Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

April Newsletter Highlight #2 — From Grasshoppers to Goats — An Explanation

Some of you have been asking me about the goats you have seen on our church campus recently. They are truly adorable but are here for a more practical purpose.

They are not here every day but are brought here three days a week and watched (herded) closely. We have been blessed, finally, by rains and by new green growth of grass on campus. Unfortunately, our UUSS Grasshoppers —the teams of grounds keeping volunteers— need some new people to help out in the wake of retirements of longtime volunteers. (Call Elaine in the Office if you are curious about what the commitment and the tasks involve.) While waiting to get a larger group of human Grasshoppers, we have bought a small herd of goats to keep the grass and weeds cut back.

This purchase will NOT affect the funds available for the Building Project! The funds for the purchase of the goats have come out of the fundraising line in the operating budget. The goats will be… uh, gone before this Saturday night’s Auction Dinner.

Speaking of the dinner, you have one more day to buy tickets from the UUSS Office, since April 2 is the deadline and today is April 1. Thank you.


Kids talking at Chalice Camp with Pastor Cranky

Conversation at the short lunch table at Chalice Camp earlier this week:
I was asking Alec, almost  7, about his “Scooby Doo” lunch box. Was it originally a parent’s box? (It’s their and my generation.)
No, it was his, given to him recently. (I should have guessed; it was a soft-sided one.) Does he know Scooby Doo? “Yes, I’ve seen a lot of episodes. I’m also watching John Adams.” Who’s that, another kid asks. “The second president.”
Really?! I asked him. “Yeah. It’s kind of grownup-y, but I like it.”

As I write, they are all giving a shaving cream hairdo to the oldest boy in a wading pool outside.

This is the first time our congregation has offered Chalice Camp in six years.      We tried last year but didn’t get enough registrations in time.  This year we publicized it in advance and a great lay leader stepped forward to be camp director.  We decided that 9 kids (grades 1-6) was enough to get going, and that if we make it happen this year it will generate more interest for next year.

We are just about breaking even on the costs (stipends, materials) even while giving some financial need tuition reductions.

We have good staff support, a lot of cheerful and willing adult helpers, and four great teenage camp counselors for this year’s camp.  I am so touched to see these youth blossom as they teach, nurture, and exemplify UU faith and values.  Thank you so much!

An important thing about Chalice Camp–in addition to the fun that happens in most camps–is that the kids and the teenage counselors both get a year’s work of UU heritage and values education in just 5 days.  Plus worship, snacks, arts, music, and getting each other soaking wet on a hot afternoon.  Here is the official site of the creators of Chalice Camp:

“Reasons (why people don’t go to church)” on You Tube–I want to be part of this church! See video

I don’t recognize any of these people, but this video could have come out of our congregation.

It was sent to me on the UU Ministers’ email chat.

Add your COMMENTS to my blog if you look at the video.

If you want to know what’s going on at my congregation, visit, or visit us in person!

Sunday Summary for UUSS on October 2, 2011

Today Doug preached a sermon about selflessness and led us through some meditation exercises. I was in Religious Education for most of the service but some people exiting when I got back told me it was “awesome” and that it “blew me away.”  At both services we had a number of new and returning visitors, several infants and toddlers with grown ups in tow, and a lot of 20-somethings.

In RE today we didn’t have regular classes, but all ages were together in the UURTHSONG community garden (founded 2009) on our campus. Junior high and younger kids harvested tomatoes, herbs, peppers, cucumbers and then washed them, cut them up with scissors, and made salsa. We had good corn chips for scooping up the non-runny fresh stuff!

Glory was in charge, along with Joan, Patricia, Damon, and a few others.   I showed a few kids the zucchini plants and demonstrated that you can eat the delicate orange flower; at least one tried it himself. Some middle schoolers thought it would be cool to try a jalapeno pepper. Before the first bite kicked in, one of them had some more. Within minutes I had to make a milk run for one of them, and then a second run for another. I also told an even smaller kid that maybe he should stop eating so many cute little tomatoes. I said “It might give you diarrhea.” I figured I needed to be blunt. He said that lots of things give him diarrhea. I do apologize to those plot-holding members who lost an eggplant and a watermelon to an eager collector who didn’t realize the names on the signs meant that some were not community plots. Sorry!

While little kids were frolicking and harvesting, Keith White got out the tools and gave chores to the Senior High Youth Group: digging up dead plants and sawing some thick dried old stalks. They got into it: one working at a time, and the others clustered around watching. Though one girl came to ask for trowels, so I think more of them got into the act.
This coming Saturday morning is Garden Clean-out Day, so all will be torn out. If you have a plot, be sure to harvest the last of your produce. Whether or not you have had a plot this season, you are welcome to come and help out on Saturday.

We got beautiful new additions to our Welcome Table and RE Family Table area in the Lobby: hand-built and stained wooden welcome tables at different heights for different heights of visitors and children. Thanks to Dick for his craftsmanship and generosity. Thanks to the task force for your work.

After the second service we had our first Soup Lunch of the fall (and we ran out of soup, so by the time I went through the line all we had was cookies. I managed.) Groups volunteer to provide soup, bread, and dessert and we charge only $4 per adult.

After soup we had a very thorough and inspiring presentation of our Master Plan with our architect, Jeff Gold. You can see the plans and guiding principles at the church website.  I am sure our Master Planning team will post a report on the conversation at the Master Planning blog:

Finally: today we got a few more donations for UU Association Sunday, so I think we are about $100 shy of last year’s tally of $1,500. We’ll send the checks in later, so there is still time.  If you click that link you can see a video of UUA president Peter Morales, and you can find a link to donate.  Or you can slip a check into my hot little hands.

Clown Circus: Times of mourning and remembrance for surving Swan Brother

Last Sunday after church we had our annual visit by the Swan Brothers Clown Circus, a local company in business for 37 years, nearly the longest running independent circus on record.  Les Corbin, a church member and tax preparer, does the circus’s tax returns and asks them to do a show for our kids in lieu of payment.  Thanks, Les!  I’m sure the circus has done lots of birthday parties but not too many churches.

This year, only one brother came: Zippy, a.k.a., Andy Swan.  His brother died last December.  There’s an article on the front page of the Our Region section in Thursday’s Sacramento Bee.  Read the story  at this link.

Our Sunday Religious Education class had a tone of somber reflection rather than anticipation of the circus that was to happen.  Alec, a 5-year-old, disclosed to his fellow RE kids that High Top (a.k.a. Mike Swan), had passed away.  This led to an important spiritual conversation.

But not long after that, there was a big crowd of squealing kids this past Sunday, but I was not able to stay long. (We had a three-ring circus of our own:  Greeter/Usher training and lunch, an info session for parents on the Our Whole Lives sexuality course for 7th & 8th graders, a meeting of our Master Planning Facilitators to look at the architect’s visionary plans, and two other meetings I’m now forgetting!

I have enjoyed working with the Swan Brothers and extend my condolences and prayers to Andy on this great loss.  I also cheer him on as he goes “on with the show” without his brother and sidekick.

Open-Mic Night on Sierra Blvd–Shindig @ the Hex!!! Friday (Aug. 19) at 7 PM

UPDATE:  Well, it was quite an event.  We had 130-150 adults, teens and kids present during the 3 hours of our open mic concert tonight.  Many church folks and friends offered their music:  some fun, some moving, some really excellent and beautiful.  Our MC, Eric, was cheerful, celebratory and pretty easy-going given all that he had been managing to make this happen.  Thanks to all the church volunteers who made it happen in addition to the performers.

Headliner Brady McKay was great, with a fabulous jazzy, Gospely, sultry, lovely voice, and a great band.  Her women’s chorus and girls chorus as backup were great as well.  I enjoyed seeing so many folks from the church and having a chance to connect.

Though this was not intended primarily as a fundraiser, Eric reported that after paying the headliner and covering a number of costs, we netted $600 congregation.  Always helpful!


Shindig at the Hex, 7:00pm, this Friday night, August 19. 2425 Sierra Blvd., Sacramento

Bring your Friends and Relax for an Evening of Fun at our first open-mic/concert evening event!

Spread the word, grab a friend, come on out for great performances of music, original poetry, comedy, and more, along with our headliner: Brady McKay! Eric Stetston, our music director/composer/ukulele player and pianist/vocalist, has been taking applications for performances and the variety is excellent.

Tickets at the door: $10 general audience,  children 12 and under free. Invite your friends by sending them these links to our promo fliers posted at: and

Back from Denver: Family Wedding in Flip Flops, Much Food but Minimal Sightseeing, Church Going, Public Transit and the Cafe Scene

Mile-High Vacation:

I flew to Denver Wednesday and stayed with nephew and his new wife, from Brazil. Her mom was visiting too.  Bottom line:  Great trip to meet my new niece-in-law and see my nephew so happy after so many challenges in his life.  I stayed longer than the American tradition of 3 nights–  but I was able to not only discern that his wife is genuine, sensitive, joyful, caring and strong–but also to fall in love with her myself.  Learning a bit of Portuguese was icing on a very rich cake.

I slept on the narrow sofa in the living room.  Not much room to turn around or roll over.  Had a nice hike one evening on Dinosaur Ridge.  After my brother and his wife arrived, we three guys went for a bike ride downtown, along a creek and up to the Platte river.  Denver has lots of B-Cycle locations for bike sharing, where you put in a credit card and take a red bike for an hour or so, then put it back at another site.

We had great food.  Mark grilled corn and wild coho salmon on their balcony.  And his new mother in law was always cooking.  (His wife doesn’t cook much, but she’s a housekeeper with a strong sense of order and cleanliness.  This has basically revolutionized my nephew’s life.)

Dining Out:

Friday night I tried to pick a restaurant to treat them, one that I would also enjoy and feel good about (farm-to-table sustainability, strong hops in the local beer, etc).   You know that a place is too hip for you when you call at 5 PM for reservations and they ask, “Which evening?”  The place that Yelp (and I) had chosen first had nothing till 10:30, so I tried a sister restaurant.  Their earliest was 9 PM, but they said we could come in and get on the waiting list, or try for the bar.  So, after a lot of time-consuming family grooming, we hopped in the pickup truck and headed out.  Parking it in a residential neighborhood was no easy chore, but he did.

Linger restaurant, in an old brick building, serves “global street food” at big-city American prices.  Locally raised, sustainable, very tasty, with great Colorado beers on the menu.  But the downstairs was packed, and on arriving at 8 PM I realized I should have taken the 9 PM reservation over the phone when I could have.  Now added to the waiting list, we went upstairs to the bar.  Big, crowded, and loud, with crowded big open-air tables overlooking the skyline and full moon.  As I prepared to breach the crowd between us and the bar to order some drinks, I asked a bar manager about how one may grab a booth if it comes open in the bar area–sit down or sign up?  “Like that one!” I said about a booth at window suddenly vacant.

He said, “Take it.”  We were as close as possible to outside, and as far as possible from the middle of the din, and the menu offered the same thing we would have gotten downstairs.  As it was, we ate a lot of small plates and left before our waiting list time would have elapsed.

Saturday night my retired big bro and I treated the gang to Cafe Brazil, a half hour outside the city.  Most of us had seafood and/or chicken.  Very rich food.  Too much!

On my own, I enjoyed many snacks and easy times at Under the Umbrella Cafe, just a walk from their apartment, and next door to the little ice cream shop that makes all three flavors fresh daily:  chocolate, vanilla, and flavor of the day.  I borrowed Mark’s copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, since he said it was about business and consumer culture.  I’ll say.  I’ll blog about it soon.

Church Going:

Sunday morning I walked 2.1 miles, thanks to Google maps, to the lovely tree-lined neighborhood where, at 14th and Lafayette, I found First Unitarian Society of Denver, where a friend who finished seminary when I did and attended extension ministry training with me is the minister.

It was only one of two UU churches in the whole metro area where a minister was preaching, and I’m glad it was the closest too.  It was a beautiful service in many ways:  welcoming and authentic tone, inclusive style, music to listen to and to sing along with, and a great sermon by Mike on the spiritual work of hospitality.  Challenging to his congregation, but also affirming.  And quite moving.

Results?  A number of people DID speak to me afterward.  Not sure if that was because of the sermon itself or because Mike introduced the clergy who were visiting and made us stand.  It was a great surprise to see the District Executive and the Director of Congregational Life from the UUA, and to talk after the service.

August is a big month for church-visiting by those who are thinking of a spiritual home, so it’s good when the minister is present and when the programs, even if lay-led, are well-planned and delivered, so that all who come are fed, whether they are new or long timers.

Wedding-Celebration BBQ:  After I walked back to Mark’s apartment we had a big meal of grazing all afternoon at their apartment, with a number of Mark’s close local friends (and his wife’s new friends), plus family.  Ceviche (Brazil mom), grilled corn, guacamole (Indiana mom), salsa (Mark), grilled and marinated chicken, sausage, Brazilian “mayonesa” salad (potatoes etc.).  All tasty.  I didn’t touch the beer because I was going to do a brief ceremony for the couple.  But everyone else was going through the beer fast, so I got the show on the road by 3.  I had offered this ceremony to the couple and told her mom.  Not sure if his folks expected it, but the other guests didn’t.  (The couple had gotten legally married at the Denver court-house in December, but there were no guests or family present for that occasion.)

To be a little fancy we went inside from the hot balcony and stood in the empty dining nook in the kitchen.  My quickest ceremony. Though I did have on a stole, it was also my first one to do in shorts and a Tommy Bahama shirt and Colorado Rockies flip-flops.  (I started with bare feet, remembering God’s command to Moses to remove you shoes when you are on holy linoleum, but someone thought I looked under-dressed.)

It was also the first ceremony where my voice cracked several times as I tried to get the words out, where I thought I might break down, as I read the words and thought about Mark’s life and our friendship, his loss of his bio mom to cancer when he was 1-year-old, his parents and their 34-year marriage, his career in the Marines, his rock climbing prowess and his year-long series of arduous brain-tumor surgeries and his mid-30s completion of a B.A., just in time for the 2008 melt down.

Definitely I was moved by the friendship.  He lived with us after his bio-mom died I was 12-16 in this period), and he visited me in college and traveled with me to Chicago when I was a young adult, so he’s like a brother.  But now that his Brazilian wife calls me “Ankle,” I am happy to retain that venerable title.

After I got home I realized that while the mom who raised him and his dad stood smiling on the couple at the ceremony in the kitchen, just in the next room was a shelf of photographs, including the happy couple and Mark’s parents and younger brother.  Facing our small gathering also was a framed picture of Mark’s biological mother and his father, in their early 20s, joyfully sharing a sip from the same silver cup, at their wedding reception over 40 years ago.  And smiling down on us.

Going and Returning:  Traveling mid-day meant I could take the YoloBus #42 from downtown to SMF airport for only $2 and take it home.  A quick trip if you catch it at the hourly departure.  But it doesn’t operate at the crack of dawn.  Coming back, I caught a bus near downtown Denver, paid $2.25 and got a transfer.  I got out at a wide, busy, exposed intersection in the hot sun and waited for the Sky Ride bus.  The cost was $9 to get to Denver’s airport LESS the $2.25 I had already paid!  A better deal than Supershuttle, and the only inconvenience was waiting in the warm air.