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.


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.


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!


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!!) 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

On Parenting: Avoid Becoming a Garbage House

 A good friend posted something on facebook today about sitting in front of the TV with kids and how it might not be the typical thing they do, but today might just be the day for it. It reminded me of a lovely neighbor, she used to tell me that letting your kids watch TV was better than beating them! It always made me laugh. I also wrote about her here: 

One of the things that seems to get lost in the whirlwind of family life in our busy generation is the old fashioned idea of chores. We go from school to soccer to choir to the grocery store and then have to stop for new soccer socks and the presentation board for the science project. And there sits the laundry. And the dishes, and forget the dusting, and the vacuuming. Those are just not happening.

Well, there are some families with one or two clean freak types who always have a neat home with orderly shoes lined up in an actual closet by the front door and neatly arranged towels in the powder room. And there are people who have finally figured out how to budget things just right so that they have help cleaning every week or twice a month. I have a friend who splits her time between being my kind of family, one of the less-neat types and a clean freak. She says that the dishes all have to be done twice a month, before Merry Maids come.

I love that.

We’ve come a long way since the early messy family days. When our oldest was a toddler we lived in a townhouse apartment. Our little balcony butted right up to our neighbor’s balcony. A nice family moved in a few months after we did. The mom was another stay-at-home mom, so we got to know each other. It was the kind of neighbor that you really could say “There’s a mouse in my kitchen, can I bring the baby over so I can catch it!” and of course, you could. Of course.

Well, this friendship got to be pretty close, so much so that she got to see my apartment as it actually looked. You know, piles and crumbs and laundry and just messiness. One day, she pulled up her britches and said “do you want me to teach you how to clean your house?” I already adored her, so I wasn’t upset, just grateful! She admitted to being a recovering messy person, and told me how you had to just start in one corner and go back to that same corner, and just keep going. Get three bags, one for garbage, one for putting away later and one for giving away and fill ‘em up.

Oh I was thankful. In a few months, I was a confirmed clean freak. I’ve swung from messier to neater over the years but never gotten that far again.

As my kids grew and their messes grew, I realized they could do more that just get up from the table after dinner, say “thanks mom” and go off to play legos. Hey, if you can create a huge lego monster with integrated legs and wings, then you can sure as heck unload the dishwasher.

But it took my going to work full-time to really get things moving.

For years my husband had worked for an airline, and we’d been able to fly for free. When we moved to Seattle, it was for a job that didn’t have flight benefits. We booked one flight that we had to pay for, and that was it. It was expensive to fly! Spoiled rotten, that’s what we’d been, but still, we wanted our flight benefits.

When jobs opened up in the Seattle reservation office of an airline, I applied. Yes, I’d have to work full time swing shift and homeschool three kids, yes I’d have to pass a month long class that was harder than any college course I’d ever had, yes I’d have to survive monitored calls and a four month probation with no absences. But so what? We needed to fly for free.

The trick was, working this much, I wasn’t able to do anything else. Anything. No shopping, no laundry, no cleaning, no errands. I could manage none of it. But my husband is craftier than I am. And he’s an engineer. He wasn’t going to work full time and take on all of that, either. So, he taught the kids how to do things, real things.

Each child was assigned a portion of the dishwasher that was theirs to unload, it was height based then, dependent on which shelves you could reach to put things away. And he showed them how to load the dishwasher carefully so you didn’t drip a big gooey line of dirty water onto the floor. I probably should remember to ask him to show me how to do that, someday.

They learned how to wipe down the kitchen table and catch the crumbs in their palm. He even instituted a “first pass” and a “second pass” for washing up the table, so anything missed the first time would be caught the second. Everyone learned how to pack up the leftovers from dinner and even how to make a lunch for yourself for the next day out of the left-overs.

The children learned how to pull all the kitchen chairs into the family room so the kitchen floor could be swept well, and there was an on going battle over just who’s turn it was to sweep, which was deemed the worst job of all.

Laundry became a big, boy-energy filled event. All the clean laundry was dumped on the master bed in a big huge pile. Each person manned one corner of the bed and then you threw a person’s clothes at them… well, you were supposed to throw it toward the corner they were manning. What seemed to happen based on the piles of laundry that I found behind the bed and well beyond the corners was that you whipped the laundry as hard as you could at the person it belonged to. But it worked, and all the boys learned how to fold their shirts and sort their socks and do the real work.

Still, a few years later now, the chores are a shared job in our family. Thankfully I don’t work full-time swing shift any longer, but there is still a lot to do. We’ve all got busy days and busy nights. But we don’t really have chores. There is no specific thing that each of us has that we each have to do. We have constant work that we all need to do, and for the most part with just a little bit of nagging and cajoling, it gets done.

It doesn’t seem to me that we get the same pushback here in our house that other families do. Sure, there is whining. And there are guilt trips, and general griping. But we seem to approach the work as a group. I guess it’s kind of like “hey this is something we have to do, it’s not fun, it’s not exciting, but when it’s over, well then we can get on with what we really want to do.”

The trick, I think, is to really think of your children as people. From day one know that they are full-on thinking, feeling, absolutely whole beings, and that of course no one on the planet wants to do the laundry. No one. It’s a bummer. But if we find some fun in the work, and remember that we’re lucky to be able to do it with these people that we love, well, then, it’s not so bad.

What we do now that all the boys are perfectly capable of each doing any house work that needs to be done is to put on a “family blitz”. We each take on a piece of the work, put on some loud music and we take on the job. Someone dusts all the wood, someone all the glass. Someone else vacuums, and someone else picks up all the house detritus before it gets sucked up. Someone moves furniture around and finally we have the big dash where we hide all the things that didn’t get properly put away in the closet.

The blitz clean is a group effort, we’re all pulling together, there is no yelling, except in a comical “Laurel and Hardy” kind of way, and we have a kind of clean house most of the time. The chores aren’t really chores. It’s just the stuff our family has to get done.

It’s been years since we lived by that kind neighbor who finally taught me how to clean my house, and we’ve come a long way. I try to invite friends over when things are not perfect so they will know that I really trust them, and when I book a church family to host a dinner or a class, I always ask them to have the house look at least a little lived in. Why not? It’s how things are for almost all of us a great deal of the time. And it makes the kids feel so much more at home if there’s a little clutter around and the toys are comfortably scattered through the house. And isn’t that what we’re all craving? That feeling of home? Yep, it is, it sure is.