Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Good grief

First of all, a mother and writer I have known via parenting lists for years, and with whom I did one of my favorite journalistic interviews with ever in my writing career needs prayers. Her teenage son is in critical condition in ICU. Prayers are welcome.

Also the young kitty that adopted us/has been hanging around on my front porch the last week also appears to be quite ill. She's got very little color - I suspect yet another case of feline leukemia, though she must have come to us like that. NO MORE CATS for 6 months! She is quietly enjoying the warm sidewalk in the son and is very quiet and weak. I can't afford to take her to the vet, and don't want to drop her off at the shelter, so plan to keep her as comfy as possible over the next few days and see what happens. She's eating, but is very thin and lets me examine her with no fuss (not a good sign).

At they gym doing a final project for school while the kids are in class. Feeling grateful for my babies and hugging them tight.

Full Moon

I do not understand the full moon phenomenon around here. We lost a chicken several months ago during the full moon because she wouldn't go into the coop. Then we lost 2 last month during the full moon. Two nights ago, a weasel got in to the coop and killed two chickens (our bad, the coop wasn't shut tight). Last night, the stupidist chicken wouldn't go into the coop but roosted someplace else. Thankfully, we found her safe in the yard this morning. However, our last remaining cat got hit by a car last night and I found him dead in the yard this morning. We have a little white cat who has adopted us, that Emma calls Mary, and she still is hanging around. But geez, we are having bad animal karma lately. It wasn't so long ago that our other cat crawled under the porch and died.

Our new puppy has to go to Cornell next week to have her back leg checked out. She seems to have some sort of neurological problem and is using it only intermittently. GAH!

The good news is that the board of trustees at May Memorial voted last night to bring me on as their student intern minister from Fall 2010 to Spring 2012. I couldn't be more thrilled :).

Monday, April 26, 2010

The faces of ministry

Ministry takes many forms. Yesterday, I got to experience some of them all wrapped into one day.

In the morning, I filled in for our DRE and ran children's worship at both services. It was SO much fun. We read Henry Builds a Cabin and I had the kids play the roles. We built a wonderful cabin, and meditated on the simplicity of spring flowers and their needs, and what we would have to give up to live in a simple and small cabin like Henry built.

I ran up and down the stairs and elevator with all the RE stuff so that our RAIHN guests could use our regular space, and it felt good to do that extra step - to be part of the behind-the-scenes work that helps that ministry run smoothly and create safe space for families. I got to check in on all the classes and see what the elementary teachers were doing and it looked like so much fun! My two oldest daughters volunteered their time and energy. Emma has been teaching the 3 year olds every week for about a month now and loves it! Soren helped me run the first children's worship, and my friend's daughter helped for the 2nd service. To see their enjoyment in helping was a wonderful feeling.

After cleanup and tallying attendance for the office, I rushed off to the teen shelter. I spent some time watching a movie with about half the kids. They all identified with it in some ways and it opened up conversation with kids and staff about gang activity and bad neighborhoods in our own city. I did some behavior management with some kids who have not been taught boundaries - challenging, but it offered some opportunities for peer leadership. I spent some time processing the year with my supervisor, and processing another client's issues with staff. A client came in after dealing with extreme violence, and it was striking to me to compare my work of the morning and the cheerful faces of my church kids (not that there aren't issues at work there too), with this kid who is facing more medical care and a lifetime of recovery from the emotional trauma of her experience.

Home again to the bosom of my family - popcorn and snuggles and bedtime and time with my husband. It was a nice end to the day. I feel so blessed to have my supportive family to come back to.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

SLD Assembly

So I'm home now and winding down from the St. Lawrence District Assembly. Last night, I drove into Syracuse and attended the Josephine Gould Discourse: “Twittered, Tweeted and Still Lonely — Choosing the On-Line Church” by Rev. Linda Hoddy of the UU Congregation of Saratoga Springs. I really enjoyed the thoughtful discourse on technology and ministry. There were three responses - one from my friend, Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson, one from Rev. Richard Gilbert (who as minister at my congregation forever, but I started attending right after he retired, so I have never actually met him, though I aspire to take his UU Polity course at CRCDS one of these days) and one from the DRE from the Albany UU, Leah Purcell, who I had a lovely talk with today.

This morning's keynote speaker was Rev. Robert Latham, and that was the highlight. He spoke convincingly and passionately about the importance of mission and the need to prioritize it over things that act on our mission. He made me want to become that evangelistic UU minister that I am probably too nervous to become ;). His intro by Rev. Tom Chulak was absolutely hilarious, and was a spoof on the song Davey Crockett.

I didn't get either of my first choices for the two workshops, but I enjoyed the second one, which was by a fellow Meadville student, Andrew Mertz. I hadn't met him in January but made sure to introduce myself after the workshop. He was an engaging speaker and the topic was pertinent to my interest in youth, and looking ahead to starting some campus ministry at Syracuse University (anyone who as resources for this should feel freely invited to send them to me!). The first workshop was a watered down repeat of a class I took in January, but with a focus on RE. I have no idea why I signed up for it as a choice at all, but I should have snuck into my first choice. Only because I had already been over the material, so it wasn't a good use of my time. Certainly was a good topic for others though!

Our District Executive, Rev. Chulak, is retiring, and his closing words were quite moving. He seems to have done a great job during a difficult transitional time nine years ago, and the District board is obviously vibrant. My former boss/current friend Jan Gartner is newly elected, and I know she'll be a fabulous addition. She's got great energy and I heard firsthand how happy some of the members at First Universalist are to have her as their DRE this year!

Tomorrow, I"m leading Children's Worship since my boss is on the Coming of Age trip to Boston (lucky!). I'm reading a story called Henry Builds a Cabin (Thoreau, ya know). It should be fun. I have to think of a fun thing to do for the greeting! Unfortunately, Jude won't be there again :(. Tom's work van broke down totally yesterday (losing a day of work too), and it looks like we will be van shopping on Monday (with what money, I have no idea - perhaps the tax return will magically appear? Or my long overdue paycheck from corporate America?)

This coming week I am very focused on my two final papers. I need to write a sermon based on Mark 1:9-13 - the baptism and appearance of the Holy Spirit. Inspiration/ ideas for a UU spin are more than welcome.

Cute note of the day. Jude said, "Tell me something funny. I appreciate a good joke!"

Friday, April 23, 2010

SLD Assembly

I am attending my first district assembly! There was a relative who's who of ministers from the area, which was fun to see. My colleague and friend, Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson gave a response to the lecture on technology and ministry which I thought was brilliant.

Prior to the evening's events, I went out to dinner with two ministers and talked shop, which was excellent. Tomorrow will be two sessions - one on multiculturalism and one on technology. Then a business meeting and I'm serving as a delegate. So far, that means that I get to wear an extra badge on my name tag ;).

Off to bed - it's an early drive to Syracuse tomorrow. If anyone is going, look me up!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Update on Internship

I spoke to all the appropriate people and it seems like all will be well :::whew::::

I have been feeling like a Margaret Wise Brown story lately. Any guesses which one? And brittle to boot.

But finally am feeling centered again, and ready to finish this semester and move ahead.

Things have been running smoothly at home lately too, which helps. Onward!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Form, Formative, Former

My year long internship at my community site is drawing to a close. I am already grieving and plotting ways to stay on as a relief worker, though I don't know when I would possibly have time.

I have come to love so many of the teens I've met and talked with; they return over and over because their needs are often not met right away because of our bizarre system that seems to fail kids over and over despite the best of intentions. One of my favorite kids was sent back home this week. It is breaking my heart. I really wish I could bring him home with me for the rest of his high school years. He has touched me and my life so deeply. I am afraid I will never find out if he succeeds in finding a better life before he becomes jaded and chooses worse coping skills. Last week he was practically sitting on my lap, needing love and a mama, even though he's bigger than me and pretends to be a tough guy.

Another of my favorite teens is back this week. It seems like things are moving in the right direction, but who really knows? I would bring him home with me in a heartbeat too. He would drive me crazy but I would love him anyway. What's different about that than my own kids?

I talked to a beautiful young woman who wants to be a doctor, but who will be lucky to finish high school at this point. She has a lot of challenges ahead of her. Her baby daddy isn't interested and her mama chose a man over her.

I am so in love with this work, with the staff, the kids, everything. I will be lost without "my" kids. I have tried not to get too attached, but my heart tricked me in the end. I am broken up about leaving.

I know CPE is next, and then internship at church - those will fill me up and teach me and form me in other ways. but I will will always carry these other people's babies with me. I have nothing but hope and love for them.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Still Healing

I think the best piece of advice I got from all of this RSCC stuff is from my friend Amy, who took the time out of her own current struggles to remind me that it's about the call, and the rest is just work to be done.

That, and the humor, love, prayers, and support of friends, family and colleagues has been amazing. Now that I am over the "shame" of being postponed for candidacy, I have found many other brilliant seminarians who have had a similar experience, with similar questions, and I feel lifted up by our shared journeys.

I continue to process, pray, and move ahead. I met with a psychodynamic therapist last week and we got along fine. I have an appointment with a financial planner in May, and it looks like my job is secure for the rest of this year, which is good news financially, as I am taking a hit someplace else.

After a period of pulling back, I am re-engaging with email, phone conversations, church, and friendship. My facilitation work at church has truly been a lifesaver for me, as have my classmates who have reached out over and over to make sure to connect and offer love. One of the questions in my RSCC interview was "what have you given up?" in this journey that is all-encompassing. I realized that the main thing is time with friends. Time to have coffee and talk about kids, and homeschooling and husbands and gossip. I am meeting one of my best friends in a few minutes and I can't wait! It has been months since we got together and that is a loss.

Our new puppy is doing well; still having an accident or two each day, but she is snuggly and sweet and great with the kids. I'm adjusting to very early walks that are necessitated by her tiny bladder, and to sharing my bed with a tiny creature who cries if left behind. She takes up less room than the kids do though!

My hand is healing slowly. I have a lot more mobility today for the first time but am struggling with some scarring that is limiting. It is wonderful to shower without a plastic bag though!!

I am getting ready to delve into the final month of this academic year. I have two final projects to do, and a learning plan to present to the board of directors at my proposed internship site on the 27th. I am attending the SLD conference next weekend which should be excellent. I am also serving as a delegate for my church.

The flowers are blooming, I'm getting an itch to start my garden, and I am looking forward to my two weeks off in May to spring clean and rest before CPE. I am dreading being away from the kids full time but am holding on to the idea that next summer will be quieter, with perhaps a couple of weeks in Chicago.

Back to Galatians and Philomen!

Friday, April 2, 2010


It's been duly noted that I've been absent from my regular journaling for awhile. Perhaps not writing, but certainly not mentally absent. Just not really sure how authentic I should be, in an ironic twist.

The last 2 weeks have been a time of inner and external turmoil; probably some of the most frustrating and reflective days I've had in recent times, and that's saying a lot, considering that I do a lot of reflection!

Last Monday I met with the RSCC, who determine whether I get the go-ahead to the next step - from ministry aspirant to candidate.The upshot is that they postponed my candidacy for a year, which was very disappointing. Two main issues that stand out for me are:

1. I was not perceived as being authentic until near the end of the 30 minute interview, at which point they saw the person they were looking for. I was trying to portray the professional and capable side of myself during the questioning, which was intensely personal, and at times felt invasive. It is ironic because this was my first real interaction with the professional side of the denomination, and at the end of the day, I did not feel supported in my journey to ministry. Even though there was no indication that the committee felt the need to deny me candidacy, but just to postpone it, I left that building not knowing who the heck they saw, if not me. I have been given strong recommendations, excelled in academics, and pushed myself to take on leadership opportunities. Somehow, that group of people saw someone else that was not well represented by the paperwork they reviewed.

Unfortunately, my career assessment paperwork took 4+ months to be processed, not giving me enough time to comment on it before I had to approve it due to the deadline for paperwork. The very thing that concerned them is the very thing that I would have asked the center to edit had I had time. My relationship with my mother continues to haunt me, though it no longer defines me, just informs who I am.

The ironic part is that I now find myself feeling less able to be vulnerable, and am not even sure that this is the right path to be on. That is not what the committee said, but how I feel. Once I work through my Kubler-Ross stages of grief, I"m sure I'll make lemonade out of lemons.

2. My finances were a huge issue, which I was blindsided by. And the upshot is that I left there angry that the very denomination that is talking the talk of economic, gender, racial, etc. diversity does not seem to be walking the walk. Postponing my candidacy will cost me thousands of dollars in grants and scholarships that are not available to me this year as an aspirant. I will also be held back a year and may not be able to get into the MFC in my final year of school. That will cost me a year of job searching. There didn't seem to be any recognition of this fact, or even forethought, that some of the recommendations they made, and the postponement will put me in a longer term, more precarious financial situation. I feel quite personally hurt by this, in terms of the faith I have put into our denomination spiritually, and also have some crushed idealism about whether we are capable of changing.

Regardless, the recommendations - CPE, counseling, financial planning, etc., are all good things that will help my ministerial formation; however, I could have done all the same things as a candidate, and have ended up in better financial shape at the end of the whole process. I already have an appointment with a new therapist, and a financial planner. I'm a can-do kind of gal.

I wasn't sure how transparent to be about all of this but you know, it seems like a good idea. I'm not perfect, and feedback is good, even if I don't agree all of it. Maybe another example of my ambivalence toward authority, but it's something I have to deal with, and they are good people who want to make good ministers. Nobody I've talked to really seems to be able to understand it, so maybe I just had a bad interview. The next one will be better. Though I have no idea when or how to set that up, since the whole system is changing in about 6 weeks. :::sigh:::

 The interview came on the tail end of two of the worst migraines I have ever had, one of which I drove to Boston with. My physical health has been an issue lately. After that difficult experience, I had to have extensive hand surgery a few days later, which has kept me mostly off the computer except for school and work. I still have a mid-term in process that is a week overdue and spring chores are calling my name. I am in a cast and already ripped half the stitches out of my finger, and am not dealing well with the whole healing process.

I saw the doctor (again) about the migraines and am on a new daily medication plus an acute migraine med. I spent 3 days after my surgery intentionally allowing myself to mope and rest. I watched a lot of 24. I did a lot of nothing and I am better for it, but now I'm ready to move on and my hand won't let me. I'm still having a lot of post-op bruising, swelling and pain (despite my attempts to do very little), and I'm out of patience. I have to wear this cast for another week.

My dad, who I am guardian for, has been having increasing health issues, and I am getting several calls a week from the nursing home lately. I'm trying to finish this semester, prepare for 11 weeks of full time CPE starting June 1, and be present and available to jumpstart my fall internship, should it be approved next month.

In the midst of all this, my independent contract job is causing me additional headaches. I was hired in January and have not yet gotten paid. Legal is holding everything up with contracts, but my bills aren't getting paid, and I just found out I am looking at a $300/month shortfall in another area. I feel utterly defeated tonight. we are already stretched so thin that I can't really imagine how to make that work and I already anticipate all the fun pushback I will get from my older kids about sacrificing more. They may say they understand, but that doesn't mean that I won't pay the price for it in other ways both intentional and not.

So, that's where I've been. I'm tired, and depressed, and not feeling very good about my path, my body, or my ability to function like a responsible grown-up today. I know it will all work out, but man, I am really tired.

So I want to write, I want to connect, but my soul needs to hibernate. Catch up. Rest. And there's just no time for that. I try to be pretty PollyAnna, but I'm feeling like it's OK to feel like crap right now. Everyone will just have to put up with me for a couple of weeks

That said, I have a lot of people in my thoughts and prayers. Breathe in peace. Breathe out love. I am grateful for spring days, fresh eggs, smiling children, a loving husband, and a comfy bed.