Monday, May 31, 2010

Loss and Grief

In less than 12 hours, I begin my intensive CPE, Clinical Pastoral Education, at a large hospital in Rochester.

Less than an hour ago, a woman I have known for almost 15 years lost her 18 year old son to drug abuse and violence. Please, read Henry's story. Share it with your teens. Hug them tight in gratitude for their grace and beauty. And light a candle for Katie and her family. Katie's wisdom and wit led me through the difficult early years of parenting. Let our love lift her up during this time where words can never suffice.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Like many of my contemporaries, I am part of a sandwich generation, simultaneously parenting young (and not-so-young) children while caring for the needs of aging parents.

I went home to central PA this week to visit with my family for the first time since Christmas. My little kids adore visiting their grandparents, and I look forward to stealing some hours to visit a couple of dear friends and their children.

It struck me, really struck me, how time is passing. I am no longer a young adult (duh). My parents are aging and struggling with illness. Balancing the needs of my children while visiting with them was enlightening.

My mother has always been (and considered ) a handsome woman. But the last 10 years have not been easy on her body. I really saw her with fresh eyes this week, as she needed to be helped out of the shower. This woman, whom I spent years hating, and still avoid at times, and who has defined so much of what I have become in spite of her, is old. She has mellowed a bit. She is overweight and on oxygen 100 percent of the time. I helped her put lotion on her back, and then her legs. She had beautiful legs, in her day. Due to Bowen's Disease (which is not usually malignant, but is in her case), she has sores all over her legs, as a result of too much sun, and arsenic poisoning. She also has developed an autoimmune disease, which has left her legs and arms covered in other sores and rough patches.  She has severe diabetes, and cares greatly for her feet. I rubbed lotion into her feet, taking the time to massage them for her. 

My father is adored by my 5 year old son. He never let go of "Papa George's hand and prattled on and on. My father is in the process of being tested for prostate cancer, and has moderate to severe dementia. He has survived aneurisms, accidents, heart attacks. Jude and him are a good pair. They talk to each other, but don't really care about the response, just needing a warm hand and a listening ear. Lucy climbed on his lap, and it brought tears to my eyes to see how much they love him and accept him as he is. That's not an easy task for the older girls, who dislike the dementia unit at the nursing home and are made a bit uneasy by the overly friendly overtures of the women patients. We took my dad out to Red Lobster, because Jude remembered how much Papa George loves it. It was a fun meal, and my dad had a great time.

It was hard to come home. My 14 year old was ready, after 4 days. She told me, "I know this is your home mom, but it's not mine anymore." That about broke my heart - I would move back in a heartbeat. I am homesick for the mountains for weeks after a visit. Happy Valley is a charmed little place, privileged, growing,  transforming. I miss my house there, my friends, Spring Creek, bike riding. I miss my friends still. But there are things I love about the Finger Lakes.

Being sandwiched means that when I took a vote on whether to stay another night or not, and I was the deciding vote, I put my own love for home aside and put my children's love for their home first. So here we are, back at the ranch, so to speak.

Next week starts a new chapter in my life, and I am a little anxious, but ready. The joys and sorrows of being in the sandwich generation will inform my compassion and love for those who share this journey.

Attending Church

Today I went to church, not as RE assistant, but just as me. It was the last day for our ministerial intern, David Messner, and he gave a hell of a sermon. I felt inadequate afterward ;). What a gifted speaker he is!

The sermon was about taking those liminal moments - thresholds - where you are in a time out of time and can see into the windows of your life. About taking risks and living the life that calls you. And you know what, I felt really good after that. Not a day goes by (with gratitude) that the hard work of my own transformational experiences and callings is on my radar. I am following my calling, I am parenting with love and intention, I am attempting to be in right relation with the people in my life despite the daily challenges of that. I am a work in progress, but I'm aware of it, and in it.

I hope that I can maintain this ability to step outside my life and see the opportunities and growing edges. One place is in finding the joy in each day. It's easy to get caught up in daily living and chores and necessities. But in some ways, my children are such a gift because they make me laugh right out loud every day. They bring tears to my eyes with their kindnesses, honesty, and deep loving humanity.

Every day I pray that I can live into a theology of joy. It's harder than I would have thought, but it has so many little gifts that enable even more joy to enter into my life.

Listen, Open, Serve

That's the mission of my congregation. I've done a lot of personal transformation on listening - both to myself and others. I'm getting really interested in the Serve part, and we had an interesting conversation in Wellspring about it a couple of sessions ago.

What does "Serve" mean to you? Is it a burden? A gift? Fulfilling? Martyrdom?

How do you serve in your life and why do you do it?

How is it a part of how you live into your faith?

Friday, May 21, 2010


I have always been a bit of a nonconformist. I think that's why people who knew me as a child (but not as an adult) are surprised that I am going into ministry, though I think becoming a UU minister is pretty nonconformist!

Lately, I have been feeling constrained by a preponderance of rules in the world. Often, this is the speed limit ;). But some of it is just how one has to get "special" permission for so many things. And so many rules are made to deal with common sense issues, that are not always black and white.

Currently my town code enforcement is driving me crazy. They want me to get rid of my chickens because we technically live in residential zoning, not residential-agricultural. However, RA zoning says that you can have chickens if they are more than 200 ft. away from another residence. Even though we're R, our chickens are WAY more than 200 ft. from another residence, because we have 2 acres. The zoning officer told me I could file a variance and promised to send me the specific code so I could use it to fill out the paperwork, but he didn't.

Then yesterday, I got a letter saying that we had to get rid of the chickens and he wouldn't ALLOW a variance. And, he said it would cost $75, but there is no list of variance costs, let alone the codes themselves online. I think he just made it up, as there is a blank line on the form to fill in the variance fee. Shouldn't there be a specific amount for variances? I mean, the FINE is only $25 but they want $75 to file the variance?

I am feeling ridiculously up in arms about this, but am doing my best to remain super-polite to the code officer. It seems that he is on a bender in our neighborhood and other neighbors have felt his wrath as well. One of the joys in living in small town America I guess.

Anyway, this is the kind of thing that makes me want to be a Libertarian. And things like making kids wear shoes at the Museum of Play. Or in the archeological dig at RMSC, where your shoes immediately get filled with recycled tire bits, which is supposed to be dirt. Or having to park facing the "correct" way on the street (I got a warning about this on my very rural street in front of my house two weeks ago!). Or random age discrimination, like not allowing minors to volunteer at lots of places. I could go on but I'll stop.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gratitude for Vitamin D

Now folks, this was the perfect first summery day. 80F, sunny, clear, and I got to sit on a blanket and soak up some fabulous Vitamin D with some dear homeschool mama friends at the park. I feel like I have so little time for friends this past year. I am missing having a tight girlfriend that I can just be myself with, and laugh, and drink a little wine, and whine, and unwind. If some of my fellow students were closer, then that would be a given, but alas, we are spread across the continent.

I am finally able to work in my summer office, and am sprawled across the futon, pug snoring by my side. Kids are fed and bathed and ready for bed. Laundry is folded and dishes are done.

I will have a busy weekend ahead, all filled with sun and warmth. My last day of work at First Unitarian of Rochester is Sunday. Bittersweet, that. I am also grateful to go back to being "just" a congregant. It has been a journey of strange, this last couple of years, what with seminary and work and church. I am in many ways happy to be going back to a single role where I can be a member and attend services. I hope to continue with small group at some point, but I will have to see what my fall schedule looks like.

In 10 days, I start CPE, and my days of soaking up the sun are mostly over, but for weekends, for this summer. But it will be worth it! Summer reading schedules are being posted, so with CPE, work, and fall prep, I wonder if I will have time to breathe? Regardless, I will soak up every second of family time and be grateful for it.

For all my colleagues going through these transitions, I send a massive group hug!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ebb and Flow

Yesterday, I got a migraine. I have been having a really hard time managing them; the last few months, they have lasted for several days at least once a month, and the medication has had some really unpleasant side effects, aside from not working really well.

For the first time, I got a combination of meds to work, with the only side effect being that I needed to sleep them off. Today, I am feeling hopeful that I broke it, and it won't come back this month! So I woke up happy to shower with the light on (no aura!), and took the kids to a play, which was really cute and they all behaved themselves.

I came home to find out that one of my FA forms went missing and I didn't get FA - I have a call in to find out wth happened. Then I found out that I had two unauthorized charges on my checking account for iTunes - for which I don't even have an account. Had to go to the bank, fill out forms to maybe get my money back, cancel my debit card...UGH. I am so used to the ease of having a bank card and not dealing with cash or checks. This sucks.

I came home from the bank and cried. So frustrated!

I am hopeful that the rest of the day will improve. Tomorrow's supposed to be awesome weather and I plan on spending it at the park or something nice with the littles.

Now work, then more chauffering. Hoping the sunshine cheers me up.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

UU Salon: May - The Soul

Over at UU Salon, they want to know: Does it exist before we are born?  Does it disappear when we die?  It is unchangeable, or capable of growing/shrinking/strengthening?  Can you lose your soul, or gain one?

I have refrained from reading other posts on this topic until I had time to mull over my own thoughts and get around to posting something. I really like this idea of posing questions to the blogosphere and then compiling them. Nice use of technology and community! 

So onward. Does it exist prior/after life as we know it? An interesting story: When I was exploring neopaganism, I loved the story in Circle Round (or at least I think that's where I read it, but I'm too lazy to get up and look) about how our souls all get mixed into this great cauldron and each time a new baby is born, we get a little bit of everyone in our new soul. During this time, my mother was driven to distraction by my "atheism," refusing to come to my wedding a few years before, etc. due to my lack of religious beliefs. I remember telling this story to my kids when they were little and loving it. Anyway, my mother is now in her last years. Her health is very poor and we've been talking about death and dying. I have always seen her as this pretty traditional but non-churchgoing Christian until the last few year, since I entered the journey to the ministry. Since then, my grandmother's Irish pagan roots seem to be coming out. My mom tells me stories of celebrating the wheel of the year, etc. But she blew my mind last month when she basically, word for word, said that the cauldron is what she thinks happens to souls when you die. Could have knocked me over with a feather. She just laughed and said her mother's beliefs are catching up with her (her mother was a seemingly devout Protestant, FWIW). 

Basically, the whole notion of matter and science and energy is why I am not a full-blown atheist, but rather an agnostic with a theistic bent. I like Deitrich's cosmic humanism - I believe that God, or what I would call Soul, is immanent in everything, and I have a hard time letting go of my faith that there is some intrinsic part of us that remains as some sort of energy and is passed on into other things - perhaps mingling with the very stardust of which we are made. It's probably just some unlikely concoction I've dreamed up in my limited understanding of physics and such, but I love the idea, and it brings me a lot of comfort. 

I think that your soul can change because it's energy, according to my theological view of the soul. I think that what we do impacts the energy that we emit and contain, and if we do things that are evil, that will change our very essence. It's where my moral authority comes from lacking the presence of God. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lilac Festival

I don't have pics off my phone yet, but we had such a great day. I took the morning off of work and took the three youngest kids to the Science Museum. Jude (5.5) has decided that this place is more fun than the Strong Museum of Play, because there are dinosaurs there. He wants to be a paleontologist this week. We dropped off some clothes for a friend, and off to the museum!

They had a great time and enjoyed watching the new Brain exhibit going up for May 22nd. We can't wait to go back and see it live! We had a picnic lunch out on the lawn, and then went to pick up my oldest at her science lab at the University of Rochester (science Friday for all!). Oddly enough, her lab was also on the brain - they got to work with cat brain matter (can you say ewww?) and did some diagnoses from real case studies.

Then we were off to the Lilac Festival. Honestly, it was a perfect opening day. The lilacs are still out though are starting to fade, but it was sunny and around 70F after a rainy, cool morning. We met up with a friend and her kids, and then the teens met up with some other teens and wandered off for awhile.  Much tree climbing was done by all, and I am exhausted from pushing 70lbs of kids in the double stroller. We went on the little train and the carousel; smelled the flowers, and then were off to the final performance of the girls' Waldorf program plays!

Soren was in a performance of Prometheus. Disaster! We got to the school, and realized that her costume, in a shopping bag, had been passed on with the other clothes we dropped off earlier! Many tears - but Emma to the rescue! She had a toga and tunic for her role in Antony and Cleopatra (turns out Soren like it better than her original one!). BUT, Emma forgot to give her dad the video camera, so no video of the performance. Oh well! Another dad took vid, so I'll try to get a copy.

I had already seen the oldest class perform Antony and Cleopatra on Tuesday and WOW. Emma was Octavius Caesar. I can't believe this is her last performance there. I am so sad that she is graduating :(. Off to community college next year for her first college classes, and we are going to start taking Zumba together!

Anyway, both performances were awesome. Lucy and I left early to get her to bed and now I am supposed to be working but wanted to give a quick update as I've been absent. I'm enjoying my time off from school and am doing mad spring cleaning.

Friday, May 7, 2010


Last paper turned in. Last assignment turned in. I am waiting for one final evaluation to be turned in and one final class phone call (tomorrow) and I am FREE for 3 weeks! Three weeks! I am going to read and clean and read and watch back episodes of Bones and 24, and read, and sort clothes and garden...

I have 3 weeks left at my job as RE assistant and then I intend to spend the summer attending services and preparing my first sermon at MMUUS while I do CPE.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Waking up with Jude

Jude climbed into bed with us in the middle of the night after a bad dream. He always pushes me half out of the bed, so between him and the dog, it was a bad night. But this morning, we woke up and looked at each other. I was NOT awake yet, but Jude was ready to talk.

Jude: Know what's weird?
Me: You?
Jude: Weirder than THAT!
Me: What?
Jude: Snow White lived with seven little men! And then eight! That's weird. Seven little men.

How am I supposed to wrap my head around this pre-coffee?

In other news, one final project is done. One to go. One that I am totally unmotivated to write and is due in two days. Urgh.