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

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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?!