Sunday, April 23, 2006

the devil went down to georgia

We ... survived! Against the odds, my little family of four (yes, we are luckily still four) made it to and back from Augusta, Georgia for a long weekend trip. Oh yes, did I say that the air conditioner in the van is broken? And that we were driving to Augusta, the absolute center of hotbed misery in this universe (yes, Augusta is beyond Houston, even). And we were driving during late April? Oh, and that Q and E could not stand for the windows to be open because - who knows why? I guess it mussed their hairstyles?

I did note one good thing about driving without air conditioning. The extreme heat and accompanying sweat means that your body tends toward dehydration, which means I can drink diet coke and not have to stop every hour. Except for this morning, when I had to stop every 45 minutes for the first half of the trip. But that was because of the coffee. My husband loves me.

Here is the real issue that I have, though. My wonderful son Q is full of energy and emotion. Have I ever happened to mention that? (That was a JOKE!!) Anyway, we know what kind of kid he is and love him allthemore for it and expect him to act that way. On the other hand, E is full of life and smiles and positive energy and patience. So we do not expect her to act like a little heathen. (oh, other than the whole flip-off episode, but that was MONTHS ago). Do you see where this is going? My lovely daughter turned into a demon this weekend. Even worse - she turned into a teenager demon. She had attitude. She had insults. She had the eye-rolls and the barbs. Plus, she had the screams and crying and that insane, on-the-edge laughter that made me want to call 911 for emergency psychiatric help. DH had to take her out of the house and sit with her in the van for about an hour one night during a thunderstorm, noless, because she was peeling the paint off the walls with her screams. You know, I was remembering that she pulled this exact same thing when we were there in January to visit Gerald in the hospital. I have no idea what causes it, but her grandma and grandpa laughed loudly when I asked them (very sweetly) if I could just leave the kids with them this time. They had a panicked look in their eyes, too. Demon teenage E was gone by the time we got home, though, thank the spirits of the universe. Like I said at the beginning of this post, it is a happy thing that we are still a family of four.

It was good to see DH's parents. We looked at some family photo albums and talked about Gerald a lot. He sure was a cute and smiley kid - 1st kid, 1st grandkid. There were about five times more photos of him than of all the other 3 boys. DH went through a bunch of his shirts and CDs and DVDs and picked a few things to take. It wasn't easy. It's still hard to assimilate all of this.

We're back in the happy rut again now, after our spring break of sold-out movies with me and 2 small children in the rain sadly looking into the theater, croquet admist the deer poop, the frantic cell phone acrobats at Busch Gardens in a search for missing children, and of course the amazing demon teenager I met down in Augusta.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

religious meaderings: part II

I owe a post on "why I don't hate christianty: Part II", don't I? Those thoughts and feelings are ebbing and flowing. Actually, I'm ebbing and flowing on the topic of religion, and how far we as a society should go in accomodating religion. I'm a UU and as such, I support the right of everyone to live their own brand of spirituality and I support the right of folks to live their lives based on the tenets of their chosen religions so long as that religion affirms the basic principles that we support, which are things like the inherent worth and dignity of every person and justice for all and care of the earth, etc., etc.

Beautiful. But how do you make this work in practice? In our church, for example, our services include readings from a variety of religious sources and ceremonies from a variety of religions (we've had quaker silent services and paegan maypole celebrations, for example). But say there are a couple of people that are highly uncomfortable with including ceremonies from a specific religion? Well, I imagine we'd gently let them know that this is something they'll just have to accept. But what if that couple of people turned out to be something more - like about half the congregation? Is it then in the general service of the congregation to accomodate those discomforts? In the design of a community, you certainly want it to look like something desired by the majority of its members. But especially in a community that prides itself on fairness, where is the line where you stop serving the community and start serving a select minority group? What if the discomfort is with the christian religion, in a liberal setting such as UU, where it is popular to buck the mainstream? And this is where our congregation is.

Christianity is something that most of us have come from and have left behind, for one reason or another. But there are certainly those at UU who still identify themselves as christian, and who also identify strongly with the UU principles and structure. How much are we missing out on by not opening ourselves up a little bit more? And should we have to? As a "church", I think we have a lot more freedom to explore these issues. In the general public, it's a whole different kind of issue.

In a community setting, how far should we go in accomodating religion? My moms' list recently had a conversation about public schools scheduling holidays on the Jewish Passover and whether that was fair/rude/discrimination/etc. I'd have thought my UUish, liberal, love-all-thy-religious-neighbors self would have had the first instinct that it is the responsibility of the school to actively work to avoid conflicts such as this. But I surprised myself. My first reaction was that there is no reason that a school should have to accomodate any religion. It may make practical sense to schedule around majority holidays so as to minimize absences and such, but other than that, I think the the public schools should be absolved of the responsibility of cow-towing to religious needs. For one thing, once you begin to recognize any religion, you must open yourself up to recognizing all religions, and then you've found yourself in a mess. And beside, doesn't it, at some point, become our own personal responsibility to integrate our religious lives into the world rather than expecting the world to integrate itself into our religious lives?

The fact is there, that we are a diverse community (well, not so diverse as we'd like to think really, especially here near the bible belt). But you know what I mean. There are more than a couple of religions out there in the big bad world. Rather than letting our kids feel "punished" or discriminated against (or worse, teaching them to feel discriminated against) when they have to do something different because of religion, can't we teach them that this is the beauty of living in a diverse world? No, it's not easy and yes it may be hard, but that is life when you're living in a diverse society.

Well then. Off my soapbox.

I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow. Ebb and flow you know.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

on the prowl

I've had a drought of things I felt like writing about for so long, and suddenly tonight, the floodgates have opened so widely that I'm sitting here pen in hand (figuratively speaking of course) with so many ideas pouring through my poor muddled brain that once again, but for a completely new reason, I am at a loss.

Kids sure make your life ... different. complicated. amazing. perfect. complicated.

I've been struggling to rein in my momma-bear tendencies with respect to E and friends. She's having a few triangular issues with her friends. In both cases, it's an issue of another girl wanting to pal up exlusively with one of E's best friends. Now, having gone through childhood myself once, I know that friends come and go and ebb and flow, especially at this tiny young age, but the idea that someone or someone's parents are selectively excluding my daughter, no matter what the innocent reason? The power of momma bear is certainly an uncontrollable force of nature. I can think I'm mature and adult and reasonable, but if you diss my daughter? I will rip your head off. It's more than a little scary because I could and would do it. And for E's sake, I am remaining in control so far and reaching out to the various "interlopers" rather than ignore the issue or become nasty. But my gut instinct is not exactly one of smiles and handshakes.

Mom, you never told me that one of the more difficult parts of being a parent was to have to relearn maturity all over again. And you know what? We haven't even started middle school around here yet. Run for the hills and protect your heads.

Lest anyone who knows us is worried, E is pretty much fine with everything. She is sometimes maybe slightly upset about XXXX girl who is monopolizing best friend's time or YYYY girl who plays with other best friend all the time but never invites her. But E was blessed with an amazingly strong sense of self-worth (she obviously didn't inherit *that* from me!) and all of this to her is annoying and frustrating but definitely never a reflection of her own worth. She does not suffer from self doubt. Rightly so. In the meantime, her momma has her eye on all involved participants and is trying desperately not to confuse any issues with her own childhood or friends into E's. And she trying not to be sent to prison for ripping off heads.

Monday, April 17, 2006

the hills are alive...

I have a gift. I am able to convert even the simplest task into a chaotic spiderweb worthy of much angst in my little mind. (sigh). After finding vacation airline tickets (finally) last week, we put them on hold, only for me to discover the next day that Delta pilots were planning an imminent strike, likely to result in an airline shutdown. Oops. and Crap. Thus, followed several days of worry and angst and a phone call or two to my dad to demand that he provide me with the correct plan of attack, and then ta-da(!) the strike was averted at the last minute. So all that was left at that point was to go pay for and pick up the tickets. But wait! I managed to find the one travel agent in town who was planning surgery followed by several days of bedrest immediately after she put our tickets on hold. In addition, I picked the only travel agent with notes so confusing that no one else in her office could interpret them. ANGST. The deadline for this deal was today (and note that in the meantime, airline ticket prices have been creeping up and up and up so that any new purchase of these tickets would cost us oh, about one thousand more than we had found earlier, and I exaggerate not. ANGST. We finally found a member of the travel agency who could interpret the bed-ridden, fresh-out-of-surgery original agent's notes, but WAIT!!! The computers were down at the consolidators that the tickets came from. Not only that, they were down all. day. long. Finally at about 4 pm, DH called to tell me to stop the angst - the tickets are ours.


So now, this summer, we are headed to Austria and Germany. (OMG, OMG, OMG, click on that link for some gorgeous photos!!) Yes, Mare, John is planning to take a picture of me and my friend Jamie and all of our kids singing "The hills are alive" on a mountainside. I'm excited!! Of course, we haven't planned a thing about this vacation other than meeting up with Jamie and Jamie and their wonderful kids in Eisenstadt for a while. We'll probably spend some time in Germany. Jamie has also been seducing me with tales of gorgeous lakes in Croatia. We're there for 15 days, so we'll be able to do some wandering. I can't believe we're really going to do this!

One of the things that makes me so happy about this trip is that my kids will be old enough to enjoy it and have fun, and young enough to still love hanging out with me. We went to a movie tonight and one of the previews was for the Robin Williams' movie "RV". It showed him with his little 5 or 6 year old daughter, who was telling him in her sweet voice that she wanted to stay with him forever. It was so sweet, and sounded just like my sweet E. Then the next scene was her as a teenager. (zoom on rolling eyes) .... "Why is dad such a DORK?". LOL.

On the way home I asked E if she was going to be a teenager like that. She said "Yes" without even thinking about it much. I think she's already planning it all out. Q contributed, "Well, she'll be like that with you, mom, but not dad". (He's pretty astute - yes, I also believe I'll have some girl/girl head butting in my future). DH asked "Q, are *you* going to be a teenager like that?" Q laughed and said "No, why would I? Boys are much more mature than girls."

(silence for about 3 seconds, then DH and I BURST into hearty and raucous laughter)

A few minutes later, Q, who was laughing with us said "Dad! I didn't say boys were mature, I said they were MANURE." (snort) He is SUCH a boy.

Anyway, the point is, we aren't there just yet. My sweet 7 year old daughter loves to sit by me and stroke my hair and hold my hand and she thinks I am smart and funny and adorable. I'm gonna SOAK that up and we're gonna SOAK it up together in Austria this summer.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Before I continue with my thoughts on christianity, I am just consumed with thoughts and worry on my wonderful son and perfectionism. Oh where to start.?!

My sweet ten year old son is the spitting image of myself, in all respects. We share the same eyes and nose and the same need to be perfect. The eyes, I'll share happily. The perfectionism, I'd happily take away from him and suffer it myself.

In my completely unbiased opionion, my 10 year old "baby" is cute, extraordinarily intelligent, above average in athletisim, and ...anyone who knows him will agree with this...way off the charts in emotionality. (Don't even know if that's a word, but I think you know what I mean.) He feels. He feels everything. He feels everything more than you can imagine.

Today, I have gone the gamut. I've been proud of him for the way he is obviously the primo player on his (immature) baseball team (I am completely unbiased, remember) - he is tall and lean and very very good. I have been worried for him because the team bully has obviously targeted him because he feels competitive and they are equally emotionally immature. I have been horrified for him because I saw the ball that he mis-fielded and watched it become the straw that broke the camel's back. I have been angry with him because he started trading insults with the team bully instead of enduring it like an adult would have (what, me have unrealistic expectations?) I have been embarrassed for him as he finally lost it and sat on the field in tears with his hat stuffed over his eyes because his group folded at the end because they were tired and hungry and it just all became more than he could handle. I was proud of myself as other parents eyed his reaction and looked to me for mine, and judged me, and I simply didn't care. I looked them in the eye and said, yes, he was emotional and I was able to not feel like it was a reflection of myself. I was proud of myself again as I listened to him cry in the van about all the things he failed in today (he will not win the presidential fitness award again this year, as he did last year, and he misfielded that #$@$7 ball, which of course makes him the worst baseball player ever). I despaired that he felt it was so important to prove himself. Did I give him that impression? I am the exact same way, though, and my parents never made me feel like it was necessary. I just "knew" it was. It's just who I am, and it's who he is.


I don't know if there is any way or anything I can ever do to convince him that he is perfect exactly as he is. I don't need a piece of paper or an award to convince me that he is athletic. I don't need him to make the honor roll or to make the Visions Team to prove to me that he is extraordinarily capable in the academic realm. I don't need him to always win or be the best to make me love him. I love him because he falls apart if someone looks at him wrong (he feels honestly and deeply). I love him because he KNOWS what is right and good (although I would be glad if he were able to learn that not everything must fit exactly into his vision). I love him because he is who he is, which is this person who is extraordinarly entwined with who I am, yet who is a unique being. My son and I, we are one and the same and we are nonetheless very different.

My wish for him would be to feel just a tiny little portion of the love that I feel for him, aside from how athletic, how intelligent, how caring he is. He can just open his eyes in the morning and smile at me, and he is the most wonderful person I have ever known (aside from his sister, of course - but that is whole 'nother post).
Speaking of his sister, I should add here that she - all of her tiny 7 year old self - simply lit in to that team bully today because she saw him picking on her brother. She has no fear and despite the fact that she fights 99% of the time that she is with Q at home, she will obviously defend him 'till her last breath.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

why i don't hate christianity: part I

Oops - I've slowed down considerably on these entries. I'll blame it partly on baseball but mostly on the fact that my mind has just been in a valley of the topography of interesting thinking, so to speak. In other words, I've been so preoccupied with the mundane that there's been no room for contemplating my belly button. It's kind of nice.

But all good things must come to an end, and it's time for me to start thinking outside the confines of day to day again, as refreshing as it's been. And what I've been thinking about is Christianity. This has been sparked by a few things. For one, I discovered that someone very dear to me felt uncomfortable bringing up the topic of Christian spirituality with me, and two, the kids at YRUU have chosen the topic of their youth service to be the bias against Christianity in our UU congregation. Now this second thing - I had quite a lively debate on the topic with one of the teens because I did not see this as a problem in our congregation. But I have to give myself lots of credit here, because I realize that teenagers have a perspective on life that I don't have (anymore), and that their insight can not only be unique, but also valid. So I've gone with the topic 110% and have been perusing the internet and the UU library for essays or readings in support of their service, and you know, there are some interesting things here. More on that later.

Before I talk about where I am, I'll talk about where I've been, which may be rather silly because just about everyone who reads this blog already knows me well. But for completeness, I'll go ahead. I was raised as a Christian (Methodist - which I see as a fairly gentle protestant religion) and jumped into it with both feet during my high school years. Along with band, it pretty much defined who I was as a teenager. I was born again and saved, hallelujah.

When I went off to college, while I didn't totally abandon Christianity, my spiritual life was shoved into the back seat due to other, much more entertaining, activities. In grad school, I did briefly try to rekindle my relationship with Jesus but began to realize that there were some conflicts between my gut and some of the teachings. Rather than grapple with the uncomfortable, I stuffed the whole Christian thing into a back closet and didn't think about it much. Out of sight, out of mind. I had other things to worry myself with like a new job and a new state and hiking and Jaycees and dating.

Several years later, however, I found myself in New Jersey, knowing no one and craving a familiar community. So I decided to find myself a church to attend one Sunday morning. I remember that service clearly, not for anything the paster said or what the choir sang, but because as I sat there uncomfortably in the back pew, I realized with sudden clarity that I did not belong there. I went back to my little apartment and realized that quietly along the path of my life, I had stopped believing not only in the tenets of Christianity, but I had serious questions about the presence of a god. I spent a lot of time those evenings gazing up at the stars (I had a great view from the balcony of that little apartment) and thinking. As much as I wanted to keep the comfort of god with me, I just couldn't justify doing it because it wasn't true to my nature any more. I couldn't articulate my reasons, and I would have failed miserably in a debate over religion or god. All I knew was that nothing was more important than being honest and truthful with myself. So I can't point to an event or happening that made me stop believing in a god. I just gently realized, finally, that I didn't. So while that transformation was an important one in my life, it was very quiet and happened under the surface. It just was.

And while this wasn't a good feeling, it was a true one, so I finally openly admitted it to myself and to those close to me. But I was in a spiritual void - I knew what I did not believe, but I didn't know how to articulate what I *did* believe. I did know, suddenly, that I stuck out like a sore thumb in my semi-conservative area down here in the SE U.S. One justice of the peace informed me that my marriage was damned to fail when I told him I was looking for a secular ceremony. He, in fact, went on to inform me that it was LAW to believe in god in this state because it was written on our money. Hoo boy. In any case, my point is that I realized how difficult it was going to be to be a non-believer in America. At least Jews have the whole "god" thing in common with Christianity. I, however, was associated with Madeline Murry O'Hare and evilness and a totally amoral soul. (Note here that it really isn't all that bad - these are the opinions of strangers. My friends and people I care about were, and are, quite open to respecting differences in it's not like I live my life feeling ostracized or anything even remotely close to that).

Many years later, after children, I found myself wishing for something like the religious community I was raised with for them. I wasn't looking for the "religious" part, but the extended family part - without all the baggage (by only my definition) that an organized religion would include. By luck, I discovered Unitarian Universalists (which, as the joke goes, are defined as "atheists with children"). Bingo. A place to bring my children, a community for them, where they could BELONG, and discuss spiritual matters with reason and without the pressure of sin and hell to frighten them into forcing their beliefs into a preset mold.

So that's where I came from religiously. I have a very Christian past, and I remember it (this is the key) FONDLY. There are many parts of christianity and judaism or any organized religion that I like, such as the belief that people can change, and charity toward others. There are also parts that I dislike intensely. But the thing is that I am uncomfortable with religion and god as a part of my life. They are garments that don't fit me. They fit many other people beautifully, and I am happy for that. Not only that, I respect that. Again with the truth - if someone finds that the only way to be true to her/himself is to believe in the truth of Christianity, then that is perfect.

I do reserve the right, however, to despise parts of Christianity (or any other religion) that are biggoted or closeminded and even cruel and dangerous. I personally think the whole view of earth as a haven of sin and ugliness that some Christians have is an awful view to give people, and a sad way to live, for instance (thus my amusement at things like the "Born OKay the First Time" bumper sticker). The melding of Christianity with politics and government that is currently happening gives me scary chills. But I realize that there is an enormous span within Christian beliefs.

To be honest, this hasn't always been and easy position for me. Religion, as a definition, has the potential to be used as a powerful and very dangerous weapon (e.g., christian crusades), and that potential frightens me. It's easy for me to see the negatives of religion. But as I meet more people and discuss spiritual matters with them, I am growing and improving. It's not necessary to throw the baby out with the bathwater. So yes, there are parts of Christianity that I really and vocally hate. But I don't hate Christianity. I enjoy hearing about the joyful parts of anyone's spirituality, be it pagaen or buddhist or christian or pantheist. Anything that spreads such positive energy within a person's psyche touches my own in a postive way too.

So I'm gonna stop right here for now. This has become long, and I haven't even begun to wax philosophical about where I am now on my spiritual journey, or how and why many people feel that UU congregations are very biased against christianty (those darned teens - see, they're making me open my mind. The title they decided on was "Radical Inclusiveness: Expanding your Spiritual Comfort Zone" How cool is that?)

Today is gorgeous and the kids are off from school, so about 6 families in our neighborhood are meeting out at a local park for a picnic and hiking. Life continues to be good.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

spring and a decade of fun

I'm either forgetful, or just easily awed. Every change of season, there's a whole new package of items that just thrill me with their newness. Spring is here, and it marches amongst the honeysuckle and forsythia with baseball bats and gloves. Saturday was baseball opening day ceremonies around here, which is

Q is the tall one, and E is the smiley one. You can click on the pictures to get a bigger version.

It was also Q's tenth birthday. Ten years. Lordy. You know, you always hear mothers like me saying things like "It seems like it's gone so fast...." and other wistful, bittersweet things. But I tell you what. What I'm going to concentrate on is that there's really not much bittersweet about Q turning 10. Because he ROCKS. I love seeing this person unfold before my eyes. What a trip! Time hasn't gone any faster these last ten years than it ever has. It's just marching on, with me riding along on the conveyer belt, and I happened to hop on at the same time as these two marvelous people that happen to be my children. I get a front row seat, and it's amazingly wonderful.

Here's Q surrounded by his favorite people - sis, friends, mom and dad, and second mom and dad B&K. He had a nice party with too much pizza and ice cream cake, and he and his buddies got to go see Ice Age 2, then stay up past midnight playing game cube. It was fun - but I feel the need to say here that 10 year old boys can certainly be very raunchy. Gak. DH had to pat my hand a few times to keep me from blanching visibly at their jokes. They're nothing you want me to repeat here, I promise.

He got a couple of Shaun White DVD's, who is one COOL kid. I'm all about Q having him for a role model...I guess. The guy's 19 and owns like 3 mansions and has his own fashion line. Um, yeah. I could deal with that. HOWEVER, I did let Q know whilst watching Shaun White snowboard down virgin snow in the Alakan mountains that I'd be fine with him not going to that extreme. My ever-cautious kiddo looked at me like I was nuts. Thank goodness he's all about snowboarding down east coast mountains and watching guys like Shaun White tackle the others. OK.

More later. I've been really emotional lately and have lots I want to blog about but want to work on getting it all laid out right. I had a dream the other night that Q and I were towing a school bus with a bicycle...through sand. Hm. You think that means something?