Wednesday, January 30, 2008


We had 2 big unpacking weekends, 20 boxes the first weekend, 12 this past weekend. We knew before we opened the first of this abiding pile of boxes that there was not room for it all. I was not sure what to expect. Could I really have 32 boxes of Knick Knacks? This was my fear. I went in with a very "take no prisoners" attitude. If I couldn't find a spot for it, it was going to goodwill. By the end of the weekend I had 3 boxes of books and 4 boxes of miscellaneous stuff waiting by the front door for a new home.

But these books were ones that had already been through 3 earlier purges. I wanted them to have a good home. I started by bringing the books to a local minister's gathering. I carried each of the 3 boxes up the church steps to the meeting. My colleagues carefully selected a book or 2, then I carried all 3 boxes back out to the car. Next stop, the used book sellers. Once again he thoughtfully looked at each book while I browsed the children's section, and at the end he pulled out about 8 books, and paid me $14 cash. Back to the car with the 3 boxes of books. Finally I headed to the Salvation Army, the last stop on my recycling journey. I pulled out the 4 boxes of stuff and the 3 boxes of books.

"We only take novels, cookbooks and children's books." Says the lady who staffs the donations dock.

I said "well pull out what you don't want."

"That's your job" she said.

So back in the car went all the assorted theology and cultural studies books. I brought them in to the office, and the crew in housing took all but 3. One I kept for myself- I figured it was destiny, and the others went back in the box. Turns out "Friends of the Library" will take them all. The last 2 books started our "friends of the library" box on the mud porch, next to the good-condition clothing that goes to younger cousins.

That night we finally got a bite for the very last of the furniture we've had listed on the Craig's List since the fall. I found homes for the printer and scanner that Salvation Army won't take, brought a 3rd load of re-usable moving boxes to co-workers, and the next day made a run to the Tompkins County Recycling center with a car load full to bursting of packing paper and boxes so big no one wanted them. Phew. Our porch looks like a porch again, and that double-wide hallway is now the playroom instead of a storage locker.

I won't bore you with the story of the second weekend of unpacking, because I think you can imagine. Let's just say there are 2 boxes of really great books in the cafeteria right now that I'm taking to Friends of the Library after work and leave it at that. William McDonough talks about trying to recycle as high on the food chain as possible- re-using boxes instead of making them into pulp to make newspaper or something. He is one of many who encourage us to be responsible for the ultimate impact of the waste our consumption creates. Moreover, I hate waste, and want to see the belongings I am responsible for (many of which are in great shape and which I have some affection for) continue to be useful and even loved. I didn't expect it to be such a big job though. Being responsible for things when they leave our home makes me much more wary about what I bring into my home. As my old friend King Me used to say "open space is something we give away without thinking, we don’t treat it as precious, but it is as valuable as the things we could put in that space.

I think I'll skip the used book sale this year...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Old Friends

Before we left California I had nominated myself "staff member most likely to be able to put her hands on a document." That was back when I had a 4 drawer lateral file cabinet at work and a smaller 2 drawer system at home. But the process of moving required a great winnowing of documents to stay, to put in storage, to recycle. And one little plastic file bin with a handle to accompany us on the trip. When we and our belongings arrived in New York, any given file might be in boxes marked only "Study 15" and come with pencils and sacred art, or might be in a banker's box marked "Worship 2002-2004". The process of gathering my papers and books into one cohesive system in my home office has taken quite some time. But tonight I swiveled the new office chair my husband assembled (the frustration of which took at least a year off his life) I pulled out the smooth wooden handle of the new file cabinet he assembled (we think it took about 5 years off his life...) to a hanging folder filled with songs for congregational worship, right where I knew it would be. It was a beautiful moment.

Now to my right, is a shelf at rolling-chair arm-level filled with the well thumbed books I turn to first when crafting worship. Above and below are bibles and other sacred texts, volumes on religion, theology, congregational life and scriptural interpretation. Downstairs is all my favorite fiction, and references on knitting, cooking, and living in Central New York. How can I explain the joy of being reunited with these books, like having old friends around me again.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Green Today

This morning I was watching the 3 soundless televisions that hang over the lifecycles at the gym. A big logo came on that said "Today goes Green" implying, I suppose, that the Today show has now made environmental sustainability a priority.

Cut to Al partying with other staffers in the back of a huge sedan holding a cardboard beverage tray with 4 Dunkin Donuts coffee cups with plastic lids. The juxtaposition was priceless.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More God

For weeks I have been pondering the why of church. What would compel folks to commit their Sunday mornings to gather in worship? It's sure not peer pressure in this day and age. What is it that I want when I go week after week?

Then, this week I remembered. I want to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit. I want to be reminded that our journey is at its core a spiritual one. I want to sing praise and gratitude to God. With the codicil that I know in my own heart that the God I am grateful to is the one-ness of all that is. It is the spirit of life moving through all things. It is mystery.

Unfortunately I belong to a religious tradition where it is not really considered polite to mention God in church. I'm tempted to go worship with other communities in my neighborhood, but it's hard to do that while trying to provide a stable consistent religious education to my son. I begin to understand the members of the congregation I used to serve who attended worship themselves on Sunday mornings, after dropping their own children off at Hebrew School.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Case of the Whys.

I have come down with a bad case of the Whys. As bad as a 4 year old gets them. I am very susceptible to this bug. I get it a lot. And I get it pretty bad too. Generally people find this reasonable behavior for a minister. They feel like I'm "asking interesting questions" and "getting people to think about things." Little do they know that I am genuinely confused. It's like misplacing your keys, which I also do a lot. "I know I put that reason for being around here somewhere...I just had it!" "Honey, do you remember why I go to church?"

I do actually write myself little notes for when I forget. I have a whole page devoted to "what to do when things seem really frantic in the autumn" I sneak them into liturgy like an preset alarm in my calendar. "It's Winter Solstice, time to prepare for the Dark Night of the Soul. Don't forget the return of Sun and Warmth."

Unfortunately, sometimes the answers change. For example, I used to practice yoga because it helped me reconnect with myself , and made me feel like a Power Ranger. Now that my joints are achy with cold, and my wrist injury prevents me from doing all those cool arm balances I worked so hard on for 3 years, I sure don't feel like a Power Ranger. I may be reconnecting with myself, but my self is saying "Why do you keep going to yoga? It's winter and we should be in bed."

Often this syndrome is cured by wrapping my arms around someone I love. Pardon me while I go give that a try.