Cat Update! Happy Tails!

February 28, 2007

Many of you have followed our cat saga with five cats that were abandoned, and needed substantial medical care. I am happy to say that thanks to many kind individuals – including UFETA members and blog readers who gave to help cover the costs of medical care – and two shelters – Second Chance Shelter in Jamaica Plain and Animal Umbrella in Revere – who gave money, medicine, and living space – four of the five cats are now in happy homes! We managed to adopt the Mama cat and two brothers to one home so that they can stay together (they were very attached!). A volunteer at the shelter fell in love with them and they moved in this weekend (I just found out). They are three very very sweet cats, but a bit older. So adopting three older cats into one home was quite the feat!

And we think we may have found a home for kitty number 5 – Marisol the attack cat. There is a family who will visit her soon that is willing to work with her and is okay with the possibility that she may never like to be touched.

So that is happy news. Thanks for all the help and encouragement, everyone.


Make Maps of Where You Have Been

February 28, 2007

A great way to avoid doing more pressing work.

Austria – Germany – Luxembourg – Austria – Ireland – Spain – Greece – Belgium – Liechtenstein – Italy – Netherlands – Belgium – Switzerland – Vatican City – Czech Republic

I only included states that I could actually remember being in. I think I have been through Georgia and Maryland, but I figure if I can’t remember when, it doesn’t count.

We have a world map in our office with little pins in it where we have been so I thought this was fun. W. of course beats me having been to China, Taiwan, etc. I didn’t count countries where I only landed in the airport. I wish it showed boarders and names of the country on the map. You can do it here

I wanted to add Nicaragua and Costa Rica, but they didn’t have a Latin American map.

Gosh, I feel like I would be such a good professional traveler.

It’s gonna get up to 48 degrees on Saturday!

February 28, 2007

This makes me so happy.  It is 41 now and it feels so nice out. Well, at least nicer. I still have a hard time saying “nice” and “48 degrees” in one sentence. When we first moved to Boston, I would have been ready to start putting my winter clothes away – March is almost here, right? Spring should be here soon!

But I have learned to appreciate the non-miserable weather, love the sun, but not get my hopes up. Because it can always blizzard in May here. Like it did our second year leaving here.

But guess how hot it will be in Nicaragua March 22-31 when I am there? Hot! Whoo-hoo! When I lived there, it took me several weeks to get used to sweating all the time. Like dripping, wet, yucky sweating. That is just how it is.  All the time, pretty much.  But I did get used to it and I would always prefer that to coldness.

Just my thoughts on the weather today.  Because I know you wanted to know.

And I will be blogging live from Nicaragua while I am there.  I’m so looking forward to it! I just hope my friends and family aren’t completely shocked when they realize I have forgotten Spanish.  Aye! I need to find a tutor fast.

a prayer

February 27, 2007

This prayer was originally written for WomenChurch service we hold once a month at school. It is adapted here for use in a congregation.

A Prayer

divine wonder, as we try to peacefully breathe ourselves out of one week and into the next, we come here, to this sacred space – safe space – and confess – confess that we cannot do it all – we cannot be it all – that we struggle, that we ache, that we might not feel as strong as we sometimes make it look.

and we come together to affirm that this is really okay. to affirm the divine within each of us, the struggling and stumbling together to make this world and to make our lives sites of authentic love, authentic joy, of justice and hope. we come together here in many ways, just to be. to be in a space where we can just be. present to the moment… to our bodies… present to our struggles and our joys and our hopes and longings, a place where we can simply be and that is okay. we can exhale here.

here we can be affirmed in believing a little or a lot or nothing at all. we can be faithful, faithless or somewhere in between.

here, we do not have to ask to be wrapped in the love of the divine because it is already so. if we don’t feel it, if we cannot see it, we have our brothers and sisters here to help us feel it or to tell us it is okay if we are not ready to see it.

mother god, we are not always used to feeling you or seeing you as wisdom, as feminine. maybe some of us don’t want to do that. maybe we do. maybe we can’t or perhaps we have been doing it for many years….. whatever the case, we give praise for a place where we can come and express all of this, and commune with our fellow seekers.

may we learn and continue support each other in the journey to be spirits of peace and at peace with ourselves as we stumble along making sense and making love in on this spinning planet together.

amen and blessed be.

*Depending on where you are at, or where your congregation is at on imagining the divine in feminine language, you can omit the stanza that deals with that. Feel free to use without attribution in a religious service. If you repost online, please include attribution and a link to this post.

How much is too much? Compassion, giving, love, sacrifice, and living a “normal” life.

February 27, 2007

I am sure many folks out there struggle with how much of oneself is appropriate to give to all the competing demands on our time, energy, resources, love, compassion, etc. and this is one of my ongoing reflections on this topic. Apologies if I repeat things I’ve said before, but it is an ongoing issue I wrestle with and imagine my blog readers wrestle with too.

This manifests in a very tangible way in our household in that one room of our four room apartment has been occupied by a cat or cats on and off since we have lived here (more on than off). Once we adopt out a current bunch of foster cats or kittens we always tell ourselves that we and our permanent cats (who do not like visitors or having a closed room) that we’ll take a break. But there are always more desperate situations, often life and death, where life means we take the kitties and death means don’t take the kitties. So we usually take them.

And, while I know there are lots of people that support our work and encourage us (which means a lot to us!) there are also those looks we get – “Oh, you are those kind of cat people.” We’ve heard “cat freaks,” and comments about not being able to set boundaries. And for me, this represents a big struggle – within myself and within our culture: how much “good” work can you do before people start to think you are dysfunctional? Or before you actually are dysfunctional in a literal sense – not functioning well. I think that this is a legitimate question, especially for ministers and others in so-called helping professions to ask.

That said, I feel that, in our culture and in our denomination even, there is a sense that we need to have some basic comforts of life and if we don’t allow those to ourselves, then perhaps we are being dysfunctional or lacking boundaries. The question is what are those basic comforts or necesities that people need in order to still function as competent helping people? Does it mean we need one day off a week? Does it mean we need an extra room in our apartment or house – a decent amount of space for all our stuff and to have a quiet space away from the others in our household? Does it mean we should be able to take one vacation a year? I think a lot of folks would agree that these are important things to have ways to stay healthy and fresh – ways to avoid burnout. In some sense, I would even agree that these are good ways to avoid burnout (you can see I’m torn here). But I wonder if we have become too convinced by our culture and by ourselves that these are things that people need to do the hard work of love and justice. Along with a million other things I could think of – nicer cars, nicer houses, nicer clothes, special treats at the spa, a food processor (something I recently justified buying). I include myself in this critique/reflection, but sometimes I want to tell us to just toughen up. I KNOW self-care is important – but I think there are many ways to care for one’s self, and people in many developing countries or in the poorest parts of our country manage keep on going without the extra stuff that we sometimes tell ourselves we need. I think of one of the families I know in Nicaragua – the mom is a school principal, the dad a professor and they both work literally 6am until 9pm six days a week, and usually work some on Sundays too. The mom does all sorts of helping work with the children at the school and the families, and has none of the things that we would consider needed “self-care” things. No vacation. No extra space in the small house with four children. No new clothes, spa visits, no days off, no time for hobbies. And she is not a wreck. She just has to get her stuff done and do it. It isn’t that fun, but she and her family make the best of it and still find joy in life. And with all the needs out there, I just wonder how much flexibility our schedules and our lives should have for those “fun” things while the world is in such dire need.

This is has been inspired by, well, a lot of things throughout my life, but also by my ongoing struggle with how to respond to the suffering I see in the world and how to respond to people who seem to me to be overly hopeful. I feel like far too often liberals especially like to be oh-so-hopeful and la la la about how things will be okay in the end and “oh aren’t we making great progress.” And frankly, we are not making such great progress. On just about anything. Poverty. Global warming. Loving all sentient beings. Children’s rights issues. Women’s rights issue. YES, I know that some progress is being made. And we can’t be all negative about everything or it will discourage people, but the progress that is being made needs to be put into perspective. It is, at best, mitigating harm – it is usually decreasing the rate of increase – not decreasing things overall (emissions, abuse, death, etc.).* And I just find it so frustrating when people (including myself!) are talking about needing this or that in terms of caring for themselves while people are just dying all over the place, greenhouse gas emissions are going up, meat consumption is going up, AIDS rates are going up (in some places), women are being raped, children are being neglected, etc. I think since we are not in the thick of the problems (at least many of us are not) we are able to have rather indulgent ideas about self-care and the sorts of comforts we need in our lives to be good-to-go.

I can just very well intentioned people I know saying, “Oh, there Elizabeth goes again being all worried about the suffering in the world. She is such a trooper” or “she has such a good heart”. I know this is meant in the kindest way, but I hate how people think that caring about dying people and sick people and suffering is somehow a personality trait or occupational calling – like it isn’t something that everyone should be fretting about and preoccupied with. Oh, yes, she cares about suffering, he wants to be a baseball player, she wants to be a computer programmer, she tends to be very interested in insects, while he tends to be interested in sad things like AIDS and global warming. When we think about compassion and concern for the well-being of the world as something that some people have and others don’t need to have or shouldn’t have or “just” don’t have, it is a huge problem. But I think that is another post.

Anyway, I don’t have answers. I know that there are a lot of tensions in this post – that it IS important not to get burned out or dysfunctional. That progress is being made on some fronts. I don’t mean this in either/or terms, but rather want to questions and reflect on the ways we understand progress and hopefulness, and self-care and dysfunctionality.

*I starred this sentence It is, at best, mitigating harm – it is usually decreasing the rate of increase – not decreasing things overall (emissions, abuse, death, etc.) because I think it is especially important to think about the progress we make relative to our ability to make progress. An easy example is to think about how even though life expectancies overall have gone up worldwide (in most areas), relative to how high they could be if there was proper medical care for all people, they are quite low. Or, say, the number of animals being put to sleep in the U.S. has decreased in the last ten years – but, given how easy and relatively cheap it is to have animals spayed or neutered, the level is still quite high. My point is to consider relative and absolute progress and not get too proud of ourselves for the absolute progress, while relative progress still leaves a lot to be desired.

Starry Night Band Playing in Middleboro, MA – Make an Evening of It and Support a UU Church!

February 22, 2007

On Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Middleboro, MA – 25 S. Main St. – the Starry Night Band will be playing a mix of folk, classical and Celtic acoustic music. There was a cool article about it in the Middleboro Gazette.

At the beginning of the evening downstairs in the Parish Hall, everyone will be offered tantalizing appetizers and beverages. “Delightful tidbits made with ingredients that are easier on our planet to produce will be provided for your enjoyment,” said a spokesperson…At 7:30 p.m. the show begins in the sanctuary…At about 9 p.m. there will be delectable desserts from organic ingredients. Many recipes for appetizers and desserts will be available to take home. Organic coffees and teas will be served with dessert. This event is sponsored by the “Green Church Program” (a group promoting recycling, energy conservation, organic, vegetarian and alternative foods within Unitarian Universalist congregations). Admission for this evening is $20 (more or less if you are able).

It should be a really fun evening and I know there will be lots of good food. If you are in the area, come! AND if you are a student like me, don’t be scared away by the $20 suggested admission. Better for you to come and pay $10 than not come at all (remember it includes quite a bit of good food!). Also, bring the kids and talk the door person about a family rate. The more the merrier!

Advice on Blessing of the Animals

February 21, 2007

April is my last month at the church where I am the student intern minister (First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro) and as one of my final services we will be having a Celebration and Blessing of the Animals. However, as the time gets closer, the logistics of this are starting to stress me a little. I have ordered the Blessing of the Animals Guidebook from UFETA and maybe there is good advice in there, but I’m wondering if others have been to such blessings and how they were conducted. Was it a Sunday morning service? Was it held outdoors? Was there a tent? Outdoor seating? Did people stand? Was there a limit on what animals could come or how many per person? If it wasn’t held during normal Sunday services, when was it held? Did a lot of people come? Did you get feedback that would be helpful to share?

Any ideas welcome. I’m very excited. But also not wanting chaos. :)