Thursday, August 31, 2006

Recent Amazon Order

  • 1 of: Antagonists in the Church: How to Identify and Deal With Destructive Conflict
  • 1 of: Never Call Them Jerks
  • 1 of: Well-Intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church
I have no patience for this.

I hate to be holier than thou, but I just want to slit my eyes at people, tell them to BE the change that they want to see in other people, and explain that life is a very fragile gift and to start treating it with more care.

And to get over themselves.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Radical Hospitality

Today, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, it is probably not just random coincidence that my web-surfing took me to two great earlier posts concerning hospitality:

These concerned how welcoming we are to newcomers, but combined with the anniversary, they got me to thinking about deeper issues of hospitality.

Back up ... a couple of years ago, a lot of UUs were talking about a book called Radical Hospitality. I didn't know the author, but I searched for it on and found a book with that title.

When it came, I quickly came to realize that it was a different book of the same name.

This was a book about a fundamentalist Christian couple who made a habit of taking in homeless and indigent people and letting them live in their home. People off the street.

Now that, my friends, is radical hospitality.

Where is the line between really reaching out, and being irresponsible to self/family?

Last year, my heart bled, as so many did, watching what happened after the levees broke in New Orleans. I conferred with my husband and we quickly decided to offer up a large room in our house for any "refugees."

We looked for a way. There was one site that had simple listings. List what you offered, someone in need could contact you. Anyone.


Our denomination was attempting to do something similar, but "taking care of ourselves." If there was a Unitarian Universalist family that needed a place to stay, they'd set them up with one of us. But you needed to be a member of a UU church in order to get help.


I don't fault our denomination ... to ask your members to take in complete strangers with no references is pretty risky. We'd like to think that everyone is sweet and good, but there are news reports that say otherwise.

I don't think that I would do anything different. We had three kids and an infant. How do I ensure their safety with someone living down the hall from them, no personal references?

Wait. I changed my mind just as I was writing that. Yes, I would have been worried about my kids. Our bedroom is downstairs and their's are up. But you know what? We could have slept up with them, and given our bedroom to someone else.

Of course, it's a small bedroom, and the better plan would have been to give the entire upstairs playroom to a whole family.

Damn. I don't know what I'd do. I don't know where the line is.

But I'm pretty sure I'm not even remotely close to it.


The toilet paper is sitting on the counter

...because the springy-toilet-paper-middle-thingy has been purloined.

Little Warrior has taken it for her own. It is, apparently, the greatest toy in the world. It can be used on the air return to make great noise, it can be held and squeezed, it can be made to jump up and down, it can be used to hit a willing big-brother on the head, it can even be a doll.

LW is the fourth child and we have toys on top of toys on top of toys.

But this is the best.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ours Is No Caravan of Despair

For the the September UU Blog Carnival, Rev. Sean asked for submissions to the question:

“What gets you through the hard night?” More specifically, what is it in our faith tradition, that brings you the strength and/or comfort you need to face difficult times? Are there theological concepts, specific words, hymns, practices that sustain you in trying times?"

Hard night?

The night of January 18th found my husband and I in a hospital room with our 7 month old baby daughter.

That morning, she and I had gone to playgroup at our UU church, and from there, an appointment with the pediatrician for a strange lump on one side. Perhaps it was just gas, I had thought.

After that was, as they say, a blur. Bits and pieces come into focus: creeping along the freeway during rush hour, trying to get her to the Children’s Hospital. A doctor here, an intern there, words like “mass” and “Wilms’ Tumor.”

And cancer. Cancer, with a capital C.

It was late, that night, when we got to our room. She had not been formally diagnosed yet, but when the elevator doors opened, there it was, in black and white. “Pediatric Oncology Floor.”

I didn’t want to let her out of my arms, and I slowly danced with her, careful of the iv in her little hand. One song kept repeating itself in my mind:

Come, come whoever you are
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving
Ours is no caravan of despair
Come, yet again, come.

Ours is no caravan of despair, I kept reminding myself. No caravan of despair. Ours is no caravan of despair.

The blur continued over the next 7 months. Chemotherapy. Being told the tumors had had “minimal response” to the chemo. Surgery, where they removed a grapefruit-sized tumor and 1/3 of one kidney and an orange-sized tumor and ½ of the other kidney.

The night of the surgery, her father and I bent over our daughter’s crib in the ICU. It was loud and cramped. Even with sedation, she slept fitfully. We began singing low,
Come, come, whoever you are
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving
Ours is no caravan of despair
Come, yet again, come.

She is off-treatment now and we pray that “it is all over.” We hope to begin our new normal.

We are Unitarian Universalists. Our religion is one of hope. When one person has despair creeping in, may we always be there to offer another view. On one of my nights of quiet despair, a fellow UU blogger reminded me that “Weeping may endureth for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” And at another low moment, a friend who had lost her son to leukemia told me, “You will live through this.”

Ours is no caravan of despair.

Come. Yet again, come.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Back on the Horse

I just agreed to go back in the pulpit. September 17.


No Man's Land

Right now I am in a no man's land because the future will affect what this period of my life comes to be seen as.

Path A: Little Warrior's cancer is gone, and we are on the path of the rest of our lives, where we will look back and say, "Yes, she had cancer when she was a baby." The cancer will merely be a relatively short portion of our family story, duly noted on medical charts, a painful but gradually muted memory.

Path B: We are in a honeymoon/lull right now, and at a certain point in time, we will be back on the cancer-go-round, with all of the fear and worry that comes with.

I am trying to live my life, as best as I can, believing that we are on Path A. As I have already learned, there is no such thing as preparing for the worst, so one must enjoy the wine and roses as long as they last.

With time, it will get easier.

So long as we can stay on Path A.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Still unbelievable

I look down sometimes, like when she's sleeping after a long day of wreaking havoc, and I still can't believe it all. I mean, she's just over a year old, in the big scheme of things, she's just barely been here ... and she's already had cancer. Cancer, with a capital C. It just doesn't seem real. It doesn't seem possible.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Drunk Baby

Not only is Little Warrior a mean-ass drunk, she's the kind of drunk who says, "Watch me climb that radio tower!"

This was discovered yesterday when LW received the sedative Chlora Hydrate for the first time. Google tells me Marilyn Monroe had a 'script for this same drug.

Waking up from it, she bit, kicked, screamed to get down ... but was still 'drunk,' so she couldn't even crawl. Nonetheless, she knew that she could walk and climb. "I'm finnnnne," she slurred. At least, I'm pretty sure that's what she was trying to say. She cursed me a bit, too. And speaking of 'bit,' I have the bite marks to prove it all.

Reason for this was an echocardiogram, which came back normal, yay.

But I didn't let her drive home.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Days of Wine and Roses

Yesterday was The Husband's and my 16th wedding anniversary.

We got married the summer before my senior year in college, for no other reason than we wanted to. As adults and parents, we look back and said, "Stupid kids." But we are glad we were, because we both have doubts whether we would have gotten married had we waited for both of us to graduate. Too flippy. Too young.

But we did marry, in a lovely ceremony in a lovely UU church. His stepmother lit the main taper. His stepfather, a Methodist minister, did the ceremony. We both walked down the aisle with both of our parents. I think my mother would have preferred the traditional way of just my father walking me down the aisle, but paaah. Even at that age, I had a feeling that it wasn't right for just my father to be giving me away. And at that age, it was definitely being given away.

We walked down the aisle to "Morning Has Broken." We left to "Here Comes the Sun," a song that grows in meaning for us each year. Especially this one.

Of course, our personally-written vows, while sweet, were written by a 21 and 22 year old. Something about loving each other and still being individuals.

Ah, the vows we could write NOW.

In any case, the marriage "took" and here we are now. It is common to decry young marriages, which makes The Husband and I just look at each other in wonder. We have been blessed, as we have grown up together and not grown apart. The idea of being who I am now and getting married to a person who also has his own way of doing things ... I can't imagine. We joke that you should get married by age 24 or not at all. (joke, joke!)

Yesterday was the perfect anniversary. I sent him a dozen rozes and a little teddy bear to his work, something I've never done before, but I wanted to do the gesture that a lover would. Not just a partner.

"I knew what I was going to get you two months ago," said he.

I opened the bag. It was a bottle of wine. Hmm?

"Is that all?" he asked.

There was also a slip in the bag notifying me that I was now a member of the Specs wine of the month club. (Really good, I highly recommend it for oenophiles.)

The last time he got that for me was Christmas a couple of years ago.

"I remembered that that was a VERY good year for us," he said. We briefly discussed all the great things that happened that year. "So, I decided we needed another year like that."

So, for today, we have wine and roses.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
--Ernest Dowson

Friday, August 18, 2006

Let's Do a Key Lime Flip

Someone visited my blog today by searching for +shot +tastes +like +chocolate. Isn't that lovely? I'm glad about the folks that find me through searches about Unitarians or babies with cancer, but it's nice to see that someone looking for something so fun came across my path.

In that spirit, I have a new drink I've flipped for. Pun intended. I think this will be the official "drink" of our 2006 Halloween party.

You can imagine how great it feels to be planning a Halloween party this year.

Key Lime Flip

1/2 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cup Vodka
dash of vanilla
1 1/2 cups light rum
1/2 cup lime juice
3/4 cup cream of coconut

Rub rim of chilled martini or parfait glasses with a sliced lime. Press into graham cracker crumbs. Combine the rest of ingredients in a pitcher with some ice to blend. Strain into the rimmed glasses. Enjoy.

By the way, if anyone has any fabbbbulous finger foods for parties, pass 'em on to me.

Breast Cancer Barbie

Kristina Collins just blogged about Mattel coming out with a breast cancer Barbie. She reports that she and other writers on the Young Survival Coalition have a few suggestions for the Mattel Company.

-Barbie should be bald and have assorted wigs included instead of the bouffant hairdo.

-Barbie's skin should be more grayish and she should be at least 10lbs overweight from steroids.

-some accessories in the box should also include a little toilet to throw up in, many prescription bottles that she can't keep track of and clippers for when she needs to buzz her hair.

LOVE those ideas and even more, the humorous spirit behind them.

In perusing some pictures over the past year, I came across a picture I made of Little Warrior right before surgery. To say that her abdomen was bulging is understatement of the year. The rest of her, bone skinny. Our mental photographs must be softer than reality -- looking at that picture, I burst into tears. LW is asleep in front of Sesame Street and it took all my will to not go scoop that fat baby up.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

On "Worship"

I don’t go to church to worship. At least, not in the traditional sense.

This is the conclusion I came to, after a comment by PeaceBang. I am glad that there are those who come to our churches to worship. I think that all forms of spirituality enhance the experience for each of us. Okay, maybe not sacrificing a chicken. But then again, I’ve never been privy to that particular experience.

However, if going by the standard definition of worship, that’s not why I go to church.

Per the American Heritage dict, worship is:

1. The reverent love and devotion accorded a deity, an idol, or a sacred object.
2. The ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed.

I’m not a Christian and I am a theist only in the broadest sense of the word “God.”

So what do I worship?

I don’t.

PeaceBang noted that “your post validates my sad conclusion that we are, in fact, worshiping ourselves.”

Tee-hee. I’ve been president of our church. BELEEEEEVE me, I don’t worship our church. Of course, anyone who has been a church president who doesn’t run screaming into the night … oh, I’m sorry. That’s another topic.

But getting away from worship and into the heart of the matter … so, if I don’t worship a deity and don’t worship my church, why do I go? Is it just for community? Just to be around like-minded individuals, and can’t I do the same thing going to a meeting of the Sierra Club?


I go to a Unitarian Universalist church, because I believe that is where I can take my spirit, my soul, for its learning. I can learn to be a better person at my church. I can think about what my purpose is here on earth at my church. I can search and find answers to the questions that call out from my heart and not feel that I must keep them separate from the questions that call out from my brain. I am a Unitarian Universalist because that is the only thing I can be. I cannot say it better than A. Powell Davies:

"Why should any of us be confined within a single area of religious culture? When I read Amos and Jeremiah, I say 'Would to God I were a Jew.' When I read the Parable of the Good Samaritan, I say 'Would I were a Galilean.' When I read the 13th of 1st Corinthians, I wish with all my heart that I might be a Christian after the manner of the Apostle Paul. When I think of Buddha and his Eightfold Path, I say, 'I, too, would be a Buddhist.' And when I remember the trial of Socrates, I say in awe but with exalted spirit, 'Oh that I might be so brave a humanist.' And thus at the end, there is nothing I can say but that, like Emerson and Channing, I want to live with the privilege of the illimitable mind.”

I have not had the experience of God/Christ being a saving grace in my life. But when I have most needed salvation, it has come in the form of a song, or a phone call, or a message written in my blog. (Thanks again, Rev. Christine.) It has come in a passage of a book. A poem. A package of diapers dropped off by one of my fellow congregants, because the congregation heard that we couldn’t use cloth dipes anymore, due to the chemo.

I realize that to some, this is not salvation. But it has been a deliverance for me. I have been pulled back from the brink. When my heart felt as though it were being ripped apart, these things provided the needle and thread to sew it back together. When my soul was tormented with questions for which I had no answer, my church – my religion -- provided the salve.

According to, Robert Ingersoll, nineteenth-century agnostic, said, "He who loves, worships.

By that definition, I worship. But to try and parse “who” I worship...

Well, that’s just missing the whole point.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

No More Elevator Speech

Forget “the elevator speech.”

Aack! The emperor has no clothes! That sacred rite in Unitarian Universalist circles, The Elevator Speech, and you think I should forget it?

You betcha.

Have you been “witnessed” to, by an evangelical Christian? Growing up in the Bible Belt, I have, on several occasions. You know what? It’s not about theology. It’s a personal narrative, called a “testimony” in which the person explains how a relationship with Jesus has changed their life.

Contrast that with our theory of the “elevator speech” – a short description of what Unitarian Universalism is.

A testimony is often moving, even if you’re not buying what the person is selling. It is a story of how a life has been fundamentally altered.

Has your life been changed by being a member of a UU church? Mine has.

If someone asked me about my church, my response would not be about our principles and purposes, or how you can “believe anything,” (do people really still say that?) …

“I go to such a wonderful church! The people are amazing. And I’ve been able to really explore and deepen my own spirituality.”

Keep the elevator speech – it’s a great exercise for you to figure out how to define this religion on your terms. But maybe, at first, keep it to yourself.

And speak from your heart. WITNESS.

I found some great instructions for how to craft your personal testimony. I’ve made a few changes, replacing “Christian” with Unitarian and such.

Personal Testimony

One of the most helpful things Unitarian Universalists can do is write out their personal testimony. This exercise will help you think through in your own mind what your church has done in your life and will prepare you to share your story simply and clearly with others. Sharing how you found out about UUism is one of the best ways of witnessing. It is particularly helpful in presenting UUism to relatives and close friends, usually the most difficult people to whom to witness.

In sharing the story of your experience:

1. Make it personal—Don't preach. Tell what involvement in your church has done for you. Use the pronouns "I", "me", and "mine".

2. Make it short—Three or four minutes should be enough time to deal with the essential facts.

3. Keep your church central—Always highlight what belonging there has done for you.

Please note: If your testimony includes a previous negative church experience, do not mention the name of that church or denomination because it creates needless antagonism in those who are listening to your story.

Try writing down your personal testimony just the way you'd tell it to a non-UU. Make the story of your finding it so clear that another person hearing it would know how find out about Unitarian Universalism. Tell a little about your life before you found UUism; then tell about your finding it, how you came to trust it, and something of what it has meant to belong — the feeling of being around people who also want to explore “meaning,” assurance of their support of you on your journey, and other ways your life or outlook has changed. If you have been a UU for some time, be sure that your testimony includes some current information about the continuing effect of your religion and church in your life.

As you prepare your story, reflect on opportunities to share it. Think of two or three people whom you would particularly like to tell about your church in your neighborhood, at work, or at school. Then take the first opportunity to share your testimony with them.

In conclusion, remember that you do not have the power in yourself to convince anyone of spiritual truth. As you think of those with whom you desire to share your personal testimony, be sure to consider whether this is an appropriate topic to share with that person.

Witnessing is a style of living—you are a witness at all times. Loving others and showing your genuine concern for them are practical ways to communicate Unitarian Universalism. You also witness by your life. Actions are often more revealing than words. Your actions, however, are not sufficient to communicate to another the message of Unitarian Universalism. You need to witness by your words—to identify openly as a Unitarian Universalist and to tell others about the benefits of membership. One of the most effective means of communicating this to another person is the story of how the church has worked in your life—your personal testimony.

Okay, so parts of that are a bit heavy-handed. But still …

What is your personal testimony?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Random Musings from All Of This

In order to not see God as a capricious, mean being, I had to let go of my vision of a personally-involved God.

Ironically, it was not because LW got cancer that I was forced to that realization. It was because of the successes with the surgery, and the (hopefully) success against the cancer.

What sort of an egotist would I be, to say that the reason she got well is because of the prayers she received? When I am familiar with so many others who get even more prayers, but die?

People say that the big question of religion is "why does God permit suffering?"

I don't think so.

It's "why does God permit indiscriminate suffering?"

I sometimes wish that I could choose the blue pill. ("Matrix.") But I didn't, and I can't.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I Meet Dave

I met his eyes as he crossed the parking lot tonight
An automatic smile that I always do, without thinking
I turned back to strapping my kids into the big minivan

He stopped from where he was heading
And I thought, Uh-oh.

"This is a church, right?" he asked.

I admitted it was,
Anticipating a request would follow.

"I sleep over there," he said, indicating back against our building.
"The mosquitos aren't so bad back there. But over there --
Whoo! They're bad."

Well, I said feebly, You take care, tonight.

"Oh, I do," he said. "Sometimes I come
And sleep there on the carpet under your entryway. But
Lately there's been people coming by.

"I knew this was a church
So I knew I'd be okay here."

"I don't mess with anything. I just sleep.
I keep my blanket over there, but now it's gone.
Do you know what might of happened to it?"

I admitted I didn't. I asked him his name.
He gave it and we gave him ours.
I put my hand out and we shook.

He looked at our children, clean,
Strapped into their carseats.

"I've got a bunch, too,
5 boys and 2 girls.
That's why I'm homeless," he laughed.

He headed back to his bushes
We started to get into the minivan

Wait, take this, I called to him,
Handing him the bottle of Off! we had
in the front seat.

His grin was wide
His eyes full.

When I got into the car
I looked down at the button I'd picked up
On the way out of church.

We Are All Family.
We All Have Value.

Reality Redux

The thing about vacations is, if you do them right, they're really a vacation from reality, aren't they? Well, for us, it was pretty dramatic. One week, we're at the hospital, getting surgery to remove her port, then 5 days later, we leave for a 2 week vacation. No doctors! No hospitals! No cancer!

Well, I'm trying to go through my billion emails. I'm on a list of parents whose children have been diagnosed with Wilms. You develop some real relationships with these people, the only ones who can truly understand what you're going through. They know the chemos, they know the protocols. They know the side-effects.

They know the reality.

And sometimes, the reality isn't good. While we were gone, one of the dear ones I've gotten to know, a six-year old cutie pie named Diego, passed away. And another relapsed.

My mother can't understand why I follow these stories. She can't understand how you can have a relationship with someone you've never met. (She doesn't "do" computers, let alone internet.) She doesn't understand why I would want to follow their stories, now that Little Warrior is in remission. She doesn't understand that my heart is already with these families, that I am humbled by their journeys, and that I feel a responsibility to witness what they travel.

But I will have to limit how many I allow myself to be involved with.

Otherwise, it will eat me up.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"Here we are, Dorothy"

With 30 lbs of roasted New Mexican peppers, 10 lbs of the best German sausage you'll ever eat, a suitcase full of clean clothes (thanks to doing laundry at Mom's before leaving), we are home.

And all are glad to be. As we pulled into our neighborhood, the children began spontaneously singing a song of their own creation extolling their joy at returning. The baby cannot sing yet, but she swung her foot around with great happiness.

Gotta unpack. Answer emails. Vacuum seal and freeze the aforementioned food. Go through the kids clothes to figure out what they need for back-to-school, which is next week. Clean out the fridge. All that.

Still and all, good to be home.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Normal, for good or for not

After spending a marvelous, wonderful week with all my friends at "UU Camp," I am spending this week with the munchkins and my parents.

My father has "discussed" with me:

1) my weight
2) my finances
3) my weight
4) the clutter in my house
5) disciplining my children
6) my weight

I think it is fair to say that things are getting back to normal.

Along with all the other, my parents and I have gotten in great discussions about politics, religion, life, etc. Unlike the above 6 items, we are in agreement about all these things.

Kids are doing well, or as best as can be expected. Little Warrior is blossoming with health and development, and her grandparents are convinced she's the laughingest, smartest baby in the world.

And today ...

She walked. 4 whole steps.

God, normal is delicious.