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.

Yummy Day

A perfect summer day - no humidity, around 80F, and less bugs. I loved my meditation walk this morning and actually got some peace from it. I've had a hard time letting go of intruding lists lately, so this was good. And I've got a lot of money stress again, so it was a real coup.

Chickens: yard time. Check.

Yard and gardens: Weeding. Check

Veggies: Fresh corn picked and cooked within the hour. Check.
Ditto with fresh gazpacho with cukes picked fresh. Chillin' in fridge. Check.

Kids fed, happy, and in bed. Check.

House. Semi-vacuumed. Check.

Took Jude to the doc for expected verdict of virus and a lab slip for a salmonella check. Lab was closed though. Surprise - He LOVED the male doc, totally cooperated for him and his male nurse (who used to be our doc's nurse and I love), and wants to switch to this doctor. If it means cooperating and effective health care, I'm all for it. I feel guilty though. I adore our doctor and love that we all see the same person, but Jude just doesn't jive with her when he needs to be checked out. She's a little too forward and loud and funny for him. Dr. Howe is a guy (major points in Jude's book), mellow, let me take Jude's temp, and explained everything before he touched him. So I will figure out how to make the switch on our insurance and break it to Dr. Jeanne. He will still see her if Dr. H. isn't available, and when we visit with the other kids or me, so it's no like she'll never see him. And they're in the same practice.

I'm reading First the Ecstacy, Then the Laundry. That pretty much sums up my questions and struggles with integrating my spiritual life with the rest of my life. I'm anxious to get past the intro and into the meat of it. I'm also sporadically reading "Are You Running with Me, Jesus?" which is somehow a charming book of my kind of prayers.

Off to watch 24. I had a yummy dream about Kiefer Sutherland last night which morphd into a yummy dream about hubby ;). Like Hubby would jump off a building and grab onto a helicopter, but I guess that's why they're dreams!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A day of spirit and hard work

Lest this turn into the August blog of yard work and gardening, I *did* go to church today and was the worship associate for Rev. Joel Miller from the Buffalo UU church. It was a nice service, from what I could tell after my piece was done. I got some nice feedback and my husband got to be there for once!

We went to the Park Ave. fest afterwards and enjoyed browsing, then took the long way home, stopping for Abbott's ice cream in Canandaigua.

When we got home, I tackled some more yard work - I tied up the Rose of Sharon trees that were drooping all over, and weeded underneath them - what a mess. Then I trimmed back our insane trumpet vine that I thought our friend killed last year. Apparently not, as it's totally out of control. I harvested an ear of corn and 3 cukes from the garden, yay! And cleaned out the chicken tractor, replaced the feed that got wet in the storm this morning, cleaned out the brooder and the rabbit litter pan, and gave up for the day.

I was proud of mama chicken, Elvis. I took the chicks outside in a cage and she followed me and stayed with them while I cleaned the brooder. Then she followed me all the way back into the house with her babies and hopped right into the brooder. We left the Americaunas out today for the first time and they had a *blast* and the cat didn't bother them.

The littles jumped on the trampoline with the hose spraying on them for awhile, which was fun. They have the utmost joy and laughter at the simplest things. Unfortunately, Jude threw up again just now. I am worried- he threw up last Monday and Tuesday and hasn't really recovered. He's been tired and cranky. I had hoped he was on the mend, but apparently not. I wonder if it could be from the bug spray? We have to coat ourselves to fend off the mosquitoes. I'm considering a trip to the doctor tomorrow just to check him out. I am going to get some lemon grass to plant which apparently deters the mosquitoes, as well as some bat boxes, but that will all take time. It's been raining non-stop - today the yard was so saturated that it was squishy out back :(.

I talked to the girls and they are thoroughly vacationing. good for them!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A break in the action

The mosquito action that is. Today it was finally 80s and sunny, and I was able to get the kids and myself outside for some fresh air and sunshine. (However, it is now muggy and cloudy and we're expecting our daily thunderstorm.) Honestly, I cannot remember the last day it didn't rain. We have had the 2nd coldest summer ever here.

But today was a perfect summer day and the mosquitoes, which are so bad that I can barely tolerate taking my morning walk (along with the deer flies) seemed on temporary hiatus (they're back in action this evening though).

I think our corn will be ready soon though, and cucumbers are just about there. There is an ENORMOUS squash of some sort that I don't remember planting too. The tomatoes are still green, green, green. Just not enough sun to let them ripen. I'm worried about the punkin's too - there aren't any plants, just flowers, and if they don't start soon, they won't be ready to harvest for fall.

I got a TON of weeding done and discovered that our apple tree that produced *nothing* last year is dropping copious amounts of small, early apples. I had to take a wheelbarrow-full out to the field for the deer, but found about a dozen that were edible. I'll have to go out with a ladder and harvest some for applesauce next week. Our other tree isn't near ready yet, but both pear trees have a ton of fruit on them and the grapes actually have fruit on them this year - last year, nada. The hops are sorely neglected; I haven't been able to get hubby to help me stake them up; hopefully we can trim them back and clean up that plot this fall and give them another chance next year. I think I could still harvest a bunch and dry them. I also found 3 more huge garlic bulbs today, with beautiful scapes on them. Yay!

The raspberries are still producing but it's so difficult to tolerate the mosquitoes enough to harvest more berries. We froze some but I just realized that my fridge/freezer is on the fritz and the freezer was not cold in spots. Shit. I can't afford a new fridge right now, or a repair bill. I can use our smaller fridge for now, but it's not in the kitchen, so a little inconvenient.

I spoke with Rev. Miller today and worked out the details for tomorrow's service. I'm hoping I can talk the family into coming, and then we can go to the Park Ave. fest. Just to browse; I love looking at everything and hearing the live music! I didn't get to see the free Rusted Root this week because Jude was still not feeling well :(. What a bummer! Oh well! There will be other opportunities :).

The week stretches out before me without the girls here. I'm hoping for hot, dry days, so we can be outside and I can wrestle the yard into submission. I love my yard, but it's a lot of work with the fruit and the garden. But the chickies are easy; tomorrow I hope to clean out their coop and the brooder as well. I'm also going to clean out the bunny cage and hose it and scrub it.

Oh, and for those who don't believe in God - there was a miracle here today. My husband mowed the front yard for the first time this summer! I've been doing it and hate it. I can't wait till we have a riding mower again. i hate paying the lawn guy to do the back forty.
Off to have grilled kabobs and corn on the cob!