Monday, July 28, 2008

Standing together

On behalf of my congregation, I would like to thank all the people who have offered their support and condolences. I have been particularly touched by those who are not Unitarian Universalist and yet understand some of the nuances of who we are.

We are many hours away from Knoxville, Tennessee. Yet, many of our members know people from the churches there through leadership trainings, and UU camps and conferences. We have family connections to those churches. We have collegial conections. Some of us have attended those congregations. One of our staff and her family moved there. As a friend said to me tonight, "With UUs, it is not six degrees of separation. It is barely two."

Today I have been in contact with my friends from SUUSI. They were not physically injured. They were present in the service. They, of course, are connected to those who were injured and killed. They are in shock. They do feel the love and support of the wider UU community and others and appreciate those connections.

Tomorrow we will hold flower communion with the help of members from our sister congregation. Wednesday we will go to their sanctuary for a candlelight service. It is a great comfort to not be alone in town. We are so fortunate to have two churches in this area. I encourage as many members from both churches as possible to attend.

What I find in these sorts of ceremonies is that there is someone there who really wants to see you; someone who will get great comfort just by seeing that you are there. And if you go, in order so that this person might see you, you may discover that there was someone you really wanted to see and did not yet know it. It's best just to go.

And don't forget the flower.

Personally, my son has started asking questions. This is the fourth time in his young life that mama has had to work after something very bad has happened. What bothers me the most, is that the talk was so much easier today, because we have had it so many times now. I object to living in a world in which I have learned the vocabulary to explain the unthinkable/unacceptable to my six year old son.

As I trudge off to sleepless rest, let me say that I have felt nothing but pride, affection, and interconnection with the Unitarian Universalists of this country, for the congregations gathered in our Central Virginia cluster, and for the peaceful people coming to us on their journey. With company like this, I am incapable of despair.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bring a Flower

Unitarian Universalists are all familiar with the tradition of flower communion. In the face of hatred and violence during the Second World War, Norbert Capek gave us a tender celebration of peace, beauty, and love by creating the flower communion. Each person brings a blossom and we exchange them in observance of the fragile and lovely gifts of every human life

Although both Richmond congregations have observed the Flower Communion this year, we will join together again at the vigil on Tuesday night for a flower communion in response to the attack on our congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee. Bring a flower to give away at 5:30 PM on Tuesday evening and may our beloved peaceful tradition offer us solace in the face of tragedy.

In a Guitar Case

Sent to my comments section by Tim.

In A Guitar Case

I have carried guitar cases into Unitarian Universalist churches probably between 50 - 100 times in my life - mainly my own church but also a couple of others. I've played and sung to children, adults, activists. I've been met with everything from delight to indifference, but it's always been something I've enjoyed.

This morning I walked into my church, First UU of Richmond, with two guitar cases, and my friend Greg Greenway walked in with one. Inside his was his fabulous 1972 (or '73, I always forget) Martin D-28, which he played fantastically. I tried to hang in with my Regal dobro and my Carter D-10 pedal steel. The service was joyous, and any chance I get to play with Greg lifts my spirit to a very high level.

Around the same time, a few hundred miles to the west, a man walked into Tennessee Valley UU Church with a guitar case, but inside was a shotgun. This troubled man began firing, killing a brother named Greg McKendry who witnesses say took the blast to save others - one of which was his foster son who was performing on the pulpit. (A foster father - this was a man familiar with sacrificing for others.)

I have been devasted by this tragedy, so I can only imagine the grief felt by my brothers and sisters in Tennessee. I hope this is not perceived as sexist, but I think that something may be genetically ingrained in a man that his family must be protected. Greg McKendry did this - bless him. He is my hero.

For a brief moment I wondered if placing one's family in the midst of a religion that promotes inclusiveness in a violently intolerant world is a proper thing to do. Fortunately that thought passed - bigotry and intolerance can not be surrendered to.

But in a guitar case. A contraption where wood and wire fight one another as beauty comes out - that's what belongs in a guitar case. A guitar is an instrument of joy and consolation and action - remember, Woody's machine killed fascists, but what it really killed was fascism. That a guitar case could house an instrument of death and tragedy sickens me.

I send love to the Tennesee Valley UU Church congregation and to the UU family everywhere. Roots hold me close, wings set me free, spirit of life come to me, come to me.

Mid-week services for Richmond UUs

The latest news we have received about the Knoxville congregation is that two people were killed and seven injured by an assailant who entered during worship. The assailant is in custody. Three UU congregations were involved in the special worship service which was a musical performance by children of each community but held at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

It is unfathomable that someone knowingly attacked a service led by children. I know that most of us are still in shock.

So that everyone in our Unitarian Universalist circle here in Richmond has an opportunity to attend services this week, there are two opportunities to join together. I will lead the 5:30 PM service on Tuesday at First Church with the help of members from both churches. There will also be a 7:00 PM service at UUCC in Glen Allen on Wednesday. All area UUs and friends are invited to both. Our hope is that one of these times will be convenient for everyone.

Our Hearts are with you, TVUUC

The news has just come in that our brothers and sisters at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church were attacked in worship by a gunman. We hold this congregation in our hearts, cry with them at their loss, and hope and pray for the recovery of the victims in critical condition.

We will hold a Vespers service in their honor and to be together during our time of grief at 5:30 PM, Tuesday in the Great Hall at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, Virginia. I have invited our sister church, the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Glen Allen to join us, so that we may all be together.

Any further information will be posted here and at our website which you can access through the links to the right of this post.

For the forty Richmond UUs who have just returned from SUUSI, I have tried to contact some of our Knoxville friends who were with us this past week. I have not yet heard back from them. I left messages letting them know that we love them and offering our assistance in any way.

May the love and tolerance that are the heart of our religion comfort us and guide us through this sad time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Greetings from SUUSI

Greetings from the holy land of Unitarian Universalist peaceniks! I am on pilgrimage at SUUSI in Radford, Virginia - where hippie is a compliment, and nail polish is mostly on men's toes.

It is good living here. Singing along with folk singers, hugging all my dear friends I've only known for ten weeks (but those weeks were spread over a decade, so I know them well.) Tonight we are doing a moon ritual - hope we get to howl.

Brought my posse of 9 with me. We range in age from 3 - 83 and I am constantly amazed at the similarities between the toddler and the great-grandma. They don't want to take a shower, need a nap desperately, and are grooving on the cafeteria setup. Then again, the rest of us are between 6 and 43 and are strikingly uniform, as well - want to hang out with our new friends, party all night, and also kind of keen on the whole french fries at every meal possibility.

Got a new computer and can barely use it, so will post some pics later. Maybe.

Happy Summer, Jots fans!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hallucinations or Premonitions?

For those fearing my imminent demise, I did sneak out for three hours yesterday. I was out long enough to meet Ralph Nader, introduce him for his speech, pick up a copy of "An Unreasonable Man", & head back home before the rash completely took over.

Should I succumb to scarlet fever (how very performance artist!) please put what dear crusader Nader said about me in the one act play that will be performed at my jahrzeit... "Alane is a consistent progressive voice in this community."

Jeff Goldblum is to play Nader, Chris Leavins is my husband, Larry the Cable Guy my best friend, and find something for Ewan MacGregor to do. I will be played by that gal who starred in "Extras" or by Tina Turner if she comes out of retirement.

Please chalk this one up to fever and give it not another thought.

Peace, Love, and...

Back in a few days. Been down with what seems to be scarlet fever. How very retro of me, I know.

As Don Cornelius says...

Friday, July 04, 2008

America - Home of Rock

Happy Independence Day! I say that there is no better way to celebrate America than through love and rock n' roll. And so that was how I spent my evening - officiating at a rock and roll wedding. It was great. The bride and groom are a blast. (For my dear Canadian readers - the groom is one of you. He and I giggled about "Father Ted" and "The Young Ones" during the rehearsal.) The bride wore the world's most awesome wedding gown.

In this picture you can see the bride on bass, my other rock n' roll bride from earlier in the Spring on drums, and my buddy Roger wailing away on the sax.
Here are my buddies Steve and Stephen rockin' it out at the reception. I love a reception where the guests just start grabbing instruments and rockin' the house. Steve later did a mean tango with the bride's mother.
And these are the stunning feet of the groom. He wore a white suit, blue shirt, white tie, and these FANTASTIC shoes. Needless to say, he had no trouble breaking the glass at the end of the ceremony.
America the beautiful! Rock on.

My brief political life

In spite of illness, I really have had an amazing year. Among the great moments - my husband's 40th birthday, Baby Dent getting potty trained, having the kitchen redone, seeing a Drive By Truckers show, Katrina rebuilding in Mississippi... big year so far.

It's hard to tell from the pictures, but another lovely moment was being invited to give the invocation at the special session of the Virginia General Assembly. A big hoo-ha was made over me, which is very flattering. My parents, hsband, son, and friends came to cheer me on. And no one threw rotten produce at me. A successful day in Virginia politics.

I like this picture because although I am but a white blur in the middle, you can see my sweet mama watching on.

Unfortunately, the prayer didn't work. I prayed for good will and insight, but the legislators began yelling at each other before I made it back to my seat. I had a faux prayer I had threatened to pray. It went something along these lines...

Dear Lord, we thank you for joining us today, but if you have more pressing matters feel free to attend to them because there are enough people in this room who think they are you.

Maybe I should have used that one.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


I have been remiss in posting some quilting pics for my dear reader in Maine. I'm always flattered by the question, "How do you have time to quilt?!?" I don't. I believe that this quilt was begun before Baby Dent was born. It did not cooperate and had to be re-visioned at numerous stages. Lucky for me, Little Man is into cowboys again. It started out as a lap quilt but was too busy. So the sashing was added. Then it wasn't big enough. So the FIVE borders were added. I gritted my teeth at every additional border. As I gritted, I also waited... months. It was only at the end that I asked how on earth this was less busy.
The one part of this process I greatly enjoyed was the free-hand machine quilting. Five years ago my mother and I invested in a Bernina. There is a long story about my mother and my interest in sewing. The short version is that she supports my habit in spite of thinking I am mildly crazy. By supporting my habit, she enabled me to get the Bernina and with that purchase I became a VERY HAPPY quilter. I've long admired creative and organic folk art style quilting. The Bernina allows me to do that to some degree and to have the quilt finished before the child enters college.
There are a variety of designs quilted on but what you see above is an arrow and a target. I was incredibly happy designing and sewing this. I was able to zone out for thirty or forty minutes at a time. I seem to recall that this part was done after Baby Dent was weaned so I was feeling superhuman at the time.

When I began quilting at 19 I could only focus on a finished product and was constantly frustrated and aggravated by the process. What redeemed all that frustration was hanging out with my quilting mentor, Kate. As I've gotten older and mommy-fied, I care much less about finishing. I've stopped giving quilts to everyone for holidays and special occasions. Although there has been grumbling, the removal of the pressure of time constraints has helped me to enjoy the process much more.

Now I quilt primarily to have some time that is not focused on family or work. The whirring of the machine, the methodical and repetitive movements, the hypnotic effects of the fabric colors all combine to give me a little escape from my active mind. And from short people who yell in my house. So what was about social connections and completion has become a solo, meditative, meandering process. That pretty much sums up my experience of aging, too.

To my readers in Maine - hope retirement is treating you well. Remember, the plan was to CHILL OUT!

Rockin' Hob Nobbin

YouTube - The Baseball Project
This is my first attempt at blogging a video. I think I've just linked it instead of getting the cool screen look. Well, what did you expect from a Luddite at 2:30AM?

The drummer and the center guy were joined in holy matrimony by yours truly in the Spring. They are charming and darling, talented and delightful, even if they didn't tell their minister they were going to be on Letterman. Check 'em out on myspace, too.

Other blogs update

Insomnia ain't so bad. I've been catching up with my blogging pals. Over at the Journey, Lizard Eater's daughter's cancer appears to be back on the ropes. (I'll never sleep now. Just too dablurn exciting! Check her out through my links to your right. Leave her a supportive comment and tell her I sent you.)

My buddies over at Dogwalk RVA appear to have gone to a Rancid show (Sweeeeeeeet!) and gave me a shoutout. Check out the Tuesday June 24 post for that.

And check out Rev. Ricky's extremely fine biker mustache! I LOVE biker mustaches, fu-manchus, mutton chops, soul patches, and other out there facial hair patterns. You go, Rev. Ricky! I'm forever trying to talk friends into living on the edge with their beards. I just think it looks like fun. If the steroids make me get hairy and mannish I am SO coiffing it up on my face.

Did I just say that? Dear heavens, I need to go back to the religious books and stay off the internet past 10 PM. (Repeat to self - What would the Dalai Lama do? What would Thomas Merton do? What would Kermit the Frog do? And no more Diet Coke!)

Riding High and Incoherent

Back from the national convention of UUs in Fort Lauderdale. Hmmm. Very little to report on that.

Seeing Forrester Church for the last time was the biggest event of the week for me. I am reading his last book now. He was sweetly autographing copies in spite of his weakness and terminal cancer side effects. I managed not to burst into tears while talking to him. I am incredibly grateful that he has written so many good books, and told him so. He has gained a Buddha smile as he has lost a whole person of weight. I do not expect to cross his path again, and he made a special effort to be kind and friendly. It is a wonderful memory to carry with me.

As for the new meds in my system, for once the side effects are exactly as advertised: dizziness and nausea twice daily. I rest. It goes away. The beauty of those side effects is that I have no desire for a beer. The "no drinking allowed" edict is thus, a non-event. The weight gain from the steroids is another story...

Baby Dent has been a pistol as she approaches her third birthday. I don't recall her being so LOUD last week. Little Man has taken to making lists of birthday wishes (all super-hero costumes) and muttering under his breath. Is he turning six or fourteen? Like an idiot, I let him watch Rush Hour 3 in Florida. What WAS I thinking? Jackie Chan and kungfu is what. I forgot about the mouth on Chris Tucker. Little Man has not forgotten a moment of Chris Tucker.

Glad to be home with the super-spouse. Handling those kids without him was distinctly unpleasant. He is calm, smiling, and relaxed. I let him know that he should not look so happy after a week without us. I caught him putting a bumper sticker on his car tonight: Middle-class white guys for Barack Obama. I think he was giggling.

I'm in the middle of the summer ministerial reading. Thank goodness for Goodreads. (For those who have not heard - Goodreads is a site that helps you keep track of your reading and discover books that may interest you.) I find such better variety by doing Goodreads searches than I do wandering the box bookstore or the library. I've got half a dozen books going at the moment, but the goals for the summer are hefty so I need to keep cranking through.

As for today's blogging, if I don't sound like myself it is because I'm hopped up on Diet Coke. Again - WHAT... WAS... I... Thinking?!?! Before I do this stuff I really need to think about my spiritual mentors: what would the Dalai Lama do? Or Thomas Merton? Or Kermit the Frog? Or Earth, Wind and Fire? Or Louise Brooks? (Possible side effects of over-caffeination include jitters, incomplete sentences, and overstating examples. Or talking too much. Or blogging at 2 AM. Or... ACK!!!)