Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years

I hope you all have a safe and fun celebration. We are having a family Harry Potter marathon with edible wands and butterbeer. Yum!

I noticed around the blogoshpere that end of the year/decade reflections are popular. I briefly thought about doing one and then remembered: wait, I don't like reminiscing the past. In fact, reliving the past is one of my least favorite things. I am much more inclined to look forward then back. Therefore, no list from me. I am sure you are all OK with that.

Here is to a beautiful future!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Getting it Back

This year I did not sew any Christmas presents. Last year, I sewed most of them. I don't know what happened, but I just wasn't inspired to make anything. I love sewing, but I really have to be in the mood for it and this year I wasn't. I want to get back into it, though. I just got the latest issues of Threads Magazine and it has totally inspired me to get back into clothes making. Now that the holiday stress is over, I am feeling ready to tackle some projects. Since the kids are still on school break, I figured I better start small and ease myself back into the sewing room. Thus, a new potholder. I am sure you are all amazed by my sewing prowess and would like to commission your next formal dress! I find it important to my psyche, though, to start small and see a finished product right away. The fancy stuff takes time and I need to build up my stamina!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Just What We Needed

The holidays found us in snowy, blizzardy Iowa. We arrived at my mother's house on Christmas Eve after spending the previous couple days at my fathers. We were all a little worn out, in addition to having or getting over colds. Since we had already celebrated two Christmases, it just didn't feel like Christmas Eve. I really wasn't feeling well, but felt that we needed to do something to celebrate the season and get us into the spirit. Plus, I really like going to services on Christmas Eve. It is just what you are supposed to do. Everyone else was pretty ambivalent, but, in the end, I insisted. Thanks to the internet, I was able to find the schedule of the UU church in the area - the Unitarian Universalist Society of Black Hawk County. After some grousing from the kiddos, we managed to make it there. And I am so glad we did. It was exactly what we needed. Due to the not-so-great weather, there was a small turnout for the late service, which made it even more personal. Everyone was so welcoming. We sang carols with brass accompaniment, heard stories, and lit candles. One side of the sanctuary is a glass wall and you could see the big snowflakes falling. There was even a "Christmas miracle" in that due to some odd light reflections, a cross appeared on one of the walls. It was one of those perfect moments that so rarely come our way. I am so thankful we got to be there. I hope you were able to experience a lit bit of magic this season, too.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

For the Love of Winter: III

Taking afternoon naps under a warm quilt....

and waking up to this:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wall

What do you do when you have tried everything to solve a problem and you hit a wall? How do you make peace with the situation? What if people keep looking to you for answers, but none of your ideas will make the problem go away? It is so frustrating. How long do you keep trying? I am ready to move on, but the past keeps pulling me back.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Lyrics

Today in church we sang Joy to the World. I thought I knew all the words to it - especially since I have been singing it for thirty+ years. Evidently, according to the UU hymnal, I don't. As most UUs know, we have a long tradition of rewording hymns to fit our more inclusive perspective. In all honesty, I don't like this practice. I put up with it because I love the music and the lyrics are mostly secondary to me. Today, though, I have had enough. I want to sing Joy to the World, the way I know it - not in some generalized format to appease the most people. It is a Christmas song. Yes, it is about Jesus, but so is Christmas. I don't understand why we try so hard to deny our Christian heritage. It seems like we are so eager to sing songs with every other religious or non-religious background, except our own. What is wrong with owning up to our Christian heritage and celebrating it just as loudly as we do our other sources? Whether you like it or not, it is our history. As longtime readers know, I do not claim Jesus as my Savior, but I can appreciate his influence on our denomination. I am fine with acknowledging and celebrating that. Maybe, someday, we will all be more comfortable celebrating our past while shaping our future.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

For the Love of Winter: II

Last night I was walking Daisydog. It was a beautiful clear night, with the temperature around 30 degrees and no wind. It had been awhile since we had a good long walk and I was really looking forward to it. As we hit our stride and I got past the mesmerizing displays of Christmas lights, I finally looked up. When I did, an old friend greeted me. Orion. I love looking at the stars. It is one of the reasons I prefer to walk at night. Unfortunately, I am awful at recognizing constellations, except for the most obvious ones. Orion is one of those. To me, Orion is a Winter touchstone. Whether global warming throws us all off and it rains instead of snows, is hot instead of cold; Orion will still be there. I love that the earth will still rotate and Orion will always be ready with his bow and arrow. It is an old friend that I can look forward to every year. I love it for that.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

For the Love of Winter: I

Many people (alright, mostly Husband) find it crazy that I like Winter so much. Yes, I don't like to be freezing, but there I are several things I really love about Winter. I feel Winter tends to be very under appreciated in the "favorite season" list. Therefore, I am starting a new series of post devoted to how awesome Winter is. Yes, I know it is still technically fall, but, come on, it feels like Winter already.

One thing I love about Winter is how it brings people together. This is the time for closeness. When you are hot and miserable, you tend to keep a space between you and your family or friends. Who wants to be near you when you are sweating so much? But Winter, it is a time to be near each other. We all exude a certain warmth that is magnified the nearer we are. In Winter, we are genetically drawn to be close. Often our spaces are confined to smaller areas (near the source of heat) and we have an opportunity to really be with someone. We welcome people into our physical space. With that, we feel a renewed sense connection with our family and friends. Winter is a time to rebuild our foundation. It is a time to tend to our relationships so that they will flourish through seasons of wandering. I hope you all take some time to be near the ones you love.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent

This year I have decided to make an effort to really understand Advent. Admittedly I know precious little beyond that it is observed the four weeks leading to Christmas. Since I don't believe in Jesus as my Savior, I never felt a need to delve into its meaning. I am not sure why, but this year I want the season to be different. I want it to have more meaning. Additionally, my youngest has started kindergarten at the Lutheran School. His teacher has been spending time each day lighting the Advent candle and discussing the "meaning of the season". He has come home wondering where our Advent wreath is. Good question.

Now, how to fit having an Advent wreath into our Unitarian Universalists beliefs? What does it mean to us? This is what I hope to discover in this season of reflection. How can I make this Advent season relevant, spiritual, and meaningful to my family? To me, Christmas is a celebration of all our births and the divinity we all possess. It is a celebration of our enormous potential for compassion and love. I want this message to ring through the season leading to Christmas.

While she doesn't know this (yet), I am using the 26 Days of Advent blog as a starting point. I find her writing to be very thought-provoking. I would strongly encourage any of you looking for a deeper meaning on the season of Advent to read it. While it is Christian based, the ideas and spirit of its thought transcend religious boundaries.

If you are a fellow UU celebrating Advent, I would love to hear what it means to you and your family.



The picture is our homemade Advent wreath. It is a straw wreath with small mason jar candles. I am allergic to most scented candles, so I made some soy based ones. I then tied a ribbon around them. The red one is for the 'celebration' third week of Advent.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Surprising Family Genealogy

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ours was surrounded by family. I was fortunate that my father was able to make it to represent my side of the family in comparison to the 20 on Husbands side! While he was here, we got to talking about his family history project. Being an engineer, he has developed a meticulous and thorough spreadsheet(s). The amount of work he has put into this project is awe-inspiring (and he isn't even retired!). Since he was here, I finally got a chance to really look at the spreadsheets with him. He had several interesting items to point out. Some I was aware of: we came over on the Mayflower, related to Julia Ward Howe-writer of The Battle Hymn of the Republic, and to Elias Howe-one of the inventors of the sewing machine. What was new and surprising was the fact that I am related to Brigham Young. What?!?! Seriously!?! I am sure that thought would never, ever cross my mind. I had no idea there were even any Mormons in the family tree-then Brigham Young shows up? I always assumed I came from a long line of Catholics. My dad assured me that he requires at least two separate sources before he would even consider it for the spreadsheet. I guess when you start digging in the past, you never know who might pop up.

We got to talking about how hard it is to research deep family history and the challenges he has had. He has traced four branches, but is having a particularly tough time with one branch. Evidently, the family on that side has no interest in sharing details. I find all this history fascinating, but I guess not everyone feels that way. They want to keep their family secrets private. Evidently there are some divorces and who knows what else. To me, the more I know, the better. I can't change what happened in the past. I am not guilty of my predecessors transgressions. I can learn from them, though. I can study my history and grow from their experiences and knowledge. I wish my relatives didn't feel shamed by their past. They are good, wonderful people. The stories of their ancestors doesn't change who they are now. Maybe, in time, they will feel more comfortable opening up. I hope so.

I also hope you take some time to learn a little bit about your ancestors. They might not be what you expected, but they may just enrich your future.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gratitude

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."

-Melody Beattie (via MaryJanesFarm)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Not My Finest Hour (1/2)

Today was our congregations annual Bread Service. I love this service. I imagine it is one of the closest things UUs have to communion. I was really looking forward to it and made St. Lucia buns* to share. It is also one of the kids favorite services (I wonder why....) When we got to the Chapel and looked at the program, I thought "wow, there is a lot going on in this service". On the agenda were new member recognitions and child blessings. Additionally, there were four speakers, a sermon, a separate children's and choral anthem, with the conclusion being the breaking of the bread. Seemed like a tight schedule for one hour.

As it became more and more apparent that this was going to be a looooong service, I felt myself becoming more and more antsy. Did the minister have to say that same phrase over and over to every new member? There must have been fifteen. Couldn't he do an en mass child blessing instead of individually blessing every single child? There were probably ten of them. Did we need four speakers? Couldn't two do enough? He should have cut his sermon (despite it being really good) - didn't he see that we had been sitting there over an hour?!? With children?!? When were we going to get to the good part?!

Of course, I realize how ridiculous I was being. A very "time is precious" Westerner. Instead of sitting back and settling in, all I could think about was the time and when it would be over. I have been reading "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching" by Thich Nhat Hanh, and realize how far from living in the moment I was. Instead of celebrating all the new members and welcoming then into the community, I was counting how many more were in line. I should have been rejoicing in all the babies that truly are a blessing to us, instead of wondering why families couldn't stand up there together. The four speakers spoke from their heart and crossed generational lines and perspectives on what it truly means to be grateful and loved. I was too wrapped up in my own selfish thoughts to appreciate the true beauty of the service. When I reflect back on this morning, I am disappointed in myself. I am the one who lost out. This next year, I am really going to work on being in the present - I just wish it wasn't so hard.



*For those of you new to Bread Services: traditionally congregants bring bread that has some sort of meaning to their family. After it is blessed, we break it together and share it throughout the congregation. It is a wonderful way to reconnect with each other and our unique traditions. Since two of my children are Swedeophiles and my grandpa was part Swedish, we decided on the St. Lucia buns.

Friday, November 20, 2009

For the Love of Diorama

When we moved into this house, we were confronted with a big hole in the wall. The residents before us had literally cut a hole the exact size of their TV into the wall (actually the back of a hall closet) in our living room. Our TV is significantly smaller than the hole. Thus, our living room looked a little strange with a TV sitting in a big hole in the wall. Handy husband came to the rescue and built shelving around the TV and now it looks more like we have custom cabinets. As you can see in the picture, though, there is a decent sized shelf above the TV. This lent itself to many possible uses, but the one that immediately seemed most interesting to me and the kids was: Diorama! (not quite so much to Husband...)

So what you are looking at is our Fall display. I will often come up with a general background theme and then the kids will add to it through out the season. M made all the fallen apples and we picked up the mini gourds at the pumpkin patch. I totally had fun making the hay bales and spooky clouds. Soon we will be moving on to Winter, but I wanted to show you all our harvest theme. Now you have yet another thing to look forward to on this blog!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Insight

I greatly dislike it when life imitates art. It just throws everything off.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Life Experiences

Today, at school, I found out one of my daughter's friend's mother is in the hospital. While it was serious at the time, she will be ok. I asked if I could do anything to help. I suggested I could bring some food over. The daughter immediately responded, "that is ok, they give her food there". It was so sweet and it took everything in me not to smile/chuckle. I explained that I had meant when her mom was back at home. She then stated they would be fine because they would eat a lot of fastfood and there is a McDonald's nearby. Obviously, they are set.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11/11

Thank you Veterans! Your service to our country has not gone unnoticed. I thank you for all your personal sacrifices in support of our country. I also send an extra hug to Rob, Jon, Carl, Paul, Paul and Jason (who is still active). THANK YOU.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Girl Scout - Part II

I swear the Girl Scouts are going to do me in. The amount of frustration the organization causes me (not the actual girls), is sure to drive me slowly insane. I want this troop to work, but I feel like they are trying everything in their power to undermine my efforts. Come on Council - GET IT TOGETHER!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Halloween Pet Peeve

I love Halloween. It is one of my favorite Holidays. I really LOVE costumes. I often think that I should have become a theatre costume designer. I appreciate it when people put a lot of effort into their homemade costume. What I can't stand is the need for people (sadly, mostly women) who feel the need to tart up their costume. Why can't you just be a bat? Why does it have to be a "sexy" bat? Who finds a bat sexy? Who finds a kitten sexy? Do you have such low self-esteem that you have to somehow how portray an animal as sexy? I find it very disheartening, especially to all the little girls looking at these overly adult costumes as something to aspire to. There are plenty of appropriate and fun costumes to be without having the fear of literally falling out of them*. Leave the risque stuff for the private party.



*Costumes I made my husband and I have worn: Fidel Castro & Imelda Marcos, Wendy & Dave Thomas, Two-faced politician & Suffragette (election year), Teletubbies

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Finally!

After 12 inches of rain in October (setting a new record), it has finally stopped raining. The sky is actually blue. Downside of 12 inches of rain? Pumping over 400 gallons of water out of our basement. I feel the universe is telling me that we didn't really need all that stuff. Now, if the universe would just come and clean up the mess. I am tired. Oh, so tired and the basement carpet needs to be shampooed, the floors bleached, and so much to be sorted, recycled and thrown away. Here is to hoping for a dryer November!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Anger is slowly slipping away

This past weekend, my daughter and I went for a little getaway - some mother and daughter time at a YMCA lodge not too far away. It was beautiful. Trout Lodge is on the eastern edge of the Ozarks that caters to family gatherings. The drive was full of turning leaves and rolling hills. When we arrived Friday night, we were exhausted and hungry. The staff couldn't have been more friendly and immediately set us at ease (and with some food!). We awoke Saturday to a gorgeous fall day. M and I spent the whole day outside geo-caching, orienteering, hiking, and paddle boating. When we needed a break, we learned how to make marshmallows and spent some time at the arts & crafts center. It was such a wonderful day, spent with one of my favorite people. M and I have decided that we will now have to have a yearly "girl adventure". It was much needed for both of us.

While there, I could feel a lot of my anger towards religion start to melt away. I don't know why, but I could feel myself letting go. Maybe it was all the fresh air and just being away from everyday pressures. The scenery was certainly inspiring. It was good to be outside and exercising. The company couldn't have been better. It was such a nice break and release. M and I just had fun without feeling obligated to anything else but enjoyment. During one break time, we worked on mosaics. I stared at my square and couldn't figure out what picture I should design. Honestly, the only thing that came to me was a chalice. So I went with it. I can certainly say that this is not what I would have made a couple of weeks ago, but now, it was just right. I feel like I am again seeing some positives in UU and am feeling much more open to receiving them. Over the last couple of months, I have been sporadically attending a new UU church, but have felt myself holding back from fully engaging and committing. I think I am now ready to slowly start testing the waters and give UU another chance.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ma Ingalls would not be impressed....

with my Winter pantry. I have been rereading Little House in the Big Woods and am realizing how much of the pioneers summer was spent getting ready for winter. Pretty much all of it. Most of the day was spent planting, hunting, preserving and preparing food. I look at my day and realize how much of it is not spent doing that. I grumble if it takes more then a half hour to get dinner ready. Driving to get my CSA share can feel like a hassle. I think I have accomplished a lot if I made homemade bread or did a little canning over the weekend. In reality, though, my life does not center around food. How lucky I am. Great parts of the world still live this reality and I often take it for granted. I wonder what life would be like in the US if we really were responsible for growing and preserving most of our own food. I have a suspicion it would slow down. Working with your neighbor would become a necessity, not an inconvenience. Finding a bee hive (like Pa Ingalls did) would become a new kind of excitement and appreciation. It certainly wasn't an easy living, but I feel that people really understood the value of work, community, mutual reliance and the preciousness of everyday. Survival and growth were dependent on these values.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sewing Sites - Part II

I realized that I left off some of my other favorite sewing sites, so here they are:

Pink Chalk Studio - She is great about showcasing new fabrics, tutorials and general sewing trends. She also has the best coverage of the Quilt Show. (Oh to have unlimited time and money to sew!)

Heather Ross - It took me awhile to truly appreciate her designs, but now I love them. Her fabric reminds me of old style children's books - specifically Go Dog Go!.

Sew Mama Sew - Excellent site for sewing ideas. They often have theme months. This month is scrap busters. Check out their gift ideas for the holidays. They also run an online store.

Aunty Cookie - I love her self produced, quirky fabrics and designs.

BurdaStyle - This an open source site that Burda and any one else can upload patterns for you to download. Usually they are free or for very little cost. Plus, people often post their results.

Enjoy!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

For you Sewers out there...

I was asked about what sewing blogs I follow. Below are some of my favorites, although be forewarned, once you start clicking through them you might be inspired to create something!

Angry Chicken by Amy Karol. This is a great blog for all sorts of indie sewing and crafts. She is also the author of my favorite sewing book: Bend the Rules Sewing.

Anna Maria Horner is an absolute favorite fabric designer. I love her colorful folksy style. She also has six kids, I have no idea how she does it all.

Heather Bailey is my other absolute favorite fabric designer. Her work is just so pretty. She also has lots of cute and fun patterns. She just came out with a new line of fabric and felt!

Oh Fransson by Elizabeth Hartmen. I love her take on more modern quilts. She is especially inspirational in quilts that I might actually be able to make.

Wee Wonderfuls by Hilary Lang. She has wonderful sewing and embroidery patterns featuring children and animals. I have made several of her things and love them.

Gorgeous Things. The women who writes this blog and owner of the online store does fantastic home garment sewing. She also write pattern reviews and tutorials. I have learned a lot about clothes sewing from this site.

Craft Apple writes great craft sewing patterns. I have made several of her things for gifts- especially popular is her crayon holder.

Craft a Green World. I love this site for all its ideas on recycled fabric sewing and environmentally friendly fabric and sewing supplies.

Posie Gets Cozy. Alicia Paulson is a master of homey sewing and embroidery.

Nikkishell - Nicola is another clothes sewer who specializes in repurposing garments. Also check out her Wardrobe Refashion site.

Craft Magazine Blog. This site has so many sewing, knitting, embroidery, crafting ideas. You could spend hours looking through this site.

SouleMama by Amanda Blake Soule is an inspirational site for all you do-it-yourself moms. She has so many ideas on how to make your home a home. She is an avid knitter and sewer while somehow managing life with four children. Much of her work is centered around and includes them.

The Crafty Crow is a site dedicated to crafts for kids. It is a collective with tons of ideas.

Well, I hope this is a start for you all. There are more that I read, but I think this is enough for now, and really, constitute my favorite. In reality, there are a TON of sewing blogs and I am sure once you search these sites you will find more favorites.



Sunday, October 11, 2009

You Never Know

When I was in eighth grade, we had a long-term substitute teacher in biology. To us thirteen/fourteen year olds she seemed a bit kooky. She was fairly young and a "back to the land" type person. We, of course, were cool and thought her very odd. The thing is, though, she was very passionate in her beliefs and tried so hard to convince us of her ways. You might imagine that it is an oxymoron to be a "back to the land" person in Iowa. Well, believe it or not, most of us grew up in cities, not farms. Cedar Falls had about 30,000 people in the summer and about 15,000 more when the university was in session. Yes, we were surrounded by farms, but really had no desire to actually work on a farm. We weren't blind, we could see how hard the work was. Well, the substitute was determined to convince us that that was the only way to save the world. Mind you, this was the 80s and not a popular movement as it later would become. She decided the best way to accomplish this was to teach us the benefits of making our own yogurt. And she did, for two solid weeks. If you also flashback to the eighties, yogurt was still not considered a very mainstream food - especially to young teenagers. We pretty much had ZERO interest in learning this. When I look back on those weeks, I feel so sorry for her that we were not a better audience. She had so much passion, but her delivery fell very short. Needless to say, I remember very little about what she said, except that she really, really, believed in it.

Twenty years later, I wish I would have paid attention. She is right. Homemade yogurt is a lot better then store-bought. I would love to have her recipe. Husband has cobbled a few different recipes together and come up with a fantastic product. When he gets the time, I will have him write it out and post it. I am totally addicted to it and look forward to it every day. So, Mrs. X, I tip my culture to you!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fabricaholic

I am so excited that the International Quilt Market in Houston is starting soon. I so wish I could go, but it is only open to trades people. What it does mean, though, is that fabric designers will be debuting their new collections and I can't wait to see them! I follow several sewing/fabric blogs and I am hoping they post lots of pictures. They are always inspirational, especially with the holidays fast approaching.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tired of Religion

Lately I am finding myself in a deep funk about religion. I am just tired of it. I am tired of thinking about it and debating it and pondering it. I just don't care. I know a lot of this feeling has to do with how things ended at my last church. I feel burned out from devoting so much time to something I felt was important only to feel like it was all for naught. I can't say that the nine years was wasted, I did receive a lot of benefits and I hope that I made some sort of impact, but I am very reluctant to put out that much effort again. It has just reminded me that ministers, priests, clergy are just as human as me or you. They have no special divinity and, really, not a whole lot of extra insight. I am having a difficult time justifying going to services, when I get as much self-reflection reading at home. I don't want to make connections only to have them broken when I can't support the leadership. I am angry that despite all my work and trying for improvement, I am the one who has to leave. It is very hard to commit again. I just don't see the point.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Reunion Update

Last night was the big reunion night at my house. Despite everyone being late because they got lost trying to find my house (we are that far north), the evening went off without a glitch. We had a really good time. Thankfully, all our kids got along and were pretty much out of sight the whole night running around and having fun. It was just so weird to have four other people from Cedar Falls sitting in my living room. I hadn't seen most of them in eighteen years! It is crazy that that much time has gone by. It was fun to hear about everyone's adjustment to St. Louis. We all had been confused by the term "hoosier". I remember when Husband first used that term to describe a stranger. I asked him how he knew they were from Indiana. Evidently, in St. Louis, it is a term equivalent to redneck. Not particularly flattering. Another friend had been completely confused by the term "depressed section" on the traffic reports. She couldn't figure out why they kept saying this area is depressed.* We also talked about the age old question, "where did you got to high school" that St. Louisians are so fond of asking. When you grow up in a one high school town, it is pretty much a question never asked.

It was interesting to discover the roundabout ways people landed in St. Louis (work, school, marriage). Most of us did not grow up thinking we would be here. Many of the kids I was friends with ended up in Minneapolis - which is exactly where I thought I would be. Three of us have been married thirteen years. The other two are single and never been married. We all seemed to be doing really well, which was nice to see. It was fascinating to see how we had all matured and become "responsible" adults. Our former eighteen year old selves would occasionally peek through, but, wow, we have grown up.


*It actually refers to a section of a highway that is lower (depressed) then the rest of it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It is all in the Fit

A friend has two autistic boys. They go to a public school that requires them to wear uniforms. Due to the medication one of them is on, he has gained a lot of weight in the last year. The mom had to quickly buy some new pants, based on his waist measurement, and hope for the best. Well, Monday dawned quite chilly and her son went to put them on. They were way, way too long. Even with rolling them, they just didn't fit. She convinced him to wear shorts and later was told he had had a rough day. Since she doesn't sew, she asked if I would hem them. I said, "of course!" After taking them up quite a bit, I returned them. The next day she told me that it made all the difference. He had had a great day. Clothes really do make the man! (I am just glad I could help in some small way.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reunions

My high school class is the only one in our school's history that has not had a reunion. Every year, our town has a big parade that reunion folks participate in. We have never done that. We have had ample opportunity - 5, 10, 15 year markers, but we didn't. Why? Because, besides our small individual friend groups, we DID NOT like each other. There I said it. I can't imagine we will ever have a reunion. Even if someone decided to throw caution to the wind and organize it, I doubt anyone besides the organizer's friends would show up. Sounds very....high schoolish. It is. Yet, I didn't have a horrible high school experience. Nothing beyond the typical angst high schoolers tend to have. I actually enjoyed quite a lot of it and had some great friends. But, I have NO DESIRE to go to a reunion and see the 188 other people I did not get along with. Obviously, I am not alone in this thought.

Why this post? Well this weekend, I am hosting a little get together of a few of the people I did like, but lost contact with. Thanks to the powers of Facebook we have reconnected and discovered we all randomly landed in the St. Louis area. At first, I wasn't so hip to the plan. I really don't like rehashing events. The past is over and let it be! is more my motto. As the day draws nearer, though, I am starting to look forward to it. I am around my husband's high school friends all the time, so it will be weird to hang out with people who share a similar background to me. I am not used to that at all. It will be interesting and I am actually getting excited about it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

National Turnoff Week - Recap

We made it! One whole week without television. It was actually pretty painless. I probably had the hardest time - many of my favorite shows were premiering ;-) I asked my middle son how he felt about the experience. To quote "No big deal". I would have to agree. It was nice to have quiet evenings. I am in two book clubs, and I actually got most of the reading done - ON TIME. The kids are really into Calvin & Hobbes comics and spent most of their time reading them or building their Lego "Secret Agent" models. It was a good experience for us all. We will definitely be doing this again in April (the next National Turnoff Week), but I feel like we are already on the path to less TV.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Generation Gap

Overheard at the Quilt Show:

Elderly Lady 1: I am just so busy that they will have to use some of that "frozen food"

Elderly Lady 2: You use the frozen food?!

Elderly Lady1: Well, sometimes it is ok to use.


PS: I obviously survived the night, despite the cough's best efforts, and managed to become officially certified to take the GS camping. One class down, several to go!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Girl Scout Saga - Part I

Sometimes I feel like all the Girl Scout Troop leaders should get together and write a book. Oh, the stories that would come out. I imagine it is because I have been sick for almost two weeks and spent most of last night coughing up a lung, that I am extra cranky with them today. The GS are all about classes and prerequisites that leaders need to take before you can move an inch (maybe a little exaggeration-but not much). One of my big goals this year is to take my Junior troop, 4th & 5th graders, on a camping trip to one of the GS campsites. Now to do this, I have to take a camping procedures class. I am actually ok with this since I am not at all a camper. Always good to be prepared, right? I think that is our motto... Anyway, before I take the class, I have to fill out a worksheet/quiz. So, through my hacking, I start filling out the worksheet. It quickly becomes clear that, I will not be camping, but cleaning. There are more rules about how to clean the campsite then there is anything else. It is crazy. Step by step procedures on how to clean the dutch oven. I could go into details but, OM Gosh, I have been doing dishes for decades and think I can manage with my OWN pot. Plus, there are details on numerous dos and don'ts on cleaning the toilet. I asked my husband if they have to clean the toilets at the Boy Scout camp and he looked at me like I was crazy. I feel like I will be camping at the most sanitary camp ground ever. Thus, is it really camping? I always thought one of the fun parts of camping was getting dirty and not caring! Now I feel like I am just moving my house outside, but expected to keep it just as clean.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

National Turnoff Week

Tomorrow starts national Turnoff week. They have now expanded the program from a week in April to also include a week in September (20-26). We have never participated in this before, but we are all on board now to give it a try. (Just pretend I didn't actually promise a sundae if we could make it to Sunday). As a family, we don't actually watch that much TV. The kids are busy at school most of the day and then have various evening activities. Saturday morning and certain days after school will be the hardest for them. I rarely watch daytime TV, but, admittedly do have several favorite evening shows. I love 9.00 when the kids are in bed and I can just sit back and veg with a mystery/drama. Husband will have the hardest time missing late night TV. We can do this, though! Despite being sick with a cold and cranky, I am going to try my hardest to make it to Sunday. I encourage you all you to give it a try. What can it hurt? Let me know how it works for you and I will update you all next Sunday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Friendships

I am feeling a loss of a friendship, and I am not exactly sure what happened. We seem to have drifted apart, and despite my efforts in reconnecting, the other person doesn't appear interested. Why? Did I do something? I must have, but I don't know what it is. I would love to discuss what happened and make amends (if necessary), but am not being given that opportunity. It is very frustrating and hurtful. I put a lot of value in this relationship and feel like I have been dumped. I have been "broken-up" with via avoidance. I thought our friendship would have at least merited some sort of closure or reasoning. I can't stand avoidance, it is such a passive-aggressive move. If I have offended, let me know. If you just don't like me, I can handle it, tell me. Just don't leave me trying to figure out what went wrong.

Has this happened to you? How do you let it go? I have been trying, but it really has struck hard. Have you had to let a friendship go? Did you do it on mutual agreement or let it fade away? I feel the loss and am saddened by it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mary?

Following is a clip from one of my favorite singers - Langhorne Slim. Every time I hear this song, I start pondering about Mary. My apologies that I couldn't find a better clip, but the first two verses are: Mary - are you the mother of my God?, Mary - are you sweeter then corn on the cob...


Something about this song just reminds me of the normalcy that Mary once possessed. While I don't profess to believe in the special divinity of Jesus, I do often wonder about her life. If you are a follower of her story, I can't imagine being fourteen(ish), living your life and, then, suddenly, having a "spirit" tell you that you would soon be giving birth to God. Not only that, your husband must somehow also believe that you are, indeed, immaculately impregnated and not by some other guy in the neighborhood. This seems to be a lot of responsibility put on someone so young. Can you imagine being newly married and dealing with all this? Marriage is hard enough without a divine presence thrown in.

I also can't imagine the pressure she must have been under to make sure he grew up with the right "moral values". Did God choose her because she already was an upstanding character? Why her? What did her parents think of all this? Were they flattered? appalled? nervous? From what I understand of the Old Testament, God could be pretty temperamental. I know if my daughter started claiming she was carrying the son of God, I might really start worrying about her sanity and future. Yet, it appears that she handled all of this with grace. Of course we will never really know. I believe that the bible is a great source of revisionist history. I can't imagine any of the writer's would make Mary seem any less then a wonderful mother. But, as almost all mother's know, we have our moments. I can't believe Mary didn't have hers. I like to think of her as someone who, although did not ask for any of this, rose to the occasion. She was under extreme hardship and given an almost impossible task. She also lost a child. I don't care if he was a God, he was still her child and what parent ever wants to see their son go through something like that. I wish we knew more about her. She is someone I would love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with. I can't imagine the stories she would have to tell!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Force

You know you have watched too much Star Wars when describing telekinesis to your daughter, she declares, "no mom, that is called the Force."

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Landscaping

To get the kids to school, I have to take pretty busy road with a lot of random businesses and restaurants. As there are a lot of stop lights, I have plenty of opportunity to look around and take stock of the neighborhood. I must say, I am continually impressed by the Ponderosa. They obviously have someone dedicated to landscaping. Their restaurant is beautifully adorned with so many flowers. It is quite impressive and gives me a little joy everyday. Second to them is Longhorn Steakhouse. Today I noticed they had pulled their summer flowers and now I am looking forward to what they will do for the fall. I am beginning to wonder if there is some sort of link between steakhouses and landscaping. Whatever it is, I am appreciative of their efforts.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Alters

I am trying to set-up a little alter/sacred space in our house. If you have something like that, I would appreciate hearing how you went about it. My space is limited and currently just has a few books on Unitarian Universalism (adult and child), a small chalice, UUSC donation box and finger labyrinth. Yet, it just doesn't feel spiritual, welcoming or sacred. I also want it to be child friendly. I don't know, I just am not sure how to go about setting up something meaningful. I know it should be reflective of our family and values, but currently it feels a little stilted and not inspiring. Thoughts? Ideas?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hitting Our Groove

Lately I have been feeling like things are going really well (knock on wood). I had been extremely stressed about school starting, baby starting kindergarten, the huge library undertaking, church decisions, food preserving, etc. Basically, a fear of how things were going to turn out in an ever decreasing time-line. I was feeling very overwhelmed. Well, two weeks into the school year and I think we are finding our groove. The kids are really enjoying their classes. This year they all have great teachers. My two oldest are also in a gifted program and were able to get into their first choice classes. My kindergartner is loving being at school with his siblings and cousins. He finally gets to be in the conversation and it is so cute. I have a 1000+ books catalogued. While there is still about 2000 to go, I feel like I have a very good start and some great volunteers have stepped forward to help. Husband and I are starting to get on the same page with church and I am excited to explore some new opportunities. While I haven't canned everything I had wanted, the garden has come into its own. Check back soon for some pictures. Not everything is perfect (how could it be), but I am trying to project a more positive attitude. There are certain things that I wish I could have more control over or understand better, but I am working on letting them go. My life is way too short to obsess about things I can do nothing about. I am going to try my hardest to keep this mind frame. Life is going very well and I am so thankful for that.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Way to go Lutherans!

I am very happy to hear that the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) has voted to allow committed, sexually active gay clergy in the pulpit. My in-laws are heavily involved in the ELCA church. In fact, my sister-in-law and her husband are both ELCA ministers. My children attend an ELCA school. This issue has been swirling around the denomination for quite awhile and I am so glad to see that this has finally been approved. I am, though, very curious to see how our local church responds. I am hoping positively. One of the reasons we are comfortable sending our children there is its open and accepting atmosphere.

I am also proud of them for putting "Christian" love ahead of personal beliefs. I have often been astounded about how many Christians can profess so much hate towards a group of people. Where is the brotherly love? Where is the Jesus acceptance of all people? To me, the ELCA is taking a big step in the right direction. I hope all the congregations affiliated with them see this and don't jump to separate without really assessing their Christian values and the real motivations for their dissent. I also hope this encourages other denominations to really look into how they are following Jesus' path. In my opinion, love is not judgemental.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Laughing at Myself

Yesterday I heard a news report stating that MO was instituting tighter cattle wrestling laws. Now, I grew up in Iowa and am fairly aware of various cattle diversions. Mostly the infamous cow-tipping runs. I have never heard of cow wrestling before. I was sitting in the car listening to the news announcer discussing all of this like it was very common and quite a problem. I couldn't figure it out. All I could picture were people wrestling cows for sport, but it seemed so ridiculous. Then I thought maybe cows were wrestling each other. Now if you have ever hung out with cows, that also seems very impossible. Finally I just let it go as something outside my realm of knowledge.

Today I am reading the paper and come across the article. Of course - cow rustling, not cow wrestling. I do need to get out this little world I live in inside my head.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Individual vs. Group

I will never understand how people can think that the health of the group would not benefit themselves as individuals. The debate on healthcare has greatly saddened me. It makes me sick and angry that we have such a pathetic healthcare system that is tied to our employment. It frustrates me that people are so afraid of the government, that they are willing to deny healthcare to fellow citizens - themselves included. It scares me that my husband could by laid-off and we would have no medical insurance. It should not be like this. I can't stand that I live in a country that allows this to continue. It is shameful that we allow our neighbors to suffer because we will not step up and demand this human right.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Era

Well, it is done. All three are officially registered for school. I can't believe my youngest is starting kindergarten. I remember when he was born thinking, "well, now I have five more years!". Now, I don't. The five years are up. I will really miss him. I call him my sidekick because he goes with me everywhere. We are always together. Now he will be gone half the day and, soon, the whole day. He is excited, though. He finally gets to go to school where his brother and sister attend. He has a great teacher and I know will really enjoy the class. It is just hard for me. I like having my children around and it will seem empty without them here for much of the day. It really is the beginning of a new era for me. I am curious to see where it leads.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

More excuses...

Real life keeps getting in the way of blogging. I am in the throes of organizing/cataloging my children's school library. School starts soon and I am in a race to beat opening day. I have already admitted defeat to finish the whole library, but I do have grand plans that all the fiction work will be catalogued and alphabetized. Wish me luck - I need a lot of it!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fruits of my labor

Despite last week being crazy busy, plus a weekend trip to Iowa, I did manage to get some canning done. I canned: pickles, rhubarb-orange jam, and lemon-sage wine mustard. I dried: orange cherry tomatoes, sage, coriander, parsley, thyme, and oregano. In the freezer: pesto and hanging outside to cure: garlic. Everything was from my garden or the CSA except the orange and lemon. I have also started collecting blackberries for more jam. I should have enough by the end of this week. Next year, I should also have enough raspberries and strawberries for even more jam. I hope to make more pickles, pesto, can some peaches and beer mustard, and freeze tomato sauce by the end of this season. Then I will feel ready for winter!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Putting Up

Not much blogging will be going on in the next couple of weeks. I finally got my canning mojo back and I am not sure how long it will last! Today: herbs drying, pesto in the freezer, garlic harvested, and Rhubarb/Orange Jam (super yummy). Tomorrow: Lemon Sage Mustard and more pesto!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Needing More

Yesterday I had a wonderful lunch with a small group of UU friends. We had a really interesting discussion about spiritual depth within Unitarian Universalism and, specifically, our experiences at our local UU congregation. I first want to note that I feel there needs to be a church like Unitarian Universalism. Acting as the Membership Coordinator last year, it became very clear to me how important this denomination is to so many people. It is really one of the few truly open religions. As we so like to declare - we welcome all spiritual seekers. We are needed in the larger religious landscape.

As we started discussing our experiences, though, it quickly became evident that we all were looking for something more. Something is missing. My children attend an ELCA Lutheran school (this is a long topic for another day) and, like most Abrahamic religions, the church year is pretty well defined. The service has a set format. Similar prayers are said. This is standard in most denominations. The year and and the day have a certain rhythm. Behind that rhythm, whether you realize it or not, is spiritual meaning. People all over the world are performing the same ritual you are. I find that to be pretty awe inspiring and something that is really lacking in our denomination.

Our roots are in Christianity, yet so many of us try to disavow any sort of connection to that source. We also draw from Judaism and earth-centered traditions. But, for some reason, we have not really taken to their cyclical traditions. Sure, we may have a Christmas pageant, a Seder dinner or a Solstice celebration, but after awhile, they feel empty. It feels like we are just cherry picking certain ideas, but not really giving ourselves over to their meaning. When a Jew celebrates Seder - they are doing it along with Jews all over the world and it something very powerful to them. Not only is it a part of their religious tradition, it is part of their cultural identity.

I miss that. I miss the spiritual depth. I know many people who come to UU are trying to free themselves from the various obligations they feel their former religion has placed on them, but there has to be some sort of happy medium. Maybe UU is all about the journey into finding the traditions that work for you. Maybe that is enough. I, though, feel like there needs to be more and I am not sure I will find that in a UU congregation. What are your thoughts?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Eight

You are the one that I know will always come home. You don't like change and thrive when you are surrounded by the familiar. Sounds like someone else I know ;-). You are so loving and caring and your hard won smiles warm my heart. You are my biggest challenge but also my most tender hearted. Your sly sense of humor cracks me up and your ability to solve complex puzzles amazes me. Are you really only turning eight? You are wise beyond your years. Happy Birthday, sweetheart! I love you.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Christian Business

I was reading the paper* this morning and came across an interesting article detailing the growing number of Christian businesses. By this I mean, businesses based on a Christian philosophy - mostly the Golden Rule. The article exampled Christian Brothers Automotive, an $80 million company. Supposedly you would expect them to give you a fair deal. In fact, at one location a mechanic even stated he would pray with you if you felt the need. I was also surprised to see that Chick-fil-A is a Christian based company and, as such, are closed on Sunday. I am beginning to wonder how many more businesses claim this faith, but just don't have it stated in the name.

I am not sure how I feel about this. I certainly am not opposed to Christian businesses. There are many businesses under lots of different faith umbrellas. My main concern is that they live true to the golden rule value and don't discriminate in hiring or customer service. I also don't want to walk into their (or any other faith-based, non-church/synagogue/mosque, etc.) profit-based businesses and be evangelized. I think it is a fine line to be a profit based business and adhere to state and national regulations. It is ok to have a company value statement, it is not ok to use that statement to the exclusion of others or to the "skirting" of local laws.

I am curious, though, would you be more likely to frequent a business if you knew its owner's religious leanings? According to the article, because the above examples espouse to be Christian, they are hoping to tap into the large Christian market. Is it ok to use this for marketing? Is it ethical? What if they claimed to be Unitarian Universalist? Then would you be more likely?


*St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 6, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Another GA Question

I was also wondering, does the UUA have a service project available for attendees? It seems like a great way to live our values by giving back to the host community.

How "Green" is GA?

For all of you attending GA this year, I am curious about how green the conference is. Does the facility provide easy recycling? Are there reusable glasses, plates, utensils? Has there been an increased push to only use printed materials when absolutely necessary? What about the energy costs? Is there any carbon-offsetting? What about the food? Is it local? Fair Trade? How sustainable is the overall conference? I feel these are important issues to many of our members, including myself.

I would appreciate hearing how the UUA is addressing these issues. Since I am obviously not there, please comment if you are able!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Are you Kidding?!

In today's local newspaper there is an article reporting that Monsanto and Dole Foods are going to collaborate to make "more nutritious, better tasting veggies through plant breeding."* Their goal is to develop more varieties so consumers have more choices. I find this completely sad and ridiculous. New varieties do not need to be developed - mother nature has already provided a huge, diverse abundance of vegetables. Consumers need to realize that there are more places to get this variety then the local supermarket. In fact, this is often the worst place to buy veggies due to Monsanto and Dole's monopolies. I am a member of a local CSA that provides a wide range of veggies. I also try to grown a lot of my own. The best part of growing your own veggies is that you get to decide what cool, yummy breed you want! If you don't have access to either of those, farmer's markets are becoming ubiquitous in most cities. We don't need more modified food, what we need to do is support those people who are supporting diversity naturally.


*St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot*

When will this heat wave end? I think I could handle it more gracefully if it wasn't for the oppressive humidity. It feels like you are melting as soon as you step outside. Motivation to do anything in the garden is completely gone. While I know this will sound like a spoiled American, thank God for air conditioning!


*My favorite Cure song.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

And then she was Nine

I can not believe my oldest turns nine today! She is such a free spirit and so uniquely herself. I love that she does not feel the need to conform and will wear a scarf on her head in 90 degree heat just because she likes it. She is smart, creative, compassionate, responsible, and a huge bookworm. I can not think of anything else I would want in a daughter. I feel truly blessed that she is part of my life. Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Once Again...

I am wishing I could go to General Assembly. I will definitely watch the podcasts, but it isn't quite the same. Hopefully someday I will have the money.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Swedophile

This little guy is obsessed with Sweden. Why? I don't really know, but he has been wearing his Sweden outfit every day! Due to the rainy, muddy weather, the actual Swedish shirt is in the laundry. This has been very upsetting to him, but I refuse to do a load of laundry for one shirt. I have spent my morning convincing him that Swedish people do wear short sleeves in the summer - that it is OK to wear a plain white t-shirt under the Swedish vest. How long will this obsession last? He even wore the hat to bed last night. The only country he wants to visit is Sweden. I am cool with that considering I have always wanted to go there and husband has been there and said it is great. This is not happening anytime in the near future, though. My grandpa was also part Swedish so maybe it is some latent gene manifesting itself through him?! I don't know, but I can tell you he looked super cute riding his bike last night with the red pompoms flying. We got a lot of interesting looks.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why Unitarian?

I was asked in the comments of my previous post why I identify as Unitarian and not Unitarian Universalist. This got me to thinking. Originally when I titled this blog, I chose Everyday Unitarian because it was shorter then saying Everyday Unitarian Universalist. Not really for any deep theological reason. If pressed though, I would consider myself more Unitarian than Universalist.

In my own theological thoughts, to me Unitarian refers to the belief in one God, presence, Spirit, Force. Whatever you want to call, I believe there is only one. Even if you look at the trinity, it all refers back to one God. I am not sure if I really believe in God in the Abrahamic tradition, but I do believe that there is something larger then myself. I also believe it is so much larger than me and that I may never truly understand what "it" is. I can only draw on my own experiences and from those around me. It is a mystery of which I don't think will ever be solved - even in death (although I hope it will).

To me Universalism refers to the idea that, regardless, we all will be saved. I can totally get behind this idea. I have never been into exclusion. What I hesitate in, though, is the thought of salvation. I don't really feel I need to be saved. I don't feel you need to be saved. I certainly don't believe you need to be saved by a higher source. Let's say you believe in God. Why do you believe in a God that creates and then feels you need to be saved? From what? If we are created in his image, then does he need to be saved from himself? Then he is fallible? Who saves him? Why go through all this trouble if you are God? I have no idea what happens after death. If salvation is necessary, I hope that through living a purposeful and meaningful life now will allow that me that grace. I do know that there will be generations after me and the greatest gift I can give the future is to make this world a better, more peaceful and sustainable reality.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Liberal Saints

I read this article in UU World with great interest. While it mostly talked about the beautiful artwork of Andrene Kauffman displayed at Third Unitarian Church in Chicago, it got me thinking about the idea of "liberal" saints.

Having been raised Roman Catholic, I am well versed on saints. I could probably tell you more about them then anything else in the Bible. I love saints. I love reading their stories and hearing of all their amazing deeds. I believe that they were actual people. In fact, if I have to get on a plane, I wear my St. Christopher* medal. It brings me comfort. I even say a little prayer to him for safe travels. While to become an official saint in the church a miracle needs to have occurred, I don't find that necessary. To me, what makes them a saint is the life they chose to lead, despite great hardship to them and their family. I pray to St. Christopher to inspire in me the strength and bravery he had to "cross the raging river".

This is why I enjoyed reading Donald Skinner's article. I don't believe in worshipping people, but I do believe in learning from the amazing lives others have led. Whether they be in biblical times or the twentieth century, we all can learn something from our fore bearers. How many of us are currently living lives of comfort without really challenging ourselves to make a difference? I know I could work on living a more purposeful life. People like Jane Addams, Maria Montessori, and Harriet Tubman are current saints that inspire me. While many people might feel uncomfortable using the word saint,I would suggest broadening its definition to include one who has led a truly led an inspiring life. That, to me, is true sainthood.



*I do realize there is some question to St. Christopher's sainthood, but according to my ideas of being a saint, there is no question.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

May Garden Update

I realize this is a little late, but if you know me at all, it is amazing that pictures were even taken!

Garden proper: I am very sad to note that is is only doing so-so. I am not sure what is going on, but things are really struggling. The rhubarb and asparagus did wonderfully, but the tomatoes, basil, and peppers are struggling. I don't know if all the straw changed the ph levels, or if it has just been too rainy and cool for good growth. The peas and lettuce are doing alright, but not nearly as well as I had hoped. Unfortunately (for me ;-), the cilantro is once again growing like a weed. My husband is happy about that.

Cooking herbs - They are doing great. The dill is the only one not flourishing. This, I believe, is due to some very determined rabbits. How they are hopping up there, I have no idea.

Medicinal herbs - They are going like crazy. I will cut them back this week. The Valerian is almost four feet high!

Strawberries - They did well and are winding down. We had to fully enclose them due to the birds. We also had a slug invasion so we put out some beer. I am sure they died happy.

Raspberries - This is the first year for the red ones. They are progressing nicely.

Raspberries - This is the yellow variety. It is doing great. I wish you could have seen how sad it looked last year. I can't believe how much it has grown.
Blueberries - not pictured, but also growing well.
Year -to-date: Mixed results. I am happy about the boxed plants, but I am frustrated by the bigger garden. I am hoping with more sun and less rain, the plants in there will take off. I also need to get more weeding done. But really, who likes to do that?!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Bad Mood

I can not seem to shake this funk I am in. Any suggestions? Any jokes?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Heavy Heart

Today was my last day as the volunteer Membership Coordinator for my congregation. After a lot of reflection, I realized that I could no longer promote a church whose leadership I did not believe in. It was an incredibly hard decision that I struggled with for a long time. I love this congregation. I have made so many friends in the nine years that I have been a member and each one means a lot to me. I have also really enjoyed being the Membership Coordinator. I like meeting new people and helping them find their niche in our community. It is very bittersweet. I am not sure what I am going to do next. My husband was this past years Board President and is also feeling disillusioned. We are going to take this summer and hope to find a way to bridge this divide. Right now, I am feeling disappointed, sad, frustrated, and angry. I need time to process through all of these and hope to come to some sort of peace in the next few months.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

You can call me Maria

That's right. Those super cool Cardinal shirts the boys are wearing were once their curtains. As you can see they are just breaking into Do, a deer....

Homesteading

This is my new favorite book. I have always had dreams of living completely off the grid and growing all my own food. Since there is very little chance of moving to the country, and I will probably be living in the suburbs for quite awhile, I am slowly endeavoring to turn my yard into a micro-farm. While I am willing to go completely for it, my husband needs a lot more convincing, thus the very slow progress. This book is great on how to grow food and raise animals on a typical suburban lot, or around 1/4 acre. It is amazing what can be accomplished with a little strategic planning (and a willingness to get odd looks from the neighbors). I particularly like how she goes through all the steps from planting to cultivating, to processing and storing. Everything from canning to making cheese and raising goats(!) is in this easy to read book. While I can't imagine ever raising large livestock (which I believe is not even allowed in a lot of cities), her planning and organizing of the yard and the growing seasons is quite impressive. If you get a chance, check this book out.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Family of All Sorts

My parents divorced when I was in my twenties and subsequently remarried. With their remarriages, I have inherited quite a few new siblings and their children. Along with my sister and her three children, I have six step-brothers/sisters, their spouses and approximately eleven* more nieces and nephews. Additionally, I have around thirty-four first cousins. This does not include their spouses or children. This is a lot of family and is overwhelming compared to my husband's much smaller family, whom we live nearby.

During the holiday weekend we trekked up to my dad's where twenty-eight of us stayed at his house. Crazy, but fun. There were fourteen children in the house with the majority of them being under eight. What was great, though, is everybody helped each other out. We only get to see these families once a year and, since our parents have only been married a few years, we are still getting to know each other. My step-mother's family experienced a horrible tragedy when her husband and oldest son were killed in an automobile/train accident. Out of this, grew a great closeness between her and her remaining four children. I look at them and hope my children are as close when they are in their 20s/30s as these families are. (obviously without the horrific accident). I like being around them and their ease with each other. It makes me wish that we lived closer to all of them and my sister.

I love my husband's family. I wouldn't live across the street from them if I didn't. But, I have been in St. Louis now for fourteen years. I am ready to be closer to my family. Unfortunately, they all live in South Dakota or Wyoming and the chances of moving there are pretty slim. There doesn't seem to be a great need for bio-chemists in Sioux Falls, SD or Cheyenne WY. My husband also sees himself as a city boy and would feel very uncomfortable in the "country". So here we shall remain. I know this will pass, but for right now, I am missing them all.


*As with all very large families, there can be questions to how many kids certain relatives have. Sometimes it's best not to ask too many questions.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Your Congregation and Memorial Day

I am very curious to hear how your congregations handle Memorial Day. I am always disappointed that mine holds its annual Animal Blessing that day. I am not at all against animal blessings, but couldn't that be held on another weekend? Our fallen veteran's deserve a to be recognized in our services. Many of our congregants are veteran's, have family members who are veterans (my family included), and without them we would not enjoy the freedoms we have today - including freedom of religious thought. Are Memorial Day services standard in your congregations? Maybe mine is just an anomaly? I send out all my heartfelt thanks to the men and women who chose to put their life on the line to protect my freedoms. Thank You!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Muse

I love sewing for this young lady. She is such a free spirit and open to all color possibilities - unlike her mom ;-). She is often a walking rainbow. I had promised to finish this jacket in time for spring and despite it being almost 85 degrees today - I did it! For you sewers out there, this is my first Ottobre pattern and it was a bit more challenging then expected, so don't look too closely.... It is called the Birdwatcher Jacket, which I think is perfect for us, because we intend to spend much of the summer doing just that.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

And more...


After finally being convinced that I did, indeed, plant a green variety of rhubarb*, it is harvest time! This is my all time favorite vegetable. I am so excited that it did well this year. Last year we had a late frost and it ruined the whole crop. Now I am off to make rhubarb bars!
*My husband was insistent that it was not going to turn red and googled green rhubarb. Sure enough, it exists and that is what we got.

The harvest begins...

The strawberries have started to come in! We have been waiting two years for these and despite some persistent birds, we are finally getting to enjoy them.

Now I just have to handle some persistent children ;-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sun Drying

I asked for a clothes line for my birthday. I have been wanting one for a very long time and have finally taken the plunge in hanging my laundry. I am very excited. It has been killing me that we have so much sun (free energy) that I have not been using! Why should I spend money to use my dryer when the sun is just sitting out there waiting for me? Today I did two loads and was amazed at how fast the clothes dried. I have not completely given up my dryer, we have been prone to weeks of rain, but if there is anyway that I can hang it - I will. I did set some ground rules, though. For one, I just can not hang out unmentionables. They will dry on the inside line. I am sorry, but my in-laws and aunt/uncle in-law live on my street and I will not have them see what we wear underneath. Additionally, I will not do laundry on days when my neighbors have outside parties. No one needs to see our laundry hanging while they are trying to enjoy the flowers. I am also not sure what I will do in Winter. I will probably go back to the dryer. I am not such a die-hard that I will wear frozen jeans. Anyway, for those of you interested, I will keep you posted on how the experiment goes. I am sure for older folks, it is just ridiculous that people are rediscovering this very economical way of doing things!

Monday, May 11, 2009

One year older...

Yep, it is my birthday. You can all sing now. I am off to the Botanical Gardens....

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

I am feeling extraordinarily blessed today. Thank you, universe.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Membership Moment

Following is my May newsletter article:

Membership Moment

The “official” church year will be winding down in the next couple of months. This does not mean that church won’t be happening! Summer provides unique challenges and opportunities for members, and, in particular, new members. How do you stay connected while many activities take their seasonal break? It is not uncommon to feel a little lost during this time. I know when I was a new member and summer came around, I was a little disappointed. I had made many connections in my first year, and didn’t want to lose those over the summer. But, I had no idea how to maintain them. The best advice I can give, is stay involved. Try a new group or start one of your own. Summer services are often lay-led. This is a wonderful way to learn more about our congregants and their unique interests. Perhaps they are similar to yours. Room at the Inn* continues rain or shine and is always in need of help. Did you know Religious Education runs a summer camp? I have participated in this for a number of years and have really gotten to know so many families that I rarely get a chance to talk to at coffee hour! If you like to camp, plan a weekend at B**. with another family(ies). There really are so many possibilities. I encourage you to stretch yourself and try something new. One of the best parts about being in a community is that there is almost always something happening and you are always welcome!

T.
Volunteer Membership Coordinator


*An overnight homeless program hosted weekly at our church
**Land the church owns, used for camping and hiking

Friday, May 1, 2009

Regen, Regen, und mehr Regen...

Dear Rain,

I just want to let you know how much I appreciate all the hard work you do. Without you, there would be no green grass, beautiful flowers, fresh water, and pollen-free air. Lately, you have gone above and beyond the call of duty - so why not take a break? Give yourself a mini-vacation, you deserve it. We will be waiting with freshly planted tomatoes and sun-exhausted children for your return.

All the best,
t.

UPDATE: Vielen Dank! I am so glad you decided to take a break, you really have earned it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April Garden Update

Things are progressing very nicely in the garden. First, though, I apologize for all the sideways shots, but I am sure you will get the idea.


This is the garden "proper". Garlic is up, rhubarb looks fantastic and we are actually getting asparagus!

This is rows of broccoli, peas, cabbage, lettuce and spinach. They probably could have gone in earlier - but that isn't my style ;-) Also not pictured is a bell pepper plant, lavender and rosemary.


The strawberry patch. We are all very excited for it. The bigger plants are from last year and we added more little plants this year. Hopefully, by next year, it will be well established.


Our yellow raspberry bush. This actually produced last year. Next to it is a new one we just planted. It is red because the kids were very suspicious of the yellow ones and didn't want to eat them!


I am determined to get blueberries! I know these little stick swill someday produce.

The cooking herb box. I have done nothing, but the oregano, thyme, sage and chives are determined to do well. I have started the basil inside.
I don't have a picture of the medicinal herb box - it looks the same. I have started inside yarrow, skullcap, bergamot and lovage.

All my tomato starts are doing well, as is the jalapenos. I hope to get those outside this weekend.

I just had to show a picture of our asparagus. It is exciting to finally have some. This is the first batch.
I am feeling pretty good about the garden. I will be a little more relaxed once the tomatoes are in - they are really ready and I don't want to lose them!

Monday, April 27, 2009

And then he was Five


I call him my baby. He immediately declares "I am NOT A BABY!" I reply, "In my heart, you will always be my baby." He is OK with that. On most days, I am OK with that. I want him to grow up and discover life and this crazy world. But, as my youngest, I want time to slow down so I can really savor every moment of this last "baby". For some reason, five seems to signal that babyhood is behind and childhood is ahead. Not that this is bad, but what a wonderful babyhood he has had. Husband and I often joke that L. got the best of all our recessive genes. The four other of us are pretty introverted, don't like to make a scene, fade into the background people. Then there is L. He is just out there. He is exactly what you see. He talks (all the time), full of funny observations. He not only has opinions, but demands that they be heard. He likes to be the center of attention. He is full of energy and ideas and is always on the go. He has curly hair(!). Where did he come from?!?! - from two parents that love him dearly. Happy Birthday, L.!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Problem with Spring

Is that it promises so much, but requires so much patience! I have been re-evaluating our food choices and trying to eat more seasonally and locally. Today I was at the grocery store and admiring all the beautiful produce. So pretty! So yummy looking! I want it!! But... I noticed that the cantaloupe is from Guatemala, the berries from Mexico and the tomatoes from Canada (!). I just couldn't buy them. I compromised and broadened my scope to the U.S., but came away with just apples. Luckily, my garden asparagus has come in and the rhubarb is almost ready, but it is hard to pass up so much beautiful food. Oh, problems of the land of abundance. I realize a great deal of the world would faint just looking at all the out-of-season food. We are spoiled.

I ran a workshop at our Women's retreat discussing Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Her family attempted to eat locally for a year. I found her book really inspiring. Although, the first time I read it, I almost didn't finish it because it seemed to be impossible for "real" people. After the second reading, I began to put my "all or nothing" mantra aside and start thinking of small ways I could do this. I do have a garden and belong to a CSA. I am a pretty good baker and there really is no reason why I can't make our bread. I could stretch my cooking abilities and learn how to best use seasonal veggies. As I alluded to in my previous post, I am trying to put in perspective on how I really want to live my life and actually do it. I want to lower my impact on the earth. I want to protect my family and workers from pesticides. Food is something that is important, even if if means I need to wait a couple of more months for some beautiful tomatoes!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day Song

Following is a song my daughter wrote in honor of Earth Day:

Earth Day is soon
That is very true
This is what you need to do

Get a seed
Plant a garden
Watch the plants bloom

Pick them up and do it again next year...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Don't Dream it...Be it*

Why is that so hard? I was at our church's women's retreat this past weekend. I attended a workshop led be a woman that I really admire. One of the reason's I admire her is that she is really living an intentional life. And it shows. It shows in how she interacts with others, her body language and the joy she projects. I watched her and thought, I want to be like that! How did she get there? How did she make it happen? She just looks so content and alive with all of life's possibilities. I often feel weighed down by them. I feel like there are so many obstacles to living the life I want. That I don't have the support I need, the time, the money, the opportunities, blah..blah...blah.... I know, pretty whiny. During her presentation, she noted a couple key moments in her life that instigated her need to change. She made the changes (without the support, time, etc.) because she realized the benefits her and her family's life would gain. She did this on her own and it wasn't easy. Her life took a major paradigm shift and she is much happier because of it.

So what is stopping me? (What is stopping you?) I am fortunate to have a great family, health, security (despite the earlier whining). Pretty much everything that lulls you into inaction and makes you think "if only..." If only I had a more land, I could grow most of our food. If only our schedules weren't so busy, I could plan wonderful, healthy meals. If only.....What??! I am the one stopping me. So what if I live in the suburbs, I can still have an amazing garden. So what if we are busy, I could turn off the computer and really plan our meals to work with our schedules. I am my biggest obstacle. I am the one stopping me from living the life I imagined. The presenter (and friend) did it because it was important to her. I need to sit down really think about what is important to me and how I want to get there. It would be wonderful to have a support group, but I can't wait around for it. I can't keep waiting for someone to kick me in the rear and say "get on with it". I just need to "be it".*



*Rocky Horror Picture show

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sinking In

I am suddenly becoming very aware of how busy life is with three kids. When they were all much smaller, I had a great deal of control over their schedules. Now that they are school aged, things are slipping out of my control. I have greater clarity in how hard it is to manage a household where every one seems to be going in different directions. Sure, my husband and I have final say in what the kids are allowed to participate in; but how do you tell one child they can be in baseball, but it would be too much work to also have the other one participate? Why does she get to be in Scouts, but he doesn't? This is on top of all the various school requirements and a husband with a long commute home. Where do you draw the line? We really aren't involved in tons of activities, but when you multiply it by three - things get a little dicey. I don't know how larger families manage, but I am ready to pull up stakes and go hide out in the country!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Dangerous Sport of Sewing*

Many of you may think that sewing is a humble, quiet activity. One where you float from pattern to machine to finished project. Maybe you have an image of a quaint older women quietly quilting by the window. Perhaps, you envision a devoted mother lovingly making flouncy dresses for her beloved daughter. I am here to dispel this myth. Sewing is dangerous, full of potential and real injury. It is not for the weak of heart. I have sliced my hand with a rotary cutter, actually sewed through the side of my finger, countless pin pricks, blistering burns from the iron and more neck aches then I can count**. So, dear friends, sew with abandon, but keep the band aids and aloe nearby.


*A little tongue-in-cheek ;-)
**Just in the last week.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Art of Pledging

Like a lot of money matters, pledging can be somewhat taboo. I don't go around asking my friends whether or not they pledge. I just assume they do what they can. I certainly don't how much they pledge. Honestly, I don't really want to know. It isn't my business. What is my business, though, is keeping the church vital and the doors open.

How do you decide what to pledge? As UUs, there are no specific tithing guidelines. There is no "rule" about what you are expected to pledge. Just mentioning tithing can set a lot of UUs on edge. Some of us grew up with very dedicated pledging families. Others of us really had no idea that people actually gave a certain percentage of their income to the church. I would be in the latter category. While I grew up in a Catholic family, we pretty much just gave in the plate on the rare occasion we went to church. My first experience of true tithing was in an interaction with a coworker. During some downtime, we were talking about paying bills and she casually mentioned that her husband always wrote a check to the church first. They tithed 10% and whatever they had left paid the bills. I was SHOCKED. Seriously? 10%?! Why?!? At that point we were not part of any religious community and I couldn't imagine handing over that much money to a church.

Let's flash forward ten years. Now I get it. Independent churches, like Unitarian Universalist congregations, really do rely on the contributions from every member. There is no larger organization supplementing our budgets. Every cent we use to pay for the lights, mortgage, salaries, heating, coffee, etc. comes from our members. I pledge (although, admittedly, no where near 10%) because I believe in the mission of our church. I really believe that we need to be there and we provide a valuable service to our congregants and the larger community. If I or you don't pledge, there will be no church. Of course, we all can't pledge the same amount. We are all in different points of our lives, but I encourage you to look at your budget, and if you can, really consider how important your congregation is and how you plan on supporting it. Every little bit makes a difference.