ON SUNDAY NOVEMBER 6 bring your donations to the service at 11am to support the UU Asheville/BeLoved Pantry. What we need are unexpired & non-perishable pop-top meals in a can!
For more information on BeLoved and to sign up as a volunteer, contact Jim Gamble.
If you would like to know more about the Pantry Project, contact Anita Feldman.
Our congregational theme for the month of November is “Change”. How appropriate for us at this time in our church history! Not only are we in search for a new settled minister, we have really been forced to embrace change as we’ve spent the last few years navigating a waxing and waning pandemic. This has meant that we have had to be ready for plans to change at a moment’s notice and to pivot to plan B (or sometimes plan C etc.) It also means that we have had to spend a lot of time out of our comfort zone and learn to be more flexible with each other. How is change showing up in your family? Explore that question with these family friendly activities from Soulful Home!
How have you changed in the past year? What can you do now that you couldn’t before? And what did you used to do that you now don’t?
What’s your favorite part of the season that you’re in right now? Are you looking forward to the next change of seasons?
What part of growing up do you feel happy about? And what part makes you sad?
What change have you always wanted to make to your own personality? What stops you from trying it?
When was the moment that you went from feeling like a little kid, to feeling like a big kid?
What’s something you notice that has changed around your neighborhood lately?
If you could make one change to your neighborhood, what would it be?
Can holding onto a grudge or deep anger change you? Can you think of one you might be ready to let go of?
Who is the most likely in the family to wear a favorite shirt for as long as possible without changing clothes? And who goes through the most outfits in a day?
How does being a caretaker of animals change you? (This might be a pet, or it might mean simply moving worms off the sidewalk, planting flowers for pollinating insects, etc.)
Changing Dots into Art
Depending on where you live, early November may be the perfect outdoor weather, finally reliably cooled off from summer’s scorch, or you may have had a few good snows already and now make most of your fun indoors. So this month we have two options for turning dots into art.
And the other is a freeform connect-the-dots using the same grid idea, but with markers or paint sticks on big paper.
“Change the view.”
While many of us know the value of “walking a mile in another’s shoes” to gain empathy for the other, and thus, more effectively embody love in action, we seldom mention how liberating this practice can be for us, too. So many of our biases are unconscious. Almost all of our first, knee-jerk responses are old scripts that we’ve inherited or thoughtlessly picked up along the way. How we see things at first glance usually tells more about us than about those we’re observing.
This month’s mantra aims to shed light on a different side of a situation.
Your child neglects to turn off the lights as they leave rooms in your home, and you snap at them. Internally, you: “Change the view.” What can I do to help them remember to turn off lights, so we save electricity? Or I wonder how much electricity is really wasted by their forgetfulness; maybe not that much. Or, they will be with me, in my care, for so short a time; turning off the lights behind them reminds me that this season of me being needed to guide and help them is fleeting.
This mantra works best on one’s self. It’s most often going to be unhelpful if offered as advice, though there might be casual, calm conversations that are reflective in tone in which you might share this technique with a family member, as an option.
Growing and Changing: Sandra Cisneros’ “Eleven”
Sandra Cisneros’ 1991 story, which describes a deeply memorable experience the author had as an elementary school student, became a mainstay in schools across North America throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. However, it has a very different feel when read at home, in the context of one’s family. Use this telling together as an opportunity to talk about the big changes that come with growing up.
Hear the author herself read the story here, and for a text version, here.
Stretching the Story:
What is something hard about growing up? What is something terrific about it?
If the main character in the story, Rachel, were your friend, and you saw these events happening, how would you feel? What might you say or do, in the moment or afterward?
Parents and guardians, tell about a time that you felt your younger self coming up to the surface, as Cisneros did when her teacher forced her to put the sweater on. What did that experience feel like to you at the time? How do you think about it now?
The leaves are finally starting to fall, which means that wonderful activity, leaf pick-up, is here. Instead of looking at them as a nuisance, why not think of them as gold for the garden? I’m going to try to convince you to change leaf pick-up into “leaf recovery.”
It means a mind shift from wanting everything to look pristine to a less tidy appearance. Why is it that when we see leaves blanketing a bed instead of commercially shredded mulch, it looks messy to us? Both are organic matter, and the leaves are actually much more colorful than shredded bark.
The leaves that turn lovely hues and then drop are nature’s source for replenishing the soil beneath trees and shrubs. A plant takes up massive amounts of nutrients through its roots as it grows to use in food production for its healthy leaves. When the plant sheds its leaves, those nutrients are released back into the soil as the leaves decay. These nutrients are waiting to be used by the plant next season to produce leaves, stems and fruits.
So, taking away the leaves simply takes away nutrients. We can add nutrients by fertilizing, of course, but for the most part, synthetic fertilizers do nothing for the soil, and certainly make a dent in the wallet.
So, can you simply leave them where they fall? And exactly how do you use these leaves that are so plentiful?
For the leaves covering your grass, think of the prairie’s cycle. Prairies don’t usually have trees, so there are few leaves. The organic matter from a prairie cycle comes from the grass itself. So, it is a good idea to clean up the leaves on your grass in order to keep the grass healthy and free from disease.
Simply mow the grass and leaves together and blow it all in your landscape beds. This is not a hard job, but may take some creative driving or pushing to round them up into beds. If your mower is a mulcher, take out the mulching chute cover so you can blow and direct the leaves as you would into a bagger. If you don’t have that capacity, you can simply mow over them a couple of times and they will be ground finely enough to leave in place.
As for landscape beds, take a walk in the woods and you will see blankets of leaves covering the ground beneath trees. This cycle of leaf fall and decay maintains the soil health and this, in turn, allows the trees to grow and remain healthy. We can easily duplicate that cycle by simply not taking the leaves away.
Keep in mind that native bees nest in the ground, and bumblebees burrow into leaf litter to spend the winter. Leaf litter also protects countless types of butterfly pupa such as black swallowtails and fritillaries.
I have a lot of leaves, so after I fill my beds, I scoop all the extra into a pile at the back of my property and let them sit there over winter. Next spring I can dig into the bottom of the pile for some of the most beautiful shredded mulch to go directly on my vegetable garden instead of straw.
After a couple of years, my leaf pile will be reduced by half and will be composted beautifully for use all over the landscape. The British have been doing this for years – they are famous for their leaf “mould” which they use in the garden and even in containers. Best of all, it’s free!
It seems that whenever my turn comes around to write the Board of Trustees blog entry, there are some really important things going on at UU Asheville that I feel obligated to comment on, lest I shirk my responsibilities as Board president. Well, true to form, important things falling into that “must write about” category are before us once again. But this time around, mainly to give my lighter side some equal time, I’m limiting my discussion of those things to the next (short!) paragraph. Please read that. These things are truly important to our community. But for something more whimsical, probably somewhat hackneyed, but still in a way spiritual, read on beyond that next paragraph.
(1) If you haven’t yet contributed to the Meet the Moment campaign, please seriously consider that, and make whatever contribution you feel motivated to give. Information about Meet the Moment is in the last four eNews mailings. (2) Your Ministerial Search Committee is really getting serious now. I hope that you were able to fill out the congregational survey. Coming up, there are opportunities for cottage meetings and focus groups where you can help shape UU Asheville’s future. Please sign up and speak up! (3) The 8th Principle, along with UU Asheville’s broader efforts on racial justice and equity, will be a theme this year, and likely for a while beyond that. Please get involved in whatever way you can to help us get closer to achieving our vision of Beloved Community.
Now for the whimsy. Iris and I got Rosie, our yellow Labrador Retriever rescue dog, in April of 2020, just as the pandemic was starting in earnest. She was then 3½ years old, but she had lived all her years in one loving home. In fact, the day we officially adopted her up in Bristol, TN, the rescue representative was accompanied by Rosie’s previous owner, who had asked to be there specifically to demonstrate to us Rosie’s one true love – fetching! She just loved to retrieve virtually any ball-like object thrown in her direction. And she was pretty darned good at it. Cool – a fetching dog!
When I asked Rosie’s previous owner how often he played fetch with her, he told us that he tried to do it twice a day for 20 minutes at a time. Hmm. Every day? Twice? Really? I thought, okay, let’s just give it a go – we’ll see how it all works out – but I certainly hope this doesn’t become a chore. Well, after a week or two of keeping up this regimen, we started to get into a rhythm. We found much more joy than duty in our quotidian routine. Rosie soon learned that we went certain places to fetch. Also, she figured out our typical fetching start times, and learned visual cues that “The Fetch” was about to begin – like putting on shoes or grabbing a poop bag. She would get as excited about our fetching adventures as just about anything, even including the rare event of getting chicken scraps in her food.
So, every morning and every afternoon at about the right time, she assumes that “isn’t it time to fetch now?” pose and gaze. She’ll try that with both me and Iris, looking plaintively for the most likely fetching buddy. Eventually, one of us will volunteer, almost always quite happily. (Today’s blog, however, is only about my own experiences with this daily ritual. I’ll let Iris write her own blog…)
For me, it is indeed a ritual. At first, I didn’t recognize it as such. I was too busy rejuvenating my too-long-dormant throwing arm, and feeling out as best I could how Rosie liked to fetch: what ball to use in which fetching venues; throw-then-go or go-then-throw; in the air or on a bounce; high arcing lob or the grounder. Over the weeks, months, and now years, we’ve gotten our dance down pat. It has a structure that we follow, but we improvise as the spirit moves us. “The Fetch” has matured into – dare I say it – a spiritual practice for me. It gets me out into the fresh air each day. It is solitary in that I’m the only human involved. It affords a break from whatever I’m working at or worrying about at the moment. It is meditative, in that Rosie and I can get into a rhythmic back-and-forth where my mind and spirit are free to do almost anything they need to do – from charting out my day to bathing in the Big Questions about this wide universe and my place in it.
I’m amazed by the fact that this member of a different species has helped me on my continuing journey to grow spiritually. I’m pretty sure, though, that Rosie doesn’t know she’s helping me write my own credo! Conversely, having only “human” perceptions, I can’t truly know the canine being and Rosie’s take on The Fetch, just as she can’t understand mine. But Rosie’s love of and excitement about our routine makes me believe that she gets something out of this whole game, too. What a great partnership! Rosie has added so much to my life. She’s gotten me through the pandemic. She’s gotten me through tough places during my tenure on the Board. Her constant companionship is constant support. And indirectly and inadvertently, she is a spiritual teacher to me. Thanks, Rosie! Now, let’s go play fetch…
Clyde Hardin, President, UU Asheville Board of Trustees
Racial Justice Advisory Council (RJAC) Report: What’s that? We strive to become a radically inclusive and welcoming congregation as we are called to do if UUism is to be the liberatory faith it can be. This work started with an internal assessment led by a small team of congregants and our Minister of Faith Development, Rev. Claudia Jiménez. Their learnings and recommendations known as the RJAC Report were shared with the congregation and the board. One of the top recommendations was to engage the congregation in learning about the proposed 8th Principal which aligns with the work of liberation. An 8th Principle Team is actively hosting Learning Circles, tabling on Sundays and exploring other ways to prepare the congregation to vote in the June congregational meeting to adopt the 8th Principle. They are creating space for all to discuss hope, fears and dreams as we consider this important vote.
The Proposed 8th Principle:
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”
WHAT IS BELOVED COMMUNITY?
Beloved Community happens when people of diverse racial, ethnic, educational, class, gender, abilities, sexual orientation backgrounds/identities come together in an interdependent relationship of love, mutual respect, and care that seeks to realize justice within the community and in the broader world.
Reaching Out to Those Affected by Hurricane Ian: Donate to the UUA’s Disaster Relief Fund Reminders & Opportunities for Action Reminder #1: Make sure all your post cards are in the process of being ready for mailing. THANK YOU to all who are helping us reach our 2000 postcard goal!
Reminder #2: As we get closer to the election here is some language about staying non-partisan in our faith spaces. “We live into our UU values as prophetic, but not partisan advocates for issues and specific legislation that creates more equity, and affirms the worth and dignity of all people. (Example – advocating for Medicaid Expansion, fighting voter suppression, etc.). We work to hold elected officials accountable but never endorse political candidates. This is consistent with the work of our larger denomination. For more information see: https://www.uuthevote.org/prophetic-not-partisan-irs-rules-for-non-profits/
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ACTION from our partner UU Justice Ministry NC How will you contribute to safety, joy and fairness at the polls?
Become a Vote Protector with Democracy NC Vote Protectors serve as our “eyes and ears on the ground” at voting sites across North Carolina. They help voters who encounter problems at the polls and ensure that every polling place is running as it should — sounding the alarm when something isn’t right. On November 4th and November 5th (Last days of early voting) and November 8th (Election Day) Vote Protectors will monitor polling places in their communities flagging: long lines, problems with curbside voting or accessibility, voter confusion, misinformation and voter suppression. And as a vote protector, you will attend an online training, and receive a vote protector t-shirt, sign, and other materials. Sign up to become a Vote Protector Today
Become a Voting Rights Ambassador with You Can Vote! Voting Rights Ambassadors will assist You Can Vote staff with vote tripling and voter education at early voting sites around the state. Once you complete a VRA volunteer training, you can sign up for volunteer shifts at a You Can Vote Help Desk at an early voting site near you. Trainings will take place on October 22 from 10-11am and October 27 from 6-7pm and you can register here.
Carolina Jews & UUs Faith in Action Phonebank in Partnership with the New North Carolina Project Foundation. Thursdays from 6:30 – 8:30 from now through November 3rd. UU Justice NC is teaming up with Carolina Jews for Justice to co-host this weekly Get Out the Vote phonebank in the run up to the midterm elections. We’ll be calling voters of color across North Carolina empowering and equipping them to vote their values this fall! Register Here
OTHER EVENTS & OPPORTUNITIES: Concerned about education in NC? Watch this timely video produced August 29, and consider if this is an area of advocacy and engagement for you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2ihL90I5GE