Monday, April 27, 2009

Girl Time With the Squirrel and the Chickadees

This evening the girls and I played catch in our very own backyard for possibly the first time. Much credit goes to my husband for all of the raking and hard work that made this possible. We just bought the house last summer and the back yard was a nightmare. I felt so grateful to finally be able to give them this security, of playing in their very own backyard. It's not that big, but it's all ours.

This time of year in Alaska we have enough light that we can come home from work, make a quick dinner, and still play catch and take a walk in the sunshine, which we did. (It was still full light outside when I put them to bed at 9:00). It amazes me that my wild and crazy little Amazons can sit so still and quietly to watch a squirrel scurry back and forth on our fence. Our squirrel are tiny and cute, not big and pesky like the grey monsters that haunt east coast. We paused the game several times to watch the squirrel and the chickadees.

I was more relaxed and at peace tonight outside than I have been in weeks. I am so glad that I listened to their requests and didn't blow them off to watch House.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Liberals vs. Conservatives: Dueling Moral Frameworks

Miller-McCune Magazine has an interesting story of the different moral codes used by liberals and conservatives. An abbreviated version is on the web here, but you'll have to read the paper copy to get the long form. A psychologist/ethics professor at the University of Virginia, Jonathan Haight, is himself a liberal atheist, but his latest research is on how liberals and conservatives view and use morality.

It's insightful and a good reminder to stop and consider issues from the other point of view. You don't have to change your mind, just see where they are coming from. It was telling that conservatives often understand liberals better than the other way around.

I'm for anything that helps us all realize that those who disagree with us are not necessarily monsters. My question is, that if half of the country disagrees with the other half on such basic fundamentals, how do we ever move forward?

People often ask me, how did I become such a liberal when I started out as a Reaganite, and I usually say becoming a mother had a lot to do with it. This article helped put things in another perspective for me, that the values of harm and justice did not work with the old labels any longer. Most of the people I admired were liberals and that helped to shape my moral framework. Much thanks to my folks for letting me watch all that Star Trek as a kid.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Do I Have To Go To Church?

I am stuggling with Sunday mornings. I enjoy some of the other services and activities at our local fellowship, but sitting in a pew on a Sunday morning singing hymns just freaks me out. It feels too much like I am back in church, rather than exploring a new spiritual path and getting better aquainted with interesting people and ideas.

I want to engage with the community at the fellowship, but do I have to go Sunday morning service to really do that? Can I participate on a non-Sunday morning basis?

Have any other former-something UU's dealt with this issue? What has worked for you?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Are You Thankful For Today?

On Thanksgiving on last year, I started a Gratitude Project with my girls where every day we would pick one thing for which we were thankful, but it had to be something different each day. I wanted to emphasize that no matter how bad your day seems, there is always something to appreciate, some aspect that could be worse. The goal was to do this every day for a year.

Over the Christmas season, I got sidetracked and let this slip. Today, we began this dinnertime custom again. The girls are not really excited about it, but like vegetables, it's good for them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Treatment

We have finally started a new course of treatment for Tiny Daughter M. We are putting her on steroids and I am not thrilled, but at least we are actively doing something to try to make her better.

She currently has two specialists who disagree about what she has and how to treat it. Thankfully, we have ruled out anything life threatening, but one doctor has concerns that this might be a long-term problem. The other one thinks that if we leave her alone she will get better by herself, but that trying the steroids won't hurt. The lack of agreement is not encouraging to say the least. Every medical professional we have seen has told us how unusual her case is. Also, not encouraging.

A friend recommended today that we take her to Seattle to the children's hospital down there. I don't mean to panic, but it is starting to sound tempting. We will give this treatment a shot first and I know S, my wonderful husband will keep me from panicking too much. Thankfully, my boss has been totally great about the time I've have to take off for all of her appointments. I don't know how I would deal with all of this if I has to worry about losing my job, too.

It encouraged me that she has been such a little trooper about everything. She doesn't whine or complain about not being able to get around very well. She just looks for other ways to do what she wants and enjoys what she can do. She is a very good role model for her mother.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Prayer Beads

I'd like to make myself a set of goddess-themed prayer beads for use in meditation. A friend of mine has a beautiful set, but they were a gift and I haven't been able to find what I want online.

My making them, I'll be able to set up any type of pattern I like, but what do I want? I had been thinking about a circle with three sections, each section with nine beads. Maybe I'll separate those sections with larger beads. I could add a tail of three beads with an emblem, but is a tail really necessary or just what I am used to seeing on Catholic rosaries?

I've been searching and I'm putting together a list of prayers to or meditations on the feminine. I prefer the idea of meditations since I'm coming from a Jungian rather than a petitionary framework. I know I want to include a feminized version of the Prayer of St. Francis because it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.

Does anyone else use prayer beads? What works for you?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Find Your Grail

Last night my husband S and I took our girls to see Spamalot and very good time was had my three out of the four of us. Tiny Daughter M didn't get the nerd gene, so she made the best of it.

I was surprised to find myself inspired by the musical. In spite of the name of one of their films, I have never looked for profundity or the meaning of life in Monty Python. The live musical is more big budget farce and less absurdist experiment than the film that inspired it (one of my all time favorites). Both versions are just supposed to be irreverent and fun.

On the other hand, I'm taking away a new phrase from Spamalot in addition to all the lines I regularly quote from Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, "Find Your Grail". The emphasis here is on the "your" grail, rather than "the" grail. Now, I am a King Arthur geek from way back. I love Celtic myth and the Arthurian traditions in particular. But in the Christian version of the legends, the knights are always seeking the Holy Grail. It is the one true cup of Christ that heals both individuals and the land. Only the pure can find it and use it and it comes from the one true God.

But Spamalot's spin on this gets me right where I am right now. Find Your Grail. It is not the one true message or goal handed down from above. We don't need to all measure up in a specific way to be worthy of it. It's your grail. Find what is meaningful and true and redeeming for you. Look hard for it. Claim it. Heal yourself and others with it. Sing, and dance, and remember fun and irreverence along the way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mental Health Day

Aaaaaaah. Time for myself.

I am playing hooky today and taking a mental health day. I intend the spend the entire day in comfy pajamas except for the 30 minutes it takes to pick up Tiny Daughter M from school. The most difficult thing I plan to do all day is some light yoga.

It's been a pretty tough month and I really need this downtime. I'm off to make cocoa!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

MRI, Take II

I am on the way to take Tiny Daughter M to her second MRI. Neither one of us is excited about this. It is times like this that I miss believing in God. I don't believe in petitionary prayers, but it would be nice to feel like I could do something. All I get to do is hold onto her foot while she slides into the big, noisy, scary tube and wish I could take her place.

In good news, she had her first physical therapy appointment and she really liked it. Now she is looking forward to Tuesday mornings.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

My New and Beloved Apple Tree

I bought an apple tree this weekend. It sounds pretty trivial, but I am more excited than I can tell you. Apples aren't native to Alaska, but I have wanted one for years and years. We finally bought a house last summer and I knew this spring I would be planting my very own apple tree.

Apples caught my imagination through their connection to magic and, specifically goddesses. Loving apples and apple trees was a way to covertly nourish my connection to the divine feminine and to the power of myth. I still remember as an adolescent reading a description of Gwynhwyvar on her wedding day with her hair in braids and each braid ended in a tiny golden apple.

Currently, this much anticipated little sapling is sitting in front of my living room window since there is still about a month before I can plant it in the backyard. It is already budding there and I am happy every time I look at it. The store only had one tree left of the type I wanted, so I still need to get another for pollination. Right now, I can't think of a better way to celebrate spring's renewal right now than to watch the buds grow on my very own little apple tree.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Anniversary

It was two years ago on Easter Sunday I realized how toxic and pointless it was to continue to attend church with my parents. For years I had been an agnostic, but I still attended the Assembly of God church I grew up in to placate my mother. I pretended to still have a Christian faith so as not to exacerbate her depression. Sundays were always a bad day as I would come home feeling stressed out and cranky with my husband and girls. Not the role model I wanted to be.

That Easter was miserable, but it made me realize that I am not able to make any other people happy, especially Mom. If I am not capable of making her happy, it follows that it is not my job or my responsibility to do so. That may seem pretty obvious, but it was one of the biggest "lightbulb" moments of my life.

I'm not sure which was the bigger relief, the lifting of that duty to keep Mom happy, or the release from pretending I fit into a community where I knew I didn't anymore. I know that part of me will always be shaped by evangelical-type thinking, and not all of that is bad. But for all that they are a loving community, they still want to bring you over to thinking just like them. I am deeply appreciative of the UU's and pagans I've met in this past year who don't want to judge or convert me. Their acceptance has been wonderful, like something I didn't know I missed. I am deeply grateful.

Tomorrow I will take my family over to my parents' house after they get home from church. There will be an egg hunt and a ham dinner, just like always. The difference is that I won't feel like I'm suffocating anymore.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Welcome to Strage Attractor

Hello and welcome to my little corner of the world. I have wanted a blog for a long time, but haven't really come up with a good enough reason to impose my very opinionated opinions on the unsuspecting masses.

But now it clicks. This blog is a place to track the spiritual and philosophical journey I have been on the past few years. I'd like it to be a place where I can interact with others who aim to make this a life worth living in a way that makes sense. Perhaps more sense than this post.

I was raised a pentacostal evangelical Christian, educated mostly in a Christian school. It took me a while to finally make a break from that community, long after I stopped being a believer. After a few years as a totally irreligious agnostic, I find that I keep coming back to certain religious ideas. Neo-paganism has had a powerful draw on me ever since I was a child and I can't get away from feeling like there is something there for me. I also find parts of Buddhism to be tremendously compelling and comforting.

Recently, I've been investigating Unitarian - Universalism as a way to integrate these various ideas, all the while being fantastically uninterested in the Christian roots of that organization. The main trouble with all of this is not I still don't believe in an anthropomorphic god. I know it is a cliche, but I don't think of myself as a religious person, but I am looking for a way to make spiritual sense of things.

Thank you for participating in my public spiritual diary. I hope to keep it interesting as I find my way.