Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This was supposed to be my vacation month!

When you're a minister, you respond when there are crises and emergencies in your congregation, whether you're on vacation or not. TVUUC's minister, my colleague the Rev. Chris Buice, was on vacation last Sunday and came rushing home to be with his congregation when a hate-filled, angry man opened fire in the sanctuary during worship. It's what ministers do.

July is the month I normally consider my time to take a break from talking about church, though I knew that this summer might require some involvement because of the new building going up. I did not anticipate needing to deal with an inquiry from a sex offender, a belated complaint about the "Torture is a Moral Issue" banner which was up on the church site in June and much of July, and the Knoxville tragedy which affects all Unitarian Universalists everywhere because we are now aware that for some disturbed people out there, we are in the crosshairs of whatever gun they may be carrying.

It helped a lot yesterday when the Favorite Son called as I was gnawing on my tuna sandwich and feeling it hit with a thud in my overstressed stomach. We talked about what a wake-up call it is to know that there are people who hate liberal thinkers so much that they will murder them wholesale until the cops arrive and who hope for suicide-by-cop. And we talked about how odd it is to be murdered because we care about human rights, how odd it is to be so condemned by some groups because we push for justice and compassion even for murderers, and how very sad it is that if this clearly deranged man had used non-violent means to express his despair, the very people he hates would have offered caring and support and help.

As we talked, the FS offered some thoughts about security measures, and he said, in effect, that he would be most distressed if ever we were reduced to using screening devices or security guards or arming congregants because it would be so much a capitulation to the forces of violence. Better we should face our dissenters with the innocence of love, rather than an expectation of evil. (He is currently a security guard at Target while completing his education, so he knows a thing or two about security.)

I am so happy that this young man is my son. Over the years, he has gone from being a Sunday School rapscallion to a charismatic rebel to an unconventional and mature thinker who views life pragmatically but lovingly. I think we owe a great deal to the wonderful religious education he got at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, where we lived for many years. The DRE, Lark Matis-Ruffner, and his teachers refused to give up on him despite his scampy ways. My memories of those days run the gamut from despair to jubilation and amazement. I could tell you stories! But I won't---it's one of the agreements we have.

Anyhow, my so-called vacation is about over. I don't know how the lack of a real break will affect the coming year but I do know that it has given me a lot of sermon fodder. In a little while, my worship leader for Aug. 3 will be here to discuss how we will approach this service, in light of the Knoxville tragedy, the other concerns we have addressed this summer, and our new building's opening.

Stay tuned.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Orcinus offers this reflection on Knoxville violence

Read what Sara has written about Unitarian Universalists and the reality versus the perception, here at Orcinus. She makes me feel proud and not so scared.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Joy and Woe are Woven Fine...

My heart is broken for the victims of violence at the Tennessee Valley UU Congregation in Knoxville, TN, who were attacked by a gunman during a children's play performance this morning in their worship service. It's all over the news. I don't need to tell you more.

Please keep this congregation and its members and friends in your hearts and minds as they deal with the aftermath of this terrible tragedy.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Here's the Rockhoppers video

For Ms Kitty whooping it up and having fun, go past the performance and about halfway through the video to observe what she does for fun.


Having Fun...

is so rare in adult life, it seems to me. I think about the times I've thought of as "fun" and they often were actually moments of drunken high jinks or laughter at some contrived comic experience or sober enjoyment of some performance. None of your little-kid jubilantly leaping up in joy with arms stretched out, unselfconsciously and bodily taking pleasure in being part of an experience of creative passion. That's what FUN is----full scale pleasure in the moment without regret, without worry about how one looks or is perceived, without anxiety about consequences.

In looking back over the past two days, I can wholeheartedly say I have had two major, extended experiences of genuwine-article FUN, boys and girls!

Last night, Richard, Debbie and I practiced for an hour before we went over to Rockhoppers for the open mic, which was probably too much practice, because we didn't have the spontaneity we might have had. But that wasn't the fun part, though we did just fine.

The fun part came after our performance, when all the 15 or so musicians who had come to take part in the open mic got into the act and we put on a heck of a show together, just for ourselves and the one or two non-performers who showed up.

I morphed from my rather staid songstress persona into a rock and roll warbler, complete with the old bump and grind, making eyes at the guitarist, acting not-at-all like a Unitarian minister is supposed to act, and having a blast at it. There were no congregants lurking in the seats; I was not self-conscious, I was just living it up. For most of a couple of hours last night at Rockhoppers, we just got down with the tunes and the music and I had FUN, FUN, FUN!

Today was another experience of that type. There's a local group called Deja Blooz, and they were performing over in Langley for a couple of hours in a street concert. One member of the group had been at the open mic last night so I decided I'd go hear them this afternoon. This guy's wife is a good friend and during their performance, we were invited to "sing" with them on a couple of songs. Our part mostly consisted of chanting things like "mind your own bizness" or "la la la la" plus clapping and gesturing as appropriate. Again, no self-consciousness, just goofy fun.

Tonight I feel exhilarated by two truly joyous experiences of FUN!

Tomorrow I have to hustle over to preach at the Skagit Fellowship and then hustle back to do a wedding rehearsal at the Whidbey Institute for a wedding on Monday afternoon.

I got an unexpected refund of my Eliot tuition, so I went and spent it on books and a beautiful big sheepskin for the cats, which they have mostly ignored so far, but I will enjoy squinching my toes in it when I wake up tomorrow morning as it will also be my bedside rug.

Rockhoppers Open Mic

Here's a link to last night's great open mic at Rockhoppers: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/585260

I haven't yet figured out how to embed the Ustream video, as using the "embed" code always produces an error message. And the opening few moments of the first song are a little bumpy on the tape.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It pains me to admit this...

but Maxie has become a hunter. No longer the sweet little kitten who lived to play with the toys Mama provided, no longer the voracious eater who snarfed down every morsel of Friskies and elbowed Loosy and Lily out of the way so he could eat theirs too, no longer the Mama's boy who needed constant petting and perched on my shoulder purring madly, Max has reverted to his barn cat heritage.

Yes, he was born in a barn. And, like any good barn cat, he has impulses and instincts to kill and eat small creatures. It appalls me, yet I am resigned to picking up and getting rid of the discarded corpses of mice and voles, the headless bodies of rabbits, the bodiless heads of rabbits, the sinuous but rigid length of a garter snake, the swatch of feathers. I am not going to try to change his behavior and it is impossible to keep him inside or on the deck without seriously limiting everybody's freedom in this household.

I guess this is the dark side of the interdependent web, that felines are predisposed to hunt, kill, and eat small prey. Our domesticating them has not changed this inherent quality. If we were living in caves, doubtless this would have its upside. Living in a house creates certain problems.

Of course, his life is in danger too and, like the chipmunk he caught this morning, he needs to be ever vigilant to avoid becoming prey himself. He has a good startle reflex---he's back on the deck in a flash if he hears a strange noise---but he persists in prancing his bright white hide across the yard, as visible as if he were dyed fluorescent pink. Every night I half-expect that he won't show up, but so far he always has, dirty and foul-breathed from whatever he's eaten, full of affection for me and flopping down to groom himself before falling limply asleep on the bed.

You're disgusted, I know. I'm disgusted myself, especially because I have become the undertaker for these mauled remains and the caretaker of the mauler. But, as one of my fellow islanders has observed, that's what cats do and the small animals which are their prey know it. Prey takes precautions and occasionally gets caught. Predators do the same; they catch and are caught.

I thought this hymn lyric was appropriate. It's #17 in the grey hymnal.

"Every night and every morn some to misery are born;
Every morn and every night some are born to sweet delight.
Joy and woe are woven fine, clothing for the soul divine;
Under every grief and pine runs a joy with silken twine.
It is right it should be so: we were made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know, safely through the world we go."
(William Blake)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another great video

Here's a song that's in the running to be the theme song at the DNC this summer in Denver. It's performed here by members of Jefferson Unitarian Church in Denver and many of these singers are well-known and very dear to me!

How to tell someone they have said or done something racist.

Here's a video I found this morning at MissCellania. What do you think?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Learning Something Old

I've recently been watching a lecture series from The Teaching Company entitled  "Fundamentals of Music", a music theory course.  Sixteen lectures by a great lecturer and musician, Professor Robert Greenberg, PhD., of San Francisco Performances. on how music works, why harmonies fit together (or not), the voices of different instruments (including the human voice), tonality, intervals, key signatures, all that stuff.

I'm mostly a self-taught musician.  I took piano lessons for several years as a kid and still know my way around a keyboard.  I'm not an expert, but I read music pretty well, can sight read a vocal piece with some accuracy, can usually tell if I'm sharp or flat, and love to invent harmonies when I'm singing with other people.  I'm not much on the discipline of singing with a choral group, but I do love making music.

However, I've never known how it all fits together.  My formation of chords has always been seat-of-the-pants; I've had no idea of the logic of music, just an intuitive sense of what sounds right.  When I was a kid, I learned to peck out a tune on the piano and find what bass chords or notes went with the melody notes I was playing.  I could see that there were patterns but had no understanding of why.

This course changed all that for me.  I was fascinated to learn what the structure of music is.  It's not a science, but it is rational.  It's not fantasy but it is non-rational.  Does that make sense?  Music brings rationality and non-rationality together in one place.  Like great painting, music has patterns that are highly rational and yet create something beyond rationality.

Listening to Dr. Greenberg's lively lectures, the piano examples and visuals he provided, and hearing the passages chosen for their relevance to the material presented has filled in many of the blanks in my understanding of how music works.  This has been a great experience.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The fog comes in on little cat feet...

wrote Carl Sandburg. And so it did last night, chasing the almost-full moon out of the sky and waking me at 3 a.m. to the sound of a foghorn on the water, eerily loud though the coastline is more than a couple of miles away. It inserted itself into my dream and emerged as an alarm of some kind, so it took me a little while to go back to sleep as I conjured up all the reasons why I might hear an alarm in the middle of the night. None of them applied to the situation and I figured that the sound was carried farther than usual by the atmospheric conditions. This morning it is quite foggy and chilly.

Our gym is closed this week for the annual cleanup and repair, so my early morning routine is changed briefly and I have to find another way to get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. Yesterday I went to Double Bluff beach for a walk; the tide was way out and the sand was wet and firm underfoot. Families were out in force, enjoying the day, with little boys madly dashing their skimboards across tidepools and big boys strutting their stuff on jumps and long skims down tidal channels.

I've been in several situations lately where I've met folks in some casual setting and have avoided revealing what kind of work I do. Last night I went to a local public barbecue and sat down at an open table with a couple of women I didn't know. Our conversation was pretty general but eventually we introduced ourselves and the chitchat moved to more personal topics. I hadn't really decided what I'd do if they asked me what I did for work, but when the topic came up, I didn't have to answer with specifics. So these new acquaintances only know me as Kit, not as a minister.

I'm proud of my training and experience as a minister, but, as I wrote recently, it's a role in people's minds, and people often click into "OMG, she's a minister, what have I said?" or "OMG, she's a minister, how cool!" or "OMG, she's a minister, how repulsive! will she try to invite me to church?" or some such. In any case, the minister-role becomes more important than the person wearing the title.

I tend not to tell people I'm a minister unless they ask directly what I do. I'm old enough that some folks assume I'm retired, and I can say that I'm semi-retired. But once they know, I can see the wheels going around in their heads. Even if they aren't planning to become my parishioners, they seem to see me as a role, not as a person.

Here in this small rural community, even a small congregation's minister gets a certain renown and last night someone I'd barely met said, "oh, you're Kit Ketcham!" That's pleasant, on the one hand, and yet it requires my extroverted minister self to prepare to answer questions about my role rather than my self.

I'm torn. As an extroverted semi-introvert, I love the attention and recognition. At the same time, I'm a little embarrassed by it and don't feel I deserve it in large quantities. And I feel my shoulders sag just a little bit when one more person sees a role instead of a person when they meet me for the first time.

So all you seminarians out there, considering ministry, remember that there are many things you will dearly love about ministry. There will also be a few things you gradually learn to dislike and to avoid, when possible.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ministry changes people.

It's been a funny thing to realize, that, over the years of my formation as a minister and experience in the ministry, I've changed. Some of the traits and habits I've thought of as hard-wired have turned out to be malleable after all. Some of that is good. Some of that is disappointing.

The latest challenge I've had to acknowledge has been that I'm less of an extrovert than I used to be. Oh, sure, I'm still good in crowds, still love the attention of others, still friendly to people I've never seen before, that sort of stuff. But whereas I used to be able to do it for days on end, I just can't anymore. And I cut out at parties early, a lot of the time, because I just have to get home and be alone. I need a lot more solitude than I used to need.

All this dawned on me as I was dealing with the recent health crisis which made it smart to stay home from a weeklong UU summer camp that I've always enjoyed in the past. Once I had decided that I needed to stay close to home to make sure I was really well, I felt a surge of relief, and it wasn't all about health. It was about not wanting to go at all.

I'd felt it building as the time approached. I was beginning to weigh the joy of seeing many old friends again with the heavy knowledge that even though I was on vacation, it would feel like I had ministerial responsibilities, even though I had no official role nor would any Whidbeyites be at the camp.

I have served as chaplain at a couple of Eliots and people know I'm a minister. So they want to talk church or gossip about this minister or that or ask my thoughts about something going on in their home group. I am expected to take part in the small group discussion which I often enjoy, but I also know that my opinion is seen as "different" because of the title. I sometimes wonder if the discussion is squelched because of my being there. But if I'm not, the group and leader sometimes feel slighted.

Last winter, I went to the "over New Year's" camp and strained my back the first night. The pain of that injury didn't go away, so I went home from camp, feeling relieved that I could be alone again and not have to contend with so many relationships and my sense of responsibility to act like a minister.

So I've decided to not go to Eliot for the next year or so, to give myself a chance to think this through and see if I can find a middle road. It's not reasonable to wear a tag that says "please don't talk to me about church stuff because I'm on vacation"; UU summer camp is all about making connections with other UUs and church stuff is what we talk about, from individual congregational stuff to inspirational spiritual stuff.

I'm not big on psychosomatic illnesses, but it is eerily clear to me that an injury or a sickness is a legitimate way to get out of something. And it's happened to me twice with Eliot. I think there's a message there that I need to take heed of.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Oh! the joy!

I'm not Lewis or Clark, whichever penned this phrase way back when, and added "ocian in view". But I am feeling joyful this morning.

It's a gorgeous day, I am well again, and I got to attend a perfectly lovely party last night at a friend's----lots of music, friends, and terrific food at a home on a hill above the Sound. I didn't have enough sleep under my belt to stay beyond 9 p.m., but just spending a few hours in that beautiful spot with musical friends was enough to wake me this morning with a smile on my face!

Music was part of it; lots of guitars, mandolins, a fiddle, a concertina, a harmonica, tambourine, spoons, and people who knew how to make them sing. Me, I just sing, and that's enough for me. We did enough singing to make me happy and enough jamming to raise the roof. Fiddle tunes, especially.

But what was most intriguing was to meet other people in our host's life. You can tell a lot about a person from the friendships they consider important. Our host is very reserved, very private, doesn't share a lot about himself, so he's kind of a mystery to many. But his friends are not so shy and I learned more about him in the hour or so I spent talking with those friends than I have learned in two years of playing music with him.

Isn't it interesting to learn who somebody is through his/her friends' eyes? All indications have been that our host is multi-talented, musically, professionally, artistically, intellectually. But the depths to which these talents reach were undisclosed because he is so private. I didn't know he was Renaissance Man. He would never have let on.

Lots of friends will be glad to dish, lovingly or not, about another friend. None of that here. Just respect and affection. It was lovely to hear that kind of regard for somebody I've been wishing to know better.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Public Service Announcement: Lemonade!

Trader Joe's Organic Pink Lemonade, that is. In a 2 a.m. trip to the online People's Pharmacy, desperate for relief, I found a tiny comment that lemonade, because of its high citric acid content, has been used by some as a "grease the skids" elixir.

Luckily, I had a half-gone container of the afore-mentioned pink lemonade and promptly guzzled most of it, took a Vicodin, and went back to bed. A couple more trips to the refrigerator/bathroom, a couple unbroken hours of sleep, and voila! The culprit was exorcized. The size of a runty b.b., you wouldn't believe it could cause such distress.

This morning, no more pain, no more need to use the cute little cuppish sieve they give you at the doc's, and a lifelong loyalty to lemonade! Hallelujah, brothers and sisters!

PS. Despite the overnight relief, I am going to continue the antibiotics, just in case, and stay close to home this week, just in case.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Well, Dang...

With the fear of offering TMI (too much info), I will tell you that I am NOT going to Eliot Institute this week, having experienced a painful attack of kidney something or other last night and need to stay on the island, close enough to hie myself off to the doc in case the meds she gave me don't do the trick.

Though I'm sad about not seeing the multitudes of friends I was expecting to spend the week with, I'm relieved to know what the physical problem is and that it's not serious---or rather, it only feels serious.

Last night was awful. I barely slept, clutching a heating pad and getting up to go to the john frequently. I figured out some strategies for not having to get up so often and managed a couple of hours between 3 and 4 a.m. Early in the morning, I called the on-call doc from the clinic and he calmed my fears a lot, told me to come into the clinic as soon as I could today, and that I'd live.

By the time the clinic appointment rolled around, I had had a chance to catch up on some sleep and was feeling almost normal when I showed up at the doc's. But I don't want to take any chances on being far from home if it kicks up again, so I cancelled Eliot, notified Eliot friends, cancelled the ferry reservation, and have now started to look for silver linings.

One biggie is that a male friend I like a lot has had a music party scheduled for tomorrow and I was very disappointed that I couldn't go. Now I can, provided I don't have another bout of this stuff.

But I count on Eliot to recharge my batteries for the new church year. Guess I'll have to let that go for now and just have fun.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Changing Routines

This morning the cats woke me up earlier than usual, so I walked down to get the newspaper a few minutes earlier than I normally do, and IT WASN'T THERE! Hoping that it was just a few minutes late instead of missing entirely, I dawdled my way back up to the house, enjoying the dawn song of the birds, and brought my cup of coffee in here to read email instead of the paper.

But there was hardly any email and very few blog updates to read, which is the next thing I normally do after reading the paper with my coffee. Major routine upset! Made me a bit grumpy and I was relieved to find the paper in its box when I next went down to look for it. But the newspaper was incomplete---no Feature section and, more importantly, no comics! So I called the Times circulation desk and after many button-pushings, got the message "you are outside the redelivery zone. Sorry."

Argggh! Too many zigzags in my morning routine! And it made me think about how important routines are in our lives. Now, it's not going to ruin my day to do things differently one morning. But I love my morning routine---up early, feed cats, make coffee, walk down for the paper, read the paper with coffee, check emails and blog feeds, eat breakfast, go to the gym. That's how I start my day. Today, most of my routine was shifted around a bit, so my day started in a less familiar way.

I'm thinking about this because I often hear the gripe from some church goers that they wish worship services weren't always the same, with the same order of events, the repeated affirmation, the chairs a certain way. To hear some of them talk, you'd think they want the service to be different every week. I'd guess they haven't thought much about the importance of life routines.

There is a benefit to familiar ritual and routine; it's comfortable, it's reassuring, it's easy to do, its familiarity is soothing. Yet there's also a benefit to shaking things up occasionally; it shifts us out of our comfort zone and into a new perspective.

In layled congregations, where all the work is done by volunteers and there is no minister to help out, it's not uncommon to have every service be different. It's the "different strokes" model, where every service is designed and presented by a different person and there is less continuity between services. When a minister joins the worship scene, there's often a sense of loss of power and resultant angst, even conflict.

One of the symptoms of that sense of loss is an objection by some to the regularity of the minister-led services. For a minister, the ordered service is a boon; I can't imagine reworking the order of service every week to keep from falling into a regular pattern, for one thing.

And I firmly believe that repeated patterns in worship are important to the flow of worship. Every time there's a shift in the pattern, it requires extra explanation on the part of the leader, which creates a disruption in the flow. And returning visitors know what to expect, which enhances their sense of connection.

We UU congregations tend to operate with the "hymn sandwich" model: boilerplate welcome and opening, hymn, boilerplate joys/concerns/offering/kids piece, hymn, reading, sermon, hymn, more boilerplate closing. It's hardly different from any mainline Protestant service, except for the language and the sermon topic. Within that model, we offer something that's very different from traditional churchianity, however. We use a familiar model and give it a new sound.

Routine, ritual, familiar patterns---we order our lives around these predictable moments. When we don't have them, the shift can be disorienting but it can also be inspirational. I'm going to our district's UU summer camp (Eliot Institute) in a couple of days. My normal home routines will be totally thrown off, but I'll develop a new one for that week, a routine that will help me feel comfortable and in command of my environment. I'll do a lot of things differently, I'll be infused with new insights, new friends, new ideas and activities. And when I come home again, I'll gladly re-enter my old patterns.

I hope to write an Eliot journal next week. But that would be a new routine for me, so we'll see if I get it done!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Heart of Unitarian Universalism

My colleague the Rev. Anthony David, over at Thousand Voices has postulated an interesting question: what is the heart of UUism? He's not talking, exactly, about our voice, our values, those kinds of things; he's talking about our heart, the quality that wakes us up in the morning, gets us going, keeps us going. He includes a great story about a mouse and the fear endemic to a mouse---of the cat. And he challenges the candidates for our UUA presidency to offer their thoughts about the heart of Unitarian Universalism---and the hearts of Unitarian Universalists.

I'm not a candidate for UUA prez---my friends and colleagues Laurel and Peter are---but I do have thoughts about this, though I doubt my perspective would get me elected cat-catcher. It's not the kind of shiny, evangelistic, inspirational proclamation that makes people want to donate money or time. It's kind of low on the growth strategy continuum. It's definitely at odds with UUism's desire to get really big, really fast.

Now I don't really have a problem with the impulse to grow big and strong, quickly. I think we need that impulse, if for nothing else than to combat the inertia at the other end. If we were all indolent and inert, we'd die. But we'd die, too, if we overdid the frantic growth thing; we'd succumb to the high blood pressure and heart disease of the Type A personality.

As I look back over our history, what I see very clearly as the heart of Unitarian Universalism, from the very beginning, is a courage to buck the establishment, to be in the forefront of social movements, of theological discourse. We have always questioned authority, be it governmental or monarchical or ecclesiastical. We have always stepped aside from orthodoxy and taken a different path. Sometimes we've made mistakes, foolish ones, but mostly we've lived out Gandhi's famous quote: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

We can't claim God as the heart of our movement. We can't claim certain theological doctrines as the heart of our movement. We can't claim our heroes because we have too many to count, and they are all different in most ways. We can't claim the success of our congregations as the heart of our faith; we're often in conflict and often don't treat our clergy well.

I think what we are is a religious and social catalyst. I think the heart of our movement is the courage to be different, to challenge authority of all kinds, to stick our necks out for the underdog, to be willing to be the subject of jokes and suspicion.

We have been benevolent radicals, on the far edge of religious thought ever since we were born, in the earliest days of Western religion. We have carried the flag for causes hardly anyone thought were reasonable: religious freedom, reproductive freedom, abolition of slavery, humane treatment of the insane and prisoners and children, public education for all, abolishment of torture, civil rights, marriage equality, and the environment. And virtually every cause we have supported has been ridiculed, fought, and finally accepted.

We are the yeast in the religious loaf of bread. If there's too much yeast, the bread rises too quickly and has lots of holes in it. If there's not enough, the bread lacks bounce.

So what does it mean that we are a catalyst in Western religious thought? To me, it means that we keep on doing what we are good at---questioning orthodoxy, seeking new insights and information in a plethora of sources, championing the underdog, thinking critically, raising kids who think critically, being activists for healthy social causes, challenging unhealthy social trends, and welcoming those who are like us and willing to put their shoulders to the wheel with us.

Have you ever thought what the world would be like if everyone was a Unitarian Universalist? Utopia tends to be different from what we expect. If UUism were the dominant religious movement in the world, we'd run the danger of succumbing to the same thing that Christianity and Islam have succumbed to----too much power used to maintain a position of power.

That's a chilling vision. It would break our heart to be in that position. And our heart is what sustains us.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Home again

The Fourth of July in Moses Lake was nice, meeting the newest baby, P, age 6 months, and getting better acquainted with E, almost 3, a foster child being adopted by my niece and her husband. P is a mostly toothless darling with a huge grin, bright eyes, and personality. E has morphed from being a fearful and withdrawn child to being outgoing and funny, with the focused therapy and attention of my niece and her husband. It's such a delight to see children grow into themselves---wait, that sounds like toenails. Both these little ones are doing what they're supposed to do as human beings---develop relationships with the other folks around them and learn to manage the challenges of their world.

I'd started out Thursday morning in a blinding rainstorm with thunder and lightning making driving a bit scary and dangerous. It poured and flashed all the way to the top of Snoqualmie Pass, at which point the clouds broke open and the blue skies of eastern Washington shone through. It was almost 100 in Moses Lake by the time I got there about 10 a.m.

My sister and her husband treated me to a nice dinner that evening at Pillar Rock Grill, an elegant eatery (who woulda thunk it--in Moses Lake?) on a golf course, and we brought home leftovers for later (mine were sirloin steak with bleu cheese and creme brulee). Watched a movie, "The Freshman", and conked out early.

The Fourth dawned not-so-hot, temperature wise, with a breeze and rains squalls, and the evening barbecue with the whole fam damily was pleasant, once the skies cleared again. Joel the Neff and his family numbered eight, his sis and her family were another four, and my sister and husband and I brought the total to 15. It was a wild time, with the smallest ones constantly being no-noed away from dirt-throwing activities (what is it about dirt and kids?) by all of us too lacking in energy to do much more than that! But it was fun to see the kids, all of whom seem to get along pretty well. My sister and I reminisced about our early days with our cousins and how much we enjoyed spending time together.

The evening got late and part of the group went to the park for fireworks while the rest of us went to my niece's home which looks out on the lake and has a great view of the fireworks. It was late when they finally started and we weren't home till eleven or so.

Next morning, we were up early and I was on the road home by 7 ish, getting back here around noon after making a couple of stops and waiting awhile for the ferry.

Sunday morning, up early again, and back to Seattle to preach at the Westside UU Congregation where my friend Peg Morgan is the minister. We had a successful service together and I came away about noonish with a little extra cash for my efforts. Costco and Trader Joe's on the way home topped off the trip and I was back home by 3.

A nice way to spend the Fourth of July weekend---family, friends, and fundraising.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Fourth of July plans!

It's the second day of my month off and so far I haven't done much that can be considered vacation-y, but that will change tomorrow morning when I get up about 5 a.m., hop in the car with a cup of coffee and head for the ferry dock, so that I can beat the Seattle traffic and drive over Snoqualmie Pass into the hot dry desert of eastern Washington, to spend a couple of days with my sister and her family in Moses Lake. I can only spend a couple of nights with them because I'll be preaching at the West Seattle church on Sunday morning and will drive home early Saturday in order to be home overnight before I do that.

The fireworks in Moses Lake are just great and my niece and her family live in a house that overlooks the lake where the fireworks are displayed. It's great to spend a little time with the family and I'm looking forward to seeing a new great nephew, a recently adopted great nephew, and the assorted other family members. I'm taking books for my sister and she'll send some back with me. Yay!

The following week I'll be goofing off at home while looking forward to a week at Seabeck, for Eliot Institute. This year's July theme is spiritual discipline, as I recall, but it doesn't really matter, because I'd go anyhow. I can't go next year because that's my 50th high school reunion out in Athena and I've promised I'll attend and help out.

In other vacation-y plans, I want to drive the North Cascades highway, visit the Olympic peninsula, and get familiar with Island Transit, the free bus service that goes up and down the island. It would be a good way to get to and from Whidbey General on my chaplaincy days.

Another thing I'm doing is taking a DVD course from The Teaching Company on understanding music. It's sort of music theory through a non-scientific, experiential lens and the lecturer is outstanding. We've done timbre, beat, meter, and instrument choirs so far and I've picked up a lot I didn't realize I didn't know. It's fun to be a student in this way.

Today I'm all ready to go on my trip, with my suitcase packed and ready to sneak out to the car before the cats get too alarmed. I've made a bate of walnut butter for my sister, according to Lizard Eater's recipe, and all I have to do is hop in the car and go. I'll be back on Saturday. Yes, I'll drive safely, I promise!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Update on yesterday's post

A subsequent message from the parole officer I'd contacted about a sex offender who wanted to find out about visiting our church reveals that the state of Washington already has some pretty good restrictions in place for such people.

She advised me that in order to visit a place where youth and children congregate, a Level II offender must be in sexual deviancy treatment, must not have any violations while on parole, must have the permission of the parole officer, and must have an approved chaperone during the visit. She also encouraged me to give leaders a photo and information about the fellow, so that they can refuse him if he should try to visit without permission. She will notify me if he ever gets permission and what the conditions are. Then it's our job to become both welcoming and watchful, as long as he is in compliance.

I know that such systems are not always foolproof, but I feel reassured that there are procedures in place already to protect us and our children. I'm hopeful, too, that requiring one known sex offender to be in treatment, to be in compliance with the conditions of parole, to have the permission of his parole officer, and to have an approved chaperone whenever he visits a place where children and youth may be, that these conditions prevent one more kid from being exploited, prevent one more adult survivor from being thrown back into the hell of sexual abuse memories. I hope that this offender learns from the conditions imposed that, even though he may have been abused as a child, it is his responsibility to throttle the abusive nature that may be a result of that early abuse.

I hope he is wise enough to take the steps to prevent himself from abusing anyone else.