And what could I see? Home.

The universe sure is profound sometimes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wow

My oldest daughter just plopped herself on my office floor with some incense, a cuppa chai, and a candle and is silently meditating.

I like it.

Prayer and other random thoughts

I spent yesterday afternoon doing a lot of reading on prayer for Wellspring. There were some things that really struck a chord with me.

As I'm discovering, prayer becomes deeper and more meaningful with practice and intention.

Wikstrom mentions, in the essay in our book, that prayer can seem like an appropriation. As a former Catholic, I really identify with this statement, and continue to try to redefine what prayer means for me, and whether it is something I'm even comfortable with. I suspect it's like using the words "God" or "Amen" or "soul"; that I need to get beyond my reactions to my past religions experiences with these words, and claim them as my own, in a new paradigm.

As Wikstrom describes also, my own experience with prayer has been mostly about intercession and confession, or forgiveness. I want to move to a definition that speaks to prayer as a connection to unity and the divine, and of gratitude.

I don't need to be praying to anyone or anything, to connect to what is within and without me, just in the physical world. As I do more of this, I am finding a connection to more of the mystery of the universe as well - even just speaking of the wonder of all existence, and how biology works, and the interconnectedness of all things.

Although I am not drawn to Wikstrom's method of prayer, the symbolism of his beads does strike a chord. My daily spiritual practice of meditative walking and centering is a way to begin my day with focus and intention, and to return to that inner place throughout the day, when I have the opportunity. The way that I name the sacred is through recongition of mystery. Our very presence in the universe is a divine mystery, regardless of whether it's biological or theological. And we are all bound by a common thread of seeking - seeking balance, seeking peace and serenity, seeking answers.

Listening during prayer is about intentionally being open - intellectually, emotionally, spiritually - to what the universe brings into my life.

Loving is the key to what I am beginning to see as prayer. I have struggled with seeing prayer as a tool of selfishness and self-centeredness - of ego. In another reading, Josh Snyder says that Catholic prayer can feel like wish fulfillment - this is exactly what I dislike about my past experience with prayer.

In Rev. Crow's sermon that we read, I resonated with her comment (perhaps a quote?) that prayer doesn't change things, it changes people, and people change things. Prayer is a way to access my own inner voice, to hear myself and to feel heard, so that I can change myself, and be a force of change in the world.

He says, "Very often, we start with our beliefs about God, and then define everything around that." So having a new definition of my experience with the sacred and crystallizing that does not mean that I have to define prayer in any particular way. It can be formative, but not the way.

Finally, Rev. Davis says that "Prayer is about opening the windows of your being so that more...light can shine in on you."
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I encourage anyone to go and listen to Rev. Scott Tayler's sermon on the financial crisis, once it is posted. I found myself moved and wanting to say "Amen!" and at the same time, called to remember that there is no heirarchy of pain, something I learned in my days working with battered women.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Religion and Civil Society

I've been doing some heavy reading for my comparative politics class on Christianity and civil society. We're discussing whether the "church" should be part of civil society or outside of it, in the traditional demarcation between state and civil society.

It's been really interesting to read the different theories -St. Augustine, Lutheranism, Protestant, and more. How is it that I grew up Catholic and never had any inkling of all this heavy political and social theory that goes on behind the scenes? How can I have gotten to this point in my life without having thought more about these connections and relationships?

Clearly, both my theological teachers and my public school teachers in civics failed me desperately. I mean, this stuff can be hard to read and understand - it's all very theoretical, but it's fascinating and cogent to everyday living. We take on Islam and Confuscianism over the rest of the semester. I can't wait!

It also is finally explaining my attraction to the UU church. This whole dichotomy between heirarchy and covenant is making so much more sense.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Morning meditation






This morning, Jake and I took our walk, as usual. He found a chipmunk, and I saw squirrels across the street.

The moon was still up to the west, and the sun rose behind us to the east. It made for a beautiful walk, both ways.

It's another gorgeous fall day here. We're going to spend it with dear friends, and I'm going to work on the paper that's due on Sunday. I got the rest of my schoolwork done through then, and can start reading for the following weeks. Just 10 more weeks to go. I got 100% on my last two quizzes, and feel good about how I'm doing, despite my intense senioritis.

The kidlets are laying on the futon next to me, "reading" while I work, Emma is making eggs and toast for us for breakfast, and Tom is off to work.

Today seems much more manageable than yesterday did; amazing what a couple of hours of work and a good night's sleep will do for one's attitude.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Prayer

Next Wellspring session is on prayer. This week we talked about our spiritual histories, and as I was writing mine down, I found that my memory of praying was of a very selfish kind of prayer - help me out here! Fix this problem! I promise to be good if you ...!

In the church's newsletter, perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, the minister's message is also on prayer this week. I have been thinking about the lack of prayer in my life, and how I could change my paradigm to make it a more powerful and positive connection to the universe - not just a plea.

This morning, I prayed while I did my meditative walking. I prayed by allowing myself to be open to the universe, and to what it might bring me, and that I was going to try to keep doors open and be available to the joys and sorrows of life as they come.

I posted yesterday that I was struggling and that money is a big issue. Today I got an unexpected windfall that will cover my back bills, get me in the red, and maybe even save some toward my career assessment for divinity school.

Coincidence? Maybe...but that's why I call myself a mystical humanist.

That's so Gay!

My daughter and I absolutely loved these (there are links to more). It also gave her a way to keep doing the good work of battling statements of hate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Letting go of resentment

My day did not start off with my morning walk, and everything has been out of sync since then. I am crabby and resentful of everyone, and am trying hard to let it go, but am not doing a very good job.

I'm also really stressed out about money (or rather, the lack of it).

I am finding that the more I intentionally have meditative time to just be, the more serenity I have. And, perhaps a negative effect is that I crave it more and more. I am taking longer showers with the door locked, multiple walks with the dog, and disappearing into the far reaches of the yard. I think it really annoys my family. The constant noise is becoming more and more apparent to me though, and it affects my ability to concentrate or focus.

I'm glad that today is my Wellspring group.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

This is not a spiritual entry


Nope. It's about cheerleading. My daughter started cheerleading in August, after years of gymnastics (and making fun of cheerleading!). She has become really good in two short months and, despite challenges with some of the girls (discipline) and the coach being new, and some other behind-the-scenes issues, her squad took first place today at their second competition. She is the shortest one in the crew.

I am just so proud of her, for being true to herself and to her values. I am proud of the other girls for stepping up when it counts. I am proud of the coach, for crying tears of joy and being positive and loving when they pulled it off.

I am also exited that Emma wants to join an All-Stars team and keep going with it. Her dad...maybe not so much ;). But it's loud, it's happy, it's fun, there's lots of estrogen and girl drama, and she gets thrown around! What more could a teenage girl want, really?

Friday, October 10, 2008

I need silence! And life in bullet points

I really need a sound-proof room. I had forgotten how much toddlers and preschoolers talk! And talk and talk and talk....oh my goodness. And they follow me everywhere. I have found myself sneaking food into the bathroom to eat something without having to share it, while they bang on the locked door and scream for the 27 seconds that I'm in there. Forget trying to actually go to the bathroom in private.

And my 12 year old thinks my kitchen is her closet. She walks in the house and sheds shoes, clothes, backpack, socks...it's like a whirlwind went straight through the room.

But I love them. And despite all their noise and distraction (and because of their love and support), I got the news on Wednesday that my degree plan has been approved. I was also commended by the committee for a well-written essay. I have 11 weeks of school left before I can walk away with my BA, at 35 years of age. I think I need a little counter on my sidebar or something!

Today I got an invitation to CRCDS for a new student tour, worship, and seminar. And I can actually go! So that's exciting news as well.

I also realized that I really need to be working with or involved with teenagers again. I really believe that a large piece of my personal ministry lies there. I miss that work, and am anxious to get involved with our local community center and start giving of my knowledge and support to our kids.

It's supposed to be a gorgeous weekend. Tomorrow Emma has a home cheerleading competition, and a game on Sunday. We're having dinner with my MIL to celebrate her 80th birthday tomorrow night. I get to teach RE on Sunday, and we're going to visit the labyrinth. Then I hope to get outside and enjoy the weather!

Jakob the dog is good. We're continuing at least once daily walks, training, and meditation. I'm enjoying it, even though the first couple of weeks really felt spiritual, and the last week has felt like going through the motions, I know that will pass.

Monday, October 6, 2008

About UUs

Our local paper ran a story on UUism today. There were some things I took issue with, but overall, I liked it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Are you a UU?

Apologies to Chalicefire, but this made my day, so I had to post it here too!

Losing my serenity

The day started out nicely, other than that I had to take the baby on my morning walk. Husband started a second job every other weekend and works from 5 p.m. to 2 am. This has been the first weekend and everything was pretty much OK until the last 30 minutes since my son got up and has been a first class grouchy four-year-old. He's arguing with me, the dog, and the baby, woke his dad up because he didn't get what he wanted from me, and I still have to get them ready for church and leave in an hour.

I already hate this second job, and it won't really help that much financially, but it's definitely giving my husband something he needs, that he hasn't had since we got married - time with his friends, and music. Community. So he has this job much for the reason I started working at the RE assistant at church last year - a chance to have a life outside family, to do something I enjoyed, and to build my community. So I need to support that...but boy it's hard ;).

Lovely walk this morning though. The trees seem to be turning color more quickly every day, and it was a real art show this morning. Mist rising up off the canal, asters blooming, trees every color imaginable, the sun rising over the (small) hill.

Lucy enjoyed the walk too. We bundle up and when she got restive, I handed her a black walnut, which fascinated her for awhile. She was quiet and reflective for 95% of the walk as well, so maybe she enjoys the quiet solitude as much as I do. It's all blown to hell now that J. is awake and screaming, but I'm sure I'll get my groove back. I bet he's as out of sorts about his dad being away at work all weekend as I am.

Anyway, I had a little insight this morning; nothing new or original, but just a reminder. I saw a newly broken branch on the road, and thought, "I wonder what happened to that? Did a squirrel break it? The wind? Wouldn't it be neat to be a fly on the wall of life and know the details sometimes?"

Yes, and that's why it's important to not make assumptions about others' intentions, or to think one knows what's going on when one wasn't present for history in the making. So much of life happens behind the scenes, and none of us is God (in the sense of being all-knowing). What we know is such a small part of the truth - and it's only our truth that we bring to the situation. One small branch was a reminder for me to keep working on non-judgment, to ask open questions, not to assume, not to try to fix. To listen and learn and speak from my own truth and experience. Something that I'll get to keep practicing every day, and hopefully learn better tools for doing at Wellspring.