Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I met Molly Ivins a few years ago, at a book signing. You would have thought I was meeting (insert favorite rock star). I could barely talk. But I managed to squeak out my request that she write something about from one Texas gal to another, because I was going to give it to my Mama. She kindly did so.
I don't believe in a literal heaven, where you meet up with those who have gone before you -- though I really, REALLY want to -- but it's a nice visual, isn't it: Ann Richards hanging out at the gate, meeting Molly with a cold beer held out. Saying something about "You think we can raise some HELL up here???"
Monday, January 29, 2007
And thank you, you generous souls who responded to my post about being a minister/returning to seminary. They were so heartening. I am humbled.
And ... I spent an hour looking at my seminary's schedule. (And a few minutes grousing about how the Big Important University near me offers Ph.Ds in theology, but no Master's, and no divinity degrees of any type. Because, God forbid, you might actually want to put theology in practice. /snark)
It would be a very different experience, returning to my seminary. I couldn't see it just as "language lessons," as I did before. I would have to question some concepts. I would not hide being a UU.
That might be kinda fun.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I've become aware that part of the anti-ministerial attitude shared by some in our church comes from having had a negative experience with a minister in the past.
For most, it was in another denomination. A minister who made them feel excluded. A minister who didn't preach of love. Someone who made them feel less than what they are.
For some, it happened in our own church, in the past. They feel disillusioned.
I know that this has been an issue in other UU churches as well. It doesn't always manifest as an anti-minister attitude, sometimes these folks go to a church that already has a minister. But they carry with them the pain of previous religious experience.
Unlike most of my posts, this isn't a rhetorical question. I ask you -- do you have a program for healing these souls when they come to your church? You can put the anti-minister attitude to the side. It will be years before we can afford a minister anyway.
But how do we help them heal?
How do we give them "hope and courage"?
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Alan C and Merribeth are taking me out to dinner tonight. Alan said to choose what I wear very carefully, because since I was nominated, paparazzi will probably be staking out the restaurant. Mer's husband Dave is staying at home with the new baby. She joked that she might have to go to the ladies' to ... get this ... pump her boobs. I know it's the "right" thing to do and all that, but it weirds me out. But the idea of being a parent is equally freaky. It was hard enough playing one in "Left Coast"!
Anyway, Josie is coming over this afternoon to help me get ready for tonight. I think I'll have her fix my hair in an updo like Gwyneth is always wearing. That looks so "classic movie-star," even if it does make my face look fat. Well, I've porked up since being between films. I am actually a size four now. Horrifying! And the awards are just a month away. Back to the raw food, and no more dates, either. Those are just candy.
Cecil says that I need to pick a charity that I support now. It's all the rage, Angelina, thank you very much. No, actually I think it's a good idea. After all, Karma means that you get something good in return, right? Since I played a mom in "Left Coast," he thinks it should be something for children. He talked about St. Jude's, but gah, I just couldn't. I just see those bald-headed kids on tv and want to bawl, so I change the channel.
Hey, is there a charity for plump film stars? LOL!
I don't know who I'm going to take to the show, since Luke will still be on location. He said that he and Jessica just really need to stay and work on their scenes. I'm sure she needs a lot of direction.
Maybe I'll take my niece Clarissa. She is so cute. I mean, she's in that awkward stage right now, but I think we'd look sweet together. That's the great thing about being the aunt. All the fun, none of the work!
Okay, I gotta go. I'm scheduled for a massage in 5. Tah.
Friday, January 26, 2007
And then ... diagnosis.
Funny, but even in all that fear of the first few days, the thought of ministry didn't disappear. In fact, I very cynically thought, "Well, this is just like in a book ... the heroine experiences a huge crisis that alters her faith, she turns her back on God and is done with religion."
Of course, I am a Unitarian, so even if I turned my back on God (I would argue I didn't, I just began to define God in a different way), that doesn't mean I'm done with religion.
Sidenote: Isn't it great to be part of a religion where our changing beliefs about God don't mean that we must exit out the side door of the chapel?
I had to put all seminary studies on hold to take care of LW. As time went on, and my thoughts about God and prayer changed, the thought of going back to seminary seemed to me distasteful. Being around surgeons and oncologists, it felt that for me to be a minister was frightfully self-indulgent. Especially a UU minister, who would serve such a tiny part of the population.
(This is where I am aware that this is a public blog ... I am fighting the urge to delete those words, because I don't want to offend any UU ministers. But the most important part of this blog, to me, is that I be honest about my feelings.)
And, ultimately, it's the case of the starfish. "I made a difference to *that one*." I have been blessed to have several UU ministers make a difference to me via their blogs and my blog. I can only imagine what a gift it would have been to have my own minister.
I think that the biggest issue is one of circular logic. Very soon after Little Warrior was diagnosed, I began hearing the refrain, "... this will make you a better minister."
Perhaps it will; I think all of our life experiences help us to be better ministers. I will go out on a limb here and say that I think a minister with 20 years experience will be a better minister than one with 6 months experience, assuming that s/he has learned something in that time, and is still willing to learn.
But the whole argument is so distasteful to me. For me to benefit in some way from LW having cancer ... I feel nauseated. Yes, I have learned from the experience. Yes, it has affected me in many different ways. But there is no lesson I learned that was worth an innocent baby going through that.
I guess I am still angry at the universe. Before, I saw messages from The Source in everything. I would be thinking about something, a song would come on the radio; I felt it was a message.
I am a petulant child. I fight against becoming a minister. Because LW's journey WILL have made me a better minister. And I don't want to reward the universe by allowing her pain to make me a better anything. I know that I sound like a spoiled child, even as I write those words. But the feeling remains.
I want to go back to seminary. To learn and argue and be exposed to new ideas. I just don't want to be a minister.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Anyway, what was cool was realizing that I had gone a whole half-day without even thinking about cancer, or seeing it as part of who she is. (The Baby Who Had Cancer.)
And then ...
A friend just emailed me the link to the website for the daughter of an acquaintance of hers. Little daughter, just diagnosed with a terminal brain stem tumor.
Clicked on the link. Read. Saw her picture.
Died a thousand deaths all over again.
Friday, January 19, 2007
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come
Last year, I woke up on this morning, and my life had changed. I was the mother of a child with cancer.
Today, I woke up, and --at least for the moment-- all is well.
What shall I do with my new life.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
And was something.
So, LE, ya wanna wrap up everything you've learned this past year in one pithy post? A few mentions of how you've changed?
I know what "profoundly grateful" means. How could I not? Little Warrior is still alive and looks like a bouncing baby toddler. She is still alive. Last year, that wasn't a sure thing.
I tried to go back and read my blog from the start of last year. I got to the end of February, and stopped. I know too much about what happens in March. It's kind of like seeing a movie multiple times ... you still hope that Shelby is going to wake up from her coma, even though you know she won't. For the rest of my life, I will be able close my eyes, and be back in that doctor's office as he tells that us that the chemo isn't working. "Minimal response." I can be in the surgeon's office as he explains what will happen if he opens her up, and the tumors have spread farther than he's expecting.
I can't read March.
It seems so unbearably cliched to say that this has affected me, changed me. But how could it not.
When I began this blog, high on what I felt was a Road to Damascus experience, I picked uuminister.blogspot.com. I meant no disrespect to those who were already ministers; I was simply excited about beginning the journey to becoming a minister.
I should change to a different url and will, at some time, when I have the time. I'm not currently in seminary and do not have any immediate plans to return. Right now, the idea of opening myself up to others' pain, and their need for my ministering ... I can't imagine it. I am not healed. I know this.
My old vision of God -- well, he and I parted ways. I don't call myself an atheist, or even an agnostic, but the idea of a personal God who sees all and cares just doesn't work for me anymore. To me, I think of "God" as being sight, and we are those who are blind since birth. How do you explain sight to one who has never seen? He will try to put it into his own context, but there is no real context for it, other than what it is. So we try to make sense of it by using things from our context -- Father, Mother, Love, Oneness.
That being said, at night, as I curl up in bed, I have found myself thinking, "I miss God." I cannot, as the song goes, simply let it be a mystery. I don't work that way, I don't think that way. But I will not deny that my heart yearns out for a greater power who loves me and wants good things for me.
I expect that journey to continue.
After Christmas, I sat in my favorite living room chair and looked at my little Christmas village set. It's such a touchstone for time, for me. What will have happened by the time I next bring it out?
Before this past journey, I would say that with great anticipation. What will have happened by the time I next bring it out!
Now, I say it with fear.
This is how I have changed. Before, I loved change. It was all unicorns and rainbows and oooh, what wonderful thing will happen next?
Now, I have learned that change is not necessarily good. And life can be scary.
I already loved my friends, but I have a greater appreciation for the power they have. The power to make you feel not alone. The power to be your brain, when you are frozen. Mine showed up at our hospital room with good food; a binder, filled with different pockets and pads, ready for me to fill up with the overwhelming information I was getting; their own clothes -- warm sweatpants and flannel shirts; and open ears. There was nothing I couldn't say to them. I didn't have to reassure them. I could break down if I needed to; I could laugh if I needed to.
Going to chemo appointments, another friend met me there a couple of times. The purported reason was to keep me company, but the bigger reason was so that she could share the experience. It wasn't just mine and The Husband's painful journey to go through -- our friends did, as well.
I have a profound appreciation for what I previously would have considered "little things." I admit, I wasn't much of a card sender. But now I know ... a card in the mail is so much more than a little piece of cardstock. It's a piece of time, a chunk of energy. It says that a person thought of you, bought a card, looked up your address, found a stamp. It is a gentle handpat, coming through your mailbox.
And Little Things that mean nothing ... I have very little patience for petty squabbles. No patience at all for those who enjoy complaining. Change it or get over it.
I have learned that you can't tell what's coming around the bend. If the sun is shining and you don't feel bad, then take advantage of that. Enjoy. Enjoy every minute that you actually can. There will come a time when you cannot manufacture joy. When life is so sad or scary that there is no happiness in your soul. If you can be happy ... do.
Simple, simple, simple
People say lots of things to you, when you go through something sad or traumatic. They mean well.
In the end, it was the simplest things people said, that had the most effect on me. When a friend called and said, "God, this really just sucks!" When another friend, who had lost her son to leukemia told me, with great meaning, "You will live through this."
Real is vastly superior to eloquent.
Having This Blog
This blog has been my place to cry, my place to rail. My place to say the unimaginable things I didn't want to share with anyone, not even myself. I could put them here, and leave them here. I have treated it more like a diary than a conversation; this was deliberate. I am too concerned with others' thoughts of me. It was for this reason that I didn't share it with anyone who knew me in "real life." I knew that I would begin writing what I wanted them to see me writing, rather than truth. I needed a place where I could be brutally true. I felt a need to be brutally true to any future person who might find herself in my situation and discover my blog.
And yet ... I discovered a community. New friends would leave comments on my blog, giving me cheer when I needed it, compassion when I needed that. Faceless, usually nameless friends, with interesting monikers ... I felt they were walking along with me on this journey, shadows to the left and right of me.
And Life Goes On
Several times, as I've been writing this post, I've had to pause. Not to get lost in thought or to gaze, unseeingly into the great void ... Rather, to go chase Little Warrior, who has gone up the stairs, or wrestle away a pack of gum that one of her siblings left out, or soothe Bo Peep, who just got bonked on the head with a lego.
Life goes on. Little Warrior is well, and frequently wreaking havoc. This week, I think she's decided to go early into the Terrible Twos. I lose my patience. I lose my temper. I explain to her, as she tries to climb over the back of a kitchen chair, that I worked Really Hard to try and keep her alive and I Don't Appreciate her attempts to kill herself.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Case in point: my church, as I briefly mentioned, is in danger of dying. Money, baby. We may not last the year. We're having to go into our savings, our hopeful, "someday we'll have a church of our own" money. We are having strategic meetings, trying to figure out how to get more money. Saving money isn't an issue -- the only way we could save money at this point is to move out of our building. (Which may be an issue.)
So what happens at the last program council meeting? A member tells us that we NEED to make a third bathroom. Technically, it would actually be a fourth bathroom, since we have a large ladies' room, large men's room, (really large -- this used to be a gym), and a bathroom in the nursery. We need this bathroom, you see, for any transgendered folks who don't feel like going to the men's or ladies'. On top of that, we need to purchase the $75 sign from Meadville-Lombard, that proclaims it to be a transgendered bathroom. When it was pointed out that, gee, if we got that far, we could make our own sign, he said no, because their sign has braille on it.
OKAY, LET ME SEE IF I AM GETTING THIS STRAIGHT.
We, a church that may, after more than a decade, be about to close our doors, need to make a $5000 bathroom for any blind transgendered people who might, possibly, one day, come into our suburban strip-mall church???
I think the bathroom is a fine idea, though I would simply make it a big unisex bathroom so that it could be used for families/transgendered/etc. And handicapped accessible, which we don't currently have.
But the bigger fact remains ... we don't have enough money to pay our bills!
(Lizard Eater dissolves in a mouth-frothing, squeeking, head-spinning, puddle.)
Okay. I'm back.
I am comparing that with the news today that the doomsday clock has been moved closer to midnight, due in part to our climate change, which Stephen Hawking described as a greater threat to our planet than terrorism.
Meanwhile, motions are put before Congress and before the voters to define marriage as only between opposite sexes. Bush is sending more troops to Iraq.
And the beat goes on.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
BLOG CARNIVAL TOPIC: Change
What compels you to change, and towards what are you aiming? You could talk about what religious (or non-religious) figures inspire you, about what tools you use to help yourself change, and what role you think god and the church might have to do with this change?
I have found that the most powerful source for personal change is external events. Of course, I doubt I would have written that last year at this time. Cynically, I can point to how often we make our resolutions ... lose weight, get a better job, read Proust ... but often what propels us is an event. A husband leaves. A class reunion looms. A boss takes all the credit for your big project.
Contentment can be a very dangerous thing, as it may keep us from pushing ourselves to improve, to strive toward a dream. Discomfort -- economic, self-consciousness, whatever -- is good sauce for change.
Before last January, I probably would have said something about how events occur precisely because we need to change. I know that on more than one occasion I said something along the lines of "if you're not doing what you should, God will happily give you a kick in the ass to get things going."
Your child gets cancer = inability to go along with that. For me, anyway. Because if that's true, then, that everything happens for a reason, that God has a master plan to make you change, then ... wait ...
So, if I am going to change because of my child getting cancer ... and this is happening for a reason ... then God gave my child cancer to get me to change???
"What a freakin' asshole!"
Pardon my blasphemy. I don't believe that God is an asshole and I don't believe that God makes things happen to effect change.
Moving on ...
The three questions -- what figures inspire me, what tools I use, what role is that of god/church: well, slap my butt and call me a housewife, but the person whom I have personally seen change the most people (and for the better) is a self-described chubby little lady who calls herself "Flylady." She wound up creating a tool to help others -- a mailing list and her website -- and she does all of that for free, because she feels it is her mission from God. (Any slippage into Blues Brother accent is purely accidental.)
So what is this magical change she causes?
Well, you can call it learning how to be organized, or keep your house clean, or take care of yourself, but in her words, it's from the acronym FLY -- Finally Loving Yourself.
She teaches people to love themselves by taking care of themselves, one babystep at a time. Your very first step, believe it or not, is to shine your kitchen sink. Even if you have to take all the dirty dishes out of it, and stack them on the counter, first you shine your sink. And you make a commitment to shine it every night before you go to bed.
Simple? Yes. Effective? Well, I believe her mailing list just topped 300,000 members with no advertising. Every day, people send her "testimonials" about how she has changed lives, marriages, kept CPS from taking their kids, encouraged those in abusive relationships to leave.
Her theology is not mine. Occasionally, she sounds too old-fashioned in role proscription for my taste. But she helps people change for the better.
And I'm not just a hair club fan, I'm also a client. Hat off to you, FlyLady. I humbly give you the award for being a Matthew 25:35 Christian.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Whenever you get surgery, day or otherwise, at her hospital, they put you in a set of yellow pajamas, which are yours to keep. She now owns 4 pair.
(shakes head in wonderment that her 19 month old baby could have had 4 surgeries.)
Well, today was mouth surgery. Chemo has its effect on developing teeth; in her case, her teeth either crumbled to bits or looked like swiss cheese. She is now sporting a Hollywood Smile of four capped teeth and two tooth-colored filled teeth. She also has cut-up gums and a puffy face, but we are DONE!
She is sleeping on her father, who is also asleep. (Part of being a daddy means developing an amazing knack for sleeping upright.) We will spend most of our weekend trying to give attention to LW, who, by the end of the week, began lashing out at strange times. (Go figure ... Tues=CT/MRI, Wed=doc appt, Thurs=onc. appt and blood test, Fri=surgery.) And attention to the 4 year old because having two different "grandmas" taking care of her this week has her doing deja vu back to last year. And attention to The Boy because he finally succumbed to the tummy bug going through our family. And attention to The Princess because everyone else is getting attention.
As for me, The Husband just found a recipe for a Truffletini that he wants to try out. (He loves to mix drinks, but rarely drinks, himself.)
Happy weekend to everybody. Long week, tough week ... but freakin' GREAT week here.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Have you seen Two for the Road? Really, you must, MUST see it. Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn, following their marriage, but in a non-linear fashion. One of the best things in the movie, is that you see them pass (on the road, in cities) their younger selves who also were at that place, at an earlier time.
Haven't you ever felt like that? Gone to the old cafe where you used to hang out in college, and expect to see your younger self over in the corner? Thought of the things you'd go tell her/him?
Anyway, I had a Two for the Road moment today. We got to the hospital at 5:30 am, and they don't open up the offices til 6. So, The Husband, Little Warrior and I went to the little hospital chapel. No one was there, so we let LW romp around it.
I sat in the same place that I sat on March 31. I had just handed LW over to the anesthesiologist for her surgery on both kidneys. We didn't know what would happen. Went to the chapel and sobbed and sobbed. Dropped to my knees, begged silently, sobbed more.
I saw her today, my younger and heartbroken self. I tapped her on the shoulder and pointed to LW who was, at that moment, happily climbing into a little chair, just her size. Rosy-cheeked, hair growing in. I pointed her out to my earlier self and said, Look.
I like to think that I felt my future self put an arm around my shoulders but I couldn't, alas, hear what she had to say.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Call me insane.
I guess it's denial of the highest degree, since I don't give this talk til February. What I really feel like doing is sitting somewhere and weeping a bit. But I'm a Mom, with two kids at home, and that tends to be the kind of thing that comes up later in therapy. Theirs, not mine.
On top of this is the fact that she's been dealing with the stomach virus that she caught from her sister. She seems to be better, cross fingers, touch wood. If she throws up again, we have to cancel the scans and reschedule.
My purple bracelet isn't here yet. Thank goodness.
Random thought ... I don't want LW to grow up thinking she's special because she had cancer. She IS special, but for much better reasons. She has a giant scar across her belly. I think I'll teach her that when people ask, she should say she once laughed so hard, she split in two.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
But in a recent story about a UU minister's service, a journalist misused "literally" that gave me quite a humorous vision.
"Reverend Trumbore, of First Unitarian Universalist Society, wanted to try something new for the first Sunday of the New Year, and his Sunday morning service had the congregation in stitches. Literally."
A vision of Rev. Trumbore, running through the aisles of his church, slashing his congregants with a pair of scissors, arose in my literalist brain. "At the end of the service, still laughing, but grimacing from the pain, the congregation carpooled to the local hospital where most received between 3-8 stitches where the minister had wounded them."
I'm slated to give a humor service the Sunday before Valentines Day, but I don't plan to literally have my congregation in stitches.
That, you can only get from a professional minister.
Before you nod off, look around your room -- even if it is messy, as mine usually is -- and appreciate how comfortable you feel. Your room. Your womb for the next 6-9 hours.
It's usually something we take for granted. Until you find yourself not in your room. In a hospital room, either for yourself or someone you love.
The night before I took Little Warrior to the doctor ... that turned into the ER ... that turned into the oncology floor ...
The night before all that, my little baby lay next to me in bed, as she did every night. She was blissfully asleep, belly full of milk. I knew I was taking her to the doctor the next day, for some repeated vomiting and a distended abdomen. Perhaps it was some type of a bowel obstruction.
I kissed her forehead and looked around the room, soaking everything in. Consciously soaking everything in. Appeciating the moment. I'll always have this night, I thought to myself. This lovely, normal night.
I don't think my thoughts were particularly prescient. It is the domain of all parents to worry that something big and scary will happen to their child.
(That being said, "Your Baby Has Cancer" was not something I expected to hear.)
Over the next two weeks, I would think back to that night. I guess I still do, because it was the last night of my innocence.
But I also looked back to that night because I was in my room. Messy, things strewn around, blankets twisted. My room. My bed. And it was where I most wanted to be.
Tonight, if you are there, enjoy being in your own bed.
Friday, January 05, 2007
So, up early early to get to the hospital by 6:30 am for CT of chest, MRI of abdomen. Already got the phone call from the billing department informing us that since it's a new year, our deductible starts again, so be sure and bring $1000 with you, 'kay?
All prayers/candle-lighting/chicken-sacrificing accepted with thanks.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
It's heartbreaking and heartrending and I can't even get into it all here.
Moving on, in a not-completely-unrelated story:
And to help his congregation remember, the Rev. Will Bowen gave each one a purple bracelet stamped with the word spirit.
The challenge was to go 21 days straight without mumbling a complaining word and no gossiping and criticizing either. If a person slipped, the bracelet was to be switched to the other wrist, and the 21-day time period started over.
But what began in July as a simple idea has become a national movement, a “complaint-free movement.” And Christ Church Unity in Kansas City is becoming known throughout the country as the complaint-free church."
I'm sure that I will be switching my bracelet back and forth many times a day. But at least I'll be trying.
Order a bracelet. (free)
In my dream, I blogged about it, calling it "A Big Day for Unitarian Universalism."
Early in the day, there were two different instances of someone prominent/celebrity receiving an award and being identified as UU, e.g. "Justin Timberlake, Unitarian Universalist."
Later, Oprah came on, and she identified her guest as Jane So-and-So (except Jane was famous) and noted, "and she's a leader in the Unitarian Universalist religion!" And the audience cheered, in the way that they would if she said "and she lives in Chicago!"
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
I'm downstairs, emptying the vomit bowl from The Princess every 20 minutes.
Last year, at this time (prior to January 18), I would have thought, Day-um, this sucks! What a horrible start to the new year!
This year ... (shrugs nonchalantly).
January 18: initial diagnosis in ER