Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Testify, my brothers and sisters!

LE needs your help. I've created a "brochure" website* at WelcomingReligion.org. As you can see, I need some more testimonials. Tell me why you love this religion.

* Why? Well, as I was doing my walking/running laps at the Y, looking at the backs of all the folks I was passing (or who were passing me), I decided I wanted some Evangelizing Tshirts (with the message on the back, natch.) I wanted to put a url on them that was easy to remember -- welcomingreligion was available. I like the UUA site, but it's multipurpose. I wanted the equivalent of a brochure -- short, sweet, to the point, and most importantly, made just for folks scratching their heads saying, Huh? Wattsa Unitarian?

That's why.

Edit: thanks for the comments. Please put your testimonial in comments or send to lizardeater at gmail dot com.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

I am "Margaret"

American women of a certain age -- mine -- almost all remember reading "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret," Judy Blume's coming of age story about Margaret Simon who talks to God every night and wants the attentions of Philip Leroy and above all else, to get her period.

That last part seemed to define the book and for many, (me included), it was a real introduction to menstruation.

To me, though, the important part of the book, alluded to in the title, was Margaret's spirituality.

How I related to Margaret! The backstory was that one of her parents was raised Christian, the other was Jewish, so she was unchurched -- they decided that when she grew up, she could choose her own religion. As I recall, it was obvious that her parents were agnostic. I remember her saying that her mother thought God, "was a nice idea."

Neither of my parents were Jewish, but everything else was spot-on. Like Margaret, I began saying prayers/talking to God at a young age. Also like Margaret, my parents never knew. Both Margaret and I questioned what their response would be.

I have to think that of this "Margaret generation," there is a subsection of us who related to Margaret on that religious level. The part that hungered for spiritual nourishment, for a relationship with the divine, but eschewed the pull of outside forces to choose a particular theology. It is that pull of outside forces that makes Margaret temporarily give up God. Her grandparents are fighting about whether she should be Jewish or Christian, so she angrily announces she doesn't believe in God at all. Of course, this is for show. She stops talking to God, admitting to herself that it's because she is angry with him. In the end, she gets her period, and is so excited, she goes back to the relationship -- Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret!

Longtime readers of this blog know that I've been on quite a journey of my own with the divine, as I rejected an earlier vision of God and went through the process of stripping away any vestiges of belief in the divine (not unlike the song I reference often, John Lennon's God).

Like Margaret, who misses the comfort of that personal relationship, I would find myself, at night, missing God. I knew that my beliefs in a personal-pal God no longer meshed with what I felt to be true. It felt juvenile and fake to "talk" to God as I did previously. But I missed God.

Slowly, I have come back from that. The writings of Bishop Spong, among others, helped. My belief in Unitarian Universalism helped immensely, because for me, it is the doorway to the divine. I have faith that this religion exists to help us all find our own definition of the Holy -- which, incidentally, includes definitions that reference no God. Definition can pave the way for experience. For so many of us, definition is an integral part of experiencing the Divine. We can't just lie in bed and pray until we feel that the experience is backed up with some sort of honest personal framework.

So, whatever happened to Margaret? As far as I know, Judy Blume has never elaborated. I read somewhere that Margaret would be 49 this year, about a decade older than I.

For me, Margaret ... well, I think she grew up. Tried different religions during college and her early 20s. Had a tragedy in her life that made her rethink everything. Came back with a new definition of God, but discovered that her relationship with God hadn't changed that much.

What can I say? I am Margaret.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blooming Where You're Planted

I've been thinking on this topic for a few weeks. Well, a combination: blooming where you're planted and thinking outside the box.

We live in a place where summers are miserable. You go from air-conditioned home to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned work to air-conditioned mall, or restaurant, or whathaveyou.

For much of the country, summer is grand. It is picnics and playing outside. For me, it is mosquitos, sweat and humidity. No lie -- last week, we walked from our front door to our car -- maybe 15 steps -- and Bo Peep had 10 mosquito bites.

I tried fighting this head-on. Lots of bug spray, self-lectures about how people used to live without air-conditioning, I was just "soft" and needed to get out there and have some FUN! How many times I've dragged the family to this outdoor concert or that outdoor picnic, only for it to end up with pleas to go home and get out of the swamp. And the kids wanted to go home, too.

A couple of weeks ago, I thought, "Why?" If you live in Minnesota, people don't tell you that you need to get outside in that January blizzard and have some FUN! They say, cuddle up next to the heater, have an indoor picnic, play board games with your family and enjoy this cozy time.

So, I'm going to stop fighting it, stop telling myself how we "should" be. Summer is the winter of our discontent, so it's time to enjoy playing inside, free from bugs and heat. We get to enjoy the outside pretty much all winter long -- let's enjoy it then.

Like those of yore who canned and put up food for the winter, next March, I'm going to be filling our freezer full of prepared meals that I can either heat up in the microwave or in a crockpot (avoiding the stove or oven). Summer will be for seeing movies in cool theatres, curling up with a book rather than making dinner, browsing the library, and going bowling.

All in air-conditioned bliss.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lizard Eater Reveals Herself!


I really want to be a UU Minister

Actually, that's not true. It's not that I want to be a UU minister ... I can think of many careers that would pay better, offer significantly less stress -- being an air-traffic controller or bomb detonator come to mind -- and allow more time for my family.

It's that whole issue of being "called." I feel called to do this, it feels inevitable in a positive way. I have fought it for years. I thought for sure that Little Warrior's cancer journey would terminate the call. But here I go again, back to seminary, as if pulled by an invisible band ...

Ms. Kitty has me once again thinking about church conflict. Fairly innocuous-sounding phrase, "church conflict." But the level of hostility and resentment that can actually come out ... (shudders).

I have seen 2 vicious, VICIOUS conflicts and numerous little ones. The two big conflicts were over little things. Not over ethics, or whether to get a minister, or heck, even joys and concerns (that perennial source of conflict). Little things.

I've read enough about systems theory to spot the issue here. Both times, the church was poised for change. Organizations like status quo. They seek to self-correct any move to leave status quo with conflict.

That sounds so detached and objective, doesn't it? But the reality is so different. "Self-correct" can mean "attempt to eviscerate any opponent and run around with their entrails up on sticks."

This year, I have read countless books about church conflict. This is not a rare problem. Search on "church conflict" at amazon.com. 7,868 Results. (I haven't read all of them.)

The only real answer I have is, it's going to happen. And it doesn't matter if you're the greatest minister in the world. Church leaders, by their very existence, will be seen with suspicion and bitterness by some. I have been amazed at seeing the Board Member Phenomenon. Jane Smith is a well-liked, highly respected member of the congregation. No one can say a bad word about her. She is universally adored. So she is asked to be on the church board. She says yes. In doing so, she is instaneously transformed into a power-hungry, authoritarian beast bent on destroying the church and taking away the rights of its members. Does that actually happen? No. But merely by being in a position of authority, the perception of her is changed. She is exactly the same. But there are some church members who see anyone in an authority position in a negative light. WHY?????

(she wails into the unknown)

That's a rhetorical question. Displacement, resentment to authority ... well, heck, there's lots and lots of reasons.

And that's just a Board member. Ministers ... (she shudders again) ... ministers are expected to be absolute shiny gold perfection, dipped in chocolate. A single flaw is used to justify behavior that a person would normally be ashamed to exhibit. (Do you know, I actually had a church member come to me and suggest that we secretly create a group who would regularly meet to pray/send energy specifically about getting rid of a minister? And this was a fairly respected member of the church.) It's enough to make the ballsiest seminarian run shrieking to hide under her bedcovers.

The one balm in this is that so many of you wonderful ministers whom I respect and -- let's admit it -- see as the Mick Jaggers* in my world -- have been open about the fact that you, too, have suffered these.

So when it happens to me ... I'll be in good company!

* meaning you're the rock stars of my world. Not that you're the rode-hard-and-put-up-wet, baby-dating type. Although I imagine you sometimes feel like the first part of that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

He's Home

And sleeping. They couldn't find anything, so they referred him to a GI specialist. They think it might be an ulcer.

Poor guy -- his loving wife reminded him, "Remember how, last week, I was talking to you about how I think you should be focusing on your physical and mental health right now? Ahem!"

But I also bundled him off to bed, so he can't complain too much.

I'd better be more subtle. I think there's part of him convinced that I can work spells. "Okay, eye of newt, tongue of frog, teach him that he needs to be a bump on a log!"

Yes, lack of sleep makes me punchy.

Here's to no more late-night blogging posts this week. KnockwoodpleaseGodThankYewJesus.

Maybe gall bladder ...

5:43 am. Nothing showing up. Doctor wants to do an ultrasound, if nothing shows up, then they'll send him home with pain meds and wait to see if any other symptoms pop up.

Sometimes, it seems very easy to imagine 100 years from now, when people look back at this time much in the same way we look back at doctors "bleeding" patients to make them better.

To explain the drama ... The Husband never complains about hurting. Never. He's not dissimilar from the Monty Python character in Holy Grail who keeps getting appendages hacked and still says, "It's only a flesh wound!"

So when he does ...

The Husband in The ER

4:30 am. Just got a call from The Husband. He's not having a heart attack.

Okay, let me back up.

Yesterday evening, he was feeling queasy and light-headed, which he attributed to not enough sleep. During the night, he kept feeling like he had indigestion, which Pepto didn't help. So --

3:00 am. The Husband refuses LE's plea to take him to the ER, vows that he is fine to drive, it just feels like bad indigestion, and convinces me to stay home with the sleeping four. Promises to call when he gets to the hospital.

3:22 am. He's there.

Okay, and that gets us where we are now. At 4:22, I succumbed and called his cell phone. No answer, and you can imagine my crazed thoughts, even though I knew logically there were a million normal reasons why he might not be answering. 4:29, he called back. They did an EKG, and it's not a heart attack. The nurse thinks they'll probably give him contrast and a CT, since his abdomen is tender. Could be appendix. Gall stones. Or a million other things.

Have I ever mentioned how I totally don't trust stomachaches? The Boy, when he was 6 months old, had emergency surgery for intussusseption, after we'd been told it was a stomach flu. I thought I had indigestion, but wound up getting emergency surgery for appendicitis, with my appendix cleverly hiding behind other organs. And, of course, Little Warrior. I took her in for vomiting, and the pedi said it was just the stomach flu going around. 10 days later, we were in the hospital.

So here I am, blogging of all things. I'd like to clean the kitchen from last night, but I don't want to wake up anyone. I guess it's better that the kids and I are here, not in the waiting room at the ER, but geeez. Hmm. Maybe I can get The Husband to keep his cell phone connected to me, so I can listen in on any activity? That wouldn't be bizarre, would it?

Thank you all for your kind words about our puddy-tat. And I'm still not sure about this whole prayer thing, but I'll take 'em.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Goodbye, Miss Molly

She was our first "baby." And in all my life, I've never met a kitty that more liked to cuddle. She put up with babies pulling her tail and countless moves. And nothing made her happier than sleeping underneath one of our chins.

Monday, July 23, 2007



Just got a call from The Husband, at the emergency vet. We don't know, big picture, what is wrong with our Molly. But according to the vet, she was extremely, EXTREMELY dehydrated.

a) we took her to a regular vet who was recommended (e.g. we did our homework)
b) we explained to the vet why we were boarding her (and paying for) for the weekend
c) we were assured that she would get tender loving care, as well as time to walk around.

For a cat to get extremely dehydrated at home is one thing. But at the vet's???

I realize I am not entirely objective right now, but I feel like -- WTF??? We PAID for the vet to kill her?

Anyone who has been around medicine knows that dehydration, in and of itself, is not a big deal to treat. Stick in an iv.

Really? They didn't notice?

So ... right now ...

They are doing blood tests to try and see what's up. If it looks like there's a chance this is something she can pull through, we're going to be paying ungodly amounts of money (since it's kitty ER) to have her rehydrated.

Given what we were going through a year ago, maybe it seems crazy that I'm so upset by this. Hey, I understand. Pets die.

But this ... just seems so needless. So careless.

It is 3 minutes after midnight. I am furious.

Miss Molly Goes to Emergency Vet

All of the girls are in bed. The Boy and I are both crying. The Husband has taken the cat, Miss Molly, to the emergency vet. We have barely any hope. She's been frail -- she's 17 -- and she just doesn't seem to really be there tonight.

We had taken her to the vet last week, worried about her weight loss. The vet said it looked like just a UTI and an abscessed tooth. We left her with the vet over the weekend since we were going out of town and she was on antibiotics.

When The Husband picked her up today, she seemed extra frail. At home, she didn't use her back legs. As the evening progressed, she tried to move, but barely could. We don't want her in pain, so we didn't wait for the morning.

Right now, I don't know what will happen. But I can guess.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

He's Got the Whole World, In His Hands

Harry Potter. Or actually, the Whole World has him in their hands, right?

Later, I'll talk about the book itself. But right now, I'm just glowing, knowing that in 93 countries around the world, people of all ages were buying this one book. During the last, what, 48+ hours, people around the world were reading the same book. We were all linked together in one world. Our shoulders tightened, we laughed, we cried. All together.

I think that's pretty fabulous.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I just finished Deathly Hallows

Wow wow wow wow wow.

I'm sure there will be hipper, smarter people than I who will have gripes and complaints.

I have none.

Masterful. And I want to talk about it with someone who has studied theology.

But my husband and mother-in-law have been overwhelmingly loving today, allowing me to just read the book through start to finish. And now, I need to get dressed for The Husband's 20th class reunion.

Accio hairbrush!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby!

Yay to Rev. Haffner for going on O'Reilly to talk about sex education.

The whole subject makes me chuckle, because it seems so simple to me, a mom of a 2-5-8-and-11. When Mom keeps getting pregnant every three years, there are questions!

I guess that's why it all seems so simple. With Little Warrior, we're teaching her all the names of her body parts. Elbow. Cheek. Chin. Belly. When she jabs her little finger below the waist, what do you say? Well, we say "vulva." Are there actually parents who get a horrified look on their faces? No, no, that is THE AREA WHICH MUST NOT BE NAMED. The Voldemort of the human body.

Mom gets pregnant. Kids are going to ask questions. So you answer them, truthfully. As they get older, the questions will get more on sex, less on reproduction. "Why do we have to be gentle around Daddy this weekend?" Daddy is getting something called a 'vasectomy.' "What's that?" Well, we feel our family is complete now, so daddy is getting a medical procedure done so that mama won't get pregnant anymore. (pause pause pause) "Well, Mom, why is that necessary? Why don't you just not have sexual intercourse anymore?"

Hey, I didn't say that blushing wasn't involved.

Bo Peep is starting kindergarten this year. Along with learning new things, she'll surely learn things we've already taught her. How to write her name. That one and one is two. The names of her shoulders, knees and toes. I certainly would have no problem with the school reinforcing the names of all body parts.

There are many bits of wisdom that you repeat over and over to your children. Look both ways before you cross the street. If you want a friend, be a friend. Don't speak with your mouth full.

For us, whenever we're helping a kid with their bath, it's "these are your private parts" and we go through the list of who can see them and in what context. Short list ... mom and dad when they're helping you with a bath, the doctor when she's examining you. And they all take great glee in saying, "And me!" when we ask who else can see/touch them. And crack up laughing. Monkeys.

And this is why sex ed needs to be in the schools. Because there are some parents who don't teach this. Maybe they don't teach it just by accident, or maybe they don't teach it out of design. Some children are touched, they don't know that it's their private parts and they have the right to control who touches them.

It's their bodies. They have the right to know what those parts are called, how they work, and that it is exclusively their domain.

And The Husband and I ... well, we believe all our bodies are a gift from God. A precious, beautiful gift. And we teach them that, too. And that is what should be taught in the home, not at school.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

On Young Marriage

I was asked by a young person recently about getting married young.

I guess society's attitudes have a way of worming into our brains, because my instinct is to say, "No, no! Take your time! Don't do it!"

Which is hypocritical. And absolutely ridiculous.

I met The Husband when I was 19. By 20, we were engaged. At 21 (and before college graduation), we were married.

We just had to, you see. No, I don't mean for any practical reasons. I wasn't pregnant, he didn't need medical insurance (actually, we took a big financial hit, since marriage meant I had to go on COBRA). We were just young, and in love, and our hearts were bursting. We just had to get married. Which is, incidentally, the only reason why I think you should get married. If you don't just have to ... don't.

For us, that was also the reason for having children. Our hearts were just bursting with wanting to. We just had to have those little humans join us.

I'm sure there are cogent, logical arguments for marriage and children. But I'll confess that both getting married and having babies were outside logic. Outside words. They were both something that my soul cried out for.

Is young marriage hard? Absolutely. You're not fully formed, you're still learning who you are. It is very easy to grow into two people who shouldn't be together.

But the flip side is what we experienced ... we got to grow up together. We melded. Our interests merged. We talk, sometimes, about what it would be like to be the individuals we are now, and trying to merge lives. We can't imagine it.

So, maybe it's all just luck. But for whatever reason, if two b'shert are lucky enough to find each other young, it's a gift.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Worship and Mise En Place

"'I try to make no mistakes so as not to distract the congregation from the experience of worship,' (Mauricio) explains matter-of-factly. If he drops the Gospel book or trips over the altar rail, people will pay more attention to him than to the service. By Mauricio's logic, helping people concentrate on their prayers through a seamless performance on his part allows the congregation to participate more deeply in worship." -- The Close, Chloe Breyer


If you're a line cook, before the dinner rush begins, you're expected to have your mise en place all set up and neat. If you have to stop in the middle of assembling a recipe to slice up a shallot, dice some carrot, search for that container of basil, well, what the chef will do will certainly involve profanity and quite possibly include violence.

And that's for work done behind the scenes.

How I would like it for all UU worship and program committees to have as their Sunday vision the idea that you don't want to interrupt congregant's commune with the divine. Announcements, if given, are read smoothly, not, "Does anyone else have anything?" Any lector duties are planned out -- no spontaneous, made-up, Calls to Worship, please.

Each step should be carefully and clearly explained. Unexpectedly bursting into song is great on Broadway, but a bit disconcerting to visitors. "And now, we will sing our affirmation, printed in your order of service."

Both lector and speaker should arrive at least a half hour ahead of the service. Both should do their own mise en place -- where are my notes? Where is my reading? Are they in order? Do I have all the pages? Can I go smoothly from one to the other?

There are so many spontaneous things we can't help -- the two year old who pipes up in the middle of the children's story, the old man who takes 10 minutes in joys and sorrows. And that's going to happen. The congregation's job is to keep things fresh. The lector and speaker's jobs are to keep things smooth. Professional. To not interrupt the experience of worship.

LE, who has finally been pushed over the edge of sloppy programming

Saturday, July 14, 2007

My time to go FOOOM!

I am pleased to report that I have memorized the names and order of all the books of the Old Testament and New Testament. GenesisExodusLeviticusNumbersDeuteronomy ... okay, so it's more impressive in person.

This time, I'll be one of the people going FOOOM!

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Power of Love (and Wine and Cheese)

Yesterday, I read this commentary on the Time website.

The writer complains that " If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God." Yes, unlike the bang-you-over-the-head symbolism of Narnia, it's true -- God is not named in the Harry Potter books.

But what blows me away is how the writer completely discounts the power of love. "In the new millennium, magic comes not from God or nature or anything grander or more mystical than a mere human emotion."

Oh. Love. Mere human emotion. I'm sorry, Mr. Spock called, and he wants his attitude back ...

I am frequently overwhelmed with the power found in love. How's this for a story:

Robber comes to house, with a gun. The guests invite him to have wine. He shares their wine, their cheese. He puts the gun away and apologizes. He requests hugs. He leaves.

We don't know what happened next. Did he change his life? Did he go somewhere else and commit robbery?

He gave an offer of violence. They offered wine and hugs.

Pretty powerful stuff for Muggles.

"There are no bad days"

... my father said, after he survived cancer. He said any day you're alive is a good day. (Note: he did not say that as we went through LW's cancer. And I know he didn't think it. Grandbabies aren't supposed to get cancer.)

But there is some truth in it ... that the pissy little stuff is just that, pissy little stuff.

I can remember longing for "normal" so much that it was an actual physical ache.

Today, we went to swim lessons. And the house is a wreck. And I don't know where LW's shoes are. And the older kids and I saw Harry Potter. And we're making plans for vacation, for seminary, for the start of school, for paying off bills, for putting mulch in the flower beds. And I'm never going to be caught up on laundry, not for the next 16 years. And I'm not exercising enough. And I have to go back in the dentist in a coupla weeks.

Normal still tastes absolutely delicious.

Next scans: August 21.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Revelation is not sealed ...

It started off as a comment on Peacebang, but grew too long:

Two of the first things I was taught in my first seminary class: 1) You can't be a unitarian (lower case) and a Christian - and - 2) Revelation is sealed!!! (Emphasis, professor's.)

How sad! How unnecessarily difficult it makes the connection between modern life (with its scientific knowledge) and religion!

When I think of revelation not being sealed, it is with the same joy that I think of A. Powell Davies' phrase about the "illimitable mind."

July 21 marks a long-anticipated day for Harry Potter fans. But it is also a day of sadness for many. This is the last book. There will be no new adventures for the beloved characters.

I use a children's book as an example, because that same delight and excitement at learning new things, having new facts revealed -- don't we still have that in us, for life itself? And I think there is an unnamed promise that it will always be so. That revelation is NOT sealed, and that there will always be more knowledge, more "good stuff" revealed. Long after we are dead and gone, the adventures go on.

I see so much revelation through science, especially medical science; not surprisingly, considering my story. Newsweek recently ran a story that says there is research that indicates what we think about death ... is wrong. When someone has had a heart attack and hasn't been revived within 5 minutes, it was thought that their cells began to die. And then someone looked a little closer and discovered ... no! The cells were still alive! It was when they then began re-oxygenating that the cells began to die. Total change-ola, Batman! So doctors are now experimenting with finding slower, gentler ways to reintroduce oxygen through the body. In one study, they saved 80% of patients ... the "old" (current) way? 15%.

This both floored me and excited me. Wow! We've really had it all wrong! And wow! Think of how this can change things!

And WOW ... if we can be so wrong about something so basic -- whether a person is alive or dead -- just think of all the assumptions that we base on our beliefs upon. There is always something new to learn. Always a potential gain in thinking outside the box, questioning our assumptions. Whether it's the identity of God, or the power of thought, or of how we fit into the universe.

Revelation is not sealed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Benedict makes it just too easy to poke fun

From: Benedict issues statement asserting that Jesus established ‘only one church’

First paragraph is theirs, next paragraph is mine. In case you couldn't tell.

Despite the harsh tone of the document, it stresses that Benedict remains committed to ecumenical dialogue.

"I am willing to speak with all of the heretics and devil-worshippers," he said, adding, "I believe in interfaith dialogue between the only true church and all the rest of you hell-goers."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Seesaws still give me a feeling of longing

There are advantages to being an only child, or raised like an only. (My next closest sibling was 12 when I was born.) But there are also things you miss out on, and like anything, you're left with little clues about yourself.

I am thinking of this because a friend was telling me about the child of a mutual friend, who is growing up as a "like an only," similar to the way I was. She LOVES to play hide-and-go-seek whenever they're together. Even at "her age" -- 8.

I told her I completely understood. Because there are tons of games you can play by yourself. Checkers. Solitaire. Even monopoly. (You can even cheat yourself.) But hide-and-go-seek just doesn't work unless you're Sibyl.

Mine wasn't hide and go seek. It was seesaws. Whenever we went on a vacation, my parents would stop at playgrounds and let me play for a bit. They were older, so they'd sit and watch while I played.

You can swing by yourself.

You can slide by yourself.

You can't seesaw by yourself.

Once I had two kids, I bought a seesaw.

The Joy in Being Miserable

Or offended. Or mad. Or ...

Toonhead mentions this. "I know people who find happiness in being offended. They don't realize that offense is their source of happiness but if they were not offended by something then their conversations would be very short and their lives would have less meaning."

This is something I've been doing a lot of thinking about recently. I first became really aware of this phenomenon with my MIL's stepmother. If someone had written her into a movie, the critics would blast it, saying her character was completely unbelievable. That bad. Really. The kind of person who got so much pleasure in criticizing. Actual happiness from something good -- pah! But give her something to complain about or criticize, and she was in hog heaven.

I've seen this in church matters. The old thing about arguing with someone being like mud-wrestling a pig -- at some point, you realize the pig likes it. There are actually some people who derive pleasure from being in the midst of church drama! I know, shocking! There is some physiological response to being righteously indignant that the brain registers as pleasure.

No halo over my head. I know I have succumbed to the mighty temptress before. And I am a big proponent on throwing grand pity parties, when one really needs one.

So ... getting pleasure out of being miserable. Human.

Which brings me to discussions I've had with my 11 year old son. We've talked about how it can feel pleasurable to be unhappy. Or to be mad. But at some point, the pity party needs to end. And you have to say, You know, as much fun as this is, it genuinely feels better to be happy than to be miserable. (And more people want to be around you.)

So, my immediate goal is, when I am getting hot and bothered about some issue, to check myself. Heart racing? Feeling excited? Feeling ... pleasure? Take it down a notch, chief. You're hopped up on misery and probably not thinking straight. Take a break and analyze after the misery-high has worn off.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My Altar is a File Cabinet

Okay, I realize that sounds like one of those UU jokes -- "If you carry a daytimer, rather than a Bible ..." "The priest grabbed the cross, the UU minister grabbed the copier ..."

But really, my altar is a file cabinet.

Since Little Warrior is getting old enough for me to have the hope that I can set up an altar and she won't attempt to eat it, I've been looking around, wondering how I wanted to set up this altar. I've had others, at other houses. A nice chest? A bedside table? Hmm. I've been thinking about this for some time.

And it just recently hit me -- file cabinet!

I am not instinctively an organized person, and so I *love* neat filing systems. I love my label maker. Neatly labeled folders, inside hanging tab folders pertaining to the folders inside -- it is as if I am organizing my very brain.

So while I was re-setting up my family filing cabinet, it hit me. A file cabinet for an altar.

And so it is all set up. I had an extra 2 door filing cabinet, holding nothing more important than random flotsam and jetsum. I purged most of that, redistributed what was important, and presto, an empty altar.

I set up folders pertaining to spiritual, religious, inspirational, churchworks and seminary matters.

I often save essays and such, onto my hard drive, that I find inspirational. But do I ever go back and browse those? Very rarely.

So now, I print them out, and put them in an appropriate file. "Forgiveness" "Simplicity" "Grace"

Many of your words inspire me. They'll be going in the altar. (Appropriately marked with authorship, date, website. Mais oui.)

On top is something special that I use as an altar cloth, and the other, personal items one might expect to see on an altar.

So, there. My altar is a file cabinet. I love it.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bash the Volunteer

Those of you who have done extensive work volunteering for your church or district, can I see a show of hands of those who have never been criticized, snarked at, had your motives questioned or otherwise "bashed"?

Bueller, Bueller?

Mom to the Left has me thinking about this phenomenon. It seems that when one volunteers (or accepts a request) to do work in our churches, one is also tacitly agreeing to the following:

I, the undersigned, do hereby offer myself as a willing servant to those who wish to argue, berate, and criticize the work that I do on my own time, and for no pay. I expect no gratitude and am willing to accept being treated as if this volunteer labor is something I owe to the organization. Anyone may feel welcome to second-guess my methods, motives, and choices.

What is this?

I will admit that some of my vehemence comes from personal experience. After completing a huge undertaking, I watched as the two people who "directed" my efforts accepted accolades, not bothering to mention the drone who actually did the work. Hey, that happens. When I finally said "okay, I'm done," was when I received a boo-boo-oops email from one of the directors.

Going off on a tangent, but I've seen this done so many times, and create so many problems, let me define the boo-boo-oops email:

  1. Person A and Person B email back and forth about a particular issue, never deleting their responses at the bottom of the emails.
  2. Responding to one of the emails in the long "reply, reply, reply" email (that now contains about 4 or 5 back and forth email messages), Person B forwards the entire thing to Person C, without deleting any of the earlier messages.
  3. Person C gets the message meant for herself ... and reads the entire email. In one of the previous emails at the bottom, Person A and/or B said something disparaging about Person C.

Boo-Boo-Oops Email ... the power to break up friendships, marriages, and volunteers' spirits.

So, it was after that when I said, "Okay, I can't do this anymore. You've got 4 months to find someone else."

(In hindsight, in this particular situation, I would handle it differently now. I had a terrific opportunity to educate some folks about -- if nothing else -- email etiquette. But I, like so many, simply tendered my volunteer resignation. How often has that happened in our churches or districts, and we never knew why?)

There has to be a way to share legitimate criticism ("Mary, I really appreciate your willingness to repaint the fellowship hall. However, we've had a few concerns over the choice of neon-hot-pink with red trim.") without resorting to snarkiness, condescension, anti-authoritarianism ...

Hmm. Maybe we could start with gentle politeness. And gratitude. Appreciation. Even if the fellowship hall makes our eyes bleed, and even if it has to be repainted, it still took Painter Mary a full day to paint it. A day which she gave to try and improve things.