Monday, December 28, 2009

Hanging out and spiritual practice

The new UUA president Peter Morales' article from last November has been making the rounds again. He's trying to inspire all people of faith to find their mission, to realize that we all have a ministry to follow, that we can identify what moves us and make it our mission.

Rev. Morales writes:

"I am convinced that we too often fail to recognize how much our children, youth, and young adults need to give. Hanging out is not a spiritual practice. Joining hands to work for something we care about is. Service is an essential part of faith development. We need to do so much more to engage the idealism and energy of our young people."

What moves me--what I am called to do is to work with our children and youth and helping them see the gifts they have right there in their own hearts. But I disagree with our Rev. Morales. I think that hanging out is a spiritual practice. What if we only had Service Sundays--the weeks like this past December 13th that saw tables of children and youth and adults creating gifts for folks who live in assisted living in our town--cutting greens and filling cloth bags for lovely sachets, wrapping lovely scented soaps and working hard to push hundreds of cloves into oranges to make clove oranges?

If we only had Service Sundays, what would we learn? That service is vital? That we can work hard together and live our belief that "service is our prayer?" that good works feel good to do? Yes, yes, yes. All true. But when would we learn about Jan Hus? How about Michael Servetus? Margret Fuller? Susan B. Anthony? Thoreau? Tim Berners-Lee? About where we come from? When would we discuss the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha and Confuscious? When would our children practice talking about faith? Between cutting greens? Maybe, but sometimes we need to be still and quiet or have a rocking discussion that might look like an argument from the outside.

And if we only had Service Sundays, when would we find time to relax and open up a little and really come to know each other? This past Sunday was a small attendance Sunday. It always is, it's the week after Christmas after all. We could have done a service project with the kids, or taken on a lesson or a worship. But I've learned from the years of doing this good work of ministry for children, youth and families that some of the very best Sundays are the ones that are very simple. This week we pulled out a few games; Chess, Mancala, Connect Four and Banana Split. We rolled out a rug, put on some good music (Jim Scott, a good old UU) and we played games. We hung out. It was deeply spiritual. I got to hear about the recent transition to homeschooling from one boy, about a little girl missing a family friend who is out of the country. I got to sit with a lap full of a boy I've known since before his little sister was even born, and now she can say three word sentences. We chatted, we laughed. We were quiet. We all had a wonderful time. We all went home smiling.

I think what Rev. Morales is missing is that there has to be a balance--we need more than just "education" and we need more than just "service", we need "hanging out" time together. Some of the best moments happen in the spaces in between. This is where we come together to synthesize the service we've done. This is where we come together to understand what it means to be a community. This is where we understand what it means to be Unitarian Universalists. We need all of these things in ministry for adults as well as ministry for children, youth and families.

There is no single path, there are many winding roads that lead us to our truth.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Top 10 True Things about Christmas 2009

10. Christmas in the Pacific Northwest isn't a white one this year...robins and sun.

9. No vegetarians shall get the turkey ready to go in the oven. But gee, smells fabulous!

8. Fighting for world domination is a good thing....if it's done with your brother.

7. Or brothers.

6. Little dogs can learn how to open their own Christmas presents.

5. Having older children means that no one will sound their trumpet at 2:30 AM and announce that it's Christmas and time to open presents. Thank-you-thank-you-thank-you!

4. Being far from family means that instead of juggling three Christmas celebrations, it's just us.....and usually involves a couple of movies.

3. And Christmas far from family means we have created our own traditions going to Seattle Center on Christmas Eve.

2. Little dogs like to stay out on warm sunny winter days, even if the house smells like bacon and turkey.

1. Nothing in the world is more important every single day of the year, but on Christmas we remember to tell each other......."I love you you crazy, wonderful family!" xoxo

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Still true now

Tonight at our service we sang "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" --all the verses. This Christmas Carol was written by Edmund Sears, a Unitarian minister, in 1849. This verse is still so true today. Still true.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

Who are the angels today? Who should we be listening to?

I think it's the children. Listen to the children. Stop fighting, play nice. get along. And pay attention to what other people want.

Downstairs in the middle of our service that's what our kids said. Kids have the option to leave for the contemplative part of the service. We went downstairs. I had movies set up, crafts don't work, cookie decorating a few years ago was a disaster. This year we tried a video option. Most of them wanted to watch "Arthur Christmas" but one little girl said "excuse me, excuse me".

She was a little girl we'd never seen before.


"I've never seen the other movie and I don't like Arthur."

"OK" I said, "What should we do, kids?" The older kids looked at each other and paused for just a moment.

"Peanuts, Peanuts, Peanuts" they chanted. Thirty some kids.

So we watched the old Charlie Brown Christmas special.

We should listen to the children, to the angels. Hush the noise, and hear the children.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

...and the three wise guys

I used to write a Christmas letter every year. Until my dear husband told me he'd rather we not, and then three minutes later, Jay Leno hosted these two on his show singing about year end letters....

Yeah, um. OK! Message received!

So, no letter. I was busy this season anyway. And still struggling with the lack of sunlight here in the northwest that leaves me sucked dry of any energy.

OK! Fine! No Christmas cards this year! Leave it. I even read on the Oprah website that skipping a year of cards was no problem, all was good.

But then my husband decided that he would take this on. He changed his name this year and probably should tell the folks on our list about it. So, he took a file on down to the local store, and had cards made. I wasn't even aware of it, much less involved. And he printed cards with the name change info. He made sweet little photo cards with this picture

and they say... "Happy Holidays from Nic, Kari......and the three wise guys."

Happy Holiday!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The light and the dark

Coming home from church today, I felt like I'd been hit by a ton of bricks, like I'd been crying for hours and hours, like I hadn't eaten or slept for a week.

Yep, a pretty normal Sunday.

I'd love to say "no not really, usually I just kind of drive home and lah-di-dah, it's like a normal day at the office".

But I work for a church, and there are really no "normal days" at the office, not on Sundays anyway. Today was a little more special than most. We had a number of rituals, and maybe it's the Solstice and the darkness or maybe it's something else but wow, it really hit me.

At the beginning of our service we light a chalice, an ancient symbol of religious freedom, and in our community, when you turn seven you are invited to light the chalice for the first time. Today we had an eight year old who just joined our congregation light the chalice, sign the chalice lighters book and then play a Ode to Joy on the piano. She was wearing what she called her "Cinderella" dress with a beautiful wide white skirt and sweet young-girl fancy shoes. I get to help the kids light the chalice and whisper to them what to do next as we stand before the congregation.

Right then, as she finished signing her name to the chalice lighters book, I whispered to her "now we just smile at Rev. Peg" and we stood there, listening to her official introduction to the community, right then, I started to cry.

I cried while she beautifully played our grand piano, I cried during our annual Christmas child blessing for her baby sister and another older boy. During the ritual, I get to thank the parents for the honor of having their child in our community--more tears-- and then I get to lead the congregation in a promise to help raise the children, and charge the children of the congregation to welcome these children and include them in everything that happens. Tears. I held the sacred vial of water, this time it was the water our children collected from all over the continent for our water communion ceremony last fall. The minister touches the water to the forehead of the child, and we welcome them to this beautiful life. I hand them a rose,symbol of their unique beauty. Tears. It's such an honor to participate in this sacred ritual, such an honor.

Then after a lovely story for all ages and singing the children out, I stayed for the prayer of remembrance for a beloved member of our congregation who died on Wednesday. I sat in the back, and let the tears just go. He will be deeply missed by all. It was good to stay, it was hard, but it was good.

We have the new life, and the loss. The joy and the sorrow. The light and the dark. Coming to the age of reason, and gracefully letting life go.

No, it's not the paperwork or the dozen runs up and down our three flights of stairs, it's not the meetings, or the snafu with a projector, none of that wears me out. It's all the living and dieing and life that happens every Sunday, and every day in between in the life of a church.

It's awfully good work, if you can get it. And I am humbly thankful to be completely exhausted! Blessed day. Blessed light. Blessed dark. Blessed death. Blessed life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mr. Keillor and Silent Night

Oh, I am swearing off Peter Bowden's "UU Growth Blog" until after Christmas. It keeps sending me on these long tangents of excellent and thought provoking information. But come on! I've got a LREDA board conference call today! And a soup lunch at school! Not to mention a ton of presents to wrap and a trip to the post office to make and the little dog needs to be walked and I need to finish writing a piece of the pledge drive kick off!

Too much time!

Today he calls on Unitarian Universalists with formal credentials (he says ministers, but I'm sure he meant to say credentialed religious educators and credentialed music leaders, too) to comment on an article in Salon written by Garrison Keillor.

Yes, Mr. Keillor is again slamming Unitarians. I wonder if he's remembering Unitarians from his childhood 60 years ago back before the consolidation of Unitarian and Universalists? I don't think there's a congregation in Anoka, MN where he grew up, but who knows? I wish he'd at least do enough research to call us by our real name when he rants against us.

He writes "It's a Christian holiday, dammit, and it's plain wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." Unitarians, I'm talking to you!..... If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone."

That's a very Christian sentiment. I can totally imagine Jesus saying that.

Or not.

I think what Mr. Keillor is feeling is that the way things were when HE grew up is the way things have always been and the way that they should stay and no changes should ever be made. But it's just not how Christmas works.

Whether you believe that Jesus is the savior and the true son of God, or you call Jesus the great teacher and try your very, very best every single day to live his teachings, or you think that when Jesus taught that he was the son of God what he was saying was that we are all children of God and we're all holy--whatever, you cannot deny that Christmas has evolved over the past 2,000 years.

If we Unitarian Universalists wish to celebrate the birth of a man some of us believe to be the son of God, some of us believe to be the great teacher and some of us are still not sure about, who's business is it? Why does the wording of a hymn in Singing the Living Tradition matter to him?

I have always loved "A Prairie Home Companion". I went to a live show for the first time when I was 16. I count my Saturday afternoons by the opening lines...."hear that old piano, from down the avenue..." but I'm done. He can have his pompous attitude and go find himself some snobbish Jesus who cares about the words in a hymn. I think if Jesus were here on earth today he would be way too busy working with homeless teens and teaching children about hope and love to be bothered. A lowercase "c" christian--the religion of Jesus, not about Jesus.

OK, no more UU Growth Blog, I'm sticking with the lovely and inspirational writings of Boston Unitarian and B.U's new blog A Wonderful Epoch until AFTER Christmas. And right this minute I'm going to go sing "Silent Night" and make up all new words. Ha.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Top 10 True Things about Family

I love my family, OK, it's true that I've been threatening to move to Mexico ALONE lately. Whenever there is a series of crude jokes or some conversation focused around bodily function, I just start singing the James Taylor song "Mexico". I'm getting hoarse. I live with three teen age boys. And yes, sometimes it does feel like I'm the housemother of the naughty boys' dorm at a boarding school.

But they're good kids, and my husband tries hard not to laugh when they're disgusting. At least the little dog is a girl, thank GOD!

There are some advantages to living in a family and not in a hut on the side of a mountain, far far away.

10. You never have to lift heavy things. Excellent.

9. Sometimes someone brings home leftovers from an office party and you get to eat taco dip for dinner.

8. Watching Glee alone is kind of sad, it's a lot more fun with real highschoolers who heckle a little.

7. Computer machines are magic things that work much better after you lay your head down on it, sobbing and some young man comes along to fix whatever is broken.

6. Teen boys bake excellent Christmas cookies, and sometimes leave one.

5. Shoveling. Snow OR dirt.

4. Even when someone feels like the Grinch and wants to hide under the covers and pretend Christmas isn't happening, family pays attention to the calendar and ridicules you nicely until you get the heck up out of bed.

3. When hooligans try to vandalize the car parked on the street, someone else will call the police.

2. Pizza night.

1. If you choke on your pizza, there's someone there to rescue you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Coming up short.....everywhere

Ever have one of those days you just wish you could erase? Like Dumbledore plucks memories out of his brain and stores them in the pensive, but today I'd smash the pensive as soon as the memory was out.


OK, it wasn't quite that bad. I had a lovely daytime meeting with my colleagues. Complete with a baby blessing-way and a "white elephant" exchange with a "yankee swap". But no one stole anything...except the cookies someone WANTED stolen, totally doesn' t count. I came home with a lovely Scandaniavian themed box that someone didn't want but I love. And my colleagues hugged me. And they told me what I was being crazy about and what I wasn't being crazy about. Don't you wish we had panels we could go to for all parts of our lives where we could say "OK, am I out of line here or is this for real?" and people you love and respect would TELL you? Oh yeah. I'd love that. "Thumbs up? Or thumbs down." I wish. But for today, this was good.

But I let down my child. Big time. He's been asking me for a couple of weeks if we could make some Norwegian themed thing for his International Club meeting. It gets him extra credit and class room "cred" as being a good cook. I love this! He's usually all about his Korean heritage.I was so excited that he wanted to do something from my side! It was originally on the calendar for last Friday. We knew that date wasn't right, but I had the new date wrong. I thought that tomorrow, THURSDAY was the baking day. That we'd make homemade lasagne (a request from the youngest) and mess around with the krumkake all night while we listened to Christmas carols and drank hot chocolate with marshmallows.

Nope. International Club is tomorrow. Thursday. We had to bake today. But, today I had the fudge to prepare at 6AM for the musical theater bake sale at the little homeschool school. And there was the White Elephant gift to wrap at 7AM, and three lunches to make before 7:30AM, and an hour and a half drive because of the traffic to get to my meeting. And then there was the Advanced Drama mandatory parent meeting right after my meeting. And a meeting with the minister who is my boss of course, and a board meeting for the church I work for. When was there time to make this cookie of our great grandmothers and have this wonderful, cultural bonding time?

Yep. In the two seven minute windows of time we had. During the first seven minutes we found the frame for the krumkake iron. iron. No insert. Nope. Where the heck did the iron go? Oh well, doesn't matter. Wasn't happening.

Spritz? How about that. We could find almost enough parts to assemble that cookie contraption. We made half a pan during the second seven minute stretch and flew out the door to bring boys to Tae Kwon Do practice and then I had to drive like a mad woman up I-5, trying to make my meeting on time. This, in particular, would not have been a good time to bail on these meetings for a variety or reasons. Not now. No way.

I texted home at 7:30 "how r spritz going?" and heard nothing back. "OK, must be going all right".

On the way home at 9:15, not 9:00--I left before my meeting was over, really I did, I called home. Not going all right. All homework was delayed, cookies were a mess. No one was happy. Things were falling apart fast.


This is when I hate that my job is weird hours and "must make" evenings. I hate that sometimes I have to put work before family. Hate it. I hate that my weekends and holidays are dominated by work. And they hate it, my family, they hate it. I came home to ugliness.

I love my work, but I really wish that there were two of me. In hindsight? Yeah, I should have skipped my daytime meeting. I should have stayed up late after feeding homeless teens last night and done the prep for today. I should not have gotten a sinus infection that makes me not sleep for days and days. I should have taken a job at IKEA where they are closed on Christmas Eve. But I didn't. I chose this. And I love what I do. But there are days. Man, there are days when I wish it didn't take such commitment to do this good work.

I wish.

Monday, December 7, 2009

First In/Last Out

The congregation I serve had quite a day yesterday. They voted to take the next steps toward buying a church building. A home. There were two votes, and while there were a few abstentions, there were no votes opposed. Sounds like quite a mandate to me.

But of course, regular church life went on, the regular things happened. I was the first one at church, arrivinag a couple of hours before our start time. As I pulled in to the lower lot next to the Masonic Temple we rent, the men who sleep in the doorway stood up and gathered their things. One was still there as I headed past him and up the stairs.

"'Morning!" I said.

"Beautiful day" he replied. "Getting ready for services?"

I always arrive with armfuls of stuff for the day. On this first trip in I was carrying a crock pot for the soup lunch-- one of our volunteers had called, her son was sick and she wasn't going to make it in with her pot of soup so I'd grabbed some frozen lentils and things that I hoped would make a passable soup as I left home that morning.

"Yep, makin' soup today, it's a big day and the people need full bellies so they can make good choices." by this time I'd stopped to talk with him. We stood in the cold sun, half way up the steps. I thought about talking about full bellies with a man who had just slept outside on the night of a hard frost.

"You folks need any help with the dishes or anything?"

"Sorry, the Masons do all the dishes." which is true. He walked up the stairs with me, asked a little about just what Unitarian Universalism was, asked about service time, and wished me a good day.

I went in and moved on with the day. Two teachers were out sick with a bad cold, but great folks stepped in for one class and I got to teach the Older Elementary kids. Glad I did too, they're really interested in what this new church building stuff is all about, and a little confused, too. We had the soup lunch run by the Religious Education Council, and a big massive child care for the meeting time to set up in the midst of the Mason's Christmas party set up. Then the meeting with lots to think about, lots to discuss, lots to puzzle over. I spoke for my two minutes, which was no where near enough time, but I got to share what I feel about what a building would do for the congregation.

After two hours, I got out the BIG tin of cookies to pass around. No, we're not supposed to eat in the hall, but it was a special day. Then the nursery provider had to leave to go with her family to buy a Christmas tree, so I got to sit with some little ones--a special treat especially when I've known some from the time they were a "wish".

Then the vote, and excitement. I had lots of help taking down the child care corner, help hauling the tv up three flights of stairs to the office. Help picking up all the leftovers from our day. Everyone headed out to finish the weekend. Hustle and bustle or quiet and peace.

Then, as I closed up the office, turned off the heat, stashed some paperwork in our shared office to be handled later, I thought about the church; about the people, about our precious children, about some folks who are unhappy with me and about the man who I'd chatted with on my way in six hours earlier. It's a funny thing to be in a space that just held such energy. It all swirled around in me. I took a minute to look at the office--moved some things back into "board room" configuration for the Wednesday board meeting, I grabbed the last three clementines that sat on the table, turned off the light and headed for my car.

I drove home with no radio, no music, eating my fruit. Thinking. Resting. Sometimes being the "first in and last out" makes me irritated. But not this day, I was happy to be the bookends on this day. It had been a good one, a really good one.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


The vote was YES! Yes to moving forward. Yes to taking steps that will lead to buying a church home. Yes to windows and rooms and a building that is ours ours OURS! Yes.

Even if there are twists and turns on our road, we're on it, and I don't think there's any turning back. The drum beat is too strong, there's no stopping it now.

BIG Vote Today!

The lovely church I serve has a big decision to make today. Will they move forward on the purchase of a new church home? Now this isn't "should we sign a purchase agreement or not....."that's a few steps down the line. It's about hiring lawyers and inspectors and beginning to deal with all the details and assessments.

Yesterday we all walked through the building together. 75 people swapped around their Saturday morning plans and showed up to see just what may be. And by some wild miracle, Gini Courter, moderator of the UUA was in town and joined us!

This time the sun was shining and the Olympic mountains were clear and visible from the classrooms and offices. The ferries trekked across the sound. The light streamed in. It was stunning. If things don't work out somehow, we are all gonna need some serious grief counseling, for real! No joke! We're all seeing what it would look like to make this church our home.

With so many of our loved ones in the building what I really envisioned this time was the weekday evening programs we could do. Like Eastshore's "Wonderful Wednesday" we could have "Thankful Thursdays" or "Faithful Fridays". I can see a big happy potluck dinner or a team that makes everyone healthy sloppy joes or potato soup followed by a lovely spirit filled family worship that invites children and elders and mid-lifers alike into sacred and fun space together. Then we'd all go off to evening enrichment--the choir would practice, the jazz group would jam, older kids could have open mic nights and the little ones could have K-1 OWL. Our adults would explore the adult programming like the new Tapestry curriculum "What Moves Us" and our committees could meet in one of the many fine rooms.

It would be a faith home for all of us on far more than just Sunday mornings. We'd have a church building. We'd have a home base for all our good work, and for time just to be together.

Oh may it please be so! Please.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Marching Down the Aisle

The congregation I serve is seriously considering whether they should consider purchasing a church building. Our congregation is 45 years old, and is just now big enough to take this next step. It's been quite a wait! But it's a huge step.

It's a lovely church. I've only been through the building once, and it was dark and super chilly, so tomorrow when we all get to walk thru during the day, I'm sure I'll see even more to love about it.

There was one thing on that first night that absolutely took my breath away. It was a very clear image that came in a crystal clear vision. I was up in the balcony looking down over the lovely sanctuary. And there at the front of the church, I saw the vision of a wedding!

Oh my! Our congregation's children would have a lovely place to be married!

When my husband and I were married 22 years ago, we had to go down to the big church in town (the beautiful and historic First Unitarian in Minneapolis) the little fellowship where I grew up was just too small.

But if we can make this work and get this church, things will be different for our congregation's children. We can bless them when they're babies, honor them when they turn seven and are invited to light the chalice for the first time, celebrate them in their coming of age rituals, bridge them to adulthood, and then perform their weddings. What a beautiful gift for a congregation to be such a part of a life.

May it be so. Please!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why buy a church building?

The congregation I serve rents meeting space. West Seattle is close to the beautiful waters of Puget Sound and is the home of the very, very best beach in the city. West Seattle has lovely sweeping views of the sound and both the Olympic mountains and the cascades, including Mt. Rainier. With that beauty comes a cost. Nothing here is cheap. So while our congregation has grown to 150 adult members and 80 some kids, we have not been able to even think about buying a building.

Until now.

There is a church for sale in a perfect location. It's big enough. And if you squint and tilt your head a little, it's affordable.

When I saw the photos of it, I cried. It's beautiful. There are classrooms, with WINDOWS and doors!

I've been asked to speak at our Congregational Meeting this Sunday following the service. Because it's a formal meeting with procedures that must be followed I get two minutes. TWO MINUTES! I've been lying awake at night trying to get the huge world of things I know about children and my faith into two minutes.

Here's what I've got:

We can talk about how this building would offer us safe space with emergency exits and rooms that we can furnish and make light and lovely. We can talk about how our babies and toddlers wouldn't have to have classes in rooms that one of the three-year-olds had dubbed "the bathroom-rooms" the lounges outside the ladies' room. We can talk about how our older children can meet in a room with windows and two ways out if there is a fire or an earthquake. We can talk about our younger ones and how they can have classes in rooms with walls and not hunkered down between felt dividers in a space that looks and feels like a gym.

But that's not really what matters. The biggest reason this congregation should buy this building comes down to what I see as the core theology of Unitarian Universalism. For me this is it. I think the core of what we teach in our congregation is that each person; you, me, everyone comes into this world holy. We don't need some divine finger to come from the heavens and choose us. The great teacher didn't need to die to save us. We don't even have to complete a set of good works to be enough. We're already saved, just because we exist. Each and every person is worthy.

When people know this, it changes their lives. They can get out of their own way and become who they really are. And when children grow up knowing this, when they grow up without shame or guilt or doubt, when they grow up steeped in love and the power of faith in their own worth and dignity,'s the most beautiful thing in the world. They grow up strong, and whole and ready to take on their lives.

When I began this work five years ago we had 23 children involved in our program. Now we have over 80. We've grown this much in completely inadequate space. I love the guys we rent from, they're great. But it's been a little like crashing on your brother's couch. There comes a point when you've got to grow up and move out. If we move to our own space with decent rooms and a freedom to meet when we need to we will grow even more and it will happen fast.

What that means is that more children will be given the gift of growing up Unitarian Universalist with a faith in themselves that cannot be matched. To me that's the core of our faith. It is a message of salvation, a message of being saved by right of simply being born.

OK, it's still more than two minutes long, but it's a start.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Healthy Boundaries

I had a dream the other night about the winter solstice. In the dream my youngest son told me that I could flip my moon/sun wall hanging to the sun was the winter solstice and the dark was leaving, soon the sun would return.

I hate it when my life creeps into my dreams.

There has been more sun here, too and that's good. The sun helps you see the hopeful corners of life.

What has really fixed up the outlook here though, is figuring out part of what's been dragging it down. I've had no patience for my oldest son. What? Perfect scores on two out of three SAT subject tests?? Why not all three? Home ten minutes after curfew? Grounded for a week! Super rational and reasonable things like that. Or total parenting mud pies. Muuuud pies!

You see, he's leaving. My oldest son. He's growing up and getting ready to leave home. Yes, it's months away, and yes, I'm sure he'll come back and visit and I am very likely to see him again. But still. It's hard. I like him. Of course I love him, but really; I like him, too. He's a fun person, he's wise and goofy and kind. And I will miss him. A lot.

It hit me the other day that what I needed was help from my church. Here's where the "Healthy Boundaries" come in. As a staff member at a church, I've tried to create a healthy boundary of friendly distance between my congregation and myself. I don't go on retreats, I'm not a member. I don't share intimate things with most people. I am the Director of Ministry for Children Youth and Families, I serve this church.

But the truth is, of course, that I love these people and I really trust them. So, I decided to relax the taught boundary a little. I asked some of the parents of other high school seniors if they'd like to have a little "Leaving Home" group. My oldest son will participate in a formal group at his youth group at the big church in town. But we need to go through this with people we've known for years. These parents are the people we've celebrated numerous holidays with, and who were there at the Coming of Age ceremonies. We've raised our kids together. And letting them go together just feels right. We'll see how it comes together, but even after just creating a few tentative plans --after just saying it out loud, I already feel much better.

It's when we are the most vulnerable that we may step into our true strength.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful for the Feast

It was a pretty good night. We put together the ingredients for "Grandma's Stuffing"

It was so cool to pick herbs right from the garden for the feast!


The boys whe stayed home made pumpkin pie! The one who wasn't home might have made pie someplace else. Whatever....

We made a braid from the left over pie crust with cinnamon and sugar and butter. Yum.

But oh no. No little dogs in the roasting pan. Nope. Nope nope nope.

And the one thing that's for sure? No vegetarians are allowed to prep the turkey. No way. Uh huh.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Giving Thanks

Tomorrow we'll have more than toast and popcorn for our feast. But our feeling of belonging and home will be just the same as if we'd gathered around a ping pong table.

This fall has been a hard one for me. I have to keep reminding myself that life is not a dismal dark thing. Life is full of hope and light and love. But sometimes.....well, sometimes we all forget, I guess.

Being grateful is at the core of remembering:

I am grateful for parents who taught me loving kindness and gave me a fierce sense of justice.

I am grateful for life long friends who love me even when I am a pitiful heap of jello. Green jello--like in a church supper in the basement of a small mid western church. With walnuts.

I am grateful for my sons who defy all reputation of teenage boys and offer compassion and sometimes even do the dishes and the laundry without being asked. Once is sometimes, right?

I am grateful for my little dog who loves to snuggle and for the life of my old dog who has been gone almost a year now--but lives a full and romping life in my heart, still.

I am grateful for a gathered community of brilliant, giving people who guide my children, both at church and school.

I am grateful for my partner who works tirelessly for our family, and thankful for his commitment to stepping into his identity and showing our sons how to do the same.

I am thankful for good work to do and families who keep having babies just so I get to hold them. Nice!

I am grateful for the hard times that remind me of balance, of the good times.

We sit in darkness so that we may appreciate the light. The deep kernel of life within a seed requires rest in the dark earth. True for people, too. We're often scared by the dark times. We try to medicate, exorcise, eradicate the darkness. We run from the darkness.

I think this time I'll just sit with it. And remember to be grateful for the dark times, too.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I learned a great phrase from Steve Caldwell recently: "Kill it before it dies". Steve was referring to "icebreaker" games or "energy break" games. It means stop while it's still full of energy and fun.

It's good advice.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Musical Medicine

So you think that the nasty flu going around takes away all sense of joy and hope, too? Nope, guess that's probably just November! It'll pass. It always does.

Meanwhile, I've discovered that my spiritual guide for all music for all times has been listening to my prayers. David Wilcox was in Seattle yesterday, but I didn't get to go see him. There is just no money for expensive fun things right now. But while moaning about how unfair life is and how I've been seeing David live for 20 years and I should get special "long term" passes to his shows, I discovered a new section on his website.

He lists a bunch of "conditions" in life and has a collections of songs that are just right for that place you've gotten yourself in. There is even a section called "Frustration with institutions of religion." Of course there are "songs for peace" and "hearbreak". All the songs are listed to the right and can be played, free of charge. There are a couple of songs that I remember from concerts that were never released.

Here in this list are all the touchstones of my life. "Burgandy Heart Shaped Medallion" that made me cry when Michael was born and I realized that I had a BOY and he might have to go to WAR someday. (just picked up the form to register for selective service btw) "Down Inside Myself" from that moment when you just know you were once happy and you are sure you can be again, but damn if you can remember how to get there--wait, I should go listen to that right now.

So sorry I had to miss David in concert. I think I should just get to go live next door to him and stop by for coffee and a jam and some great theological conversation. But if I had to miss him, at least I found his gift to me. And I get to share it with you, now, too.

Here's my favorite from the next to newest album:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Faith and Sexuality--and the weekend

I had a fabulous weekend. I spent the whole weekend...Friday night to Sunday, work, work, laugh! laugh!, work work work work, eat. Rest. Repeat!

It was the K-1 and 4-6 Our Whole Lives training. And it ROCKED!

What a treat to have Steve Caldwell from the Liberal Faith Development blog as a trainer. So much fun to spend the weekend with a fellow blogger, and a fine Religious Educator.

Now, my family and I are enjoying a lovely dinner, delivered to me today "care package style" by our wonderful student minister.

It was a great day, and a great training, and it all just leads to this great life.

My great life.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Busy, busy.

Latest agenda:

Recovering from illness. Lungs still hurt. Someone said it's pleurisy. What is that anyway?

Our Whole Lives; sexuality education facilitator training on Friday night, Saturday all day and Sunday almost all day.

The Interplanetary Galactic Awesome Service Auction and a stint as bartender at my church on Saturday night. Well, after running a friend home to his house because his ceiling was caving in and full of water. Rush rush rush.

And a soccer game for the middlest in Portland that I had to miss for the training. (but the good news? Gooooooaaaaaal!)

Finally, the SAT subject tests for the oldest. 7am-12 noon. Three tests. Thinks he aced the math and well did pretty OK on the Chemistry. Crossing fingers please!

Very cool news? The male trainer at my OWL training is a fellow blogger: Steve Caldwell. I knew him from the blogosphere. And **blush** he knew me!

It's a funny small world. And I love it. Just love it!

Friday, November 6, 2009

More on the Ft. Hood shootings and faith

Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core writes today on the shootings at Ft. Hood and the impact for Muslims in North America.

The Interfaith Youth Core is the organization that is partnering with the UUAs Tapestry of Faith Lifespan curriculum in creating an interfaith youth curriculum.

Also coming up soon is a FREE leadership training jointly presented by the Interfaith Youth Core and the Unitarian Universalist Association. It's the one thing we can really do--education. Maybe it can change the world.

The Church Office--Facebook

I'm working from my office today. No, not actually my church office. We share three little rooms in the windowless, horribly stuffy top floor of a Masonic Temple. I have a child size desk that everyone rifles through and loads up with all kinds of detritus from the services. It's not really an office.

My office is really a lap top and a few three ring binders. And facebook.

Yes, facebook. It's fabulous! I post a status message that says something like "Blergh, what the heck anyway?"

And sure enough, a few minutes later my friends holler over the cubicle wall "hang in there" "hugs!" "send it my way, I'll take care of it". But of course there is no cube and there is no wall. They're calling over facebook from the east coast and the south and from Canada and from the next town over.

I love facebook!

It makes me feel like I'm not all alone! What a wacky thing. Facebook as collegial support!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Oh no.

I can't believe the news out of Ft. Hood, Texas. It's awful.

A shooting, by a soldier, of soldiers. Oh no. And by a mental health professional. A tragedy.

I just learned that a dear friend in my congregation has a step-son at Ft. Hood. He's not one of those directly affected, but of course he'll be touched. We all will. She's got another step-son in Iraq. You think you know what to worry about. Then, horrible things happen.

And then, to learn that the shooter is Muslim. Oh no. It's been so hard to be a faithful follower of Islam here in the states for so long. Islam is a religion with a deep commitment to peace and love and giving. But that's not what most people think. Most Americans think that Islam is a violent religion. It's not. Really, it's not. No.

On Thursday night, CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) Executive Director Nihad Awad told a news conference the alleged Fort Hood attacker's motive remained unknown."We urge all Americans to remain calm in reaction to this tragic event and to demonstrate once again what is best about America -- our nation's ability to remain unified even in times of crisis," Awad said. "We urge national political and religious leaders and media professionals to set a tone of calm and unity.

"Unfortunately, based on past experience, we also urge American Muslims, and those who may be perceived to be Muslim, to take appropriate precautions to protect themselves, their families and their religious institutions from possible backlash."

My husband, who is a transracially adopted Korean man, has had a similar experience. When the US is angry at North Korea, people perceive him as North Korean. When the US is angry at China, people perceive him as Chinese.

Our kids, too. They've been asked if they're half North Korean or South Korean. Really? Come ON now people. Come on.

As I work with my LREDA Board commitments to look deeply into Interfaith work, I wonder. Really? Really. Maybe it's time to go spend a night at my local mosque, as a physical show of interfaith commitment to peace. Peace. peace.

Election and Faith

Here in Washington state it looks like we've voted to approve R-71. Really what that means is that a nasty trick done by people who are scared and tried to sneak in some wording that was confusing, didn't work to overturn our "everything by marriage" law. Unless our ballot count changes drastically, same sex partners in our state have at least some protections.

My faith community strongly supported the effort to get this approved. There were interfaith marches in our little down town area each of the past three weeks. Yes, we have a congregation that is probably 40% GLBTQ, but that's not the core of the issue really.

To me this issue speaks directly to our faith. What is the very core of our identity as Unitarian Universalists? Who are we really? What are we here in this life to do?

It's the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

That's everything. Simple.

And it's our moral obligation as the people of this faith to work hard to build this world where each person is honored, each person has their basic human rights defended. That no one is left behind.

I hear all the time "what is our unifying message as Unitarian Universalists?" "what is the one thing we all can agree on?" "we define ourselves as what we are not, but what ARE we?"

I was raised Unitarian Universalist and while we didn't have great UU Identity curriculum or explicit faith formation in place in the 70s and 80s when I was in RE classrooms, I got it. No doubt. I know what it means to be Unitarian Universalist. I know what we believe.

We are a faith who believes in people. 'nuff said.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Shift in our Congregations

It was really an honor to sit with both Peter Morales, our UUA president and with Harlan Limpert, vice president of Ministries and Congregational Support at the recent fall conference. Both of them are so kind and warm--Peter even pulled out his blackberry to tell me where his son lives, to see if it's close to my church. (It's not!) I had a fabulous conversation with Harlan, talking about his home church, First Universalist in Minneapolis, where my brother was married.

As we ate dinner and talked more about our faith and it's future, I was able to share my view from our spot on the hill in West Seattle. I think we might have a unique situation, we're an urban congregation with a neighborhood focus. It's urban and family centered, and over the years we've gained a reputation for serving families especially well. We've grown from 23 kids my first year to 85 or so five years later and growing still. Yes, even with no classrooms and no building and no grass and no playground. It's the people, of course. Our people are deeply committed to the children, youth and families.

But it's more than that. A few years ago, I noticed a trend. Many of our new families kind of brushed me back when I started to explain Unitarian Universalism. "Oh, I grew up UU, I know what the religion is about." It was usually one of the parents, sometimes a male, sometimes a female. Immediately we'd have a connection--'remember the box series?" "the filmstrips" "AYS?" we grew up with the same things, with Unitarian Universalist things.

I started asking visitors "are you seekers, looking for a faith, or are you UUs, looking for a home?"
Sometimes I think we're kind of the canary in the coal mine at my church. Can we serve these returning UUs well? Can we speak to them without alienating them? Do we give them a book that explains Unitarian Universalism when they join our churches? Do we make them attend classes that explain our faith? We are learning. We're doing better. And we're growing because of it. Growing with people who already have a solid formation of Unitarian Universalist faith.

And this is what I got to tell Harlan Limpert as we ate our dinner and chatted about our beloved community. He listened. He took notes. He asked questions. This is the best part of serving on the LREDA board, a chance to share my story with people who need to hear it. To sing my canary song! It's not dark and gloomy and dangerous here. In fact, I think maybe we've found the path to the sun. We can bring our lost family members back, make them welcome. Expect them. Be ready.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Top Ten Ways You Know You're Feeling Better

10. You notice...oh man, you really need a shower.

9. Water tastes like water again.

8. Watching hours of mindless tv on Netflix instant view gets really old.

7. Sleeping no longer takes 18 hours a day.

6. Coffee! Warm, earthy coffee tastes like coffee again!

5. You can follow a thought from step one to step two.....and sometimes even to step three.

4. All those things you should have done for church on Sunday come back to about noon on Sunday. Crap.

3. Doing some basic, pretty mindless work feels really good.

2. Oh my GOD the kitchen floor is filthy! And you actually care!

1. Looking at a week overflowing with work....hey, looks good to me. Must be almost well!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

I don't know what I did in some past life to deserve the great family I have. Or you know, maybe it's just having H1N1 or whatever this horrible illness is that brings on extreme guilt in my children, but check this out...

...right after they did homework and made lunch and right before they all went for flu shots, my boys picked the four little pumpkins growing in our gardens, and they carved them. The oldest even did some video magic so we could watch "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" while we carved, just like when they were little.

I am a lucky woman. I am gonna have to figure out how to get the flu EVERY year at Halloween.

It is funny though, this year when the boys were carving, and poor Charlie Brown was being bullied by all his friends, and I was picking through the guts for the pumpkin seeds, I had a vision. I remembered Halloweens from the middle years of our family when costumes were everything, and the "haul" of candy was extremely important. And I remembered the early years when cousins had to wash off the scary face paint so the littles woudn't be scared. And I remembered the years before kids when I would carve a pumpkin and yearn for the day I would be a mother.

Here we are, almost out the other end. For a couple of years now our kids have gone to a big Halloween party, and out with friends. They dress up like movie characters that make them look good (sorry kids, you know it's true!) and they are out until late at night.

It's almost here again, the days of carving a pumpkin by myself. But this end is so much better. This end holds the memories of my kids and the fabulous years of trick-or-treating, and negotiating about how much candy is too much, and carving the most amazing pumpkins. This end is good. I step into it with both feet and a big smile.

I really am a lucky woman. A really lucky one.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Raising UU Kids

I'm still sick with the dreaded "Con-flu"--oh man, it's really awful! So just for fun I'm posting something I wrote a while back. Hope everyone out there is healthy and gearing up for a fabulous Halloween!

I serve a wonderful Unitarian Universalist congregation as a Religious Educators. Sometimes on a Sunday morning after the service, I’ll be standing with a few parents, drinking coffee. We watch as their children tear around the fellowship hall with chocolate donut crumbs covering their faces.

The parents shake their heads, cover their eyes and ask me, “How did you do it? How are your children so well behaved?”

I laugh out loud and say “Oh, really, they’re just pretending to be angels!”

And for heaven’s sake, they’re teenagers! They misbehave in completely different ways, now. But then I wipe the smile off my face and try to pass along a few of the things that I’ve finally picked up after all these years of making more mistakes than I ever dreamed were possible.

Step into this raising children stage of your life with both feet, and your whole heart.

Somehow you were called to be a parent and when you signed those adoption papers or you opened that door to your grandchild or you birthed that child; however it happened, there was a moment when you said “YES!” to that call.

Remind yourself that this is the biggest thing in your life right now. Bigger than work or school or busy life; yes, we have to do those things, too, of course. But raising kids is really the Big Top of the circus and sometimes we have to remember that.

So, put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror, buy a ring with as many intertwined strands as you have children, put a medallion that says “love” in your wallet, whatever works for you, but make it a physical reminder that catches your eye. This helps keep it all in perspective. Oh, and you might want to wear some sturdy boots for that first step.

Claim your kingdom.

You are the grand supreme ruler of your family. Well, you and whatever partner in parenting you are lucky enough to have. Claim that. Yes, of course, you are a kind and benevolent ruler with only your beloved subjects’ best interests at heart. But don’t feel like you always have to get buy-in from your children.

Say “oh, I am so sorry that eating that whole bag of cookies I told you not to eat gave you a tummy ache” and make a sad face, and then pack that little cookie monster in the car and go to grandma’s house anyway. Don’t reason. Don’t argue.

This is why so many Unitarian Universalist children grow-up to be lawyers; we throw logic at them from toddlerhood. Yes, we do trust in the democratic process, and there is an important role for collaborative decision making in family life. This is not it.

You are the ruler, sometimes you really do know what is best and no, you don’t always have to explain it to your children, and even if you do explain it, you don’t have to reach consensus. Swoop in with your grand robes, offer gentle empathy, and then make your grown-up compassionate decision and move on.

Splash in the kitchen sink, clean to the “Bee Gees” and laugh out loud, a lot.

You have to have fun with parenting and family life. It’s hard. It can sometimes be harder than the LSAT and the Boston marathon on the same day. You want to scream and retch and roll on the floor because it’s ripping your intellect right out to watch PBS Kids for one more second.

But you don’t have to! Fill up the kitchen sink, do the “dishes” and splash around. Bake big huge pans of brownies. Dance. Even if you have teenagers. Look at your child with brownie batter in their hair and soap bubbles covering their whole torso, yes, the teenagers, too.

This works really well if you play music that would horrify your children as they grow into the teen years. That makes for so much fun it’s almost too much. “Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive….ah, ah, ah, ah…..”

Look into those big happy eyes and the see the silly smile. How can you help but smile, too? And hey, you get a big pan of brownies in the deal.

Use the democratic process.

No, don’t use this in times of trauma or with an urgent dispute. But, if you are deciding which restaurant to go to after a big long day of yard work, or where to go on vacation, then yes. Create a family poll. Have someone present a power point about which computer they want the family to buy and then vote on whether it’s a good idea. If it’s something you are willing to really let go to the vote, then do it.

This is a great experience in life, and sometimes we all find out that what we dearly wished for was not all we’d hoped it would be. That is a powerful experience.

Say, “Oh wow, did I screw-up.”

When you mess up, and yell about things that mean nothing, or make a bad decision or otherwise are very human, then say so. Say, “I’m so sorry”. This is how our children learn to own their own screw-ups. They watch us when we make mistakes. They see, and calculate and then they say “hey, maybe that’s just how I should be. I should say I’m sorry”.

Sometimes the last thing we want is to say “Oh honey bear, I shouldn’t have said that.” Or even “I am so sorry I put all that crabbiness on you, sweet child”. But when we can, on those few sacred moments when we are bigger people and own what we did, we offer the best gift, no gift wrap needed. Say it; say “I’m sorry.” Someday, you might even hear it back.

Go outside.

Spend some time every day under the big sky and if you do it with your whole family, even better. Go for a walk around your block at dusk, walk in the rain, garden, pull weeds, play at the beach when it’s cold and no one else is there. Leave cell phones and other little electronic gremlins in your pocket or back home.

Just be together and notice the snails and leaves and clouds and bugs. Yes, even with your teenagers, even if you have to bribe them with ice cream or fish and chips, do it.

Eat meals together.

No, not every meal all the time, but some of them some of the time. Everyone in the family needs to eat, so why not together? Setting the table and cooking together make the time even more special. Light candles, play good jazz, dim the lights. When you do, even eating beans and rice becomes elegant.

And don’t drill children about homework or cleaning rooms over meals. Treat these dinner companions as if they’re treasured guests. They are, of course. Before you know it they’re grown and off at their own tables.

Give your children real work to do.

Clean the house, dust, mop, make food, clean-up a river bed, give them real chores. Do real things in the real world and count on them to do their part. Yes they will complain, yes they will whine, it’s just noise, ignore it.

Our children get so used to having things done for them that they don’t always learn that the two things dangling from their arms are hands and that they can really help. If you go to the local teen center that serves meals before sending the teens out on the streets for the evening, your child will understand their profound ability to work, and just how important making bean burritos and sweeping up really can be.

Love your kids. I mean really, actively, deliberately; love them.

It’s not always easy. We’re tired; we have grown up problems that overwhelm us. But this one can’t wait. Do things that let your child know you love them. Tell them; say “I love you! I am so glad that you are my child! The day you came into my life was one of the very best days, ever!” Make their favorite food; snuggle.

Be certain that your child knows that you love them with every single cell in your body. No not just love them. Love. It is a part of every breath you take and every single thing you will ever do. You can give in to this. It’s not a psychosis. It’s a state of being and it’s called parenting. Give in. You’ll never regret it.

Go to Church. Just go.

Go as often as you can. Go every week. An intentional religious community has a deep influence on the development of a child and a family. It’s more important than soccer or sleep-overs and it’s worth taking a stand.

When you go week after week you create a history, a tradition. Children need that. At church there are elders and peers, there are people who care about you and your children in particular and there are people who will bring you soup if your dog dies. There is no other way to make the same combination of belief, values and community come together. None. Just go. You will be so glad that you did.

I’ll bet in just a few years the parents from my church who had the little speed demons will be drinking coffee as their teen lounges at a table with church friends and the parent of a donut crumb covered little one will ask them “How did you do it?”, I hope they laugh just a little, smile, nod and pass on a few humble things they have learned about this amazing journey of raising children.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Dreaded Con-flu: Top 10 True things about being sick

A couple dozen of my closest colleagues and I have come home from the LREDA Fall Conference and promptly been put to bed. We have fevers and really sore throats. Our lungs hurt and of all weird things--itch! It's the dreaded...

Con-flu! So in my addled state I am writing the Top Ten True Things about being SICK

10. I can watch a whole season of 30 Rock using the instant option on Netflix. Excellent.

9. Having already been gone a week, only an angelic spouse will step up to all the cleaning and cooking alone again. I've ordered a halo for mine.

8. Being sick makes me stupid. What? Oh yeah, can't follow a thought from step one to, wait where do we start again?

7. Coming home with fast deadlines and an illness that makes me stupid seems like it could jeopardize fabulous GA programming out of LREDA. But it won't.

6. When coffee tastes awful, I must really be sick.

5. Just because there was one confirmed case of H1N1 at the conference doesn't mean I have to quarantine myself, does it? Does it? OK, yes it does. ((waves at children))

4. Garlic works on the virus, AND the quarantine.

3. I don't have time to be sick. Why is it we always get sick when we don't have time to be sick? When do we ever have time to be sick? Are these related??!

2. A little dog curled under the covers must have medicinal properties.

1. The number one thing about being sick with "con-flu"? I'm so grateful it hit after I was at HOME!

Friday, October 23, 2009


Where is the 2010 LREDA Fall Conference gonna be?

Hmmm......not quite sure.

Let's see.....I think maybe there's fabulous music. And you know....Jambayala!

And hey! Maybe even some service work! Yep. Oh yeah.


New Orleans.

October 20-26. Do Not Miss It!

LREDA, Beyond Belief

What an amazing day. I had a morning with people who serve their faith by coordinating their regional areas as LREDA Chapter conveners. We talked about how we can work together and where to go next. Very cool.

Then I met with UUA staff members from the congregational life staff group. That was a very interesting conversation. And a very good lunch!

Then after three great hours of working at the registration table and meeting many people, really, like 200 people from the US and Canada, we had our dinner and opening.

I loved the homily from Mr. Barb Greeve. It spoke to so much of what I feel as one of the first from the generation who grew up in this new faith called Unitarian Universalism. He rocks.

And the the Rev. Dr. Thandeka came up and talked to us.

Can you even see her way up there? I was so tired, I was standing at the back of the room hoping for a really fast get away.

But there was no getting out of this one. She told us that really, we have the tools to change this world. We've always had them, right there. The big red button. Just PUSH it! Come ON! Love. Love beyond belief. Beyond Belief.

OK. Got it. If this is 15 minutes of Thandeka, what is a whole morning and Peter Steinke and also phenomenal music going to feel like? Note to self: head may explode.

A very fun night in Providence

The fun thing about working really, really hard for days is that when you get to kick back a little, it's really, really fun!

And then you might get to go see an amazing church that's been around for a reeeaaaaly long time. On the west coast I don't think we have any churches that are this old--except maybe missions.
First Unitarian Church of Providence was gorgeous! The pews actually have little doors that latch from back in the days when you bought your pew, or a little later when you (scandalously!) rented your pew.

The pulpit that blogger James Ford preaches from every Sunday is a whole flight of stairs up. A whole little flight of stairs! Cool. It was beautiful to see, and lovely to stand in the space with my dear LREDA colleagues! What a great day.

And there are more days to come....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

LREDA Board meeting--day two!

We had a great day today at our Liberal Religious Educator's board meeting. It was day two of our time together. We know each other a little more, it's really easy to laugh at silly things and we're pretty comfortable together.....kind of like people who might be shipwrecked in an island. Oh no not really! It's a fabulous group.

This morning we met with Mark Hicks, McLean Professer at Meadville-Lombard school for the ministry (one of our two Unitarian Universalist seminaries). He came to talk with us about inclusive ministries and LREDA. He may be a big fancy pants professor, and of course, he is. And he's wicked smart. But he is also so very kind. It felt so safe to talk about racism and marginalized groups and opression with him leading us through it. Wow, that's not easy. I realized I had some anxiety about it coming into this training. The last time I attened anti-racism, anti-opression, multi-culturalism training (ar/ao/mc in UU alphabet soup) I could hardly get myself out of bed the next morning I felt so much shame and guilt. But this time I could almost feel hope for our whole association.

Then in the afternoon we got to spend time with the LREDA Integrity Team, Helen Bishop, Lynn Sabourin, Pat Kahn and Jenn McAdoo. This is a group that does a lot of things, but the most visible this week will be that they help all of us as religious educators remember just what it takes to really inclusive of each other. This is simple stuff, but it's not things that we all remember to do. Things like: keeping the aisles clear so that wheeling people can easily get through. And things like: remembering to invite people to rise in body or spirit. Things like: being sure that there are restrooms that are easy for transgendered folks to use. Simple stuff in theory, but not always so in practice in a big hotel with 260 people. One of the best things I got to do in preparation for this board meeting was to read up on the history of this group. I love history. It's really all just about hearing people's stories. If you've not read it, chase the link and check it out. Interesting stuff.What a committed group of people.

I really enjoyed getting to spend a little (too little) time with them. But we got to have ice cream and desserts to celebrate a birthday in the room, and then after our work together was done, we came into a circle and sang. Wow. Three part haromony! How totally cool is that? Very cool, that's what it is, very cool!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

LREDA Board Meets for 14 hours straight!

OK, OK! We didn't really meet for fourteen hours straight through! There were breaks. And we picked a restaurant for dinner that included a nice walk through downtown Providence. But we did start at 9AM and end at 11 PM. It was a great meeting though. How fabulous it is to work with people who can think deeply about what will serve a huge, diverse group of people. And still conspire to grab every "planter" in the place that just happens to look like a chalice for the opening worship on Friday? Great group of people.

We reshuffled some responsibilities to make things a little more streamlined. Looked over re visioning that was done three years ago to check in and see how we're moving forward. And we had all the reports today. That was an awful lot of information. Wow. But the really cool thing is that in represents a whole lot of work from a whole lot of folks. Dedicated, brilliant, giving folks. We are a lucky group of professionals. Beautiful people all.

And the hotel is gorgeous. There are little things, though, to tie in the hotel's history as a Masonic Temple. Given that my congregation meets in a Masonic Temple, its a little weird! Good, but weird!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

LREDA Fall Con.....just getting here!

The chase to catch up was swift and crafty this week. Just as I thought I might finally have gotten nearly caught up, taa daaa, another something to-do popped up. But just like a good old fashioned “whack-a-mole” game, I handled all the pop-ups. We celebrated one birthday early and one birthday late and I was nice and early for my flight this morning. I’m used to flying “stand-by” so this whole holding a boarding pass and getting on when my zone was called was pretty amazing. I like knowing that I’m going to make the flight!

As I settled in for the long flight to Philadelphia, I chatted with my seat mate. Yes, she was connecting as well, headed for Florida. Why? For a master’s synchronized swim meet? No way! I swam synchro in high school! And then I coached for 10 years! Yes, I did! Funny, small, weird world! Who else would understand about putting steaming hot knox gelatin in your hair and what it means when the technical routine includes a front walkover and a heron? Weird small, itty bitty world.

The Philadelphia airport was lovely with fun live music and decent lo mein. My flight to from Philly was great, my good friend whisked me away from the airport and we spent a couple of hours catching up. After a little time in my room with my wonderful roomie, I'm ready to turn in. It feels kind of like today never actually happened, and still was packed full of tons of things. All good. All happy.