Monday, March 28, 2011

Writing as spiritual practice

Ha! I kill myself. Last January I said I was going to try to write everyday. And I do. I write Facebook posts, and papers, and replies to papers, and emails and sermons. But I don't write the things that are in my head, because I just don't have time.

I don't write about Japan and the earthquake and tsunami. I don't write about nuclear reactors and radiation leaking into the ocean. I don't write about how raising a teenage daughter is exhausting and eerily parallel to reliving one's own adolescence, except this time you don't get to have the fun of being devious and naughty before you get caught - you just get to be the bad guy.

I don't write about dealing with a child with ADHD or the way I feel about the school system (not good, if you don't already know). I don't write about my feelings on class warfare and immigration, or about being divorced and trying to co-parent effectively. I don't write about gender issues and being a woman in ministry.

I don't write (much) about being in the sandwich generation and what it means to have aging parents and to lose one. I don't write about my crazy dog who won't be housebroken and who chews up my theology books.

But these are just the tip of the iceberg of the things I'd write about if I only had time. I dream about them though. Last night I dreamt a whole sermon about "Being Heard," based purely on anecdotes about my teenager daughter and my dog.

But it's OK. This too shall pass. I love internship and ministry and school (though I swear I'm never taking another class from the Lutherans!). I just have so many things I think about and no time to write about, but they come out in sermons and essays and reflections and...just not here.

Ah, I feel better now :) I'm looking forward to August when I plan to reread every Stephen King book I own and go to the beach. Then I"ll write. Maybe.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Timeline of Grief

I'm feeling particularly raw lately. That "bubble" I developed during chaplaincy seems to be intact during minstry work itself, but in my personal life, it seems to have popped like so much warm air.

A friend was discussing the first spring of being without her father, and that made me cry. Earlier, I was with a dear friend/teacher, who lost her her mother last week and she told me of the large hole it has created in her life, and I found myself a few moments later, fled to the ladies' room, to dab my streaming eyes, and put myself back together.

My son is ill with strep throat. It's his first experience with needing antibiotics and somehow more difficult than the flu we all just went through. But today, at the doctor's, he was "a poor source of information" as was my own father. His spirit is close and present in these transitional days of sun and snow, before real spring comes to upstate New York.

I am bone tired, so maybe my defenses are truly down, which isn't a bad thing. I'm having a bit of trouble keeping up with everything as the semester churns into its final six weeks. I haven't been home since Christmas and am missing my old stomping grounds. I am feeling the stresses and joys of mothering teens and tweens, preschoolers and school-agers.

I am deeply saddened and struggling with how to understand and cope with world events in the Middle East and Japan, as well as the role of the United States and the choices we are making. The whole front page of the New York times made me want to weep today.

However, my daughter just came in and told me she is being pursued by the University of Pennsylvania as a potential transfer student, which brightened me up again. It's such a statement on our humanity that our personal experiences are a profoundly important way in which we interpret global events. Little successes are vital, both on a personal  and on a global scale. Thank you, Sharon Welch!

So I grieve. And study, and pastor, and grieve some more. I look forward to days of reading and sun; of recuperation and freedom from ill children and outside influences that threaten any sense of wellbeing - bacteria or other.

And I sleep. Sleep is healing, as apparently is apple juice.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Measured sigh of relief

First, my mother is doing better, though may have suffered a mini-stroke/TIA during the night. We are waiting for the CT scan results.

My hearing went as well as could be expected today. The demands have been reduced, and the girls will meet with an attorney that's been assigned to them. They have to undergo independent testing, but there was no push to move them into the school system. In terms of custody, that will be part of the discussions we will all have with the children's attorney of the next couple of weeks.

Thank you for all of the support, prayers and love I felt holding me throughout the proceedings.

Now, to get through surgery and the RSCC in the next couple of weeks :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lent, Spring, and preparing for the RSCC

Last weekend, a friend of mine preached at my internship congregation, and at the end, she charged us with looking at Lent as an opportunity to reflect and act on our interdependence with all of creation. I was raised Catholic, and I actually really loved Lent and the rituals around it. One of the reasons is probably that I didn't feel that I answered to God, but to my parents. One year I gave up TV for Lent, and On Golden Pond was being shown, and I was able to negotiate an extension of Lent by a day in order to watch it.

But now there is no negotiating, except with myself, so I was determined to take Libby's charge seriously. So we have given up paper products (meaning paper plates, paper towels, and paper napkins) for the duration of Lent. So far it's going pretty well, and everyone is on board with it. It's a good spiritual practice to be aware of our carbon footprint, and how much waste we generate as an already large family of six.

The idea of privation, or making sacrifice is not unheard of for my children; we aren't wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, and we regularly reuse, recycle, etc. But this is a very intentional practice, and it's been interesting to watch how everyone does it. I did threaten to make us use cloth toilet paper, but everyone insisted that was going too far and threatened to mutiny. I countered that it wasn't different than using cloth wipes that we washed and reused with cloth diapers when each child was a baby, but I didn't get very far! Apparently non-diapered butts require paper products ;).

In other news, I actually believe that spring might arrive someday, despite the weather report that says it will be in the teens tonight. There has been a tremendous migration of geese, which is one of the joys of living in the Finger Lakes region of New York. I saw an entire field white with snow geese the other day, with hundreds more filling the sky. On the Thruway over the last three days, there have been Vs of Canadian geese as far as the eye can see; it never ends. I have also seen a number of heron pairs and heard a mourning dove this morning.

I am hopeful that spring will bring a fresh start. The last 12 months have been one difficulty after another it seems. Today was no exception. Since last March, I have had two hand surgeries, and just found out that I have to have a much more extensive one next Friday, on my dominant hand, for a large cyst that is wrapped around my tendons. That pretty much eliminates gardening again this summer, much to my dismay.

My mother went into the hospital with congestive heart failure today. She has been in the hospital numerous times in the last three years, but her breathing is getting worse. She has fluid in her lungs and they suspect she has had another heart attack.  My mother-in-law has been in the hospital 3 times since October, with a total of 5 weeks just since Christmas. My father died in November. I've been in and out of court with my ex-husband over child support twice, and have to go on Wednesday again, because he has filed a custody and educational modification around custodial time and homeschooling. I have been struggling with migraines and medication issues since last April.

In less than a month, I return to the RSCC, (for those not UU, it's part of the process of ministry) and I certainly have learned a lot in the last year. I have learned that crisis is not in my vocabulary. Between seminary, parenting, homeschooling, working, internship, volunteering, cleaning, and very little sleep, I have learned to take each day as it comes. I have learned that my daily spiritual practice pays off. I have learned to be much more patient, to listen more, and to incorporate silence and self-care into every single day. I've learned just how very rich I am in friends, and how right I was to follow the call into ministry.

There have been some wonderful things that have happened this year. My children are growing up and becoming more fabulous all the time. My husband is pursuing his own journey of personal transformation. I am in love with my teaching congregation. I have food; shelter; snuggly husband, pets and children; and so much love in my life.

So I guess spring will bring what it must, and life will happen, just as it always does, bringing challenge and grace, a day at a time. Namaste to all who have carried my journey with them in their prayers and hearts this year. Just a few more - for my mother, for the best outcome at court on Wednesday, and for a successful surgery next Friday, with a fast recovery.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Parenting as a Spiritual Practice

I am considering starting a small group on this topic next year. All I can say is that parenting has made me a stronger person, helped me grow in ways I would never have imagined, and requires a lot of patience.

I am so tired. My oldest will turn 15 tomorrow. She is amazing. Beautiful. Intelligent. Stylish. And very much a teenager, with the normal flaws that go along with that. But I love her so much. Parenting a 15 year old and a 4 year old takes a certain amount of humor though. They both like to talk a lot. They both like to snuggle. They both like to interrupt me when I'm trying to work or study. But it's an amazing, awe-filled journey.

Having a 15 year old means that I, of course, am no longer a youngster. My body is betraying me in little dibs and drabs, and in very inconvenient ways. I have had two hand surgeries in the last year, and have to have another one in a couple of weeks, that will be a much more extensive surgery, and a longer recovery.

And I am finding that I absolutely require more sleep in order to function well.

Parenting a teenager is just as much fun, and just as much work as I expected. I love every bloody minute of it. It is such a gift to see a child becoming a young adult, and to move out into the world. It's bittersweet as well, because I love her so much and do not look forward to the day when she doesn't lay on the foot of my bed to chat each night.

In any event, dear Emma, I love you to the stars and back. You are strong, capable, gorgeous, fun, brilliant, motivated, and just all-around wonderful, and I hope I tell you all those things enough. I am so very proud of you, despite your faults (and mine), and I am so grateful that your spirit chose me to be a mother for the first time.

Namaste my dear girl.