Saturday, August 30, 2008

Deeds, Not Creeds

I have days when I really question myself - my ability, my calling, my faith. Thankfully, I occasionally get external reminders that I'm not a complete loser ;). Yesterday, I got two of my prior learning evaluations for college, and they made me sound amazing! I think I'll put them on my website as testimonials or something ;). But really, it was a nice reminder that, despite my almost constant attention to parenting my four little wild heathens for the last 12 years, I have accomplished some pretty amazing things in my communities. I have not just talked the talk, but walked the walk. I have put my time, my family, my values on the line, and lived them. It's good to remind myself of that when I am struggling with feeling judgmental, or struggling with how to model the values that are important to me.

In A Chosen Faith, Forrest Church says:
"...the principal sin besetting many of us today is the sin of sophisticated resignation. This sin is particularly insidious because it comes with its own veil. That is, it appears respectable. It allows us to feel strongly about injustices without prompting us to do anything about them. This sin is tailor-made for many of us because it is fed by knowledge."

"Our heritage reminds us that we are a faith of deeds, not creeds."

"In face of this, we are left with two choices. One is to climb off our moral high horse; the other is to learn how to ride. Both are preferable to high-minded posturing and sophisticated resignation, but only the latter represents the promise and fulfillment of our faith."

As a mom of a large family, it is sometimes very easy for me to fall back on being an "idea person" rather than an "action person." It's hard to attend peace rallies on corners with 4children in tow. It's hard to attend film screenings with a toddler. It's hard to make phone calls to representatives when the kids have "phone radar" and start screaming as soon as the dial tone reaches my ear.

These aren't excuses; these are realities. But as someone who thrives on action, it's hard to remember that you can do everything, but not all at once. I do serve my community - I educate moms on birth and breastfeeding; I serve on the local homeschooling board, and put out a newsletter every month. I try to donate money to families who are struggling, or to bring meals to those who have a new baby, or a death in the family (I admit, this is not my strong point).

But, I can do deeds, even in small ways. My daughter and I talked about this, and my struggle to feel effective and not judgmental about the poverty and lack of education in our community. I can reach out in small ways to be the change.

Something else that we talked about is the fact that not everyone has the same opportunities. Church also points out his belief in a gray area between original sin and children born pure:

"Having observed my own children, I am ambivalent when it comes to these two positions, nature and nurture We are born with a capacity for both good and evil, and society contributes directly to the development of our aptitude for each. Einstein once said that God does not throw dice. I disagree. That is precisely what "God" does. Each fertilized egg is a throw of the dice, and so is the family, environment, nation, century, and set of opportunities - or lack thereof- into which we are born."

When I read this to my daughter, she said, "well, that's what you said yesterday. Were you quoting him?" I wasn't. So I must be doing something right; saying the right words, walking the walk.

Buehrens tells us, "...the difficult, ordinary heroism of unknown people in their daily lives is often more important than the inspiring words of their better-known leaders."

You and I, and my kids...we can all be the change, a day at a time, a deed at a time. Falling prey to sophisiticated resignation is easy to do, but as long as we keep action at the forefront of our minds - walking, not just talking - each one of us can make a difference.

Friday, August 29, 2008

obama's Speech

I'm sure better people than I will pick it apart, but I found it absolutely exhilarating and found myself in tears several times.

What a historic day for our country; to have our first black Presidential nominee. To have such a magnetic speaker stand before us, and talk about change. To have some one Be The Change - to put his life on the line (and believe me, I'm sure his life is at risk in doing what he's doing), to stand up for what he believes in and to Live His Values - to serve his country.

I have more thoughts about living values, following up on yesterday's post, and reading that my daughter and I have been doing together on UU faith and history, but I have to be somewhere at 10 a.m. - so a project for later.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Parenting & Living our values

Last night I was awake for a very long time, trying to think about what the best approach is to this new era of parenting. I'm frightened.

Deciding to homeschool was not in any way a decision to "protect" my children from the world; on the contrary, they are very aware of current events, and real issues in the world. However, they are not very worldly in other ways, I guess.

I mentioned the other day that my oldest, 12.5, is making some new friends through her cheerleading, and they are all school kids, and from what I can tell, low-income, broken homes (kind of like ours, but without the access to the education we've had). I consider myself a liberal parent; I give a lot choices, I challenge my kids to think outside the box, I'm comfortable with them expressing themselves in a variety of ways...that is very different from the lack of direction and parenting I see happening with these kids.

My daughter is dismayed by the serious lack of self-image in all of the girls, and the negative body talk that is constant. I am dismayed by the talk of multiple boyfriends, stealing beer, doing drugs, etc. in kids that are 12-13. I think some of these kids are kids who don't have direction, and are exposed to older kids, or adults who make poor decisions. She feels young compared to these girls - but she is so much older in some ways.

I grew up in a very screwed up environment, and I was doing these things - but at 15 - not at 11 or 12. These kids are still babies - they have no life experience. They are in all kinds of danger - legal, physical, sexual, etc. I was a baby too, and thought I was cool enough to handle it. But a 15 yo is different from an 11 yo. And I cried last night, thinking of how these kids must be feeling inside to be exhibiting such negative outward behavior. I wouldn't wish those feelings on any kid.

I don't want to be controlling about friendships, but I'm very concerned about how to balance providing a different model for these kids by inviting them here to hang out where I can provide supervision and a different viewpoint against my kids being exposed to ideas about sneaking out at night, stealing alcohol, being in love at 12, being suspended from school in 6th grade, the negative connotations of school as a prison, not a place to learn; racist comments about the black kids at school. The girl that visited yesterday also told multiple lies - ridiculous ones. Unnecessary ones.

I can always keep the door open for my daughter to talk to me - I hope she never feels that she has to sneak around or steal from me; but up till now, I don't think the idea has ever crossed her mind!

As a parent, how do you put your own values on the line by potentially putting your children in situations where there is risk?

As someone on a path to ministry, these are questions I struggle with - personal sacrifice, family sacrifice, how to provide safe space without judgment for others' choices; to give and care with humility and love, and how to be smart about it. I'd love to hear people's thoughts.

It's really hard not to be judgmental about what I see as lack of values, and to feel superior in some mean, small part of myself.

But, for the grace of God, there go I.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


We have several apple trees and several pear trees on our property. The apples are falling so I thought I better get out and save some of them. The girls took probably 50 lbs. to the field last week, and I picked up enough to make two big batches of applesauce today - 48 c. of apples when cut and cored.

I really enjoyed the whole process. The baby helped me put apples in the crate. Jude helped me turn the peeler/corer, and the oldest and her visiting friend taste tested.

I haven't done a lot of for-fun cooking, or cooking for later use, in a long time, and it felt really good. I'm not very knowledgeable about what to do w/ all this fruit though? Does anyone have good recipes for freezing/canning this bounty of the earth?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Crazy Weekend

I have been low on computer time. We had an open house/potluck on Saturday, one of a series since spring. I hope to have one more before it gets too cold to be outside. I hope to have some pictures later when I get a chance to upload them to the laptop.

There were mounds of food; all delicious. There were good friends, loving family, and good weather. Too many mosquitoes though. They are a plague this year.

Sunday we went to the first football game that my oldest was cheerleading at. It was really, really hot, but beautiful. Our team won 36-0. Go Lions! The cheerleaders did great, despite the fact that their coach was throwing up when I got there, and I made her go home.

I got to help at practice today, and they worked pretty hard. I have some thoughts that I need to process about Emma and her experience with some of the girls, but I need to sleep on it some more. Despite the fact that for a rural area, it is pretty racially diverse, there is a lot of racism and small-town ick factor. There's also the difference between homeschooling and limited access to mass media, and public schooling and all that comes with that.

Anyway, the school year, or whatever it is for us, starts in a couple of weeks, so things will get more hectic, and I will miss the summer slowdown. Thankfully I will be done with school for awhile come December!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Degree Review

I just found that my degree committee will convene on Oct. 7 to do a conceptual review (whatever that means). I have preliminary approval now, and hopefully my last evaluator will get in his letter approving my 8 credits prior to the conceptual review. Things continue apace. I swear, the bureaucracy is more difficult than the school work.

I'm reading this right now, and plan to make it assigned reading for my 12 year old this year for history. It will also help her to talk about our faith (as it is helping me) and give her a solid basis of historical understanding (as it is me). This is one of the best books I've read so far about religion in general - it doesn't pretend to be objective and it's not dry.

It also so far is articulating most of the reasons why I love UUism, and want to learn more and become involved in the ministry.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On a totally different note...

Does anyone else listen to Pandora? I'm always looking for new music we can enjoy!


Along with other UU bloggers, I was taken by the post on Philocrites' site about UU blogging. I read the Best Practices PDF and enjoyed it quite a bit. I've been blogging for about 8 years now I think, but my UU(ish) blog is a bit different in that it's totally public, and focuses on my life through the prism of my spiritual path.

Survey asks (in my best emcee voice):

Who is your intended audience?
I blog first for myself, as a record of my path and of some milestones in my family. Then I blog for those who are seeking info about UUism or what kind of person might be called to minister and is on that path. Finally, I blog for friends and family who may also be interested in what my spiritual path looks like.

Who owns your blog? Does it belong to you as individual or to your congregation or other organization?

I own it as an individual.

How frequently do you post?

Anywhere from once a week to once or twice a day, depending on what's going on in my mind.

What is the tone of your blog?
I try to be friendly - I cover whatever interests me - politics, religion, personal issues, family issues, books I'm reading. A lot of my writing is meant to help me process my own thoughts and generate feedback and others' experiences.

What steps do you take to make sure that your blog is a safe space, both for you and for other participants? Do you have a code of conduct?

I don't have a code of conduct, but I do require people to sign in and avoid bot comment posting. If there was something offensive in my comments (as opposed to controversial), I would delete it.

What kinds of boundaries do you observe around confidentiality?
Kind of the point of this is for me to feel free to have a public persona for the first time. I try not to post photos or information about others w/o their consent.

How do you respond to comments and email from readers?

I respond to most comments personally, unless they are just general "I agree" kind of things.

What are the most challenging aspects of blogging in your experience?

Finding time to blog when my kids don't need me. And in the fall when school starts up again, it will be even more limited.

What are the most rewarding aspects of blogging in your experience?

Meeting other UUs and others with whom I can engage in meaningful conversation about spirituality, politics, etc.

What advice would you give to Unitarian Universalists who are new to blogging and want to get started?

Answer these questions for yourself, at least informally, and read a lot of blogs to figure out what your purpose and audience are.

How do you evaluate the success of your blog? What have been your most successful blog posts or series?

I guess if I feel good about what I've written and I get comments that stimulate further conversation, then that is success on some level. I haven't done any "series" yet, but plan to.

What do you wish you had done differently in your blogging?
I can't really think of anything.

What other online tools do you use to promote your blog? (i.e. social networking sites, Twitter, social bookmarking tools, etc.)
I have it linked on my livejournal page, but that's it.

Do you use an Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed? How many subscribers do you have
I do, and I have no idea!

Do you track site traffic? How many unique visitors do you have per day (on average)

I don't track it.

Do you find Unitarian Universalist Association resources helpful to you as a blogger? What additional resources could we provide to Unitarian Universalist bloggers?

I find the UUpdates feed helpful.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I don't think I mentioned this, but my ex-husband told the kids and I this past weekend that he and his girlfriend are getting married! The girls are OK with it; they weren't 100% enthused, and said that it's different having a step-mom than a step-dad, which they're used to, but they both have a decent relationship with the girlfriend and it will be fine.

That said, it made me think about my own marriage and the idea, again, of contract vs. covenant, and what my husband and I want from our relationship. It's really renewed my desire to have regular conversations with him about our expectations and needs.

Love is a good thing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Being calm

Just got back from my first child-related ER visit in almost 9 years. I swung my 20 month old up out of the way in the gym lobby and lo! Nursemaid's elbow!

I drove home first, and my oldest daughter came with me to the ER, and couldn't believe how calm I was. She was a mess. I told her that that's what mothers do. You can freak out later, but you have to be the grownup when your kids need you. No matter what.

Anyway, it was a positive experience in general, although I should have known better than to pick her up like that. Everyone was very reassuring that it happens all the time.

I still haven't freaked out though. I think growing up with a mom who is an ER nurse cured me of it, for the most part.

Some days it's good to be the grownup. And I'm glad that our first ER visit with this kid was not too bad. One little pop, and she's back to normal. And she was VERY brave!!


I got the credits I need! My evaluator offered me 8 advanced credits for my writing for publication experience and said he was impressed! Just the pick-me-up I needed today when I was doubting myself. Maybe I can sell more articles and contribute financially this year! It's just been so long...but 200+ published articles can't be all wrong.

Onward to graduation in December! My parents will be so proud :)

Monday, August 18, 2008


I have been dealing with some family and community drama, and hard as I try, am finding it difficult to consistently use good reflective listening skills and "I statements." I am finding it hard to speak passionately about something without feeling like I'm browbeating the other person into submission. It's especially hard when I feel that I'm being misunderstood and judged unfairly.

I'm out of patience with people who are lacking in communication skills, and on the flip side,with those who want to communicate an issue to death, and then beyond.

And we're struggling again with money; I think I will need to start freelancing again or something, just to dig out of this hole, and the idea just exhausts me. I only have 3 weeks till school starts again, and I won't have any additional time for anything at that point. I may have to tell the kids that we won't be able to attend some activities, because I can't even put gas in the car to drive back and forth; I had to put groceries on the credit card this week. So I'm sure that all that worry and stress is making these communications even more difficult.

This is something that is a roadblock for me; doing too much, caring so much that I lay awake at night crafting careful, loving responses, and then doing it imperfectly after all. Learning to love the humanity in myself, and to take care of myself, while at the same time attending to those who need me and depend on me - both family and community.

My life seems to be such a balancing act between struggling for survival (as many do) and doing it gracefully and being grateful for all the good things that I have. Feeling called to the ministry but not sure how I will pay for school, and the career assessment, and travel. The call, the transformation, has brought so much joy to me that gets stronger every day, but also worry about more sacrifice, more debt...but but but... the opportunity to grow and being an intentionally positive force in the world.

Balance, balance, balance.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Family Spirituality

I may have said this before, but this whole thing about it being hardest to be spiritual with your own family is so true. But I'm trying. I am getting much better with the family I don't live with. The ones I live with? Not so much.

I often find myself in the middle between two parts of my husband's family, and it used to really tick me off. But lately, I'm finding myself able to just be gracious. Not martyred - I still have boundaries about how much I'll tolerate - but being gracious feels so good. It feels so good to let go of resentment, and feeling put-upon. It feels good to intentionally think through being able to offer solutions and love and doorways, rather than to have a knee-jerk reaction and just retreat and vent.

Amidst all my failings with my kids this week, I am proud of myself for being able to keep building bridges (even if people choose not to cross them) among other parts of my family. Same thing with my mother. I will keep offering the bridge, and eventually it may crumble from disuse, but as they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


The universe must be speaking to me again today. I have been trying to catch up on news and blog reading, and more and more posts keep popping up about failure and being human.

I have a hard time not being perfect. I'm the A-est Type A person I know, I take on too much, and I flog myself when I fail. I don't seem to have lapsed into much in the way of harmful behaviors, other than putting cleaning way down on the list of priorities for the first time in my life this summer, but I know it can't be good for me.

This particular post really spoke to me - I really love the idea of covenant vs. contract. I have been hit over the head with the clue stick by my husband last week that I'm not doing a very good job of being considerate toward him. It's hard for me not to defend myself; I think of him often throughout the day, buy him special things at the grocery store, try to take on some of his chores when I have the time and energy - but none of those things probably jump out at him, because I mostly just do them quietly and happily.

I'm not the person who enjoys potlucks, or making a meal for someone who is struggling, or sending cards and letters. I'm working on it, and trying to be more intentional about such things as part of my spiritual path, but internally they don't feel sustaining - even though I know they are to the people who receive them.

So that's my constant failing - selfishness. I'm a lot better than I was 15 years ago, and I'm a lot more intentional about it - but I still fail a lot.

Hopefully putting it out to the universe will help me be more aware and find ways to forgive myself for failing, yet still find the energy to work to be a better person living my values. A hard balance.

Vacation Recap

Well, we're back and it was largely a successful week away, except now we're broke of course!

Thanks to the hospitality of my friend Laura, we spent 5 days at Lake George, in the Adirondacks. The weather was a little iffy, but we had enough sun to swim and boat, and the kids had a blast.

One funny thing was that they brought their kitten, and he thought that Lucy's hair looked like a cat toy and chased her around until I took her ponytail out!

We had 8 kids and 4 adults and one bathroom, but everyone was able to get what they needed.

We got to visit the Adirondack Museum, which was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon, and stopped on the way home for Mexican food - and the kids were all amazingly behaved. The margaritas were disappointing, but the food was good. Even plenty of vegetarian and vegan options for those among us of those persuasion.

There was also MUCH frogging going on. All released back to the wild pond, of course.

I even got to read a whole book, Breaking Dawn, the final one in Meyer's vampire series.

We came home Wednesday night and then went to see Great Big Sea in Buffalo last night. It was an amazing show and all the kids could go, as it was outdoors and early. They said they're going to be in Dewey Beach later this week. Road trip anyone?

I didn't get to bed till 2:30 a.m. though and am dragging today.

In other news, I got my last credit info in yesterday and think I will get the credits I need (and I ended up needing 3 more, due to my advisor not catching a class on my transcript that wouldn't transfer, GAH!). ML let me know they got my application and are waiting on transcripts and references, so soon I will start to look for scholarships/grants/loans for next year.

I also connected with a spiritual adviser for Wellspring and have an appointment to meet with her on Sept. 2. I am a bit anxious, but excited at the same time.

It was a great vacation, but is good to be home!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Different Personalities

We've got the cringer, the wannabe vegan/PETA member, and the champion around here.

S. saw a spider by the hose, which she needed to clean out the bunny's litter box. She ran screaming inside, telling me. I suggested she ignore it, or get a stick and nudge him to a friendlier (for her) location.

NO way. Screaming and foot stomping ensued.

E. yells from the kitchen, "Don't kill the spider!" "If you move it, it'll die!"

A large argument ensues, which I try to ignore, as I was in the shower.

A few minutes later I hear a knock on the door.


J., 3 years old, says, "Mama, can I put my shoes on? I'll go move the spider for S, OK?"

OK, dear. My hero.


We're off on a short, much-needed vacation. Hubby decided to accompany us after all, and promises not to pace and worry about money while we're gone. The car is packed, the kids are making sandwiches for our lunch, and I have to run!

I left a message for the evaluator of my last 4 credits to call me and set up and interview, the application packet is en route to Chicago, the reference letters are on their way to all and sundry, I have an email out to a potential spiritual director for my Wellspring experience this year - things are in motion, and it feels so good.

Vacation comes at a perfect time this year. Still debating whether to take the laptop or not...probably yes, just to delete mail as it comes in. Posting will be sparse, I hope.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tears of Joy

Yesterday, I sent out my letter of intent to the UUA, and my reference requests for Meadville Lombard, as well as my transcript requests. Tonight I sealed the envelope on my application, essay, resume and application fee. It's ready to send off from the Post Office tomorrow. I actually teared up when I sealed the envelope. It feels like 2 years of blood, sweat and tears; sacrifice from everyone in my household, a huge sigh of relief, and a healthy ladel of love, all shoved in one envelope. I'm sure I'll feel the same way - a mixture of dread, fear, anticipation and joy - when I drop it in the box tomorrow.

I also found out I've received 11 of the 15 credits I requested for prior learning, and I got my final evaluator's name. That means that come September, I have 12 credits to finish and I will file my intent to graduate and be done!!!

And just to make it all even more worthwhile, here's a picture of my daughter in her new uniform!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Being Open

I have a friend who is pretty isolated. She's had some rough times, and stays to herself in the hills. I count myself blessed that she is our friend, and she is like a surrogate mother to me at times. But I guess we can teach each other.

I have been ruminating on my encounter with the Christian homeschooling family, and my thoughts were clarified by a conversation with my friend yesterday. She told me that in her weekly trip to the post office, she met a man in the parking lot, and they ended up talking for a long time. He asked for her phone number and she refused, then gave her his and offered his church name for her to call to check him out (!). Pretty perceptive, I'd say.

She called me in a bit of a dither; not sure whether she was happy doing what she's been doing, or whether reaching out could bring joy into her life. I encouraged her to reach out, and said that I would do the same - I would try reconnecting with the family I met a few times and be open to the possibilities.

I called her this morning after starting Forrest Church's Love & Death. I read her a passage from the first chapter:

...death requires little courage at all. It is love that requires courage, because the people we love most may die before we do. Dare to love and we instantly become vulnerable...Love one another with all our heart and we place our hearts in jeopardy, one so great that the world as we know it can disappear between the time we pick up the telephone and when we put it down. ...

Every time we give our heart away, we risk having it dashed to pieces. Fear promises a safer path: refuse to gie away your heart and it will never be broken. And it is true, armoroed hearts are invulnerable. We can eliminate a world of trouble from our lives simply by closing our hearts..
.but it's necessary avoid the risk of live is to cower from life's only perfect promise.

When I stopped reading, my friend told me that she had called him last night. I laughed and said that sometimes the universe keeps telling us something, and sometimes it smacks us upside the head. She laughed back and said that she found out that Sunday had been Friendship Day.

It was hard for her, but it ended up being a great opening conversation, with more to come. She told me that she wasn't sure what she had to give. I reminded her of how much she gives to my kids, and to us, and how much we love her and how much she loves us. She can't quantify that love - put it in a special box. It is transferable. If she can love us, she can love anyone.


Last night when I got home, my husband was in a really bad mood. He went to bed without seeing most of us for the whole day, and I went to bed angry. But in the spirit of risking my heart this morning, instead of holding a grudge and anger that isn't going to go anywhere, I hugged him, made sure he was OK, and told him to be careful today. We started out fresh, and I think he was grateful that I didn't make it harder.

Love is risk, but what's the alternative?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


What is up with the NYT this week? Have the Olympics totally made their reporters forget the problems that China is dealing with?

I mean, I understand this an architecture review and not a political story, but puleeze.

"Nonetheless, amid the endless debate over the ethics of building in China, Herzog and de Meuron’s achievement is undeniable. Rather than offering us a reflection of China’s contemporary zeitgeist, they set out to create a sphere of resistance, and to gently redirect society’s course.

The National Stadium reaffirms architecture’s civilizing role in a nation that, despite its outward confidence, is struggling to forge a new identity out of a maelstrom of inner conflict."

I have read more pro-China pieces in the last week than I can stomach. Just because the Olympics is there, we should not be lauding their government for things it's not really doing. Forging a new identity indeed.

Football and White Lies

OK, so it's hard to always be a perfect role model and to live one's values. I mean, we have the values that we believe in, and they're in our hearts and our conscious mind, but sometimes real life walks up behind you and says, "Oh yeah? See how you can apply those perfect morals today!"

My oldest daughter used to do gymnastics, and was pretty good. She competed for 3 years, but then hit some bumps in the road, gave it the good old college try, and decided to finish the season out and quit. This has freed her up to try other things that she didn't have time for before - karate, more oboe, disc golf, stuff like that. But when I saw an ad in the paper for local cheerleading, I didn't think she'd jump at it - she always sneered at cheerleaders when she was a gymnast.

Oh no, but she did. And waited on tenterhooks for 4 months until it started - she is at the age where she can't wait to make new friends, and she hasn't met anyone her age since we moved (although she still has her posse of old friends that she sees at least weekly).

I was never a big fan of cheerleading - thinking about those wee skirts, the media impressions of bouncy, bitchy girls, and the shameless cheering for, of all things, football players (and I grew up in a college town and God forbid if you're not a rabid Penn State fan, so I'm not dissing football, believe me). When I coached gymnastics, I found that competitive cheerleading was something I could get more behind, even though I don't think it athletically holds a candle to the expectations of gymnastics, but I had fun coaching cheerleading sometimes - tumbling and stretches and conditioning, handstands and cartwheels.

So now my oldest - my baby oldest - has started cheerleading...for a football team. There's a nod to a couple of local competitions, but this is mostly about cheering on the local boys. I don't think she's caught on to that though. She got picked as a "flyer" last night - for those of you who don't know - those are the girls that they throw up in the air. Being petite has some benefits apparently. She's also one of two girls that can tumble, so she'll be showing off that as well. So she's really in it for herself, which is cool.

So, I've had to put aside my misgivings about sexism, and her dad's obstinate belief that she's doing this because there are boys involved, and cheer on my cheerleader. One benefit is that I get to help coach, because they need someone and I know just enough to be dangerous. And you know what? It's really cool to see E. excited again. She babbled on and on after practice last night, she loves the girls, she loves the drama (already!), she loves flying, she loves sideliners (those little sideline cheers they do during plays), and most of all, she loves living in the country where she can ride her bike to practice and back, and watch the Erie Canal through the grated bridge as she rides over it. That's not about boys - that's about freedom and fun and hanging out with your gal pals.

I admit that I shared my misgivings with her - but then I let them go. She is 12, and she understands, and she is having fun, and I will go and watch her cheer and take pictures and brag about how cute and talented she is, because that is my job.

So my values about my girls showing off their cute bottoms officially trashed, we've come upon the little white lie scenario. My friend canceled her daughter's birthday party because my daughter (the best friend) had lice and they really wanted her to be able to stay overnight. I hadn't seen my daughter S. in almost 2 weeks but knew she was waiting desperately for this party and unfortunately they waited till the day of to cancel it. I just couldn't tell her that it was because of her buggy problem. I couldn't do it. I knew she would be devastated and blame herself and cry and I had missed her too much to spend our first day together like that.

So I told her I didn't know why. My friend won't ask her daughter to tell that little white lie (like, oh, something came up - unexpected family visit - or something), and so when S. asks her why the party was canceled, she's going to find out the truth. Yes, that little white lie would make it a lot easier for my family but I can't ask my friend to put her values aside. But boy does it suck.

So I guess I have to tell her today after all. I'd rather she know now - and we've gotten to hang out for 4 days now, so we're back to our normal selves and I think it'll be OK. And hopefully I won't get bad karma for pleading ignorance for a few days.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Such a good feeling!

I just had my 3rd interview for credit for school and it went incredibly well. The evaluator and I had had difficulty connecting initially because her email was bouncing anything I sent, and then she had to reschedule once we finally got a time together.

So my hopes were low, and I am feeling worried about these credit by evaluation classes, because I *need* them to graduate in December. The first one I had I haven't had any feedback on yet, and the second one went great, but that was a week ago and I haven't heard back from him either... it is to make one nervous.

But it was awesome! The credits are for my case management experience and it was so wonderful to get back in that frame of mind and talk about the work that I did with homeless teens and as a foster parent. To think back to how meaningful it all was (before one gets burned out) and how each kid was a new opportunity. I loved working with other agencies and creating a situation where a kid could learn to succeed and become a productive adult.

So she was clear when we hung up that she was impressed and I was getting my 4 advanced credits. Woohoo! Yet another step closer.

Now I just need for them to find an evaluator for my writing work. No word yet and it is also to make one nervous. Anyone in editing/freelancing out there who is looking to do some evaluative work?

Faith in Action

I posted before about my epiphany that I am homeschooling for religious reasons. Being a homeschooler automatically puts my family in the minority - out of the mainstream. So what I can't understand is why in what is already a minority group, some homeschoolers create more divisions. I had the opportunity to meet a homeschooling family this weekend, and they live within biking distance for the kids - they have several girls that my girls would love to get to know, I'm sure.

Unfortunately, the conversation was stilted and puncuated by a clear desire to see if were the "right" kind of homeschoolers. What church do we go to? Nope, never heard of that one. Do you belong to LEAH? Nope. RAHA. Invited me to check out LEAH. Unfortunately, they don't welcome non-Christian homeschoolers.

It's very frustrating - as a spiritual person, I adhere to most fundamental morals that are present in the major religions (with a few personal exceptions, as a good UU). But despite the fact that I am a good person, some people will be suspicious of me, solely because I am not a Christian. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, that.

Caveat: I know that this is not universal behavior for all Christians, homeschoolers or not, but it happens often enough. I have to wonder how that suspiciousness and protectiveness embodies Christianity? I am sure that these people are wonderful! But I will most likely not have the opportunity to find out just how wonderful, because of their fear of anything outside of their faith.

It's a loss for me, for them, and for all of our children. A little more unity would be a wonderful thing. I am going to keep reaching out to this family, regardless. I hope that we can build bridges across the differences in our faith. That will be my own faith in action.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The next steps

I just filled out my Meadville Lombard application, sent emails asking for my references, and filled out my initial inquiry form to send to the RSCC. Scary and joyous, all at the same time.

Learning from our mistakes

Why do I make the same mistakes over and over again? I am constantly castigating myself for not being able to have more patience with my kids; for saying thing that shame them and build them up. I know that that was the paradigm I was raised in - much worse, actually - but I keep hoping that I can overcome the things that come out of my mouth at times.

Granted, it's hard to deal with the various needs of four small people, but I honestly don't think that's a good enough excuse. Parenting is really the hardest, most constant thing I've ever done, and I have small successes and big failure sometimes.

Yesterday started off badly - my husband Tom and I had a stupid argument, I spilled the last cup of coffee into a full basket of freshly washed clothes, and we were just about out of toilet paper. Money has been very tight, and my daughter's best friend canceled her sleepover because my daughter has/had lice (even though they're gone, they were squicked out enough still to want to wait). I had a minor argument with my friend over it, and we both ended up ffeeling defensive and a bit hurt on behalf of both of our kids. I've had my period for over a week, heavy and uncomfortable, and I'm exhausted and sick of it. I had to make an unexpected trip to the city that I didn't have gas money for, and I didn't get to spend the day as I had planned. It was a long day.

But finally, Emma had her first cheerleading practice, which she has been anxiously awaiting since March. The girls mostly knew each other, and the coach is new. I really wanted to stay and volunteer my coaching help, and to help Emma feel more at ease, so I asked my other daughter to sit with the two little ones in the grass for an hour.

It was a disaster. The coaching part would have been fun and wonderful, but my son was screaming and whining; my daughter was making it worse, and the baby clung to me. I ended up leaving, dragging my son to the car, and hissing threats. I gave my 9 year old a huge guilt trip, and generally, my own too high expectations of everything made us all feel like horrible human beings.

I had even planned for it - brought water and snacks, talked about my expectations ahead of time - but it wasn't enough. I was so disappointed and embarrassed by their behavior. And then in my own. We all got home and apologized to each other, had a good dinner and reconnected before bed, but I wish I had handled it better.

Hopefully, next time I will. I try to be accountable for my own bad behavior and to take responbility for it. I wish I had a little angel on my shoulder to remind me to take a deep breath and to whisper the right solutions in my ear. Unfortunately, that little demon on the other shoulder gets the upper hand sometimes! Here's to banishing that little bugger!