Friday, March 30, 2012

Max may be gone for good...

because it's now been a week since he left his new family's house and decamped for parts unknown. It may be that he couldn't get used to the two friendly dogs, it could be that he decided to come back home and got lost, it could be that some predator got him, it could be that he has beguiled some new family without dogs to take him in. Whatever it is, it's got both the new family and me feeling pretty sad.

Amazing how all those old bluesy folk and pop songs seem to resonate at a time like this: "are you goin' away with no word of farewell, will there be not a trace left behind?", "just a walkin' in the rain, getting soakin' wet, sorrow in my heart from tryin' to forget", "I'm always walkin' after midnight just hopin' you will be out somewhere walkin' after midnight, searchin' for me." I'm singing the blues.

It's not like we didn't think it could happen. It's not like we had any choice. It's not like we could have protected him from the risk of getting lost, eaten, chased off. If the adoption hadn't happened now, it would have happened eventually because there was no way I could see taking him with me. He's just too hard to manage---too hard to catch, too hard to keep indoors, too hard to protect, too independent and too determined to be on the loose. It seemed like the perfect placement with good friends from the congregation; we figured he'd work things out with the friendly dogs and be fine. And it seemed to be working. Then this.

I keep listening at the window, sure I've heard the telltale mew as he trots across the deck; I think I catch a glimpse of white in the blackberry thickets at the edge of the lawn; my ears prick up at every faint thump from outdoors, thinking maybe he's jumped onto the deck. I keep hoping he'll find his way back here, but I'm not very hopeful. There are "lost cat" ads out there but no responses at this point, as far as I know.

Lily is getting resigned to his not being here; Loosy is thrilled---she's not stressed out by his aggressive behavior toward her. Both of the girlcats are acting normal. It's me who is having the blues.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It was a bad 24 hours...

between Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

Max's new mama sent me a note yesterday morning telling me that Maxie had gone walkabout, had been missing for over 24 hours, and they were scared. He'd apparently figured out how to get out the doggie door in the middle of the night and disappeared into the woods. She and her husband had been agonizing over telling me this and were feeling horrible.

I tried to be philosophical---he might just come back on his own, he might show up here, he had made an "adult choice" (he is an adult cat, after all, and must have decided he could handle whatever was beyond the doggie door) to go outside, and he was a barn cat at heart, who would always be at risk because of his need to be outside. But I cried anyhow, feeling sad for them, scared for Max, and wondering what the outcome would be.

I worried, wondering if he'd become too attached to me to be a successful adoptee, wishing I could take him with me to Astoria, and knowing that would just continue the tension around his needs for another spell of time.

I prayed and I cried. And I found some peace, slept all right despite waking in the night to think about him again. I remembered the dream I'd had two nights earlier, that he was scratching at the window and asking to come in. I wondered if it had any significance.

And Thursday morning, I got another note from his new mama saying that Max had sashayed in at 4 a.m., meowing and asking to be petted (and fed, no doubt). What a relief! On walkabout for 48 hours, home again safe at his new digs, and no doubt self-satisfied at having checked out the lovely woods around their home, negotiated with any predators who might have been interested in him, evaded the friendly dogs who are now his roommates, and having set a few of his expectations in place for his new family.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Maxie the Magnificent Update

After several months of wondering what I should do about Max, the situation has resolved and Max is now safely ensconced at the home of friends. J and C had had to have their ancient, ill old Gonzocat put down a few weeks ago and C was pining for him.

She had met Max when she and other librarians from the congregation came over to my place to pick up the load of books I was donating to the church library. He was lounging on my bed as they worked and when she petted him, he purred and was obviously happy to make her acquaintance. She said she'd like to adopt him when they were ready to have another cat, and I had to turn her down, because another woman from the congregation (S) had volunteered to take him.

I thought little more about it, secure in the knowledge that S would be a good adoptive mama and that Max would have a lot of room to roam at S's farm. One day I got an email from S---it would be okay with her if C and J adopted Max. C had called her and asked about her feelings. S had been a little concerned that she might be allergic to Max's particular dander and then there were the chickens who ran loose at the farm: who would win, Max or the chickens, if it came to a showdown?

So C and J came over to visit Max a couple of weeks ago. They lolled on my bed with him, petted him, got him to purr, and went home saying, "well, let us know when you're ready to give him up". We had already arranged that they would take care of him for me when I had to be off-island for a few days in April and in May. I mentioned at some point that they could adopt him any time.

Four days ago, I got a call from C---she was just up the road in Greenbank and she could stop by and pick Max up to take him home with her, if I was willing. Eager as I was to have C and J adopt him, I wasn't quite ready for it to happen so soon! I had the good fortune to be on my way out the door at the time she called, so we put it off until the next afternoon, and by the time she had arrived, I'd gotten him corralled, in the carrier, and ready to roll as soon as she drove up. Only a few shreds of regret remained at that point, for he had bopped Loosy in the head and made her holler once again and I was READY!

C drove up, we loaded him, and she sped off (she didn't need to worry that I would chase her down the driveway----I was ready to let go of the tension that Max has brought into my life as the Little Prince of Catdom, his domineering attitude toward Loosy, and his desperate need to be outdoors). I got an email the next day reassuring me that he was settling in nicely and that I didn't need to worry.

I see C and J regularly and, in fact, I'm going to their house for a church activity in a few days, so I'll get to visit Maxie, but it is such a relief to have him safely located with good people, well before I need to be physically gone from this house. Thanks to C and J and S, who were so willing to help me find the right home for him.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A very flattering interview...

by Eileen Brown, a Whidbey Island journalist. (Reprinted from the March 15 Whidbey Marketplace & News)
Still Talking
By Eileen Brown

When someone moves away from Whidbey Island, you'd think it'd make room for one more. But when that person is Kit Ketcham, you'd need three or four to take up the slack. And for many of us who are just getting to know her, it's a shame we didn't meet before now at church or catch her entertaining, singing with every emotion in her body.

Before we say goodbye to Rev. Elizabeth "Kit" Ketcham of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island in Freeland, we must acknowledge her unique gifts. They include hours of singing as part of the Bayview Sound, pickers and singers creating harmonies audiences love from American roots music: old country, folk, old rock and roll, bluegrass, blues, that sort of thing.

“There are four of us and we specialize in three- and four-part harmonies which are pretty darned nice,” Ketcham offered. “The instruments we use are guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin, viola, fiddle, keyboard and, of course, voice. I don't know how to play anything, so they let me just sing.”

Members found each other at a popular acoustic jam session in Langley four years ago. “At first, we just sang together for the fun of creating harmonies that felt and sounded good to us and our listeners,” she said. “Then we were invited to perform for such groups as Good Cheer, WAIF, WISH, Farm Bureau picnics, on KWPA, at Postcards from Whidbey and private parties.”

As time went on, they became close friends as they learned to sing together and to create arrangements that showcase their voices and instruments. Her fellow musicians are Lynn and Debbie Cantwell of Coupeville and Richard Hughes of Langley.

“The band has been important to me because it has given me a private life separate from my beloved congregation, the Unitarian Universalists of Whidbey Island,” she said. She has always been an independent thinker and in the 1960s gravitated to Unitarian Universalism whose open-minded, social-justice-oriented approach to religion felt more comfortable to her.

”Ministry is my fifth career,” she said, “the final professional phase of a life spent variously as a welfare worker, an inner-city community center worker (AKA Baptist home missionary), a teacher and a school counselor.” After spending 50 years helping humans, she is considering volunteering with non-humans (animals) for a change.

Back to the band, it has fulfilled a dream. She always wanted to sing, wearing a red satin dress, leaning into the curve of a grand piano. In reality, she is thrilled to wear jeans and boots as they sing bluegrass, blues, rock and roll, and country tunes.

The group has been singing at Click Music Hall in Oak Harbor for a couple of months now. Click Music, located on 7th Ave. between Highway 20 and Midway Blvd., provides many musical services from sales of instruments and musical paraphernalia, sheet music, music books, lessons with terrific instructors, jams/singalongs, and now regular performances in their expansive new hall. Proprietor is Avi Rostov, who makes a practice of hiring young musicians as staff, and has as her goal to expand the musical offerings in Oak Harbor.

Their next Click gig will be on Friday, April 6, at 7PM.

“I will miss singing with the band when I retire and move off-island, to Astoria, Ore.,” Ketcham said. “When I was a kid, my family spent a week every summer at the Cannon Beach Bible Conference, a freebie because my Dad was a Baptist minister and this was a privilege extended to clergy. As I grew up, my love for the north Oregon coast grew too and I decided that someday I would come back and live there. Astoria is a small city that has always fascinated me, for its history and its proximity to the Columbia River and the Pacific, so I hope to find my home there.”

The move means she will be close to family members but she will treasure the past six years. “What a wonderful place to live and serve and sing!”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Is it possible for someone....

to deliberately sign somebody up for spam? I have had more spam in my email account in the past couple of months than I've ever had. My provider is pretty good about screening spam and putting it in a folder where I can check it, but the spam that is coming through right now is constant, two or three messages per hour, and occasionally it seems directed, as though somebody who wants to harass me in a few specific ways has signed me up for all these messages.

It could be that I'm just being paranoid, but the spam has increased since the last unwanted email I got from the weirdo who had been cyberstalking me. It would be in keeping with his bizarre behavior and accusations toward me, so I'm suspicious. Of course, I can't prove any of it, but some of the spam seems to reflect some of the things he accused me of.

So I just delete the spam and hope that eventually my provider gets the picture, that I wasn't the one who asked for these things. Annoying.

Lest anyone wonder, this cyberweirdo is NOT a UU blogger or anyone who has been published as a commenter on my blog.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Congregation

I thought about including this in my "Life of Work" series, but truthfully, Whidbey Island has been more than a place to work. It has been a place where I found myself fulfilled professionally as well as personally; the congregation has been not just a job but a joy, and I am so glad I stayed here for so long. I tried in vain to find fulltime work during my first three years of serving parttime, but none of those pre-candidacies ever became a candidacy, even though I was runner-up a time or two.

When the final "we've invited so and so to be our candidate" was delivered, several years ago, I felt a huge relief, because I almost dreaded being so busy again. I had developed a personal life while serving parttime at Whidbey and Vashon and it was hard to consider giving it up.

Soon after I re-framed disappointment into relief, I moved to Whidbey Island, fell deeply in love with the congregation and the island, and threw myself into this lively, hard-working, almost-utopian South Whidbey community. I have never regretted it and, in fact, I can honestly say that these past several years have been the happiest years of my life. So far, anyhow.

There has always been something about the Whidbey congregation and community that has inspired me to be my best, to serve its needs, to encourage its aspirations, to collaborate in its success. Together we've grown spiritually, in numbers, in wisdom, in outreach. We built a home together; we survived losses that shook us all; we negotiated disagreements, dealt with problematic people, and took hard stances when necessary. We have been a religious leader in our already-liberal community; where other congregations were accepting of many liberal social positions, we have tended to be out front, offering space for same sex weddings and advocating for civil rights for beleaguered groups and individuals.

I feel I've done good work here, but it's largely because we have learned to work together, to collaborate on worship, administration, governance, education, and building issues. Sometimes my part in the collaboration has been to be a cheerleader, rather than take a more involved part; sometimes, as in worship, we have worked together carefully to co-create worship that is representative of congregational needs and presents a reverential experience for worshipers. I am wholly responsible for two services per month; lay and special speakers fill the other two Sundays, but it has been a very long time since a lay-led service was amateurishly done. Our worship leaders are skilled and proficient in worship design and worship leading. I have helped with training, but much of their success has come from their own efforts to learn the worship arts. I am so pleased with their abilities and commitment to offering high quality worship. I think they do it well, as well as any other congregation I have served OR attended.

I hope that our search committee finds just the right minister for this lovely bunch of folks, whose skills and commitment are incredibly high. They will be polite to a person who comes in and wants to change everything, but they will resist such an effort. We have talked about what challenges they may face with a new minister whose style is much different from mine; I believe that they will be able to work with just about anyone, but woe unto the person who doesn't recognize their highly developed abilities!

The best new person, I think, will come in with a desire to love these dear people, learn their ways, understand what it means to live on a sort-of-utopian island, let them lead him/her at times and gently offer new ideas as appropriate.

It will be hard to say goodbye in June.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A new blog is in the works

I'm starting to think about winding down Ms. Kitty's and beginning a new venture blogwise. I'm phasing out ministry in my life (though trying not to limp too much as I make my way through my duck days) and thinking about the future, how I'll spend the summer once my contract with UUCWI is completed, how I'll accomplish the move to my new locale, and what I'll do once I'm there.

The new blog will not be about ministry or religion or politics or anything like that. My son has asked me to write some posts about our early family life together and I would like to grant that request. I also have some life issues I want to sort out in writing, I want to feel free to gripe about characters who bug me, and I want to take off the mantle of ministry before I do that.

I remember my ordination day---a hot May Sunday afternoon in an un-airconditioned church there in Colorado. One of the rituals in a UU ordination is the laying on of hands; we do it in a very big way. First the minister leading the ritual asks the ordinand to kneel, then invites family members to come forward and place their hands on the shoulders of the ordinand. Next invited are colleagues, then every person in the congregation is invited to reach out to touch someone who is touching someone who is touching someone who is touching the ordinand.

That's a lot of hands in contact with the newly ordained minister---for a reason. Ministry means you are serving a whole lot of people all at once----your congregation, for sure, their family and friends indirectly, people you meet on the street or grocery store or bus, your friends and family, and just about everyone you come in contact with. As long as someone knows you are a minister, you are in service to that person and must remember that, even when it seems unfair or impossible.

As I knelt that day with all those hands weighing me down in the 90 degree heat, I was acutely aware of the responsibility those hands were placing on my shoulders. I couldn't possibly know at that time just what kinds of responsibility I was taking on, but I had a lot of energy at the time and was prepared to accept it.

After these 12 years of active ministry, mostly without much private life, always on call to a congregation, always curbing my tongue, being careful about what I said, tiptoeing around extra-sensitive people, thinking always of the institution I represent, I am ready for a break. I am going to shed the mantle of ministry for awhile and focus on a private life in which I have my weekends, in which I have no deadlines for newsletters or sermons or meetings to attend.

I'll use the new blog to write about my new life, look back at old parts of my life, and do some self-assessment about the paths I might explore. I won't be publicizing the name and URL of the new blog; it will be available only to close friends and family members.

In the meantime, this blog will be active until at least the end of June. I still have more to say from a ministry point of view!