Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Help repeal this!!

Right/Left Wing

Interesting article (and comments, some actually intelligent) on hate-mongering, "news," etc.

I would like to read more from "conservative" UUs as well. We keep getting attacked as a "liberal" religion, but my faith is one that welcomes anyone, regardless of politics. I think that some churches are more politicized than others, but there is room at the table for those who don't believe in liberal politics, but believe in the faith.

Local Home Funeral Experiences

This article and video talk about the home funeral of our friend Alex. I think they're a great insight into a different path.


So many people have written lovingly and compassionately about what happened in Knoxville, TN this past Sunday.

To know what my brothers and sisters in faith suffered because of hatred of the generalized "liberal" has brought me to tears more than once over the last few days. I also find myself trying to put myself in the shoes of the minister there, as he cares for his congregants, deals with the public, and presumably tries to come to terms with the whole thing himself. That is truly putting faith into action. I hope that I can be as brave and intelligent when faced with whatever comes my way on this ministerial path.

If anything though, I am not more afraid. My calling feels stronger than ever; I started out as a writer who wanted to reach the world in a compelling and loving way with words - there have been many posts about the so-called journalists who spew hatred that perhaps incite violence where it's already brewing. But the media continues to be an anti-progressive force, and those who write intelligently about progressive issues are pushed to the sidelines, or made to look like fringe lunatics; never getting the mainstream spotlight, but preaching to the choir, as they say.

So I feel more strongly than ever that I must respond to this deep inner calling; to be a force of change in this crazy world. I hold all the people touched by this tragedy in light; I hope the force of all the love out there for you can help to offset some of the horror.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lighting a candle

We've been very busy today and I'm catching up on my news and blog reading. Thinking of all those affected by the TN UU Church shootings.

What Doesn't Kill You...

Right then. We have an articulating mower and it broke in half tonight. Just ... broke. Some major metal piece came unwelded while my oldest daughter was mowing. Words don't suffice. We just bought the thing, just fixed it, and now it's kaput.

Then, my oldest two just got home from vacation with their dad, where they picked up head lice. This is honestly, my worst nightmare. My 9 yo has thick hair down to her butt. We just spent two hours combing it out and she shivered everytime I found a bug. So did I. I am skeeved out beyond belief. And yes, I know, anyone can get lice...but ewwww.

I am itching all over. Off to get a shower.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Beliefs and spiritual practice - CAUTION, long post ahead!

There is an awesome thunderstorm rolling over the hill, so I don't know if I'll get to keep this before we lose power, which I suspect we will, but I had such a journal-able day, that I want to get it down before I forget.

I'll just start with this one. I was reminded by reading at Keep the Faith about the Belief-O-Matic, which I also haven't taken for over a year or three. I thought it would be interesting to see what my own top and bottom five affinities were.

They were:

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Secular Humanism (92%)
3. Liberal Quakers (79%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (74%)
5. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (72%)

23. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (30%)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (28%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (21%)
26. Roman Catholic (21%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (18%)

Interesting. It is a bit different than the last time I took it, mostly because I think that I have a better sense of who I am spiritually, and I took more time to read the quiz and answer it thoughtfully this time. I was 99% UU last time, if I recall correctly, which I may not. I'm hesitantly getting more and more comfortable with my Buddhist tendencies (I find it a hard path, so I'm just being lazy). I have a terrible time meditating, but give it a whirl every week. It's got to get easier...maybe not though.

I'm not surprised by the last 5 - I had to giggle just a bit last week when the Hill Cumorah festivities were going on. Someone rented an advertising truck that said, "What the Mormon's Aren't Telling You" and had more info...I find that kind of intolerance irritating at the very least, but I have had my own unpleasant run-ins with the LDS community, so had a little sympathy. I'm dying to go to the show next year though. I think the kids would find it fascinating, and I honestly need to improve my knowledge and cultural awareness of LDS, especially given how large a community lives in my immediate area.

Anywho, I also, being a recovering Catholic, was not surprised to see it at the bottom of the list, although I confess to having fond memories of much of the ritual used in Catholic masses. I like the predictability of our own UU sermons for that reason, I suspect.


So speaking of beliefs, and moving on to morality, I had a really great conversation with one of my best friends yesterday. We ended the conversation having mutual admiration regarding how different our beliefs can be, and how we challenge each other to think about things from a different angle. Several of our friends are having serious relationship/marital separation issues, some related to infidelity, and some not. We were struggling with what constituted a reasonable reason for going outside the marriage for love - or how to handle romantic or sexual feelings when one is in a marriage. It was really clarifying for both of us - and I don't think either of us changed, but I think we each have a new respect for each other and what we bring to the table.

But speaking of being comfortable in one's skin, my children (male and female) have been having a really great time playing Cinderella. I am sure this says something about my comfort level with self-expression.

So today, we went to the Ganondagan Festival which was very family friendly and a nice way to spend a Saturday.

Apparently, it takes all kinds, like this guy with his incredibly cool cat!

I got to try some drumming, which was a big step for me. See, I am someone who doesn't do dances of peace, or drum circles, or anything requiring me to dance or perform in public anymore. I suspect that it is not because I am shy; after all, I was a music major and have performed all through my childhood and youth. I was also the only female percussion player in my entire school from 4th grade through 11th grade, when I quit by throwing my tympani sticks at my very sexist band director, who is still performing that job. I hope that he's not such a jerk anymore, now that 15+ years have passed. It appears that his resume is top notch. I even worked with his son when I was in journalism, and I won't repeat what he had to say about dear old dad. I'm tempted to link to his bio, but I'll refrain!

Anyway, back to the whole drumming thing. I'm pretty sure that my love of the beat and its affect on me is why I don't drum or dance in public. I have always been musical, and I think that today I realized that drumming, and maybe specifically, African drumming, is a key to the mystical door inside of me. I remember when I first started attending my first UU church. I cried through every single service; I was so moved. I feel that way about drumming. I think that I could rum and probably find myself transported out of myself spiritually by the rhythm and the movement. And that's not something I do comfortably in public. However, I think I may have found my spiritual practice for Wellspring. Daily drumming.

I am even lucky enough to be close friend with the spouse of one of the people who run Bush Mango - an in, if you will. I can't afford to go, but I can hit him for info about buying a drum and getting started, and there are drum circles that meet near my house every week.

So anyway, the drumming was excellent. The Native American dancing was moving, but in a sad sort of way to me. It was such a reminder of what has been done to NAs and how precious what is left is. I was moved to tears by it, and by the very few children who were a part of the dances and the traditional singing and drumming.

Jude had a good time. He napped on our friend, and we got to stop at the House of Chicken Nuggets, as he calls it, on the way home.

A good day, a good week. A lot to think about.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Crazy House

So not only have we recently decided that we have to rehome our dog, which has been a very difficult decision, our cat went crazy this week. He has attacked said dog with increasing frequency and intensity every time I try to walk him in the yard. This cat is ancient, toothless, clawless, and apparently has a death wish.

I can not for the life of me figure out what his problem is, but my blood pressure is certainly elevated by the stress. I have had to crate the cat outside when I took the dog out to pee today, every single time.

Not to mention, that we have 1+ acre to mow and currently 3 non-functional lawn mowers. The one that came with the house needed a new transmission, I broke the push mower trying to keep up this spring, and our new-to-us mower threw a belt or something when my daughter was mowing last week. It has been raining for a week straight and the lawn is frighteningly close to out of control. The clover is having the proverbial field day (pun intended) and there are so many bees that we can't go in the yard without shoes.

Our neighbor across the street is selling her house and is working on her lawn almost non-stop. I feel so guilty that our yard doesn't look nice like it usually does - I have been trying very hard to keep the toys neat, the yard trimmed, and the weeding done, and it's all gotten away from me with the monsoon season. We also have a ton of large junk outside the garage that needs to go the dump...but we haven't been able to ascertain where that is in this county, and the website for county disposal authority is not working. I hope Tom can get them on the phone today.

The only saving grace is that our yard is still drenched; I think the mower would make tire ruts in it if we tried to mow. Hopefully we'll get it in working order tonight and I can mow tomorrow. And I thought summer would be an easier time to keep up with the house ;).

A gift: both babies are sleeping at the same time, the dog is safely tied up outside and the cat seems oblivious. A brief moment to breathe, and I think I'll go tackle some weeds outside my office that I can see. (under the Rowan tree!)

I am anxious to attend services this weekend. I need the lift.


This one is for all you writers and editors out there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A gift

I just discovered that the beautiful tree in my front yard is a rowan tree - revered by those in the runic faith and long known to possess magical properties!

Very cool.

Spiritual Parenting

I think I need to refresh my toolbox of parenting skills, as my 12 year old daughter and I are in some sort of transitional phase. She's not quite a teen, but she's on the verge. She's got my number too. I admit, that I have a hard time disciplining her. I usually tolerate a lot from her and then loose my cool and lose my mother of the year award by yelling and shaming...not something I'm proud of. And guess what, it doesn't work.

She's at the age where reasoning works with her in the sense that she understands the reasoning. However, that doesn't mean she agrees with my superior reasoning skills or listens to reason.

Her bedroom has been an ongoing source of much frustration between us for a couple of years now. She is away for a week now and before she left I (once again) "cleaned her room" by confiscating a garbage bag full of stuff that I had been begging her to clean up for months. Months.

And she's supposed to do her own laundry. She knows how to do it. But it piles up and up and up. And then when she travels, I sneak in there and do it while she's gone. I feel great pleasure in this but is it love, or enabling?

I usually laugh about this - it's some sort of teen ritual or something; this argument about dirty rooms. But she's so great in every other way- she cooks, cleans, helps with her siblings, does her chores without complaint. Except for the ROOM. Why can't I let this go? There has to be a spiritual lesson in this.

Let go and let god? Except she doesn't believe in God and neither do I, so God is unlikely to show up to clean or help her to put her organizational skills into practice.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Serenity is something I'm constantly seeking. I even have the Japanese symbol for it tattooed on my body as a constant reminder to slow down, listen, seek...but I am not being very wise about this.

Maybe I should make it my daily meditation. I'll take all the stuff I confiscated, make a labyrinth out of it and do a daily meditative walk through it.

In the last 5 years, I've grown so much in patience and in my ability to let things go. Why not this?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Polity and Autonomy

I am working my way through some UU blogs from various perspectives. I was just reading this post and was struck by it's connections with the UUA Polity book I'm reading right now.

In discussing theological perspective in the first chapters, the authors agree with Wells in the sense that they say that "ours is not a single, centralized church, but an association of churches..."

Wells says that "The Unitarian Universalist Association is essentially a service and coordinating body, not an ecclesiastical organization. Consider this: if the UUA Board of Trustees — even the General Assembly itself — adopted a resolution which defined what a Unitarian Universalist is, how would we collectively act?"

But I agree with the Commission of Appraisal, which (even when this book was written 10 years ago) points out that we are already defined - whether as Christian or not, by the fact that "total [congregational] independence is impossible insofar as the principle of congregational polity must itself be agreed on by a collectivity of congregations." They go on to say that we do indeed need a "new or renewed doctrine of the church - a conception of religious community that is integral, not incidental, to our total theological understanding" (9).

This is true today and still something that has not been achieved. it not possible to define, respect and address the needs of the various faiths that come under our one roof?

Even my 12 year old struggles with this. How can she define Unitarian Universalism and defend her "faith" or belief in the purpose of our church when it is so unclearly defined. It frustrates me when UUs get so caught up in the academic or the intellectual discussions of autonomy - we lose sight of the power of unity, whatever that means for each individual within the church. Is it not possible to have a wider covenant that ties together congregations more strongly without taking away autonomy or purpose?

These ideas and suggestions about congregational polity are coming to fruition now - this is an exciting, and difficult time for our religion, for how we continue to define ourselves. We are not a new tradition - and I think it is disturbing that Christian UUs feel disenfranchised. Even the commission admits this lack of connection with our Christian roots, and says that "we should affirm as much community with other religious bodies as we can" (12). And I would add that we need to affirm that community within our own tradition as well - we need to start at home.

Rambling thoughts I guess...but it's something I am anxious to explore and think more about, and to read others' ideas and dissensions.

Beauty in the morning

First thing in the morning is when I have my focused journaling and reading time. This morning, my friend Jennifer has posted a link to some gorgeous photos from a competition. I love how the photograph can capture such emotion in a single frame. Lucy of course enjoyed looking at the pictures with me (baby! she says) and of course, as a mother, I am moved by the family shots. I think one of the most striking is the #22. The coldness, as described in the caption, is palpable.

I'm fascinated with these connections between family and communication. What shuts a person down for their whole parenting career so that at the end of their life, they are known as having been cold and loveless for so many years?

I know that I spent many years trying to communicate with my own mother -often railing and raging against her, seemingly with no change. What happens to a person? I know that my own love for my family and others is in some ways biological in nature - what happens to make biology go awry? I can't imagine not having that imperative to protect and nurture one's offspring. These are questions I'm sure I'll face more and more as an individual, a friend, a minister. They are so difficult to wrestle with, and of course are not limited to family relationships.

Regardless of deep cosmic questions, I'm surrounded by quiet this morning, Lucy on the couch eating cereal, soft rain falling outside the porch window, and I'm working at my new desk, carefully crafted for me by my husband. It's beautiful and perfect. Perhaps our resident hummingbird will make an appearance outside my window, completing the picture.

I am so blessed, and need to be aware of the constant reminders of that fact.

Friday, July 18, 2008


I am still trying to catch up with everything from traveling and getting into S's gymnastics summer routine. The girls are separated this summer for visitation for the most part and it's been odd but nice to have just one of them around to spend more quality time with, and to reduce the bickering.

I need to finish cleaning the house today, but it's so hot and humid that everything feels disgusting, whether I clean it or not. I dread the kitchen, but it must be done.

I also am very much in trouble with money from that one little trip - having T. take off next month for 5 days is going to really hurt and there's no more cushion from tax return or economic stimulus. Those darn bills keep pouring in. I'm really loving being home again though but wonder if it's tenable even for the short-term. I may need to start doing some freelancing again but am not sure where to start.


I did one of my phone interviews last night for credit by evaluation, and hope that it went well. I have a sinking feeling that she won't give me either all the credits or allow them as advanced credits - she was totally unreadable so I could be wrong, but it was rather disconcerting. I did the best I could though, so I'll just have to wait and see.

As soon as I finish these up, hopefully by the end of this month, I can use August break to work on my graduate school applications. I think I will apply to both Meadville Lombard AND Colgate here in Rochester, to see what happens and where the road leads me.

I've been reading a lot, both UU requirements, vampire fiction courtesy of my oldest daughter, and trashy magazines that my mother-in-law hands down. I've also had time to do word puzzles again. It's heavenly. This is what summer should be like. Minus the money worries. But we'll get by. Tom and I are stronger than we've ever been. Communication is getting easier all the time.

My friend asked me to go to Daisy Dukes (a country bar) and ride the mechanical bull with her for fun some weekend. I said to Tom that I would post pictures so he could see it - he thought that might not be an appropriate activity for an aspiring minister ;). I disagree!

Saturday, July 12, 2008


This whole last two weeks has been a whirlwind of finishing school (3 out of 5 As so far!), and Emma being away. This week, I took the 3 other kids to PA to the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and the People's Choice Festival and we visited with my mom and dad, and my ex-FIL and friends.

One spiritual awakening moment was when I was frustrated with Soren and a woman walked by and told me it wouldn't matter in 10 years. My first internal reaction was ... not very spiritual :) but as the day went out, it was a WWJD moment. I mean, she was right - in 10 years, it won't matter. In 10 minutes it didn't matter. And it was good to be able to HEAR that and not want her to just STFU ;).

We had a wonderful, wonderful, incredible visit with my dad, who lives in a locked ward of a nursing home and suffers from dementia. We visited out in the garden area which gave us privacy and the kids room to run, and I got him talking about his family and childhood, which really gave him focus. It was the best visit we've had in years. We also took him out to brunch the day we left and it was challenging being on my own with him and he 3 youngest kids, but it was so amazing to watch Jude with him. My 3 yo son moved his booster seat right up against "papa george" and sat next to him and loved him up the whole time. He adores my dad so much.

I went to a Wellspring orientation today, and one of the facilitators was talking about how one of the outcomes of being involved was that caring for her parents has become one of her daily spiritual practices and how it has gone from being one more thing she checks off her list of things to do, to being some larger, spiritual experience. I totally got that after this brunch and this wonderful visit - it was worth every second to see Jude soaking up his Papa, and the joy on his face when we arrived, and watching him run up the sidewalk to the front doors of the nursing home.

So to skip around a bit, I went to that Wellspring orientation today, and am going to attend for 10 months starting in September. I can NOT wait. I am so enthusiastic and anxious to experience this group and everything it will bring me. It really seems like pre-seminary and such a wonderful gift. I met our new ministerial intern, Erin, today. She approached me, because I was reading a book on polity governance from our UU library and lo! she thought that was an interesting reading choice, given that she just took a class on it. We really seemed to click right away and I am anxious to talk to her more. She is attending Meadville Lombard and loves the professors and the academic integrity of the school. I wish I could do the residential program more and more.

So let's see...I got to spend time with my friends Erica and Keith, who are getting married in September. That was awesome; they are both so thoughtful and intentional people, while I am more spontaneous. I am awed by their preparations for marriage and their love for each other. It is such a gift to have them in our lives!

The kids and I went to the local Arts Festivals and it was wonderful - Soren got to look at so much art and to take as much time as she wanted. She took many mental notes for ideas for projects and interests. It was so wonderful to experience that with my budding artist. Jude also had many interests and enjoyed much of the photography and painting. It is hard for a 3 year old to look with the eyes and not the hands, but he did an admirable job overall.

I got back on Saturday and Tom and I have really been enjoying reconnecting. It was a good break and we missed each other and have more appreciation for each other I think. We have also been talking about giving up our dog, because he has some issues that we are unprepared to deal with. Neither of us has ever given up a pet for behavioral issues, but we are worried and confused by some of his aggression and not sure that it will improve with more time investment, so we're thinking of trying to rehome him, and find a dog more suited to our needs. It's been a painful process.

Lots of deep thinking going on this week, and so much gratitude. Not least of all that my oldest, Emma, is home from 2 weeks of camp. I missed her but it was bearable this year, which is good, because she asked to go for a month next year :-O.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Holiday fun

I had my last day at work as the RE Assistant on Monday, so tomorrow I can go to church and just go to the service for the first time in a year. I may even visit the smaller church that is closer to us.

The 4th of July weekend has been good to us. Picnicking, fishing, lots of family and friends visiting, and lots of relaxation.

I started reading some of the required reading list last year and got back to some of the books now that school is over for the summer.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I made it!

I turned in my final remaining paper last night, on Intercultural Communication and Religious Plurality. What a relief! Today's the last day of the semester, but I have everything turned in. Now I just wait for my final grades. I have 2 final papers, a project, and an essay that I'm waiting on feedback for, as well as the final grades for 4 classes.

This summer, I have to do 4 phone interviews for my prior learning credits, and if all goes well, I'll just have 12 credits in the fall and I'll graduate! I also plan to work on my grad school application this summer and visit Meadville Lombard and Colgate Crozier.

Next Sunday I am going to the Wellspring orientation for this year, so that will take care of the spiritual part of my education :). Things are looking good!

Today is park day and I don't have to try to cram studying in while watching the kids and chatting with friends. I have a weekend of freedom before I tackle preparation for my phone interviews. It feels *really* good.