Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nacht Spaziergang - II

As I have mentioned before, I love walking at night. With the addition of our wonderful new dog, Daisy, I have been able to do this again. I am starting to question whether or not this is a good idea, or if I just have poor coordination. I am thinking it is the latter. I have a history of falling off sidewalks (most notably on my 30th birthday, but that is a story for another day...). Last night I took another tumble. It really hurt. I landed hard on my knee and hip, pretty much jarring my whole body. Now I am very grumpy and sore about the whole ordeal. It didn't help that I was still about a mile from home with a very sprightly dog. Anyone know how to shake this off? ;-)

Monday, December 29, 2008

January Membership Moment

As some of you may know, I am the Volunteer Membership Coordinator at my congregation. I am new to it this year, but it is something I very much enjoy. As part of my responsibilities, I write an article for our monthly newsletter. As I finished my latest installment, I thought, "why not share it with you all?". Therefore, I will now start posting them on this site. Following are my January thoughts (I did edit out some identifying marks):

Membership Moment

I hope by now the bustle of the holiday season has worn down and the quiet(er) calm of January has set in. For me, this is often a time of personal reflection. It is a time to take stock of the past year and look to where I want to head in the next. While I don’t generally make resolutions, I do try to take an honest look at my life and the direction that it is heading. What is going well? Where do I want to make changes? How do I want to shape the coming year?

An important aspect that is often overlooked in our New Year’s review is our spiritual life. How are we growing in our spiritual development? Rare is the person who has “finished” their spiritual growth. Are you taking the time to meet your spiritual needs? Is F. meeting your spiritual needs? Spirituality has many manifestations. Some of us find it in nature (F. Hikers), others in small group ministry (Covenant Groups). Maybe being an active steward of the Earth (F.’s Green groups) fulfills you or study of historical texts (F. Bible Study). Perhaps human dignity (Room At the Inn) and social justice (Family Alliance) are what brings you closer to living your faith. These are just a sampling of the variety of ways that F. can help you on your spiritual journey. I encourage you to look at yourself, your family, your life and follow that path that brings meaning to you.

Tracey
Volunteer Membership Coordinator

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Who Knew

that Guitar Hero/Rock Band could bring a family closer? Fun was had by old(er) and young alike. Now, if I could just get past "easy", maybe I would feel more like a hero!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas can never start too early...

Especially for three kids who were up at 2:51am checking out their stockings. Fortunately, mom heard her little mice chattering and sent dad to shoo them back to bed!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Loss

I am not sure what it is about this time of year, but it seems like death is especially devastating. Last night, a cousin of mine passed away. He was significantly older then me and really was a great friend of my moms. While we were not very close, I always enjoyed his company. He had a wonderful sense of humor and lived life to the fullest. I feel for my aunt, his family, and my mother. I know how much they loved him and how greatly he will be missed.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shalom

I wish you all Peace and Love during this festival of Light!
HAPPY CHANUKAH!
This is one of my favorite stories. I love the symbolism of people fighting for religious freedom, bringing hope to their oppressed people. I encourage you all the be flickers of light in your communities!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Gifts

Just in case there are any sewers or crafters out there, here is a picture of the gifts I made. Unfortunately, I am not a photographer, so the pictures are not great. There are better close-ups on my flickr account. http://www.flickr.com/photos/24941279@N03/

Cat Tunnel: Amy Butler's "In Stitches" book

Nightgown: Simplicity 8488

Reading Pillows: Sew Liberated - http://sewliberated.com/

Coloring Wallets: JCasa*Handmade - http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=36900


Soap Buddies: Plumppudding - http://myplumpudding.blogspot.com/2008/04/soap-buddies.html

I have officially maxed out my sewing patience and am planning to take a little break - at least until January!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stuck

Do you ever feel entangled in a situation that you have no ability to straighten out? That is where I am tonight.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Flawless?

No, but definitely perfect. We had our annual Christmas pageant today. It is the first year that all three kiddos have been in it. It is fascinating to watch their personalities come through on stage. My daughter, an angel, took great care in making sure she did exactly what was expected of the Angels. Middle son was a very reluctant Shepherd and spent the time glaring at the audience, but grudgingly gave me a very nice picture. Youngest son was very excited to be a sheep and played the role to its fullest - cute ears and all.

What I love best about pageants is watching all the children shine. I have at one time or another taught most of the kids in the pageant. Some I thought would never participate and there they were singing a solo! speaking lines! participating! Just like with my own children, I enjoy watching them bring themselves to the part. This is one of the aspects of coming together in community that I love. Even though those are not my children, I care about them and I know other parents care about my children. I want the best for them and I want them to be able to confidently spread their wings. I want our church to be part of this process. I want our church to matter to our children.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Environmental Question

I have awful eyesight. Not only am I very nearsighted, I also have a weird issue where my eyes don't like to focus (even though they are perfectly able t0), thus causing lots of headaches whenever I spend too much time reading, typing, sewing, etc. Anyway, through the many years of needing glasses I have been bouncing back and forth between glasses and contacts. Because of yet another issue, I have been almost exclusively wearing glasses the last couple of years. But, I tend to keep a back-up supply of contacts for "special" occasions. In my ever increasing efforts to become more environmentally friendly, I have been wondering what is the best option. I don't ever hear people really talk about this. I am assuming glasses because of the long life they have, but I really don't know the whole process of making them versus contacts.

Any thoughts out there? I imagine it will always come down to personal preference, but maybe there is such a thing as "green" glasses and contacts?


Gift Update: I am making steady progress. Some have been moved down the list while others up!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sensible?

Today I was called very sensible by a women I admire. I am taking this as a compliment. I imagine to some it is not exciting to be called sensible, but I consider it to be a very high form of flattery! I think my parents would be proud.

Friday, December 5, 2008

So busy...

Not much blogging will be happening in the next week or so. If you check out the list on my sidebar, I am in the midst of making several gifts for Christmas. Once I feel that is under control, I will be back!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Bah Humbugness

It is already December 1st and my yearly bah humbugness has returned. I just don't like the Christmas season. I don't like the running around, the gift buying, feeling over extended, etc. I do like being with family, snow, and the quietness of the winter season. Every year, though, these positive aspects get lost in all the brouhaha that is Christmas. I try to simplify the season, but have family members that like to go all out, no matter how hard I try to reign them in. I also have a romantic for a husband who is very intent on creating the perfect memories for our children. He was very fortunate to have a wonderful childhood, and, of course, wants our children to have that. Hard to argue with that. I do too, but, honestly, I don't remember very many of my Christmases. Mine mostly entailed traveling West into huge snowstorms, hoping a semi wouldn't knock you off the road in the blinding storms. I have LOTS of memories of that. What really came through in my memories of Christmas was that you spent it with family, not what was under the tree.

I would love to hear what stands out in your mind about Christmas.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is Marketing Bad?

I was recently at the store and saw these crackers. Of course, my food-loving son wanted them right away. When I glanced at the box, all I saw was cheddar crackers. Sounds OK. When I got home and actually looked at the box, I didn't know if I should laugh or be impressed at their cracker shapes. According to their website (http://www.eco-planet.net/), they hope to spread an environmental message to kids with a healthy, tasty cracker. Which is all good, but honestly, my kids will get a kick out of the shapes but probably not read the box. I love, though, the attention to detail on the cover: solar panels, electric car, wind turbines, biking, organic farm. I think they pretty much got it all on one cracker box.

This led me to my ever present internal debate about marketing. My gut reaction is I can't stand it. Is so pervasive and in your face that I feel like I can never escape it. It is just too much and too influential, especially to our children. It is very difficult to control it. But, what about the marketing that brings to my attention products that I feel are beneficial? I love looking at the adds in Mother Earth News and Threads (I love to sew) to see what new products are out there. Without Magic Cabin, I would not be aware of all the alternative, natural toys out there. But, I can not stand Toy's R Us ads. I am feeling a little hypocritical. Where is the line? Is there a way to market without being so invasive? I would love to see it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Water Rights

Ever since I started volunteering for UUSC, clean water/water rights have been near and dear to me. The thought of people dying over something as basic as drinking water breaks my heart. It is so easy to take for granted that when we turn on the faucet: 1. Water will come out and 2. It is safe to drink. While some areas of the world have always had water issues, I feel with all the climate change going on, even more people are being dramatically affected.

According to UUSC, "Around the world, 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. Each year, dehydration from disease claims the lives of nearly 2 million children." Additionally, many countries charge people for water. People who are barely surviving have to literally pay at the pump to get water. I encourage you all to go to UUSC's site (http://www.uusc.org/) to read more about this important issue.

This wonderful video is making the rounds on the blogosphere and is a great way to start to get involved. I love it for its alternative view on the holidays and ways to make a difference to so many people.

http://

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Two Cents

I finally received my copy of the winter UU World. After reading so many posts about the ethical Thanksgiving dinner article, I was anxious to read it myself. Honestly, I didn't find it offensive. I just found it factual. Those facts are true. But, how I respond to them does not make me an ethical or unethical person. I am not sure why people took the article so personally. I don't think anybody could make the claim that they are completely ethical in all that they do. It is nearly impossible. I certainly do not look down at people if they are not eating local, organic food. But, I do think it is reasonable to know the full (environmental, social) cost of that food. It is up to you and how comfortable you are with it. Of course there are millions of people who can not afford to eat completely ethical (and is that even possible?). But, I know that I can at least make an effort, even if it is a small one. For my one income, family of five, there is no way that I can make sure my food is completely ethical. I also don't feel that I am unethical. I do feel, though, that I now have a better picture of where my Thanksgiving food is coming from. It is not all or nothing game. Every little change matters. For us, I think we will pass on the cranberries. Perhaps a small change could be affordable to you too.

Friday, November 14, 2008

One of many reasons


I have a VERY VERY chatty 4 year old. We spend a lot of time together and yet he never manages to run out of things to say. This is even more unusual given the fact that the four other of us are pretty silent, introverted folk. Where did he come from!?! We often wonder this. But, he really is a ray of sunshine. I look at him and think everyone should have such a happy soul in their life. I hope he never loses this. Today he was overjoyed to discover that: "Mom, mom! Look! I can control my eyebrows!" It made his day and mine.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Membership

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to become a member of a congregation. I talk every Sunday with potential members to our congregation. It is really interesting to hear people's reactions to becoming "official" members. Some are very blase and just want to know how they can sign the membership book. Others are very concerned that they follow the exact process to membership and don't miss any steps. Some become completely paralyzed by the thought of actually signing their name to anything (even though they faithfully volunteer and pledge).

What does it mean to you? Do you feel the need to sign the membership book to feel like you belong? Have you signed a membership and still not felt like you were really a member of the community? While the number of members a congregation has is measured by the names in its Membership Book, I feel it can be a weak indicator of the real membership of the congregation. Sure, you can have 300 in the book, but only 100 active members. Or the reverse, perhaps you you have 150 active members but only 75 have signed. What is the true indicator of membership? Should those people who don't sign, but in every other way act in covenant with the congregation, be considered members? Conversely, what use is it to have lots of members in the book if they don't show any real commitment to the congregation? How do you measure numbers like that? Is it really even important?

I would be curious to hear what you consider it is to be a member. Why or why not is it important to you. Can you only be in covenant with a congregation if you have signed to book? How many books have you signed? Was it hard or easy to join? Did you take any classes? Did it feel like a special occasion? Did you expect more then what happened? I would really appreciate any insight you may have. I am looking to rework our process and make it as meaningful as possible.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank You Veterans

I have many veterans in my immediate and extended family. I also have family members still in the service. I thank them and all veterans for their willingness to defend us and the freedoms that so many of us take for granted. While I don't always agree with our military directives, I do support all the men and women out there doing the best job they can. Thank You!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sad Day

Today our much beloved 14 y/o dog Sydney passed away. I am just heartbroken. Mr. Plaidshoes and I got her soon after we were married. She was a stray and didn't bark for almost a year after we got her. She seemed to know we were her family right away. She never needed a leash and pretty much just loved us and we loved her. It is hard to believe we won't be seeing her everyday. I hope she she is in a happy place. Goodbye Sydney.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To quote U2:

It's a BEAUTIFUL day!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Don't Forget (how could you, really...)

Sometimes we take for granted what an awesome right we have in being able to freely vote. Please don't be one of them!

VOTE!
Each vote really does count. Do you really want to be the one who lost your candidate the election? (Plus, you lose every right to criticize our government if you didn't make the effort to get out there and cast your ballot ;-)
Update: After standing in line for 1 1/2 hours with three kids - I voted! Yeah!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Morning After

You could not have asked for more perfect weather for trick-or-treating. I remember often having to wear my winter coat while it was snowing on Halloween! Usually being very upset that my cool costume was being covered up ;-) My Egyptian Princess*, Harry Potter and Dinosaur* had a wonderful night. It was also extremely profitable:

Now, can you believe it is already November!






*That's right, I made those!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Falling Flat on My Face....

...one of the many perils of walking at night!*



*At least no one could see me ;-)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Church Community

Last year I felt really estranged from our large church. While I still attended, I dramatically scaled back on my volunteer commitments. I felt burned-out and frustrated with certain aspects of the church. I needed a break and time to regroup and refocus on what is important to me about my church. I had some hard feelings that I needed to work through and resolve. I haven't resolved them all, but this past weekend brought back to me why I continue to attend.

In a word, it is the people. This past Sunday we had our Newcomer's Potluck Diner. I was in charge of organizing it (as the new Membership Coordinator). Since I had never attended one, I was a little unsure of what was expected. What I discovered was a core group of volunteers that had been doing this for years and quickly stepped up to help. They were fantastic and open to new ideas of doing things. There is no better bonding practice then washing dishes together! I also had a wonderful time meeting new people and making new, fresh connections to the church. Their energy and excitement was infectious. When I look back to all the frustration of the previous year, being together in community with this small group helped me remember why I made a covenant with my church. Sometimes reaching out and making true connections is what makes all the difference.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Extricating the Negative

One of my goals this year was to try to rid myself of negative situations. Obviously, there are negative situations all the time, but I am talking about those long term situations/relationships that are so entangled you feel helpless in getting out of them. There are a couple of these in my life (not my family) that I keep getting drawn into that on a good day are mildly irritating and on bad days so frustrating I can barely stand it. Why can I not dissolve myself of them?!? Why do I continually allow myself to be involved?!?! I frequently tell myself that I control how I react to situations and that I can not expect others to respond how I feel they should. This will never happen. I also control whether or not I allow myself to be drawn into the situation. After all, I am not a child. I know what will most likely happen. But....these issues are bigger then me. There are more people involved then myself. One of these will be coming to a head soon and I need to decide how I will respond. In my heart, I know what I need to do, but that "give people another chance" brain of mine keeps me from doing what I need to do. I know people will be disappointed and I don't like that. I know they won't completely understand, but I don't feel like I can be brutally honest. Isn't it easier to keep the status quo? The other one is very much up in the air with a lot of variables that will influence the outcome. This decision is also not completely my own. While I will do what I need to, it is hard to live in flux.

I want to mention, though, I do realize that I am lucky to have options. These issues are purely relational and not related to health or livelihood. I am just not sure why it is so hard to let go of relationships/situations that we are not technically bound to. Why do I/we continue with the negative? Why is it never easy?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nacht Spaziergang

Daisy


We have recently added a new pet to the family, Daisy. She is a wonderful mixed-breed, four year-old, rescued dog. She comes to us after a year and a half at a no-kill shelter. She is gentle and well-behaved. The kids love her, as do I! I am hoping this is the beginning of a long relationship, it is off to such a great start.

One of the added benefits of Daisy, is the return of being able to walk at night. I love walking at night, but don't feel particularly safe without a companion. Daisy fits the bill perfectly! With the weather turning cooler, the evenings have been perfect. I love walking around when it is quiet and still out. Everything seems so peaceful. I like to imagine people in their houses winding down for the night, a calm in the air. I love being able to see the stars and hear the leaves blowing in the wind. It is my favorite time of the night and I am glad to be able to enjoy it again.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Unsung Volunteers

Since beginning work as the Volunteer Membership Coordinator, I have become increasingly aware of all the "silent" volunteers at our congregation. I have been amazed at the long term dedication of members of our congregation. I always new R. made the coffee. I didn't realize that she helps stuff all the recycling bags for pick-up. I never knew that C. took it upon herself to make name tags for members. J. has been dedicated in following up with emails and letters to new visitors. L. has been putting packets together for new members for years. I am sure that there are even more, and to all of you I say THANK YOU! Without all your work behind the scenes our church would not be the welcoming place it is.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Close of the Season

I remember last January making big plans for our garden. I was determined that it would provide a substantial portion of our vegetables (the rest being provided by our CSA). Oh, how easily plans are made with the best of intentions and how quickly they fail! There were several reasons why the big garden did not happen, most notably the completely over-whelming part-time job. But, the season was not a complete loss. In my optimism, I ordered a bunch of berries and strawberries. (I have this dream of having a huge berry farm...) Of course, I procrastinated and didn't plant them right away. Thus, I ended up with three live strawberry plants and one raspberry bush. Amazingly, the bush actually produced some wonderful raspberries! I was so excited. My kids were a little wary, though, as they are yellow, not red, raspberries.

Mother nature also pulled a few strings for me. I love heirloom tomatoes and seeded them way too late. But, wouldn't you know, it was the wettest spring on record and I couldn't plant them until later anyway! I am now fortunate enough to still have fresh tomatoes. Nature also heard my laments about not having planted any jalapeno peppers. Low and behold when I started scavenging around my very weedy and overgrown garden I found a volunteer plant. Yeah! My lazy composting paid off!

When I look back, while the gardening year did not go as expected, it wasn't a bust. I did get vegetables and herbs. But, my eternally optimistic nature is already planning how fantastic next year's garden will be....

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vegetarian Awareness Month.....

....is OCTOBER!

I have been a vegetarian for over half my life and have not regretted or questioned it at all. Despite growing up in a very meat/hunting loving area, I knew by eleven that I would become one. I vividly remember going fishing and watching the horrible death of the fish I caught. It seemed so cruel and I could not get over the fact that something died just so I could eat it. It lost its life for me. At eleven, it was very overwhelming. It took a few more years to completely transition, but all these years later, I still strongly hold that belief.

I know many people don't have any qualms with animals dying for us, but I would ask you to also look at the environmental cost of eating meat.

"A 2006 United Nations report summarized the devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."*

Additionally, "According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than a half-million cars off U.S. roads. "*

These are pretty dramatic statements, but ones that we should all consider when we decide how we are going to feed ourselves, family, and the planet. I encourage you all to incorporate a vegetarian meal at least once a week into your diet! You might be surprised on how much better you feel.


*http://www.goveg.com/environment.asp

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Modern Harp

I have now mastered (easy version) the Star Wars theme on the harp!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Growing Up


My baby read his first book today!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Day's Work...

Applesauce and Jalapeno Jelly

I worked all afternoon on these eleven jars. I feel like for all the effort in picking, washing, chopping, and boiling, I should have at least five times this! I love canning, but sometimes I wish it didn't require so much work. I have to keep reminding myself that I will appreciate it in January!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Creeds Part II

Thank you for all the comments. They brought up a lot of interesting points. I have been really pondering what it means to have a creed. I do agree that the seven principles are not a creed. I like how Ogre describes them as "approximations of values which we...share." Additionally, Allogenes describes them as "resolutions to behave a certain way." I can agree with this. I like how they both worded what the principles mean to them, of which I will work into my lexicon. Bill also notes that they are so vague that they just become muddied. Another true point. I guess I have always liked having them. I feel like they are a starting point in describing our faith.

I am, though, still not convinced that it is bad to have a creed. Ogre had made the point that creeds were traditionally used to define people as believers or unbelievers - us and them. I see that. But, I sort of feel that we already do that on an informal level. While we claim to accept people where ever they are on their path - do we really make it easy for someone who is very ideologically different from us feel at home? I sometimes feel that we have an unspoken and not so subtle creed. Why not formalize it so it reflects the best of UU thought? Whether we like it or not, we do give off cues as to whether UU is the right place for a potential congregant. Of course we try to be inclusive as possible, but in reality, it is not the right place for everyone. Why not try to capture its spirit within a creed? Maybe it could be a wonderful unifying document.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Are Creeds so bad?

I am loosely following various blogger comments about our seven principles and the proposed revisions. I am stuck wondering, though, is it so bad to have a creed? Why does that bother people so much? Is it the word "creed" or is it because people don't want to feel like they have to commit to something as a group? I, personally, feel like the principles are open enough that just about any sort of UU could feel at home with them. I am not sure what is so bad about having a unifying statement. I know we claim to be a faith of "deeds not creeds", but why can't there be a creed and deeds? Why are they considered mutually exclusive? I feel that I am in the minority about this, but feel free to chime in with your thoughts and I may be swayed!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What Rain?


What to do when it rains 7 inches?

Have a mud party, silly!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Music and the Harp

My son recently started taking harp lessons. I can not tell you how excited I am. When I was in elementary school, I also played the harp. Unfortunately, being in a small town in Iowa, there was only one harp teacher and she was mean. I tried to stick with it, but there is only so much a child can take - thus I transitioned to the clarinet. I enjoy the clarinet and still play in a woodwind quintet, but it isn't the same. This past week I have been playing his lap (beginner) harp. I love leaning my head on the sound board and feeling the vibrations of the strings. The sound is so beautiful. I understand why music is healing. It has brought a lot of joy to me this week. I hope it brings him the same joy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Welcoming

The church year got off to a great start. With it, I started a new volunteer position as Membership Coordinator. I am pretty excited about this as I have felt our welcoming efforts have been very scattered and disjointed. We have some wonderful, dedicated volunteers doing various aspects of guest welcoming, but the effort lacks an overall, cohesive plan. I hope to remedy this! We are a medium-large congregation with a very strong Religious Education program (which brings most newcomers to us). I hope to, along with the RE director, coordinate our efforts to get the family connected and involved in the church as a whole. I am going to try really hard not to let new members fall through the cracks and help them find their niche within the congregation.

I would be very interested in hearing success stories you might have or experienced in making newcomers feel welcome and engaged.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Goodbye Chocolate Chip

Our beloved hermit crab Chocolate Chip has passed on. He was brought home from the Montessori for the summer and only lived with us for a few months this year and last summer. It was enough time for us to grow quite fond of him. We have had bad luck with school pets. Last summer while keeping the school's hamster (whom we affectionately named Vanilla Ice), it also died on us. Why? I like to think that we are careful animal sitters - we have had a dog for 13 years!

Our middle child is very sensitive to loss. He takes them very personally and very hard. I have chosen not to tell him for a couple of days. Tomorrow is the first day of school and that alone will be tough enough for him. He has difficulty with change and I can't bear to add to his challenges. While he knows death is a part of life, he has always been acutely aware of its finality. So we will wait and have a ceremony for Chocolate Chip that honor's what he meant to our family and especially my son.

I would love to hear any traditions you might have for the loss of a pet.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Prayers for Children

I was recently asked by the UUA bookstore to review the book A Child's Book of Blessings and Prayers, collected by Eliza Blanchard and illustrated by Rocco Baviera.

I have found one of the hardest parts of nurturing my children's spirituality is prayer. I did not grow up in a family where prayer was common. I am often very uncomfortable when asked to pray. I literally just don't know what to say. One of the topics most brought up in my congregation's parenting group is prayer and table graces. Evidently, I am not the only one in this predicament.

I wish this book would have been out even sooner! Blanchard has done a wonderful job of collecting a wide and diverse group of prayers. There is literally something for everyone and situation. She has collected Christian, Jewish, Unitarian Universalist, Islamic, Pagan, and Native American prayers. I found that there was also something for every comfort level - which is very important to me. One of my favorites is a beautiful Irish birthday blessing. It will now be included in all our birthday celebrations. I also appreciate that the are even prayers asking for personal forgiveness and for care of the larger world. While this book is geared to children, I found that the prayers are really for every age group. The illustrations beautifully compliment the blessings and enhance the simplicity, but poignancy of the prayers.

A Child's Book of Blessings and Prayers fits in right where my children are at now. In fact, my eight year old has already marked her favorite blessings. She especially liked one the friendship prayers. I really recommend this for every family. It has been very helpful and inspiring.

You can find the book at http://www.uuabookstore.org/

(I would love, though, for Blanchard to continue and adapt and lengthen this book for teenagers and young adults!)


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Faith

Just have faith. I know to certain folks, this phrase is meant to provide comfort. I have tried to let it comfort me. But, in reality, my next thought is "faith in what?!?" That God will work things out - that there is a master plan? That the Universe will somehow pull through? In the human race? In the law? I really struggle with this word. I would best describe myself as an agnostic humanist. I really don't know what, if anything, is out there. I have seen too much to believe that having faith in a God will "make things better". I greatly dislike the phrase "things happen for a reason". What reason? Why should a child suffer? Why do bad things happen to wonderful people? How will having faith in a God, make him/her come down and straighten out my life? I know these are eternal questions that will most likely never be answered in my lifetime and maybe not even in death.

When I really think about it, to me faith is the belief that, in the end, the human spirit will prevail. That deep inside there is a spark of compassion in us. It may not always be evident, but I have to hope, have faith, that when most needed, people will rise to the occasion. I have to believe this, otherwise the the act of the truly despicable, will be overwhelming. I have to have faith that the majority of humanity cares. This is the only reality I know and what I, and others, make of it, makes all the difference. I choose to have faith in people.

What does faith mean to you?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Home Again!

The trip went wonderfully. I am very fortunate to have a large (LARGE) extended family in Wyoming and South Dakota. Thus, necessitating us visiting them and the beautiful surrounding area! If you are up to it, following is a pictorial review:

Gurnsey Lake, Wyoming - My mom spent many a summer swimming here.


Oregon Trail Ruts, WY (sorry for the sideways view!) - The kids loved climbing around these.


Register Cliff, WY - These are supposed to be markings left by people traveling on the Oregon Trail, but you will see markings up to the present!

The great Toad Races, Wheatland WY


Sunset View of Laramie Peak. Wouldn't it be great to have this out your window!

ON TO SOUTH DAKOTA


The Mammoth Site, Hot Springs SD - This was the kids favorite site. Actual mammoth bones!


Our Prarie Dog greeter at Custer State Park, SD


View of the Needles Highway and Black Hills, SD. This drive is not for the easily car sick!


Do I need to say? Mt. Rushmore, SD
So worth the visit. Also, much nicer then when I was there TWENTY years ago!

I also need to take a moment and mention the Jr. Ranger/Ranger program at all the National Parks. It made the experience so much more valuable and interesting to the kids. At the Visitor Center in each park, ask the Park Ranger for a Jr. Ranger book. It asks the kids various questions that they will find the anwers to throughout the park. When they complete the little booklet (and it is pretty fun) they take it back to the Ranger and they get a little Jr. Ranger badge. We ended up with three: Mt. Rushmore, Jewel Cave, and the Badlands. The kids LOVED it.


Bison herd at Custer Park. Totally impressive to us, not so to my relatives who own a bison ranch! The Ranger stated that they have at least one goring a year (so don't feed them!)


Crazy Horse Memorial, SD. Totally worth the stop. They have a fabulous museum. I have no idea when this project will be done, but the head alone is bigger then all four presidents on Mt. Rushmore.

Jewel Cave, SD - I had to try very hard not to let my clautrophobic panic take over. If you go, get your tickets ahead of time and do the Scenic Tour.

If you want to go spelunking at Jewel Cave - this is Mr. Plaidshoes squeezing through the "test" box. If you can't fit through here - then you don't get to go spelunking. I advise just doing the tour!


The mythical Jackalope! Wall Drug, SD. There is a picture of my sister and me almost thirty years ago on this statue. Obviously, I had to get one of my kids! This is the biggest tourist trap in the middle of the US. But so much fun. They also have the best cake donuts.

Badlands, SD. None of the pictures I have do this place justice. The landscape and history of this place is amazing.


Jack & Jill went down a hill..... Story Book Land at Wylie Park in Aberdeen South Dakota. A fantastic park with a lake, playground and zoo. This was the site of our family reunion. There are several pictures of me as a kid at this park.


A refreshing last day.

As fun as the trip was, it is good to be home!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Go West!

Just a quick note. We have been/are traveling in the great states of Wyoming and South Dakota. The adventures have been great and more information will be forth coming.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summer Camp

This week our congregation has been conducting a camp for our youth k-5th grade. We are studying our earth centered traditions, namely various Native American beliefs and customs. So far, it is going extremely well. The children have really been responding to all the various activities. This is my third year being involved in the process, and I am pleased with how well it is coming together.

I would love, though, for the UUA to come out with summer camp curriculum. While we have a general format that my congregation follows, we are pretty much starting from scratch every year with the content. It would be very helpful to have some materials already available that we could modify as needed. Maybe this is available and I don't know about it, but I have not come across anything. I think it would be fascinating to nationally tie together youth camps so when youth come together at various conferences or events, they would have an even deeper base of common knowledge. I have seen several Christian camp curriculum packages and am impressed with the overall cohesiveness of them. Why do we not have this? How helpful would this be? Do any of you know of any efforts being made in this area? If not, I will certainly broach them with the suggestion.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Super Silly

Why? Because summer is almost over and my head just can't put together a decent, meaningful post. I don't know how the rest of you do it!

Here I am. Your typical, liberal Midwestern 35 year old. Pretty average in about everything. Yet, I have noticed through my life, that I attract certain things. In random order:

1. Single shoes left in the road. It is amazing how many I have found. Who are all these one-shoed (sp?) people? Why do they leave their shoes in the road? Why just one?

2. Bleeding children. I have a huge blood phobia. Somehow (like cats), they sense this and follow me everywhere. I can not tell you how much children bleed. It is remarkable they make it to adulthood.

3. People from Pennsylvania. Everywhere I turn, I meet someone from Pennsylvania. Like flies, they have spread through this country and have found me. Fortunately, I have greatly liked all of them!

4. Finally, toads. I see them everywhere. Especially when I come home late at night - they like to jump out and give me a heart attack. I must give off some special pheromone that calls to them....
Yes, a silly list, but all TRUE!! If you are feeling up to it, I would love to hear all the odd things you "attract"!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Planning for Winter

What?! Already?! Of course! I find it very satisfying to can or "put up" food for the winter. I feel a little bit like a squirrel hiding my acorns for a snowy day. It brings me a lot of joy to look in the pantry and see all the jars lined up ready to be eaten. I hope you all are enjoying the summer harvest!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Another Side


Lately, I have been sewing and embroidering like a mad women. I love being able to create things. But, having an extremely practical nature, I find it hard to sew something unless it has a useful purpose. I will never be a person that makes cute dolls (even though I love looking at them) unless I have an actual person in need of a doll. I don't make random tchotchkes - despite being inspired by all the amazing creations I see. I find it hard to shake my very practical and "don't be wasteful" upbringing. But.....I am trying in little bits to create things just - because. Above is an example. This is an embroidery from a Hilary Lang pattern. I love her work. I had absolutely no need to make it - but I LOVE it. I embroidered and quilted it in bright colors and bound it in Heather Bailey fabric. I hung it in my sewing room. It brings me such joy. Yes, I could have been working on other things, but it is OK just to take time on work that just makes me happy. I encourage all of you to take time out from all that you have to do and do something completely for yourself. Life isn't all about what you "should" be doing.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sending Prayers

I will never understand why someone needs to take another's life - why that is considered a solution. It is a senseless tragedy on so many levels.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those in Knoxville.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thank You Chicago!


This past weekend we had a great trip to Chicago. Mr. Plaidshoes and I have been there several times, but it was the first for the kiddos. I can't recommend the city enough, especially for a quick getaway. We are fortunate to have wonderful family and friends who live and work in the area and provided a place to stay and a cool tour through The Shedd. Thank You H & M! We thoroughly enjoyed your company.

It was really interesting to see what the kids would get from the trip. I thought they would love to see all the tall buildings - not so much. They did like all the huge cranes on top of the tall buildings. My reserved middle child instantly felt at home navigating all the cross walks - it was really fantastic to see him full of confidence on Chicago's busy streets. My other two, acted like it was no big deal and just complained about the walking ;-) I would highly recommend visiting Shedd Aquarium (before Sept. if you get a chance b/c part will soon be closed for renovations) and The Field Museum. At The Shedd - don't miss the shark exhibit, definitely worth it. The kids loved the variety of sea creatures. At The Field Museum, if you go in the main entrance, make sure you go below because they have a wonderful children's area near the basement entrance. We only saw a fraction of the exhibits, you could really spend a whole weekend just at this one museum. Another thing I noticed immediately about Chicago was how many families are out and about - especially by the lake. It really is a kid friendly city. There was so much to see and do, you could spend days there.

It was a fun trip and so nice to get out of town for awhile!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Congregant Support

I was reading in our local paper about a new movement in conservative religions to become more supportive of congregants in domestic abuse situations. Common practice was to turn a blind eye or to blame the victim. Marriage was held to be the highest ideal and divorce not an option. I am glad to see that more conservatives are opening up to the horrible toll domestic abuse can take on victims, their families, and community. I hope that this trend continues because only with support and encouragement can a victim break free of abuse.

This also made me think of my own congregation and any efforts we might be making to help domestic abuse victims. I have noticed for a longtime that we do not have any hotline phone numbers/cards in the restrooms. This is one of the easiest ways to reach out while the victim can remain anonymous (if s/he wants to). Considering I am an MSW by training, it is a little ridiculous that I have not made an effort to put these out. I will now make it a much bigger priority. I do feel that our ministers are mostly open and responsive to any needs our congregants might have, but I am not sure how openly caring the congregation is. While I don't feel anyone would shun or judge a victim (far from that), I am not sure how to make ourselves more available so that person might come to us if they need help. Admitting something like abuse can be one of the hardest things a person may do, that is why I will try to work on ways our church can be considered a safe place. I would love to hear any ideas your congregations may have implemented and if you feel that they have been effective.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Busch Family - How Could You!?!

I moved to St. Louis thirteen years ago. One of my greatest impressions of this new city was how nobody drank Miller products. Why? It seemed so strange to my very sheltered mind. (also strange was that there seemed to by Catholics everywhere - where were the Lutherans?)Didn't everybody drink Miller Lite? I was "gently" informed that Anheuser-Busch is headquartered here and it would be blasphemy to drink Miller products. The more I looked around, the more I realized that AB was everywhere here. Their old-school lighted flying eagle greeted you as you crossed the bridge into St. Louis. Their name is on everything. At first I resisted, but slowly I was brought over to the Budweiser side. You are right, rice based beer did taste better then corn based beer!* Plus, they gave money to everyone in St. Louis! How could you not like them (besides the fact that they are a large corporation....).

This is why I am so frustrated that they sold themselves to InBev. I have previously posted on how our culture constantly tries to reach for "more". Larger sales, more profit, bigger salaries, world domination.... Why can't you just be happy with what you have? AB wasn't losing money. Sure they aren't growing at an amazing rate, but why is that so necessary? Why isn't personal integrity more important? Why is there so much more value placed on constant growth? Constant growth is what is leading to our destruction of the environment, global warming, loss of jobs, loss of stability, loss of community networks. I could go on and on, but I am so disappointed in the Busch family and the AB shareholders for only looking out for themselves. I feel more and more that governments led by corporations are just around the corner.

Tonight (because it is only 9.00am here) I will have a nice Schlafly** brew, and toast all of those people who are going up against the big guys and keeping the craft of brewing alive.


*Actually homebrew tastes the best
** A local, independent brewery

Thursday, July 10, 2008

herzlichen Glueckwunsch zum Geburtstag!

Sieben! You have stretched yourself so much this year. It has been wonderful to watch you grow in confidence and spirit. You have taken on the challenges of two new schools, swimming underwater, performing at a piano recital, beginning to learn a new language, and sharing a room with a little brother! Your heart is so kind and curiosity endless. I love watching you bloom everyday. Happy Birthday!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Ethical Eating


Today, on Speaking of Faith, they replayed Krista Tippett's interview with Barbara Kingsolver regarding her book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." If you get a chance, try to listen to it. With the UUA adopting Ethical Eating as their next statement issue, it is a good place to start to really understand the importance of the topic. Kingsolver has a very self-effacing way of interviewing while making pretty strong statements. Of course, I would also recommend reading her book. It is an interesting read with some great, seasonal recipes thrown in. If you really want to delve into the topic, pick up Michael Pollen's books "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food." Or, go for the original "Diet for a Small Planet" by Frances Moore Lappe.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

yes!

I am not sure about you, but I get so tired of reading articles about how the world as gone to pot - natural disasters, war, disease, famine, corrupt governments, drought, flood, etc. I avoid news programs like the plague (except Frontline and NPR). I am fully aware of all the horrible things going on. If I took all these programs to heart, I think I would curl up and hide in my basement until the imminent "end-of-the-world" hit.

Two years ago, at GA in St. Louis, I heard David Korten speak. While he was speaking on his new book, as we left the lecture he handed out copies of his magazine yes!. Ever since then, I have really enjoyed it. The whole premise is to look at current topics and see what real, everyday people are doing on local and international scales. I love reading about all the positive things people from all sorts of backgrounds are doing to make the world, their lives, better. I find it inspiring. It gives me hope that there is a lot of humanity out there doing what they can to make today a better day. To me, yes! captures the spirit of Unitarian Universalism. *

Follow this link to their site: www.yesmagazine.org


*No, I was not asked to promote this magazine. I was just reading their latest issue and thought I would make sure you all know about it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mother Nature Always Wins

We just returned from a nice visit to my hometown, Cedar Falls, Iowa. It was one of the many Iowa cities flooded in the last few weeks. In many respects, CF was a little more fortunate in that the Cedar River borders the town, and just the area immediately surrounding the river was flooded. I am sure, though, this is little consolation to the families who lost their homes. On the way to Cedar Falls, we drove through Cedar Rapids. The Cedar River bisects the city and the damage was everywhere. Never, in my thirteen years in Iowa, could I have imagined such flooding. I can honestly say that flooding never entered my mind (which it does frequently in St. Louis). As we drove through Cedar Rapids, everywhere there were piles of garbage from gutted homes. While the river is back in its banks, the damage will continue for years. Loss like that is devastating for anyone, but most of the area affected was low-income. I can't imagine that many of the families had enough reserve funds to pay for hotels, mortgages, rent, new clothing, etc. People in these communities have really banded together to help, but there is so much work to do. When I was in New Orleans last fall, the slow rate in which rebuilding takes was very evident. While many of us generously donated our time and treasure, it is not enough. Rebuilding is not a one-stop shop, it is a decades long process. My heart breaks for all that these people are facing.

After witnessing these two Mother Nature driven events (and reading about so many other natural tragedies), I have been really pondering our role within nature. Obviously, we have little control over natural occurrences, but that doesn't seem to keep us from trying. We build levees, live on fault lines, on the coast, on the plains; always trying to make our homes more secure - lulling ourselves into invincibility. But, who are we really kidding? Nature is bigger then us all. She doesn't care who we are, what we own, or what hardships we are currently facing. She is indiscriminate in her destruction. There is no reason to ask why. We are all vulnerable is some way. We are all at risk in losing everything. That is why we need to be there for our neighbor that has. We are all one step away from a flood, drought, tornado, earthquake, hurricane, avalanche, etc. We need to extend a hand when we are able.



ps - I truly believe that nature is a neutral entity that provides both perceived good and bad. It is humans that try to bend the forces of nature to their will and question it when it does not respond.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Green Eye

I admit it - I really wish I was at GA. I have only been to one (St. Louis) and have wished constantly that I could go to another one. I love the feeling of being around so many open, warm, spiritual people. I find the conference extremely motivating, plus I feel more plugged into the faith as a larger entity then just my one congregation. I selfishly wish it was much closer and inexpensive. It is completely cost prohibitive for my family of five to go and almost so for just my husband and I (especially when you tally in room and board). I know there is very little they can do about the price - but a girl can dream (or at least watch the streaming video)!

Monday, June 23, 2008

I've been Podcasted!

If you are dying to hear my sermon from the CMwD District Assembly, they have posted a podcast on their website. If you listen really closely, you can hear one of my kids crying in the background. Just like the phone, as soon as you start recording, someone needs something! I assure you, he was just fine. Nothing like a personal touch to make it seem real!

Link: http://www.cmwd-uua.org/content/

Enjoy!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Summer Services

Today was the first summer service of our church year. Who was the speaker? Yep, me. My husband and I joked that when we first started attending services, NEVER, EVER, would we lead a summer service. Now, eight years later, here I am leading one. Oh, how times change.

I was asked to present the sermon I had given at District Assembly. I have to admit that it was kind of fun getting the opportunity to choose all the songs and readings that I wanted. I really enjoyed planning the service and was much less nervous giving the sermon than I was at DA. I had the usual "constructive" criticism of speaking more slowly, but overall it was well received.

As I have mentioned on previous posts, I still have mixed thoughts about summer services. I appreciated the opportunity to speak and have heard some great lay-lead services, but it is so hit and miss. I wonder if any of you have guidelines or instructional tools you use for helping people lead services. I also am still uncomfortable with the tradition of UU minister's taking the whole summer "off". I really feel for the stability, coherence, and growth of the congregation, the minister should have a visible presence.

I would love to hear any of your thoughts on summer or lay-lead services.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Eight


How did you get to be eight so fast?! Where did the time go? I am so lucky to have such a smart, creative, beautiful, caring daughter. Have a wonderful day!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Triskaidekaphobia and the Baby Carrot Mystery

I LOVE Friday the 13th. When I was younger, a friend and I would try to tempt the fates on this day. We looked up every "bad luck" thing you could do and tried to do them all on that day. For instance: walk under a ladder, have a black cat walk in front of us, and put shoes on the table. I am sure there were even more obscure ones, but my older mind has drawn a blank. Obviously, I made it. When I was in college, I lived in room 313 and my phone extension was 1313. If there was any sort of time to be superstitious, this was it. Fortunately, I chose to embrace this number and it has only brought me luck (well, at least not bad luck). I often think of Hermione Granger's wise words "fear of saying a name only increases the fear." That is how I feel about Friday the 13....

Second, it has come to my attention that there are quite of few people out there who believe baby carrots are actually baby carrots. Two good friends of mine recently looked at me in disbelief when I revealed the baby carrot secret. I hope I am not shattering any strong beloved beliefs, but baby carrots are actually "grown-up" carrots whittled down. Follow this link to their interesting beginnings as a way to be less wasteful to a marketing behemoth.

http://www.wisebread.com/baby-carrots-the-frugal-idea-thats-isnt

Have a great Friday the 13!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Becoming Centered

First Embroidery Lesson

I am slowly letting the stress of working outside the home roll off me. The kids and I are just hanging around without any of the obligations the school year brought. It has been wonderful. I have actually cooked a couple decent meals, made pies, read a book, and taught the kids some basic embroidery. All on my own time. I am also feeling so grateful that I even have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. I know so many mothers don't have the option and I have no idea how I got so lucky. So I send a big shout out of THANKS to God/Mother Earth/The mysterious Spirit/Fate!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Harder than I Thought

Today was the last day of work and school. This was a really tough year for me. The transition to work was more difficult then I expected and the work much more challenging. While, overall, it was a good experience, it did not come without a lot of stress and anxiety. I thought I would be overjoyed for the end of the school year. I made so many plans with all the time (and lack of stress) I would have when work was over. Instead, today was incredibly hard. I didn't realize how attached I had become to the children and my coworkers. I will miss them more than I can express. My coworkers were sounding boards, moral support, amazing listeners, funny, caring, and brightened my life. The children.....so much to say. So challenging, frustrating, and overwhelming. But also so wonderful. I will miss J wanting to trace letters everyday. I will miss I and K's big smiles every time they walked into the room. I will miss L's intense focus and concentration when she learned a new lesson. I will miss B's quiet friendliness and M's shy smile. I will miss the "room cruisers" and "work hoppers". I will also miss all the children who taught me so much about patience, understanding, and compassion. The respect I have for caregivers and teachers has grown exponentially. I know, as a parent, I will do all that I can to support those people in my life.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Still Here

The finish line is in sight! One more week of work and school. I am so looking forward to summer with the kids. When I was younger, I always dreaded the end of the school year. I thrive on schedules and the thought of so much free time pretty much immoblilized me. Now, with how crazy life has been this year, I can think of nothing better.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Renew Missouri

Following is a guest post by Mr. Plaidshoes (aka Matt):

Renew Missouri has worked this fall to put an initiative on the ballot for November to mandate the use of renewable energy for the big electrical companies in Missouri.
The current system is only advisory and has no real teeth.
This initiative puts in fines if the companies don't comply.
It imposes limits on any increase in cost to consumers to 1% per year.
It also makes sure some of the power comes from solar and includes a rebate incentive to those who install solar power.
There is also incentives to produce the power in state vs out of state with increased credit for in state power.

This is a progressive piece of legislation that needs to be enacted to save our environment and not leave Missouri in the Dark Ages in the renewable energy marketplace.

Check out this website for more information and join in spreading the word. I guarratee that the money from the Utility companies will be overwhelming and need to be countered with our voices.
http://www.renewmo.org/

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Stress

Why is the end of the school year always so stressful? I feel like I am running a race until the end of May.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Moment

How do you live in the moment, when the future is falling down around you?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Sermon

Following is the sermon I gave at the CMwD Assembly last Sunday. The theme for the District Assembly is the title of the sermon and that was what the contest asked us to speak to. If it resonates with you and you would like to use parts of it, please leave me your email in the comments section and I will talk to you about it. Thanks!!

Church of the 21st Century: Shaping Our Religious Future

When I read the theme “Church of the 21st Century: Shaping our Religious Future”, my first reaction was, “well how in the world can a bunch of UUs ever come to an agreement on that?!”. There must be at least as many views as there are UUs. Probably even more since some of us have a hard time settling on just one option. I also had the reaction of “I don’t know – what do I want our church to look like?”. That second reaction is the one that caused my head to hurt a little. How many faiths have the option of actually choosing the path they, as thinking humans, want it to take? It suddenly took on a monumental feel. Then I thought, I don’t think I want this responsibility – this is way too much pressure. But, as noted by many people, “if not me, who?”

Who do I want to shape my churches religious future? I want to. I want to be able to shape it with my thoughts, feelings, and faith. I don’t want it to be shaped in response to others lead. I don’t want to be a reactionary church. It is up to us to decide the course of Unitarian Universalism that is why this question is so very important.

We need to do this. We are a faith that is floundering along. I say floundering because while we are here – there is very little coherency and growth. We have stayed at a pretty constant level of membership for years, despite the ever increasing population growth. It has been cited that in a typical church, eighty percent of new members drop out within the first year. This is appalling. When I became a Unitarian over seven years ago, I felt that I had found a home for my family and me. I wanted to tell all my friends and family the wonderful opportunities Unitarian Universalism had to offer. I felt, and I will use this word, evangelical about it. I wanted to go spread the good news. Good news with a little g and little n. I wanted people to realize that there is an alternative to born-again Christianity or stagnant religions mired in their own rigid traditions. I saw Unitarianism as a way for me to grow spiritually in an encouraging, safe place. My children were going to learn the vast diversity of religions and beliefs the world holds, while developing their own faith statements. Why wouldn’t I go shout it from a mountain?

Then the reality of our reserved nature set in. Sure we are willing to put ourselves out there for a variety of political, social, and environmental issues, but talking about our religion seems to shut us up. Why? I know many of us are very nervous to talk about our beliefs. Some of us come from backgrounds in which religion was so forced upon us, that we have no desire to inflict our views on anyone else. Many of us have not spent the time to really understand what Unitarian Universalism means and how that fits into our belief system. Some of us fear having to defend our beliefs when we aren’t really sure exactly what we do believe. I could go on and on, but, as a whole, we are reluctant to get out there and, to use a phrase from our GLBT folk, be loud, proud, and out.

This, though, is exactly what we need. We need to be loud, proud, and out. When I look to the future of Unitarian Universalism, I want to see a church that is noticed. One that when people look at it say, “this is a home for me.” One that takes a stand on issues and is referred to in the media as a force to be reckoned with. I want a church that isn’t afraid to talk about itself and reaches out to all those in the community. We have rightly been called a thinking religion, but now it is really time to walk the walk. We need to reach out from the comfort of our living rooms and be heard.

How many of you are tired of hearing the religious right dominate US culture? How many of you are tired of religious liberals being maligned in the press? We have no one to blame but ourselves. We need to take control of what is being said and lead by example. I truly believe that we have so much to offer, but are continually misrepresented. When I look to the 21st century, I want to be part of a religion that is proud of its diversity, strength, and freedom. I don’t want to be part of one that sits back and waits for people to come to it. I don’t want to be a fringe group. We are, at heart, a group of people that has so much to offer and we are wasting our talents by working behind the scenes and not being noticed for all the amazing work we do.

This begs the questions: How are we going to get there? How are we going to shape this religious future?

I believe that we need to start within the home. To be able to proudly and loudly speak about Unitarian Universalism, we need to have a decent understanding of the religion. Ours is not an easy religion. We do not draw from one source. We are not hierarchical, with someone telling us what to believe. Ours is a faith that is unique to you as it is to me. Because of this, we have to do a little more leg work. It is up to each of us to develop our own personal beliefs. While we draw on many sources and principles, in the end, each of us has the responsibility to decide what is meaningful to us. To some, this may be extraordinarily challenging, but to be a religion worth shouting about – we need to be comfortable in speaking about our personal beliefs and how Unitarian Universalism fits in and supports them. We need to take the time and do this spiritual homework. We also need to be brave enough to share it with our family and friends.

Second, we need to more fully embrace our children, youth, and young adult programming. I hear over and over again that one of the main reasons people begin to attend Unitarian churches is now that they have children, they want them to grow up in an open church community. I have heard many people note how wonderful our religious education programs are. I agree with this. What I feel we are lacking, though, is a way to continually engage all our youth as they graduate from the elementary years through college and beyond. How many families have let our children decide to quit attending services when they reach a certain age? How many college kids don’t even bother thinking of attending services through their university years? Or how many children, after graduating high school see no real value in continuing to attend services when they are on their own? We lose so many valuable members in high school. If they do return, it isn’t until they have started their own families. That is a lot of talent, enthusiasm, and diversity lost. As congregations, we need to closely examine how we value our youth and how we engage them in all aspects of church life. I would love to see the UUA follow suite and reestablish its commitment to the Continental UU Young Adult Network (C*UUYAN). As parents and friends, we need to help our children feel valued by the church and actively encourage them to continue attending and participating, even after they leave home. Youth are invaluable in strengthening and enriching our faith. They need to be included in the life and planning of the church. They are the ones that will grow UU into the next century.

Finally, we need to get out there and get noticed. We need to become comfortable promoting ourselves. We have a lot to offer the world and we need to not be shy in shouting it. There are so many avenues and ways for us to get our name out there; we need to take advantage of them. I am not just talking about the UUA’s new marketing campaign. I am speaking within our communities we need to take active roles in the name of Unitarian Universalism. We need to be part of the conservations in what will make our communities successful. I would love to see us be the ones that are called when the news needs a broader perspective. Obviously, not everyone is a religious conservative. We have just as much right to be heard and understood. Our opinions should matter just as equally. We can not sit on the side lines and let other people decide how we will be portrayed and whether or not we will be called. Many of us are trying individually or within other groups, but what we need is a committed effort by the faith, our church. Only then will people begin to really understand Unitarian Universalism and what it has to offer the even wider community. That is what I would like to see as our religious future. I would like to see our religious future as being dynamic, exciting, diverse and relevant. I want the world to see Unitarianism not as a fringe liberal religion, but as one where we all are accepted into a place that values everyone, encourages everyone to spiritually grow, and works for the betterment of the world, regardless of who is in it. One that is active and engaged for them and the community.

I challenge each of you to, as Gandhi so well said “you must be the change you want to see in the world.” Now is the time for you to step up and participate in the future of Unitarian Universalism. Only through your grass roots work will the faith continue to grow and survive. We need to be the leaders we imagine. I really believe that through each of our efforts to be loud, proud, and out will we share the good news of Unitarian Universalism and be a force to be reckoned with.

Thank You.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Quick Update-More Later

The sermon went great! I was pretty obviously nervous, but the crowd was kind and some people I didn't even know stood up and applauded (hopefully not out of just sympathy). I was even invited to two different congregations to present it, and another congregation asked if they could use it (giving me full credit ;-). I did receive a couple of constructive criticisms. Both of which were true. One - I abbreviated Unitarian Universalism a little too much to just Unitarianism. It was actually written out as the whole name, but I was so nervous, it just came out as Unitarianism. This person felt that I was dishonoring our Universalist heritage by not including it every time. I did feel bad he felt this way, because I really do value it. So, point taken. Second - I talk too fast. This is well known to me and only gets worse when I am nervous. I did try to slow down and, with practice, I hope to get better. After it was over, though, I was very pleased with how it was received. I hope people came away with a motivated spirit to get the faith out there!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Great Day

You were born smiling and haven't stopped in four years. You are a ray of sunshine in my life. I love you little man! Happy birthday!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Getting Nervous

This is the weekend that I have to give the sermon at DA. I would appreciate any positive thoughts sent my way! I am not the best public speaker and the sermon is very biased towards my ideas. I am getting very nervous that people might expect more that I can deliver or will just completely disagree with my ideas. I am also a little paranoid that I will completely freeze and make a fool of myself. I keep trying to do positive imaging, so hopefully I can psyche myself up to a great sermon!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

One Little Step

Wouldn't it be great if Earth Day was a day people of the whole world took off just to sit and ponder how they personally could make the Earth a better place? It could be a New Year's Resolution of sorts.

These would be mine for this year:

1. Get back to being more committed to veganism. I have been a vegetarian for over 17 years, but keep slipping when I try to be vegan. So much of the Earth's resources would be saved if people ate more ethically.

2. Eat more local and less packaged food. This will be a little more challenging because, while I love to bake, I am not big on cooking.

3. Line dry my clothes more often. Now that summer is coming, there really is no excuse.

4. Be prudent with the air conditioning. This is hard - I grew up in the North and can not get used to these hot Missouri summers.

5. Try to minimize plastic use to when there is absolutely no alternative.

Alright, this is enough for this year. I already try to recycle as much as possible and minimize travel. As it is, this will be quite a challenge for me. I would love to hear any "resolutions" you might all make for this Earth Day!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

To Quick to Marry?


I have been pondering this for awhile. Basically: Are Unitarian churches/minsters too quick to agree to marry anyone who comes through their door? This came about for a couple of reasons. One, it has (sadly, only recently) come to my attention what a big business the wedding industry is; and how many churches count on rental fees and how many ministers count on the extra income performing weddings provides. Second, we had a very interesting discussion about marriage at my congregations monthly book club in which we discussed our different paths to marriage and why some last and others don't.

For a little background, I'll quickly share my path. My husband and I got engaged after eight months of dating. We were married nine months after that. To many, this seemed awfully quick. I was 22 and he was 24. We have now been married 12 years. We were married in a traditional Catholic service. This was not my choice. But, being only 22 and having a father who insisted upon this, I acquiesced. The wedding was lovely, even though it wasn't exactly what I would have planned. To me, the most important part was that my future husband and I were pledging ourselves to each other, no matter what comes our way.

As some of you may know, though, to get married in a Catholic church, it is a process. We had to attend marriage classes. While many of our friends balked at this, I thought it was a great idea. We had to sit down and really talk about the nuts and bolts of our future life together. Sure we love each other, but how comfortable are we with sharing each other's debt? What are our thoughts on raising our children? Will one of us stay home? Will we be moving around? How does each of us feel about saving money? Will we have separate accounts? How will we handle holidays with our families?, and etc. How many couples really sit down and think about the mundane, but important, aspects of married life? Marriage is so much more than the passion of new love. It is about the commitment for a long term future. It is about growing together and making the promise to support each other. Marriage is not easy and shouldn't be rushed into.

I know many UUs would completely disagree, but I would love to see us develop a program that provides pre-marital services. Now this will show my tiny bit lean towards traditionalism, but I would also like it to be mandatory. Please don't send a me a bunch of negative comments, but this is my opinion and I am going to stand by it. I really believe marriage is a big step and should be respected. As easy as it is to end a marriage, the emotional and financial toll can (and usually is) life altering. Wouldn't it be better to invest a little upfront time? I realize we like to view ourselves as open churches that provide a very needed service for a wide population. I am not advocating that we stop this, but to make it a much deeper experience for those involved. From what I have observed, the minister usually has only met with the pre-marriage couple a handful of times. While it is the decision of the couple to determine how well they know each other and their readiness for marriage, I would love to see our churches/ministers provide a means for them to truly reach that point. Marriage/Commitment ceremonies at our churches should be more that just money making ventures. They should be about assisting couples in building a long, happy, enriching life together.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Real Food


Yep, another food post. I recently read a news article stating that people who ate "real" food tended to be slimmer and healthier. I promptly thought something that I will translate to: No Kidding! A huge pet peeve of mine is all the mass produced "100" calorie snack packs. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list? I am not really sure that there are any recognizable foods in them. They are pretty much just chemicals. Plus, they don't actually taste that great. I rather have one amazing cookie then a bag of cardboard. (not to mention the huge waste in packaging.) I am not sure why people think eating those are any better then having a really good brownie. So what if you can only have one - at least you know what it is made of.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Exciting News


I just learned that I WON the Central Midwest District Sermon contest! I am truly shocked and excited.* I entered the contest as a challenge to myself. I often am critical of sermons and thought that I should "walk the walk" and try to write one. I thought I would try to do this each year as a way to better understand the whole process. I didn't expect to win with the first sermon! I have no idea how many people entered, so I might be flattering myself when, in actuality, I was the only one who participated. I gave myself yesterday to just be excited - today I am petrified that I have to actually stand up and deliver the sermon!! I have not had to talk in front of this many people since college and I am sorely out of practice. I joked with my husband that I will record it onto a cd so if I totally panic, he can just play it. After the conference, I will post the sermon in case you are interested in reading it.

In case anyone from the judging committee is reading this - THANK YOU for giving me this opportunity!



*I am still slightly worried that they actually chose someone else and they just sent me the confirmation as a mistake. Obviously I will immediately delete this post if that is the case!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Rats prefer Organic

I just read an interesting blurb in Mother Earth News. Evidently Swiss and Austrian scientists offered 40 lab rats biscuits made with organically grown wheat and ones with conventionally grown wheat. The rats preferred organic. If rats don't like chemicals in their food, we shouldn't either.

Earlier today I was thinking about the word organic. I wanted to order some organic berry bushes to plant in our yard. My first thought was about Organic Chemistry and all that meant was that you would be studying things with carbon. Applying the word to specific foods hadn't entered my mind. I then thought about how ridiculous it would seem to somebody in the 1800s to use this phrase. I would imagine that they would be thinking, "well, isn't it all organic?" We have come so far (too far?) in the name of food preservation and progress. It would be very hard for many in my generation to remember a time when you couldn't just buy mass produced bread, have rows upon rows of "snacks" on grocery shelves, or life without high fructose corn syrup. I wish I could say that I eat all the right foods and only buy organic. I don't. But, it is something I am slowly trying to achieve. I look at my children and I know I want them to really understand where there food comes from. I don't want them to think that you can just go to the store and buy whatever you want, when you want and that is ok. I want them to know seasonal cycles and that peaches arrive in Missouri in late summer, not early March. I really believe this plays into our belief of the interdependent web of life. Growing your own food (even just one plant) is an excellent way to begin to live this principle. I hope you all undertake this challenge.

Monday, March 24, 2008

To Start or not to Start

Do any of you have any experience in starting a congregation? I know that there are a lot of fellowships and emerging congregations, but I am interested in what motivated people to start them. I belong to a vibrant large congregation, but it isn't in my community. I love the people there, but find that most of their concerns (as they should be) for outreach involve the community in which the church is located. I sometimes look around and wish such outreach would also include the community in which I live. I would love to go to church and see my neighbors. The area in which I live is large and very diverse. I can't imagine that there aren't people who might be interested in Unitarianism, but really haven't been exposed to it. I would love to hear any thoughts people have on new congregations and experiences people might have had in starting them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

36 Days and counting....

Way back in February, I issued a challenge to you all for Lent. The challenge was to spend the forty days of Lent developing a faith statement. It was to sacrifice a little time out of your busy lives to work on your spiritual development. I am sure you all got right on the task! Never fear though, you still have a few more days to work it out if you got a little distracted. If you care to share them, I would love to read what you all came up with.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Open Book


I was tagged by Montessori Mama for an Open Book meme and it sounded fun.

Here are the rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open it at page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence/ phrase.
4. Blog the next four sentences/ phrases together with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig your shelves for that very special or intellectual book.
6. Pass it forward to six friends
So, here goes:

As I'm a consistent radical I go in only for equality; I don't go in for the superiority of the younger brothers.' Two of his four sisters, the second and the fourth, were married, one of them having done very well, as they said, the other only so-so. The husband of the elder, Lord Haycock, was a very good fellow, but unfortunately a horrid Tory; and his wife, like all good English wives, was worse then her husband. The other espoused a smallish squire in Norfolk and, though married but the other day, had already five children.

Not everything I read is this heavy - but you caught me in the middle of "The Portrait of a Lady" by Henry James!

Since most of my friends have done this, I will tag Allinarrow!