Monday, June 30, 2014

How Productive Are You?

I just spent an hour in starting to write up a list of procedures for the volunteer job I've been doing for the past ten years. I generally explain the job with just a few words, but my vacation sub has requested full instructions.

It's simple enough to list the steps. But it turns out that each step has several internal steps. Some computery, some thinking, some communicating. Some measure of the WHY needs to be included, but not so much that the document becomes unwieldy to read...

In the end it will take me longer to write and organize the how-to than my Wednesday morning shift generally takes. 

I've been making my way through Ann M. Garrido's Redeeming Administration: Twelve Spiritual Habits for Catholic Leaders in Parishes, Schools, Religious Communities and Other Institutions. Yes, it was written by a Catholic, but I am finding it a useful tool for reflection. Especially on those days when I feel like I am not accomplishing much of anything, or making much of a difference.

Through this book, and in my reflections and experiences, I'm realizing that when you're feeling unproductive, you probably are accomplishing more than you think you are. So often the things we do as a matter of course are complicated and involve a variety of skills and decision-making.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dead Squirrel Season

I assure you, this squirrel
is neither dead nor heavenly.
He was just up on my
skylight this morning.
It's that time of year, when the adolescent squirrels are making their way in the world. On my commute I see so much roadkill.

These young furry critters spent time with their parents* and they have a certain amount of instincts, but they have precious little experience with automobiles. They dart when they should have dodged, and are flattened.

Human teenagers, I know, long for adventure, for trying out possibilities, and they are so very smart and full of hope.

What they sometimes lack, however, is the experience to consider all the possible consequences of their adventures. 

Here's where a network of trusted adults can help. The right question can nudge them to wider understandings, so they might have foresight rather than regretful hindsight. And sometimes we help develop boundaries, minimizing risks where we can, and sharing communal values that can last a lifetime. 

Growing up I was blessed to have family, teachers, and community advisers to work with me lovingly and respectfully. They let me mess up in a hundred little ways, and were there for me when I needed guidance.

And now I work with youth, helping to give them both the support and the space to make their way in the world. I know that we can never keep them all perfectly safe, but we do what we can.

*OK, I'll admit I don't know much about the family structure of squirrels. I solemnly swear that I will research that when I'm not so tired.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

On Panic

            Panic drives recklessly. She speeds down the freeway in an attempt 
            to outrace her fears and numb her nerves. As she rushes to the city,
            she mutters about the accidents and the traffic and the isolation of 
            each driver safely locked inside a little machine....We are all out of                       control, pretending to be in control. 
                         -from J. Ruth Gendler's The Book of Qualities

Years ago, my early-morning freeway commute was under construction--there was this 2-mile long chute of sorts, with Jersey barriers tight on either sides. Dear Lord, it was terrifying. 

So I did the only thing I could conceive of--I hit the gas so I could get through the monstrosity as quickly as possible.

Every morning. For several months.

I never considered an alternate route.

I never considered SLOWING DOWN, so if I did scrape a barrier, it would just ding a mirror, not make big ka-bang-kaboom.

I never considered the fact that if the giant pickup truck ahead could fit, my Ford Escort was not as close to the barriers as I felt it was.

And I like to believe that I'm a rational person. But faced with these barriers, my ability to problem solve flew the coop.

Throughout these months, I don't think I ever mentioned the obstacle to anyone around me. Neither to complain nor to seek out guidance--was I addicted to the adrenaline, or that afraid to admit to a vulnerability? Probably some of both.

It was a long time ago. I've hypothetically gotten wiser over the years. 

If I drove into such a construction zone again, maybe I would figure out how to deal with it constructively. But there's a decent chance that I'd fall into less-than-optimal decision-making. 

And then I'd probably mention it on Facebook, and my friends would make some of the rational suggestions listed above. 

What do you do when you're panicked and no longer capable of using your best brain? 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Where We Connect

I hear it again and again--people grateful for General Assembly, as it's the only time of year that they see certain colleagues or friends. 

These connections are so very necessary, especially when we can feel so very alone in our everyday lives. 

And I don't just mean professionally. So many of us live hours if not days from family, and we may not see our local friends often enough either.

Yes, we live in the future--unlimited talk and text, more social media platforms than I can list... technology can be helpful, but it is still not the same as being face to face together.

I'm looking forward to heading back to my homeland next week--I haven't been there since last July. I have been dying to meet my new nephew--born in February, he is already out of the newborn stage.  And his big sister has turned four, so now she knows everything. There will be a crazy family reunion and hopefully I'll see some of my high school pals.  So much opportunity for connection.

Meanwhile, my bestie here will be packing up her house and moving a few hours away.  We're working on how NOT to be those folks who only see each other at GA. There are tamales to be made once it's cold again, and hopefully we can be compelling reasons to honor our days off. 

Any ideas for meeting spots between Austin and Houston?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Preparing for My Successor

It's that time of year in church land when people retire or move on to other endeavors, and a number of my colleagues have mentioned that they are preparing their office for the next person in the position--making sure arrangements have been made for the coming year, cleaning up what messes they can, and returning the office to a more neutral state as they move out their personal treasures and knickknacks.

I'm not going on to another position, but with three years here, I finally feel like I am coming into my own in understanding the work. So I am trying to learn from my colleagues' example, putting things in order so my August self will walk into an office that is ready.

Having conversations now and getting details nailed down so that we truly DO know what we're going to accomplish in August and September. 

Taking some time to consider where things need adjusting, poring over resources that might improve next year's program.

And there's been a lot of tidying. 

Emptying the craft baskets until the next time we need 'stained glass' chalices or pipe cleaner butterflies. Putting away the binders for a while. 

Filing.  Man, oh, man, but I dislike filing. But putting away old records and having resources organized...I know I will appreciate all of this when I return to the office.

Assuming I don't head to Montana to raise goats.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Time Math

My partner is away on business, living on Pacific Time. 
(Last week's trip was Mountain.)
My bestie and so many of my colleagues are at General Assembly, Eastern.

I was on two conference calls today--both Eastern.
Tomorrow's webinar is on Pacific.

It's great to be in conversation with a wider group of people. 
Getting new insights, Seeing what's the same all over.
No travelling required, just dial a number or click a link and you're there.

No hugs though. 
And it's always somebody's mealtime.
Where's my chocolate?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Not My Finest Moment

I stayed up until 3 AM reading a book.

It was in no way a good book, and no, there was no rush to return it to a library or anything like that.

From about 12:30 on, I was shaking my head at myself, fully aware that this was not a  good idea.

Around 2 AM I did the mental math, cringing as I realized how soon my alarm was going off.

I used to have sense and impulse control and a healthy override switch to go to bed when I was tired.

Or maybe I never did...when books were involved.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Yes, I would like cheese with my whine.

I admit it- I'm feeling pretty green this week.
Not sick, no. Envious.

Friends and colleagues are travelling to Providence, Rhode Island for the General Assembly (GA) of the Unitarian Universalist Association of congregations. It's a giant meeting and worship service and celebration with over four thousand people attending. 

I went to GA for four years while I held a leadership position in my professional organization. Quite honestly, it was generally a pretty exhausting week and thousands of people are an awful lot for me and I was looking forward to the break.

But now the time has come and I am just whiny. 

I miss unpacking my suitcase to see which stuffed animal my son smuggled in there for me.
I miss the energy and the new ideas.
I miss exploring the streets and restaurants of another town.
I really miss the colleagues I rarely get to see.

And they call the convention center the Dunk*?  Oh, I'm envious about that, too.

Facebook really does not help. Names and photos (of people and of their delicious frosty beverages) stream across my page. There's a certain assumption that 'everyone' will be there, making me extrasuperpetulant.

I'm sure that at some point I'll get over myself or at least come up with some sort of strategy to be less whiny. Or my family might lock me out of the house.

*Dunkin Donuts, of course.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Baptisms, Dedications, and Apples to Apples

The Wisconsin State Journal tells us that the Madison Catholic Diocese changed their procedures around baptism for the children of same-sex couples. The actual policy and philosophy behind it are still unknown, but the article has a few interesting tidbits-

...on the central question of whether the change would alter the number of babies baptized, King responded in an email, “If a parent is sincere in presenting a child for baptism, no. We believe that baptism is the entrance into a new life in Christ and His Church, open to all.”


“In general, the Catholic church does not punish the child for the sins of the parents,” Thomas Reese, a senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, told me. “As archbishop of Buenos Aires, (Pope) Francis got angry at priests who would not baptize children born out of wedlock. I would presume the same principle applies here.”

Telling, though, was this line:

One priest did not think the memo was newsworthy, reasoning that very few same-sex couples with children attend Catholic parishes in the diocese. 

I grew up in the Catholic church but left, and questions of gender and sexuality were a big part of my reasons.  I'm on a different path these days, and I've found my calling as a Unitarian Universalist religious educator. 

This morning I took part in a child dedication, in some ways familiar, but also quite different, from a baptism. Our communal theology is not so tied to original sin, but we do look to give children and their families a community, a safe place to share their awe and their wonderings. 

All of us have a role to play in the dedication, and in the Sunday School hour and the years that follow, as the child moves from her parents' arms to sweet stories and play in the preschool room, to crafts and big questions as she considers how she can live in harmony with the world. 

I spent the evening with some of our high school youth, lounging on a sofa while we shared a movie and they played an endless game of Apples to Apples, enjoying each other's quirky senses of humor. Some of these youth have grown up in the church, while others are very new, joining us as their own paths change.

Perhaps in ten or twenty years, it will be their babies and toddlers up on the chancel, touched with the water and the rose, affirmed by the congregation.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

All Seek Answers

Nick Hornby's How To Be Good is the story of a woman in a certain amount of existential crisis, too caught in the busyness of professional/mother/wife to deal with it all. She feels guilty that her biggest moral lessons are coming from The Empire Strikes Back-

I wanted to be Luke Skywalker, off somewhere on my own, learning to be a Jedi. I wanted a break from the war. I wanted someone wise to teach me how to do the things I needed to know to survive the rest of my life.

Like many people who are in a time of transition or struggling with something in their lives, the protagonist heads to a church. Soon after she encounters the vicar and demands guidance. When the minister doesn't give a quick and simple answer, she lashes out- 

God, why are you people so timid? It's no wonder the churches are empty,when you can't answer the simplest questions. Don't you get it? That's what we want. Answers. If we wanted woolly minded nonsense we'd stay at home. In our own heads.

Yeowza. That stung a bit.

What might you say if someone walked into your church on any given Sunday (or Tuesday!) and demanded answers in such a way? 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Is Chaos Delicious?

It's hard to choose amongst good things.

We've got one of those ice cream places that will combine their posh ice cream with a choice of "mix-in"- candy or nuts or fruit or whatever. For years my standard was the dark chocolate with fresh strawberries. Yum.

Right now they're offering unlimited mix-ins. That's a dangerous challenge, my friends.

I reminded the teens that they would be eating whatever they ordered, so they should consider their choices carefully. Beyond that, well, there's only so much guidance I give on ice cream. (Also, I was distracted with my own discernment process.)

Seen here-my son's combination of peanut butter ice cream, with M&Ms, Peanut Butter Snickers, chocolate chips, Snickers, Oreos, and peanut butter.  It was delicious, but far more than he had imagined. And all the room-temperature toppings meant that the ice cream was melting faster than he could eat it.

(His brother was a little more strategic- he got red velvet ice cream with strawberries and raspberries. More manageable, but he looked like his own slasher flick by the time he was done.)

It would be awesome if we truly could have a bit of everything in life. But sometimes there's a clash, of tastes or values or timing. 

Sometimes the full array of toppings or interests just cannot fit into your cone or your life.  When we make that misstep, if we're lucky we can figure out the most graceful way to do some decluttering. Not that it is easy to renege on something we've agreed to, or even just to set aside something we were really looking forward to. But when we're less lucky, something topples. Then it's a matter of damage control and trying to regain composure and a certain sense of humor and perspective.

We learn these lessons mostly through awkward experience--without a previous curdling incident, can we believe someone else when they suggest that mint ice cream might not work well with strawberries?  And don't we all have our love affairs with the idea of unlimited, thumbing our noses at the idea of limits?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

While the cat's away...

Yeehaw, curricula.
My partner's out of town for a few days, so the kids and I are having wild parties and living on Pixy Stix.  Well, we could be. Only we're more or less up to our normal activities. Perhaps my habit of working on some projects on all the flat surfaces has spread everywhere, and I will admit to eating dinner at 5 PM tonight. But wild, not so much. 

An ambitious reading plan...
In our churches, many ministers and religious professionals are preparing (hence the projects and piles) to head out to meetings and study time and hopefully some hard-earned vacation, too. Some churches, I'm told, close down for the summer entirely.

In Houston we might slow down a tad, but church is ON, fifty-two weeks of the year. Thank goodness for dedicated volunteers and existing structures to make sure that our saving message continues even when individual leaders are away! The congregation can still sing and learn and celebrate with one another, seekers can be welcomed, and new initiatives can be considered and study begin.

Soon enough it will be August and we'll be plunging into a new church year, eager for what is to come.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Change in Perspective

Hard news from back home--that two teens died in a collision with a deputy. Heavy rain and wet pavement, and a young driver lost control.

I forget sometimes that I'm not the same age I was when I moved away, even though it's been over twenty years.

So it was a shock to see a friend from high school mention that her daughter was mourning those boys--classmates. 

Her daughter, who is just a year older than my sons.


Before today my knee jerk to the idea of my kids learning to drive was "Oy, the insurance."

Now it's a whole other level of worry.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Countdown to Vacation

Two weeks and two days until vacation.

Road trip!
Amber waves of grain
8 GB "Mixtape" 
Fourth of July fireworks
Cool morning air
Corn on the cob
Non-resident fishing license
Barefoot or sneakers
Friday Night Fishfry
Fiction and graphic novels
Family and childhood friends
The Milwaukee Zoo
Dipping toes in Lake Michigan
So many naps

My birthday balloon is just about deflated, but soon my spirit will be replenished.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Has Kahlil Gibran seen my kids' bathroom?

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.   
                                 -Khalil Gibran, from The Prophet - "On Children"

It happens rather quickly, that realization that our children are not our own. They are unique and making their own way in the world, finding their own passions.

My teenage sons have their own bathroom. This is for the best, I think--we all need a little privacy.  (And yes, I do insist that they keep it from getting entirely disgusting.)

The STUFF they have in there is sometimes a little... odd.
When they were younger, it was snorkels.  Last year it was draining camelback pouches. 

Right now it's their soldering iron*. I am not sure WHY the bathroom counter has become the home for this favorite tool. But hey, they've been trying to fix broken things, and thus far no one has burned down anything. So I'll give them a little space and the benefit of the doubt.

*Yes, one of them put a soldering iron on his Christmas list last year.
Given that my dad is a blacksmith, this isn't an entirely random hobby.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"A person's a person, no matter how small."*

A loved child gets active proof of Dr. Seuss's theory from parents and so very many adults from day one. Even when we are little and weak and goofy and whiny, oh, how they love us and want to do what is best. They do what they can to protect us, to give us what we need to succeed.

And it is not long after, still in our preschool years, that we get deeply attuned to fairness and from there, to justice.  When we see that we, ourselves, are not being treated as people, oh we are distressed. And when we see someone else being treated as lesser, we get a wiggly feeling inside, knowing it is not right--even if we do not yet know how to speak up.

A religious community, with loving teachers and preachers, can put these things in the context of a vibrant faith--how our traditions and our theology match our inherent values and agree that we SHOULD feel wiggly about injustice.

Religious education helps us, at all ages, to articulate our beliefs, and to courageously speak our truths.


*From Horton Hears a Who

Saturday, June 14, 2014

UU Voice for Justice, practice run!

A year and a half ago, leaders from Houston's Unitarian Universalist churches envisioned a joint project for social witness. The project has been coming together, first with a leadership team, then with a citywide training this Spring. To start with, there are three action areas--women's health and reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and interfaith tolerance.  When the group finds out about a local issue around these areas, a rally can be scheduled and a mass text goes out, sharing details of the event.

This morning we had a practice rally, the first for Houston's Unitarian Universalist Voice for Justice, or UUV4J for short. About fifty-five people showed up for the dry run. 

We show up in our goldenrod Standing on the Side of Love shirts, the crowd's words scripted to a few chants and songs. Each event has a named spokesperson to talk with the press and any officials. 

For some, keeping to the proscribed role can sometimes be a challenge--many of us feel quite passionately about these issues and have personal stories to share.  Then there are those of us who find it freeing--there's no pressure, and far less courage needed. It's just about being there, standing in silent (or singing) witness, loving the world.

Friday, June 13, 2014

How to spend a free day?

This is an utterly serious question--I want to know-

If you somehow fell into a day with ABSOLUTELY NO obligations, no worries that you need to use the time to catch up on something, how would you spend the day?

Tell me one thing or give me the full itinerary. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Delicious Synergy

Local restaurant Hobbit Cafe makes this awesome sandwich the Far Down--guacamole and egg salad on their hearty bread. 

For years I watched a friend eat the messy thing and just did not understand. It seemed like too much squish and mixed together in a less than appetizing way.

Then I ordered it, and well, let's just say that it's become MY dish*. Such synergy!  Creamy and tangy and smooth and cool and so delicious.

Most Thursdays I work from home, and it's a similar synergy.  I get uninterrupted (and shoeless!) time to work on bigger projects, to handle some of my writing, or to attack a pile of professional reading. AND I can throw laundry in the washer, start supper, and yes, make myself a guacamole and egg salad sandwich for lunch. 

But now it is summer. The house is not as empty or as quiet with my teens on vacation. How much bickering could I take before I fled to the office?

Thankfully, they were astoundingly good officemates, keeping it down AND bringing me coffee and water on request. To be honest, the dog was more disruptive than the teens--the boys stopped pushing the bathroom door open years ago.

So now I've crossed a few items off the "Get Done This Month" list for work, answered umpteen emails, washed my Standing on the Side of Love t-shirt for a weekend thing, made a hearty and nutritious dinner, and got a little face time with my kids. I'll head back to the office tomorrow, reenergized and raring to go.

Thank goodness.

*It also got me to create a guacamole deviled egg that is pretty awesome.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


The Growing UU blog posted an interesting (and colorful!) graph today, comparing membership and congregational trends of Unitarian Universalism plotted with figures for other denominations.

The good news is, Unitarian Universalism has seen a very small uptick in this time period, where many liberal and mainline denominations have seen falling numbers. We will see more analysis of those figures in the months to come.

I am struck today, though, by our overall number of adult Unitarian Universalists in the UUA.

Granted, I grew up Catholic, so majority faith is still my mental default.  Did  you know that the Hawaiian Islands have more Catholics on them (not including tourists!) than we have Unitarian Universalists across the United States?

164,000 people could fit into two of our large NFL stadiums.
I live in a metropolitan area of six million people.
164,000 is roughly 2.7% of the metro population.
If we truly owned being The Love People, shared our saving message and force for good, if we were somehow heard and embraced by 1 in 36 Houstonians, we could double the number of Unitarian Universalists in the US.

OK, so that's a little scary to consider.

But if even a tenth of a percent of Houstonians joined a UU church, we would have six thousand Unitarian Universalists in our local congregations. That would roughly quadruple the current UU population here.

From time to time I hear that Unitarian Universalism isn't for everyone.
I can definitely understand that some have theologies incompatible with our shared values. But need we be the uniquest of unique flowers?

My Universalist heart says no. We are called to be the hands and feet of God...and the smiles and warm greetings and personal relationships, sharing hope and purpose and joy and wonder.

Together we change the world every single day.
The more the merrier.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Maybe I Need Perfume?

Back in the 70s there was an ad campaign for Enjoli perfume, of all things.
"I can bring home the bacon.... fry it up in a pan...." a glamorous woman, empowered by her long-lasting chemical fragrance, got it all done*.

That's some magical perfume. Maybe it was spiked with a stimulant?

Around here, we all have to pitch in to get the household working. And even so, we grab hold of shortcuts when we can, and grow more flexible by the day.

Today was firstborn's turn to make dinner. He'd decided he wanted to make soup, but hadn't decided what kind. I called from my office to give him a twenty-minute ultimatum. 

Ten minutes later he emailed me a recipe and gave me a call back. Together we worked through what I would need to get from the store, and I promised to be home as soon as I could so his soup would have time to chill. 

The store, though... every avocado was rock hard. Hrm. Fine, we'll grab the premade guacamole.

And no tomato juice. Really? I gave him the choice of reduced-sodium veggie juice or Bloody Mary mix.

It worked well enough--but what might the REAL recipe have tasted like? Are we missing out due to my reluctance to go to a second store?

I'm thinking my sanity and time are worth more than five-star dinner results on any given Tuesday.

*Why, yes, I am too young to know the Peggy Lee version, which paints a different picture of daily tasks. Though I probably saw Miss Piggy's performance on The Muppet Show.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Loose Connections

Yesterday it was a door with failed hinges.

This afternoon I spent thirty minutes flummoxed because the lighted cover for my (elderly) Kindle was no longer lighting. Spouse listens to me for a minute, insists that the problem must be fixable, and gives a diagnosis of a wobbly coupler. Somehow manages to make it all work. (I guess I can't justify a new Kindle...)

Meanwhile my netbook is driving me nuts--the original power cord died years ago, and the connection on this replacement is, again, wobbly.  At the moment it is looped on with some packing tape.

But these things only come in three, right?

Hopefully I'll feel more connected (and charged?) tomorrow.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How You Know It's Serious

Each summer my sons and I head to my old stomping grounds for a few weeks. This year I've had a hard time making plans--lots of things to work around and well, my brain is tired.

But I finally started figuring it out. Got the last room in a rural hotel (to be fair, they only have twelve rooms), started looking at routes and trying to wrap my head around the miles and miles to drive. 

My father has started his list of random things I need to bring up, barbecue and specialties supplies he can't find up there. I'm sure my mom will have her own list soon.

My niece and I have started a little conversation about when we go to the zoo. Like she has on every other trip we've taken there, she's already planning to have strawberry ice cream.

But how do we know it's serious? I started making a stack of books for my kids to read on the trip.
(My own insane stack will wait a couple of weeks.)

Clothes and such? Eh. That will wait until the day before we leave. If I forget something, we know where the thrift shops are.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Sausage Making

My parents make their own sausage, and now that they're retired, it seems like they're always experimenting with new recipes and spice blends and techniques.

I, on the other hand, don't eat sausage. Yes, this is quite counter-cultural, as I'm both German and Polish. But I've never really cared for the texture. I'm not a fan of fennel seed or some of the other spicings. And really, I much prefer food when I can tell what it is.

Sausage making, of course, has a secondary meaning--the behind-the-scenes work of groups to put a deal together, and to make things happen. There's a certain idea that it might be pretty shady work.

I'll admit, that's not the most comfortable place for me either--I tend to be pretty straight-forward and just want it to come together easily. Of course, sometimes life and decision-making are more complicated than that.

So I have tried to find an appreciation for both kinds of sausage making. Recognizing that the work is messy, but valuable. That there is a certain synergy work to put together less-than-beautiful things in an artful balance. And that in the end, careful work can make something that is delicious and greatly appreciated.

I might not roll up my sleeves and volunteer to do the work (or reach for a bratwurst or kielbasa), but I can at least thank the makers for their hard work.

Friday, June 6, 2014


I was born and raised in the Dairy State and tonight I am celebrating! Justice Crabb has declared 
the state ban on "same-sex" marriage to be unconstitutional, and couples have already been married in Milwaukee and Madison!  I am singing and happy and hopeful...

I am writing this post especially late tonight, as I spent rather a lot of time reading the full eighty-eight page document. It's interesting and educational, citing previous court decisions, research, books, and the wikipedia page of George Washington. (Really.)

Legally, this is not a done deal--the state has already called for immediate injunctions and the last few paragraphs of the decision suggest some gray areas, or at least areas to be tidied up.  The news reports that the window to marry may be very short, and the Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele kept offices open until 9 PM tonight and on Saturday, vowing to pay any overtime costs out of his own pockets.

This is NOT just the hare-brained scheme of one activist judge.

The State Attorney General has issued a statement about defending the constitutionality of the ban, citing 'traditional marriage'... but really, he is defending privilege. He is defending status quo.

When we claim that something is wrong because it isn't the way we do things? Because it isn't the way that works for US personally? This is a sign of inflexibility, sometimes multiplied by millions of voices and votes, but no guarantee of being right.

If I am to be honest with myself, I know there are ways in which I am inflexible and resistant and pretty darned set in my ways.  It is spiritual work to consider viewpoints beyond my own, especially when they might involve change or loss on my part. 

I could go on, but it's nearly midnight.  (And the final kaboom is about to happen in that 1994 cinematic classic Speed.)

Thursday, June 5, 2014


It's hard to blog when your teen keeps talking at you.
And it's about a concept you don't really understand.
And really, he should be in bed already, but it's summer and how hard do we care to push this?
And really, I should be in bed, too, so hypocrisy much?

The other difficulty is that I have too much Shel Silverstein in my head.
Not that you can really have too much Shel Silvertein, right up until your mental server crashes.
"I'd rather play at the musn'ts take the garbage out."
"One sister bite the whole ..."

I really can't escape. 
There are children at home and at work.
Silverstein books, too.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Gather ye beauty while ye may

Tomorrow the heat index here is forecast to go over 100 degrees for the first time in 2014. Ugh. And the next COLD front won't come until October or December or never again.

Summer comes on with a vengeance.

So this evening once the sun was below the horizon, I went out with the dog. We wandered the yard investigating a giant mushroom from last week's rain, we saw June bugs in their proper month, and then we sat in the front yard, my feet flat against the sun-heated pavement.  There were birds and a meowing cat and a couple walking a dog--it was a little bit distracting for my Jess. My distractions were beauty, a single cookie, and the mosquitoes.

Soon enough it will be too hot to be outside, period, and the pavement will stay too hot to touch until some point in October, or after a good clarifying rain.

So it's a good time to drink up the inspiration of nature before it gets crackly and too hot to stand. Time well spent.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Adult Cereal

Grocery shopping can be an exercise in the surreal as long as you keep your eyes open.

Today's observations included a full rack of beef chopped for "Stri Fry", this unitasker of a mayo knife (use a spatula, people!) and my favorite--Adult Cereal.

Is this cereal X-, or just R-rated? Naughtily-shaped puffs? Perhaps those varieties go best with vodka? Maybe it just has adult themes like cannibalism or infidelity or estate planning.

Yes, Kids* Cereal was also an option, so fine. I looked up and down the aisle. Kids Cereal means sugar and fun shapes and colors. Adult Cereal means fiber. Multi-grains. Almonds. Far less exciting colors.

I grabbed the Rice Chex a son had requested, and gazed longingly at the Cocoa Puffs for a moment.

But apparently I'm supposed to be too old for those.
(Yet I will totally get them on vacation.)

*I know. Apostrophes would help us so much in so many endeavors. But there are better uses for my energy than taking on that fight, especially on a busy afternoon at the grocery store.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Easy Crowd Pleasers, Part II

Summer!  It's getting hot, but we still need to eat.

Even when Mom didn't feel like going to the grocery store because she wanted to read a couple of books...

Tonight was Ginormous Salad Night.
A big green salad with the delicious vegetables in the house, plus quartered hard boiled eggs, anchovies for those who like them, and tuna salad for those who like them. Salad dressings on the table.

Yes, I put out JUST salad stuff for supper.
With ravenous teens.

And no one complained.

To be fair, I probably could not get away with this more than once a week.  But hey, everyone ate vegetables! And I found out that firstborn seeks out thinly-sliced radishes. (Ignores them if they're whole in the crisper--one step at a time.)

You don't have to lay out thirty little bowls of toppings like your local SouperSalad/SweetTomatoes/RubyTuesdays*, but here are some other delicious things to put on a salad-

Egg salad
Chicken salad
Marinated chickpeas
Crisp-tender green beans
Nuts, if you like such things
Frozen peas (OK, fine, use fresh ones. But I always have a bag of frozen peas on hand.)
Pickled beets
Artichoke hearts
What else?

*Why do all these chains have two names? Is there a culinary conspiracy I've yet to uncover?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Prioritizing Values

Our minds LOVE lists. And they make for easy-to-write copy, so we see tons of them. "Top Seven Continents!" "Thirteen hair care products you can't live without!"

The words "In no particular order" show up in these sometimes--"Twenty restaurants you should try" instead of "What's the best restaurant in Bobtown?"

Some days this really drives me nuts. I see a certain avoidance of conflict and well, some laziness.

Last week I went to the grocery store in search of a specific flavor of ice cream. The store did not have my flavor, but I still wanted ice cream. I proceeded to spend fifteen minutes* carefully considering Every Single Flavor. Hmmm.  I like mint chocolate chip. I like raspberry. I like rocky road. I like coffee toffee crunch... but I am only going to take home ONE flavor of ice cream. How do I make up my mind?

We all might agree that peace and intellectual stimulation and hope and equality and service and tiny muffins are all good things. But chances are some of us will put peace ahead of service, and others will put mufffins ahead of peace. 

I feel, sometimes, like we are afraid to get too personal with people, and to ask questions we think we might not like the answers to.  We put things very vaguely and make it easy for people to nod absentmindedly at a dozen things, rather than asking them to choose from the assortment. And we certainly wouldn't want to judge someone on their least, not out loud or emotively. 

But if we only have the capacity to address two things on one of these lists, which two do we choose? It gets complicated (and loud) quickly. What is the discernment process here? 

How do we create a safe space and begin a conversation where people can truly lay their cards on the table and consider an order to them? Can we assume good intentions when one's deeply-held values are in conflict with another's?  

Sometimes we can find win-win solutions, and sometimes we need to make tough choices. How do we make certain that everyone feels heard, and valued, yet clearly move forward on SOMETHING?

*Ok, I wasn't feeling well and having a hard time figuring out what to do after Plan A fell through. Usually the process goes somewhat more smoothly.