Monday, December 26, 2011

One Christmas - Three Different Services

I managed to go to three different church services this Christmas: Lutheran, Catholic and UU. We traditionally go to the Lutheran kids' service on Christmas Eve. It is Husband's family church and attached to the kids' school. It is a fun, low key service in which we sing a lot of songs. Unfortunately, this was not their year. Three ministers presided and everything just seemed "off". They kept flubbing their lines and one of the ministers actually outed Santa Claus!! I normally really like this service, but left feeling like it was an after thought.

After a lovely evening with the extended family (after the service), I felt like I needed something a little more. Growing up, we always went to midnight mass at our Catholic Church and I liked how magical it felt. So I went to "midnight mass for wimps" at my local Catholic Church - which started at ten. I had forgotten that they had changed the wording to so many responses and affirmations. Thankfully they had a cheater-card to help you through. Even with that, only about half the congregation could get out the new words. After thirty plus years of saying phrases one way, it will probably take another thirty to get used to the new way. I was disappointed in the sermon. I have heard tons of Catholic sermons and expected to hear a similar spiel. In the end though, I was thankful that my kids were not with me. It started off well, talking about recommitting to one's faith and truly living it. Then it made a sharp turn into virginity, teenage sex, abortion, contraception, natural family planning, and the sacrament of marriage. I realize these are all strong Catholic tennets, but the priest kept going on and on and on about them. Yes, I realize that Jesus was born of a virgin, but why the Priest felt the need to make this point so much, I have no idea. It was getting pretty uncomfortable (even more so then the Catholic marriage classes I had to attend!). I felt sad that he used this night to push the Catholic pro-life message. It was very uninspiring.

On Christmas Day morning we went to our UU Church. Normally we skip church on Christmas morning so we can be lazy and just hang-out. This year, daughter was asked to play a song on her harp, so we went. I was so glad. It was a little less formal then I like, but it was really meaningful. We heard the Christmas passages in Luke and Matthew and then shared our most memorable Christmas stories. It was a wonderful morning of sharing and caring. I am so happy we went as it really demonstrated the true spirit of Christmas. Caring for one another.

I hope you all had a great holiday, in whatever way you celebrate it!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Unscientific Bible Review

If you remember, I won this Bible a couple of weeks ago. I finally had a chance to check it out. It claims to be "a fresh translation to touch the heart and mind" and to be very easy to read and understand. To test this out, I grabbed the boys (ages 7 & 10) and a couple of other Bibles for comparison. We used The Good News Bible and the Oxford Study Bible with the Apocrypha. Our sole criteria (thus why it is very unscientific) was how easy the verse was to understand. To me, the ultimate in easy bible reading is The Good News Bible. I got it when I was around ten at a Lutheran bible camp I attended. The Oxford Study Bible is also pretty easy to read and has the bonus of lots of notes.

The boys and I each had one of the bibles. We took turns choosing a verse and then we would each read that verse out loud. Afterwards, we decided which of the three versions was the easiest to understand. I had theorized that The Good News bible would win hands down. I was wrong. Nine times out of ten, the boys and I preferred the Common English Bible. I don't want to make it seem like it is a "dumbed down" version of the bible, it isn't. It just has a very nice readability that doesn't make it daunting like the King James version. I think this would be a great version to get, especially if you are new to the bible. The only criticisms I have are: 1. I like to have contextual notes and CEB doesn't have many. 2. I also like to have the Apocrypha. My version did not have it, but I think they do have versions that include it.

We gave it three thumbs up!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Overwhelmed

A stomach bug has been working its way through the family. I am TIRED. It is completely draining me. Additionally, I have papers and presentations due for school. Last night was one of them. I felt like I was going to be sick or pass out through the whole thing. It didn't help that the two who presented before me did an awesome job. I felt like I fumbled my way through the power point and barely made sense. As I was presenting, I kept thinking of all the things I should have included in my paper, but didn't think to when I wrote it last week. I don't even want to see the class evaluations. It was just too embarrassing. I was able to listen to one more presentation and then I bailed before I got seriously sick. I am just so disappointed in myself. Why couldn't I suck it up and do a better job?! All the end of the semester school work (and being sick) is starting to take its toll. I will be so happy for December 16th. Now to go prepare for the Girl Scout meeting tonight.

Chalica: Day 3

Chalica Day 3.

Chalica: Day 2

Day 2.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chalica: Day 1

I have to admit that Chalica snuck up on me this year. Life has been very busy with school (sooo many papers to write!), sick kids and non-ending basement renovations. I will be so happy for the New Year! I always dream big and remember that last year, I was going to do this year's Chalica bigger and better. Well that isn't going to happen. But, thank goodness for blogs! I am pretty much going to do exactly what we did last year with some minor adjustments. I will link to last year's post each day. Obviously, if you want to plan ahead, check out last year's entries.

Chalica: Day 1: Today we light the red candle, honoring the inherent worth and dignity of EVERY person.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I Won a Bible!!

I am super excited about it. Yes, there were only two people who entered, but still - I WON! I am also excited because I am eager to check this Bible out. It is a new edition called the Common English Bible. It claims to be easier to read and understand. I love comparing different versions of the Bible and am eager to see how this one compares to the others in my collection. I am also teaching that Bible study class and, if this is easier to understand, I hope it will be helpful to us all. I can't wait to get it in the mail! Thank you Craig for hosting this giveaway!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent

Advent and Christmas can be a tricky time for UUs. When you get right down to it, Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Our forebearers didn't have much of an issue with it considering we come out of the Christian tradition. Today, though, many of us are a little uncomfortable with talking about that aspect of the holiday. To me, though, it is very important. There is a real reason Christmas is celebrated and it is not just for the presents. If you do celebrate Christmas, I think you should understand it. I feel it is especially important to teach my children the "reason for the season." I am well aware that many UUs do not define themselves as Christians, but that is not a reason to not understand the tradition. If you do celebrate Christmas, I encourage you to delve deeper. Advent is a time of patience and preparation. Beliefnet has a great online Advent calender that provides a spiritual practice with historical interpretation and modern applications. I encourage you to check it out and hope you all have a reflective, peaceful Advent season.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

'Tis the Season & Chalica

I have a very strict "no celebration of Christmas before Thanksgiving rule." It it not because I don't love the Christmas season, I do, but I want to keep it somewhat sacred - not just commercial(see my other blog for my dad's assessment). Plus, while I am not so hip to how it came about, I do like setting a side a day just to be thankful - especially with family. I like that there is little expectation beyond eating and spending time together. This year we threw in a dads vs. kids football game. Totally fun, although, the dads/grandpas required some Motrin afterwards. We may rethink that next year! Anyway, it was really lovely and I am so thankful to have such a fantastic family.

Anyone out there planning on celebrating Chalica? It is coming up pretty quick. I plan on blogging about it again, but would be very curious to see how others are celebrating.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Writer's Block

I have a big paper due for school. I want to have it mostly done by Thanksgiving. I actually have a lot of it written, but I can't seem to get it finished. I am having massive writer's block for the conclusion. I think it is because I am not happy with the paper. I had wanted it to be great, but I think I will have to settle for mediocre. I don't like mediocre, but I can't figure out what to do to take it to the next level. I think I will just have to let it go...not everything has to be amazing.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Another Blog

I started another blog called The Awkward Side of Life. It is more focused on the silly, random, and awkward things that happen to me. If you are interested, put it in your reader because I can't predict how regularly I will update it - as you all know the awkward happens on its own time!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Guest at Your Table

I am getting the boxes and Stories of Hope together for GAYT tomorrow. This year, I actually got my act together and we will be handing them out during Bread Service at church. I really think these two ideas tie in nicely together. I love honoring our past and current community by breaking bread together and then to help spread our wealth to those most in need. This year I am speaking during the children's moment and hope to inspire them to help out with UUSC. I have volunteered with them for years and am continually impressed with their commitment to empower people. They work with already established local organizations to support the organization's work. They don't come in and "tell" people what needs to be done. They empower them to help themselves. If you are a member of a congregation who participates in GAYT, please consider giving. I have personally seen some of the amazing work they do and the difference they have made. Thank You!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Taking a Risk

Husband and I are not risk takers. Not even close. I can't think of anytime that we really took a plunge into something that we didn't have a pretty good idea on how it would turn out. We have lots of ideas on things we would like to do, but never take the next step. Both of us would like to have our own business, I have a couple ideas percolating in my head right now, but the risk always holds me back. What if it doesn't work? What if we lose a ton of money (that we don't really have)? Can I justifiably risk our future security on my idea? I have three kids to worry about! --See I can come up with a million excuses. How do you let that go? I keep telling myself we only have this one life and need to take full advantage of it, but then I play it safe. I look at the economy and how many people are just barely surviving that I don't want to put our family in that situation. We are comfortable. Things are working fine, why stir the pot? Why? - Because I don't want to coast through this one life. I see people living their passion, and I want that too. I want to make some sort of difference in the world. Now I just need to find the courage to do it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Scientists

Last night during my environmental science class, the professor had us read a great article about the stages of 'denial' that skeptics take when they don't want to believe the scientific evidence. Usually this occurs with businesses who feel that to change their practices would constitute exorbitant costs and economic ruin for the country. In fact, it has been shown that most industry changes, due to environmental regulation, have actually costs significantly LESS then what was expected and has led to new industry discoveries. But people don't like change and will fight it tooth and nail. In the end though, I felt hopeful. Looking through the stages, it gave me a little optimism that there would be an end and that the skeptics would finally acknowledge the evidence. The professor made the good point that it was our job to help people graduate to the 'next' level. I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

In honor of the Clarinet

Today, the woodwind quintet I play with performed at one of the local UU congregations. It has been a long while since we have performed in front of an audience and I had forgotten how fun it is. I have been fighting an allergy cough and was just hoping not to break into a coughing fit right in the middle of the piece. I am so happy that it went well! My usual performance anxiety issues stayed mostly away and I just let myself get into the music and enjoy it. I had also forgotten how many little solo bits I had. So glad that I did not embarrass myself! I have been playing the clarinet for twenty-five years. That is a crazy long time. I have been with this current group on and off for about ten years. We are very casual, just a group of non-professional musicians who like to play together. We mostly perform at UU churches (thus a friendly audience ;-) and are open to most styles of music. We lean towards classical (today was Hayden), but have been known to play the themes to Monty Python and the Pink Panther. I am so grateful for this group. We have seen each other through babies, job changes, cancer, moves and every other sort of life milestone. I am most grateful, though, that we can share the music.

I am not an amazing clarinet player, but I love it. When I tell people I play in a quintet*, they immediately ask what instrument. I say the clarinet and the conversation kind of ends. The clarinet is often seen as the vanilla of musical instruments. It has value by itself, but is made a lot more interesting with others mixed in. It is not exotic, lots of people play it, and doesn't have a big cool factor. It is true that in the quintet, my part bounces around. One minute I am with the melody (flute and oboe) and the next with the bass (french horn and bassoon). My role is usually the filler. I am ok with that. To me, it means that I get to play a bigger variety of music. The clarinet is awesome that it can play high and low. My range is huge. I love its mellow sound. It isn't squeaky like the oboe, piercing like the flute, or nasally like the saxophone. It is a warm sound that fills me with joy. I can't imagine not playing it.






*a woodwind quintet is comprised of: flute, oboe, clarinet, french horn, bassoon

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Older Student

I have really enjoyed going back to school and being an "older" student. In my program, I am probably right in the middle age wise, but since I graduated from undergrad 16 years ago and grad school 11 years ago, I feel a whole lot older! I love it. I find that this time around, I am a whole lot more relaxed. Things that stressed me out back then, barely phase me now. My perspective is a lot more rounded and not so focused on that one big assignment due. And, while I try for an A, it is not that big a deal if I get a B. The only one I am competing with is myself. I also like that I have a much different relationship with my professors. Before, I was always a little in awe of them and afraid of saying or doing something stupid. Now I see them as they are: people. Several of them are around my age and I feel we relate at a totally different level. I have had some great conversations with them after class about life, family, work, and balance that I would NEVER have had when I was eighteen. I am not afraid to ask questions and for help when I need it. Plus, school is so much easier now! Not that the content isn't challenging, but research is so different. Remember all those hours spent in the library? Writing up note cards? Hunting down Journals? Not having a personal computer? Now I can just stay at home and do almost all my research from my couch. Journals are online, finding contacts and information is just a click away. My computer program actually corrects my spelling and grammar! What will school be like in another twenty years? I am so thankful for where we are at. Going back to school would have been ten times more difficult (especially with three kids) if these things did not exist. Yay technology!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween & Neighbors

I hope you all had a fun Halloween. I love Halloween, but always feel a bit of apprehension about it. I don't know why. Maybe it is all those movies that portray Halloween as a night of terror and egg-throwing. It is the unknown, and I am not very good with that. Since we live across the street from the in-laws and the cousins are also in town, we congregate at grandma and grandpa's house. We set up a fire pit and put out three or four buckets of candy for the kids to choose from. It is fun. The dads take the kids around and we hand out the candy and chat. Since we are on a cul-de-sac, we seem to be hit or miss with the trick-or-treaters. This was a pretty good year. We only had a couple of group of annoying tweenagers who didn't dress up and just wanted the candy. (they irritate me sooo much - at least try a little bit!). Mostly, though, it was just neighborhood folks. I love that this is one of those few opportunities that get people out of their houses chatting with each other. It is fun, informal, and a great way to get to know each other. I wish we had more opportunities like this. I know my cul-de-sac neighbors well, but we live in a large subdivision and I hardly know anyone else. Face-to-face meetings make all the difference. Knowing each other makes better and safer neighborhoods. I am glad to get to know mine!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Get Moving in RE!

I really love my 5/6th grade Religious Education class. They are a group of very bright, and very spirited kids. There is A LOT of energy in this class. At first it was a little daunting, but now that I realized what works - we are have a lot of fun. We have been using Shelter Rock's UU curriculum "The Questing Year." I like it a lot. It is easy to follow, very adaptable and presents the content in a fun way. One of the best aspects are the "Energy Burners". These are breaks in the in session to just move around. Wow - these have been helpful. Today I presented the first half of the lesson and realized that there was NO WAY that the kids would be able to sit through the second half. I made the decision to just finish with the energy burner. It went great and played so well into the lesson. The kids moved and had fun while debating some pretty important topics. We expanded the idea and I think the kids loved it. Sometimes, the best thinking occurs while you are in action!

Gifted Program & Parenting

My two oldest children have been in the gifted program through our school district for quite a few years. My oldest is now a middle schooler, so it is just my middle son who is still in the program. Last Friday were conferences. I guess I don't always realize how we appear to other people. I am fully aware of the drama that is our lives, but must do a pretty good job of hiding it around others. I was talking to his Robotics teacher and, as there weren't any other parents around for the moment, we digressed into parenting issues. I had mentioned how J is probably our hardest child and how we had to sometimes "bargain" certain issues. The teacher looked at me flabbergasted. He was "really?" and I am like, "yes." Now I am feeling completely embarrassed that we have had to do that. Maybe others don't? Then he said, "well, that actually makes me feel really good." (He has a teenager at home that isn't the most motivated and I sensed that perhaps bargaining happens frequently.) Somehow the teachers had gotten the impression that it was all rainbows and unicorns at our house. I definitely have fantastic kids and feel grateful for them, but we are human and have our "moments" too. I am just lucky they mostly happen in the house for just me to see! I am glad, though, that I made him feel better. Parenting is hard enough - no one needs the guilt of feeling that they aren't doing a good job. We all do the best we can with what we have.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Halloween & Sustainable values

Dr. Doofenshmirtz, Poseidon, Yoda, Athena

We love Halloween around here. There is nothing better then dressing up like someone/thing else. I am especially enjoying the kids costumes this year. I really appreciate how my kids are into making and reusing their costumes. Especially after beginning these sustainability classes at SLU, I have been really trying to reassess how we do things around the house. Husband and I have always leaned towards green practices, but definitely get lazy or "cost-effective". I would love to make a more strident commitment to our values and truly living them. Of course, we are human and perfection will never happen, but I feel I could be much more dedicated. A woman in one of my classes always is espousing the need for radical change. While I am more of centrist, I see her point. I need to get out of the middle and try a little harder. The future is worth it and I want to instill in my kids the commitment takes work. And that work has great payoffs. So, we will recycle Husband's (Dr. Doofenshmirtz) work lab coat, re-size Zeus's robe for Poseidon, Luke Sykwalker's cape works great for Yoda and Isis has now become Athena. Creativity and green-living work together remarkably well.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Long Weekend

This past weekend we headed up to Minneapolis for a cousin's wedding. It was a good trip, despite the long drive and speeding ticket! Whilst there, we got to catch up with a lot of family (my sister), husband's extended family, and friends. On the way back, we stopped off at my mom's in Iowa. It is just hard coming home. I really miss being near my family. We live next to my husband's family and get along great, but it isn't quite the same. I wish we lived closer together and could just hang out more often, instead of quick visits here and there.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bible Study

Yesterday was my first Bible Study class at church. I was a little nervous to lead it. I am certainly not a biblical scholar, but I was hoping that we would have a nice dialogue as a group. It went great! So much better then expected. I am really excited to lead the class this year. I had five people attend and we had a very interactive introduction class. I asked them what they are most interested in discussing and from that I will map out the future classes. So far, so good!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Feast Day!

Daisy (aka daisychain)

Tulip (aka tuliptree)

Today is the feast day for St. Francis of Assisi. I have a soft spot for him. Longtime readers of this blog know that I became a vegetarian because I couldn't stand the thought of an animal dying just for me to eat it. Especially when there were/are so many other options. I have been a vegetarian for over twenty years and that feeling hasn't changed. As long as I have a choice, I will always choose to be vegetarian. What I love about St. Francis is that he was one of the earliest people to see the intrinsic value that animals have. They were more then food, workers, and "enemies". They had value to this world and without them, we would suffer. I appreciate him for that. So today, I will give my dogs an extra hug and treat and say a prayer of thanks to all the animals that have been sacrificed for humanity.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Coffee!

Today is National Coffee Day! Coffee is by far my favorite beverage. I drink way too much of it. The habit started when I worked at a donut shop in high school and just escalated from there. The coffee industry, though, is not without its issues. I try to always drink Fair Trade and I hope you do to. Thankfully, it is getting easier and easier to find. If your congregation sells coffee, I strongly encourage you to buy through the UUSC's coffee project. They work with Equal Exchange (who works with many different interfaith organizations). This past weekend I toured their headquarters in Massachusetts and met with many of their staff. They are a truly dedicated group of folks that make sure their coffee is only bought from fair trade coffee cooperatives. So drink up - just make sure it is an honest cup!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Flying

I hate flying. I try to avoid it at all costs. I am convinced that it will end horribly and am reluctant to make plans that involve flying. Sometimes, though, it can't be avoided. And, honestly, I have had really good flying experiences (knock on wood...). My dad flys constantly for work, in addition to being a navigator for planes in the Navy reserves, so he thinks it is ridiculous that he has a daughter that hates it so much. I won't even step on a plane unless I have my St. Christopher pendent on. I also have a hard time relaxing on a trip because I spend most of it worrying about the plane ride home! It is silly, but fears are irrational. I keep thinking of that Mary Oliver quote regarding what "will you do with this one wild and crazy life?". I don't want my fears to stop me. I want to live this one life and not hide in fear. I had to really psyche myself up for this past trip to UUSC headquarters, but I am so glad I went. I will write more on that later, but I am glad I didn't let the fear stop me. I want to live this life and I want my kids to see me living it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Headed To Boston

Tomorrow I am leaving for the annual Regional Coordinators meeting for the UUSC. While I hate traveling in general, I have never been to Boston, and am pretty excited to finally visit it! I am also excited to see UUSC headquarters. I have volunteered as an RC for several years and this past one I did not do as good a job as I wish I had. The last time I went to an RC meeting was almost four years ago when we met in New Orleans. It was a wonderful and inspiring experience. I am hoping to get that again from this weekend. I will keep you all posted!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Good RE Problem

This past Sunday was the first day of Religious Education for the new church year. We are literally bursting at the seams with kids. I am teaching the 5/6th graders and we had to add chairs to the classroom. Such a great problem to have. If you had seen our church just five years ago, you would have never guessed we would be having this problem now. Our RE program has grown from around 25 kids (on a very good day) to 60! It has been wonderful to watch the RE program get organized and a little more formalized. While there will always be issues and improvements needed, I feel like after a few years of really hard work, the program is coming together. I hope that the children and parents are feeling the same!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Who is this Girl?

My daughter has come out of her shell. For the past ten years, she is has been quiet, pensive, curious, reserved, and only truly comfortable around people she knows well. These past few months, I have noticed that she is breaking out. I don't know if it just age, she is now eleven, a combination of successes she has had in various activities or sheer determination on her part - but she is putting herself out there! It started slowly with initiating conversations with acquaintances (if you knew her and her painful shyness, this has been huge in itself), asserting herself, and now actually wanting to go to a school dance! While she has always been interested in new things, they have steered towards the solitary. This year she is on the volleyball team and loving it. I am so proud of her, but am now realizing I have a to start relating to her in a different way. I had assumed (wrongly), that I would not have to deal with the middle school dances. Now she wants to go! Me, being over protective, is not so sure. I like having my kids at home, safe, with me! But, they are growing up. I completely trust her, it just all those other people ;-). I like having control and, as the kids are getting older, I am slowly having to let it go. I am still adjusting to this idea.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Morning Complaining

Quickest way to get someone to stop complaining about church? Ask them to volunteer.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Short-Sighted

I rarely delve into politics, mostly because I can't stand politicians and the fact that we are so limited in our choices. Yes, I vote, so I feel I can complain ;-). Classes are in full swing for me and it is hard to stay optimistic. Most of you know I am going back to school for a Masters in Sustainability (I hope to work with religious institutions in helping them and their congregants "go green"). Last nights class really delved into where the earth is going if we continue on our destructive, consumerist path. What was most frustrating was to see how the US and China are the largest polluters, and to learn that CHINA is now taking more steps to sustainability then we are!!! It is embarrassing the completely self-centered focus that is prevalent here. Of course, not everyone is like that and there are many people doing amazing things to help the environment, but we are so behind in getting policies passed that it is hard to consider us a developed country. The pull that special interests/big business has is incredible. Short-term gains continually trump long-term benefits. Don't these people care about the future? The future that will contain their kids and grandkids? I just don't understand. The OECD reports that with just the cost of 1% of the GDP for 2030, we could reverse the effect of much of our negligence. It just makes me sick. Our professor tried to keep it hopeful in that we can affect change and become leaders, but when you see how many people have tried to lead the charge and failed, it is disheartening. I will try, and I know my classmates and many others will try, but how do you convince lobbiest, special interests, politicians, business men/women, stakeholders that a little cost now will create great benefits for the future? It feels like they only care about themselves and how much money they make.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thoughtful Food (article)

I just read this wonderful article in the current issue of VegNews Magazine. Imagine my great surprise to find that the author was a UU Minister, the Rev. Mary Margaret Earl! The article discusses the connections between food, homelessness and hunger. I would very much encourage you to pick up an issue and read it. Rev. Earl really captured what I have felt for such a long time and, unfortunately, was not able to express very well. My congregation hosts a lunch once a month for the hungry and this article has re-inspired me to up my vegetarian/vegan efforts. I am also going to ask the food ministry at our church to see if they would be interested (with my help ;-) in sponsoring a Healthy Body Mind and Spirit event like the McAuley House. Thank you for the inspiration and ideas Rev. Earl!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Train People

This past weekend, I took a train ride up to Bloomington/Normal (then continued on to Chicago via car). It is fascinating to people watch on the train. I was at the Alton station at 7.00am on Friday and it was packed. I quickly discovered that this weekend was a two game Cardinal/Cub series in Chicago. Thankfully I was meeting someone who grabbed the train in the City and saved me a seat, otherwise I may have ended up standing for the two hours. I get on the train and there are the people who have obviously been on the train for LONG TIME, the families, and the drunks. People had started drinking on the train platform and that continued right on to the train. I was thankful that I was getting off at Bloomington, because I can only imagine how loud and crazy it was going to be by the time it rolled into Chicago. Because of its affordability, the train attracts everytype of person. I have seen youth groups, families, just released prisoners, college kids and every person in between. Trains are truly a study in humanity!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Frustrated with the UUA

I want to lead a bible study for our church this fall. I am certainly not an expert in bible studies and am looking for a guide. I figure it will be a forum for discussion and discovery. UU comes out of the Jewish and Christian faiths and I feel that it very important to understand the books important to these faiths for a greater understanding of Unitarian Universalism. Anyway, I went to the UUA website to see if they might have a progressive Bible studyguide. They don't. I then checked out the UCC's website and found a great deal of information. Why don't we have this?! Why do we continually deny our heritage. Why don't we try to understand it better? Along that lines, why don't we publish our own bible? Where are the progressive bibles? Shouldn't we take this on? Is it out there and I just missed it?! After viewing the UCC website, I am feeling that the UUA could learn a lot.

For those who have led bible studies - any suggestions on how to go about it? Any good sources you know of?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pagans, Witches, & Christians

(photo from Amazon)

I recently finished this book. While it is a fictionalized account (based on historical details), it gave me a lot to think about. Roughly, it is about the Salem witch trials and a modern day decedent of one of the victims. What I thought the author did a fantastic job of was connecting the close tie between Christianity and pagan beliefs. She really captured that point in time when these ideas were closely linked. So many people think that witchcraft was an "evil" trade. What the author demonstrates, though, is how this was not at all the case. What was "evil", were the accusers condemning innocent people to death. Most of these healers were devout Puritans who started each incantation with the Lord's prayer. They helped through knowledge of herbal medicines and energy transfer (often characterized as New Agey today). The point being, though, it was perfectly acceptable to be a Christian and draw upon the earth's energy - they were not mutually exclusive. Of course, this idea is not unique to the Salem trials. Looking into paganism, it has a long history of partnership with Christianity and Judaism. How did we lose this connection? Why did it become sacrilegious? While I am not planning on converting to full-on paganism, I think it has more to offer then we give it credit. I am thankful, though, that I am part of religion that is completely open to understanding what it brings to the table.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

TV

This past weekend I was in Iowa for my mom's 60th birthday. It was a lot of fun. My sister also came in town and we got to spend some girl time together. One of our favorite activities is to go wander around downtown. Cedar Falls has really spiffed itself up since we were there and has totally revamped the downtown area. It is now full of quirky and fun shops and restaurants (oh, where were they when I lived there!?!). Anyway, as we went to into Crazy Girl Yarn Shop, we realized that they were shooting a commercial. Evidently, Google is looking to host small business sites and is making commercials to help promote the program. Crazy Girl was randomly selected, as was I! I have no idea if I will actually make it into the small commercial (most likely just my hands making a purchase), but it was still fun. Thankfully we had come from getting family pictures done, so I looked a little more put together then my usual self. My sister couldn't believe this happened. She is known in the family as having lots of drama surrounding her, I am known for having randomly weird things happen. What is strange, is that every time I go to Germany (sounds like I go a lot, but only three times over thirteen years ago), I get interviewed for German TV. Each time I am pretty sure I made a fool of myself and ended up on the cutting room floor. As I have noted before, my command for the German language is pretty sad and I know I frustrated quite a few interviewers. I have no idea why this keeps happening, but I suspect it is because I am very generic looking. I stand out because I am just middle of the road. I think they are looking for the "everyday" person opinion and I fit that bill. Anyway, my sister about died when this happened to me again. I will keep you posted if I actually show up on the commercial. I warned the video guy that I might look like a good choice, but I really don't photograph well! (and it did take a couple of takes....)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Finish It Up!

Table Runner

I actually finished a Finish It Up! project!! My mom asked me to make this for her THREE years ago. As you can see, it was nothing complicated, yet I just could not get it done. I had grand plans of hand sewing the whole thing and I did hand piece it all. But I just couldn't get the hand quilting to look nice - so I put it away. For three years. What finally got me moving? My mom' 60th birthday. She deserves me to get this done for her - she has waited long enough! This project kept staring at me and the guilt was almost unbearable. There was no reason why I couldn't get this done for her. She has made me SO MANY handmade things, that at least I could do is this one simple thing made. I finally let go of hand quilting. I can be a perfectionist in sewing (as is my mom...) and just couldn't give her sub-par work. So I did a very basic machine quilt. My mom doesn't like fussy, so you will notice that there isn't much "pattern" quilting - just outilining. Once I set my mind to it, I finished it in an evening (including hand sewing the binding). She was very happy to get it for her birthday - I just wish I could have given it to her years ago. Next time she will not have to wait so long!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Participating

Like a lot of Unitarians, we tend to "take the summer off". This summer has been no exception. I have also realized that I have been feeling really ungrounded. School, while enjoyable has been pretty stressful (I am working on a large project for the city), the kids have been busy with various activities and we have been tearing out our finished basement in preparation for the workers who arrived at 6.30 this morning. It has been a non-stop summer. I have been feeling stressed and adrift - just trying to manage it all and keep it together. This past weekend, though, has brought some clarity. I need to go to church! I have been feeling unconnected and didn't realize how I was suffering because of it. This past weekend, I baked brownies for our 4th Saturday lunch (a program to feed the local hungry) and a cake for a memorial reception for a long time member who passed away. The kids and I WENT TO CHURCH on Sunday and it felt good to be there. I realized how much I needed it. Appropriately enough, the sermon was about spiritual practice. Going to church on Sunday is a spiritual practice and one that I need to get back into. After the service, I just felt so much better. It was the grounding I needed. I love these people and they love me. Being there brought me back to the center and I am grateful. There is a reason we worship together.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Style Stitches: Month 7

Key Keeper Coin Purse

This little gem is suggested to accompany the month 6 Teardrop Bag (which I love and have been using constantly). While I like it, the zipper installation was a huge pain and ended with an opening that is almost too small to do anything with. My daughter can't even get her hand all the way in! Additionally, there is a pocket inside - which really just functions as a divider. If I ever make it again, I will investigate a different zipper installation and just leave out the interior pocket.

Month 8's project is a fringed structured hobo bag. I have to admit that I don't like the look of it at all. Since I have a ton of sewing to do for my mother-in-law, I am going to skip next month. I am looking forward to month 9 - the Blossom Handbag!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Norway

I feel so sad for the people of Norway. I can't imagine sending my child to camp only to have them shot down. Just horrific. I will never understand violence, especially targeting kids. It is never the answer. My prayers go out to all those families.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vacation Envy

I am feeling super envious of all the cool vacations my friends are going on. They keep posting their pictures on Facebook! I am happy for them, but am really wishing we were going on one this year. Unfortunately, fixing our basement and going back to school have pretty much taken all our extra funds. I guess I will just have to make do with my day dreams!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Putting It All Together

As you know, I have started a graduate program at St. Louis University. This summer's work is mostly foundational with this second part of the class doing some actual field work. I have been enjoying it and feel like I have really found my calling. Yes, it has taken me many years, an undergraduate and a different graduate degree to get to this point, but we can't all be like my husband and know right out of the gate! (much to his chagrin). I have also been reading an inspirational book - Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken. It was just be coincidence that I should happen to be reading this book and realizing how well it fits into my studies. While the book has some organizational and thesis issues, it has made me really want to do a better job of aligning my life and values and putting them into practice.

One of Husband and I's biggest issues is our housing. We live in far North St. Louis County. We are at least 10-15 minutes away from a highway. Husband has a 40 minute commute into the city. School is about a 35 minute drive for me. The kids German dance is also about 35 minutes. Harp is around 30 minutes, our CSA is 30 minutes, etc.... I am sure you can see where this is going. I am tired of driving and it is killing me to waste so much gas and to be so car dependent.

So why do we live here? Family. Husband grew up here and we live across the street from his parents. His aunt and uncle live two houses down. His sister and the kid's cousins live minutes away. The kids go to school where he went to school. There are a lot of connections. The housing is very affordable and the neighborhood/school is well integrated. All things that are pluses. The relationship the kids have with their grandparents is amazing. It is wonderful to have that support. But, it is just so far away from everything else we do. How do you choose? With daughter fast approaching high school age, we will be forced to make decisions in the couple of years. Part of me is excited about the possibility of moving closer in, but the other is sad about the change in relationship with the grandparents.

It has made me realize that sustainability issues are never cut and dry. When you are single, things are much easier to put into practice. Adding family and kids makes every decision exponentially harder.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Zehn

I now have two children in the double digits! I see myself most in J. We both are homebodies that feel happiest just puttering around. We both need a lot of down time and find entertaining and travelling (while fun) completely exhausting. We like routine! I love his super sly sense of humor and ability to laugh at himself. He quickly grasps the big picture and can clearly see all the steps needed to get there. I love how his mind works. I can't wait to see where life takes this special guy. Happy Birthday Sweetheart!

Friday, July 1, 2011

St. Louis

One of the major pluses of going back to school for the Master of Sustainability degree is that I get to hear of all the cool things various cities are doing to increase their sustainability. When you are not in the loop, it is easy to get frustrated when you see so very little happening. I have little patience, and want it all done now! These last couple of weeks, the Director of Sustainability for St. Louis has been speaking/working with us. I have to say, it has really renewed my faith in St. Louis to hear of all the initiatives that not only the city is working for, but also other non-governmental agencies. It gives me a lot of hope for the area. I am especially excited because for the next six weeks I (and two others) get to work on a field project with her. I can't wait!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Deutsch und Midsommar

This has been a busy weekend. The kids and I spent the weekend in a German Immersion class sponsored by the German School Assoc. of Greater St. Louis. To say it was exhausting is an understatement. One of my undergrad degrees is in German. You would think that I could speak it half-way decently. I can not. The classes were conducted entirely in German. I think I understood about 40% of it. Thankfully, the teacher's are used to working with a variety of German speaking levels and were incredibly patient in explaining and helping. I was happy that even though I speak it poorly, I did understand a lot more then I thought I would. I haven't taken a German class in sixteen years, so I felt I did OK. Husband and I hope to live in Germany someday (even for just a couple of years) and I want to be at least a little prepared. I also want to expose the kids to a foreign language. Unfortunately their school only offers Spanish, and then only in eighth grade. The kids were kept very busy with a good mixture of singing, book learning, playing, and crafting. All in German. After the first day, middle son came home and immediately crashed. Today was a little easier and it was super cute to hear youngest son sporadically intersperse German into the conversation. I will try to keep up at least the little bit they learned over the weekend.



Additionally, we celebrated Midsommars. We try to celebrate every year and almost missed it! The first picture is of youngest jumping over the fire (yes, I realize it is a very small fire, but I am also a cautious mom). We all took a turn for good luck. When I was in college, I spent a summer in Austria studying. Thankfully, I was there during Midsommer's fest. It was a blast. At the time, I was in a very rural area of Austria. We hiked up the side of a mountain and at the top was a huge bonfire. We took turns jumping it and then just partying. Obviously, life has quieted down quite a bit. So we jumped a little fire, made s'mores and decorated our own midsummer's pole (out of our zimzam). We also threw greens on roof for additional good luck. Hopefully one day I will be able to take my children to one of the festivals in Europe!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Style Stitches: Month 6

Teardrop Bag

You might have noticed that this is month six, while there were no months four and five. Things just got too crazy busy and I had to take a little break. Well, now I am back! Above is the Teardrop bag. I love it! I used Asian inspired fabrics and am really happy with the results. I also learned how to put in a magnetic snap. This bag was also a lesson on how important it is to check book websites to see if there are in any corrections. Sure enough, the large bag pattern had a half inch error. Of course I discovered this as I am sewing and just worked around it. It would have made my job easier, though, if I had just done a little research first.

I also joined another sewing group. Their button is on the side: Finish It Up!. I have been working on a quilt for my daughter, but just can't seem to get it done. I am hoping this will inspire me to get moving. Part of the rules are that you have to work on it a little bit each week. This is what I need. I am not a big quilt sewer. I don't usually have the patience for them, so having a designated time to work on it will hopefully move the project forward!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Congregational Agendas

What do you do if your congregation's agenda does not reflect your own beliefs? What do you do if you feel like your church has been hijacked by a certain cause? I just got off the phone with a very distraught church member/friend. She is feeling alienated because although she supports the cause de jour, it has become overwhelming. There are a lot of positive things UU offers. She fully supports the seven principals. But, if feels like the church has become laser focused on one issue. At times, I have to agree with her. It can be frustrating. Sometimes it feels like you are the one lone voice swimming against the current of many. I encouraged her to talk to the minister and offered to come with her as I completely understand many of her points. I have to say, though, this is not unusual for UU churches. Whether it be ethical eating, extreme environmentalism, LGBT issues or any other cause, it is easy for the church to getting focused behind one topic. What do you do, though, when some members start to feel disenfranchised? You could say that they could start working towards their cause and try to get more people behind it. They could check out a different UU church. Or, they could just sit back and accept it. Since the UU church doesn't have one overall message (such as spreading the gospel of Jesus), it can get very convoluted. UU churches can be very different from place to place. I remember when I was volunteering as the Membership Coordinator at our old church. I always recommended that people check out all the UU churches in the area. Each church has its own "vibe" and they should see which one fits them best. At first I thought this was great attribute to UU, now I am not so sure.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Eleven

I certainly won the lottery for awesome daughters! It is hard to believe that she is eleven today. Where is the time going?!? She is so compassionate, helpful, loving, creative, smart and all around wonderful. Not sure how I got so lucky, but I appreciate every moment we have together. Sooner then I realize she will be spreading her wings and conquering this world. I have no doubt she will be successful in whatever she puts her mind to. I just hope she remember to stop at home and visit the family who loves her so much. Happy Birthday, M!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Is the Recession Over?

I have recently become aware of the fact that several people I know are doing some pretty cool traveling. They are going to Ireland (two friends), India, Brazil, Australia, Switzerland and Italy. Wow! I am going to Iowa. Somehow it just doesn't compare :-). As a friend noted, Americans must be tired of the recession and are ready to spend! How about you? I think I am still holding tight.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Reunions

I am supposed to go to my twentieth high school reunion at the end of this month. I have even bought tickets. Since it is in Iowa, they were pretty inexpensive. Not like the ones for the reunions around here. I bought the tickets so I could keep my options open, but the closer the event comes, the more I don't want to go. I have mentioned before that my class has NEVER had a reunion. We were just a lot of small groups thrown together that didn't really like each other. I had good friends (of whom I still keep in contact with), but really spent most of my senior year planning on getting out of there. I have noticed that the group of friends I mostly hung out with are planning to get together and catch up. Since I hung out with a lot of theatre people (when I was not with the skaters from the next town over), there were a lot of films made. I am in some of them. I have NO DESIRE to see my 16 year old self on camera. I don't even like looking at pictures from high school. (I have also heard that people are planning on bringing those, too.) I will just state it here: I hate reminiscing. I don't like talking about my past*. It is of no interest to me. I have never been that person who gets together with old friends and talks about the old times. I prefer to dream of the future and all its possibilities. So I don't know what to do. I am leaning towards no and wishing those that do go that they have a great time.


*This should not be confused with learning about history. I love family stories (just not ones involving myself).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hats and Church

I have recently gone back to school. It is a relatively new degree program at St. Louis University. My first class is Foundations in Sustainability. In the first component of the class we have been learning about basic engineering design concepts. To help illustrate the point, we have taken apart a toaster, figured out its Bill of Materials and its estimated environmental costs. Now our task is to figure out and pitch a more environmentally friendly/sustainable model.

To get us to open our minds to more innovative ideas, we used the Six Thinking Hats process. Basically, each colored hat represents a way to think about the problem. It ranges from "just facts" to "passions" to "what ifs". During the part of time delegated to that hat, you can only discuss those qualities. That way you don't get bogged down by "well that would never work....." There is time for that, but it is after all the possible ideas are out there. I can see the real advantage fo this in church thought. To further illustrate the point, he asked each of us to make a list of five birds. He then went around and asked which bird was at the top of the list. Since we are in St. Louis, and there was a baseball game that night, almost half the class had put Cardinal at the top. His point was that even though the group was leaning towards one idea, we shouldn't discount the one penguin. That could be the truly innovative idea that transforms our product/experience. I see churches get so wrapped up in the "this is how it has always been done", "we tried that once and it didn't work" and "that would never work here" frame of thought that we close ourselves off to truly transforming ideas before they are even given a chance. I encourage you all to check this book out and give it a chance. Who knows what possibilities you might discover in your church communities.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Leadership

Yes, my UU daughter won the Christian Leadership Award at her school. I am proud. She didn't win it because she spent the year evangelizing about Jesus. She won it because she espoused the universal ideals of leading and caring for her fellow humans. I am proud because she is always willing to help someone in need. She always has a kind word and reaches out to the underdog. She has a strong sense of justice and fairness. She is a peacemaker and I love her for that. Congrats, Sweetheart!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Trust That It Will Work

Today was Social Service Sunday for the kids at church. It is always so difficult to find a meaningful and doable project for children of all age groups that can be done in an hour! This year we decided to help out the local animal shelter by collecting items to donate and then making dog biscuits in class. I was in charge of the biscuit making. I have a good recipe and got all the supplies together. What I was not prepared for was the sheer number of children who showed up! I started to feel super overwhelmed and panicked. I am not very good when I don't feel completely in control and I sensed that this could easily get OUT OF CONTROL. I know the panic showed on my face and I tried hard to compose myself. I wish I was more laid back.

Thankfully, it went wonderfully! The RE Director had found a member of our congregation who had adopted a dog from this shelter. The dog only had three legs and had been through a lot. The owner talked so movingly about the dog and the shelter, it was hard to hold back the tears. The children were very moved. We had three biscuit making stations manned by some incredibly helpful parent volunteers. Despite my worrying, the kids did awesome. They were patient, helpful, engaged and enthused. I wish I would just let go and have faith that things will work out. Today went better then I could have even hoped!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cadettes

I promise you this is not turning into a Girl Scout blog - it just happens that my life has been consumed with it for these last two weeks. Last night was our bridging ceremony. Three of my girls bridged over to Cadettes. This means that we are now an all Cadette troop. I am so glad. It is really hard to have a combined troop. It always feels like someone is not getting the full experience. I am excited for this new phase. I just wish the GSUSA would get their act together and put out the new badge books. It is very frustrating knowing that changes are coming but not being able to plan for them. Such poor timing on their part. But, I won't let that stop my and the girls' fun!

Now, a story on how times have changed. I was talking to a guy friend about our camping trip. He, of course, had to tell me about his Boy Scout camping experience. I am guessing he was a Boy Scout in the early eighties (maybe late seventies). He was around fourteen, in Oklahoma and working on his Wilderness Survival badge. The leader dropped the boys off in the woods. They were given a map, a compass, and an ax and told to go to find a designated spot. Once there, they would be given coordinates to where dinner would be. Well, when they made it to the dinner location(very hungry and tired) all that was there was a live chicken. Yes, they were expected to kill the chicken and cook it. I was aghast. "Seriously?!?", I asked. Yes. And they did. By chopping its head off. Unfortunately, they didn't know how to cook a whole chicken. Instead of plucking it, they put the whole thing on the fire and it went up in a ball of flames. Completely charred on the outside and raw on the inside. Needless to say, they went to bed hungry. All I can say is thank God Girl Scouts don't have that requirement. I asked Husband if the Boy Scouts still did that and he wasn't sure. I certainly hope not!



Monday, May 16, 2011

Of Course, the Sun is Shining Today!

This is daughter and me. This is what we looked like all weekend because it rained ALL weekend long! Not one break during the whole trip. Thirteen girls and five adults accepting the fact that we would not be dry or warm until we got home on Sunday. After an excruciatingly long Friday night/early Saturday morning, I was about to cry and just go home. I don't think any of us leaders slept at all Friday (lots of drama). I think we were also all secretly hoping that at some point Saturday the sun would peak out. It did not. And did I mention that sometimes the adult "helpers" are more work then the girls? Despite wanting to jump in the van and run home, I was in it for the long haul and summoned up all my inner strength and two cups of cold coffee and forged on. Did I also mention how thankful I am that the other troop leaders are super-star campers? So thankful for their expertise. With all that, we did end up having some really great times. Hiking in the rain and forging the raging creek was a lot of fun. The nature center helper took a liking to our girls and gave them a good/interactive presentation on rocks. The girls also got to go canoeing - in the rain and wind, soaking wet. Yet, none of them complained. I was super proud of them. This was the first time for a lot of them and they all gave it their best. Despite being soaking wet, they couldn't stop talk about how fun it was. Memories were definitely made on this trip!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Girl Scout Camping

It is that time again. I am the first to admit that I am not a camper. I am especially not a camper with people/kids I don't know well. I wish I was all outdoorsy and fond of dirt and sharing of germs - but I am not. I like gardening and hiking, but then I like to wash my hands and sleep in my own bed. In my dreams I am a cool outdoors women who hikes in the wilderness with only a pocket knife and some trail mix. Unfortunately, reality is far from that and this dream would elicit a huge laugh from my family. But, my Girl Scout troop LOVES camping and, as their leader, I will take them. We are, again, camping with the other Junior/Brownie troop at the school. Since only three of my girls are going, it makes sense to go with some other girls. We should be around thirteen total girls. All my girls have camped before, but there are several new-to-camping girls in the other troop. It is them I am worried about. Thankfully, their troop leaders are awesome campers. So it is really just me getting over my anxiety of not being in control and to just go with the flow. That, and hoping it really doesn't rain all weekend like it is supposed to.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Today is my Birthday!

(flowers from the garden)

I love birthdays. Not because of the gifts, but that it is your special day. A day to feel good about you. There is a whole year to feel all the negative emotions of life, but your birthday is the one day you should give them a vacation and just enjoy the experience of being alive. You made it another year! Am I excited to get closer to forty? Not really. I have no problem with turning 40,50,60 etc. It means that I am still here - yay! What worries me is that time is going so fast. I want it to slow down. I want to savor every minute, but the busyness of daily life keeps getting in the way. In my 38th year, my goal is to reevaluate what is really most important to me and where I want to put my energy. I want to enjoy my life as much as possible and live it with integrity that will hopefully inspire my children. I can't control what is thrown at me, but I can control how I respond. I hope to respond with a little more grace and gratitude. As the song goes "always look on the bright side of life...."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

So Lucky

Everyday I wonder how I got so lucky to have such great kids. This Mother's Day, I feel truly blessed to have them in my life. They bring so much joy to my life! I love you M, J, L!

Friday, May 6, 2011

UU Book Help Needed!

I am looking for some good UU books for the tweenagers. When I was the CMwD District Assembly, I saw lots of books for the under 8 crowd, but what would you recommend for the 10-13 year olds? I would love to fill out our home library, but am not sure what to get. Any help would be appreciated.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

CMwD District Assembly

This past Friday and Saturday I was at our regional UU District Assembly. After a crazy trip up to Bloomington, IL, my friend and I arrived late, but in time for the business meeting. As I am the Secretary of the Board, I was expected to take minutes. After driving five hours (yes that is two hours longer then needed), I raced into the conference room and immediately sat down to take minutes. We missed the first half hour, but thankfully the Board President was aware of the situation and had gotten someone else to also take minutes. That meeting was exhaustive. I had NO IDEA that people were so particular about by-law wording. We were making some changes and people had a lot to say on how exactly the new wording should be. This went on for a couple of hours.... I had been excited about going up to DA because I was getting to stay in a hotel all by myself and therefore could watch cable!!! We don't have cable, so I like to take advantage of it when I can. Unfortunately, after the car ride and mind-draining meeting that ended around 10.00pm, I went straight to bed. I was exhausted.

The next day was much more inspirational. The day's presenter was Mark Morrison-Reed. He is one of the few African-American ministers in the UU faith. I had read his book In Between and was really looking forward to hearing more of his thoughts on diversity. Well, it was really powerful. I learned a lot about UU history, racism, elitism, and how we (as a denomination) reacted to it. Sometimes embarrassingly poorly and other times very progressively. Morrison-Reed gave us a lot to think about. His style was very approachable, passionate, compassionate, and thoughtful. His presentation had hard truths, but presented in a way that didn't shut people down. He has a lot of humility and I left really reevaluating how I look at racial issues. My only wish is that more members of my congregation had been there. We live and the church is located in a very racially mixed area. If he ever speaks in the St. Louis area, I know I will try to get as many people as I know to hear him. I am very glad I went. (Thankfully, the ride home was uneventful!).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Seven

My baby turned seven today. I can hardly believe that seven years have gone by. He is the youngest and will forever have a special place in my heart. Sometimes I wish I could just bottle his optimism and share it with the world. A good friend and I often joke that Lucky and her little girl, A, view the world through a prism of rainbows and unicorns. I hope that never goes away. His smile, sense of humor, and laugh brighten my days. I am so thankful to have him in my life. Happy Birthday!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Should I build an Ark?

As you have read, our basement is flooding. This is not unheard of as it has happened before. What is crazy is that a water main broke at Husband's work early this morning. He spent all morning helping manage the crisis. What I am beginning to see is that the universe is sending us a sign that either:

1. We should build an Ark.

or

2. We are supposed to be living on an island, such as Hawaii.

I am leaning towards option #2. While the kids would get a kick out of building an Ark, I see myself swimming in the beautiful waters off of Hawaii. Which would you choose?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

One Crazy Easter

Every year, my father and his wife host a family reunion with all the immediate family. This adds up to around thirty people all staying in one house. It is a lot fun, but can be a bit overwhelming - especially for an introvert like myself. We left Friday for what we thought would be an easy four hour drive. I guess we learned that you should never really take Mother Nature for granted because she can kick your butt when you least expect it.

We left in rain. Never fun, but not a big deal. About an hour in, the rain became a storm. Then hail. Then a white out. Then a full-on stop on the highway. By this time I call my dad and ask what is up. Evidently, the horrible storm caused a pile-up and we were stuck in the ensuing traffic jam. This added an extra hour and half to our drive. By the time we got to the Quad Cities, we were exhausted. No rest for the weary, though. Everyone else had gotten there last night and were headed out to laser tag. After throwing a mini-fit, we all headed out too. The rest of the night was the usual chaos, adult beverages, talent show, and catching up. I went to bed thinking the worse was behind us.

The next morning, I casually check the computer to clear out Facebook (I hate having a billion status' build-up). First thing that pops up is a friend in Iowa asking if we were ok. Strange. Why wouldn't we be ok? A little panic starts in. I immediately check out the St. Louis news websites and discover that tornadoes tore through the northern suburbs (where I live!!!) Friday night. I immediately call my in-laws, who live across the street and are watching our dogs. Thankfully, for us, the tornado hit the suburb next to us and our house is ok. He informs me of all the damage. He also said they were surprised we didn't call last night. I DIDN'T KNOW! There are 30 people in the house, we never turned the TV on. I also immediately thought of all my friends who live in the suburbs that were hit. It appears that they are all ok. I will find out even more on Tuesday. The kid's school draws several families from the affected area. It is just so scary. It has been a horrible year for St. Louis and storms. Unfortunately, we did hear that our basement started flooding again. great. Husband checks the news and sees that more storms are predicted for Sunday. We decide we will leave Iowa early and try to beat them home and get the basement situation under control.

We ended up going to the early Mass. Now a side-note. A lot of Catholics come out of hiding for Easter. We went to the 8.30 service and it was PACKED. We ended up sitting in the very first row. I am fine with this, mostly because then I can see everything and the kids do better. What I failed to realize was that it meant that we had communion first. This then meant that we had to kneel while we waited for everyone else. Remember, there was an over-flow crowd. All I will say is fourteen hours later, my knees are still killing me.

After Mass we packed up and headed home. Thankfully the ride home went smoothly. Just a little rain and we made great time. Unfortunately, our basement is definitely flooded. Husband is wiped out from wet-vac'ing it. The worst is that it is still coming in, so this will be my Monday. Since it is supposed to rain some more, it will also probably be my Tues, Wed, etc. I keep telling myself, at least I still have a roof and power - that is a whole lot better then a lot of people around me. Amazingly, no one was killed or severely injured. To me that is an Easter miracle.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Disappointed

I don't know how many of you are aware (or even care), but there is a big brouhaha going on in the vegan world. One of my favorite magazines, VegNews, has been caught using real meat/dairy pictures in their magazine. They have passed the photos off as vegan food. I first read about it on the Ecorazzi site and am leaning towards the views posted by their editor. VegNews Magazine has also posted a response.

I have to say I am very disappointed in the magazine. I truly love reading it and was so happy to have found it years ago. I trusted its integrity. This is a big blow. For you meat eaters, it probably seems a little silly. But, when you are trying to make yummy vegan food and demonstrate that it is just as good as *your* food, you want to know that the picture in the magazine is what the food will look like!

I understand their reasoning (cost issues), but I hope they find a way to work around this. It really was a knock to their credibility and it will take awhile to get it back. I believe in second chances, though, and I will certainly give them one. VegNews is a fun, current magazine and I would hate for the vegan/vegetarian world to lose their voice.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Shout Out

I really want to give a shout out to this new UU blog: Red Pill Brethren. I don't know who they are, it appears to be a closely guarded secret, but I love their premise of UU becoming missionaly focused. By that, I mean getting out of the church and into the community. I am fortunate to already be part of a congregation who is dedicated to this, but I have been told that isn't the norm. I have watched as the ELCA Lutheran church has been promoting this idea (hence the Be Like Jesus event I previously posted) and would love to see this become part of the national UU lexicon. Sometimes I wish we had a little more structure so these awesome ideas could be quickly disseminated.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lent: Pretzels

Did you know pretzels are an historically Lenten bread? According to my favorite monk and baker, Fr. Garramone: "...made with only water, flour, yeast and salt. The classic shape is meant to suggest arms crossed in prayer, which gave rise to their Latin name, bracaella, "little arms." This word became bretzel in Old German, which eventually shifted to pretzel."

We love to make his Quick Pretzel recipe. As the name implies, they are easy and quick. They are pretty much gone as soon as they come out of the oven. If you get a chance, I encourage you to make some. As Fr. Garramone often notes, baking can be a very spiritual experience. Why not add it to your Lenten practice?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fluctuating

Have you ever found that at one moment you can see all the positives in the situation and feel very hopeful and then the next minute see only the negatives and feel that it is hopeless? Why does this happen? A deep part of myself is very hopeful, but then I find myself wrapped up in negative thoughts that what is now will forever be. I hate that train of thinking. It is so unproductive, but so easy to fall into.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Be Like Jesus

This past Friday/Saturday, my two older kids went to an event sponsored by the ELCA Lutheran churches in the area. It was a lock-in/service event called Be Like Jesus. As you know, the kids go to a Lutheran school and many of the their friends were attending the event. At first I was a little skeptical. What was really going to happen at this thing? But then I thought, "Jesus was a pretty cool guy. He didn't sit in a church waiting for the world to change. He went out there and did something. He walked the walk." So (with a little hesitation) I said yes. I decided to trust the parents who had chaperoned this before and assured me that it was very well run and service oriented. I then proceeded to worry for the next 24 hours.

The kids are now safe at home, and, sure enough, they had a great time. After a fun Friday night of games and music, they woke up early Saturday and spent all day doing various service projects. They helped clean an elderly persons yard, planted flowers, collected shoes door to door, canvased for canned food at the grocery store, visited a retirement home, and made special pillows for St. Jude's hospitals. Some of the activities were way out of my comfort zone - especially the grocery gleaning and door to door shoe drive. Thankfully, they were well chaperoned and in safe neighborhoods. I also had to remind myself that they were asking for these things for a good cause (for the food bank and to help build clean wells in Africa). Sometimes we do have to put ourselves out there for good causes and get over our reservations and just ask. Most importantly, though, they spent their day doing things to help other people and not sitting at home wishing we were at the City Museum. We could all probably stand to be a little more like Jesus.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Style Stitches: Month 3

You would think that since March has 31 days, I would have finished these long ago. But no. Of course I waited until the last minute and completed them around 5.30 tonight. In order to be eligible to win one of the giveaways in the challenge, you have to finish the project before the month is over. This is the Origami Bag from Style Stitches. All the bags nest together quite nicely. Daughter has already claimed one of them. I will probably use the rest to store craft supplies. If you want to see some of the cool other interpretations, click on the Style Stitches button on my sidebar.

I have to say that this was a very intricate pattern. It looks like an easy zipper pouch, but with the gusseted corners and weird construction, they took much longer then expected. I did learn a new skill though. I had never shortened a zipper before, so I can now check that off my list.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lent: Weddings

Today is my fifteenth wedding anniversary. I can't believe it has already been that many years. Obviously, when you tally up all the things that have happened - it has definitely been fifteen years worth of adventure. I feel an immense amount of gratitude for being lucky enough to share my life with someone who totally understands me and still chooses to stick with me!

This post, though, is about getting married during Lent. I have to admit, when we chose the date, Lent didn't really occur to me. We had wanted to get married on St. Patrick's Day in St. Patrick Church (my home church) under a stained glass window of St. Patrick. Could you get a better start then that?! The Catholic Church, though, had other ideas. They were not at all thrilled to have a wedding during Lent. Lent is a quiet time. A time for reflection and sacrifice - not a time for a joyous occasion such as a wedding. Thankfully, we had a Priest willing to be a tiny bit flexible. First, no wedding on St. Patrick's Day. Evidently, you can not get married on a Sunday. So we chose the next Saturday (23rd) because it seemed kind of lame to get married on the 16th when the 17th was the next day. Second, we could not get crazy with the decorations. Additionally, we had to take everything down immediately following the ceremony - all the flowers had to leave and the somber looked needed to return ASAP. Which was a little bit of a bummer, because like the flowers pictured above, we had really beautiful colorful flowers that I would have loved to have left for the parishioners. Finally (and the most frustrating), we had to leave the well up. Yes, well. I must admit I am not actually sure what the well signified. I would guess something to do with baptism during Lent. The church had "made" a brick well on the chancel. It was quite large. We offered to take it down brick-by-brick and set it up exactly how it was when the service was over. Obviously that didn't fly with the Priest. Thus, that well shows up in almost all our photos at the Church. We also had the fastest Catholic ceremony on record. I think the Priest still wasn't a hundred percent sold on our plan.

Would I choose this day again? Definitely. Despite all of that - it was a wonderful day. What I remember most from that day is just being happy. To me, that is what it is all about.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mood Music



This is by far my favorite St. Patrick's Day song. Something about it just sums up the day! ;-p

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saddened

I am finding the events unfolding in Japan to be devastating. I can't get past all the people displaced, missing and dead. I see families searching for each other, hoping the worst hasn't occurred. As a parent, I can't imagine not knowing where my child is. I also can't imagine them being alone having to fend for themselves without us there to help them. It is just overwhelming. My heart and prayers go out them. I just wish there was something I could do to really help them. While it isn't much, I did contribute to the UUA/UUSC Japan Relief Fund. I encourage all of you to consider donating something to them or your relief agency of choice. We are all at the whim of nature whether we realize it or not.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent: Purple

Purple is the traditional color of Lent. It represents both the pain and suffering of Jesus and of humanity. It is also the color of royalty. You will see it throughout Christian churches during this time. You will also notice that most churches will cover their crosses and that there is a decided somber air in them. As such, Minister's liturgical stoles will be more simple and often in shades of dark purple or violet. Above is the stole I just finished for my sister-in-law (who is an ELCA Lutheran minister). I literally finished it today! Just in time for Sunday. She is partial to batiks so that is what most of the fabric is. Below is the reverse. It is a lot more basic, but I like to think the cross is a bit cheerier. Maybe she will wear that side closer to Easter. Unfortunately the picture makes the color look a lot bluer, but it is actually quite purple.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Frustrated

Tonight was the night that I had to play for the Ash Wednesday service. I practiced and practiced and practiced. I practiced both the hard and easy version of the songs. Yesterday I admitted to myself that I will have to stick to the easy version (mind you I have only recently started playing the harp, although I did briefly when I was a fourth grader). I was OK with that. I felt like I had it down pretty well and could even add some musical interpretation :-). Of course, this was all in our living room. In our living room, anything is possible. Including me thinking I could play the harp. Obviously, reality is a different matter. Flashes to my horrible childhood piano recitals kept flashing through my mind. I ALWAYS froze. No matter how well I knew the piece, I always performed poorly with an audience. The only instrument I can half way play in front of people is the clarinet and that is only because I have been playing it for fifteen years. Well tonight was no different. Thankfully I was in the balcony and nobody could see me. After a rough start, I did manage to get the song out. Pathetically, I ended up playing with just one hand. I could blame the chair(it was too high) or the mic(it didn't turn on right away), but really, it was just nerves. I am so mad and disappointed in myself. I KNOW that song. I know how to play it with both hands. I feel like everybody was just wondering why I lugged that harp there only to play like a five year-old. People were nice - but is a church, of course they are going to be kind. I am just so frustrated.

Lent: Sacrifice

Traditionally, the period leading up to Easter involves a time of sacrifice and repentance. This hearkens back to the time that Jesus was in the desert before he really began his ministry. It ends during Holy Week with the culmination at Easter. It is a time to reflect on your faith and how you are going to move it forward in the world. I would encourage all of you to sacrifice some time each day reflecting on what you truly believe and how you are going to project that to others. Are you living your faith? What does that mean to you? Are you comfortable sharing it with others? Why or why not? Is there something holding you back from fully committing to your spiritual path?

We all have doubts and insecurities. We can't have all the answers. Life is an exercise in constant growth and discovery. We change and our understanding of our faith may change. That is OK. What is not OK, is passively accepting all that is told to you. The beauty of being human is the ability to look deeper. That may bring you closer to your current faith or lead you on a new path. Either way, I feel, you will find greater personal fulfillment and be able to positively affect the world. So sacrifice some time, it can only lead to good things.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lent: Miracles

As you can see by the title, I have decided to do a small series of posts on Lent. Longtime readers know that I am partial to this season. Something about it really attracts me. I will warn you, though, that everything I write is just my musings, and it is highly doubtful that I will back it up by any sort of research. So if you are looking for that, you best check elsewhere ;-)

This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the official start to the Lenten season. After forty days and nights, it culminates in Easter with the Resurrection of Christ. This got me to thinking about miracles. When did the majority of us stop believing in them? I mean big ones like this. I often pray for a miracle - I bet a lot of us do, but do we really believe a miracle is going to happen? Or, are we hoping for a miracle, but are pretty sure it is brought about by some sort of human intervention? What about believing in true miracles - something completely unexplainable? Something like the Resurrection? The Bible is peppered with miracles. Miracles that were easily believed in and prayed for. When did we become such cynics? Is it because miracles don't always happen when we want them too? Have you experienced anything akin to a miracle - something so unexplainable that a miracle is the best description? I can't say that I have experienced anything like this, but I like to think they are possible. I want to keep myself open to them and not close myself off to the possibility just because they are beyond my reasoning. Sometimes looking for an explanation blinds us to the beauty of what is truly happening. I hope you keep yourself open, too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tired of Defense

I had a bit of a disturbing parking lot conversation today. I mentioned to a friend that I had seen her friend at my UU church. I thought of it as a positive. Another way that the world is so small that we all seem to run into each other. Well, my friend stated that she was not happy about this. It caught me completely by surprise. She flat out said it like that. I asked her why, and she stated that it would mean her friend was no longer a Christian. I was flabbergasted. Obviously, I told her that no one could take away her friend's Christianity. Just because you attend a UU church, doesn't mean you can't be a Christian. We don't go and try to "de-Christian" people. Instead of being happy that her friend (after a long search) found a possible church home, she was upset that it didn't meet with her idea of a Christian church. Then my friend said something that drives me crazy. "Isn't it really more of an organization then a religion, anyway?"

GAAHHH!!! I get so tired of people saying that. We are a religion. Just because we don't conform to your idea of religion doesn't mean it isn't authentic. I believe in a higher-power, I say grace at the table, I observe certain holidays, I pray, I come together every Sunday in community, I read sacred texts to help discover deeper life meanings. How is this not living my religion? UU supports and encourages all these activities. How is that different then yours? Yes, I totally grant that UU isn't for everyone. It really isn't. But, for those it is right for - it is meaningful and powerful.

That is my two-cents. I just wish I had the presence of mind to say that second paragraph to my friend. Instead I sat library duty thinking of all the things I could/should have said. It also occurred to me that my friend didn't appear at all to think it an insult to consider my faith not real. I am sure if I had insulted Christianity, it would mortally wound our friendship.