Thursday, December 31, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

I really enjoyed the fact that my mom was such a good sport about me taking all kinds of ridiculous pictures of her. We about peed ourselves laughing! This is a huge step for her that has come with age and humor. She has always been particular about her image, and I love that she can embrace the fun of being occasionally ridiculous. Her stroke last spring has left her a bit more mellow, though her recent improvement
has left her a bit more like her old self (not a good thing).

I wanted to post these two pictures of Under the Tree, the original pageant that was performed at First Unitarian Church of Rochester on 12/20 and 12/24. My two older daughters (pictured), had a fabulous time, and rave about how nice everyone is.

My 11 year old in particular seems to have fallen in love with Mr. WB, who she is seen here dancing with. She talks about him all the time!

My MIL got me this necklace and a matching bracelet in honor of "that thing that you're doing." You mean, studying to be a minister?

I thought it was sweet, though I'm not a God kind of gal. But I'll definitely find the right time to wear this set!

This has been a full year - full of love, successes, challenges, and living life to the fullest. Not everyone seems to "get" the way that we dive into life (or maybe the way I dive into life and drag everyone with me!), but we sure can't say that we've wasted a day!

I've had my first semester of grad school, my career assessment, my aspirant interview, traveled by myself 3 times (for the first time ever!), and took on some leadership roles at church with small group ministry and worship assistance over the summer.

My husband and I are working harder on our marriage than ever (coming up on that seventh year mark does that to you I guess!), and though it's not always easy, we are more in love and more committed to each other and our family and our future than ever.

My kids have been the defining feature of my life, as they have been for the last 14 years. Homeschooling is wonderful, our social lives are a little slow right now, but we seem to have a workable balance of activities going on. It would take days to sum up their year and the growth they have had in themselves and that they have offered me in my own life.

I don't have any regrets from this year, and am excited for the coming year - school, CPE, half time congregational placement next fall - homeschooling, driving, connecting - working at church and in community management - partnership with my husband and family. The next year has all sorts of unexpected things coming our way, but I hope to embrace them all with boldness in my living and loving!

Monday, December 28, 2009


I am deep in prep for my Religious Humanism intensive in January. I just read The Sacred Depths of Nature and really enjoyed that, especially along with Chet Raymo's Skeptics and True Believers. In between, I interviewed my co-minister about being a humanist, and learned a lot. I was really starting to question my own allegiance to Humanist theology as I worked my way through some of of the more intellectual readings, but there is heart and soul there too.

I am anxious to learn more and see how much I am able to tweak my personal theology through my experience and classwork next month.


Back from the trenches of a visit with my parents. I lasted a whole 40 hours this time! As my minister says, it is hardest to be spiritual with your own family, though I tried. My oldest daughter was very impressed with my ability to stay calm and focused with my mother in a tense situation. I'm glad I appeared that way because I didn't feel it inside - maybe that non-anxious presence practice is paying off!

We had a great trip down - I used some gift cards to buy a family gift of a portable DVD player for the car, which was a huge concession. I've always been against having video in the car, especially because my son gets very cranky and controlling about watching anything, but it seemed to keep everyone happy for a good chunk of the trip, and they didn't overdo it. I also pat myself on the back for being prepared with good toys, extra batteries, books and healthy food!

We had a nice visit with my mom on Saturday when we got to town. I hate getting presents from her though, because she is high-maintenance. She requires multiple expressions of gratitude over a period of days, sometimes weeks, before she is satisfied. She got me a new pea coat and some really cool shoes, which was unexpected. The littles got these really cool cots to travel with. Unfortunately, Lucy's broke the first time she slept on it, but they are going to replace it. I thought my mom would freak out, but she was pretty cool about it.

It was an interesting visit. Because my mother has mental health issues, I have an internal filter, and am very careful about what I say - anything mentioned about certain people or things sets off a diatribe; and many offhand comments will be taken personally and blown out of proportion. So I don't say much at all. However, my kids do NOT have the "Betty-filter" and say whatever they want, which is right and good. However, it makes me cringe, because it often brings on a firestorm of negative reaction from her. At one point, my mother asked why my teenage daughter was acting a certain way, and I was so tempted to say, "she's acting normal. I'm the one that has been trained to tiptoe around you so as not to set you off!" but I refrained. Her narcissism is exhausting. Everything is about her, and is taken negatively and judgmentally. It is so opposite from the way I try to live my life and perceive those around me (with the caveat that I am a work in progress!), but it is a good reminder to me to keep working on being non-judgmental, open, and to maintain my skill for good boundaries.

We had a nice dinner with my friends Erica & Keith, and they invited my mom. Yesterday we visited my dad, and I have some concerns about the nursing home care. He had a mohawk! They had literally shaved all of his head except the top - and he has beautiful hair! I was pretty upset about it.

I also don't think they're taking very good care of his hygeine. I left a message for the social worker today, so hopefully I'll get some results soon.

My mother in law took our little dog home with her; she has been very lonely since her dog died last fall, but now she wants to change her name, and is already feeding her from the table and...UGH! The dog is kind of a PITA, but I don't want her to get fat and sick from being spoiled rotten or being unsupervised. And my son will be very upset if she changes Basil's name!

I guess vacation, as it were, is over, and I'm back to studying and cleaning up the massive holiday mess.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Pageant

Our church is putting on a wonderful pageant that my girls are in at 7pm tonight. I saw it on Sunday, and it is so fabulous! It is an original musical. There is candlelit caroling after - come and join us! The link goes to a local newspaper article.

All is right with the world today. All my babies are home, still asleep, the dog cuddled up next to the bed, hot coffee, and Christmas dinner tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cool birthday gift!

Today was my birthday; the first one where I felt a little down about getting older. I know all that hype about older and wiser and such. I'm entitled to my pity party though . It's my party and I'll cry if I want to! But I'm not really crying; just getting more in touch with my mortality with age and ministerial formation.

My older girls are going to their grandfather's with their dad on Friday, so we opened most of our presents tonight, and my husband got me THE coolest stainless steel chalice! I bought myself a cool chalice last year around this time and my toddler has knocked it off my nightstand and broken it in two places, which bummed me out. This one is much sturdier and small enough to transport sometimes. I love it!

My kids had a great evening. It was great to see the joy on their faces at simple things, provided with love and some re-gifting.

It was a good birthday.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Formation Dreams

I had a long, horrible dream last night that I was at school for intensives, meeting many of my blogosphere fellow students for the first time, and kept saying the most rude and insensitive things. I was also incapable of contributing anything intelligent to class. Then, I went to my RSCC interview and was asked bizarre questions and then told that I was in no way ready to pursue ministry.

I think I am a little anxious about intensives prep and traveling ;)

Friday, December 11, 2009

2nd Thanksgiving

I am feeling immensely grateful right now. Grateful for friends who are helping out with this Christmas season, grateful for my church and their support on so many levels - spiritual, emotional, etc. Grateful to have had an amazing conversation with my mother this morning, and then with my MIL, who was angry and now isn't.

Grateful for my husband, who loves me and who I love right back, with all my heart.

I'm grateful for my amazing children, who are so cool and smart and understanding about the limitations of our situation, while they see excess all around them. Grateful for my ex-husband, who keeps plugging away in our friendship even when it's not easy or pain-free.

I'm grateful for my dogs, who are sweet and comforting, and my house, which is warm and slowly getting clean again, due to my extreme efforts today. I am grateful for my dryer, even though the washing machine is currently still broken.

I'm grateful for grace in my life, for my fellow-seminarians, for my professors, and my ministers. For having prayer in my life, and for snow days and fleece slippers and for homeschooling.


Friday, December 4, 2009

A field trip

One of my classes has us interviewing a UU from an "emerging" UU tradition - a growing presence. I have been assigned to France. Immediately, I got online and googled "Unitarian France" and emailed two likely candidates. I had a reply when I got home, and it is just charming! I feel rather like I am off on a trip!

I am hoping that they want to pen pal a bit beyond the "interview" assigned, as I'd love to know more about being a UU in Europe and just get to know them a bit more as people!

I can't read but a little bit of French - enough to get the drift, but enjoyed visiting, where I found my first victim. Being a former journalist, I have a million questions!

My second victim, whom I have not heard back from yet, is at There are tons of links there. I also had a fun time doing a European tour of Unitarianism. I visited multiple countries, which is helping me with my final paper on the development of Unitarianism in Canada. I am also reading some texts (probably not interesting to many but me) that are quite old and document that history.

If you're interested, you can also visit Unitarian Europe:
Sunday: UU Fellowship of Paris (
At 3:00 pm., we will visit the Temple de Pentemont in France, where we will hear a sermon from a visiting minister, possibly Rev. Art Lester. Michael Servetus was executed in effigy by the Catholic Inquisition in 1553.

Monday: Geneva, Switzerland. In the city where Michael Servetus was burned at the stake as an antitrinitarian heretic and martyr, we can now visit the Quaker House to enjoy a service.

Tuesday: Franfurt, Germany. We will visit the monthly meeting of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Frankfurt and chat with the members about their topics that explore the connections with other religious traditions. From there, we will hop over to the Kaiserslautern UU Fellowship. Both congregations are affiliated with the EUU.

Wednesday: University of Seville. We will visit the university where José Maria Blanco White (, a famous poet, studied in 1790. He became an Anglican priest, and eventually a Unitarian. He was very politically active and wrote prolifically in Spain and England about politics and theology. He moved to England in 1835 and became a Unitarian, corresponding with American Unitarians, and writing articles and poetry. Spain is also the birthplace of Michael Servetus, who died for his heretical beliefs. From there we will travel to visit the meeting place of the UUs of Catalunya, in Barcelona.

Thursday: We will visit Essex Street, London (, home of The General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. There we will meet briefly with Rev. Bob Wightman, the current President of the Assembly. Then we can read some history of the building, which was founded in 1774 by Joseph Priestley (who discovered oxygen the same year). He died in Pennsylvania in 1804.

Friday: We continue on to County Tyrone, Ireland, to visit the birth place of John Abernathy (, a Presbyterian minister who started the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland. He was famous for his discussions of non-creedal beliefs, and protecting the civil liberties of those religious outside of the mainstream Catholic and Presbyterian faiths.

Saturday: We travel a distance to Hungary, where we find the history of the famous composer Bela Bartok, who though raised Roman Catholic, traveled to Transylvania as part of his studies and discovered Unitarianism. In 1917, he became a member of the Mission House Congregation of the Unitarian Church in Budapest. He eventually moved to the United States due to the political unrest in Europe during World War II. While in Hungary, we can visit Prague and the Czech Unitarian Church.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hundreds attend vigil

I am deeply saddened by this tragic event. I am also so grateful for our ministerial team, who is providing such careful and loving care for Sevilla's family and friends.

Hundreds attend vigil for homicide victim found in Mendon Ponds Park | | Democrat and Chronicle

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Feeling accomplished

So much more to do, but I am so relieved that I turned in my first ever exegetical paper. Who woulda thunk that a woman who had never gotten past the "begats" in Genesis would write 10 page paper, chapter and verse, using scholarly secondary sources, on covenant, creation, and free will?

Even if I don't get an A on the paper, I am very proud of it. And glad to have it done. I have never spent so long researching, reading, and writing a paper (that wasn't even that long!). It really took a lot of effort and was hard work, but I feel like it was really worth it and I got a lot out of this OT class that I will be able to use in my ministry.

Off to do my weekly OT assignment, and put together my notes for the oral presentation on euthanasia I have to do next week. Then I deserve a short break before I tackle my other final paper on the development of Canadian Unitarianism!

I can't wait to "just" be able to do the reading for my January classes, and to have a break from my 2 evenings at the shelter. That buys me 12 more hours a week to be with my family until February! (well, except for the 2.5 weeks I'll be in Chicago).

Maybe I'll even get the house vacuumed tomorrow!

I also had a chance to go to my Wellspring facilitator meeting yesterday. My 11 yo got english and social studies done while I met, and I got to revisit how grateful I am for my co-facilitator in our group. It was great to hash out what has worked well and what might need tweaking. It's such a special and deep program and I'm so honored to be a part of it again this year. I am already thinking ahead to my internship and wondering if I can find a way to introduce it there in my second year, if there is enough interest.

This year is going so fast. Some days I don't know where the week has gone!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Just a note to the universe:

I have all my ducks in a row today. If you could please not throw any more major curveballs for the next six months, it would be very much appreciated. Thank you for your attention.

This in no way constitutes a dare.

In faith,

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good news! (and some tragic)

I have been a bit at a standstill this semester, trying to figure out my congregational and leadership studies (aka internship) for my 2nd and 3rd year. I can't do it at my home congregation and in the deal worked out with the MFC, the teaching pastor has to be in final fellowship and settled for at least 3 years. That left me with ONE church in my area, as I discovered as I looked at my options. I thought I had a teaching pastor for this year (someone to discuss theological issues and academic questions, etc. once a month). I had a minister commit and then back out.

Anyway, today I got ahold of my one possibility- I had emailed her a month ago, and followed up with another email and a phone message and was getting very worried that she was going to say no way Jose. Well, today, with much persistence (and some kindly help from her compassionate and sweet office person),I connected with my new teaching pastor!

We had a lovely conversation, are going to start meeting monthly in January when I return from intensives and I will be doing two years of part-time internship with her starting next September! I actually jumped up and down and yelled Yippeeeee! in the parking lot of my kids' homeschool Waldorf program after I hung up the phone!

Rev. W. seems very nice and was apologetic about the long delay - she was away for UUMC and then the holiday and...well, just busy, as ministers are. We had a lovely conversation and I can't wait to get the paperwork in place and official!

In not so good news (not personally), a congregant at my church was murdered last night. Her husband was arraigned on 2nd degree murder today. It is such a tragic and unexpected story. They were members for years and she was a beloved member of the choir. The church is holding a vigil tomorrow evening. This, after the death of a co-worker's spouse 2 weeks ago, and the serious illness of another very active congregant, is all very sad and stressful this time of year.

My ministers look very tired and sad. Our married co-ministers have also had a very difficult summer with family illness, and this is just exhausting. I would like to do something nice for them. Any suggestions? (that doesn't cost money?)


I am so frustrated with my bank right now. I bounced a payment online last week, and the online billing agency has hit me for fees three times now! Over a holiday weekend!

Blessings to the poor online rep who dealt with my fury and stress, and refunded 2/3 of my fees!

::sigh:: I hate this time of year.

In more positive news, we got our first snowfall last night! My dog was so excited - it got my day off to a good start to see his joy and bounciness :)

Off to the races. We're all recovering from a bad head cold but have a full day (week) ahead. Glad I got to stay in bed and rest yesterday (well, rest and write my exegetical paper!)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Losing steam

I only have 2 more weeks left in this semester and I have 2 final papers that I haven't done the reading for yet, a 5 page paper for pastoral care on suicide, and then by 12/14, two 1pg papers for Ethics.

I am having a hard time staying focused - I just want to hibernate and snuggle with hubby and the kids, eat popcorn and watch movies! I want to decorate the house, make gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate, and enjoy my family.

Must.Stay.Focused. Just a little longer! I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Brotherly love

My dad's youngest son (my half brother) from his first marriage and I talked on the phone tonight. We haven't spoken in over 10 years, probably closer to 15. He hasn't seen my (our!) dad in close to 10 years either.

It was an interesting discussion, putting each other back in context - as he said, it is hard to think of me as anything but a youngster (meaning small child). Now he's faced with this woman, mother, seminarian, family caretaker. It must create quite a reality shift.

My daughter was very excited to learn that she has a 13 year old cousin. She has very little extended family. The call left me with a burning desire to go back to the days of the family Christmas party at my aunt's - the hot tub at the top of the spiral stairs, the hanging wicker swinging chair that all the kids fought over, the martinis and wet bar, the racing memorabilia , the cousins I only saw once a year, the candy, the soda, the cookies, the jello mold. I don't hold out unrealistic hopes that we might have a family reunion again - and my aunt and uncle have passed on and the house is gone - but to have connections again to family. That would be good.

Anyway, in the end, I gave him dad's contact info. Who knows what dad will say, or even if he'll be lucid, but I felt it was important to let him have contact. He clearly was looking for his dad, who is a different dad then I grew up with. And I am not going to stand in the way of that. Dad doesn't have forever left, and not that much time that won't be taken over by dementia.

I feel sad and happy - years lost, opportunities lost. Happy to reconnect. Bitter at the stupidity that separates people for years or lifetimes. Happy 50th Birthday, Randy. I hope our connection made it a good milestone.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Jude (5): Hey, you got new glasses. They're ugly, I liked the old ones better. blah blah...

Me: It's not nice to tell people their glasses are ugly.

Jude: Oh hey, I mean, they're SO handsome mom!


Lucy (2.75): runs into room. "Mommmmm! I am SO not happy with the dog." Shows me her teddy bear with chewed arm.

They are so funny! : ten-year-old refuses to stand for pledge of allegiance : ten-year-old refuses to stand for pledge of allegiance

Emma's (my 13 yo daughter) been refusing to say the Pledge since she was 5. Looks like she has some company!

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Gymnastics meet

Soren got 2nd place on bars yesterday, and my friend Heidi videotaped her for our viewing pleasure! Thanks Heidi! I was so proud of Soren - this was her best meet in a long time and awesome for the first meet of the year. 35.7 all around!
Bars: 9.45
Beam: 9.1
Vault: 8.3
Floor: 8.85 (a high score for her in Level 5!)

Hanging out with Youth

There's a post over at Chaliceblog that resonated with me - I had noticed the comment in Peter Morales' piece in UU World this winter as well - and it irritated me just as much.

"I am convinced that we too often fail to recognize how much our children, youth, and young adults need to give. Hanging out is not a spiritual practice. Joining hands to work for something we care about is. Service is an essential part of faith development. We need to do so much more to engage the idealism and energy of our young people."

As I commented over at chaliceblog, I think it's a mistake to think that the only way to engage our church youth is through social action. In my work with RE, I have actually heard parents groan about this - their kids have mandated community service through school, and then that's often the bulk of their engagement with their church.

My church has been trying to integrate the messages of its sermons and small group ministries and RE so that congregants with families are having a unified experience and message through themes in worship and workshop rotation in RE. However, this often leaves out our youth who are done with RE curriculum or don't want to get up and come to class or worship on Sundays.

We have a vibrant and growing youth group (40+ kids this year, and they are bringing their non-UU friends!). They just organized a huge con and had 130 kids attend - they meet weekly, and we're offering a Coming of Age group this year too. However, as I've mentioned before, I was inspired to start a Teen Soul Matters group this year. The description is here.

We lose so many youth - and what is missing is hanging out with them. What is small group ministry about? It's about creating sacred space - about learning to listen to your own quiet inner voice or soul. When you are busy in youth group, or social action, you don't take time to just sit and listen to your peers, to other adults, to yourself. You don't have time to really engage yourself with the big questions. What is God? Where do science and religion intersect? Is there an afterlife? What does being a UU mean to me? How can I articulate it to my friends? Where do we come from? What does xyz in the Bible mean, if anything/everything? What is prayer? What are other spiritual practices? How can they bring meaning and clarity to my life? How can people believe in Creationism? What the heck happens when people have these near death experiences?

Seriously, people, all of these topics came from the kids in my group in only 4 hours of meetings. And that was even with structure imposed - it's a ministry group for kids, but it's also hanging out. But it's hanging out with purpose and light.

Youth engage their spirits as much as their hands and bodies by being with adults who are modeling spiritual practice and living into their faith internally, not just in the obvious external ways. Liberal theologians say that we need to hook people through their search for life's meaning, but we have to be aware of how kids do that - it's not necessarily how adults do it. And we have to give them opportunities to explore those questions in ways they will never get with their peers at school or their "regular" lives. Teens are going through a developmental crisis in much the same way that adults have a mid-life crisis. If we can engage them at church during this critical time, they won't have to search for that spiritual home when they're 40!

So my point is that hanging out can be a lot of different things (and can be subversive in a positive way!) and in all my work with youth both in human services and at church, those times where there is no agenda is when the best work happens. When I can just be with them. Doing dishes, driving in the car, watching a movie, listening to some tunes - that's when that shy soul peeks its head out and feels safe enough to ask the big questions. Let's not minimize the incredible power of creating sacred space that youth can identify with. It's not the way that adults do it - but approaching youth from our own social location is why we're losing them. We have to recognize their developmental needs and engage them where they're at. And that's hanging out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Family Surprises

I forgot to mention, my dad's youngest son (aka my half-brother) from his first marriage contacted me via Facebook this week. I have not seen/heard/talked to him in ... over 10 years?

My dad has three sons and they have not seen him or talked to him probably that long. I can speculate why, but I won't here. Regardless, he is supposed to call me today. I'm nervous, defensive (?!) and not sure what to expect.

I guess the reality is that I am an adult, outside of all the political wrangling that happened in our families of origin, and have no reason to be other than objective and hospitable (faith in action!) to this sibling that I don't even know. I do have some resentment around being left to care for my father when I was only 25 and my oldest brother was 50 with grown kids and a stable life...but I don't know their side of the story. I hope I get to hear some of it.

That said, it is an honor to be my dad's guardian. He's always been a good dad to me within the limitations of his disabilities, and I love him. I wonder if my brother will want to see him? Or if dad will recognize him, or want to see him at all?

Well, life is never dull around here. Thank God I have a daily spiritual practice. Prayer has become a real lifeline lately.

Random Important Stuff

I was so productive yesterday! I got my CPE application emailed off to the hospital, did my homeschooling quarterly reports, and dealt with all my overdue email! I also got my ethics paper in on time, wrote a sermon on Wednesday on crisis for my pastoral care class (can't wait to be able to take an actual preaching class!), and am hammering through my humanism class readings for January (though keeping the reading journal is a struggle).

Not to mention all the laundry. Man, when the cold weather hits, the laundry doubles - the clothes are bulkier, it's muddy and wet, and having a preteen and teen guarantees multiple clothing changes per day!

I really enjoyed my pastoral care class on Thursday. A funeral director came in to speak to us; I am much more motivated to take care of life insurance, will, advance directive, memorial planning, etc. since starting this class. I can really see the benefits of not leaving all that stress to my kids and family to deal with. I had to write a simple funeral for myself, and turned that in a couple of weeks ago. Oddly, nobody in my family wanted to help me plan it ;). Although my 11 yo did ask me if she could do one of the readings. Thinking ahead, as usual!

We also talked about NDEs (near death experiences), which was really interesting. I had done some reading and prep about them for Wellspring last year, as well. Again, the whole science/biology/religion thing is so fascinating.

Yesterday, we went out dinner for my 2nd daughter's 11th birthday at Plum Garden, which is a Hibachi restaurant. I love the drama - the fire, the delicious food, the fun. We had a great time and Jude and Lucy even behaved until the end. I am also very happy to report that my ex-husband and his wife are hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year. If I had to cook and clean this year, I think my head would explode, and my 82 yo MIL declined as well.

Finally, a few interesting links:
Cost of Seminary explained

Exploring Texts - this post resonated with me, since I've been doing papers and such on various books for years, but exploring the Bible through secondary texts has opened up a whole new world to me. Also, I am finding in all my classes a real emphasis on being aware of social location - our own individual context that contributes to how we interpret not just texts, but the world, and how awareness of that bias can open up whole new vistas in exploring ... well, everything.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Getting Old

OK, I know I'm not old. Every year I get older, there's some old fart telling me how young I still am ;).

But I started out as a sassy teenager in a runaway shelter for months, was a bratty street smart kid, got my shit together, grew up, managed a transitional living program for teens, had my own kids, blah, blah, blah.

Now through my ministry work I'm back in a teen shelter. I love it. Adore it. But I come home and cry sometimes. That didn't used to happen. Sure, there were kids that I was especially attached to, but I love all these kids. And they are different than the ones I am used to.

For the young teen tonight who ended up leaving, who kept telling me "Not even my mom cares." (and of course neither must you, because if my own mother doesn't care, how could you? is implied) I cried tonight. And I am angry at the police office who wouldn't take a missing person's report because, well...he didn't really have a good reason, except that he was young and white and privileged and in a position of power...and this kid is young and black and poor and has nothing. So what's one more kid on the street on a cold November night?

I didn't used to cry. But I came home and looked at my own beautiful 13 year old daughter and thought, for the grace of God...

These kids are my kids. I don't care who their mama is. And they are breaking my heart.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Good intentions

Dear store cashier, I know you are just trying to help when my son is freaking out in the line, but when you talk to him and he shrieks at you, giving him a lecture on proper behavior is probably not going to be effective, and is just going to make him scream more.

Thank you for your attention.

And yes, he is in his room, having an imposed naptime right now. ::::Sigh::::

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Funeral questions

So my pastoral class speaker next week is a funeral director. I am supposed to come prepared with questions; and I can't think of any! I know I should...I am going to be doing services and such...what do I need to know from this funeral director? This may be my best shot!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Human Rights

I think that all of our government officials right down the line should read this report.

Simple and brilliant.


Time to process

I think i am finally getting into the reading groove, just in time to start writing all my papers in the next 4 weeks.

I have to write:
2 five page reflection papers
Respond to two of those from someone else
One sermon on crisis
2 final papers of 10-12 pages
a small group 2.5 hour presentation on the ethics of death and dying

Plus finish reading for intensives and the assignments for those.

Next semester I just have one online class and my community studies class. Whew. I also have to finish preparing for my RSCC interview in March, and get my CPE application in for my intensive CPE in June and July.

The interesting thing is that just like in my undergrad work, I love all the connections that these disparate classes are bringing me. The context of studying the Old Testament along with my readings on ethics and humanism, and the real-world application of pastoral care around death and dying - they are all connecting in interesting and formative ways in my brain, through my writing, and in my living.

If i just had a littttle more time to reflect - I'm supposed to be keeping a reading journal for one of my intensive classes, but yikes, when? I better start though, since I'm plowing through the books.

Just as we seem to be getting into a routine this fall, it will all be over. Then I have to search for child care help for January, March and the summer.

Everything is moving so fast!

Monday, November 2, 2009


I just got home from a lively and intriguing Wellspring session. I am so inspired by our group. They are so committed, so engaged, and so deep! Things come out of this group that are totally unexpected, and they lift me up to engage myself with the topics in a whole new way each time.

I am blessed with a bright and thoughtful co-facilitator for that group, who teaches me so much. (and my other co-facilitator). I will be forever blessed to have them as colleagues throughout my life.

I am also grateful for the work of the divine in my life and those I love. Jude's teacher was in a potentially very bad car accident today, but is recovering well at home. She is such a blessing in our lives, and I am so very grateful that she was held safe today by whatever divine intervention stepped in.

I am saddened by the death of a high school classmate, Mike Weston. He was killed last week in Afghanistan in a helicopter crash. My love and prayers go out to his family, and especially his new wife.

I am blessed with dear friends who are patient with my mistakes. (most especially Lauren). I am blessed with children who bring me joy in the living of life in the moment each day.

I am grateful for the three ministers at my church. The care that they put into leadership, worship and pastoral care touches me every day.

I am blessed to have a really great dog. (nice follow-up to the ministers, eh?) He is sweet tempered, snuggly, a good listener, and fabulous with the kids. I adore him and his role in my daily spiritual walking meditation.

I am blessed to be a writer. To be able to process my gifts and challenges through the written word.

there are so many blessings in my life. Innumerable friends who lift me up, love me, and keep me sane. You know who you are. Amen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spiritual Practice

Things have been busy here. Classes are in full swing. Homeschooling is busy - sports; classes; and teaching Spanish, Language Arts and Math here at home. Formational stuff - group facilitation, workshops, paid work in RE, site work. All have conspired to keep me away from my computer and email except for urgent matters.

I put my attention full bore on school and formation for several weeks; the house languished, kids started acting out, husband is very quiet. Attention. I put it on one thing to the detriment of other things. It is a challenge to balance it. My brain is often at maximum capacity. My minister told me that she had a dream one night where she had to remember something and kept trying to get the File, Save to work on her brain, but it just wouldn't. Boy, do I resonate with that.

I have not been feeling good about my morning meditation walk for a while now. I've been distracted and I haven't been able to put my worldly concerns aside and focus on the here and now during that sacred time of day. I"ve been searching for something else and have been feeling called to prayer, but still have some hang-ups. I am trying without success to find information on using Buddhist prayer beads and some breathing meditations to help me focus. If anyone has any good resources, I'm all ears. In the absence of that, I made up my own.

Walk, walk, breathe in (God, please help me to be) breathe out (loving and in right relation to all). Over and over for several days. This morning for the first time in a long time, in the midst of a lot of inner turmoil and grief, I felt the presence of peace again. I breathed in the leafy, autumnal air, saw the wispy clouds in a blue sky, and my house off in the distance. I felt safe, and clear, and connected again. Just for a minute. But that was enough.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

To Be Born or Not To Be Born: That is the Question - Rev. Sam Trumbore - - Albany NY

To Be Born or Not To Be Born: That is the Question - Rev. Sam Trumbore - - Albany NY

I am really interested in Rev. Trumbore's question. I have always been an ardent pro-choice person, but in hearing some personal stories of people who are very against late-term abortion because of their own experience with parenting disabled children, and incorrect diagnoses during their pregnancies (which if the advice to abort had been followed, would have been catastrophic in terms of having a wonderful child in their life), I have had a shift in my thinking.

My congregation has started working intensely with reproductive rights this year, and I have mixed feelings about it, quite honestly. I guess I am ambivalent because I wonder if the groups that we recommend are really objective and provide good counseling and education about a woman's options and in offering support, or if they have an agenda that is slanted toward abortion without adequate preparation and support.

Time for me to find out more!


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Friday, October 16, 2009

I love John Stewart

Anyone who uses the word Kerfuffle is OK in my book ;)

Current Obsession

Shitty week aside, I have to say that my newfound obsession with The Airborne Toxic Event is making life much better. Yeah, and they are not hard on the eyes either.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The universe speaks

But how do you put what you hear into practice? Time and time again, I am reminded that I often (always?) put self-care last. I have a crushing schedule this fall but life has thrown me three curve balls in a month - 3 of my children have had needs that need immediate and time-consuming attention (in addition to the usual attention they get, which may not be enough but is probably more than most kids get?).

Daily spiritual practice. Check. I need something more in-depth. Something that I can focus on better. It's not cutting it anymore.

Hot showers with nobody bothering me. Check.

Sleep. Check - I sleep hard most of the time, but this week not so much. Too much to do, no time, and too much worry. It'll come back.

Support. Check. Some fab friends, seminary colleagues, a spiritual mentor and an awesome doctor.

But I am exhausted. I cannot remember ever being so tired. The last time I cried so much was when my first husband and I separated. I am still doing my schoolwork but I don't know how much of my reading I'm retaining. Can someone send me the cliff notes for Judges? Because that's not done, and I can't imagine reading it tomorrow ;).

I'm not sure what else I can do take care of myself other than a spa vacation, which I can't afford in money or time. Getting time alone is impossible as it is.

Just send light, prayers, loving thoughts, lottery tickets, books on tape, whatever it may be. Or if the universe would perhaps like to be more specific about what I should be doing to avert crises (which I don't even believe in anymore), that would be OK too.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ministerial Formation

Mondays are always a challenge, and seem to be more so now that I work on Saturdays and Sundays. Plus I'm doing this gymnastics booster club volunteer thing that I *swore* last year I wouldn't do again...but it's been easier this year! Thank the heavens for email.

Today has been surprisingly productive though. The girls got up on time, did their chores and we got to spend a whole hour on Spanish vocab and conversation today. It was SO fun! What was ironic was that we were learning "classroom" words - chalk, chalkboard, flag, desk, etc. As we sat in front of the woodstove and snuggled and did flashcards ;).

Even Jude and Lucy learned the alphabet in Spanish! Fun times, peeps.

I am very much looking forward to reading week at school. Excel spreadsheet or no, I am having a hard time carving out enough reading time. My husband is now resentful of both spiritual practice time AND reading time. Wheee! My pastoral care class starts this week too, so I expect the reading to practically double, because it's a condensed, half-semester, full credit class. Sleep is totally overrated, I know. But complaining aside (was I complaining?), I *love* all the readings I'm doing, even the Old Testament, which is finally becoming an accessible narrative to me personally, and helping me to put a lot of cultural/religious things in perspective.

My site work at the Center for Youth is awesome, people. I adore my site supervisor. She has a good sense of humor, and is excellent about putting up with all my questions. I imagine there will be new kids there next week, so new opportunities and challenges and stories to learn about. I really need to start looking at my learning contract and figuring it out. It's challenging to think about what I need to learn here as part of formation, because I did this work professionally. I am trying to think of different angles, and how to best serve there, while at the same time, allowing them to use my skills and resources that I come there with.

Every day, I find new pieces of ministerial formation that I am facing - spiritual, family, academic, sociological, relational, community, political. It's awe-inspiring how this program is forcing us to face all of life and transform into someone totally different (again). I also am amazed at how thoughtful the program is at different levels in engaging me to face the big and little questions of life. I am really anxious to meet with my covenant group next week - I am having a hard time being geographically isolated from most of my classmates.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Community Site Day

I had my first day at my community site for my non-internship. They say w shouldn't call it an internship, but that's the easiest way to explain it to the other employees. I'm wracking my brains already about my learning contract. The woman who is supervising me is awesome.

I'm working at an emergency shelter for homeless teens. The house was full today - 12 of them. It was pretty low-key today though apparently that's not often the case. Bonus: I get to eat dinner there 2 nights a week and I don't have to cook it!

I helped a girl with her welfare paperwork, hung out with kids, ate dinner, and watched a movie. I am going again tomorrow and am excited to see them again. There is a lot of turnover, but I'm anxious to see how the overall agency works to refer the kids within their resources.

Not RPD's finesthour

Rochester IMC: home

One of my friends got arrested in front of his daughter and her boyfriend. Yes, they didn't have a permit. Was it necessary to have 30 police cars there and attack them with mace and clubs? I don't think so.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Wellspring, Week 1 + a funny

Well, I co-facilitated my first group of the year, and I am STOKED people, STOKED.

Our members are thoughtful, engaged, open, honest, and they ROCK. I am so excited to be doing this. You should all do it too (how's that for evangelizing?)!

A great discussion on covenant, Parker Palmer (we love him! we hate him! He talks about depression too much!), spiritual direction and much, much more. Don't you want to be me?

Seriously, people, I even did my first truly ad-lib closing. I am visual and like my notecards, but I totally wung it, and it was good. Next session: Spiritual backgrounds/journeys.

My co-fac. and I are a good mix too - he is reflective, funny, and we have totally different approaches. A good mix, respectful, humorous, and challenging!

And here's a funny for the day. I was on the phone with my best friend and signing off - "I have to go. I have a hot date with Joshua," as my husband walks in. He looks seriously alarmed. "Who is Joshua??"

Um, the Bible chapter Joshua? Hello? Hee!! He's hot, isn't he?

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Wow, church was awesome today! At least, RE was. My boss usually checks on the upstairs rooms (school age) and I check on the preschool/nursery set, but she was visiting the preschool today, so I got to go upstairs. WOW!!

These teachers are amazing. So creative, so awesome, so engaging! The theme is deep listening this month, and as I moved through (our newly decorated and gorgeous classrooms) Faith Footsteps, Theater, Notes (Music & Writing), Nature (my favorite room - it looks like a fairy tale forest!), Art, and Movement, it was SO great!

The kids were all enraptured with the listening - one room was identifying different sounds on an iPod speaker system, one room was playing drums and FEELING the beat and listening to each other to keep the rhythm, one group was listening to music and dancing as they were moved to, one group was interviewing each other in pairs...just so amazing and creative.

I am so inspired.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Brain explosion

I'm in a flurry of thought about covenant, contradiction, feminism, OT vs. NT teachings, H1N1 and WHO recommendations (does anyone know of the IHR (2005) is binding on signatory nations, and if so, how?).


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Balancing Act

Is it Wednesday already?

I had a productive and validating meeting with my spiritual director today. We talked through my experiences with my career assessment (and it reminded me that haven't received my report yet...) and my Meadville Lombard orientation. We talked about integration and how I'm living my faith through my life, and how many wonderful interconnections there are.

We also talked about how it's a little scary to feel *so* right and how that's a good thing.

We spent quite a bit of time talking about what's going on in my marriage, and that was really helpful. I just got a note from the UUA that there is money available for spousal counseling associated with ministry issues and I'm considering looking into that. There is a local therapist who works with ministers/seminarians and spouses but she doesn't take insurance so we haven't been able to pursue that.

But overall, things are going better. I think he just needed to air his concerns and be heard, and I am trying to do that an also validate the fact that I am busy and unavailable a lot of the time right now (his mother told me that I had abandoned her, very angrily, this weekend), so it's not just him. I feel like he's much more supportive and finding his own balance in all of this. And I'm trying to return the favor as much as possible.

School is going well, although there are a few things that are frustrating with some communication lapses. I'm actively trying to resolve those issues, but not getting very far.

Work is also going well; it's calmed down a lot now that the school year has started and the classrooms are almost together. My boss is breathing again, and so am I. And it's so energizing to see how excited the kids and teachers are about the workshop rotation model (K to 5). Now if only my Kindergartner would go to class! My almost 3 yo went last week, which was a major coup that I hope to keep repeating.

Facilitation of my two groups is starting next week and I am excited and thrilled and honored all at the same time. I have 8 kids signed up for my Teen Group and sent out the guide and readings a few days ago. Woohoo! I need to make some follow up calls and get connected to the kids individually.

What own kids are doing OK - falling into some sort of routine. Working on organizational skills for the 10 yo. Working on more independence for the 5 yo. Dealing with some burgeoning separation anxiety with the 2.75 year old. Homeschooling activities are getting into gear. Our Waldorf program is ROCKING THE HOUSE this year! I am so psyched about the kids' classes and my 1:1 time with Lucy!

OK, must run off to the gym and studying and some social time with my best friend.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hump Day

Well, I don't think I remember much of Monday and Tuesday. I know I didn't get any studying done yesterday or today, thanks respectively to Lucy's siblings being at class all afternoon and her joy at having me all to herself; and today's work.

Monday was a busy day - Emma had a doctor's appointment first thing in the morning, and we had a rather miserable experience. The specialist we were referred to was rude, egotistical, and made Emma cry. We won't be returning to him, though maybe to his practice, since it's the only game in town. It made me realize, once again, how important the Art of Listening really is, and how the assumption of one's intentions can be so damaging.

I am having trouble finding a lab to take her to for a morning fasting draw; Google can be your friend, except when it's not.

I spent about 2 hours chatting with my ex tonight about the girls. It's interesting how the decisions we make now are just as, if not more important, than the ones we made when they were infants. I'm so grateful that we have the time and space in our lives to have these important conversations.

I have 2 chapters to read, a paper to write by Friday, and the more and more and more reading ;). All good stuff though. If only I had time to watch Heroes, Weeds, and Vampire Diaries :::sigh::: Maybe after J-term, hah!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More on radical hospitality

I'm taking a class on the Old Testament and the last two weeks have been spent reading Exodus and Leviticus. I'm struck by the idea that many of the instructions revolve around being kind to one's neighbor (according to my study Bible, one of Jesus' main teachings as well) economically.

Sounds like radical hospitality to me. See, one an interpret the Bible in all kinds of different ways ;)

And yes, I should put chapter and verse references in but I have to run and bathe two small children and work for an hour before I take the kids to their Waldorf program this afternoon. So maybe I'll put them in later.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wellspring Retreat

We made it! I've been looking forward to the retreat for some time now. It was my inaugural small group facilitation experience, and I think it went reasonably well. The best part was splitting into our own small groups at the end of the day. I'm psyched about my group, my co-facilitator, the material, and working through the curriculum through the lens of facilitator rather than participant (although we participate too).

We facilitators had mid-day review and made some adjustments for next year; things that got left out, that should be reconfigured, etc. One of our facilitators was out with the 'flu, so that was sad, but our associate minister stepped in to the breach like the pro she is.

Exciting stuff, and a wonderful meditation walk this morning to start off the day.

Shift your vision
just for a moment
to that of a child

In your innocence
you remind the universe
that you haven't seen
the deer in a while
and as if on cue, the three does
step delicately out across
the road.
White tails flashing
The universe responds
to prayers of petition
after all.

You and the dog stand with
mouths agape and turn
to see three flocks of starlings
burst south
across the sky.
In your adult mind
you know about migration
but your open child's
heart wonders that
they fly so close
so many
without collision.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The False Debate

The False Debate

Yeah, and this too! I agree that we are asking the wrong question. I told Soren last night - if you ask people what God they don't believe in, you're likely to have an open and interesting conversation, where you can then start to formulate a new conversation around what inviduals do believe in.

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Rev. Cyn: More on Atheism, Agnosticism, and Humanism, and the Nature of God

Rev. Cyn: More on Atheism, Agnosticism, and Humanism, and the Nature of God

In some sort of strange synchronicity, this is very close to the conversation that I had with my 10 year old last night! And I share almost all of Rev. Cyn's personal theology. I would also call myself a Religous or maybe Mystic (as in embracing mystery) Humanist. Or maybe even a Theistic Humanist.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Man vs. God -

Man vs. God -

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I love my kids

Jude had a wonderful birthday. He went to his first ever Waldorf homeschooling co-op class (where he knows just about everyone since his sisters have gone there for the last five years), and got to share snack and run around with other crazy boyz (though I heard he ate snack with a girl and chatted animatedly the whole time). I love having mama-spies to check in for me!

Lucy and I had a nice time hanging out on the playground and I had a meeting with our church's ministerial intern, with whom I get to co-facilitate Wellspring this year. We mostly talked about classes and spouses, and church and RE, and very little about Wellspring, but we did get some of our ideas ironed out.

We had a simple pasta dinner with cupcakes and brownies and sang Happy Birthday. It was nice :)

And tonight, I got 1:1 time with my 10 yo daughter, who started asking me all sorts of questions in the car about the history of UUism and what I believe and what she believes and what other people believe, and enlightenment and the Dalai Lama and Buddha and Calvinism and ... wow. What a cool kid. All over a Wendy's frosty and fries. We also talked about how hard it is to be present - for her, for me, for everyone.

And my oldest daughter was a rock today while I worked my tushie off at home and then went into town and worked some more, and came home and now everyone is asleep and I'm supposed to be reading Coogan and I'm not, but I will. Promise.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An Ode to Five

Hey Jude,
You're not afraid
You were made to
Go out and live life!

Five is the moment of truth: "Mom, I know having me turn 5 is hard for you..."

"Soren, if you fall in love and kiss someone else, my heart will be broken!"

"Mom, when are you going to have another baby in your tummy?" (NEVER!!)

"When our chicken gets old and stops laying eggs, can we eat her?"

"It makes me sad when you yell."

"Don't you dare! (tickle me, chase me, hug me, kiss me)" (as he laughs and runs away)

"16, 17, 18, 19, Ten-Teen"

Five is going to be a great year, man-cub! I love you!!

My incoming class at Meadville

News & Events

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Monday, September 14, 2009

At Sea At Home

Those of you who know me well in real life know that the last three years has been a journey toward integration and toward feeling right in my own skin. I have never felt so right and so sure-footed as when I was at orientation at ML last week. I knew in my soul that I was right where I was supposed to be - physically, emotionally, spiritually. I have never felt so right in my skin as I did in those three days, that were the culmination of three years of planning and soul-searching and discernment. Many conversations with many people close to me, with the career center, with my ministers, my family, my children - they all point to the fact that this is where I should be going and where I should be, right this minute.

Those of you who know me well in real life also know that my husband and I have a wonderful love story. I know that we are so in love with each other - deep, deep within our hearts, we are connected. But we also have had tremendous struggles in the six years of our marriage - three moves, two children, death, job changes, life changes; and the last half of our marriage, this transformation of myself into seminarian, seeker, and whole person.

What has been most transforming is that my life has become intentional - chores are still chores and occasionally drudgery, but the choices I have made about what I do and what I embrace are daily acts of intention and attempts to be kind and loving and open. This month's worship theme at church is hospitality. What do we need to let into our lives? Over the summer of the assignment to think about this, it was pointed out to me in many subtle and overt ways that I need to be open to having needs. That I have to make time to take care of myself. That it is OK for me to take up space and ask for help. That I need to tell my own story and not let others tell it for me, or make assumptions because I am not speaking my truth to them out of fear of judgment. That is a hard and ongoing lesson. However, right now, I am struggling most with how to offer hospitality to my spouse.

Everything seemed well and good; supportive and understanding; until my third day in Chicago last week. Since that Friday, 10 days ago, I no longer feel the deep and abiding comfort of soul and body in the presence of my husband. He is rejecting my path; he resents it, and he doesn't want to walk it with me. The waves of resentment are almost tangible. The paid work that I do in RE, the unpaid work that I do raising our children and caring for our home and property, the volunteering I do in our community, the leadership roles I am taking on at church and the spirituality I embrace there - he is rejecting all of it. He doesn't see any of it as meaningful, or even want to listen to me try to explain it. He is running away from me because he is afraid that he is losing me to (God?). He is afraid of the person I am, as I become more whole; that that person won't want him anymore. He refuses to participate in the household in even the most simple of ways; last night, he spent the night elsewhere. I respect that he needs some space, but that hurt.

He is not interested in engaging in discussion about any of it; he has purposely and actively closed that door in my face. My inner and outer lives - my work, my thoughts, my beliefs, my community, my academics - I can speak of none of them in his presence. Anything but the most banal of topics is met with stony silence or his absence.

I am not looking for comments, or pity, or support. I just need to work out how I can continue to be open and hospitable to him. My minister say that it is hardest to be spiritual with your own family. My husband doesn't want me to be spiritual - his closing insult in our last (failed) conversation was that, "You are so spiritual all the time!" I can laugh about that with my fellow seminiarians and travelers, for those that know me know of my intensity, my sometimes short temper, my failings. But in some measure, he's right - if you want to call intentional and thoughtful living "spiritual all the time," then I guess he's right. But I'm not pretending to be better than, which is how he seems to see it.

I don't know to do - I couldn't go backward to whoever he seems to think I *was* and I wouldn't, even if I could.

I expected seminary to be hard, and for crying out loud, it just started. He and I know how to survive adding classes and studying to our lives - I just spent 18 intense months finishing my BA. But I didn't expect this added component of him feeling threatened by this journey. I thought he would be on it with me, as my soul mate and life partner. Not to walk on my journey, but on his own journey. My questions are not his. He has to find his own path, but I thought we would walk next to each other. Now I'm not so sure. He has limitations in communication that I don't know how to build a bridge across.

Oddly enough, he really started to get connected to a small group ministry last spring but it didn't meet over the summer and now he is resistant to going. I hope it's not wrong of me, but I asked one of the members that he seemed really connected to, to call him and check in with him about coming. They had talked about hiking together, and he needs a friend.

I wonder if there's something like a seminarian-spouse support group? ;).

Honestly, my initial gut reaction, out of hurt and fear, is to shut down, and shut the door right back in his face, as he is doing to me. But that is wrong. But I don't know how to remain open and loving and have him see that that is what I'm doing,without it being wrapped up in his resentment of me being so damn spiritual all the time .

I want home to feel like home. I want to feel like I can share all of me, and not be walking on eggshells, afraid to say the wrong thing, whatever that is (most of what I would say, I guess). How can I be hospitable and keep the door open when the way I live my life is what is pushing him away and scaring him?

It's just a circle my mind keeps chasing its tail around. But I'm going to keep trying. Again, I don't need or even want support or hugs - I am doing alright - but I would welcome experiences from others who have chosen life paths that have created hard struggles in their closest relationships. Not advice - just stories. Because there is power in our stories.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The New Saturday

I guess this is what Saturdays once a month will look like. Well, minus the 5:30 a.m. wake-up and 6 busy hours at work. We had our RE Teacher Ingathering today, and I got there at 7:15 to help our DRE stuff folders, make coffee, and get everything ready.

I think it went well; RE visioning last year suggested a move to a workshop rotation model for grades K-5 and traditional classes for Infant through preschool, and jr and sr. high. It has been a tremendous amount of work to get the classrooms put together in 6 weeks and they're not done. They have no art supplies or anything but they're certainly starting to have character!

Then cleanup, scrambling to figure out what we need tomorrow for Homecoming Sunday, and for the first real week of RE next week.

I got home, had my monthly class conference call for the first time -one hour with the whole class, and one hour with a smaller group. I thought it went really well, and turned in my notes and reflections right after so it was fresh in my mind. Now I'm trying to read some Coogan and such for my Hebrew class, which we're supposed to turn in a reflection by tomorrow night...but I don't know what that means. Are we supposed to follow a writing style, or is it informal? How long should it be? Nobody else has turned anything in yet either, so I don't have anything to compare to and there was no written guidance from the professor. Hmmm... Live and learn I guess!

I'm so sleepy from getting up early but am going to try to finish my readings and make some notes, because I have another assignment that I need to start.

Friday, September 11, 2009


1. RE is starting with a teacher ingathering tomorrow. I have to go into the office and make a zillion copies today with my littles in tow, and the printer is down, and I haven't been able to login remotely and I'm tired of technology problems!

2. I haven't been able to login to my online classes at ALL and emailed 3 people and got no response, and finally just created a new account and now can get in but am already way behind on reading and assignments. Argh!

3. I have to get stuff ready for the Wellspring retreat next week so have to stay after church on Sunday to do that.

4. I have to get the fall clothes out for the kids. Every year I think I have them organized but then over the summer everything becomes a mess, so I have about 12 huge boxes of clothes to go through and I have to drag them upstairs, wash everything, put all the summer stuff away, and find time to drag all the outgrown clothes to goodwill - and where the heck can I take old toys now with the new lead laws about selling used toys? I have so much crap to get rid of and nowhere to take it and I don't want to throw it out!

5. My husband and I are struggling now that seminary is a reality. He is refusing to help with any housework, cooking, yard work, or attend anything at church. WTF? This is a huge stressor and even if he would talk about it, I don't know how to make time this week, but since he wont' talk about it anyway, I guess it will sit on the back burner until he's ready. Meanwhile, the lawn needs to be trimmed on the edges, the chicken coop needs to be cleaned and have fresh hay, we need chicken feed, I have to go to the grocery store and have no money, the bathroom is digusting and the downstairs needs to be vacuumed but the littles trashed the playroom before I could vacuum it after I cleaned it a few days ago, so I have to pick up again before I can vacuum!

Oddly enough, I am pretty centered and know that it will all get done somehow, but I could really use an extra husband right now, who isn't giving me attitude.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Orientation, ex-hiliration and ex-haustion

I am so tired I can hardly think straight. But not from orientation, just travel and getting in very late last night.

I flew out early Saturday and woke up stupidly early and couldn't go back to sleep (like 5 a.m. CT). Flights went great - I even ran into another new student who flew to Cinci on the same flight as me and bought me Cincinatti chili (one of my faves, though at Gold Star - I know, I know, but there wasn't a Skyline at the airport!) for lunch, which I had to eat on my connecting flight. Everything was on time and my airport shuttle was even early. I printed out my boarding pass the night before, so I didn't even have to check in.

I do think it's stupid to pack before going through security though - you basically have to unpack and undress to get on the plane ;). Maybe next time I'll be brave enough to take the metro into the city and take the Garfield bus.

Anyway, I got into Buffalo around 1:45 and the family picked me up. We headed off to Niagara Falls, hit the aquarium and the falls, and then headed back to Buffalo to see Great Big Sea. That was one of the best times I've seen them - SO energetic and a great crowd, and the kids loved it. AWESOME! We didn't get home till 1:30 a.m. though, and then I had to get up at 7:30 and go to work. I had a lot to catch up on and didn't get home till 6pm. Ran around, did laundry and sundry stuff and just now booted up the computer!

Orientation was just...incredible. I think we have 24 incoming students, and 22 of us were there. Words really don't suffice, except to say that I didn't want to come home, and the first 24 hours were very difficult to get readjusted (minus the GBS concert ). I *loved* Chicago, loved the school, the students, etc.

We were all exhausted by the end of each day though, so not a lot of late-night socializing; the first night, we were all in bed by 9 p.m. I think! At Vespers I saw the former music director of my first UU church in PA, which was very cool. The new student chaplain, Rev. David Owen-O'Quill gave the sermon. Dinner at Pres. Barker's house was delish, and his family is lovely.

Thursday, we did lots of administrative stuff for the day and then late in the day started tackling the Community Studies portion, which is to hopefully take the place of a 4th year internship. I was so freaking tired by 8 I thought I would die, but was convinced to go out to the local student bar, Jimmy's, where a group of us hung out with several faculty for a couple of hours. That was well worth staying awake for. Rev. O-O is enjoyable as a preacher AND socially, as were the rest of the profs that went. Quite fun.

Much of Friday was taken up with Community Studies - basically class, then a tour of the Woodlawn neighborhood, and Back of the Yards. My favorite part was visiting Father Bruce Welles at Holy Cross. I am very energetic, but he makes me tired. The work he is doing is amazing, as is the work at Sunshine Gospel Ministries. I really was inspired by seeing the work that different ministries are tackling in Chicago.

At the end of the day, returning students hosted a BBQ and ingathering at the beach. I loved Lake Michigan (much better than Lake Ontario), and the Ingathering made me cry.

There were moments over the three days where I could literally feel my heart expanding and growing. It was a little scary but as GBS says, "throw your fears into the sea of no cares." I loved just about every second of it, felt totally at home there, can't wait to go back, and oh, got to hug our church's former intern a bunch of times, which was wonderful. It was so hard to come home. I desperately wanted to stay, learn, join in the good work that is happening there. I can't wait to go back in January. Does anyone want to come and help my family survive? Because nana was about worn out after 2 days and can't manage the stairs. We definitely have to find another adult to come and help out. And someone to hold my hubby's hand. He is having a hard time with me traveling, and seeing the reality of where this journey is taking me.

Now if I can just get through FA counseling this week, all will be well.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It's official!

My god, I can't believe it. I'm here in Chicago, I met my fellow first-year seminarians, the faculty and staff, had an advisory meeting and registered for my fall and January intensives classes, had a reception, dinner at the school's President's house, and am trying desperately to wind down in my dorm room.

My flight went perfectly; I even sat by myself! My sister met me in the baggage claim, her son picked us up; we found my key card, my dorm and school!

I met someone I knew of from my RE Director and we hit it off immediately and had a deep hour long discussion about small group ministry which was so great and inspiring, and we talked about how we don't like Parker Palmer that much, but like the Quaker Circle of Trust model...

I met my adviser, Sharon Welsch, who is the Provost here and I'll be taking a class or two from her; that went smoothly. We also talked more in depth about my community partnership component, which was great. I have a much better vision for what I should be doing this year. I still don't have a teaching pastor, which we didn't talk about, but I'm meeting with her again tomorrow, so I'll remember to bring that up hopefully.

It felt like all fun and no work, honestly. I know that is to come, but I cannot remember a day that was more enjoyable. I talked with many students and faculty about ALL the things that make up my inner world and that I don't have the opportunity to talk to people about usually! And nobody was bored or felt threatened by my religion, or that I was weird. I am HOME.

I also met Tina Porter, the Student Services Director and I would very much like to bring her home with me. I didn't get much time to chat, but she exudes warmth and friendliness and a get 'er done attitude. My kind of woman. I got a chance to chat with the new student chaplain and he seems very quiet and laid back at first and then BAM he is just this very intense and bright and interesting and vivid person! I can't wait to learn more about him as a person.

My fellow students are bright, charming and wonderful. Every conversation was incredible.

And I saw some guy a vespers that I *swear* I know from someplace else. I meant to ask him his name but didn't...hopefully I'll see him again this week so I can chase him down and find out where I know him from! I almost wonder if he wasn't a student at Penn State who attended UUFCC?

Anyway, I am officially here, officially start class on Monday, officially a seminarian, officially feel right in my skin, in my life, in my direction. I met one of the teaching pastors today and he asked me if I was a second year student because I seemed so comfortable. Well I do! I feel at home here, and excited and invigorated and spiritual and connected and present, and well, can you tell, this is such a great day?!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


It feels like autumn already. It's supposed to get below 50F tomorrow night, and it's been gray and cool with intermittent rain and sun all week. We need to get our wood and stove ready, and I still have to paint the porch and get the window sills on the east side of the house stripped and painted.

Then it will be time to get the cold weather clothes out for the kids, which is a 2 day project at best. My calendar for September is, yes, exciting, but perhaps a tad overwhelming when I factor in all the cold-weather preparation.

Today it was finally sunny and gorgeous. I got out with the dog for a super long walk this morning and am tackling a schedule of homeschool lessons with the older girls. Jude had a lovely visit from his "kindergarten" Lilac Children's Garden waldorf program teacher this morning. During which I tripped over our Learning Tower and think I fractured my little toe. Again.

Tomorrow at long last I leave for Chicago. I can't wait! I'm meeting my sister and nephew at the airport, get my keycard for my housing and hit orientation full speed ahead! Today I have a final interview for my "internship" community component this year. I hope it goes well; it could also offer me extra work hours for pay.

The baby's sleeping, so i'm off to tackle chores for 45 minutes before I leave. Soren started back to the gym this week so I won't be home till 10 and have to finish packing!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Small Group Ministry

I went a facilitator workshop today to prepare for this upcoming year of small groups. Small groups are a huge part of our congregation and so important because we're large for a UU church. It's hard to connect to the bigger congregation and mission by just showing up for worship, and we have a variety of small groups called Soul Matters that explore the worship theme each month more deeply.

Our ministers have, through listening in feedback sessions and knowing our people, developed a group theology on how to deepen in these small groups through Listening, Opening, and Serving. Rev. Anderson has also developed a Starting Point curriculum which targets visitors and new people, and gives a context for both UUism and our specific congregation. It looks like this curriculum and Soul Matters, as well as Wellspring are starting to spread to other congregations, which is so exciting! I love the creativity and passion that our ministers bring to our church - they are good at listening and at creating ways for people to engage with their faith on a deep level.

I am so excited to co-facilitate two groups this year. Plus I'll be assisting the new DRE, which will keep me connected as a staff person. A year ago, I had no idea what integration looked like. Now I'm all about it. Every thing I am doing flows and connect to every other thing in such a great way (some of it is attitude, not logistical, but still!).

So I'm thinking of spiritual practice exercises for the coming year. Our homecoming Sunday used to be a water service, but they've expanded this idea in different directions in the last couple of years. This year our assignment is to bring something that speaks to the "Keep Out!" signs we put up - what do we need to let in to our lives and what is a symbol of how we have tried to do that over the summer? It was a hard exercise, but a good one, and we got to practice it in small groups today in preparation for leading our own groups (though mine doesn't start till October - which is Deep Listening).

On a totally unrelated note, my mom has been in the hospital for about a week now, with what they're now calling diabetic neuropathy in her lung biopsy site. My sister flew in today to stay with her so she can be discharged from the hospital and flies back to Chicago next Wednesday and we're flying in at the same time so we can meet at the airport, and then my nephew will drive me to Hyde Park. I'm SO excited to see my sister again! Twice in 3 months - that's a lifetime record.

More on Convenant

I have to say that I am always happy to see a new post up at Celestial Lands. David Pyle and I come from entirely different backgrounds, but he so often articulates what I'm thinking in a way that I don't have time to sit down and do, but always mean to. He also inspired me to explore my interest in chaplaincy during my career assessment - not thoroughly, but a start.

It's funny, because I don't know Rev. Bumbaugh, but I have read some of his writings and been privy to at least one conversation about theology, and I disagreed with him in an entirely formative way too. And even with my minister, who also disagreed with him, but in a different way!

Anyway, to sum up the gist of what I so agreed with, David says the following:

We do not form covenant in our churches to have peaceful churches… we form covenant in our churches (and in couples whom I perform UU weddings for) so that our lives are constantly called to serve the vision of the world we wish to create. We are reminded by these sacred commitments that we live not just for the now, but also for the future that others will inhabit. Covenant should be a constant reminder that we, as Unitarian Universalists, do indeed serve something greater than ourselves.

The Vision of a “World Made Whole” is the Vertical in our Covenant… and it is just as profound as any concept of God I have ever encountered, including my own.

I say, Amen.

Now David, I want to know what your thoughts are on children in worship, because I have strong opinions on that too, and am curious if we're on the same page there too.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The excitement is building

Things are getting very exciting around here. I'm gearing up for a crazy, crazy September, but I'm ready for it.

I travel to Meadville Lombard next week for orientation. I've already got my first assignment for one of my classes, and I worked out my pastoral care class at St. Bernard's for the second half of the semester.

Things are rolling with the Teen Soul Matters group, and my friend Kelly is going to co-facilitate it with me. There's a lovely intro to his new consulting ministry position here. I'm also getting ready for the Wellspring retreat and sessions, and am rereading A Hidden Wholeness by Parker Palmer in preparation.

I'm back at work with the RE program and our new DRE, Sheila. Things are busy but manageable and will be able to telecommute for a chunk of it, which is a huge relief in terms of childcare and travel time/expense.

The kids are getting geared up for another (home)school year. I've yet to find out about gymnastics times, but hopefully soon. We also are trying to tie up all the loose ends of doctor appointments and such with my hand/wrist problems, Soren's GI issues, Emma's endocrinology, and Jude's warts and well-child checkup. i have spent more time at the doctor's with everyone this summer than EVER cumulatively I think!

Off to update my resume, my reading list and shower at some point!

I've also been following the "covenant" discussion posted over at Peacebang's site and other places and am enjoying the opportunity to start thinking like a student/theologian rather than just mom mode ;).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Authority ambivalence

One of the unsurprising things about my psychological testing is that I have a historical ambivalence towards authority. This makes perfect sense, since I was alternately protected and betrayed by police officers (both those that worked with my family during my teens, when I was in foster care, and my former step-father, a state trooper), and other people in authority (school, social service agencies, hospitals, etc.).

Today, I came up against that ambivalence when my husband discovered that someone had egged our cars overnight. Kids, on their last summer fling before school, I'm sure. Not a big deal.

But I was torn about whether to call the police and report it - our small town officers are wonderful. One is a neighbor. Our other neighbor is an officer in Rochester, but he is one of the most anti-social people I know, and I don't really trust him as a person, let alone a police officer. Still, there are benefits to having the law living in your neighborhood. I ended up calling because I thought we might not be the only victims, and wanted the local police to have as much info as possible. The officer was sweet, and I'm glad I called, but it was interesting to think through my hesitation given the clarification I achieved this week about parts of my upbringing, my current "m.o." about my values, and the direction my personal growth is headed in.

I think that having some ambivalence can be a good thing, as long as I'm aware of it, and make informed decisions based on that self-knowledge. And the good news is that it's raining, so I don't even have to take the car to the carwash!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Boston Baked Beans

OK, first of all, nothing to do with baked beans. I moved our baby chicks outside today and the indoor chickens and the outdoor chickens seem to be adjusting to each other OK. I kept the mama and chicks in the coop all day, and the older americaunas locked outside. About 5:30, I was sitting with a napping Lucy, with my headset on, watching True Blood, and heard a heck of a commotion outside.

I ran outside to all this clucking noise, and there was a hawk stalking my chickens!! They were freaking out, and the hawk took off when I came out. Everyone stayed safe though ::whew:::.

I got back late last night from my career assessment in Dedham, MA. It was really worth every penny of the $1700 it cost :::faint::::. But really, they were fabulous, and I had a couple minor surprises, but walked away feeling very confident that I'm very much on the right journey, and possessing a lot of important skills.

I stayed with a friend from high school and her husband, and they were wonderful host(ess)es, and took me out on the town for seafood and the attendant New England cornbread and baked beans. The food was to die for, and even sharing, my friend and I couldn't finish the Indian pudding!

I had a quick and dirty tour of Boston. I am :::swooon:::: in love with Boston. I would move there tomorrow. From the second I went over that bridge into the city and delved into the Big Dig, I was sold. The energy there is so wonderful. I would thrive there. I even got to go down to the harbor and smell the salt air. Ahhh. A very short ocean fix, but worth the walk. I found the Holocaust memorial to be stunning and incredibly moving.

I got to visit First Church and the former sexton that let us in was an overwhelming wealth of knowledge about the architecture of the building and of the history of it, and Boston itself. I could have listened to him all night if we could have gone somewhere with a/c.

To any other seminarians, I highly recommend They were thorough, honest, and helped me really clarify things in a new and wonderful way.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


A full day of reading:
Rereading A Hidden Wholeness for Wellspring

Researching small group ministry resources for my Teen Soul Matters group this year.

Researching Thomas Merton and deciding what to read first (suggestions welcome)

Waiting for my pastoral care books to arrive.

Got my meadville email address and am official! Still don't have my immunization records and am ready to kick some ass over at the doctor's office. Very frustrating! I'm hoping I can just get them from Penn State.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I honestly think this is one of the best summers I've ever had. Lots of down time, lots of fun (and intense) stuff done.

I found $10 tix to Darien Lake and took my 4 kids plus two friends yesterday. We packed lots of food, the weather was sunny and hot, and we had a blast. Today I'm taking the littles to the County Fair to see the animals and booths.

Sunday I leave for Boston for my Career Development Assessment at ccdmin in Dedham, MA. Then a week later I start my first class, and then a week after that travel to Chicago for my Meadville Lombard orientation. Then the week after that the 3 oldest kids start their fall homescholing activities.

We got chickens, had a garden, canned applesauce (next up are pears!) and had a lot of quality family time. I'm so grateful!

Monday, August 10, 2009

I made it!

So, after my angst about going (somewhat deserved), I'm home again! The first 24 hours were sheer hell emotionally. I was homesick, I was intimidated by the leader and the women's circle, I cried, I was cold, and I was totally outside my comfort zone. Then I took some time to meditate alone in my tent, with great intention, about getting present and focused and open... and an incredible shift happened.

I asked for what I needed. I became my authentic, imperfect self in the group. I met my mentee and immediately fell in love with her. I engaged in all the exhausting, exhilarating physical, emotional and spiritual work of the weekend (I am still exhausted). I watched my daughter have an amazing experience separate from, yet connected to my own. I cried and laughed and was in community with a fucking awesome circle of women and girls - I have been avoiding this circle thing like the plague for years - and had yet another entire transformation.

I realized that I have a hard time taking up space, asking for what I need, and getting attention. I have vowed to do a better job learning to take care of myself in groups, not just in 1:1 relationships. I made friends, I met fabulous teens, and I can't even describe the weekend. It was intense, frightening, fabulous, comforting, nurturing, push and shove out of everyone's box...and spiritual.

Thank God I knew a few of the women there....but I met so many, So Many wonderful and wise women there.

And it's good to be home. I feel trialed by fire and Emma does too, but we're closer and better for it. I can't wait for Soren to go.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I was talking to my husband last night about how unwilling our son is to try new things, but once he does, he usually likes them.

Then,this morning, I was walking and realized how stressed I am about going to this mentoring weekend - there are a lot of rituals that I'm unfamiliar with, I have been a bit frustrated at some of the disorganization, and it's a long way from home. I'm going to be away from my littles for 3 nights (a first), and I will miss my husband. I also am camping and have never camped by myself before.

I have to drive my husband's work van, which is act of faith in and of itself, and I'll be 2 hours from home. My 10 yo has been gone for a week on vacation with her dad and this extends my time away from her by 3 days.

Part of the problem for me is that I now have PMS, am fighting an emerging migrained, and my husband is acting somewhat resentful about me going (I actually missed the training weekend last month because of an argument we had about it). I have been told that we will not get a lot of sleep either, which is important to my well-being, especially in this state. So my physical and environmental issues are increasing my anxiety exponentially. I really just want to bail and stay home and work on my (safe) garden.

So I guess my son comes by his anxiety honestly! I am hoping I can embrace the activities this weekend with openness and spirit. The end result is an opportunity to mentor a teen girl for the next year, and I think that's valuable enough to deal with all the fallout this weekend is causing me.

All that said, I'm sure I will be fine once I get there. I don't like the unknown very much, but also like to think of myself as open to new I am going to be intentional about being positive and hospitable to this experience.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Soulful Radical Hospitality

I read two blog posts tonight that really spoke to what I currently feel defines my emerging ministerial formation.

One is from UU A Way of Life and the other is from Ministrare. One church (not necessarily UU) member says, according to David Marhkam, that "If this church has a soul, I don't see it or feel it."

When I first found UUism, I was in rejection. Not necessarily even of my childhood Catholic faith, although I am happy to reflect and laugh about my cultural hangover from those days, but of religion in general. As I've grown spiritually, and been lucky enough to be a member of a dynamic, growing church, with fabulous ministers who are creative, atheist, and also soulful, I have moved into journey of discovery. Not rejection, but embracing the soul, the mystery, and the power of our faith. That is something that as a minister, I want to bring to others. I am even evangelical in what is hopefully a respectful way about that faith. I have rediscovered God. I have rediscovered prayer. And in ways that make sense for me and others, I have been able to define my faith in our Judeo-Christian culture.

Secondly, they say that every minister has their hot button. For Forrest Church, it's death and dying. For me, it's radical hospitality. Today I sat in a (not church) board meeting where someone suggested that we not bother following up with someone who came to visit our organization, because it was really their responsibility to decide if we were right for them and make the moves. I mean, yeah, in the end, but if they have no idea that we care about them being there, or finding out more about them and if they are a good fit, or asking if they have questions...why would they bother? It's the same for church, and for life!

Radical hospitality has become a prophetic issue for me. I cannot live my life without being hospitable to those around me. And it's something I love about my church. We may not do it perfect, but we do it pretty well. And it's one reason we're growing. And we don't DO hospitality for growth. We do it because it's the right thing to do. It makes sense. It's kind, compassionate, welcoming, loving. Ministrare's list of why people don't come back after visiting is clearly because there is a lack of hospitality. That is a crime.

If and when I ever become a minister and find a position in a parish, my ideal is to offer soul and hospitality. There are lots of details underneath all of that, but to me, that is the heart of what UUism has to offer. It's a UU Way of Life, as the title of David Markham's blog suggests. And if people get soul and welcome, I have to believe they will find a home with us.