Posts Tagged ‘community’

Days 2-6 of the 72 day challenge

September 6, 2015

Catching up on simplifying my life: days 2-6 (hey, who said I’d write on a daily basis!)

 Day 2: Evaluate your commitments. Look at everything you’ve got going on in your life. Everything, from work to home to civic to kids’ activities to hobbies to side businesses to other projects. Think about which of these really gives you value, which ones you love doing. Which of these are in line with the 4-5 most important things you listed above? Drop those that aren’t in line with those things. Article here.

This one? I’m actually pretty good at (lack of kids helps).  Not being over committed is, in part due to being an introvert.  I combine my walking with fun FitBit challenges with the 9 year old nephew and 10 year old niece.  I group text during football games with older nephews.  Over the years, I learned that being what may be perceived as being “selfish” with my time allows me to fully participate in activities I enjoy.

Day 3: Evaluate your time. How do you spend your day? What things do you do, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep? Make a list, and evaluate whether they’re in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that aren’t, and focus on what’s important. Redesign your day.

The biggest time waster in my day is my commute.  Given the housing prices in the Boston area, I’m locked into the commute.  I’ve started to listening to audio books, pod casts to catch up on my ‘reading’ while spending windshield time.  After doing this list the last time, I realized that by simplifying my wardrobe to similar colors, I reduced the number loads of laundry (yeah!).  I’m still working on teaching the cats to clean the house.

Day 4: Simplify work tasks. Our work day is made up of an endless list of work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list, you’ll never get everything done, and worse yet, you’ll never get the important stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest. Read more.

Um.  I’ve learned that if I go to work early (we have flexible start times), I can take care of most of the daily tasks before being inundated with the unknown.  Unfortunately, my industry is fraught with “emergency” essential tasks. I’ve learned to calendar to due dates, combine tasks.  The important stuff gets done; it is the this won’t take a second stuff that keeps piling up!

Day 5: Simplify home tasks. In that vein, think about all the stuff you do at home. Sometimes our home task list is just as long as our work list. And we’ll never get that done either. So focus on the most important, and try to find ways to eliminate the other tasks (automate, eliminate, delegate, or hire help).

One of the downsides of being single is that there isn’t anybody to help with the crazy chores.  I try to meal prep over the weekends.  I have a condo so much of the annoying home ownership is out of the HOA dues.  Bills are paid automatically.  My absolute distain for household tasks has probably saved me here.  If I cannot figure out how to use an item for two or more tasks, it’s doesn’t come into the house.

Day 6: Learn to say no. This is actually one of the key habits for those trying to simplify their lives. If you can’t say no, you will take on too much. Article here.

So, I’m working on this. I’ve decided that in corporate America, no equates with being tagged as a non-team player.  I’ve learned to say “I’d be happy to help X with Y project but can you help me re-organize where you’d like this to fit in?” to something as simple as task swapping among peers and tapping into our strengths.

72 ideas in 72 days: Day One – What is important to you.

September 2, 2015

Make a list of your top 4-5 important things. What’s most important to you? What do you value most? What 4-5 things do you most want to do in your life? Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.”

Simple right?  The typical answer should be family, faith, work and exercise (or some non-sense variation).  For me, since I did this project the last time, a lot has changed: some for the good, some for the bad and all of it hard.  The question is interesting what is most important to me is not what I value the most (time, I value time the most).  What is most important to me?

  1. My family comprised of most of the people I’m related to, a few who I should be related to.  The people who I’d drop anything and get on a plane for.  The people who know when my mouth says “I’m fine” that it’s a lie: even over email, texts, and other forms of communication that lack inflection and body language.  There is really nothing better than hysterical texts from 9 and 10 year olds who while wishing you luck on something also announce they plan on beating you at an activity.  Or coming back from a meeting to your phone having been blown up by a crazy debate on what an 18 year old and 16 year old would buy with a million (or was it a billion) dollars for a perfect NCAA bracket.  Or being able to just not pretend everything is OK with friends.
  2. Travel: From wandering through small town USA to taking bullet trains in Japan, there is a world out there.  Most people are good.  Everybody makes salsa different.  Travel forces my introvert self to be more extroverted.  Travel restores me.  Travel decorates my house (seriously).
  3. Exercise: I know.  Who would have thought?  I try to walk between 4-8 miles a day.  The activity decompresses me.  I love the way  I feel afterwards.  I listen to books on tape ( while I’m walking.  My walks are my carved out ‘me time’.
  4. Being selfish with out guilty:  Maybe because I am female, but I feel guilty when I can’t be everything to everybody.  No is an answer that is perfectly acceptable.  It’s ok not to want to go to bridal shower, to spend a weekend visiting somebody you’d met for coffee.  Leaving the office after 9 hours.
  5. My friends: E-friends are great but I need to be a better friends with sending real letters, meeting for meals or coffee.

Because leaving is the answer to the Lenten riddle

March 15, 2015

This year has been an odd Lenten journey.  With an early Easter and the snowiest winter in Boston history, I know the grey piles of snow will abound on Easter morning when for (I think) the first time in my life, I will not be attending an Easter service.  I’m not sure if I’ll return to the church (that being said, I know I will go with a few people on specific occasions) as a member.  A few reasons, if only to clear my own mind:

  • You asked for membership dues. No, I am not kidding.  I pledged.  My pledge is my offering to the church for the operating budged.  The membership dues should be a fixed line item on the budget.  I understand the need for campaign funds, grant challenge funds; I gave to those as well.
  • I need ritual. Yes, this is a “free” church tradition but free-church does not mean the absence of ritual.  The extended dance version of the passing of the peace is not the only ritual.  Our liturgies are full of rituals.
  • Ok, look, I get gender inclusive language is a thing in the church right now. But like changing the national anthem, the changing of the words of The Lord’s Prayer ranks among one of the “traditions” that will make me scream internally or on social media.  Maybe I just have an advanced degree in feminist thought, but as a lesbian, I am not oppressed by the prayer.  Just don’t ask my Greek professor to relate my translation (it was pretty funny).  There is something sacred and holy about saying the words that your great-great-great grandparents said in worship.
  • I watched you embrace people into your church: you know, the young, married couples with/without kids, the couples, those under 30. I understand that churches (in general) see these as “growth” opportunities.  But I am still me:  I’m not sorry I come without a child, some days I wish I had a partner.
  • Every year, I checked the boxes saying where I was interested in serving in the church. Every year, I’d read about the nominating committee having a hard time finding people to fill positions (often ones I’d learn at the annual meeting, I’d expressed an interest in).  I was never asked to participate.  The one time I did participate, I was not re-appointed.  No reason given.  No feedback.
  • The extended dance version passing of the peace is the singular most hellacious experience I forced myself to endure for over 150 weeks. It is not introvert friendly.  It is not visitor friendly.
  • I have been to church twice maybe in the past six months. The minister called, we set up a time to talk.  The minister cancelled.  We rescheduled.  This went on for a few times.  I gave up: none of the reasons for cancellation were for pastoral or personal emergency.  It might be unfair on my part, but I felt like I was not valued.

I still think you are nice people.  I also think you are a clique.  It is sad.  I had hopes for you.  But as an introvert, you’ve left me with a few scars.  I use a lot of energy to attend church (probably due to number 6 above) and what I’ve found in this year’s Lenten journey is that my faith was not nurtured by your organization.

The Early Winter Darkness

December 23, 2012

Like most of us, I’ve been stumbling around the past 9 or so days trying to figure out what went so horrifically wrong in Newtown on the 14th.  Of course there are not real answers, only ideas and some incredibly stupid suggestions (see the NRA). We talk about “a culture of violence” and other such random excuses (let’s face it, most of the world sees the same movies, plays the same video games and yet there isn’t a daily news story on a mass shooting).

Layered on top of the tragic chaos of Newtown, was the absolute insanity of the Mayan prophecy.  I received a text yesterday from my middle nephew “bummed the world didn’t end.” I laughed.  That guilty laugh that I remember from right after 9/11.   And a fleeting idea: maybe the Mayans were right.  My idealistic side hopes that maybe, just maybe we’ve reached the end of the finger pointing, blame games. The senseless acts of violence.  The culture of “it’s not my fault”. The community of self.

I thought about those in and around Newtown who are trying to find words when there are no words.  There are no answers.  I sat and thought for a moment, we created this.  We created this chaos. 

I’m not going to debate the merits of who should have a gun and who shouldn’t.  I don’t know why one person who was haunted by what must have been horrific demons killed 27 people before killing himself.  But as I sit in the darkness of the early winter, as we start to celebrate the coming of the light, I can’t help but think maybe it’s time to hope the Mayan’s were right.  That the world did end and we seized the moment to create a new one.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older.  Or maybe because I’ve spoken to my 6-7 year old nephew and nieces, but I found myself thinking, the true tragedy of Newtown would be to let it become like Columbine, Northern Illinois University, Virginia Tech, Puducah, Aurora, Portland and simply a news cycle.  The lives have been lost.  The dreams have been shattered.

It’s time for us to build a new world: one where six year olds doesn’t calmly explain to his aunt the emergency plan for each location of his school for fire, tornado and lock down.  It’s our time to lead.  We finally have to say enough is enough.

I don’t have the answers.  I’m not even sure I know all the questions.  I know I’m exhausted of news that simply brings more heartache.


Proudly Spiritual, Never (again) Religious

September 2, 2011

Lillian Daniel wrote a daily devotional on the United Church of Christ (UCC, aka the Pilgrims) website that caused a bit of back and forth on my Facebook page.  I found her shortsighted and snarky in (to say the least).  I can give or take most comments/devotionals but one section grabbed me as probably one of the more broad brush strokes I’ve read in a while: “Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn’t interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you.”  Can somebody show me where this appears in a religious text that conversations like this can only appear in a house of worship? Maybe I’m just fortunate,  I have a wide circle of friends, including a former-Marine dyed in the wool Libertarian.  We disagree on a ton, we agree on a ton: and we met by me yelling “Bullshit!” to her in the middle of a class our freshman year of college.  It was hardly a house of worship.  Using the Christian tradition of community, it is comprised as more than one: so my conversations with my friends are community, they are hair-splitting, they are wide-ranging and they are difficult conversations.  They are hardly religious but honestly? How many people actually attend a house of worship that has distinct political views/ethical views that they hold?  How many dyed in the wool liberals would attend, let alone join, a church that forbids card playing, dancing, alcohol?  How many dyed in the wool conservatives would attend a church that not only allows LGBT individuals to openly worship but openly ordains them?

I graduated from seminary. I (somewhere) have the diploma to prove it: I certainly have the debt.  Among my myriad of frustrations was the lack of engagement IN the difficulty of faith.  Start with the Revised Common Lectionary: it doesn’t even COVER the entire Bible.  What? In the 3 year calendar you can go to church every Sunday and not hear every verse of scripture read. Yup.  And the ones missing: the hard ones.  The ones that deal with rape, the ones that deal with social codes that are illegal in most parts of the country.  The part where a baby’s head is bashed against the rocks? Missing.  In my preaching class, I was dinged for not ending on a happy clappy note.  The text was the prodigal son: and I mistakenly challenged the congregation class to think about how they would react in two weeks (it would be Easter Sunday then): would we welcome those who attend once a year with open arms? (like the father) or would we react like the son full of disgust for not doing the work through the year.  It was an open challenge to think, think about faith, journey, how people might come back and the only comment from the professor was “Peter Gnomes wouldn’t like that ending.”  (note: I really don’t care.  Yes, Peter Gnomes was an amazing preacher but really? Who cares?).  I’m not interested in a sermon that is “we are wonderful because we are religious and not just spiritual!”

The more I stewed on Daniel’s piece, the more I realized one of the reasons I found her missing the point.  I heard a post-op transgendered individual say she didn’t attend church anymore.  She didn’t feel welcome.  Before her surgery, he had been active in his denomination.  After surgery, she asked that her Baptismal certificate be re-issued with her new name.  The Bishop refused (not a Catholic bishop, an Episcopal Bishop).  More interesting? The refusing bishop is gay.  For me, one of the most painful moments was when she said on Christmas Eve, she made herself communion and read the Christmas story at home.  She didn’t feel welcome: I’d say she was both spiritual and religious but Daniel’s would disagree.

A longer article appeared in the Christian Century.  I found her comments about the person who walked away from religion a bit disconcerting.  I vaguely remember something about not knowing how Christ will appear.  Her response? “Of course, this well-meaning Sunday jogger fits right in  to mainstream American culture. He is perhaps by now a part of the  majority—the people who have stepped away from the church in favor of  running, newspaper reading, yoga or whatever they use to construct a  more convenient religion of their own.”  I’m not suggesting the person sitting next to her is/was Christ: but the call to those in the Christian tradition to minister in the midst.  I find her comments regarding an individual’s commentary on his child more perplexing “But when you witness pain and declare yourself lucky, you have fallen way short of Jesus’ vision and short of what God would have you do.” So, according to Daniel’s God would have us do certain things: based on the tenants of her faith (and her denomination), she falls short.  I’ve watched love ones battle cancer: and I’ve felt lucky.  Does that make me shallow? Or does it make me human?  If I offer to help that person in any manner I can (asking friends of faith to pray, sending cards, bringing a meal) does that automatically make me a Christian? Jewish? Muslim? Buddhist? Or just a human who was raised with sound ethics and morals?

I’m not in the mood to hash out why I’m not a Daniel’s definition of religious.  Suffice to say there were 3 churches involved all of the UCC variety in different parts of the country. Do I read random theology books (including Barth?)? Yup. Why? It interests me.  Would I call myself Christian? No.  I’m not interested in what I see in action by that religious tradition.  I’m not interested in a religion that can’t even agree ON a creation story!

What upsets me the most about Daniel’s is that every once in a great while I float the idea of going to church in my head for a bit.  I was at that point: her piece reminded me why I left.  The Amish have a walk about year where youth leave the community for a year (or so) before joining the church to see the wider world.  It is part of their tradition.  Maybe sometimes you have to leave to see what you miss: and maybe sometimes you have to leave to see what you saw was a mirage.  And really? Sometimes people who write articles and blogs that are widely read need to remember that words do have meanings, and maybe all really aren’t welcome in her church or denomination.  And maybe, just maybe, some people struggle with the Christian tradition because of the judgement.  Even from the liberal side of the aisle.

Bake Sale for Japan

April 4, 2011

I am the first person to admit that I’m not the best baker in the world. I strive for edible (a complex main dish I can handle . . . brownies from a box? Head:desk!).  I heard about the Bake Sale for Japan via the normal social media outlets (which if you scroll back through this blog you’ll see a post where I was hammered over something on Facebook when I tried to make the point you never know about the outreach impact of social media).

In short, on Saturday, across the country, various communities held bake sales to support Peace Winds Japan which works to help those in earthquake/tsunami prone areas in preparation and recovery. Now, obviously, they are working in Japan to assist those in the heavily impacted prefectures.  I offered to help set up and work a few hours. First, a shout out to the fantastic Ula Cafe in JP which hosted the Boston effort.  Not only did they provide the space but free coffee/tea to the volunteers who battled shade AND a stiff wind!  Brrr….it didn’t feel like April!

For me, the most amazing aspect of this effort was the community outreach.  At one point a group of volunteers started talking amongst ourselves: we realized we had no common link to the organizer except we had seen it on twitter, Facebook or via a friend of a friend.  Every time we’d start to get a bit low on “staples” somebody would show up with a new flavor of vegan or gluten-free cupcakes, ‘regular’ chocolate chip cookies or a new type of bread.  This was the first time Boston had participated in this event (a similar one was done for Haiti last year).  Not only was it fun – it took only a few hours out of my weekend, connected me back to the world outside and was a way to payback for of the kindness that I experienced in Japan.

It took 4 hours from my life: maybe somebody will have a bit less of a burden.  Chances are we all have an extra 2-4 hours a week.  The choice is ours . . . spend it watching mindless TV or doing something, no matter how small, to help another.  The choice is ours.  Go out and be the difference you want to see. And who knows? You might find a passion.

Vegan "Oreo" CookiesBake Sale for Japan - Boston