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.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wildflowers in the Smokies

Different people like different activities when they go out in nature. My "thing" is identifying wildflowers. I could spend hours in the woods looking for flowers to identify. On our recent trip the the Smokies, I took along my camera to capture the flowers' images. I haven't identified all of them (yet), but I thought I'd share with you the ones I am pretty sure I've identified correctly.

This first one is Crimson Bee Balm (also known as Oswego Tea) which is prolific in the park. The bright red jumps out at you from all that green.

This next one is a little blurry (my camera isn't great), but it is a decent picture of what I think is Turk's-cap Lilies. The color was very distinctive and that, along with the curled-up shape, made it fairly easy to identify.

This striking blue flower jumped out at me. At first I thought some of the petals had been ripped off by an animal or another hiker, but I discovered that this flower actually only has two petals. What was even more bizarre was that this flower, introduced to America from Asia, has blooms that only bloom for one day. This one happened to bloom on the same day I took my hike. It's called the Asiatic Dayflower.

Finally, this is a photo of a Thimbleweed. Although the photo is a little blurry around the flower head due to the glare of the sun, I was able to identify it in person and am fairly certain about its name. The flower seemed to shoot right up out of the foliage which was on the ground.

I have more pictures I'll share in a later post. I've probably given enough for now. My husband has posted two different posts about our vacation on his blog at A View from the Crossroads. Go there to check out a picture from their whitewater rafting trip.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Power of Four - Another Meme

Ack! I'm catching up on all of my friends' blogs and I discovered I've been tagged to do another meme. I'll try to do this really quickly as there are other things I should be doing. Anyway, here goes...

Four jobs I've had:

1. substitute elementary teacher
2. library serials procurement specialist
3. medical sciences library branch coordinator
4. Pizza Hut cook

Four movies I can watch over and over:

1. A Christmas Story
2. Waking Ned Divine
3. The Matchmaker
4. Wizard of Oz

Four places I've lived:

1. current home
2. the home where I grew up
3. college dorm room
4. rented duplex

Four TV shows I love:

1. Little People, Big World
2. Seinfeld
3. Scrubs
4. What Not to Wear

Four places I've vacationed:

1. Great Smoky Mountains
2. gulf coast of Florida
3. Texas
4. Germany

Four of my favorite dishes

1. Cashew chicken
2. Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, etc.)
3. Lasagna
4. Vegetable couscous

Four sites I visit daily (um, frequently?):

1. Yahoo Groups
2. My blog
4. UUpdates

Four places I would rather be right now:

1. on the beach
2. curled up with a book
3. playing a board game with my family in a cabin in the woods
4. on a hike in the woods looking for wildflowers

Four people I am tagging:

I'm all tagged out with these things. If you are reading this and feel so inclined, please consider yourself tagged and blog your own answers.


Friday, July 27, 2007


OK, I'll admit I had an ulterior motive for disappearing for a few days. We took the family on a little vacation. Guess where we went...

Yes, we have just returned from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Over the next several days I plan to make several blog posts about various aspects of the trip. We packed a lot into only 5 days. Stay tuned.

And by the way, I am still not finished with Harry Potter! We've had so much fun vacationing that we haven't had as much time to read as I'd hoped. But I'm working on it.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Self-imposed Internet Exile

I am exiling myself from the internet until after I have finished the new book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7). I don't want to run the risk of stumbling upon spoilers. We are going to savor this final installment in the series through the last word and I don't want to know how it ends until the last possible moment! I will return to internet-land once I finish the book.



Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Spirituality in Pop Culture

Well, you know I am a fan of pop culture. I've resisted talking about TV lately. But there is a new show coming out that has caught my eye and I feel it is relevant to my blog.

I was a big fan of the short-lived CBS series Joan of Arcadia which was about a teenage girl who started seeing God in various places and receiving his/her guidance. It was very "TV" and not at all theologically sound (it is for entertainment, after all), but I really enjoyed exploring the idea of God visiting and interacting with people in a contemporary setting. (What a version of "God still speaking"!) Anyway, it was slotted for Friday nights and so doomed to only two seasons. I was sad to see it go.

However, TNT is introducing a new show that sounds somewhat similar and I am anxious to see what they do with it. The show is called Saving Grace and stars Holly Hunter (already a plus) as a detective in what appears to be a crime investigation series. However, Holly's character (aptly named Grace) is visited by an angel named Earl which leads Grace to a "spiritual awakening". Keeping in mind, this is entertainment and not academia, I am really excited about this. I mean, how often does the topic of God and religion come up in prime-time TV?

The pilot episode airs at 10pm ET on Monday July 23 on TNT. Check your local listings.

Labels: ,

Getting Blog Feedback

It's been about a week and a half now since I installed on my blog so I could get an idea of who is reading my blog and why. It has been very enlightening.

First of all, it is interesting to see who finds me through google searches. I am surprised at how many people find me looking for pictures of Shades State Park. Other things I've mentioned like the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Bars and Bisquick Pourable Batter Mix are esoteric, but apparently people out there are looking for information. Only one search was a little disturbing - "watching moms take shower". Yikes! I'm sure this blog was a disappointment for that one.

The majority of the hits I get are from the UUpdates page (see my list of links) so it stands to reason that most of my readers are looking for things of a religious or spiritual nature. I shouldn't have been surprised then when my number of hits went through the roof when I posted a couple of days ago about whether I should continue to consider myself a UU and if I belong in my church. I average about 30 hits a day but on Sunday I got 121 hits in one day. Wow.

So now I know what everyone is looking for. That puts some pressure on me to come up with more religion-related posts. Of course, that is assuming that the goal of blogging is a wider readership. Maybe I should concentrate on my loyal base of 30 or so a day? Something to think about.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Updating my links section

I've been cleaning up the links section of my page. I realized that the UU Christian link and the UUCF link are now one and the same. I also discovered that the Progressive Christian Blogger Network is now, sadly, defunct. Finally, although I have visited a couple of UCC churches in my journey, I don't really identify with them so I have removed a link to their main page (for now anyway).

I have added a couple of new ones that I have only briefly explored. They look like promising resources that I (and perhaps some of my readers) may be interested in...that is, unless you've discovered them before me. Anyway, they are the Liberal Christianity Network and the Center for Progressive Christianity.

I may add more in the future. For now I think this gives me some reading material as I continue to struggle with who I am and what I believe.

Happy surfing!

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 16, 2007

Do I belong in this church?

Back when I was talking about GA, I mentioned in my post entitled Simmered-down GA thoughts that I'd been questioning my own identity as a UU. I thought I'd talk about that today.

It's hard for me to verbalize exactly where my discomfort originates. Am I having trouble relating to the general concept of UUism? I don't think so, at least not on an intellectual level. Am I having trouble relating to my specific church? Possibly. Am I having so many general problems and disappointments with life right now that it is blurrying the focus for me so that I don't know where the unhappiness is coming from, I just know that it is? Very likely.

I don't think my major problem is with UUism itself. I am now, more than ever, right on board with the Seven UU Principles and can't imagining following a faith that doesn't embrace them. However, I am also a UU Christian and sometimes find myself not exactly fitting in for that reason. I do think that the online community I've discovered through blogging and through the UUCF email list has gone a long way toward showing me that there is a place for UU Christians within the UUA.

I often find myself frustrated with my own congregation. While we espouse the values of acceptance of all paths, I have to admit there isn't a very visible presence of UU Christians within our congregation. These days we are dominated by the older "founders" of our church (from the 1960's) who are generally Humanists and the new-age pagans (we have a newish CUUPS chapter which is taking off and growing at a surprising rate). I have no problem with either group and I'm happy that they are both such thriving communities. However, as a UU Christian, I am often uncomfortable there. Three friends and I have formed a UU Christian Circle and we meet in each other's homes once a month, but the congregation does not know about it. We have not advertised it. I admit that that makes me feel a little bit ashamed and fearful and I don't like that. I am not a big fan of evangelism (which is one of the things keeping me from switching to a mainline Christian church), but I do believe in what is written: "Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all." (Mt 5:15) I don't want to convert people, but I would like to stand as a witness for liberal Christianity. I see this as an opportunity to show those UU's who've been hurt by traditional Christianity that following Jesus can still be a path of love rather than one of judgment and close-mindedness. I wear my celtic cross necklace to church every time I go. I want to teach by example. But still, I am frustrated by our group's sense of secrecy. I know the names of two other people who are interested in our UU Christian Circle. There may be others who would be interested if they knew we existed. But there are members of our circle who are afraid of "coming out" to the congregation. I don't blame them, but it frustrates me.

Of course, there is also the possibility that my discomfort has nothing to do with the church, but is instead just overflow from my discomfort with life in general. There are a lot of things going on in my life that leave me feeling depressed much of the time. While I think church ought to be a strength during those times, for me it just feels like part of the problem. Yesterday I helped to teach the children's RE class. At our church, the children begin the morning for the first 15 minutes or so in with the congregation until they are released to go to their classes. During that 15 minutes, I just felt like I was in a bubble. I felt almost no connection to the rest of the congregation. It left me feeling very empty and sad. Now, working with the children was much better and that was enjoyable. But I wish I felt more connected with the adults.

At the end of the day, however, there was a bright moment. As we were cleaning up and preparing to go, the woman with whom I was teaching and I had a long and lovely conversation. We've worked together and known each other for years, but this was a more personal conversation than we've ever had. We both shared difficulties we are having in our lives right now and we were able to connect and commisserate. Just when I was feeling disconnected from this congregation, it was almost as if God was speaking to me through this woman reminding me that there are people out there with whom I can connect and that I shouldn't give up hope.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Inside the Department of Mysteries

Ahhh...we just got home from seeing the new Harry Potter movie: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. We spent the 30 minute ride home from the theater discussing everything that had been left out of the movie that was in the book. This was the first Harry Potter movie that my 11yo had seen having read the book first. He was shocked at how different the movie was from the book. Maybe now he'll go back and read the first four books and find out what he's been missing.

I do find it a disappointment that various things were left out, but I realize an 870 page book has to be condensed to fit into approximately 2 hours of film. All things considered, it is fairly true to the story. I won't go into details. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet (and you should go see it!).

Now I have to concentrate on reading the sixth book this week before my pre-ordered copy of the seventh book arrives next weekend.

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Blessings of family

I have been blessed with a gift that is becoming more and more rare in our society - a family in close proximity. My parents, my brother and his family, my sister and her family, my aunts and uncles and cousins and their families, all live within a 30 minute drive of each other. Only my grandfather has moved to Florida.

This afternoon we had a family get-together in honor of the fact that my Floridian grandfather is up visiting for two weeks. My aunt and uncle hosted the get-together and there was a huge buffet table of dishes we all contributed. We ate, caught up with cousins we hadn't seen since Christmas, declared how big all the kids were getting, met the new boyfriend and girlfriend of my single young adult cousins, played croquet in the backyard, watched all the second cousins running around in packs playing "ninjas", and oohed and ahed over my uncle's manmade pond.

I look at my cousin who is a mom of a 6yo boy and a 4yo girl and see how frazzled she is as a full-time mom and remember when she was 8 years old and used to play barbie dolls with my sister. I see my 6 foot tall, 200 lb. male cousin with the beard and the girlfriend and I remember when he was 4 and my brother used to play with him by holding him upside down while he squealed in delight. I see my 84 year old grandfather who is more stooped-over and frail looking each time I see him and remember when his hair was a lot darker and his step was a little lighter when we were still kids and he still lived in Indianapolis and my grandmother was still alive. We'd go to their house almost every Sunday for dinner. We were a close family. We are a close family. I know that no matter what the world throws at me and throughout all the ups and downs of life, I will always have my family. I am blessed.

Here is my grandfather and his nine great-grandchildren.

Labels: ,

What book am I?

You're Brave New World!

by Aldous Huxley

With an uncanny ability for predicting the future, you are a true
psychic. You can see how the world will change and illuminate the fears of future
generations. In the world to come, you see the influence of the media, genetic
science, drugs, and class warfare. And while all this might make you happy, you
claim the right to be unhappy. While pregnancy might seem painful, test tube
babies scare you most. You are obsessed with the word "pneumatic".

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cub Scout Day Camp 2007

You may have noticed I've been away from the blog world for a few days. I have been spending the week at Cub Scout Day Camp. My middle son will be a second-year Webelo this year. In scouting terms, that means this is his last summer as a Cub Scout before he bridges up into Boy Scouts. Our local council reserves one of the area city parks and all of its shelter houses for three days every summer and invites Cub Scouts (ages 6-11) to come to Day Camp where they do things like archery (that's my son with the bow and arrow in the picture), shooting BB guns, fishing, swimming, making crafts, playing games, singing songs, and so on. Southern Indiana is very hilly and 3 days of going up and down the hill in the park really wore out this old den leader. But everyone had a great time and I'm sure it was a highlight of my son's summer.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 09, 2007

Harry Potter Blitz

Well, Harry Potter Mania is whipping itself into a frenzy in our house these days. Yesterday we watched both
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on ABCFamily. This "blitz" is all leading up to the release of the 5th movie in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, this coming Wednesday. As an added treat, last night we stumbled on a show on A&E, Harry Potter : The Hidden Secrets, which focused on the first 5 novels/movies while giving tidbits of hints at the newest movie. As a refresher and to get us back up to speed, my 11yo and I have been (re)reading the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. We still have 200 pages to go and the movie opens Wednesday so the rush is on!

You know, I've been thinking about an aspect of the series that my sons and I have talked about before and that was touched upon in the A&E series last night and it actually ties in with one of my main spiritual values. The umbrella message for the entire series seems to be coming forward as the necessity of unity in order to conquer evil. The natural inclination in both the Harry Potter world and in our real world is to divide into subgroups and to isolate from those who are different. But Harry is learning (as should we) that the real way to make the world a better place and to shine light onto the darkness is for us all to join together. We need to eliminate that "us vs. them" mentality because it only leads us further down the darkened path. Whether the others are of a different race or religion or whether they're Slytherins or Mudbloods, we are better off if we reach out in friendship to each other rather than cutting ourselves off from them. It is all about love and friendship and there is strength in unity.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Because I follow like sheep

A week or so ago this nifty little time-waster was making its way around the blogosphere. So here I am, better late than never. The places in red are all the places I've visited in my lifetime.

create your own visited states map

and even these places...

create your own visited countries map

I sure hope I can add more red to these maps before I die.


I'll be watching you...

After two years of blogging, I'm inching ahead another step in the blogosphere. I have just installed a statcounter so I can see who is visiting my blog and why. I've been curious to see who is reading me because I just *know* that the majority of people probably read without commenting. (I know you're out there!)

Anyway, I'll let y'all know if anything interesting pops up.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Introducing a new blogger

I thought I'd take a minute to introduce you to my husband's new blog over at A View from the Crossroads. He's new to blogging so go easy on him. ;-) Also, although he doesn't say it outright in his blog, he is a UU too (although he says he isn't as "churchy" as me). He'd get a kick out of people checking out his blog.

Labels: ,

Independence Day

My two youngest sons are exerting their independence here by playing with Sparklers on the 4th of July. That's the closest we'd let them get to any fireworks. They aren't *that* independent yet.

It was a rather low-key holiday here. I wasn't feeling well and it was rainy outside so we only gave it an obligatory observance. For dinner we had hotdogs (I couldn't eat mine - my taste for meat is totally gone) and corn on the cob and lemonade. Then we had sliced watermelon and ice cream sandwiches for dessert. Of course, because of the rain, this was all inside which made the whole meal feel very unholidayish.

While it rained around 8:00, the rainclouds blew through and by 9:30 or so we were nearing dusk. (BTW, I hate this stupid daylight savings time idiocy.) Big J had bought some small fireworks and sparklers for us to do at home. Our local town didn't have a fireworks display this year, but our neighborhood put together an ad hoc show of their own with individual families lighting off different fireworks at intervals. We could stand outside in our yard and all around us were different booms and sparks and flashes. I take it as a good sign that I didn't hear any sirens during the excitement last night so I hope no one was hurt. Our family was safe. Big J was in charge of lighting all of our fireworks and with the exception of one fountain that didn't seem to want to light, I never really had to worry.

I could veer off into some kind of rant about the sad state of affairs in our country this "Independence" day, but I frankly don't have the energy. I prefer to focus on family and tradition.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 01, 2007

No good deed goes unpunished

I am on the RE Committee for our congregation with the title "Curriculum Associate". My official (volunteer!) responsibilities are to work with the DRE to review and adapt (or write) curriculum for our Pre-K thru Senior High RE program. There is another RE Associate who joined us this past year to make a curriculum committee of three people.

This past February or so, the DRE bought a new hands-on nature curriculum for us to use for this summer's programming. It's a basic experiential curriculum which we thought would be perfect to go along with our congregation's new status as a Green Sanctuary candidate. In planning for the summer, we accounted for a couple of Spirit Circles (a.k.a. children's chapel) and an end of the summer picnic. That left us with 6 remaining lessons to plan. The three of us were to each plan and write up two lessons.

Well, I'll make a long story somewhat short. One of the lessons I am in charge of is the one for today. The DRE had to leave for GA last week and there were still some loose ends to finish up with the woman who is supposed to be the lead teacher for the day. I began emailing that teacher to let her know about some activities she could do and ask if she needed anything from me. This was *as the DRE asked me to do*. This woman works for the local parks department (who is working with us all summer to supplement the program) and has some of her own materials. I was supposed to make sure she had enough hands-on activities to fill in the 60 minute class time. She basically said she had some things she could use and it would probably be enough. I said good, I was just checking and I gave her the email address of the RE Associate who would be on duty this week if there was anything else she should need. Keep in mind, this all seems pretty standard procedure to me.

So I get this snarky email response that "wasn't I aware" that she taught this same lesson last summer? (As if to say, duh, you stupid woman, why are you bothering me?) Huh? I distinctly remember the meeting last winter when the DRE gave me the brand-new curriculum (still with the spine in tact having never been opened) and she told me she may be able to get the parks people to help out. I, being the proverbial doormat, responded back to this email with an apology. No, I didn't realize she'd taught this before. I was made to believe that I was supposed to help this woman out so she would be comfortable leading the lesson in the DRE's absence and I get this snark in return? Jeez-oh-pete!

I have been thinking about stepping back from my role as Curriculum Associate for a while now and this is just another nail on the coffin. I feel like I'm spinning in all directions and this is the thanks I get for volunteering my time. UGH!

Labels: ,