Thursday, December 22, 2011

Grateful for the sun and so much more

I was in our RE office on Monday trying and trying to get excited about making more animal costumes for the Christmas Eve tableau. I was so uninspired I thought my skin was going to peel off. I am not a crafty person and after six years of trying to do crafty things, and having already planning two multi-gen services in the last four weeks, I just wanted to throw the stupid oxen template out the third story window. And run. Bah!

But I made some little lamb masks from paper plates. And figured I'd have to trek to the craft store and throw myself at the mercy of the crafty folks who work there for ideas.

And I realized that I'm actually grateful that we needed to make 15 more animal costumes. It means we have many, many more children than the last time we did "Christmas in the Barn". And for that, I am grateful.

Yes, we have more work to do, more classes to run, more teachers to recruit. But it also means we have more people to love, more people to help do the work, more people who will bring soup and do child care when there's an emergency for one of us. And yes, when there are more people to love, there is a better chance that your heart will hurt for someone when hard things happen.

We're not supposed to get too connected, we religious professionals. We're supposed to be able to have some distance and keep some perspective. I have tried, but I'm not sure how you do that when you know the 10 year-olds who lose a parent or watch their parents divorce. I kind of think in those cases it is my job to be connected. A broken heart is just a logical hazard of the job.

So, I'm grateful. I'm grateful for being too busy and doing things that are not really my job, but just really need to be done for goodness sake, and are so important and worthy. I'm still not grateful for the task of making more animal costumes, I would have paid money from my own pocket if I just could have found some to buy, but I am grateful for the need for more costumes. I'm grateful for more people to love.

And yes, grateful for the sore heart, because it means even though sometimes I feel like my skin will peel off, this work still touches my soul.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Avoiding Decline and slippery hills.

I'll admit to being a ginormous fan of the Rev. Christine Robinson. Once when I was working at the greeter table greeting people at my little church on the hill, some folks mentioned that they were visiting from First Unitarian in Albuquerque and I think I actually scared them with my gushing praise for their senior minister. Brilliant writing, fabulous, warm, insightful and a wonderful web presence, too.

The Rev. Robinson's article in the winter edition of the UU World, "Risk Blessing" had me nodding at my computer this morning. Yep, yep. Uh huh. Oh yeah.

I hear the call "avoiding decline"--it's not even really about growth, just avoiding decline! In the little church on the hill that I serve, more than once our RE team has waved a white flag and called "UNCLE" because we've grown so fast. Last year we had to add not one but two age group classes. We grew something like 30 kids in just a few months. This was nothing new--really, yes, we're competing with the given day for birthday parties (why, Sunday morning of course) soccer games, swim meets, Girl Scouts and yes.... a quiet family morning just hanging out in jammies---but our RE Program has been on super charged vitamin fueled chalice water for six years.

Until this year. We had braced for more big growth, we had a plan in our back pocket of a class for active kids that would actually go down to the wooded park near by every Sunday when these current classes busted out, because unless we pitch a tent in the parking lot, there is no more space for us to hold classes (and yes, when we rented space we DID have preschool class in a tent, it's kinda fun). We trained our teacher teams about how to deal with crowds. We prepped our congregation that two services were inevitable, and soon.

But--no go. Last years "new folks" are not coming back. Yes, we're getting the regular influx of visitors who fall in love and join three committees and the choir. We've got the same kids who were born to us and we've known since they were just a wish, or maybe a little older. But that old-new group is not coming back.

People who work with church kids know this group, they visit in the fall, in the Pacific Northwest, maybe you lose them for ski season, and then they are pretty regular for spring, fall off for summer and come back in the autumn with a gleam in their eye of "we're gonna do this church thing for real now...."

So, here we are, our little church on the hill, with a half decade long history of about 15 new kids every year, with-- a flat growth line. But you know, we really are on a big hill. There are signs that go out on icy days "Road Closed", because you will slide for a good half mile before you get to about sea level and stop. And that's what has me worried. Is there something slick out there that I'm missing? Why are people not sticking? What happened?

I'm not sure exactly how church goes every Sunday, I'm usually running the weekly RE half marathon up and down the three levels of our building, checking on classes, making frowny faces at kids who are throwing sculpy at each other, running for missing supplies. But I think we do the things Rev. Robinson thinks we should to stop declining. There is a deep spiritual energy and when I lead our services I sure feel it like a huge wave of loving spirit from the congregation--these folks are going deep. We have a happy population of folks like me who grew up UU and feel that hunger for ritual and spirit, and they seem to be getting fed.

But something is up. And maybe there's reason to look closely. Is it the classes? Curriculum? Or is it just that push-pull of the weekly rush of family life and the creep of the schedule into what used to be a Sabbath? What? I don't think these folks are afraid of change any more than any human, maybe weary after so much change.

Maybe I'll go out and see if someone has put signs up that say "Church Closed"....not real signs, but those secret signals that you can't see anymore after you've been a part of a group for a while, I guess they are real, but not in a wood and paint kind of way. "go away, you don't fit in here, go back to the Sunday morning paper and a nice, spiritual-but-not-religious life."

For now, we'll just enjoy manageable classes with great kids and a nice, long holiday break from the RE half marathon. Except, who was it that thought that three multi-gen services in a one month span was a good idea? Please!

Um, yeah. That was me.

Happy December!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Truth about being a Religious Educator

I am really not sure how this has happened, but I've been a religious educator for a long time, now. I'm not the skin horse, yet, I'm not the wise old toy in the nursery who explains the truth to the Velveteen Rabbit, but when a new religious educator asks for advice or information, I have some things to say. It still surprises me a little that I've been around for a while. It seems like just yesterday I was figuring out how to turn the lights on at church. In cynical moments I could say that it's gone by so fast because I haven't had time to look up from what I'm doing! But those moments go by quickly. I love what I do. I love my work. And it's worth all the busy rush and the Sundays that last 13 hours and still aren't long enough.

What I love about my job:

People. Big people and little people, people who come and empty all the garbage and recycling in the building every single week, people who sit across from me and make me laugh so hard I can't remember what I was doing and no longer care anyway, people who teach when they are too busy to teach and love it, people who deal with cranky teens in the moments when I just really want them all to convert to some other faith and people who show up and do the things that just need to be done again and again.

Spirit. I love getting to talk about that magical spark that is the essence of being and to see it at work in young people. There's no need to be politically correct--we're on the same page about this one (although we don't all use the same words to talk about it.) Our young ones are so much closer to the wild truth that everyone is a miracle, when you tell them that they are made of star stuff, you can almost see on their faces "I knew it!"

Love. In all the work I did before this,  there was never a formal place for the power of love. As religious educators we get to celebrate the power and grace of love, every single day!

Worship. Being a part of making the magic that becomes worship is an honor and a gift. Inviting a group of children and adults into silent prayer--and hearing the sweet twittery stillness?  Amazing.

Colleagues. I love the religious professionals I serve with at the church I work for. I couldn't ask for a more skilled and supportive team. But the work I do would be absolutely impossible if it were not for my brother and sister religious educators. They are the sun and the stars and the moon and if I were not able to be in their presence on a regular basis--both virtually and in person I would have shriveled up and left the work years ago, I would have been one of the short timers. I love my colleagues. And the longer I'm in this work, the more I realize just how lucky I am to do this work, and know these people. It's a blessing.

The truth is, I am wildly luck to be a religious educator and even luckier to know the people it brings to my life.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Morning Meditation

I have cobbled together a mug of steaming coffee. The kitchen is prepared to brew 80 cups of regular and 40 of decaf, but I only need one. I've walked into the sanctuary, past the spot where it was decided a year ago now, that no coffee will be allowed in this newly fixed up space.

I am breaking the rules.

Half way back I take a seat. Here I can see the beauty of the simple sanctuary, but not be overwhelmed by it. And then I close my eyes, anyway.

I don't really need to see. I am here to pray.

Earlier this morning, my computer would not connect to the outside world again. I have learned that instead of trying and trying and trying to make it connect, I have to just let it find it's own way, in it's own time. So I organize a classroom, or fill out a report, I do something with things that you can touch. Today I went and made coffee and came back to see, but no, it was still thinking about how to connect. And then I checked my phone, no email, no messages, but ahhhh, the distraction of social network.

Again, a request for prayers from a friend. Her loved one, headed for tests, a long struggle trying to discern what is wrong, the outlook scary and then scarier.

So I am sitting, and praying. Not everyone has an actual sanctuary beneath their office. But I do.

The coffee cools. I am trying and trying to pray. The request was for the wisdom and insight of the doctors to find  out what was wrong and what could be done. I am trying to pray by holding a light around the imagined doctors. But my attention wanders. The list of TO DO things, the phone calls, the discussions needed, the many tasks. I am breaking the rules of praying, now. So I drink the rule breaking coffee and I breathe a little.

Try again. I close my eyes. Then I see the hands. I see the hands of my friend holding the hands of her loved one. I see the hands of children and the hands of adults, talking with hands, grasping hands, hands holding tight. And then I see the strong hands of  healers. I think they might be doctors. Calloused hands, and soft hands, big ham hands and the slender hands of a delicate artist, art with a scalpel.

I'm breaking the rules again. I am not praying only for my friend and her dear ones. I am praying for my loved one, and praying hard over and over again that the scalpel will be smooth and quick and that all will be well.

I open my eyes, I look at this room and notice how even the pews are, even though I am pretty sure they were placed free hand after the new carpet was laid last year. It's amazing what people can do when they care. When our hearts are involved, people are unstoppable. So I pray again, I pray that the hands of the healers will be guided by their minds and even more so their hearts to care for our loved ones well, to do all that they can to make things better. I pray with light and hope and a little desperation.

And then I go back up to my office, where my computer still won't talk to the outside world, but it's OK, I have a little more crying to do first anyway.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recipe for an Excellent Meeting

Mix:
One part pressing need
Three parts dedicated volunteers
Two parts beloved community

Shake vigorously

Fold in careful consideration
Sprinkle consensus

Let rest for one full month until the next committee meeting comes around

Form into fine ministry that serves all people with love and hope
Serve a fine church with ministry for all

(Had a fabulous RE Committee meeting tonight! Thank you for the opportunity to serve, what a lucky girl I am!)

Amen!



Monday, August 15, 2011

Congregational Life: Multigen worship--NOT a disaster!

Last April when I looked at the long and completely empty calendar of summer programming for children at our little big church, I admit it. I panicked. How on earth was this overwhelmed religious educator going to fill all those dates? Who was going to come do amazing and fun things with all those children? Why did we think it was a good plan to grow this tidy little church, anyway?

In my panic, I offered to plan three all ages services this summer. Ha! There is no need for kid's programming on multigenerational worship days! One would be the regular celebrations Sunday that ends the year of formal programming for kids in our church. One would be offered to a local seminarian to practice leading mulitgen worship and I'd do one. OK, no problem. If you were the person planning a full summer of Sundays would you say no? No. So it was a go.

Here we are in August and this Sunday was the final multigen Sunday. The other two were fine, the celebrations service turned into a full on party with balloons falling from the balcony, a middle school rock band playing Katy Perry and a whole congregation dancing together. The one by the seminarian, done. Now it was mine. And of course I'm still trying to fill those empty spaces for fall, and I leave for two full weeks in just three days. Our congregation's first week ever hosting "Family Promise" the homeless families program we've been working with for years began yesterday. And there is always, always, always too much of everything to do in a growing church. What was I thinking! Why did I think this was a good idea?

But I had heard that the music folks were doing "True Colors" the Cyndi Lauper/Glee song. And I knew that I was not likely to get a chance to speak in front of the congregation again any time soon. So I decided to pull together a service all about being who you really are and having the courage to stand up and say it out loud. I asked a young girl to speak, and also one of the women who had come over from the church that closed it's doors last year and joined us. They'd both told me these things that just blew me away--stories from their lives--but with such grace and power the stories stuck with me. And I got to bring in my sons and one of our super child actors to do a reader's theater version of "A Bad Case of Stripes" for the story.

Still, yesterday morning, I was sure the service would be an awful disaster. It would be disjointed, and the technology of the movie (the girl was interviewed on camera and we'd show a video) and the slide show of the pictures for the story would fail. The amps from the band would interfere with the sound system and we'd have feedback the whole time. The kids would be antsy. The sanctuary hot. And I'd forget the words to the songs I planned to teach as energy breaks. And no one would show up. And the sanctuary would be full.

Maybe I was a little irrational. Or this was full-on panic.

It went fine. No technical problems. No disasters. One little girl clapped after the sung response to joys and sorrows--but it was delightful, not distracting. The speakers were moving. And I got to say my little piece. I took a hand held mic and wandered off the dais and said:

Here are three tips to have strength and grace when faced with something hard, either from inside or out.


1. Listen to your deep inner voice. Get really quiet. Listen. Find that still small voice. Now, if your voice wore clothes, they would be be flip flops, and cutoff jeans, and a tank top. The voice would have a smile that just makes you smile back and if it could offer you anything it would be a steaming mug of chamomile tea. It would pat your hand and say "mmmmm hmmm" and nod. 


BUT be careful, sometimes you'll hear a voice who wears combat boots and has a baseball hat pulled down over it's eyes.It's got a scowl on it's face. This is not your inner voice, not your still small voice. This is the voice of all your fears and every time someone has told you that you're not enough. If you hear this voice, open the door and show it out, tell it that it is no longer welcome. 


2. Listen to your voice. The flip flop one, not the combat boot one. If it tells you to wait and see, do that. If it tells you to stand up and stomp your feet and put your hands on your hips and stand for who you are, do that. Do what the voice says to do. 


3. But sometimes you can't hear what the voice says. Sometimes it's just too hard. That's when you need to ask for help. You can ask for help from your family, or your friends. From teachers or co workers. Or here at church--from the people you are making coffee with or that you're sitting next to, or from your RE teacher. Or the ministers. Because here, we see the real you. We see that you are amazing. Here-- people see your true colors. And they are beautiful... like rainbow. 

I'm glad I offered to do this crazy service. I'm glad we grew. I'm glad it's OK for kids to make noise in big church. And I love teaching songs even if I have a back-of-the-canoe singing voice. I love music in worship, and I hope the tears are cleansing and healing. And I love kids who roll around in the pews when they're bored--it reminds me to hurry up and finish so we can all go eat cookies.

It was a good day.

Amen.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reaction to Oslo

I noticed that there is a blog reaction in the weekly round-up to the terror attacks in Oslo. I have been thinking and thinking about how to share my reaction in a public way, and just couldn't figure out how to go about it. Well, I guess I just couldn't figure out how to make time during the frantic summer season in the life of a religious educator of trying to fill teacher teams and figure out all the curriculum needs for 40 million classes as well as finding time to run a summer program! Too much, I tell ya! Someone neeeeeds a vacation!

But this Oslo thing. It's been sitting here on my shoulder. I'm half Norwegian. We still have cousins in the Bergen area. If you look at the past prime minister, she looks just like my mom. And I guess she was actually a primary target of the terrorist. Because she's a rabble rouser, just like my mom. It felt like my cousins were attacked. And I guess they probably were.

I was, at first, really heartened by the Oslo mayor's comments about peace and democracy and fighting the hate with love. That's just what we'd say in my faith community, I think.

But there was another thing that crept in to my reaction. Racism. You gotta face the racism. It's not just going to go away with love and fierce adherence to democratic principles. It's just not.

People react in racist ways, people simply are racist. It takes work and education and for goodness sake HONESTY to work through the racism. And I think we've all learned that love isn't enough.

My husband's friends who were adopted from Korea to Norway and the Netherlands tell the story of deep and frequent racism that is completely ignored because--of course--such liberal and educated people simply could not be racist.

But, of course, they are.

We all are, and it's denial that is the biggest most dangerous problem.

Fighting it means naming it, understanding it, and working to learn how to be who we wish to be. It means understanding what it means to be white. You have to come to terms with the underlying feeling that white is normal and everything else is beeeeaaaauuuutiful. Tokenized and marginalized and just not, well, normal.

These are the same things, I believe anyway, that we face in our mostly white, mostly rich, mostly well educated Unitarian Universalist churches. It's not impossible to overcome, but if we ignore it? Then, yes, it is absolutely hopeless.

Go here:

The Mosaic Report

Building the World We Dream About

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Post trip--being home

It's been a couple of days now, since I got home, but still.....it's so nice to be home!

I really missed:

my dear husband

the kids I left behind (one was there in NC, although not really "with" me)

fresh brewed coffee (didn't buy s-bux even once....)

the little dog (even though she ran away while I was gone and they found her in the middle of an INTERSECTION! Naughty dog.)

hot baths with bath salts

KUOW, my local public radio station (OK, I'm not done being mad about Mister Keillor and his abuse of my faith, but I promise I'll pledge again)

fresh food that you cook and eat right away

my kitchen table

tofu

Pacific Northwest weather.....but getting up to at least 70 degrees would actually be OK with me, really.

Seems to me I'm getting to be a little bit of a homebody. But that's OK with me. I like being home. I have a whole lot to do, and eventually it'll get done. But for now, I'm happy to be home. It was really heart-healing good to be with dear colleagues and friends. It was good to just get to sit and experience soul deep worship, I sure miss going to church during the year. And even though I'm still a little tired, and looking to some of the details of fall planning makes me actually shiver a little, I'm feeling a sense of hope and renewal. It's clear that this faith makes a difference, and the things we stand for and the things we do change the world a little bit every day. So, I guess it's worth it all.

Welcome home! or Happy Trails! Hope the summer is beautiful and filled with peace and solitude and fun!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

GA, last day.

The gathering of congregations from my faith is nearly over, I'm getting ready to leave.

What I'll bring home is:

A sense of renewal.

A really beautiful mobile for the new preschool room.

Great joy at getting to witness my son in his home church--the "First UU Church of GA-ville".

Some fabulous books.

Some new things to do in leading worship--maybe not throwing a ball, but hey--we dropped balloons from the balcony a few weeks ago--anything is possible.

And a commitment to bringing race and ethnicity into the conversation in working with our RE Committee and  in our teacher training. The truth is that with 125 kids I am not often in direct contact with all the kids, so it's a training issue in the weekly implementation. I am white, and I've really struggled with bringing a strong message about race into the program-I realize that I really don't "Get It" about what a person of color experiences. I know I'll never really know. I am white. I live white. I know that I cannot possibly know what it feels like to be anything else.

But I think I might know a tiny grain of something. Here's the story:

The day after the Fahs Lecture by Dr. Mark Hicks entitled: "Religious Education for People of Color" I was having dinner with a friend who mentioned that she'd checked in with a member of her congregation about Mark's charge that we go out into our churches and bring race into the conversation. She mentioned a family from her congregation that has a trans-racially adopted child. She had asked--following the lecture-- if they'd like to have race and ethnicity be touched on at their church. They said "no." They didn't want their child singled out, and they didn't expect church, certainly, to deal with race. After all, they expressed, they don't think she experiences racism.

I am sure that I know so little about race that I don't even know what I don't know. But this is absolutely untrue. I share my life with a trans-racially adopted man--my dear husband. And yes, you may say, things are different now 40 some years after he was adopted. Maybe. Maybe that's true--maybe that's what I don't know. But actually I do know. Things may be different but they're not that different.

Race is real and present in the lives of our children. What my husband has told a very few white people (because he'll say, you don't say this to white folks) is that you never tell your white parents. You hide it as fast and as far as you can, you even try to hide it from yourself. Because it is a horrible and shaming experience and you don't want anyone to know what has happened to you.

I mean here--replace race with gay/lesbian/trans/bi or gender identity and see what you get. They didn't want their child singled out, and they didn't expect church, certainly, to deal with "sexual orientation" or "gender identity". After all, they expressed, they don't think she experiences "homophobia" or "transphobia". No Way.

And then...buying t-shirts and bumper stickers for my two teenaged sons who are not here I asked what I thought was a simple question to one of the exhibitors here. My sons back home are both black belts in Tae Kwon Do. They have a great Korean master who has been a wonderful mentor as they are growing into men. But they've also read and studied the work of Bruce Lee--a hapa man also from Seattle with whom the feel a connection and who has written some very deep and philosophical teachings that have meant a great deal to them. 

I asked, "Do you have anything with a quote by Bruce Lee?" this man replied "Like 'I am Kato' or 'The Green Lantern'" I was so mad I thought I'd spit in his face (and screw compassion for his racist ignorant soul). 

So yeah, work to do. Not just in classrooms, but throughout the faith.

Do we have "Building the World We Dream About" for Kindle? Maybe this is what I need to read on my way home.

Safe home all my UU friends! Thanks for a lovely GA!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Breakthrough--the big day!

Hoo boy, I think I forgot to say anything about our "Breakthrough Congregation" award yesterday!

Here's the video of our big moment on the stage, but even more importantly....our video! It's about 18 minutes in.


Watch live streaming video from uuaga at livestream.com


And just for fun, here's the "response" written by a member of the congregation I serve, Mr. Rand Cufley--it was actually used to kick off the pledge drive this year. The theme of the pledge drive was "Carry Through". Love the line "It's not enough to break through if we don't break through together."



And really that's all you need to know about the congregation I serve.

But it was quite an honor to receive this award. And I really enjoyed presenting with the other congregation who shared our workshop slot: the fabulous Beaufort Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. What a fabulous group of excited folks! I think they're not done growing, not by a long shot.

UUA GA!

Once upon a time I blogged every day at GA.

Man, that was a long time ago!

Yesterday was a good day. A fabulous day! I mean, what a great day.

I learned a whole lot, I met up with friends and colleagues and people who live in my heart but who I almost never get to actually wrap my arms around. And I got to debrief the day with my brilliant and insightful son when the day was over.

Here are my fractured-brain reflections:

God is a verb. Uh huh.

Dr. Mark Hicks is a brilliant and gifted leader and we have a whole hell of a lot of work to do to make our Religious Education ministries "expect" to minister to children of color in our classrooms. He even mentioned the unique needs of trans-racially adopted children. He didn't specifically speak about children who come from "Loving" families--mixed race kids, but still, good stuff.

Then the New Epiphany Revival. Sometimes what you really need to do is to sing out loud and to hold hands with those people who you are actually getting to see finally and to cry a little. That's good stuff. And it almost made me have a little hope and faith again after a year that made me so tired that sometimes I just wanted to curl up on the floor and rest. Just for a minute, you know. But this was hope. And faith. Good. Stuff.

And then there was the Synergy Worship (and how BRILLIANT was it to have the Nick Page concert roll directly into Synergy--SO good so good so good. Thousands of people stayed)

Ok, and who knew that Nita Penfold is married to Nick Page? Really? Spirit Play and music? Way to go changing the world in THAT household! Amazing.

The Synergy worship was fabulous. Watching our youth bridge to young adulthood was deeply moving. Hearing Bill Sinkford and Lee Barker speak about their experience as UU youth and Liberal Religious Youth--also fabulous.

But the most amazing thing I heard last night was from Betty Jeanne Reuters-Ward. And it was not completely comfortable to hear. She spoke of broken promises to youth--and how painful it was for the young adults who treasured YRUU that it's gone. And that we don't really have a continental structure for youth any longer. I know, because my son's been smack dab in the middle of the whole process, that the goals and hopes and dreams for youth are good and very well intentioned. I know that there is a hope and dream that our youth will have their spiritual needs met in their own congregations and districts. I understand. I   am a "boots on the ground" religious educator trying and trying to make youth ministry vibrant and vital in my own congregation.

And the truth is that there are no easy answers, and that there is a huge amount of work ahead to find the right and good answers about serving our youth well. And the only way to really get there is to speak the truth. Even if it's uncomfortable. And even if it's right in front of Bill Sinkford.

Amen. Amenamenamen!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The General Assembly of Congregations:Thursday

First: have you seen that you can stream events happening at the UUA GA?

OK, you should. Please. Now. Really, I mean it. Even if you're not a Unitarian Universalist. If you care about people and love and life, come on. It's the ONE thing you can do.

The other thing I can say is that I am so glad to learn that the people I was partnered with in our year-long study group about UU theology were really the top notch folks thinking about theology and life because I seemed to be a little over my head, so yeay for the people who crossed the stage tonight. You rock. And thank God I really should have had no idea what was going on when we were talking hard core theology.

Yes. Off the hook.

Blessings all!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Living the Life at General Assembly

Two things:

1) Free bananas and apples at the hotel are fabulous.

2) Getting a "smoking" room accidentally is a real bummer. But--oh well. This is one of those times I wish our "middle-class-gold-member" status would fix a hotel issue, but I guess a full hotel is a full hotel. So, whatever! Good to remember that having a place to sleep and air conditioning is really quite a privilege. And the guy at the front desk says he's got a magic machine that will fix some of the stench. Hope so.

I had a really lovely day at the LREDA Professional Day. I learned a lot about what's happenin' and hoppin' in the world of Religious Education and I got to see so many people who live in my heart all year but I almost never get to see, and that might be the best part of all.

Somehow though, I do feel a little like it's my first GA and I'm just learning how to be a religious educator. Except that when I read through the different things expected of a religious educator today at the credentialing panel, I realize I'm no rookie.

I've been around. Kind of a while. Nothing compared to some, but still....kind of a while.

And the most important thing I learned today?

I am really lucky. Really super freaky lucky.

I serve a congregation of well grounded beautiful people who have a wide experience with other UU congregations. I serve with a wonderful partner in ministry (can you believe, there are people who have to be CAREFUL around the minister they serve with?! horrors. Really. Horrors!) and the music director who started last September has joined the ministry partnership in a professional and fabulous way. He's a partner and an ally and he likes my dog. What else on earth could a person need?

Nothing. Nothing at all. Well, maybe a good hot baked potato, but other than that? Nothing at all! Looking forward to the opening ceremony. Amazing? I bet, I bet it will be just that. Amazing.

Amen.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Charlotte, NC--where it's HOT! And people of Liberal Faith are running rampant!

The Severe Thunderstorm alert is running across the bottom of the tv screen in my hotel room. We had a rockin' round of boomers here in Uptown--my friend and I barely got back from dinner before they really rolled in, but I didn't mind getting a little wet and moving fast after sitting all day in airplanes and airports.

My flights were fine, if a little delayed at my connection in DC, due to the same storms, I think.

And even though I took off with no hotel reservation this morning ( I could SWEAR I booked a second reservation for tonight at my hotel after I decided I could come today, not just tomorrow.....I think it's like my order from the Gap...didn't quite hit "confirm") I'm settled in a lovely hotel really close to the one I'll be in the rest of the stay. And yes, Michael won't be able to dump his stuff in our room, but oh well, it's all good.

I got to see a few dear faces tonight and I'm looking forward to seeing many more tomorrow.

My little dog ran away from home today, since I didn't bring her with me when she tried to sneak into my suitcase. But they got her home and fixed the broken fence. Naughty dog. They found her in the middle of a busy intersection. My heart is still pounding.

I forgot to bring band aids, and of course, already raked a door across my foot so I might actually wear my Birkenstocks with my leggings.....ha! I brought an umbrella but have to remember to actually bring it with me when I go out. I worked on our power point for the Breakthrough Congregation session, but I'd better run it by the others who are here....I may have added too many pictures of kids. Wait, can there ever be too many pictures of kids?

It's hot here, our average temperature this past month in Seattle has been 57, so 100 is a huge jump, but who cares. I'm here, I'm happy, and it's time to enjoy the week! LREDA meetings at 8:45 tomorrow, so even though it's not even 9pm my time, I'd better skedattle to bed!

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days of the year; Opening Ceremony at GA! And of course, LREDA Professional day! Oh happy smile.

Blessings to all! Big, bright stormy blessings!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Heading off to the big PARTY!

About six years ago I headed off to my first UUA General Assembly of congregations in Fort Worth, Texas. I had been a religious educator for about 12 minutes and I begged everyone I met for help figuring out just what the heck I was going to do with all these 23 children for a whole year.

The next year I went to St. Louis with two youth--one of them my oldest son who was 14 at the time. We stayed very, very far away from the convention center and walked our teens home at night through areas people probably shouldn't walk though at night in St. Louis. I witnessed some history at the "Transracial Abductees" panel and cried pretty much the whole way home, but still--was filled and enriched by the experience--well, eventually anyway.

The following year must have been in Portland and I remember being so thrilled to just get to drive to GA and to be able to bring oranges and a case of soup with a hot pot to heat it up. We brought 4 youth that year--all on scholarship from our district. And my son was elected to national leadership.

In Fort Lauderdale I got to room for part of the time with one of my best friends in the whole world, and we ate Cuban food and drove her Prius to the beach. Michael was the Jr. FUNTIMES manager and I had to make an appointment to have dinner with him he was so busy. It was hot. Really hot. So hot. Super hot. But I had a fabulous time and I launched this blog during the week.....

Then we were in Salt Lake City, and I was coming on to the LREDA board holding the GA Portfolio. It was a flawless GA for me, except for the thunderstorm that shattered the glass in the Convention Center and the tension over the election for the UUA president. And of course, it was hot. Michael was the Sr. FUNTIMES manager and I wasn't even his sponsor because he had to come even earlier than the LREDA board.

Oh and then, Minneapolis. And I got to see another of my very BFF--cool how my friends are UU, isn't it? And I was in the town I grew up in, and got to drive past the location of the nursery school my grandmother and mother owned from the 40s to the 70s. I had a fabulous time with friends, and I hope did an OK job on the LREDA GA presence. Michael was the HUUPER, and didn't need a sponsor because he was an adult. But I saw him once or twice anyway. There were thunderstorms that I walked through holding my shoes so they didn't get wet and it wasn't too hot at all. The rooftop happy hours with my dear roommate were probably the highlight, though!

Now, I'm packed and headed to Charlotte, NC. I had hoped to bring my youngest son, but the airfare of $700 we'd have had to have paid was impossible. I am again rooming with my oldest, both of us holding much less responsibility than we have for a while, both of us looking forward to roaming the exhibit hall and just attending sessions. Our congregation has won a breakthrough congregation award, but other than that, I have few responsibilities. I'll listen and learn and sit next to people and beg them to tell me what to do when you've just moved into a church building of your own and you have 125 registered children and youth and you're already out of space. I'll rest a little after the craziest year ever, and I'll hope to come back with ideas and resources to see us through another year.

And I'll tell you all about it! Hope to see you in Charlotte, or at least in the comment section!

Look for me, I'll be wearing a very relaxed expression, and you know, maybe--leggings.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cue the cheezy violin music.....

I've been just a mess these past couple of days. My youngest son had a lovely run as Fredric in "The Pirates of Penzance" this weekend. He isn't really a tenor--a high baritone, yes, but not a tenor but between the heroic transposing of our music by our wonderful music director and my son's fabulous voice teacher, he just sounded fabulous through three shows and a dress rehearsal over the past few days. And his very best friends in the world were in the cast, and the rest of his closest friends--in the audience. He was even supposed to kiss the girl in the last scene, but I think it felt a little too weird since he's known her since she was in preschool, so he picked her up, twirled her around and then did a deep dip away from the audience which you could interpret however you may like.

It was a fabulous performance. I'll post video soon because it's out of copy write--yeay! so it's legal! The whole cast of almost all middle schoolers was simply amazing.

And since I can talk easily in front of people given my church life, I was asked to do the "thank yous" at the end, which was fine but by the end it was all I could do not to sob out loud.

This school has been one of the solid centers of our family life for seven years, just a few months after we moved to Seattle. We've celebrated births and mourned deaths with our friends there, we've spent holidays and vacations and every milestone possible with our extended family from school. Our boys have really grown up there. And now, we'll never, ever go back. I don't have to go sit in the lunch room and study airport codes, or read curriculum or do mountains of dishes that teens left behind. It's over. I can visit, but it'll never be the same.

People tried to compliment me on my son's performance last night, and all I could do was nod and bite my lip and try not to fall completely apart.

That's the other thing--he went from being forced to take the musical theater class which performed a canned, packaged musical that lasted 20 minutes to being an accomplished actor and the lead in an operetta. It's been a blessed gift to be here. Our middle son took his first biology course here and did his first animal experiment ( at age 9-nearly identical to the one just completed in AP Biology!) and dissected his first animal--now he's headed off to work toward an Associate in Science at the community college instead of his last two years of high school. And the oldest was a member of the robotics class and then the coach of the First Lego league team--and was assistant director of two musicals (Suessical and You're a Good Man Charlie Brown) and is now headed to an engineering degree and maybe even a drama minor at the University of Washington.

Our little homeschool school has been a beautiful bright blessing in the life of our family.

I will miss it. I will miss everyone.

And as I mourn myself into a self pitying puddle of muddled drama, we hear the violin soar...

Sun rise, sun set.....sun rise, sun set.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Top Ten True Things about Saturday Afternoon at church

We've only had a church building for just over a year now. And sometimes, it still surprises me a little. How did that even happen?

It's a long story about how we got here. Come to our session at GA, Friday at 2:45pm--Breakthrough Congregations small to medium.

Back to the day..... I'm here today, mostly waiting for my youngest son while he attends a music council meeting. But also doing some last minute prep for tomorrow's RE Celebration Sunday. It involves kites and leis and many, many balloons. And it's very, very Saturday.

Top Ten True Things about Saturday Afternoon at Church

10. There is always someone working on the garden. Gardens. Many gardens.
9. The parking lot has a few cars, but not the same staff cars I always see.
8. No lights are on.
7. The office is quiet.
6. If you work in your office, you'll hear a smattering of laughter and hooting and hollering--especially if lively musicians are meeting.
5. The view out the window is especially serene.
photo.JPG
4. A squeaky chair is extremely loud.
3. The ticking clock, also extremely loud.
2. Desire to wander into the quiet sanctuary and just sit for a bit-huge.
1. Feeling of peace and love--still everywhere.

Dear Universe,

Thank you for the church building. We like it very much.

Love,
Kari

Amen.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Dreaded.....LEGGINGS!

OK, I actually laughed out loud at this post by the dear and dedicated PeaceBang about......leggings.

I mean. Come on! Leggings! Who the heck cares if people are rocking the REI style and wearing leggings with their casual and funky dresses during the summer months (apparently--forbidden by the goddess of goodness in dress for clergy and others everywhere) who cares?

Not me!

Well, I do. I don't want to be forbidden to do anything. ANYTHING! Especially by an illustrious "Rev. Dr."--you know--two sets of letters in front of anyone's name kind of brings out the rebel in me.  Tell me not to?? Well, I might just cancel my Ann Taylor order for clothes for GA and replace it with an lovely little trip to the local REI. (where, it just so happens, my dear middle son who is only 16 works--they don't hire people his age, but that's just the kind of kid he is....yes that was bragging, oh go jump in a lake if it bothers you!)

I mean, let's quote our dear Ms. PeaceBang here...."If I see you in these I will fall to the floor and roll around with my tongue lolling out like some medieval poisoned monarch."


That sounds like a challenge. A challenge I just might take. But there's more. Isn't there always more?

This actually brings to mind a significant difference I've discerned in the coasts. I grew up smack in the middle of the continent as a Secular Humanist UU--and in the past 30 some years I've grown into a warm and fuzzy West Coast liberal who says "God" sometimes wears a suit to lead worship--sometimes with just the right fashion accessories, and sometimes (GASP) without. But as a friend at a local congregation just experienced--we don't necessarily fit PB's rules. We're different when it comes to other rules, too. One dear person I know who is looking for work on the East Coast and is striking out, could probably--no easily, find work out here on the West Coast--we're just more open and friendly and relaxed and accepting. It's different.

I like it a whole lot better. Here we have real freedom to believe as we are called to believe, to worship in ways that we are called to worship (as my colleagues who asked this week when the walked thru the new lovely sanctuary of my church--yes! we DO use the drum set almost every week!) and to....

wear what we wish to wear!

But still, not without a really long tunic or a dress, that much I'm buying completely. Yes.

Here's where to find the best "left coast" look around http://www.rei.com/. And if you come to GA and you deign to wear  l e g g i n g s--find me! We'll make a down right scene out of the thing!



GULL GREY ANISE
BLACK

And remember.....it's June and we STILL have highs in the 50s out here some days. It's different. Really different. Don't judge til you come out here and spend some real time. We NEED leggings to pretend it's summer and keep us warm!


Happy Friday, all! And bright blessings for all things good-- and free and cool ankles.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

iphone syndrome

I have joined the new decade--just a little late, I know, but hey--I've been busy and I work for a non-profit. It's just the way it goes!

But as I learn how to check my three email accounts, and facebook, and pandora and the super cool weather app-- I have realized what's been happening in the volunteer support portion of my job.


iphone syndrome.

People say to me: "I didn't see that email". "We've got a meeting tonight?" "You tried to reach me?" "You're not going to be there?" "When?" "Where?" "How?"

I thought I was absolutely losing my mind. Really? How did I get so extremely flaky? But then I realized that half the people I thought I'd communicated with, knew about the meeting or the plan or whatever.

Then I got my iphone and the rest became clear. If you read a message in the parking lot between the grocery store and the car--you may not remember either the details or the whole message, you probably won't reply, and you certainly aren't going to take time to put it on your calendar.

But there's more than just iphone syndrome. People are not checking email--opting for texting and facebook instead. They're probably active on twitter, but that's on my list for July, so I'm not even aware of what I'm missing there. And when they see "church" come up on their caller id, they let my calls go to voice mail--I know that's true!

It's good to know I've not lost my mind. And it's good to know that some of the lovely volunteers and parents and teens I communicate with aren't just dismissing me out of hand. I think I just need to adjust the way I manage communications. I need a twitter feed that posts to a facebook page that you can sign up to receive text messages from. And I need to learn to communicate in 10 word bursts. "like" the status and I'll consider it a done deal.

Or I'll just build a bonfire and learn to send smoke signals. Or semaphore. Or drumming. Or maybe I'll just pare down the schedule a little, post the information on a bulletin board and call it "retro" scheduling! Ha.

So all that said, when I blow off your cute facebook post on my wall, hit me back--I probably just read it on my iphone while buying huge vats of hummus at Costco. Ha!

Almost summer. Almost summer. Almost summer.

Monday, June 6, 2011

June, finally, June.

It's finally June. Well, it's been June for a few days now, but it's finally sinking in. We held the last day of classes for our church school yesterday. And we had our final Religious Exploration committee meeting last night. I could hardly even socialize at our impromptu outing to a local restaurant, I was so exhausted.

It was really nice to see this article from Marilyn Sewell and to watch the official trailer for her movie which is about to debut.



This is what I want to do, the things she speaks of in the opening scene. I want to help create a place that gives children the freedom to be who and what they are deep in their soul. Not sure if that is possible anymore. I'm too tired!

Maybe some coffee, some mindless work cleaning out electronic files. And then maybe the sun will come out and I can sing like Annie and find that spark of hope again!

Because, at least--at least--it's JUNE!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Vampires Have Consumed the WEEK!

I'm so sorry, there must be a rampant rage of vampires running wild here in the dewy dawn of June.

Vampires.

Sucking every last stinkin' minute from the week.

There was the last minute need at our little homeschool school because almost every family has a child who is sick so all the moms and dads are home.....but of course sending the one or two healthy kids to school. And our brand new hardly- ruined-at-all office manager was out sick, and our temporary-doing-heroic-double-duty-work program manager actually has to teach the high school classes on Thursday--so she was busy. I think the first adult in the building wound up subbing in the office (reason 348 to never walk in the building first...one other being the possibility of discovering ant infestations...) and so when I saw the call on facebook for a headcount of who was going to be on site for the day--with no replies, I knew I was on.

No problem, really. This school has been our home and offered a fabulous education to all my boys. I can give a day.

So that was no vampire, really. Just a need.

And then there was this project I said I'd do that I didn't really want to do but I felt obligated to do because it wasn't really that difficult after all, and the people asking me were really overwhelmed with other things.....so I said yes. Oh dear. Say no. Never say yes. Practice with me. "No" "Noooooooooo!" "Nope" "No" "No thank you!" Um, yeah. Didn't say no, and I really should have. Well, unless *I* ask you for something. Then say yes.

So, yeah, that was kind of a vampire. Vampire-ish. Taking lots of time and lots of time to just worry about busted deadlines and falling reputation.

Then there was all those children I had a couple of decades ago who need to go places and eat and register for new schools and interview for internships and you know.....live in my house. Geez!

No, OK, not vampires at all. Just lovely children who are so happy to be together after months apart that video games are played until all hours of the night and homework is sloppily completed--so much so it's sent home again. Oh well. People are more important than algebra, right?

And then the actual work I do, which is lovely work that is only possible with the combination of a devoted faith community and families and children and the end of the church year. And movies--the production of the year end movie. And bridging gifts which can no longer be purchased at the local drug store but must now be purchased from a mega-provider of Kindergarten bears. Because we've grown by some 60% this year. And I'm tired, and it's overwhelming every time I walk in the building, or log onto email. or think about our little church busting out of it's walls....still busting out of it's walls.

But that's not a vampire. That's a glad gift of exhausting and exhilarating service. And it's lots of amazing children and youth. That's always a good thing.

OK, I guess I take it back. It wasn't vampires that consumed my week. It was my life. My rich and full and vibrant life. And it wasn't sucked out of anything. It was just the real truth of what happens when we engage in this one wild life and when we care. It's life.

My life.

Amen.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Church Mothers

I'm bringing the flowers tomorrow for the chalice table at church, which I do a couple of times every year. I honor teachers and leaders--I honor the lovely and talented colleague that shares my job. I like to make my gratitude public and share it with the whole congregation.

But this time I'd like to share my gratitude even further.

The flower dedication written in the order of service says:

The flowers today are given by Kari Kopnick in honor of the women in churches everywhere who lovingly "mother" the packs of children who raid the snacks and run when they should walk and are sometimes loud.

Especially in honor of one of Kari's "church mothers" Barb Bollag; with heartfelt thanks for passing down the family china to a church daughter.


I grew up with the blessing of a group of church mothers. These were women who were always there, who's presence runs through the story of my growing-up years. I have a wonderful mother, but I was wildly blessed to have a pack of church mothers, too.

Recently, Barb Bollag, the woman I mention by name in the flower dedication, offered my family her beautiful family china. She doesn't have a daughter or daughter-in-law to use the beautiful dishes. But of course, family isn't always arranged by blood or by marriage. Sometimes family just happens.

I flew back to Minnesota for a my nephew's wedding a few weeks ago, and my mom and I went to pick up the china. It was lovely to see Barb, and of course we had a good discussion about politics and about what was good and not so good in the life of our little church, my home church. The dishes were even more beautiful than I hoped, and we loaded the boxes in the car.

I explored just about every way of getting them home, but finally decided to take a long term approach--I very carefully packed all the plates in a carry-on bag, we packed a box of serving pieces in a whole slew of bubble wrap and peanuts and we decided the cups and and saucers would have to wait at my parent's house until the next time we drove back. Everything made it back to Washington without a chip.

I finally got to use the dishes for Easter....first I had to find a special place to put them (clean out cupboards, buy felt dividers.....)










and shop for just the right linens (spring but not kitchy--these dishes are far too classic for bunnies and eggs!) and then the old flatware just looked awful next to the beautiful new plates, so--new flatwear came into the house! That was a fun process, and I am so pleased with the result:



Today is my Mother's Day. Since I work on Sundays, we've decided to reschedule our holidays, so we're celebrating by buying a chimnea fire pit for the patio, and spending some time all together, and having take-out on our beautiful new family china.

Thank you to church mothers everywhere, and thank you, Barb, for the family treasure. It means the world to me.

Blessings all, for a lovely Mother's Day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Speechless......

This is the most amazing song about church life and community--and the man singing is pretty amazing, too. Not only is he the chair of Westside's nominating committee, he taught Junior High Our Whole Lives sexuality class--that's October through March. And he even chaperoned a sleepover. His family is woven into the fabric of the whole congregation--his wife is the chair of our Religious Exploration committee, his in-laws volunteer and play music. And his kids will do pretty much any job I ask of them--from fun ones to not so fun ones. Our church is a much better place thanks to this family. But then Rand Cufley writes this song, and well...go listen.



Yes, Westside has been named a "Breakthrough Congregation" and yes, it's not enough to break through, it's time to carry each other through.


Amen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Free Fallin'

I suppose I should feel grateful that I'm healthy and my family is well. That we're employed and we love each other and that we have a little dog who is a little neurotic, but who loves us.

But I'm not. I'm not grateful. I'm pissed.

People should not get sick. Life should not take a turn for the worse and cancer sucks.

Things that feel solid and regular--pieces of life that have finally smoothed out should not get ripped right out from under your feet.

I feel like the cartoon character who runs off the cliff. The ground is suddenly gone.

But my solid ground is not gone. It's right there. This is not free falling. This is just a lousy bounce of life for someone I really care about-- for someone who has had an enormous influence on the lives of my sons. It's not my issue to rail against.

I will write meaningful notes of thanks, make a nice dish to pass for the hastily planned and low key "good-bye" lunch. I'll smile and blink back tears. I know it's just the way things go. I know. And really, who knows what gifts are hidden in the manure pond of this lousy thing called cancer?

There are often gifts.

I pray that there are gifts.

Amen.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Not shutting down, well, yet anyway

I am relieved. I didn't want a million people to be furloughed, I didn't want vacation plans to be disrupted and passport applications and tax returns to be delayed. I am happy our National Parks will stay open.

But really, I'm happy my husband will continue to be paid.

In 1995 the government was shut down for 21 days. Three weeks with no pay would have deeply affected my family. And I'm relieved.

But I'm also incredibly angry with our government.

I'm angry with the people who claimed on national news that they are "for life" and that they can't support the money that the government gives to Planned Parenthood. What? WHY! You don't want people to get tested for STIs and to get free condoms?

I'm angry with the people who were in power in February of 2010 when this budget was proposed and would not pass the budget because there was a freakin' election coming up and they were too stupid to stand for something that was right and good.

I'm angry with the whole entire system of governance. This is not governance, this is simply the absolute worst of human nature thrown against the worst of human nature and smeared all over tv and internet in a 24 second news cycle.

I know it's not over, this budget issue, but I have been damaged. I used to appreciate our leaders, I used to be proud of my country. Now I'm ashamed. Driving home tonight my skin was crawling with disgust as I passed the strip malls and the darkened houses. These people who live near me believe the things they are told. They buy into the rhetoric and the hate. They do not have the strength to think for themselves, much less actually study an issue to understand it.

How is it possible to be a person of faith, a person that believes that each among us is worthy? How is it possible to raise children amidst this hate and the slinging of blame and deceit? When is it time to throw out the entire system and to begin anew? Is it now?

I wonder.

Let us try to find a square centimeter of common ground on which to build and let us try to come together as a people. And let us reconsider the way we govern ourselves in this land. There is so much potential for good, but this thing we have now--this way of governing ourselves is absolutely not it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Opening Night and boy teens

You would think that I'd be used to parenting teen age boys. It's been like what, almost six years I've been doing this. But it kind of sneaks up on you. First there's one young 13-year-old who likes to play video games and is a little surly.

Then there are two--one older and one surly one. You get some drivers ed, some grown-up like things, say....traveling across the country alone.

You get to three teens--one living away at college, one driving and working and leaving home for weeks and weeks of wilderness travel and one surly one performing in front of a thousand people and knowing more about applying make up than I ever did, and well, it's a little surprising.

They're really becoming men, and I'm becoming a mother of young adults.

And it's opening night for the youngest's latest show. Have you seen this show? Lots of companies are performing it, "13 The Musical"? This is actually his second run in the last year of the show. But it's a good one. And it's pretty appropriate for the stage of life we're in here. It's about growing up, coming of age, becoming a man.

I need the play "43! The Musical" that's all about getting old and growing up and coming of age, learning how to be the mother of young adults. Maybe it could include henna tattoos and a mani pedi. And a box of kleenex. Because as much as it's amazing and wonderful to see your sons grow up, it's constantly heartbreaking.

Break a Leg tonight, kid! Hope the show is amazing. I'm just thankful the theater is dark, so no one can see me cry through the whole damn thing.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Seasons and the Family Room

I know this is all we 40-something women seem to do: whine about our busy, busy lives.

We are so busy doing everything that we can possibly do and we are damn lucky to have so much, but we whine. OK, it's our role, it's just what we do.

But I have been super-duper-hyper-blast-drive-busy this whole year. And I have not had time to do nice things like see my friends, or you know, sit down.

Recently my lovely little homeschool school had some trauma and we have a new policy that requires parents to sign up to be "monitors". I've been sitting at the hallway handing out hall passes (and making the teens do things like give me an idea for dinner for the menu I'm working on or to at least say "hello" to me before they can have the laminated green hall pass). But yesterday we had a little confluence of the moms who have been around at our little school for a long time. We're supposed to stay til 1:30 even though all the kids go to class at 1, so we had a half an hour to visit before we were all scheduled to be someplace else doing something very busy.

It was a play date for the moms.

And it was wonderful. We laughed and talked about hormones and teenagers and new babies and work and you know, being busy. We shared the space and the time. We've raised our children together for years and years. And there is respect and care between us all, despite huge ranges of faiths and politics, we care about each other.

My years here are coming to an end. Next year I don't think I'll have any children in the little homeschool-school. My kids go to regular high school for a couple of years and then on to what we call "Running Start" or early college for high schoolers. So it's almost over.

I'll miss the shared dirty kitchen that gets cleaned up over conversation. I'll miss the toddlers and preschoolers who easily visit with teens and other adults in the family room. I'll miss the impromptu ballet class offered by the nine year old to the "little kids" in the preschool area.

It's the end of a season of my life. I'll pre-mourn for a while and by the time it actually happens, I just might be ready. Or not.

Seasons come and go. Life's just like that. It really was a lovely day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Motherhood and Ugly Labels

I'm sure I'm a helicopter parent, hovering over my children, fussing with the details of their lives.

And I've certainly been a soccer mom, complete with the mini-van and the whole "hang the stuff from the folding chair so it doesn't get wet in the grass" talent but without the vodka in the travel mug.

I've been a swim team mom who knows how to run the meet and even how to time relays with splits.

Once I went from being the soccer mom with soaking wet jeans from sideways rain to being a swim team mom with soaking wet jeans from the flip turns of fast kids--all in the space of an hour.

The latest one: "Stage Mother"--I hate that one. And I'm not really even a stage mother. The program my son is working with right now prevents the whole stage mother thing by keeping parents completely out. You can sit outside the door and listen, but you can't ever come in. Not at all--never. You see the show when it opens.

Yesterday I dropped him off at the stage door and he ran in right behind the dresser--chatting and animated. It's tech week. Eight hour practices, missing school, homework gets done in snippets and snatches. Then I went to six stores looking for the perfect shoes--for some reason we "Stage Mothers" provide shoes, nothing else. But his character is obsessed with shoes, which makes me obsessed with shoes. And I have 20 discount tickets lumped in groups on my kitchen table, my weekend is carefully planned so that I can see all six shows. Yep, guess we're there, aren't we.

Show opens in TWO DAYS! Exciting.

I can't even imagine what the next label will be. What is the mom who knows all about the SATs and college applications? How about the one who sends cookies during finals week? Who cares. It's all good.

I'm in.

Monday, April 4, 2011

.....and on Southwest Airlines

In a previous life I worked for an airline.



No, actually I worked on the phones, you know, taking calls from people. Usually taking calls from people who were having trouble.


The worst kind of calls we got started with a little whisper in the headset. It let you know that trouble was coming because the agents at the airport had rolled out the portable bank of phones. Not good.

"....rebook..."

Oh no. Not rebook. No, please.

It usually meant bad weather or some other bad thing was happening in some poor city. And people were going to be stuck. I mean, eventually they'd get out and on to their vacation or business trip or they'd get home to their cat or their baby or their elderly great Aunt. I mean, no one gets stuck in an airport forever.

The poor folks would yell and curse or sniffle, but really--there was not a whole lot I could do. Planes usually fly mostly full--even the flights from other airlines. There's not a whole lot of room on other planes to get you there, buddy. Sorry.

We were authorized to put people on other airlines when things were really bad. Usually when there was a mechanical delay to the flight--a problem with the plane, not weather. I mean weather just happens and if one airline is grounded, they're all grounded.

There was a hierarchy to getting the passengers on other airlines. The airlines with codeshare agreements were highest on the list, the ones who shared the routes and mileage plans and all. The others were lower on the list, but we could do it when things were really crazy.

But not Southwest. They didn't code share with anyone. No luggage agreements, no shared flight information. They were on their own, no need for any other airlines.

I gotta wonder how things went on those zillions of cancelled flights this weekend. And oh man, am I glad I wasn't anywhere near that mess!

Give me a quiet church kitchen with some crusty dirty dishes left over from a big auction and a quick turn to a soup lunch any day! Upset kids having a bad morning and needing to do the rounds with me? Yep. They hug you at the end of the day. Sweeping up after a very successful money making lunch while a marimba band practices? Oh yeah.




But please, never again ".....rebook..."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Well who knew? Peter Mayer in concert is EXHAUSTING!!

I had no idea that a fabulous Peter Mayer concert in my own church would just wring the everything right out of me!

No, don't get me wrong, it was absolutely the most amazing concert I've even seen.

Peter opened with a prayer in song, singing the first verse of "Blue Boat Home" a capella. That was holy right there. But then he went on for another couple of hours. I cried and cried at "Japanese Bowl" where he talks about how the broken parts of Japanese potter are filled with gold, pretty sure he wasn't just talking about ancient bowls. And then he sang about "Driving With My Knee" and the trio of little girls behind me were all loving the music. Then "Jamma Day"? They were all over that one, too. Then when Peter asked if we were up for singing with him and an eight year old said "Yeah!" and he noted that he had one singer for sure, well then I was totally gone.

Talking about walking to meet his future in-laws after the snow storm of the century and realizing that that was the storm that we had when our oldest was 10 days old? Yeah, that one put me over the top.

Singing "Blue Boat Home" with Peter, while standing in the sanctuary that I have seen transform with paint and carpet and re-situated pews--that I've seen blessed with joy and holidays and sorrow--Peter singing the harmony while the gathered people sang the melody. By this time I was not even in my mind any longer--just a soul riding along with the beauty and community and love.

Then Peter came back for an encore. I'm sorry to admit...the two songs that the audience called out that Peter finally settled on? One was from me,and one was from my youngest son. But oh my, they were good songs to end with. Peter explained the story behind the song "Tandem Lives" and I now finally understand why the song always makes me cry. It should. It's a beautiful story, not my story so I won't tell it, but one of those stories mixed up with sweet and sour, love and sadness and the things in life that in the end really matter.

Then we sang "Where is the Light" which ends with "This Little Light of Mine" and we danced and sang--our young and old together.

I'm happy. He could have played all night and it still wouldn't have been enough for me. But he's lovely. He noticed the fedora my son was wearing and called him "hat guy" and signed his new guitar pick necklace. I mean really, this 14-year-old has Peter Mayer on his ipod, it's gotta feel pretty good!

It's not quite the intensity of hearing "Holy Now" for the very first time in the adobe chapel in the foothills of the rockies, sitting on the bench seats, early morning sun streaming in. Not sure anything can ever match the depth of spiritual connection that the group of religious educators who were spending a week together shared in that moment. But it was holy. And as wiped out as I feel? Well, I do feel completely whole! Blessings!

And Amen.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

So Excited. Eeeeee!

Oh I am so excited. I can't believe the day has finally arrived! I can hardly sit still and I am not able to get anything at all done!

The Peter Mayer concert is tonight! TONIGHT!

I hope he plays:

Holy Now
The Hat Song
John's Garden
Church of the Earth
Tandem Life
and
Blue Boat Home

and
God is River
and

well......we'll just have to stay til 2AM.

I am bringing my dear oldest son who has been home for the week on spring break. He loves folk and guitar. I'm bringing my youngest son who plays guitar and (shhhhh) actually has the whole Heaven album on his ipod and his friend who is a wicked blues guitar man and will love the guitar. And I'm also kind of dragging my husband and middle son who can't very well stay home and MISS the fun! They're not big folk fans, but Peter is so fun and engaging in person, I'm sure they'll have a great evening.

Oh I can't wait. I wish I could be at church for the sound checks and prep! But we have to go grab the youngest from a day of rehearsal before we can go. That's OK, the anticipation is good, too!

Here's the one that's been going through my head all day:



Happy!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Definitive Hymns of Chilhood

When I was a little girl growing up in a little fellowship in Minnesota, this was the hymn that we sang when there was a big reason to sing--like Easter, or a special service like our most holy water communion.



I think for this generation of children the "go to" hymn is this one:



Before our little church on the hill in Settle even had a paid music director, we put a group together a group to accompany this hymn for a visit from Gini Courter (UUA Moderator), and now years later, we have a first class music director and choir, and we still sing it for our special celebrations. I think congregations across the continent sing it for special days.

And in just a few days, Peter Mayer is going to come and SING with us in our own beautiful holy space! Oh please don't let me gush too badly. I am so excited! I can't wait. Can't WAIT!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I have picked the absolute worst time on the planet to get sick. Completely. If I had pulled up my google calendar and said "hmmmmmm.....when can I find the worst weekend to get sick, let's see" this would have been it.

Bad timing.

This was the kind of  sickness that makes you want to scrape out your lungs with one of those plastic scrapers that come with stone cook wear. And it makes you wish you could just sleep but the stupid cough wakes you up again and again and again. And you just wish you could fast forward a week until you're just a little tired in the evening and you've almost caught up on your work.

No luck.

Here's the thing; a Director of Religious Education can't just call in sick. Stuff needs to happen. Programs don't just stop. And here's  the other thing-- the people I work with are absolutely lovely, and everything that needed to happen, happened. People just stepped up and rolled up their sleeves and said "of course I can help". My church community is overflowing with the most giving and caring group of people who have ever worked hard on church work, ever. This is what I wish for people who have been wounded by church, I wish that they could experience this kind of church. The church of love and care and faith and hope.

Bless you, Westside folks. You make it so easy to love my crazy, impossible job. Bless you all!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Fancy Staff Meeting

I had a wonderful staff meeting today. Or well, you know, I walked out of a meeting at 9:45 pm and had a nice conversation in the parking lot with the minister I serve with.

For a couple of weeks I've had to miss my regular Wednesday office hours for a family commitment so I've been working from home. Today was  a work from home day but it was such a busy day with deadlines and hot deadlines and then smoking hot deadlines. But I had to go in to church for an evening safety meeting.

So, tonight I was telling my colleague about this busy but super productive day and she said "me, too!" and then she told me that she'd just cleaned out all the stuff she'd been carrying around in her brief case that she really didn't need. I said  "Me, too!" Really, it's true. I just did that yesterday.

And then we both said "something is different" "something has settled down a little" and then the Twilight Zone Show theme music started playing. OK, not really. But it COULD have. It really could have.

I have no idea what happened to the "busy" juju. There are still meetings that go for hours and hours every week. The money in this budget year is tight, the tasks ever increasing--still. But something is good, and calm. And it feels really nice.

I like having staff meetings in the parking lot.  It's all good. It's actually all pretty smokin' hot good.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Life's endless truth

Change. That's really one of the only things we can really count on in this life. The sun comes up and it goes down. The dog loves you like you can only hope God loves you. I'm very lucky and have a few friends that I know love me even when I'm fussy. And my spouse and I have been through hell and walked out the other side, so I finally believe that he really loves me and isn't going anywhere.

But the only other thing I can trust to always be the same is nothing. If you love the way something is right now, sink down into it, breathe it in, swim around in the way it makes you feel. Because it will probably change. Maybe sooner or maybe later. But surely, something, somehow will be different. The lovely part of this is if you're in pain or hopeless, then things are also likely to change, sooner or later there will be a new day and something will be different.

Last night my oldest son was home, just for a few hours, just for dinner. But we all settled back into the five-person family instead of the four person version. And it just felt a little more settled. He's a lovely person who is very pleasant to spend time with and really when anyone visits, all the good things come out in everyone, but more than that it was just our well worn old comfortable way of being in the world. All of us, five. Everyone smiled a little more, stories flowed easily. Laughter and warmth settled on everyone's shoulders.

I know that our children grow up and move out and move on. I know that's the hope and the goal and we are deeply grateful that he's healthy and safe and sane. But there's a loss. It's a change. It's as if a piece of me has moved on. And I guess it has.

It's a blessing to be here, and sometimes it's awfully hard.

Amen

Happy Valentine's Day!

I know it's a smarmy holiday that's been misappropriated from everywhere, but it's a great excuse to make sure the people I hold near and dear know that I love them!

Well, oops. It would have been a great opportunity. Uh, yeah. Oops.

Hey all y'all! I love you! Thank you for being in my life. I am on my knees, grateful, singing-to-the-angels, rock-solid filled with gratitude for all of you.

For a couple of years now, we've held a lovely family dinner for Valentine's Day  "Secret Ingredient--LOVE". If you watch Iron Chef you'll get it. If you don't, well trust me, it's funny. Just laugh a little polite chuckle to make everyone think you get it.

The first year we did this I checked cookbooks out from the library, we each chose a recipe, we shopped and we cooked. Same basic plan last year. This year? Well, yeah. Now I work 30 hours a week instead of 20 and there's that new church building and there were meetings and dinners and mopping and I don't even know what else all over Saturday and Sunday and then office hours today. I almost gave up on "Secret Ingredient--LOVE" and said "take me to a burger joint, it's over!"

But the eldest who is off at UW living on campus and for the most part forgetting the rest of his family exists said he's be happy to come home for dinner. And the other two didn't have to see their girlfriends because they already saw them this weekend. So we pulled "LOVE" together all last minute like.

This summer we're going to take a road trip to California so why not use that as the theme? I dropped the youngest off at his final audition for this latest play, went and picked up the eldest and we headed for Trader Joe's. Eventually he asked me if I was just going to buy everything that said "California" on it.

Yup.



We had a lovely dinner--California Rolls, Napa Salad (OK, really we had Caesar, but whatever-there were avocados for it) roasted vegetable sandwiches on sour dough ( you know, like in San Fransisco) and a lovely organic red wine from California. There was a little flurry, but no homemade eclairs or tenderized beef. A few packages were opened and slapped on baking sheets. But there were lingering conversations, and there was some goofiness.

Then there was a jam night. They're really rockin'. Last winter the eldest's girlfriend wondered if "bringing the rock" had something to do with solstice and bringing a rock someplace. No. No solstice rock. No Valentine rock. just a good old Tom Petty song that the middlest yearned to drive to before he had his license. All performed live in our own little choir loft.


It was lovely. And fun. Lesson for me here is we've gotta take it when it comes to us. Whether it's a meeting or a youth group or mopping the floor or a last minute moment with family, it's important to pay attention and soak it all in.



Happy Valentine's Day all y'all! I hope you are all surrounded by big love. Amen.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Night Youth Group

We had a busy day at church today. Teacher Meeting-Sunday Service-RE Council meeting-OWL-Youth Dinner-Youth Group. And lots and lots of mopping of floors so they're ready for the preschool who rents to come in first thing in the morning.

Too much!


But the youth group has so much energy it's hard to ignore that something is working well here. It's not like when we had 40 or 60 kids who belonged to the church. Back then we had to arrange car pools and really good food, and kids had to bring friends to make our youth group function.

Now we have a nice Jr High OWL class and after OWL a few more kids come and a nice family cooks dinner and youth group advisors come in and we have a wild rumpus that eventually turns into youth group. WITH meditation. I sometimes get a little worried when the noise stops, but now I know; it's the meditation. Or they're getting ready to play freeze tag. That actually might be the same thing.

And you know-- they drive me crazy and make big messes and push each other around and yell and holler. And sometimes there are minor family disasters that make one kid have to wait an extra half an hour to get picked up which means the two kids who ride home with me have to wait, too. And maybe they get a little silly. But don't doubt that they are still driving me crazy, even as I bribe them to pose for pictures. They're completely wild and silly. Trouble. Capital T trouble.

.

And I am totally in love with the whole lot of 'em.

Blessed Sabbath!

Amen.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Simple Saturday

I'm sitting in the main office of our new church building, we just finished up a lovely planning meeting for our Breakthrough Congregation presentation. The wind seems like it's coming straight off Puget Sound and trying to push the church right off it's perch on the hill. Rain is slamming into the windows.

But there's no pushing this church off of anything. It's solid as a rock.

It was such an honor to sit with some of the wise leaders of this church as they brainstrormed how to convey the story of our breakthrough. This congregation was founded in 1963, it's older than I am. And it has had a long and lively history. But the recent story, the one I'm familiar with, is what leaves me still smiling as I pause before the next event here tonight.

Tonight we'll have a gathering of families with children in Kindergarten through 5th grade. If everyone shows up, we could have 40 families. Now that is a crowd. But it hasn't always been this way.

In 2005, when I started working here, we had 113 adult members and about 23 kids. Today, we have 180 adult members and 101 registered kids. That's part of the story, a lovely part that allows us to have three levels of Our Whole Lives classes and a real youth group with sleep overs and hide and seek games in dark.

The other part of the story is about the passion and fire of this pretty small group of people, who, during the darkest of times in the US economy, raised almost a million dollars to buy a church home in about four month's time. And then, when the paperwork was all signed and filed away, they rolled up their sleeves and proceeded to renovate the building, taking it from a near disaster to a beautiful church home. Today they're still working hard. We're a fair share congregation who have paid our dues to the district and the UUA for as long as anyone can remember. Our members clean and maintain this building. Yes, we could hire a sexton if we didn't pay those dues. No one has ever suggested it and no one ever will. It's part of the mettle of these people. These lovely people. No one here is afraid of really hard work. They thrive on it.

How do we tell this story in 6 minutes of video that will be shown at the UUA General Assembly? We might just have to bring buckets of sweat and tears and somehow --I have no idea how--convey the love that guided every move.

What an honor to serve this group.

Speaking of serving this group, there are lights to be turned on, doors to unlock and a fussy old dishwasher to go wrestle with to be ready for the families who will arrive out of the blustery night very soon. But you know what? It's all good. I appreciate all the work there is to do, because it's quite a testament to all the work we've done to get here. Hard work really does have its rewards.

And I've got a lovely church dinner to prepare for.

Amen. Big, huge Amen.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Fun.....a warm furry welcome


The other day I came out to the car with a load of groceries. When I opened the hatch of my mom-mobile there was a happy wiggly little friend who was happy to see me. Really happy. So happy she drooled. 



She was waggly and I could almost see the smile on her doggy face.


It was so nice to know that there was someone waiting for me! Someone happy to see me! Someone who would be happy to greet me as soon as she could get close enough to me to actually get a tongue on my face. Yuck. But you gotta love the little doggy love. Even if it's slimy. 


It's kinda like church. You come in the door that first time wondering who will be there, how you'll be greeted. What the "story" is. But when you're greeted with a warm smile and a happy face, you know it's a good thing. You're not alone. The world is a good place with at least a couple of people who are happy to see you. 


Maybe we should have dog greeters at church. But the slimy factor might be just too much! 

(oh yeah, had to clean Noodlenose prints off the camera!!)