Thursday, January 31, 2008

Isn't it a marriage, even if it isn't legal?

Serious question, there. Because I quite possibly am missing out on a bit of vital information, perhaps some that would mean my butt would be thrown in jail.

My contention is that marriage is a religious sacrament, regardless of whether it is legally sanctioned or not. A baptism is a religious sacrament, and it's not legal. (Yes, I know that baptism certificates can be used to prove citizenship or age -- but that doesn't mean the baptism itself is a legal action.)

So ... wherefore "commitment ceremony"?

This came about because someone talked about performing marriage ceremonies "or commitment ceremonies" and I felt that hey, I wouldn't be doing commitment ceremonies, I would be doing marriages. Gay or straight. It's a marriage. A religious covenant between two people. (And I'm not referring to signing a government wedding certificate.)

So tell me the crucial information I'm missing.

"Challenged" Children and their parents -- do we have a place for them?

My online friend Nancy teaches me so much. She is a fabulous writer, and she would be a great teacher, even if everything in her life were "normal." But it's not. She has an adorable son who has the rare Williams Syndrome. This can make many things difficult, not the least of which is going to church.

She can't just drop her son off in the nursery and head to the service like so many of us. Her son needs special attention. So what are her choices? Seems to me she has two -- stay in the nursery with him or don't go to church. And where's the value in trying to soothe him in the nursery? Easier to do at home.

So this has me thinking about our churches. Does your church welcome autistic, mentally retarded, or "other" children? How do you do it? Special volunteers, special training?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pulled out of the desert

Oh, don't you just love it when you've been wandering, wandering ... wandering around the desert, no idea where you are, you shoulda taken that left at Albuquerkay, to quote Bugs Bunny, and then someone quietly nudges you, and there's the path, right there?

Personal sermons and navel gazing in worship, oh my! What was my damage, Heather? I mean, I like some good introspection as much as the next person, and have a problem with the folks who just flat out refuse to look inside and consider their motivations. Was my problem one of the-sermon-as-therapy, or a desire for a call to action, or a fear of creating narcissism in the pews?

Or not.

The issue, which I realized as soon as I read Rev. Sean's words, was one of balance. And I have been to seriously out-of-balance churches.
I am constantly trying to offer a variety of preaching styles: prophetic, pastoral, psychological, theological, calls to action, calls to contemplation, sermons about what it means to be a church, sermons about the history of our movement and our congregation, “cheerleader” sermons, sermons that acknowledge brokenness and limitations… (Rev. Sean)
His entire post on what worship is like in his congregation is just ... well, for my taste and preferences, it's just delicious. I hope other ministers and layleaders will jump on the bandwagon and post what worship is like in their congregations. And I'm not just saying that because I'm leading a worship committee retreat next month.

But back to the point ... variety!

I like sermons that focus on the personal. Things that people can take back into their lives. But there is also a time for a call to action. I do not believe in the philosophy that says the improvement of the self, from the inside out, is the sole reason we are here. An essay was circulated at my church a few months ago that said that everything is out there for a purpose, and we need to just let it be, and focus on ourselves. Rather than marching for peace, rather than protesting injustice, we need to stay at home and meditate on finding peace within ourselves.


And that is why I had the knee jerk reaction to the idea that every Sunday should focus on the personal, because I envisioned a church where, every Sunday, members goes deep into themselves, and think about why they do things, and think about poverty of the spirit and such, and how they really need to give themselves more love, and then they get in their cars and go home and have a nice dinner with their family and meanwhile, at the church next door, they learned about how the local food bank is really struggling, so after church, they all went down, went shopping for some of the items that were really needed and signed up to take turns manning the "store" where the needy could come "shop" for staples to get them through one more week.

Variety. Because we need calls to action and history lessons and a connection to the interdependent web and to each other and we need therapy and encouragement and education. And personal sermons, too, oh yes.

Monday, January 28, 2008

On Worship -- the Personal

Ms. Kitty has posted a very good quotation from the Rev. Tom Schade about Worship. I liked it, especially the last paragraph:

My sense is that we have placed our focus on the community building purpose
of worship as primary, and down graded the personal to the secondary
priority. And the result is that the communities we build, and the worship
services that celebrate them, become arenas for people to play out their
needs regarding themselves in community: their need for power, their sense
of exclusion, their desire for self-expression etc. The result is an
inwardly focused community about being a community.
I really agree with that ... and then I thought, "but wait!"

(Edited before posting: The problem is that I then tried to anticipate how others whom I know would interpret the above. Always the first wrong step.)

... Because I also worry about some of our "personal" worship services. The ones that, as I joked on Ms. Kitty's blog, are the Omphaloskepsis Services. (omphaloskepsis: the study of one's navel.)

Now, if you've read this blog for more than 2 seconds, you know that I am certainly guilty of a heavy amount of navel-gazing myself. So, why do I shy away from it in a Worship service?

I think that it's a matter of "bad" navel-gazing services. The ones that I've walked away from feeling that they promoted a focus-on-self-to-the-exclusion-of-all-other.

I think some of the best Worship services I've participated in are the ones that have caused me to look inside, face some things about myself.

Aha! she says, thinking as she's writing. Perhaps that is the difference. The service that causes you to look inside and face things about yourself, versus the service that talks about how great you are, and how any problems that you have, come from the outside. The way you were raised. How others treat you.

This is ... still ... unformed. Still thinking. There's something ... on one hand, there are the personal worship experiences that allow me to learn more about myself, and to feel a connection with the rest of humanity.

And then there are the services that seem to encourage a self-centered feeling, with "me" as the center of the universe.

Ugh ... this is making my head hurt, and you are certainly welcome to just STOP READING NOW.

Because I'm not opposed to giving time to the self. The DRE-BFF and I had a talk last week, about how often our services are on Great Grand Issues, but if you talk to people, what causes them stress and fear are the personal, "small" things -- too many charges on their credit cards, too much weight on their body, too much clutter in their house. Not enough time. And we agreed that there need to be more messages helping people to negotiate all of this.

I feel like I'm looking at a painting, squinting, and saying, "I don't like it. But I don't know why."

(Apologies to both Revs Kitty and Tom for looking at the Mona Lisa and writing a review of the bit of gray fluff attached to the frame. But it's helping to clarify some stuff in my head.)

See ... omphaloskepsis, party of 1.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Spanking, a kid's view

I don't have a whole lot of memories from when I was very young -- I'm envious of those of you who can remember events from when you were 2 or 3.  But I do have two strong memories, and both were about thinking, trying to understand something.  The first was the idea of "nothingness."  I can very distinctly remember trying to understand nothingness.  "No, not that, that's space.  No, not that, that's sleep."  I think I was about 6 or 7.

The other strong memory I have was about spanking, trying to figure it all out.  I guess I must have been about five.

My thinking was as follows:
  • Grownups say that hitting is wrong.
  • But I really think that spanking is hitting!
  • Mom and Dad say spanking isn't hitting.
  • So, what's the difference between spanking and hitting?
  • Hmm.
  • Hitting can be anywhere, but spanking is on my bottom.
  • Okay.
  • But ... my bottom is one of my privates.  That's what Mom and Dad say.
  • So, spanking is hitting me on one of my privates.
  • And Mom and Dad say they do it because they love me.
I just couldn't make it fit, logically.  It was very confusing.  

How Can I Keep from Singing?

Ms. Kitty has me thinking about songs that affect us deeply, that, to some extent, are a definition of who we are.

Isn't it amazing how a song can do that ... in the words of Killing Me Softly, "...strumming my pain with his fingers, singing my life with his words  ..."

For me, the song is How Can I Keep from Singing, as done by Eva Cassidy.  Spend the .99 and download it.  If you have heard an unethusiastic UU congregation mumbling it in a service, you've never really heard this song.  It is soulful and exultant, as done by the late singer.

My life goes on in endless song
above earth's lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it's music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness 'round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble sick with fear
and hear their death knell ringing,
when friends rejoice both far and near
how can I keep from singing?

I shared it with my mother and she is now in love with it, and wants it played at her funeral.  "You'll never want to hear it again," warns a friend of mine, who recently had to bury her father.  So my mother and I argue, good-naturedly, over the ownership of the song.  But I can't really argue.  After all, I want it played at my funeral.

Everybody's Doing It ...

Sifting through their blogs, pulling up a handful of writings that they think are special.

I thank the persons who have nominated me. A "conversation" I had with God made your list. It made me happy to re-read it, and even happier to know that it touched something in someone else.

And that's why we blog, right? Otherwise, we'd just have private journals on our computers, for no one to see.

So ... some of my other ones I'm glad I wrote:

Revelation is Not Sealed
Welcoming Congregation for Parents of Young Children
How to Kill Your Church in 8 Easy Steps

Thursday, January 24, 2008

No More "Lesbian" -- Gayelle

Huh.  Apparently there is a movement afoot to not use the word "lesbian" and to instead use "gayelle."

The Husband told me about this, and I must admit that my reaction was first confusion as to the name.  I thought he meant something like Ga-El.  "Wasn't that the real name of Superman?" I asked, puzzled.  He guffawed, then explained, no, it's like Gay-Elle.

I'm not a lesbian, so I don't have a dog in this hunt.  But it is curious to me ... as feminists, we have tried to go to non-gender specific titles -- don't call me actress, don't call me waitress.  I'm an actor.  I'm a waiter.  

The argument against just "gay" seems to be that it's associated with male homosexuality.  But again ... so was "actor."  (Oops, I don't mean that as a joke ... I mean that "actor" was associated with "male actor."  Not male homosexual actor.  Necessarily.)

Now ... and I swear, I'm not making this up ... gayelle also has another meaning.  And it's associated with cockfighting.  Comedians, start your engines!

If this becomes the new term, preferred by the lesbian community en masse, I have no problem. But expect some jokes.  Any group that tries to go by a new term faces that.  But eventually it'll become mundane and common.  And "lesbian" will become an old-fashioned term that someone's grandma will use, like mine used "mongoloid."  

Now that I think about it ... the word "lesbian" has been a difficult term for two people whom I've known.  Like my homophobic high school drama teacher wouldn't let us start us "International Thespian Society" because it sounded so much like "lesbian."  Or my mom's cousin who, when asking his eldest daughter about her sister, said ... "Do you think she's a Lizabethan?"

I can't make this stuff up, folks.

Every Third Tuesday

Every Third Tuesday

Every third Tuesday, I am a Buddhist
I empty my mind and lighten my heart
And try to let go of attachments

Every other Friday, I am a Christian.
I look for the least of these
And try to love God and my neighbor

The full moon of the month finds me Wiccan;
I honor the dual nature of God
And find my rhythm as maiden, mother or crone

On the 15th of the month, I am humanist
I respect science, integrity of fellow humans
And all that we have learned and have made

Every fourth Wednesday, I am Hindu
I take a breath, and understand that what is unfinished now
Will remain for me to continue … next life

On alternate Fridays, I am Jewish
'Y'varekh'kha ADONAI v'yishmerekha,
I tell my children, softly touching each head

And the Thursdays and the Mondays, and the Saturdays and Sundays,
And all the other days in between
Find me reading, or listening, or watching

Philosophers, Muslims, Mormons, Baha’i and more
Fill my heart, touch my soul
And yet …

The one thing that none of these provide
To me
Is the certitude that they are The One

They lend me wisdom, sing to my heart
Cause me to question, help me find answers
Make me more me

And at the end of the day, every day,
I am Unitarian Universalist.

In parcel and in pledge
And with all my heart, all my soul,
All my mind and all my strength
I honor this faith
I hold it close
As it lets me run free.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Do You Have an Implicit Preference About Race?

"Your data suggest little to no automatic preference between European American and African American."

I would be lying if I said that didn't give me a bit of relief.  But isn't that an issue for liberals?  That we're wondering if somewhere in us, society had hidden away a bit of prejudice that will pop out, through no control of our own?

I know that I am guilty of sometimes expecting a certain response from a certain group, based on past experience.  If there are any that are race or culture based, I'm not aware of it.  Mine are more things like expecting a single child-free person to have an "I don't have kids, but if I did, I'd ..." attitude.  Which is unfair.  (And probably says more about me ... yes, I've run across that attitude several times, but more importantly, I recognize that I was guilty of it.  As the joke goes, we all were better parents before we had kids.)

Anyway, I just took the black/white test.  It will be interesting to see where I fall in other categories.

Monday, January 21, 2008

God is talking to you through my blog:

"Go Get a Tetanus Shot!"

Hopefully, of course, you are much smarter than The Husband and I, and you've kept up to date on all the necessary vaccinations and boosters.  We have not.

So yesterday, being good UUs and friends, we went over to a friend's house and helped her dig out her broken sewage line.  Well, The Husband helped dig, I helped watch kids.  More or less.

So today, hearing this, my smart mother said ... "And has he had a tetanus shot?"

Um ... huh.  He was knee deep in sewage and um, no.  

"You have 36 hours from time of contact to get one."  (How does my mother know this stuff???)

Tomorrow, 8 am, The Husband is going to chat with the good people at the clinic down the street; I know there is some concern about what kind you get, and whether you get the slow-acting vaccine, or the antivenin.

The panic I'm feeling right now was entirely preventable.  I'll be getting my shot ASAP.

Go get yours.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Yesterday was January 18

I could never forget that date.  Yesterday went straight by me, though, simply because I didn't know what day it was.  

Today, I am sorting through LW's clothing -- this still fits, this needs to go to Assistance Ministries -- and I picked up a long, pink, one-piece outfit.  Somehow, it had been left in the drawer long past its prime.  It's size 9 months, and it looks brand new.

My breath catches.  Everything slows.  I tear up.

It looks brand new because after January 18, 2006, Little Warrior couldn't wear one piece outfits.  She needed tops and bottoms so that the port on her side could be accessed, or so that nothing would rub against the biopsy cut that went from one side to the other, or so that her kidney tubes could drain.

January 18, 2006, our life changed.

January 18, 2006, I got up in the morning and went to playgroup and had lunch in the car (chilaquiles, I remember) while I waited for our appointment with the pediatrician who I knew was going to laugh at me, worried about this strange bulge on Little Warrior, and say that it was just gas.

An exam -- a worried look on the pedi's face -- a trip down the road for an x-ray -- a phone call before I even made it home, saying, "Don't go home.  Go immediately to the Children's Hospital ER.  It looks like a tumor."  

A horrible, ghastly 1 1/2 hour rush hour, barely-moving-traffic trip to the ER.  Just me and Little Warrior, who wasn't Little Warrior at that point, she was just my sweet little baby who was a bit smaller than her siblings had been at that age.  She didn't even have teeth.

Just me and my head, which swam as I sobbed, so scared ... so very very scared.  You think the scene with the pretty girl hiding in the closet while the horror movie murderer waits is scary?  

Puh.  The mom-in-tennis-shoes stuck in traffic, headed for the ER scene is the epitome of fear.

There are no words.  There are no words.

A long, long time in the ER ... hours that felt like months.  Here came The Husband, he paced, I cried.  

Finally, late late late at night, they took us up in the elevator, where they had a room set up for LW.  I was too busy looking at LW and trying to keep her from fussing, I didn't see ... but The Husband did ... the elevator doors opened, and a sign said, "Pediatric Oncology."  The Husband nearly bent double from the punch in the stomach.  "They haven't diagnosed her yet," he thought with rage.  "How dare they put us here!"

We settled in, and then it was midnight, and January 18 was over.

2 years later, we are still paying off medical bills, even with "good" insurance.

2 years later, we still hop on the emotional roller coaster, 2 days before scans.

2 years later, we still stiffen when a child complains of a stomach ache.  Or Little Warrior coughs.  Wilms' usually recurs in the lungs.

But here it is, 2 years later ...

I am more in love with The Husband than ever.

I am back in seminary, and it feels like it's exactly where I should be.

I fuss at Little Warrior when she spills a glass of milk.

It is 2 years later ...

And we were lucky.


Lovely Hot Chocolate

Goodness, if you were just to look at my blog recently, you'd be convinced I was really in a mood, wouldn't you?

Well, for the most part, I haven't been. I've been enjoying a bit of cold weather and feeling homey. Classes haven't started yet, at either seminary, so I've been puttering around, enjoying a fire in the fireplace and candles on the mantel. Oh, I do love candles!

And I enjoy a good cup of chocolate. This is one of my favorite recipes. It's not as killingly-rich as the hot chocolates made with bar chocolate. You can drink a big mugful of this, put your tootsies up by the fireplace (or on the oven door, as I did when I lived in an apartment) and cuddle in with a good book. I recommend Here If You Need Me by our own Kate Braestrup.

If you're making this today, just use whatever cocoa powder you have on hand. But then, really, find your local Penzey's store, or order online. Penzey's spices are really, really amazing and their dutch-process cocoa is miraculous. I have been known to make up a single cup of cocoa for myself, just mixing hot milk, dutched cocoa, some agave nectar and vanilla -- right in the cup. No need to cook the cocoa to get it to blend, like what is needed with regular cocoa powder.

But when it's a cold Saturday and you have a houseful of people you love going in and out, make this:

Brown Sugar Hot Chocolate

3 tablespoons Penzey's dutch process cocoa powder
1/3 cup water
1 quart milk
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
splash vanilla

Stir cocoa, sugar, salt and water in a medium saucepan over low heat until. Gradually whisk in milk, then vanilla until evenly blended. (If you have an immersion blender, use it to froth this up.)

Even better: substitute cream or half and half for part of the milk, e.g. 1/2 cup cream, 3 1/2 cups milk.

Watching "Jesus Camp" with The Boy

Yeah, I'm late to the party.  A & E has had Jesus Camp in rotation, so The Boy and I watched it.  (The Husband, too ... but he's a morning person, so he went to bed, halfway through.)

The Boy is 11, and due to the area we live in, has already had to deal several times with the Jesus Camp crowd.  The kid in kindergarten who said he was sorry, but he couldn't be his friend anymore, since The Boy wasn't a Christian.  The boy in second grade who said he wasn't going to leave The Boy alone until he said that Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior.  (The Boy's  words to me at that time, "Mom, I told him that I respect his worth and dignity but that's just not what I believe!")  The kid in 4th grade and 5th grade, his best friend, who learned about Unitarian Universalism, and told everyone that The Boy was an evil wizard and should be shunned.

So, no, I didn't think Jesus Camp was too mature for him.

This movie just hurts me.  Anyone who is a parent knows that kids cry easily over selfish things (they skin their knee, someone hurts their feelings), they don't cry easily over sentimental things.  The way I cry over a Hallmark commercial or over hearing a particularly spiritual hymn ... kids, as a rule, don't do that.  They have great empathy (she says, having accidentally watched Bridge to Terabithia with her crew last week) and will cry over things sad. 

But the crying you see in Jesus Camp, as they are whipped (whipped being the operative word) into a frenzy ... that's from fear.   That's not tears of emotional joy.  That's fear and drama.  Look at their faces.  Stark.

This is not a case of a liberal seminary student not understanding a particular world.  I grew up in the middle of a holy roller world, though (thank you, God, and Unitarian parents), I was not a part of it.  I held my best friend from high school when she sobbed about her abusive husband.  A Mormon, she believes that if she leaves him, she won't see her children in heaven.  

I was there, at 18, when our other best friend,  a beautiful young man who much later would come out, told me that he had figured it out -- he was asexual.  At 18, he had convinced himself that he would never be in love ... never be loved.  Because that was better than being gay.  (When he did come out, his parents disowned him.)

I was there when Jennifer J. was singing "Jump" by the Pointer Sisters and suddenly, in horror, exclaimed, "Oh my God, I'm singing a Satanic Song!"  (When I questioned her, she explained that any song which does not glorify the Lord is a Satanic song.)

I was there when our dance team, 75% or more who belonged to the Big Southern Baptist town church, would go to church on Sunday and be told that dancing was a sin.

I was there when friends would be invited with other friends to church lock-ins.  Except at these lock-ins, first they fed you pizza, then, they locked the doors and explained how you were going to Hell if you didn't get saved right then and there.  I still don't like the term "lock-in" when we use them in our UU churches.

I was there, 14 years old, when my 13 year old friend very sorrowfully said to me that she was so sorry my brother had gone to hell (because he committed suicide when I was 9.)

This is not about Christianity.  As the saying goes, some of my best friends are Christian.  My children have the privilege of a grandmother who is a Christian, who was recently baptized (she was a Methodist before that), who is a beautiful person who wants to follow the life lessons of Jesus.  I, myself, quote Jesus more than I do any other.

And this isn't anything new.  When my father was a teenager, he began questioning.  He confided this to a friend who announced, "He doesn't believe in Jesus -- let's kick his ass!"
This about a hateful religious indoctrination that yields up scarred and bitter adults.  And then we, Unitarian Universalists, have the job of teaching these adults to not be so knee-jerk negative to Christianity.

This is about ugly theology.  

Oddly enough, Ted Haggard seemed to me to be the most sympathetic when he explained that these children are taught that they are a gift from God.  I didn't hear anyone else talking about that.  It seemed the only context in which I heard "love" was, "YOU need to LOVE GOD!"  

Jesus said suffer the little children to come unto me.

I don't think he meant this kind of suffering.

Friday, January 18, 2008

When Ethics Fails ...

We have the law.  And for that, I'm grateful.  I am a big fan of lawyers, being a sister to one.  

Sometimes, things break your way.  Sometimes, when someone doesn't want to "do the right thing," the law says, Uh, yeah, you don't have a choice.

The COBRA company went to their legal department to get permission to turn down our payment.  Their legal department said, Um, you don't have a choice.  A person has 45 days to opt in to COBRA and you don't get to circumvent that right.

And then the COBRA company had to call the benefits administrator at The Husband's last company and tell her, um, ma'am, you have to do this.  You have to process their application.  

It's not just the right thing to do, ma'am.  It's the law.


p.s. I said a prayer for the benefits administrator today.  How sad, to be so completely empty of human compassion that you enjoy the feeling of hurting someone more than the feeling of helping them!  I have no confidence that praying for someone actually affects them in any way.  But it affects me, and helps me get my soul on straight.  I said this prayer before we got the good news.  Would I still be carrying that feeling of compassion for her if we'd received discouraging news?  Ohhhh ... probably not.  Baby steps.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

All Ministers ... Your Comic Strip is Here

Okay, now I've delved further into the below comic site.  Ministers, go NOW and check out the archives.  

New Comic Find -- Finding Elim

Since I married a PK (Preacher's Kid) and my kids will be PKs, I love this.

Casually Evil

When I think "evil," I generally think of major evil.  Hitler.  Pol Pot.  Serial murderers.  Mortal evil.

So ... what about venial evil?  Casual evil?  

I'm referring specifically to someone actively choosing to do something that hurts another, for no good reason.  

Not surprisingly, this isn't just something I began contemplating while meditating.  No, it bursts forth from selfish concern.  We are dealing with a person who has a teensy bit of power, and is using it to make our life considerably more difficult.  It does not save her from work; it does not save her company from money.  The only thing it does is give us (in this case, financial) pain.

Oh, I hate it when someone refers to something but doesn't explain ... okay, in a nutshell, we had to go on COBRA for one month.  The COBRA company says our check bounced.  Our bank says they never received the check.  (There's plenty of money in our account.)  The COBRA company says, okay, just send us another payment, as long as the benefits administrator at your old company says it's okay.  With no justification, she says No.  

What did you do to piss her off? I ask my mild-mannered husband, whom everyone likes.  (Really.  It's quite irritating.  Everyone likes him.)

 Nothing, says he.  This is just how she is.  She is famous throughout the company for being mean, just for the joy of being mean.  But she knows the right people, so she's never fired.

I'm agog at this.  I know that like so many, I can err on the other side -- being too desirous that people like me.  But really, really?, there are people who derive pleasure from causing someone else pain?

Okay, even as write that, I know it sounds naive.  

We have other avenues that we are pursuing, but meanwhile, here I am, still agog.  She doesn't hate us (well, unless she hates everyone, which seems like it may be the case), she's not saving her company money, she's not saving herself work ... maybe she thinks she's noble and is teaching us a valuable lesson about bouncing checks?  No, says The Husband.  I laid it all out and showed her that it's bank error.  She doesn't care, he explains, much like a physics professor explaining a complex problem to a thick student.

Casually evil.

I wonder if she goes to church.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Not faster than Chutney or Kitty ...

but still a respectable showing.

74 words

Touch Typing online

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Granted, not real specific. That whole anonymity thing.

I'll be back at my local seminary at the end of January.

For the first time, I'll be taking an online course at a UU seminary.

I was contacted by the editor of an ethics journal, and my paper on ministering to the difficult person may be published. (Total surprise. I just submitted it because that was a requirement of the class.)

I am once again Worship Chair at my home church. We're going to be trying some new things; I'll report here on whether they worked.

I need to get my butt to the gym. (This is not opinion. This is fact.)

Shout out to Peacebang: Happy Birthday, Darlin'! The world is richer because you were born. Better dressed, too.

Friday, January 11, 2008

How Do You Treat Up and Comers?

An email conversation with a Minister-Angel has me thinking about how treat up-and-comers (in any profession) and how I've been treated as a seminarian, by ministers.

My father was a middle-manager for the latter part of his career.  I went to his retirement party and there were people there who had worked with him 20 years previous.  It seemed like everyone there had a story to tell about how my gruff Dad had helped them rise in their careers.  Some of it was tough love -- like when he took a young hotshot out and told him that he needed to dress better and speak correctly -- but always, it was encouragement.  I don't think he ever felt threatened, even as they went on to bigger and better things.  (He managed salespeople and as often happens in that field, his employees frequently earned more than he did.)  He celebrated in their successes.

In my pre-family life, I was the young hotshot, in the field of marketing.  I had one boss who fell into the insecure, threatened category and that was misery, I can tell you.  But I had three other bosses who championed me, guided me, and celebrated my successes.  Probably not coincidence, the three "encouragers" have gone on to have fabulous careers, whilst the insecure bully has not.

I haven't had any lengthy contact with ministers, as a seminarian.  But the difference in reaction to me introducing myself as a seminarian has been quite interesting.  So far, the reactions have always fallen into two groups:

The Encourager:  this minister reacts with a warm smile, interest ("Where are you studying?"), and words of encouragment.  S/he seems genuinely happy to meet someone who is going down the path.

The Chill:  this minister either gives a slight, patronizing smile ("Oh, you want to be a minister.  How cute.")  or -- more bewildering -- gives a quick, dismissive nod, as if what you've said has absolutely no relation to them.  It's quite bizarre, and I'm not entirely sure that I'm projecting when I say that the air drops 20 degrees and I suddenly become invisible.

Not that I exaggerate.

I have fussed at myself over the latter before -- "What, you expect this very busy person to drop everything they're doing and throw roses at your feet???  Hi, the world doesn't revolve around you!"  But then I'm around An Encourager and it makes the difference more dramatic.  Really, it doesn't take more time to give a warm smile.

So, I'm trying to give attention to myself and whether I'm unconsciously giving encouragement or a chill to others.  I saw someone (probably on Oprah) talk about how she tries to smile whenever her child comes into the room, because so often, we frown -- need to comb his hair, straighten her dress.  But that frown or that smile are being seen by the child and they take it as an expression of your feelings about them.

I have people that I can encourage.  What power!  What an opportunity!  May I use it with love.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Toast, a Toast!

We have a toaster.

This is a momentous thing, you see, because I have never in my life owned a toaster.  We just weren't a toaster family.  We were a toast-in-the-oven family.  Not that I'm complaining.  When The Husband and I were dating, I was sick, and he offered to make me cinnamon toast.  He brought me this dripping, syrupy ... thing.  What is that?  "Cinnamon toast," he said, Duh very much in his tone.

That was how his mother made cinnamon toast.  Toast the bread in the toaster, then smear it with butter and sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar.

Fast forward about a decade, when his sisters were visiting us.  I made "real" cinnamon toast ... buttered bread, sprinkled generously with cinnamon and sugar, and toasted in the oven til the sugar puffs up and gets crunchy.  They went crazy.  They asked me for the recipe.  The recipe.  For cinnamon toast!

Where was I?  Ah yes, the toaster.  The only time I was ever around a toaster was when we went on vacation and stayed at a kitchenette with a toaster.  At those times, I even got to have Pop Tarts.  (Because, according to my Mom, you had to have a toaster to make them.  Wily fox.)  

Like many things in life, such as whether you read Newsweek or Time, use Hellman's or Miracle Whip, and open gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, this childhood experience of being a toaster-less family carried into my adult life.  Really, it was superfluous, right?  Another thing to clutter my kitchen.

Well, my whole family has gone mad for eggy and soldiers, and making 5 pieces of toast every morning seemed a waste of oven energy.  So, for slightly over $20, we have a 4 slot toaster that's even big enough for bagel halves.

This is so thrilling.  So exciting.  I am making tons of waffles tonight, so we'll have freezer waffles at the ready.  You know, in case the muppets ever get tired of being mini Brits.  Or we run out of eggs.

But cinnamon toast will still be made in the oven.

Happy Heart

Good news.

Had an appointment for Little Warrior to get an echocardiogram and an EKG -- her first, since going off of the heart medicine.  

Perfectly normal.

Which indicates that the heart problem was due to all of her organs being squished into her chest by the tumors ... and not a completely separate, coincidental case of cardiomyopathy.

Which was my contention all along.

We're very grateful, of course.  And I'm a bit ambivalent about the whole situation.

Here's the deal ... 

LW received chemo before her surgery, to try and shrink the tumors.  They didn't shrink.  So the oncological team recommended that we go to another chemo, a class that can cause later heart problems.

We had to get okayed by the cardiologist.  The cardiologist said that she had a separate, unrelated heart problem, and that if she took that type of chemo, it could cause immediate heart failure.

This cardiologist has also written papers about this chemo and how it shouldn't be used.

Upshot:  we didn't do the chemo; we had the surgery immediately, it went well, all has been fine since.  Knock-wood-Please-God-Thank-Yew-Jesus.

I'm grateful she didn't have that chemo.  But I feel like we were manipulated.