Thursday, November 27, 2008

Update

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

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

Thanks be...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Good thoughts

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

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

Naked for Peace

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


Living Into

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

That makes me maaad ...


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

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

There was an interview with Chris Hedges this month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Media Project II

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

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

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

Saturday, November 22, 2008

On the homestretch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am very much looking forward to Thanksgiving week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Decade

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

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

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

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

Happy birthday, little one!fa

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Greater Good

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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Snow and contentment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Seen everywhere in the blogosphere

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

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

Prayer and Humor

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ministerial stuff

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

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

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

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Visiting Seminary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What a week

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama

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

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

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Not exactly live-blogging the election

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A cure for resentment

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

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

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

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Being in convenant

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

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

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