Saturday, June 30, 2007

States I have visited

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Blogging is like fishing

I've noticed that some days the catch is better than others. Oh, I'm strictly catch and release, on the fishing analogy, since my readers are free to nibble on all the bait that's out there (and, judging from the "next post" feature that Blogger offers, there's a lot of variety out there, some of it a bit too eyebrow-raising for me).

One day last week I noticed I had over 100 hits on the blog, which is a record for me, and I went back to see if I could figure it out, like any good fisherperson. I think it was probably Tuesday's post about earnest Unitarian Universalists and the definition of hippies and the extreme edges of social movement, which engendered some of the best comments I've read lately on all sides of the issue. Of course, it was also a General Assembly retrospective, in a way, because my thoughts had been stimulated by hopping off the MAX one day in Portland and seeing UUs with blotchy signs in too-small lettering, inviting people to a rally of some kind and uttering the typical UU message of "It's wrong; let's fix it!"

The Favorite Son even took on the challenge, making a case for the passionate fools who TRULY believe as opposed to those who merely want attention, and Joel the Neff lambasted for the other side, feeling that protest marches are not effective unless they rally already-persuaded troops. I did have to bridle on that one, because I think that social protest has its place, whether or not there is an immediate positive response. Change takes time.

Anyhow, this post is about fishing and its similarity to blogging. I suspect it's more than the bait we throw out there; I suspect it's related to water and weather conditions, time variations, mood swings, and the like. It's summer, so many people's schedules are different and they aren't reading blogs (or they are unexpectedly having time to read blogs). Fish feed when they're hungry, in parts of the water that are conducive to rest and to food availability; bloggers do too, IMHO.

I also think that over this past year of blogging, my technical know-how has grown, so that I've learned to put a greater variety of posts on the blog. I've also learned that a few of my congregants read the blog, so I try to be cognizant of their interest. And of course The Son and The Neff read it, so I know I'm speaking to them as well.

My former husband once said that fishing was addictive because of its quality of intermittent reinforcement. That's what blogging is to me, I think. I never know for sure what bait is going to attract the fish; I can't know what is happening in the lives of readers and whether or not they will come to check out the bait.

Actually, that's a lot like ministry. Blogging is like fishing is like ministry. There's that quality of intermittent reinforcement, where I don't know what my dear congregants need at any given time, so I have to give the best I can at all times. I don't blame the fish if they don't bite; I don't blame the readers if they don't check me out; I don't (usually) blame the congregants if they don't find what they need in me. But I don't (usually) blame myself either. I do make every effort to give my best at all times and that's the heart of ministry.

We ministers cannot be all things to all people; we can only make our best effort and let go of the outcome, hoping that in some miraculous way it will all come together and turn out well. And it often does!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wedding Pix at last!

Presenting Jayde Hamilton Gilmore and Michael Gilmore, newlyweds.

The Rev. Catherine Linesch with Mike and Jayde

Ms. Kitty and the Favorite Son

The Whole Fam Damily

All photos are by the incomparable Brook Riddick, a friend of the bridal couple, who surmounted many obstacles in his job as official photog.

Thinking about Civil Discourse

Ever since we had our brouhaha over the B-B incident, weeks ago, I've been thinking about conflict and the best ways to resolve it, whether that's in a church, in a group of friends, in a family, in a nation, in a world. Conflict is inevitable; conflagration is not, depending on how we humans respond to people we don't agree with.

I'm reminded of Lao-Tse's wisdom, which is in our hymnal, #602:

If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors, there must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart.

Conflict and peace are not opposites. Humans will always disagree. The turning point comes when we choose how to respond to those we disagree with. And we do this from a place in our hearts, as Lao-Tse implies. When we respond in certain ways, we stir up resentment and additional conflict. When we respond in others, we gain a glimpse into another person's mind and heart.

A heart that has been broken many times is most likely to respond in ways that increase resentment and anger. A broken heart is the outcome of many beatings: from losses at an early age, from mistreatment by friends and family, from a lack of self-esteem or sense of worth, from repeated failures, from alcoholism or addictions in the family, you get the picture. A broken heart is not just a metaphor; it is literally a physical and emotional injury.

Nearly everyone has had their heart broken at one time or another. Some have had repeated breakings and have not been able to heal properly, for a variety of reasons. Others have recognized their need to be healed and have sought a place of healing. Perhaps it's been a church or a therapist or another welcoming place. Some are partway between broken and healed; in fact, maybe most of us are in that "limbo" of half-healed.

One of the things I've noticed about conversations via email or blogging is that it feels safer to avenge one's many wounds by responding in disrespectful language in writing. We often say things in writing that we would never say face to face. I think we may be getting revenge for having been hurt many times by striking out in this way. I've done it, for sure, and have regretted it every time because it just blows up on me.

I know that I accomplish more by listening and trying to understand the other's point of view than I do by making assumptions and fighting back or condemning another point of view. My hurts are not someone else's problem; I need to deal with them in ways that do not hurt others.

What has struck me recently is the knowledge that we as Unitarian Universalists tend to be in favor of peace. We march, we protest the war, we write letters to the President and Co., yet we display non-peaceful tactics in other places. If there is to be peace in the world.....there must be peace in the heart.

We UUs need to examine, I think, our ways of being with each other, whether that's in church or on a blog or email or wherever, to make sure that our hearts' pain does not derail our good intentions for peace. We can hardly preach peace if we cannot act in peaceful ways.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mini Geek Ms. K.

I couldn't get the image to work right, which confirms my Mini Geek status, I guess. The quiz came out 32% on the Geek-o-meter.


Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

Good Grief, I'm only rated PG!

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

I've got to put some more "dirty" words in this thing. According to Mingle, I've only written "lesbian" once. For shame!

Let's see what this does: lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, intercourse, Gay Pride, drag queen, queer. Etc.

It'll be my goal for the new year, to up my rating to at least PG13!

Ms. Kitty's Saloon and Roadshow Anniversary Celebration Today

Drinks are on the house today! It's the first anniversary of Ms. Kitty's Saloon and Roadshow, so belly up to the bar, boys and girls, and have one on me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Deliver Us From Evil

is the name of a documentary outlining the pedophilic career of Father Oliver O'Grady and the machinations of the Catholic Church, right up to and including the current pope, to cover up O'Grady's rape and sodomization of numerous children in his several parishes in the 1970s and beyond. Instead of defrocking him, turning him in and cooperating with local law enforcement authorities, the local bishops and archbishop bumped him from parish to parish and eventually removed him to Ireland, where he walks free, while his victims in the U.S. suffer the consequences of his brutalization of them. O'Grady admits what he has done, almost in a dissociative way, and acknowledges that he himself was abused as a child by priests and by an older brother.

I recommend this movie for anyone who is concerned about the sexual abuse of children. It will tear your heart out to hear the voices of the victims.

I know what CC is talking about when...

she talks about "hippies", because we had a conversation at GA about just what a "hippie" is, by her definition. It's much the same way my son talks about some of the Unitarian Universalists he's known in the course of his life as a birthright UU. And forgive me, CC and MG, if I get it wrong, but, dang, I love those UUs who sit out front of the Convention Center with their unreadable signs (the lettering being too small to be seen from the street or the MAX, making them useless). I love the ones who show up for protest marches and rallies even though they know that such activities are unlikely to end the war or save the old growth forest. I love the ones who can afford to take the time to lie down in front of trains carrying nuclear warheads, and the young men and women with trust funds who don't have to work and can therefore go to jail because they won't lose a job.

I know it, I'm crazy, but here's the deal: they are all so damned EARNEST! I like that in a person, even though it smacks of righteous piety, even though it seems hokey and useless. If the world was emptied of earnest people who do some of this footwork for those of us who do work day jobs, who make effective signs, who are a little nervous about trains and jails, where would we be? Would the world be getting better or not? Is their earnestness worse than our cynicism?

Frankly, I think we need the extremes out there, both the far ends of the religious right and the religious left. I think we need sin/evil/bad vibes in the world to inspire us to strive for the good. So often we do good in response to bad, rather than good for good's sake. It seems to be a human trait to respond somehow to what we see happening in the world. And sometimes our responses express our desire for change, rather than force change itself. But, hey, a girl's gotta do something, right?

The extremes get us going. The anti-gay picketers at Pride look foolish in comparison to the joyous expressions of acceptance and love by Pride supporters and activists, and we redouble our efforts to do the work because we are so juiced by the ridiculousness of the anti movement. So maybe if our earnest but less-effective UUs invite our scorn, they also invite us to get going on the real work.

This is all being said on an empty stomach. I think I'll go have some breakfast.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Blogger Dinner photos

Bloggers at the Trough, with Belly Dancer.

Just getting there was an experience!

I have been looking forward to GA on my home turf (the PNWD) for the three or four years since it was announced that GA 07 would be in Portland, Oregon. No way was I going to miss this one! I hadn't been able to attend since Boston in 03 and the only reason I made it to that one was that I was going to be able to march in the SLT because I'd reached Final Fellowship status.

What I didn't count on were the barriers that would crop up, limiting my involvement: my son's wedding on the 17th, the parttime work which doesn't exactly cover lots of professional expenses, my friend Sue's sudden need for hip surgery throwing into question my being able to sleep on her couch, an impending death in the congregation, and the peroneal tendinitis which has made walking painful for several weeks.

Whew! When I look at the list of barriers, I wonder that I even decided to go! But after arriving home from the wedding on Monday, I did a quick turnaround that included laundry, a visit to the dying member's family, a visit to the hospital to see another parishioner, packing the car and gassing up, and I left for Ministry Days at 6 a.m. on Wednesday. Rush hour in Seattle was impossible to avoid, but I made it to Portland by noon, just in time to pick up registration materials for Ministry Days but having missed most of the excitement. As it happened, I didn't even get to the Berry Street lecture because I got caught up with freshly-arriving friends from Colorado and Portland whom I hadn't seen for years.

By that time, most of the barriers to my GA experience had shrunk; Sue was home from the hospital and appreciated my help with her limited mobility, I had amassed sufficient funds from extra gigs to be able to eat and pay parking, gas, registration, meals, and the tendinitis responded to ibuprofen as necessary. But all the walking at a huge place like the Oregon Convention Center meant lots of time on my feet, and eventually I developed blisters! Blisters! I haven't had blisters like these for years! But I coped and bandaged myself up and managed not to drag one foot too badly as I limped from MAX to Alexis Greek Restaurant, to Lloyd Center, to the Convention Center, to Saturday Market, etc.

One highlight for me was meeting the UU bloggers, particularly Chalice Chick and Linguist Friend with whom I had time to really hang out. On Sunday night the three of us had dinner at Old Wives Tales in Portland and then I took them on a short tour of a few of my favorite parts of Portland---Rocky Butte, the house I lived in when serving Wy'east UUC, mostly. CC made sure we hunted down Voodoo Donuts, which was an experience of note, and then I dropped them off at their lodgings near PSU.

The blogger dinner was a hoot, complete with belly dancer! Nearly every person who signed up made it to Alexis, where we enjoyed a sumptuous meal of lots of stuff I can taste but can't pronounce or spell. We even paid the bill handily with a couple of bucks to spare----$705.00! All of it was delicious, especially the crispy little calamari.

I took pictures and will get them up soon. Gotta go plan a memorial service right now.

UPDATE: I meant to add that I met UU Momma at GA as well. She didn't want to be outed, so I'm not using her name, but I'll betcha a lot of people saw her and didn't know her! I was disappointed that UU Enforcer and Post Modern Preacher didn't make it to the dinner after making a reservation, but it's hard to cram everything into GA!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

First things first...

Earthbound Spirit was nice enough to ask about The Wedding, at the blogger dinner, so let me say that it was simply a wonderful occasion, I did NOT cry, though I was tempted, and Reno was bearably hot.

It's interesting to marry off one's first- and onlyborn child. I always ask couples, in the course of my preparing the ceremony, what they think marriage will change between them and they always answer "why, nothing that we can think of; we've been living together, and have experienced so much together already" and look at me incredulously. I try to think of a way to say tactfully, "believe me, darlings, things will change, perhaps subtly, but they will change once your relationship is legally certified."

Nobody warned me that this is what happens when a child marries, that this act of "leaving mother and father and cleaving to a spouse", as they say in the Bible (more or less, I know I don't have it quite right), will inexorably change the relationship between parent and child.

I've always been close to my son and we have talked over some major life issues, both his and mine, over the course of our 35 year relationship. But I no longer have the distinction of being the main female in his life; I have given that spot to a beautiful young woman who now wears the Morrison tartan he gave her in their wedding ceremony. And I am aware that my life has changed as well.

Our relationship is subtly different because of the legal ceremony that bound them together as husband and wife. I don't feel grief over it, but I am surprised by it. I am aware that my prayers for them are different than they were two weeks ago. They are truly a family separate from me and that is the way it's supposed to be.

I have a few pictures that I'll post later, when I get them sorted out.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Let the Games begin!

I'm in Portland now, standing in the Cyber Cafe pounding out my first GA post. I have in my bag a stack of notices to post on the GA bulletin board for all the bloggers going to the dinner. They will go up under your screen name or the name you rsvped under. I forgot to put the date on them, but you know what the date is. The West bound MAX is right outside the Convention Center door, so it's easy to find. Skidmore Fountain is about a ten minute ride.

CC, sorry you're not crazy about Portland yet. But you might get more enamored as time goes on. You're pretty tired, I imagine and that's not the best way to see Portland.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I have added an update to the previous post, with more details about the Blogger Dinner, but if you are too frazzled to scroll down to that information, here is a recap:

BRING PLENTY OF CASH (no cards or checks)
BE A GOOD GUEST (we want them to love UUs)
TIP GENEROUSLY (they're going to be working hard)
DON'T COMPLAIN IF THINGS ARE A LITTLE SLOW (ordering off the menu may slow things down a little, but a family style meal seemed unrealistic because several people have to come late and because we have such varied tastes)

I know I sound like your mother, but that's the breaks.

See you Friday!

Blogger Dinner Reminders

PeaceBang reminds me to insist that all those coming to the Blogger Dinner, this Friday at 6 p.m. or as soon as you can get there from the blogger presentation by several of our kin, BRING LOTS OF CASH AND DON'T ASSUME THAT THE RESTAURANT TAKES CHECKS!

We will gather at 6 p.m. or thereabouts, at Alexis Greek Restaurant at 215 West Burnside (503-224-8577). I will be calling them today to reaffirm our dinner party and will immediately post if there is a change in plans, so check in at MsKitty's from the GA CyberCafe on Friday, to see if there are any changes. I hope there won't be, but I haven't talked to them for a little while.

I don't know most people's real names, so if you get a physical, paper note from me about the dinner, you'll get it under your blogger name. Here are the names I'm using:

Linguist Friend
Chalice Chick
Sara Robinson
Earthbound Spirit
UU Enforcer
UU Soul
Postmodern Preacher
Rev. Ricky
Ron Robinson (?)
Every 7th Day
Sonja Cohen

If you're not on this list, or if I have your name wrong, please let me know.

This is probably the last time I will try to post about the dinner unless something goes wrong and we have to change our plans. I'm not leaving for GA till Wednesday morning, so you have about 24 hours to let me know. Otherwise, leave me a note on the GA bulletin board under MsKitty or Kit Ketcham.

See you all soon!

UPDATE: I just talked to Jerry at Alexis, we are confirmed for Friday the 22nd at 6:15 p.m., which should give us a little time to get to the restaurant after hearing CC, iMin, Phil, and CO. I told him we would order off the menu, we would pay our own bills with cash, and we had heard that Alexis was the best place in town for something like this. SO! I expect us to be good guests, with plenty of cash, good tippers (no cheapskates allowed!), and courteous to the staff. (Do I sound like your mother? Good!)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Just back from Reno

where my son married his sweetheart, with the help of my friend the Rev. Catherine. It was a wonderful occasion, everything went right, the bridal party was beautiful in kilts and tartans, I didn't cry (does tearing up a smidge count?), nobody got overly smashed, and it's least this part of the marriage.

But in checking my voice mail at home, I learned that a member of the congregation who has been sick for awhile has entered the last days of her life. I called immediately upon getting the message, learned that she is sleeping most of the time, with heavy morphine available, and she will not live more than another few days. The line from Blake's hymn "Every Night and Every Morn" runs through my head: "Joy and woe are woven fine..."

So the joy of the day is tempered by the woe that a family in my congregation is experiencing. Isn't that life?

More later, with a picture of the newlyweds.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The wedding bells are tuning up!

Tomorrow morning, I'll hop the Whidbey/SeaTac shuttle at 7 a.m. and head for the airport, arriving in Reno about noon for the big wedding weekend.

I'm excited as can be about the wedding. My son and his bride have been preparing for their wedding with my extension training pal Catherine, so I'm excited about seeing her again too. And I'll be able to see family members I haven't seen for a long time---Mike's dad and his wife, uncles, aunts, and cousins who have been far-flung for quite awhile, my sister and her husband who will be my roomies during the weekend.

I'm all packed, the plants are watered, the check for the catsitter is on the fridge, all systems are go. I probably won't be able to write again until I'm back home on Monday night. I got my camera charged up and it has lots of storage space on the memory card, so I hope to have a few pictures of the wedding to display when I get back.

So, till then...

Whidbey Island Gay and Lesbian Teens, there's hope!

Just in case any Whidbey Island BGLT teens are googling in search of resources to help them deal with the confusions and trials of being gay, lesbian, bi, or trans, a PFLAG chapter is forming on the island and hopes to create a safe space for Island County teens to get together, perhaps within the next few months. If you are in need of such a group, you are welcome to email me at

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I love Billy Graham...

and as the news has spread that his wife Ruth is near death, I am reminded of my lifelong admiration for this man who, though his theology is much different from mine, has lived a life of integrity and conscience. I remember attending Billy Graham crusades in the 50's with my parents, both Graham fans, and thrilling to the sound of that prophetic voice, testifying to his love of Jesus Christ and inspiring thousands to come forward and seek a relationship with God.

We attended every crusade that came to Portland, Oregon, and listened, rapt, to George Beverly Shea singing "How Great Thou Art" and "I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked" and "My God and I". I saw him on TV a few days ago, at the dedication of the Graham library, quite by accident, and I was gripped by the same powerful feelings I had then, that religion could be something transformative and transcendent. And Billy Graham's preaching underscored that understanding of religion as a powerful positive force.

Billy Graham will not live much longer and with him may die a conservative Jesus-centered theology that has been swept overboard in a tide of phony Christianity. I hope not. We need conservative Christians like Billy Graham.

I have been disappointed in his son Franklin, who offended me deeply at the Columbine High School massacre public memorial in 1999, by praying such a doctrinal prayer that any listener who was not conservative Christian was left out. I doubt that Franklin Graham is anywhere near the man his dad has been. He seems too patina-ed over with the gloss of make-a-buck conservatism, not the genuine, deep in the heart love of Jesus that his father and mother have shown.

I grieve for the loss of that Christianity of deep integrity and conscience as exemplified by the lives of Billy and Ruth Graham, far removed as they are from my UU theology. We need men and women like the elder Grahams.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Have Sermon, Will Travel

The life of a consulting, or parttime, minister is a mixed bag of developing relationships with a congregation in a matter of 40 hours or so a month, usually while living in another town. There are some advantages to not being available 24/7, but there are disadvantages too---like a minuscule income!

To offset the lack of a larger paycheck, many of us accept other gigs fairly often. I love to do weddings, as I've mentioned, and I've officiated at memorial services for people I've never met, as well as an occasional baby blessing. But my favorite thing to do, in the extra gig department, is to preach at other churches.

Out here in the PNWD, the going rate for a UU minister who preaches at a church not his/her own is $250 plus travel. It's a sweet opportunity, to meet Unitarian Universalists who are just as committed to their faith as my own congregants, who are excited to meet me, and to learn something new from a new voice.

I just sent off blurbs to two newsletter editors for their July issue, since I will be preaching at Cascade UUF in Wenatchee WA, and at Pacific UUF in Astoria OR in July. I've decided to share my "Holy Fool" sermon with them, as summertime services tend to be light-hearted, more laid-back, more casual. And both Whidbey and Vashon have loved this sermon, so I feel confident that others will too.

In choosing a sermon for another congregation, I've found it helpful to skull with the minister if I get a chance or to choose some theme that is universally applicable, with a good story in it, perhaps some personal revelation, and a beginning gambit that moves people out of their left brains and into their right brains.

For "Holy Fool", it's a joke. For "In Andy's Garden", it's the song "I come to the garden alone". For "Religiously Bilingual", it's "Swing Low Sweet Chariot". Sometimes it's a poem or a personal story. I want to engage people, pique their interest, get them laughing or give them a catch in the throat.

I confess that I have formed my preaching style by listening to bad preachers. Over the years of my church-going, I have heard good preachers and bad, and the bad ones offer better lessons than the good ones. A preaching style is highly personal and unique to an individual. Years of dissecting the techniques (or non-techniques) of boring preachers have taught me that drama is important. Not too much of it, but enough to keep people tracking on what I'm saying. I can offer drama in words or in tone or in stretches of silence. The dullest preacher never says anything about him/herself that reveals something I can connect with; sometimes, of course, the liveliest preacher shares too much and the drama is a little embarrassing!

So it's important not to do self-therapy in the pulpit, but it's every bit as important not to be pedantic, or too opaque, or too full of oneself. The best advice I ever got about preaching was the reminder to slow way down and really deliver the sermon, not just rattle it off. Pausing between sentences for effect has given my sermons punch that people seem to appreciate.

I always use a manuscript, because I know I babble if I don't have my words pretty well constructed in advance. Babbling is not an effective speaking technique; it only works for brooks. My manuscripts are always double-spaced, 14 point type, and are laid out so that I don't have to turn a page in the middle of a sentence. I learned to slide the page to the side, instead of actually turning it; thank you, Robert Latham! And thanks to Joe Willis for advising me to number the pages of the manuscript, because it is too easy to get them out of order otherwise.

Preaching is one of my favorite things to do. I am just enough of a ham at heart to thoroughly enjoy getting up in front of a crowd, offering them something juicy to chew on, and feel the connections grow. Lots of fun.

Blogger Dinner review

Just a quickie review of those attending the UU Blogger Dinner on Friday, June 22, at Alexis Greek restaurant, 2nd and Burnside, Portland, 6 p.m., or as quickly as people can hop on the MAX and travel west to the Skidmore Fountain stop (this info will be reposted later), after the UU Blogger presentation by Chalice Chick, iMinister, Philocrites, and Peter Freedman, which goes from 4:30 to 5:45.

Our companions at dinner include: Linguist Friend, Chalice Chick, Hafidha, PeaceBang(?), Kim and Joyce, Sara Robinson and daughter, Earthbound Spirit, Chance, UU Enforcer, Philocrites, UUpdater and partner, RevSean and partner, UU Soul, Postmodern Preacher, Rev. Ricky, Ogre and partner, Ron and family, Every 7th Day and son, Sonja Cohen and boyfriend. And me, MsKitty.

If there are others who would like to attend, now's the time to make your reservation with me so that the restaurant is prepared adequately for this onslaught. So far we have about 30 people.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The role of the officiant at a wedding

I enjoy performing weddings, but it's a mixed bag of an experience. Most of the weddings I do are for couples who do not attend my church---or any other, most of the time. They have chosen a UU minister because neither half of the couple is particularly religious or because one of them has some loose tie to UUism or because they have a conflicted religious past or because they want something "spiritual but not religious".

I have always pastored small churches where engaged couples are few and far between, so I have said yes to most of the outside couples who have asked me to perform their wedding ceremony. I tend to do between five and ten every year and have always enjoyed meeting the couple and their families, putting together their wedding ceremony, rehearsing the wedding party, officiating at the wedding, and enjoying the festivities.

In most cases, the couple and I become rather fond of each other during the whole process. After all, when you're talking about what it takes to make a good marriage and discussing the deep questions of marital life (sex, money, kids), you move somewhat beyond casual status and form a bond, at least until the ceremony is over and the papers signed.

I consider it a real ministry, to offer a UU wedding ceremony customized by the couple's ideas and needs. It's a little like my chaplaincy work, however, in that I rarely see the couple again after our time together is finished and they are successfully wed. I'm reminded, after I've spent an hour praying with the family of a dying patient, that I will probably not see these people again, even though our time together was emotionally charged and I provided a valuable service.

After a wedding, even though I might be invited to the rehearsal dinner and after-ceremony festivities, I'm always conscious of my "employee" status and that I will probably not see these delightful people again, that we have not become friends, that I have provided a valuable service in an emotionally charged time. They couldn't do it without me (or so I like to think), but I have not really entered into their lives beyond the few hours we have spent together.

So I frame it in ways that make me feel useful and appreciated and look forward to the day when our Whidbey congregation grows enough that more engaged couples are part of the community and I can watch their lives develop together in the nurturing environment of our congregation.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Run up to a wedding

Actually, that's two weddings-----the one I'm performing this afternoon for a very nice young couple here on Whidbey and my son's wedding to his lovely fiancee next Sunday afternoon in Reno.

It's been interesting during this wedding-prep season, as I have met with couples, to think about the commitment a marrying couple is taking on, to ask them questions about their relationship, to hear the answers each has about how they met, what attracted them to each other, what they grew to love about the other, how they talk out their differences about money, kids, and sex, and what they as a couple hope to contribute to the world.

The season has taken on new meaning for me as I envision my son and his bride thinking about the same things I'm asking couples here. My son has talked with me some about his relationship with his fiancee and her family and I think I know what some of his answers to these questions might be, though I'm sure I would be surprised at times.

When they asked me to be just the mother of the groom, not the officiant, I was a bit surprised but also relieved. I don't think it is my place to ask my son the questions I feel free to ask others. It didn't feel right to me, to add this degree of intimacy to our relationship after a lifetime of mothering him. I know that other ministers feel fine about performing weddings for their own children, and I would have done it if they'd asked. But I'm glad they were clear about my role, so that I could be clear too.

So on Father's Day, June 17, my 34 and 10/12ths year old son will marry his longtime sweetheart at her parents' home in Reno, with the aid of my extension ministry pal Catherine, who lives nearby. The clans will gather----those on his side wearing the Morrison tartan, those on hers wearing the Hamilton plaid, and those who are part of their life in Renaissance reenactment circles, wearing their RenFaire garb. It will be fun to see my former in-laws at the wedding as well as to reconnect with the bride's family.

Actually, he's as much Scandinavian as he is Scots, but a Viking-Scot combo seemed a little over the top. However, he tells me that they will have an Asatru ceremony later on in the summer. Covering all the bases, I guess, which is probably typical for a Gen X jack Unitarian Universalist post YRUU-er. Whatever. Blessed Be, for sure.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Wiseacre or Wisewoman: a dilemma for the older woman

Boy, elderhood can sure sneak up on a girl. Here I was, looking in the mirror one day and seeing that semi-hot number from my past grinning back at me, sure of her charm, aware of her youth, not too upset about her body. Blink and that Ms Kitty goes away, to be replaced by an image with wrinkles, chin hairs, and the beginnings of a jowl. Arrrgggh! Where did that younger me disappear to? Am I now more Madam Kitty (well, that does have a ring to it!) than Miz Kitty?

So, yes, it's my birthday today. I was born six months after Pearl Harbor, on a rainy early summer day in Chehalis, Washington, much to my parents' delight, since they had lost two babies earlier in premature births. Today means Medicare, senior rates on the ferry, and AARP supplemental insurance policies. None of this is bad. I am glad to be 65. But I am pondering what it means in some other areas of my life.

During the brown bag discussion, one correspondent let me know that my Wise Woman persona was immensely irritating and drove the writer crazy. Boy, did that peg me, though I hadn't realized it until then. Thanks to that writer for the insight, but now I have to think about how to handle the wisdom I've accumulated over the 65 years since June 8, 1942, paltry as it may be.

Croneliness is supposed to be a virtue, according to some of my friends of a certain age, who delight in the label "crone". I frankly think the word is awful, reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel's captor, and don't want to apply it to myself. But I do have all this life experience to hand out and have to figure out how to do that, successfully.

Wiseacre Woman is another persona I am blessed with (who said Geminis had only two personalities? I have several). But I've found that WAW, though funny and lighthearted, may not be as credible as WW, even though the latter pushes buttons all over the place. (Apologies to my Gen X friends and relations who experience this from me.)

So on my 65th birthday, I am pondering how to be both wisely credible and respectful of others' personality/generational attributes. I am never going to be someone who calls someone down by name with criticisms of their opinions or deeds, except in the privacy of my own life, where the cats are my only audience. Well, maybe the president when he's on TV, but he can't hear me.

I'm not exactly conflict-averse, but I do have this cave I like to explore when others are ranting. In there, I think about other, related things I might say about the conflict that would be helpful without my having to come down on one side or the other. And then I come out and say them. Unfortunately, this isn't always hugely appreciated!

Well, gotta go take some ibuprofen for my 65 year old aches and pains. All you young folks play nice, you hear?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Starting from Scratch

It's been an interesting experience to begin to rebuild my files after the hard drive crash. I realized, during the initial period of relief that I could again indulge my computer addiction, that I had lost everything that was in my old hard drive: sermons dating back several years, ceremony templates, downloads of software, etc. I do have many of the older files saved on a disk, but not the new stuff. Some of it will have to be retyped in and reinstalled.

It's kind of like having your house burn down and losing all your belongings. The task becomes deciding what to replace. In this case, do I replace the old Appleworks word processing program that I had saved from an elderly eMac? Or do I invest in the new iWorks from Apple? I already have Word for Mac, but I prefer an Apple product.

Whatever I decide to do, it means getting used to something new after years of being comfortable with a computer loaded with just what I liked to use. The new iWorks, which I have on trial for 30 days, is remarkably similar in its design to the Word for Mac, with formatting procedures which are unfamiliar and will take getting used to.

Some life changes are easy and enjoyable. Some are tougher. I'm a little self-conscious about the fact that adjusting to new computer designs is harder for me than some of life's other challenges! Who knew, when we were all revelling in the wonders of computer abilities, that this machine would come to be so important in our lives? Not me!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

It has been eleven long days since...

I had access to my own computer. Finally, today, I was able to pick it up from the repair shop. Fortunately, it was all warranty work. Unfortunately, the problem was a bad hard drive, so I have lost all my data and need to rebuild from almost-scratch. Comcast still has all my email and many files are accessible through my email notes, so not all is lost. But it is an immense pain, still.

Please bear with me while I re-organize my desktop and files and I will think of something to write about later on today or tomorrow.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Saying Goodbye

It's been "that" weekend on Vashon Island, the Saturday night goodbye/happy birthday/etc. party, and the Sunday morning farewell service. It's almost too fresh to talk about; I haven't soaked up all the nuances and meaningful moments, absorbed all the love and good wishes of congregants, appreciated thoroughly the "memory book" of signatures and blessings, marveled enough at the fragrance of the roses in the beautiful crystal vase made by one of our artists. I need some distance from it, to understand all that they have given me, not just today but over the four years I have served this congregation.

We welcomed twelve new members, "bridged" our high school senior, I talked with the kids about what it means when a friend moves away, and had deliberately shortened the sermon because of all the other events in the service. But the choir had prepared "We Are One" for the postlude and that was the highlight of the service, in my view, because it was the same song they had welcomed me to Vashon with, four years ago this month.

Tomorrow we'll spend a little more time together at the morning koffee klatch and noon lunch bunch, but then I'll be on my way, not to return again as their minister, unless some unforeseen emergency arises before their new minister is selected. If our paths cross at district or UUA events, we'll enjoy that contact, but I will not serve them in a pastoral way. A new minister will take my place.

I feel so good about what they have accomplished and I am aware that my leadership has helped them to achieve much of it. They are a different congregation in many ways, stronger, livelier, more mature, more eager to spread the good word of our faith in the community. They are excited about the prospect of beginning to offer UUism every Sunday next year, something I wasn't sure they would ever do. They are going to offer the OWL program in the fall. They are even outgrowing the Baptist sanctuary where we are meeting and will need to consider finding new space soon.

At the same time, many of the elders of the congregation are fading. One longtime activist and founding member, who has been slowing down markedly, fainted at the party and had to be taken to the hospital on the mainland. Another elder attended in her wheelchair, her husband bent and frail at her side. Others' strength is diminishing and new members are stepping up to take their places, so that they can rest and enjoy.

So I have mixed feelings about this transition. I want and need to simplify my life and really immerse myself in one congregation, Whidbey; I am proud of Vashon's blossoming and happy to have helped them achieve so much growth; and I am sad to realize that I will not be the one to officiate at the memorial services of beloved elders or dedicate the new babies or bridge the upcoming seniors, or welcome the new members. Another person will do that in my stead and I will step back and smile quietly at the new successes that the new minister, Rev. Whoever, will help them achieve.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

What a ride!

And I don't just mean the recent dust-up over brown bags. I suspect we're all thoroughly sick of that one; at least I am. I am also sorry about the wounds inflicted. Seems like when we have passionately held points of view, it's hard not to express them pretty passionately. My style tends to be less direct than others', though just as passionate, and that has its own set of disadvantages.

My friend Margaret Marcuson at the Marcuson Leadership Circle (check her out on my blogroll) reminds me that our communication styles come, in large part, from our family settings. My family tended to soft-pedal conflict and talk it out quietly, if at all. Others have different styles. It's useful to understand that and to see where it works to our advantage and to our disadvantage.

Anyhow, the other wild ride was yesterday's journey to Vashon, which is where I am making shameless heavy use of my hostess's computer. Because of needing to go to the library to use the computer while mine is on the blink, I hung around the house much longer than I normally would on a Vashon day. The plan was to go to the library at 11, do the email stuff, catch up on blog reading, come home at 12, eat lunch, get the mail, deposit my paycheck, and go to the ferry dock.

But at 10:30, having nothing left to do to get ready, I turned on the local news just to waste some time because I never turn on TV in the morning. And it was there that I learned that the Mukilteo ferry had crashed into the dock, destroyed some pilings and damaged the boat, and that my normally placid ride to the mainland was going to be much different than I had expected! So now I had to decide---would it be better to try to catch the Keystone ferry and go via Port Townsend or to drive all the way up to the north end of the island, cross at the Deception Pass bridge, and come down I-5 to Seattle and the Fauntleroy ferry to Vashon? I chose the Deception Pass route, having learned that the Keystone ferry was down to one boat and I'd end up waiting longer. Better the sense of progress than the sense of spinning one's wheels waiting.

I had to wait for the mail to come till almost 1 p.m., so I was late getting away, and I didn't get to the Fauntleroy dock in time to catch the 4 p.m. So I missed the Worship Committee meeting on Vashon and arrived at my hostess's home starved and tired from battling Seattle Friday afternoon traffic. Not a picnic, believe me.

But it was useful to have all that time driving, because it gave me an opportunity to sort out my thoughts about criticizing and being criticized. Thanks to all who weighed in, whether pro or con. Your feedback is useful, whether immediately appreciated or not!