Mom to the Left

I'm a mom who tends to live just to the "left" of most of the people around me here in Indiana.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

That time of the year

It's that time of the year again. Summer is always the most difficult time of the year for me. I know it, I try to avoid it, but it gets me every year. Depression. I realize that I rely too heavily on external validation. Intellectually I know that and I know that I shouldn't, but in those isolated days of summer it hits me like a ton of bricks. During the school year I interact with dozens of adults and kids every day who let me know that my presence in their lives matters. But come the end of May all that stops.

For 2 1/2 months I am at home with very little interaction with anyone besides my own immediate family. And while I love them, to them I am invisible. As long as dinner is on the table and clothes are washed, they couldn't really care less about what is going on with me.

Of course, this is the time of year when the UU church (in my opinion) falls apart. The minister is gone for weeks on end, the congregation is busy jet setting off to this vacation location or the other (sometimes it really irks me to belong to a wealthy congregation and to be one of the poorest people there), and general attendance is just low. And again, I'm invisible. I can go for weeks without attending church and no one really seems to notice unless they need something from me (like to teach RE). And this year our newly-formed UU Christian Circle is having to take a 3-month hiatus because of scheduling difficulties. If ever there was a time when I needed a close spiritual group it is now! UGH!

AAGH. It's just so frustrating. I just wish I had a little bit of money to go somewhere and do something. But I don't. And with the price of gasoline these days, I find myself freaking out over running the smallest of errands. Blah.

Sorry to vent there. I'm just feeling a little frustrated and isolated.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Simmered-down GA thoughts

(By "simmered-down" I am not referring to the use of the phrase to describe someone who is no longer as angry as before. Instead, I'm thinking of "simmered-down" as in the cooking sense. In cooking you take a whole lot of "stuff" and let it simmer until it "reduces" into a smaller amount of material that is stronger and more concentrated.) I've had lots and lots of thoughts about the GA blogs I've been reading and the streaming video I've been watching at the UUA website bumping around in my head. All of that "stuff" is starting to simmer down in my head into something (hopefully) more concentrated.

Before I say what I'm thinking, I have to repeat that so far I have never been able to attend a GA in person. My experience of GA is limited to what I can access online. I'm guessing I'm not the only online reader out here so maybe my words can speak for those of us who experienced GA vicariously. On July 8 our church has planned a service where our delegates will share with the congregation news about what happened at GA. But I have a feeling they'll stick to the basics and many of the smaller tidbits will be left out. I want more.

First, I was generally disappointed with the streaming video available at the UUA website. It isn't totally the UUA's fault. I have a dial-up 56K connection, so at best the video was choppy and some of the audio was so choppy that I couldn't understand what was being said. I would have liked to have recognized faces or banners during the banner parade, but it was mostly a colorful blur. The music was nice though. And the lag between the time of an event and when the video shows up on the website is disappointing. I'd planned to watch the closing worship live, but it was at 7:00 local time and I was right in the middle of getting dinner on the table. By the time dinner and dishes were done, so was the closing worship. I'm hearing positive chatter about it on the blogs, but the link still isn't up and I'm anxious to see it myself.

The bloggers have been a godsend. Not only did they give information about the various sessions, but they shared lots of "color" to help fill in the picture. From the horrendous flight experiences getting to GA to the pictures of the blogger dinner at a Greek restaurant, all of those things round out the experience for those of us at home.

There was a point when I wondered if I really wanted to go to GA at all. It seems like a lot of money and stress and then you get there and there are all these sessions talking about social justice issues and politics. Now don't get me wrong. I'm right there with everyone on the anti-war, marriage freedom, racial equality, transgender equality, etc. But I'm more of a spiritual person than a political person. My favorite videos were the worship services with their music and moving words. A call to arms just doesn't move me like a song of praise does. But that's just me. (I've been questioning my own identity as a UU for these same reasons, but I'll save that long story for a different post.)

But then I realized that there is an awful lot that happens at GA that doesn't make it online. Over at Planting God Communities, Rev. Ron Robinson, Executive Director of the UUCF, mentioned some lesser-known activities that I would have loved to be a part of. On Saturday there was a communion by the UUCF. Then Sunday there was a lecture by Kathleen Norris, author of "Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith". These are the types of things I'd attend if I were at GA and I think that would make me more satisfied than the political discussions. (BTW, I'd love to read a description of the Kathleen Norris lecture if anyone wants to do a write-up.)

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Friday, June 22, 2007

GA Vicariously

As I sit here at home sipping my coffee after getting bowls of cereal for the boys, it is really nice to be able to check in with the UU blogosphere to find out what is going on right now over in Portland, Oregon at the 46th annual UU General Assembly. Our church has sent 12 people so I am sure I will hear tidbits eventually. But there is something to be said for those people who are on the ground in Portand and are posting to keep us updated back here in the hinterland. I'm sure it is very hectic there. I've seen the schedules. Those of us back home really appreciate the time everyone is taking to get information out.

I will be checking in several times this weekend over at the UUpdates website to see what bloggers are saying. Maybe one of these days I'll have the money and freedom to actually attend GA. But for now I have to live vicariously through the UU bloggers.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Summer Americana

There is one activity that is pure Americana and harkens back to the recent American past: the drive-in theater. I think drive-in theaters were most popular in the 1950's as America recovered from WWII and had more expendable cash. Plus it ties in with the American fascination with cars. I'm not old enough myself to have experienced a 1950's drive-in, but my mind always goes back to those scenes in Grease where John Travolta and his leather-clad buddies gathered and tried to win the hearts of Olivia Newton-John and the other girls in poodle skirts. Who can forget the intermission cartoon where the dog-like wiener jumped into the bun?

I remember going to drive-in theaters when I was a child in the 1970's. I remember my parents piling my younger brother and sister and myself into our light blue station wagon with our pillows in tow. Mom would pop up a big pot of popcorn on the stove and empty it into a large brown grocery sack. I can't remember for sure if we took drinks along also, but we probably did. Money was tight back then and buying food at the concession stand was a luxury we just couldn't afford. At the theater, we'd pull into the raised gravel space next to the pole and Mom and Dad would take the large metal speaker box off the pole and hang it on the inside of the car windows. We usually got there way before dark so Mom would take us down right in front of the screen where there was a little playground for kids. Among the movies I remember seeing at the drive-in were Benji, Herbie the Lovebug (the original 70's version), and the Apple Dumpling Gang with Don Knotts. There was a "family-oriented" drive-in near where we lived that showed two G-rated movies and in between the movies they'd show cartoons. As kids, we thought the cartoons were the best part. We'd watch the first movie and the cartoons, but early in the second movie we always got tired. We'd climb into the back of the station wagon with our pillows and fall asleep and wake up back at home as we were carried to our beds (this was back before seatbelts).

We've tried to continue the drive-in tradition for our own family. To me there is just something magical about sitting outside after dark on a warm evening with a lot of other people watching a movie on a screen the size of a huge barn. The concession stand is a glowing hut of activity in the middle of the darkness where people are willing to wait in long lines for $5.00 nachos or a visit to the crowded restroom. Teenagers congregate, moms try to soothe overtired small ones, and everyone squints when they enter the concession stand which is like walking into a spotlight after being out in the dark.

Last night was our annual trip to the drive in. While my oldest isn't that impressed (he'd rather go to an indoor theater), my younger two think it is just great. They set up folding chairs in front of our front bumper along with their dad. My oldest son and I stayed inside the van in comfortable seats. They don't use those big metal speaker boxes anymore. Now they pipe the sound out through small-range radio stations. You can turn your car stereo on to the proper AM station, set the car on auxiliary and hear the whole thing without running down the battery. Like my mom did, I make my own popcorn (but I use the microwave). I pop up about 3 bags of popcorn and put them in big plastic tubs. I pack a cooler with drinks and ice. Money is tight for us just like it used to be when I was a kid. There are no cartoons between movies at this theater. My kids don't know what they're missing. There are four different screens each showing two different movies. You're supposed to pick one screen and stay there for the night, but most people move their cars between movies to pick and choose what to watch. Last night we saw the new Fantastic Four movie and when it was over we watched Spiderman 3. My 5yo was tired and, just like my siblings and I used to do 30 years ago, he took his pillow into the backseat shortly after the second movie started and went to sleep. By the time the second movie was over and we were on our way home it was 2:00am and still a balmy 77 degrees outside. (We woke our son and put him into his seat and fastened the seatbelt. - Some things have changed.) We arrived home late, slept in late this morning, and today my kids are talking about what a great time they had last night.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

There's a fine line

Yes, there's a fine line between thinking positively and getting your hopes up. This is a spiritual dilemma that seems to keep popping up in my life and I never seem to get a handle on what I should do.

I have read spiritual books that advise that I should think positively, as if the thing that I want has already happened or as if I already have what I want. By putting those positive thoughts out into the universe, I make them more likely to happen. By putting out doubt, I am putting out my lack as truth and what I will get from that is only more lacking.

The flip side of this coin is getting ones hopes up. I have had several occasions in my life where I let myself believe I had won something or accomplished something as a way of "thinking positively" only to be deeply devestated when it didn't happen. So for me, I tend to not assume I have anything before it is official mostly as a way of protecting myself from inevitable disappointment. Maybe that negativity is part of my problem.

I have applied for the temporary one-year music teaching position that is my sister's regular job. Big J has been after me for a week now to email the new principal and let him know why I'm the perfect person for the job. Last night as I took my after-dinner walk around the neighborhood, I envisioned myself in the job. I imagined setting up the room, planning the curriculum, teaching the first few introductory days, etc. It did help me to get up my confidence and this morning as soon as I got out of bed I sat down at the computer and wrote the email to the principal. But visualizing myself in front of that classroom or on stage during the music programs or in meetings with other teachers gets me really excited and I am all the more scared that those things won't happen. I've been disappointed enough in the past that I'm reluctant to assume anything.

And, of course, in my line of work I'm liable not to hear anything either way until after August first. Sigh. I will not let this worry hijack my summer vacation!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Blindsiding a marriage

How does one know what happens to a marriage to make it fall apart? That's really more a rhetorical question than anything, but it is on my mind this morning. A very dear friend of mine from high school just let me know that her husband asked her for a divorce out of the blue. I was shocked and, apparently, so was she.

She is being forced into several life changes because of this sudden announcement. My heart is just aching for her and the injustice of it all. I'm trying not to be judgmental as I'm sure it hasn't been an easy transition for either of them. I'm praying that they both find their footing and continue on with their new lives.


I just feel so sad and wish there was something I could do.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Little Big Man

Today my middle child turned 11. I have to say it was a really nice birthday. There was no squabbling or stress, everyone had fun, and everything went my son's way.

My parents came over late this morning with his gift: new swim trunks and beach towel. Our plan for the day was to go swimming and they knew his old trunks had gotten too small. They left around noon and he pointed out that he didn't actually turn 11 until 12:12 PM (the exact minute he was born 11 years ago). So when the time came, we immediately went in to the kitchen and I sheared off his hair that he'd been growing all year. He'd decided it was time. Here's what he looked like before the haircut.

Then we ate a little lunch, changed our clothes and headed over to the Y for a swim in the outdoor pool. It was a nice and sunny 80-ish degrees out. It was a perfect day for the pool. It was our first time out for the summer and we had a great time. The pool was busy, but not as packed as I thought it'd be on a sunny summer Saturday afternoon. But we didn't get there until 3:30. Maybe the crowd had thinned out before we got there. We stayed until about 5:00 and then decided to make our way home. We have a tradition in our family that the birthday person gets to pick what we have for dinner that day. E decided he wanted Papa Murphy's Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple. It was the first time we'd had any meat in a month and only the third time in two months. But that's okay. After all, it is a birthday and birthdays are special. After that we had cake. I'd made a cake and decorated it with a Geodude (which is a Pokemon character). I was surprised it turned out so well. Here is a picture of E with his little brother watching as we sang Happy Birthday to him and he waited to blow out the candles.

Notice the haircut? Anyway, after the cake and ice cream we gave him his gift: a Pokemon Ruby game for his Gameboy. The kid has been in heaven ever since. We kind of had a beach island theme after the swimming and Hawaiian pizza so we've had reggae music playing. E was busy playing the Pokemon game until 9:00 when he had to stop to watch the brand new Naruto episode he'd been waiting for for weeks. He thought it was all a cosmic birthday wish for him that the new episode would air on his birthday.

He agrees this has been a perfect day.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Serendipitous Christianity book discovery

I tried posting this the other day. I sat for at least an hour typing up my thoughts about this wonderful book I discovered. Then I looked up at the screen and it was all gone. Those of you who use Blogger, don’t be fooled by their new “autosave” feature. Blogger “autosaved” what I had written, but it cut it off after the first sentence. An hour’s worth of work was gone. So now I’ve decided to draft in Word and then cut and paste it into my blog so it won’t (hopefully!) happen again. Anyway, on to my original (albeit reconstructed) post…


At the library the other day, I was browsing the "New Books" shelf when I stumbled upon the book 10 Things Your Minister Wants to Tell You : (but can’t because he needs the job) by Rev. Oliver “Buzz” Thomas. I’d read somewhere that it is true that what is largely understood and taught in seminaries these days rarely makes it to the pulpit because most people don’t want to hear it. So I was intrigued by the title and wanted to see what the author had to say. Here are just a few points that I’ll paraphrase (unless I indicate it is a direct quote):

* As far as the Creationism vs. Evolution debate goes, it is like comparing apples to oranges. Creationism is a religious concept and religion is about finding meaning, purpose and moral truth in life. Evolution is a scientific concept and science is about identifying observable and falsifiable facts about the world around us. It is only when we think of creationism as a scientific concept or evolution as a religious concept that we run into trouble. The two could (should?) coexist without cancelling each other out.

* Our purpose for being here is to treasure our humanity. Thomas cites Ecclesiastes with giving four directives: “(1) eat, drink, and be merry; (2) work hard; (3) enjoy living with the person you love; and (4) fear God and keep his commandments.” Further to that he discusses what might be meant by fearing God and keeping his commandments. Jesus trumps the ante when he said we should love God and our neighbors as ourselves. We can express our love for God through worship, singing, and prayer. He discusses how prayer is about being with God. It is about talking and listening…and not so much about asking (a point I really loved). The thing about prayer is that it doesn’t benefit God; it benefits us. It transforms us into people who think more like God and who work as God’s hands in the world. We must remember Jesus’ instruction to love who Jesus referred to as “the least of these”: those who are outcasts of society or who have been dealt more suffering than others.

* Thomas discusses the Bible and goes into details I already knew about (that it is made up of several different books by different authors and wasn’t put together into one book – with several different versions at that – until much later). He mentions problems with trying to read it literally as the inerrant word of God (inconsistencies and scientific impossibilities, for example). But he asserts how the Bible serves as a human witness to the experience of God at that time in history. There is a lot of wisdom contained in the Bible and you don’t have to believe that it really happened to believe it is true.

* He mentions how Christianity has historically (and sometimes contemporarily) marginalized some groups like women, slaves, and homosexuals. The Bible was once used to justify slavery (a fact which causes many people problems again with the inerrancy concept). But just like times have changed society’s opinion of owning slaves, so has its opinion about the submission of women changed since biblical times. At the time the biblical stories were being written, women were considered property owned by men. They were not allowed to participate in government, religion, etc. To stand up for women’s rights at that time would mark one as a rebel. The books of the bible were written to reflect that view. Of course, Jesus, the one person in the Bible whose example we *should* follow, obviously didn’t feel that way about women. Women played an important role in his ministry. That fact has been downplayed considerably by subsequent organizers of the religion of Christianity which speaks to attachment to the old systems of belief that still existed (exist). In today’s day and age, women are no longer considered to be lower than men by society and, therefore, should not be considered lower by the church. And the verses in the Bible that have been used to limit the rights of homosexuals did not come from Jesus. He spoke against many things: “money, lust, revenge, divorce, prayer, fasting, and a thousand other subjects (with an especially large number on self-righteousness), but there is nothing on homosexuality." Instead, Jesus spoke about the importance of how we treat each other. We should not judge others – that is for God alone to do. And he told us how important it was to love our neighbors as ourselves. That alone should be enough to tell us what is really important.

Those are just a few of the big ideas I got from this book. Much of what I read wasn’t surprising. Some of it I’d read before and most of it I’d thought before. But it was interesting to read a minister write these things. It was especially interesting to me to read in his bio that he is a Baptist minister. I was surprised to find a Baptist minister with these values. (I don’t know if he is American Baptist or Southern Baptist, but he does mention the Southern Baptist Convention a couple of times in his writing.) For me this was yet another reminder that I shouldn’t jump to conclusions about someone else’s beliefs.

I highly recommend this book to others. It’s a short read – only 108 pages – and I read the whole thing in one afternoon.

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