On Memorial Day, It’s OK to Feel All the Feelings


How should we as UU parents explain Memorial Day to our children?  Although UU’s are generally pacifistic, as our 6th Principle indicates (in the children’s language): Insist on Peace and Justice Around the World.  However, individual UU’s have and do serve in the military (I did), and there are military families within our UU congregations.

Memorial Day is a day to remember the dead from all the wars our country has fought.  I don’t know about you, but I have very conflicted feelings about much in American history – our country has done many things that were unfair or wrong or even horrible, and we modern Americans are the heirs to that legacy.  Our country also has had many wonderful ideas and ideals and there were brave and courageous men and women who fought – in one way or another, if not always just physically – for those ideals.  And we are the heirs to that legacy also.

And then there are all the lives that were cut short – men and women who had families and were loved and would have rather lived on.  I think it is only right that we pause to remember and honor those lives, for they died in the name of our country whether or not we agreed with the justifications of that war.

My feelings on this day are all mixed up, but mostly I feel sad.  And it is OK for children to feel sad, too – it’s part of life.  As a good parent, you do not need to shield them from these realities.  In fact, you do them a disservice if you don’t allow the full range of feelings.  Feel all the Feelings, and then talk about them.

This is why The Wall by Eve Bunting is the go to book for many teachers on Memorial Day, I think.  It is a simple and lovely story about visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with the emotional poignancy of this day presented in clear and child-friendly terms.

And then, if you have a memorial or a cemetery within visiting distance, take the kids to visit today.  Take flowers to leave there, or make a pinwheel for peace and leave it.  We can remember the dead and wish for peace in the future at the same time – it’s a perfect time to wish for peace, in fact.



And so, today I don’t wish you a “Happy” Memorial Day, exactly.  I wish you an Emotionally Honest and Reflective Memorial Day.  As I did last year, I’ll be taking my children to the local war memorials, and feeling many complicated feelings myself.


Happy Mother’s Day to All Who Mother



Happy Mother’s Day to all who do the work of mothering in this world, and all who care and provide nurture to the young (and not-so-young) who need it.  I am enjoying a very unusual, for me, Mother’s Day and am writing this in bed while my husband and children are cooking me breakfast.  Normally I have to be up and off to church so early on a Sunday that I have missed this particular Mother’s Day ritual over the years, but in the last week of my sabbatical I get to enjoy this lazy Sunday.

And Happy Mother’s Day as well to those who may not feel included on this day: the foster parents, the women who have struggled with fertility, those estranged from their mothers or their children, those who have lost children, or the women whose choice to not have children often feels judged or criticized.  As a wise friend wrote on her Facebook page today: “just because I’m celebrating doesn’t mean everyone is, and I have to remember that.”

Mother’s Day itself began as a rallying cry for mothers to band together and call for peace, and for an end to their children (sons, mostly, back then) being sacrificed to war.  Unitarian Julia Ward Howe wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870, following the American Civil War.

In the last few years, the Unitarian Universalist Association has partnered with Strong Families to promote a Mother’s Day (Or “Mama’s Day) that is a more diverse and multicultural and justice-oriented affair.  I’ve also been reading other wonderful ideas for a way to make Mother’s Day go beyond a card and flowers:

Support a local diaper bank, if your community has one.

Light a Candle and pray for the girls kidnapped in Nigeria.

Read books to your kids that show a diversity of mothers and family-types, and learn more about the struggles other families face. (Ideas from the UUWorld Parenting Blog)

Take action on any of the issues identified as important to Moms.  Most of these issues should be important to us all!


The flowers, cards, gifts, and breakfasts are lovely, but this day can go beyond that.  My experience of motherhood has been all about loving: the love my mother gave me and the love I give my children.  And that motherly love seeks to provide nurture and safety.  Wouldn’t a world transformed by motherly love be a world where everyone received what they needed (food, shelter, love , acceptance, opportunities, etc) and were safe?  While appreciating the mothers closest to us is a lovely thing to do – and I appreciate it! – we can also see this as a day to extend that ideal motherly love beyond our own family circles, and spread it out into the world.  May it be so.


May’s Faith Formation at Home Calendar

If you would like a PDF of this calendar, here it is!  bringingthesacredcalendarMay 2014

May 1st is May Day and also the pagan sabbat of Beltane. This is a fertility and spring holiday, with May Baskets, Maypoles, and other spring fun. Making a May Basket couldn’t be easier – a basket full of flowers and then present it to a neighbor/friend (you can put a jar of water in there to prolong the beauty of the flowers). There are directions for making a maypole available online, such as at Mommy Blessing, or you can make a tiny one for a decoration or to put out in your garden (perhaps for the fairies). The simplest way to make a miniature maypole is to use a pencil, cut a selection of nice ribbons to the desired length, and then attach them to the eraser of the pencil with a thumb tack. You can also glue silk flowers over the thumb tack, if you like.

May 6th is National Teachers Day. Did you know that apples became associated with teachers because parents, particularly on the American frontier, would be sharing responsibility to house and feed the underpaid teacher. Children brought food to school to contribute to feeding the teacher, and the apple became the symbol of that. Nowadays, there are many ways you can support a teacher – consider doing something for them on this day!

May 11th is Mother’s Day. In it’s first incarnation, Mother’s Day was a rallying cry for peace put forth by Unitarian Julia Ward Howe. Her Mother’s Day Proclamation makes a good reading for this day, and you don’t have to give up the flowers and breakfast for Mom to also reflect on how a day dedicated to appreciating motherly love would also be a day to call for Peace.

May 26th is Memorial Day. Although this three-day weekend informally marks “the beginning of summer” for most of us, the intention of the Federal holiday was to be a day of remembrance for those who died in military service, in any war. Originally observed after the Civil war as “Decoration Day” it was a day to decorate the graves of soldiers and was observed on different dates by different states. Northern and Southern states primarily only honored their own dead. After World War I, it became a day to remember the fallen from all wars, and the wearing of a red poppy became a symbol of remembrance after the poem In Flanders Fields caught the imagination. If you desired to observe this day, we are living close to several war memorials on the Capitol campus. Last year I took my family there on Memorial Day just to visit the memorials, and it surprised me how profoundly and sadly it touched us. This year we plan to take flowers so the kids can lay them on the memorials. Once again, you can talk as a family and reflect on how these deaths in war should move us to work and call for Peace.


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April’s Faith Development Calendar

April 1st is April Fool’s Day! Although no one agrees on the historical origin of this day of foolishness, it is widely celebrated around the world as a day to play practical jokes on each other and celebrate fun and silliness.

April 7th is World Health Day. This would be a good time to talk about healthcare, world health concerns, and the work of those, such as Doctors without Borders, who bring healthcare to those who need it wherever they live. You could also learn more about UU’s who have been medical heroes: Albert Schweitzer and Clara Barton.

April 13th is Palm Sunday. In many Christian churches there will be branches and a procession, symbolic of the palms the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem. This is also the beginning of Holy Week, which includes Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Holy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper Jesus celebrated with the Twelve Apostles, and Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Christ and is observed as a fast day by many Christians.

Passover begins on April 15th at sundown. On this night many Jewish families will be celebrating a special dinner, called a seder, and remembering the passage of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt to freedom. Although it is only loosely related to the holiday, I have recently enjoyed the charming picture book The Passover Lamb by Linda Elovitz Marshall

April 20th is Easter. For Christians this holiday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But the holiday as it is celebrated by many at home, and the parts kids love (the Easter Bunny, the egg hunt) is more reminiscent of the pagan sabbat Ostara, which falls on the Vernal Equinox and so was celebrated in March. For many UU families, Easter can present some interesting challenges and questions, but I see this as an opportunity – a chance for us to create meanings and rituals around this holiday that are right for us. Michelle Richards wrote a good article about UU Families and Easter.

April 22nd is Earth Day. See my suggestions above, or look for a local earth stewardship event.

April 25th is Arbor Day. There is a whole new curriculum from the UUA called Circle of Trees that is free and available, and so you could go pretty in depth about trees as a family. Or you could just take a stroll around your neighborhood to notice the trees! And of course, it’s a great day to plant a tree if you can.



You can have it as a PDF: Bringing the Sacred Homecalendarapril14

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Looking Back, Looking Forward – It’s Our Turn to Have a Dream


So we have tomorrow off school and work, for a holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.  What will you do with that day?  Catch up on chores or sleep?  Go see a movie?

What is the point of the day?  I believe the point is in this quote above by MLK – What are you doing for others?  King had a dream, and he made things better for all Americans (and beyond) as he worked for his dream.  But while the arc of the universe may be bending toward justice, we are not there yet, and there are more dreams to be dreamed and more work to be done.  We cannot sit back and congratulate ourselves on how it’s all better now.  There is work to be done.

It’s not much, but one day of service is a start.  My family will be planting trees tomorrow.  Check your local UnitedWay websites, to find a family-friendly service project of your own.

And as a family, talk about the legacy and the calling.  The past, and the future. Do you have members of your family who were engaged with civil rights during the 1960′s? Interview them and ask what they remember from those days. Think about what civil rights look like today.  Talk about human rights, economic justice, equal access, and beloved community.  Ask yourself what you have done to effect change. Talk as a family about what you could do in the future to effect change.

In these ways we can honor the legacy, and truly celebrate this holiday.