Friday, October 31, 2008

Kiddos on Halloween

It rained most of the day.....a hard November Pacific Northwest Rain. But by party rain and even some clearing skies!

Even though none of the other men in the family thought it was "cool" to be the Phantom, he went for it, and it's a perfect fit. And man, can he sing, too!

And yes, it is "The One", Neo from the Matrix. Oh yeah, he took the red pill.

Happy Halloween!

How can it be that it's Halloween, and Nanowrimo starts at midnight, and my kitchen is full of a washer AND a dryer?

Whirlwind life.

And just how did it happen that even though I still have a 12-year-old, that my Halloween days are over? I remember being a young adult, dressing up in fun mom-like costumes, carving pumpkins, doting over my nephews....and just downright pining for the days when I'd have my own children to share Halloween with.

My youngest two have amazing contumes, Neo from The Matrix (Keanu Reeves, of course, is also Hapa) and The Phantom from Phantom of the Opera. But now they have friends and go to a big teenagery party every year. On Halloween. Poof, over! No more Halloween for mom.

Well, I get the big one with his fog machine and scary music and remote camera to notify him of trick-or-treaters. And one little girl always comes trick-or-treating dressed as a Sprite and I get to say "Happy Samhain!" to her, and she lights up with a big smile.

But my kiddos are gone. Poof.

Oh well, so it goes. And really, I'm not too sad. Somehow I think the whole UU Blogger community is happy today, because it's Halloween and today, for L.W., cancer is over. Her last chemo is done, and she should be home in time for her sibs to go trick-or-treat. And if what matters is our love and prayers, well then there is no doubt that cancer really is over.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Past Ware Lecturer, Rashid Khalidi in the News

No, it wasn't that Barack Obama shared his peanut butter sandwich with Rashid Khalidi in Kindergarten, but now the country's best designer suit-wearing lipstick-covered Governor, Sarah Palin is trying to cast Obama as a dangerous radical by pairing him with Rashid Khalidi. History Professor Rashid Khalidi. 2007 Ware Lecturer Rashid Khalidi.

When I heard this I looked at my family, what? Rashid Khalidi, a P.L.O. spokesperson? I don't think so. My son and I saw him speak at the 2007 General Assembly in Portland, OR with a whole crew of other UUs and yes, he was tough on Bush policy in the Middle East, in Iran, toward Israel and the Palestinians, but he was clearly on the side of peace and on the side of the US. Just not Bush's US. Our US. The one filled with devout Christians and Jews and Muslims and religious folks of all kinds. The US filled with people who love and value peace and care for people who are oppressed by powerful nations.

Like our powerful nation.

We desperately need good men like Khalidi who will speak the truth and hold up the mirror so that we can see what our country is doing. Not just from behind our eyes, but from the view of the people who own the backyards our troops are in.

I hope Barack Obama brings Professor Khalidi into the cabinet as Secretary of State. I hope he's all over CNN. I hope his leadership is just the very kind that we are lucky enough to have in an Obama administration.

Maybe, just maybe, we in this privileged, mostly white, mostly Christian country can learn to leave behind prejudice that this Governor is preying on. We can learn that wonderful Americans can have the name Rashid Khalidi or Barack Obama and be ten fold the American of Joe Six-pack who seems, from all evidence, to care only for himself.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

LREDA Fall Con: Better than the Obama OR McCain Rallies

I packed all my bags, slogged to the airport early early and early, and flew to Albuquerque. Here I am at the Liberal Religious Educators Association's Fall Conference. Fall Con! Cactus, colleagues, corn chips and creative chaos-the ultimate UU event. 

Even Barack Obama and John McCain came to town to get in on the action. 

I'm rooming with my dear friend from the east coast who I've already lived with once for a week at RE Leadership School, so we're cozy and comfortable together. The sun is warm when we get to snatch little moments of it, and the programming has so far only exploded about a dozen brains, so it's good but not taking too many people out. We have small groups to process the details of the days, we have wonderful music, we have the candidates for UUA President and mostly of course we have each other. What a divine blessing. 

I've gotten to see friends from across the country and meet people I've only known by name on the list serve. But best of all, I got to meet, face to face, UU bloggers! Like  Cindy from Happy Cindy Changes the World (and I guess I got to meet Cranky Cindy, too but she seemed happy to me!) and I got to meet Phil from Phil's Little Blog on the Prairie. A few folks even told me they read my blog. Wow, it is a small world.  I was really honored to think that people read this, really, lots. 

Of course there is too much to do, too much food, I'm drinking too much coffee and there is too much to think about.  

But it's hard to imagine that I'll get enough. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Take the quiz: The Ultimate Church Community

I got an email yesterday "Gini Courter has confirmed you as a friend on facebook". Such a funny world, we zap information back and forth across cyber space like it's a Jetson's cartoon. Oh no big deal, the moderator of the UUA is on facebook asking for feedback from everyone on the UUAs "Ends". Core values, what do we really want. No, really want. Whatever, now I'm gonna go poke my friend and see what my kids' status messages say.

That deserves a little head tilt. "Hunh?"

Well, Gini is of course, using her facebook page not just to poke religious leaders across the globe, she's asking good questions. I gave my little bit of feedback on her note, but really what happened is that it got me thinking.

What do I want? What difference should UUism make in the world.

Well, like the youth at our cons here in the PNWD yell when someone yells "what is it for us to do?" they yell "It is for us to heal the world". Good. I like that. But I'm old and my brain then goes to the details, goes to the "but... how?" with a whine like a three-year-old who just gave up naps.

So, last night as I worked in the church office with the slowest computer on the planet, and it's brother molasses-head, with the lovely company of one of the kids who had tagged along for a meeting. I nattered away at the copying and new sign-in forms and turned in expense reports. This "ends" business kept looming.

I want to grow. I want more people to find that in their hearts they really do just happen to be Unitarian Universalists. And I want them to come into community with us and drag along all their gifts and talents and their in-laws. I want more of us to lean on each other and to pick up the shovels and picks and to get on with this work of healing the world. It's a really big job. We need more helping hands and loving hearts.

We'd better get on to being an expecting congregation, expecting everyone. Ready to welcome them. We need some people sized spaces in our congregations so that when folks show up, there's a spot just waiting for them. We need to just be ready. Once when I was a new Religious Educator I was walking through a room where there was a new member meeting and the president was talking about growth. I think someone had mentioned that they liked our cozy size and wouldn't want us to get much bigger. I tossed over my shoulder that I thought that growing was a moral imperative; that we need to be ready for new people just like this place was ready for us when we peeked in the door.

I was naive and optimistic, but I was right. That's it. We need to find our people out there and welcome them in.

Well, good. Now that we've got that settled I think I'm gonna go take a new likeness quiz on facebook, who knows, I might just figure out the meaning of life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Seventeen Candles

A ghost. I think there's a ghost in my house. Or maybe it's the lack of a ghost. For the last few days when my whole little nuclear family is together it feels like something is missing. Like some person is missing.

My oldest son turned seventeen yesterday. He's a young man, has been for a while now. He's over six feet tall, going to the community college instead of high school. He flies across the country to do good work for a fantastic denomination that empowers youth to do good stuff. He's been on the verge of young adulthood for a while now.

Turning seventeen lets you go to R rated movies. That and you can, Yeah, that's about it. Movies. But it's a whole lot closer to eighteen than sixteen was.

One of the great things about our work, homeschool and school schedule this year is our little calm spots. We have a few eddies built into the rush of life. Mondays happen to be one of them. Yesterday we all met up for a burger-fest lunch right in the middle of the day to celebrate the birthday.

As my husband and I walked to the car I looked at our three boys and the scene took on a cinema-zoomed out view. The boys were walking, shoulders together, heads close in animated conversation plotting some overthrow of the banking system or their next song for the band or their next hair color. And zoomed out I could see the men they are growing to be. I could see the strong, confident, handsome men peeking out. Climbing out, really. Emerging through the broad shoulders, good hair and long strides. It made me stop cold in my tracks. Tears came to my eyes. Men, they'll be men, grown men.

So today when we were back to normal family life flow making burritos for dinner all at once I felt it again. "It feels like someone is missing."

My middle son said "maybe you're missing the younger Michael"

Maybe that's it. Maybe I'm missing my little boy. Zap, what a hole. As the young man emerges the young boy disappears.

Like so much of raising children, the hard things are lifted and soar with the wonderful things. It's all good. Grown men are what little boys become. It's wonderful, beautiful.

And it leaves a little boy sized hole straight in my heart.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


The days roll by, time passes faster and faster and faster. And today, my baby turns fourteen.

The day Peter was born was a quiet fall day. I'd labored into the evening, called the midwife and my best friend and headed for the birthing center in the dark.

We moved from rocking chair to bed, to floor, three by three, contraction by contraction. The light was soft, the music moved through my body like water back and forth deep in a kelp bed in the sea.

A warm bath, my dear friends, and the baby was ready.

He came into the world in peace and love; held by his father and mother, cared for by all the souls in the room. It was 2:22 AM. By 4 AM everyone else was sound asleep, midwife gone home, best friend back with her baby and husband in her warm bed, dad crashed on the big bed at the birthing center.

In the silent night it was just me and my new son, him nursing, me spinning wildly and falling in love with this tiny little miracle of a human. We rocked together into the night, crawling into bed, baby cradled as the sun rose golden on the red tipped leaves outside our window.

Fourteen years later I'm still thrilled to see him arrive and I still love him madly. What a lucky, lucky mom I am.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

All The Cool Kids.....

Hey! All the cool kids are doing it! It's not like Jr High; here we're all the cool kids and everyone wins!!


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Youth Ministry

I love working with our youth. Why?

Is it the last minute heroic pull to get things all-together? Well, sometimes I love that. Yes.

Is it the insane amount of cross talk while you try to pull together 35 seconds of worship? OK, yeah, sometimes. It's fun to finally get it to happen.

Is it the way they can feed 30 youth just about their age who are faced with being homeless? OH yeah. That would have to be it.

And they make amazing homemade mac and cheese, and fantastic brownies. And they sit and talk with their peers who will, in about 30 minutes more, be sent back out onto the streets. And they talk theology, and cheese sauce and you know, just about life.

My God, we are blessed to walk with these young people. Our young people. All young people. Deeply blessed.

May you all be so blessed.

Are you listening Youth Ministry Working Group??! OH yeah, you were there serving!! OK, all is well! The future of our Youth Ministry is in good hands.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This Kind of "Minnesota Nice"

My family moved from the Midwest five years ago. One of the biggest reasons we left aside from the insanely long winters and the steamy mosquito infested summers is the racism just like the racism exhibited at Lakeville High School by a good old nice Minnesotan last Friday.

See, folks in Minnesota pride themselves on being nice. And lots of them are. Like news anchor Belinda Jensen, come on, she really is nice.

Of course there are folks like former pro wrestler and actor Gov. Jesse Ventura who never pretended to be nice. Believe me, I had his "people" on the phone once when I worked for an airline. Not nice, but hey! He isn't pretending to be.

But even as people in Minnesota are staring at us; and me and my husband, the freak mixed race couple with our freak children, they still believe that they really are "nice".

When they're asking my husband "No where are you REALLY from?" and "gosh you hardly have an accent at all?" They just say "oh well, ya know, we just weren't raised with people like him." People who aren't like them. People who aren't white.

Apparently, being of middle eastern descent is just about the worst thing someone can be according to this woman speaking in the auditorium of the high school in the next town over from where we lived. In her mind it certainly is grounds for fear.

Understand this; Lakeville, Minnesota is not a small town. It's a suburb with bix box stores and housing developments and house farms up and down the rolling hills. I know there must be folks who go to my old congregation who are from Lakeville. They must be shaking their heads. Maybe they're shaking their fists in frustration. God, I hope so.

What has to happen for those of us who stand on the side of love? What do we do with hate and fear like this? What we have to do first is to decide as a country that there is a difference between being nice and being good. We need to see that sometimes to be good we have to be anything but nice. Say it, say the truth. Racism. That woman is motivated by racism. She is racist. And so are a lot of other "nice" folks in Minnesota. They still stare at us in the aisles at Cub foods just down the street from Lakeville High school.

Stop them from whipping up the fear. Stop them from whipping up the racism. Speak to the truth. The truth of race.

We in our halls need to call our ministers of color, we need to hire what we believe. We need to stand in the white privilege some of us benefit from and name it. But more than just in our halls. In our streets, in our communities, in our High School auditoriums stand.

I hope this woman is being confronted by her fellow church goers, the Christians, the ones who are supposed to be like the traveler from Samatria who help those that others say are unworthy. I hope she's being asked hard questions by her neighbors and her grandchildren. And I hope that in the divine intervention of all, that her favorite granddaughter falls madly in love with a man with an Arabic name. Or better yet, a woman with an Arabic name and that she converts to the kind and peaceful Islamic faith. And lives a good life.

Not a nice life. A good one.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Creating Spiritual Practice...kinda

Practicing spirit.

Spirit practicing.


So, the goddess Peacebang is talking about Spiritual Practice.

Me? My most present spiritual practice it to practice being imperfect. I am so really amazingly good at that. I try and try and try to be perfect. And then...POOF, there I am being all sacred and holy because I'm again practicing NOT being perfect. Or anywhere near perfect.

The laundry isn't done. The dishes are almost getting kinda moldy. The dog hair on the carpet looks like an alternate color and my "twenty" hours of weekly work has morphed into, oh you know, about 50. Maybe even 60. I yell at my kids. I'm annoyed with my aging and sometimes piddling dog. And my phenomenal husband is bugging the crap out of me.

I'm really good at this one. I totally rock at being imperfect.

This, my friends, is the best spiritual practice ever.

Join me.

Come, be imperfect with me!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ethical Eating.....on my dime.

I am very aware of some ethical aspects of my food choices. Every week I'm the one who goes hunting and gathering the things that my family needs to keep on keepin' on.

I don't eat meat and haven't for years. It's a new thing for some UUs and very old hat for others, but that's really not the only ethical issue.

How things are grown, how the farmers are paid, how the people who harvest are treated and paid; all very important things. I care. I really do. I want people to be paid fairly for the work that they do. I want things to be grown sustainably. I want the earth to be safe and healthy.

But I also need to be able to buy enough food to feed three teenagers and one wildly hungry husband.

It gets harder and harder every week. For a few years I've even shopped at one of those warehouse places. You can still buy organic there, just like when we had the old food buying club back in Minnesota; "Holistic Heroes". But it's not really the same kind of organic. It's not careful and mindful organic. It's not local, it's probably not sustainable.

And now I can't really even buy there. For a few years my budget was at $1,300 a month. That's a hell of a lot of money. And it was what we spent for big box scratch food. I cooked, we brought our lunches, we made rice and pasta and a little meat. It was not extravagant. It was not even convenient.

And now we're cutting coupons, and buying store brand flour to make homemade biscuits. And the carnivores are splitting what I think will last for one meal of boneless ribs into two meals.

There are a lot of potatoes. And a lot of ramen. And food from the grocery store that carries the "nearly" expired chips and the off brand cheese.

We have jobs. OK, I work for a non-profit and my husband works for an airline who is almost out of business, but still, these are real jobs.

How do regular families with jobs as teachers and firefighters and good jobs do it? And just what do we mean as UUs when we promise to study Eithical Eating as a Study Action Issue? Ethical means not letting your kids go hungry? What?

Let's be real here. Let's talk about how we feed our families. How you can possibly eat for real on a regular income. How you pay the mortgage and the electric bill and also fill the fridge.

Me? I'm cutting big huge corners. So much so it's almost a circle.

Monday, October 6, 2008

No or Yes?

The eldest is home from Boston. The Youth Ministry Working Group folks had great fun and no sleep of course. It sounds like there is progress in the vision of Minstry to and with Youth for the future. I got few details, but he's excited, so that's a good sign. 

The middle one had a great weekend on an OWL Retreat, they did five OWL sessions but still had time for a midnight hike, a sunrise hike, a two-hour capture the flag (or PIE) game and an improptu Quidditch match with the brooms from their cabins. 

My church weekend was like some perfect storm of overcommitment. It started out with a pre church meeting with my potential new co-DRE. Then we had the first Sunday forum so we scurried around to be set up by 9:30--an hour early. With church out of a box that means hauling and shoving and lugging and dragging--kinda like moving into a new house every week. Then I got to tell Ruth Gibson's story about Albert Schweitzer for the Story for All Ages. We sang the kids downstairs and then I was on to leading a children's chapel about home. Next we worked hard on a Sunday Service project I organized making entertainment kits for our Family Promise homeless families. (pant pant) 

Somehow, someway everything went well. We had very few disasters. Oh and I made soup for the soup lunch after the service.  Somehow I've really got to learn to delegate and say "no." But I have four evenings this week out for church work. 

It's October. It's supposed to start to slow down now! No more meetings, please! No more "just a quick chat" that goes beyond  one minute! I want my life baaaaaack!

No. Just say no. 

Practice with me. No no no no no no no no no. 

Now I sound like a two-year-old. 

But, on Friday we had a huge Memorial Service for a beloved member who died suddenly last weekend. He was 43. We crammed over 400 people in our little hall. When firefighters showed up I thought the gig was up, but they just grabbed more chairs and helped us set them up right in our packed aisles, and sat down for the service. They were there to grieve. The death was an earth shattering tragedy. I can't believe it, it's just unfathomable. 

And we all, a whole bunch of precious members of our church said yes. Yes I'll bake a banana cake. Yes I'll take a day away from work to help. Yes I'll be there. Yes, what can I do? Yes. Yes. Yes, you can count on me. 

So. There it is. Practice with me. Yes. Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes yes. 

Well, which will it be? 

Um, yeah. I guess it's yes. Yes. 

Friday, October 3, 2008

Holy Moments, holy cow.

What a fun debate to watch! After a few minutes I stopped covering my eyes; no train wreck on it's way. So we ate our tacos and drank our "Alaskan IPA". Irony there. I was glad we didn't invite people over to watch with us because sometimes the oldest was yelling at the tv and no one could hear anything! After a while he decided to watch online with headphones to access all the bells and whistles CNN had going on, it was so much more peaceful then.

After the debate, we drove the oldest to the airport for the red-eye to Boston. It's Youth Ministry Working Group weekend. I think that's really what all the intensity was about with the debate. He's rockin' exciting to get there, and get working on creating new visions for youth ministry.

He called from Boston after touch down at our 4:30 in the morning. Nope, didn't sleep much. Yep, still excited. Uh-huh, re-read everything to prep for the weekend. OK, drink lots of water, take advil, eat fruit. "Um, mom.... I gotta go now."

OK, off we go, into another church weekend. The middle son has an OWL retreat on the water. I have a memorial service for a precious member of our church who taught at a Jr High School and died suddenly last weekend. Bus loads of young teens. I need to take that big pastoral care class at the seminary; seems to be what my heart pulls toward.

And we move carefully, mindfully, wholly and hopefully in a holy way through the day. The days.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Debate giddiness

I'm silly excited for this debate. Maybe I'll be sorely disappointed, or maybe the build-up will prove to be too much, but here in the house we're making tacos and buying the good beer and we cleared the calendar. We're watchin' the show!

Hope it's a good one!

Reality check....why are we here again??

Oh yeah, it's to keep our children safe, and let them know that they are wildly loved and adored! Can't forget that. Maybe I'd better write it down.

Our RE Council retreat had the divine pleasure of including a little one. The Sunday morning worship at the edge of Lake Wenatchee was made holy by not only the mountains, trees and the water, but by the quiet commentary of our beloved little J.

On the way out the door Sunday we each got a big J. hug. She knows where she stands with us; we LOVE her!