Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Day

From one of my favorite bands, one of my favorite Christmas Songs:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chalica in Review

I know I promised this last week, but life got busy and I came down with a horrible cold. I am slowly getting better and hope to be fully recovered by Christmas (at least I better be!).

I feel that our Chalica week went great. I had a couple of goals for it: 1. Have a greater appreciation and understanding of Unitarian Universalism 2. Encourage the kids (and us) to really start to think about our own spirituality and how that fits into UU. It was also important to me that it not be a gift getting holiday but one of giving of ourselves to others.

To me, these were goals were met. We centered our discussions around dinner time and I was impressed with where our conversations led. I could tell the kids were really processing what we were saying and how that effects our lives. If anything, next year I will work on having more open ended questions for us to think about as a family. I like the Spirit (Godly) Play model of wondering questions and probably will work off of those. I also want to be a little more creative in the 'helping others' aspect of it.

The kids really liked the ritual aspects. We lit one candle every night and I then did a reading. One night I had lit the candle, but was a little slow in getting to the reading. Youngest quickly reminded me to read "out of the book". I loved that they were seeing the importance of each step.

I say the following with all due respect to the hard work our religious education departments do. I have taught Sunday School for many, many years and am the RE Chair at our church. But, I feel UU continues to struggle on how to find a comprehensive and effective way to teach what it means to be a UU. This has more to do with the non-dogmatic approach to religion then any sort of lacking in RE departments. Thus, I feel it is VERY important for parents to talk about UU in the home. RE can only do so much. Children are looking to their parents for guidance and clarification. I felt Chalica really inspired great discussions in this area. It also demonstrated to our kids that Husband and I don't have it all figured out and that is ok. It is ok for them to feel out different paths until they find the one the speaks to them.

What would I like to change about Chalica? I am not 100% sold on the name, but I also don't have any better suggestions. I am also not so sure on the timing. With all the things going on in the holiday season, it is easy to brush it off as just "one more thing." I don't think it should be considered that and maybe a January time would be better. A great way to start the year off with a solid reflection on who we are and where we are going.

Finally, I would love for more UUs to be celebrating this. How awesome would it be to have all families have these wonderful discussion and renewing their commitment to UU? Can you imagine all the UUs out in the community at one time helping others? I hope that is the future and I will continue to work for it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Chalica: Day 7

We light our chalice for respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

I read the following from Chief Seattle:

This we know. The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.
This we know. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family.
All things are connected...
We did not weave the web of life; we are merely one strand in it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.

It seems like UUs really like to cling to this principle. I feel like it is quoted so often in UU settings. But, it is true and I like just as much as all the other UUs out there. I have always felt this connection even as a child. The problem is, that it can also become so overwhelming. The thought that everything you do can have such huge impacts can be kind of scary. We discussed it as a family as showing respect for the environment and all the animals we share it with. The choices we make now can influence generations. That is why we reduce, reuse and recycle. It is also why we try to shop locally and conserve our energy use. As a way to honor our fellow creatures, we made dog biscuits to donate to our local Human Society. I used this recipe and got the chalice cookie cutter from here. Daisydog tested them and they passed muster!

Even though youngest is taste-testing them, they are actually for the dogs!

Tomorrow I will write a little more about the week as a whole and how I feel Chalica went.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chalica: Day 6

We light our chalice for the goal of world peace, liberty and justice for all.

I read the following by Edward Everett Hale:

I am only one
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

We talked about how lucky our family was that we live in relative peace. Yes, we are at war with various countries, but when I wake up, I don't worry about a bomb hidden under a car. We talked about how hard it is to achieve peace, but how important it is to keep trying - no matter how small the effort. You can make a difference, even if you feel like everything you do goes nowhere. It was an interesting discussion brought home by some "un"peaceful moments this morning. We talked about ways we could work towards peace. One way we are helping is supporting the UUSC. Husband and I both volunteer for the organization. I have met several of the staff members and have personally seen some of the amazing work they do. Each family member then donated some of their own money to our GAYT box.



As another activity, we colored and "stained-glassed" our peace pictures from the Chalica kids booklet. Now our house has a visual reminder to always look for the peaceful way (even if it isn't the easiest way).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chalica: Day 5

We light our chalice for the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.

I read the following from Kathleen McTigue:

May the light around us guide our footsteps,
and hold us fast to the best and most righteous that we seek.

May the darkeness around us nurture our dreams,
and give us rest so that we may give ourselves to the work of the world.

Let us seek to remember the wholeness of our lives,
the weaving of light and shadow in this great and astonishing dance in which we move.

I particularly enjoyed this subject as it relates to so many aspects of our lives. We talked about what it really means to be a democratic society and how that compares to those countries that are not. We also talked about how UU congregations are somewhat unique in that they are based on the democratic process of the congregations. Thus, UU churches can very widely from place to place. I stressed how important it is to get involved in our congregation because it is what we make it to be. (I am going to have a whole other post on this topic after Chalica). At first I thought we would use Chalica's idea of writing letters to our government or congregation, but we ran out of time. Friday is our pj and movie night - we are very devoted to it! Instead, we went around the table and talked about what we would advocate for. L said he would ask the RE Committee to make Sunday School the whole hour instead of first starting in the church. J is going to ask the Governor to decrease the amount of days kids have to go to school. M will write the city and ask them to put a farm closer to our house. Husband is going to ask the Congress to pass new tax laws while I am going to continue the fight for true universal health care.

I found this to be a great principle for today considering it is the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What an amazing world it would be if every country adopted these basic human rights!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chalica: Day 4

We light our chalice for a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

I read the following from Kathy Huff:

In this quest, may we greet one another with open hearts and minds;
may we inspire each other to consider new questions and seek deeper meaning;
may we cultivate wisdom and compassion.
Let all who enter this sanctuary see a welcome face,
hear a kind word, and
find comfort in this community.
And may all that is done and said here today be in service to love and justice.

This topic lead to really interesting discussion about what is "truth". I guess it is important for me to impress upon the kids that one person's truth is not the same as others. For instance, some people believe in the miracle of Jesus' birth and Resurrection. Others don't. It is important for us to really examine what our truth is, but fully acknowledge and respect other people's truth. A part of me feels that we may be stressing the kids beliefs. I can tell that now that they are older, they are really beginning to think about what is told to them in school and what they really do believe. I have no idea where their spiritual path will take them, but as long as they are open to possibilities, I am happy with that.

Tonight we went to the pre-school/kindergarten pageant. We honored the Lutheran tradition of the miracle of Jesus' birth. Plus, who can pass up 4 & 5 year olds singing their little hearts out!

To educate ourselves more on our traditions, Husband read the book "Unitarian Universalism is a Really Long Name" by Jennifer Dant to the kids at bedtime.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Chalica: Day 3

Lighting our chalice for the acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.

I read the following by Michael A. Schuler:

Cherish your doubts, for doubt is the servant of truth.
Question your convictions, for beliefs too tightly held strangle the mind and its natural wisdom.
Suspect all certitudes, for the world whirls on - nothing abides.
Yet in our inner rooms full of doubt, inquiry and suspicion, let a corner be reserved for trust.
For without trust there is no space for communities to gather or for friendship to be forged.
Indeed, this is the small corner where we connect - and reconnect-with each other.

This principle lead to a pretty in depth discussion of different religions and how people come to Unitarian Universalism. We had a really good talk on what it means to be Christian, Lutheran, and Unitarian Universalist. The kids attend a Lutheran school, but we go to the UU church. I could tell they were trying to put it all together. We talked about how people come to UU from all different faith traditions and how UU can compliment those or replace them. The one thing that holds us together though is our principles and that is why we are spending the week really "living" them. What also keeps us together is our commitment to each other and our support for eachother's continual search for truth.

I had originally really wanted to attend a UU event, but after scouring the calendars of all four UU congregations in the area, there was nothing going on for the whole family. Instead, we went to the Lutheran church's Advent service. It was lovely. Since it is also the Advent season, I am glad that we went. It was another affirmation to the kids that they can still feel connected Lutheranism while also being UU.

Since I still wanted to do something to support the spiritual development within UU, we are donating a new hymnal to our church. They currently are using the grey hymnal, but don't have enough of the teal ones to keep out in the pews. I love the songs in the teal hymnal, so that is what we are giving to them. We will present it as soon as it arrives!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chalica: Day 2

We light our chalice for justice, equity and compassion in human relations.

I read the following from Lauralyn Bellamy:

If, here, you have found freedom,
take it with you into the world.

If you have found comfort,
go and share it with others.

If you have dreamed dreams,
help one another,
they they may come true!

If you have known love,
give some back
to a bruised and hurting world.

Go in peace.

We had a wonderful discussion on what compassion and justice mean. We talked about past and current examples of injustice and what we was or can be done to stop them. We also gave examples of how we felt when things weren't fair in our own lives and how we would try to remember those feelings when we saw it happen to other people.

We talked about how the holiday season can be very hard for many people, especially children from broken homes. We talked about how lucky we are to have so much and they maybe we could show compassion to children who may not have a chance for a wonderful holiday. The kids then each went through their toys and pulled out ones to donate to our local Children's Home Society. I will admit that there was some reluctance from one of the kids :-), but now they are really working together to clean-up and give away some of their toys!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chalica: Day 1

We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

We used those words from Chalica to light our chalice. I really like her phrasing, so you will see them under each of the candles this week. After lighting the chalice, I read the following words from Jean M. Rowe:

We have a calling in this world:
we are called to honor diversity,
to respect differences with dignity,
and to challenge those who forbid it.
We are people of a wide path.
Let us be wide in affection
and go our way in peace.

My original plan had been to follow Chalica's idea of writing thank-you cards celebrating our differences. Unfortunately, life didn't allow us that much time. Since we were at the dinner table, I had each family member think of a person who really bothers them. We then went around and shared what it was. They were not allowed to use the name of the person, just what actions that person said or did that they didn't like or agree with. After we each shared them, we discussed why they might be like that. Perhaps, they thought they were being helpful or their parents taught them differently or they were under a lot of stress. I then had everyone say something positive about the person they didn't get along with. My examples were: "this person bothers me because she gossips a lot and I don't like that." My positive was, "this person also has a huge heart and would do anything for someone in need." It was great to see the kids really think about their person and find something truly positive in them. We also turned the table on ourselves and thought, maybe, just maybe, someone thought WE were different, too.

My hope was that the kids (and adults) would realize that even though someone is different and we may not understand them, they are just as important as we are. They have just as much right to their opinions as we do. It was a very good discussion and I could tell everyone at the table had a moment of understanding for their "different" person. I hope that this translates into better acceptance of those who may not see the world as we do.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chalica Chalice


I really wanted to have a special Chalice to celebrate Chalica. I would love to have the one on the Chalica site, but unfortunately it was a little too expensive for this year and it wouldn't have arrived in time. So, I made my own version. The picture is horrible, but looks a little nicer when you click on it. The holders are from Michael's and the candles from a Hallmark store. I think it turned out quite nice and was pretty cheap to make. The kids love it and can't wait to light the red candle on Monday.

I also wanted to make sure you Facebook users know that there is an excellent Chalica page full of resources. So check it out!

Girl Scout Frustration

For once, this is not about Council. Last night I was supposed to have a GS meeting. I prepared for a couple days, mapped out plans for the next few weeks, got the newsletter together, made copies to help get my Cadettes going, got the supplies together, made yummy s'more granola bars and sent out an email reminding families that we were meeting. I even emailed a blog friend looking for suggestions on how to make the troop work better (thank you Bridgett for your quick response!!). On top of that, I have sent out a couple of requests looking for a Cookie Chair. The last training meeting is this upcoming week. So how many girls showed up last night? One. How many people have volunteered to be the Cookie Chair? Zero. How many called or emailed to say they weren't coming? Zero. I am just so frustrated and disappointed. I volunteer to do this because my daughter enjoys it. I like working with the girls. I am not paid and pretty much front all the money until we sell cookies. I would think people could at least let me know that they are not coming. It just seems like good manners. I truly feel parents lead by example and if they are not supportive a Girl Scouts, then why should the daughter? I totally understand not being able to make every meeting. What I don't understand is not having the grace to call and let me know you will not be there. One of the people who didn't show was my CO-LEADER!! Not only that, no one will volunteer to be the Cookie Chair. We are a small troop. Honestly, we don't sell a lot. The job is pretty easy. It is a GS rule that as leader, I can not do it. I sent out an email saying if we don't sell cookies, I am going to have to charge troop dues and have the girls pay for their own badges - which I don't want to have to do at all. I had a horrible experience a few years ago dealing with this and I refuse to pay for them again. I don't know, part of me thinks I just expect way to much of people, but seriously - couldn't they just call and let me know? Alright, I am done ranting.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Connecting

In an effort to feel more connected to Unitarian Universalism, we are going to celebrate Chalica this year. At first I thought it seemed a little hokey, but I am going to give it a try this year and see how it goes. This Chalica blog really lays out a thoughtful and meaningful way to celebrate the week. I am kind of excited for it and hope it helps the family understand the history and meaning of what it is to be a Unitarian Universalist. I will try to blog about it next week and all the activities we do to celebrate!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Politics & Friendships

I have several politically conservative friends. I know this about them and totally respect their views. Do I wish they thought like I do? Sure. But I kind of suspect that they wish the same thing about me. Therefore, I make it a point never to bring up politics around them. I have one friend who usually abides by this, but every once in awhile has to throw in a comment that I just don't agree with. I will say something. Politely, but I still am not going to let it completely slide. I feel everyone has a right to their view and if they are going to express theirs, I will mine. I don't at all feel obligated to agree with them. This happened today on the school parking lot. I could tell my friend was frustrated that I didn't agree with her, but I don't. I tried to change the subject and we left on friendly terms, but as a parting thought she said that maybe we shouldn't talk politics. Touche.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reclaiming Krypton

In my previous post, Heather suggested I read Doug Muder's article in the UU World. I just received my copy and I hadn't gotten a chance to look at it. Heather was exactly right in that I should check it out. I really related to the article. I love his analogy of superheros. I am also a long-term comic book fan, but had never really stopped to think about Muder's point regarding orphans versus mentors. I think he is spot on. I suspect Muder and I are of different generations, as I grew up with the X-men (although, side note, my favorite comic was Cerebus).

Something personal to me, too, though, was that I did spend time as the "independent, outsider, figure it out myself" person - especially in high school and college. I came away with it learning that it is lonely and hard. One of the reasons that I was excited to find UU was its acceptance of my beliefs. It was a place to feel at home with other people. People of all ages - including people I felt to be mentors. I was tired of figuring it out all by myself. I love coming into community with people who had lived this life for a long time and had raised families in this religion. After being a UU for ten years, I also enjoy feeling like I mentor to newer families. The problem is, I am now back to feeling like I am alone in wanting more. I feel that Muder is right. I want that mantle. I want all that it entails. I am just not sure UU is ready to bring it forward.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Not Feeling It

I am having a very hard time getting myself to church these days. I am not sure why. I am just completely unmotivated to get there. I used to be so passionate about going - even when our old church was having issues. I like our new church. The people are great, the minister gives thoughtful sermons and I really like how socially conscious they are. But why am I not inspired? Why don't I jump up every Sunday excited to go to church? I used to. I miss that feeling. Honestly, I am more interested in going to the Lutheran Church that is associated with my kids school. I sort of feel that I have outgrown Unitarian Universalism. It fulfilled a need for a long time, but now I have moved on. I don't want to move on, but I am just not connecting anymore. What to do? I feel like I need more, but UU is just not offering it. I am tired of adapting other religions to ours. We have a deep history, but for some reason we rarely access it. Instead we tend to live by the living tradition. Which is totally fine for some, but I want the history. I want the roots. I want to say God and not "the mystery". I am not interested in celebrating pagan rituals or reflecting on Buddhist thought. I want our religion, not an amalgamation of a bunch of others. Sometimes I feel we are so piecemeal, I don't know that is truly ours. I realize for other UUs this is exactly what draws them in, but it is not enough for me. I don't know what to do. This weekend is our annual Bread Service. This used to be my absolute favorite service on the year. Now I am just "meh" about it. That saddens me and makes me realize that something is wrong. I just don't know what it is.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One by One

I feel like my local friend network is quickly disappearing. I am really sad about it. Yesterday, I quite shockingly found out my neighbor/friend will be moving in two weeks to Oregon. I am still stunned. Her husband stopped by to tell us. I haven't had a chance to talk to her myself. Another close neighbor will be moving this Spring. Another friend's husband has been relocated to Atlanta and yet another friend from the kids' school is putting her house on the market in February. I am at a loss. Each of these people were important to me in different ways and I can't believe they are all leaving at the same time. I wish them the best in each of their new adventures, but they will be greatly missed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day Shopping

I find it a great shame that so many stores have tried to capitalize on Veteran's Day by promoting huge sales. I realize Veteran's Day is not alone in the "excuse for a sale" holiday, but this one really irritates me. One ad I saw had a picture of a beautiful young women swinging a shopping bag with the words "Happy Veteran's Day" flying over her. Really? This is how we honor all those men and women who have sacrificed so much to protect us? Shopping? I felt like asking this model (yes, I realize paper can't talk back) whether or not she knew anybody in the military. If so, is this the best way to honor them? All the years of hardship, sacrifice, and dedication can be recognized in a 30% off sale. It is just sad. Thankfully, my father never saw combat. He was one of those rare few who joined at the end of the Vietnam war and then retired right before the first Gulf War broke out. We had to sacrifice enough with just that. I can't imagine how hard it is for families where your beloved is gone for year long tour of duties. The fear of whether or not they will come home. The children that have to grow up with one of their parents constantly deployed. War is scary and takes a huge toll on families. I will always advocate for peace but am enough of a realist to know that is not always possible. So THANK YOU to all those who have stepped up and served. You are greatly appreciated and respected.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Time Change Grumpiness

Why does the time have to change? It feels like we are messing with the cosmos whenever this happens. It has been a rough week around here because of it. I am practically falling asleep at nine o'clock and wide awake before six. I keep thinking that I should use this morning time wisely - but that would just be crazy. Middle son is really suffering. He is already an early riser and now it is even earlier. We finally made a rule that he could not leave bed before six. The result is that he is super grumpy by the time school is out and completely exhausted. Why do they mess with us this way?! Can't we just stick with one time?! Please?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Alma Mater

This past Friday, I drove up to my undergraduate school, Bradley University in Peoria, IL. My former college roommate was asked by the Biology department to give a presentation on her career. She currently works at the Shedd Aquarium and has had an interesting path in environmental science. Anyway, we thought it would be fun to meet there for a little reunion.

It was fun. I have actually driven through Peoria many times on the way to my dad's house, but haven't really gotten an opportunity to walk around the campus and check out all the improvements they have made. Above is a photo of Bradley Hall. I pretty much spent all four years there. My undergrad degrees are in International Studies and German. Except for the hard sciences, all the liberal arts and sciences classes were taught there. They recently remolded the Hall. I couldn't get over how nicer it looked. It seemed all fancy and new. It definitely did not have the feel when I was there. M presented in the Olin science building. They had built a new portion with amazing labs, but she gave her talk in the old wing. It was crazy because it looked EXACTLY the same from when we were there. They obviously had poured all the money into the new wing and did nothing to the older areas. I had taken several biology course while I was at Bradley* and felt an immediate flash back to those classes. In some ways, the campus was exactly the same and in others it had really improved. It was nice to see that.

M & I were talking about how we each came to Bradley. It isn't a super well-known school and Peoria isn't the epicenter of excitement. We were freshman in 1991-1992. Back then, Bradley was on the cutting edge of technology. I remember that one of the huge draws (besides giving me a big scholarship) was that every dorm room had its own computer and printer. That was HUGE in 1991. They even had this thing called "email". It was amazing. Thus, I didn't have to have my own computer (which very few people had or could afford) or go to the computer lab. Plus, email sounded really cool. M said this was also the big draw for her. For me, too, it was the right size, not in Iowa, but still only four hours from home. Would I chose it again? I don't know. But, I certainly don't have any regrets about it. I met my husband there, so that was a big plus. The only regrets I have are that I didn't fully take advantage of everything that college life allowed. It is such a small bubble of time, that I wish I would have completely maximized it.




*I also considered getting a degree in Biology, specializing in Botany. IS & German eventally won out!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

So Young

Due to the German band I play in and the German dancing Daughter does, we have performed at a fair number of Catholic venues. Something that has really struck me is the ages of many of the nuns and priests "in-training". They are just so YOUNG. We played at a retirement home (which was a blast), and I swear that the novices couldn't have been over eighteen! They looked so fresh-faced and happy. At another event, there were a couple of new priests that had to be in their early twenties. I overheard one of them passionately talking to a parishioner about some sort of research he was doing. His energy was infectious. What they all had in common, though, was their joy in their vocation. I look back to who I was at eighteen, and I couldn't be farther from that ideal. I was talking to another band member and we both couldn't get over how these young nuns could have already decided the rest of their lives. Sure, they can leave the Order (and I would posit most Catholics know a former nun or two), but I would imagine they enter the Order with the plan to stay. I think of that young priest with all his excitement over life and how he has chosen to frame it. I think any religious leader would tell you that it is not an easy life and it truly is a calling. I just can't imagine making that decision at such an early age and within a religion with so many boundaries. But, maybe that is exactly what they are looking for.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Interesting Church Fact

After the kids played at Chapel on Wednesday, I was talking with my sister-in-law who is one of the Ministers at the church. She was tidying up after the service and we were in the Sacristy. We were talking about various theological ideas, mostly Catholic vs. ELCA Lutheran. Since my kids go to a Lutheran School, were baptized Lutheran, and my oldest has had First Communion, I have been trying to learn more about Lutheranism. Sister-in-Law has a great sense of humor and was telling me how the sink drain in the Sacristy goes directly to the ground. Evidently, Jesus does not go into the sewer. I guess I had never thought about how they dispose of the Holy Water and Wine. I imagine that this is similar in Catholic churches (Bridgett??). I chalk this up to things you don't think about as the average lay person!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Musicality

Today, the two older kids played harp at Children's Chapel (the weekly service at their Lutheran school). It was very last minute and in front of the whole school. Additionally, it was the first time that they would play together without their harp teacher accompanying them(or even being there). Son was not so hip to the plan, but daughter was excited and I thought it would be a good experience in a friendly environment. It went great. I was so proud of them. Daughter really stepped up and led the songs. It was the first time that I had really seen them work together to make the music sing. If one of them got off, the other was able to bring it back. They actually listened to each other playing and responded accordingly. If you have ever played in a group (especially a duet), you know how important this is. It was like it all came together! I was also impressed with how well they conducted themselves. They had three songs to play (A Mighty Fortress, Amazing Grace, and Canticle of the Turning), but knew that they had to cover a certain period of time. With a lot of poise they knew to keep playing those songs until the Minister signaled to stop. I know this seems obvious to us adults, but I was really happy to see that they handled themselves so well. Yay!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happy & a little Sad

Above is one of my herb boxes. I am so excited, that due to the warm fall, my herbs have had a second life. I had been disappointed earlier in the season that I had not done a great job of harvesting. My dill came in super early and I didn't make the time to process it. I had also thought that my parsley was a lost cause. But, low and behold, it is going like gangbusters! I have already had a very good season of rosemary, thyme, sage, chives, and oregano. Even the lavender did well. Tomorrow I am planning on doing a lot of drying in hopes that I will have plenty through the winter.

Yesterday, the kids had their yearly doctor's check-up. Youngest son had been battling a rough cough for a couple of weeks and I mentioned it to the doctor. She listened to his lungs and asked if I had heard him wheezing. I hadn't noticed any wheezing, but evidently, to her ears, it was quite bad. She said that if it had been her or me, we would be in bed. She immediately gave him a breathing treatment and diagnosed him with walking pneumonia! Now he is on antibiotics and an inhaler. Poor little guy - I feel horrible that he has been dealing with this for so long. Hopefully he will be feeling a lot better in a day or two.

Monday, October 18, 2010

One Mission Accomplished!

One of the big reasons I was excited that Daughter wanted to do German dance is because she is painfully shy. Once she knows you and feels comfortable around you, she is very engaging and talkative. If she is unsure and doesn't know you well, she will barely speak - even if you ask her a direct question. It can takes years to get past this stage. With German dance, you dance with a partner (can't polka alone!) and that partner can change from week to week. Therefore, you get to know a lot of people. All told, there are probably fifteen people in the group. Yesterday, the troop performed at a Catholic Church's Oktoberfest. Daughter was paired with a strong-willed boy. It was so wonderful to see her take the lead and assert herself in doing the dance the correct way and not let her partner lead the wrong way. I was so proud of her! I felt like this was the first time she felt the confidence that I know she has deep down. It was a great moment, and, I hope, she builds on it.



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Library Book Pet Peeve

I love libraries. We are a reading family and there is no way I could afford to buy all the books we read. BUT, I have a huge pet peeve. The last two books I have checked out have been DISGUSTINGLY dirty. Food, snot, bugs, etc. It is super yucky. This last book even smells like gasoline. What are people doing?!? I am really liking my newest book, but every time I turn the page, I am nervous about what "surprise" I am going to find in the pages. Come on people -these are not your books to trash! Some of us want to be able to enjoy a book without feeling like we need a tetanus shot.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Finding my ground....

After a rough and bumpy start to Fall, I feel like the earth is starting to settle beneath my feet. Many things collided to cause much anxiety and stress. Thankfully, I feel like I am beginning to get a better grip on things and the world is looking a little brighter. The mouse situation is starting to get under control (we caught eight!), Oktoberfests are winding down, Husband is done with his extensive Boy Scout training, soccer tournaments are over, my germ/blood obsession is still there (but I am trying to manage it better), Girl Scouts have hit their stride, Sunday School is shaping up (after so much stress finding teachers), we have a new garage door, my library helper is FANTASTIC, kids are doing well in school, and I have actually planted some fall flowers!

The kids had last Friday off of school and, since it was such a beautiful day, we headed to the Botanical Gardens. It was so great to get away for the day and enjoy ourselves as a family. Just what we all needed. Made even better because Husband was able to join us for lunch. The above picture is of them pretending to be Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mice & Oktoberfest

There were/are mice in the house. This saga started a couple of weeks ago when I noticed droppings in the basement around my stored potatoes. Husband also noticed that his brewing grains had been ransacked. Little did I realize how extensive the damage was. Our basement is partially finished, but we hadn't been down there much since the flood in August. Well, that was to our detriment. The more I looked around, the more I realized that there was mouse poop EVERYWHERE. It was even all over the kids lego table (which brings up ideas that it was living in the lego castle...) and in the toy box. They gnawed their way through picture albums, Christmas stockings and pooped in all my spare pans and canning supplies. The more we uncovered, the sicker I began to feel. We had caught one last week and then nothing. So we started cleaning and cleaning and cleaning. Last night Husband was cleaning his workroom (where all the grains had been stored) and a mouse actually ran by him. Off to the store for more and different type of traps. He promptly caught two more. Where will this end?! We now have a variety of traps all over the basement. Do I dare be positive and think there were only three? The amount of cleaning we have been doing is massive, but I still feel like the basement is contaminated. The only (and I mean only) upside is that we have really cleaned out a lot of stuff that we just don't need. This will come in handy when we eventually have to have waterproofers come in and tear up the floor. But, I would much rather just not have a mouse. Between the basement flood and mice, apartment living is looking very attractive.

On top of this, September and October are busy months for the band and Daughter's German dance group. It has been fun playing at the various Oktoberfest's, but I have realized, again, how I really don't like crowds - especially ones with lots of drunk people. I think I am getting old and crotchety :-). Thankfully, when Daughter performs, it is usually in the afternoons and the crowds are mostly families.

I hope your Septembers are going well and mouse free!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

RE & Teachers

I know most congregations face this issue - how to get enthusiastic volunteers to teach Religious Education classes. This year I am the chair of our RE committee and it has been super frustrating. Our ingathering was last weekend and we are still looking for teachers. In fact, we had another one just drop out. I just don't know what to do. We have a great congregation full of energy, but we are struggling to find volunteers. I, and the RE Director & committee, feel all this pressure to put on a good RE program (and are trying really hard to do so), but can't get enough people to volunteer. It is has become disheartening. How do you all do it? How do you get the congregation (not just parents) involved? How do you get people to see the value in teaching? I am open to any and all suggestions!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Yep,

words are still coming out wrong. Moving to Wyoming is looking better and better.

When I am not making a fool of myself and annoying everyone around me, I did manage to go apple picking and can applesauce. Daughter made her first apple pie - all by herself and I made this fabulous dessert.

On a UU note, we had a great ingathering and picnic. It was so nice to see everyone after the summer "break".

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Quietness

It the last few days, every time I open my mouth, the words come out all wrong. I think I will just hole up for awhile and not talk.

Friday, September 3, 2010

UUA Children's website?

Does anyone know if there is a childrens/tween/young adult area on the UUA website? I didn't immediately see one. If there isn't one, who do you contact to encourage them to develop an area dedicated to those age groups?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Illness & Girl Scouts

It seems like the moment we stepped foot in the school, we got sick. I have had at least one sick child (often at home) since school started. Now I have got it, yay. Thankfully, though, the rest of school seems to be going well.

I also had my first Girl Scout meeting tonight. It was great to see the girls after the summer. We are down to just five girls in my Cadette/Junior troop. We are small, but have lots of fun. I really like these girls and am looking forward to all the cool things we will do this year. I am secretly hoping that they will be together trough graduation. The girls don't necessarily hang out together at school, but they jell well in the troop. It is a nice mix of personalities.

Hopefully I will be back on the blogging bandwagon next week!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Heart Asks Pleasure First

Admittedly, I don't have a ton of life goals beyond the usual: raise well adjusted children, make a difference, etc., etc. There is, though, one purely individual goal I have. It is to master the song "The Heart Asks Pleasure First" from the movie The Piano. I love the Gothic romanticism of that movie and its amazing music. The Heart... is by far my favorite. I have been working on the song off and on for years. I now have a little more time on my hands and I think I will re-devote a little time each day until I can play it perfectly. Alright, it may never be perfect, but at least passable. I am not a great piano player, so I think it is ok not to shoot for complete perfection. I actually have the songbook for all the piano pieces and I just love the titles: Big My Secret, The Mood That Passes Through You, Deep Sleep Playing, Silver-Fingered Fling, The Attraction of the Pedalling Ankle. This score was one of Micheal Nymans's best.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back to Talking about Prayers

Once again, Bridgett has pushed me to actually blog about something I have been pondering. Awhile I go, I blogged a little bit about how I missed having standard prayers in service. As most of you know, I was raised Catholic, and had to memorize certain prayers. I can still say them. Why? Because I said them most Sundays and a lot of Wednesdays for YEARS. I was quizzed on them. It was expected that every Catholic child could recite them. Since my children go to a Lutheran school, they also have to have certain prayers memorized. I am fairly certain other religious beliefs also have a cadre of prayers or meditations most adherents know by heart. Why don't we?! Yes, we have members that come from a wide diversity of backgrounds that believe many different things. I also realize some UUs have a lot of emotional baggage wrapped up in saying prayers. There is no reason though, that we can't redefine what prayer (or meditation if you prefer that language) means to us - especially as a denomination. I know we are congregationalist and balk at having too much hierarchical direction, but I think we are missing the boat on this.

A lot of people attend our churches looking for a sense of community and a spiritual home. I like to think that many of our congregations strive to be welcoming and work hard to bring the newcomer into to the fold. Once the newcomer is feeling settled though, I think we can kind of come up hollow in the theological area. I have met many UUs who sort of reach that level of being comfortable but not exactly sure what it means to be a UU. Adult Religious Education programs can help with this, but wouldn't it be great to have more structures within the service that connects us to each other. We have the chalice and a couple of hymnals, but after that, it is pretty much up to each congregation on how it holds services. Why not have a few prayers or meditations that are regularly said in all the congregations? What a wonderful way to connect with each other. I love the idea that UUs around the world are all saying the same words. That is powerful.

Obviously, this would not be an easy task to accomplish. I would call on the UUA to explore this idea. We spend a lot of time advocating various important causes, let's spend some time strengthening our foundation. I feel this would go a long way in supporting our congregants and our denomination.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Adjusting & Another blog?

I am still trying to get my groove to the new schedule. It feels all backwards. The days are quiet, but then the evenings are busy, busy, busy. The insurance guy finally called and will be here tomorrow. Hopefully, then, I can get moving on some house projects. I am also really missing my sewing area. While it was only minimally affected by the water, it is not usable due to everything piled in the room (to rescue from the water). I had just started a small quilt for my daughter and now don't have any room to work on it. Seeing Bridgett's beautiful quilt, makes me anxious to get moving again on it. Tomorrow I will be working at the kids library, so that will get me out of the house for awhile! I am not sure I am so good with being alone so much.

I am also pondering starting a another blog. I am not sure if I am ready to really tread in this area, but it will have to do with living in a changing suburb. By that, I mean one that is becoming more racially and culturally diverse and the benefits and challenges it brings. Any interest in that topic?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Getting closer

Someone is getting a step closer to 40 today. Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And they are off...

This is the first time in ten years that I don't have any of my kids at home. They are all in full-day school this year- 1st, 4th, & 5th. Of course, I am lame and forgot to take a picture. Hopefully I will remember when I pick them up. I am kind of sad about this. I really like having them around. People keep asking what I am going to do with my time. Plenty. If the insurance adjuster ever comes, I have a disaster of a basement to clean out. It was partially finished, so that will take quite a bit of time. There are also numerous house projects that have been put off that I hope to tackle. It would be awesome if I could get organized and actually fill-out the kids School Memory books. Currently the info (mind you daughter is going into 5th!) has just been stashed in one general area. I will still be running the school library. They now just want me to be there one full day instead of two half days. I was really stressed about it because my volunteer last year moved away, but then, like the clouds parting, a person came up to me today and said she would love to help!!! I couldn't believe it! I really like her and our boys are friends, so I am really excited to have her helping. Part of me thinks that I will, at some point, look into getting back in the workforce. We could certainly use the extra money. Things are really tight right now. I haven't had a steady job in almost ten years, so I am not sure how marketable I will be. But that is still a little farther into the future. So, that is what I will be doing with my time!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Putting-Up

I have been trying to get back into the groove of caning and preserving. The Philly trip and wet basement have derailed that a little bit. Before I left, I canned some green pepper jelly and blackberry jam. I also dilled carrots and dried tomatoes. I plan to can one more batch of the jam and make some jalapeno jelly (yum!).

I also made up a batch of spaghetti sauce and a bunch of pesto (pictured is just some of it). Both of which I wish I had more of. I am thinking I may get one more double batch of pesto from the garden. Fingers crossed.

I have also started drying the herbs. Pictured is oregano and underneath that is sage. I also have tarragon, rosemary, and lavender to dry. The darn bunnies ate all my parsley. I am very annoyed with them this year. They also happily munched their way through a bunch of my flowers. grrrr. I can't believe people keep them as pets!

We have also had a bumper crop of hops. I will harvest that shortly and it will soon become some awesome beer ;-). I am planning on planting some fall crops, but wow - I am just not so motivated. I think the hot weather and various other stresses have zapped all my energy. Hopefully I will rally soon!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Great Philly Road Trip: Part II - The Happy (b)

Saturday and Sunday afternoons were spent at the Landestreffen. This year it was hosted by the United German-Hungarian Club of Oakford, PA (outside of Philadelphia). After spending Friday learning so much about our early American history, it was kind of mind jolt to be surrounded by so much German culture. I am glad though. Both husband and I have a lot of German in our background, but neither of our families really delved into it. This despite my grandmas growing up in a German speaking home and Husbands grandparents both having German ancestry. I am also really enjoying it because one of my undergrad majors was in German, so it was fun hearing it spoken around me. I just wish I remembered more.

To start the event, all the German culture groups marched it. There were groups from Canada(2), Los Angelas, Milwaukee, Chicago(2), Cleavland, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and St. Louis.


They came close to filling a whole soccer field. There were the customary welcomes and anthem singing. Then the party began! At all times there was either a German band playing or a German dance group performing. There were vendors and food. It sort of felt like a mini-Oktoberfest. There were dance troops of all ages. It was fun to see their interpretation of the folk dances. Since this was not a competition year, they really had fun with them - especially the teenage groups.

Daughter performed in the younger youth group. I was super proud of them. They didn't get the best time slot, but they did a great job. It was worth the whole trip to just see her smile and have so much fun. She can be really shy and reserved, but opened up a lot on this trip. She had a blast.

I wish I could show more pictures, but I don't like to put up photos of the web without the peoples consent. I did, though, see more dirndls (traditional folk dresses) then I have ever seen in my life. The variety was amazing. Everyone was wearing them. It was fun to see all the older ladies rocking them. One of the groups from Chicago actually had custom made Chicago Blackhawk (hockey) dirndls made to celebrate their Stanley Cup win. I was disappointed there wasn't more lederhosens ;-) It appeared that only the Schulplatter groups were brave enough to wear them.

Overall, a very fun time!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great Philly Road Trip: Part II - The Happy (a)

My daughter dances in a folk German dance troop. This is her first year and she loves it. Every year, all the Danuaschwabian cultural groups get together for their Landestreffen (national meeting). This year it was in Philadelphia. Since we didn't have a family vacation this summer, we thought - let's go and make it a family event. We arrived a day early and set our for all the historical sites.

First the Liberty Bell. The kids were anxious to see if it was still cracked. I think they are still a little perplexed on why they didn't fix it....

We then headed to Ben Franklin's home/courtyard. This was very disappointing. The museum was exactly like it had been (underground) 25 years ago when I was last there. Ben Franklin was a fascinating person - his museum did not do him justice. It was pretty sad. The only redeeming part was the printing press and demonstration. That was cool.


From there, we headed to Betsy Ross' house. That was very interesting. I realized that I didn't know that much about her. They had managed to preserve a lot of her apartment and store front. I really admire women like her who are able to pull through in times of such tragedy. She lost two husbands and two children while managing to support herself through her upholstery shop.

We finally ended up at Independence Hall. To me, this was the most important part of the tour. So much history happened here. I am glad they are preserving it so well.
After all of that, we still had some energy left over and decided to go to The Franklin Institute. The kids had a blast. It is has a ton of fun science things for the kids to try and play with. Since we are members of the St. Louis Science Center - we got in free (yay!).

Most of Saturday was spent at the Landestreffen (which I will talk about in the next post).

On Sunday morning we had to pick-up a sewing machine - yep, you read that right. I am related to Elias Howe, one of the inventors of the sewing machine. My dad had found one of his machines on ebay. The seller would not ship it from Philly. Very conveniently, it happened we were there, so we picked it up (and I get to keep it!!!).


We ended our historical tour with Valley Forge. I have to admit, this was also disappointing. The land was beautiful, but the actual place was just not that interesting. We also made the mistake of taking the Ranger tour. We only had to go a quarter mile to see some of the cabins - but he talked for 45(!) minutes. So tedious. The kids, though, did have fun playing around in the bunkhouses.

I am really glad we went up early to see all of this. It is a thirteen-fourteen hour drive and I am just not sure when we will get to the east coast again. Both Independence Hall (including surrounding sites) and Valley Forge had Junior Ranger programs. I would highly recommend having your kids do them. They learn so much more by doing the activities then by just wandering around. Yay National Park System!

Tomorrow - Landestreffen!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Great Philly Road Trip: Part I - The Sad

* On the way up to Philadelphia - found out my aunt has breast cancer in both breasts.
* While there - got a phone call saying a pipe burst in our basement and it flooded.
* On the way home - learned that at friend from our former congregation lost her battle with cancer. She was only 42 and had children around my kids ages. This really hit me hard.

Tomorrow: Part II - The Happy

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tikkun Daily

I saw on the Interdependent Web blog that some UUs are blogging at this site. Can someone explain what exactly this is? Is it something new or have I just finally noticed it ;-)? Is their point just to bring together spiritual progressives? Any thoughts would be appreciated!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Just For Me

Tonight, the German band I play in performed before the start of the Sound Of Music production at a local outdoor theatre. These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Lots of fun, but exhausting. Tonight, I realized that playing in the band is one of the only things I do just for me. I was tired and didn't really want to go out tonight to perform, but I am so glad I did. It was fun, relaxing and meditating. I am not the best player in the band. Because of that (and the general relaxed nature of the band), there is no pressure. I can just be in the moment and enjoy the experience. I felt myself unwind and my mood greatly improve. Playing in the band is completely outside of everything else I do all day. As parents, it is easy to become so wrapped up in our families, that we lose a little bit of who we are as individuals. There is nothing wrong with loving to be with our spouses and children, but taking time to develop ourselves only adds to the greater whole. I guess what I am saying to all of you, is make sure you do something you love, just because YOU love it - not because you are expected to, need to, or feel obligated to. We all deserve to live a complete life.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Too Busy

(I have been eating this a lot! Nothing like a bumper crop of summer squash from the CSA)

It seems like a lot of things are coming to head in the next few weeks: daughter's German dance performance, my German band performance, desperate need to do some canning and preserving (blackberry jam, pesto, sun dried tomatoes, pickles, various herbs), trip to Philadelphia, back to school shopping, soccer practice, book clubs, orthodontist, finish a mini quilt, plan winter garden, plus regular household chores. I don't know why, but it seems like it all needs to be done NOW! I will be back when I have a better hold on my life. Hopefully sooner then I think!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Drama Queen

There is a long standing joke within the family that my sister is a Drama Queen. She is well aware of this title. Drama just continually surrounds her. In her youth, you could say that she was the source, but now it just finds her. There are never quiet moments. I am not sure why, but my guess would be that she is so open-hearted and believes the best in everyone (plus being extremely social) that she has an energy that attracts everything to her. Her wedding was no different.

Overall, it went beautifully. It may be best to just stay on that level.... But, the stories are more fun. The day before we all get there, her son wakes up with a horrible tooth ache. She takes him to the dentist and he decides it needs to be pulled. After a lot of hard work, the tooth finally comes out with the longest root attached the dentist has ever seen. This is a baby tooth and it won't fit into the holder! Her son, of course, is in a lot of pain. They get home and proceeds to throw up all over her couch. Not the bucket in front of him, but the couch, with company coming the next day.

We, then, all descended on her house Friday. She lives outside St. Paul, Minnesota. Pretty much all the family had to travel to her. Her finance's family is also from out of state. T and I were very nervous because this would be the first time our divorced parents and their new spouses would be in the same room together. It actually went well, if not a little awkward. Then I find out that T. saw dad's wife totally upset with him that my mom was there. What did she expect? That my mom wouldn't show up to her own daughter's wedding? Thankfully, my dad held his ground and as time went on, things warmed up.

The next day, the friend/decorator was to come and get all the decorations for the party. My mom had to meet her to drop off our surprise cake*. Of course the lady was two hours late and didn't know how to back up her own car(!). Thank God my mom and J. were there to help her get everything on to the boat because you had to back the car down this long ramp. I also need to note that Saturday was a gorgeous day except this pesky weather report stating a monster storm was headed our way.

In T.'s wedding invite, she stated that the actual service was going to be on a cliff. Supposedly it was a gentle walk up it. Since she said "gentle" most of us opted to go up. Well one person's gentle is another's rock climb. Amazingly, all of us made it. The view from the cliff was beautiful. It was all well, until they start the ceremony and I realize that my dad is not there! He is helping his 87 y/o dad walk up this "gentle" cliff. I am about to start waving my arms to stop, but thankfully as they are just about to say the I dos, my dad shows up. He and T. would have been heartbroken if he had missed it.

We slowly make our way down and the rain starts. It is gentle and we think that we have lucked out and missed the big storm. The boat is packed but we are all having a nice time. The view is just beautiful and the kids are loving it. We eat dinner and people start milling about. Thankfully T is upstairs because all of sudden a guest passes out, hits his head and falls to the ground. Minor chaos ensues and yells of 911. I wonder though, we were in the middle of a river, I am not sure how they would have gotten there. Evidently, the EMT kit is on the top deck, where T is. She sees it and the captain get nervous and thinks a child has gone overboard and starts to panic. After some tense minutes, the guy wakes up and manages to sit up. He has a nice lump on his head, but refuses to see a doctor.

Then the storm hits. It is HUGE. Everyone races to the lower deck and we close all the windows. Local parents are getting phone calls from their kids crying because they are in the basement due to tornado sightings. Parents are stressed because there is nothing they can do. To me, it felt like Gilligan's Island. We were totally stuck on this boat just rocking out the storm. Pretty soon everyone was feeling claustrophobic and a tad panicky. We eventually make it back to the dock, but aren't allowed to get off. The ramp to the boat is a huge downward incline and all the rain is rushing down it. If we open the doors, the boat would flood. We try to stay positive and eventually we are allowed out. It was a wet and dark drive back to the hotel, but I was so happy to get there! We learned that the hotel had to evacuate everyone to the basement while we were gone. I am glad I didn't know how bad it was until after it was all over.

T and T, amazingly, stayed in good spirits and were able to just go with it. Because, in the end, they got married and have lots of great stories to tell!



*My mom used to make us these cakes all the time. T. had decided not to have a cake, but a cookie bar. We felt she still needed a cake and made this up for her. She loved it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Sermon

The sermon went pretty well. Due to some things outside my control, the service was a little chaotic, but I felt like I handled it ok, and I hope people still enjoyed the program. Upon delivering the sermon, I really wished I had delved a little deeper and pushed myself to just make it a little more professional. I keep trying to remind myself, I am not a minister and have only given one other sermon, so hopefully people gave me a little leeway. It is not my best, so please don't be too critical!

Developing Your Own Spirituality: Why It Is Important

Good morning! I am T., a relatively new member to First Church A. I have been a Unitarian Universalist, though, for around ten years. In those ten years, I have been asked many, many times, so “what do you believe?” I imagine those of you brave enough to publicly declare your Unitarian Universalism have also been confronted with this question. Or, perhaps you have kept your UUism within the family. But, your child has come to you and asked “mom, do you believe in Jesus?”. “Will I go to heaven when I die?”

These types of questions can lead to a sense of panic in many UUs. We often deflect them with clumsy answers and hope the situation disappears. Or, we hope that the children’s Religious Education classes will eventually provide some sort of answers to life’s difficult questions. I find many of us tend to answer spiritual questions in the negative. For instance: Well, I don’t believe in Jesus as my Savior. Or, I don’t believe in a Heaven. Maybe we go even a little deeper and say “I don’t believe in organized, patriarchal religions.” And “My God does not discriminate on the basis of race, class and sexuality.”

Those are a whole lot of negatives, but does it really give us a clue into what we, at heart believe? What do you believe? Some of us cringe at the word spirituality. We are devout Humanist, Agnostics and Atheist and don’t see any room for spiritually in our lives. But, like it or not, we are spiritual beings. We have all wondered: why are we here? What does it all mean? Some of us push those questions away. How do we even begin to answer them? Others spend their whole lifetime devoted to seeking these answers. Because of our humanity, though, we will never really know. But how we choose to live our lives can fill the emptiness that almost all of us experience at some point.

Spirituality can be an ambiguous term. What does it exactly mean? For this sermon, I would like to use the definition that Fredric John Muir uses. “Spirituality is the word used to describe the interdependent workings of both spirit and soul. Spirituality is about this inner dimension.” It is what is deep inside us and how it manifests itself in our lives. I love this definition because it is so intensely personal. It does not require a belief in a higher being, but the thought that there is something holy/sacred in all of us. Many of us have come to church because we are looking for something more. That something more is spirituality. We are looking to fill our soul.

Why should we be bothered by explore our own spirituality? I come to church. Isn’t that filling the void? I like what the Minister says. I feel connected to the people. I get involved in all the wonderful Social Action projects the congregation participates in. Aren’t we all about “Deeds Not Creeds?” I am doing those deeds! I am living up to my idea of Unitarian Universalism! Why do I need to delve deeper? I feel good about helping others. I am contributing and living my values. I am leading by example. Hopefully those pesky questions will just disappear and people will just see that I am good person without all that baggage of creedal spiritual beliefs. I am free and happy!

I think we all realize that life throws us curveballs, though. It is hard to see the grace in a beautiful rainbow when your life is stressed out by work, health, and family and church is just one more thing on the to-do list. Where do you go when you have had enough? What do you fall back on when you need strength and hope? For more creedal religions, it is easy to turn towards scriptural doctrine. Just have faith! God has a plan! What do you do, though, if you aren’t sure you have faith? Where do you go when you just don’t know? How do you answer your child’s need to feel secure in something?

Spending time nurturing your spiritual side can lead us to be more centered, happier, able to handle stress better and lead a more meaningful life. We only get one chance at this life, why not make it the most fulfilling it can be? Jeanne Nieuwejaar, in her book The Gift of Faith, notes that “spiritual well-being, hope, faith, and inner peace all contribute to physical well-being. It has been well documented that people we are devout, who are clear in their faith, who are meaningfully connected to religious communities, and who are actively engaged in prayer or meditation recover more quickly and fully from serious illness and injuries.” The Rev. Barbara Wells observes that her spiritual practices helps her “stay centered on who I am, why I am here, and what I am to do. I believe I am a better person because of the spiritual path I have chosen.” Thus, not only does an active spiritual practice provide practical benefits, it also helps fill that deep need for greater meaning in our lives. Who wouldn’t want this?

I need to take a moment here and also make a special appeal to parents. You are your child’s primary religious educator. Sending them to Sunday School is just one small aspect of nurturing their spiritual development. We only have them for, at the max, forty hours a year. Where are they the rest of the time? With you, friends, family and a million other outside influences. Children are innately spiritual beings. Whether you help guide them or not, they will find answers to their questions. I remember a spiritual crisis I had when I was thirteen. All of a sudden it dawned on me that I was just an insignificant speck in the universe. It was a full blown existential crisis in the middle of South Dakota! I would have loved it if my parents had been open to theological discussions. I think it would have provided a lot of comfort that summer. Nieuwejaar states, “parents should take seriously their own religious grounding, their own religious education, their own spiritual nurture.” Only then can we provide our children with a deep, unified faith that will follow them to adulthood. It is yet another reason to purse spiritual development and practice.

Exploring spirituality and establishing a spiritual practice can seem daunting. Does it require special equipment? Do I have to walk in the woods and commune with nature? Do I have to pray every night? The beauty of spiritual practice is that there is no one size fits all. There are many ways to delve into your spirituality. The Rev. Scott Alexander considers spiritual practice to be any regular, intentional activity that serves to significantly deepen the quality and content of your relationship with the miracle of life.
Rev. Wells broadens this thought to include three components: personal devotion, finding a mentor, and worshipping in communion.

I find these definitions really encompass what I believe is important to spiritual development. To me, personal devotion has to be regular. Now regular could mean once a day, once a week or once a month. Something that is consistent. Many find prayer and meditation are invaluable. Others may find their morning run to be the most spiritual part of the day, while others journal in the evening. When was the last time you heard silence and could just be alone with your thoughts? In our over connected world, we are often hard pressed just to be alone. I challenge you all to find just ten minutes in your day to devote to some sort of spiritual activity. These can be the above mentioned ideas or uniquely your own, but something that brings you more deeply into yourself. If you are feeling that you need some more guidance, participate in an Adult Religious Education class. I have taken many of these (and I believe Rev. V. will be offering on in the fall) and have found them wonderful starting points in my personal mediation and prayers. Remember, there is no one prescribed way!

Rev. Wells also suggests finding a mentor. When I read that, I wondered what exactly is a spiritual mentor? Then I realized that I have had several religious mentors, but I considered them friends and hadn’t thought of them in those terms. To me, a spiritual mentor is someone I can freely bounce off spiritual ideas. They challenge me and question my thoughts. They listen to me and I listen to them. There is no right or wrong, but just an ongoing dialogue of discovery. Hopefully the mentoring is mutual and you both deepen and broaden your spiritual practice. Mentors can be found at church, in Chalice Circles or even friends of different faith traditions. I have even found some of mine through a theological book club that meets every couple of months! You may be surprised in how much you learn when you put yourself and your beliefs out there. The discussions can be quite dynamic and enlightening.

Finally, worshipping in community is one of the best ways to deepen and discover your spirituality. Coming together in the spirit of communion connects us to the greater whole. We are not alone in this world. Our lives have greater meaning and worshiping together helps us realize that larger focus. We are in this together. We celebrate together and mourn together. We grow and love together. Whether we are in a church, conference or retreat, coming together nurtures our souls and is as important as individual practice. While spirituality can be deeply personal, being with people who support your choices can be very life-affirming.

I have briefly listed three aspects of developing a spiritual practice, but I want to reiterate that there is no right path. There are as many paths as there are people. The path you choose now, may not be the one you need later in life. Almost every great spiritual leader has explored many different ways to their spirituality. The Buddha is an excellent example of going from one extreme practice to finding enlightenment in the middle way. It is okay to try several different methods. If journaling doesn’t work for you, try yoga. Just make sure to give it some time. Spiritual enlightenment doesn’t happen overnight (if it happens at all). Like most things, it takes practice and commitment.

Lastly, start small. Make little changes at first. A spiritual practice is not an all or nothing venture. One small thing my family does is light a chalice at dinner time and say a grace. The chalice connects us to our faiths tradition while the grace helps instill gratitude for the food we are about to eat. I especially like this tradition because it demands that we all be at the table, settled, and focused. It also, in a small way, helps the children connect with their own spirituality. It is a sacred moment for our family. Spirituality and spiritual practice are life long pursuits that begin when we are born.

In your order of service, I have included some Spiritual homework. I encourage you take a moment to reflect on some of the ideas I have listed and choose one to put into practice. My hope is for all of you to live the most meaningful life possible. We may never be able to answer all of life’s hard questions, but we do all have a soul that needs to be filled. Whether you choose to fill it is up to you, but the benefits of a happier more centered life are hard to ignore. Please give this gift to yourself and family. You deserve it!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Late/Early

This cute little boy was SEVEN days late. Seven days where the average temperature in St. Louis was 100 degrees. I had pretty much given up any hope that he would ever make an appearance. I had mentally resigned myself to being forever pregnant and uncomfortable. So much so, that when I finally went into labor, I didn't believe it. I just thought I had ate some really bad food. Husband had to convince me to go to the hospital (even though I was almost doubled over in pain). It was three in the morning and I didn't want to go out and I especially didn't want him to call his parents to come and watch Daughter! Insist he did and a few hours later he was born. Then a year of colic progressed and a borderline "failure to thrive" diagnosis. He weaned himself at nine months on a car trip to Pennsylvania. I sometimes wonder how we made it through that year, but we did.

And what a difference time makes! Today he is NINE!!!! He is never late for anything. In fact, he is the first up and the first ready. He gets things done quicker then anyone. His brain is constantly working solving problems. You can almost see the wheels turning. He is compassionate and caring (although this doesn't always extend to his little brother ;-). His love of animals is amazing. I wouldn't be surprised if he becomes a veterinarian. That is, if engineering doesn't get him first. He has an awesome sly sense of humor and quirky smile. We are so lucky that he is part of our lives. I love you, J! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Prayer

Last night I was working on my sermon for this weekend. It revolves around developing your own spiritual practice. I wanted to give some examples on ways to bring this into your life and suggested prayer. This got me thinking about all the prayers I know "by heart." Thanks to my Catholic upbringing, I can reflexively say the Our Father and Hail Mary. With some help I can say the Apostle's Creed and, on a small scale, know several dinner graces. When I think of Catholic prayers, I think of these. I know prayer's don't have to follow any pre-described plan and are often free flowing, but it got me thinking, what is a UU prayer? We quote lots of poets and wise people, but what would be a traditional UU prayer? What could I say when I just need to focus my mind and enjoy the flow of the words? I think I will again be demonstrating my conservative UU nature by wishing that we had some sanctioned prayers - ones that our children begin to memorize at an early age and that will stay with them through adulthood. Our diverse nature will probably prevent this from happening, but are we missing out? I know many bristle at the thought of losing our congregational nature, but why not make a few touch points that connect us all together? Sometimes I wish we could just push our need to be so open and individualistic aside and work together to make this religion more cohesive and unifying.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cluck, Cluck, Cluck

Just because Husband doesn't want backyard chickens, doesn't mean I can't have some sort of chickens! Meet Clementine and her chicks, Henry and Henrietta. As much as I love them, they are headed to a very special little girls house. We will need to quickly acquire some more.

If you want your own chickens, I used the FREE pattern from ikatbag.

****update****
I just realized this is my 300th post! That is a whole lot of navel gazing ;-)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Don't Be Tempted

This past weekend we were up in my hometown (Cedar Falls, Iowa - totally awesome place) for their town celebration. I really like going there for it because we get to visit my mom and they have a great parade. Like all town parties, there was a plethora of food booths. I usually go for the funnel cake or mini donuts, but this year Husband spotted fried Snickers*. Very intriguing. I could tell Husband wanted to try them, but was being too practical to spend the three bucks. I have no problem with that, so I bought a couple. It looks like a rectangle corndog on a stick. I took a bite and was completely disappointed. It was basically a chocolatey, peanuty, breaded melty mess. Next time I want a melted snickers I will just hold it in the sun and then eat it. So I warned you all! Spend the three dollars on the funnel cake - they never disappoint.


*At first I thought he said "stickers" and I could not understand why anyone would want to eat fried stickers. Who would even think of that?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Free!

We are officially free from school loans! And car payments! Yay! Of course, now that money is going elsewhere, but it is nice to know that we no longer have to budget those items. It feels good.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wishing Again..

Once again I am wishing I was at General Assembly (GA). It is hard to know that it is within a days drive and I am NOT THERE! I always told myself I would go when it was in Minneapolis, but here I sit, not there. I am disappointed. I just couldn't justify spending the money. It is amazing how much money it costs to raise three kids! I am also not a great planner and need to realize that I have to start saving money a year ahead of time. Even then, though, it is hard to lay it all out just for myself. I will watch it online, but there were several speakers I wanted to hear and am wishing I could be part of it "live". Someday....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In The Pulpit

I am starting to get nervous. I have to give the sermon in a couple of weeks at our new UU church. Last night, I stayed up late (for me) to try to get a rough draft done. I am afraid that it is a little too rambly with not enough substance. I very much want to make sure that those who come to hear it, walk away pondering and growing from what I say. I just don't want them to feel like they have wasted their time. It is a lot of pressure. I am glad I only have to write one, I can't imagine how hard it must be to write meaningful sermons week after week! I also need to get the readings together and something to say during the children's time. And the music! So much to plan. Please send some positive energy my way - I could use it!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Two Digits

Today she is ten. It is hard to believe I have been graced with her presence for a whole decade. I love this little girl. She is smart, compassionate, a bookworm and has a thirst for knowledge that knows no bounds. I look at her and wonder how I got so lucky! She is really everything I could have hoped for in a daughter. These last ten years have been wonderful and I look forward to seeing where life takes her. I am so glad I get to be on the journey with her. Her creativity and thoughtfulness amaze me daily. Happy Birthday, M! You will always be my shining star.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Baking Bread

Breaking Bread With Father Dominic

Today I took the kids to a baking class with Fr. Dominic Garramone. You may remember him from the PBS series "Breaking Bread with Father Dominic". We make his pizza crust almost every Friday. He was giving a week long course at the Aquinas Institute in St. Louis. I wish I could have taken the whole series, but am so glad that we made it to the kids class. We had a blast! I didn't realize how funny he is. I was nervous about taking the kids, mostly because I had no idea what to expect. I needn't have worried. He had the kids laughing and helping right away. He was very approachable and made sure every child was included. They made peanut butter bread and mini pizzas. It was all super yummy. If he comes back next year, the kids have already said they want to go back (even if we make the same thing!). It has inspired all of us to get back into the kitchen.

We then headed over to the Art Museum. One of the things I love about St. Louis is that the museums are FREE! You can just go for an hour and not feel like you have spent a ton of money and then left early. We have our favorite exhibits (knights, mummies, and modern art) that we always head to. The rest is just as we feel like. Since it still hadn't started raining, we walked around Art Hill and the reflection pool in front of it. A very good day. Now I am exhausted and ready for a quiet night.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Still Around

I came down with the flu(!). I am very annoyed because it is way too late in the season to get it. I am slowly getting better. Therefore, not a lot of theological thinking has gone on. I want to thank everyone, though, for their perspectives. It has given me a broader way to think about things, and I appreciate that. It is so easy to get pigeonholed into my one way of viewing things. So thank you! I will be back when I am not feeling so yucky and grumpy.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Religious Culture

Like a great swath of Americans, I headed home to rendezvous with some family. For us, we headed north to meet up with my dad, his wife, my sister and her family, and my four step brother/sisters and their families. All totalled, we were 27 people staying at my dads. This is a yearly event, and honestly, without it, I would probably only get to see my step-siblings (who all live in South Dakota) every few years. Soon my dad and his wife will also be moving back there, so I appreciate the short drive while I have it! We have had chaotic reunions, but this one went really well. All fifteen grandkids did great. All kids (my generation) had a fun time bonding and reconnecting with each other. It was exhausting, but fun.

My dad and his wife, E., have only been married a few years. It could have been strange inheriting this large family, but it really isn't. I like her family very much and have enjoyed getting to know them. I feel lucky that they are part of our lives. One thing that you notice quickly, is that they are really religious. Not in a creepy, evangelical way, but in a reserved deeply meaningful way. They are Catholic. So much so, that my father had an annulment from my mom (whom he was married to for 25 years), so they could be married in the church. When we visit, there is never any question about attending services. We will be going.

Honestly, I like it. I like that my kids are being exposed to part of my past and are interested in learning more about it. We talked about the church and what all the different parts of the church symbolized. We looked at the stations of the cross and the statue of Mary. I explained what it means to say the Rosary and what the little bowls of Holy Water are for. I have to admit it, I was a little sad to realize that my kids are missing out on this shared experience. There is a cultural legacy in being Catholic (as with many other religions) that my kids are not going to have. I don't know why, but it really hit me this past weekend. Whenever we visit, my kids will not be "in the know".

Being members of a religion affords you to partake in certain right or traditions. My kids will never be able to take communion. I can, but they will always have to pass. They won't grow up knowing all the awesome nuns I encountered. I am not sure they really even understand what it means to be a nun. They won't have first communion or be confirmed and understand the religious milestones it is to their extended family. They won't really understand our family's religious history. Of course, you can say "well, they do know about all the world religions and can discover their own path when they are older." Sure... but have I denied them a grounding in something that connects them with our larger family? I worry that they will end up being adrift with so many options that they will never really feel home anywhere. I see how centering it is for E.'s family and I want something like that for my family, too. I guess I am processing a lot right now.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Parents, Take Some Time

Last night my church had an Religious Education Town Hall meeting. It was very interesting, but one theme that emerged pretty quickly, was that most parents are uncomfortable answering their children's religious/spiritual questions because they don't really know themselves. Sunday school happens for about one hour a week. Teachers can only do so much in that short of time. Therefore, you, the parent, are your children's main spiritual guide. Children look up to their parents, and, hopefully, really value your opinion. I want to encourage all of you to take some time and invest in YOURSELF and your spiritual development. Read books, participate in any Adult Education your congregation provides, join a Chalice Circle, or devote time to daily meditation. The best influence you can have on your child in setting an example of what lifelong spiritual development in about. It is OK that you don't know all the answers (who really does?), but by trying to understand what you truly believe/feel can go a long way in easing difficult discussions with your child. Giving them the gift of faith, needs to begin by giving yourself the gift of faith.