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!)