Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Leaves & Books

We had a fairly quiet weekend with the boys. Friday night, J made steak & crab for dinner. The boys were delighted, particularly Pie, our crab addict. Boot said, "This is rich people food!" J also made a pot of soup for the open house of a woman from the Presbyterian Church. We all went to bed fairly early, a very good thing in Boot's case since he is coming down with a cold. Saturday morning, we took the soup over, then popped up to Dino's and the farmer's market. We got a few bars of handmade soap (my favorite is the pumpkin spice) from a young woman who was there with her baby. I picked up a pint of local honey to spice. We visited with Irish wolf hounds, who were absurdly large and furry. Then, we went home and made waffles & bacon. I went ahead & made a double recipe so I'd have some frozen for school mornings. Boot says they're much better than Eggos.

In the afternoon, I worked on organizing coupons and menu-planning while J & the boys cleaned the gutters & raked leaves. Pie, the smallest & easiest to hoist onto the roof, got all the leaves from around the stovepipe. He adored being up there & wants to be allowed to sunbathe there next summer. J snapped several pictures of his grinning face up high. In the evening, we went to church, where J was the liturgist. After church, we stopped for dinner at The Upper Krust. I was so disappointed in their matzo ball soup. It used to be much better. It's still pretty good, but not at all what it was when they were in the old location. After dinner, we stopped at Target so the kids could work on their Christmas & birthday wish lists. It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is next week & Boot will be 13 the week after! The year has flown by!

Sunday morning, we took Pie with us to church, leaving a grumpy Boot behind to get some sleep. He had been simply evil to his brother & wasn't fit company. It was the UCC again, since J signed up to be the liturgist both days over the weekend. After church, J played a little baseball with Pie while I chit-chatted. I ran into Leif, a former co-worker at the bookstore from years back. He's a gay minister, but doing counseling now because he had a hard time finding a congregation as an out gay man. I'd better be thoroughly prepared to do the same, I expect. Oh, I also had Jane O'Brien introduce herself to me. I'm taking a class from her next semester, a weekend intensive, and she said J is welcome to attend with me. She's very nice. I got a big hug from Don Dickens, too, one of the Hogwarts professors, as I call them. I am tempted to take Grassroots Media just to have him as my prof. He has such good energy.

After church, we grabbed some lunch at Chipotle before heading to the Planned Parenthood book fair. What fun! J & Pie had never been. It was bag day ($4 a bag) and boy, did Pie love that! He got 3 bags absolutely stuffed with cookbooks. His current fancy is to try foods from all ethnic traditions. He has chosen Moroccan food for one of his December dinners and is begging to go out for Thai or Vietnamese food. This is our former adorer of all things cheeseburgerish. He has made a giant list of cusines to try. What an adorable kid he is. I will be astonished if he likes Thai or Vietnamese, since he hates even tandoori chicken at the Indian restaurant & only likes sweet & sour chicken with no sauce when we have Chinese. But, we're rolling with it. I got a bagful of mostly mysteries & light novels. I found a copy of Possession and picked that up, since Laura recommended it for book group. It's bound to be one of our choices soon & has been on my "to read" list anyway. J got a bunch of Dean Koontz books & some philosophy & poetry books. She found a number of gifts for my mom & Graham. Also, a football book for Boot & a Christmas surprise for him, too.

We stopped at Coldstone Creamery on the way home. Pie was not impressed. He chose cake batter ice cream instead of vanilla & it was too sweet with his cookie dough & chocolate chip add-ins. J had brownies, caramel, & walnuts mixed into chocolate ice cream & I had my standard coffee ice cream with Oreos, almonds, and brownies. Decadent! Once home, we gloated over our books. Then, I studied my Hebrew (which gives me absolute fits!) while J made a pot of loaded baked potato soup. We had that with biscuits for dinner, then hit the hay pretty early.

Retreat in the Woods

Weekend before last, J & I went to the annual adult retreat for the UCC church I am serving. Once we finally got there, it was fabulous. Getting there was quite the ordeal, though. The trip started innocuously enough. We stopped for dinner at a little home-cooking place outside of Columbus. I had Johnny Marzetti (how often do you find that on a menu?) and J had liver & onions. We split a piece of pecan pie, then picked up a few extras for the trip (some snack table contributions & joy workshop supplies, plus flashlights) before heading down 33 toward Hocking Hills. Unfortunately, what should have been a two-hour trip was rendered a five-hour trip by our dinner stop and by bad directions. My internet-generated map took us to a closed road & the church-provided map had both outdated and incorrect information. So, we were driving around in the dark looking for Shoop Road, with a flashing light. However, as we discovered ages later when we stopped at a gas station to find out what the hell was going on, the road's name is Sharp & the light is now a red light rather than a flashing one! Once we got that squared away, we were able to find it with ease. We arrived at, as J so precisely put it when telling our story in the morning, "12:46" in the morning. The greeting committee had folded up their tents and everyone was asleep. We roamed up & down all 4 wings of the lodge, giggling like mad, as we looked for our names next to a door. The last room on the 4th wing was ours. We met two other gals from the church who had also gotten in late and stood commiserating in the common for a few minutes before collapsing into our separate bunks & falling asleep.

In the morning, we had breakfast in the dining hall. My OT prof, Laura, & her boyfriend, Felix, came & sat with us, the other late arrivals, and one more lesbian couple. The hired guitar for the weekend joined us, as well. After breakfast, J & I joined Laura's Book of Ruth workshop. She had written a script from the Book of Ruth & we did a dramatic reading of that, with much hilarity and an equal measure of serious inquiry. Laura assigned me the role of Narrator, since I'm "good at reading hard words", as she put it. J played Boaz & Don played Ruth. There was much giggling over the references to feet. Funny that we're all adults. During the workshop, Laura referred to me as "one of my stellar students", which made me feel good.

After the workshop, we scooted upstairs to set up for my joy workshop. It was well-attended (probably about 25) and well-liked. We ran out of time quickly, so I left everything out for people to work on after lunch. I always love to see people's creations. I found out, during the workshop, that Lara and Toni are into altered books & things like that. Lara showed me a book of altered beer mats she had made. I'd love to make some. It would be fun to make little recipe books from those. Ooh, little drink recipe books would be perfect!

After lunch, it was quiet time for an hour. J napped for most of free time, catching up. But, I went out on the deck & socialized, inviting Toni & Lara to join our book group. They reciprocated by inviting us to come play in their Troy studio sometime. They also love to dine out & want us to come up to Troy for dinner at Coldwater Café sometime. I went in & cleaned up the joy space, then woke J from her doze. She joined me on the deck, to sit in Adirondack chairs & enjoy the afternoon sun. The view was just stunning, trees of all colors covered the hill across from us, with the hill reflected in the lake. People were canoeing & I wanted to join in, but my skills are rusty enough that I'd like to save it for when J & I are alone! I know enough not to drown or get stranded, but not enough to look like a good canoer. Canoeist?

The scavenger hunt was great fun, with all sorts of absurd things required of us. J's team won first prize. My team had a grand ol' time even though we won nothing. I will never forget Laura's team's song about eating cinnamon buns, complete with butt-slapping on the word "buns". We were each required to come up with a song about our retreat experience. I think Laura must have made the song up. She also had a grace for lunch that was the "Rock Around the Clock" grace. After the hunt was more free time.

Then, we had dinner, with the hoppers singing "Let Us Entertain You" and doing a kick line. Mo's comment before they started, when they were all loudly and enthusiastically greeting us & trying to entice us to their tables, was that all the extroverts must have signed up to be hoppers at the same meal. After dinner was the worship service. The lights were turned down low & a fire crackled in the great stone hearth. It was quiet & touching (except for the use of one praise song that drives J & I up a wall..."I'm desperate for you" or some such).

After worship came the night hike. We had a wonderful time doing that! The other Laura & her girlfriend, Sylvia, led it. We all had glow sticks to help us keep track of one another. We merrily tromped up the hill & into the woods, rustling leaves & gazing at stars as we went. J even saw a shooting star. The hike was ridiculously easy for us, accustomed as we are to the hard march back to my mom's. I was glad of it! When we got back, J wanted to lie in the grass & look up at the heavens. But, she settled for finding a spot by the bonfire & munching black pepper Doritos while we chatted with Lara & Toni. We were the last ones to go in. A few card games were scattered throughout the lodge & a group of people were watching a movie upstairs, but we snugged in with our books. J read Wayne Muller's Sabbath over the weekend, while I worked on our book group book. It's a really wonderful book by Jody Seay called The Second Coming of Curly Red.

Sunday morning, we had pancakes & lots of bacon for breakfast. The guest performer sat with us & she & I got into a conversation about seminary & about Nashville, which is her home for now. I got her contact info so I can interview her for the book. After breakfast, since it was looking rainish, we had the spiritual send-off on the deck instead of on a hilltop. We all gathered & read passages of spiritual import. I was given a saying of Buddha to read. There were lines from scripture, Victorian English poetry, a Sufi prayer. With everyone close together & leaves dancing down around us, it was breathtaking. J & I didn't want to leave. But, we packed up our belongings & hit the road. It had started raining hard. We chose, however, to head south toward Athens rather than north toward Columbus. The other Laura stuck her head out her car window & said, "What, are you afraid you'll get lost again?" much to our amusement. We were soon out of the rain & driving through Ohio hill country with reds, oranges, and yellows rolling upward to either side of us. It was a wonderful backroads excursion, leaving us both relaxed & happy.

Once back in our neck of the woods, we hit Town & Country for a little shopping. I got a new watch that I love. It's got a square face with rhinestones lining the edges & scattered inside so that they move when I move my arm. Best of all, it was less than $15. I picked up an angel that says "Faith" on it for my stepmom, who was just diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40. Dammit. I haven't yet met her, but I feel awful about it. I am fixing up a care package for her, with the angel, vanilla caramel tea, Ghirardelli, lavender lotion & shower gel, and some soft purple slipper socks. I don't know if she'll feel like having chocolate or not, but it can't hurt to include that. We also poked around in the bookstore before heading out for dinner at Grindstone Charley's. We had planned on dining at Figlio, but they're closed Sundays. We had some good steaks, anyway.