Monday, December 26, 2005

my top ten happy posts

I'll bite.

Like boy in the bands and chutney, I'll list my heavy[ier] hitters, but I'm also going to add my top ten bombs -- those titles that didn't attract much attention at all. I'm not at all clear about what makes the difference in terms of which titles people click through to. Ideas?

Top Ten Most Read Posts

Fred Phelps, Tom Cruise, and Me.
24 hours for Gwen and 24 hours for Gwen Schedule
No silly, that isn't a duck, it's a platypus
Water Water Everywhere, and What do DRE's do anyway?
Submi**ive Wive*
On Child Safety in Congregations
Vroomfondel, Thich Nhat Hanh, and RE
The flow of the RE Year
Southpark does Scientology
the Problem with Seventh Heaven

Top Ten Bombs

Great Online flash Visual for 7th principle
Don't want to learn about Ex-gays by going to their conference?
Fred Phelps, Tom Cruise, and me Readings
home again home again
Dear Neighbors happy halloween, don't let me in your house
Why you should participate in your Children's R.E.
My New Scanner
Church Windows
Speaking of Faith, Approaching Prayer
Random Music Day

"I'm not a freak, I'm a prototype"

Season 1 of Seaquest DSV is being released on DVD today, but for cheapos like me, the whole series is on the SciFi channel this week.

After Robert Downey Jr, there are no actors I love watching more than the DeLuise brothers. They're dreamy.

Deep meaningful moment from the series:
"Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want."

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Mr. Beezely?

I've never been one for taking on the language trappings of heterosexual marriage. I'm not Mrs. Beezely, nor Rebecca's wife. We are partners, just like before we became legally wed last August.

That said, I was at the supermarket at 7 am Christmas Eve day, waiting for the doors to open, list in hand when I noticed that I was standing there with 11 men, also with lists in hand.

I suddenly realized, "Holy Pete! I'm the husband!!!"

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Naomi's first christmas letter!

My beautiful niece has sent out her first Christmas letter!
I have re-printed it here. It's copyrighted, so don't steal the incredible prose.
dxddddddddde xdsdxers.dxxxxxx8h
I think she's saying, "I'm so loving Hawaii,"
"More attention, please! This isn't quite enough!"

Thursday, December 08, 2005

No Nativity Scene in DC


There will be no Nativity Scene in Washington DC this year! The Supreme Court has ruled there cannot be a Nativity Scene in Washington DC this Christmas season.

This isn't for any religious reason, they simply have not been able to find three wise men and a virgin in the Nation's capitol.

There was no problem, however, in finding enough asses to fill the stable.

gratis to karen J.

The Flow of the RE year -- an Overview

Every wonder what the in RE year looks like in terms of energy output? My RE Council did, and asked me to explain how the RE year flows. I suspect it's similar in other congregations, so here, for your edification or boredom:


It’s all a mix of Content, Experience, Community, Worship, Thinking, Feeling, & Playing:

4 Basic areas of activity

RE CLASSES - Hands-On, content and interaction, curriculum, curriculum preparation, materials, art, games, consistent rules and predictable adults

RE EVENTS – Fun, Community, and Faith Building—Halloween, Winter Holiday Party, Middle School Youth Rally, Arcadia Day, COA and YRUU lock-ins/retreats


1. Intergenerational – Opening Sunday/Homecoming, Winter Holiday, Family Christmas Eve Service Spring Holiday, SLT
2. First part of Worship each week and occasional Conversations w/ children
3. Youth-Led – COA Q&A, YRUU, COA Credo
4. Children’s Worship – 3/year

* Children’s Annual Meeting – UU Principles, Democracy and Service
* Mid-Winter, topic varies
* Spring/Sacred Rite of Fuzzy Bunny Goddess Religious Freedom (and/or Easter) Service


* For adults – Fall and Spring Rally
* For Middle Schoolers – Middle School Youth Rally
* For YRUU – CONs, District YAC leadership
* For RE leadership – CBD Winter Retreat, West Cluster DRE/RE meetings,
Leadership in RE event



Registration – documentation/addresses/divorces/marriages/
allergies/illnesses/special needs

Classes ... locations ... outside rentals ... finalize teachers
Orientations for Adults/Teachers/RE Council

Training for Youth Advisors

Orientations for Students 7th/COA/Youth (Games/Getting to Know You retreats)

(7th grade all year every two weeks field trip)
This is also high energy time for families -- summer ending, school, soccer etc, starting.


New Family Orientation ... COA book sale ... Mentor Training ... UNICEF

Halloween Prep, planning, in classes ... Friday night prop building event,
Halloween Party/Fall Festival/UU Trivia Competition


Children’s Worship/Children's Annual Meeting ... Thanksgiving ... GaYT


COA Lock-In ... Winter Holiday Party w/ COA and 6th grade prep ... Budget planning

2 weeks of Classes ... Intergenerational Winter Holiday service

Christmas Eve 4 pm service – high youth participation


Special focuses like Civil Rights and Religious Freedom in classes


COA Q&A worship . Children’s Worship and Chalice Rally ...
Teacher Appreciation Dinner


Finalize Curriculum Plan for next year Teacher Recruitment

Middle School Youth Rally ... ... YRUU CON here – Leadership Development Con

COA Italian Dinner COA Credo Writing Workshop ... YRUU-led Service

Spring Holiday/Solstice Service - Intergenerational

Earth Day at Arcadia ... Easter/Fuzzy Bunny Children’s Worship


COA Credo Service ... SLT... COA/YRUU Party

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Air America gets smart! Rachel gets Drive Time!

I'm an unabashed Rachel Maddow fan. Ever since she started as a drive time rock station DJ sidekick at WRNX Springfield MA while she was still a baby person (and which isn't even listed on her bio page) and then while she had a drive time show on the eclectic WRSI/The River here in Northampton, where she started Fact Checking the News.

Air America is moving her to 7-9 am beginning in January! Brilliant! If you don't listen to Rachel, you're not keeping up with the news. One of her best features is that she carefully investigates the veracity of what she reports, and she focuses on telling you hard news that the mainstream media doesn't mention. Unlike progressive, independent news outlets like Democracy Now! that look for news the gov't won't admit to, Rachel goes after what the gov't will cop to, but that no one in media are passing on to us!

Every Monday, for instance, she reports on all of the news that our government dumped at the end of the day on the previous Friday. They count on the fact that we don't read Sat. papers, and news outlets won't keep the stories over till Monday.
The Friday news dump...the Congressional Research Office has to step in and stop the Environmental "Protection" Agency from siding with the Bush Administration...again. Also on Friday, the military acknowledged for the first time that it did, indeed, pay Iraqi newspapers to carry pro-US news. Also, Friday, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Jerry D. Jennings, who had been accused of sexual harassment, resigned. Oh...and...the Government Accountability Office reported what happens when you call the Housing and Urban Development hotline...
They counted wrong.

And of course, she just skewers the Right Wing -- but unlike other Air America hosts who demonize their opponents (and who I rarely listen to because of it) -- Rachel refrains from calling names or identifying people are "evil" while she accurately talks about policy, inconsistency, and lies.
She also guests on the Tucker Carlson Show, and shares behind the scenes tidbits the next day.

If you have Air America on a station near you, please make her your drive time station. If not, listen here.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Introducing: kblog!

A new blog by a DRE in NH: a brilliant woman, activist, educator, and all around nifty person. Don't let my recommendation in any way mislead you as to her brilliance and niftyness as a human being. Karen is much nicer than I, (for instance, she doesn't need a crankykaren blog) more skilled, subtle, and politic in her human interactions, and more poetic in her writing:

I don't know what they are - perhaps sparrows - but they gather every day, just as the sun is about to set; they gather and they make a joyful noise. Last week for the first time this season I noticed them. I noticed their voices, cutting in over my thoughts, my list making, my planning for dinner; whatever was going through my mind was just subsumed beneath their raucous conversations. I can't imagine the meaning behind their chirrups; I don't know if they were gossiping or trading information on the best backyard birdfeeders or swapping stories about the size of the worm-that-got-away or singing in praise of the sunset. But on that day I stopped - right in the middle of the staircase - I stopped and I closed my eyes and I let the sound of the birds surround me and it felt for all the world like little blessings gently cascading over my head.

When I have to write something important (ie. when i cant' leeve the erors I let go or don't notice on my blogs) she's my exceptional editor. Full disclosure: she's also my best friend, officiant of my wedding last August, and one of the parents of my g-dson.

Like many people in our economy, she works two jobs, and is not sure she'll really have time to have a blog.
She's just put up her first post, excerpted above. Please read it and give her feedback and encouragement if you feel so moved.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Alice's Restaurant makes me happy at Thanksgiving

Especially the full length version, available here at Keep the Coffee Running.

And in case you've never followed the entire song, the lyrics are available here.

I'm a few days late b/c my partner hurt her back, and I've been busy making the household go.

It seems all those times she didn't listen to me say, "Bend with your legs! Bend with your knees!" I was, um, what's the word, um...


Unfortunately, Right does not = anything at all as a retrospective I told you so, which, frankly, makes me look mean while she's laying on the temporary bed in the living room in pain.

So Alice's Restaurant it is, long version, tonight.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Kids get to do the coolest stuff in Seminary "Nowadays"

Michelle Murrain's video project for an art/spirituality class, Who Do We Love? is online. You'll need a fast connection and Quicktime. It features Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham and Eric Rudolph.

I aspire to the kind of techno coolness Michelle has pulled off with this project. Me, the best I could do in Seminary was a video of a civil disobedience against the first gulf war, using two vcr's back to back and videotaping a videotape of the indigo girls off a tv for the music.

I also aspire to the kind of wit, wisdom, talent and technogeekiness that lies beneath it.

Random Music Day: Two very different songs online

I love this Kanye West song-- Jesus Walks. Go here. The first version of Jesus Walks has certain words, let's say, mis-placed. The third version doesn't. This song makes me happy. I love the orchestration, and I'm going to use it w/ Neighboring Faiths, the mis-placed words one. (lyrics)

And this one, Randi Rhodes is playing every Friday, and although I have mixed feelings about Randi, I have only happiness and laughter about Bounce Your Boobies.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

South Park does Scientology

Amazing And Accurate, this South Park episode is incredible. Taking on Scientology, free speech (satire and truth both), it's funny. (Tom Cruise goes in the Closet, and R. Kelly tries to sing him out).

I accidentally clicked over to it last night, and then stayed up till 12:30 to tape it. It will be interesting to see if it get's shown ever again.

Interestingly, except for one hell and a couple of Jesus 's there isn't any cursing. Making it appropriate for younger people, in the right educational context.

I will be using this in the totalistic and fundamentalist religions section of my Neighboring Faiths/World Religions class, with only a couple of deletions. (a reference to saving money/cheap = jew, which would distract from the point, and I'll probably cut a little R.Kelly closet stuff, it goes on long).

Scientology doesn't have a belief in the "second coming" so that is a literary device to tell the story, but the description of Scientologist beliefs is accurate.

Isaac Hayes, a Scientologist, had nothing to do with it.

My favorite part, at the end, the Scientologists threaten to sue, and Stan says, Go ahead, sue me. The credits roll --

Jane Smith
John Smith
John Smith
Jane Smith

Good article on Fresh Intelligence.

Video teaser here

Monday, November 14, 2005

touchstone for class?

A while back, Will Shetterly posted a great touchstone for class – how many teeth do you have? In your life, do you get $1500 root canals, or $100 extractions?

I just found another one, maybe. Give me some feedback, y'all.

If your TV screen goes to blue, and the cable goes off, does it occur to you to look outside and see if it’s just because a repair guy is fixing the next door neighbor’s cable, or do you keep sitting there, maybe pick up a magazine, figuring it’s shut-off time again?

What'd'ya think? Class, or something else?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I have turned on Comment Moderation

I will discuss the criteria I use to determine who comes into my house, rides in my car, converses with me on the phone, attends my parties, and talks on my blog at crankycindy.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I too am quoting Dan Harper today

Thanks Dan for giving me a Sunday insert commentary. I was suffering over it. I hope I have used your words appropriately.

What's so funny?

Q. What’s a Unitarian Missionary?
A. Someone who knocks on your door for no apparent reason.

Humor can be used as a way of reflecting ourselves to one another, or of seeing what popular belief may be about something. Humor often sheds light on ideas that may reference truths, but provides incomplete pictures of any reality and certainly of religion.

Q. How many Unitarians does it take to change a lightbulb?
A. The Unitarians wish to issue the following statement:
“We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a lightbulb; however, if in your own journey you have found that lightbulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your relationship with your lightbulb, and present it next month at our annual lightbulb service, in which we will explore a number of lightbulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.” ~

I love jokes. I especially appreciate deadpan humor and jokes that take something to its opposite extreme or turn a situation upside down. I often get myself in trouble when people don’t realize I’m joking. But while humor can point to amusing extremes, it cannot relate the depth and breadth of our lives together, and the ‘joke of the day’ isn’t the text I use for spiritual reflection. Rev. Dan Harper stated recently that,
“Contrary to popular belief, when you join a Unitarian Universalist
congregation, you cannot “believe anything you want.” You must believe, with all your heart and soul and mind, that love can transform the world.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not easy to be a Unitarian Universalist. If you are a Unitarian Universalist, you will care deeply about making this world a better place for all persons, to the point where you devote your whole life to that end.
Contrary to popular belief, Unitarian Universalism is not a comfortable religion that asks very little of you. Unitarian Universalism requires you to give substantial amounts of your time — like fifteen to twenty hours a week spent in spiritual practice, doing sabbath with your family, participating in worship and small group ministries, reading and study and reflection, using your gifts to help your congregation thrive — and substantial amounts of your money — like twice the amount of money you now spend each year on movies, electronics gadgets, and Starbucks coffee combined.” ~ Rev. Daniel Harper,

Rev. Harper identifies our faith as one not defined by creed and belief, the lack of which is the primary fodder for UU jokes, but a faith defined by our actions, choices, and commitments to one another and the world. He is remarking upon the kind of covenental relationship we intend to live out with one another.

As jokes are incomplete pictures of any reality, Sunday Morning participation represents only a fraction of what it means to be in relationship with our religious community. Involvement in the spiritual, social, and action-oriented communal activities of our congregation provides a more full expression of our lives together, and increases the likelihood that we will transform the world, and be ourselves transformed.

If you are a Member of this congregation, that is, if you have “signed the book,” please attend the Semi-Annual Meeting today. If you are not yet a Member, give serious consideration to Membership as part of your complete experience of our faith. We are fed here, and we feed one another, not by the points of creedal agreement, but by the ways we involve ourselves with one another and journey together even when we disagree. That’s what makes Unitarian Universalism NOT a joke.

~ Cindy, DRE (I also recommend Rev. David Bumbaugh’s excellent sermon/essay at )

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Jonah and the Whale - Today's Beliefnet Joke

which I post here for those who are uninitiated to beliefnet's joke email delivery service.

Jonah's Fate

After hearing the story of Jonah at Sunday School, a little girl repeated the story at school on Monday.

Her teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because, even though it is a very large mammal, its throat is very small.

The little girl said, "But how can that be? Jonah was swallowed by a whale."Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human. "It is physically impossible!" she said.
Undaunted, the little girl said, "Well, when I get to heaven I will ask Jonah."

To this, the teacher said, "What if Jonah went to hell?"

The little girl replied, "Then YOU ask him!"

The best email I receive. Go to Beliefnet at this page, and there's a sign up spot.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Dear Neighbors, Happy Halloween, Don't let me in your house

Last night, Sam the Cat whined so long outside a neighbors' house that they let him in. Sam had to write a letter to the neighborhood explaining why it's really best not to do this.

Sam the Cat

Dear Neighbors,
Happy Halloween.

Thank goodness for this holiday, I can communicate briefly in human talk. My people rescued me from a New Jersey Turnpike truck stop a long time ago, and as a result of breathing all those fumes, I have severe learning disabilities.

My people take really good care of me. They take me to the Dr. and feed me and pet me. I’m a great mouser, rabbiter, and birder so you should probably hide your children (not really, but hide your hamster). I free feed all the cat crunchies I want, and never get fleas. Somehow, I make friends with the skunks.

I like your porch. Well, really, I like every porch in the world. They were invented just for me, ya know. Porches are perches for me to look for critters to catch when I’m not sleeping. I love being outdoors, and stay out as much as I can. When I’m not on someone’s porch, or in my house, I’m sleeping in the nice warm dry nest I have under the back porch of my house. In the cold winter, there’s a heating pad in a back porch nest for me to sleep in if I don’t come when I’m called at night.

Years ago my people kept me inside because it didn’t seem safe for me to go out, with my not being smart and all. But I wasn’t happy. I was depressed and I’d sit at the window for hours on end with my nose against it – actually against it until there was catnose schmutz and drool all over it. So now they let me out. Even though my life is likely to be shorter, it’ll be better. It’s what they would want for themselves.

See, here’s the most challenging thing for me, and for those around me-- I’m a cat of very little brain. The most confusing thing for me is doors. I don’t understand doors. In 8 years, I haven’t learned that what’s on the other side of any door last time, is there this time too. I cry to go in and out. My parents have tried many times to teach me that in and out don’t change a whole lot, but I just don’t get it. I go out through a door, turn around, and Hey! There’s a door there! I wonder what’s on the Other Side of it? Are my people still there? Are my food and water bowls still there? Is the cat box still in that room with the nice water bowl? I just have to find out. Once I went in and out 21 times in an hour. (My people were bored, so they experimented.)

I cry a terrible meow, you’ve probably heard it. You’d think I was dying. I only have that one meow, whether I am happily chasing a frog, or trying to get someone to wake up and let me in at midnight. But I’m not dying, and I’ll stop if no one answers me, but if you weaken and let me in your house you’ll be done for. Because then I’ll find out that that differently colored spot on your house really is a door, and I’ll always be asking to be let in.

I promise, I’m ok. If I cry so much outside your small child’s room that he or she is going to cry too, please feel free to call my moms at xxxxxxx (7 am – 10 pm) and ask them to come and get me. Throwing a ball at me will make me go home, but I hope I never bother you that much.

Sam, with the assistance of Cindy and Rebecca

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Don't want to learn about EX-gays by paying to go to their conference?

Go to this event instead. I admit that it is an odd, perhaps even a sick hobby for me to study the Christian/Theocratic Right and as such anti-gay/ex-gay events are fun and exciting for me. (see Because I was raised a Christian Fundamentalist and graduated from a Baptist College, my experience brings a particular perspective to the scholarship. But mine was a relatively progressive Baptist college, whereas Marc Adams attended Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's own bastion of intellectual curiosity.

There is an event I want to recommend to all in Eastern/Central Massachusetts, So. VT/NH, and CT UUs. Marc has been a UU for the past 6 years, and he writes, speaks, and works reaching out to kids at religious colleges. I could have used him 20-25 years ago.

Educational Event Preacher's Son

Sponsored by RCFM and Greater Boston P-FLAG

Marc Adams, author of The Preacher's Son, will share his experiences as a student at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, his attempts to become "ex-gay" and finally coming to terms with being gay and coming out to his fundamentalist Christian family. This is an opportunity to learn more about the ex-gay movement.

Marc Adams’ autobiography, The Preacher’s Son, was awarded the Silver Pen Award and was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Marc is also the founder of HeartStrong, a non-profit educational organization for GBLT students of religious schools, colleges and universities.

Wednesday, October 26, 7:00 PM

Grace Episcopal Church

76 Eldridge Street, Newton Corner, MA 02458.


Free Admission

Open seating

Monday, October 17, 2005

This makes me feel bedder about my spelin'

My mom sent me this, it's been floating around the internet.

Can you read this? Srmat poelpe can.

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.
The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

I feele so mush bedder now.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Paper vs. Electronic Newsletters --A Really Big Opinion

Let me be clear. There's lots to commend going electronic, but I think that it's technologist and classist for our congregations to go to all electronic communications.
Sure, it saves trees, time, and postage.

It also assumes that everyone has a computer and can get online regularly, leaving out the anti-technology folks, many of our the elderly and less - abled, the working poor, and, dare I say it, the parents who can hardly get their kids off the computer. A friend of mine said just Friday that she never gets a turn on the computer between her kids and her partner.

Also, it assumes that everyone actually reads their email. A teacher in RE told me last week that she only checks her email every week or so, so I'd better not communicate with her that way.

Also, it assumes that it's the adults who read the newsletter and not the kids, who rarely have access to mom or dad's email accounts.

and finally, except for people like my friend Michelle who have a laptop and wifi, you can't read an email or web site posted newsletter in the bathroom.

My new Scanner

You computer geek people probably think I mean one of those machines that takes a picture of a document and puts it in your computer. Nope. I'm an A/V geek. I mean one of those radios that allows you to listen to the fire department and DPW and see if they talk about why your basement is flooding.

My honey came home today with a brand new hand held scanner with so many features it took me 45 minutes just to figure out how to put in the basic frequencies. She called it my birthday christmas pumping the basement all day present. She handed it to me with headphones. It must be true love.

I come from a long line of scanner people. My mom and dad are, and one set of grandparents were scanner people. I could tell you about my brother's Ham radio set up and how you can use the computer now to transmit, but it's all very complicated and over my head, so I actually can't explain it. Plus, probably not so interesting for you.

I like being able to hear the fire station blow, turn on my scanner, and know what happened. It's the busybody in me. I don't actually tell anyone what I hear, that'd require more conversation than I have in any given day, and conversation makes me tired.

Last night several basements in Easthampton were pumped out by the fire department. See, probably not so interesting for you.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Vroomfondel, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Religious Education

Each morning when I turn on my computer, I hear a clip from the BBC audio of 'Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy', Vroomfondel shouts at me, “We demand guaranteed, rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.” It reminds me what my job isn’t.

Vroomfondel is one of two philosophers who are concerned that the great computer Deep Thought will be able to calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, leaving them with nothing to do. His response to his concerns is to make demands. He demands admission to the room, then demands solid facts, then the total absence of solid facts, finally settling on the idea that it’s the demarcation (of job responsibilities between computers and philosophers) that is the problem.

"You just let the machines get on with the adding up," warned [the other philosopher], "and we'll take care of the eternal verities thank you very much. … Under law the Quest for Ultimate Truth is quite clearly the inalienable prerogative of your working thinkers. Any bloody machine goes and actually finds it and we're straight out of a job aren't we? I mean what's the use of our sitting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if this machine only goes and gives us his bleeding phone number the next morning?"

"That's right!" shouted Vroomfondel, "we demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!"

Unitarian Universalism is a faith tradition that utilizes many different maps along our journey. We utilize many different sources of wisdom – Hebrew scripture and Jewish history and tradition and Christian scripture and tradition (from which our own roots sprang), the wisdom of world religions, science, humanism, native and earth based traditions; our own direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder, and the example of prophetic men and women.

This year, October has brought a confluence of sacred moments from many religious traditions. In the midst of religious conflict and violence, some of the spiritual traditions we look to for wisdom share a connection that will happen for the next two years, then not again for thirty.

The sacred Muslim lunar month of Ramadan and the sacred Jewish lunar month of Tishrei, which includes the High Holy Days and Sukkot, both began in early October. October 2 was Worldwide (Protestant/ Orthodox) Communion Sunday and Gandhi's birthday, and October 4 was the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi (Roman Catholic).

One of the challenges of Unitarian Universalism is that while we pull truths from various traditions and spiritual paths, it is very hard to avoid getting caught up in defining ourselves by the bits of doctrine, creed, or belief we don’t hold. Defining ourselves in the negative. When we do this, we miss the values and principles we share in common. We miss the moments of sacred connection that exists within and among different faith traditions, including ours, when we focus on what isn’t rather than what is.

Also on my computer is taped a small paper with an instruction I try to keep in the front of my mind to remind me what I intend to do, to describe my intention for living. If it could be said that I meditate, this would be what I meditate upon.

“I am determined to cultivate only thoughts that increase trust and love, to use my hands to perform only deeds that build community, and to speak only words of harmony and aid.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Opportunities for sacred community is what brings us here, together. Sometimes we call the most immediate draw “the music,” sometimes we call it “the religious education program,” or “the sermons,” sometimes we call it “shared values.” But the bottom line, if we listen to one another closely enough, is that we come here for sacred community. To find the G-dness in one another and between us. To find the moments of holy sharing.

Our RE kids share sacred community as they explore different ways various faith traditions express the sacred. Our 2nd and 3rd graders are studying Judaism this month, in an age appropriate way, by exploring the meaning of sacred holidays.

Celebrating Sukkot, by Nick H. and Isabelle H.

Sukkot is a Harvest celebration for Jewish people. We learned that you have a big feast with a lot of good stuff, like bread called Challah, lemon bread, and cookies. You make a bouquet of dried flowers called a lulav, which you hold in your right hand, and you hold a lemon in your left hand, and you say a blessing, and wish everyone Shalom, which means peace. You also take sliced and cored apples and hang them on a string to dry.

Our 7th graders are also studying Judaism this last month. They attended a Rosh Hashana celebration and services at the Jewish Community of Amherst. They’re talking about the idea that G-d chose a special group to be G-d’s people and formed a covenant with them, that G-d would behave in certain ways and the people would behave in certain ways.

Our 4th and 5th graders are learning about the historical Jesus– the Jewish Jesus who was a man of his time and community as we can understand it from science and archeology. K/1 is working on being friends with one another and exploring what does it mean to be friends, the 6th graders are getting creative, building and making stuff together, and the COAers are working that same thing out with one another all over again – What does it mean to be a community of seekers?

These groups all find moments of sacred community together as they share and work together in our RE classes. As they grow and develop intellectually, the questions change, but the journey remains the same. We don’t demand “guaranteed, rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.” We don’t make any proscriptive demands of creed or belief, positive or negative. We don’t demand at all. Our covenant together is descriptive. We describe how we will be together on this journey of exploration – that “we will use our hands to perform only deeds that build community, and to speak only words of harmony and aid.”

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Drive by smiling

I drive to work every weekday morning past UUs who are standing with their kids on the street waiting for the school bus. There's about 4 families in all, depending on exactly what time I cruise by. It's become a regular smile and wave for me, and a really cool way to start the day. That recriprocal smile and wave with people I serve, by people I respect and care for, that's really cool.

I thought I'd mention this given the crankiness of yesterdays' happy post.

What makes these four families different than those alluded to yesterday?

These too are people who have big opinions about their child's religious education program. The difference for us religious professionals is that these happen to be people who participate fully in making the program work, so their concerns and upsets come from a place of participatory responsibility, not a place of expecting to utilize a service provided by someone else.

I think that 90% of my RE families now are in this incredible category. Involved, interested, participatory, sharing of responsibility and care.

What did Kissinger say about politics? 90% of the politicians ruin it for the other 10%.

For me, the opposite is true. 90% make it possible for me to work lovingly and patiently with the other 10%.

I love it that I can drive by my congregants and smile and wave. Other jobs I have had in my life have not had this type of percentage.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

They want a party - a panacea of all of life's ills when they show up

I'm sitting here with a colleague. I like her. We were discussing congregants who have great opinions about what should happen in RE, only attend 50% of the time, and are upset that their kids say "it's boring."

My colleague said "They want a party - a panacea of all of life's ills when they show up."

It was just a lovely moment I wanted to share.

Probably should have shared it on CrankyCindy though.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Water Water Everywhere and What do DRE's do on Sunday, anyway?

Saturday night we returned from Connecticut, where we'd spent 36 glorious hours with the grandchildren and Beloved's daughter. The whole time we were there, I occasionally pondered, "wonder if there's water in our basement." Mic ran a marathon in the deluge that was the east coast while Scott and Jacob ran around trying to find her, and we stayed home w/ Cameron.

We got home Saturday night at 7 pm. Water in the corner, water in the middle, water in the bottom of three boxes of books I'd lazily not put back up on the pallets after I'd torn the pile apart a couple of weeks ago.

Time to put the sump pump on. We don't have a Sump, just a pump, so when there's water, we manually turn it on and run the hose to the drain. But nope. wouldn't go. cleaned it, tried another hose. by 11:30 I gave up, prayed there'd be no more water, and picked everything off the floor, went to bed for a few hours.

7:30, woke up to a clock flashing that blink that says, "Nah Nah, the electricity went off. Nah Nah, you're totally screwed."

Leapt out of bed, threw on the working in the rain because there's a booksale today for the Coming of Age Class clothes rather than my Sunday clothes, got to church just before the booksale setter uppers...

Hey you non-DRE types. Ever wonder what that Tasmanian Devil of a DRE is doing on Sunday morning?
This is a program w/ 180 kids in two services, but the workload is similar for smaller congregations.

  • made posters and sign up sheets for the 7th grade parents about how they needed to drive and chaperone
  • talked to a parent who was indicating that although custody was challenging, they were committed to helping their kids have a good consistent RE Experience
  • put all the toys from the Pre-school 3 year old room into the dishwasher in case Gwen came
  • found a substitute for a classroom teacher, gathered the lesson, book, and art materials they'd need
  • talked to 2 new parents, gave registration forms
  • talked to the pre-school teachers about a new pay structure
  • made, xeroxed, and cut postcards to hand out in classes about the New[er] family Potluck on Friday
  • made, xeroxed, and cut postcards for the 7th grade class pointing out that the trip to Services at the Jewish Community of Amherst was coincidentally preceeded by a potluck
  • saw Gwen, Abby, Kim and Sue all together in church for the first time since June!
  • explained to someone that yes, perhaps anti-bacterial hand washes weren't good in the long run, but in the short run, this practice keeps Gwen from getting sick just because someone's 3 year old Didn't Wash Their Hands.
  • checked out our alternate classroom site to double check the promised "second keypad" our entrance code would work for (because last week there was unexpected construction blocking the door with the keypad we used to access the building)-- discovered that it wasn't a keypad but a directory.
  • made a back up plan for those three classes to squeeze into my office and the RE office and the empty COA room (they being on the portico trying to sell books in the rain)
  • since these classes were in our building instead of the other one, arranged for 4 classes to share the TV/VCR (instead of the previous 2)
  • found the markers that mark on cloth, which someone had put on the fuzzy-things shelf in the art closet instead of the writes-on-things shelf
  • moved the [moveable] wall separating the Burleigh Room from the Toddler room, set up the furniture in this larger room for our 19 seventh graders
  • stopped a child who was demonstrating his match lighting skills and telling me what lousy matches I'd bought
  • directed a man who was looking for an AA meeting to the church where that meeting is on Sundays
  • explained to another man that we provide financial help at the Help Fund committee on Wednesday afternoons, and no, the minister couldn't take a minute out of the service to talk to him
  • talked with a parent who demanded to know if their kids were ever going to get a real classroom, explained that they had a real classroom, in the alternative site, listened as she said that they weren't ever in it, wanted to say, "yes they were, but you didn't come those two weeks," instead said, "The groups were in the alternative site the first two weeks, but then construction I hadn't been notified of interfered with their being able to get in last week, and this week the alternate entrance they told me existed, didn't. Next week they will be back over there." ignored the hrumphing noise she made as she turned away.
  • talked to a parent who joined this year so her daughter could have a Coming of Age experience (alternative to Bat Mitzvah) who wanted to know about how mentors worked, and who were her choices
  • talked to two other parents of COAer's about their mentor choices and next weeks' Mentor Training and Matching Ceremony and Parent meeting
  • talked to a parent who is having a really challenging life, and figured out how she could use her skills and talents best for our program
  • sent an email to the pre-school teachers reminding them that I'd just asked them to check their calendars to see if they could them to work on Friday during the potluck
  • made a timeline of religious history for the 7th grade class that I'd forgotten to do during the week
  • made and wore a silly hat-sign begging people to please buy books and take them away
  • explained three times that both printers in the RE area were broken or malfunctioning, and that was why they had to go to the upstairs printer to retrieve what they'd just asked me to print out
  • told two people that from now on there was a blank permission slip on the internet if they lost theirs
  • explained to a parent that information she didn't know had been sent out by mail, email and discussed at the parent meeting.
  • was greeted by many people I like and care for
  • was hugged twice by kids
  • was serenaded by one class
  • sent one toddler escapee back into her room
  • was told, in no uncertain terms, by one child that she wasn't going apple picking, they were going to a farm that had apple trees, but that the picking part remained to be seen.
All in all, not bad. I was home by 1:30.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Gwen went home with her moms and sister!

She went home yesterday, with a bzillion tubes and medicines and things, but she's HOME!!! Kim and Sue are exhausted and happy.

There was a great article in the Boston Globe (southern edition) about a family in Carver MA that has 5 kids and a mom w/ Mitochondrial Disease, and an amazing dad. It's an incredibly thorough look at this devastating disease.


The illness that binds them is as unpredictable as their lives. Not only does it affect each victim in a different way, but available diagnostic tests -- muscle biopsy, blood, and genetic tests -- don't always confirm the disease, making it hard to identify. Indeed, the Thorells' tests remain inconclusive, although doctors say that mitochondrial disease is clearly the family's ''working diagnosis."

A combination of three or more symptoms (muscle weakness, exercise intolerance, hearing impairment, seizures, learning disabilities, cataracts, heart defects, diabetes, stunted growth) in one person strongly points to the illness, especially when the symptoms involve more than one organ system, according to medical literature.

The United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation estimates that between 1 in 2,000 and 1 in 5,000 children born in the United States each year will develop mitochondrial diseases. Half this group will become symptomatic before age 5, and 80 percent of those will die by 20, according to foundation estimates. Because so few physicians and research centers properly diagnose the disease, the foundation believes it is grossly under-diagnosed.

The illness is so misunderstood that Donna, in the early stages, wouldn't go to appointments without the backup of her husband for fear doctors would not believe her. She home-schools her children because, she said, school officials have not understood the physical fallout of the illness and how it affects classroom performance. She has grown weary of people (including close relatives) who tell her that perhaps it's all imaginary.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Yesterday in Massachusetts Ministers and Priests preached against gay marriage

and petitions were available outside to get "one man, one woman only" marriage on the ballot. Because of course, America has such a good track record of protecting civil rights by vote.

I am reminded of 20 years ago when my grandmother attended her last Nazarene Church service near Plymouth Mass. The minister mentioned that there was a petition on the back table to "ban homosexuals from teaching in public schools."

I was a 5th grade teacher at that time, and my grandmother was proud of me. She poked at my grandfather to get up, and she walked out, never to return.

What's so amazing is that my Nana cared a great deal what people thought of her. She was the neighborhood busybody, and could probably have put some of the busybodies on Wisteria Lane to shame. A few years before, she was one of those people who talked about the "blacks, jews, and homosexuals." (My brother and I had hid behind a couch when we were children and counted the number of prejudiced, racist, and anti-semitic things she said one Saturday afternoon. I still have the little notebook I checked them off on -- Harriet the Spy style.) Her world changed when I came out, and she changed with it. Her growing awareness of predjudice against lgbt people increased her (self) awareness of racism and anti-semitism. It doesn't always work like that, and I was proud of her.

Yesterday people had petitions outside houses of worship. I wonder how many grandmothers left their faith communities.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Katrina Hero #465

Mukund Patel made sure dozens of storm evacuees had food to eat and a roof over their heads.

"Patel has been a beacon in a storm that continued well after the hurricane had passed, the evacuees said.

Debra Kelly told about the mistreatment of her pregnant daughter at a shelter near their home in Roberts, La., then getting price-gouged when gassing up at a convenience store in Collins.

"If it was not for Mr. Patel and the Cain family at First Baptist Church, we'd be on the street or in our car," she said. "They're like angels from heaven."

All 39 of the available rooms at the motel were filled with people fleeing the storm when it struck and at least 17 were still there this week. The First Baptist shelter shut down this week.

"He's letting us stay here for free while some people are out there double-charging," said Fuller, whose grandmother, Jewlene Fuller, is buried in Kosciusko.

But the Patels' hospitality didn't start there. When the electricity was knocked out on the day of the storm, Patel and his wife Hasu -- who were fasting that day in accordance with their Hindu faith -- cooked a giant pot of rice pulav to feed all the guests. The next morning, they made coffee for everyone.

The day after the storm, Patel gathered the guests together and told them they could stay as long as they needed -- just send him a check when they were able. Two days later, after some either went to where their homes had been or got word that their homes were destroyed, Patel announced that everyone could stay for free as long as they needed to.

"I told them I will not take any of their money,"

he said. "Some of them insisted, but they lost everything ... I can't take their money.

"God blessed Kosciusko to not receive much damage, so we're lucky to serve the people," said Patel, who retired after 28 years as a "plant doctor" for Mississippi State extension service and bought the motel in November 2001. "God gave us an opportunity to serve and that's what we're trying to do."

Great online Flash visual for the 7th Principle

It's made by the Foundation for Global Community. It's called The Wombat, and it's located here.

You'll really want a fast connnection. It has potential for use w/ RE classes.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Gwen update and the Dogs

Update from Kim

Gwen had a pretty good day yesterday. More the same than different but we don't seem to be making much progress. Her high blood pressure is still a problem during the day but is well controlled at night when she's sleeping. We are getting there... She is still having fevers, vomitting, pain and distention. On the other hand she spent time on the play deck and had more hours of happy playing than we have seen in weeks. Her bilirubin has continued to go down (it's about the same today but at least not higher) so the feeds do seem to be helping. I just hope we don't push her too hard, too fast.

Today the big shift is from one formula to another and an increase in the amount she gets per hour. The new formula is one that will give her enough calories to possibly be able to reduce and/or stop the tpn. Of course, we would have to get to a much higher rate. Only time will tell.

We are hanging in there. It's another weekend and soon to be another end of the month. The residents will switch on the 1st and the PICU docs have a very irregular schedule this week (a few days here, a few days there) so it's hard to get "continuity of care". At this point we are trying very hard to "let go" and trust that the docs are making the right decisions. Not something we have always been good at doing. Gwen just keeps defying the norm and doing unexpected things.

Thanks fr holding us up and especially for helping Abby through this tough, tough time. We love you.


On another note, and with a heavy
BBC radio accent,

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

no silly, that isn't a duck, it's a platypus.

They're trying to feed Gwen.

I know what you're thinking, isn't food like poison to her?... Yes. But her liver is so sick they're trying to get her off the central line to give her liver a break, and see if a new combo of formula and medicine can help her liver.

Unfortunately, so far it isn't. She's failing all 5 standards by which it is determined if feeding is working. Blood pressure is way high, temp is way high, diareah and vomiting, and distended belly with pain.

They're trying a 3 hour on and 3 hour off right now.

She's in her 6th week in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. It's hard to be happycindy when she's so sick, and her parents are so exhausted, and I'm so powerless. Those of you who know me know I'm not very good at powerless over X thing.

I saw her yesterday and we watched a cartoon. She explained to me that the Koala Brothers weren't mice, they were Koalas, and no silly, that isn't a duck, it's a platypus. We talked about the cartoon and how the guy couldn't drive the airplane. We watched it again, and yelled, Look out, there's a mailbox behind you! But he drove the airplane into the mailbox again!

She was in a lot of pain, but her heart shone through. As do the hearts of her parents, Kim's parents, and the community that is gathering around them. She's a bright light of hope and joy and living in the moment.

People in this situation are wondering where is god? Today, I think God is Gwen.

Monday, September 12, 2005

This is Gwen

An email I got made it clear that a photo of Gwen might help people "visualize Gwen's health".

This is her, holding two of the many different styles of ice cubes she can eat, sitting in her new chair, which is like a Transformer. It's a wheelchair, stroller, chair at a high or low table.

And when she's in it she's doesn't have to carry or push her big bag of TPN in her dolly stroller. On Sundays after Religious Education, she is often picked up by her moms and sister Abby. Sometimes she's picked up by her godmother Jeannemarie and her daughter Lillian, Gwens's best friend, who is a couple of years older than Gwen. Lillian takes the backpack out of the stroller, and puts in on her own back, and they walk down the hall hand in hand, central line (noodle) swinging between them. I hope this fall to get a picture of this.

TPN is Total Parenteral Nutrition - food that goes into a vein that goes straight into her heart. She recieves TPN from a big bag that's connected to a central line into her chest 17 hours a day. This is what the TPN looks like in her backpack.
Because our bodies are designed to take nutrition through the GI tract and then into the blood stream, this is very hard on organs that clean the blood -- gall bladder, liver, etc.) If you've been reading along, you've seen that Gwen's gall bladder had to be removed a month ago in an attempt to fix what was making her sick that brought her to the PICU this time.

As you pray, or visualize, or whatever; pray for her liver which is very tired and cranky and behaving badly, and that her body reabsorbs the blood that was in her belly after last weeks' surgery, and that the doctors can figure out the cart and the horse in regards to this long long hospitalization.

In case you can't tell from just a picture, she's the bestest, smartest, bravest, and kindest three year old in the world.

Gwen's having a hard day

Kim said last night:
Three steps forward and two steps back. Gwen is still breathing well on her own. Sadly, her bilirubin and other liver numbers are very, very high and now she has a new situation- very high blood pressure. It's been creeping up for the past few weeks but reached a point of having to be treated today. She is now on a blood pressure med that we hope will help. Yet another new learning for us.

Our hearts are tired today. It's been such a long haul and we just need so desperately to go home. They are continuing to wean Gwen's pain medications. She cannot go home on any continuaoud drips so it's very important to see if she can do well without them. On the other hand, she has been on them for so long that it will have to be very slow and steady to avoid more problems from withdrawl.

Wishing for better news. Keep her in your hearts,

Pray for this dear little girl, her family, and her big sister Abby.

Yea, i mean pray. Sometimes philosophical discussions about positive thinking vs. prayer vs. having a good thought vs. meditating upon health are fun.

Right now I'm comfortable with the shorthand.



I'm having a day off! The last three weeks have been about getting ready for this past weekend. Don't be fooled by the seemingly logical, a DRE's touchdown goal isn't the Sunday that RE Opens, it's the week before that!

Saturday was teacher orientation, and an awesome 40-50 people attended, and 4 2-hour sessions later and somehow aimed my car home and tipped over into bed. Then yesterday was Opening Sunday/Homecoming Sunday, a social action project for Katrina, late registrations "But I'm sure I sent it in last spring" "Yes, and that's why we sent you another form last month, 'cause we were sure it was an oversight" and shiny excited new families, and people who wondered why there was no RE 'cause they forgot we start the eyar with an intergenerational service, and answering all the questions. I blogged at 5 am yesterday because that was when I could think the clearest.

So far today on my DAY OFF I have

started a loaf of bread,
called in to work to ask them to turn off the waterfall on my altar and to send the old financial computer to the computer guys so they could wipe it and re-load it for the Youth Director.
I had a good, really good, cup of coffee.
I've read a short story in an old Darkover anthology.
I drafted the outline for the first day of our newly invented 7th grade, 17 kids neighboring faiths/world religions class, which, I'm not sure how I ended up in the classroom on opening day of Religious Education.
I've chased the cat out of two, count them, two, baskets of clean laundry.

I'm slowly catching up on blog reading. Except for recent specific issues, I'm way out of touch, and even with the recent specific issues, bloggers are all over the place thinking and talking. It's great, but I'm, way way out of touch.

And my back yard is calling me.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Update on Gwen

I also see from my stat counter that people are searching for info on Gwen and linking here.

She had another surgery last week, this time to remove fluid that was around her liver (in case you missed it, 3 weeks ago her gall bladder was removed.) She had some very critical days, which is funny to say, because she's been in the peds ICU for over a month, which is kinda critical...

She was kept sedated and intubated for two days, then yesterday the tube was removed

Kim says
THE TUBE IS OUT!!!! Gwen did great last night- temps normal, heart rate lower than we have seen in a month, and sleeping comfortably. So today they weaned down her vent and out came the tube just a few hours later. She's not even needing extra oxygen!

Her blood stuff seems to have settled down- no more transfusions for the moment. We are just hanging in there today. Watching how she does and beginning the very long process of weaning down her sedation and pain medications.


She is sitting up in bed, having a bit of a bath and bossing everyone around about what ponytail holders she wants.

Joy and happiness, a better day!

Sub mi**ive Wive*

I just checked out my blog stats - who visits my site and where do they come from Stat Counter is a nifty tool, if somewhat disconcerting; all the little droppings of identity we leave all over the internet.

Anyway, someone linked to my blog after googling "submi**ive wive*."

Ya think I was what they were looking for?

UPDATE Dec 2007
I have removed all the s' because now, I get 5-10 hits per day looking for the above phrase. turns out I made it worse...

It'll still be cached on google, but hopefully it'll age out.

Manish is a genius - Faith Development for UUs

I've been stomping around for 4 years now telling everyone who would listen that one of the challenges we face is that when people come to UUism from a religious tradition that didn't work for, or even harmed them, these people almost have to start over in their faith development. This, I posited, is similar to how people in recovery re-visit earlier emotional developmental tasks that were drank through. (A friend of mine called this re-teening)

I mumble about wanting to look at closer at the idea that developmental stages had to be revisited, and that we, as UUs assume a tremendously high faith developmental level out of our adults and then are ticked off when our adults don't function on that level.

Well, now I don't need to, because Manish Mishra is a genius. Well, maybe not a genius as much as really really really smart. He wrote very nearly what I would write if I were to actually get around to writing it only with footnotes and way more research than I have time for. And with beter speling, and he's probably smartrer.

The Journal of Liberal Religion posted his essay, "Developmentally Challenged: Understanding Unitarian Universalism's Lack of Mass Appeal." Go read it.

Then discuss it with someone.
("UU adult religious education curricula, on the other hand, tends to assume a minimum of 4th order thinking, and actually operate on a level beyond 4th.")

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Will Shetterly is Will Shetterly!

I just today realized that.

Will Shetterly is one of the writers whose books I keep on my shelf.

I feel all geeky and bubbly.

Who else are you blog people I'm reading all the time? I know Chris Walton is Chris Walton and Michelle Murrain is Michele Murrain, because they say so, clearly, on their blogs. Beth Young, you're really Beth Young, right? It's not a pseudonym?

Ok, but now I want to know who you all are.

Fausto? Dost thou have a real name?

Chalicechick? chrysanthemum?

I could go on, but you know who you are (even if I don't)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Mom Groupies for Relative Strangers

Our friend Merle invited us to come and see her son Jake's new band play.
With a good bit of trepidation, we agreed.

Jake is a drummer and his mom says he's good.
Right. Mom says. Been there, done that... he's a great guitar player... she's a very good basketball player ... he's so talented at this type of abstract sculpture...he's an excellent actor, you won't even notice the nudity.

Merle says, they've been practising at my house for days, and they're good.
Sure, ok, well we love you, and Jakes' a great guy, and so we'll go and be happy about it.

Then there was a family thing that came up and Merle left town, and Jake was playing and then taking off. So Rebecca and I went for the purpose of supporting Jake and with every intention of leaving ASAP if it was really loud or really bad.

We were ushered to a nice table at the perfect angle to see the band close, and see Jake on drums. But Jake wasn't on drums, it was just three folk singers with guitars.

Well, turns out that Jake joined the previously existing Relative Strangers, an incredible group of singer-songwriters, and would join them for the second set.

Besides the fact that The Iron Horse always provides a good margarita, I was immediately made comfortable. And they felt familiar.

Steve wore a tee shirt that said, "Ask me about the Downing Street Memo," Rose had the cutest smile and an I'm sweet and nice if you don't cross my friends look about her, and Clayton was good to look at. (I know, I know, I'm a lesbian, but still, he had that cute sincere Linus look). In addition, they sounded great! Incredible in fact! The kind of harmonies I expect out of family groups.

Then Jake joined them, as did an electric guitar player (whose name I apparently didn't bother to note). That set was more rockin', in that folk-rock, southern-rock kind of way, Jake really is a good drummer. I became the lady in every audience that shushhes loud-talkers, and I found myself wishing I knew the adorable little girl who was dancing so I could join in. She had big brown I've had a great life so far, I'm safe and loved and well cared for eyes that I haven't been seeing on the TV lately, and it was healing to watch her laugh and dance and hug her family and friends.

In the midst of the trauma and drama in the world, dying uncles and critically ill children, friends being dumped sans warning, and a government that couldn't get it's act together to secure our damn "homeland"... this was a wonderful way to spend an evening. It was healing, fun, and great. Just political enough. Just funny enough. and really happy.

Ckeck them out, and if you live in New England, look for them. If you live somewhere else, form a production company and bring them to town.

As for me and Rebecca, I think we'll be their new Mom Groupies. (although technically, I would guess that Steve's about the same age as we are...)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Things to be happy about

friends who are sharing their adventures
a great congregation of people
a partner who loves me
hot showers
popcorn and chocolate
my back is ok
the House and Property Cmte. got the vacuum fixed
the waterfall on my altar works again.

Things to be cranky about...

well, maybe you should just go to crankycindy for that.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Montgomery Ward Winter Catalogue

Thanks to RETURNING's piece Christmas in August, I just spent a few happy minutes reminiscing.

Winter in the Adirondacks. For a child who preferred reading and imagination over cold and wet farming activities like, oh, say, feeding the cows or banging nails backward out of boards so we could use them again, or hauling supplies up to the sugar house (this was back when sugar houses were in the actual maple stands, when you didn't have a million miles of ugly blue or black tubing weaving through the woods standing at the ready to decapitate an errant snowmobiler) The Sears Wishbook and the Montgomery Ward Winter Catalogs were the delight of my childhood.

I'd sit for hours in our back kitchen, with my feet in the oven of the wood stove, a blankey around my shoulders, and the Montgomery Ward catalogue on my lap. My favorite imagination game was, at that time, Let's Raise an Army and Go and Free All the People under Apartheid. (I'd heard an early radio broadcast on PBS or the CBC-Radio Canada, and 12 year old self was pissed off. Equal work for equal pay was a commandment, wasn't it?)

The Montgomery Ward Catalogue had clothes and boots and camping supplies. It had hard cheeses and saucages and fruitcake, rifles, hunting bows, rope, parkas, trucks, motorcycles and tools. Everything I needed to outfit my army.

I'd make long shopping lists, making sure that my army had enough food and supplies, that everthing would fit in their backpacks. I'd make sure that they had light sox and heavy sox, that their underwear would hold up over time, and that there was a good amount of candy included in their supplies. I'd order different kinds of boots so my army would have choices, and they could share and make sure that everyone had shoes that were good for them. I had worn army boots, and they stunk.

In between bouts of outfitting my army, forced to do chores, I'd lean on the clothes dryer while waiting for it to finish, and I'd read about Deitrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin and Malcolm and think about using violence to end violence.

Then I'd close my books and fold clothes and wonder why no one else was doing anything to free people in South Africa.

This compulsive planning thing would later come in handy when I decided to be a DRE... Happily, my job doesn't require guns.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Update on Gwen

Gwen has been in Bay State Hospital Peds for 20 days. They removed her Gall Bladder, hoping that was the underlying cause of her current crisis, but although her g.b. was sick, it seems that maybe it was more of a symptom than cause.

Without all the Dr. speak, which I don't understand, I do know this... Gwen's liver is very sick. Gwen's bilirubin numbers keeps rising, and she is quite jaundiced.

Bilirubin is a break down product of red blood cells, and they check this w/ a blood test, it shows how well the liver is working. High numbers are bad. Jaundice occurs because red blood cells are being broken down too fast for the liver to process.

I visited her yesterday and we told stories. I told her stories about cats and dogs and chickens and cows and my granddaughter feather dusting the pulpit during my wedding. I told her about the time I accidentally drove a tractor into a lake, and the time I won a softball game with a big BURP, and the time my cat got stuck in the cupboard and couldn't figure out to push the door to get out. She told me about her first birthday and the candle she blew out that was stuck in a jar of honey.

She remains in critical condition in the Pediatric ICU.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Church Windows

is turning out to be a great management program for me.
Church Windows. The people who do finances aren't as happy as I am, but I just printed out a complete registration list, by grade, with phone #s and alphabetical in about 1.3 minutes start to finish.

Excel can go to ...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Fred Phelps, Tom Cruise and me: Readings

This is a sermon preached at the UU in Plattsburgh NY on July 10. It's long and therefore unblog-like. oh well. I've added some links to external sites for fun, but please remember to come back here afterwards.

Fred Phelps, Tom Cruise and Me :
Respecting the inherent worth and dignity of every individual on a free and responsible search for truth and meaning


These excerpts are provided for educational purposes, and are re-printed here under fair use.


The Free Church, James Luther Adams

I call that church free which enters into covenant with the ultimate source of existence, that sustaining and transforming power not made with human hands. … I call that church free which brings individuals into a caring, trusting fellowship that protects and nourishes their integrity and spiritual freedom; that yearns to belong to the church universal; It is open to insight and conscience from every source; it bursts through rigid tradition, giving rise to new and living language, to new and broader fellowship.

… It aims to find unity in diversity under the promptings of the spirit “that bloweth where it listeth and maketh all things new.”


Answer to a Nit-picking Freak Who Pretends Not To Understand Why We Call Fags Fags

Rev. Fred Phelps

Get a grip, you presumptuous toad.

….We could [hold signs] that say "God hates dogs," but this generation of blind men has no clue about the Bible and grasps at straws on the best of days. They wouldn't have any idea what we were talking about, and we would have failed at our mission – to publish a pure, unambiguous Gospel to this world ("Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." 2 Tim. 4:2); to get in their face and make it crystal clear what the Lord God of Eternity requires of them and what their sin is ("Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." Isaiah 58:1).

What I'm trying to say here is that we don't give a rat's tutu what you think about our words; we've told you plain and straight the reasons why we use these wonderfully elegant metaphors. Here is what Jesus Christ has to say about you: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!." Matthew 23:23

…Once again, I must say: GET A GRIP! GET A CLUE! These are filthy beasts, no matter what you call them! Those three letters don't change the fact that the Lord will shortly return to execute judgment on this evil, froward world – and you will have to give an accounting for your rebellion against the Lord your God (and your attempt at distracting the saints).

God hates fags. You are going to hell. Have a lovely day.


The following is an excerpt from the Scientology Operating Thetan level three.

“The head of the Galactic Federation (76 planets around larger stars visible from here) (founded 5,000,000 years ago, very space opera) solved overpopulation (250 billion or so per planet, 178 billion on average) by mass implanting. He caused people to be brought to Teegeeack (Earth) and put an H-Bomb on the principal volcanos (Incident II) and then the Pacific area ones were taken in boxes to Hawaii and the Atlantic area ones to Las Palmas and there "packaged".

His name was Xenu. He used renegades. Various misleading data by means of circuits etc. was placed in the implants.

When through with his crime loyal officers (to the people) captured him after six years of battle and put him in an electronic mountain trap where he still is. "They" are gone. The place (Confederation) has since been a desert. The length and brutality of it all was such that this Confederation never recovered. The implant is calculated to kill (by pneumonia etc) anyone who attempts to solve it. This liability has been dispensed with by my tech development.

One's body is a mass of individual thetans stuck to oneself or to the body.

One has to clean them off by running incident II and Incident I. It is a long job, requiring care, patience and good auditing. You are running beings. They respond like any preclear. Some large, some small.

Thetans believed they were one. This is the primary error. Good luck.”

Cited in Margery Wakefield, The Road to Xenu, p. 76-77.

The Free Mind, Ellery Channing

I call that mind free which masters the senses, and which recognizes its own reality and greatness:

Which passes life, not in asking what it shall eat or drink, but in hungering, thirsting, and seeking after righteousness.

I call that mind free which jealously guards its intellectual rights and powers, which does not content itself with a passive or hereditary faith:

Which opens itself to light whencesoever it may come; which receives new truth as an angel from heaven.

I call that mind free which is not passively framed by outward circumstances, and is not the creature of accidental impulse:

Which discovers everywhere the radiant signatures of the infinite spirit, and in them finds help to its own spiritual enlargement.

I call that mind free which protects itself against the usurpations of society, and which does not cower to human opinion:

Which refuses to be the slave or tool of the many or of the few, and guards its empire over itself as nobler than the empire of the world.


I call that mind free which sets no bounds to its love, which, wherever they are seen, delights in virtue and sympathizes with suffering:

Which recognizes in all human beings the image of God and the rights of God's children, and offers itself up a willing sacrifice to the cause of humankind.

I call that mind free which has cast off all fear but that of wrongdoing, and which no menace or peril can enthrall:

Which is calm in the midst of tumults, and possesses itself, though all else be lost.

Tom Cruise Fred Phelps and ME The Sermon

Thank you for inviting me here today, and for not running away when you saw the readings I chose.

First of all, I’d like to congratulate you as members of this congregation and this town and county for the excellent way Plattsburgh responded to last Sunday’s protests.
Bullies came to town, and people denounced their message without incident. After years of interactions with this family, Americans have finally realized that confronting them, or attempting to dialogue with them is like trying to teach a bull to sing - it's frustrating for you and it only makes the bull more angry. I applaud communities that are able to respond as positively as this one.

I want to talk today about our Unitarian Universalist covenant to affirm and promote two particular principles:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

Last weekend a family with over 80 members, who, coincidentally are also most of the congregation of their church, sent 20 representatives to picket churches in Plattsburgh. They call it their hobby, picketing, although I’d call it their mission.

Last weekend was also Tom Cruise’s birthday. You may not have noticed. He recently made news as a true believer who jumped off a couch and very nearly onto Oprah out of his delight at having a beautiful girlfriend ½ his age. The next week he nearly leapt off a stool and onto Matt Laurer who was unwilling to believe Tom’s claims that Tom has a special knowledge of the real history of psychiatry and the evils of ADHD and anti-depressant medication.

Tom Cruise and Fred Phelps don’t look at all alike at first glance. Different religious systems -- one new religion, one old religion -- diverse personal styles; and certainly different levels of personal attractiveness; what they have in common is their claim to a rigid belief system that controls the totality of their lives.


As a Director of Religious Education I am frequently faced with people, usually young people but not always, asking me, So UUs can believe anything we want? We accept all beliefs and religions?

The answer is no. The UU principle is that we affirm and promote the worth and dignity of each individual. Not necessarily each individual’s belief system. Our fourth principle is that we both affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

I believe that we hold responsibility to assess and interpret our world, and to oppose religious beliefs or actions that denigrate individuals or make a responsible search for truth all but impossible. Our task is to name these perceptions in a way that doesn’t denigrate the value of the other person but does honestly name what we see.

It is a complex proposition to respect an individual’s worth and dignity while honestly assessing their beliefs, ethics, and impact on the world around them. Especially when they are people who can really push our buttons.


It is hurtful that The Westboro Baptist Church denounces my life with such bullying venom. It’s hard not to take it personally. Worse than hurt feelings though, is the spiritual violence (see below) they do and the danger they pose to young people who don’t have the life experience and self esteem necessary to let this vitriol roll off their backs.

It’s also silly, on a certain level. The Phelps family seem like buffoons, lemmings following the leader, their prophet, if you will, who makes insightful statements like this one quoted in the Press Republican, which was new to me--

“George Bush worships Mr. Peanut, whose name is the great God Goober.”

So Silly, Buffoon, or Bully, their beliefs about me, and, I would argue, about G-d and the bible, are wrong and completely counter to my personal value system and to UU Principles; but that isn’t the greatest problem. The problem, and subject of this sermon is the coercive means they use to instill those beliefs in their members, and to assail others.

Coercion is also the problem with Scientology. I could simply say that I think that Scientology beliefs about an alien life form implanting spirits in our bodies where they run amok and interfere with our mental health, and that a science fiction author invented a technology that could clear these spirits from our bodies—I could say this is silly. It would be an accurate reflection of my beliefs about their beliefs, and it might end this sermon early, but it would not get us anywhere useful.

Because silly or not, beliefs are just that, ideas we cling to help us make meaning out of the world. Meaning-making is the most human of endeavors, and the stories all cultures invent to create meaning out of their world may not be meaningful to me, but the existence of these stories does not hurt me or other non-believers.

The problem with Scientology is that their methods of proselytizing are coercive. Scientology actively discourages questions and critical thinking, and enforces compliance to an outside authority that takes complete control of the individual. Tom Cruise goes nowhere alone.


I am sure that you all are aware that Fred Phelps isn’t the leader of a typical Fundamentalist Church. Simple evidence of that is that only one person from the North Country joined his family at the protests last week, and other fundamental Christians, such as Capt. Cregan of the Salvation Army, counter-protested him. Rev. Phelps is a charismatic leader of a totalistic religious group that uses coercive and abusive tactics on its own members. The fact that he uses the biblical rhetoric of Christian Fundamentalism doesn’t mean that he is representative of Christian Fundamentalists.

At the Fundamental Christian Church where I grew up, the Cadyville Wesleyan Church, I remember being 12 and sitting in a pew and listening as the preacher told me that Jesus was my friend. And I listened closely, because I needed a friend.

I had made no friends at Saranac Central School, and it would be years before we would learn enough about ADHD to help me – that help would come long after I’d set fire to the IOWA standardized test scoring sheet with a magnifying glass just to see if you really could; long after I’d had my seat changed so many times kids started calling me Just Visiting. I was almost always alone and lonely, and often afraid.

So when Rev. Klob told me that Jesus would be my friend no matter what, my hand shot up and I practically raced down front to pray with the ladies of the church. I was getting Saved, not just from sin but also from loneliness and fear. I was invited to accept Jesus to hold a certain kind of fundamental absolute belief. I accepted that invitation willingly.

In the summers during adolescence, I attended Chazy Lake Camp, a dusty collection of old buildings and a field we weren’t allowed to play in for fear, I believe, of fornication.

My first summer I went with only one dress, for Sundays. I’d given up wearing dresses years before, and it didn’t occur to me or my mother that the culture at a fundamentalist camp would be that girls would wear a dress every night to the revival meeting. After three days with the same one, some girls were teasing me at dinner. I remember later that evening Mrs. Klob stood outside her cabin and called me over. She quietly explained that her daughter had too many dresses for her own good, and she loaned me two of them. It was the nicest thing ever, and it reaffirmed my belief system that friends were to be found in and through Jesus.

After dinner, evening entertainment would be a long revival service, complete with all the old standards of revival songs, hugging, hand holding and swaying. We would sit and stand and sing for 2 hours. A minister would preach about some pretty gruesome wages of sin, and emotionally manipulated us to make sure our souls were saved. I stayed scared, and accepted Jesus every night, just in case the previous times hadn’t took.

Sometimes instead of revival meetings, they would invite us to watch a movie, horror films about the end of the world and the Anti-Christ, always presented as prophesy of how the End of The World would Really Happen. They were similar to the videos of the Left Behind series, but with less quality control. These movies manipulated us children into accepting Jesus out of fear of hell or being left behind when the Rapture came, or having the United Nations take us away from our parents. Summer camp was about creating situations where it was more likely that we’d turn to the belief system they espoused, we were invited, cajoled, and manipulated. But it was not coercion or abuse.


Phelps’ children who have left the family, and to my knowledge there are three, describe Rev. Phelps’ venom, which you saw here demonstrated in the street by his family, as being worse against his family. They describe “persistent and poisonous child abuse, wife-beating, drug addiction, kidnapping, … and other forms of physical and emotional coercion” (Addicted to Hate)

This hatred which we see for a few hours at this soldier’s funeral or at a picket in that city, is directed 24 hours a day at members of his congregation and family. Rev. Phelps viciously beat his children to insure absolute obedience. One Christmas day he beat two of his sons a total of 260 strokes with the handle of a maddock, which is a tool that’s a heavy combination of a pick and hoe. One brother passed out after 40, but the other brother counted the strokes, which was his way of coping with the pain and terror.

Phelps uses various forms of coercion whenever his flock disappoints or disobeys him, and during his 4 hour long Sunday services, he takes them to task in the same way he took Plattsburgh to task. At the same time, his charismatic love and affection is turned on full force whenever they please him. And so of course, like any children, they want to please him.

The problem with the Westboro Baptist church isn’t that they protest against Gay people, or churches, or America, in the most despicable manner, or that they misrepresent the core messages of Hebrew and Christian Scripture, it’s that the members have given up their individual identities. They’re almost all lawyers, they live together in a cluster of houses in a large walled compound, they all travel to picket except for the submissive wives who must stay home with the children. It is a church/family of people who do everything they can to avoid the wrath of Rev. Phelps.

It is a group of people who no longer have the ability to embark on a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.


At age 12, while I was becoming a fundamental Christian, my partner Rebecca joined her brother and her boyfriend at an introductory Scientology meeting. Her parents had signed a liability waiver for her to attend. TR-O, which stands for Training Routine Zero, is the first level of scientology. They were told that it’s special knowledge, so they should get only a little at a time. Hence scores of Training Routines that built on the previous one.

She was seated at a table facing a coach, and the assignment was to stare in a coaches’ eyes-- not blinking, not moving, not twitching, not scratching an itch. When the student fails to control their bodily impolses, the coach identifies the failing and shouts “TWITCH, FLUNK!” or “BLINK, FLUNK” and they start over.

All that is asked of the student at this point is, literally, unflinching compliance.

Sometimes the coach will flunk the student for no reason the student can understand and refuse to explain. This creates an intense level of confusion and fragility in terms of knowing how to please the coach, how to comply. TR-0 can last an afternoon, or several weeks until the person is able to put themselves into what is basically an eyes-open trance.

Then, just when the person thinks they have succeeded, they move onto the next part of TR-0, and their coach begins shouting words and phrases that will make the student twitch or blink or laugh, to force them to flunk. This further increases the tension and unpredictability, which increases the student’s desire to succeed. Rebecca was in TR-0 for several months. She couldn’t do it. It made her sick to her stomach.

Her brother quickly continued onto TR-1. At this level his task was to read aloud out-of-context snippets of nonsense from Alice in Wonderland, they seemed to be the excerpts that appear to be the most drug induced, without reacting in any way. Again, hours or weeks are spent until the students can separate their critical thinking from what they are saying.

They spend hours and hours getting used to saying and hearing things that don’t make sense. Each TR level increases the cognitive dissonance and undermines the individuals’ ability to critically reflect on what is happening to them. It’s usually a couple of years, and hundreds or thousands of hours, before they find out, in OT III, about the alien commander Xenu, spirits under volcanoes, hydrogen bomb and human bodies.

Luckily for my partner, she never passed TR-0, and her boyfriend got her out of Scientology. Her brother stayed in it for several levels, and to this day he can’t look people in the eye.


Tom Cruise only gives interviews now to people who will listen to him talk about Scientology for an hour first. He’s totally surrounded by other Scientologists, who are managing his career and controlling the information he gets. His wife and girlfriend seem to have to embrace Scientology to remain in relationship with him. Even when he is on the set, there are Scientologist Chaplains with him at all times. He is no more able to engage in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning than the Phelps boy counting strokes. Each has been told by people they trust and believe, and yes, love, that the society you and I live in is corrupt, filled with false science, with sin, with the seeds of their own destruction, and that there is only one true belief system that will save them. The people around them are unwilling or unable to allow them the freedom to see beyond that.


There are two challenges UUs and other liberal religious folks face in facing these kind of totalistic belief systems.

The first is to recognize and be able to name boundaries in religious belief and activity. We must be unafraid to respectfully name those beliefs that run counter to our principles, and those actions which run counter to the value of human autonomy and freedom of thought and inquiry. The city of Plattsburgh was able to honor the inherent worth and dignity of the individuals of the Phelps clan by ignoring them, ringing church bells, singing, or blocking them with Angels. No violence was done to them; not physical, not emotional, not spiritual. At the same time, truth was spoken about the destructive messages they carried.

The second is illuminated by Mark Rinzel when he wrote this about his sojourn into Scientology,

What can I say? I was raised Unitarian and remain fairly open-minded regarding spiritual matters. I have no ingrained mechanism for dismissing any belief system outright, no matter how silly some of its terminology or practices may seem on the surface.

The second challenge for UU’s is that we have to raise our young people to cast a critical eye on religious beliefs and traditions. As we teach about religious traditions and spiritual beliefs, and give our children reverence for the sacred in all faith traditions, we must teach students to examine these beliefs and actions with the minds that G-d gave them. We don’t want them to dismiss something out of hand, but we do want them to explore critically.

Unitarian Universalist young people are disturbingly vulnerable to totalistic and fundamentalist groups. As we encourage them to look around for insights and answers to the big questions in life, we have to teach them how to tell the difference between those who would witness or share their beliefs and those who would manipulate, lie, or coerce them into joining.


In a way, I think understand what it feels like to be Fred Phelps or Tom Cruise. Not that I know what it is like to feel such blind hatred, no. Nor can I imagine exactly being a heart throb ...
What I mean is that I had once, as a fundamentalist, that same absolute assurance that each and every belief I held was ordained from above. But unlike them, I had been trained in traditional fundamental Christianity, and believed in proselytizing, witnessing through persuasion, even really pushy persuasion – but not coercion or abuse.

After I let go of that fundamentalist belief system I had to revisit my education in critical thinking skills. My father had instilled in me a solid foundation of critical thinking skills, but I had what my friend Ava would later call “Ideology blindness.” I could only think critically about what was already inside my world view. I have had to learn to critically evaluate sources for both the content and context, and to be willing to personally check out citations. That’s but one hallmark of a responsible search for truth and meaning. I still think I’m right most of the time, but I’m willing to be proved wrong, in fact, I often seek out alternative perspectives.

What Fred Phelps, Tom Cruise and I still have in common is that we all think we’re right. The difference is that they are unlikely to change their minds about any aspect of their belief system in the next year. I almost certainly will.

I am a Unitarian Universalist, on a continuing journey toward truth and meaning.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that the philosophy and practice of nonviolence has six basic elements.
First, nonviolence is resistance to evil and oppression. It is a human way to fight.
Second, it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win hislher friendship and understanding.
Third, the nonviolent method is an attack on the forces of evil rather than against persons doing the evil. It seeks to defeat the evil and not the persons doing the evil and injustice.
Fourth, it is the willingness to accept suffering without retaliation.
Fifth, a nonviolent resister avoids both external physical and internal spiritual violence - not only refuses to shoot, but also to hate, an opponent. The ethic of real love is at the center of nonviolence.
Sixth, the believer in nonviolence has a deep faith in the future and the forces in the universe are seen to be on the side of justice.

(Stride Toward Freedom Perennial Library, Harper & Row, PP.83-88)

The Road to Xenu online,

"Since 1986 authorities in France, Spain and Italy have raided more than 50 Scientology centers. Pending charges against more than 100 of its overseas church members include fraud , extortion , capital flight, coercion , illegally practicing medicine and taking advantage of mentally incapacitated people." - Time Magazine, May 6, 1991

A list of crimes. lawsuits and convictions can be found here.
I have not personally verified these, please check them out on your own.
A list of comments by various judges can be found here

(From The "Cult" of Many Personalities, Mark Rinzel Takes a Peek Into Scientology's Online Battle, Silicon Alley Reporter magazine, Issue 27, Vol. 3, #7 (Oct 1999) (