Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Transportation Change

This month wasn't perfect, but we did make an effort - riding the bus, riding my bike, combining trips, carpooling, staying in days, and thinking carefully about when we really need to drive.

I'm planing to continue carless days about once a week, and we dream about buying an electric car this fall.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

From our walks

nature walks

We've been exploring our neighborhood nature trail more, but I don't want the kids denuding it of all the tender spring plants. So as we walk, they only have permission to pick weeds - dandelions, grass, english ivy, etc. Carbon is determined to create a journal, so he went ahead and started one with his weed collection!

Monday, March 29, 2010

When You Reach Me

Miranda is a pretty ordinary girl growing up in a big city, struggling with friendships, helping her mother prepare to go on a game show, and afraid of the crazy man who hangs out on her corner.
But Miranda is getting notes from someone who seems to know what will happen in the future.
When You Reach Me is categorized as Young Adult, but I would give it to 9 year olds and up, especially girls. It is full of rich detail, realistic relationships and people, and a subtle mystery with a satisfying finish.
There are many respectful references to A Wrinkle in Time throughout When You Reach Me, making me want to read that again. It was read to me when I was Carbon's age, so perhaps we would enjoy it as a read aloud now.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Things pile up

How do things get so backed up? This week I've been inspired by the sunshine and I've tackled a bunch of big jobs: close to "detailing" my car, cleaning out the garage, and weeding my asparagus bed and my driveway. But whatever I do, stuff is piling up somewhere. If I clean in the front yard, laundry is piling up in the house; if I stay inside scrubbing floors the weeds are growing unchecked in the yard!

And then you get piles like these: (my mending basket and the library books that needed to be read and returned before they got anymore fines)

the mending pile

the library book pile

What's a woman to do? In a sense, we are all Sisyphus.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Real hardships

We just finished listening to On the Banks of Plum Creek, and I feel profoundly humbled by it. I'm sure she glossed over some bits - everyone is so darn good in these books and always happy and cheerful - but really the stuff they had to live through and they just kept going.

The kids love these books, just as I did as a child, but they don't really see the story the way I do now. It served as a starting point for some conversations about the abundance and materialism we live with, and some conversations about simplicity and charity and responsibility, but what seems to have struck them is the life and death drama of it all.

Hypatia is currently very upset about death. She has come to me crying, worried that I and her dad will die and leave her all alone. She is very angry that people die, and we are spending a lot of energy on helping her come to grips with this reality.

And then Carbon seems to feel like he's not good enough. He cried to me the other night, that he wished he could go back in time and change things, because he had been bad so many times and he couldn't stop thinking about them all. When I asked what he had done that was "bad", he cited a time he had made mud when he was supposed to be playing nicely in the yard. I comforted him and we talked about how it is normal human nature to feel regret, and that he really hadn't done anything so very bad.

It's a lot of emotion, seemingly triggered by one book.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

bringing Jesus back in

This weekend a member of our Committee on Ministry (the committee at church that keeps its fingers on the pulse and monitors whether the congregation is fulfilling its mission) passed along to me a comment he had heard in one of his interviews, that this congregant appreciated that I had "brought Jesus back in" to our church conversation.

I've been turning that one over in my head for the last few days. In a lot of ways, that makes me uncomfortable. When I told my family, they (even the "relaxed Catholics" in the bunch) thought this was a pretty bad thing. Jesus is for the conservatives, and the rest of us will avoid talking about him, seems to be the general consensus.

But I actually have "brought Jesus back in", at first because I was convinced that the kids needed to at least know the story, and have a basic level of religious literacy so they could join in the general conversation. Last year during Christmas season, one of our younger kids asked me "what's up with that baby in a pile of straw?", and that got the whole ball rolling.

And I've come to see that there are actually three stories to tell about Jesus: the miraculous birth story (clearly mythological and pagan in origin as far as I'm concerned), his ministry and teachings, and the crucifixion/resurrection/subsequent religion (which is almost all stuff I disagree with). In our disagreement with some parts of these stories, UU's and liberals in general avoid the entire story. It's the baby out with the bathwater.

Why, exactly, are we so afraid to talk about Jesus? As UU Victoria Weinstein wrote:

But where was Jesus in our UU worship life? I had never once questioned his absence in my childhood church, but I now began to wonder. Since Jesus’ radical inclusivity, love of humanity, and passion for justice was so harmonious with all the “good news” I was hearing in our congregations, why did our ministers and congregants so assiduously avoid the Gospels? I found it comical on some Sundays, depressing other Sundays, and consistently baffling. I could not understand why UUs would allow the perversions of the Religious Right to define the word “Christian” (or “religious,” for that matter), why they would concede religious language to the conservatives, and why they would go out of their way to construct a religion intentionally bereft of theology.

Of course, Unitarian Universalism doesn't exist in a vacuum. We are surrounded by other religions and denominations, and our churches are full of large numbers of refugees who come to us with emotional and spiritual scars from their previous religious backgrounds, and all of this means that we have baggage - especially when it comes to Jesus. I understand the baggage - I haven't come through 32 years of living in American society without a bit of baggage of my own. But our children don't have the same baggage we do - and maybe, just maybe, if we give them a different story and "relationship" with Jesus, they could maybe never have some of that baggage.

Because, really, the man who preached love and compassion and justice for the poor was preaching many of the same things we try to preach now.

Note on comments: I love comments and I love the conversations the internet enables. But let's all keep it respectful, OK?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A "stay home" day

We are still trying to reduce our transportation footprint this month, carpooling with other folks going ot the same place, riding public transit more, or biking to work when I can. My other idea is to take any days that have nothing on the calendar, and declare them to be "locked in" days, meaning we are locked in at home and won't go anywhere in the car.

Unfortunately, we don't have many days where there is nothing on the calendar! So yesterday was the first time this month that we could try this. It was sunny yesterday, so we didn't end up feeling very locked in - in fact we went out for a 1 1/2 hour walk on the nature trail two blocks from our house.

A great day without any transportation.

at work in the garden

enjoying our neighborhood nature park

Monday, March 22, 2010

Weekend Sewing, Project One

head scarf

I was given the book Weekend Sewing for my birthday, and its lovely illustrations have made for fun browsing. But I still hadn't actually made anything from the book, and I have been wanting to buy some other sewing books, like Sewing Green and Sewing Clothes Kids Love. I absolutely do not want to collect a bunch of sewing books and let them accumulate on a shelf, so I will not allow myself to buy another sewing book until I've done several projects from this one and passed it along to someone else. I'm aiming for four projects out of the book, and here is Project One: "Jane's Head Scarf".

It was a bit of a cheaters move to pick what seemed like the easiest project in the book, but so what - it's in the book and it's a project! It was supposed to fit my head, as the directions are for an adult head scarf, but I wasn't taking into account my big head. It really is a big head, and I should have remembered I frequently can't wear women's hats. So this scarf is gracing Hypatia's head, and I'll still need to make another, larger, one for myself. I love the idea of this scarf, and it was very easy to make. I just need to make it bigger. :)

More Weekend Sewing coming soon!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Teaching from a Cart

improvise a classroom

Today's Sunday School set-up was very much like teaching from a cart. The classrooms are all still under construction, and a lot of my "stuff" is out of reach in storage, so I had to improvise more than a bit. Quilts on the dusty floor, only one story basket, and my "grab and go" case of craft supplies to work with created a class set-up for our preK class.

But no matter the conditions, the kids were so glad to have class again. Their happy faces more than made up for any bother we are experiencing in trying to work through the end of the construction phase.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First Days of School

first day at school
This week Carbon did a "visiting week" at the Sudbury School we will be sending him to. The point of the visiting week was to test it out without any commitments, and make sure everyone would be happy with the match.

Carbon loves it, and is very positive about going to school there. Interestingly, he seems to have had the most difficulty adjusting to sharing, or not sharing, with other kids, being excluded by older kids who didn't want to play with him, and getting "written up" for Judicial Committee because he didn't clean up after himself.

I don't think it will really make my life any easier to have him there, however. What effort I save on planning playdates and social activities for Carbon, I make up on entertaining his bored and lonely little sister while he's gone. What I save on doing homeschool lessons, I lose on afterschooling (more on that later) and on packing lunches and driving him to and from school.

But this isn't about me, of course. Do we think this school is the best place for him? Is it better than homeschooling the way we can do it? Is it better than being with a nanny while I work? Is it better than going to work with me during the day?

Yes. It is. And he loves it there, which is probably the most important thing of all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chick Lit in defense of Chick Lit

This weekend I was asked what I was reading and I sort of tried to hide the book and said "Oh, it's just chick lit". And then the person who had asked me didn't know what chick lit was, so I got into a somewhat awkward description of chick lit and it's similarities to romance fiction.

This turned out to be an ironic exchange, because I was reading Crossing Washington Square by Joanne Rendell, which is essentially a defense of popular fiction for women.

Although there are romantic relationships in this book, the relationship that is central to the book is between a "serious and dignified" woman professor, Diana, who teaches Plath and a "young and impulsive" professor, Rachel, who sprinkles her teaching with popular books like Bridget Jones's Diary.

Of course Diana doesn't approve of Rachel, and of course Rachel is afraid of Diana and can't understand her stern and unbending stance. Through love triangles and work entanglements, the two women are forced to spend more time together and ultimately work cooperatively, and in that process they come to understand each other more.

And Diana gets convinced to read romance novels.

Over and over again throughout the book, Rendell has her characters debating chick lit - does it just rot women's brains or is it empowering to see women characters get what they want? Do the books teach women to want the wrong things or are they harmless wish fulfilling fantasy? Is there value in studying what is popular because it gives a window into society and the psyche?

I used to love romance novels, and I do still enjoy an occasional chick lit. If I felt the need to defend myself for that, this book would help me craft my arguments.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

I don't normally do these Wordless Wednesday posts, but as today is a very busy day, it seemed like a good idea:

gardening together

making marker sticks

starting seeds

Playful Parenting

Here is a wonderful book for anyone who works with children, but especially for parents: Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D.

Reading this book has made me a better parent in the last few weeks, as I try to lighten up and be more playful. Play, as shown in this book, is everything from the organized to the spontaneous, the prolonged to the short exchange of banter. The point is to meet the children where they are, to recognize that they struggle with isolation and powerlessness, and to build connections and communicate in their way. Dr. Cohen calls it "the importance of getting down on the floor".

Chapters in the book take you through joining the children in their world, building connection, encouraging their confidence, strong feelings and play, rethinking the way we discipline, sibling rivalry and play, and how adults need to recharge their own batteries and learn to roughhouse.

Dr. Cohen is a psychologist who specializes in play therapy, and he sprinkles anecdotes from his work and his life throughout the book, illustrating difficult scenarios that I found inspirational as he found ways to connect with children through play.

Some quotes:

Is there enough giggling going on in your house? At the playground? At your child's school? In my opinion, a good school is one where you hear giggling and laughter in the halls and in the classrooms. We often forget that children learn best when they are happy.

Play is children's main way of communicating. To stop a child from playing is like stopping an adult from talking and thinking. To control every minute of play is like controlling every word someone says. But to leave children alone in their play is like spending the day with other adults and never talking to them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

heirloom food plants

makah ozette potato

This may look like any old potato, but this is a special spud - the makah ozette potato. It is culturally significant to my state, and it almost went extinct not to long ago.

I just attended a youth con all about food, and a presentation there by Slow Food. One of the goals of Slow Food is to preserve the diversity of foods we eat. There are ecological and food security reasons to diversify our crops and food animals, but there is also a taste reason. Why restrict ourselves to the few tastes given to us by monoculture and agribusiness, when there are so many flavors and textures and subtle varieties out there?

I love to plant heirloom varieties in my garden, and get funky and flavorful veggies to cook with. The Slow Food folks gave me this one ozette seed potato, and you can bet it's going in my garden. I plant other heirlooms as well, usually from my favorite seed catalog Territorial Seed, but I also really love the work the folks are doing over at Seed Savers.

Eat it to preserve it. Keep our food diverse and tasty!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Public Transit Adventure with my youth group

public transit adventure

This weekend I went with my church youth group to a youth "con" (conference) held in Seattle. That's more than 60 miles away, and we went up and down on public transit. It took three buses in three different bus systems, and 3 1/2 hours each way, and it cost about $15 roundtrip/per person.

The Friday trip was the most interesting, as we were squeezing in with Friday rush hour commuters. It was like a can of sardines in one bus! But the youth had some fun, and decided that riding the bus was suprisingly "not sketchy", as they had previously thought.

Go Public Transit!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Love Library, Love Soup

love soup & love lentils

I love the library. I would hesitate to buy a new cookbook, because I can't tell if I like them until I actually cook something out of them. So it's fantastic that the library carries cookbooks, so I can give them a test run in the kitchen.

This is one I will buy: Love Soup is chockfull of vegetarian, and many vegan, recipes for soup that are organized by season so you should be able to find most of the ingredients at your local farmer's market. The book is now overdue, so I must return it, but so far I have made Green Lentil and Cumin soup, Red Lentil and Squash soup, and Neeps and Tatties (turnips and potatoes). All yummy.

Other books we've loved from the library recently:

Leviathan is steam punk (a term I had never heard before, but my husband grabbed it from me as soon as I brought it home from the library) which is a fusion of historical or alternative-historical fiction with punk fiction. In this tale, Prince Aleksander of Austria is launched into adventures and contact with the "Darwinists" after his parents are assasinated in an effort to start a World War. It is a fun and quick read - great for 9 and up.

The Tale of Tricky Fox by Jim Aylesworth. I am really becoming a fan of Aylesworth's sly humor. Very fun.

The Man Who Lived in A Hollow Tree ... he went on living, and living, and living, and living - right up until he died. If only we could all live that well, regardless of how long.

The Secret Life of Fairies just fed into Carbon's current fairy obsession wonderfully.

Thank you, local library system! Without you, our life would be greatly diminished.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

He's completely addicted

I'm not seeing as much of Carbon recently. He just wants to shut himself up in his bedroom - he races through dinner, goes to bed early, stays in there as long as he can in the morning, and generally is giving me a big preview of adolescence. He's completely addicted!

No, we didn't put a tv in his bedroom, or a video game system, or the internet. Nope - it's just a CD player. A CD player and Harry Potter started this whole thing.

He's in there listening to audiobooks. In one day, he can go through a whole book like The Children of Green Knowe. He's listened to the first four Harry Potters several times each. His appetite for new books keeps sending me to the library catalog - I've put a hold on The Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown, The Book of Three, and The Dark is Rising. Any other ideas for when he has listened to all of those, which could be, like, next week?

Every now and then he emerges to tell me about a story bit, or to play with his sister. He still comes out to listen to me read him book 5 of Harry Potter. I see him when he's hungry, or when I make him get some fresh air or practice the piano or do a bit of math. But otherwise, the boy would just stay in a cave listening to literature.

I suppose there are worse addictions ...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Around here

Mom: yoga with Shiva Rea , Playful Parenting, Shiver, Crossing Washington Square, Mad Men from netflix, and hungarian language cds.

Carbon: playdates with teepee building, writing and mailing letters to himself, helping me write grocery lists, The Children of Green Knowe on cd, math wrap-ups, legos (of course), burying and grieving a pet chicken, helping load trash for a dump run, Fraggle Rock, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

teepee building

Hypatia: The Tale of Tricky Fox, Little Monster's Mother Goose, playdates with lots of dollhouse action, burying and grieving a pet chicken, Yellow Submarine, and glitter and glue.
glue and glitter

The three of us together: Artemis Fowl on cd, grocery shopping, cleaning house, swim lessons, and volunteering to paint in the new construction at church.

painting church

I like our Mondays and Tuesdays (my weekend).

March Transportation Challenge

my ride

Here was my ride this weekend. Two days of riding this to work and back meant 22 miles logged on it. And I did manage to bungee cord the big bag of "fidget bags" that I needed to take to work with me onto the luggage rack, so I didn't have to pull a trailer. I can always use the trailer if I have more stuff to take to work, so that's no excuse to not ride.

It didn't mean the car wasn't used this weekend, though. My husband took the kids to the beach on Saturday while I was at work, then we all ran a handful of errands together after I got home. On Sunday we took the car to go to my MIL's house for Sunday dinner.

Still, I'm using my bike!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Identifying your real needs

I attended a conflict resolution workshop this weekend, and as is usually the case for me, I reflected a great deal on myself and what this new information could tell me about myself and how I tend to operate.

It was also a very useful workshop, very well done, and I've ordered both of the books they quoted the most so I can read more: Difficult Conversations, and Nonviolent Communication.

But back to me, sitting there, and having a sudden insight into a long-term problem ...

My husband and I tend to fight about chores a lot. He just doesn't do any chores other than to maintain his motorcycle, and he never really has. There are many reasons for his non-participation, and we've tried many techniques to change it: chore charts, group chore time, couples counseling, personal counseling, etc. But it's been ten years, so I'm not holding my breath at this point.

The funny thing for me is that I don't resent all the chores when he's not home. During the week we see very little of him because he works so much and the commute is so long, and I feel perfectly fine dealing with the house and laundry and yard and car and kids and work and errands. In fact, I feel a sense of accomplishment, of mastery, and of personal self-worth when I tackle such a big challenge and feel like I'm getting it done.

But then we head into the weekend, and he and I usually have some fights about it. And our fights are usually not about doing a specific chore right now, but are instead about how I hate that we are falling into this male/female dynamic that overall throughout society leads to the oppression of women, and I go into a little feminist rant, and he usually responds with "I've heard this all before, you're wasting our time talking about it again, and fine, I can go do a F'ing chore." At which point I fly off the handle, forbid him to do any chores, and rush off crying.

Yes - it sounds healthy, doesn't it?

So here is the breakthrough ... or actually two breakthroughs.

1. He thinks conflict resolution means getting out of the current conflict as fast as possible and doing something to solve it. In other words, he doesn't want to hear why I'm upset, he just wants to do something right this minute to make this stop. But that will never solve the conflict, because it isn't actually about a specific chore at that moment.

2. The conflict is actually about my unmet need for Integrity. In this lovely Categories of Need chart that was handed out on Saturday, under Integrity are listed: authenticity, honesty, respect, purpose, responsibility, and accountability. In fact, it is when you are living a life in harmony with your principles.

So the big difference between doing all the household work when he is not here and doing it when he is here is that his presence and the reminder of the inequity makes me question my choices, my integrity as a modern-post-feminist woman, my self-image as being in control of my life and my environment, and my sense of personal empowerment. In essence, it throws me into an internal debate about feminism and equity and whether I am living with integrity.

And I want him to care about all of that, at least to the extent that he should care about me and my internal struggles and landscape. Dismissing it all as crap about society and feminism that has no bearing on the immediate conflict is actually the problem. I don't need him to do chores - I need him to care about the post-feminist dillemma of the working mother and the still present inequities in society.

He doesn't really care about those things (which I believe is in and of itself an example of his male-privilege in society), and that is what we need to work on, not on chore charts that will never work until he actually wants them to work.

This is a man who lived in squalor when I met him, and was perfectly fine with that state of affairs. He used his kitchen only once during the months we dated, and then those dishes were still sitting there dirty when I helped him pack to move out of that apartment. His bathroom was so disgusting I tried not to use it when I visited him. You would have to climb over a mound of clothing - some dirty and some "clean" - in the middle of the apartment. He lived on coffee, cigarettes, and alcohol.

I didn't expect him to change when I first moved in with him, but over time I've expected some changes. There have been some small changes, and he does honestly want to keep me happy and knows a clean house is part of that, but really you don't marry a man like that and then turn over 50% of the household chores to him.

I don't need him to do chores. I really don't. But I Do need to find some peace with this state of affairs, and to find an inner sense of integrity that is not embarrassed about my partnership arrangement with him, that doesn't doubt my own worth and empowerment because I'm in an "unequal" relationship, and that feels genuinely heard and respected.

So here I am, telling the world that I do all the housework, but I'm not ashamed of it! The personal is political, but it is also personal and it is complex. I am doing the best I can to be the woman I want to be, and that woman deserves respect, even if she does scrub the toilets herself.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March Transportation challenge

kickin it at the bus station

On a nice day, it's not too much bother to ride the bus around town. We have a very nice bus system, and we purposefully bought a house near a busline. It does mean that I can't leave the kids one place while I do a meeting and then run back for them and zip them across town ... when you use the bus you need to have a simpler schedule that doesn't mean you run back and forth. That's probably a better way to live, anyway.

public transportation

We got on the bus, and the kids had to go to a lunch meeting for work with me (which was held at a very child-friendly cafe downtown and other people brought their kids too), and then we walked up the hill to the Childrens Museum where Carbon had a science class in the afternoon. Hypatia and I just hung out in the museum and waited for Carbon, and then we rode the bus home. I might have been tempted to leave him there and run home if I'd had a car, but this streamlined approach worked for public transit. We can do this - for us, for our community, and for our carbon-footprint!

not a bad day for a walk

Friday, March 5, 2010

On Magical Thinking

building a fairy house

It's funny to me that my son, who just a few months ago was so realistic and pragmatic that he immediately guessed there was no tooth fairy when his first tooth fell out, because it was called a fairy and everyone knew that fairies aren't real, is now obsessed with fairies and all things magical.

He and his sister used to fight about whether fairies could be real, and all I could negotiate was a kindness and an agreement to agree to disagree. But then came Harry Potter, and The Spiderwick Chronicles and now he really wants to believe.

A man in the class I taught for my church on the history of Jerusalem was saying that he couldn't understand any form of "magical thinking" and that it really should be stamped out. But there is something in the human psyche that loves magical thinking, a part of us that just "wants to believe" as the X Files poster said.

I don't like to stamp on their childhood magical thinking - I remember how lovely it was to think I could see fairies and there seems no practical reason to ruin that for my kids. But I'm walking a fine line, because I never want them to think that I was really lying to them. So I fall back on the same noncommittal reactions that serve me very well as a Unitarian Universalist Religious Educator: "I wonder", "Some people believe that", and "I have never seen it to be true, but that doesn't mean I can prove it's not". It's not wishy-washy - it's open-minded!

So Carbon is deeply engaged in magical thinking right now, building fairy houses (inspired by the lovely Fairy Houses Everywhere), and guarding his Spiderwick Fieldguide with red because fairies fear red. It is sweet, and a bit magical in itself.

fairy house 1

protecting the field guide

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Growing up in a literate society

Our reading culture

We are planning on sending the children to a local Sudbury school, which follows an unschooling or "non-school" model. When we went to the open house at the school, Carbon was very impressed by many aspects of it (especially that he could "just play all day" if he wants to), but when I pointed out the school library and how he could use it to explore his own interests, he exclaimed in dismay "but I can't read!". This led to a concern - will they read to him there?

I'm not worried about my kids learning to read, and that feels good. We had our struggles there for a little while, when Carbon and I were pushing reading and phonics and it just was horrible. And, looking back, it was all because I was nervous and embarrassed by his "being behind". In retrospect, however, we just had a vision development problem, solved fairly easily by a few months of vision therapy.

If there are no vision or neurological issues, a child in a literate society is going to learn how to read, as illustrated by this article from Psychology Today. I don't think there is anything wrong with a little reading instruction or "help" from a more capable reader, but I have no worries that my children will learn to read. We are surrounded by a literate society, and they are growing up in a literate family.

We read aloud everyday, sharing good books as a family.

My husband and I read in front of the kids everyday, books, magazines, blogs, forums, letters, cookbooks, instruction manuals, other materials.

We write letters and cards and emails to family and friends.

We make a weekly trip to the library and check out hundreds of interesting books a month.

Anytime we are curious about anything my husband whips out his phone and googles it and then reads the answer he finds out loud.

For work I memorize many stories, which I read, type out, print, read again, and say out loud a couple of times. That is my process for memorization, and most of it is done in front of the kids.

We don't have TV, but we do have internet on our TV screen, so the kids have to navigate to find things they want to watch.

Both my husband and I are on the computer a lot, doing email, facebook, blogging - writing in other words.

We text message.

It's all the written word, and our family is soaking in it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Commitment and the Community

At the February meeting of the Family Ministry Team, we discussed another chapter of our study book, Full Circle: Fifteen Ways to Grow Lifelong UU’s by Kate Tweedie Erslev. This month’s chapter was about the need to encourage regular Sunday morning attendance and participation, and it launched a great discussion about why each of our families comes to church.

We come because it’s a place to connect with our family, perhaps even our extended family, and we come because we want this community or education for our children, and we come because we love the music or the message, and we come because we feel a need for connection and spirituality. There are obstacles that have to be overcome: reluctant or disinterested partners, just the difficulty of getting up and organized and out the door, feeling tired and wanting to rest instead, kids who might be reluctant to come sometimes. Tweedie Erslev points out that: “Joining a UU congregation is not the same as joining the Sierra Club or the Brownies. We offer support for a life-enriching, lifelong journey that involves the whole family through the calamities and joys of life”. We are a community, and that comes with many benefits and some costs.

As a recent blog post at the blog Yet Another Unitarian Universalist points out: “And in fact one of the great weaknesses of today’s Unitarian Universalist congregations is that so many of the people who think of themselves as Unitarian Universalists aren’t willing to sacrifice any of their autonomy to participate in the congregational community. But here, as in so many aspects of life, ya gotta pay to play. Rule number one of congregational community:– if you want a Unitarian Universalist community, you have to give up the much-loved American autonomy that says it’s better to sleep in or go for a walk or play video games on Sunday morning. Then add some volunteer hours on top of that. Otherwise, you’re not part of a community.”

It is wonderful to be able to come to church when the sermon topic looks Really Interesting, or when it’s your birthday and you want us to sing for you, or when you have something weighing on your heart, or an event or cause to work on, but I would suggest that it’s just as wonderful to show up when you have nothing on your own agenda, and to be there to sing for someone else’s birthday, to hear what is weighing on someone else’s heart, to be surprised by a sermon topic or a religious education class that speaks to you in ways you would never have guessed, and be there to sign-up for a really great event or project.

As another UU blogger, The Journey, wrote in a blog post titled “Everything I Needed To Know About Church I Learned At Weight Watchers”, going every week matters because it gives you accountability and community. The real work of your life (whether it’s spiritual growth or losing weight) may be done during the week, but you come and check in and listen to other people speak from experience. And you have community, with all its benefits and the need for commitment it requires.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

One little step at a time toward a nicer house

Well, we do basically plan to live in this house forever, so we have time to make it what we want. In the last week we've finally tamed our entertainment center with its spiderweb of cords, and got rid of a weird old microwave cubby cupboard that never fit our microwave and just took up wasted space in the kitchen.

one corner at a time

one corner at a time - new kitchen setup

I really like both of the new set ups. We took all our old stereo and video equipment to Goodwill, and just replaced it with a computer hooked to the TV with a cordless keyboard and mouse. Now we can do our internet viewing on the big TV, which is all we ever do watch since we got rid of cable service over a year ago. And the kitchen counter there makes a lot more sense for the way I cook, and my preference to have everything in the kitchen out where I can see it. I don't like rummaging through cupboards to get out what I need when I'm trying to whip up dinner in a hurry.

Two more corners of my house set up the way I'd like them to be. It feels good.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Wrapping up my February One Small Change

For February, I took on the Small Change of reducing/eliminating my families use of disposable plastic.

I had a good example, from my friend Kate, who totally rocked this challenge. You should read her post if you want to see how well this can be done.

I didn't do as well as Kate, but I did learn a lot of lessons. The main lesson is that plastic is Freak'n EVERYWHERE in our lifestyle.

If you want to get away from the plastic cycle, you're going to have to:

1. Shop where you can use bulk bins, reuse your containers, and pass up many food items that only come in excess packaging. It will change the way you eat.

2. Stop getting carry-out food in styrofoam, and remember to bring your own reusable containers for leftovers at restaurants. Carry reusable cups if you want to be able to stop for coffee or other drinks.

3. Don't buy new things. Pretty much anything you buy will come with packaging around it.

4. Handwash at home instead of taking your clothes for drycleaning, to avoid those stupid plastic wardrobe bags.

5. All of this requires planning ahead, taking more time, and sometimes going without. That is hard work.

So what I learned is that this is hard, that it goes way beyond just having canvas bags with you when you go grocery shopping, and that I'm going to have to keep working on it.

For March, I'm going to tackle Transportation. I want to ride the bus more, ride my bike more, and practice simple old trip reduction. Wish me luck!