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, August 29, 2007

Saving Grace with Holly Hunter

Okay, back in July I mentioned in a blog post that there was a new show coming out with a spiritual angle and I was curious about it. It's called Saving Grace and it airs on TNT on Monday nights at 10pm (9 Central). I've been really busy and haven't had time to post about it until now. That's probably a good thing because I'll admit I've had to work my way into liking it.

I've checked out a couple of other online reviews about the show. Here's one at MovieWeb and another at If you read these, you'll get an idea of what the show is about.

I have to say that my first reaction to the first episode was lukewarm. The very first scene of the first episode (and several of the later episodes) was a fairly graphic sex scene. Yes, it gets your attention right off the bat. I was a little thrown, however, and had to hit pause and shoo my kids out of the room. So now I am frustrated by the fact that I can only watch my recorded episodes when the kids aren't around - a rare occurrence and inconvenient truth in my household. To me it seemed like gratuitous sex for ratings' sake, but not being one who is turned away easily, I stayed with it. I have now watched 5 or 6 episodes and the show is growing on me.

I am generally not a fan of the late-evening one-hour drama. First of all, I prefer comedies in general. Secondly, by 10pm or so I get too tired to commit to an entire hour. Thankfully I have DVR, but then I have to find time to watch the recorded episode. I think because I am not used to watching shows like The Closer (which is the lead-in show for Grace and is cited by reviewers as a comparison), I was probably a harder sell than other fans may be. But I'm a sucker for anything spiritual so they already had a nibble on the line. They only needed to reel me in.

And they have. Grace is a very troubled soul. Dealing with the death of her sister in the Oklahoma City bombing and her resulting guilt (she feels responsible for the fact that her sister was in the building that day), she is acting out in all the wrong ways - covering her pain in alcohol, distancing herself from real relationships while sleeping with a different man (including her married partner) most nights, lying, etc. Her "last chance" angel, Earl, is there to help her turn her life around. He has his work cut out for him because she just isn't buying it. She is a skeptic, to say the least. But Earl isn't giving up on her. And the more I watch, the less I want to give up on her. She's a likeable character and you find yourself wanting her to change - not for God (which is what she thinks) but for herself. If she can only finally see "the light" and turn her life around, I think the character would find real peace.

Of course that won't happen anytime soon because without her troubled existence there wouldn't be a show. But I really hope that the writers lead us there gradually. We won't be seeing any "road to Damascus" changes of heart overnight. But maybe Grace will find faith after all.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

It all starts now

This morning as I sat in the warm and humid sun of the soccer field, I was overcome by a feeling that "it all starts now". Everything. From now on. It starts now, in this minute.

I know, I know. Duh. On the surface this seems like an obvious thing to say. But is it really. How often do we go through life basing today and our thoughts for tomorrow on what has come before? It's an easy trap to fall into and I'd bet most people do it. We expect today and tomorrow to be like yesterday. In thinking those things we limit ourselves. We're limiting our future based on our memories or even perceptions of the past.

Two things came together this morning at about the same time that moved me to this awareness. First, my 11yo son played his soccer game. Now he has played soccer since he was 5. He has never been what you would call assertive athletically. For the first several years when he'd play, he'd jog around the rest of the players from a safe distance without ever really risking coming in contact with the ball himself. :-) Gradually he got to the point where he'd kick the ball if it happened to come to him and there wasn't another player bearing down on him. Today in his second game of this season I saw a different child. He was running with the ball, passing it to other players, and if someone tried to steal it from him, he held his ground and kept control of the ball. He has improved so much from the 5yo who wouldn't kick the ball. My husband pointed out that that is because now he believes in himself. He believes he can do it and so he does. He's let go of the memories of the boy who was afraid to kick the ball and opened himself up to the possibility of being someone who can defend the ball and control it. I don't care if he ever scores or if he makes the high school team or anything like that. But overcoming self-doubt is huge and is more than worth the entry fee we pay each year for him to play.

I also felt freed from limiting thoughts as I sat on the sidelines and watched him running up and down the field. I had just come from the post office where I mailed off four packets of application materials in my continuing job search. I had been closer than ever to giving up. Over the last couple of weeks I had almost decided I wasn't going to put myself through the repeated rejection and disappointment of not getting yet another job.

But something strange happened this week. On Thursday I shared with a teacher friend my hopelessness and difficulty in finding a job. She was able to show me a new website that I hadn't been aware of. On that website we found that the next school district over from ours had just advertised four elementary teaching positions the day before. Now, if you aren't in the elementary education world in the American midwest, you may not realize how unusual this is. Open positions are next to impossible to find, let alone *four* positions just down the road just posted the day before I connected with this friend and over a week *after* school already started. So I spent my Friday evening getting all of my application materials ready for each of the four positions and this morning I mailed them off.

I feel really good about this effort. Something just feels different this time. And as I sat on the soccer field this morning, I realized I had been limiting myself by self-doubt based on past failures.

But it all starts now. This is a new effort put out into the world. Something totally new could come from this. I'm going to stop thinking about what has already happened (or not happened as the case may be) and open myself up to future possibilities.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hoping for new growth

I'm in a really dark place now which is why I haven't blogged much lately. The kids have been back in school now for a week. Our financial situation is worse than ever and my job leads seem to have all dried up. I'm trying really hard not to get sucked down into the abyss.

Yesterday Big J worked from home (to conserve what little gas we have until payday) so we went outside and talked about what we'd like to do with our garden next year. Big dreams. We had a modest garden this year, but it was a moderate success. Besides, it is very spiritually fulfilling to Big J. He particularly likes the berries: blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries. This year we only had handfuls at a time, but it was the first year and we didn't expect much more. Next year the plants will be more established.

I prefer the vegetables. I love home-grown tomatoes. This year we had only 3 plants. Those plants are serving us well and provide us one or two tomatoes every couple of days. That works well for salads and such. But I'd like more. Maybe I could eventually grow enough to can like Mom used to when I was a kid. I also want to try some different items next year.

So we went outside with paper, pencil, and a tape measure. We've decided to increase the size of our garden by almost half. I want to add more salad veggies like lettuce, spinach, green onions, carrots, and bell peppers. I'm going to increase the number of tomato plants to 6. And we have another area where we are going to try to grow pumpkins, spaghetti squash, zucchini, and potatoes.

Maybe I'll be so busy tending to my garden next summer that I won't be able to slip into my usual summer funk. And if our grocery bill goes down a bit, that won't be bad either.

Sometimes it helps to look forward when you're trying to get out of the muck of the present.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Turn, turn, turn, turn...for everything there is a season...

My youngest child started kindergarten today. It is a time of changing seasons. The season of my life that included sippy cups, board books, afternoon naps (to name a few) is gone. At least until I babysit my grandkids someday. :-) All three of my boys are now in school.

Even though he doesn't realize it, my son's life is changing too. He will begin to realize that there is a bigger world out there. His friends' and teachers' ideas and opinions will begin to rival his dad's and mine. I'm not sad about this. It's actually kind of exciting. It's all part of him growing up and growing into the man he'll be someday. I'm looking forward to taking the journey with him.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

So I went to church...

I decided to go to my UU church after all. The main reason I went was that my UU Christian Circle was meeting in the afternoon at the home of a friend who lives near the church.

The service was okay. It was about our minister's trip earlier in the summer to Turkey as part of an interfaith alliance formed to build bridges and foster peace. It was kind of interesting to hear about that. The best part of the service, for me, was the choice of hymns. We sang some of my favorites: Enter, Rejoice and Come In, Come, Come, Whoever You Are, and This is My Song (the last of these, I think is also called Finlandia, and is a song about how people in other countries are people just like we are and have hopes and dreams and joys just as we do). It makes me tear up every time we sing it.

Music seems to be a key for me. One of the most moving moments of the day was when I was driving on my way to church and listening to my Celtic Woman CD. Now, these women are not what I'd consider a religious group at all, although I've noticed several of their songs seem to have a spiritual message. One of my favorite songs is called The Prayer. Here are the lyrics:

I pray you'll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don't know

Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe

I pray we'll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night
Remind us where you are

Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe

We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Needs to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe

Need to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe

I love that song and have to sing along each time it comes on. Yesterday the one that moved me to tears was Mo Ghile Mear. A lot of the lyrics are in celtic so I don't understand them. The rest of the song seems to be a love song, but as I listened to the words I thought of singing them to God and was moved. Here are some of the words:

Can you feel the river run?
Waves are dancing to the sun
Take the tide and face the sea
And find a way to follow me

Leave the field and leave the fire
And find the flame of your desire
Set your heart on this far shore
And sing your dream to me once more

(and then later)

Now the time has come to leave
Keep the flame and still believe
Know that love will shine through darkness
One bright star to light the wave

(and finally)

Lift your voice and raise the sail
Know that love will never fail
Know that I will sing to you
Each night as I dream of you

I think you have to hear the musical accompaniment to really get it, but it was very emotionally moving. I arrived at church and had to fix my make up in the van's mirror before going in because my tears had messed it all up.

(Today is our last full day of summer as I have a teacher meeting tomorrow and then school starts on Wednesday. I'm taking the boys to the pool for one last time. Sometime, hopefully later today, I'll post about our UU Christian Circle meeting.)

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

To go to church or not to go to church, that is the question

I've been debating all evening whether to go to church tomorrow. And if I do go, where do I go? I'm really feeling a pull to go. I need me some spirituality right now. But the scheduled topic for the service at my UU church isn't warming my cockles (yawn).

I considered going to the local United Methodist church. I've gone there a couple of times, it is the most liberal church only 10 minutes away (which, granted, isn't saying much), and I know lots of people who go there. It wouldn't be awful.

Or I could drive way up to that UCC church I attended a couple of years ago. I really liked it there. If only it wasn't a 40 minute drive away to a place where I don't know anyone...

So maybe I'll go to my UU church. At least I know lots of people there. Our Christian Circle is meeting at 1:30 at someone's house just 10 minutes away from the church. I could take a lunch and eat in the church's Peace Garden.

We have decided we will *really* make an effort to go to church starting with this year's Water Ceremony. I need to be drawn back into the fold. I only wish it wasn't so hard to convince myself to go.

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Basil, dill, and Kurt Vonnegut

Today we took advantage of our last free Saturday for the next two months to drive down to Bloomington, Indiana, home of our alma mater, Indiana University. We stopped by the farmer's market which was absolutely hopping with vendors and customers and musicians and artists. What a great place to spend a hot Saturday morning in August. My favorite things about farmer's markets are the smell of basil, the smell of dill, and the burst of color from the bundles of flowers. I usually grow basil in my own garden, but didn't put any out this year and the smells from the farmer's market reminded me just how much I miss it.

Before we left, we stopped at Bloomingfoods, which is a grocery store that focuses on organic and natural produce and is just chock full of UU-types. Anyway, we don't have anything like it close to home so I love to visit when we're in town.

Then we took the two younger boys to campus. We parked and walked all over the place and went into various buildings. Being the geek that I am, the highlight of the trip for me was a trip into the stacks of the main library where I pulled a bound volume from 1992 off the shelf and found my own handwriting inside from back when I used to work there in technical services. That was very cool. If anyone visits the IU Library and looks inside of journals cataloged between 1990 and 1995, you may see my handwriting on the verso of the title page. See, doesn't that make you giddy with excitement?

Anyway, we also noticed that the Lilly Library (which houses rare books and archives) has a temporary exhibit about Kurt Vonnegut which includes some of his manuscripts, rejection letters and who knows what else. My husband has provided info and a link on his blog. If you are a Kurt Vonnegut fan, you might want to check it out.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

How was your summer?

I can't believe it is here already - the last weekend of summer. We start back to school next week. Today I have to take Little J by the high school to pick up his new schedule for this year. Then I have to take all the boys to Target to shop for school supplies. This year all 3 boys will be in school as D is starting kindergarten. Woo hoo!

Earlier this week I took D to a kindergarten orientation program at his school and while there I ran into several teachers who are setting up their classrooms and preparing the first couple of weeks of lessons. Everyone asks the standard question: How was your summer? The standard answer: Too short.

I was thinking about the longer, more truthful answer to that question. How was my summer?

Well, the first part was miserable. After about two weeks of vacation I was climbing the walls. I was stuck here in the house most days and because I don't work in the summer, money was tighter than tight. I did manage to take the boys to the pool a few times and we did some little things, but it was very much a dry spell. I stopped going to church because most of the services were lay-led which (sorry to be honest) usually don't do much for me and I often feel that it isn't worth the gas money to drive 35 minutes to church and 35 minutes home again. And my UU Christian Circle was not able to meet this summer. I felt so isolated that I really could have used a couple of meetings to connect with people. I felt like I spent the first 6 weeks or so of summer standing at the door with a broom in my hand beating back the demon of "depression" who refused to leave my house.

Then by mid-July things took a turn. I became incredibly busy. Even though we really didn't have the money (a recipe for stress, by the way) we went on our vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pigeon Forge, TN, and Gatlinburg, TN. We were there for 5 days and even though we didn't have much money to spend, we had a great time. We spend so much time going through the everyday rat race of work and school routines that we sometimes lose sight of simply living our lives. Taking a vacation - even a cheap, small-scale one - reminds us of the things that are really important.

Well, we came home from vacation in time for my brother's housewarming party. He and his wife just moved into a new-to-them house with their two kids so they invited all their friends and family to celebrate. It was a great time, a great house, and a rare opportunity to connect with other people.

Between vacation and the housewarming party, there was barely enough time to get the laundry all caught up before band camp week. Little J had band camp all day every day at the high school. I also had band camp as one of the "band moms" in charge of feeding the kids. I did it as a volunteer and got absolutely nothing monetarily out of it, but I did it to be more involved. I have to say it was, maybe, the best time I had all summer. It became less about the band and the kids and more about me having fun playing and making friends with other moms and dads. Most of the time we were there, the band was either outside practicing or somewhere else in the high school practicing music. I spent most of my time with the other parents either preparing the food or decorating. At the end of the week we even had an ice fight where we chased each other around with ice. We acted silly and laughed, we got excited about the decorations and music. We wore silly pirate costumes one day and bikini t-shirts another. We had fun. I was actually sad to see the week end even though it was totally exhausting. There is always next year.

Then as soon as band camp week was over, we had our annual local town fair complete with parade (in which the band marched) and a 3-day carnival at the town park. I volunteered to work in one of the tents sponsored by the band parents' association. This time I got credit for my work that will help defray the cost of Little J's band fees. But I also had a lot of fun. In addition to hanging out with the band parents again, I was in a location where I saw all kinds of people I know as they walked past our tent.

As the fair came to a close, I was left with exactly a week before school starts. Time to stock up on pencils and notebooks and practice going to bed earlier again. My job search has once again reared its head and it looks like I will be subbing again this year as I was not lucky enough to nab a real position yet. But I am trying not to let it get me down and to stay positive for the future.

So how was my summer? It was a summer of extremes. The first part of the summer was terribly isolating and lonely. The second part of the summer was frantically busy, but full of connections that fed my soul. I can learn from this and remember it next summer when I'm faced with 2 1/2 months of isolation. In May when school ends, I need a couple of weeks to relax and unwind. But by mid-June I need to find ways to get out there and be with people. Late summer is easy because there is always the band and fair stuff. I have to figure out something to occupy my time from mid-June to mid-July. I'll take this memory with me into the new year.

And I'll still tell people my standard answer: "Summer was too short."

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

UU Christian practice

In addition to the comments I've had posted here (thanks!) I've noticed a few people have also posted their thoughts about the practice of UU Christianity on their own blogs. Check out what Peacebang, Jamie Goodwin at Trivium, and Scott Wells at Boy in the Bands have to say about it.

I am making a master list to take with me to my meeting this coming Sunday. We have lots to talk about. Thank you to everyone who has spoken up so far and keep those comments coming!


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Calling all UU Christians

Last night I had a long conversation with one of the members of our UU Christian Circle. We weren't able to meet this summer because of scheduling conflicts, but we are meeting again on Sunday, August 12. That meeting is going to be a discussion of "where are we now and where are we going".

In addition to being a member of our circle, she is also our DRE so she was at GA in June. She attended a couple of the UUCF discussions for (I think) the first time and discovered the concept of the Emergent Church. She noticed that much of the UUCF discussion was different from what we had been doing. I'm not sure exactly what she meant by that, but my guess was that we have been more of a study group (with the feel of a book discussion group, frankly) rather than a worship group. However, our group is growing in size and evolving spirituality so we are kind of all over the place. We need to discuss where each of us is coming from and what we want to get out of the group. We are also going to discuss more of the format of our gatherings. We want to come up with some kind of vision for the future of our group.

We are not seeking to strike out on our own and form our own church so it isn't like a "house church" in that sense (if I am understanding that correctly). We are more of a small group within our UU church. For the past year or so we have met once a month in each other's homes. There are 4 members, but at least two other people are interested in joining. Many of us want to learn how it is possible to be a UU and a Christian (or even just a liberal Christian period). Some may consider themselves Christians while others are just curious and want to learn more.

We have discussed the two aspects of being liberally religious (thinking vs. feeling). In our UU church (as perhaps in others) a tendency toward "thinking" predominates while it seems most of our members shy away from (or don't trust) feelings. We are very cerebral. I think within our Christianity Circle, we want to achieve more balance between thinking and feeling. It is my opinion that we need to bring in more worship elements to inspire feeling and to balance out the thinking aspect that makes it sometimes feel like a book club.

Anyway, I'm calling on other UU Christian's out there for some input. How does your group (or ones you know of) practice? Do you have small worship services? Rituals? Bible study or study of other religious books? Music? I am really interested to know how other people, particularly those affiliated with the UUCF, practice Christianity. Any and all comments are welcome.


Friday, August 03, 2007

This one time at band camp...

I know, I know, I have recently promised posts about our vacation, the new Harry Potter book, and the new TV show called Saving Grace. But we no sooner got home from our vacation than I found myself busy with another one of my commitments.

Among my many roles in life, I am a "band mom". I am the parent of a high school marching band member. This past week has been their annual band camp week. They have had practice at the high school every day from 8:00am until 4:00pm. This year I was the co-chair of the committee of parents assigned the task of feeding and entertaining the band members between practices and at lunchtime. Next year I take over as the head of the committee so this was my trial run to learn the ropes.

It has been so much fun. Teenagers have so much energy! Having been a high school and college marching band member myself, I found myself on familiar turf (so to speak). The band student council selected a theme for each day and we decorated the practice wing of the school to match each day's theme, we dressed in costumes, we played appropriate music, and tailored the menu to fit the theme. I think we adults had more fun than the kids! But each day left us more and more exhausted.

But now camp is over. This next week has several more band parent activities that will keep me busy, but I will update my blog whenever I get a chance.