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


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.

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.


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


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

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


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?


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.