Where the heck are you?

Hey, loyal readers, I know I’ve been extremely neglectful of this blog lately. But you aren’t the only ones. I owe letters to my two pen pals, too. I’ve been really distracted lately, working on that rock star story I mentioned a month or so ago. I’m really being inspired to move on that one for whatever reason so all of my writing energy seems to go there. It’s like I can’t write fast enough–these characters are talking to me all the time, demanding their story be told, even though I’m not entirely sure where this story is going at the moment. I have a direction, but the details are still unfolding day by day. It’s been an interesting, exciting journey, the likes of which I have not felt since I used to write my 200-page novels when I was in high school. What’s making it easier to get to is that I’ve created a private blog that I’ve only allowed a few people access to so that they can edit it. Knowing that I have an audience who is willing to read it motivates me to work on the story too. There’s something about instant gratification, of getting needed validation that what you’re creating is interesting to people besides yourself. Of course, I still need to get some constructive criticism. And I still need to do some research to add a level or realism to it that’s probably not there at the moment. Still. I’m writing and I want to write. That’s the important thing.

I’m kicking around a few other opportunities, too. None of them are probably paying, of course. But maybe they will lead to getting my voice out there. Everything is resume-worthy in my books. One step closer to actually meeting some life goals, maybe. Wouldn’t it be nice if I really could be a paid creative writer? A lot of pressure. But the end result would be gratifying. To say the least.

I’ve been a little bit of a groupie to my friends’ Scott and Andy’s band, Vox Voronet (pronounced “VoroNET,” not “Voronay”). I’ve seen them three times (so not so bad) in the last few months, the most recent of which was last Friday at Jupiter Studios in Alliance. Every time I go to one of their shows, I seem to find another band I like. Last Friday, it was Zhopa Mira (which, apparently, means “asshole of the world” in Russian). This band’s lead singer, Boo Porcase, has the coolest goth punk voice. Check out their music; I’ve linked my favorite song, “Roberta,” below.

Roberta by Zhopa Mira

If you haven’t already heard them, check out Vox Voronet.  I’ve linked my favorite song, “The Party,” below.

The Party by Vox Voronet

I’ve become hooked on this TV series on the sci-fi channel called Being Human. Yes, I know it’s a remake of a British TV series. This is the first one I’ve seen, so I can view it without the jaundiced eye of someone who has seen the original. And let me just say that I do love it. It’s the most exciting show that’s been on for a while. I’m watching V and it’s interesting. But not quite like Being Human. You’d think I’d be tired of shows involving vampires, werewolves, and ghosts by now. Oddly, I’m not. Go figure.

I’m making it through winter a little better this year than last. It must be because I’ve had this Boston Mills ski pass. I’ve already used it 17 times this year! It’s definitely getting its money worth, that’s for sure. It’s nice to be able to go skiing any time I want–after work or on a boring weekend day. I’ll definitely be buying another one for the next year. I sure know how to take obsession to an all new level, don’t I?

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Things aren’t always what they appear

A little Valentine’s Day story for you.

All winter, I obsessed about a ski liftie who worked at the local resort to which I have a season pass. He was cute and about my age. I thought he was flirty. My friends thought he was especially flirty whenever I was around; they swore up and down he did not act the same way with them as he did when I was riding up the lift with them.

So friends to whom I confided this secret lust kept trying to get me to ask him out. Okay, it wasn’t so secret–all my Facebook friends and Twitter followers knew.  Still, I wasn’t about to go asking some guy out with knowing his relationship status beforehand. I don’t like to do anything where I have half a chance of losing before I even have begun. As working as a liftie is an “outside in the cold” sort of activity, he always had gloves on and so I could never see if he had a wedding ring. We did exchange names one of the weekends I was up there. It took four hours of skiing for me to work up the nerve to ask him even that.

Anyway, last weekend, I was at this local resort with my friends. They were egging me on to go ask the guy out to the Winking Lizard with us after skiing. The two girls were even willing to go so far as to go back outside–even though we’d been drinking beer for about three hours–to make one final run on the hill my liftie was working to ask him out. I flat-out refused, even though my two friends were half-way booted up.

Fortunately, one of my girl friends is braver. She instead started fishing around for information from the various employees. A little bit like high school? Probably. But there was no stopping her. She, as well as my other girl friend and their husbands, were convinced this guy liked me.

Anyway, of course, it turns out he’s married. Ha. Figures, right? All I can say is that I felt an utter sense of relief that I never took anyone’s advice and embarrassed myself by asking the guy out!! Can you imagine the humiliation? Now he’ll never have to know I was crushing on him and I can keep going to the resort without suffering embarrassment. This is why I play it safe always. And I wait for guys to ask ME out. I told everyone going into this situation that the fantasy is more fun to live with than the reality. I almost feel kind of sad because the fantasy is gone.

I think this story also goes to prove that no one really knows if someone really means more with their apparent flirting than friendliness. Or if they are even flirting at all (I have my doubts). Like I kept telling my friends, I didn’t think he was interested in me at all; he was simply a really friendly guy. Which is probably what contributed to making him so damned cute. Still. You just can’t go about mistaking friendliness for anything more than friendliness. This is always what got me into trouble when I was in school. I used to have these guy friends, and I would form a crush on them, and then as soon as I told them, they would back off, sometimes even stop talking to me all together. Because I always interpreted their niceness wrong.

But the same has happened to me too. Guy friends have revealed themselves as wanting something more to our relationship. I hate having to turn them down because I know what it feels like to be on the wanting side of the fence. We all get our wires crossed in this big wide world where we’re all trying to find a connection with someone. Most of the time, it just simply doesn’t work out for any of us. It’s very rare when both parties are both available and equally attracted to each other; it’s a mysterious science, an indeterminate chemistry. Sometimes when it all works out, life still has a way of taking it all away. Like what happened with Mike.

Fortunately, I have never felt I needed anyone. I still don’t. And the older I get, the more independent I become, the less I need anyone. I’m becoming set in my ways, less pliable to change. It may be harder for me to live with another person. But who knows. At any rate, it’s not happening any time soon. And I’m okay with that. It’s not stopping me from living.

Today, in memory of the last Valentine’s Day I spent with my one and only soul mate (thus far), I wore the last Valentines gift I received from him–a gold necklace with several little amethyst hearts. Diamonds are overrated, and actually kind of boring. But amethyst… ah, the beauty of purple is divine, royalty! And my husband knew that. I wore the necklace with the set of amethyst earrings my beloved Grandma H gave me some years before in memory of two very important people in my life who regularly indulged my love of purple… Love–romantic or otherwise–is sacred and must be remembered on a day like this. Even if  this “holiday” is just a marketing ploy to get people to spend more money…. We don’t need just one a day a year to declare our love for one another; we have 365 days a year to do that.

Of course a single person would say that.

Eh, well, I tried.

Why This Church? (Kristina)

The following is Kristina Spaude’s “testimonial” from the service this morning (at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent). Her speech was so well-liked, we asked her to do it again at the second service (she was originally just scheduled for first).

When I was first asked to participate in this service, I naturally said yes without thinking about it. When I got home later that day, I started to wonder, though, what I would say. So many people here have heard my story – and I know that there are more of you now who haven’t, but I thought, meh. So I returned to the sermon title, “Why This Church?,” and I knew that I would find something worth sharing.

The first service I attended here was October 1, 2006. That day only one person talked with me, but I knew that this would be my home. Granted, I had been intentional about the first service I came to – a Yom Kippur service, which I knew that I would almost certainly enjoy. But it wasn’t just the sermon that I liked – it was everything about the service. And although only one person spoke with me that day, I was aware that this would be my home. I decided to make this my home. To testify to that is the fact that I almost never miss services. Apart from this last summer, when I was unable to attend for about 4 months due to my back problems, I have missed only 4 services. I don’t share this for any reason but to reiterate that this church, this congregation, this community is important to me. Church is not structured around my life; my life is structured around church.

It’s about 4 years to the day now since I officially signed the book and became a member, but I had already been getting involved in different activities – primarily the Social Justice Committee and the Small Group Ministry program (now named Chalice Groups). Since then, I’ve been involved in… Well, so much that I can’t even remember it all off the top of my head. Currently I’m serving as a Worship Associate and as a Youth Group advisor. I also now have the privilege of having served as the Interim Office Administrator after Judy retired, which was also the time that Rev. Melissa was preparing for and going on leave, as Rev. Katie was coming on board as our consulting minister, as Pam stepped down as Sexton and Colleen agreed to serve as Interim Sexton, and as a permanent replacement was found for the office, who I also helped train. That was a position I loved – it was a gift to be able to do it, really like a dream come true, if but for a time. In considering the position permanently for myself, I had to make a decision – to serve the congregation in the office or to serve the congregation in the church. But it wasn’t really much of a decision for me – I chose to remain here with you.

Why? The only way I can begin to explain why, what you mean to me, is to ask you to take a moment and look around this room and at the people in it. Not the people you know and you don’t know, not faces and names you recognize, but look at each other. Look into each others’ eyes. If you can’t see their hearts and souls, their divine spark, look again because you aren’t looking closely enough. Each of you made a choice to be here this morning, to be here together. To be here as your whole selves, because you know that you can be whole here – and you know that truthfully, we wouldn’t want you any other way.

So, why? Why am I here, week after week, serving the congregation in most of the ways I’m asked to, to be here with you? Like you, I come here to be present and to be whole-ly present, to share this holy presence. I come here to be grounded, to be restored, to be renewed. I come here to share my journey with you, to receive what you offer me, to love you. I come when my heart is radiating with love and when I can’t help but cry, and you are here to celebrate and comfort me. I come because you help sustain me. You remind me of all that the world can be, that my hopes and your hopes, that my work and your work are for good cause and make a difference. You remind me of who I am, you teach me to grow more than I ever could have imagined, you ask me to share myself with you. I come to be, I hope, a reflection back to you what you are to me and so that perhaps my presence will serve as an expression of the gratitude I have for each of you and for this home we covenant to make here together.

Why This Church?

Today I co-lead a service at my church with two other people about the community of the church. For the sermon portion of the service, we asked a few members of our church to speak as to how their journey led them to this church and why they are members. The three of us who co-lead the service also gave our own “testimonials” that answered the same questions we asked of the other people we asked to speak. I wish I had a copy of each person’s speech–they were all so wonderful!–but I’ve included mine below. Enjoy!

I always say that there are three things that saved my life after my husband died: U2 music, cycling, and this church. U2 music wove itself into the fabric of my soul, filling me with inspiration and hope when I had little of either. Cycling, by pushing me to my physical limits, helped me to learn the boundlessness of my strength. These were the two tools that carried me through my grief and the first six years without my husband Mike. But I yearned for something more. A spiritual connection. A faith I could truly believe in without having to fake it or lie to myself. Something I could accept wholeheartedly. I found that in this church.

The first time I came to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, I was frightened. I hadn’t voluntarily walked into a traditional church, other than for weddings and funerals, since I declared myself an atheist in sixth grade. I’d explored spirituality through a short stint with a group of pagans—who, incidentally, recommended Unitarian Universalism to me—but that was closest I got to participating in any sort of religious ritual. It was much easier for me to attend a pagan ritual, which was a completely foreign experience to me as an ex-Catholic, than it was for me to willingly walk through the doors of a church. It was a huge, scary step to come here.

But I did. Because I was thirsty for community and spiritual enlightenment. I wanted a place that reflected my own values and would allow me to grow spirituality—whatever that meant to me at any given moment. And believe me, that changes from day to day. Hour to hour even. I noticed a kind of peace with my friends who had found a sanctuary in religion. I wanted to feel that too. And so I sought faith for comfort. I wanted to believe.

I was drawn into this church the moment I entered. The sanctuary was small and familiar; familiar, even though it was completely opposite from the large, cold, and austere church I went to growing up. It lacked those familiar symbols of Christianity that always made me uneasy. I took a seat in the back—not too different than I do today—and I tried to remain inconspicuous and unseen. Which is extremely hard in this church where part of the welcoming ritual involves turning and greeting your neighbor. A lady sitting next to me introduced herself. She told me she attended this church sometimes, that she found the services comforting; she assured me that I would like it too. “It’s different,” she said. I was relieved because to me, different is almost always good.

I want to say that there was an inspiring sermon that spoke to my personal values and satisfied some of my deeper spiritual quandaries. Sadly, I don’t remember what the sermon was about or who led it (it was lay-led). I experience life through music. In times of contentment or joy, music is the catapult that launches me into the atmosphere; when I hit rock bottom, music is the strong hand that pulls me back to the surface again. So it’s not very surprising at all that when Hal Walker opened the service with one of his beautiful, soul-searching songs, I was immediately moved. The music I found here in this church proselytized Unitarian Universalism to me.

I signed up for the New UU class that day before I left and it changed my life. Through that class, I learned there was a faith that not only shared my common values but also allowed me to find my own truth and meaning in life. I was free to study whatever mysticism fascinated me—Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Wiccan. Everything was fair game to ponder and consider. Even my own Star Wars inspired belief in a “life energy” like The Force. The Seven Principles were values I could get behind. The people here were welcoming and—most importantly—socially liberal. There was a general concern for social justice and being good stewards of the planet. I saw so many great values in this church, so much wonderful energy.

I officially signed the membership book in November of 2007. Since then, I’ve made several friends through my involvement in chalice groups, a spare few committees, and serving as a greeter on Sunday mornings. Though my attendance at church is not as regular as I would like it, my heart is always here when my body is not. I’m proud to be a Unitarian Universalist—even though I always have to explain to people what that means—and I’m proud to be a member of this church. I’m in a much better place now emotionally than I was when I first came here. That’s because of all of you. You probably don’t even realize the little things you’ve done that have helped me reach this place, and that’s okay, because a community does without being asked. I’ve found great support here. I’ve found my spiritual home.