Saturday, December 27, 2014

My favorite moments of 2014, in photos...

2014 in photos...


January: snow, snow and even more snow.


Spring took some time coming... But, boy, was it welcome! 


Home sick, but making the best of it!


Making a birthday cake.


Blowing out the candles.


Jet lagged and sunburnt from our trip to Ethiopia, but oh so happy.


Selfie with bestie


End of school days


Selfie with mommy


Hanging


Dress up like Daddy


Dress up like Princesses


Happy Birthday Grandma


Merry Merry Christmas!


And a happy New Year!


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent in Darkness

L "helping" string lights...from our first Christmas together


After dinner today our family did our little Advent celebration. We lit candles, we said a little prayer and did a little reading. Then we looked for the 10 little silver bells someone (me) had hidden in the living room and used them to make a joyful noise.

I may have gritted my teeth during most of this 10 minute spiritual exercise. I may have tried not to yell in frustration as one child stood up during the reading and another wouldn't stop asking if it was time to blow out the candles. I may have rolled my eyes heavenward more than once.

Spiritual exercise- like most exercise, it can be HARD.  You have to make yourself get up off the couch and put those sneakers on. You have to focus on the long term goals. You have to get up and move, even when you are not in the mood. I, for one, have never in my life been in the mood for a run.  I have to force myself out of the house to do restorative yoga, for goodness sake. I am definitely no role model of will power. However:

 Last year we didn't do Advent. And we had a really awful Christmas. The worst, actually. Not all of that is because we didn't like 4 candles over 4 Sundays. Mostly it was because our house was a construction site and 3 of us had the flu. But... not doing Advent didn't help matters.

UU author John Taylor wrote, “If there were no Advent, we would need to invent it.  We human creatures, in spite of all that has happened to us and been done to us, are still hopeful.  Something new, something vital, something promising is always coming, and we are always expecting. Thus in Advent candles are lighted to mark the time of preparation, and with each new light our anticipation grows – as it should.  We are, after all, a hopeful people, and that hopefulness deserves a festival.  

And I think I didn't really understand the true purpose of Advent until this year. It is dark out. It is dark within. We are going through a really challenging, painful time as a nation, and as a family. I am so proud when I see the thousands of protesters across the country demanding justice for all. And I am so fearful whenever I think of my own child. My parenting has changed. When once I would have sent him around the corner to fetch something he forgot at the gym, I now insist on going with him. When once I would have let him play with toy guns, I will never. When once I would have answered his questions about police with the usual "Police are there to help you."... I now hesitate. Dark times.

Time for light. The candles we light in our home, and the electric lights we hang in our windows are not just pretty decorations but prayers for more beautiful future. They are candles of hope.

This year as in many years past I am busy with Christmas preparations. Cards to mail, presents to wrap, cookies to bake, plans to make. It can be stressful and overwhelming. I am guilty of threatening to "cancel" Christmas when my children thoughtlessly break the toys they already have. I am guilty of wishing for a quieter home when my kids Wintertime pent up energy is threatening to bring the roof down. It can be hard to look forward to the magic of Christmas when you are doing the work of Santa.

So I look to our Advent readings and reflections to help me prepare. Prepare my mind and prepare my spirit. To stay focused on the magic that is really happening... that people, all over the world, still BELIEVE that something special is supposed to happen at the darkest time of the year. At least, judging by the "very special episodes" and TV movies, and Hollywood films, and picture books and songs and stories... We all fervently, desperately wish for that magic.

And don't we need it, this year.

So come, Christmas, come!

Jump for joy! It's Christmas time!


Come Christmas!
 by M. Maureen Killoran 
No one is ever really ready for Christmas. 
If we were really all prepared: 
      If every gift we had contemplated had been obtained; 
      If every present was beautifully beribboned; 
      If all the goodies our friends deserve were baked and cooled, and stored just so; 
      If each and every person we love was gathered for our celebration; 
      If we never snapped at someone we care about, nor stopped short of being all that we could be; 
      If our minds were 100 per cent loving and our hearts were 100 per cent generous; 
They truly would be ready and truly we would not need Christmas quite so much.
So come, Christmas, most needed of seasons. 
Come with the reminder that love does not depend on Perfection but on willingness to risk connection. 
Come into the unready manger of our hearts 
That we may feel the warmth of new life 
     
 And give flesh to the promise of hope 
     
 That cries to bring healing into our world.
 Come Christmas! 
            
Come, Love, 
            
Come, Hope. 
            
Be born in our unready hearts 
            
On this silent and holy night.

FURTHER READING

A must read from Rachel Held Evans: Advent 2

A great one from Christena Cleveland : Advent/Darkness

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Careful.

I used to joke that the two most useless words in my vocabulary were "be careful." Yet I say them all the time... to my headless, athletic, fearless, nimble, precocious children.

To my black children.

Be careful.

It's not a joke anymore.

It seems that lately every grand jury announcement, every news cycle, every hashtag explosion brings tidings of death and punishment.

News of the wages of being black in America.

Apparently,

The wages of resisting arrest is death.
The wages of buying a toy gun is death.
The wages of playing with a toy gun is death.
The wages of jay walking is death.
The wages of walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood is death. For a black man. For a black child.

And the punishment for a uniformed man killing another man or child is... none.

I've sat with the news of the grand jury non-indictment for the murder of Michael Brown for a few days now. I've been trying to let that sink into me... and it was hard, but I did manage to push it aside a little bit, because we don't live anywhere near Ferguson.

And then today. Another police officer, another murdered black man. Another grand jury that cannot find a single charge despite there being a recording of the death. I can't push that aside, because I live here.

And so does my son.  Not by his choice, most certainly.  If a series of tragic events hadn't unfolded in a small town in Ethiopia he would still be playing under her blue sky  Safe from bullets, if not from the diseases of poverty. Safe from racism, if not from hunger.

I used to think that my precious children were safer here. Safe with a fridge full of food, safe with a good doctor and great schools and the awesome opportunities afforded to them. Ha! That illusion has been shattered forever.

It was nearly invisible to me before we became an inter-racial family, but the day we adopted our two African children is the day that my white privilege shattered into a thousand jagged pieces.

I can feel every one right now.

There's that saying that your children are your heart walking around outside of you. My heart is inside of two beautiful Black children, walking around innocently outside of me in this terrifying world. And there is precious little my white privilege can do to protect them. The wings of that shelter grow ever tattered and thin the older they get. Our son is young still, but strong and large. He, like many 8 year old boys, has the heart of a fighter and the temper of a stinging bee. In a few years he will be 12, just like Tamar Rice, who was killed for playing with a toy gun. In a playground. By a cop. Will his killer walk free too? Or will we finally realize that All Life Matters? That Black Lives Matter? That our fears and our racism and our prejudices and our hatred are terrible, murderous illusions.

I may look white. I may have ancestors who threw up on the Mayflower. But the heart inside me is black. And right now it's bruised and broken.

But it's still beating. Because around me now and throughout our history thousands, millions of black hearts have been bruised and broken and yet still pounded. Wept. Marched. Chanted. Sang.

Prayed.

My prayer tonight is that more hearts will be broken open. The hearts of those who defend murderers, who accuse the innocent, who suspect their neighbors, who tell lies, who blindly hate or fear. Broken open and filled up with the love of children. Every one, every where, is some one's child. Some one's heart, walking around.

And my second prayer, is be careful.  Dear God, be careful with my heart.