Post "T-day" Reflections

"T" is for TurkeyWhen I picked up my kids from daycare on Tuesday, my daughter presented me with her daily art project as she beamed with excitement.

It brings me great comfort to know that when I can’t be with my kids that they are in a place where they can learn and grow and take such pride in learning something as simple as “T is for Turkey.”  Even at the tender age of three.

Believe me when I say that this lesson in honor of Thanksgiving is very cherished, but bear with me as I share why this simple project was so humorous to me:

We don’t eat meat.

Not that I didn’t see this moment coming; I have actually been writing and re-writing what was to be my pre-Thanksgiving entry in which I shared (ad nauseum) my many day dreams of what my kids might say and do once they entered the world of the local public schools and were introduced to the arts, crafts, and inevitable fairy-tale lessons of the first Thanksgiving Feast.

"Save a Turkey..." t-shirtOne of my more elaborate visions included my precocious daughter announcing to her classmates that some poor baby turkey was now walking around motherless and that the table cloths at the first Thanksgiving Supper were probably small-pox infested anyway.

Of course, at three, my daughter hasn’t quite made the connection that the reason we say “T is for Turkey” is because most people in our culture find those turkeys just so irresistibly yummy.

We find ourselves doing an interesting dance this time of year; deliberating between different ways to lift up our lifestyle choice while still honoring others who choose differently out of principle or simply because of circumstance (because, let’s face it, a vegetarian diet is a privilege).

I don’t want my kids to look down upon others who eat meat, nor do I want them to choose to eat meat merely because they feel as if there is some great magical holiday moment that occurs the second the turkey enters your mouth (surely there must be fireworks displays and a chorus of angels that sing upon digestion).

I totally expect that one day my children will want to try meat, and they will be able to do this with our blessing; there may even come a time when my kids decide that vegetarianism is just not for them and I want them to feel good about that too.

The fact is that we can have conversations all day long about why we are vegetarians and how we came to make this choice (although, this conversation at the Thanksgiving table brings with it the risk of turning your light-hearted family function into a bad SNL skit ala Debbie Downer.).  But at the end of the day, this is who we are and this lifestyle suits us and our Principles best.

Thanksgiving day meal

(At Right: Even vegetarians can do “meat” and potatoes… chickpea cutlets! Maybe I DO hear that chorus of angels… )

So let’s laugh about our differences, drink a glass of wine (a vegetarian delicacy in my book), and remember that we have more in common than we have ideals that separate us.

I, for one, am thankful for that!

Cup of Joe

Cup of Joe
It is no secret.  I LOVE coffee.

Okay, I don’t just love coffee, I probably have what some might classify as an “unhealthy obsession” with coffee (not to be confused with an addiction, mind you).

I come by it honestly; anyone who spends any amount of time in a UU church is privy to one of our most widely-shared inside jokes: OUR communion takes place at coffee hour AFTER the service.

As a kid I fondly remember feeling the warm embrace of the lingering coffee aroma as I would enter the “Common Room” at our family church to join the adults after the Sunday service. I was captivated by the buzz of thoughtful conversations from grown-ups who were solving the problems of the world, pausing only to take an occasional sip from their mugs.

Even outside of our church, coffee became a staple in our family-gathering menus – coffee when we first woke up in the morning after spending the night away from home and coffee after supper to help dilute that bottle of wine that was polished off as we laughed about the latest game of trivial pursuit, won by the same person who wins EVERY time.

At times the coffee ran like water filling seemingly bottomless cups and, sometimes the cups were filled “only half a cup” at a time, especially for my Grandpa Joe.

Now, don’t mistake me for one of those people.  You know the type; totally dependent on the caffeine.  Although at times, I’ll admit, it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Truth be told, there are days when I sip from the same “cup of Joe” all day—even after it gets cold.  On occasion, I’ll even sneak in a cup of decaf.  The reality is that the coffee is really less about that actual coffee and more about the comfort of the ritual.  My mug is sort of my grown-up version of a blankie.

As an adult, I find myself seeking out places to get my comfort fix.  Some of my fondest memories originated in coffee shops where I worked as a barista; engaging in philosophical conversations with customers I knew only by their preferred drink and listening to great music from struggling local artists.

I will forever cherish the terrible coffee at the “greasy spoon” closest to my college dorm room where many mornings were spent quickly finishing up philosophy papers due later that day, discussing with my classmates other philosophical issues totally unrelated to my project at hand.

Nowadays, my morning cup of coffee has become my daily respite; my time for meditation, my time to gather my thoughts and give myself my morning pep talk.  To me, there is nothing better than soaking in the silence of a cold, dark morning, hot cup of coffee in hand.  It gives me hope to think that when the world is seemingly so void of life that in five minutes or less, energy, warmth, and comfort can be brewed.

And, of course, there will always be coffee hour at church.  There is just something about sitting down to coffee with good friends, family, or even a total stranger that inspires blow-your-mind debates and deep heart-to-heart conversations.  It has often been over a cup of coffee that I feel the most alive.

If communion is supposed to be a time of sharing and of intimate fellowship, then I say that this certainly fits the bill.  “UU Communion” may not be about Transubstantiation or the remembrance of Jesus, but maybe the joke is so widely told because our coffee really is so near and dear to our hearts.  I know for me, nothing beats a “Cup of Joe”, or a half a cup, for Grandpa Joe.

Welcome to UU@Home!

Welcome Home!
I had originally planned to use this space to provide simple, once-a-month ideas for Unitarian Universalists who are looking for easy ways to put our UU Principles into practice every day at home.  And since I am also of the optimistic sort, I hoped that this space would also be filled with contributions from UU families everywhere who are implementing these and other ideas in their own homes as well.

While these ideas still have an important place in my overall vision for this blog, it alone seemed a little incomplete.  So in true form of a lifelong UU, I have endeavored to turn a simple idea into something a little more complex than perhaps it ought to be.

Weaving UU principles into one’s home and life isn’t just as simple as starting a new tradition; blazing a new trail brings with it its own brand of baggage.  How do we explain new traditions to our non-UU family members and friends?  How do we confront a culture that doesn’t always recognize our Principles or even our religion?  How do you encourage your child to remain confident in the expression of her UU values despite the fact that her peers awarded her a not-so-flattering nickname, “petition girl,” after her latest effort to ensure that the authorities at her school would actually step in and defend those being bullied because of their looks?  Or something like that.  You know, just as a hypothetical example.  Ahem.

The point is that navigating through life as a UU can be challenging, messy, and, at times, let’s face it… it can be downright funny.

So while I will contribute a monthly suggestion to help you survive as a UU@Home, I will also share my insights from my own experiences as a lifelong UU who also happens to be a parent, young adult, and religious educator.

Welcome Home!

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