beckyEpisode #33 is up! Becky Owen discusses why she’s a bad military wife, how flying from Germany to the US with five children is easier than grocery shopping, what family means, the best way to teach your kids about Egyptian history, and more.

Listen here!

terricarsonbraxtonIn which Terri discusses the unexpectedly paradoxical contrast between her childhood in DC and boarding school in Massachussetts and how it changed the course of her life, helping her daughter aim for Miss America, the music that moves and inspires her, and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

LISTEN HERE 

saraIn which Sara shares an embarrassing story from elementary school in which she was played; how she’d like to go back in time; her ability to find things even from far away; and her dinner party with her grandmother, Fred Rogers, Anne Lamott, and others. Listen here.

Also Sara has an awesome TED Talk, which I was privileged to hear her practice at one of our book club meetings. Watch it here.

Today was the final Sunday of our November theme of abundance at UUCA. I led worship, along with my friends Bob and Kendra. You can watch a video of the service here: http://www.uucava.org/livestream/.

You can read my meditation and prayer here:

I encourage you to put your feet on the floor. Feel your seat beneath you and observe the presence beside you of caring people, whether they are friends or family or strangers. Notice your breath. Breathe in peace. Breathe out love. Breathe in comfort. Breathe out compassion. Breathe in strength. Breathe out generosity. Whatever you need right now, feel it filling your body every time you inhale. Whatever you wish to share with the world, feel it gliding into the atmosphere on your breath.

Spirit of life, we come together here today after having been scattered near and far during the past week. Some of us are refreshed and rejuvenated by time off from work and reunions with beloved family and friends. Some of us are weary from tense and difficult moments and feelings of obligation rather than joy. Some of us labored, some of us were served. Some of us were surrounded by love, some of us were lonely.

Whoever we are, may we find refuge here.

Spirit of life, as we begin again today, we ask for another chance. An opportunity to be kind to ourselves. To truly love ourselves so we can better love others. We seek relief and ease because some of us are Just. So. Tired. We seek clarity when facing an uncertain diagnosis, or no diagnosis at all, in the midst of debilitating symptoms. We seek reassurance as we endeavor to do right by our children when parenting can be so stressful. When we are young and when we are old, we seek acknowledgment. We want to know that we matter. At every age, we wish to be heard and understood. We seek grace along the path that is littered with our mistakes. We seek courage to be bold and step onto a new, unfamiliar path. We wish for the strength to unclench our fists and let the anxieties, the fears, the old hurts be carried away on the winds, leaving our hands and our hearts free. We long for the freedom to laugh and to cry with abandon. We seek release.

Whatever we seek, may we glimpse it today in this place, and claim it for our own.

 

And here’s my reflection:

FINDING YOUR ABUNDANCE

I have a contentious relationship with time. I am always running late, always composing an apology in my head. I promise it’s not because I don’t respect you or value our relationship. It’s because I am overly optimistic. I always think I have time to do one more thing before I go. Write one more sentence, put away one more load of laundry, cross one more thing off my to-do list. I am wildly unrealistic about how much time something is going to take. You would think that by this point in my life I would’ve figured this out, but no.

My family is so often late that we’ve invented a game called the good excuse bad excuse game. Note that we do not play this in the exact moment when we’re tumbling out of the house and into the minivan, because I would be way too flustered. But in a moment of calm, we can play. Here’s how it works. One person says, “sorry I was late, I decided I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, but eventually I did.” Everyone responds, BAD EXCUSE! Another person says, “Sorry I was late, I was rescuing 100 puppies from a burning building.” GOOD EXCUSE! And we continue to come up with the most pathetic or most heroic excuses we can think of.

As silly as this might seem, the good excuse bad excuse game points to an unspoken truth. The most valuable use of your time is often when you are helping someone else, when you are sharing your abundance, just like in the story Kendra read earlier. But what are the abundances we have to share? How can we find them when we so often focus on what’s scarce in our lives?

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you may have sorted yourself into one of the Hogwarts houses. Is your abundance bravery, loyalty, intelligence, or ambition? Do you possess an abundance of patience in a world that prioritizes speed and multitasking? Are you able to bring presence into a culture of preoccupation? I know that I am awed by people who are able to be fully present with me, to make me feel like I am the only person in the world who matters at that moment. Yet this quality is not one of my abundances. For better or for worse, my mind is always tuned in to several channels at once. I can’t NOT hear a conversation happening across the room, or the oven timer going off, or notice that someone in the vicinity needs something. One of my abundances is an astute power of observation, but not focused presence.

Maybe your abundance is more practical, like agility with numbers and the ability to manage or make money. I interview a lot of people on behalf of one of my clients who say they became budget counselors because they always loved numbers. I have always felt like I am allergic to numbers. At the annual meeting at church, my eyes glaze over when they talk about the budget. I am terrible with money. I sometimes wish our currency were only in words instead of numbers. Then I could understand. This trouble with numbers often comes into conflict with another of my abundances, which is generosity. Are you raising money for Multiple Sclerosis research, or orphans in Haiti, or school supplies for girls in Nigeria? I am guaranteed to donate, whether or not I can afford it.

In fact, one of my favorite holiday traditions, for the past 10 or 15 years, has been giving alternative gifts to nonprofits that I hand pick—and now my husband and children help choose—for all of our family members. We do this at an alternative gift fair, like those sponsored by Alternative Gifts of Greater Washington, or in Arlington, Gifts that Give Hope—which is hosting this year’s event on December 9 at Discovery Elementary. Or online through the Catalogue for Philanthropy. What these organizations do is bring together wonderful charitable groups and tell you what exactly your $10 or $20 or $50 donation would do for their beneficiaries. For example, a $5 donation to your local animal shelter would buy chew toys for a dog waiting to be adopted. A $25 donation to a nonprofit that serves single moms who are survivors of domestic violence would buy a week’s worth of diapers. A $50 donation would buy a bike for a young person in an African village to have the transportation needed to start a business. We take time to think about what kind of donations would be meaningful to each family member. Like the dog toys for Uncle Larry and Aunt Susan who have loved dozens of dogs and cats over the years. Cooking classes in honor of my aunt who taught me to make delicious food from scratch. You get the idea. On Christmas morning, we open these gifts along with all the others and read out loud where the charitable gift will be going. My family’s goal on Christmas morning is to make people laugh or cry, and often these gifts elicit tears. And they don’t take up room on anyone’s shelf, and they’re making the world a better place. These gifts also remind us of just how much abundance we have in our family and our community.

Going for the laugh is also fun, like when I got my mom an autographed 8×10 photo of Adam Levine because she’s a huge fan of the Voice. You have to balance things out.

The paradox about my contentious relationship with time is that time is what people want most from me. Time is what my kids want, time is what my parents want. My husband, my dog, my friends, my clients, the church. Even though it doesn’t feel like I have a lot of it, time is my most valuable abundance to give.

My parents have everything they could possibly want, and more. But my mom is thrilled if I give her a Christmas gift of a day where I help her clean out her closet and go to lunch. We take each other to concerts and plays and readings, where we share the gift of time spent together, sharing an experience. Seeing and hearing live music is one of the great joys that my husband and I share. When we devote so many hours to working and managing the house and taking care of our children and our dog, the simple act of making the time to be together and do something we both love can seem monumental, but it’s so important.

What Facebook has abundance of is memes, and many of them are silly, and some are annoying, and some are offensive. But some are really good reminders of what matters. One I remember said something like, “if you have a stack of dishes in your sink, it means you have enough food to eat. If you have a pile of laundry to fold, it means you have enough clothes to wear.” It’s easy in Arlington, or in Northern Virginia, or Greater Washington, to feel like we don’t have enough. We have plenty of first world problems. But we also have plenty of abundance. Abundant opportunities, abundant amusements, abundant things to see and people to meet. Abundant chances to serve. Abundant ways to receive.

As we close out our month of abundance, and our weekend of abundant food and company, and we look ahead to a month that may be filled with hope or anxiety, love or loneliness, generosity or uncertainty, or maybe all of these. Remember to take with you this month your inner abundance. Is it compassion? Vision? Wit? Steadiness? Creativity? Maybe you can’t name your inner abundance right now. If that’s the case, give yourself time to find it. And when you find it, give it away.

May it be so, may it be so, may it be so.

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 1.03.19 PMIn which Lesley describes her quest for the missing piece of a Venetian glass-blown chess set of Jewish holidays, living life with grace, the necessity of gun control, her family, and how to celebrate kindness.

LISTEN HERE

kimperryIn which Kim discusses key lime pie, meditation, bungee jumping, racism, volunteering, and being a California transplant.

LISTEN NOW! 

susanandliamI don’t always interview spouses back to back on my podcast, but when I do, it’s awesome. Especially if it’s Susan and Liam, two of the most interesting and lovely people in the world.

In which Liam discusses the fire that broke out when he was in the shower, his inherent trust of the Irish, and the allure of old baseball games. LISTEN HERE: http://betsyrosso.podbean.com/e/five-questions-with-liam-sullivan/

In which Susan discusses the ideal town of Edwardsville and its unofficial mayor, how her life is organized around stories, the importance of giving people the benefit of the doubt, and owning awkwardness. LISTEN NOW! http://betsyrosso.podbean.com/e/five-questions-with-susan-lacefield/

The theme at church for November is abundance. Yesterday i was worship associate and wrote this for the call to worship.

 

What we have here is more than enough

Enough oxygen to breathe in and carbon dioxide to breathe out

Enough voices to form a chorus

Enough hands to hold

Although sometimes we are scared to reach for them

What we have here is more than enough

Enough leaves of crimson and saffron decorating the asphalt

Enough puddles to splash in

Enough bird songs to listen to

Although we don’t always notice them

What we have here is more than enough

Enough second chances to offer and receive

Enough stories to tell and listen to

Enough love to go around

 

At 3 in the morning (or is it 2? Or 4?) I am

Acutely aware of the superiority of my skills soothing babies (at least mine) or toddlers or even big kids who’ve had bad dreams. Crying because of a sudden nocturnal eruption of an ear infection (a few drops of warm olive oil) or the raw coughing of croup (steamy bathroom or stepping outside) or wetting the bed (simply new sheets or an unexpected sleepover). Years ago we thanked God for all-night reruns (the strange beauty of Gullah Gullah Island marathons). Now there is Netflix for any brand of distraction on demand. Grape-flavored Tylenol or the nebulizer or just a long, long (long) snuggle. “You Are My Sunshine” and “Peace Like a River,” “Hush Little Baby” and “Amazing Grace” on repeat.

But I have no earthly idea what to do when the dog noses her way past our closed bedroom door. She licks my fingers to ensure I’m awake and then she leads me downstairs. Going out back, sure, no problem.

But it’s never enough. We’ve been told to limit her intake at night so we don’t wake up to puddles on the floor. But then she whines. And she barks. And she goes downstairs. And back up. And whines. And barks. In and out. And I guiltily dispense treats because I. Am. So. Tired. I think longingly of nursing because it was so comparatively simple. And it usually worked. And we could all go back to sleep.

I cannot rock this dog to sleep. Or quiet her with a cartoon. Sometimes she does insist that I put her to bed, scratching her back or belly next to me on the futon until she’s relaxed. Sometimes I fall asleep next to her.

But at 3am (because time passes quickly) she is an enigma. This gentle, soulful dog who never barks when the sun is up.

mikeIn which Michael discusses his enterprise restoring and renting vintage Airstream trailers (Nomad Mobile Motor Lodge), his dream to be a backup singer for Emmylou Harris, the fundamental energy that dogs give him, and wishing to be independently wealthy so he can use his magic litter wand.

Listen to the podcast here.

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