Friday, October 31, 2008

Autumn - a time for good smells

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

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

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

Halloween-y

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Snow

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

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

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

And life calls, as the toddlers scream!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Being called

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

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

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

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Prima Donna

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

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

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

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

Storytelling Assignment

video

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

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

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NYT Endorses Obama

Here's the latest.

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

Be here now is a hard lesson sometimes.

Self-sufficiency and Dating

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Alaskan View

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

Morning Meditation - Gratitude, Duty, and Forgiveness

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

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

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

The universe sure is profound sometimes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wow

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

I like it.

Prayer and other random thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Religion and Civil Society

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Morning meditation






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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

That's so Gay!

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

Monday, October 13, 2008

Letting go of resentment

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

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

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

I'm glad that today is my Wellspring group.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

This is not a spiritual entry


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

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

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

Friday, October 10, 2008

I need silence! And life in bullet points

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 6, 2008

About UUs

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

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Are you a UU?

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

Losing my serenity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 3, 2008

Politics

First of all, Bloomberg's move to extend term limits:

This quote from Randi Weingarten really stuck out for me:

One powerful union leader, Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said she was uncertain about what steps, if any, the union would take to oppose the mayor’s efforts to extend term limits.

“I am going to have a real discussion with our members, and I wish that there would be a real discussion in the city,” Ms. Weingarten said. “This is a significant policy change, and there has been no real public airing of the debate. We live in a unprecedented world right now, and we have to explore the pros and cons of changing, and of doing it in this kind of way, rather than putting it to the voters.”

So yeah, what's the deal with not listening to the people who put these politicians in office? This term limit change has been voted down twice; even if Bloomberg is a great mayor, and wants to keep serving the city, he could do that in a private capacity without this last minute bid for power. He could support the process as it exists (for a reason) and support the next mayor with his money and expertise. Ugh.

_______________

And the debate. I don't have TV, but we watched it live on the NY Times Online. Honestly, I wanted to weep with frustration at times. Palin refused to answer pointed questions, and worked from a script that was old and tired. Reform? Maverick? Puleeeze. I thought Biden did a good job of trying to keep her on track and made some strong points and counterpoints without being patronizing. I did appreciate his one emotional moment where he talked about his own experience with single parenting - and he almost made me believe in that Old American Dream of success. Palin made me feel like I was sure to just stay stuck in the middle class forever, and her failure to talk up any actual plans for reform was disappointing, but not unexpected.

I also just wanted to cry when I saw her up there with her family. I can't help but feel sorry for her; a new baby with special needs, a pregnant teen daughter, and being put squarely in the spotlight. Despite her clear lack of ability for this job, I was impressed with her for getting up there and sticking it out despite the fact that I wanted to reach through the screen and shake her a bunch of times. I could love to hate her, but something in me thinks she might go home and cry after some of these events. She must feel so patronized by the McCain ticket she's on - guarded and shielded (badly). She reminds me of the girl in Anastasia, except she's not the real thing. She's just being prepared in the same way, but with less success.

It's just too bad that she thinks her ability to govern a state that has less people in it that the city I just moved from gives her the experiernce to help govern a nation. I still don't think she knows what a VP does.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Universe Keeps Offering

...the same wisdom over and over again.

Slow down. It's right here in front of you. Ask for what you need.

Jakob and I had a misty, cold, perfect autumn morning walk this morning. It was gray, but we saw one perfect rose and one perfect thistle. We waved at neighbors driving by, and found a critter path. I was very foggy until about halfway through the walk, when my coffee kicked in. (Thanks dear husband, for having it ready to brew when I woke up).

Today is a day of laundry and focus on the kids - I promised to play a board game. I also have an overdue newsletter to write.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Community Building

First off, the daily walking has been lovely. Jakob and I have heard birds, seen blue jays, and explored a field. We saw the shadow of a leaf as it fell to the ground, and noticed that there were a lot more leaves on the ground today. 3/4 of the kids and I went to pick apples today and I hope to make applesauce tomorrow morning and can it. Jakob sat in the car and was entertained by the chickens at the farm.

In other news, more cheerleading drama. I am frustrated with the lack of consistency with discipline problems, but found out that my email to the person in charge never made it to her, so have been having productive discussions since then. I believe very strongly in the board of directors and in their commitment to creating a good experience for the kids. I am mostly upset that the kids see disrespect (like flipping off the coach) and no consequences. It doesn't teach values, it doesn't teach discipline, it doesn't teach good sportsmanship...I could go on. It's nothing personal about a kid, I like them all. But this is not what I signed up for my kid to see as acceptable behavior. The board was unaware of much of it and are now on the ball, I hope.

They asked me to head up some gymnastics classes so they know I'm committed to community...and now they know that I'm willing to stand by my words as well - I will help within my limited resources (the little kids) as much as possible.

And just a note, Monday, 9/29, was a very special day for my oldest daughter. Congratulations Emma. You are a woman of note.