Thursday, May 31, 2007

Peace and Remembrance

Here's something to make you wake up and smell the grumpee. Do I need to reiterate my Emerson quote from Sunday? Somebody isn't paying attention.

See D. Haffner's post on the emcee heckling she and other peace supporters received on Memorial Day.

Crib notes on peace for those with limited attention spans...
When soldiers don't die at war they can be with their families and hopefully die of natural causes at a much later date. This will make for less parades, yes. But, oddly... it seems to make the soldiers and their families happier.

It is an amazing thing, but you really can respect and honor the sacrifice of veterans while praying for peace.

History class in the UK - rated I for inane

The Good Atheist strikes again, thus earning himself a spot on my links and a hyperlink for you. This time he is taking on history curricula in the UK and good for him.

From the Daily Mail...

Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid
offending Muslim pupils, a Governmentbacked study has revealed. It found some
teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students
whose beliefs include Holocaust denial. There is also resistance to
tackling the 11th century Crusades - where Christians fought Muslim armies for
control of Jerusalem - because lessons often contradict what is taught in local

The findings have prompted claims that some schools are using
history 'as a vehicle for promoting political correctness'.

The report concluded: "In particular settings, teachers of history
are unwilling to challenge highly contentious or charged versions of history in
which pupils are steeped at home, in their community or in a place of worship."

But Chris McGovern, history education adviser to the former Tory
government, said: "History is not a vehicle for promoting political correctness.
Children must have access to knowledge of these controversial subjects, whether
palatable or unpalatable."

English and history classes in my day were sometimes rough. Emotions ran high. Teachers and students disagreed. Students and students disagreed. And I remember a couple of days when I seemed to disagree with everyone. We were different races, classes, genders and religions, but we all survived those discussions. I also recall getting into a good university and not being shell-shocked by in-depth class discussions because I'd already experienced them in high school.

As I stand on the precipice before my 20th (public) high school reunion, I (like every other reunion attendee in this world) am not thrilled by all of my memories or the thought of re-living them. But I am grateful for the times my mind was stretched. I am glad I shared years with people who tested me, annoyed me, openly called bull on me, and were honest in their mostly civil disagreements.

As adults we find ways to limit the human thorns in our sides. As high school students, we don't have that power and, yet, for many it is the most educationally significant time of their lives. I believe there's a connection. You can't take the edge and the ire out of adolescence by hinkying with history. Or biology. Or sex ed. The holocaust, species diversity, and sexuality are all hard to talk about in depth. Whether you agree with your conversation partners or not. Therein lies the education. We learn, grow, and sometimes change.

Speaking of which, my son and played on my public elementary school playground the other night.

"Is this where you went to school, mama?"

"Yes, indeed! The place where I learned to read. The place where I learned to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. The place where I learned how to boogie. I still have some of the moves. Wanna' see them?"


Come on now. You didn't think I got these moves from church did you?

Kitchen 64 comes alive

For those of you who are local readers, I hit one of Richmond's newest the other night: Kitchen 64. It was packed but thanks to the experienced staff, all went smoothly.

The interior is stunning, particularly if you knew it in its previous life. As Zippy's it was a dark hole. (Now, don't get me wrong - I went into that dark hole on several occasions for the beer selection and for Zippy's mama's unbelievable homemade rolls. Let us all pause for a moment of silence to remember those little beauties.) But now it is bright and warm - lots of wood and a cool-as-a-talking-monkey bar.

The patio was packed and I expect it to stay that way until November. We sat inside at a nice booth that could easily seat 6. The menu is huge and fans of some of the owners' other Richmond legends will see some familiar favorites. The Greek nachos were obscenely loaded. The crabcake bruschetta was unremarkable, but for the rockin' crabcake. Go for the sandwich instead. The menu is sensible and familiar which will do well in Northside. Nice beer selection. Great prices. And a staff that runs like a machine.

Long live Kitchen 64. Congrats to its owners on another job well done.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Rooster hermaphrodite, cross dresser, or another reason humans should be less cocky

This is too juicy to resist. Take a visit to the good atheist and learn about the miraculous chicken that transformed its gender. My comment at the site pretty much sums up my views on the deal, but I thought I'd share my personal miraculous gender transformation story. (Sounds like the beginning of a bar tale, doesn't it?)

I fell in love with a kitten I named Ace because it had a black marking that looked like a spade from a card deck. Ace was lovey, cute, friendly, and the most despised creature in my home by the other cats. I gave "her" to a co-worker because my male cats kept going berserk whenever she was near.

The co-worker renamed "her" Belle, which I thought was a stupid name for this rugged little kitty, but whatever. If it made her happy...

Belle turned out to be the cat's drag name because within six months "her" very large testicles appeared and she sprayed all over the co-worker's house.

The vet said, "Oops, sorry. It's hard to tell sometimes."

The co-worker said, "%&*() ^#%^@ *(@7**!$^, Belle, ^#&!*"

My cats said, "Told you she was a faker. That guy was messing with our turf."

Moral of the story - sex traits come in all kinds of mysterious varieties. And isn't that what we like about nature?

Sisyphus goes big time

Lawdy, lawdy, my old blogging buddy Sisyphus has been called up to the big leagues. He was recently quoted in Slate. I got to him through here - Hope it works for you.

Sisyphus, we'll miss you in the little Luddite leagues.

Favorite Emerson Quotes?

Lizard Eater submitted hers in the comments to "Sorry, Waldo!" Any other Emersonians out there willing to let your geek flag fly?

I can't really narrow mine down, but in honor of the Memorial Day just past, from his Hymn: Sung at the Completion of the Concord Monument (thereby choosing pertinent over pithy)...

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Philocrites Remains King


I post a concern about UU World and Philocrites, on a Sunday no less, responds within minutes. Once again securing his position as the Big Daddy of all UU Bloggers.

He almost makes me want to reject my luddite ways.


New members, Philocrites is on the case. We'll work this out soon. Until then, check out his blog through my link to "Big Daddy..." or UU World at the link in posting below.

Sorry, Waldo!

Thanks to the Monkey Mind for reminding me of Emerson's birthday this past Friday.

Daggummit, I totally forgot. OK, maybe forgot is too strong a word. I used to have a literary calendar that told me when Emerson's birthday was. Now I use an insurance company calendar. Turns out that companies who sell pre-need insurance to funeral homes aren't interested in Emerson's birthday. Their loss.

So now I have to determine how to celebrate Emerson on this refulgent May day only 48 hours past his birthday.

Tequila shots? Streaking the UU church? Dancing until my feet fall off?

No, I think a walk is in order. And a little Emerson poetry. And maybe I'll read some more of March by Geraldine Brooks. I've just recently read the chapter where the Little Women's mama gives Emerson a tongue lashing at the Thoreau family dinner table.

I also think I need to start greeting everyone, "Happy Emerson's birthday two days late!" That is a surefire way to get the party rockin'.

What's up UU World?

As Minister of Membership and Outreach my sole reason for being is to make the entry into our congregation smoother for newcomers. Sounds easy enough but it is quite labor intensive. I work with our staff and Membership Council on everything from the sign outside, to visitor packets, to classes, to policies on membership, to nametags... and on it goes.

It is a full-time job, but the position is only 18 hours a week. If I didn't work in a warm and inviting congregation, I could not hope for any success on that part-time basis. But I do work in a welcoming and friendly congregation. I work with a great staff. And we have been blessed with a constant stream of inquisitive and enthusiastic visitors. We are constantly tweaking the system to improve it, but we have seen some great success in the past couple of years. This year alone we have welcomed over 100 new members and friends.

So here's my question... what's up with our publication UU World? When it comes time for new members to get our denominational magazine - it isn't happening. Some members have been in 8 months and aren't getting it yet.

Maybe we are doing something wrong? Did someone forget to teach us the secret handshake? Or are we putting too many in the system at the wrong time? I mention this now, because my issue came while I was out of town. I've just started poring over it and it's a great one. I'll be preaching and blogging on some of it, but I hesitate to do so knowing that many of my new members are going, "Hunh? What magazine?"

SO... new members - now you know. Feel free to check out the magazine's website. And blogiverse - do your magic.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

GA in Portland, new attendance records?

Lots of buzz about how many people will be attending our General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association in Portland, Oregon this June. Preliminary reports indicate we could get as high as 6,000. Wow.

So, I'm wondering... what put people over the edge, convincing them to make the trip and shell out the bucks? Are GA's just getting better because our moderator is so wicked cool? (Definitely a possibility in my book.) Is 2007 the year when EVERYONE wants to attend a workshop on governance, and GA just seems like the place to do it? (That must be it!) Or is there something about Portland?

Here are the top 8 reasons I think UU's want to go to Portland this summer:

1) The public transportation
2) Vineyards
3) Family friendly brew pubs
4) Test the green convention concept
5) New Seasons Market and organic-palooza
6) Nice weather
7) Live music
8) Great tattoo parlors

So I guess the real question is not "Why Portland?" The real question is: why on EARTH are we going back to Salt Lake City in '09?
(Oh, and I'll be in Portland for reasons 9, 10, and 11: college buddy producing first spawn in June, family in the area, and my entire cabin from SWIM '06 is having a family reunion during GA. And, of course, to cheer on our moderator. I'm thinking of making FOG buttons. You figure it out.)

Wildfires, bagpipes, stamps

Have returned from my grandmother's funeral in Florida. Yes, we indeed drove through the smoky haze of wildfires. We only had to suffer through it for a few hours, I cannot imagine trying to live a normal day in that choking haze. It was better on our return.

I got the opportunity to see some of my favorite family, and meet some for the first time. That is one of the few pleasant things about death: the chance to reconnect with the living. Many of my family had never met my children, so I was also glad to introduce them to each other.

As per my grandmother's wishes, I helped lead the service. That was not my first choice of activities. This would be one of the many occasions when I would have preferred an occupation in library science, or data entry. The highlight of the service was Grandmom's cousin playing bagpipes at the graveside. He was amazing. I've heard plenty of rotten bagpiping, cousin John was superb. And the kilt still fits.

Now we are back and trying to pick up life again. There should be some kind of ceremony for that. It is not easy, as anyone who has tried to reassimilate knows. There are tons of things to do but all feel foreign. Grocery shopping yesterday was a debacle. House cleaning hasn't gone much better. But the mail has been a treat. Sympathy cards have certainly improved over the years, haven't they? Or maybe I haven't been reading anything but what friends and congregants have sweetly written. The pictures are nice too.

I came to work this morning to meet with a couple to be married next year. It was nice thinking about their hopes and excitement for a change of pace. The church is under mad preparation for a wedding reception this evening, which is also comforting to watch. Tomorrow the seventh day rolls round again, and maybe things will feel a little more balanced after that.

But here's the thing, as all grieving people know. It's still there. The laundry may get done, the work accomplished, the needs of the day met, but until it is time to stop grieving, it's still there. Funny little things will draw it out.

Today I opened a lovely card and it was full of stamps. A kind couple in the congregation thought I might need some of the new stamps, so they picked me up a few books. People have been asking our family what we need. I can never think of what it is that would help. And then books of stamps fall into my lap, and I start to cry. Stamps will help a lot. But knowing people who think to get us some, that's the most helpful thing of all.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Unexpected Odyssey - back in a few days

I invite you to head back into the Auspicious Jots archives where I talk about my lovely Grandmother in the 2/26/06 post "Who's hanging out on your grave?"

Grandmama Cameron died yesterday. The children and I are headed down to Florida in a few hours. By car. Through a wildfire. And in the middle of the night. My husband couldn't get out of his caseload.

So this is adulthood? I'm done with it. Then again...

It was when I became an adult that Grandmama told me what it was like to lose her pregnancy, to be a war bride, to find a breast lump, to watch her husband die, to mourn her son's death for 20 years. She taught me how to be a friend, a hostess, a relative. She taught me patience (a lesson we were still in the middle of.) She shared her love of books and babies. She taught my son how to bang a pot with a spoon. She looked like Judy Garland and had a beautiful speaking voice. She called those she loved, "Doll."

My last conversation with her was to tell her how much better her son, my father was doing. The day he got off the ventilator we had a long conversation. I was the comforter, which felt like a strange turn. She was so happy. "Now I can sleep again!" she laughed.

I've been teaching the Book of Job for the past month. The death of a woman in her late eighties who'd lived a wonderful life, was an inspiration, and lived on her own until her death is not a tragedy. I know this. But I will miss her so. Life always seems too short when well-lived.

While I'm gone, our minister emeritus and Director of Religious Education will lead the Sunday service. Our Pastoral Care Associates Leader will lead Vespers. My husband will hopefully water the plants. Shalom y'all.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Luddite's code

So you've noticed the new look of the blog! I had nothing to do with it other than knowing a very nice and talented guy named Daniel who owed me one. That was allowed in the Luddite's code.

Twenty-first Century Luddite's code:

I will not learn how to do new stuff even though it will help me because -
it's too hard, I forgot, I don't have the time, I don't know what a meme is... blah nlah ylah dah.

I will roll my eyes and pretend not to listen when people effuse about their new technology. 3 years later I will want a nano very badly.

I will use the technology I have poorly, thus causing my friends and colleagues to roll their eyes, mutter, or gasp in disbelief at my incompetence.

I will then rope these people into helping me fake that I have embraced the new technology by getting them to program my cell phone, de-bug my computer, re-vamp my blog, build my spreadsheets, trick out my power point.

Finally I will appear technologically up-to-date while I am really still writing everything on index cards and ultimately losing them.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Taking the Bitter Pill of Loving Advice

When I was a wee one, my mother and I had many discussions on what was appropriate attire. I often felt that a crinoline was called for on social occasions. My mother was hoping for slacks. Sometimes these discussions turned ugly, but mostly they were discussions. We knew each other's position on the matter, and that was that.

Until I was in my early twenties. And started looking at the old photos. And needing income. Suddenly I realized my mother was a flipping sartorial genius. Throughout the photographs from the 1980's my mother is a fox. I am an extra from Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sure, it's kinda' cool, but I'm glad I moved on.

All of this is to say that sometimes it is hard to take well-meant advice. Which is why I want to congratulate the UU Fellowship of Fredericksburg, Virginia. I am a monthly guest in their pulpit through May. Last month I shared with them some ways they might not be as welcoming as they would like, including their website. For some, it was uncomfortable news. For others it was all they needed to unleash their creative sides.

Check out the newly revamped website of this feisty congregation. This photo is from their Hogwarts Thanksgiving. Nice work, y'all!!!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Change in Sermon Topics

We try to plan our sermon topics months in advance and that usually works. It didn't this time. This Sunday I will be leading a service on the Sacred and the Profane. Music will be provided by Tres Bones (a trombone trio.) This service builds on last week's service on Sacred Spaces by Rev. Dr. Morris Hudgins. Where his interest was space, mine will be time.

It was advertised that I would be speaking on Gender and Faith in Islam. I hope to speak on that topic later in the summer and have included the following photo as a peace offering to anyone whose heart was set on that topic.

This is from Alexandria and is one of my dearest friends being mobbed by Egyptian schoolgirls on a field trip. My friend is the one without the veil. Go figure.