Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The years march by

Sophia Lyon Fahs writes in the introduction to her book "From Long Ago and Many Lands" "...the marching line of yesterdays reaches back and back into centuries and millenniums."

So, we add another yesterday to the line.

And we add another year to the yesterdays.

What did we learn from the year? What can we take forward to the tomorrows?

1. Families are so pulled by the demands of busy family life, church almost never makes top priority.

This isn't a bad thing, but it is a good thing to learn as a Religious Educator. For years I felt that if I could just help families understand how important it is to the life long development of their child to just simply show-up at church most weeks, that they would show-up. But for our families, church feels like an elective in the demanding line up of required family activities. I know what those soccer commitments are like, those swim team demands, those busy weeks that scream for a quiet morning. I've been there. I hold no judgment for the choices made. During the next calendar year I will try to craft a whole program that lends itself to the hit-and-miss nature of family attendance.

2. Shared Leadership is the sacred white light that shines from the heavens and makes all well and good in the world.

The Religious Education Council that I serve emerged from our REC retreat supercharged to lead as a group. And have they! They also made a miracle happen in working hard to create a Associate DRE position and even fund it. I will keep passing out the duties, even the ones I love, to other folks called to take them on.

3. Youth involvement is special, and requires advanced hatha yoga.

Or, you must be flexible. Our youth group started off with a bang and more teens than ever before, then crashed to the smallest it's ever been, and now has decided to attend a local big church for youth group meetings, while maintaining the service work and one dinner-worship a month with their tiny group. And while my heart is in pieces on the floor to think we have farmed out our youth group, it is what they need and want and what is the best for them. I will follow their lead, and serve them in the way that is needed.

4. Boundaries are good, but they can't be a barbed wire fence.

A Religious Educator who loves their work will love their congregation. And the people of the congregation. I learned this during our memorial services this fall. It didn't matter that my job is focused on the children and youth, I needed to be there to work and help during our trauma because I love these folks. Of course I do. Boundaries are good, necessary, required, but love pays no attention and goes on wrapping your heart around these people you serve. I will work to hold boundaries, but let go of holding myself back.

5. You must don your oxygen mask before assisting others.

It is very easy to see this important work of being a Religious Educator as so vital that all else must wait. But if you can't think about one more bin of sculpey or case of glue sticks without screaming you will not be able to continue this good work. I have learned to work my hours, and pretty much only my hours. I must let some good ideas fall on the floor untended. I can go pick them up from under the dusty couch later. There is a feast and famine to this work. Some weeks we work double or even (gulp) triple our hours if we are very part time. And then some weeks we don't work as much at all. It evens up, most of the time anyhow. I will continue to seek balance in this work so that I can keep doing what I love.

What else?

I love to play my guitar and sing with the children and the congregation.

People care very deeply and are happy to be asked to help.

The right person often shows up at just the right moment.

I am the luckiest person in the world to know these children and youth, and to have their trust.

As the years march on, I hope most of them have lessons as good as these.

Monday, December 29, 2008

And whoooooosh.....

Oh it was good to go to church yesterday! It was good to see the children, we had about 20 even though it's traditionally a low attendance week. It was good to see all our members back safe and sound; no longer housebound by the heavy snow, no longer stuck in far flung cities stranded at airport hotels. It was good to sing hymns and affirm our covenant together again.

During the service the children were all together, family style for a few stories and then a game day. I read "The Everything Seed" and the kids shared what they'd gotten for Christmas (one thing each, please!) and then we had games and crafts and free play. Our Religious Education space looks like a big gym, so sometimes keeping a gaggle of kids contained can be a challenge, but not this time. Some played Uno in a big group, some played playmobil and horses and did scratch art and did a weaving project. There was even a chess game. I love these days because you get to sit down and visit with the kids for more than just a few moments. You chat, you joke around, you get to hear that they chose sushi for their birthday dinner. You make duplo trains filled with animals. It's so fun.

And it was wonderful to tell the Story for All Ages.

We were unsure about the story until late last week, I was distracted by Christmas and the weather and all the services we'd missed, so I pulled out the story I always carry in my back pocket.

We made a rain storm.

Have you done it? You rub your hands together making a soft swishing sound, then snap fingers (or do little finger claps if you don't know how to snap) to make the raindrop sound, then stomp for the thunder? That's how we started, we recreated the Seattle Solstice Storm. So then of course we had to make snow! We made little starbursts in the air with our hands. And then, and then, and then......we were quiet. Like the quiet snow. All you could hear was the sound of children playing. But then we could hear the dripping of snow off the branches, off the roof. So we made dripping sounds, and then bigger swishing sounds. And then with one big WHOOOOOOOSH, the snow all turned to water and flowed down the hills, down through the storm drains, down, down, down and splashed into the sea.

It was so good to be together.

And it was so good to hear that WHOOOOOSH!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Spring Melt

I got up in the middle of the night with the dear old geriatric dog because once she shakes her ears around, we've got about 90 seconds until she's really, really got to go out. As I stood at the sliding door I could hear the water flowing off the roof, down the hills, into the storm drains and off to the sea.

It's melting. The Solstice Storm lasted through Boxing Day, but now, I think it's over.

And my Christmas feasting is over too. No more splitting a bottle of wine over dinner. No more rice dream egg nog and rum. No more cream and butter and shortening and cheese on everything.

No more wearing the only two pair of jeans that fit!

I'm going on a tare. I'm not doing it here, but over at my regular person blog. Everyone is invited to come to the "eat real food, move a little, remember to love my life" story going on over there. And if that's what you're doing too, well then let me know that I'm not alone and I'm not completely off my rocker. Please!

In Minnesota the melt always brings a little weirdness to everyone who has been cooped up. Bring it on, baby! Bring it on!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Still snowing. Still snowing. Still stuck.

OK, first let's go to the good things. I have this fantastic family full of fine young men and a fine husband and a very, very old dog who is thrilled to have new sausage-y treats for Christmas.

We live in a house with a fireplace. I LOVE fireplaces. I grew up with three of them. This is our first house with a place to make fire inside. I love it. I'm a cave girl.

We have plenty to eat and a nice place to cook it and we get to sit down together and eat it and we're all able to eat and laugh and just be a family.
Even though our kids are old and have lives of their own, they still hang out at home, and they read together and tend the fire and do the dishes. All good.
Cookies. We can all always be thankful for cookies.

And we have good friends who came to our cookie exchange party and brought their wonderful special cookies to share and I was able to hide them well enough from the masses that some of them, most of them even, survived to Christmas Eve. It wasn't easy, either. Look at them! But, it's all good, all lucky. All blessed.

But I am sick and tired of the snow. Not the beauty of the snow. That's a good thing, it is beautiful. We're feeding the birds and we've had chickadees, flickers, robins, sparrows, juncos and even the big bully crows. That's beautiful to have a whole flock eating together.

But I am done with the rest of it. The slippery roads and having to miss so many of the big things that make Christmas special is getting old. We called off the Solstice Family Service. We called off Christmas Eve Service. I didn't go to the Candlelight Family service at one of the local big churches because it was just so snowy and slippery. And now I'm missing the big Christmas Day open house at our friends' house because it's not here on my hill. And I'm not so sure I want to venture out after sun down on those awful hills that have been icy for weeks. People have been stuck in front of our house all day long on a tiny itty bitty hill.

I love my family, and I'm very lucky in so many ways.

But I miss church.

I miss the rituals around the holiday; the singing of Silent Night in a big circle, the basement full of sugar-high-Christmas-hyped children who cannot wait for church to be over so they can go home and put out the cookies and milk for Santa, the organ and the bell choir at the big church, the set-up crew for Christmas Eve consisting of our minister's mother our minister and her husband and my little family and our lefse and krumkake and Christmas carols. I miss friends, parties, gatherings. Everything.

In St. Paul, Minnesota they have a winter carnival where the "Vulcans" bring the fire that symbolizes summer warmth to melt the winter ice and snow.

Maybe we could work out some deal where they stop here first. Bring 'em on, bring on the Vulcans. PLEASE!!!?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Help from the blogosphere??

Hiya UU Blog world friends!

I am looking for an example of a "service in a blog post", and am wondering if anyone remembers seeing one and where it was? What I remember seeing was a prelude that was a youtube video embedded, a chalice lighting, a reading, a story, video of singing kids out, a sermon, and a prayer then closing words and music or something with those elements.

Our nasty roads are causing the board president at the church I serve to ponder calling off services for Christmas Eve, but I'd love to offer our members and friends something for Christmas Eve, and I'd like to show the minister I serve with something before I go do it myself.

You are welcome to comment here if you have any ideas or email me at dre (at) wsuu (dot) org.

Thanks All!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Seattle Solstice Storm 2008

We've got about seven inches of snow here in our little neighborhood outside of Seattle, and it's still snowing.

The big huge teenage boys are having fun, and their strength and ability to shovel and clean off cars is fantastic.

When we lived in Minnesota, they were still little boys, playing in the snow throwing snow balls, building snow forts.

OK, not that much has changed. They still throw snow and make snow forts. But Peter says, "I got bigger than I used to be when I was six! I used to fit in a fort this size!"

No kidding. Lots bigger.
The old folks still remember how to clear a driveway and sidewalks, too.

Especially important to make the mailboxes clear so our poor Northwest neighbors don't fall while they are out collecting their Christmas cards. So we cleared the sidewalks over to the mailbox too. This, for the neighbors who report us to the housing gods for having too many weeds in our yard. Oh well, 'tis good for us to do the right thing. Both with the weeds and the shoveling.

This weather has been completely unusual for the Northwest. Here we usually get a little snow and by the next day it's melted off. But we've had some snow on the ground from last Sunday until now and it's stayed cold enough to keep it. We've had more snow coming along every couple of days. And now we've had the big Seattle Solstice Storm yesterday and today.

All the smaller and midsize UU churches in the Seattle are seem to have cancelled services today. Today! Music programs, Solstice Pageants, Child Blessings! Big stuff, mister. Many of us decided it was just too dangerous to hold the service.

None of this snow looks to be going any place anytime soon.

As long as my little family is together, and our Elf work is complete, well then I guess we'll just enjoy a White Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Oh the weather outside.....

...is frightful. Inside it's really delightful.

There has been enormous hype for days about a huge storm hitting the Pacific Northwest. Winds were forecast for 90 miles an hour in the foothills of the Cascades. Wait, what? Ninety miles an hour? I don't think I've ever even heard of winds that high. And the forecast called for two FEET of snow on the Kitsap peninsula, across the sound from Seattle. And no, we don't ever get two feet of snow out here. Ever. Except in the mountains. The city of Seattle has 27 snow plows. None of us are ready for two FEET.

Luckily local UUs pointed me to the best weather guy in Seattle ever when we moved here, and last week I learned that he has a blog. And his blog said, nah, not 90 miles an hour, more like 50 or 60. And probably not that much snow. As the day went on he said it might even turn to rain by tomorrow. So a storm yes, but maybe not quite as horrible. The one thing is he says "please be patient...it is too soon to throw in the towel on this event....yet the pressure different across the mountains is extraordinary...nearly as high as I have ever seen it...nearly 16 millibars across the Cascades (Seattle-Yakima pressure difference)." Yeah, he's the one to listen to, I'm convinced. It's not over.

So, I guess it's a good thing that we cancelled church. And the baby blessing that people came in to see from out of town. Ouch. Break my heart. And when I say "we" it was really the board and the board president. It's their church and we serve them, so I think it should be the people who decide. And frankly, our staff all live far away from church, so we'd have had to couch surf to be there in the morning, which I was completely ready to do, and am deeply thankful that I'm not stuck away from my family for days.

So, here we are. The winds are picking up, the snow is coming down in these weird little pellets. We've already had a week of weather that feels JUST like the 34 winters in Minnesota I spent before I moved here to get away from winter. And we're stocked with food, batteries, candles and charged up cell phones, just in case the wind blows down the power lines and everything does go dark tonight.

And then you open the front door, and there are THESE two ruffians on the front stoop. Trouble, trouble I tell ya.

Hope everyone is staying warm, and safe. Snowplows were pulled off the roads in Minnesota because conditions were unsafe, I see church cancellation notices from MA on UUpdates. People are feeling the cold in Winnipeg, Houston, Minneapolis. Lots of folks are in the path tonight. I guess we'll see what the morning brings.

Be well!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Prayers for a parting of the clouds

Our weather in Seattle right now is really weird. They're calling it "terrain driven" and if you look at the radar picture, you can see a big huge clear spot in the middle of clouds. I think that there is an enormous glass bowl over Seattle. It's really the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, and it's working for the snow right now, too. But now tell me, don't you think some folks are going to think that this is the answer to their prayers?

For me prayer is not such a physical thing. I don't think I'd pray for a clearing in the clouds. I don't think I'd want people to the north and south to get MORE snow so I wouldn't have any. Like in "Bruce Almighty" when he pulls the moon closer in and there are catastrophic waves all over the world. Geez, that is a scary thing anyway, Jim Carey as God. (shudder)

Well, there is the prayer for strength. "Please, God. Let me not eat another piece of that almond fudge, please!" "Oh God, how is it that there is so much laundry!?"

But the real prayers, when I'm still and quiet are so much more like St. Francis of Assisi. Or Rumi.

Right now my prayer is to remember that this snow day with my boys is a little truffle of heaven. Wonder. I'm lucky. I should not make them work the whole day. We should read together, and play scrabble and bake cinnamon rolls. We should end the day remembering that we love each other.

And OK, maybe we'll take a little time to make some presents and you know, tackle some of that pile that looks like an offering to the gods, but is really just a laundry pile.

And we'll do our work with almond fudge on hand. For sure.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Spin

Oh oh oh! Finances, and cookies, and jobs and excellence and snow and ice and CHRISTMAS. It's a good thing that I have ADD or there is no way I could keep track of it all.

Or, well, try to keep track of it all.

Tonight is the cookie exchange party with friends from school. I hope some of them come out even though it's icy and cold. Seattle thinks this is icy cold, but this morning when I went out and felt the cold, I was transported right back to the first 35 years of my life in Minnesota. I can do this. But for natives, it's icy cold. For California and Hawaii transports, it's brutal.

And the gifting is moving along. We went to Pike's Place Market in downtown Seattle. It feels better to buy from local arts folks. The historic market has fantastic things of all kinds and even some little shops in the lower levels. It feels good to have been here so long that I can say "Hey, where are those little fairy circlets?" and people know what I mean and tell me where they are.

I bought gifts for my mom and dad, I won't say what (Hi Mom!) I bought for them, but our niece is getting the fairy circlet and a magic wand. My boys bought mini donuts. We talked ourselves into going out for dinner. Then, when the first snowflakes started to fall into the bay, we skedaddled home to wait out the snow.

And good thing, too. We were iced in for a whole day. I didn't even go into church.

And now, it's sunny and cold. We have friends coming for dinner. Christmas eve is just over a week away. My husband and I, as of 3:07 PST are both still employed. The dog can still kind of walk. A good barley soup is simmering in the crock pot. My new glasses let me actually see.

And wow, life is so good. So good.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I've got nothing interesting to say...

...but she does. Great new blog called Chalicelight Hearthfire.

Don't miss the post called "Martha Stewart and Porn".

Saturday, December 6, 2008

....and another ending

My dear deranged husband had to show our kids THIS alternate ending to "It's a Wonderful Life". Yeah. Shakin' my head.

It's a Wonderful Saturday

We Unitarian Universalists don't have too many hard core holiday traditions. I am a woman in love with tradition, and ritual and sacred stuff. So, in my family we've made our own sacred rituals around the holidays. We do the same things the same way every year.

Some things I didn't intentionally do to create a ritual, it just kind of happened that we visited the Santa at the Mall of America a couple of years in a row.....and then, well that was the only place we could possibly go in the minds of my children! That was where Santa was, duh mom! Those other guys in red and beards were just "helpers". Good thing we moved just as the kids were all old enough to skip the santa bit, that would be one heck of a commute from Seattle to Bloomington, Minnesota just to see santa.

Today is our annual "decorate the tree" day. When we lived in Minnesota we'd have to get the tree a few days ahead, incase it had to defrost. No, I'm not kidding. I have video of a year when we didn't get the tree early--Peter's about four and aiming a blow dryer at a big hunk of ice on the side of the tree.

That's one we should put on youtube.

Once the tree is up and in good condition we put on "It's a Wonderful Life" and eat pizza and trim it. Now we're all pretty close to the same height, so no one gets relegated to the low branches, but Michael does have to do the tall ones--he's the tallest of us. The movie distracts us some, we all stop to watch the part where George is sliding down the hill and lands in the water. We all laugh at Mary not liking coconut. And every year I continue to feel inadequate as a mother because Mary has another couple of babies but still finds time to run the USO. Damn her.

We all feel bad for poor Clarence.

And as the ornaments go on the tree we remember the vacation we were on when we got the birch bark canoe, and the grandmother who made that toy soldier, and the year this baby was born and that baby and the third baby. We remember our first Christmas as a couple and how we both had to work on Christmas Eve.

It's funny, being a real, solid and established family. Us? Really? No way. But my God, I love it.

And every year I cry, and remember that it really is a wonderful life.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Youth Ministries and a nap

Today I got an email message with a link to the "Innagural Edition of the Youth Ministries Updates" online newsletter. It states a plan to publish this "Youth Ministries Updates" newsletter once a month during the interim year between the old YRUU and whatever comes next.

Well, good. I'm feeling like this youth ministry is the hardest part of my job. Yes, more difficult than recruiting volunteers, more difficult than getting preschoolers to meditate. More difficult even, than having a simple, snappy and successful Solstice Play. So, I clicked the link hoping for some inspiration and information that will help me puzzle this youth ministry out a bit.

The newsletter has a quite a bit of information about what's happening in the youth offices at the UUA; seeking an intern, the photo contest, new faces. All good things.

And it has an update about the Youth Ministry Working Group and when they met and when they'll meet agian, about new members on the team. Good, too.

Then, there's the scariest thing I've read in a long, long time. It was the Youth and Young Adult Empowerment Resolution, passed by our assembled delegates at General Assembly last summer. It urges the Unitarian Universalist Association, its congregations and district structures to:

• invite ministerial support to youth and young adults through
inclusive worship and intentional presence;

• invest financial support in youth and young adult leadership
bodies and programs when viable;

• provide support for youth and young adult staff and
volunteers to receive suitable training and resources,
including self-directed anti-racism and anti-oppression
trainings; and

• attend to the needs of youth and young adult constituents
with marginalized identities by providing resources and
opportunities within the congregation and at the district and
Association levels.

See? Doesn't that just make you want to stretch yourself right out on the couch and take a nap? Well, maybe it's just me. It feels so big. It feels like these four things could be all that I do for the whole rest of the year, and I still would only be scraping at a mountain with a nail file.

I don't know, maybe it's different in a "just barely" mid sized congregation. Maybe it's different in a church with no building. Maybe it's that I care so much about our youth and their lives that I want to lasso the moon for each and every one of them and anything else seems like it falls short.

Or maybe I just need some coffee.

Do larger congregations have an easier time implementing these four things? Do tiny ones? Does everyeone else?

Are all other congregations on this? Does everyone have working groups and task forces and committees creating grand plans and finding ways to pay for all the things we've been charged to do? What else is it that we can do?

And still find time to recruit volunteers and teach preschoolers to meditate. (Three breaths in and out listening carefully and try to close your eyes.....see? It's not so hard, really)

I hope the next newsletter has some stories from congregations of all sizes and situations who are working through the things the kind and dedicated delegates urged us to do. And really, from all situations. Please don't tell me again to let the youth paint their youth room anyway they wish. It's also the board room and a class room and the lunch room and sometimes a storage closet. I want real stories from real churches. I want inspiration, and I really, really need hope.

For now, I'm going to continue to work hard to find money to fund things that are needed, I'll keep planning real, concrete multigenerational programming. I will go to the center for homeless youth every second Tuesday with the remnants of our youth group and I will make food, and mop floors and support the youth's commitment to service. I will try to help them as they visit other local youth groups with more than three core members so that they may have a real and valuable youth group experience.

But, I'd love some help, here. I'd love to figure out what else to do.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Winning NaNoWriMo, or not

Nope, I didn't win NaNoWriMo this year, but it's OK. All month I felt like I was missing something, like everyone else was writing a novel and here I was, poor me, over in the corner writing a collection of essays about family. Poor me.

But it's a nice little book. Writing 50,000 words of it would bore anyone! But I've got a tidy little thing that makes me happy. So, it's good.

I think next November I get to write a novel again, it's too fun to miss out on again.


I could write at a time OTHER than November. Shocking.

Hope all the other Nano folks finished up in a bang, or at least with a tidy thing that makes you happy. My writing buddy rocked on and finished her novel early yesterday. Not even at 11:55. Wow. Amazing.

On to a happy and spiritually uplifting December.