Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday snapshot

Everyone here is sick, or at least all the children are. Children. All the young men I live with are sick. And the car accident I was in 20 years ago is pulling things out of whack in my back. Oh super ouch. You'd think we would have had a really bad day, right?


It was a great day. The boys watched the entire season three of "Friends", and I got to watch some of it with them. Sometimes my sons look at me like I've got horns, like when I know the "We Were On A BREAK" episode. But it was great.

I made soup for a fundraiser lunch tomorrow, and Chicken Pot Pie for dinner. I listened to "Prairie Home Companion" and drank red wine while I cooked and cleaned and listened. My husband was out in the garage building set pieces for the Seussical play that's coming up. And we were happy. All of us, even though we're sick or hurt or working super hard, we had a great day.

Things could change radically. Jobs are in transition here, and who knows what will happen? It could be really different. We might not have these quiet Saturdays in this same way. But we've worked very, very hard before. We've been dirt poor, we know how to do that. We'll be fine.

Nice little respite here as we move into early spring, into a new phase. Into the future.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


This is my frame of mind today....

I just adore Ellis.

And hey y'all. She's a UU. She will come play your church. You would never regret it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Everyone I went to high school with is suddenly on Facebook. They all joined last Wednesday at 12:51 PM. OK, not really, but it sure seems that way. Suddenly I am back in touch with almost all of the people from World Studies class junior year.

It's not bad, not really. I mean everyone seems to be kind, warm, good folks. It's been a long time, we've all been humbled and tossed around by life some, I guess. If you sit with a person long enough you'll find that everyone has a story that will break your heart. And most of us have had our hearts broken a time or two. It makes more room, having survived a it, you watch better, listen better--it makes you pat each other on the arm and say "there-there".

But I am finding that lost girl is still there inside me. The girl that wasn't quite smart enough for the gifted program, wasn't pretty enough to be of interest to the boys (or girls either), wasn't a good musician or artist or athlete. I was a chubby girl with bad hair and stupid clothes. And that lost girl had no idea how much she was just like almost everyone else--in one way or another, anyway.

Hearing about what all these people have done in the 24 years since we knew each other is letting that lost girl back up to the surface. Seems that all the people I knew are doctors and lawyers, or should I say physicians and attorneys. They live overseas. They have good lives that are well examined and they've probably even taught themselves to make homemade organic yogurt from the milk they get from their pygmy goats in their green urban back yards. And they play the mandolin.

OK, maybe that's a little too far.

The lost girl feels a little bit better though. This is one amazing life she wound up with. It's filled with dear, wonderful friends and a family she treasures. It has good work and good play. She lost some weight and found a good hairstylist. The love of her life shares her bed at night, and he washes the dishes almost as often as she does. It is good. Maybe she's almost found.

This could be what it will take for her to finally get found all the way. Not just the feet peeking out from behind the curtains in the big "hide-and-seek" game that is life. But all the way "gotcha" found. And then the lost girl can take her place here in the good life, where there is no more gifted program and life is real and whole. And good.

And I swear, if all those high school folks tag me in every meme that comes along, I'm gonna un-friend their 80s-loving-big-haired selves right off my profile. Yeah.

(any likness to high school friends, real or imagined, is completely unintentional)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Looks like Home

Here's the thing.

This time when our president stood at the platform and gave a great speech with a call to action for all of the citizens of the U.S. I noticed something I've never seen before.

This time the folks on that platform behind him looked like us. They looked like my family. It looked like us. There were white folks, and black folks and Asian folks and hapa folks. We can relate to Konrad Ng, the Canadian Chinese brother-in-law of the president. We can relate to Maya, our president's sister. We can relate to our president and his mixed race heritage. We can relate.

Even though I am the white one in my family, the people I hold dearest and closest and who live daily in this house with me are represented here on this platform.

It is something I can't even put words to. But is one of the most profound moments for us. Ever.

Hail to the Chief

Oh, it was a great day. I'm so happy that Barack Obama is my president. Really, he's my president??

Yes! He's your president, too! That is unless you are from someplace that is not the U.S. then bless you for reading this far anyway.

We had a big Inaugural Ball Bash. It was pot luck Except for the essentials. Like the Obamacakes. And the Joe Biden Jello. That was the best. The kids went WILD over it.

Some of them even sang about how wonderful the transition had gone, and how beautiful Michelle's gowns and suits were. Or maybe they just moved their mouth like they might be singing if they were old enough to know what singing was....

And some of us DID come in Ball Atire. Especially those that are young and just married. They think this is all marvelous, and of course they are absolutely right. Some of us just lag behind a little.

And in the end, if it was a really good party, the there is a phenomenal mess. Must have been a good one.

I mean really, what else could a person want? Good friends, good food, good drinks and a phenomenal president....

must be paradise!

And after all, isn't it really about honoring our leaders? Maybe "Ale to the Chief" is the wrong path to take....but it's all about hope! Thanks to all those who celebrated tonight, and all those who are solid americans. We're wickedly lucky to be here in this time, in this place. Let all be so blessed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunny Day and the Inauguration Party Planning.

The sun has been out for TWO days now here in the Pacific Northwest. Oh thank you lord. It's so much better when the sun is out. And our mountain has been out, all our mountains even, the big one Mt Rainier to the south and the cascades to the east, and to the west the Olympics.

Oh so lovely.

And today it must have been 50 something. Heavenly. I didn't plant flowers though, instead I worked a kind of a long day at church (record attendance for children of 44 today) then went to the Y and then the whole family went to a movie and out for dinner at a little diner. It was fun. After a horrible day yesterday of children at each other's throats, this helped a lot.

Maybe we should always have a family date on Sunday evenings, but never will we tell them it's a "plan". No, just make it happen. That might be good. Right now they are playing rock music together, then their plan is to watch the Office and play the Office trivia game. Might just be worth it to have them get along.

On Tuesday we're having our own Inaugural Ball here at our house. You don't have have VOTED for Obama to come to the party, you just have to be happy that he's taking office. This allows my highly principled friends who vote third party to come. And the Canadians. And the kids!

Black tie and ball gowns are optional. I'm sure there will be many more Obama t-shirts, but wouldn't put it past some of my dear ones to show up in formal wear.

The menu includes:

Change Chowder

Joe Biden Jello (red jello with whipped cream and blueberries!)


I think the cooler still has the "No Beer for Children" sign on it. And I'm sure there will be enough hammy kids that another "Think Studios" production will happen.

We'll all watch the ceremony again. We'll all watch the 2004 speech at the DNC. We'll watch some jib jab.

And we will break open the real french champagne. And celebrate. Should be a fun party. Wish I had more time to decorate and plan the Gala, but so what! It's gonna be a party, and an amazing change.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Perfect Solution

I have been so down inside myself. I miss my dog, it's dreary and I'm just clumping around here in my own pity party. With big ol' wooden clogs!

Listening to some fine David Wilcox always helps:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Going Deeper

I love reading Doug Muder, if I knew how to make one of those facebook fan pages, I would make one for him. Funny, whip smart and his writing always just makes me stop dead in my tracks and THINK about things.

His latest blog post and article both deal with UU Lay ministry and "going deeper" as Unitarian Universalists.

Good stuff, it's important that we support our leaders and there seems to have been a lot of focus on ordained clergy in recent years. Or maybe that's just the non-ordained person persepctive. And to lead well I think you have to have a deep faith that guides your life. That depth doesn't just come to you during committee meetings and three hour classes.

Here's my issue. What seems to be the standard path to Unitarian Universalism in the discussion both with Mr. Muder and other bloggers is the understanding that all people come to this faith from someplace else, from another faith or from an unchurched life.

I found Unitarian Universalism when my parents took me to church on Sundays, right there in our rickety old dusty basement RE classroom.

Yes, it was a radically independent Fellowship in every sense of the world fellowship. No minister, political speakers, and radical hospitatlity that wrapped it's arms around all who walked through the door.

I grew up Unitarian Universalist. So did Peacebang. So did many of the younger adults in leadership at the UUA and across the continent.

What do we need to help us go "deeper" in our Unitarian Unversalsit faith?

Well, it's true, many of us grew up in small fellowships in the middle of the fellowship movement. We didn't learn anything about Unitarian or Universalist history. Our education of holy texts was more like a high school class than a theological reflection of sacred writings. Bible references in popular culture fell short on us, because we had no idea what happened in the bible. I remember spending a year learning about Islam just at the time when the first principles must have been in discussion, but we heard nothing about what our faith was doing.

So we do have a need to go deeper, we have great value in lay ministry because we understand our UU identity in a deep, familiial way. Many of the new families who visit my church have one parent who grew up UU. We can laugh about the filmstrips we saw in RE when we were kids, we chat about our lack of bible knowledge. But we understand being UU down to our toes the minute we walk in. I've changed my opening questions to families. I no longer ask "are you searching for a church home?" instead I ask "are you UUs looking for a home or are you seekers looking for a church home?". So often now, I hear "well, I grew-up UU and now I've got a child and I want to raise them as a Unitarian Universalist.

How can we be best served? We lifers? What will help us go deeper? That, I am not at all sure about.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

From the Dreams of Youthful Vision

I just talked to my oldest son while he was on the roof of E&P at the UUA (Eliot and Pickett Houses, can only imagine he was on one of them, not both...). They were out on the roof looking at the snow. I called him because there are all kinds of drastic piles of snow forecast for the Midwest and Northeast, and he's flying home to Seattle from Boston tomorrow. I thought he should know that his flights might get messed-up, and frankly, he's so grown up now, I didn't even have a copy of his itinerary to help him if he needs it.

But he's young. The world is so "right now", he sees the light snow and thinks that all will be well because right now it's just flurries.

So true of our youth. They live in the moment. We should learn from them. We should live in the moment.

It's good to have our youth working on the re-visioning of how we support youth in our Unitarian Universalist movement. We need them to help us be aware of how the youth of right now are going to react to what is done. And we need them to tell us what will really be meaningful, right now as well as into the future.

It's good that he is there. On the roof, in the snow.

Before he left he showed me the agenda for the weekend. I just shook my head, it looked like it would take three months to cover the things that were planned for two short days. But when you get in that groove, lots of good work can happen quickly. Breakthroughs, ephinays, big leaps of understanding sometimes are the most likely with little sleep and long meetings.

I asked him to hold close his favorite verse of UU music by Jason Shelton:

From the dreams of youthful vision, comes a new prophetic voice
Which demands a deeper justice, fueled by our courageous choice

They are called to do some good, big, important work. It's filled with emotion. A lot of people care very deeply about what happens. And there are no absolutes. There are a lot of maybes.

I hope the snow holds off and that he gets home safely. I hope the trip was good and the work went well.

I hope he comes home filled with hope from the prophetic voice of youthful vision.

May it be so.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Can you define Religious Education?

The mourning period for the loss of my dog has turned the corner into the long tunnel of a very foul mood. I hope I've done a good job raising children and creating good, authentic relationships in my life that can survive my bleak presence. I am wicked crabby! I know that I am an annoyingly eternal optimist. I'm sure this will pass. Already I'm contemplating fostering dogs for people who are deployed overseas and may have to give up their beloved pet if no one will take them for a year or more. But at this moment? Yeah, cloud over my head with it's own personal gloominess.

But at least I can work again. A sweet friend asked me some questions about Religious Education. So, while I am working on schedules and planning lessons and even a bit of budget stuff, I took a few minutes to think about what I do. It's like if you're looking at the work we do on google earth and you're zoomed in so close that you can pick out people's wood piles in their back yards, but then you scroll back and out and up until you can see the whole planet. This is the whole planet.

To me, the ministry that I push and pull and drag and launch and dance with in the work I do has three distinct branches:

The first branch is Religious Education; learning about being a Unitarian Universalist, our history, our practices, what we are called to do when we are in covenant with other UUs and our faith and our own very personal identity as Unitarian Universalist. Religious Education also includes learning about religion itself, why there are religions, why people practice religions and also some basic knowledge and understanding of a few other religions.

The second branch is Spiritual Practice; how people find ways to be in touch with the deepest part of their soul. This includes learning how to meditate a few different ways each year, spending time in nature, how to be in community in a mindful way thru children's worship, music, prayer as a group and joyful group activities like chanting, dancing and body prayer. We do learn different ways to pray, and we practice praying individually as they choose join in. It's our job to ready our children and youth with ways to deal with the things life brings us, and spiritual practice is vital to a healthy response to joy and sorrow.

The third branch is Social Action: taking our faith to our work and our work to our faith and being mindful Unitarian Universalist in action both with social and environmental issues. Children are extremely capable in taking their faith to work, and nothing teaches that we are called to do good work in the world like actually doing that good work. Monthly service projects with all ages working together makes this possible right within our ministry and our rickety old building.

So, I define Religious Education as the process of incorporating these three branches of action into a dynamic program that invites children and youth to participate.

The transformative power of Religious Education in fruition comes in when we open the heart and soul of a child or youth to their own power. When they are given the tools to become who they already really, truly are.


But, not easy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Good Book

A friend from church gave me this lovely little gift yesterday.

She told me to tuck it away until the right time, but it was the perfect time right away, I miss my dear dog down to my toenails, so thinking about her isn't an issue. I already am.

If you know someone who has a dear dog friend at the end of their life, this is a wonderful gift to give them. It tells the story of the end, from the dog's view.

Yesterday at church we had the "make-up" solstice play from the missed solstice service. It was wonderful, huge turn out of children AND adults to play animals. And yes the dog costumes did bring tears to my eyes, but smiles to my lips, too.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ten wonderful years

Ten years ago I made a deal with my husband. If he got a sports car I could get a dog. Oh my gosh, he went to Texas looking for a car, and New York, and he flew all over (stand-by) looking for just the right sports car. I finally decided that what I should do was to just go get the dog so he could pick a car and stop driving me crazy.

The local humane society had lots of dogs. There were a pair of German Shorthair Pointers, like the one I grew up with. They were very sweet. There was an old golden retriever, but it was a little too old. Way in the back of the kennels there was a black dog. She was sprawled on her side, asleep. Everyone else was barking, barking, barking away. She lifted her head off the cement floor, glanced at us, and went right back to sleep.


The door of her cage had her picture posted with her name and a little note written about her by the volunteers who walked the dogs. They said she was a really sweet dog who just needed a chance.

So we took her home.

After three days she must have decided that she belonged to us and we were her family because she started barking at everyone who walked within two blocks of our house. But by then we were madly in love with her.

My husband found a gorgeous Nissan 350z with T-tops. It was a pretty sweet deal. I got a fabulous dog and he got a shiny red sports car.

Ten years ago my children were little, only seven, four and two. We had just moved into a new house. I missed all my old neighbors. I wanted another grown-up in the house during the long days. And she was the nicest ladylike dog who always was very proper and fine. Well, except when she thought maybe someone was after her family, you know, like walking on the sidewalk or delivering the mail. Then she went wild. But I clearly had another grown-up in the house.

If we accidentally left her in the back yard while we were out front she would leap our five foot fence just to be near us. Her border collie nature made her frantic if we didn't walk together in a little herd. She'd run from the stragglers to the leaders, trying to keep us together. We were her family.

When she came to us she was already showing signs of aging. In the last few years she started slowing down, running less, playing less. She started to have trouble walking. She didn't see as well, and only heard really loud things. Eventually she stopped barking. She fell down the stairs, and sat down when she didn't mean to. Life got hard. And we still loved her tons. I got up in the night two, sometimes three times to let her out. We used our carpet cleaner a lot more often. We bribed her to eat by mixing her food with butter, cheese and turkey. We loved her so much, that eventually it became clear that it was time.

Yesterday we bathed her, so she'd be fluffy and shiny. And we cleared this afternoon of plans. The day was sunny and bright. I called the vet early today and made an appointment for the last spot of the day. And we tried to give her a really fine and wonderful day.

She was the best dog. I feel so lucky to have had ten years with her. I will look for her everywhere in my house for weeks, and I will remember her every day of my life.