Monday, December 28, 2009


My son picked out 2 new toys to give our dogs this Christmas. I pondered and cogitated around this- I mean, they already have plenty of toys, would they even notice 2 more? Can we justify this in our wasteful consumer-driven society... and in a recession no less?

Dog is interested only in the chicken-jerky Santa put in her stocking, but UnderDog has carried at least one of his new toys with him everywhere since Christmas Day. I guess we all like new toys.

As my son says "Christmas has 3 parts- giving, receiving and loving." He's so smart.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Here's why I try to avoid shopping... It changes how I see the world. On-line or at the mall, it doesn't matter. I spent hours flipping between websites to find snowpants in my son's size this week. (when I should have been working on my sermon) After much agonizing I finally came to a decision, but still couldn't stop obsessing- wasn't that shipping charge a little high? What if I had gone to.... Later that night I went into a department store for gloves to replace the ones my son outgrew, and came out 40 minutes later with my arms full. Including another pair of snowpants "just in case." I had a 15% off coupon, what could I do? Now the funny thing is while I was shopping I felt like I was being very moderate and wise. As soon as I got home, though, I knew the truth. I did not "need" another sweater in the same color as that other sweater I never wear, and these snowpants are not the right shape for my son- that's why I had to order them online. So the next day I headed back and returned most of it. Hours later a 30% off coupon came in the mail, and a notice that shipping is now free at the website where I had ordered the snowpants just the day before.

It's like some kind of hunter-gatherer instinct is turned on and I can't flip it off. I was in yoga this morning and the woman next to me had on this great green top. "Green" I thought "Why don't I have anything in that shade of green?" Some part of me now thinks I have some kind of green shopping emergency. I mean, it's a miracle I made it through the winter last year without a sweater in that particularly awesome shade of green, am I right? Sigh. The other part of me, the grown-up part that goes to rallys to protest dangers to our environment and practices meditation and yoga seems to have been shoved out of the way in a violent dash for "free shipping on all hand-made sustainably-harvested wooden toys" sale.

If ever we needed a reminder of the wisdom of the Buddhas 2nd noble truth-- that craving, wanting, thirsting causes suffering-- this is it. The marketing folks in our culture seem to have direct access to the "on button" of my craving for stuff. (I mean, I'm all done shopping, but %30 off is a really good coupon!) The more I shop, the more I want. The more I feel incomplete and am my mind is filled with this nonsense.

I still have to brave the craft store and the artist's co-op before I'm done my holiday shopping. We will see if I can complete my mission without discovering 20 new things I MUST have immediately. I can't wait until yoga class helps me remember to think about my toes and not whether I have enough "smartwool" socks to get through the winter. I will be so relieved to be past the holiday shopping madness -- to somehow restore my inner balance and remember that we already have everything we need to live a full and satisfying life.

Friday, November 27, 2009


As I walked in the front door after a week in Canada, the dogs greeted me with great enthusiasm in what my son dubbed "a hurricane of dogs." But it wasn't until I'd been home for 24 hours that Underdog jumped up next to me on the sofa and rested his head in my lap. It was another 2 days before we fell into that easy intimate companionship we had before I left. I had meetings almost every night, and as soon as I got home my partner, who had been single-dad for a week while I was gone, met me at the door with his coat on, eager to get out of the house and be an adult for an hour or two. Coming home, it seems, is a process that is not finished when you cross the threshold.

I've been thinking about the relationship between "coming home" and "grounding." I often felt ungrounded while I was traveling, and called it homesickness, but it did not abate entirely even when I was back in my own nest. Ironically, it wasn't until we packed up for another week-long trip (evening meetings, work, school and Thanksgiving Intergenerational worship service finally behind us) that I finally started to settle in. Now I'm at my mom's house, living out of a suitcase again, but my family is all around me and I don't feel homesick at all.

What makes us feel grounded or un-grounded? What makes us feel at home even when we are on the road?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Where Privilege meets Addiction

I write you now from Ottawa, Canada from the UU Minister's Convocation. We are staying in a super fancy hotel with soft plushy downy comforters and pillows in a crisp white fine cotton weave. Everything is very elegant. But after the morning worship I walked out into the lobby to grab my 10:00 cup of coffee and found .... nothing. They had cleared out all the coffee after breakfast. I stood there in shock. How could I make it through the morning on that one tiny elegant 6 oz cup I had with breakfast? Friends and colleagues I hadn't seen in ages walked by and said hello, and all I could say, hands resting on the places coffee pots used to be, was "there's no more coffee!"

A friend from back in my seminary days said "let's just notice this is a conversation of privilege." I thought "of course, that's what coffee is- the morning luxury you can count on even in the crappiest minimum wage job" I pondered her comment as I went off in search of coffee and into the elevator where I repeated it to a colleague I had not yet met. She thought about it and said "but it's more than that, it's where privilege meets addiction." I liked this- who else but an addict would let the object of addiction come before friends? But as I brewed a cup of Starbucks Fair Trade Coffee in my hotel room I felt there was more. I mean, sure I'm living in the lap of luxury here, but coffee is something else.

As I sat in worship holding my warm cup in my hands, I realized that holding the cup of coffee and sitting quietly for a moment each morning is a time of arriving- whether at my computer at home, or at my desk in an entry-level office job, or here at a conference in worship. I love the ritual of it, of making the coffee, of holding the cup, yes and of course the shot of caffeine that helps my brain go. And I realized- the line between ritual and addiction and privilege is very thin. The fact that my morning doesn't feel right without that quiet moment, without the warm cup is both ritual and addiction. What a privilege to have a reliable moment of quiet peace and warmth each day.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Scraps [reposted]

For as long as I can remember I have been the kind of person who saves bits and scraps of things. We have 2 plastic tubs of packing peanuts and bubble wrap out on the mud porch gleaned from packages we have received over the past 2 years. I have a box of ribbons and bows for re-use on gifts. I routinely spend a silly amount of time scraping out a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough lest half a cookie's worth go into the sink instead of someone's belly. It was a happy day when I found a device at the Green Home store that allows me to wash Freezer bags in our dishwasher. I could go on but you get the picture.

As my partner pointed out, however, I was forever leaving lights on in rooms I was not using. My parents nagged me plenty about this when I was a kid, so no excuses there. Finally the other day I found an image that has motivated me to change my behavior. Scraps of energy. Sure there's not a ton of energy saved if I turn off my monitor while I make lunch, but why should a scrap of energy deserve less respect than a scrap of apple peel? Somehow before our energy usage seemed like a flood my habits could not really sandbag. But scraps? Scraps I know how to save.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Now I've Done It.

I don't often succumb to the flood of colds and flues that invade this time of year. I am one of those folks who believe that getting plenty of sleep and exercise and eating well can help reduce the number of days each year you spend in bed feeling crappy. This year is the exception that proves the rule. I've been bad. I've been burning the candle at both ends for weeks. I've been doing less yoga, eating more junk, working or dancing until past my bedtime and even drinking immoderately on occasion. And now I'm sick. This whole past week I've been semi-functional. I managed to get a sermon together for Sunday (thank goodness I got an early start on that one) but as Sunday approached I just could not get a few clear-headed moments together to do a final edit. I think it went to the pulpit in draft form, not for lack of trying, just for lack of oxygen to the brain (sniffle, cough). And of course there was no extra reserve of energy to really preach it from the pulpit.

I knew I was running on empty since back before Bioneers, answering one last e-mail or doing one last load of laundry when I knew I aught to be in bed. Running on empty works as long as you don't need your reserves. Fighting an opportunistic infection requires reserves. Now my house is a mess, I'm behind in my work, and most importantly my health is a wreck. It will take a long time to build up those reserves I squandered so recklessly. I'm not saying it wasn't worth it- no way I would give up being on the Bioneers Steering Committee, or seeing Muldover at The Shop, or dancing to EcoTones at Wildfire, or talking late into the night with my sister and brother, or going Geo-Caching with my colleagues, or going trick-or-treating with my son and 12 of his friends. But now I remember fondly the days of yore when I had a spring in my step from being well rested and taking care of myself.

Monday, October 19, 2009

After Glow

Six months ago I joined the Finger Lakes Bioneers team as a volunteer, and this weekend it became reality. All weekend we heard lectures and stories, watched stunning images of life on our planet, talked, discussed and danced. It was really something to see complete strangers, some of them from Vermont or Maryland sporting their Bioneers name-tag, and consulting the program we spent so many months putting together. I was proud to have been part of the team.

Last night as I drove away from the conference I was sad, and grew sadder as time passed. I remembered driving away from the conference center in San Rafael in past years when I attended the headwaters conference in California and a sadness there too. This sadness comes in part just from being separated from that lovely energy and synergy of so many caring talented people committed to creating regenerative life for all of us. It also comes as the images and numbers and ideas and stories start to get sorted by the mind and heart.

"We should no longer use the word 'common' in the common names of animals. We take the presence of the "common" water snake for granted - which we cannot do any more," said one presenter as the amazing wildlife photography of his career flowed before our eyes, and he explained how much harder it is to find those images today.

A flicker of the graph showing the amount of Nitrogen run-off into our ocean from our farms that would kill all the coral reefs in the oceanic eco-system into which it flows, and how close that number is to the trajectory of our immediate future.

Lake Onondaga is a Superfund site. The whole lake. Mostly from the toxins used during coal mining operations dating back 100 years. And now the Hydrofracking of the Shale that underlies that same watershed.

All that gave me hope and joy during the conference- stunning slow motion photography of bats drinking from a flower, or those ever adorable tree frogs, the stories of Community art restoring the spirits of survivors in post-genocide Rwanda, American small towns rising up to claim legal standing for their local eco-systems, giving the rights under the law. All these hopeful, wondrous things weigh my heart this morning with how high the stakes really are.

Joanna Macy asked the question "do we have hope?" and answered, "it's not about hope or lack of hope, but about the work before us in the present moment... We are in our being a verb" she said "that verb is whatever we choose to do"

So before I clean off all that has piled up on my desk throughout these conference days, I have to take a moment to sit still with all of that, the awe, hope, joy, sadness and fear, and let it all change me. People took part in the conference from various disciplines and walks of life, but I think all of us would agree: the future is not yet written, and the verb that is at the heart of our being must be one that participates in a great turning towards regeneration of life, the life of this eco-system we all share.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


A few weekends back I went to visit my friend from preschool (and elementary, middle, high school, Maid of Honor, Godmother to my son...) With great ambiguity we cut through the town we grew up in on our way back to her awesome new home. As we got to the main intersection I had this inexplicable urge to turn right as I remembered a dream I had which took place along that road. It was twilight and I couldn't see too well, but the arrangement of the streets and buildings was exactly the same as it was in my dreams. As I drove around the library more and more dreams flooded back. I followed the path of one dream back over to the Middle school, followed a different dream path around the back of the school into a neighborhood I don't ever remember from waking life, but was completely recognizable from a few recent dreams.

I crossed the main street where I used to shop when I was young- the toy store, the gift shop, the pizza place. Most of the stores had changed over the intervening years, but the layout of the streets was exactly the way I dream of them. (Okay, there was that one dream where the toy store was on the wrong street, but the but the street itself in the dream just the same as in the waking town).

For some reason the parking lot of the Presbyterian church and the Train Station was a mother-lode of dreamscapes, but after zigging back behind what used to be the WaWa and the nursing home I decided I had tried my friend's patience enough, and headed toward our childhood homes. Another set of dreams just about the hedge between her parent's house and the neighbors! She pointed out homes of our old neighbors, who still lived there and who had moved. I barely remembered. But the layout of the streets by that apartment complex... dream after dream in exact detail. Then as we headed for less familiar areas we passed a softball field I had dreamed about only once or twice. I had no idea it existed at all in waking life, and could never have found it for love or money.

Somehow the blueprint of my childhood town is the blueprint of my dreamscapes. My dreaming mind has remembered that place in a way my waking mind never could.

Monday, September 28, 2009

No More Drama

When a church-member fell and dislocated his shoulder, it was explained to me that though "popping it back into place" is excruciatingly painful, there is a huge drop off in pain that follows. There is a dramatic solution followed by relative peace.

When I first started going to a massage therapist, I would come in with some painful knots or cramped muscles, and expect some kind of equally dramatic resolution to the problem; some kind of breakthrough or the kind of "pop" back into place one experiences on occasion in Chiropractic. Instead what I usually got was a moderate easing of the tension; relaxation rather than release.

This physical experience started to work on my sense of how other kind of tension can be resolved. Much of my life I had thought that psychological or social tension could only be resolved through a climactic dramatic event. If you've ever watched The O.C. you know that all problems are resolved through embarrassing scenes at important public events. I likewise assumed that my problems required some kind of cathartic blow-up or at least an opportunity to monologue and have a good cry.

But in my yoga practice I began to learn that many problems in the physical body can be resolved by backing off when you meet your edge. I had a pain once in my hamstring and so stretched it and stretched it hoping for release. Finally I realized that actually the pain was caused by over-stretching. Nothing was going to heal it but rest (well, maybe some ice and a little Arnica gel). Pushing harder was never going to resolve the problem.

One of the most challenging things I ever had to learn in yoga was how to soften a muscle. (I am still working on this, but at least I understand now that it is possible). I had some chronic upper back knots for awhile and assumed I would have to wait for my next massage to have the knots "broken up" but as I didn't have the funds for a massage just then, I asked my yoga teachers for advice and found a couple Yoga Journal articles on the topic. Whereas I was stretching my arms forward to release the back, they were all suggesting that I stretch my arms behind me to just allow the muscles some relief. One even suggested I "soften the muscles." This is quite a different paradigm. I want some hero to swoop in and to break up the knots, but am learning that for many problems in my life I can just focus my attention on allowing the area in crisis to soften.

Certainly there are times when one's life or relationships are out of alignment and only an act of will and strength can pop them back into a healthy place, but even when one gets chiropractic adjustment, it is important to have the muscles as relaxed as possible for the adjustment to work, and if the muscles are tightly held, there can be more pain in the recovery.

I start to apply this to the rest of my life as well. Maybe I don't need a dramatic ending to my conflict with another person, or to my inner struggles. Maybe I just need to soften. Sure it's a more exciting story when the resolution involves a dramatic event, but I no longer look for drama as the first solution to the tensions in my life.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sermon Starter

All three of these plants were grown from the same pack of seeds. All were seedlings of about the same side when re-potted in 3 very different sized pots. Insert your own sermon here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Natural Gas

Hydro-fracking is just beginning in the county where my church is located. I'm sure as those 40,000 forcast wells are drilled it will look just like this billboard I see on my commute. Makes you feel all warm and peaceful inside.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back Around

My son has been back at school for a week and a half now, and though I knew it was a big deal for him, I was surprised how much it has changed my daily flow (I mean, for the chauffeur it's not functionally different than getting him to and from camp, right?) and I can't believe how much I miss that extra hour of sleep in the morning.

The fall so far has been this an flurry of details and loose ends. I know from experience how important it is to get the church year started right, especially for the kids. The school year has a tremendous structuring force on the ebb and flow of family life, and we learned the hard way one church-school start-up that families generally formulate their routines by the end of the first week of school, and if church is not part of that rhythm, they might or might not try again next year. So this fall I've been really focused on helping my congregation make the changes parents were asking for, and doing it so that they would be visible and functional on this first Sunday of Religious Education. That is to say- a ton of details and scheduling and weaving in loose ends.

And this conference I'm working on as a volunteer seemed like a nice way to fill out my time last spring, but as the conference nears, the drive to get the loose ends tied up and make sure anyone who should know about it knows about it has added a layer of ends to tangle in the daily web. "You are a volunteer" I remind myself "there is a good staff working on this, and you need to have your primary focus on your paying job... I mean family. Crap." So last night I made "Death Star Popcorn Balls" with my son, and watched the Giants beat the Cowboys with my partner.

But the first week of Sundae School seems to have gone well- and there was an ice cream party afterward, which smooths over many rough spots. And all the speakers and presenters I brought in to the conference are confirmed and have their bios and photos on the website, and they are in someone else's hands now.

This Sunday will be my first full-length sermon of the year, so I tried to keep the week clean of too much flotsam so I could make sure it's a good one. As I sit at my computer wrapped in my comfy sweater with a now cooling cup of coffee blogging to ward off writer's block I feel like my old familiar life has finally come back around.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Slug Summer

Everything I planted this summer got eaten by slugs. One day I planted a whole row of annuals and two days later they had been mowed to the ground. Gone without a trace.

Here are the Dahlia bulbs I planted to replace them, which at least seem to be growing faster than the slugs can eat.

It's been a rough year in the garden all around.

Monday, September 14, 2009


We spent as much time as we could on the water this summer, mostly in Lake Cayuga and its many creeks and inlets. Even as I sent out reminders to our congregation to collect a bit of water on their travels for our ingathering ritual, it was not until the last week of summer that my son and I took a special drive over to the lake, and after feeding the ducks all our stale bread, I got down on my knees and scooped a bit of water into a re purposed ice-tea bottle for the water communion.

Those of you who are Unitarian Universalist know well the ritual of each pouring our own water into the communal bowl. And each congregation makes a different choice about what to do with the intermingled water at the end of the service. I come most recently from a church that boils up a bowl-full of communal water and saves it for child dedications and other blessings. At my new church there is a grand procession to the garden and a watering of the flowers to complete the cycle. Yesterday I announced that if anyone wanted to take a bit of the communal water home in their container they could come forward and take it during the postlude and before the grand watering ceremony. I took my ice-tea bottle and scooped just enough for a naming ceremony or two. Afterward two separate members of my church took me aside to remind me how dangerous that water might be. They were right- there are all kind of toxins and pathogens that live in our water today. I promised I would boil it thoroughly.

It was an important reminder both that nature is both creator and destroyer- her energies and gifts sometimes nurture and sometimes harm. It was also a sad reminder how much of our water system has been polluted and is unsafe. I visualize a time when once again our children and grandchildren can swim in our lakes and oceans without worrying about what industries are upstream.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Mourning

After 10 days of friends and music and neglect of my e-life and daily routines, Monday finally came. The house is not too trashed and I'm almost caught up on my sleep, but as I emptied my son's backpack for camp today, or as I groped through my purse to find my sunglasses I find the bits and pieces of our adventures, now just matter out of place (moop). The card game we played at the Grass Roots Cabaret Hall, bits of shiny metal and rocks he found in our travels, a napkin from our picnic at Treman State Park, the berry lip-gloss I wore to see Hee Haw Nightmare. As I put away the guest pillows I realize that each object holds experience that also needs to be processed and sorted- like "Amazing how many people stood out in the the pouring rain listening to New Neighbors play while we hid in the safety of the backstage tent" and "Geeze those Flying Clouds are a hard working band" and "they are not seriously going to close the Lost Dog are they?" and "hey, I just got back in the groove with some of my oldest and dearest friends who I have been enjoying energetically for many days and how come my house is all empty and quiet-like all of a sudden."

I slipped in my new MakePeace Brothers CD on the drive home from dropping my son at Camp and felt a strange aching in my chestal region. Sigh. Where to start this Monday morning: the 500+ photos I took? The shiny bits of metal and smooth rocks? The new albums I still haven't listened to? Pining for my recently departed friends? The e-mail backlog? A comprehensive travel log? Perhaps a second cup of coffee.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

General Assembly: Travel Log

Day 1:
Things to avoid when flying:
Philadelphia airport
Changing airlines mid trip (flags you for TSA check)

Suitcase broken in transit

Arrived at the Salt Lake City Raddison, dropped my stuff in the room, and though I knew the opening reception was long over I headed to the conference site to see a familiar face and say “I made it!”

Run into my local colleagues on my way in, and my long lost California colleagues on their way into the bar. Had a $10 glass of house wine and was so grateful to be among them again.

Day 2:
Sonia Sanchez was our keynote. I finally have a role model for my elder years. Connecting with one long lost friend after another. Weep regularly. End the day with a Minor League Baseball Game with 50ish other UU clergy. (See face book video). My partner calls to say that UnderDog was found after some significant hunting at the back of my closet curled up on my Pjs. I feel horrible for leaving him, and miss my family.

Day 3:

Day begins with the worship service honoring ministers who have served 25 and 50 years. Never fails to make the whole trip worthwhile. Cried during role call just for a warm up. Found an extra pack of Kleenex at the bottom of my bag- shared them around. Not only does the service remind me what I thought ministry was, but in the tough times I think back on it and remember that ordination is for life- I remember my vow and strive to come back to that service one more year.

More good friends, good sushi.

Then the teeming hoards come (600 clergy becomes 3500 UUs) and suddenly I am deeply homesick. We determine that 2 years away from my former congregation is enough to join their delegation for dinner. I eat with my guide-daughter and her Mama, and feel much better. We watch the parade of flags, but the opening ceremonies were not suited to a toddler. Guidedaughter and Mama head out into the lobby to preserve the peace for other attendees. I sit for a minute listening to the last thoughts of our UUA president, and realize this is the wrong choice. I follow out to the lobby, and we sticker, run, dance, jump, and explore until her bedtime. Yes.

Day 4:
Now I’m really homesick. Blerg. Mark Morrison-Reed speaks eloquently, but an hour of Q&A is too much. I play hookie and catch up with yet more old friends.

Catching Up starts like this:
How are you?
I’m great.
I’m in a personal Renaissance
I serve a family size historic Universalist congregation
I live in Ithaca
(The commute is about an hour)
We just bough a music store! And my partner is really enjoing running it.
My son is 8, yes 8, can you belive it? He comes up to here now (pointing to shoulder)
How are you?

The Fahs lecture is awesome as always. Sandra Sasso says exactly what I would say if I were smarter, and tells 50 stories.

Sadly, I fail to be engaged by the afternoon program, and go for a run instead. This is crazy because it is hot in the mid afternoon sun, but there is public art everywhere, fabulous whimsical sculpture in unexpected places. The wind picks up (note to self, never run by a construction site when it is getting ready to storm). I shower and go back. I am still bored. And homesick. I sneak into a jazz and poetry sundown service. It’s nice. I resolve to come back in the morning.

Guidedaughter and her mamas once again cheer me up. After dinner we dangle our feet in the pool and I go back to the conference with a wet behind. Run into (miraculously) yet another 2 dear colleagues arguing religious education theory outside the worship. I convince one of them to go in with me, and afterwards we get cheap beers and talk about our dogs and kids. She agrees that things seem kind of deflated this year at GA.

Day 5:

Wake depressed. Decide to get up for 8:00 worship anyway. As I’m in the shower I notice how sad I am. Homesickness? Missing my California days? No, there’s something more, something in the air. I decide there is an ambient sadness at GA this year. Why? Our esteemed president ending his 8 year term. The loss of programs and staff to the economic downturn. The changes to GA, the possible shrinking or (my roommate reminds me) the elimination of GA altogether. Yes. Somehow this is comforting to me. It makes sense that GA would be somehow less jubilant in such a year. The morning program is lovely and quiet, and I find yet another old friend to sit with and talk small-church.

I somehow make it through the exhibit hall without buying any jewelry and only $30 of books. A personal best.

At the Starr King Grad Dinner we grieve a beloved professor- Patti Lawrence. I remember how much the school means to me.

I meet Guidedaughter and her Mama at an Intergenerational Dance workshop. She is slow to wake, but by the final moments is ready to dance. She drags her Mama “come to the center!” Even as the workshop ends, she dance from flower to flower on the carpet. We meet her Mommy and head to the Service of the Living Tradition. She does okay for a while, and I show her photos of herself dancing to distract, but Mommy makes the big sacrifice and takes her home for bed. Mama and I remain to hear Mary Harrington, who was finishing seminary the year I began, and was even then admired by all, deliver her beautiful and heart wrenching sermon. She was diagnosed 3 years ago with ALS, and as she gently exhorts us to our responsibilities to the life of the spirit, of appreciating and noticing beauty and connection, there is no possibility for dodging her wisdom. She speaks with undeniable authority. 3000 of us grieve and rededicate our lives as one.

Day 6:

Breakfast with Guidedaughter and the Mamas, goodbyes.

Travel begins at 9:00 am. I write you now from the Detroit airport. It’s 9:50 pm and the 9:36 flight out to Ithaca has yet to arrive. Rode the people mover through the light show twice. Drank beer until my waitress had to close up. I miss my family. It will be good to be home.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Still a Religions Educator

I now serve a family size congregation as their parish minister, but prior to that served 9 years as a Minister of Religious Education. My settlement at my current church feels like a circling round, because my internship was in Parish Ministry, and I was fellowshipped as a parish minister, and in fact had to jump through some logistical hoops to have my specialty changed from parish to religious education. Then, in a clerical error, on the big day when I was presented with my certificate of final fellowship, it said "parish minister." Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something, I thought.

When I left my position as MRE, I dropped my membership in the Religious Educators guild, 'cause who can afford 2 sets of dues? A few weeks back I went to a district retreat for ministers and religious educators, and found myself sitting at an all-religious-educator table at lunch. (It's probably that obstinate "sit with someone you don't know" habit from youth cons). I found I could still talk religious-educator (It'd only been 2 years after all) though I was a little behind on some of the latest curricula. And of course I am always ready to talk yoga, politics, theology, gardening and environmental education. I went from feeling shy about meeting a whole table of colleagues I didn't know after just having met a whole districts worth of new ministers I didn't know, to feeling obstinate- "I will sit with the religious educators, I have a right to be here." And I realized that there is still a part of my identity tied up with religious education, a part of me that still recognizes that table as "my people".

Revered senior colleague Tom Owen-Towle lead us through some reflection throughout our retreat about calling and ministry. And I flashed back to a document someone at the UUA had put out years ago, explaining the many roles an MRE can have. I remembered a listing that had puzzled me at the time "An MRE can be the sole minister in a parish" and I thought, is that me? I don't think the congregation thinks of me that way, but they don't seem to mind that I attend the Youth Religious Education meetings, or lead a Coming of Age program. And I have obstinately held since my seminary days that any time a minister leads an Adult RE class, or preaches, or creates programming and action that leads to reflection and growth she is engaged in religious education. Very slowly it dawned- could it be I'm still a Religious Educator after all?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

How's Business?

I know some of you read this blog only for the business updates, and I know it's been a while. The truth is, May was a slow month, and the bills from re-stocking the inventory in April have arrived. Folks still buy plenty of guitar strings and drum heads, and the starter amps fly out of the store I'm told, but the high-end stuff mostly just waits for better times.

My partner has kicked into high gear with publicity and advertising. Most nights see him at the dining room table moving words back and forth a millimeter or so on Adobe Illustrator as he creates adds, bumper stickers, fliers, coupons. It seems like everyone should know about a music store that's been in town since 1951, but I met a local musician the other day who had never heard of the place. So our job now is just to get to know every musician in the county. Wish us luck.

When anxiety rises, I remind my partner and myself that every small business struggles in this economy, but we probably wouldn't have been able to buy a business in the boom times. Our goal is just to make it through this downturn, however long that lasts, to keep paying our bills on-time until the tide comes back in. In the meantime we still get to be part of the local music scene, and there is some awesome music here to be enjoyed.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Common Ground

On my drive home from church after a committee meeting, my NPR pre-set from the radio world near my home is a Christian Radio station down near the church. I sometimes tune in to hear the preacher on Tuesday nights for a minute or two as I decide what CD to put in. His theology and world view could not be more different from my own, but he's a good preacher. Last Tuesday he was preaching on James 4:13 and the preacher said the trouble with these guys is that they weren't involving God in their plans. He then went on an extended flow about all the devices we have now-a-days to speed up our lives and came to the conclusion that things are moving fast, so we have to be praying constantly, in order to include God in all our decisions which must be made so quickly.

Suddenly I had a flash of another voice I've listened to on that same stretch of rural road. I had recently checked out an audiobook by Carolyn Myss, and now realized she would say the same thing, in that same passionate evangelizing tome of voice, though she would surely say it in a progressive new age kind of way.

And I wondered, is this one of those truths that I can get beyond the ideology and cultural context to engage? Do I believe I should be praying constantly? I mean, I'm more of a meditater than a pray-er, but certainly my contemplative life is not what it could be. But then I found myself wondering- is it polite to pray constantly? Isn't it something you should dress up for and be properly prepared? Is it like when you send too many e-mails out to your congregation and they stop listening? Do I want to clog the airways with junk mail to God?

Then I remembered that I was getting trapped in the stereotypical image of prayer- the "can I please have a new bike" kind. I remembered that when I had a more diligent spiritual life I had realized that for me prayer is mostly listening. This I could see- maybe praying constantly means just keeping the line open. Then the station faded to static, and I put in my CD.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Last night UnderDog found my cell phone where it was charging and chewed through the charger to liberate it. Then, once back in his lair, he chewed off the battery cover. My partner (bless him) managed to put the battery cover back on (mostly), but the little dealy that connects the charger to the phone is chewed clean through. Sigh. I wonder if "my dog ate it" is covered under my cell phone plan.

The phone is the most significant casualty so far, though there have been others, and perhaps my son might argue with me about how significant his little DonkeyKong toy is that was chewed in a pretty thorough way. We did yet another sweep of the floor and low tables to remove everything UnderDog might chew, which turns out to be, well, everything.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A new Leash on Life

UnderDog went on his first real leash walk today- that is to say, he was on a leash and he walked! We only got about 2 houses down the block, because he was so amazed with every smell of every inch of grass and every tree trunk. My son held Dog's leash, and he and Dog were both very patient with UnderDog's big adventure. When UnderDog got home and we were all settling in, he picked up his leash and brought it back to his bed.

At Home

We decided not to travel out of town this weekend as we had originally planned. One of the main reasons was UnderDog. Dog is an excellent guest, and is welcomed into many homes, but UnderDog is still learning how to live in this house, and panics a little just going into a new room, or visiting the front yard. Still we managed to fill up our weekend with outings and celebrations, and when our plans fell through for Monday, I had my usual type-A personality panic. It's a holiday, after all, we should DO SOMETHING.

Instead all 3 humans and 2 dogs just puttered around the house. I played a little mandolin, mopped the kitchen, taught my son a new card game. I started to remember that when we spend a day together just hanging out at home, good things happen.

My son, who had been having a tough weekend, started to smile and we started to feel like a team again.

UnderDog did some intensely amusing playing, and tried to engage Dog who still gives him the "I am too old for this" attitude, though she did shake a few fleece toys with a playful tail wag.

I tried a harness and leash on UnderDog in the back yard, and he actually walked across the yard while I held it. UnderDog even forgot himself and took a biscuit out of my hand instead of waiting for me to put it on the floor a safe distance away!

Finally it got to be bedtime, and UnderDog, who was really feeling like part of the pack, looked wistfully up the stairs after us as we ascended. I decided it was worth a try and carried him up. He went first to his bed by my desk where he is sleeping right now, but wasn't sure where to go when Dog and I headed to the bedroom. He paced and explored until I decided he was just too excited to sleep, so I carried him back downstairs to hang out with my partner.

Imagine my surprise when I woke some hours later and saw UnderDog curled up on a futon at the foot of our bed. He had climbed the stairs all by himself, and found himself a place to sleep. And that was that. He goes up and down the stairs now whenever he must (it's still hard for him to get up those tall rickety Victorian steps) and sleeps with the rest of the pack. Something huge changed for him this weekend, and I learned once again that good things happen when the family just hangs out together at home.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Too Soon?

So about all the burning...
Are you ready to say sorry?

No, probably not. I think that as enlightened as our society is at times, we are never too far from a good old fashioned witch hunt.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I was outside yesterday putting in my "wait until last chance of frost" veggies when it started to rain- big fat drops of water and ominous sky and thunder. UnderDog was outside with me and looked at me as a big drop hit his head. He flinched, and looked at the front door. He was hit again. Flinch. Looked at me. I realized he was so freaked out by the rain (which was now turning to hail) that he couldn't pull it together to travel the 7 feet to safety. A approached him cautiously and slowly, picked him up, and set him inside. What a strange life he's had.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Today UnderDog tried the stairs! I've been carrying him up with me when I come up to the study to write for the past few mornings- he's never even show an interest in trying them on his own. Today I asked (as I always do) "we're going upstairs, wanna come upstairs?" I took my coffee and books up, intending to come down to get Underdog with empty hands. Dog tip-tapped after me into the office, but I heard one more set of clunks on the stairs below. I headed back to our narrow Victorian stairs to see UnderDog on step #4 looking a little worried. I praised him profusely and he let me pick him up to join us. It's a brave new world little dog...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Last Sunday

This past Sunday we held our final celebration for the first ever Coming of Age program our congregation has ever had. I've been doing coming of Age programs since my internship, and they always have a special place in my heart. I brought everything I could to the program, wanting to get it off on the right foot. (The photo above is of our retreat at a local girl scout camp. Coldest Coming of Age retreat I've ever lead.) So Sunday the 4 young women from our church and the 2 young women from a neighboring fellowship were honored in style. The Fellowship canceled their own services that Sunday, put a sign on their door and carpooled over to honor their Initiates with us. It was a packed house, and the Initiates did awesome. I think both congregations get it about why this is a cool program, and so many of them pitched in to make it really a whole-congregation endeavor. I felt I could say with some confidence to the younger brother of one of our initiates "you'll be just the right age when we do this again in 2 years."

Afterward, when the camera's were snapping away (I've decided there is a "# of cameras" indicator for how important a life event is) one participant got my attention and, holding the chalice necklace that had just been placed around her neck by her mentor, said "it was like a Bat Mitzvah or something" and I knew that we had done what we'd set out to do.

Underdog Update

As I got ready for work this morning my partner provided me with a streaming UnderDog commentary:

"He ran outside, then ran back in to get a toy and ran back out"

"He's rubbing his face in your potted plants. I called his name and he's looked up. He's got a leaf stuck to his face."

As UnderDog runs randomly back and forth at high speeds my partner says "Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance."

Dog is being pretty gracious about the whole thing. The two of them are starting to move as a pack- they appear together when it's time to eat or go outside. It no longer seems traumatic for either one if they have to pass in the hall, or occupy the same sofa at the same time. Last night as I arrived home from work they both met me at the safety gate which keeps them on the porch and sniffed me through the diamond-shaped holes just big enough to for a dog nose. I hope Dog doesn't feel like she is being overshadowed. We give her all the hugs that UnderDog is not ready for.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Collector

Things found in UnderDog's bed this morning:
All the dog toys
5 chewies
My left slipper
My son's Calvin and Hobbes book

Yesterday he tried (unsuccessfully) to get a blue serving tray and Dog's Bed up in there.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Sometimes we get a little discouraged being the new home for a rescue dog. We're just not sure how to housetrain a dog who is scared of the out-of-doors. Sometimes he uses the puppy pads. Sometimes he doesn't. Last night while we were at my son's chorus concert he peed right on our only carpet. Sigh. We won't be able to bring him visiting with us when we travel to see friends until he is house trained. I don't want to invite him to sleep upstairs with us until he knows where to "go."

We have a camping trip planned for July, so I started training UnderDog on being on a leash (since we know he is a runner, and won't be coming when called like Dog does). He was very passive and cowering, but did take a few tentative steps. I left the harness on when we came inside so he could get used to it (we figured if any dog could slip his collar UnderDog could) When I arrived home after my meeting, he was even more cowering and flinchy than usual. I took the harness off and put it nearby so he could get used to it, or get his smell on it. Moments later I heard a crunch- he had chewed off the buckle. Back to square one.

We see a mischievous playful side in him, but he is very timid about expressing it. Yesterday he brought a magazine back to his bed, and my son reports he spent the morning clearing all objects off the ottoman. He find the dog toys and brings them back to his spot, but is way too scared to play with us. I know it has only been two weeks, and that he has made tremendous progress, but sometimes I worry that if he never attached to humans in his first year of life, it might not be possible for him. And poor Dog never bonded with Dogs in her first year of life, so our two dogs are still figuring out how to relate to one another.

This morning, though, he was very sweet. He didn't venture outside when I opened the door for him, but stood in the doorway smelling the spring air. When I came home from yoga he came near me, then went back to his safe space, came close, and went back to his spot. I wondered "Is he asking me to come visit him there?" (He has not yet let me pick him up or pet him except in his spot on the sofa.) He seemed downright relaxed when I came over to say hello. So I decided to spend some extra time today reading on the sofa near him. I hated to leave him downstairs when I came up to write Sunday's service (he hasn't tried the stairs yet) so I carried him and his bed up to the study, and after some tentative exploration and anxiety about boundaries, both he and Dog are keeping me company.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Die Slippers Die

I took off my fluffy pink slippers to take out the compost bucket. My partner reports that as soon as I had gone, UnderDog snuck over and grabbed one, shook it mercilessly in his teeth, and brought it back to his lair. He then found it's mate and brought that to his lair as well. I came back from the compost bin and he resumed cowering deferentially.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

UnderDog and the Outside

In the first hours after we Brought UnderDog home, I wanted him to get to know the outside, to make sure he knew where to do his business. I brought him outside in his carrier, where he stayed for quite some time without venturing out. Eventually I reached in and pulled him out. I set him on the grass, but he seemed unsure what to do. I thought "maybe he'd be more comfortable if I weren't around" so I went back inside to work on dinner. I knew he would be okay in the back yard because Dog has spent years out there and never had any trouble. My partner and I peaked out occasionally to make sure he was doing okay, but one time UnderDog wasn't there.

It still makes my stomach clench to remember that moment when I realized he had probably squeezed under one of the tiny openings beneath our wood fence. The neighbors pointed the direction he had gone, and I followed him in my slippers, sure this was going to end in tragedy. I knew he would run if anyone tried to pick him up, and that he didn't even have a tag on his collar yet. We live right downtown, and the chances he would run out into the considerable traffic were high. At one point I was standing in the middle of State Street waving my arms at oncoming cars who could probably not see the little terrified dog trying to avoid going near the folks drinking coffee at a sidewalk cafe. He would slip out of sight for a moment, then I would catch a glimpse of him going around a corner. A neighbor joined me as I took off my slippers, thinking I could move faster in bare feet. Finally UnderDog cornered himself in a patch of tall grass next to a wooden fence. The neighbor and my partner stood in his two paths of escape. I bent down into the grass and scooped him up. I carried him in my arms the long walk home. I felt sick that I had not provided a safe yard for this already traumatized dog.

We didn't go outside again that night, but the next morning I thought "I'll just put him down and watch him carefully. If I stand between him and his exit, then we can get by until we have reinforced the fence" As I set him down he looked at me in terror, then bolted to the opposite end of our yard to a new escape route, and had his shoulders through a chipped place in the cement wall before I could cross the 8 feet of lawn to stop him. I felt miserable and powerless. I found some helpful advice on my favorite Mill-Survivor site that made me feel like maybe I wasn't the worst guardian ever, but house-training, I decided, would start another day.

Monday I begged my friends CrowJoy and Mander to come over and inspect the yard with me. We took a field trip to the Agway and found a roll of garden edging which my friend Mander fastened up with her pneumatic nail gun. We nailed extra bits to any little nook or cranny we could find. We also bought a good supply of puppy pads, because it was now clear that house-training was going to be a long-term process.

The next time Dog needed to go out, I scooped up UnderDog and I sat with him in my arms on the steps as he sniffed the air and listening to the birds. I felt safe again.

UnderDog still has some ambivalence about the out of doors. He will slip out the open door to the backyard when he is sure no one is watching, and can be seen some days bounding in joy, and other days cowering with his back against the wire mesh we installed for his safety.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pink Snow

Last night I was walking home from my environmental action meeting across the Ithaca Commons. The light was diffuse as it was just past sunset, and all the flowering fruit trees were shedding their petals. For a moment my mind was deceived and I thought I was back on a winter walk along that same path through the snow flurries. In the background was the sound of a live band at one of the pavilions -- a samba for Cinco de Mayo.

UnderDog Adventure

Today UnderDog left his couch and snuck into the kitchen while both Dog and I were there! After a few false starts he got himself a drink of water, and then found a chewie to bring back to his spot.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

My "normal" mill-rescue dog

On UnderDog's second day he barely got off the sofa. I started to worry- what if he's sick? How could I tell if he was healing from getting "fixed" 3 days before and all those shots and just trying to integrate a new place and new people or if maybe he was really sick? I sure didn't want to add another vet visit to his already considerable stress. His Foster Mom had recommended a site for Puppy Mill Survivors, and it was so helpful. I read this quote about a dog 8 weeks out of the Puppy Mill:

"Susie spends nearly all her time sitting in one of our recliners. That is where she feels safe. She has shown no interest in exploring the house. She has only recently started to jump down and run around a little or occasionally to follow me into the bedroom but that is progress"

UnderDog moved his "Safe" place yesterday- about a foot up to the back of the sofa. He has spent 2 days there now. From there he can see out the window to the street, or snuggle down between the pillows until only the top of his head is showing.

We have seen great progress already- when I came home from my run, he was in the DINING ROOM! He slunk back to his safe place, belly low to the ground, when he realized he had company, but later in the day when I carefully picked him up and brought him to the kitchen (where we have put up a safety gate so he can eat and use the puppy pad) I noticed the "space bubble" he likes to have between himself and me is shrinking. He was very amazed by the sound of coffee brewing, and the site of his reflection in our back door. After a while he had eaten his fill and I was ready to leave the kitchen, so I lifted the gate. Poor UnderDog shrank into a corner in terror. I didn't realize that gate made him feel safe, I thought it was just helping me keep the house clean. I took him back to his safe spot, and he has been there all the hours since. Sometimes sleeping, sometimes sitting up with alert ears. I wonder if he'll ever want to see the upstairs?

Dog and Underdog

The very first dog that Dog and I went to meet (fully expecting to bring him home with us that very day) bounced and jumped and growled and bit there in the front yard of the Animal Shelter. Dog asked if she could please go hide in the car.

When we went to meet UnderDog, the Foster Mother recommended we not bring Dog, as the effect of 6 dogs and 2 cats might be intimidating. From our first moment in the door we saw Underdog acting as one with a fellow mill-rescue dog, pacing together, avoiding me together, hiding together, naping together. This made me feel hopeful.

When Dog and Underdog met for the first time Dog was in his carrier (door open, hiding inside) and Dog gave a cautious sniff. Later when UnderDog ventured out, they circled each other some cautiously. Meeting only once face to face, each showed teeth silently for just a second, and they went their separate ways. I was amazed by this subtle, gentle working through of territory and dominance. I also saw Dog growl quietly when UnderDog, trying to evade me, tried to hide behind/on-top-of her as she lay curled in her bed. So territories were set. UnderDog gets Dog's formerly favorite place on the couch, and Dog gets her own bed and all the rooms of the house UnderDog has yet to venture into.

It turns out the two will not be curling up together for a nap anytime soon, but Dog is being so sweet and sensitive. She has yet to make another territory stand, even when UnderDog is smelling her things. She gives UnderDog a wide birth on the rare occasions that he leaves his safe spot and makes a foray into another room. She even has noted which chewy is his, and leaves it be.

Last night after I had brought UnderDog into the kitchen for dinner, my son settled into his prized spot on the couch. UnderDog returned to the living room with a concerned look. After some circling and thinking he climbed cautiously onto the other end of the couch. Dog, realizing she couldn't also be on the couch and give UnderDog the space bubble that he needs to feel comfortable, went upstairs to lie down. I think she may have a better hang of being a big sister than I gave her credit for.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


This is the newest member of our family. UnderDog was rescued from a Puppy Mill, and had been living with foster parents (and 5 foster siblings) for 2 weeks. He had never seen the sun, or walked on the grass, and seems generally terrified of humans.

I had gone to meet another dog who looks a great deal like Dog, and when I met her I was struck by how she had Dog's same sweet deep eyes. UnderDog paced behind her, and when she lay down, UnderDog curled up on her back shoulder. I knew that the sweet Bichon/Maltese did not like to be touched, and would get up and walk away when petted. Foster Mom mentioned that UnderDog would let you pet him "if you can catch him." So they caught him for me, and put him in my arms, and we sat like that on Foster Mom's sofa as the other 5 dogs swirled around our feet or cowered in the corner. I thought- we are a family that likes to hug. No question. Like the first smiles of an infant, it would go a long way to help us be patient with the work of integrating a rescue dog into our family if we could get a hug now and then.

UnderDog came home with us yesterday. He spent the last 24 hours first trying to avoid us, and then sleeping when he found Dog's awesome space on the couch. When I got home from work this afternoon he was in his borrowed dog-carrier where he had gone to hide and sleep when my partner got up. I reached in to pet him - so far so good. I pulled him out despite is best passive resistance maneuvers, but when I picked him up, he just curled in tight to me. We sat like that on the couch for what seemed like forever, then he slowly walked off my lap and to his on spot further down the sofa.

He still looks worried most of the time he's awake, but a hug goes a long way.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Spring Blooms and Losses

It's been too long since I last blogged, and things are blooming all around. The flowering trees are right in their glorious prime, but I just don't have the energy to carry my camera with me everywhere documenting each blossom like I did last year. As I've beeen traveling and working, I've been saving up things I wanted to tell you about on a Blog Sticky, but time just keeps flowing.

I never even told you about Pap's funeral. Pap was my partner's grandfather, a warm, funny guy who loosly disguised himself in a gruff exterior. He had had many strokes recently, and I am so glad he was able to die in his own home with his son and daughter at his side. When we went back for the memorial I was a little nervous at first about stepping into his house, but the cousins filled it with music and stories of Pap. Some traditions hold that spirit of the departed lingers for a few days as it makes its transition. I don't know if our songs and stories cheered Pap on his transition, but it sure helped ours.

I never told you about the Grand-Re-Opening of the store. It was colorful and lively, full of all our favorite things: Live Music, cookies, flowers, family and friends. The local college radio station we sponsor came and brought a booth for the parking lot.

That very weekend my partner drove all the way to NYC to see the A's play, only to have the game rained out. He should have stayed here where there was an AWESOME Neko Case show that I got to see with a colleague who was filling my pulpit that weekend.

Then it was off to Albany NY for the big UU minister retreat and District Assembly. There I learned I am STILL grieving for my California district (I hope my new colleagues didn't get too sick of my talk of the "ex"). The tulips that were still green buds when I departed had bloomed an gone when I returned. There were only a few later bloomers left.

While I was retreating with my colleagues I remembered that there was something more I am supposed to be doing. Like that nagging feeling when you are in the check-out in the grocery store that you forgot to get something crucial- then I remembered: the environment. It's not that I haven't been preaching and studying about the earth, it's just that working part time there is a hole that is crying to be filled. It's not that I'm not busy, it's just that I'm busy with a million little tiny things. The story of my life lately has felt like reading Facebook, and I want to read a novel (oh, like Le Guin's Earth Sea series. I want one of those amazing stories that you can walk around in as long as it takes to read all 5 books). I realized a lot of the work I've been doing are short-term tasks that feel like snacking. I don't want to fill up on snacks, I need a good piece of work that feels like a meal. So I've joined the team that is bringing Bioneers to the Ithaca Area. We'll see if that satisfies.

I've also been thinking of adopting a friend for Dog. I have met 3 candidates so far- 2 were clearly not right for us, and one found a different home. I have an appointment today at 2:00 to meet another dog- a rescue dog from a puppy mill. I am constantly running 2 scenarios for this weekend and the coming weeks: one where a shy little dog needs consistent help with housetraining and adjustment, and one where life keeps its steady unchanging rhythm.

In the mean time I've been snacking on a new blog:
Yoga Blogn

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I just assembled and installed our new solar composter. (It involved an actual power tool and digging a huge hole in our garden) I am exhausted and very excited.

We have a 4 x 8 herb garden, and a lawn that's only slightly bigger. But last week as I was scraping vegetable peelings into the trash I just couldn't wait any longer. The ground is thawed, I thought, and it's time to do some urban composting.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Unitarian Universalists have adopted 6 official sources of their tradition. When the most recent was adopted (Earth Centered Taditions) I got to witness the process first hand at our general assembly, and hear both sides of the issue. Now it's hard to imagine our tradition without acknowledging that source.

But recently, as I was reading Wisdom Sits in Places I realized that a new idea has been emerging slowly in my own consciousness. The UU sources are all people, or traditions created by people. We may lift up the Earth Centered traditions which teach us to honor "the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature", but we don't list the earth herself as a source of our wisdom. We list science, but we do not list trees, or stars, or the other beings we share our eco-system with.

And frankly, it's not currently a commonly held source of our UU tradition. But I am finally able to articulate that it is a source of my own.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


The irises I planted last fall are up. They are quick little guys- from no bud at all to full bloom in one day. There are so many metaphors wrapped in those little 4" plants, about planting for the future, about the faith in spring after a cold winter, about the strength of the small.

The landscape is still very stark- very beige and gray. Not one tree has yet to bud. These first little flowers are like harbingers of things to come. A little color that brings joy to the eye.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Worth a thousand words

Please accept this picture in lieu of a sermon on encountering obstacles.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Party Line

I am a dyed in the wool liberal. All those things Rush Limbaugh hates, I am:


And proud of it, thank you very much.

But there is one part of the liberal platform that I don't get: Embryonic Stem Cell research. I haven't decided how I feel about this. It seems awash with ethical issues that should be carefully considered, and this is what concerns me. When something becomes "party line" there is no room for a circumspect discussion of ethical implications. You are either with the party or against it. I'm thrilled that our new president wants scientists to have the freedom to do science unfettered by politics. But even though I'm a pro-choice feminist, I am not prepared to say for sure when life begins, and am ignorant about what ethical model is being used for embryonic research, and how I feel about it.

As a card carrying liberal (I've got a GreenStar Co-op card, a UU Minister's Association card, and a World Wildlife Fund card in my wallet right now), I just want the freedom to say "I don't know, can we talk about this one?"

Part Time

I am finally settling in to the reality that for the first time since before my son was born that I work part time. While we were gearing up to purchase the music store it was quite a balancing act to get sermons written and loan applications completed. But the business changed hands the same week a volunteer project I was working on came to fruition, and I am beginning to realize that the slow pace of my daily schedule is not anomalous. Now I know I said that we were moving out of Silicon Valley to have a quieter more sustainable life, but I think I hear crocuses growing this morning. In theory it is perfect; between the time I drop my son at school and when the bus brings him home there is just enough time to exercise, work my half day in the home office and make and clean up from lunch.

But this week both the Board and the Committee on Ministry at the church have mentioned that they are feeling kind of amazed at how much the church is doing, and how it's important not to over-tax the system, to remember that church should be fun and not all work. I realized that some of the things I've got on my "to do" list for the church need to stay there for a while- that I need to make sure I don't put too much in the pipeline all at once. I'm realizing that this is a part-time position not just because of church finances, but also because it may really be meeting the needs of a family-size congregation.

Last time I worked part time I was fresh out of seminary. I was used to spending the days meditating, writing, reading. Since then I've served a busy congregation full time while raising a child through his early years. I wonder, could I get back to that state of mind where I felt close to the ineffable most of the time? Will I become a more involved activist? Will I finally learn to play the mandolin confidently? Or is this just cabin fever that will disappear once the soil thaws and gardening season begins? I don't want to go back to the frantic pace of my old life, but there is clearly some need as yet unfilled. I should figure out what it is before I drive my congregation over the edge with ideas and projects.

Music Store Update

Tonight- Our CEO meets with the DJs from the local music show we are sponsoring

New guitars are finally coming in

We rented a water cooler- apparently it rocks

Next- how do you serve cookies and drinks at the Grand ReOpening party without endangering the instruments?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

2nd week

This post is dedicated to my father-in-law who wanted to know "why the news blackout" on the store.

Here are a few brief updates:

The checks finally came

The Credit cards finally came

We spent all the rest of our inventory money, but the store still looks bare, and it turns out instruments are expensive! (who knew?) After a brief panic, we realized that when people bought things there would be money to spend on more inventory. Phew. Now the trouble is that people are buying inventory faster than we can make orders and get them filled. We are starting from scratch with each and every vendor, filling out piles of forms and waiting while they determine our credit-worthiness. Even after that some of the guitars we order have to be made I think. My partner says several customers have commented on "how bare the store looks." Our goal is to have the store crammed with merchandise for the grand re-opening party.

Here's my partner's awesome-est idea so far: Print advertising is crazy expensive- our grand re-opening add (purchased at 50% off for the occasion) will run once and is 2 months of our advertising budget. So our awesome CEO checked into sponsoring the local music show on the local college radio station. It turns out we can be the sole sponsor of the show for a year for around the cost of that one print add. AND we get to help the public radio station AND support local music all at the same time.

Another major milestone- my partner now knows more about QuickBooks and accounting for the store than I do. My only remaining job at the store is to reconcile the bank statements once a month and to make sure we have set aside a month or 2 of payroll so that if things get tight we can pay the landlord and the amazing staff. Fortunately we have a shareholder's meeting almost every night, and our CEO brings the board up to speed on operations.

Next big goal? Making the Grand Re-Opening party rock.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Home Alone

After over a year of working from home, my partner has gone off to work at the store. While he engages the terrifying and exhilarating prospect of a new enterprise, my life is largely unchanged, except that the house seems very empty. The quiet of my home in the morning has often seemed peaceful, fertile ground for writing and thinking. Today, however,the quiet feels like the end of an era.

Rituals for our age

I was talking with a friend just starting her second trimester about rituals for pregnant women. We were both aware that a religious ritual for pregnancy is somewhat rare- there are no standard forms that either of us knew of, and so we talked about adapting from other transition rituals and creating new ritual.

Of course most important transitions have their rituals in any culture- though they are sometimes hard to spot. I thought about the baby shower- the most common way to honor the transition to parenthood. It is usually a secular affair, and centers around the giving of gifts. Suddenly light dawned- what a perfect ritual for our consumer driven culture- we welcome the mom into the new realms of consumerism that accompany parenthood, and we welcome the baby as a new consumer. What a brilliant reflection of our societal values and norms.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Today's the Day

This morning my partner and I waited outside our bank as it opened to get the certified checks we would need to buy the business. The denim clad employee whose un-eaten begal
and steaming coffee called to him throughout our transaction took our life savings out of our account, more out of our new HELOC obtained for the purpose, and printed our official looking checks.

We met all the parties at our landlord's office, where our lawyer had used a whole roll of sticky tabs to mark all the places we and the sellers had to sign. We pushed the checks across the table, and it was done.

To celebrate, we shared breakfast with the now-previous owners, all 4 of us swimming in a surreal, transitional space. We chatted about the store and music and facebook until we couldn't put it off any longer; we each departed for our new lives.

My partner and I arrived home to a bottle of Champagne left by a friend on our doorstep, and he headed off for his first day of work, where my mom had sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

A new era in our lives has begun.
I hope those blank checks arrive soon...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

2 Days

We finally got our insurance guy on the phone- he says our liability insurance (required by the landlord to start our lease) is "in progress" and "should be no problem" getting us covered for the closing on Friday.

Still waiting for our checks

Still waiting for our business credit card

Received a giant box containing our brand new banner (Thanks Guy!)

Our Bookkeeping-tutor is coming next week after the close to show us how to do Payroll.

Our merchant-services company says it "will probably be okay" to go in Thursday night and switch from the current owners account to our account.

Authorized our first special order, had to ask for COD (see "Still waiting for Credit Card" above)

Our son asks "when does dad get his new job?"

2 days honey. Your dad will be the manager of his own music store in 2 days.

Monday, February 23, 2009

4 Days

The bookkeeper came last Thursday to our house to help us set up Quick Books. Many hours were spent on the phone by the seller to make sure we can have continuous phone service (this is in jeopardy as we are switching providers, and the competing companies don't like to cooperate). My partner is at the store right now helping the owner count guitars- we have to have a relatively confident inventory to establish the final cost at the closing. We also have to re-hire all the current staff, so my partner is drafting a "welcome" pack for these guys who have been there for years.

We are eagerly waiting for our printed checks to come; it will feel so much more official not to be writing "starter" checks.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spring Rain

Today when my son and I woke to get ready for school it was dark and rainy. I promised myself I didn't have to run in the 40 degree rain, and after dropping Wuggie at school, rolled out my yoga mat in front of the window. I did my first few sun salutations, listening to the rain on the window. The rain reminds me of winter in California, and I remembered the feeling of running in the rain on a warm spring day. I refuse to think of 40 as warm, but I thought about how it is not supposed to get out of 20s in the next 10 days, put on my running shoes and rain jacket and headed out.

This time of year is as awkward as child entering adolescence. The piles of ice and snow left by the plows, now dark with exhaust and dirt, still squat on every corner, though every other surface is covered with the damp degrading fall leaves now clear of snow, and things are just kind of muddy. I was shocked to see the first shoots of crocuses poking through under a bush by my front steps, and hope they will be okay as the ground re-freezes later this week. I ran along a creek filled with rushing brown water, the drainage of not only the rain but the melted snow. There was one giant iceburg in the middle behind which the ducks were hiding. As I ran downstream giant rectangles of ice had broken free and smashed into one another in a kind of spring-thaw rush hour traffic jam. Further downstream yet the ice was solid, and I imagined the water rushing below it to the lake.

Leaving behind so many dear friends in California, I always think of them when the weather does something weird. "Come look at this!" I want to say, but by the time they got on a plane and flew 3000 miles, the brown speckled songbird would probably have moved out from under the bush, and the ice would have moved downstream. And so I blog, in a vain attempt to share it. This one's for you guys.

15 Days

The close (on our purchase of the music store) has been officially moved up to the 27th! It started to feel real when my partner had to call NYSEG to get the utilities transferred into our name. He has designed a new logo which our friend Guy is making into a banner for us as a business-warming gift (thanks Guy!) We have a band to play at our grand re-opening party on April 17, and our landlord says we can HAVE a grand reopening party, and reminded us to contact the press.

Today we are submitting our application for credit card services and meet with our Business Services Banker for the first time. My partner is trying to figure out why the owners currently pay so much for web hosting, while being on hold with various phone companies. Wow. It's really happening.

Monday, February 09, 2009

It's not me!

When our outdoor thermometer broke we replaced it with an indoor-outdoor. I put it here by my desk so I can see how cold it really is out there. Just for kicks I switched it over to "indoor" -- it was 60 in here by my computer desk. Turns out the register in this room is not getting warm for some reason. While we try to decide if it's worth calling the furnace guy out to fix it I've dragged the space heater up from the basement and turned the rest of the house down to 64. Our dog, who normally keeps me company here in the office while I work, looked suspiciously at the heater a few times, whimpered, and then went to hang out with my husband. The thermometer now reads 62.6 and I can't believe how much warmer it feels. And here all this time I thought I was just a California wimp. I will keep wearing my wool socks and wool sweaters, but I'm relieved not to have to knit those fingerless gloves I thought would be my salvation for cold mornings at the computer.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

20 Days (or maybe 18?)

We met with the owners of the music store last night. We haven't talked to them since our first meeting- lawyers have been doing all our talking for us. We met them at the store and finally had a tour of all the strange little nooks and crannies, and got to ask them all our questions. (Our son even got to try a banjo.) They are good folks and were very kind and patient and sad to have to sell their store. My partner is getting a better sense of what he will be doing day to day, and he says "it seems like a lot of work." Some things have been done the same way for decades, and we wonder what we will be able to update right away and what things will have to wait. Generally we feel like continuity is the key. A gradual smooth transition. There is plenty of time for everything else. We hope to be at this for a while.

Since March 1 is a Sunday, we are going to try to move the closing up to the 27th.

Friday, February 06, 2009

22 Days

Yesterday we came to an agreement on the lease for the store. Tomorrow we meet with the current owners to ask our list of questions. Our favorite band has agreed to play the "Grand Re-Opening" party. Next? Credit Cards; how does that work?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Not in Berkeley Any More

I was driving home form work the other day, and the one public radio station near the church was having a pledge drive so I hit seek on the radio. Many Christian Stations. One preacher was talking about the very same bible story I had talked about the week before (Jonah) so I let him talk. Shortly he came to say "I can't imagine anything that would make me more afraid than to come before God on Judgment day having stood in the pulpit and said that the bible is not the literal inerrant word of God divinely inspired." I felt like he was talking about me specifically. Except he kept calling these preachers who talk about metaphor and symbol as "he." "She!" I called back to the unhearing voice. He went on to talk about the nerve of these preachers to pretend to follow God, pretend to have faith. It started to rankle.

Especially since that same week I learned that the UU church is not invited to participate in the local cooperative that addresses poverty in our county because we are "not Christian." Now I have recently had occasion to explain on more than one occasion that although Unitarian Universalism has Christian roots, and there are Christian UUs, I don't happen to be one of them. So I'm not going to try to have it both ways. If the cooperative is only for Christians, I'm not going to argue semantics. But I don't really see what doctrine has to do with caring for God's children. It's a theological climate that is very different from the one I left behind in the San Francisco Bay Area, and even different from the one I leave behind each time I drive across the border from my home in Ithaca.

Added to "To Do" list- stop 'round the Jewish and Muslim communities in the county and say hello.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

25 Days

Yesterday we made a corporation. Our lawyer (I can't believe I have a lawyer) is sending in the papers to the Secretary if State. Next our Lawyer is drawing up by-laws to be adopted at our first shareholder's meeting. Now we are on familiar territory. If there is one thing a UU minister knows it is by-laws and annual meetings.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Too Long

The sermon was taking extra long this week. It's Saturday and I had just finished the first draft last night. Checked the word count. 3900. I wrote 2 sermons again. Oops. I've spent the morning trying to get it down closer to 2000. No wonder it took so long!

Friday, January 30, 2009

30 days

My partner and I have amazing (almost)news. We are now officially under contract to buy a music store that my partner will manage. How cool is that! This is not a sudden decision; we have been plodding along at this since before Thanksgiving. Nor is it a done deal; until we trade a check for the front door key anything could happen. But getting a signed Memorandum of Understanding was such a huge milestone after so much work that I wanted to tell the story as we come to the end of the 4th quarter, if you'll pardon the football metaphor.

Yesterday we met with the Insurance guy to try to figure out our "exposure." We don't want to be exposed. We want to be covered. Today I have to research worker's comp to figure out whether we want the owners to be excluded. Seriously, it's been 2 months of this. Neither Seminary nor Music School prepared me. We are learning ever so much!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jack Mendelssohn

I am reading today about Jack Mendelssohn and the role he took after "the walkout" at the UU General Assembly in 1969. I am so amazed by a minister who was able to be so, well, ministerial in the middle of crisis. What an amazing role model. I know there are many sides to this controversial moment, and I was not there, but I aspire to be in such a frame of mind during any conflict.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Yesterday during my yoga practice I was looking out my second floor window at a stunning bright red cardinal who was eating the seeds off the topmost branches of the tree in front of our house. He didn't seem to mind me watching him, but the second I pulled out my camera he flew away. This has happened almost every time I have tried to take a picture of the birds in my neighborhood (ducks not withstanding). I wonder why birds don't like to have their pictures taken?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

To Run or Not to Run

Last year when it got cold and the sidewalks got icy I joined the neighborhood gym for the winter. This year we are conserving money, and really running on a treadmill is like... running on a tread mill. It's practically a metaphor for it's own tedium. Instead I am doing yoga on days too cold to run, and consequently I haven't run in 2 weeks. It was the warmest day of the week today, which means hovering around 20 at running time. And gray. I rolled out my yoga mat again.

By some lovely serendipity, I had scheduled myself months ago to preach my first ever yoga sermon "Lessons learned on the Mat." I've got my stack of yoga books by the computer, and am finally finishing Iyengar's Light on Life. I was looking for a story to tell during the "Lesson for All Ages" and realized that we should just do a few asanas together. I am more nervous about this than the sermon. What poses will hold the interest of our elementary school kids and be accessible to our elders?

I am a little worried about how hard that first run will be when the temperatures get back up into the high 20s or even 30s. But living seasonally is something I believe in, so perhaps winter is the season of yoga. Maybe I just need to have faith that the sun will come back in the spring and I will burst out in my running shoes like those little crocuses bursting through the frozen ground.