Best free blog statistics thingy?

April 26, 2007

I don’t even know what it is called, but someone out there must know a way I can keep track of how many people come to the blog, what they look at, what they click on, what search terms they use to find it, etc?  WordPress has something to do that, but as far as I can tell only keeps track of the past 30 days (for a lot of the information).  I don’t want to pay for something to do this, but is there some sort of free program out there that will do this? Or something REALLY cheap?  Thank you for any wisdom.

Putting All Your Worldly Belongings In Boxes and other thoughts

April 26, 2007

I’m sure my loyal readers (hi Rebecca and Mom!) have noticed my lack of posts recently. It is the end of the semester so it is paper writing time, and we are moving, both of which cuts into blogging time. A summer goal is to make sure to update regularly.

I have so many thoughts on moving (and packing up all our STUFF) and graduating from my masters program and some thoughts on recent cat situations we have been in (as cat foster parents) but really, I’m just taking a break from packing so I won’t try to articulate those thoughts now. Mostly I just wanted to say hello and have a break. A very nice and kind blog (Letting Each Other Go) has named me as a thinking blog. Wow, it is so nice to be affirmed as a blogger (also thanks to Donna and Barbara who have been affirming about the blog lately) and I will soon respond to the tagging (is that the right word) as a thinking blog. I think I will get to name five blogs that make ME think. And really blogs have been so helpful in giving me a sense not only of what is going on out there in UU world, but in thinking about some important theological and just generally important issues.

For now, it is time to go through more boxes of accumulated things, many of which I haven’t opened since we moved. Why not just toss them out since I clearly forget what is in them? Good question. I think that my keeping of things to a clearly unreasonable degree has something to do with not wanting to forget my life – as I look through my boxes (and boxes) of saved papers, saved bottles, saved toys, hair clips, and other things, each one is like a memory. And it is only when I look at my things – or perhaps only when I know they are in my basement if I want to look at them – that I access those moments in my life that otherwise would fade and eventually disappear. I’m sure there is something there that a therapist could explain, but for now, if I have the room, I guess I’ll just keep my little things until I can let them go and take comfort that many memories are stored up in nice blue boxes. It does make me sad to think of what will happen to my years of diaries (since first grade!) and scrapbooks and boxes of “keepsakes” when I am gone. I’ve toted them around from apartment to apartment for a very long time now. I know I LOVE to look through boxes of old things from my parents and grandparents. I hope my children will look through my boxes and get a similar thrill of being an archaeologist of sorts – an attic archeologist – discovering what made/gave meaning to generations before.

Enough for now. Happy Spring – finally!


Blessing of the Animals a Success!

April 22, 2007

We held a Blessing and Celebration of the Animals today at our church. It was my idea and I organized it and ran the service and I was SO happy that it went so wonderfully and smoothly. There was some relatively strong anxiety by some people in the church about having animals in the church and all the things that could go wrong. But luckily I think the animals sensed that it was a special time, and they were amazingly well behaved. Not even a bark, for goodness sakes! We played All God’s Creatures Have a Place in the Choir during the blessing, which worked really well. We also had a time of remembrance, where people could bring up pictures of animal friends they have lost and light a candle to their memory. It was very powerful, and such a testament to the strong bonds we form with our animals.

For anyone who might be interested in holding a Blessing and Celebration of the Animals in your church, here is the liturgy we used. Tips and pictures to follow in a few days.

Blessing and Celebration of the Animals Order of Service

Prelude “Doggies’ Policemen” Sinobu Onaka

Opening Words and Welcome by Elizabeth

Chalice Lighting Jeff and Finnegan Stevens
(Note that Finnegan is a tortoise)

Hymn All the Creatures of the Earth and Sky

Liturgical Dance (Celebration of Earth Day) Annie McLaughlin

Children’s Call To R. E. Classes

Joys & Sorrows

Remembering The Animals

Offertory Music: White Goat, Black Goat” Ikuma Dan

Hymn Blue Boat Home

Moment Of Stewardship Greg Stevens

Meditation Rev. Tricia Tummino

(Ten minute warning to RE Classes)

Homily Elizabeth

(Children Return)

Blessing Of The Animals



Opening Words

In the words of Fyodor Dostoyevsky:

“Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”

Let us worship together.


Good morning and Welcome to the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro. We would especially like to welcome all of our visitors this morning – humans and companion animals. For our human visitors, we invite you to sign the guest book in the parlor so that we know you were here with us. If you’d like to receive the newsletter, please just put a star next to your name.

After the services we gather downstairs for coffee hour and we invite everyone to join us. If you have need of an elevator, we have one in the back and someone will be there to assist you with that after the service.

Just a quick note about our special service today – we are so happy to have all of our animal companions here. Please don’t fret if your animal makes noise during the service. A few barks and meows are normal. If you feel like your friend is getting particularly restless, or needs some fresh air or to use the restroom, please don’t hesitate to take him or her outside during the service and return when he or she is feeling better. There are paper towels and cleaning supplies spread throughout the sanctuary should anyone have need of those, and a trash can and plastic bags in the church yard if you need to clean up after your friend. We also ask that our animal friends only come forward during the blessing of the animals – for other parts of the service, if you need to come forward, we would appreciate it if you could leave your friend with a neighbor in your pew.

Again! Welcome to the service.

Introduction to the Remembrance of the Animals

This is a special time in our service where we can remember animals that are no longer with us. If you brought a picture of your animal friend that you have lost, you may bring the pictures up and set them either on the altar or tables around the altar, and light a candle to his or her memory. If you do not have a picture or memento to bring up, but would still like to remember an animal friend, you may write his or her name and years of life on the cards that are in each pew and bring that up to the altar.

We will begin our remembrance.

Homily – Loving Our Animals

Good morning! Happy Earth day and Happy Blessing of the Animals Day!

I am so happy to be here this morning in the presence of this lovely congregation, and all of our visitors.

As many of you know, environmental concerns and animal concerns are important to me so I am especially pleased, in my last sermon that I will give here during my internship, to be able to talk about two of my strongest passions this morning – animals and our earth.

Now this is something I could talk on for a while – at least an hour or two – but given our limited time here this morning, and the fact that many of our visitors would be even more resistant than some of our regular attendees to an extra long sermon, I just want to bring to our attention two themes for us to reflect on this special day when we celebrate and bless our animal friends.

First, I want to remind us why we do a blessing of the animals in a church. I must say there were a lot of people unsure about bringing all of these critters here today – in a church for heavens sake. But, I think that the reason we are doing this here today is not just because it is fun to show off our furry friends or exciting for the children. We are celebrating and blessing the animals today – April 22 – Earth Day in order to affirm our seventh principle – to honor and respect the interconnected web of life of which we are all a part.

We are affirming that church is not just a place about people – about individuals, or even about human communities, but that our earth, and the beings of the earth are important to us, are holy, and actually belong right here in the sanctuary. We are honoring our animal companions not only as fun companions, or beings that bring us joy, but we are celebrating them and honoring them because they are sentient beings with whom we share our life and our earth. They are members of our family, and members of the family of the earth – in some cases, companion animals can serve as spiritual guides – as therapists – we have relationships with them, and they with us.

This morning we are celebrating those relationships, that love, that connection.

Secondly, this morning, I want to share a story about Chester the cat. I was never able to meet Chester, but he has played an important role in my life. Chester was the cat of a young man who I know in Dayton, Ohio, where I grew up. I mentored Timothy for many years and he was especially caring toward the cats that he would sneak into his apartment – which was in the housing projects of Dayton, Ohio, and didn’t allow cats. About a year after I moved here to Boston, Timothy called me to tell me Chester was very sick. I told him to keep an eye on Chester, and we would see if he needed to go to the vet. Two days later, it had gotten much worse. Chester wasn’t able to walk and he wasn’t eating. Of course, Timothy’s family couldn’t afford a vet, and I certainly couldn’t stand hearing about either Chester or Timothy suffering. So at this news, I coordinated getting Chester to the vet – my mom still lived in Ohio and she went and picked Chester up and took him to the doctor.

The whole process of finding out about about Chester being sick and getting him to the vet took about three days. On day number four I finally spoke with the vet and found out that Chester was in the late stages of Feline leukemia. He had already suffered greatly, she said. There was no time to wait for Timothy to come and say goodbye. Chester needed to be euthanized right away. So, $289 dollars later, I had managed not even to prevent Chester from suffering. He had lived a sad end of his life, in great pain.

For some reason, this got to me. For me, somehow, Chester represented so much pain in the world. I felt so helpless to help even little Chester, much less all the other suffering kitties of the world. Much less the suffering people. As so many of us talk about together here, sometimes the pain in the world can seem so overwhelming. I worried and I fretted, not able to get little Chester – and everything he represented – off of my mind. I agonized – what can I do? There is so much suffering and violence and pain and sadness in our world. How can I even begin to do something about it.

And then, it came to me, that I could do something. It was not a huge something, it would not take back Chester’s suffering. It would be only a small drop in the ocean, in fact. But it was something -it was a response that would matter.

That day I decided to stop eating products from animals – milk, eggs, and meat. For me, it was one way that I could reduce the suffering in the world – to save a few Chesters of our world from suffering.

So, in addition to blessing and celebrating the animals that we have here with us today, I would be remiss if I did not share my hope for all sentient beings – that some day, all sentient beings would live lives free of violence, and full of love. The less harm we bring to all animals, the less violence is in our world – the more love.

This morning I am making no proclamations about how we must live, rather I am inviting us to consider what it means to fully live out our seventh principle – to honor and respect the interdependent web of life of which we are a part. We can not do it all. I am not perfect. None of us are. All we can do is what we can do. But, as we go about the hard work of love and justice in our lives, let us take our animals friends into consideration when we think about what we can do.

Today, is a wonderful beautiful spring day – we are celebrating our companions that we have here today, those whom we have lost, and those billions of animal friends who live lives not a lot unlike Chester’s last days.

Let us live as fully in love – in love of the earth, in love of all animals – as we can, recognizing that the more our lives reflect peace, and gentleness, and compassion, the more we can bring that to our world.

May it be so.

Introduction to the Blessing of the Animals

Now, we will celebrate and bless our animals. The Blessing will take place while we listen to “All God’s Creatures Have a Place in the Choir” – you can find the words in the order of service if you’d like to sing along. We invite companion animals and their humans to come up and Tricia and I will ask their name and then bless them. If you brought a picture or other item to represent your animal friend, you may also bring that forward at this time and we are happy to bless that as well.

(Note the blessing went something like ” [Name of animal], may you live a long, happy, and blessed life” – and we would touch the animal companion’s head as we spoke the blessing.)

Benediction/Closing Words

May we show love in all our actions

May our lives be a testament to peace and compassion.

Let us call each other to be our best selves.

And may we daily celebrate the earth and her creatures.

Amen and Blessed be.

Short Comment on Building Walls

April 21, 2007

I am shocked that people still haven’t learned that building walls – around neighborhoods, between countries, territories, or cities – never makes things better.

Snoop Gives His Take on Imus

April 12, 2007

This quote (see below) is particularly interesting to me given my twelve-year journey with some young men whom I’ve been lucky enough to mentor, two of whom are African-American and listen to Snoop Doggy-Dog and other such folks. I feel like twelve years later we are still have the same conversations. They go something like this:

One of the young men: Lizabeth, can we change the station?

Me: Yes, but if offensive songs come on we have to change it.

One of the young men: Okay.

(Offensive song comes on the radio)

Me: Please change.

One of the young men: They are bleeping out the words. Why do we have to change it?

Me: I can’t hear that kind of stuff being said about women even if it is being bleeped out. We all know what they are saying.

One of the young men: But we don’t really think that. Either do they.

Me: Don’t you think some people believe it and then these songs seem to make it okay? Do you think it is okay to call women bitches or hoes?

One of the young men: Well only if it is accurate. They aren’t talking about all women.

Me: Well I still don’t like it. We listened to your station enough. Let’s listen to NPR.

And so it goes. The young men are WONDERFUL people and I love and admire them all with the depth of my heart. I think, by and large, they are kind and loving and generally respectful of women, at least more so than most men. They have stopped calling women/girls “chickenheads” which I thought was a good step. :) Yet. I hate that sort of music and I hate that they listen to it and I know it influences them. And thanks to Mr. Snoop D.D. talking about Don Imus, we can see maybe where they get some of their ideas.

If you are offended by rough language, read no further. Here are Snoop’s comments on Imus in response to a comparison between Imus and rap lyrics that ROUTINELY degrade women, including SDD’s lyrics. Oh the outrage Mr. SDD must feel. Bless his little heart. (cough)

It’s a completely different scenario. (Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We’re talking about hoes that’s in the ‘hood that ain’t doing shit, that’s trying to get a nigga for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain’t no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them muthafuckas say we are in the same league as him. Kick him off the air forever.

Except, my dear SDD, guess what? All women suffer from your attitudes towards women and lyrics about women not just those in the “hood” that you assess “ain’t doing shit.” I think Imus is stupid and should be fired (how did he even stay on the air this long anyway?), but I want to see more outrage toward any sort of degrading talk about women and/or people/women of color. I don’t care of your sexism comes from your soul, Snoop. It hurts women, and it hurts the women and boys and men and girls that hear your music and know ALL THE WORDS and sing along and think it is just fine. And most of them are not thinking you are talking about particular women out to get money – such a cop out – because you aren’t and that is clear from your songs. You use women and bitches interchangeably.

Anyway. I thought that quote was important to share. I’m glad to see the outrage about Imus. But stuff like that should get you fired in a blink of an eye. I suppose at least it is helpful that they did it sooner than later.

p.s. I know some of my posts are getting a tad more snarky than usual. I’m not sure what that is about. Maybe a phase? I go through thinking I need to make this an ultra-professional blog, and a more casual approach that allows sarcasm and snarkiness where it is called for. I suppose it is all about balance. Biting commentary can somehow sometimes get a point across in a way that journalistic or academic sort of writing can’t. Yet, it is overdone in the blog world and I don’t want to contribute to that over-done-ness.

Special Love Your Life Issue

April 12, 2007

This shouldn’t be funny. But it is in a weird sort of way. Somehow I get Ladies Home Journal (that’s not the funny thing).  I don’t pay for it, it just started showing up one day. Of course LHJ isn’t quite my style, so I just throw them in the “Goodwill” bag and I donate them. I can’t stand to throw away a magazine someone else might read.  But anyway.  The funny thing is that  the May 2007 issue which just arrived today has at the top “Special Love Your Life Issue”.  Yet.  Yet, some of the other headlines on the front cover include “The Best Low-Fat Ice Creams,” “The Most Important Insurance You Don’t Have,” “Sensational Summer Skin: The Safe, Natural Way,” “Win a Free Stress Makeover” and “Deadly Superbugs: How to Spot and Stop Them.”  I guess love your life except for fatty foods (because, really, you know you are too big)… love your life except in that you don’t have the right sort of insurance… love your life except that you could easily be killed by a deadly superbug and your skin isn’t good enough AND you need a “stress makeover” whatever the hell that is.   Thank you LHJ.

Come to The Blessing and Celebration of the Animals!

April 12, 2007

A Celebration and Blessing of the Animals
First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro, MA
Sunday, April 22, 2007 * 10:30am
(scroll down to bottom for directions/details)

During our Sunday worship service on April 22, The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro (FUUSM) will hold the first Celebration and Blessing of the Animals ever to be held at FUUSM. This will be the final service that Elizabeth, the student intern minister, will lead. She is happy to be doing it around a theme that is so close to her heart. As April 22 is Earth Day, it will be a special time to reflect on the interdependent web of existence of which we and all other animals are a part. Animal companions are invited to the service, and with a little planning it should be a very special worship service.

We ask only animals that will do well in a public place join us at the service. We want all of our animals and humans to feel comfortable. While we will have supplies on hand to clean up any accidents, we encourage you not to bring your animal if you think that this is likely to be a problem. You might want to consider if your friend gets along well enough with other animals to join us, and if he or she will be okay sitting through the service. If your animal companion doesn’t do well in public or is not ready for such a big event just yet, we encourage you to bring a picture of him or her, a stuffed animal that represents your friend, or you can bring a collar or blanket that your friend likes and we can bless that instead.

Anyone is also invited to bring a pictures of animals friends that have passed away. There will be a time in the service to remember those animal friends whom we have lost. We asks that dogs are on short leashes or in carriers, and that all cats and any other animal that my try to scurry away be in carriers. Unfortunately, we do not have room in our sanctuary for any horses, goats, cows, sheep, or bigger pigs, but if you would like to have any bigger animals blessed outside after the service, please let Elizabeth know and arrangements can be made. There will be a special “human only” section of the sanctuary for anyone with allergies. With some flexibility and creativity, our Celebration and Blessing of the Animals promises to be an exciting way to honor and affirm the love and joy that our animal companions bring to us.

First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro
25 South Main Street, Middleboro, MA 02346
April 22, 2007 * 10:30am (Regular time for Sunday Services)
Phone: 508-947-1935

Favorite Books

April 12, 2007

Gosh, how have I not posted on this topic? Dan Harper over at Yet Another Unitarian Universalist recently posted about books that changed your life. My cousin Lydia who has her own blog lists her favorite books here (we used to have reading contests when I was little – who could read the most Nancy Drew books the fastest and when Lydia turned out to be more of a reader than me, my Dad would always point out the books she was reading sort of like, “Well at least someone your age appreciate books as they should.”). Maybe the reason I haven’t posted on this is because I read so many academic books that I have to trudge through, I forgot how fun reading is and how wonderful a good book can be. Not that I don’t like my academic books, but it is a different sort of satisfaction. Without further ado, a start to My Favorite Books list. Since this will take time to reflect on and fill out, this is just an off-the top of my head start. And these may not be my favorite books to read now, although lots of them are, but have been important favorite books throughout time.

Three Books that Come to Mind as Absolute Favorites

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

The Color Purple – Alice Walker

The Prince of Tides – Pat Conroy

(While the movies are all pretty good, the books came first for me. Movies later. As I noted in my comment on Yet Another UU, I first read all of these by the time I was 12. My parents were big readers and my Dad was an English teacher so my sister and I just sort of read whatever was around. It included lots of children’s books, but my parents liked these books and so I figured they must be good. As you can imagine, this meant that I didn’t really understand the books the first or second time I read them – but yet, even though I wasn’t getting it all, I had a strong sense that they were important books. I still read them all again every few years.)

Other Books I Really Like a Lot For Various Reasons

Texasville – Larry McMurtry (Just so funny.)

Evensong – Gail Godwin (link to my review – scroll down to view)

Lie Down in Darkness – William Styron (As with a lot of other books, I read this first when I was way too young so I didn’t understand it that well the first time I read it, but somehow it stands out as a favorite because of the beautiful, tragic language, but also because it is a favorite of my Dad’s and somehow that makes it special to me.)

Amazing Grace – Jonathan Kozol (Caused an a-ha moment about my purpose in the world and an important realization about injustice in the world.

The Corner – David Simon and Edward Burns (link to my review – scroll down to view after clicking)

Books for Children

Behind the Attic Wall – Sylvia Cassedy (this was a favorite in fourth grade)

Gypsy Summer – Wilma Yeo (a third grade favorite that I’m sure I read 20 times that is now out-of-print)

Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh (another third grade favorite – way before it was a movie!)

Steven Kellogg books – love them all

Academic-ish Books

In Memory of Her – Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza

Christian Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-Roman World – Judith Lieu

more to come!

Things a Church Website Should Make Very Easy To Find

April 10, 2007

We are going to be looking for a home congregation when my internship is over in May. We’ve been at First Parish Cambridge since we moved here, and feel like there is great transition going on there, and we are ready to find maybe something a little smaller or somehow a better fit. We’ve also looked at churches in cities we’ve thought of moving to or visiting. Here are some things I’ve noticed scanning websites of potential churches. Not that I am somehow a good website designer – I just know what I like when I am looking so maybe this will help folks make websites more user-friendly.

  • Somehow congregations do not make it clear what size they are. I want to know how many people usually attend on a Sunday morning. 70? 100? 600? If congregations put this on the website, it is usually buried somewhere non-obvious.
  • Also, I want to know a little something about the minister – not just his or her email. Where did they study? Work before this? Interests? Religious orientation? A picture is nice too just to put a name with the face.
  • And many churches have “What to Expect on Sunday Morning” which is very helpful. Do you go in the side door? Do children stay up with parents, or do they go to classes right away?
  • What programing goes on at church – at a glance. A six paragraph explanation is not “at-a-glance.” There is often indication of this program or that, but the websites often seem to be made for people already familiar with the church. What is the range of committee and projects that take place and that a potential person might get involved with? A list would be helpful, with a link to a more detailed description. This at the First Parish Concord website is a good example.
  • Links to pictures are nice to see what things look like going on at the church. No need to upload 4000 pictures, but a selection of different key events.
  • What is the flavor of the church? Mission statements really don’t seem to be very helpful in this. Is it a very liturgy-based sort of service? What is the singing like? When you call your church diverse, what exactly do you mean by that?
  • Explain things that visitors might not know, and make the explanations easy to find. For instance, if there is a “Forum” on Sunday morning, what might this be? Some sort of Sunday School for grownups? A discussion of the sermon? What is “coffee hour”? Will people talk to me there or will I stand there feeling awkward and out of place?
  • Less is more. I want to be able to see where the main menu is and use that to navigate the site. Lots of links and flashing things all over the page are confusing.
  • It is hard to know how to get involved in a new church. Making this clear and easy to find on the website is really nice.
  • The website should be updated and accurate. If you say, “Our ____ group meets every Tuesday at 7 and all are welcome,” and then there is no one there, that is kind of frustrating.

Just some thoughts I have as I procrastinate on doing the work I should actually be working on.

Shocking News From an Upcoming U.N. Report on Global Warming

April 5, 2007

According to the report, “Climate change is already having major impacts on the natural world.”

You can read the BBC article here.

I am glad about this “growing certainty” and don’t mean to be too cynical. It is just that lots of environmentalists and scientists were already “certain” a while back and if anyone would have paid any attention to them, we wouldn’t be in the huge pickle we are.  The evidence of global warming and its impacts (and potential impacts) have been clear for a long time. I just find it a bit irritating that it is like some sort of great revelation that the world is getting hotter and that this is actually impacting people’s lives.  Gosh. Who would have thought such a thing?  But, in spite of my sarcasm, I do recognize that it is a huge challenge to convince people and governments and businesses to do things differently until people are actually suffering from it.  It is just sort of too bad that things work that way.  Lets hope that people get psyched up enough about global warming and such to do a lot more than cover stories, documentaries, and reports………