June 22. General Assembly

Yesterday was all about learning and thinking, today (mostly) was about music.

Making Music Together: Musical Ways to Build Your Community with Kellie Walker
Kellie had a great presentation of songs you can sing as a congregation and also ways to get non-singers singing. I realized a drawback of attending a large congregation while attending this lecture. We have three adult choirs. There is little need to press any non-singers (like me: an enthusiastic singer with no choir training) into singing, aside from normal hymn singing during church. She talked about a “come as you are” band her church has at Christmas where whoever digs up their instrument and brings it along to play. They also have a special mother’s day choir made up of mothers and daughters, and also a father’s day choir. I love the music at our church, but this was a wake up call that perhaps other churches have wonderful music too. But in a different way.

This Is My Song? Reflections on Cultural Misappropriation.
This was a somewhat confusing panel discussion that was partly the report of the committee that met after the “incident” at the 2006 GA. I didn’t really get what the incident was and why it was such a big deal that they needed to convene a panel to meet several times over the year and discuss. This was a major failing and had me confused. What I did get was that when you use music (or anything, really) in a public realm, you had better know the provenience of it, and the proper way to use it.

What in God’s Name Am I Doing? Robert Fulghum
My only goal was to see this program. And luckily for me, my friend Kelly saved seats so I did get to see it. Robert Fulghum was my introduction to Unitarian Universalism, though I didn’t really realize it at the time. He is 70 now, and was dressed in a sport coat and bow tie. He gave us a PowerPoint presentation in which we had to use the power of our brains to see the slides he was “showing” us. A big part of his presentation was about how the things your mother used to say to you, such as, “What in god’s name are you doing?” really become questions you ask yourself throughout your life. I marvel at how he can tie so much to his stories.

Let’s Make Music–Anyone Can. Melodie Feather, Ellie Hodder
Another music program. We got to divide into five sections and spend ten minutes learning our parts. Then we came back together and performed. It was much fun and a nice way to end the day.

June 21. General Assembly

I got to attend the following two sessions during GA today. Both were quite informative.

Dr. Riane Eisler, “The Caring Revolution: Turning Economics Right Side Up!”

Dr. Eisler talked about changing our society from a domination society to a caring one. Apparently she has written a book called “The Chalice and the Blade” which outlines the differences between the two ideals. She pointed out that in a caring society, education and care taking of children (by their parents, or child care professionals) would be something that was justly compensated. For instance, plumbers make $70.00 an hour while many child care professionals make minimum wage. “That’s not logical, it’s pathological.” she said, to great applause.

The other things I enjoyed about Dr. Eisler was one of her answers during the Q&A session. “Don’t you think it’s so-and-so’s fault…” a woman began her question which rambled only a bit before getting to the end.

“Well,” said Dr. Eisler, addressing the first part of the question, “I don’t really do blame.” We all laughed.

Thomas Hartman. “Choices That Matter–‘We the People’ Choosing Democracy”
Thomas Hartman gave a very inspiring speech. I was impressed that he just talked off the cuff for 90 minutes, though he is a radio talk-show host and probably gives a lot of speeches.

The first point of his that I connected with was about the middle class being “made” Not in an Italian gangster type of way. More like the set up of the tax structure and government regulation ensure that our society doesn’t just have rich people and poor people. He talked about four times in American History when we had great disparity and how the majority of the people in the country did not benefit from this.

The point I really loved was his mantra that we do not elect leaders, we elect representatives. He discussed Theodore & Franklin Roosevelt and also Lyndon Johnson. All were the “establishment” candidates, all were expected to make modest changes and keep the status quo. All of them got into office, looked at the country’s situation and, in Hartmann’s words “got it.” They then made sweeping changes that made an incredible difference in America and left America a better place.

Hartmann believes that if you have a cause that you believe in, and you find enough other people who also believe in that cause and you are public in your support of that cause, eventually some politician will look around, see your parade marching by, and have an epiphany. He will run to the front of that parade and proudly proclaim, “I feel very deeply about this cause. This is my cause. I will do whatever I have to, to champion this cause.” And that is how change happens.

Thomas Hartman ended with the words, “Tag, you’re it.”

June 20: General Assembly, Banner Parade

General Assembly (GA) is the annual gathering of Unitarian Universalists. It is held in different cities around the country and this year, Portland got to host. GA being in my town, I decided to go this year. I avoided the hefty registration fee ($285.00 for early bird, $330.00 normally) by volunteering.

My volunteer position is on the Ambiance Committee. We are in charge of decorations for the meeting rooms, but most importantly, the Banner Parade.

The Banner Parade opens GA. All the attendees gather together in a huge hall and each church designates a person to carry their banner. They all march through the hallway, while music is playing and people are clapping and it is all so dramatic and fun.

Organizing the banner parade was also fun. People were in good moods as the assembled their banners and waited in line for the parade.

The parade was fun as well. All the people marching to the music and waving as they carried their banners. I got to stand inside during the parade so I could see all the multitudes of congregations represented.

After the parade, everyone deposited their banner and the Ambiance Committee got to hang them up. We had a great system, which made hanging simple and used all 18 of the ambiance committee members. It was hard work, though. There were 320 banners which took us 3 hours to hang. I was very sweaty and tired by the end, but it was worth it to look up and see the results of our hard work. And the banners looked beautiful.

June 17: YRUU Beach Trip

The youth in my youth group took a trip to the beach today. Ron, Jimmy and I were there intrepid leaders. We rented a van and drove down to Manzanita where we used Ron’s beach house as a base camp. Despite my constant exclamations of the 80 degree and sunny weather, it was gray and overcast. This did not keep Katie and Colin out the the frigid water.

We played Aw Shucks, walked into town and then roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for s’mores. Just as we were leaving it began to rain.

Oregon beaches. They’re nice if you never want to go in the water.

ps. Until I googled “manzanita” I had no idea that the town was named after a shrub.

June 5: Spirit Week. Crazy Hair Day

Spirit week this week. Today was crazy hair day. I improvised some crazy hair to show my spirit!

It looks somewhat normal from the front

But from the back???? Office supply mayhem.

The best part of crazy hair day was that tonight was Kindergarten Round Up. All of next year’s parents got to see me with crazy hair. Not all of them knew it was crazy hair day. My boss and I were discussing this after the event and I remarked that no one had said anything to me.

“Well some of the asked me!” she said, laughing.

May 26 The not-so-long ride to Washington

My friend Kelly lives in Vancouver which is all the way on the other side of the Columbia River. However, since the move, I live much closer to her. We decided to do a bike ride in the great city of Vancouver.

On the way to the bridge I rode past a long line of trees and sidewalk between Delta Park (the race track) and the Expo Center. This is a long expanse of road and sidewalk where almost no one walks.

As I rode along, I head a bird angerly chirriping at me. Suddenly, to my left, the bird puffed up, stood and attempted to scare me off. I could see she had a nest full of eggs, just sitting out in the open. On the way back, I stopped by and took these pictures.


While the area doesn’t have much foot traffic, I don’t think those eggs were long for this world. Much too much exposed.

I rode over the bridge, on the correct side this time, and through Vancouver. Esther Short Park is quite lovely and there is a huge brick Catholic Church to see too.

Kelly and I had a lovely egg and cheese bake/fruit salad/toast for breakfast and set off on our bikes. We rode through more neighborhood to get to the Discovery Trail which is a lovely urban trail. It was a beautiful day, and there weren’t many people out. We rode for about two hours at a leisurely pace and the sun was so welcome.

It was a good ride back and the next day I was exhausted. But pleasantly so.

Predictions for Harry Potter

One of my goals this year was to reread the Harry Potter series before the last book comes out. I did this because, frankly, I forgot what happens in each book and I’m not a huge fan of the movies (I’ve only seen 1 and the DVD extras of 3) so things aren’t really solidified in my mind. I decided to read one per month which would have me finishing in June.

“What are you going to do for the rest of June and most of July?” asked Matt. We were arguing about whose reading schedule was better. I told him I would review.

I’m really glad I reread everything because I didn’t really remember much of the second book and only a little of the fourth book. The third book was less murky for me because I saw parts of the movie, but most of that was pretty unfamiliar too. Still, even with all of my reviewing, I got to the part in the sixth book when the big spider dies, and there was a reference to an earlier book when Ron and Harry encountered it. I had no idea what she was talking about. But I’ve got a good foundation for the last book.

Without further ado here are my predictions for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

This assumes you have either read all six books or don’t really care if you find anything out.

•We will spend 80% of the book thinking that Snape is evil, and 15% wondering if he might be good and 5% finding out that he is good. Although he did KILL Dumbledore. So this might be way off.

•One of the Weasley’s will die. There are just too many of them. They can’t all be in mortal peril forever. I’m guessing Charlie as he has been in Romania for the entire series and we haven’t gotten attached to him.

•Dumbledore is dead, but will advise/aid Harry in some way.

•Harry will die, and even though this will be tragic and sad, it will make for a somewhat tear sodden happy ending.

•If Harry doesn’t die, he will defeat Voldemort and become a quiddich player.

I’ve never experienced this during mediation, ever. (Hah!)

From “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The following morning, I arrive right on time for the 4:00 AM meditation session which always starts the day here. We are meant to sit for an hour in silence, but I log the minutes as if they are miles—sixty brutal miles that I have to endure. By mile/minute fourteen, my nerves have started to go, my knees are breaking down and I’m overcome with exasperation. Which is understandable, given that the conversations between me and my mind during meditation go something like this:

Me: OK, we’re going to meditate now. Let’s draw our attention to our breath and focus on the mantra. Om Namah Shivaya. Om Namah Siv—

Mind: I can help you out with this, you know!

Me: OK good, because I need your help. Let’s go. Om Namah Shivaya. Om Namah Shi—

Mind: I can help you think of nice meditative images. Like—hey, here’s a good one. Imagine you are temple. A temple on an island! And the island is in the ocean!

Me: Oh, that is a nice image.

Mind: Thanks. I thought of it myself.

Me: But what ocean are we picturing here?

Mind: The Mediterranean. Imagine you’re one of those Greek islands, with an old Greek temple on it. No, never mind, that’s too touristy. You know what? Forget the ocean. Oceans are too dangerous. Here’s a better idea—imagine you’re an island in lake, instead.

Me: Can we meditate now, please? Om Namah Shiv—

Mind: Yes! Definitely! But try not to picture that the lake is covered with…what are those things called—

Me: Jet Skis?

Mind: Yes! Jet Skis! Those things consume so much fuel! They’re really a menace to the environment. Do you know what else uses a lot of fuel? Leaf blowers. You wouldn’t think so, but—

Me: OK, but let’s MEDITATE now, please? Om Namah—

Mind: Right! I definitely want to help you meditate! And that’s why we’re going to skip the image of an island on a lake or an ocean, because that’s obviously not working. So let’s imagine that you’re an island in…a river!

Me: Oh, you mean like Bannerman Island, in the Hudson River?

Mind: Yes! Exactly! Perfect. Therefore, in conclusion, let’s meditate on this image—envision that you are an island in a river. All the thoughts that float by as you’re meditating, these are just the river’s natural currents and you can ignore them because you are an island.

Me: Wait, I thought you said I was a temple.

Mind: That’s right, sorry. You’re a temple on an island. In fact, you are both the temple and the island.

Me: Am I also the river?

Mind: No, the river is just the thoughts.

Me: Stop! Please stop! YOU’RE MAKING ME CRAZY!!!!

Mind (wounded): Sorry. I was only trying to help.

Me: Om Namah Shivaya…Om Namay Shivaya…Om Namah Shivaya.

Here there is a promise eight-second pause in thoughts. But then—

Mind: Are you mad at me now?

–and then with a big gasp, like I am coming up for air, my mind wins, my eyes fly open and I quit. In tears. An ashram is supposed to be a place where you come to deepen your meditation, but this is a disaster. The pressure is too much for me. I can’t do it. But what should I do? Run out of the temple crying after fourteen minutes, every day?

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