Friday, August 26, 2016

In The Balance

Logic tells me it is a spider web. The rest of my brain tells me that it is an entire galaxy trapped in the middle of ours. 

In The Balance

Logic tells me it is a spider web. The rest of my brain tells me that it is an entire galaxy trapped in the middle of ours. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Winter Mushrooms

Witch's Butter



Monday, August 3, 2015

Gettin' a Jump on The Holidays

It was probably about 6:30 AM on July 6th when I saw my first Halloween advertisement. Sleep deprived and running on little more than birthday cake and adrenaline my wife and I came to the horrifying realization that there was NO MILK for coffee. None. Even the powdered goat milk we keep in the pantry for baking emergencies had been used up during... well... a baking emergency. So off I stumbled to the Stop & Shop a few hundred feet from our front door where I encountered a sign hanging in a vacant storefront announcing that HALLOWEEN CENTRAL would be opening SOON! Before the month was out, before teachers had even accepted that summer vacation was not a permanent thing, the candy began appearing on shelves. And the costumes. And the singing tombstones adorned with zombies eating their own still- beating (shut up- I write essays. Not sci fi.) And this could only mean one thing.

Thanksgiving would be next.

Each year, The Holiday Conversations in our family start in mid July when my family begins strategizing with our in laws to get out ahead of the game. It's preemptive damage control. Much like leaving a play date en-masse, we like to present a united front when the parents-in-law begin sniffing around our Holiday Plans. Where will we be for Thanksgiving? Can we make 3 stops in one day again? What about Christmas Eve? Christmas Morning? Christmas Dinner? New Years Eve? New Years Day? Have we considered the 3rd Thursday of Advent?

It's wonderful to be loved and wanted, but we're working on an intricate parental puzzle here with 6 to 7 moving parts, depending various people's relationship statuses. The year before our daughter was born we set up a strict rotation that lasted a good 3 years... who ever got Thanksgiving was not eligible for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Christmas Breakfast would always go to my dad. For example, if Person A got Thanksgiving in 2010, they would have Christmas Eve in 2011 and Christmas Day in 2012 (Have I mentioned that we're not actually Christian?). Our best friends in Nashville could be subbed in at any time. This allowed everyone to plan approximately 3 years in advance. It seemed perfect. There's no such thing as perfection.

In 2012 we scrapped our rotational system and drafted an application system. Our plans for this year's Thanksgiving were already solidified weeks ago, but I'd like to share it here in case anyone finds it useful. I've updated it for the 2015 calendar year.

Dear Family Members,
Because you have all recently inquired about our Thanksgiving plans, we are now accepting applications requesting the presence of our humble little family at your Thanksgiving Event. Please include the following information in your application (note: applications must be typed in 12 point font, either Ariel or Times New Roman; handwritten applications will not be accepted)
1. The date of the last Thanksgiving we spent with you
2. Estimated start and end time
3. Sample menu (yes, dessert, appetizers and alcohol selection count)
4. A list of potential conflicts or confrontations which may arise during this meal
5. A list of embarrassing stories you plan to tell
6. A list of other invited guests and possible surprise guests
7. A compelling reason why you think YOUR Thanksgiving event is more important than anyone else's.
8. A dynamic 3 point plan detailing how this year's Thanksgiving will be better than the one indicated in step 1.
9. A check, made out to cash, containing the $100 non-refundable application fee.
10. A notarized affidavit stating that, if chosen, you agree to relinquish your claim to our presence at any Thanksgiving event taking place in 2016, 2017, 2018 or 2019. If chosen, you will next be eligible to reapply again in November of 2020.
Applications will be reviewed in the order in which they are received. Please do not contact us regarding the status of your application. Any such contact will result in immediate disqualification of your application. Decisions will be announced on November 23rd, 2015.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Well, We Tried

Getting out the door to "church" this morning wasn't easy; in fact, we weren't even going to go. It had been a late night, an early morning and the day ahead of us was packed to the gills-- an all day music festival followed by late Fathers' Day Dinner reservations on a school night during the last week of school. We had decided weeks ago to skip it even though it was the last service before summer break, and the first service our minister would be back at after having twin boys. Earlier in the week I had turned down an opportunity to participate in the service because I was sure we weren't going.

But early in the morning we started to reconsider. It was rainy, and there was no point in getting to the festival early. We wanted to go to the last service, especially because we only officially joined a few months ago. We wanted to see the minister and the babies, and M wanted to see the minister's older son (who is one of her little buddies). We changed our plans, rushed through breakfast and a few showers, talked our child into a somewhat reasonable outfit for church, made sure we had a check for the balance of the pledge we owed for the year and set off on our way. Checking the clock we had just enough time to make it.

Over the past few months our congregation has gone through a number of changes. They've changed their name. They've changed the names of their committees. They've lost some members and added more. They've taken a good hard look at where they are and where they want to go and have decided that they need to be more welcoming and inviting; to find new members and make themselves more widely available to the community. They've talked about casting a wider net and have begun looking for ways to become more accessible to families.

And, simultaneously, they've started shutting people out. They've instituted new polices about "Late comers," appointed them specific seats in the back row (complete with signage) and, on a few occasions, employed bouncers to make sure they don't get in mid-song. This new stridency really only affects 3 groups of people- the elderly (many of whom rely on the services of others to get from place to place), the infirm (we once watched as a woman with a cane who recently had brain surgery was made to wait for a song to end), and the families (who have already fought hell and high water to get out the door, into the car, out of the car and in the door).

I've heard a lot lately about how families are turning away from all forms of organized religion. I've read heartwarming "Thank-You" posts from people encouraging young families to stick it out when their kids are noisy, inattentive and hard to manage during services. I've read anguished posts from strangers and friends about how hard it is to get their children to a service, to find a family friendly forum and to endure the stares of cranky, older, Caucasian worshippers when their children laugh too loud, ask curious questions or try to sing along when no one else is singing.  I've personally run out into the parking lot after strangers who were encouraged to "Get that kid out of here" by the woman sitting in front of me and convinced people that we are working hard to change. I've tried hard to convince my child that our "church" is a place she wants to be.

We arrived at the service today and parked the car with a minute to spare; made it up the stairs just as we heard voices start to sing the Gathering Hymn,"Enter, Rejoice and Come In." Ironically, when we tried to do just that, the door was closed. And not just closed to block out the noise of the children and babies in the nearby nursery, but fully shut and blocked by a member of the Committee on Ministry. So we stood, in the hall, outside the barricaded door, and obstructed window, listening to the congregation entreat people to "Enter, Rejoice and Come In." Needless to say, by the time we were able to enter and come in, we were not feeling very joyful (to add to the frustration 4 year old M, who had been ready and willing to enter, rejoice and come in when we arrived, spotted one of her friends in the nursery area and took off to play just as the door finally opened, leading one of us to chase after her and try and drag her into the sanctuary during the small window of opportunity when the door was open).

Even as I try to be objective about this, I can't figure out just what greater good this new closed-door policy is serving the congregation as a whole. The first 5 to 10 minutes of the service is generally taken up by a Gathering Hymn/Song of Community/Whatever It's Called (and wouldn't this be a fantastic time for people who are just arriving to... I dunno... gather?), a welcome statement, and a stream of announcements. In my opinion, this is not even worship yet; this is housekeeping. This is the PA system that comes on every morning in HS to tell you what's for lunch. Is it truly important that information be received in a silence uninterrupted by a walker or the shuffle of tiny feet? Are we all so uninvested in what is happening that the merest squeak of the door is enough to derail the entire spiritual train?