Category Archives: Personal

President Peter: Rev. Morales heads UUA

President: n. leader of an organization – by election, appointment or personal decision

Peter: n. my old friend Rev. Peter Morales

Rev. Peter Morales, UUA President!

Just returned from Salt Lake City, where a couple thousand Unitarian Universalists from around the country convened for their/our annual General Assembly or GA. Although the workshops, talks, worship services and meet-greets are always worthwhile, this year I went to pimp for Peter – working on the campaign to elect him president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

And he won! Decisively – with 58% of the votes. I call him “Pope Peter”.  (“President”  is the closest UUs get to pontiff status.)

A combination of factors that led to his victory, IMHO:

  • A clearly articulated platform, with specific goals
  • An opponent whose platform was fuzzy and vaguely stated
  • A richly varied background of multicultural experience ( including in the business world), world travel, education, success
  • Skillful ease with public speaking – without notes
  • Personal charm and sense of humor

I was particularly invested in the campaign because it was I who first brought Peter and his family to a UU church in 1994. The exposure took, and the rest is history.

Now the real work begins. Ours is a venerable but TINY denomination, not natively given to evangelism. Either we grow in numbers and presence or watch ourselves become an interesting footnote in American religious and intellectual history.  The budget has been slashed by 20%.  So whatever gets done, must be done with less.

I send him white light…

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Piano paralysis

Piano:  n. a musical instrument having steel wire strings that sound when struck by felt-covered hammers operated from a keyboard

Paralysis: n. loss of the ability to move a state of powerlessness or incapacity to act

Our piano

Our piano

[Cross-posted from Getting to Less…]

The piano is a dying fixture in the American home.  So claims a recent story in the Los Angeles Times.

105,000 acoustic pianos (upright and grand) were sold in the US in 2000. By 2007 sales had plunged to 54,000.  Given today’s economy, we could be chopping them for firewood in a few years.

People are buying electronic keyboards instead – keyboards that are light, portable, and include attachments that control the furnace, shampoo the carpet,  and flip pancakes.

This is very bad news for me.

I am the keeper of a 1936 Steinway baby grand – a gift from my mother to my son, who is a talented pianist. Maybe I should say was a talented pianist. We refurbished it at great expense and he played the heck out of it from age 11 till he left for college in 2001.

A few months later I bought a too-big home  because it had a living room spacious enough to accommodate his precious piano which he would return to claim any minute.

Right.

First issue: he’s scarcely touched it in eight years, even when he was living at home the last few months.

Second issue: he’s globe-trotting for the forseeable future. A baby grand will not fit in his backpack. And when he returns it will probably not fit in some shoebox bachelor apartment either.

Third issue: my own future cottage/condo/shoebox won’t have space for a piano unless I put a mattress on top of  it and call it my bed.

There’s so much history with this piano. My grandparents bought it for my mom as a college graduation present  ($990 for the piano, $10 for the bench = $1,000 total).  She taught singing for 70 years with it,  playing it so much the brass sustain pedal was worn to a nub.  My two sisters and I  shed tears of frustration on its (real) ivory keys at our daily practice sessions.

After being refurbished and refinished the piano was appraised at $40k.

Needless to say it’s one of the biggest and most emotionally loaded THINGS that must be dealt with in this downsizing process. Not to mention  the deep pain in my heart that my son’s connection to the piano seems to be over.

He and I need to have a little talk about the piano’s future…

Meanwhile here’s more from the LA Times story…

The piano has been the center of many American homes for generations, not only a proclamation of a love of music but also often a statement about striving for success.

“In a very traditional sense, the piano did stand for something. It was a symbol of mobility, moving up,” especially among immigrant families, said Joe Lamond, president of the International Music Products Assn., based in Carlsbad and known as NAMM. Some real estate agents still will move a piano into a house that’s for sale to class it up, he said.

In many homes these days, a piano isn’t so much a musical instrument as it is just another piece of furniture.  ….

In the 21st century, the acoustic piano seems to be a relic of another era. Jeffrey Lavner, a piano teacher at the Colburn School in downtown L.A., puts it this way: “I think piano playing is a little like black-and-white movies.”   [ouch!]

…   Many forces have contributed to the acoustic piano’s troubles. Start with electronic keyboards and digital instruments, with their improving quality and alluring gadgets such as metronomes, USB ports, headphones and recording devices. Not to mention their generally lower price.

“We live in a digital age,” said Brian Majeski, editor of Music Trades magazine. “You have to redefine the instrument.”

And in a time of foreclosures and downsizing, the expense of a traditional piano — which can run from a few thousand dollars to $100,000 or more — may seem untenable, especially for a child who may be eager to play but has no track record in the rigors of daily practice. What’s more, for students, there is ferocious competition for the hours between school and sleep: Homework or video games? Soccer or ballet? Facebook or TV?

In a survey of piano teachers conducted in 2005 for the Piano Manufacturers Assn. International, 89% said that the primary reason a child drops lessons is “too many other activities.” …

Pink peonies

Pink: adj. a color blend of  red and white

Peony: n. a flowering plant native to Asia, southern Europe and western North America. Most are herbaceous perennial plants about 3′ tall, but some are woody shrubs up to 6′ tall. They have compound, deeply lobed leaves, and large, often fragrant flowers, ranging from red to white or yellow, which bloom in late spring and early summer. They love it here in the Pacific Northwest.

Yesterday a friend brought me an amazing bouquet of pink peonies from her garden when she came over for lunch. These are peonies with profuse petal and perfume power.

Peony petals

Peony petals

The fragrance from this glorious bouquet perfumes my whole entry area:

From Flossie's garden

From Flossie's garden

Passages: kids grow up

Passages: n. transition from one point to another

This is a week of two important passages. The first was the wedding of my sister’s older son, Daniel, in Nashville. The second is the departure of my youngest, Wylie, for Europe and the far east.

Both are occasions for rejoicing and for promising adventure. Both leave their respective mothers with mixed feelings as the sons fly the coop and enter new life stages where Mom is increasingly irrelevant.

PICT0075

Nashville: Family and friends came from all over to celebrate with Daniel and Lillie. A fabulous time was had by all as the two tribes spent the weekend together getting to know each other. As happy as she is for the newlyweds, and despite the fact that they will be living only two blocks away, my sister had a full-on meltdown as she realized that little Danny was grown-up Daniel… a man whose wife will now be his closest confidant.  (Of course my sister hasn’t been that for years, but when you’re going to dissolve in tears you gotta have some sort of excuse.)

Back in Vancouver: Two days after we got back it was my turn for the meltdown. My youngest child left home this afternoon. It shouldn’t be a big deal; he’s 25 for godssake. It’s not even the first time – he went off to college at 18, and until the past few months he’s hardly been back home. But since September he’s been my housemate in order to save $$ for his big trip.

Wy-Amtrak2

He took Amtrak to Seattle, where he’ll catch a flight to Dublin and meet up with a friend from LA. They’ll bum around together for a couple of weeks then the friend goes back to work and Wylie is on his own.

So far he’s lined up a three-week stint WWOOFing (working on an organic farm in exchange for room and board)  in Sweden, and then he heads to who knows where… all the way to the far east until his money runs out, he says.

What’s freaking me out is that he tossed his cell phone and will be checking in at an internet cafe only occasionally.  I’m so used to having my kids at email or cellphone distance…

Just imagine what it was like when the pioneers crossed the plains and it could be months before loved ones got a letter, and even then the letter was itself months old!

As used to instant communication as I’ve become, Wylie has never known anything else, so it could be very challenging to be so out of touch with friends and family.

Now that I’ve had him around for awhile, “I’ve grown accustomed to his face”.  He’s a lot of fun and can make me laugh harder than anyone I know  – except his brother.

He also can be irritatingly helpful. Like when I’m struggling with some tedious and cumbersome chore, he sweeps in with a really simple way of accomplishing the task in 10% of the time.   Example: last fall I was finely hand-slicing 8 quarts of green tomatoes and onions for our famous family “Spanish Pickle”.  Wylie says, “hey, why don’t we use the KitchenAid slicer?”  Duhhhh! – I use the machine for all sorts of other slicing and grating operations; it’s just that my mom always sliced the veggies by hand, so I just kept doing it her way.

Adjustments all around.

Priorities… I’m moving on, getting to less

Priority: n. something meriting attention before competing alternatives

365 Words Beginning with P is winding down. Not because of a paucity of peachy P-words – indeed the peerless pantheon of P words is scarcely pricked.

My purpose – nay, my priority – was to prod my procrastinating pea-brain into a practice of producing pontifications on a daily basis until I had proffered at least 365 of them, thus proving to myself that I could write regularly.  This is #377. Who knew vocabulary could be so much fun!

(To those whose interest in 365pwords was more literary than political, I apologize for all the Palin posts last fall. It’s not my fault her name began with P.  I thank god she’s not our vice-president — pity those poor people in Alaska.)

What I’m saying is my priorities have shifted and I must move on. Literally. To a much smaller home, with much less stuff.

But I’ve caught blogging fever, and my new blog, Getting to Less, is shaping up nicely.  If you’re at all interested in getting to less in your own life, or you just want to keep me company on the journey, please please c’mon over.  And bring your own downsizing tips and (mis) adventures.

Pitching your possessions has got to be more fun than pulling your own teeth, right?

I’ll be back here occasionally when a P-word just screams to be written about. Meanwhile, join me over at Getting to Less.

Perspective: it could be worse!

Perspective: n. a mental view or outlook

I need to lighten up. I’m trying to let go of enough possessions that I can sell this place and move into something more manageable. The current boat anchor I’m trying to offload for a decent price is a humongous executive desk – so far no luck.

mcguire-desk

Speaking of boat anchors…

boat-anchor

A friend read my post about the humongous desk I’m still trying to sell and commiserated over the stunning rate at which the value of material possessions declines.  Here’s her sad story:

I bought a Split Cal King Adjustable Tempurpedic bed four years ago for over $6600 because I was having a LOT of back issues and didn’t want to wake Larry when I got up and down in the middle of the night. Hated it from the get-go but the company would not take it back because the very expensive bases were special ordered. This despite my having a witness who was with me when I bought it and heard the guy say we could return it.

Last month I took pix, put it on Craig’s list, got a couple of nibbles, but more questions than I cared to deal with. The bottom line was either have Macy’s take it away when they delivered the new mattress we just bought or give it away.

I gave it to my cleaning lady who split it, one for each child’s room.

I’m my own cleaning lady, so that donation strategy won’t work, but I’m going to give selling it another go this weekend on Craigslist. Wish me luck.  It’s become my boat anchor – a symbol of all that holds me down.

[A version of this is cross-posted over at my new blog, Getting to Less.]

Peter for President – of the Unitarian Universalist Association

Peter: n. Rev. Peter Morales, Senior Minister of Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden Colorado.

President: n. the person (democratically) elected by delegates from the thousand UU congregations in the U.S. to be the leader of and spokesperson for the denomination for the next four years.

Rev. Peter Morales is running for UUA President against the Rev. Laurel Hallman of Dallas. Both are fine candidates, but this election, to be held June 27 at our annual meeting, reminds me of last spring’s primary when I wanted a woman to be US president, but ended up supporting Obama because he was the right person for the job at this time.

Peter is the right man for this job at this time because he has the vision and the practical experience to help us out of our current shrinking mode. With less than 200,000 members you could say we’re but a blip on the American religious landscape these days.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about UUism:

Unitarian Universalism (UUism) is a theologically liberal religion characterized by its support for a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Unitarian Universalists do not share a creed; rather, they are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth. Unitarian Universalists draw on many different theological sources and have a wide range of beliefs and practices.

Both Unitarianism and Universalism have their historical roots in the Christian faith. But by the time they decided to combine their efforts at the continental level in 1961, the theological significance of these terms had expanded beyond the traditional Christian understanding. Today’s UUs appreciate and value aspects of other religions ranging from Judaism to Jainism. Although Unitarian Universalist congregations and fellowships tend to retain some Christian traditions, such as Sunday worship with a sermon and the singing of hymns, they do not necessarily identify themselves as Christians, nor do they necessarily subscribe to Christian beliefs.

The extent to which the elements of any particular faith tradition are incorporated into one’s personal spiritual practices is a matter of personal choice in keeping with Unitarian Universalism’s creedless, non-dogmatic approach to spirituality and faith development.

Let me say this: one of the biggest problems UUs have is articulating what we believe. We have “Seven Principles” which serve more as a code of behavior towards others and towards the natural world than a set of beliefs. Some of us are Buddhists, some are pagans. We have atheists and agnostics too.

It makes it hard to talk about what we’ve got going for us with people who’ve never heard of us! It also makes us really hard to govern when there’s no orthodoxy. A bunch of cats, we are.

Just pulling together a post  into something that actually says something meaningful about UUism is a challenge for me, and I’ve been a UU all my life — as were my parents and grandparents. Pathetic.

Compared to the other candidate, who is even more mush-mouthed than I am, Peter will ( if anyone can) help us share our message more effectively, and herd us into a flock that moves forward together.

His website is here