Saturday, January 31, 2009

Local seminarians in the news

From the D&C:
(links to entire article):

But 13-year Rochester police veteran Lt. Mark Dibelka grew up without religion in his life until he was in high school and started going to sing at area churches in his California hometown as part of his high school's acapella group. Dibelka was a member of the Lutheran Church for several years in his early adulthood but decided it was not a good fit for him. He eventually settled into the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Dibelka, 38, was ordained in January 2008 and is an independent nondenominational minister and an assistant pastor of Our Fellowship and Joining Hands Ministry. He said his experience as a police officer has helped him in his ministry.

"You spend most of your time caring for needs of others and helping them with their problems," Dibelka said, adding that his problem-solving skills come from more than a decade of police work.

Dibelka, who is currently working toward his master of divinity degree at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, recently applied for a chaplain position with the New York Army National Guard.

"I feel the need to provide a guiding light," Dibelka said about helping those who are returning from combat and have suffered different levels of spiritual crisis. "I can help them deal with their needs before they become psychiatric needs."

However, Dibelka said he does not plan on leaving the Police Department anytime in the next several years.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lost in a Vortex of Nothingness, or Mindfulness

One of my daughters has a hard time focusing. It could be for any number of reasons, but when we find her staring into space with a fork in her hand en route to the sink, we call this "being lost in the vortex of nothingness." I'm not so sure it's very different from hyperfocus, or the intense attention I feel when I'm able to occasionally access the ability to be in the moment.

Of course, my 4 yo has a hard time focusing too. But I think that's the definition of being four. I vividly remember when my oldest daughter was four - "Focus!" was my most frequent command.

I am trying to be focused on the moment. I find that it's easier when I have an audience who may be judging me, which is kind of awful. I'm trying to be mindful about chores, parenting, driving, singing eating. I find it's not only emotionally healthy, but that I have managed to make it a way to keep financial panic at bay. And to keep faith somehow.

I have some irons in the fire, but the present is not very good right now. But I just keep living moment to moment and it seems to help. I love Buddhist tenets. If only I were more disciplined.

It's the journey, not the destination. I really need to print out these simple truths and post them around the house, except that I'm out of toner and money to buy some. But tomorrow is a new day!

And today I worked on my upcoming speaking engagement and made some progress. Now, to avoid sounding "preachy!" Thanks to all in the blogosphere who post preaching advice. It is very helpful!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Vermin and Circumcision, Redux

Well, the mouse is gone. No more poop to clean up for now! We had to wash a bazillion dishes last night, and without a dishwasher and with 6 people to wash for, that was an unwelcome addition and a waste of water. So that's taken care of, at least!

I've had some good comments on my last post - I had already looked at some of the websites that were recommended - thanks Mark! (after I posted), and found them to be helpful. I think that for me, circumcision is not a parenting issue, or even a religious issue, but a human rights issue. But for those that are fundamentalist in their views, and see circumcision as a convenant with God, it is one of those places where you just can't convince someone to be logical, because it conflicts with their religious beliefs. This is where the Unitarian part of me triumphs, because I am very much about seeing the proof, and just cannot take the Bible as the literal word of God, especially given the errors in translation and the cultural context of the times.

Hugh, thanks for your link as well - I am going to read through that and pass it on.

Steve, I am interested in this research as well and have not had time to peruse it, but a lot of what concerns me about infant circumcision (male, female, what have you) even in the west, is that it is done with no anesthesia - there is still some sort of mistaken belief that infants cannot feel pain. And there are also risks associated with circumcision, including death (though rare, here).

I don't see immunization as falling into the category of mutilation or unnecessary surgery though. However, as a side note, I am one of those annoying parents who breastfeeds in part because of the immunities passed on, and delays vaccinations, and then insists that they be given one at a time, rather than the 4-7 (including multiple vaccines like DTaP) because there is no way to tell what a child is reacting to if they are getting a bunch of shots all at once. Informed choice and research is a good thing when you're dealing with small bodies and medications of any sort. There is certainly a lot of contrpversial research around the effects of immunizations on people, and the alarming rise in all sorts of illness in the last 60 years since they have become mandated.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Vermin, Circumcision and Love

First, Love.

Second, I'm having a disagreement with someone. I am firmly in opposition to any circumcision - male or female. (I'm also against piercing a baby's ears). I feel that it's a matter of informed choice and for adults to perform an unnecessary body modification is not respectful of another's body. Someone that I know who is Jewish is having a discussion with me about how to choose between the moral issue of hurting an infant vs. the moral dilemma of their religion's covenant with God. I know there's a lot of people out there who have done alternative bris and such, but I'm sure I'll come against this issue again, and am interested to hear what people have to say. If I get her permission to post part of her reply, I"ll post it here.

Also, the damn mouse must go. It is pooping everywhere and I am unable to live in harmony with this critter.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What a day!

Like many in the UU blogosphere, I was so very grateful to see Barak Obama sworn into office today. My friend Alyce had a birthday/inauguration party and I got to spend the afternoon with beloved friends, crying in solidarity and joy.

My oldest daughter has been refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance out of shame at our country's leadership for the last 4 years (yes, she started this boycott in 2nd grade, and she's in 7th now!). She is now proud to start saying it again. We very much enjoyed the "Simple Gifts" performance, as this is the song that her homeschool Waldorf class is learning on recorder right now.

My 10 year old daughter was rivited by my side the whole time, and we listened to every word of Obama's speech. That man was destined for preaching or presidency! I am always so very impressed that he writes his own speeches, and doesn't seem to need notes. He had powerful things to say. I am sooo excited for the future, even though the present is kinda sorta sucky at the moment, for myself and millions of others.

I feel so much hope and love, generalized.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Animal Tales

So our new cockatiel has found its voice! S/he is singing and chirping and mimicking like crazy, whereas it wasn't making a sound until now! It is also demanding to be held and taken out of the cage everytime we walk by.

And Penguin was put down a week ago...and we already have a mouse in the house. Good grief. We have the other cat in the house due to the cold weather, but he has no front claws and virtually no teeth. I am not sure he is capable of catching a mouse. Thankfully, he seems to be using the litter box full time, which is a huge relief since he figured out how to get the bathroom door open (where we were keeping him) and has free reign of the house now.

We also have the bunny in the hosue due to the cold. It's a menagerie around here!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Not News

Things have been going along and going along. We're getting back in the groove after the holiday break and it's been difficult. Next week is worse.

Took the cat to the vet today and he thankfully tested negative for feline leukemia. I got him up to date on his shots. He was hellish to drive to the vet - the roads were drifted with snow, the baby was screaming and I missed a turn and went 10 miles out of my way, and the cat peed and pooped in the crate (nothing like being trapped in a car with cat poop!). I thought Jude would throw up! We survived that experience and drove to a new goat milk farm that is near our house. The farmer homeschools 6 kids and is very sweet! She is very proud of their barn and milking equipment - they were just certified by the state and she and her husband built the barn themselves from the ground up. I am anxious to get to know her better.

A friend of mine is a DRE at a nearby church and just found out that I was going to ML in the fall. She pounced immediately, asking me to speak at her church this spring, as their minister is preparing to retire this summer and has cut back her hours to part time. I'm very nervous/excited. I'm to speak on local community building and need to prepare a reading as well.

Tom has found a bit of work - it's amazing how it keeps appearing as if by magic but it's not been very steady since before Christmas. I managed to pay most of our bills so far, but have had to resort to my credit card for essentials, like gas, a couple of times :-/. I also was gifted with some part time work by a friend, which is wonderful; and was called for an interview at a local mental health agency to do case management. The money is...well, I can't think of a word for it, but not enough. But it is better than nothing! We shall see. I think I will at least interview, just for the continuing experience of presentation. It is full time with benefits, which would be nice, if it were about $10/hour more.

Walking meditation has been challenging in this bitter weather. I gave in this morning and let Tom take Jakob out, and I will meditate tonight before bed. If I don't collapse from exhaustion first. I am so tired today.

Anyway, normal life with some very nice things. Soren has a gymnastics meet on Sunday, and it will just be her and I. It should be fun! Reminds me - her best friend has a nasty fall at ice skating yesterday and needed stitches. Good thoughts are appreciated, as it was pretty scary for her!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I was very proud of myself. I had a conversation in which I admitted my desire to be judgmental and directive before I even started and pointed out that I really didn't want to do that, and I think I mostly succeeded!

I also pulled all my tax stuff together (except for what hasn't come in the mail yet), and am ready to start that, since I have to fill out grant/scholarship application stuff Very Soon.

Tom got a new van today - did I mention that his work van died? Yeah, isn't that great timing? Anyway, it's a Ford E-350 3/4 ton van, and I will have to drive it. It is to shudder.

On Sunday I got to go to a homeschool winter picnic/sledding party and spend the afternoon with some of my very favorite friends! This is a fun picture of them - and one of Jude, doing his best Bill the Cat impersonation.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

UU Blog meme

Philocrites has suggested a UU meme, which I like, so here are my 10 UU blogs I can't live without:

Let's say that, for some bizarre reason, you're stranded on a desert island with a solar-powered laptop and a T1 connection, but can only take your ten favorite UU blogs with you. (You must endeavor to suspend a measure of disbelief at this point. Of course all links will work, and the Web will be the Web, but you're still limited to only ten UU blogs.) Which ten would you choose?

Celestial Lands
Calling Ministers
Boston Unitarian
UU A Way of Life
Everyday Unitarian
Monkey Mind
Transient and Permanent

I can't quite decide on #10. Ms. Kitty's is a contestant for sure! And my own Wellspring one of course, because it's home :). But I love many, many blogs that I read and skim and it's hard to say!

Honorary mention: iMinister (because I don't know how long the Excellence in Ministry conversation will continue, but I hope for a long time!)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New addition

I promise to get pictures up soon. We got our new baby cockatiel, "Neo" today. S/he (we won't know till after its 6 mo. molt) adjusted quickly. We got the cage set up nicely, with fresh tree branches, food and water, and some new toys. Emma was able to get it out to play with its new playstand this evening, but is still a tad jittery with him, but I think if we work with it every day it will get easier; its friendly, just a tad spastic.

I kind of hope it's a male so it will learn words. That would be very cool.

Tom's car lost its power brakes and steering on the way home from work tonight. He believes it's the pump, but I can't imagine worse timing. Gah.

Jakob and I have had shortened daily meditative walks due to the frigid <15F weather the last week or so. 30F would feel balmy at this point. Tomorrow we have church and a picnic. My friend Sarah and I are doing a chapter on Babies. I could talk about babies all day ;).

I really miss Penguin in the mornings when I go out and he's not there. I brought our other cat, Angus, in until it warms up a bit. He's arthritic and old and toothless and he's VERY happy to be in the upstairs bathroom where he can't pee on anything, laying on a blanket and eating himself to death. As a matter of fact, it would be lovely if he would re-litter train so he could just go in and out as he pleases. We'll see.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I just did my first "for-pay" work since June of last year. It feels good. Things are very, very bad financially around here. Nobody's hiring contractors because of the economy and Tom has hardly worked since the week before Christmas. I am giving it up every morning when I meditate but it's very stressful. We don't have enough for our mortgage right now and credit card debt is scary. Unless I get serious scholarship money, I may be looking at waiting an extra semester for school, which would be devastating to me personally.

I have been putting out resumes and got this very part time job with a friend, which I can do from home. Another opportunity is in the future but not for a couple of months. I will just keep putting out resumes for Tom and I until we find something! We're both qualified, nice people ;). Someone has to want to pay us to do something, right?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Slogging through

This personal growth stuff is a drag sometimes, lemme tell ya. I keep growing, and then I am happy at my progress, and then dontcha know, I find out that no matter how much I have grown, I have more, and more, and's exhausting.

I had a productive meeting with my spiritual advisor this morning. I'd missed her, as we had a long break over the holidays. Thanks (I think I want to thank him, and not kick him ) to David Markham at UU a Way of Life for turning me on to a book on Borderlines which my sister sent me, I have been having a huge paradigm shift, which incidentially, is related to a lot of stuff I was already working on as part of the paradigm shift of having a ministerial vocation.

I was really, really pissed off that nobody ever put a name to what she is before. Not who she is, but what she is. One thing that I struggle with in some of my relationships, especially with my children, and with people I have a hard time dealing with, I am really good at underreaction. Now I know why. So in addition to working on judgement vs. judgmentalism, I'm also working on accessing true compassion when I'm triggered by what I see as ingenuine drama in a situation. And I'm working on accessing compassion for my parents, both of them. I'd already been working on it, but now I have a different paradigm from which to work with.

I swear, I whipped through that book in two days, and I think I underlined most of the introductory chapters, and most of the three sections that described my mother and father, and was relieved to see that I had already accomplished most of the coping mechanisms described. And I was also able to shed new light on the progression of my mother's illness in her behavior and in her relationships to my sister and I, and the rest of her family. I'll never know what caused it...I have my suspicions, but no proof.

But here I am, with a new piece of the puzzle, trying to figure out where it goes, but knowing that because there are mysterious connections in the world, the feedback I've recently been given about compassion and judgment are connected to me being given the gift of knowing that there is a word for what ails my mother, and that my sister and I are not alone, or crazy.

I also had a really good talk with my advisor about my thoughts on abortion, and how it relates to the first principal, and how that is a conflict for some; and about the ethics of euthanasia - both animal and human. And about dealing with death and pastoral care and ... well, we had a really great hour that crammed a lot of stuff into it.

And today has been a blur - no hot water because the propane ran out, cold, snowy, two trips to the city, nothing to make for dinner...I'm heading to get the hot shower I deserve, then to do the dishes from yesterday, and finally to sit down with a cuppa hot cocoa and snuggle with my husband when he gets home! Lucky for him, he's been the recipient of most of my compassionate practice in recent months ;)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Thanks much for the compassionate thoughts. I will definitely be making a police report tomorrow; I just ran out of time today. We have our suspicions and the family just moved because their house was foreclosed on, so I suspect karma has already had its way.

We had a lovely experience adopting a cockatiel for Emma today (already a planned 13th birthday present) which alleviated some of our sadness for anticipation of bringing it home.

It was so hard to come home tonight to no Pengi on the porch though :(.

A wonderfully inspiring and thought-provoking Wellspring tonight though. Much discussion of historical context, creed, ongoing reformation and contemporary needs. I enjoyed it very much.

RIP Penguin, Jan. 2001 to Jan. 2009

The girls and I traveled to the vet's office this morning to say goodbye to Penguin and to send off into peace and light. He was still purring.

He had been shot (yes, shot! who would shoot my daughter's cat? I hope that karma finds them wherever they are) and injured in a fight either at the time of the shooting or shortly thereafter. The bullet was lodged against a rib. He also had pneumonia and bronchitis, which we found out was because he was susceptible due to infection from Feline Leukemia. Poor guy. It's incurable and he was really suffering. If it hadn't been for the leukemia, he would have had a fighting chance.

Dr. Jackson was very sweet and kind, and offered to make a pawprint cast for Emma. We are having him cremated so we can bring him home where he belongs, in the field where he loved to hunt and play and sleep in the sun.

We spent the ride home thinking of our best memories of him. I will never forget how my hand fit right between his ears so I could scratch him there, and the feeling of his rough fur and the nicks in his ears from past arguments with other cats. He was the only cat I knew who caught and killed bats. He was a formidable hunter, yet liked to have his tummy rubbed. I would slide my hand up between his forelegs and rub his chest till he got tired of laying still. I remembered him as a furball kitten, jumping up on the back of my office chair and digging his claws into my back to hoist himself onto my shoulder. He turned into a sleek, healthy lover of the couch and the outdoors both. He loved to run up trees, but got a bit fat and lazy at various times in his life.

We will miss his morning demands for his breakfast by clawing at the window screen, and watching him and Angus wrestle and groom each other. I will miss seeing his black, fat body stalking mice against the white snow in the field out kitchen window. I probably won't miss dead mice and chippies on my front step though, although I might, if they decide to come inside instead, without the deterrent of Penguin.

Anyway, Penguin will be missed. Angus goes in for a FeLV test on Friday. Chances are he's positive as well, which will raise some difficult decisions, since he won't litter inside any longer, he's old, arthritic and mostly toothless. I also need to let the neighbors with outside cats know that they need to get their cats tested as well.

Emma is doing as well as can be expected, but is quite sad.

Unitarian Christianity, dignity and worth, and death

I don't have time to discuss in depth this moment, but I am reading Channing's sermon on the topic and am filled with humility. It's stunning to me that ministers preached like this to their congregations, not so long ago. And the courage to stand up in a predominately Christian culture and proclaim such things, to me rivals the courage of those who stood against Calvin. For sure, Channing probably doesn't fear being executed for his views, but there are certainly potentional serious repercussions.

Very powerful stuff. A good way to start the day.

Penguin hung on through the night and is in X-Ray right now; I am waiting for a call back. He's doing poorly, so I doubt it will end well, but I feel that we made the right decision to let him fight.

I've been struggling with both ends of life, and death this week. My friend and I had a deep and loving discussion about our different views on abortion. One reason she will not return to the UU church is because she abhors it's support for abortion rights, and feels that it goes against the principle of the inherent worth and dignity of every person - both because, most especially in late-term abortions, the unborn is often viable, and in the sense that in her mind, it allows women to accept the murders of such viable life in a horrific fashion. She presented this argument in a way that I have never been touched before by the tenets of pro-life argument, and I am still struggling with it. Granted, we all have our personal experiences that inform us in these beliefs, and hers and mine have been quite different, but I have had a new vista of belief and thought opened up to me.

On the other end of life, I was standing with the vet yesterday and felt a moral and spiritual difficulty with the choice to euthanize. I do understand that Penguin is not a person... but as a part of our family, he is afforded some dignity and worth. I think it's about choice on some level. I believe that the terminally ill, with free will, should be able to choose to die when their quality of life, in their own view, has exhausted itself. But how can I make that choice for another, even a cat, whose will to live continues to burn so strongly that he survived hours beyond what we thought he could. I would have been playing God and I could have been right, or wrong. I won't know ever. But I suspect I'll be asked again within the hour to play "God," and I don't know what to do.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


I've been taking a bit of a hiatus from writing for the holiday. Plus, I just haven't been feeling very inspired. I'm having a hard time doing my daily spiritual practice. I think I just need to get out of holiday mode, and back into our regular routine.

But the reason that I'm posting now is that I found my daughter's cat on our front step this afternoon, in shock and not breathing well. I rushed him to the clinic and we decided to give him some palliative care overnight and see if he stabilizes so they can see what is going on with him. The most obvious thing was that he had suffered a bite wound which was abscessed and draining. But the vet suspects some organ damage from fever. He almost died on the table in front of me, but rallied just as I was deciding whether to let her put him down or not. We decided that that was a sign to give him a chance, but she said that the prognosis for him making it through the night is very poor.

So, if anyone feels called to hold Penguin in the light - for peace and freedom from pain, however that plays out, I know that my family would appreciate all good energy toward him.