Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hand out from the UU Musician's Network conference......

A Few Words from the Religious Educators…

Keep up the good work of U.U. music ministry!!!
As a parent... I feel blessed to know UU songs that I sing for lullabies and work around the house. And I feel fortunate to know the stories behind them to tell my children. The lyrics of our songs and the stories behind the songs are very rich religious education opportunities.
Please try not to schedule the Soprano singing Wagner on an intergenerational or
children's visiting Sunday. I had kids sitting on the dais holding their hands over
their ears to the embarrassment of the congregation and me!
There are many ways to make music from the heart. Children can learn through repetition, a song can be melodically simple, but still have intriguing themes. **********
Invite the musicians to share their music/instruments with the children, if they
are comfortable. During the "Children's Story" they could describe how to play the
instrument. Or they could offer a piece to the children in the RE Wing after they
are done in the adult service. Or they could "practice" with the kids arriving and
give them a taste of what is coming.
Don't forget to use the teens for "in-house" musicians. Some are very accomplished
and play in High School Orchestra or are taking advanced lessons in voice or an
I knew that I had done right by my children when I was having a very hard time with a friend's illness with AIDS. My eldest son snuggled into me, put his arm around me and started humming "Find a Stillness."
Keep it simple! Little ones can't do really complicated tunes or lyrics ..
I think most churches don't give youngins enough credit -- most studying music are certainly good enough to play in a church band
Things I HAVE told music directors….from Marie Houck

“There are two things that everyone of all ages needs in music in worship:
the first is an opportunity to HEAR the voice of God in the form of hearing
beautiful music, the second is an opportunity to BECOME part of the
collective voice of God in the form of congregational singing.

From a practical point of view, this mean that at least some of the time,
the music sung by the congregation needs to be accessible to non-readers,
either in the form of familiar songs that everyone ends up learning by
heart, or in the form of repetitive songs or echo songs.

And there is no need "dumb down" the music that is presented for
listening. Children enjoy hearing complex music. They don't need to be
"entertained" any more (or less, I suppose) than adults do; rather, they
need to be engaged. Offer them music that is beautiful, and they will

There is one other piece: children and youth need to learn to "do church",
too, which means learning how to use the hymnal -- therefore some of the
music while the children and youth are in worship (children's, youth,
family, multigenerational -- whatever!) should use the hymnal, so they learn
that part of "doing church.”

Ringing Tributes

Sara Cloe in Hillsboro, Oregon
“Allison Wilski is our super talented Music Director. She wrote a lovely recessional for the children. She just debuted a wonderful original song at our contemporary music service. Allison is a joy to work with!”
Beth Kline in Marietta, Georgia
I am grateful for the incredible professional leadership and cooperative music ministry that Emerson UU Congregation's Choir Director, Dr. Kathy Creasy Mittelman, leads at our congregation.

She is the first to step forward to coordinate Christmas Eve Family Worship pageant music with the kids - even though she has a second, later service that night that is music-based and she leads both with joy.

She has invited & lead children's singing along with adult chancel choir members when she found music that lent itself to doing that - it was powerful and amazing.

She is happy to let other professional choral musicians step in to lead special event children's choirs -since she is very part-time with us and has two other career positions that she juggles.

She has bonded the Choir singers- over 35 of them in a congregation of 120 adults - into a special group of truly "mission-oriented" souls who share their gift of music so that our Congregation rings with the emotions of rejoicing, celebration and renewal every Sunday with her help.

She's amazing.


The little boy was probably not yet five. He was a high energy, very kinetic kid, having a hard time learning appropriate sanctuary behavior on the Sundays the children started in "big church". He was as likely to be found crawling under the chairs as in one. One Sunday as we sang a familiarand repetitive song I watched him suddenly jump up, grab a hymnal, open it up (to the wrong page and upside down), and begin to sing along. He was clearly learning to "do church"!

The little girl was about three. She loved sitting beside her mother in church, and was a regular. We stood to sing "Spirit of Life" -- one her mother sang at home, one she had learned by heart. She joyfully joined in, loud and horribly off key. The faces of the adults near her were filled with delight as she sang all the words. She was blissfully unaware of their attention, just enjoying singing along and being part of the congregation.
The look on her mother's face, though, is what brought tears to my eyes, looking down at her with a complex mix of pride and embarrassment, but
clearly loving being at church with her daughter.

On the Sunday we were celebrating Martin Luther King Day, there was a father sitting with his two daughters -- about 10 and 12 -- in the front row. I stood to lead them in "We Shall Overcome". I knew his history, that he had been an active part of the Civil Rights movement in the 60's, registering African American voters in the south, riding buses, and, on at least one occasion, being assaulted. He picked up his hymnal, without looking to see what we were singing. I said (not just to him, but to everyone) that they should put down their hymnals -- they wouldn't need them. An argumentative sort, he kept his -- until he heard what we were singing. He ended up closing his eyes, and putting his arms around his daughters while he sang this so-familiar song. They could see the music was moving him deeply, though I suspect they wouldn't fully understand why until later. Still, it was a moment when the music was touching an entire family, and drawing them closer together.

I found out recently that when one of my daughters was in junior high and high school, she used to tell her Sunday School teachers she had to go to the bathroom in order to sneak into the sanctuary to listen to the choir.

Finally, one of the things I always enjoy, and have watched several times, is seeing an older sibling show younger new reader how to read the order of worship to figure out which hymn to look up, and follow along from verse to verse in the hymnal.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Here in Portland with the UU Musicians

It's really hot in the Pacific Northwest. I mean really hot. It was 106 degrees today here in Portland.

That is so hot. I mean, wherever you might be, 106 is hot. But here in the Pacific Northwest where most folks have no air conditioning and we get all steamy when it's 78 degrees; this is incredibly hot.

So here I am in Portland, representing the Liberal Religious Educators Association. We are intentionally trying to work together with all our colleagues (musicians, ministers, and administrators) to create fantastic collegial relationships. Here's the description of our workshop for tomorrow, it sums things up pretty well:

The UUMN and Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA) are currently working together to lift up supportive and reciprocal staff relationships. This workshop brings religious educators and musicians together and shares stories of how to initiate and invite partnership between staff members, with a focus on how to remove obstacles of habit, silos, and territorialism.

It's a little tiny bit mind blowing to be here with so many UU musicians. I met very briefly with the UUMN board today. It was 3pm on day two of their meetings. And they were still smiling, still laughing, still coming up with fresh ideas and innovative plans.

That is effective and engaged leadership.

I went to the Compline (final church service of the day in the monastic tradition) and my soul soared with the fine music.

I walked back from the Compline service with Jason Shelton and got to confess in a "fan moment' that the ringtone on my cell phone is actually the first measures of "The Fire of Commitment" but really, we had even more fun talking about our kids.

I got to give a great big hug to Minister of Music at the Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship; Sonja Johnston. This is my home congregation from age 10 to about 36. She taught me "Spirit of Life" and was my AYS teacher when I was 14 and played the wedding march at my wedding. Here we are together at a conference. I am humbled and amazed!

The conferece seems to be brilliantly organized. There are so many things to make you feel welcome and part of the whole. There is a "goody bag" of things to make your stay easier from coupons for half priced meals to a travel mug to a name tag that says "new" to let everyone know that you need a kind word and a helping hand. And there was a copy of the new Spanish language hymnal and many, many samples of sheet music. I can't wait to sift through it all.

And can I say enough about Keith Arnold, the president of the UUMN. He's kind, warm, amazingly organized. And I think maybe even a friend. He serves the musicans and all UUs so well. We are lucky.

So, I'll hope for a little cooler weather tomorrow for the hike (five blocks!) to First Church. I'll look forward to the good worship that is bound to happen, and to the good conversations I know will happen. I'm honored to be here and honored to serve on the LREDA board.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Coming of Age, Part 2

It may be odd, or imagination, but I believe I could feel my son as the expanse of Lake Superior came into view for him, today. I was standing in the kitchen here on the west coast, and I had the same feeling I always got as a girl, breaching the hill, feeling the suddenly cool air, seeing the disappearing shore and the grey icy water.

I looked at the clock, it was about the time you would expect the camp bus to be headed into Duluth.

There is a part of me that deeply wishes, just a little part of me, that I was of a culture who had the tradition of kidnapping the children for their coming of age ritual. Even though those mothers well know the kidnappers to be beloved uncles and brothers, they are able to weep and wail and mourn the loss of their child. I have no such permission. But I feel it just the same.

The steaming weather seems to just cook it in. My child; becoming a young man. My years of mothering him as a child; over. Yes, a new reality will grow. A new young man in my house and my heart. But that little elf-smile child, just a memory.

I spoke to him for a few minutes last night. He had read all of the letters we'd gathered from the special men in his life. He'd read half his book. He was calm and ready to go. Just now he's about settled in at the camp, there is no road in, you have to paddle a big voyageur style canoe across the lake. He'll settle in with his group, head to the dining hall for dinner, learn new songs around a camp fire. And tomorrow he'll carve his own canoe paddle, ready to take out on the wild lakes and rivers of the far north. Mosquitos, dirt, sweat, exhaustion, pain and frustration, it will all leave him ready for this next phase, his youth.

My baby. My son.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

One Year Since

Time spins so very fast. Last year on the last Sunday in July, our beloved community of Unitarian Universalists was attacked by a gunman, driven by hate.

It's been a whole year.

We've seen a beautiful model of how to face hate in a sanctuary, and how to close ranks with love and keep that hate out. Tennessee Valley UU Church and Westside UU Church have chosen to stand on the side of love. A love that is a fierce and abiding love. This is no frilly place to be, this is a Sequoia like love with roots that wrap around bedrock and branches that reach to the heavens.

Because we have been tried, we are all a bit stronger in this, our beloved community. And a bit wiser. We have evacuation plans, and greeters who keep an eye out for trouble. We know where the exits are and where to take the children if we have a lock down. It's not pleasant to plan for such events, but it helps us straighten our shoulders, square them off and say "we will not shrink back, we will face hate and fight fiercely with the best weapon we know; we will fight with love".

We opened our service last year on the first week of August with hymn number 1. May Nothing Evil Cross This Door. I repeated it though the year in many children's worship celebrations, hoping some would learn the words and have them to hold in their hearts when things are hard. At our year end celebration, I spoke the works as our music director played the hymn solemnly, reverently, like a slow and thoughtful waltz.

I believe in our beloved community with all my heart.

"....and though these sheltering walls are thin, may they be strong to keep hate out, and hold love in."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Coming of Age

Our son Peter turned 14 last October. In our little corner of UU Understanding, this is the age when we do our "confirmation", our "bar mitzvah", our ritualized initiation into manhood. Our Coming of Age.

This year at church, there were only two 8th graders, and the other one wasn't much into going to church or church activities. Some of the kids of Middle School age did OWL (Our Whole Lives Sexuality Curriculum) at the local big huge church who warmly welcomes us in, but when it came time to think about COA, well, we just weren't up for it. He'd have been the only kid from outside that church, it was on Sunday mornings. There was just too much in the way. So we decided we'd do a family Coming of Age, including a wilderness adventure trip.

But I didn't think the day would actually come and I'd have to actually send my son away on a wilderness adventure!

What was I thinking?

We looked at camps here in the Pacific Northwest, we looked at Stan Crowe's Rite of Passage Journeys. And we looked at YMCA Camp Menogyn, in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of far northern Minnesota. Menogyn is the camp that I went through as a teen, the last trip 45 days of canoeing to Hudson Bay, a float plane to fly us out at the end.

Yep, there was really no contest. Although I would have liked him to take the Rite of Passage trip, he was one year to young. In the end, Menogyn was clearly the best choice. They have canoe trips that go out for a good length of time, even for middle schoolers. It was late into the summer when I called to register, but they fit him into a 14 day trip that includes an extra day in camp making a canoe paddle. Yes, making a canoe paddle. A paddle, making it. And canoeing. And portaging. That's carrying the canoe on your shoulders over land between the lakes and around the rapid and falls.

The plan was for my husband to swing by Minneapolis on his way to Atlanta tomorrow and bring Peter to my parent's house, and they would bring him to the camp bus in the morning. But we fly this crazy non-rev thing, you go when seats are available. The flights in the morning started filling up, and the redeye flight had more than a dozen seats open.

At about 7pm tonight, they decided to go tonight, to leave on the redeye. To go at midnight. My baby, leaving. Not only leaving for camp for two weeks, but leaving his childhood.

Excuse me while I sob for a while.

When Michael, our 17-year-old did his Coming of Age program at the wonderful big church in town, we had some specific structure to help us through. There were mentors, and there was an adult in charge of making sure all went well. There was history and tradition and rituals.

This was just us. Luckily, I'm really into the rituals. So I had some idea of what to do.

A few weeks ago, we sent out letters to some of the good men in Peter's life asking them to share some wisdom about becoming a man, and chosing a life.

We got such amazing letters from so many good men. God, we're lucky to have this community of men for our sons.

We bought him a great journal, a suede cover that wraps around with a strap, I got him "Canoeing with the Cree", by Eric Sevaride which follows almost the same route I took at 17. We stood in a circle outside, with a circle of candles in front of us. We all wished him well on his trip, we gave him his gift, we gave him the letters with an explanation of what they were. And then we asked him to hold a length of ribbon, my husband and I held the other end, the ribbon symbolized his childhood. We handed scissors to our seventeen year old, and he cut the ribbon. When he comes back from his trip, we'll tie the ends together as a symbol of our new relationship, of his youth, his new stage of life.

I thanked him for being my child, and his great childhood years. And then he was off.

Now I just have to find some way to survive these next two weeks, and some way to never, ever let my youngest grow-up! Ever!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Parenting Tip No. 3

Figure out exactly what you are going to have for dinner by 10 am. If you do not do this all hope is lost and your family will be licking empty tuna cans for dinner with glassy eyes and disheveled hair.

Or something like that.

And please, will someone remind me of this tomorrow by 9:55 am? My children ate quesadillas and grapes tonight. No meat, no veggies, no nice warm family dinner after all our scampering about. Nope, instead we had mom hollering some nonsense from the kitchen about just why it was always the mother's job to cook and why on earth wasn't the laundry done, anyhow?

Actually, dinner was really nice. We were all whirlwind-busy all day. The little dog went on a good long hike in the foothills of the cascades with me and her middle boy while he broke in his new boots for a his upcoming long canoe trip. The youngest is still undefeated at fencing camp, and looks so darn cute, I mean handsome, in his fencing jacket. The oldest worked both his jobs; math tutor at the college and lifeguard. Our father figure is flying all over the country again, keeping airplanes safe to fly on for you and me. So we just toasted up some tortillas and cheese, poured some salsa in a bowl, washed some grapes and ignored the disaster on the kitchen table to go sit on the patio and eat our simple dinner.

I am so lucky that I really, really like my children. Yes, I have learned that life is easier if you know in the morning what you're having for dinner. Even better is a weekly meal plan that you stick to. But sometimes life isn't like that. Sometimes you just have to figure something out.

After dinner they all worked like mad to make a clean kitchen and even a picked-up living room and family room. I feel sane, they're out car-part shopping and I think we'll have pork chops and corn on the cob for dinner tomorrow. See? I already feel much more calm. It just might be safe to take the tuna cans out to the recycling.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Standing on the Side of Love

Must read.

Thanks to the blogger Kim Hampton at "East of Midnight" for getting permission to publish this letter from the Rev. Dr. Mary J. Harrington.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A family that camps together doesn't get eaten by cougars....

We had a wonderful weekend. The weather was gorgeous.

The whole family was in town, and we got to spend a weekend with our good friends who were kind enough to have four daughters to match our three sons.

We burned a lot of things, some of it even food.

There were many boats, and many children in many boats. Many boats tipped, I am sure no one had any role in any of these swampings and that it was all just the wind. Oh yeah, the wind.

We hiked and climbed and had adventures in the water. Some of them began with "I'm sure we can get across the river over here...."

The Olympic Mountains are amazing.

The water, too.

The little dog got to go on her first camping trip.

And we think we brought enough stuff for two days, maybe. I guess we did.

And little dogs, supervise them closely too. And have them supervise the small children, too. Buddy system. And park rangers with big guns, that too.

I have no idea what this means, but we brought no stock, and no overstocks, either.

What a great weekend. I want to go back, right now. Who's with me? We can race. Ready, set......GO!

Noodles the Wonder Dog

A very little girl takes a very little dog for a very little walk.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Calling all Religious Educators!

Hey All You Fabulous Religious Educators! Are there things you always wanted to tell the music director you work with, but couldn't? Do you think every UU Musician working in a congregation should know just one thing about working with children, youth or families? Two? Sixteen? I have been asked by the UU Musicians Network president, Keith Arnold, to compile these "always wanted to tell...." stories to share at a panel at the UUMN Conference. I vow to keep all stories confidential--no names, no places. I think it's a great chance to share! If you have a thought, please email me off line at dre(at)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Parenting Tip No. 2,496

If you want your children to hang around with you, build a fire.

Not a dangerous house fire where you burn up all your posessions and treasures in an arson-based-mad-house. But your regular kind of fire in the fireplace or fire-pit-kind of fire. Rip up the newspaper, strike the match, light up some good old seasoned logs or tree branches that fell in an ice storm three years ago. Build a base, light it up.

Kids love fire.

They will come from video games and online youtube marathons to sit with you and poke at the embers. They'll find just the right balance of coals and wood and poking. And maybe they'll even forget and talk a little with you.

"Hey mom, what was it your dad did for a job when you were a kid again?" and you can tell them all about the details of thermostats and controllers. And in the middle you can slip in a little bit about the finger puppets their grandfather sometimes had in his jacket pocket. And how you would wait at the end of the block, hoping he'd come home with a prize just for you.

The fire burns and you put another log on the smoldering embers. It flares and the sparks rise. Someone breathes a big sigh. Someone smiles and pokes the fire a little. Words might be there or they might not. It's primitive, the fire, the connection. The people.

It's all good.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Package!

We got a package in the mail! Yeay! It's always fun to get things in the mail!

And this was a really good package. It had three little dog sized frizbees.
And a portable water holder for when you go on long trips.

And some flashlights which were completely uninteresting to the dog but that the boys liked a lot. had.....a new stuffie to chew! A monkey! A good monkey. Oh yum.
How wonderful!

Noodles the dog is in heaven.

How cool is that? That your grandparents send you care packages in the mail, even though you are a little dog.Life really is good.
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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hey it's good.... have my kids back home. It turns out that they all had the very best week of their lives ever...

Well that was good to hear.

What a week. The combination of two adult adoptees coming to supervise the camp who are Danish and rappers and the wild mix of kids made for the most singing and dancing I've ever seen from these boys. "Mamma Mia", fully choreographed. It was hilarious.

They were like rock stars at the final camp presentation day. And like very goofy teen boys. Which of course they are. Both rock stars and goofy boys.

The identity piece is always a little tough at camp. Almost everyone who goes was adopted from Korea. There are now about five teens, including my three, who have parents that are adoptees. One mother at camp actually asked us why our kids come to camp if they're not adopted. It's not all about the adoption, some of it is of course about living with a racial identity that is marginalized in our society.

But being Hapa at Korean Identity camp is also, once again, not quite fitting in.

Good thing they have each other I guess, at least it's something. And if they all grow up to be criminals, well, at least they can dance!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Best

I am lucky to serve a great Unitarian Universalist Congregation as one of their Religious Educators. It's good work. But it's a lot of work. A lot. My to do list of work for the summer looks like it should roll out across the floor on papyrus. And I don't think I would even bother learning the new entry code to our rented space or to compile the mind numbing statistics for the long range planning committee if it weren't for this amazing group of women I work with.

They are the best.

We've had a number of incarnations of the Religious Education Committee that then transitioned to a Religious Education Council. We've had people without kids and males and board liaiaons. It was all good. But for the last few years our REC has been pretty homogeneous. All women, all with kids in the program. All one side or the other of 40. And they are a powerhouse. They are leaders and movers and shakers. They could pick up and go make a church plant that would be wildly successful. But they don't want to do that, they just want so stay here and make phenomenal ministry to and with children, youth and families. And know what? That's just what they do.

Here are my favorite things about the REC I work with:

  • They take time to care about each other. Our check-ins are long and we share deeply each month, but that's just what makes the group so powerful. Of COURSE they'll gladly give blood, sweat and tears for each other! They care.
  • Last month when we were planning our summer meetings someone said "well in July we always go out for dinner instead of our regular meeting" it had happened once before, but it was really good! That's recognizing a tradition when you see it! Excellent.
  • The planned meeting for next month just wasn't going to work for too many people. When we were planning a re-do of the dates the deciding factor for who would host was who was going to have a new puppy in the house. We need joy in our lives, and what can be more joyful than a new puppy? Priorities--check!

I love these folks. Just love them. And my list that rolls across the floor and out the door would never feel possible to even start much less complete if it were not for them. Nope.

Help me say a good prayer for these good folks......thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.


Thank You!


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Letting go so that the prayer may begin

Freedom is great, kids at camp; amazing. But stir into that mix two people who work from home and feel passionately about their work, and the days can get long!

I have been fuming a little about a couple of things that are happening in the UU blog world. Not the people saying them, just some of the "stone skipping over water" depth given to a comment or two swirling around out there. This makes me stop mid teacher-recruitment-email and say to my husband things like "what are they thinking?" I mean really....?" he types a few more words, then pulls his gaze from his screen to my face and says "What?"

"Oh never mind, know. Ah!"

I am headed out for a long walk, whenever I put together our teacher teams for the upcoming year for our Sunday morning programs I do some deep prayer about who will be the best fit, both with the age group of kids and the other adults on the teacher team. I've found that a good fit can make for an amazing experience for the children and the adults. Even though we have no building and we tuck our classrooms into every dingy spare corner we can glean from the Masonic Temple we meet in, our classrooms become holy places. Our children are holy beings, our teachers, holy guides. We make it so just by coming together. The prayer helps.

But I have two comments that I just have to put down so I can let them go:

White people have a different experience of race than do people of color, at least living for the last 25 years with my husband (an Asian American) has led me to believe this. He says in this country he wears his race on his face every day, the white among us don't. He tells me it's different. We dishonor his experience to say so. And yes this comes from one tiny comment in Peace Bang's rant from yesterday: "When I visit a Methodist or Episcopal or UCC or Baptist church, am I looking around to see how many half-Jewish people of Eastern European descent there are? What is up with that?"

Maybe she's not, but the racial mix of the group does matter to my husband. He can tell you exactly how many non-white folks there are in our congregation each time he visits. No he doesn't care what the race or ethnicity of the UUAs president is, but he sure as hell cares if that Latino man is in our seats.

OK, only one comment. The other one doesn't matter as much now that I've laid that one down.

Now, off to walk the path with the clouds and drizzle. Holding the dear faces of each of the children I know from our ministry in my heart and my hands. It is good work, if you can get it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Beer and Nachos for Dinner

I thought I was ready for this little mini vacation in my house--just the little dog, my husband and me. Our kids off for a few days at Korean Identity Development Society camp (KIDS Camp) because even though they were not adopted from Korea, my husband was, it's good for them to go. And this year they were all old enough to go to the sleep-over teen camp.

Ha! Four days in my own house with no responsibilities beyond work and the little dog.

I waited until they all boarded the big orange school bus for Whidbey Island. I waved good-bye. The dog waved good-bye. My husband waved good-bye. One of our sons waved back. And we drove home.

My husband had a lunch meeting with a colleague so while he headed out, I realized I was tired. I mean really tired. My bones ached. How could I even stand up for another second? So I curled up on the couch, and my husband nestled the little dog in with me and we slept for a good long time, that dreamless, knocked out sleep that hits hard. I finally wrenched myself off the couch and tucked a blanket around the little curl of a dog to go get some work done. Church work never ends. But I was still weary. I wondered if my blood cells had forgotten how to do the whole oxygen thing, and I wondered if you really can have a caffeine IV. After two cups of coffee I was at least functioning again. But what was going on? I wasn't sick, hadn't missed much sleep, what was going on?

I think it was a first since that night in 1991. We left our apartment in the middle of the night in full-on labor to go to the hospital for Michael to be born. This was the first time since that night that I had no children to fret about. They were at camp, together, with people we trust, surely having a great time. I was off duty for real.

Releasing that intense attention was exhausting.

My husband came home. I hadn't washed one dish or touched an ounce of laundry. Every cabinet and door I had opened I'd left open. My shoes tumbled over each other in the living room, sweaters strewn across the coffee table. I've learned something; without my children watching I am a complete slob. We decided to go to the local pub for happy hour. A slacker-slob.

We had nachos and beer for dinner. We rented "Little Miss Sunshine" which we've never seen because it's rated R and we still have a 12-year-old. We came home and I slipped into something a little more comfortable--you know, my old yoga pants and a ratty sweatshirt. (Come on, it's a family blog! ) We had a great evening. We laughed out loud at the movie. I poked around the internet to see if other people think "Little Miss Sunshine" is a remake of the "Grapes of Wrath" (they do).

And then our youngest called to "say good night". Something was clearly up. He was not happy. Yes, his brothers had been mean to him just as he knew they would be. Yes the other kids were nice, yes his friend, a local minister's son was hanging out with him. Yes, he was OK. Good night. Then he called again, "I just don't like sleeping away from home". One disadvantage to being long time family friends with all of his mates' families---whenever he spends the night with a friend, he's always known the family for years and years, almost like staying in your own house.

We came up with a plan, "drink of water, put on your ipod and listen to Harry Potter, you can do hard things--I believe in you", and the mom connection snapped right back in. We sent threatening text messages to the big brothers "help your little brother!!! be nice!" and this morning all appeared well, at least if I'm interpreting the texting shorthand correctly.

I'm moving through the days like a mom again. The kitchen is tidy. I cleaned up after the turtle we're babysitting and the bird who is usually cared for by the children--even made special snacks for both critters. And all those random bits left behind yesterday are back in place. Back to normal.

Who knew letting go for just a little would be so exhausting? This really is one wild life.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Katsup Post

I tried to post a story about the Story for All Ages I told today at church. It was inspired by my pal Boston Unitarian and it was all about how Unitarian leaders have influenced our country--you know, for the fourth of July.

But technology has me perched on the edge of my last nerve, and I will not succumb to it's evil ways.

Or I'll just give up and go watch TV with my sons.

The boys toiled in hot fields of weeds today, and in steamy swimming pools--two of them swimming and enjoying, one of them life guarding. I want to see them for a bit anyhow. You see, they leave tomorrow. All three of them. They're going to the summer camp that they go to every year. It's a camp about Korean Identity, and it's really aimed at Korean Adoptees, but being that our family is completely advanced and is already on our SECOND generation after the Korean adoption, well, they go and enjoy some time with their Korean teen friends, partially subsidized by the South Korean government (go ahead and ask me about that, I'll tell you but it isn't pretty). And the truth is, this is the first year that they are all old enough to all go to the sleep over camp.

That means that I have four days and three nights in my house, with my husband, with no kids. Lord help me, we may just come away with an entirely re-painted house. What the hell do you do with your spouse when there are no kids around? I've completely forgotten how to relate in complete sentences, how to have a conversation that goes from PARAGRAPH to paragraph and not snippet to snippet. We're talking almost since the 80s that we've had space like this.

Of course, we begin Monday morning with a teleconference and a lunch meeting for him, a board report and summer map of the planned projects for me. There's the writing project, two church meetings and full days of work. So maybe we'll just come home and collapse like we always do.

Or maybe we'll go out for cheese and olives and good red wine with some live jazz for dinner.

Maybe we'll meet for a lunch downtown and walk through the piazza and stroll through the art gallery.

Maybe, just maybe, we'll hike up to the top of a bluff and sit with a bottle of pelligrino and a loaf of bread and plan the next ten years of our lives.

Or maybe we'll just anticipate what it might be like someday when soccer trips are over, piles of turned in socks are gone and our days go on and on and end and begin in a lazy circle of good work, good life and good love.

I will miss my kids like someone has removed my right arm, and I simply cannot wait.

Friday, July 3, 2009

please excuse the mess while we claim our blog with technorati....


Happy Blogiversary to me!

It's my blogiversary. One year. The paper anniversary, which is pretty ironic for this electronic critter.

I have blogged personally for a while--first on myspace back when that wasn't a pit of despair of a social networking site. Then at livejournal and blogger. In spring of 2008 I wanted a way to touch base with families in my church, so I activated a blog that I had started a few years before and promptly dropped because I was overwhelmed. I wanted to give parents information for a church wide "Scavenger Hunt" and the blog was just perfect.

So while I was at the 2008 Fort Lauderdale GA I thought I'd continue with that little blog and share with my congregation what was happening. I loved it, people read it--50 people a day read it, and it helped me organize my own brain about the whole experience.

When I got home, I decided I'd wrap that GA coverage into a new blog that was religion focused, but not congregation centered. I stomped around the house for a couple of days, annoying everyone by trying out different blog names until finally on July 3rd, I just went ahead and launched this little blog.

I still love it. And people seem to read it and sometimes are kind enough to join in the conversation as well. The help organizing my brain has been a huge bonus. I think blogging has even become a kind of spiritual practice. I've made real friends in my real life from initial contact here in blog land. And for about two seconds at the LREDA Fall Conference I felt like a rock star when people actually recognized me from my blog-- OK, maybe I felt more like a folk star, but it was fun. I've written a little book for parents that is a lot like a series of blog posts about raising good kids and while I still can't get anyone to publish it, I take heart in what the 2009 Fahs lecturer, Rabbi Sandy Sasso said about having "God's Paintbrush" turned down by eight publishers. I am thankful that with this little blog all I have to do to be published is to click "Publish Post".

So, thanks for reading whether you're a regular or a visitor, I appreciate it. I look forward to another good year of sharing the smiles and the tears of this one wild life.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rockin' on Furious

My dear husband doesn't mail things very often, so he was surprised that his envelope full of bricks came back needing more postage. "No problem", I told him. "I'll run it in to the post office."

Was that a mistake. This is what I was met with at my local little post office:

I went inside with my little bundle of a bricks to mail, and I said "What's with the protesters outside?"

"Oh, they're always there, they just stand there."

This has been my post office for almost six years. I drive by this spot twice a day. I have never noticed anyone sitting outside protesting. And I've surely never seen such offensive posters, never. But the postal staff just brushed it off. No big deal.

I was furious. Burning. Infuriated. I marched myself out the door and right up to the young man staffing the table. "I am deeply offended that you are standing on this land that I pay for with such offensive posters of my president"

"It's my first amendment right, I have the right to be here."

"I support your right to protest as you will, but I believe it's wrong for me to be forced to look at this when I walk into a government establishment." I was seething, trying to be calm, knowing that this man is young and may never have lived anywhere but out little town, may just be influenced by hate-talk radio and the things he's absorbed in his few years. But my compassion meter was on about 2 and my infuriated meter was on about 55 million.

I went back to my house and got my camera, just so you could be infuriated, too. My middle son--yes the one who is a champion martial artist, insisted on coming with me just in case the guy jumped me. When I went back up and tried to take his materials, he stopped me. Some public service there, hunh?

And then I guess maybe he did start to feel ashamed or something, because he turned around and wouldn't let me take his picture any longer.

I checked in with my friend who knows about these things, and I was disappointed. He does have a right. The law is clear. The postal service is a semi private something that is administered by the government. He can be there unless there is a clear hazard to public safety.

The hazard to the public safety isn't in his table or his shiny dvds or books. It's in the culture of hate he's promoting, the culture of hate he's living. That is where the danger lies. And it is a clear and very real danger.