Friday, December 14, 2012

What About the Children? Helping kids when something awful has happened.

In the years I worked as a religious educator, I was sometimes called on to help guide families through traumatic times. There is no easy way to approach how to help children in times of trauma, and there’s not one answer. It’s all hard. This is a time to be gentle with ourselves and with each other.
But there are ways to help, that can make a difference. I’ll share a few, but I’d love to hear what you know, too.
Realize that children are much more aware of what is happening around you than you may think. Some children have a magic radar and will squint at you, tilt their head to the side and say “why are you sad?” Avoiding the topic isn’t a good idea, that teaches children that things that upset us are meant to be ignored, covered up and not let out for open discussion.
This doesn’t mean we should plant ourselves in front of the images of tragedy on television or the internet, or even to listen to blanket coverage on the radio. Give your home and car some peace and quiet. Or some music. Then, approach the tragedy in an age appropriate way, knowing that you are the expert on your own child and if you tune into the love and care you have for your child first, you’re likely to do just fine. A little prayer always helps.
Little ones want to hear “we love you and we’ll keep you safe” teens may want to talk about action that they can take to make things better. Middle aged kids, ages 7-10, probably want to know some facts and hear that in all likelihood that they’ll be safe. But of course some kids are anxious kids who will need more reassurances. Some kids need information and will want to know how the tragedy happened, what they should do if it happens to them, how likely it is that this will happen in their school or neighborhood. Don’t wait for your child to ask, but do try to follow their lead in how to deal with the information and support. Be honest. Be gentle. Lead with love.
A couple of things to remember:
  • keep yourself calm
  • do normal things; cook, go to the park, sit at the table and eat graham crackers or play checkers
  • find a way to do something to help; write a card, donate a little money
  • if you have a religious practice, use it, in times of crisis for my family we sometimes light a chalice, a symbol of our faith
For more real hands-on helping information, I always turn to Mister Rogers. There’s a great resource here.
But for me the most important thing for us all to remember is to take Mister Rogers advice and to look for the helpers. I heard a report that after the shooting today, children were taken into the homes of neighbors while they sorted out how to get them all safe. There are always heroes and helpers, regular old people who step up to take care of each other. I try to live my life with this right on the top of my mind all the time, but it’s important to share it with our young ones during scary times. Look for the helpers, if we pay more attention to the helpers than the bad guys, then we’re likely to keep our chin pointed in the right direction–toward love. The truth is we can’t keep our kids safe every minute, but we can’t lock them in the house. We have to try to trust that other loving and caring people will help us keep our kids safe.
At the high school that two of my sons attend, two young women have been killed in the last three years. They were both killed by ex-boyfriends, one around the corner from school as the students were headed in for classes. There is nothing that makes it all better, but they found that being with friends helped. Candle-light vigils helped, but for my oldest son who had had classes with the girl, what really helped was to stay after the vigil, to clean up. To collect the things people left behind to give to the parents of the girl who died. He’s become one of the helpers.
Take care and don’t rush things today. Call someone and tell them how much you love them. Thank the grocery clerk with a big smile. Send out love through every cell of your being. Be a helper.
I’m going to wrap some Christmas presents. Bake some cookies. Put out new suet for the birds. And clean, cleaning always helps me put the world in order.
Prayers for peace and love, to all. Amen.
(cross posted on the new blog, The Natural Happy Store)

Friday, November 30, 2012

News---And doin' the mom shuffle

So I was doin' the mom shuffle today, you know, driving a kid from here to there on their way to the other place, and my son said "Did you invite all your chalice spark friends to GNOWUS?"

And I sat there at the stop sign, in the rain, banging my head on the steering wheel.


"Duh!" he said.

Wisdom from the 16-year-old.

So you are cordially invited to visit the new partner blog I have with my friend Jennifer. It's called:

Girl's Night Out With Us

and while we really do have a real monthly outing, with us, we also are launching a cyber book club and movie club. And the first one is tonight, from 4:30-7:30 PST--yeah, that's in about 10 minutes.

There will be nothing Unitarian Universalist about it at all, except that both of us are or have attended a UU congregation. But come anyway. And if you've read the book or watched the movie, all the better! There's even free stuff for people who comment. Who doesn't love free stuff?

And the reference to "Girl?" yeah, it's all tongue in cheek, all genders welcome. Bending good. Safe for all here.

Tonight's movie: Wanderlust. Go here:

Book: 50 Shades of Grey. Go here:

And if you want to hear more we'd love to have you. Come subscribe, we're still under construction, but are on our way to a fun, lively blog. I am excited to blog again on a regular basis, and would love to have you all there, too.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Obama's Religious Roots: Questions to ask

The UU World article "Obama's Religious Roots" contains references to his mother attending a Unitarian congregation as a young person, and his own brief experience with a Unitarian Universalist congregation during his childhood. There is a detailed accounting of contact and interaction with the two congregations; his mother with Eastshore Unitarian and his own with the Honolulu congregation, including an account of Mr. Obama searching for the restroom at his grandmother's memorial service. Much more interesting is the exploration of why children who grow up in the liberal faith, or have familiarity with the faith through Sunday morning visits or family connection choose not to associate with Unitarian Universalists as adults. The author, Thandeka, deftly explores the emotional void often left for people who are raised asUnitarian Universalists; there is an emphasis on intellectual development and connection, yet the emotional and very human connection needed to overcome resistance to religion is not addressed.

Missing from this exploration about why children raised UU don't stay UU is an understanding of how programs for children, youth and families are crafted. Also missing is the voice of the people who craft those programs. In many congregations most of the leadership, lay and ministerial, has very little to do with the programming for children, youth and families. As resources outside of Boston shift, and districts come together as regions to support the work of congregations, some are choosing not to support programming for children and families with any staff at all. So often, the work of creating this lasting bond for children and faith falls to congregation-based religious educators.

Religious educators are hard working professionals who come to the work from many different disciplines. A few have educational backgrounds which have prepared them to work in systems or religion, but many rely on an on-the-job training, leaping in to the very deep end of church systems, pastoral care, curriculum development and volunteer management. The Religious Education Credentialing program offers one path for professional development; some religious educators enter seminary to expand their knowledge. These are the fine people usually entrusted to connect children with an identity as Unitarian Universalists. But find the religious educator in the local congregation and you're likely to find an absolute whirl wind of activity, even a line queued up waiting to speak to this person during a coffee hour following services.

The religious educators in many congregations are barely keeping their heads above water, the culture of over-functioning in some regions leads to short tenures and frequent turn-overs, leaving congregations without stable and consistent programming for children, youth and families. It is also true that the majority of people serving congregations as religious educators are women, leading to the question: is there gender bias in the field as a whole? This is neither a post-racial nor a post-feminist time in history. Is it, perhaps, part of the reason that children grow up and leave Unitarian Universalist churches in great numbers, that the staff people charged with developing the programs meant to engage them fully are stretched too far, their time too thin, the expectations of congregations unrealistic.

Why did Barack Obama attend a Unitarian Universalist church as a child but settle in a United Church of Christ congregation as an adult? Why do many children follow the same path, or follow no path at all? There are many reasons, many influences, but if the question is to be asked, it should be asked of those who are the closest to the question. The religious educators.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Maybe There is Still Hope 9/11/12

Grief and loss don’t necessarily end, but, usually, we find ways to build our lives around them. I do remember September 11th, 2001 very well. I was one of the people who got a phone call to turn on the TV, and I watched the second tower fall. Then I laid out clothes for my five-year-old.  It was horrible and it was nothing in contrast to what so many others lived.

I can’t imagine the pain of the people who lost a bit of themselves that day, when a loved one ran up the stairs to try to help, or called to say good-bye from a plane. The pain is too large to get my arms around it. I can’t imagine what it was like seeing, smelling, hearing the attack. I wish no one could.

But now, the pain has spread and fanned out to the thousands of military families who have suffered losses from the wars that were my country’s response. And sadly, the thousands and thousands of innocent people who were just living their lives, raising their children, working, and dancing, getting through the days as we all do until their country held someone’s enemy and war came.  And war stayed.

We regular people have grown used to knowing this, we’ve rebuilt our lives around this new normal, people call it Post 9/11. We’re a little more afraid of what could happen anywhere we go. We’re weary from a decade of war, but  since we’ve not planted victory gardens, bought war bonds, rationed anything including greed or felt our privileged lives slip much at all maybe we’re only weary in theory. The real weary are the people who have given and given and given. And that is desperately sad.

I mourn for the people who were lost. I mourn for the brave who gave their lives or their futures, or who will always have an exit plan when they walk into any public place and who pray no car backfires. I mourn for the loss of trust we all feel; our leaders don’t always tell us the truth, our beloved country’s motives are suspect and we always look at our fellow passengers on a plane, not to know who to be afraid of, but to know who will help us stop an attacker.

And still, I try to hope. I hope that we can find a way to settle our differences, and that we can live with compassion, as one whole and holy people of the earth. But my Post 9/11 sensibility tells me that there’s little chance we can ever live in a world like that. Maybe we can at least make this true in small and quiet ways; in our own houses, where we are just living our lives, raising our children, working, dancing and getting through our days. Maybe there is another way.  


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Very Happy Ending

It’s been a few months now since I left my job as a religious educator. I really thought I’d be mourning, feeling the loss of all the work and time and dear people I was leaving behind. But I guess I pre-mourned enough, because, hey, I’m feeling pretty fine.

It wasn’t the way I hoped things would go, but I wound up leading the service on my last day. I had been emotional at every other milestone--giving notice to the board I couldn’t even read my letter because I was teary. At all the last milestones, including the workshop led by the long range planning folks, I choked up. When a little girl gave me the chalice she’d made in class and told me I could keep it til I came back after my long time away, I cried the whole way home! So I didn’t want to lead on my last day, I thought I’d have an awful time holding it together.

So, before the big day I reached out to colleagues, thank goodness for colleagues--I asked for stories of leaving and transition. I always learn best through stories, and it really did help to hear what people who went before me had done. Then, the Saturday before my last day I put out a call on the sacred facebook for help--and the response from my friends and loved ones  made all the difference. On the final Sunday morning I floated--held by dear ones--it felt like I was carried through the service, through the little cake and juice reception. After the service I drove home with a smile. 

Do I miss the kids? Yes. Absolutely. Do I miss the dear people? Of course, lots and tons. Do I miss the endless pressure of managing programming every week, every month, every year of having too few volunteers, and never enough time to do the planning or the prep or the endless cleaning or using the same energy it takes to raise kids and be a good wife and friend for my job? No. I do not! I don’t know how I managed to keep going for so long because it is a huge relief to step away.

I know some people thrive on the pressure. Some people manage the pressure much better than I did. Some people have no church during the summer or a practice in their area of having one Sunday a month away from the congregation to spend with family. But I was not cut out for this kind of intensity, nope. I loved the work, and I'm glad for the opportunity to have done it, but I'm thankful it's over.

It’s funny with a little perspective, now--. I always thought that eventually I’d be a minister. The first time I ever met a woman minister when I was a young girl, I thought “That’s what I am, I’m a minister” I recognized elements of myself in her. I started out in college thinking I’d be a philosophy major, I had no idea what a person did to prepare to be a minister but that seemed to make sense to me. Then I decided that you couldn’t be a minister at 24. So I thought I’d wait and have some life behind me, then go to seminary. Most of the women I watched become ministers as a young woman were first religious educators. So I think someplace deep inside my head, I assumed that I’d come out the other end of this work as a minister. 

But after a few years of watching up close, I realized that there was no way I could be a minister. I don’t have the business acumen to run a church with finances and taxes and all that messy business. And I am just not willing to give up many of my weekends and so many evenings--because that’s when family life happens for most people most of the time. Even just as a religious educator, I felt like I was always out of synch with my family. They were off when I was on. They relaxed when I had my busiest times. Holidays were often frenzied with church responsibilities. And the ministers have even more to do. So, I am deeply grateful that I didn’t spend tens of thousands of dollars and the five long years it takes to be through all the training and school just to find out that I am not cut out to be a minister.

Within the relief, the thing I regret the most is leaving the lives of children who trusted me. That breaks my heart. I’ve known some of those kids through huge changes in their lives. They didn’t have to explain things to me, they could just be understood without having to do anything because I knew them, I knew their family, and I just understood. I wish I could stay in all the lives of children who I love.  But it’s important that I get out of the way so that each child can build a new relationship with the new religious educator. So I have to let them go. They have to let me go. In the midst of all the relief, this is still terribly, terribly sad for me.

I figured there would be hard parts about some of this big transition. So in preparation, we planned to add a little beast to our family. We knew our older dog, Mr. Noodles needed a friend, and what better self made sabbatical project could you have than a puppy? Here's Miss Lucky Lily Belle!

Happy Trails, dear ones! And may all things good come to you and yours this church year. Thank you for reading this little blog.

Bright Blessings!



Thursday, May 31, 2012

With Compassion

If I could wear a sling today, to carry my heavy heart, I would. There have been so many tragic things happening so close to us, I had to physically restrain myself from blocking the door to keep everyone home. Seattle has had a horrible run of violence, and it feels like we've been in the middle of it.

No, we have been in the middle of it.

It's nothing compared to people who have really lost loved ones, of course. But it's still real.

A 17-year-old young woman, killed by her boyfriend just blocks from our high school. She had classes with our son.

A young man, killed when he fell 11 stories from his residence hall on the UW campus, our son's residence hall.

A horrible shooting, killing 4 in the U district, 12 blocks from our son's dorm. The man killed again while stealing a car to get away. The car was found in the community where I work.

And a tragic end when the shooter ended his life as the police closed in 1 mile from our church, where I'd walked a block to my car an hour earlier. Cast a small radius from his location, and you'd touch dozens of loved ones.

What can you do? How do we move forward with compassion? Nothing makes sense.

Today was an early morning in my home. Everyone was up and half were gone by 6:30. Right then, when my son was about ready to leave for the day, I turned around and screamed and screamed, running from the room, because an uninvited visitor was in my kitchen.

A juvenile sparrow.

He'd hopped through the open slider, and I think he was standing behind me calling loudly for some time. I'd turned to close the door--so he didn't come in. Too late! I screamed more and grabbed the dog. My poor son, a trained black belt, who is always ready to defend the helpless, came running.

The poor little fellow fled from the insane screaming monster, and was hiding in the bathroom. My dear, wilderness-loving son gently covered him with his sweatshirt, carried him outside and held him up high--opening his hands, releasing. The bird flew away into the rain.

What do I do? How do I move forward?

I think this is the answer, we take care of what's in front of us. We care for the helpless and vulnerable. We make granola. We slow down a little and we just...well we just go on.

The little bird is perched in our yard, now, calling and calling. Like he's asking for food.

"Are you my mother? Oh, you are not my mother, you are a snort!"


Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Children of the Noisy Church--Kari's last Story for All Ages

You might have heard the story of The Noisy Church, but there's a story that comes even before that. Once, many years ago, there was a lovely little church on a lovely little hill filled with lovely people. But it was a quiet little church. The church looked a little like a bowling alley because it had no windows and it was long and narrow,  and there was no light and not even any real classrooms. In fact it was so quiet that the few children that came to the church were almost worried about making a little noise, because everyone would hear just exactly what they did and turn and peer at them.

Well, the lovely people found that it was time to find a new person to be in charge of the quiet children. So they looked and looked and finally they hired the one person who applied for the job. And this person, well, she didn’t know any better--she was convinced that they could fill the whole bowling alley building with children who would laugh and sing and squeal and dance and cause all kinds of happy noise.

So, the lovely people in charge of the children got ready for the first day of church in the fall. They prepared arts and crafts and music and fun for all the children of all ages. And do you know what happened on that first Sunday of the fall?

Not one preschooler came to class! The lovely teacher and the lovely church lady looked at each other and shrugged and carefully packed away all the arts and crafts and fun until the next week, hoping that at least one child would come to class!

Well, the next week some lovely little children did come to class. And they made a little noise. Let’s see if we can make just a little noise. Maybe if we all laugh and wiggle a little.....

The church lady still didn’t know any better, and believed if they just kept trying, soon lots of children would come and fill the bowling alley building with lots of happy noise.

And you know what? Pretty soon more children started to come! Friends named Zane and Wilder came to church, and Mia and Talulla came to church. Kids started to bring friends and neighbors and pretty soon there was a little more noise. Can we make a little more noise lets all laugh little laughs and wiggle a little more.....

By the end of the year there were more than twice as many kids!

Well, the years went by, and more children came to church and more children came to church. And the bowling alley building was filled with singing and laughing and games and joy and love and lots and lots of happy noise! And  sometimes the adults would say “my gosh, what were you doing today! It sounded like you were a herd of elephants!” What do you think that would sound like? Big belly laughing? Maybe clapping? Can we make a big noise?

Eventually the church got crowded. It got really crowded. It got so crowded that every single little space in the church was filled with classes--there was a class in the lounge outside the women’s bathroom--in fact sometimes there were two! There was a class in a tent! It was tooo much!

And the children knew it was time to make a useful noise. What do you think they did? You know, I think we might still have an old video of that day. Should we see what the children did that day? Yes? Cliff? Hey Cliff, in the sound booth? Do you think we still have that old video from a couple of years ago? Do you think we could watch it? Yes? OK, kids. It’s old so it might be hard to see. But let’s take a look.

Wow. Look at that! The children said “HOME OF OUR OWN!” and what happened? Here we are, in our beautiful church home! We left the bowling alley building and we finally got a home of our own! In fact the children of this church have often made a useful noise.

Five years ago a 15-year-old started our monthly homeless teen feed at Orion Center. The children raised $500 to buy a cow for our Unitarian brothers and sisters in Romania. Our children raised $1,000 for earthquake relief in Haiti. Our children were overnight helpers, and meal makers and meal helpers when we hosted families facing homelessness with Family Promise. In fact, our 4th and 5th grade class just two weeks ago staffed a lemonade stand during our whole rummage sale, donating the money to the West Seattle Food bank. Children from our church have grown up to be public defenders and work at the United Nations and to do groundbreaking research at MIT.

This is a pretty lovely place to grow up, this lovely little church on the hill; where being noisy is celebrated, and making a useful noise is just exactly what the adults here want you to do!

So one more time, lets make a lovely noise: clap and stomp and whoop and laugh and let out the lovely, bright you inside! Be noisy!

And that’s the story of the Children of the Noisy Church.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


I watch my sons navigate the busy world of today's teen, and I find myself on-my-knees grateful that we've found a way to offer an intimate Coming of Age program, a break,  for the four high school teens at our little church. Sorry, our middle sized church. I forget.

This church has grown like one of those crazy huge sunflowers that you can almost see stretch for the sun, the children's program often leading the way. But as often seems to happen, the families who attend like clockwork with little ones, get busy, get burned out, get lost or just stop bringing the kids along as they reach the teen years. So our numbers of high schoolers are small.

For my middle son, he was the only one left in his age group when it came time to do a "Coming of Age" so we did it DIY style--you can read about it here.

At our little church on the hill we have one teen a year younger than my middle son, and three two years behind. Not a whole lot of teens. But there are many 8th graders on their way up. If there is one thing that we've learned, it's to do something small before you do it big. Run a program with five core kids, learn all kinds of things, and then run it big with a group. Even with my leaving in a few weeks, a fabulous group of adults have taken on leading this group, with a commitment to hold what they've learned to use next time. Lessons learned will stay put. We are calling the program "Sanctuary" because it's a little time out of the triple-speed teen life to think and dream and just be for a while with a group of other teens who you have known since you were just a little kid. A safe place to rest and prepare for the next part of life.

Then, this morning I read this great post in the UU World about religious heritage and how a search of the religious identity of your ancestors can help you be grounded in your own identity, and I realize what an amazing group of leaders we have. This was their inspiration for our little group as one of their projects, a family tree of faith--or "what did you great grandfather believe and where did he go to worship?"


This is the biggest lesson I've learned in my work these last seven years. We must trust the wisdom of the people, trust the process of a small group of committed people. Yes, there are wonderful curricula out there to guide groups through this Coming of Age process, but sometimes knowing and dreaming and creating together brings to life just the thing that is needed.

Sometimes you just have to pray and talk and hope and then take a huge running leap.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Church in the Balcony

Yesterday I sat down in church. Yes, I did tell the story for all ages, and I helped with the sorting of children after they left the sanctuary, helped calm a three-year-old and distract him with playdoh and building train bridges until he forgot he missed his pop-pop. I counted noses before the 6th-7th grade group headed down to the park for Earth Day. Then I grabbed a secret cup of coffee and headed to the balcony where there is no carpeting to ruin if coffee spills and I disturb fewer people with my coming and going.

Then I sat. Only one other person was with me in the balcony, but he was tolerant of my leaving to check on classes. The day was so beautiful many of our families were not at church, small classes often mean fewer issues and less need for the "mean lady" to take kids from class for a while for a little break.

So, I got to hear most of the service. Most of the music. I even got to have a little of the fellowship of experiencing a moving service next to a kind person. I can't remember the last time I listened to a sermon in the pleasant company of a fellow congregant. It magnifies the meaning and deepens the emotion.

Then I ran off to set up tables advertising a fund raiser, peeked in for the singing of the final hymn and then zipped back down to the fellowship hall to welcome the hot and sweaty middle schoolers back from the park, reminded young ones not to eat a whole cake and poured more coffee.

When I leave my work as a religious educator after these seven years, I will leave church for a full year. For a year I will hike or have brunch or visit friends or just sleep on Sunday mornings. Then, I hope, I'll come back to church and sit through services and experience a moving sermon in the warm embrace of loving fellowship. I don't think I had any idea how much I missed it.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Spiritual and Religious

I was driving home in the pouring rain last night, listening to my friend National Public Radio when the hour turned and a new program came on, I think it had been the BBC which often just sounds like people chatting in the seat next to me, I pay so little attention. This was a speakers' forum and the speaker was religion scholar and author Diana Butler Bass, and her topic? The whole spiritual but not religious controversy. (Link here)

Oh my, this is the thing to say here in Washington state. "Oh, we don't really do the church thing, I'm spiritual and everything, but not, you know... religious." 

I hear this from families and emptynesters. It's what all the cool kids are saying. 

But why on earth would you want the magical dance of spirituality without the fabulous gift that is church life? I know, it's not perfect. my friend Barbara Cornell says that everyone has baggage, but people come to church and unpack. And it's true. There is hubris and elitism and snobbery and discrimination and gossip at church. People treat each other poorly sometimes and we don't always remember the very core of our faith--whichever faith that may be. 

That's just the thing. We come to church with our whole broken, messy, screwed-up selves and still, we are loved. We are reminded again and again that we are whole and holy and good, and not just by the person who is ordained. No, in fact I think we are more often reminded by the person who reaches for our hand when we are moved to tears, by the crew of teens who help us move heavy things without being asked, by the small child who shares with us a cupcake because they are "so good you HAVE to have one" and by the people who forgive us again and again and again for our messed-up, screwed-up, completely imperfect selves. 

Church takes some of the muddy crud of our human selves and washes it away, or plants good seeds in it, or just sits with us while we wallow in it for a while. Or, really, the people of church do that. 

Even more, they bring soup when we're sick and sit with us when we're at the hospital waiting with scary news on the other side of the door, they email and ask how we are after a bad spell and they will drive our children to and from preschool so we can make it through another week of battling a horrible disease. 

Yes, I do I love the spiritual kick of hiking to a vista of beauty, or seeing whales in the ocean. I love the way that prayer can sometimes work like a short order cook, serving up exactly the right plate of steaming soul nourishment at exactly the right time. But I also like church. 

Nope, I love church. I really do. 

People sometimes scoff and say that modern church is just a social club, just a place for people to gather. What? What on earth could be more important than that? A place where people smile and welcome you, where you are to come in just as you are and sit a while. A place where even though you are broken and battered, people just know that inside all your bluster and blunder that you are whole and holy and good. 

And it always smells like coffee and there is always something good that needs to be done. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Loving Leaving

I am not sure why no one told me this, but when you leave a job a really bizzaro thing happens. Someone else comes in to do the job after you. For real. And people really care a whole lot about who they get to do your job. Yes, for real.

The next Director of Religious Exploration was announced today. And my gosh, she sounds just amazing! And when I emailed her to congratulate her, she seemed super kind and intelligent and very caring. Holy amazing transition batman! I think we're in the middle of the middle phase of a loving leaving. Hot dog!

One thing though. I promised her that we'd have the library all organized before she arrives. Maybe you haven't seen our office, but the library might be half in stacks on the floor. We worked really hard on organizing it last summer, or well--our ADRE did. And I know where most of the books are. But if someone who wasn't us looked at it, well they might think it was, you know. A mess! A really big mess with sloping piles of fabulous resources for children, families and teachers. But still. A mess.

Better get on that.

At the same time, we've got almost all of the summer program in place. The story tellers for summer are just about set. And the teaching teams for next year are shaping up. I brought home the dog bed that used to sit under our desk. And while the files will take a few more weeks, we're on it. SO many files we collect in seven years. Oh my!

This is what we do when we leave because it's time to leave and we want more than anything in the world for everything that happens after we leave to be good. It's a lot of work, but it's good work.

And really, I'm on the library. Seven weeks, that's about 39 books a week! Psssht. No prob.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Grateful for a Bad Day

Yesterday I was working while going to church, which unfortunately you can do when you go to online church. I'm looking forward to sitting in a pew and just going to church when I leave my job working in religion. I literally cannot remember the last time I did that. Maybe General Assembly last June--but that's not the same kind of church. It's like Big-Top-Tent church, good and exciting, but it doesn't smell like coffee and you can't hear the fussy babies so it's not regular church.

I love the Church of the Larger Fellowship's online worship, it's really fabulous. And the Japanese Bowl sermon last week by the intern minister Joanna Crawford is still sitting on my heart. But it's easy to sit at the computer and do stuff while going to online church. Yesterday I decided I should clean out some of the thousands of emails in the inbox of the email account that I'll turn over in just under three months. It's 1998 technology, so not easy to manage. I can delete about 12 emails at a time, and that still takes almost a full minute.

I was back on emails from September 2010--deleting away 12 at a time. I saw the opening of the church building go by--October 2010--preparing for the dedication of the building. Frantic panic about 30 more kids than we'd expected. Funny to see little snippets go by just from reading subjects.

And then I saw an email with the subject, "Bad News."

Bad news. I could hear the blood pound in my ears and reached for the sweater on the chair next to me--suddenly I was freezing cold.

I opened the email. It told about a new development in the cancer, about a painful biopsy. It was rye with dry humor and still held hope. There was a string of supportive emails that followed, the women of the church sending love and light and hope and offering casseroles and child care. I read them, and tears fell to see the love and care and hope.

About one year later, the hope was over. A couple of months ago, we held the memorial service. She had to leave her sweet children behind which I am certain broke her heart and pissed her off, but the end was so fast that we never got to talk about it.

A simple little task. Emptying a long neglected inbox. But you fall in the chasm of this thing, this human condition. So hard, but really it is nothing at all. Really. Nothing at all.

I am grateful to be having a bad day, because I am blessed to be here and aware and crabby and unjustly accused  and unappreciated and thank God, it's a day.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Feelin' Groovy

You know that moment when the crushing fatigue sits on your head and you look at the floor and just want to collapse on the soft rug and curl up and sleep? Oooooh! And if there might be a blanket and a couch, man--watch out. This is the workplace danger of working from home. Especially if there's a little dog with those sad eyes who just really wants to snuggle up for a nap. But there are hours and hours of work left to do, so you don't .You don't rest. You don't stop. Instead you grab coffee or do a desk-chair yoga moment of trying to get the blood to flow back up to your head. Gotta get things done, finish the project, find the answer, create the magic. Go.

This morning's Daily Compass is singing my song. How DID I get to be an adult without realizing that I need rest? How did I get in this spot of having way too much to do, no time for friends and family and no plan at all for what to do next? Where is my "slow" speed?

I should write this down on a sticky note and stick it on my bathroom mirror so I don't have to learn this again. And again. "SLOW DOWN"

And then somehow I'm six again, and my grandmother is singing Simon and Garfunkel to me:
 Slow down, you move too fast, gotta make the mornin' last, just kickin' down the cobblestones.....

I'll let you finish the song.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Listen to Your Mother

Leave it to your mother to quietly point at something, raise her eyebrows and give you a little nod. Oh yeah, really gotta pay attention when all three of those things happen.

Except in my life they happen on facebook these days, since I ruined my mother's life and took three of her four youngest grandsons 1,200 miles away.

Yes, my 80-year-old mother is on facebook. And she has a kindle and an ipad. And she skypes, too.

"You're in the UU World again" I think was about all it actually said on facebook, the point and eyebrows and nod were totally implied though. I could tell.

My UU World had been sitting on my desk, waiting to be read in the rush of all things family and church and the ittle bitty district job I'm juggling right now. But yep, sure enough there it was in the blog responses to articles in the last UU World, a post I could barely remember writing much less living. December 8th somehow feels like a million years ago. But I clicked through to the post and sure enough, it was something that we'd just been talking about across the kitchen table in the RE office a few days earlier. And as I read it I thought "people must think I either have been straight up lying in this blog or that I'm a total idiot for leaving this job."

And then I read back through the posts. "Love the job, love the people, joy and peace and bliss and blah blah blah perfection in all things church and faith" and holy mother of all things of worth and dignity, I swear, it's all true. I have absolutely loved serving this congregation. It is full of the most amazing, giving people who are full of love and who I swear to the spirit work like oxen on espresso! I could hardly speak when I sat at the table with the board of trustees to submit my resignation, it was so sad. And when a beloved six-year-old gave me the chalice she'd created at a chalice chapel, well, I'm still teary about that. I will rip out little pieces of my heart and stuff them in the cushions of the pews and the bins of legos when I leave.

But I have to go. Some people have a call to serve God or work with the street children in poor cities. Some people wake up and join the Peace Corps. I didn't get those texts on the God phone. Nope.

For's pretty straight forward. It's time for me to leave the congregation I love.

And if you stay when it's time to go, well, that's about the most unkind thing you could ever do to a group of people you love.

So, thanks mom, for pointing me to the blog and reminding me that I used to be a blogger. And that people might be wondering.....hunh? What on earth happened here?

Nothing happened. Life is complicated. I am making the tidiest most amazing and well organized office, storage and programs (teacher teams for 2012-2013? Already on it!) any leaving person has ever left behind. It is a profoundly loving leaving.

Eventually, I will love actually sitting through a church service and singing hymns and that thing where you go away on a Friday and come back on a Sunday and rest and relax....I think it's called a weekend away. But I will miss being the adult who children trust and the storyteller people listen to and the strong one who keeps things together from time to time.  I will miss it a lot.

But the seasons go round and round and the years actually grow wings and fly by. And even when you're nearly 45 your mother can still remind you about the things you really need to do. On facebook.

It's a good thing and sometimes good things just break your heart.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Great Job in the Pacific Northwest!

I'm leaving this work, but it might be just right for you or for someone you know!

Go here. 


Friday, January 20, 2012

Kari's News

Hey Blog world, I've got some news to share.....and while I can't be a part of finding the next Religious Educator here at Westside....I can tell you, it's a great place to work! 
Dear Members and Friends of Westside UU Congregation,
Today we announce that Kari Kopnick is ending her employment here as Director of Religious Exploration for Children and Youth, sometime around  the end of May.   After seven years, Kari feels that it is time to start a new chapter in her life with new and different challenges.    Though this makes us truly sad, we are also happy for Kari because she is wisely listening to her needs to create the next chapter in her life. 
In her letter of resignation she said:
“I can’t imagine a better way to have spent the past seven years of my life.  Serving this congregation and watching while you grew and built a powerful community filled with love and spirit has been a privilege.  It has also been a profound honor to have been invited into the lives of so many precious families.  My heart lives inside dozens and dozens of Westside children, youth and now even young adults.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful community. I leave not to take another job, but because it’s the right time to go.  I pledge that I will do everything in my power to provide all the resources for a graceful and loving transition for the community and for your new Religious Educator.”
As congregants we will need time for our sadness, and we will want to plan times and ways to express our appreciation to Kari, and to celebrate the programs for which she has provided superior professional leadership.    Please begin thinking about ideas for celebrating all that Kari has meant to us.
In the meantime, we are also working to have a search committee appointed by the Board of Trustees.   This committee will manage the process of a continental search for a new Religious Educator, utilizing resources of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the professional Liberal Religious Educators Association (LREDA).   As Kari has said, our position will be an extremely attractive one for RE professionals because of the health and vitality of our congregation, and because of the excellent working relationship that has existed between our RE staff, the active supportive RE Council, and our Minister.  
We are happy to know that Kari is planning on being a part of our congregation as a regular member, after the appropriate time for her successor to get established.  She has visions of singing in the choir and being able to actually attend worship!
Of course you are welcome to contact any of us with your questions.  We will keep in communication with the congregation, as will the search committee after it is formed.
Our best to all,
Heather Hisatomi and Amy Hance-Brancati, RE Council Co-Chairs
Jill Fleming, Congregational President
Rev. Peg Morgan, Minister