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.