Monday, June 30, 2008

Home from GA!

Seattle is a long way from Ft Lauderdale. Like one corner of the country all the way to the other. I was ready to come home. Ready to see my kids that aren't here. Ready to see my husband. And just ready to rest a little. Flights were easy and open and except for accidentally LOCKING my phone it was uneventful.

Do you have any idea how dependent I am on that phone?! I could answer it but it just mocked me by asking for my password to unlock it to be able to dial out. There I was in Memphis, phone -less with no internet accessibility. I pictured my husband getting frustrated that I didn't call him. And I don't think pay phones even exist any more. And I sure don't have a phone card or anything any more. Password? What password! It wasn't my voice mail password. No combination of four of the same numbers. NOTHING! Well, an hour later I tried the last four digits of the phone's number. And yeah, that's it. Funny. Guess I'm really not a Luddite any more. Nope.

And at the end of many hours of flying, and a nice long nap from Memphis to Seattle, I was home. My dog was ecstatic. My husband relieved to have another set of hands and my kids could let their shoulders relax a bit. Mom's home.

It was so nice to have my food around me again! Going to UU things is easier than other events, there were vegetarian options all around, but hey. My tofu! And my fake sausage! Yeay.

I passed out the few little things I brought home, shared my finds from the exhibit hall. Handed over the fair trade chocolate that I'm required to bring home from GA every year and put my new bumper stickers on my guitar case.

Hey, it's good to be back home again.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


So, take a full length mirror, a liberty hat, an American Flag and a big chain and what do you get? The most riveting religious service I've yet to experience, ever.



Go watch it.

The Sunday morning worship at GA is always a moment of profound joy for me. Being in that hall with thousands of fellow UUs joined in one congregation every year, the "First Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater GA" brings hot stinging tears to my eyes. Tears of joy, yes, but also tears of loss in what we miss every week when we trudge along in our small congregations, sometimes pulling out the sling shot to take aim at each other.

And then, this year, when Rev. Marlin Lavanhar opened the sermon by telling us that two years ago his three year old daughter died unexpectedly in his arms well, my whole contingent was instantly in tears. It was me and my good friend Melinda from Seattle and my dear family/friend Suz and Cory who I know from St. Louis and Oregon and our work in this RE world--we were all kind of a patched together community this sacred and wonderful morning.

And we were all thrown right down to the ground with that statement about a small one being lost. And the story marched on about how the next day Rev. Dr. Bill Sinkford was on his knees, with Rev. Lavanhar, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk with the big brother of the small one.

So really, no matter who we are, what we do; if we need each other, no worry, we'll be there for each other. I'm not even sure how this came up, but at one point he asked us to turn to each other and say something about how someday, you, seated next to me, might save my life.

Well, I had to tell Suz that of course, she already had saved my life with her powerful and endless love and care. Even when she didn't always agree with my choices, she would and DID fly across the country to be there when I really, completely down to my toes needed her.

And you know what? So would my RE colleagues, and my church family. And hey, even maybe Rev. Dr. Bill. That's what this is. It's a huge movement to fix the world and change the way we live, but it's also you and me and us just taking care of each other one day and then the next and then after that, the next. And really, hey, what could possibly be more important?

Nothing. Not a thing at all.

Blessings to you all. Everyone.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

GA, Ware Day!

The Ware lecture is always good. In St. Louis it was poet Mary Oliver. In Ft Worth it was Elaine Pagels, my seat mate on the flight on my way out here told me she would no longer speak to me since I’d actually seen Elaine Pagels speak in person! We’ve had Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and Marion Wright Edelman for the Ware lecture. This is a big deal.

2008, I think, was even more prophetic.

We got kinda excited in the hall. There we were, some thousands of UUs being told, “watch out, get ready, something is gonna happen that you are probably not ready for”


“You’ve been fighting this good fight and you know what? You’re about to win!”

Van Jones thinks that we have to get ready, that in fact the future of our planet depends on us. We UUs simply must get ready to lead. To govern. To guide the coming of the new way of being in the world.

He’s got this phenomenally just and right idea about social justice and greening of the planet and how they are related.

The danger is, he says “Stagflation” which happens when energy prices rise, and everything else has to kind of fall, then energy rises, jobs go, everything gets more expensive—a nasty cycle. And in the scariest moment of the night he points out that the last time the Democrats and the house, senate and presidency and stagflation, was when Jimmy Carter was our president. An amazing man, but a horribly failed presidency.

Ahh! Now he’s got my attention, not that he didn’t from moment one with his big double wave as he came out, his jumping at the podium. This man has presence. And, he knows his audience. As he’s telling us we have to give up the David-role because Goliath is about to fall and we need to take up the Noah role of gathering the things on the planet to save he refers to us as Mr. and Mrs. Noah, or Mr. and Mr. Noah or Ms and Ms Noah.

The man has done his homework.

And he’s amazing. Put people to work by having a whole industry that weather proofs the country. Jobs, industry and saved energy. Put people to work creating wind farms and wave farms and turning Detroit into the hotbed of industry for solar panel creation. Intervene in the lives of troubled folks with training and education to keep them out of institutions of incarceration. Just do it.

Then when the lecture was over, during a huge long standing ovation he went down to the total love and adoration of the youth caucus. We could see him on the jumbo-tron totally firing them up. And you know, when our youth get fired up things happen. Like the Unitarians and the Universalists actually merge. And wild amazing things like that.

So here we go. Step up. Something big is right around the corner. Are you ready!?

UUA GA, Another Day!

The best thing about GA, well the best thing about anything really, is the people. I've just been giddy this whole week because my friend Suzanne is here with me most of the time! And then, her kind and generous and non-UU husband was kind and generous and brought their daughters down for dinner so I could SEE them!

You have to stop sometimes and actually eat real food with utensils that are not plastic and a plate that is not paper during GA. And you have to sit down. Otherwise I think you might just collapse after a few days.

So we went to a nice Irish Pub and had food the girls didn't like, but they were kind enough to humor me and talk to me and tell me about school and girlscouts and getting ears pierced by a bearded lady in Cape Cod (NO lie!).

Then we went for icecream and were joined by Michael. While it's been about three years since we've all been together, before that we used to come visit all the time, when we were homeschooling and had flight benefits and it was winter in Minnesota, where we lived. So Michael knows them like cousins--except, that in his mind and (and the rest of my family), the girls are frozen in time. Actually frozen at about 2 and 5. When I mention the little one going to school I get this: "Mom, what do you mean? She's two! I hate it when you lie to me like that!" Tongue firmly in cheek of course. So, Michael got to see with his own eyes, yep, they're 7 and 10. Not tiny any more.

What a nice little piece of heaven, a few hours with friends that are really family AND the kids, too!

GA, A fun day!

So, I am an erstwhile member of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, which means, I have yet to pledge, but will, I really promise, very, very soon.

When I took my job as a Religious Educator, I knew that I would lose my church. There’s no way around it, even when you come to this work from inside the congregation, maybe especially so. The minute that you get that first paycheck, it’s over. The minister is my boss and colleague, and though deeply beloved and treasured and revered, there’s no way that she can any longer be my minister.

And the view I take of what happens in my church must be viewed first through the lens of professional leadership, and not through that personal lens which is—OF COURSE—personal! And my lens can sometimes get a little foggy with the intensity with which I feel things about my church, so be glad I have this view!

This year when I finally insisted in my own head that I would go ahead and DO it, and resign my membership at my church (though continue financial support since my kids are here), I decided my church has to really be the Church of the Larger Fellowship. I can be in a covenant group, chat with fellow members, take courses—everything, just without the walls! Perfect for me, right? Sure. Yes, I guess that’s why I’m joining. Sure. That’s it.

OK, really the truth might be that I’m not sure I can continue to show up at the CLF Worship service every year at GA and NOT be a member. I mean, come on. We rock out on many worship services here at GA—great music, fantastic sermons, uplifting, complete, fantastic, services. But there is not one whole package that is as good as the CLF worship. Nope. This is the best worship that happens here, probably the best one that happens ALL YEAR!

And. Get this. This year some of the music and one of the homilies were by Meg Barnhouse. Heeeeaaaaven!

Jane Rzepka (, CLF minister is phenomenal too. She and Meg traded readings, and then offered comments. So Meg read a reading of Jane’s and then made comments, which is to say brought home just how things happen in our congregations. The reading was about how one brave snow monkey tried going in the steaming hot spring first also described as “which person proposes covenant groups, or welcoming congregation, or NO FOOD AT COFFE HOUR” or some other sacrilege which we all eventually come to think is the coziest hot spring ever, after some, you know, some monkey-ing around.

Meg’s reading was about a hot day at a summer fair. And Jane, oh that Jane is so funny. She opens her comments with “Have any of you ever been someplace where it’s HOT?” GEE! Hmmm….Yeah! We all laughed. And we’d all been someplace with too many wonderful things to do, and too many people all jostling to get someplace. It was a great to think about how we all bring our best self, even when it’s hot, and busy and just way too much for any strapping young 25-year-old marathoner, much less we humble mortals. Just like this GA.

And Kiya Heartwood ( and Meg, who somehow don’t think that they are a singing group but they both accompany each other on, from what I can figure anyway, every song, were fantastic. Maybe Kiya’s “Wishing Chair” partner has her own non compete clause. I was sitting behind the contingent of Church of the YOUNGER Fellowship young adults who have now all fallen completely in love with Meg and Kiya. They have these beautiful harmonies and descants and echoes. And Kiya is such a musician, I could see that there was one string on her guitar with a mind of it’s own, out of tune, and she—man I wish I could do this, she just played AROUND it. Beautiful music.

I enjoyed all the music. The sung responses were fantastic. The hymns just rolled through that room, and we just rolled on with them. The Mary Oliver reading brought tears to my eyes, and the personal testimony of Denny Davidoff, outgoing chair was a charge to the future. All just amazing.

I am sure proud of my own little fellowship! Maybe, next year, I’ll see you there!

UUA GA, Day....four?

This afternoon I think I proved why I cannot ever in a million years live in a hot state. Besides the fact that I have less melanin than anyone else on the planet, the heat makes me just goofy. This afternoon I thought I knew just where I was going....headed over to the hotel across the way, but when I got there it was clearly some club for people with some kind of money I don't have! So I figured it was just me and my map reading challenge again, so I turned around and headed back to where maybe this place really was. I must have looked befuddled because now a nice minister asked what I was looking for.

Yep, the hotel JUST BEHIND where I'd just come from. Well, now I was too hot to go back there, and one of the nice youth from youth caucus called to me. So we went into Walgreens--her for a purse, me for batteries for my camera. I don't think it likes the heat either.

After we killed more time in there and she told me about her plans for summer, and some of the issues that linger from the polio she had as a kid, we headed back out into the sauna-day.

Walking along I ran into Bélu Jakabházi, this year's Balázs Scholar from Starr King School for the Ministry. We had a great time when he came to Seattle--I've never seen someone so relaxed and comfortable with a pile of squirmy awkward youth before. He even re drew the lines of Romania and Hungary in my encyclopedia. We had a nice, but SHORT talk about how overwhelming GA is. He's a great guy. By now I was over the top hot and so tired, but I figured I had to try again.

I found the hotel and the room I THOUGHT my meeting was in, and they were cleaning up, breaking down tables. Done.

Now, OK, in hindsight, the meeting was probably just moved, changed to a different place, switched up. I even had cell phone numbers I could have called to ask. But geez! I was so hot and so fried I decided I was just done.

I went back to the convention center, waited for a shuttle and OK, maybe it's really irresponsible, but I spent an hour in the pool and by the pool reading.


Now I'm ready to go back, get more GA soaked into my bones, and fire up the furnace of learning. Wait. The furnace is all set with this amazing heat.

The fire of commitment sometimes needs a break in the pool!

Saturday, GA!

UUA GA.....Which Day?!

It's another beautiful and hot day here in southern Florida. It's funny, and I hate to jinx us all and say it, but we've not had one thunderstorm while we've been here. OK wait while I go put my umbrella in my bag...but really, isn't this a subtropical region? Shouldn't we have thunderstorms like clockwork in the afternoon? Just like at the Rainforest Cafe? I guess the mile after mile of mini-mall parking lot and paved road and manicured lawn doesn't cook things up like the gator swamps used to. Maybe I'd better go buy more carbon offsets.

I walked in early to catch the worship this morning. I almost stopped at the hotel to have a quick breakfast first, but then the lines were long and the tables full, so I thought, "oh, I'll just go in early and sit close for the worship" then walking along someone passed me walking really fast.
"Oh, I should be doing that and getting exercise" I thought, but I don't want to be totally sticky from 7:30 on, so I didn't walk fast and that person made a light that I didn't. But while I was waiting for my light, Michael appeared next to me saying "I did NOT just walk against that light on that busy street" (yes he did) and right behind him was Laura Park, the woman I know from when we were kids, from my home congregation, from my husband's sister, from my childhood! The woman who is here as a professional consultant working with Helen Bishop on the Appreciative Inquiry so the board can really know who we are, what we value. THAT Laura.

There was my holy spirit snatch.

We all talked a bit and then I got to sit with Laura for worship. We marveled that we both chose to be mostly stay at home moms for most of our children's growing up years and that we'd somehow become the church ladies. (Laura's work

And we talked about her work and my work and our families, big church and small church, teens and babies. And it was just lovely. In the middle of the service the thought came to my mind "our moms would love to see a picture of us here in the plenary hall together" so here it is mom and Kathy, a bit fuzzy, but proof!

Love those holy spirit snatches! I guess it's true. You gotta do when the spirit says "do"!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Famous Youth!

Michael introducing himself at plenary with Caitlin DuBois, his co FUNTIMES manager.

UUA GA---The BIG Youth Service, and BIG Ideas!

There is a big huge important tradition here at GA. It's the youth to young adult bridging. The ritual originated in the PNWD, I'm told, with people who are right here in my congregation now. It's a big deal, and this year was combined with a youth worship, and given a good time slot and clearly; a budget and staff support!

I got there late, because half way to the convention center I realized I'd left my name badge in the hotel. There is no entry to UUA GA stuff, except on Sunday, without one. It's been a big deal in the past--white people let in without theirs and people of color kept out. Older people let in without one and younger people denied. And we have the whole homeland security problems since this is in a US port and you must have a government issued photo id to get in, as well as the badge. What a big barrel of issues, there!

The service was nice, varied, interesting. Nick Allen is a fine young man with a passion for youth leadership and empowerment and talked about how we must support youth in each of our congregations and in the greater movement. Elandria Williams told her story of becoming a UU in 4th grade because she was totally uncomfortable with her church's idea that everyone (Hindu, Buddhist and presbyterian) was going to hell, and how this faith has been a home for her. The hymns were good, readings nice, the activity about Multi-Generational worship right on track with what I want.

But, there was one musician, I won't name him because I'm sure he's a very nice guy, but his message just didn't resonate with me. He was all about feeling the pain of the oppressed people, and he looked very pained. But it was uncomfortable for me as a white person. I just want people to sing about their own experience, and write about it, and speak from it. I didn't like him singing about his "brother" like we have any real idea what it's really like to be a person of color.

But the other professional group the service featured was mind blowing and phenomenal. They are called "The Good Asian Drivers", just two of them, and between the spoken word and the singing, it was fantastic. I'm thinking it's better for opening minds and hearts than a hundred workshops. Melissa Li's myspace here (Kit Yan, other member, has a little too much language and adult content for an RE Blog!)

And then, while Rev. Dr. Bill Sinkford was giving the "charge" to the bridging young adults; something kind of wiggled itself into place for me.

I think what we need to do in our congregtions is not be welcoming or tolerant or accepting. That is still an "us and them" way to be. "We" welcome "you". If you feel welcome you are still on the outside coming in. That's good, and I want that to be true, but I think what we need to be is Expecting Congregations.

"Come IN, we're expecting you!"

Michelle Richards, author of "Come into the Circle" talked about how when she visited a church for the first time and there were child sized hangars in the coat closet, she knew that this church expected children to be there. This church expected HER children to be there.

For that to happen in our congregations: we should have gender neutral restrooms because we expect people with gender identity transitions in process at church. We should have complete accessibility for wheelchairs and scooters as we expect people who use those to come to church. We should have no hymns or readings or things around us that really belong to a culture that is not ours that we have appropriated, because we expect people of all cultures to come to church. We should have DRUMM and DRUMM YaYA and LUUNA, APIC information out on our tables because we expect people of color and people of latino/a culture to come to church. And we should have child and youth and young adult friendly worship services because we expect people of all ALL ages to come to church. And small quiet TOYS for the service because we expect children. And of course we should have large print hymnals and bulletins because we expect elders and people with sight impairment to come to church.

Wouldn't you like to feel, when you walk into someplace new, like they're expecting you--"of COURSE you're welcome, we were waiting here, just for YOU!"

Forget welcoming congregations. I want to be an expecting congregation!

May it be SO!

UUA GA....up to day THREE!

This day is a holy day and I am glad to be here in it! And man is it hot outside!

The long grueling stretch of the GA race has begun, when you really have to get enough water, and you'd better find a vegetable or two to keep you going. And for me, if there is to be an afternoon session with any meaning, then there simply MUST be afternoon coffee!

So, with vegetables in mind as well as a huge teenage son who I barely see somewhere around the youth rooms at the convention center, I stopped at Publix (the local midline grocery store) for carrots for me and a loaf of french bread, some whipped butter and a bag of potato chips for him. Our family version of dinner at the beach is always bread and chips and either butter or cheese. I popped the carrots in my happy mouth one at a time thru the whole walk to the convention center. Aaaahhh, vegetables! And I snuck in to the wild energy-filled youth room just in time to give Michael the bag of food before he started his FUNTIMES session.

I didn't go to the morning Youth Empowerment vote in plenary, but they were sure all jazzed about it, and feeling very loved, supported and victorious.

Then I went to see Forrest Church speak. It wasn't anything specifically related to what I need to know or do in my work, but to me seeing him was an absolute must. I am a Unitarian Universalist and he is my history. In February, cancer that had been in remission came back en force, and he is looking deeply at the beginning of the end of his life. Here's his latest article in the UU World

And though I went to honor a man I am in awe of at the end of his life, the half hour long meditation-blessing-lecture was beautiful. The one sentence summary of his whole talk is this: The only thing we leave behind is the love we give away while we are alive. And if there were one more, it would be something about get up and do what you mean to do so that you don't die in regret. No one gets out of this thing alive!

He's right.

Then I headed for a methodical sweep of the exhibit hall. Up and down every aisle. No shopping, just searching. I don't want to miss anything. I had no idea that the Partner Church group has an RE component, and a new partnership-like program aimed at RE Classes. Very cool for us. And I got a template for an elevator speech on carbon offsets. There are three very cool bowls made in Gaza and I have to get one of them, and there is a booth with hundreds of items woven on a back strap loom by women in Guatemala. At least one of those has to come home with us for the altar in children's worship. And there are the booths for the two candidates for UUA President to be elected next year. Oh gosh, how to decide that one? At least we have a while.

Next was what I've been waiting for ALL week: Meg Barnhouse and Kiya Heartwood in concert. Ah! I was lucky enough to sit between my friend Melinda Brooks, DFM at Saltwater Church, a fantastic soprano and a woman from somewhere who knew the same alto harmonies I did. I left so uplifted and with some mind blowing ideas for worship from Kiya. AND the new cd, just out today. I'll loan it to you, or of course you can buy it at www.megbarnhouse.comMelinda, Meg and I above. Me Kiya and Melinda below.

So how do you possibly top that session??! There was nothing in the program guide with a "holy spirit snatch" like Anne Lamott calls it, nothing spoke to me. So I thought, when the sessions don't speak to you, let the speakers speak. I liked Rev. Victoria Safford's sermon so much last night, I thought I'd go a session she was a part of on writing for the UUA's Skinner HouseBooks and UUWorld and beyond. I don't think my little blog counts! But she had some great things to say about practice and discipline that I will take home and try on and see if it's a fit for me.

And then sweetness of all, Michael, my sixteen-year-old very busy son, went to dinner with me. We went to a little, far to expensive, Italian place and spent a lovely hour together. He was bubbling over with everything going on in youth caucus and with the youth. And he'd just come from an hour of research on Actions of Immediate Witness, and the presidential candidates in the exhibit hall. There's so much to know and so much to do, and he seems to be having an amazing week.

The holiness is cooking in the hot Florida sun, making us sweat out the old and take in the new! We are truly blessed!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

GA Day 2


Day two starts late, probably because the planning group really wants all the delegates to go to plenary! So the rest of us who didn't go to plenary, get to do some nice yoga, go buy candy for the youth and stroll through the exhibit hall and see just how many hundreds of dollars we'd like to spend on chalice art and beautiful things. Or maybe I'm the only one who hit Walgreens for candy for the youth, but I'm sure everyone kept busy.

The sessions I chose today couldn't have been better suited for me and the needs of our church and the purpose I have in being here.

First, I went to the Worship service of the Journey Toward Wholeness group. I had no idea that Jason Shelton would be there and be cranking out some amazing music with the JTW band. That was a huge plus, but what I did expect was a spirit filled look at the anti opression work that this group is doing, and that was superbly, and spiritually delivered.In a tiny moment trekking down a super long hallway I fell into step with Meg Barnhouse, after asking her if I could talk to her even tho she was famous (she laughed at me) I told her about our little service with her song "All Will Be Well" and about the five year old in our congregation who sings that chorus for his little sister. She was touched. Really. How cool is that?!

Then I went to a session on Creating Multi-Generational worship, and since that's a goal of ours for next year, it was a good fit. I did find out that in our congregation we are way ahead of the game in preparing for this, and are already doing a lot of very good things to make our more frequent Multi Gen services sucessful. And on a fluke, the minister who had served as interim at Minnesota Valley UUF, my home congregation, was sitting right behind me. It was really nice to finally meet him, and we got to talk for a few moments.

The afternoon was a double session in the Appreciative Inquiry work with the UUA Board of Trustees. I really wanted my voice to be heard directly to the board, and this was the place to do it. The work was lovely, and hardly felt like work. We broke into small groups with a board observerer watching and listening to almost everything we said and did. My group was comprised of a minister from New York, and deeply involved volunteer on the GA Planning group from California, and a member very involved in her local congregation from Florida and me; a DRE from Seattle. We had all the bases really covered, except that we were all white women, of course.

I knew this about myself, but through the work here I learned that my most closely held value of our churches is the community we create. In fact, for all of us in the working group that was our deepest held value which came out through stories and interviews. But the very wildest thing of ALL in this session was that the facilitator was Laura Park, now I read that in my program guide but I didn't realize that it would be the Laura Park I know, the one who had a little brother who had chicken pox in second grade when he sat next to me, and who knows my sister-in-law and her parents still go to church with my parents. Wild small world.

The service of the living tradition was fine. Traditional. And Victoria Safford's sermon was wonderful. Suz is still staying here with me, again. And best of all, after the service tonight we went to the OCEAN! And stuck our toes in! But it is turtle laying season so we didn't walk along, just stood in the wonder and hugeness that is the ocean. And we were grateful. Grateful to be together, grateful to be standing on our own legs, grateful to be at the edge of a great ocean and grateful to be here in this beautiful place with a whole multitude of people who through their own window, see the same light.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

First Day, GA...Yeay!

Day one at GA for the staff, ministers and religious educators is a "pre day". The ministers even get two pre days. We show up before the hotel staff knows what's going on, before the shuttles run and before all the volunteers are in place. It's good for us, keeps us on our toes, and offered me a chance at a nice long walk first thing in the morning. All good.

My favorite part about my professional day is always the connections I make, or renew. I got to see people I know who are from all over the country, who I know from leadership school in Colorado, GA in Ft Worth, St Louis or Portland, or Renaissance modules in Oregon and Washington. And the religious educators know how to do a power-packed-spirit-filled worship in a flash, and the hymns always have beautiful harmony. The programing beyond that was not spectacular for me, maybe because it was all about nature and worship and children "OK kids, let's go look at the weeds in the front garden!"'s not that bad, but the best part of the day--a session on mentoring--I had to leave to go to youth sponsor orientation. I figured youth staff sponsors shouldn't skip out on that one!

It was fantastic to see Michael in his role as youth staff. I remember GA in St Louis two years ago like it just happened; Rachel and Michael the only kids from our church, the youngest kids there and both pretty quiet. And here he was, doing skits, and leading a pack of youth from around the country. Opportunities are so open here in the UU world for leadership for-- anyone. We are lucky.

I love staffing our LREDA (my professional organization) booth in the big exhibit hall. I feel like a part of the big amoeba that is GA, and people talk to me who normally wouldn't; like the military man, and the family dragging their child around as he hung on dad's leg. Fun!

Our banner might have our old name, but it was still joyfully carried through the plenary hall for the banner parade. Michael was next to the UUA Youth Ministries banner. I'm taking pictures of banners that are really special, so we can have ideas about what we want for our future banner with our new name.

The opening worship introduced new music by Jason Shelton which follows our Six Sources. It was phenomenal, fantastic vocals, wide ranging styles, and I especially loved the story teller who wove a body prayer into the story and was backed by music that followed the story. The hall is huge and full of other UUs of all ages, colors, shapes, abilities and beliefs. I'm already filling up my tanks!

And best of all, one of my nearest and dearest friends lives here and came to stay with me! We've been friends forever and she's on the board of her UU church and had to come anyway, so why not make a girls' night of it? AND, I never would have known to go out for Cuban fast food without her here, but now I'm hooked. Beans and rice and plantains for me every time I can get 'em!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Follow Kari's Trip to GA

White Girl Goes to Florida

Last night began with a nice little bit of time in schmancy lounge my husband's job buys him a membership to; the World Club in the Seattle Airport.

After my red eye flight (in first class because there was room there) and my nice layover in Minneapolis with a friend, I flew into Miami. Flying stand-by you have to be super flexible. The flight to Fort Lauderdale was just packed with folks, and the flight to Miami had a little room, so I went to Miami. I know that there is a train that takes you right to Fort Lauderdale. I know that some people don't feel comfortable on the train, but hey, I've taken it with my kids even years ago when they were little, and it didn't bother me.

Today I got off my flight in Miami, grabbed a little lunch and headed for the bus that takes you to the Tri Rail station. It was hot, super hot and I waited with a bunch of other folks about 20 minutes in the heat for the bus. Then it was another 15 minutes for the train. No air conditioning, not even real shade. Just waiting in the heat.

Man, the train was dirty with windows smeared with grit and grime. Seemed like all the tourists went to the upper deck and the locals stayed on the lower. That felt creepy to me, so I stayed on the lower level. As we rocked and rolled down the track thru Miami you could see buildings with caved in roofs, flat roofed apartments with yards of dirt littered with old cars and old furniture. There were neighborhoods with three ramshackle churches and nothing else--kids riding their bikes down the middle of the street because there were no cars. There were no businesses, just shut up apartments that looked tired and sorry.

I felt my white privilege all over my face. And my class advantage dripped off me with the sweat.

As we went north the graffiti got neater and more creative. Things were tidy and painted, more businesses open, less warehouse for rent signs out. I could tell when we'd crossed over when there was a tall attractive wall between the train track and the life on the other side. Sure, there was still graffiti, but now it was 3-D lettering and whole landscape panels on the wall.

Then came golf courses and suburban looking neighborhoods with lots of nice cars waiting for the train gates to lift. It was like you'd crossed over from East to West Germany back when they were separated by barbed wire. There was no barbed wire here, I don't think you need it. Privilege flies you right over pretty much any fence anyone can build, and lack of privilege, well, doesn't take a fence to keep people down when no one knows where to look for the step that goes up.

After another bus and a taxi ride, I was finally at my hotel. I checked in and chatted with the desk attendant about how tired we both were. She was kind and walked me thru all the perks--managers reception with free cocktails (not for me, I'm a youth sponsor this year) free made to order breakfast, free high speed internet because we have "gold elite" status on our frequent hotel-stayer program. And when I opened the door to my suite I was blown away. I chose this place because it was one of the cheaper options, had a free breakfast and maybe I could eek out a free appetizer dinner from the nightly reception, and it would give me free internet because of the gold status. But the room blew me away. Our whole youth group could stay here. Hey, half our CHURCH could stay here!

But I can stay here because I know these things, I know to ask these things. I know to sign up for these things. And although in my early married years I painted apartments to pay rent and once even had a garage sale to pay rent, I now have the class and I've always had the color privilege that allows me to access all of this.

Wildest of all, as I sit here in extreme comfort, there was a knock on the door.... a gift for the gold member.

I hope this week helps me figure out what to do with all of this. Well, not the popcorn in the little goody bag. That I'm eatin'! But the other stuff, the other stuff.