Friday, September 30, 2005

Lunch with My Mom & a Close Encounter

Yesterday, I read The Rule of Benedict & Wisdom of the Desert Fathers for my class on early Christianity while J slept in. My mom arrived at lunchtime to say goodbye before she headed back to the woods. She took us out to lunch at Oasis. I had a cheeseburger, something I've never ordered there before, and fabulous 5-cheese soup. J had a huge plate of chili & pasta & my mom had a veggie sub. We all tried their pumpkin spice cappuccino & found it wonderful. We ended up being given it free because the service took so long. Honestly, we were fine with the time, but it was a nice thing for them to do for us. We sent my mama off with a sack of goodies (Cheez-Its, Dutch Cocoa cookies, doughnuts for Graham, red pear, nectarine, etc).

Then, J went back to sleep while I continued to read. When Boot got home, I helped him with his fractions & filled out his school camp paperwork. I am sad that he says he's only going so he can get out of school & that he is unhappy because they have to do "crappy educational stuff". I hope that he feels differently when he's there. Learning can be so much fun. It makes me feel like saying he can't go & donating his fee for it to a kid who really wants to go but can't afford it. Oh, well. When Pie got home, he finished his journal entry on books (he says his favorite kind of book is poetry & his favorite author is Shel Silverstein), then practiced his sax. He is getting really sounds like music. I am astounded, since he's been doing it such a short time. He is practicing "Au Claire de Lune" for Monday. I read some more desert wisdom while he played.

Boot had an orthodontist appointment yesterday & we all went along. We got good news, too! It looks as though in 2 or 3 visits, his braces will come off! Yippee! After the appointment, we stopped by Lowe's to price lumber for a clubhouse. J was shocked at how expensive things are. I suggested that we check Freecycle &, lo & behold, Lilith has some things in her garage we are welcome to! Pie is thrilled. He wants to learn to sew so that he can make curtains for the clubhouse. Boot doesn't want him to learn to sew. Unmanly, I expect. I'm glad Pie does what he wants to do, without regard to gender expectations. The good news is that curtains are within my limited set of sewing knowledge & I have even made them before. I'll have to get out the sewing machine this weekend & see if I remember how to set it up & thread it!

Last night, I made Mexican-spiced meatballs with creamy guacamole dip & spicy chili dip for dinner. J made some cheesy nachos to go with the meal & that's what the kids liked the most. Sure, they ate their meat, rice, & corn. But, their hearts were in the nachos. They are really nacho kids...adore them. I thought the nachos were great with the guac dip.

After the kiddies were in bed & J was working on something for work (she went back today, but only for a few hours...I hope!), I took the spirit plate out. It's gotten chilly & the grass was cold & wet on my sandaled feet. So, I wimped out & took it only as far as the winter spot, in the azalea bed by the screened porch. Then, I watched 10 minutes of CSI with J before hitting the books again.

When I went to get the kitties inside, they were intent on someone beyond the screen. I expected a groundhog or possum. Pixie wasn't riled up, just a little edgy, so I knew it wasn't another cat. It turned out to be a raccoon! It was a young one, and not afraid of me. It walked around the porch, snuffling as it went. It was very interested in the cats. It didn't seem aggressive, just curious. Pixie wouldn't stay by the screen when it came near, but Storm sure did & she got thoroughly sniffed. I clicked at it with my tongue, like I do to call the cats, & bent down. It stood up on its back legs until its little, pointy, masked face was level with mine. It sniffed at me & looked at me for a minute, from just about a foot away, then went on its way. What a neat experience. I am pretty sure it's used to being able to duck into the groundhog holes & go under the porch because it went to the spots we filled with gravel on Wednesday. I hope no one digs back under the porch. Pie wants to name it after me, Dario if a boy & Daria if a girl. He is thrilled to have "another pet!" I have instructed him never to try & touch it!

Anyway, I sure do feel blessed to have the life I have.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

How Time Does Fly

Man, have I been busy! Between school starting & hanging out with my wife as she recovers from gallbladder surgery, I haven't had a spare moment, it seems. Soon, I will start my internship/placement at the UCC church, too. Whew!

J's gallbladder was happy to come out laparoscopically & my grands had her home by 11 o'clock. I have spent most of my time either doing schoolwork or keeping her company since the 15th. This being reading week, I have just a scootch more time. I actually read a fiction book (Hard Time by Nevada Barr...great book!).

My mom is in town this week & I plan to spend a little more time with her. She arrived Friday evening shortly after the boys left. We visited for quite awhile, then hit the grocery. We had spaghetti with vodka sauce, Tuscan bread with olive oil dipping sauce, spring mix with raspberry vinaigrette, and fruit with brown sugar sour cream for dinner. Then more visiting before a late turn-in.

Saturday morning, I saw my mom off to the blacksmith gathering, then climbed back in with J for more snoozing. We roused ourselves later in the morning, picked up some coffee at Dino's, & met my mom in Troy. We poked around the fairgrounds for awhile, checking out the metalwork on display (my favorite things were a beautifully crafted toasting fork & a set of doors with gorgeous ironwork & a dragon theme). Then, we had a wonderful lunch (lemon almond chicken salad for me, curry chicken salad for J, & a grilled portabella sub for my mom) at Night Sky Coffee House. It's delightful in there. Makes me wish it was in our town. We poked around the square (book shop, bakery, gift shops) & had dessert at Night Sky before heading back to our neck of the woods. Oh, and we bought Pie a sax cleaning kit.

On the way home, we stopped at Barnes & Noble & had dinner at Chili's. I really like their boneless buffalo wings. Then, we went on home for more visiting. Sunday, my mom headed back up for blacksmith doings while we slept in. Then, when she got home, we took her to brunch at The Blueberry Café. J ordered us all mimosas. My mom & I had omelets, while J had a buffalo chicken salad. Then, J suggested we head down to Waynesville for some antiquing. We had fun & J got some old photos she really likes. Little kids, of course. I got a new sign that is sage & cream & says "Scatter Joy" on it. It looks great on the woodstove. Of course, with the cold coming (rumors of snow for the teens weekend of October!), I'll have to hang it.

We made a fairly elaborate dinner Sunday night, inspired by Ina Garten. J & I ran to the grocery while my mom played baseball & cracked geodes with Pie. My mom made an heirloom tomato salad (our grocery had no fennel for it, but it was good anyway), J made French onion soup, and I made a goat cheese tart. I also made orange chocolate mousse. We ate around midnight, due to lack of planning & too much talking during preparations, but it was good & very much worth it.

My mom went to stay with my grands yesterday morning, so we're going to go bug them today & tomorrow. I need to get cracking on my word study & other schoolwork, but I also want to hang out with my ma.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Circus Weekend

Friday night, we took the kids to dinner at The Shuckin' Shack for some seafood. You know your kids are too sheltered (and watch too much t.v.) when they get into an urban area & ask, "Mom, are we in the 'hood?" Oy vey! Must remedy that! Pie was ecstatic over his crab, Boot liked his shrimp gumbo but not his fried shrimp, J liked her scallops fine, but liked my blackened catfish much better. We went to bed fairly early since J had to work Saturday.

While she was at work, I did housework & some writing & errands. I picked up Pie's new bike & some groceries. I finished listening to Bee Season & moved on to something much lighter, a Mitford book. When J got home, we watched the third Matrix movie (me with one eye, the other being on my book) & had dinner. J made a pizza for Boot & spaghetti with vodka sauce & Italian sausage for the rest of us. It was really good. Then, the boys were allowed to go back to their much-enjoyed flopping in their bedrooms doing nothing in particular. We watched Meet The Fockers, which was a fun movie. Before bed, I whipped up some cheesecake dip for coffee hour. We had already delivered a bunch of salad to the church fridge.

Sunday morning, I got up early to cube the poundcake. We got that & the fruit trays settled in the church kitchen before going to Sunday School. In Sunday school, we watched a couple of "Hashing It Out" episodes with Tony Campolo & another guy (Steve Brown, maybe?). They talked about the Devil, about how evangelicals are trying to look outside & blame things on the "gay agenda" rather than looking at their own families, and about whether advertising is corrupting society. We had an interesting discussion. I was bold enough to bring up gay issues twice. Once was talking about how some fundies are blaming the hurricane on the gay pride festival that was coming up & the other time was about how my "gay agenda" includes things like packing the kids' lunches, meeting pastors to talk about contextual education placements, & attending my Old Testament class. Church was fine, with a sermon on wading through the mud & water. Brendan connected the exodus with the hurricane. He also suggested that we be open to change, trusting that the waters will not fall upon us. I wonder what he's up to, if anything.

The kids were hideous during church, especially Boot, who was tapping his feet & incessantly writing notes to his mother. I finally took his paper. Pie was mostly just not paying attention: getting out crayons when he should have been in prayer, sitting when we stood. I heard from their Sunday School teacher that they were fairly disruptive in class as well. Argh. So, I was relieved when we ducked out of the service just after the offertory to help with coffee hour. It being Rally Day, Program & Worship was hosting a light lunch. I hung out in the kitchen with the guys, opening buns, and by the food with the girls, trading compliments & jokes. I am so conflicted about the idea of leaving this church. I hate that I can't be ordained in the Presbyterian church. This is home. I am excited about the opportunities for growth at the UCC, but so sad that the Presby church just isn't stepping up to the plate on social justice. I don't think I can cut ties to my church altogether, even when I am pastoring another. I will have to visit.

After lunch, the kids went over to Jason & Mark's house, happy to avoid a trip to the circus. They hate the circus. So, J & I went by ourselves & had a marvelous time! I can't possibly describe everything we saw. We had good seats, right in front of the center ring. The acrobatics were fantastic, the dogs riding horses were great, the tigers were gorgeous, the elephants were delightful, the costumes were dazzling, the percussion act was exciting, and the clowns weren't at all scary. Most of the circus folks were South or Central American, so the music was stuff like Ricky Martin & Enrique Iglesias, which I enjoyed.

We walked out of the bigtop into the bright sunlight & stopped to pet goats & an Indian cow. The llamas were back farther, in the deep shade, so we didn't get to pet them. But, they were fun to look at. J didn't want to ride an elephant & the line was kind of long, so I didn't ride, either. Maybe I can talk her into it next time they come to town. Instead, we went to Nick's for a snack, nachos & soda. Then, we picked the bitties up from their friends' house & rented some videos. We let the kids get games (at $7.99 a pop!) & ice cream. J got an animated vampire movie called, I think, Vampire Hunter D, which she watched while I fixed dinner. The boys played their games & I hummed as I spread lemon curd on a tart shell. Pie adores the game he rented,
Amazing Island, & wants to get straight As so that we'll buy it for him. We had dinner together (oven-fried chicken, 4-cheese pasta, salad, & plum tart), then went to bed. I stayed up studying & doing laundry for awhile, then headed to bed, too.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

First Week of Seminary

Tuesday was my first day of class. I had Intro to Old Testament in the afternoon. I got there a little early & sat talking with some of my classmates at a picnic table outside. Class was largely administrative stuff, going over the syllabus & such. We did get into the different kinds of translations a bit, though. After class, I talked to my prof (a UCC pastor) about possible placement at her church. She suggested I call the head pastor & tell him I'm one of her students.

Wednesday, I had Ministry Formation. We started out with the plenary session, mostly adminstrative again, but started with singing "Alleluia". My friend Laura, who is the prof, loves music. I heard some complaints about having to sing, but I thought it was a wonderful way to start. After the plenary, we met in our groups to discuss a practice we can do as a group. One fella suggested art/poetry/music together. Our group has a former band director who also does cake decorating, a violin player, a poet, me with my writing & altered art, and a photographer. Our facilitator is a sculptor. So, we may be doing some art. I suggested the practice of hospitality (which is in our book for class) & plan to cook for the group (although next week, I am taking them all bubbles). Our facilitator wants to teach us meditation. I am looking forward to that. She will be bringing a candle & a chime to class each week. She also said she's very interest in the gift God gave me, the gift of joy.

After we met in groups, I rode with Laura over to a church, in the neighborhood we'll be moving to, for the opening convocation & the installation of our new academic dean. It was a lovely service. It was kind of funny to see the faculty processing in wearing their hoods & caps & robes because three of the men look like wizards & all I could think of was Hogwarts. One of the wizards is the organist & he led us in call & response singing, with an absolutely glorious voice! After the service, the church provided us with lunch, which I thought was so kind. It was sandwiches & chips & ambrosia & all kinds of cream pies made by the Catholic ladies. Man, were they good!

I spent some time on the phone Wednesday afternoon trying to find a placement but only leaving a bunch of messages. Then, when Pie got home from school, I took him to choose a bike he likes. He found one, a red 20-incher, at Toys R Us. He said he'd rather have video games. Sigh.

Thursday was my class on the early church in the morning. Again, a great deal of administrative stuff to be dealt with. I like my prof. She seems like she's quite liberal. I met with her in the afternoon because she's also my academic adviser. She went to the University of Virginia & to Yale. She's brand-new to this area & looking forward to teaching grad students as opposed to freshman undergrads. We got talking about food & I found out that she's a vegan. She was talking about how many more vegan restaurants there are in Charlottesville & I said that the only thing I know about Charlottesville is what Rita Mae Brown writes in her books. She said, "I actually know Rita Mae Brown personally. I've been invited to hunt with her club." Amazing...not only does she know who she is, but she knows her. I didn't figure she'd even know who she is. Anyway, I think we'll get along quite well.

I spent Thursday afternoon dashing from interview to interview, all over campus. I interviewed with 3 Methodist churches (one was an interview by FIVE people...quite intimidating & I didn't feel it went at all well. The others were better), 1 UCC (very cool people, fun interview, too far from home), and the correctional facility (where I would very much like to be placed, but again, too far). I went home somewhat discouraged, but got a call back from the UCC pastor I had contacted before.

He is interested in having me come to the church & says that whatever areas I am interested in, he will get me working in. I am meeting him on Tuesday for Thai & to talk more about my placement. He had a student from the seminary last year, so he is familiar with the process. This church is a very liberal one. They also, somehow, manage to get some amazing speakers. Donna Red Wing is coming this month. Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong, and John Dominic Crossan have all been there, too. Wow! They have a strong emphasis on social justice & there's a lot going on there. J liked it a lot when we attended service there a few weeks ago, so she's happy, too. Too bad it doesn't pay, but I think it will be much better than if I went with another place just because they do pay.

Thursday evening. we took Boot to get his dream bed, a full-size captain's bed with lots of storage space. Man, beds are not cheap! But, it will be good to use as a guest bed, too, when he has moved on to his own home. Then, we went to dinner at Los Mariachis with my grands & my great-uncle & his wife. They were visiting from Minnesota. I hadn't seen them since 1998, so it was so great to get to have dinner with them. It was funny to notice how much he & my grandmom resemble each other. He is a really nice guy & his wife is great, too. They've been together almost 10 years, but just got married last winter.

Yesterday was the first meeting of the women's circle at church since summer hiatus. Laura came & spoke about her trip to South Africa for the Truth & Reconciliation Conference last spring. It was really interesting & she played some South African music, too, which was gorgeous. I made spinach cheese squares for the lunch. I sat with my grandmom & Beth Baker, talking about gardening & food. Brendan had joined the group for lunch & was eavesdropping & injecting his own food comments. Laura had told me about the fabulous French restaurant they went to in Chicago over the weekend, but he revealed something more: he put the prawn heads on his fingers after eating the prawns...and made them dance around & sing! LOL! I told him about J popping the caviar across the plate at Maritana Grille. He has done the same. I guess he's not quite as bad of a food snob as I thought. Next month, the women's group will be going on a field trip to the National Afro-American Museum. That should be wonderful!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Dining by Candlelight & Cricket Song

Friday night, after J & I saw the boys off, we popped up to Dino's for good coffee before hitting the grocery store. Then, we went home for a romantic evening in. I made cheese fondue & we had it out on the porch, by candlelight. I placed the candles on the blue & white Japanese tray that Nyoko gave us. With the stars shining & the crickets singing & the food fabulous, it was a perfect evening.

Saturday morning, we had breakfast at The Original Pancake House. We ran into J's cousin, Heather, who is working there. The owner had sent me an e-mail offering a "back-of-the-house" tour, so we took him up on that after we ate our scrambled eggs & apple pancake. It was very interesting. His pride in his place was very apparent & was nice to see.

In the afternoon, we each had a half hour massage, then went home & hung out until Steph came over to go eat Indian food with us. She'd never had it before & liked it. We enjoyed our chicken tikka masala & saag paneer, too. Then, we took her to Books & Co. She'd never been there before, either. Welcome to our life, Steph! I was able to find the last book I need for my OT class, Marcus Borg's Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. I started reading it that night in bed & it is really good so far. I was especially impressed by his discussion on the exclusivist nature of Christianity. He said that if we are required to accept Jesus as our savior in order to be saved, then that's putting a condition on Grace, which makes it not Grace at all.

Sunday morning, we got up & brewed coffee & made chocolate banana muffins for J's boss & his mom. They arrived right on schedule & we sat on the porch & had coffee & muffins before church. Then, we walked over to church for the service. Unfortunately, Brendan was out of town. But, we had a good guest pastor, Mike Ridgeway, who often fills in for us when Brendan is gone. They came up for coffee hour & met my grands. Then, we headed to The Winds for brunch.

Dave & his mom both really liked The Winds. We had a table by the window, which was nice. Dave's mom is so much like someone's mom from a movie, belongs to a card club & Red Hats & all kinds of stuff like that. She is a Texan now, but is from Boston, which is apparent when she speaks, even after years in Texas. She's fun to talk to, quite interesting. She & I did most of the talking. The food was wonderful! Dave & I had shrimp & grits, J had the veggie torte, & Lisa had biscuits with mushroom gravy. She also had a cinnamon peach scone, while J & I split a piece of chocolate chip cheesecake. We had planned to pick up the tab, but Dave beat us to it & wouldn't be talked out of it. I have the feeling that the only way we can beat him at this game is to cook for him, something really good. After brunch, we walked around town, showing Lisa the shops. Then, they headed home while J & I did some more poking. We each got a lingam & J pointed out a number of things I can get her for Christmas.

We went home & had a nap before heading out for our next social engagement. C.R. & Ron from our couples' group had invited us to a cocktail party, so we drove into Dayton for that. On the sidewalk across from their house, we met a hairless cat. It was really cute & extremely friendly, but badly in need of a bath & an ear cleaning. I know that if it had still been out there when we left, J would have insisted on adopting it. I think it probably has a home, though. I hope so. The party was fun. We got the grand tour of their new house, which is just gorgeous, an older home that's been renovated. Then, we sat outside with April & Becky and Tom & Dan, chit-chatting about food, parenting (Tom & Dan raised Tom's 2 daughters together), and travel. The boys just got back from a trip to the Wisconsin Dells & the girls were recently on an Olivia trip to the Dominican Republic. We sipped margaritas & chocolate Russians & laughed & enjoyed the cool evening air. J & I stopped for dinner at Friday's on the way home.

Yesterday, J actually took the day off! Her boss had told her to & she actually did it. So, we lazed in bed fairly late. Then, I got my review finished & sent it in before we headed out to shop. We wanted to comparison shop for Boot's bed & to find a bike for Pie. We got him one, a black Schwinn. The bed is going to be a little harder. Everything is so high. Boot will probably end up with a captain's bed. The extra storage would be great & it's a good-looking bed. It's more than we should really pay, but he very much wants a new bed & Pie very much wants his bed. So, we'll move Boot's new bed in, give Pie Boot's bed, & Freecycle Pie's bed. We stopped only for lunch at Max & Erma's & Starbucks on the way home.

Once home, I got started on dinner while J showed the just-returned boys Pie's bike. He doesn't like it, thinks it's too small. It sits lower to the ground than standard, so I can see where he wouldn't. We'll take it back & let him pick another. After the babies went to bed, we had breakfast sandwiches...scrambled eggs, prosciutto, & cheese on grilled ciabatta...with cheesy hash browns & kiwi fruit. I got everything ready for class today & we watched CSI in bed. I did some reading for Thursday's class before falling asleep.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Estelle's Questions

If money were not a factor, what would your dream job be?

Do you want more children?

What is your favorite "me time" activity?

Honestly, I believe that if money were not a factor, I would be a writer, food critic, and pastor. Two of which I am already doing. The other, I start school for next week. Lucky me!

While I would love to have a daughter, our boys are old enough & I enjoy our "just the two of us" time enough that I am happy to leave it at that. With Pie being already 10, it's hard to think of starting over with a new bambino. Every once in awhile, though, I get an attack of the "what if"s.

My favorite "me time" activity is, no question about it, reading with a nice mug of tea. Although, I am not at all averse to getting a facial every now & again, as well!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Joining Band

No, not me, Pie! I spent much of yesterday writing, organizing the laundry room, and reading for school. But, last night, we went to the 5th Grade Band Meeting. Pie was so very excited that he could hardly sit still. After the meeting, we signed him up & made arrangements to rent-to-own an alto sax for him. I was all for getting him a good used one, but J insisted on brand-new. I hope he's serious about this music thing, with that kind of price! He is certainly thrilled with it right now, saying he's going to practice for an hour a day& that's it's better than if we bought him "THREE X-Boxes and a million gajillion video games!!!" We are thrilled. I think he really will be serious about this & will make a fine musician.

We took dinner, lemon-pepper chicken & pasta with Caesar salad, fresh pineapple, & ciabatta, out to my grands' house. Pie told them all about joining band & showed off his music book & t-shirt (the back of which says "MUSICIAN"). He told me that some people will probably call him a band geek, but he doesn't care. I told him that he shouldn't care. The grands were amused by his fervor. My granddad got out his old clarinet & showed it to Pie, who said he maybe should have picked that instead. My granddad told him he doesn't have to choose, that many musicians play several instruments. He offered use of his clarinet to Pie if Pie ever gets interested in it. He is so kind.

Today, I was so wiped out that I dozed off while reading about the Bible's English translations. I was awakened, drool soaking my pillow, by a call from J asking if I wanted to come to the plant for lunch. I took a couple of sandwiches, some chips, & a slice of turtle cheesecake from Current & she actually hung out in her office most of the time I was there. It was really nice having lunch with her. I hope my Fridays remain open so that I can do that fairly often.

This afternoon, Boot has been sequestered in his room since he got home from school. He is in good spirits & seems to have shaken the exhaustion he had going on yesterday. Pie has been without screen time due to an academic detention (already!) so he's been busy taking apart the printer my granddad gave him for just that purpose.

Tonight, we will either be having fondue by candlelight on the back porch, going to a church camp reunion & sleeping in a cabent, or going to a lesbian camp-out at a state park. Interesting range of options...we'll see what J picks.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

3 Questions

On Rae's Ramblings, she posed this challenge:

Blog readers are invited to ask her any 3 questions & she has to answer them honestly. She only asks that they, in turn, put this same challenge on their blogs. So, you are invited to ask me 3 questions, which I will answer honestly unless they are completely inappropriate or would compromise my family's safety. Then, post this sort of thing on your blog.

Getting To Know You

I have a weakness for these things.

First Name: Daria

Were you named after someone? Actress Daria Halprin, who played a character named Daria in Antonioni's Zabriskie Point. Also, my mom read a lot of Russian novels while she was pregnant with me.

Do you wish on stars? Always.

When was the last time you cried? I teared up last night when a sweet old man came & did string tricks at our table.

Do you like your handwriting? Nope. Not one whit.

What is your favorite lunch meat? Hard salami, right now. I am also fond of turkey breast & of bologna.

What is your birth date? July 17, 1970.

What is your most embarrassing CD? Probably the Evita soundtrack. At least, it embarrasses my wife. Maybe the Hank Williams' greatest hits or the tribute to Tammy Wynette. Or, for certain people (my kids), the Dead Kennedys. It all depends on the audience. None of them embarrass me. Although, I am glad to have my son's Austin Powers soundtrack out of our CD player.

If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you? I think I would, actually.

Are you a daredevil? Nopie.

Have you ever told a secret you swore not to tell? Yes, but only to my mother.

How do you release anger? I usually write.

Where is your second home? I don't have a second home, but if I did, it would be in the West Virginia hills.

Do you trust others easily? Probably too easily.

What class in high school do you think was totally useless? P.E.

Do you have a journal? I have a gazillion. I do morning pages, blessings, what I did each day, a visual journal, an illustrated discovery journal, a food journal, a nature journal, a prayer journal, a kids' journal...

Do you use sarcasm a lot? Not a lot. But, some.

Your nicknames? Dar, Dar-Baby, Darb, Dar-Dar, Sugarplum Fairy, Plum, Darbuncle, Bunk, Bunkie...the list could go on endlessly.

Would you bungee jump? Absolutely not. I dreamed last night that I was watching bungee jumpers & they were hitting the ground with their feet, making big dents but not getting hurt.

Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? Nope. Although, I greatly prefer slip ons...and barefoot is even better.

Do you think that you are strong? I'm emotionally strong, but not really physically. Although, I do sometimes surprise myself by lifting something much heavier than I expect I can.

What's your favorite ice cream flavor? Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie. Although, Mela's lime basil sorbet is amazing, as is Mexican hot chocolate from Jeni's Splendid.

Shoe Size? 11

What is your least favorite thing about yourself? I'm not happy with my weight. And I would love to have 20/20 vision.

Who do you miss most? I miss hearing from my friend Jess, who lives in Pittsburgh. I miss my mom & think 3 & 1/2 hours is too far to live from her. And I miss my fairy godfather, who died of AIDS a few years ago.

What color pants and shoes are you wearing? Grey yoga pants with a black waist & bare feet.

What are you listening to right now? Cicadas outside, the hum of my computer, the cat bathing.

Last thing you ate? A Big Boy & mashed potatoes at dinner last night. Oy!

What is the weather like right now? Sunny & gorgeous.

Last person you talked to on the phone? My wife.

First Concert you attended? B.B. King in 1980 or 1981.

Last Concert you attended? Jonell Mosser at Canal Street Tavern.

Celebrity Crushes? Wynonna. Ina Garten. Angelina Jolie, but that is so common it almost doesn't count.

The first thing you notice about the opposite sex? I guess I should change that to same sex...and it's probably the eyes.

Favorite Drink? Water, Lindemann's Framboise Lambic, RC or other colas. As far as cocktails, I like mojitos & amaretto sours.

Favorite Sport? I like to watch bull-riding. And figure skating.

Favorite TV show? I am a food porn & house porn will find my t.v. tuned mostly to HGTV or Food Network if I have control of the remote. I do like CSI & Law & Order. And Great Hotels.

Favorite Movie? Right now, it's probably either Practical Magic or Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.

Last cd purchased/burned? The Bride & Prejudice soundtrack

Hair Color? Almost black, with copper highlights when I've been out in the sun a lot.

Eye Color? Dark brown

Do you wear contacts? Nope, they slide right down my eyeballs.

Favorite Food? Good cheeses like Maytag blue & Pierre-Robert.

Last Movie You Watched? I watched part of Hope Floats last night. My wife, who would rather have been watching the Sci Fi channel said, "Why do you watch this crap? It's depressing."

Scary Movies or Happy Endings: I am inclined to romantic comedy, although I really like suspense movies like Along Came a Spider & Double Jeopardy. Angel Heart is one of my favorite scary movies.

Summer Or Winter? Both, whichever is coming up. But, I like May & October best of all.

Hugs or Kisses? Both.

What Is Your Favorite Dessert? Flourless chocolate cake, if I'm making it. Chocolate Napoleons at my favorite restaurant. Sorbet anywhere.

Living Arrangements? Married with 2 stepbabies, 3 cats, and a frog.

What Books Are You Reading? The Bible in English Translation, Jubana, Oh My Stars!, Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons, and What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. Oh, and a new Cuban cookbook.

How Many Candles Were On Your Last Birthday Cake? I think there were 10. My mom decided against 35 & one for luck, much to my disappointment.

What Did You Watch Last night on TV? CSI & hurricane reports.

Who Was the Last Person You Kissed? My wife, when I saw her off this morning.

Favorite Smells? Vanilla, grapefruit & orange, lily of the valley, cinnamon.

What's the furthest you've been from home? Los Angeles. Or maybe Monterey is further.

What's your biggest indulgence? Books & dining out.

If You Could Be Anywhere Right Now, Where Would You Be? Hanging out with my mom & my wife.

The Porch, Thai Food, & Bed Shopping

Monday, I spent most of the day reading for class, doing laundry, & getting the screened porch fixed up. We had moved the furniture to the basement when the porch was painted last summer & never got it back out there. So, I wiped down all the surfaces, mopped, & put all the furniture back out. It looks great out there again! I am so glad I took the time to do it. In addition to the loveseat & chairs that had been out there before, I stuck the flaking pink wooden chair I have been hanging on to for several years out there. It looks perfect in that context! J & I had fun at the grocery, then I made chorizo & cheddar breakfast burritos for our dinner, after which we had a bit of t.v. & reading, then to bed.

Tuesday morning, I had an eye exam. I hate, hate, hate having my eyes dilated! I don't mind the drops so much, but I hate the blurring & tearing. I was smart this time, though, & picked out my frames before the drops. I am back to oval frames. I hated the rectangular ones. Too harsh in terms of looks & too limiting in terms of vision. My prescription hasn't changed at all & I have no signs of glaucoma or anything like that. I aced the fields of vision test, so my peripheral vision is top notch. Has to be, when you're a parent! After the exam, I exchanged some jeans & got J a caramel pear candle & brown leaf-design saucer for our 3 year & 8 month wedding anniversary. Then, I met Brendan for Thai & theological discussion. Well, we probably talked food at least as much. The afternoon was spent helping boys with homework & grocery shopping. It was pouring rain & I was glad of my sandals. It was the kind of weather where you need either sandals or boots.

J loved her gifts (I added a dozen pink-tipped yellow roses to the candle) & card. She made flat-iron steaks & penne with vodka sauce for our dinner. While she was cooking, we played Trivial Pursuit, just like in the old days when we often got out board games while cooking. It's nice having the table so accessible from the cooking area.

Yesterday, I took Boot to his counseling appointment very early, reading a book on the Bible in English translation while I waited for him. After taking him to school, I read & had breakfast, then went to Bible study. We talked about John 21 & about how often Jesus was found nourishing his people, not just spiritually, but physically, too. My grandmom surprised me by wanting pizza for lunch. In all the time we've been having our Wednesday lunches together, pizza has never even been suggested. Her appetite has been so puny, lately, too. But, she wanted pizza & we happily went along. We had a very nice lunch & she ate almost all her personal pan pizza with ham & pineapple. It's great to see her feeling better.

I caught up on e-mail & helped bitties with homework yesterday. Pie brought a worm home from school to draw & then release. He loves stuff like that. I also spent some time in front of the t.v., which is almost never on before 6 or 7. I just had to see the news on the hurricane. New Orleans has always been very close to my heart, even though I've never been there. I have friends who live there. I know all but 1 are safe. But, I haven't heard anything from her at all. Last I heard, she was going with her daughter & daughter's fiancé to his place across the lake. Of all the times not to evacuate! I hope they changed their minds & headed into Texas after all. My other friends have all come to this area to wait it out. Jessica & Mike are staying with her mom, just down the road from my grandparents, until Slidell is inhabitable. Kyle, who lives in the French Quarter, is staying with his folks for the duration. It will be nice to see him Sunday, but what circumstances! Seeing the footage of the city was just too much. I am so heartsick for all those people who make it their home. I am also sad, selfishly, to think that the New Orleans I always planned to visit will not be there. This is just awful. I will never forget visiting my dad in Miami a year after Andrew & still seeing so much devastation everywhere. And this one looks to be much, much worse. It makes me want to vomit. Gas prices here are up to $3.09, yet it seems stupid & petty to complain when so many people have lost everything. And now, of course, one of the fundie groups is blaming New Orleans' toleration of homosexual depravity for the disaster. I can't get over the number of people who call themselves Christians & are so opposite of what Christ taught. First, Pat Robertson's call for the assassination of Chavez and Fred Phelps' God Hates Sweden website & protests at military funerals, now this crap.

When J got home from work, we took the boys shopping for a new bed (Boot, who found a couple, but both were $399 just for the frame, so we're looking other places, too, before making any final decisions) and a new bike (Pie, who wasn't in the mood to shop & decided to like nothing). We had dinner at Frisch's since it was getting too late to cook & we were all hungry. This wonderful old man, who looked like he might have been through the Holocaust when he was young, stopped by our table & did string tricks for us. We were enthralled & the magic of it (both the great tricks & the interaction with total strangers like that) made me tear up. Maybe he was an angel. I think so.

Orientation Weekend

Last Friday, I got everyone off to work & school, then finished watching Meet The Parents. After it was over, I got myself ready & headed to the seminary. Orientation was from noon to 9 on Friday. It started with a box lunch, moved through a bunch of introductions & meeting with our ministry formation groups, and ended with a picnic, more intros, & a vespers service. I met a lot of people, both faculty & students, and had some great conversations. The people in my ministry formation group are not people I would probably have chosen to be around, left to my own devices, & they are great. The woman who coordinates that seems to have done a really good job mixing & matching us up. My facilitator is a black woman who is a retired Methodist pastor & is also a sculptor. I was really nervous about how these people would react to my having a wife, but no one seemed appalled or even really fazed. Everyone seemed to open up right away. We are bound to confidentiality, but I will say that some of those people have been through some pretty extreme stuff. Brendan cautioned me against losing boundaries, when dealing with what he calls "the broken healers" & letting people suck me dry. I think I can handle it, though. I am so pleased at being able to be fully out at seminary.

When I got home, J had a Cinderella Boyd's bear, with a tiny tux-clad mouse, waiting for me. She said she's really proud of me. I was exhausted & we went on up to bed. Saturday's session went from 8-3, so I was up bright & early. There were more introductions, a worship service, meeting with our academic advisor, and registration. I bought most of my books, too. I am so excited! The classes I'm taking this semester are Hebrew, Intro to Old Testament, a class on the very early church, & the ministry formation. When I got home, I pulled up all my syllabi & got started on my reading. J & the kids got back from the mall shortly. J was exhausted, so she napped while I started on my reading for school. I have to have 2 books & other readings done by Tuesday.

J & I went to a great restaurant called Mela for dinner. I had a pear, roasted, drizzled with honey & olive oil, sprinkled with rosemary, & served with gorgonzola & walnuts for my appetizer. J had really good tomato bisque. We had beautiful little salads, mine with a creamy orange vinaigrette & J's with tomato vin. Then, she had a great ribeye with Yukon gold mashed potatoes & asparagus. I had sesame shrimp with a risotto cake. My dessert, chocolate lava cake, was disappointing, but J's caramel bread pudding with Bailey's sauce was fantastic. After dinner, we watched a little t.v. & went to bed.

In the morning, J didn't feel well enough to go to Sunday school, but we did go to church. She made it just past the sermon, then went home to lie down. I stayed with the boys, who were acolytes, until the end of the service, then checked on her. She was fine, so I went back to coffee hour & visited. When we got home, J suggested a video store trip. We got all 3 Matrix movies & Meet The Fockers. We'll probably never watch that last one, but I got it in the hopes that somehow, we would. We did watch The Matrix & part of the second one. I found myself extremely bored by them. Oh, well. J loved them. While she remained immersed in the second one, I made muffin tin meatloaves with boiled potatoes & lima beans for our supper. We had a quiet evening in & headed to bed early.