Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I had a fantastic weekend visioning retreat!

We had to start out just a little off track by listening to the debate on a scratcy mountain radio station and arriving a few at a time in a slow stream in the darkness. I only lasted about a half an hour of sitting and listening before I had to get up and DO something. I readied our space for the worship and workshop. Soon my friends were preparing dinner, too. We were moving in silence so we could still hear through the static of the old cabin radio.

But what a great group! Appetizer dinner! Shared cleaning (LOVE that!). Singing through the hymnal as we waited for the folks who had later responsiblities back home. And then a great opening worship where we left our worries in a stone and stashed them all in a basket away from us. Then we did a good check in, then off to bed. One of us has continually expressed trepidation that we're not "having a Kum Bah Ya" moment. So, we did upbeat and fun three-part songs. I love a group that can hear "breeeaaaathe-in" and they're right there with you for "breeeaaaathe-out" peeling off into the other parts without a bit of help.

Morning was more worship, more three part songs. The theme of the three workshops on Saturday were "Where Do We Come From" (tell your story of what RE was like when you got to this church) "What Are We?" (How do things feel, look move--right now?) and "Where Are We Going?" (BIG dreams!) so we sang that, and after our first workshop we hiked to a little waterfall. It wasn't far but our stalwart nearly two-year-old hiked almost the whole thing herself! So it was a full and restful break, just what we needed.

I feel blessed to work with this group of women. They are whip smart, deep feeling, with hearts the size of oceans and commitment stronger that a million spider threads braided by threes.

And the Saturday night worship planned by two of the council members? Oh yeah, turn to hymn number 401. Guess what it is. There was much laughing as we sang out "Someone's laughing lord......"

Friday, September 26, 2008

Grateful to Be

What a fantastic thing, being a Unitarian Universalist here in the Pacific Northwest! It's a church weekend; I'm off to a Religious Education Council retreat on Lake Wenatchee.
And my two younger boys and about one hundred of their age mates are going to Vashon Island for a Middle School Con.
The weather is supposed to be Pacific Northwest at it's best; a little chill at night, warm and sunny during the day with the tips of the leaves just beginning to show color.


My weekend is planned to envision just what we do next with our children and youth. In the three years I've been the Religious Educator for this church we've grown and stretched and morphed. In 2005 we had 23 kids. The count last spring was nearly 70. When the leaves fall, I'm thinking we'll be at 80. We still don't have a building and it looks like we never will, or at least not for years and years.

So, what do we do? This weekend I'm bringing four workshops using Appreciative Inquiry to deeply explore how we move ahead. But I really, really want to move to a ministry to and with families. I want to be there to transform our minstry and support parents and guardians, to make famliy really come first, to serve the greater life-changing bonds that are so important to our children and youth. I'll try to sit on my wishes and let the REC wish their own wishes.

Leaving the church with no RE Leadership on week three of the church year? Yeah, not my favorite thing, but the minister I serve with knows as much as I do about our programs, she's amazing. A past RE Chair is roving watching for needs or wandering kids, the teachers are experienced and know how to run great Sundays. The guest minister was our student minister long ago and will tell a great story, so there! They don't even need me. Which is just as it should be.

My weekend isn't just work, I've also planned two little interactive worship services with spaces for folks from the REC to plan two more. There are hike and hot tub slots. What I learned from Helen Bishop at RE Leadership school is that some of the best work happens over dinner and on the walks and while the dishes are being done. So if we toss some workshops, oh well.

My boys? Well their weekend includes a challenge course, a talent no talent show, dying hair (but if you've watched the rick-rolling video I posted earlier, you know that my youngest already HAS bright red hair) and so much great UU young teen bonding that they always come home buzzing with joy and radiating love and peace.

So, when we're all back together on Sunday evening, and the wrecked up car has a new hood, I have a hunch I'll be just so deeply grateful for my faith, and my church, and my community and my family. But then I guess I already am.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

When the thing you fear most happens.....

OK, see. I was right. My 16-year-old son got in a car accident yesterday. I'm locking him in his room never to see the light of day again. I mean, OK, everyone is alright, the car is banged up, the other girl went to the Dr but seems OK. But seriously, he's done ever leaving the house again.

Who thought this mindful parenting thing was a good idea?

He is a good kid though. And probably deserves a moment of two of imperfection in his life. I'll think about it later. Maybe. I guess he did figure out how to take the bus to the Community College today. So he may be allowed out. For meals. Eventually.

That's the problem with all of us UU parents. Damn compassion and reason. Grr.

Letterman rants!

This is so good!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You believe in WHAT?

One of my dearest friends just heard this:

"Oh my gosh, I think my teacher might believe in the big bang!".

Nope, it wasn't her son. It was the new neighbor's 10-year-old daughter. They're trying to be friends, the moms are, but this could really be a deal breaker.

"Oh no! Honey, your teacher believes in the big bang? What are we going to do?"

Of course it was my friend's son who had brought up the Large Holdron Collider to his class and that is what started all the commotion. And it brought on the minivan theology conversation.

So what to do? Do you out yourself as a religious liberal to someone who will find that an unforgivable sin?

Do you tell a friend, an acquaintance really, that you too believe in the big bang, even if you do call it "the great radiance"? Do you say;

"Hey, yeah, me? Um....I'm one of those liberals".

For me it's usually the "Prayerfully Pro-Choice" bumper sticker on my guitar case. Or the multi-faith symbols on my car that give me away. The chalice I wear just makes them squint a little, you know, with their head tilted to the side and lips pursed.

I am deeply immersed in the homeschooling community. There are a lot of very conservative folks here. And it's kind of funny to track the emergence of our friendships. Sometimes I can almost hear their conversations behind my back "how can she be so nice and be you know, one of those heathens?"

Well, from my side, too, I find myself surprised when a person who "believes" much differently than I is so intelligent, and accepting, and kind. Ouch, you mean, I have preconceived and often incorrect assumptions, too?

So, yes. Tell the minivan woman that you don't see things her way. Tell her with humor and pride in your theology. Tell her and be open to finding good ways to learn more about her faith and let her learn more about yours.

And you know, maybe this is how we'll move forward here in our deeply divided nation. Talking, laughing, sharing our stories in our minivans over the heads of our kids.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Three days

So in the last three days I bought "cheater" glasses so I can see when I read, went to a washed-up-band-who-I-love concert (r0ck on Counting Crooooooooows!) my 16-year-old went off to the community college and somehow, the world has just shifted.

I remember his first day of preschool, and his first day of Kindergarten and his first day of High School. They all had this dark chocolate bitterness.

Book Two; the next phase. "My life from here."

It's all good, but sometimes that just feels so bad. So hard, really that's what it is. So very difficult.

Worth it all, worth every second, every bit of it. The calling of the mother. But oh, so much.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A **Funny** Break

Watch til the end....

Violins in the Dark

Oh that Ms. Kitty, she's nailed it. Her post today sings out to my heart like a haunting violin played by an old Roma man, in the middle of the night, in the dark forests of Romania! How do we set limits in our work in our beloved congregations? There is so much to do, so much to be, so much to notice. So much.

I told my beloved and magical minister colleague that if I'd worked my hours this week, I'd have been done Tuesday night. But there are dear families who need some time and attention that I truly want be available for, and classes to launch, and beloved children who deserve fantastic programming, and totally unexpected changes for class compositions that need to be addressed.

And how can I stop?

But how can I give the whole of my life? Doesn't my family deserve at least a little of that level of attention? And don't I need to clean my house at least sometimes??

I told my precious sisters and brothers at our LREDA cluster lunch this week. that my motto this year is "Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others."

But, of course, it's September. There is no busier time for us. And this beloved work is good work. A little 18 month-old just had to come into a meeting happening at her house this week and say "hello" to me, because she's known me since she was born. That's good stuff. And it's worth it.

And my fantastic congregation did give me all of July off, and understands comp time.

It's good work, and time so very well spent.

Yep, keep on keepin' on. And try for balance. And see if that old man playing the violin knows a waltz. Or a polka. Now, that would be nice!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Youth Ministry Working Group....and hope.

So the additions to the Youth Ministry Working Group were announced today. Six more youth and two youth advisors have been added to the team who have been charged with a imagining a new framework for UU youth ministry.

I'm glad. I mean, I think that these are the primary stake holders involved in the change. We're all stake holders because youth ministry is vital to healthy congregations and a healthy denomination. And of course youth and youth advisors probably know what needs to happen with an intimacy that the rest of us just don't have.

I'm hopeful. But also, I'm glad it's not me on that working group. I mean, I've been a DRE trying to rebuild a youth group or really to build a youth group in a small congregation. I've been a youth group advisor because no one else would do it. And I loved it, I really loved it don't get me wrong. Teenaged UUs are even more amazing than adult UUs. I don't regret one second of the time I put in.

But what exactly can the UUA do to support us on a congregational level? Can they drive the carpool that picks up all the youth and drops them off again? Can they buy their favorite Good Earth Tea, and fruit leather and the big packs of fun candy and the pub mix with the little rye crackers? Can they stay up all night at the sleepovers? Can they haul a van full of taco makings for the homeless teen feed that the youth committed to?

That's what it took for me to build a youth group. Time, tears, long-long phone calls from parents when things were hard. Long phone calls from teens in trouble. It took a person committed to them, and willing to take the weeks when no one showed up and the half hour drive was to then clean the office instead of run youth group. But I'm not sure how anything the UUA can offer us will support that.

I know that ministry to and with youth is more than the youth group. And I've worked for the past six months to ready the board and the rest of leadership at the church I serve to welcome the youth into the full life of the congregation. I'm hoping for youth lay leaders, and youth membership committee members, and youth running social action and youth doing everything they're interested in. But it takes heroic amounts of time and commitment to even begin to have that become a reality. How can the UUA help with that? Education on a national level, yep, that would help, but just a little, I think.

Maybe they'll find a magic wand, or an elf that comes in and makes it all lovely and integrated and good, solid, congregationally based ministry to and with youth. I hope so!

So, I'll promise to support what they come up with and to work hard to make it happen and make the most of it. And I'll send my son off to Boston in a couple of weeks, because he's one of those additional youth named to that YMWG, and I know he's got a good sense of what it will take, and I'm sure he'll explain it to me, and maybe he'll explain it to all of us out here. I'm wildly proud of him, and I really, really hope that they come up with something amazing.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The little song I wrote.

It’s Sunday morning and I wanna stay in bed.
Drink some coffee, make some eggs and read the paper instead.
I don’t wanna go to church, just for today.
There’s probably not much happening, anyway.
Well, there was a story for all ages about Francis David.
And a fundraiser soup lunch that the kids mostly did.
There was a Sunday school lesson all about death.
And those talks between kids that really take away your breath.

The truth of it is that we’ve got to be here.
Our church to us all is so very, very dear.
In our busy, busy lives, it’s easy to forget.
Our religion isn’t taught, it’s caught.
We’ve gotta show up, show up, show up.

Your three year old thinks that rainboots go with pinafores.
Your teenager says “Oh mom, I’ve been there before.”
Your eight year old has a new video game to play.
There’s probably not much happening anyway.
The children’s worship was about worth and dignity:
How important it is for us all just to be.
The service project was making meals for homeless teens.
Something good happens, everyday.


Family life today, well it goes at double speed.
Soccer, homework music lessons all good things indeed.
But a family needs a hand.
And our helping hands are here.
Come on home on Sunday.
Because our religion isn’t taught, it’s caught.

It’s Sunday morning and I wanna stay in bed.
Drink some coffee, make some eggs and read the paper instead.
I don’t want to go to church.
Hey, what’s happening today?
I guess I’ll go, anyway.
Come on home, on Sunday.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Note to self: Don't forget to go to church

I had a dream last night that I forgot to go to church on Homecoming Sunday. I was lounging at a hot tub with some friends and I got a call from the youth advisor asking me where I was and did I intend to come to church?

Oh it still makes my heart beat fast!

This has been a busy week full of meetings, copies, curriculum prep which included taping spoons to very long dowels (I love Katie Tweedie Covey's way of doing RE, she makes it easy to keep any active child engaged in class, and she wrote the new "Toolbox of Faith" for the Tapestry!) and my oldest even painted a huge labyrinth on a paint tarp for the K-2 class.

So, now my husband is back from Italy, and I think the song I wrote for opening Sunday is ready--my guitar playing may almost be good enough. It's a ditty, not a song, but still, I don't think I'll make a total fool of myself. And everything in all our cubby hole classrooms has been scrubbed and mopped and organized and I spent a pile of church money to have the supplies our kids need.

And the teachers are in place and all excited to start the year.

Now, if I can just remember to GO to church in the morning.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

So, Mom, what's for dinner......

I have to admit to owing a big thank you to Anna Banana over at "Mom, What's for Dinner". Tonight I made my boys dinner. I read her blog every time there's a new post, and she's had this part on the blog about how lucky we are to be able to cook for our families and I always thought it kind of meant how good it is to have enough and the means to have food, and the time and the presence to make dinner mindfully and intentionally.

So, the boys and I went to a "Phantom of the Opera" matinee--well, all except the middle one who just can't miss school and really doesn't like musicals too much, unless they're really good. He would have liked the pyrotechnics and the cool stage craft here, but still, we got home tired and ready to just stay put. So I made what my boys call "Egg Pie". I'm sure it's a strata or fritatta or some nonsense like that, but it's eggs, and I fried up bacon and put in some cheese and made a good buttery pie crust and fried up the leftover baked potatoes, and we ate a little feast.

Don't think I would have done it without A.B. and her inspiration. Might have just gone over to Wendy's for the dollar meal bonanza. Or had BLTs. So, it's good. I'm glad I did.

But I have to admit that in the process I created a huge mess. Huge! And for a DRE, two days before the kick off of a new year in RE, well, let's just say it's not such a good plan.

So, I cleaned and the boys swept and then I mopped up the flour and detritus. And then I hole punched another thousand pages or so of curriculm (legally printed with permisssion) and answered two thousand emails and set out a days worth of mopping and printing and meeting notes and classroom set up to be taken into work tomorrow. And I wrote the Children and Youth bulletin. And practiced my song for Sunday. And talked to my husband in Rome who was not happy at all with his travel plans.

But the most important thing I did today, by far, was to make that pie crust and bake those eggs, and chop those onions and wash those grapes. After four nights away at church meetings I got to answer "Mom, What's for Dinner" with something I made, in love and gratitide, for my kids.

Thanks, Anna Banana!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

That job on the right that I'm not even going to mention at all

Yeah, what Ms. Kitty said. Exactly.

I've been wondering why I'm having such a horrible reaction to the vice presidential choice on that side over there on the right. I cannot believe that conservative women think it's OK to be that gone from a little itty baby and a pregnant teen. I'm shocked, really stunned. I've worked and raised babies at the same time. It's really, really hard, and not just on the mom.

But I think my reaction goes back a ways past that. I think I might be one of the canaries in the coal mine. I was raised in day care, OK, it was my mom's inner city day care that she took over from my grandmother. Together one or the other of them ran it for 30 years--ending in 1979. But it was no being home. I wonder if my extreme commitment to one or the other of my kids' parents being home with them is about that.

Not that my mom did a bad job, she was an early-adopter feminist. And what they were given was the male model of power. Instead of social security benefits for stay at home moms, they were told to be equal they had to go out into the work force. She did a great job and made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of low income kids. She took in blind kids and kids with cp and kids no one else took.

But I felt that my kids would be better served if one of the people who was in charge of raising them were there and in charge most of the time. And in fact, that's what happened. I went back to work when my oldest was six weeks old, but his dad took care of him, we swapped shifts. And when I worked full time swing shift with all three under 13, my amazing husband taught the kids to do dishes and laundry "engineer style" and they got to know the check out guy at the grocery store by name. Not that I think it's for everyone, but for me, there was no other way. No judgment on moms who chose a different path (well, unless running for an office you're totally unqualified for, then maybe a whole lot of judgment). But it's what was in my heart.

And now that I'm a professional religious educator with mountains of responsibilities, I still worry. But tonight the oldest made gravy and mashed potatoes to go with the roast in the crock pot. And the other night he made chicken teryaki and rice in the rice cooker, and gyoza with stir fried veggies. When I got home the rice maker was clean and put away.

I think it's OK.

But I still worry. And there is no way that anything on this planet or anywhere in any realm could make me leave my children and go do the kind of job that the person on the right who is trying for that one job is doing. Nope. My job is too important, you know, the one about rasing my sons. I'm not up for missing any big chunk of it thank you very much. I love it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Eyes to the Sky

School starts today, well classes started yesterday and the youngest had musical theatere class, and his brothers tagged along in the hope that we really do get to do Seussical Jr and they can rock some sets and props. But the big academic classes that run Tuesday and Thursday start today.

I love our school. It's like coming home after a long vacation. All the kids grew two feet and the babies started walking. And the moms and dads all look like a cool lake on a hot day...so good, refreshing and just what I need.

And a new family member joined us! A colleague, the youth programs coordinator for one of the really big churches in town is at our school with his kids. Oh, how nice to talk shop with someone I really like to hang out with.

But the best part of the day was the science unit we did in the morning. I decided we'd look at habitats and get to cells and little stuff going from the big to the small, so we went to the South King County Arboretum. OK, really it was just an excuse to get out and enjoy the holy high church of a September day in Western Washington.

The lake was still, the pines whispered, we ate bagels and Jarlsburg cheese and little fresh apples. The plants were amazing. And being together was, too.

For a week full of meetings every night, single parenting while the dad travels, the launch of classes, two teacher spots still to fill; I'm centered, feet fully on the ground and eyes to the sky. It's good.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Letting Gooooo......

Can you hear the groan in the words of that title? Ugh. Ghirgh. Grrruuumble.

We had the best youth group meeting tonight. There were the solid kids who from what I can decipher from ancient hieroglyphics of church records really have been here since birth. And the kids who have been here for three or five years. And there were the youth group advisers. And (cue the angel chorus) there were THREE new kids who look to be solidly connected and coming back for the sleepover and the homeless teen center feed and the camping trip.

But I was tucked away in the office. I introduced myself, and handed out the registration forms and opened the window and turned on the fan and passed around candy. But that was all. Oh, it's good. It's healthy. I have a son of my own in youth group, and I'm the DRE. I need to be three steps back and administrating.

But, just maybe, I'd give all that up to hear the check in, and how school is going, and what's up with that thing that happened this summer? I loved being the defacto youth group leader last year. I got more out of it than any of the teenagers. Talk about God and theology? No place better than with a bunch of wildly brilliant and opionated teens. Ethics? Oh yeah, bring it on, they have no preconceptions. Politics? Get out of the way, they'll leave you in the dust every time.

It's good. Letting go. It rips your skin off like superglue on your fingers, but it's good. New skin will grow and who needs fingerprints anyway?

OK, OK, it's good. Really, it's good. I'll just keep telling myself that.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Not Back to School

Happy Not Back To School Day!

It feels like our first unschooling in years! I am full of warm happy memories of the year we first stepped back from public school and just took a year away. That year instead of going back to school we took a family trip. A lovely trip around the Olympic Peninsula to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to the Hoh Rainforest and to Ocean Shores, the kitchiest of little coast towns.

This weekend we went back to Ocean Shores to fly kites and drive mopeds on the beach (I know, but the men in the family were just so happy!).

And today we drove past little gatherings of girls in ponytails and pink capris, boys in spiked hair and wheeley shoes all waiting with moms and dads and grandmas for the bus. And we drove on by with our day. Drop the car off for work, stop by our "homeschool" school to move tables and set up chairs for orientation, home for left over tacos for lunch, a run to the community college to buy the oldest a parking permit, pick up the car, come home. Work, read, cook.

The days will come soon when classes will start, and homework is in full swing. But the oldest is back out of regular high school with its six hours of classes a day and into community college for the end of high school, and the youngest is old enough to be in middle school classes at the HOME school, which means we have Monday and Friday off from class. We can go to museums and the beach and the science center and we can be together. Maybe they won't want to be with me now that they're so old. Or maybe it will be like today when the oldest drove during errands, and I did equivalent fractions with the youngest in the back seat, and it was so good.

It's almost like just raw homeschooling again.

And it makes me feel so full.