Thursday, June 19, 2014

Saved--From Nothing and Everything

I'm back at my crazy temp job, saving up to do the good work I mean to do which pays not quite as well as temp work.

Why yes, yes, thank you for asking, I AM living the high life...

At work we had three crazy days of learning a new project and getting qualified to actually DO the work--days when you start with 50 people in a group and end with 15 because those are the only ones who make the qualification test.

Why yes, yes, thank you for asking, it is brutal.

Today when we came to work the groups had been shifted around in our work space because, of course, we're have much smaller groups now, and I was lucky enough to sit by one of the first people I met in this crazy job. She's a lovely woman and I just adore her. I'm so happy to share work space with her bright spirit and kick-ass attitude; super fun in our academic sweatshop.

Today I was looking at her computer screen and I admitted that I was doing something I probably shouldn't have been doing which I will not admit now because that would be wrong, wrong, wrong. She said something about how I was going to hell.

"I don't believe in hell."

OK, pause....when you work in religion you often have a difficult time telling people what you do or did for work. People assume that you are a locked down person who never has any fun and they tick back through what they've already said to you wondering if they have incriminated themselves. I never admit it on an airplane, that makes for an awful flight. In Seattle if I say "Unitarian" people often say "Oh, I love the UUs!" so it's a little better.

At this job when people ask me what field I worked in or am looking for work in, since we're all looking for work, I say "Oh, I used to be a professional church lady" which makes everyone think of Dana Carvey on SNL. It's intentional. Laugh so you don't think I'm a freak. So, at this job it's kind of how people know me-- as "church lady". Whatever. It's fine. Everyone knows I'm somehow connected with a church.

So back to the hell incident. I said, "I don't believe in hell."

"WHAT?" she said? "But you're the church lady!" It's pretty quiet at our work, and this was pretty loud. Church ladies apparently believe in hell!

No. I don't believe in hell, or the divinity of Jesus or anything much, really.

Except people. I believe in people. I believe in people who screw their lives up and then keep going, and people who love when there is no way anyone could expect them to love one more thing because life has done awful things to them, and I believe in children because children are just so good and holy and whole--always, and I believe in the devoted love of a dog and the long love of dear friends and the moment of a smile shared between strangers in brief passing and people who help when they should probably just keep going...and all of it.

I FEEL the goodness in people. I feel the powerful force of love in this world and in just about every person I meet. People do good things because we, for the most part, are whole and holy and yes.....GOOD. Of course we're also bad and evil and so, so, so broken. But usually, if we have been given a break or two, the love is what guides us. We DO good because we ARE good. Love leads us. Love actually guides us.

From what I've seen in my few decades here on this earth, if we lead with love we are never, ever, ever, wrong. Hell is a magical story spun by someone who was trying to control people.

But love, well love is kick-ass, full-on epic-- real.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

It's Magic

Sometimes you get to do something in this life that just feels so right, you want to dance and sing and roll around on the floor in a pleasure bomb of joy!

OK, there was no rolling on the floor, but holy mother of all things good and pure and whole today was a really good day.

I got to go to my LREDA cluster meeting.

What? Why would that make someone dance and sing?

Well, have you ever been with a room full of people who would understand you with no words? Or maybe two words or three...."did you hear?" "Totally" "I know" "Amazing!"

Being a religious educator is not easy work. You often hold everything from supplying glue sticks for classrooms to counseling families through the death of a parent, and literally, every thing between. It is a profound honor and nearly impossible.

This was a room full of people who also follow this call.

I was welcomed back to this group which was my spiritual home for seven years with wide open arms. It has been two years since I have been a part of the group, but it felt like no time had passed. Yes, there was a new baby who's pregnancy and birth I'd missed, but I was the lucky one who held him as he fell asleep. And yes, some of my colleagues are gone, some in less-than-ideal circumstances and it made me very sad. But I got to see people I thought I might never see again. People whom I love. It was bliss.

If you ever doubt the importance of real, true support of people who understand your life and your soul without explanation, don't. It is profound!

As I walked to the parking lot with people whom I first met in far away states at long past events, I said "LREDA is magic! Here we are, in this spot, and it's just the same!" It was. It is!

Truth. Magic!


Monday, May 26, 2014

Held in the Heart of Love

I have been busy.

I don't mean to be a part of the churn in our culture that glorifies busy "Oh, I'm soooo busy, can't even find time to blah blah blah!"

But it's true. 

I have been, and I am. 

I'm trying to squirrel away some cash so I can do my dream job for a while. So, I am hustling nuts just about as fast as I can, or well, no nuts. I'm scoring student essays from standardized tests. It is forty million times more difficult than you think it is. Really. It is. 

I can't say much of course, because of confidentiality agreements. But the last few days I've been working lots of overtime, trying to finish a big project on time. Or less late. Or something. I've worked straight through from Mother's Day with no days off, usually 9, 10 and even 12 hour days. 

I am happy for the work and the chance to bring in some money. My goodness I work with some amazing people. But I'm starting to get tired, and maybe a little raw. 

We sometimes get a little peek into the lives of the students who write these essays. As you can imagine, the essays can be charming, heart warming and even funny--our quiet office is occasionally punctuated with a burst of giggles from a scorer, all in good cheer. 

But there are some papers that just bring me to my knees. Some young people deal with so much more than they should have to. It breaks my heart open. There are processes to get help to the kids, it's all handled well. But still, there it is. 

Yesterday after reading a heart breaker, I had to take a moment and step out in the fresh air. How can our society just chug on along when our children are all just really not OK. Really, now. How? I stood and watched the wet Seattle afternoon, the bright green spring leaves shook raindrops to the ground as the sun broke through the clouds, the fresh spring air promising growth, life and hope. Maybe hope, anyway. 

But the papers are there, and they need to be scored. It's my job to score them. So I headed back in and sat down at my desk.Somehow, I needed something, a marker to at least note to myself that I hear these kids, I see them, I care. And I do not for one moment think that the way our world works is OK at all, in particular when it comes to our children. 

I wrote a version of the affirmation we use in the Church of the Larger Fellowship's services  after our shared joys and sorrows on a sticky note and stuck it to the travel tumbler that sits on my desk all day. My prayer. My hope. My deepest wish for every being or at the very least for every single child: 

"May all be held in the heart of love."

It is, right now, my deepest prayer. 

May we work like hell to make it so. 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sunshine on Grateful Days

The sun is out!

The birds are singing!

The flowers are in bloom --yes, yes, yes, they're flowering weeds and bolted kale, but who cares!

And, my son is coming home from his first year at school!

I've done the kid-away-at-college gig before. But this one didn't just go to UW here in Seattle. This one went to school in Syracuse. Know how many planes it takes to get to Syracuse? Two. It takes two planes, you have to connect. It's far, far, far away. Three time zones.

But now school is over and he's coming home and he'll be here for, well, he'll be here for chunks of the summer between his field studies. I am happy, so so happy!

This year has been a tough one for me. In July my oldest son moved a few hours away for his first career job after college. And then the middle son moved to Syracuse for college at SUNY ESF, which has turned out to be the perfect school for him. It's good but it's awful.

Then there was the job search. I had so much trouble finding the right job. (Which I did by the way, I start at CLF this August and we're going to to amazing things with our ministry to families!) That search just about took the wind out of my sales for good-- I was ready to just work at the local gas station.....well, maybe not the gas station but I was pretty convinced that the right job no longer existed. None of those are terrible things, really. But, my dad is living strong with two kind of stage four cancer, which is always stuck in my throat. That's tough. And my husband hates his job. That's tough, too. Somehow, it all added up.

So this year, for a very lucky person, I felt like crap. A lot. I missed my two oldest kids, and smothered the poor youngest kid with too much mothering.

I tried to throw myself into volunteering, but probably didn't do as well as I could have because I always felt like I was just barely keeping my head above water. Depression kinda sucks the ambition right out of you.

I really, really tried to find a job, I got close on a few that seemed like a good fit, but nothing came through. I thought all those networks I had would kick in, but no dice. Looking for work is full-time work, and it's the worst job you'll even not have. Seriously. Brutal.

It's all over now. The middlest comes home tomorrow. We rented a van and we're all going to the new whale museum on Saturday to celebrate the May birthdays and Mother's Day. I am working a fine temp job that lasts til July and then I'll start at CLF in August. My kids will be here. My dogs are always here. We even  found a good dog therapist for the crazy one. Really, all is well in my world.

I am the kind of person who usually has a self-righting mechanism. I get really depressed, but I usually turn back around like those self righting bath toys and go paddling along on my grateful days.

This time took a little longer. But I'm here. Upright. And on my way.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Breaking Down Outdated Labels in our Unitarian Universalist Community

I am quite certain that this is not the most efficient way to do this. But I am a little fried after two months of scoring essays written by children during their yearly standardized testing marathons.

I can't figure out who would listen to my complaint, although I'm sure someone would; someone in power with he ability to make real change the way we do things.

Why does the "blogs" tab on the UU World website still have a "new" label?

I started Chalice Spark in 2008 and the blog tab was labeled "new".

I think we should not replace the "new" label with an "old" label! But it can just sit there all on its own. "Blogs."

Or frankly, maybe it should say "Social Media Updates" since our very own Heather Christiansen has been doing a fabulous job of rounding-up a growing field of media sources to our weekly Interdependent Web. "Click Here", or "where all the cool kids hang out" or I don't know.....something that does not say "new".

Thank you for listening.

And all I can do is think about how my post looks very similar to some of the 4th grade essays I scored today. Except they were just a little better. I can only give it a 2.

Sorry kid, better luck next year.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kari's Friendly Earth Day Soapbox

About 15 years ago I reached some kind of crack in the sidewalk of my life--nothing discernible happened, or at least nothing stands out in my memory. I just decided that if I really couldn't eat anything that looked like the animal it used to be, that maybe it was time to be honest with myself and just stop eating meat.

So I did. I had some leftover cocktail weenies from a New Year's party one January 1st and that was it, no more meat.

I wasn't a squeamish vegetarian, I still cooked a Thanksgiving turkey for my family and I made pork ribs and steak for my husband and sons.

I learned about the health benefits of being vegetarian, and got pretty excited about what someone at a women's retreat I attended called  "eating close to the earth." Obviously, eating no animals meant no feeding, watering, transporting, processing or packaging animals.

Eventually my sons grew into teens and the two oldest--both for environmental reasons--chose to stop eating meat. My husband got the ultimatum from his doc "get your cholesterol down or you're going on medication" and with side effects like muscle weakness, he was ready to get radical to stay off the drugs.

After all these years I had come to the point where I was not cooking meat at home, and after one final turkey carcass-picking incident, I ruled all meat had to come in our house ready to consume or be prepared by other people when I was not anywhere nearby. And good lord please don't let me smell it.

I thought when my oldest son, the one we always called a carnivore, went veg that I'd never see a more surprising change. But when my husband decided to stop eating meat, I wondered if I was living in some soap opera world where an evil family had made eternal winter in our town and somehow made my husband a completely new man. But he was all in and still the same great guy, no evil Carradine plan was at work, apparently.

My meat loving husband's cholesterol dropped dramatically on a mostly plant based diet. The doc made him come back again and again for blood tests because he was radically skeptical that the levels were really down. But his levels stayed down and he stayed away from meat, well, except for oddly important meals, like when he was in Korea on an airline accident investigation and an older Korean man handed him freshly grilled beef wrapped in lettuce, and he just ate it. Some things are just, you know.... a THING.

Pretty soon I was convinced by mounting evidence from social media pictures of cute chickens and really good documentaries that I should stop eating all animal products. I read statistics about the number of gallons of water it takes to grow a cow who would give me gooey brie cheese vs. a pound of beans. There was no need to convince me about the lives of animals and their value, I have spent my life owned by a series of beloved dogs and cows are just big dogs who eat hay.

And then when Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn explained endothelial cells in "Forks Over Knives" I was sold. Two years later I'm still not hard core, I do eat some cheese when I am forced to by it's awesomeness and when there are eggs in really delicious looking cookies, I might pretend that they are some kind of fake eggs and gobble up the cookie before I come to my senses. But I don't eat grilled cheese or scrambled eggs, nothing like that. And it's good.

It's actually really good.

And it's super easy. We cook almost all of our meals, we can eat out at almost any restaurant (great goddess of all things fried, Applebee's is even harder to eat at than a steak house for even the most resourceful plant eaters) but we like to eat at home because our food is better. It's not rabbit food, it's hearty and balanced and wonderful; just tonight we had a fabulous Shepherd's Pie that would make even the toughest meat eater swoon--and then reach for seconds.

But here, today, on Earth Day, I wonder why so many people who drive hybrids, hang their laundry to dry, keep their houses cool or warm and fight passionately against climate change don't do the easiest thing of all to keep our world safe; just stop eating animals. It's a change, but it's not hard, really, it's not. You feel better, you prevent disease in your body and you do your part to help our spinning blue planet. Maybe giving up meat is too much, but I know people who have Meatless Mondays and Flexitarian Fridays! You can try a Field Roast sausage brat or meatless crumbles in spaghetti sauce--so good. And really, no lie, easy.

OK, thanks for listening. Now, I will take my soapbox, and my leftover Shepherd's Pie, and I will go home!

Happy Earth Day!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Small Town

Today I went visiting in a small town, or well, it was a kind of a small town, I guess--as close as I've come to one in a long time, anyway. It was real old-time visiting; coffee, cookies, talking about the weather. As we went from place to place it seemed like everyone knew my mother, they waved or said hello or made a bad pun, and they were all so kind and seemed happy to meet me. Well, she's been part of this place for 15 years--taking folks where they need to go and doing the things that need doing. No surprise they were nice to me.

As my dad went from place to place, he was greeted with a smile and a nod, or a wave and a "Hello there, how's your day going today?" but it didn't come only from people he knew. He was greeted by people cleaning and doctors and other older guys riding by in wheel chairs. It wasn't just my dad that was greeted this way, all the people wearing hats with their branch of service or a jacket with a logo were given a warm greeting. 

I heard a man who had been working hard clearing up a gaggle of wheelchairs as the end of the day approached and more and more people were headed out into the bitter cold stop and ask a man "Which branch of service were you in? Army? During WW II? Italy, Africa, Sicily? Thanks so much for your service, you know I was in Italy, too. Did you learn any Italian? No, me either, well a little, maybe just a little." 

It happened again and again. At the pharmacy. At the cafeteria. And in the oncology department. 

Makes a girl have to stop and get a hold of herself. Wouldn't want the vets to see you getting emotional or anything. 

That's a day in the life of the small town or what you might call a VA hospital--and chemo round number 17. 

Love in action.