Saturday, May 31, 2014

The 100th Day Report (so very meta)

Mmm, pimento cheese. 
Not that giant preservative-rich tub o' stuff at the grocery store, but real homemade pimento cheese.
It's a delicious tradition here, and I really wanted some this afternoon.

But I didn't have pimentos or roasted red peppers or anything remotely... OH! The jalapenos and garlic in a jar of spicy olives.  And my cheese was the wrong color and I used yogurt instead of mayo.

This is just one reason that I've been offered the nickname "Martha Stewart on Crack" I come up with odd ideas and mess with recipes. As far as most people know, the results are delicious. 

Food is a great opportunity for experimenting--some days I start with a goal--what taste am I trying to make? Other days it's more "Um...these three things need to be used up--how can I combine them?"

Sometimes it works. 
Sometimes it's pretty atrocious. Thank goodness for ravenous teenagers.

Experimenting in other ways, though? I tend to be more cautious.

Take blogging--putting yourself out into the world (albeit in a small digital file) can seem all kinds of risky. So many questions of voice and perspective and length and... let's put it mildly and say that you could spend a whole lot of time second-guessing yourself, and never actually get started.

Or you finally make a decent enough stab at setting up, but then get caught in the second trap--when is a post ready to go up? The perfectionist unsure self can put an idea in perpetual limbo.

I've spent an awful lot of time in both of those stages.

In late February, I took a leap. I was just going to go ahead and put up a blog post Every Single Day*.

No deciding that a post wasn't good enough. 
No "I don't feel like it."
No whining that I had nothing to say.


A whole 'nother sort of experifail.

The good news is, not a whole lot of people knew about this blog. And I didn't need to publicize it much if I didn't feel it was up to snuff.

But I have made it through one hundred days. One post each day, for whatever they were worth.

It has definitely been a learning experience.  There've been the pushy days where I forced myself to publish something I found totally drecky. And SO many days when I knew I had a couple of good ideas, but it needed more time to percolate. (Note to self--it would help if you started writing before nightfall, or at least before 10 PM.)

At some point early on I discovered the stats pages, and oy. I have a competitive bent and I love numbers. It is hard not to get distracted by that. But it also required a lot more savvy than I had (and for the most part, have.) Still, it was both gratifying and terrifying to see that people were reading.  And sometimes grumpy-making to see when people were NOT reading. 

What does this mean moving forward? 
Um--I don't know. Yet. 

Do I really want to go for 200 days? Not really. At some point I may give myself a day off. Or maybe a week when I head off to the northwoods. 

Do I know more about my voice? Sort of. Still not sure if I can articulate it. (Feel free to write me a blurb.)

*Writing every day was already part of my routine--I use for daily journalling. Given that I aim for an average post length of 200-300 words, the volume was never an issue. Publishing was. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Glory (Giggly Goofy) Days

Yesterday was the last day of school here in Houston. I spotted this winningly TP'd house this morning, and boy howdy, how it took me back.

Ok, not to my youth. When I was a teen, the grocery stores in my hometown did not allow kids to buy toilet paper after dark.
(Yes, this was occasionally an issue when my mother sent me to do the shopping. And yes, we figured out other ways to prank each other. Hint: Frozen lima beans scattered in someone's lawn will not sprout in the spring. But plastic forks, artfully arranged, make a statement AND can be reused for future forkings.)

I will admit that I have toilet papered a house.  I was considerably older than a high schooler.  It was a goofy spur of the moment decision with some other nice suburban ladies, and we learned that the process is far harder than it seems. (Thinking back, it might have had something to do with the toilet paper we were using... was it single-ply? Recycled? I do not know, but it kept ripping. A measly seven squares of TP does not make a proud streamer.)

Have you ever done something impetuous?
Something goofy and giggly and with as little thought as possible?

Maybe it wasn't criminal mischief and maybe it didn't waste a whole lot of paper.
But I hope you've had a chance to giggle helplessly and breathlessly and bump into your friends and have a story you could snicker and snort about in the years to come.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Sky(deck) Is Not Falling

The news today showed a pretty scary picture of the floor off the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower--the glass looked thoroughly cracked, shattered really. What a risk to the people on it, a hundred stories above Chicago, right?!

Well, not really. The boxes are exceedingly over-engineered, and the cracking was actually a protective layer, not anything structural.

And yet it was frightening and people are freaking out a little bit.

So goes change in organizations. The changes can be entirely normal and to be expected--programs get shuffled a bit, or a staff member moves on. Plans are in place for things to move smoothly. People still get anxious. It's natural.

A while back I read this article about increasing resilience in children through family stories--those stories we tell around the dinner table about past hard times and funny things and major celebrations. A strong family narrative helps a child to know that they are part of something bigger than themselves, that awful things can be survived, and that there is always hope.

We can use these findings as we consider our own children and ourselves, and all our systems. 

When we are faced with change, we can have a wider view of who we are as a people, a treasure chest of past successes to draw from, and that certain knowledge that we can do big things together.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#HERO Is A Reality!

At 8 PM this evening, Houston's City Council finally passed the Equal Rights Ordinance they've been working on for some time now. I've ranted about it in this space before. It's a sweeping but not unreasonable ordinance, helping to protect our LGBTQ community and many others--heck, all Houstonians!

I have listened/watched almost all of the open sessions with public testimony, feedback from the city attorney, and council discussion. Listening has not always been easy--witnessing hard truths and flagrant falsehoods. Much energy has percolated around two unlikelies.

#1- A provision in the ordinance around gender identity and bathrooms was thrown around as "Bearded Men In Dresses Will Go In The Ladies Room and Rape Your Daughters!"
It was horrible--no amount of expert testimony or studies could get past the fear-mongering. 

Even this evening, as the council people were making their final comments, one member said he was concerned that there would be a Willie Horton incident.

#2- Having to make a "Gay wedding cake" as slippery slope to Jewish restaurateur forced to open his restaurant on his Sabbath to make pork for demanding public. Ummmm.
It's probably not especially mature that my knee-jerk reaction is to go into cake decorating. I'm really not that crafty and my 
most sought-after cakes are meatcakes. 

I would learn a lot from the MCC minister sitting just behind the audience mike, smiling softly, his hands tented or crossed in prayer as people spoke against him, his congregation, and some of his most deeply-held values. 

People of faith were present on both sides--Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, Metropolitan Community Church, and Episcopal churches were represented with both clergy and laity to talk about loving all people, the importance of equality and respect, the call to justice, and so much more. The love was a stark contrast to those speaking of fornication, unnatural lifestyles, and a whole lot of hell. A Whole Lot of Hell.

Today the chamber was packed, mostly with the pro-ordinance folks wearing red. Wonderful sight, let me tell you! Testimony started a little after 10, and excepting a half hour lunch and a few shorter breaks, kept going until well after 7. A total of two hundred nine Houstonians spoke to the City Council on the measure today alone. The youngest to give testimony was perhaps eight years old, and the oldest was likely in his eighties.

We've known for weeks now that the ordinance had some pretty strong endorsements--the major business organizations, rights organizations, and many community strongholds. 

And yet. Hope is a slippery fish, especially in Houston. Yes, it's the fourth-largest city in the nation, but it's in a pretty red state, with one heck of a history.

Thirty years ago when Houston considered anti-discrimination clauses for the gay and lesbian community, it was beyond ugly. As one of today's speakers reminded the council, the Ku Klux Klan came to City Hall back in 1984. And in 1985, a mayoral candidate famously said that one way to deal with the growing AIDS epidemic was to "shoot the queers."  

Thank goodness, things have changed since the 80s. I can't summarize thirty years in a single paragraph, but Houston has become a more diverse and accepting city. And yet our policies were not keeping up with these new realities. 

Listening to our elected representatives talk through the issues, it was evident that while they have learned a lot, they (like all of us), have room to grow. In the end the vote was eleven for the ordinance, six against.

And now for the ordinance to be implemented, and hope that there is not a referendum to overturn this work already done.

Still, it's good to celebrate.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Thousands upon thousands of women are posting their stories on Twitter--sharing their experiences with gender discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault.

People of all genders are joining in the conversation, some in bewilderment and anger, but so many in witness and support.

I have spent much of the past few days trying to figure out what of my own to post.
Still not to a point of eloquence, heck, I'm not yet to fluency.

I know that I have my own crazy quilt of odd rules and cautions, ways to set boundaries and minimize risk, still with a certain knowledge that none of us are ever entirely safe.

I know that I have my things I'm still dealing with, both lived experiences and embodied expectations.

And in the meantime, I listen.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Easy Crowd Pleasers, Part I

Summer is fast upon us, and we will need quick and easy things to eat, especially things that don't heat up the house.

First up--Quesadillas!

Growing up in Texas, my sons learned "Quesadilla" before "grilled cheese sandwich"--to the point of asking for "a quesadilla on bread." 

We've branched out some since the toddler days--here are the three fillings I made today.

Goat Cheese and Black Bean (Ridiculously Easy)

Small (4 oz.) log chevre 
1 can (15 oz.) refried black beans (if you're hoping for a vegetarian filling, read the label carefully- many varieties contain lard.)
3-5 Tbs. salsa of choice (I use a salsa verde)

Let the chevre come to room temperature and combine with salsa to get a smooth texture.  Mix in the refried beans. (Note: Black beans aren't REALLY black, and when you mix this up, the mixture might be purple. Awesome.)

2 T. cooking oil or butter
1/2 c. onion, diced

1 lb. mushrooms of choice, thinly sliced2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper, diced (or, easier--several shots of chipotle Tabasco or Cholula)
salt and pepper to taste
handful chopped cilantro

Start the oil or butter in a medium pan and get the onion sauteing.  After a minute, add the mushrooms, chipotle, garlic, salt, and pepper.  You'll want to cook these, stirring every few minutes, until the mushrooms have softened and most of the liquid has cooked out.  Stir in the cilantro.

Spinach-Artichoke w/ Chilies
2 T. cooking oil or butter
1/2 c. onion, thinly sliced (or green onion)

3-4 artichoke hearts, diced2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. diced green chilies (from a can, unless you feel like going to more trouble)
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and chopped, or 1/2 of a pack of frozen chopped spinach
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. cream cheese (light is fine)

Start the oil or butter in a medium pan and get the onion sauteing.  After a minute, add the artichoke hearts, green chilies, garlic, salt, and pepper.  When the onion is translucent, add the spinach and cook until most of the liquid is gone.  Remove from heat and stir in the cream cheese.

Quesadilla Assembly--
Cheese (queso quesadilla or Monterrey jack or pepper jack) and filling (NOT TOO MUCH!) on tortillas, and toast on the grill, griddle, or in a hot frying pan, until tortillas is browned and cheese is melted. If you want to cut the quesadilla into wedges, a good serrated knife or pizza cutter comes in handy.

When using a variety of fillings, I often use different tortillas, especially when I'm taking these to a party. Today was corn tortillas with the mushroom, whole wheat with the cheese/beans, and flour tortillas with the spinach.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Stories For All Of Us

It would be easy enough to decide that that short sweet stories, often
accompanied by pictures, are solely for children.

But when we include this element in worship, we call it a Story for All Ages, because that is truly what it is. Our brains are wired for stories, and this is not a pathway that closes off automatically  with chronological age.  A story opens us to possibility and to hope, and gives us a base to build on.

I'm lucky enough to get to spend some of my working hours immersed in story selection, both for worship services and Sunday school lessons. Every year thousands of new stories are published--I could never truly catch up on it all. 

And a fun thing for me is to flip through the books of my childhood, both for nostalgia and to consider angles within that were not obvious to me in earlier readings. Like, Shel Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends--I never realized just how many of the pieces are about taking risks--some great pieces for change management work.

When's the last time you sought out a storybook? And do you ever reread old favorites, discovering other truths within?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

In Medias Res

I am a champion channel flipper. I grew up without cable and flipped to avoid commercials.

Even with no-interruption movie stations, I still have chaotic watching habits. I turn things on in the middle and stay for the best bits--a specific sequence or a great line, before flipping to the next thing. (I write this while watching Warm Bodies, with a brief interruption to catch the last scene of This Is The End. Because I can.)

There are some films that I have actually never watched all the way through. Not optimal, I know, but I get by.

In relationships, we rarely start at the beginning of each other's stories. We are already in the middle of our lives, and we do our best to make sense of where we are. Sometimes there are misunderstandings to work through, and backstories to share.

Religious communities are relationship writ large, and excepting a brand new church start, many people present were not there for the beginning. Church stories may or may not be told, and the sacred cows may or may not be on parade at every gathering.

But whenever a person walks in, does the story make sense? Can they find the value and the core message? Are they invited to help write the next chapters?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Giving Thanks

In this house we spend a fair amount of time on gratitude. We thank the person who made (or acquired) supper, the people who do you favors, the person who picks you up from school or takes you on errands.

And sometimes there's a random thank you. Often from my secondborn.  
If you ask him what the thanks is for, he'll say, "Everything."

So I come up with things.
"For that whole giving birth thing, right?"
"For sharing my cheese?"
"For not killing you in your toddler years?"

He's fourteen. Some days I get a laugh, and others an eye roll.

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Let's say that you have a big important idea you want to share with the world.

Could you do it in less than a page?
Less that two hundred fifty words?
Less than one hundred words?
A paragraph? (Of less than a hundred words, OK?)
A sentence?

Could you get it down to one hundred forty characters, a la Twitter?

I sometimes think of Twitter as a spiritual practice, in that it forces me to find the core and discard what is not absolutely needed.  

Granted, sometimes issues require more than 140 characters.

But if you can keep it under a page, you've got a better chance of people sticking around to read/hear your message. (And you have a better chance of remembering it. Both because it's shorter and because you've spent some time honing it.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2048 and leadership development

Have you been playing 2048? It's this horribly simple and impossible and addictive game in which you're maintaining this neverending system of incoming numbers--trying to move all the numbers up in value before you run out of space. You're both trying to make the big numbers much much bigger, while minding the 2s and 4s to keep the lower levels from overwhelming everything.

In a way, this is what church leadership development can look like--balancing our energies as we integrate our newest members into simple roles and task forces, others into governance and entrepreneurial leadership.  There is a sweet efficiency, in both the game and our churches, when some of this work can happen with the same movement--a great way to multiply ministries.

(And the wonderful advantage or religious community as opposed to this game? In community there's more than one set of eyes and hands and love and mental energy to keep on top of it all!)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Five Minute Space/Deserted Island Challenge

It's been a long day, so tonight you get a list.

My question--what things would you need (beyond the basic water, oxygen, food sorts of thing) to consider it a livable life?

Five minutes, completely off the top of your head.

Here's my list:

Peanut butter-filled pretzels
Things to read
Ways to share thoughts with others
Moving water (rivers, waterfalls, waves)
Baby feet
Little critters
Soft things

What's on your list?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sometimes you need to practice.

Tonight my children had their last middle school band contest.

They've been in band for three years now. They enjoyed class and going to competitions, but they have never been much for practicing at home or seeking out more musical understanding. 

Have you ever tried something out, even though you weren't sure if you wanted to buy in for the long haul? 

How did it feel to take the risk?

Churches, we hold, are places for transformation--of ourselves as individuals, but transformation can't happen when we are not open to it.

Consider a time when you were approached about helping with an event, or scheduling a leadership meeting.

If you did take it on, what convinced you to pour your time and energy into this project? And if you said no, what happened next? 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Even Mylar Has Its Limits

Witness this balloon, a present at my birthday party a little over two months ago*. Mylar is a miraculous thing, as this sucker is still bobbing around my house. But, it’s definitely looking a little worse for wear. Soon, I know, it will start to sink.

I feel sort of similar. It’s about the end of the church year and I am TI-RED.  I’m still bouncing through to-do lists and keeping up with things and trying to plan for what comes next, but at the same time, ooh, I can see where I’m a little flat.  

I find myself counting the weeks until my vacation, and considering ways to take a load off just a little bit in the meantime.  Breathing a deep sigh of relief as things ‘finish’ for the year-none of it is really LET GO of, but at least there’s a break of sorts. 

Seven weeks until vacation. 
I can do it.
I think.

*No, I can’t believe no one (including me) has popped the balloon by now. Not on accident or for a kaboom or even for making munchkin voices.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Things I Can't Kill

Ten years ago I went to a plant swap with a bunch of baked goods and brought home an assortment of plants, many of which I managed to kill in short order.

The exception has been the succulents I got that day. Especially successful have been the agaves--they're now taller than I am, and keep putting out pups, which we either cut back or transplant elsewhere. (Sadly, none are of the tequila-producing variety.)

My spouse shakes his head sometimes--the plants are not the most snuggly. Indeed, from time to time they draw blood. But I adore them, and do let him go attack the most snaggy parts with his beloved sword (which he prefers to the  machete made for this purpose.)

These forgiving plants don't mind the brash trimming, and their suckers happily take transplanting. They can handle our summer heat and are OK with months of no rain, and flourish through it all.  Sometimes things continue in spite of us, rather than any concerted effort on our parts. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Saving Graces

When my great-grandmother played cards, she had an impatient little mutter for folks taking too long at their turn--"Sh*t or get off the pot."

It's vulgar, but it's also a relatively accurate portrayal of my Fridays, as I prepare for the weekend's church activities.  (I usually stick to a mantra of "If it's going to get done, you'd better finish it now. Or, put it away.")  

Things that are in progress but not immediate are filed away for next week. Research stacks are straightened a little, perhaps, and grudgingly ignored while we turn to the nuts and bolts.

Energies go to any last-minute changes and edits, preps and explications, and reminders and touching base... all in an elaborate dance with whomever else is tying up their own loose ends in the office. 

I had front-loaded my week on Tuesday, so hypothetically I had plenty of time Thursday and Friday morning.  Hypothetically.  In reality, I was waiting on some information before I could complete one project, and then I had a wonderful and productive meeting--suddenly it was nearing 4 PM on a Friday and I just
needed to fold a bunch of orders of service.

Now, we have a machine for this, and it is significantly faster than I have ever been.  BUT it is a multi-purpose machine and it was set for tri-fold, not bi-fold.

There are instructions--in hieroglyphics, I think.  I matched things up as best as I could remember, and succeeded in making some creative not-solutons.

I was just starting to whimper when I heard a coworker announce that she was heading out for the weekend.  I let out a plaintive cry for help, and voila, she appeared, and together we figured out the hieroglyphics. Five minutes later she was out the door and I had my finished stack, ready for a special event this weekend.

Thank goodness.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


When I'm feeling rushed,
I stop and count syllables.
Calm with poetry.

It forces me to
filter and consider the
thousand thoughts I have,

And to decide if
what I'm obsessing about
really needs saying.

Because it's easy
to ramble and have a rant--
brakes can be useful.

Reduce eye strain and
information overload--
give up the treatise.

Not unlike tweeting,
haiku distills prophecy.
To five-seven-five.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Extra Time

Today was jury duty.

I knew it was coming, so I purposely front loaded my week, getting the majority of my MUST DO list done with a very long office day Tuesday, just in case I somehow got sequestered for the length of the trial. Paranoid or prepared?

I even came up with productive things to do while waiting at the courthouse. (Note to self--the local courthouse has very limited seating. This impacts what you can actually accomplish.)

But within an hour the entire jury pool was thanked, dismissed, and sent on our way

Huh.  I wouldn't even miss my staff meeting. 

And suddenly the week stretches out ahead of me, full of ripe possibilities. I could go deep on one of my upcoming projects, or knock out a dozen little things. I could catch up on some of the articles I've been meaning to read. I could put some energy into one of the big things that seemed too daunting and required a big block of time I felt I just didn't have.

Abundance is not necessarily less busy than scarcity, but it seems to be less stressful.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Balancing Acts

As I posted recently, the Houston City Council is considering an equal rights ordinance. Over the past couple of weeks there have been three hearings and I've listened in to a fair amount of it. Today's was the most gruelling--over seven hours of comments. 

I had the livestream on in the background most of the day, as I felt it was important to listen to what was happening. At the same time, I had copious work to do, so my attention was split. But then someone would say something so poignant or so...infuriating... that I had to listen. From time to time I would post to Facebook or Twitter a little bit of what I was hearing.

I was working late, but eventually I made my way home, and clicked the hearings back on. Some particularly rough opinions came up.  The coverage on my netbook, so I flipped channels on the TV. And ended up half-watching Elf. Because I've seen it so many times that it's just soothing.

After nine pm, it was obvious that the people in the room were exhausted, everyone physically, and for some, emotionally.  One gentlemen wept as he expressed his anger that a young transgender constituent was taunted on entering the courthouse. There were frustrated calls for the council to truly make a positive difference in the lives of LGBTQ Houstonians, instead of tamely wishing them well.

Tomorrow, we are told, the Houston City Council will vote.
In the meantime, there is some silly TV, and hopes for sleep, and prayers for all those hurting and for the leaders we hope will find their courage.

Monday, May 12, 2014

10 Reasons to Stay Up "Too Late"

AKA, why I'm not in bed yet

1. The kids are asleep.
2. Fallon
3. The internet is full of addictive goodness and a healthy dose of WHA? This 2048 thing is really something.
4. We spent a lot of money on this couch.
5. I have so many books to read. (And reread.)
6. Tuesday has many obligations.*
7. Things I might want to finish before I sleep.
8. Naps may have happened earlier in the day.
9.  Pondering existential questions like "When did I last water that orchid?"
10. There's a big storm system coming. Ok, not for another four hours, but my friends in Austin are making it sound cool on Facebook.

*Yes, I understand completely that this is a wretched cycle and I really need to grow up.
Maybe on Tuesday.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

When someone else makes supper

Today my sons took responsibility for dinner. Firstborn made a pot roast and
veggies in the slow cooker, while secondborn made a strawberry rhubarb crisp.

They had found recipes to follow, and I stayed out of the kitchen while they worked. (They did ask a few questions, but no big whoop. It was their gig.)

We ate a little after 6, and it was pretty quiet at the table, because we were busy gobbling. We all thanked firstborn for the entree and secondborn for dessert. 

If I had wanted to criticize, I could have had a field day.

  • There was rushing of the 'sear' step.
  • The veggies were cut too small for a long cooking--the carrots were still obvious with the orange, but I think the parsnips disappeared completely.
  • 'Cut against the grain' is a skill that takes practice. 
  • There was no gravy.
  • Secondborn got distracted while processing the oats--the topping was more a fine layer than something rustic. 
  • Their father had to remind them repeatedly to put away leftovers and wash up, and even then, most of the dishes remain to be washed.

But short of a major safety issue, I was not going to kvetch.
I enjoy someone else making dinner. Especially on a day when restaurants are especially busy and crazy. And I know that these guys are showing initiative and getting practice--progress will come, assuming they keep interest and some measure of confidence.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Unintentional injury

This morning I was looking through the day-old baked goods at the grocery store. I lifted up some cinnamon rolls to check the sell-by date and accidentally knocked a pie to the floor. It landed upside down, the mess just barely contained in the clamshell container. 


Often, the hurts we cause one another are entirely unintentional. We just aren't thinking ahead on all the variables-who do our actions affect? Who do we need to inform? Is there a way to do things that doesn't result in collateral damage?

Chances are we'll still screw up sometimes.   Then it's time to figure out how we can make things right- apologizing sincerely, repairing what we can, and taking responsibility in cleaning up messes. 

Because yep. Life is MESSY. I guess it is possible that grace might tiptoe neatly into our lives, and also that woodland creatures will do the dishes while I sing sweet tunes. But in the meantime, we need to be willing to get down on the floor and scrub.

And yes, I went ahead and paid for the pie. We'll call it cobbler and have it with ice cream.

Friday, May 9, 2014


You know what would be awesome?
A hammock.
And a nice breeze.
And an umbrella drink.

But we can still be thankful
for couch sprawl
and a pedestal fan
and ice water in a cup that's mostly clean.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Draft Day and volunteer recruitment

Note: I used voice recognition software to draft this entry. There's an excellent chance that I missed a poor translation in my editing process.

I write this while the NFL Draft plays in the background.  It's quite the spectacle--variables and matchmaking and commentary.

But the baseline of looking for someone to fill a critical position--that reminds me of churches trying to staff every committee and task force.  I wish I could say that we were less competitive than NFL teams, and less stressful. Alas.

So often congregations go into the work with such a sense of scarcity--all the good people are taken! And this committee is short four people! And we promised Bobbie Sue that she could have a break sometime this decade!

Here's the thing, though--church is not a draft. People need to have a say in these things, not meekly follow to wherever they're told to go. And optimally, we need to go reframe everything--it is not about plugging people into roles. It's about asking each person what ministry they feel called to do. Where are their gifts? What tugs at their hearts? Who would they like to work with and learn from?

And in almost every situation at a church, we do not need to keep all thirty-two franchises. If there are not enough people to staff a group, well, maybe it is time for creative reorganizaiton, or sunseting those activities. Yes, it will make some people a little grumpy, but it's likely better than the anxieties of scarcity, and the misery of being an overburdened committee of one.

Still. It sure would be awesome to have a giant whiteboard with a big grid and little tokens for each and every person... 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Pizza Pragmatism

I’m told there is this management idea (in various journals and Dilbert), possibly from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, of meetings never being for more people than you could feed with a couple of pizzas. As someone parenting ravenous teens, I’m a little dubious of that math, but I do enjoy economies of scale using pizza.

Really, I just enjoy pizza. One of the fringe benefits of church work is there’s often an excuse to order pizza—especially when you work with children and youth. 

Why is pizza such a ubiquitous church food? Well, it gives people a warm meal, yet it is portable, and requires precious few dishes/silverware. It is relatively inexpensive and yet most people consider it a treat. There’s some flexibility when you’re unsure of your numbers—some days you need to implement a 2-slice limit, and other times you’ll put a pie in the fridge and staff has lunch the next day. (Oh darn, says church staff!)

It is also quite customizable-vegetarians and meatatarians can exist in peace!  Get the right pizza place and you can even feed the gluten-free and vegan! Condiments are relatively simple-grated Parmesan, maybe a little crushed red pepper flake. I’ve seen folks dip their crusts in any number of sauces and (ranch!?) dressings, but I’ll admit that I don’t really understand that. (My true prejudice, though, is people who don’t eat their crusts.  Oh my goodness…)

What’s my point?  (Do I need one?) Pizza--both practical and delicious.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Any interest in an online book group meeting?

I recently read a most intriguing book about churches, volunteerism, and leadership--Connect: How to double your number of volunteers. It has a lot of potential and yet it also requires some translation to get motivations out of the very Christian. I have been recommending it to folks, who recommend it to others, and at some point I blurted out that we should have an online book group, specifically looking at resources that might be helpful to leaders in Unitarian Universalist congregations.

1) What platform would we use? I would love to do something real-time, preferably with a video component. It is good to actually see each other's faces. My first blurt was google hangouts, but I know there are many options out there- my computer has fuze and zoom and probably a few others on it.

2)  Monthly, or some other period?

3) How big can the group be? (This is partially related to #1, but also there are questions of critical mass.)

4) What books would we read? Stick with pragmatic texts, or is there interest beyond that? Would there be polls to consider books? How far in advance might we plan out a calendar?

5) What other questions have I yet to consider?

I would love to hear your ideas, and let me know if you're interested in what might develop!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Digital frequent flyer (but not native)

I was raised in the 80s, so we had some sort of computer in the house for most of my childhood.  We had cartridge games for our Vic 20 and did some Basic programming. At school we did LOGO things on the Apples, and you don't want to know how many hours I spent playing Lemonade Stand when I was done with all of my classwork and sent to the library for 'enrichment'.  I never really got to the point of comfort where I was doing my own programs or hacking, unlike a certain partner of mine who figured out how to make the Lemonade Stand temperature 900 degrees...

I got my first email account in '92, and spent a fair amount of time on MUDs and MUCKs, as well as various Usenet groups and email distribution groups. The only computing/tech course I took in college was a computer skills for educators course--most of what I remember is the shortness required of file names in the past. (I thought of this the other day, while saving "Summer Sundays Half Sheet Insert 2014.")

When I got pregnant and had my kids, the parenting boards of the web were a blessing and a curse. (I could write a whole post here...) When I was on bedrest, we had a 100 foot cable across the house... I learned just enough HTML to make a Tripod website.  I became an administrator of various mailing lists.  I had a couple of livejour
Learning on a webinar while sitting
on my patio. Thank goodness for wi-fi.
nal accounts. I wrote yearly novels with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.)

As I started writing Sunday School lessons, I gained quick proficiency in Google searches. Eventually it was my church work that led me to join Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and Google+. (I'm better with some of these than others...) It was church work, too, that got me doing web conferences and google hangouts as we discovered new ways to meet and to learn.

Saturday night I had a work things come up-- I needed to set up my new phone as a mobile hot spot so I could use my netbook to send on an attachment to a wide group of people. At a restaurant as we were finishing dinner. It was a bit eye-rolling, but it was a lot less disruptive than having to head home right then and there. Some days I love living in the future.

There are so many more things I could learn--it's more than a little daunting, but I'm also excited to see what might come next.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Popcorn - Delicious Transformation

Saturday morning we celebrated our Coming of Age experience with a brunch and some words, before rehearsing for Sunday's service. Here's about what I said to set the stage and thank the mentors. (The minister then talked to the youth and the parents.)

<Hold up a popcorn kernel.> 
This is a popcorn seed. Not much to look at, and if you keep it in a dry place it will stay just like this for years and years. But if you give it a bunch of heat, something remarkable can happen--see, there's moisture in the kernel and when it gets to boiling, you have a tiny pressure cooker--when the pressure gets over 135 pounds per square inch, the hull can't take it any more and the starch gelatinizes--the kernel explodes from a hard indigestible seed to a fluffy piece of deliciousness.

Transformation has occurred.

As teenagers, you are in a time of many transformations, often all at once. And like popcorn, those changes often happen in times of heat and pressure, anxiety, drama.  That does not mean that life will ever be without transformation, or without heat and pressure, anxiety and drama--I know I've still got plenty of those things. 

When children are babies, their parents hold them close and try to keep them secure. As they get older, though, the children need more space... and yet, they need a safe place for their transformations to happen.  This is one of the blessings of religious community--that we can have a church and a coming of age program, loving teachers and compassionate and listening mentors. So our children can develop their amazing potentials without flying all willy-nilly. 

So for each of our mentors, what I have here is a little symbol of the work you have done this year--in this package is a jar of popcorn kernels. The wrappings are paper lunch bags.  See, you can add a little popcorn to the bag, fold the top over twice, and with just a couple of minutes in the microwave, that transformation happens, this time for a nice little snack.

We could not do the Coming of Age program without you, and we are so grateful that you have been available to support our youth and act as a sounding board as they have gone through this year. You have helped us to build this safe and sacred space where our youth can grow. Thank you.

This was inspired by an article in Christian Century about popcorn--paid subscription required.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

What's My Line?

I watch an awful lot of movies. Like almost every evening. And I love love love dialogue. The lines that stick in my head or make me bust a gut.

I have the slightly spammy habit of posting favorite lines to Facebook. It is fun to see how quickly people identify the movie and how quickly people jump in with their own favorite lines from the film. And how quickly someone asks which channel it's on.   It's like we're in each other's houses, while all on our own couches. 

Tonight it's Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. I could explain the deep meanings and whatnot of the movie, but let's face it- I watch it because it is hilarious. The Baby Jesus Prayer is a scene I can watch again and again. SO can my friends, if my Facebook wall is any indication.

At the same time, I know it's more than a little bit insider. (Not to mention dorky.)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Simplicity, or not

I needed four slices of crumbled bacon for a recipe.
So I bought a pack of bacon and figured we would have BLTs for supper.

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato. 


But my partner does not eat tomatoes. So avocado enters the picture.

And we were pretty much out of bread--I picked up some nice onion rolls.

It was a skimpy pack of bacon... how about we do some farm-fresh fried eggs for protein.

And look--we have a little cheese to use up...

All things told, those simple BLTs were more like ACME BLTs. (Spouse's was a BE CALM.)
And they were delicious.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Who Has Time for Joy?

Spring is often a busy busy time in my line of work. Finishing up the 'church year', marking milestones, preparing for all of what comes next--I'm doing All The Things and working All The Hours.

I love the work I am doing. But I know that I did not really see my sons today. (Half-asleep, I could hear someone crowing about eating pie for breakfast.) I know that my fridge really needs to be cleaned out and I still haven't finished pruning my rose bushes. 

Long work hours mean that all those normal adult undertakings of life, like bills and laundry and grocery shopping are being shunted to the nooks and crannies of the day and heavily distributed to the other people I live with. Thank goodness for their understanding, or at least their dedication to the common cause.

And we all know that I will be quieter times at work, less urgent details and looming deadlines. I will spend more time with the family, cook complete meals, empty the long-forgotten Rubbermaid containers.

In one of those serendipities of life, the Sunday school lesson I prepped today uses Mary Ann Moore's "Things God Made for Joy." This alternate creation story tells us how God went about her work very seriously, then stopped to add some whimsy and wonder.  The beauty of snowflakes, interesting patterns and habits of every animal, human feet that are tickly and voices that giggle.

It wasn't until I'd printed the lesson AND found pictures for the story AND was sliding the pages into binder sheets that I got the point.

So the next time I went to grab papers off the printer, I snapped this picture of a bird on the other side of the window. I stopped to make jokes with a coworker.

And when my family and I are awake at the same time, dagnabbit, we're going to do something for joy.