Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Regular Wednesday...How I've Missed Them

One of the things I miss the most from life before seminary is attending Wednesday morning bible study & then going to lunch with the grands. Yesterday, since we are in reading week, I was actually able to do that! Yippee! Bible study was very interesting, focused on 1 Corinthians 8. Brendan explained that Paul's main point is not that it's sinful to eat meat that's been sacrificed to pagan gods, but that we should be acting in a loving manner as part of a community. As such, we should not be persuading people to do something which they truly believe is sinful, even if we know that it's not. However, Brendan made it clear that this cannot be read too broadly, as meaning that we should never try to change people's minds & should never do anything to offend anyone. If we are educating people and they come to the conclusion that, say, eating sacrificed meat is not a sin, then that's all well & good. It has a lot to do with context as well as with education. Of course, there are plenty of applications in today's world. One example Brendan gave is that if we weren't ever to try & change anyone's mind on things, women couldn't be ordained. He talked some about biblical literalism and also about how Paul was obviously not against change or bucking the system, as evidenced by the very way he acted. My understanding of Paul (and my opinion on him) is changing as I study him more.

After bible study, my granddad asked if we wanted to have lunch at Young's. Since we were going to be closer to the plant than usual, I called J to invite her. And she was able to join us! She hasn't been leaving the plant for lunch at all these days, so I was surprised & delighted that she could come. We had a good time visiting with the grandies. She looked so great when she walked in. She just got her hair cut Tuesday & was wearing a perfectly-fitting pair of khakis with a v-neck red sweater my mom & Graham got her for Christmas. Wow, what a terrific outfit on her! I am lucky to have such a pretty wife. And she's even smart & kind to go along with it!

Once home, I cleaned house and spent time online registering for the MLP conference & researching hotels. All the ones close to Vanderbilt campus are either very pricey (Loew's Vanderbilt, for example) or sound kind of skanky. While I would love to stay at the Opryland, I don't think it's worth $400-something for two nights. So, I found a Holiday Inn in Brentwood that has a jacuzzi & seems clean & reasonably priced. I know where in Brentwood it is & know the neighborhood is decent. I am waiting to make absolutely certain we can go before making the reservations, though. I should know today. I also researched Japanese restaurants, but J got home at 7:30 & felt like it was too late to go out. Also, the boys begged to stay home. I am surprised Pie didn't want to go, since his brother had been dominating Pie's computer all afternoon & threatening to call their dad on the cell phone anytime Pie started to come tell me. I didn't know about this coercive behavior until this morning. Poor little guy. We'll have to watch that more carefully. Boot is becoming quite the bully with his brother. And threatening to call their dad on him? Their dad hasn't got control over anything that goes on in this house unless we are abusing or neglecting the kids, which would never be the case. Oy vey!

So, J hung out with me & played sous-chef while I cooked. I made pork chops, baked beans (with Dr. Pepper...J said they were the best she's ever had, but I thought they were too juicy), and steamed broccoli. The kids were pleasant company during the meal, although Pie didn't want to eat much. Boot loved the topping I made for the chops, while Pie found it abhorrent. Too much mustard & paprika, I'm guessing. He doesn't like anything remotely spicy.

After they went to bed, I tidied up the kitchen & followed J to bed. I had put on the 400-threadcount sheets she got me for Christmas. They're a very light peach & very soft. It was nice to snug in between them w/J, under our rose-covered quilt, & read.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cooking For My Babies

Okay, so I did some other things yesterday. But, my favorite was making dinner for everyone & them loving it. I like to cook anyway & to have the whole family really like it is so satisfying. It was even something I didn't know if the kids would like. I made Italian beef & spinach pie, with a mix of spinach, ricotta, & mozzarella in the bottom of the pie shell, a mix of Italian sausage, lean burger, garlic, red bell pepper, and tomato paste (with Italian seasoning) on top of that, and a topping of mozzarella & tomato slices. I had everything ready, before I left for my meeting, for J just to pop it in the oven & bake it. When I called to say I was headed home, J said Boot had a big piece & Pie had two. They were bathing when I got home...well, Boot had just gotten out of the shower & Pie was in the tub writing his name on the wall with a soap crayon. They had cleaned the litter boxes, helped J clean the ashes out of the woodstove, and carried in a bunch of wood from the pile. We are lucky to have little boys who are mostly helpful, even if Boot is Angst Boy fairly frequently these days.

I also had fun yesterday making a trip to K-Mart for storage bins & envelopes. I took Pie with me & picked up a Neopets "writer's set" for him, with pencils, erasers, a ruler & things like that in it. He hadn't spotted it, so it was fun to surprise him with it once we got back to the car. He has just been so agreeable & helpful lately that I wanted to get him a small thank you gift. I also have coupons for them that I am going to start slipping to them for things like a build-your-own-sundae or an extra hour past bedtime. They'll like that. Another thing I got while out doing errands was the coolest stamps I have ever seen! I'm thrilled with them! They are children's book character stamps, with The Wild Thing, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Wilbur, Maisy, Frederic, Fox in Socks and other characters on them! Wow, are they ever cool!!! I put them on the next round of book group invites, making sure that my mom had The Wild Thing. If I hadn't already given Laura hers, I would have put Olivia on it since she loves Olivia.

Yesterday was also the day that the cable networking guy came out to make it so that Pie can use our internet on his computer. Man, is he thrilled!!! The cable guy was really nice, a big, burly guy with a red beard & those coveralls that are Carhartt brown & have suspender-like straps instead of coming all the way up & having sleeves & a zipper. When he saw our Butter kitty, he said, "Here, kitty, kitty" in the sweetest, gentlest voice & he actually got that dignified kitten to play with him!

The church meeting I went to last night was of the Connections Ministry at the UCC. As we all talked about the congregation members we'd been talking to, sending cards to, etc, I got a real sense of caring & compassion. I am proud to be involved with a church that is full of such kind & loving people. Not that the PC (USA) church isn't, but it feels different. The meeting was fairly short & I was able to hit the road home & to dinner just after 8, after plugging the Presbyterian church's showing of Romero slated for Sunday. If you haven't seen that film, go rent it! Or buy it. Oscar Romero was a Salvadoran archbishop who stood up for the poor people & stood against the brutal violence that was going on in El Salvador in the 70s & 80s. He was assasinated for taking this stance, but he was living his life based on Christ's teachings, working for justice and for the downtrodden. He was a true hero. Raul Julia's portrayal of him in this film was stunning.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Leadership Retreat & Unruly Adolescents

The weekend was spent mostly in meetings/retreat for the UCC church, but Friday night, we had book group. We discussed The Alphabet Vs. The Goddess and ate chicken peanut soup and butternut squash soup. I made the chicken soup & Hyacinth brought the squash soup, along with some smoked oysters in pasta shells. I had some snowflake rolls to go with the soups & Trader Joe's chocolate truffles for dessert. Those are really scrumptious. Our next book is Terry McMillan's Disappearing Acts, which we'll discuss on J's birthday.

Early Saturday morning, I drove to the golf club for the leadership retreat. We spent the morning talking about how to grow the church & the afternoon focusing on what our gifts are & what changes we'd like to see in the church in the coming year. We had lunch & dinner there & after dinner was a nice worship service. The sermon was all of our reflections. It was kind of like Friends Meeting, but not as quiet. After the service, I dropped Mike off at their kids' house where Vickie was already babysitting the grandbabies. We had interesting conversation about spirituality in the car.

Once home, I tasted some of J's turkey soup (she made 2 giant vats while I was gone...also took Pie bowling...sounds like they had fun. Boot spent the night at a friend's Friday night & was gone all day. Had he called & asked to spend a second night earlier, J & Pie could have gone out to the Olive Garden with my family, but he didn't call until 8...we let him stay & it seems to have been a mistake) & watched Mr. & Mrs. Smith with J. I also checked out the bible reference software Pie picked out as a gift for me. He is so sweet.

Sunday morning, I again headed out early for the retreat. We spent hours in a committee meeting & ran out of time for the Bible study the pastor had planned. But, he gave us the info so that we can pursue it on our own. On the way home, I picked up the new book club book, a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird for The Big Read, a couple cooking magazines and some gifts. I got J a book with all kinds of snowflake illustrations by various children's authors, Pie a small stuffed lion to remind him to be brave & be just who he is no matter what someone else (his brother) might want him to be, and a set of rubber Georgia Bulldogs bracelets for Boot. Pie loved his lion, J is putting her book on her desk at work, & Boot hasn't mentioned his bracelets...he was asleep when I got home, so I put them on his bed next to him. I don't know if he hasn't found them yet or just won't say anything. He is in one of his hateful phases, as evidenced later that night. I also picked up a darling little purple & white gingham dress & panty set, with a matching embroidered white sweater for a baby shower.

J & I ate some turkey soup, wrapped baby gifts (she had picked up bath stuff & a little purple & white sleeper for her), and headed out for Honey's daughter's baby shower. Honey is one of J's leads & we just love her. Her daughter is just 17 & is due with her first baby in a few weeks. I can't imagine how scary it must be for her, but Honey will help her & be a wonderful grandma. The shower was fun. I won a picture frame in the pin game. Honey made some great chicken wings & lasagna & the cake was adorable, with tiny sugar footprints all over it. But, my favorite part of the shower was getting to see the gifts. There were some darling little outfits! Almost all the girls there were also high school students. I wondered how many showers they've been to for friends of theirs already. After the shower, we stayed a little longer & talked about work stuff with some women who work with J.

We took the kids McDonald's for dinner & then ran a couple errands. When we got home, we were getting ready to fix ourselves some dinner. The kids were supposed to be in bed, but weren't. Boot used the excuse that he had to make sure his mom would wash his clothes while Pie told me he was shutting down his computer. I talked to him about why he should have been in bed, then started talking to Boot. Boot hates to get in trouble & often balks if we even talk to him about some kind of wrongdoing, without even giving him a consequence. He wasn't in trouble Sunday night, just getting a lecture about going to bed on time. He kept making excuses & was defiant with me. I told him I didn't need excuses, I just needed him to go to bed. I reached out to shut his door & turn the lights out. He decided I was reaching out for him & grabbed my arm hard & said, "You can't touch me!!!" & started wigging out. I said, "Boot, I don't want to touch you, I want you to GO TO BED!!!" He started crying & said, "I'm calling my dad! You can't touch me! You can't spank me!" practically in hysterics. I told him that I could, actually, according to the police, as long as I had his custodial parent's permission, which I do. But, since I can't remember ever having spanked him in the almost 5 years I've been parenting him & since I hadn't wanted to touch him or spank him & had made no indication that I would do so, I was astonished that he got so freaked out. I called J for help, but she couldn't hear me from the laundry room. He called his dad in tears & hysterics on his cell phone. I ended up getting the distinct pleasure of talking to his dad. His dad was not rude to me, surprisingly, & told me that as long as I don't use corporal punishment on his kid, we have no problem. J was upstairs by then. After I got off the phone with his dad, she decided to just go right to bed, no longer hungry. I got the dishwasher loaded & running, then went to bed myself. That kid's hair trigger temper & hysteria are going to cause him some major problems throughout his life if he doesn't learn to control himself. It was a perfectly hideous end to a very nice day. Another weekend tainted by one of his blow-ups. It fits the pattern, though. He usually does this the long weekend he is with us during visitation with his dad in July and again in January or February. He's got his brother so scared of him that Pie wants permission to lock his bedroom door if he feels scared...granted.

Last night, after I got home from school & J got home from work, he flipped out again & started crying & cussing because he is grounded this week for flipping out on me Sunday night. He's not the first kid ever to be grounded, but he acts like we are the most evil people ever, to punish him for acting up. My arm was still red an hour after he grabbed me & sore the next morning, yet we're the villains for grounding him? I don't think so. Anyway, he decided he needed to call his daddy & soon, I was on the phone with the guy being accused of "taking sides and practicing gender politics", being "pretty unChristlike for someone who recently professed a calling as a Christian", and being habitually dishonest. He kept telling me we'd just talk through our lawyers & he'd see me in court. He was mad that I hadn't told him that Boot grabbed me the night before. I didn't want to make a big deal of it, so I omitted it from what I told him. So what? He's never been supportive or helpful before when Boot has physically attacked me, so why would I bother to tell him? What a thoroughly delightful man.

Boot refused to come down for dinner & we didn't press the issue, deciding that a nice peaceful dinner was a better option than proving we can make him come to dinner. It was a very nice dinner indeed & we had fun with Pie. J made steak & bearnaise sauce while I steamed some asparagus & baked some potatoes. Pie adored his meal. He calls asparagus "trees" and had seconds. He also ate much of his brother's steak, with J putting the rest on a bun for his lunch today. He is thrilled about getting to take a "steakburger" to lunch. I hope it's good! I also made a cherry pie in honor of Pie Day. J & I each had a still-warm slice right before going to bed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Reformed...and Still Reforming

Yesterday morning, J went in to work very early, leaving the house before 5. I got up & hung out with her while she got ready. Then, I sent her on her way with a mug of coffee and a Nutrigrain bar. I went back to bed. I very much wanted to attend the MLK Day march & rally, but had the first meeting of our Reformed Theology directed study group scheduled too close for comfort.

There are only 5 of us, so I already know everyone who's in the group...and the prof guiding it is my friend, Laura. We told a little about ourselves. It turns out that Laura and myself are the only lifelong Presbyterians in the group. We have a former Lutheran who's been Presbyterian for about 10 years (I think he said), then 2 mostly-nondenominationals and a Nazarene, who have all been Presby about 3 years. The former Nazarene is very conservative and homophobic. I find it disturbing that I, a 4th-generation Presbyterian in the same church to which my great-grandmother belonged, cannot be ordained while the Nazarene, who happened to marry into the denomination, can. I hope Brendan is wrong & things do change at the GA in June. But, I doubt it. It is an upbeat note that the Cincinnati Presbytery just sent in a delete G, but still. There is a lot of work to be done in the class, as with Hebrew and (I am sure) Greek. It would be so much easier to forego the Presbyterian requirements & just go for the UCC ordination or do something which doesn't require ordination. But, I am unwilling, at this point, to give up like that.

After the meeting, I popped into the mall to exchange some Christmas clothing gifts ( I found a really wonderful pink turtleneck and a v-neck grey sweater, as well as picking up some tights). Then, I found myself a new purse. I also got my hair cut & my brows waxed & feel 100% better without my bangs hanging in my eyes! My grandfather will appreciate it, too.

I came home & J arrived shortly after me. We took the bitties to the mall. Pie was very unhappy about this, but Boot was thrilled. He is worse than a girl when it comes to being a clothes horse. We got him a couple pairs of shorts, a couple t-shirts, and some Nikes because he "needs" new clothes for gym class. J picked up a "Drawn Together" t-shirt at Hot Topic for $5. I wish there was a Torrid at our mall. I think the clothes there are fun. Boot would be appalled. We had dinner in the food court & I bought the dinner of the guy behind me. That was fun! He was really surprised. After dinner, we planned to have some ice cream, but Haagen-Dazs was already closed. Just as well, I suppose!

Once home, I read to J & petted her to sleep, then stayed up until 12:30 reading The Goddess Vs. The Alphabet, trying to get it finished before book group this weekend. It's good, just not a breeze-through kind of book.

Lazy Days, Work Days

Friday night, after we saw the boys off, we went to the local Regal cinemas to see Brokeback Mountain. The movie was very good & was possibly the saddest movie I've ever seen. Take tissues! I had to restrain myself from wailing loudly in the theater & couldn't pull myself together enough to leave until the credits had rolled & the ushers were giving me the eye. I cried all the way to the Indian restaurant, but was cheered by the crunch of pappadam and the savory goodness of chicken tikka masala. It wasn't our usual Indian place, but it was near the theater & not bad at all.

We spent nearly all of Saturday in bed, reading, watching silly things on t.v., and just enjoying one another's company. I fixed a tray of cheese and fruit for our brunch & we ate in bed, too. Finally, after several hours of lolling about, we roused ourselves, got showers, & headed to church. We had a pulpit exchange, the kick-off of the UCC church's partnership with a predominently African-American congregation in the Presbyterian church. The sermon was good & I am looking forward to getting to know the other congregation more. J & I want to attend their worship services some time. The UCC pastor preached at the Presby church on Sunday, but we were at work.

After the service, we were both starving. We stopped by The Paragon Club, but were not in "proper attire", nor did we relish the idea of paying almost $40 for a steak. That's just silly. So, I talked J into going to El Meson. She always thinks she doesn't like it that much there & then she loves it once I get her there. She had said, "Well, El Meson's just expensive Mexican food." But, it's Latin, not strictly Mexican. And it's not really all that expensive. I love it there. We had some platanos rellenos (with beef filling) and some arepas with chorizo for our tapas, then split the very yummy arroz con pollo. They make it with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, so it's a lot easier to eat than the traditional bony kind. For dessert, I had flan (next time, I want the dulce de leche con moros) & J had dulce de leche cheesecake. We sipped wonderful café ollos & chatted. We were seated out in the patio, walls rolled down & heaters on for the winter. The heaters made me think of restaurants in Monterey & Carmel. J had never been out there. Very enjoyable! After dinner, one of the owners (who happens to belong to the UCC church) stopped by our table to chat. It sounds like they have some great dishes planned for the new menu. This might sound crazy, but there was a young woman there who was dressed like God has been dressed when She's appeared to me in meditations lately. It was fun to see her outfit.

Sunday morning, I went in to the plant with J. I took all my church history and Hebrew work...and got a lot done! On the way in, we stopped at The Emporium for croissants since Current wasn't open yet & at Dino's for coffees. I wish Dino worked weekends since his coffee is invariably better than anyone else's. We stayed at work until just before the boys were due home. Then, we invited them to come with us to dinner and were refused. We hit the local Italian place. It's so middle America. The spaghetti reminds me of something someone's non-Italian mom would have made for me when I was a kid in the 70s. Kinda bland, kinda watery sauce and "al dente" would mean not one thing to the cook. But, it was fine for our mood that night.

Friday, January 13, 2006

My Monster Baby

I had church history first thing yesterday & had a good time in class. I was prepared & had some definite opinions on Luther. Not only that, but I was wearing my tiara & we happened to talk about the Pope's tiara. I think my prof must surely have found it odd that I was wearing a tiara, but it felt like a tiara day & my fellow students seemed to appreciate it. Anyway, I think this is going to be a fun class.

After class, I went to the bookstore & picked up a copy of Canaan Land for that class. I might do my paper on African-Christian syncretism. I will be known among the church history profs as syncretism girl! LOL! I am very interested in Santeria and in Vodou as religions, rather than as black magic, which they aren't. They're both talked about in the book. Since I have Cuban roots and Santeria practitioners in my family, it makes sense to do my project on that. I noticed, while in the bookstore, that there is a Carlos Casteneda book assigned for one of the classes. I asked J why on earth they would be reading a Casteneda book. She said, "Because you go to a really cool seminary."

On my way to the mailroom to check for more grades (to no avail), Lisette stopped me and we got into a conversation about our teenagers' clothes preferences...and their preferences for our dress! Her daughter really wants her to look more hip, but insists that she must also look her age. My son's only requirement is that I not wear anything too low-cut or revealing. He can be very puritanical. In fact, I found out this morning that he has been asking the goth kids at school, "Why don't you believe in Christ?" I am sure he does not sound merely curious & I told him that haranguing them about religion is the surest way of driving them away from it. He says they put spells on him, which I told him was nonsense. He had described it & it's just a bunch of silly mumbo-jumbo designed to impress & frighten. Probably Swahili words they learned from their mamas, who took it in college. Oh, no, that's MY mama & MY fake spells in high school. I wonder if they did the crooked finger thing, too. Hee Hee. We used to love to play Scare the Jocks when they harrassed us.

After school, I had some ropa vieja with rice & poked around online. Then, did some work for school. J got home early, at 4:30, & we took the boys to the mall so that Boot could exchange the shoes he got for Christmas. Lisette said that her son only wants Chucks...would that it were so with Boot! The ones he liked best were $150. Keep in mind that this kid wants new shoes every couple of months, if not more often. We told him he could go up to $90 if he chips in his Christmas money from Grandpa, but he couldn't find any he liked that actually came in his size. His feet will have to get bigger. We gave Pie an advance on his allowance so that he could get a 3-disc set of Godzilla-type movies...a bargain at $8. He was ecstatic & spent the rest of the night saying "Thank you" and "I'm going to be here on this bench looking at something glorious" as he gazed at the DVD box. I said, "Are you my baby?" & he said, "Yes! I'm your monster baby!" He is so damn cute!

We took them to dinner at O'Charley's where 3 of us had steak (mine with burgundy sauce & some killer potatoes with parmesan sprinkles) & Boot had ribs. They looked yum. We had planned to hit Texas Roadhouse & I would have to have gotten ribs if we went there. When we came home, I read out loud from Jack Kornfield's After the Ecstasy, the Laundry to J as she went to sleep.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Progressive Christianity & Swedish Food

Yesterday started with getting J off to work very early. I woke Boot, whose alarm clock didn't go off, and then snugged in for another hour of sleep before waking Pie. My school day started with Ministry Formation and an explanation of the case studies we'll be doing this semester. I gave Laura some of the molasses cookies I baked for my min group, then headed down the hall to our meeting room.

Somehow during the session, we got on the subject of the bible. One fella was saying he doesn't see how anyone can call themself a Christian if they don't believe the whole bible. The woman who is disgusted by homosexuality said she doesn't get that & she also can't figure out how anyone can call themself a Christian if they don't believe that Christ is the only way to salvation. They were going on & I just found it ridiculous. So, I finally said, "Well, I don't believe the whole bible and I certainly don't think that all Buddhists are going to hell just because they don't believe in Christ as their savior & I call myself a Christian." They looked at me like I had 3 heads & she said, "Well, I really don't see how you can interpret 'The way is narrow' any other way." I said that just because my tiny little human brain can't comprehend how God works doesn't mean that God has to work within the confines of what I can understand or imagine. I said that I don't see how a Hindu or Buddhist or Wiccan or whatever who follows what Christ taught us to do (love one another & love God being the biggies) is going to be eternally damned just because they call God by a different name & have a different story. Who's to say that God hasn't made a narrow path for each of us to follow? Not the exact same path for could that be?...but a very specific path for each.

Our facilitator told us that it's not up to us to judge others, but simply to love. She said that in our ministry, we will meet all kinds of people and we need to learn to be open to other ways of thinking. She said that she would never presume to preach to anyone unless she knew that they wanted preaching. She said that if we are ministering to people, they don't want to be preached at, they want to be loved. By being excessively preachy, we will drive good people away from God. She said that she has a Hindu neighbor with whom she is making friends. She said she would never presume to tell her what is right & that her way is wrong. How does she know that God doesn't want her Hindu neighbor to be a faithful Hindu? I was so relieved that this woman, who is a retired Methodist minister, thinks the way that I do. I always struggle with defending my stance on inclusion. It's helpful not to be the only one thinking or talking that way.

After our session, our facilitator headed off to Chicago for a reception of the black artists' show she is in. We went to chapel & then to lunch. I ended up sitting with one of the candidates for my OT prof's job. She is smart, a Harvard grad, and nice. However, I think that my prof should get the job permanently. She is amazing & perfect for the job. After lunch, I sat in on the interview session with students. She answered the questions fairly well & seems like a decent prof, if not very confident. But, she has no pastoral background and no experience with teaching pastors-to-be. That seems like it would be a liability. Plus, she's not Laura & Laura deserves the job. I had Hebrew in the afternoon & I have to say that even though I struggle with it & even though it's so hard, I just love going to class because of my prof. He makes it all so much better than it would be with a different kind of prof.

After school, I came home to cook Swedish food for Pie's continuing odyssey around the food world. It was fairly labor-intensive, but I'm glad I did it. Pie liked the main dishes & J loved the whole meal. I liked it, too. I made Swedish meatballs (which reminded me of my grandmom & our family's Swedish heritage), creamed potatoes, and apple salad. The apple salad was really odd and also delicious. Grating apples for salad seemed so weird to me & mixing them with cream was maybe even weirder. But, it was really very good. I used Galas. I love a nice, crisp, tart apple!

While cooking was going on, J suggested that Pie put on the opera CD we got over the weekend. We listened to that & during dinner, we didn't turn it off. Boot was horrified by it & was complaining about both the music and the food. Pie said, "Brother, let me tell you something. I love it!" Boot said, "The food? Or the music???" "Well, I meant the music, but the food, too." Boot better not harangue him about liking opera. We had gingersnaps for dessert...Nabisco & they were ginger-y & actually snappy, too. I hate when they're neither. Pie went to sleep listening to arias. The others went to bed, too, and I followed as soon as I had finished my church history work.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

From the Orthodontist to the Sofa

Yesterday started earlier for me than days usually do, with Boot having a 7 a.m. orthodontist appointment half an hour from home. Since I had finished my Hebrew the night before, I was free to read for book group. The Alphabet Versus the Goddess is interesting, even if I'm not so sure I agree with Shlain's premise that it was the use of written language that drove the Goddess underground & the patriarchy into power. Boot got his braces off...his teeth look good, but it's weird to see him without braces! It's been awhile. Now, the retainer phase. He'd better wear that thing! As we were walking up to the school, he made me feel his teeth. He is excited to have the braces off, but I think it feels weird to him, too. He got a camo retainer. God help us. You know, someday, he is going to have a communist, feminist, goth daughter who gets arrested protesting at the SOA. She is going to listen to Tribe 8 & Sleater-Kinney. She will be a Dianic Wiccan and join the Peace Corps. As an adult, she will be arrested for throwing blood on fur coats or missile silos.

Once home, I paid bills, studied, fun things like that. Lunch was frozen chicken biryani & a Harry & David pear, before I headed off to Hebrew to totally blow the first quiz. At least I had a nice thermos of Yellow & Blue tea. After class, I hung out eating Smart Ones enchiladas & talking to a fellow student about drumming. He played Bill Cosby's "Noah" for me. I had never heard it & it's really funny. Laura came down the hall & heard it, then said, "Who's watching Bill Cosby?" She joined us for the rest of it. I popped into the library to look at the Renaissance piece by an unknown artist about Luther & the Pope my church history prof assigned us to check out for Thursday. There's a lot going on in it & it was fun to see.

After school, I went to the annual visioning meeting for the Justice & Witness Ministry at the UCC. We saw a video about the Presbyterian school clinic at Rubate that our regional UCC is helping to build in Kenya. It was really interesting & the little kids in the video were just gorgeous, with big smiles & dancing eyes. We talked about Justice & Witness project possibilities for the coming year. It's nice to be part of a church where this is important. I wish my Presbyterian church were more progressive. But, it will come. It will come. As Brendan says, "You have to be pastoral before you can be prophetic." I'm seriously considering asking him if I can intern with him next year. Yes, I am learning from my mentor & I find the church freeing, but I need to get some practice in with a not-so-progressive church. The UCC I'm serving is about as progressive as I can imagine a Christian church being. If I don't work with Brendan next year, I want to work with the AIDS Resource Council.

When I got home, the kiddos were tucked in bed & J was hard at work finishing her reviews. She has to give them this week, so there was a definite time pressure! I watched CSI, then Cowboy U, then Emeril before falling asleep on the couch. It was kind of fun to be brainless for the evening. J woke me up to go to bed at 2.

Opera Boy & Football Boy

Last Friday night, we considered a trip to the movies, but the whole family just wanted to stay in. The boys were playing on Pie's computer, I'd been immersed in copying down recipes, & J had had a long, hard week at work. So, we had dinner at Los Mariachis, then returned home to relax. I've been having fun poking through a cookbook Rick Bayless wrote with his daughter. I would love to get up to Chicago to eat at Topolobampo or Frontera Grill. They sound like fun. Although I bet the food at Los Mariachis is just as good. Well, maybe not the chilaquiles.

In the morning, we took Boot to spend the weekend with his grandma & grandpa. Since J's dad is not in the best of health, he needs to have one boy at a time. This also gave the boys a break from each other, which I think was sorely needed by Pie, at least. So, Boot & Grandpa batched it at Grandpa's apartment overnight & visited Grandma in the home during the day. He said it was really boring, but was glad he'd made them so happy. He thinks Pie will die of boredom if he goes. I think that might be a smidge of hyperbole, but I definitely think Pie will be bored. He plans to go anyway.

While Boot was with the grandparents, Pie hung out with us. We tuned into an opera station on the way back from Cincinnati & he LOVED it. The station was broadcasting The Met's production of something, but we couldn't discover what it was. I should try & find out online. We stopped at Jungle Jim's & Pie got EIGHT rolls of mints. Last time, it was gum, this time mints. Mints from Holland, mints from England, mints from the U.S. We got cheese (some beautiful cheddar, Boursin, & a French triple crème) & frozen dinners featuring Indian & Cuban food. We stopped at Borders & got a beginner's opera appreciation CD. Oh, and a Cats in the Sun calendar for J at work...I forgot we found that! We picked up J's Bug after its long sojourn in the body shop after the deer run-in. We had lunch at Nothing But Noodles. Pie was amused that I was able to get a salad & he chocolate cake even though it says NOTHING but Noodles. The salad was great, too, with pears & spinach & balsamic vinaigrette. I was reminded of our visit with our friends in Madison.

We went to the UCC church, where I was supposed to be the liturgist. My voice was missing, though, so J stepped in to do it for me. I am so grateful to her for all her support & love. She is the best wife anyone could ask for. After the service, we ducked out & went home. Pie played his Neopets game, which is really cool. He is hanging out in libraries with fairies in the game. J made him a big, fat cheeseburger for dinner. We got to have chicken piccata. Her version was spectacular, although with too much lemon for her. I like my piccata tangy, though, so I adored it.

In the morning, we did not go to the PCUSA church because I didn't want to carry my cold to all the old folks there. I knew Beth had coffee hour handled, so I felt okay not going. I also stayed in the car at the nursing home. J drove all the way down & all the way back...what a luxury, what heaven! I don't usually mind driving that much, but it's so nice to get to ride sometimes. We stopped for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Pie sighed rapturously later when he spoke of his omelet & J loved her French toast. My eggs in toast were perfect, although my bacon was first too crisp & then too limp. Ah, well. Boot was all ready to talk football all the way home after we picked him up. It was a bit much, but I survived without screeching "Football sucks!!!" I also survived the Bengals-Steelers game, by diving into my Hebrew instead of watching the game. J was in her Bengals t-shirt, Boot in his Jerome Bettis Steelers jersey. Pie & I were completely uninterested. Pie played Neopets, did some rubber stamping, & tried a few science experiments. We had that horrible, but good Velveeta dip and other football game crap food for dinner. Boot was thrilled with the food, but ate so much crap that his tummy was all messed up for the rest of the night.

New Year's Day 2006

We were up bright & early & were very happy not to have drunk to excess the night before. That just doesn't interest me at all anymore. Oh, yay, I get to act idiotic & throw up, then feel atrocious in the morning! What a fun time!

My sermon, on Luke 2:22-40 and about how we need to be patient with God's time & not lose faith, was well-received. The whole service went very smoothly, even with my mentor not there to be the liturgist. He was so sick over the holidays, coughing up lungs right and left. I got a lot of compliments on both the sermon and my use of the feminine pronoun when referring to God in the benediction. I was relieved to have it over. J was bursting with pride & took me to lunch at Carrabbas (Meadowlark being closed) to celebrate. We ate so much calamari that we took most of our main courses home. LOL! We popped into Books & Co to pick up my copy of The Alphabet Versus the Goddess for book group, then went home and NAPPED!

We ran out to the grocery about 6:30 & returned an hour later to find the boys being dropped off early, instead of at 9 as planned. They were in good spirits & ran upstairs to play with their new toys while I cooked our annual New Year's Day White Dinner. I made pork chops & sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, & Hoppin' John. J & I were the only ones to eat, the boys having eaten fast food on the way home.

Rosemary & Brent's New Year's Eve Wedding

We got home from West Virginia with just enough time to wrap wedding gifts, get changed, & get to the wedding. It was absolutely lovely, with Rosemary's dad presiding, a reading from The Velveteen Rabbit, and their 7 month old son acting as ringbearer, with an assist from the best man. Rosemary looked gorgeous & Brent looked so handsome. Both families are happy with the match & so am I. Brent is kind & good & truly loves Rosemary for who she really is. They seem just right for each other.

The reception was very nice, too, with yummy veggie lasagna, a great face painter for the little ones (oh, and several big ones, too), a stunning tiered cake that Rosemary made herself, and a minimum of silliness. No cake-smashing, garter or bouquet tossing, drunken toasts, or chicken dancing. Just elegant harp music and people enjoying one another's company. And me practicing my sermon. LOL! J made me go out in the lobby & practice for awhile & then had me practice in the reception hall.

After the reception, several of us hung out in their suite drinking champagne & joking around until it was time to go to Yellow Springs for the ball drop. They had thoughtfully provided confetti, horns, noisemakers, glittery feathered tiaras, & top hats, which we all took maximum advantage of. As we made our way through town, trailing behind the bridal couple in their full wedding attire, people kept asking if they were really getting married. Yes, yes, they did get married tonight, yes. 2006 was rung in with much smooching & champagne & noisemaking & confetti-tossing & laughter. Then, we went home & got some rest for my big day.

Christmas & Surrounding Days Part 2

We were awoken by a loud knocking on the bedroom door at 9:00 Christmas morning. The boys had already been downstairs to check out the packages under the tree and had moved the stockings into the living room. They were so good with waiting until 9. They have always been very good about not waking us up at the crack of dawn...a good thing, since we are usually up until just before dawn cracks!

We opened stockings (Baci chocolates, a gift certificate for a facial, a Barbie dress, and various & sundry other girly items), then got down to gifts. J gave me a bounty of absolutely wonderful gifts. Fairy prints & figures, silver-colored chargers, a kitchen torch, a vintage-style quilt from the Shabby Chic collection, a talking drum, a whole box of altered book supplies...just so many things I love. Missing were a set of sheets & 2 Christmas CDs (Harry Connick Jr & Rat Pack) she bought me. She swears the bag is somewhere in the house. I hope we find it soon because I happened to get her the exact same set & I want to exchange mine for a different print. Pie was so happy with his computer that he hugged it, later in the day. But, when we were opening gifts, he had a really bad headache, so we just let him go back to bed & saved his gifts for him to open later. He gave me a tiny glass angel from Hallmark. Jeannene got a purple dragon from the same case. Boot was thrilled with his jerseys, his framed Green Bay ephemera, and his MP3 player (if we could only figure out how the hell to use it! I hate techno stuff!). He got us both things from Yankee candle, a cranberry peppermint candle with a glass shade for J & a really cute reindeer tart warmer for me.

After gifts, Boot joined his brother in the bedroom to play while we cleaned up & had some breakfast casserole. J started cooking & I kept her company, working on Christmas cards. Yep, I was late this them sent on Epiphany! They were done on Christmas, but I had a hard time finding stamps. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's always something...LOL! We had such a nice, quiet, mellow Christmas Day. J made a great turkey dinner with all the fixings...I did the mashed potatoes, but she made everything else. Green bean casserole, sweet potatoes baked & topped with cinnamon-brown sugar butter, a big green salad, stuffing, gravy. I had planned to make a chocolate nemesis cake, but with the big dinner, we decided stocking candy was a good enough dessert!

Monday, we took the kids to see "King Kong" and since they are big enough now, we got to go see a movie we wanted to see! We escorted them to their theater before going to see "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" ourselves. We enjoyed it & ran into Rachel & her family while there. She was just sparkling this visit & I was to find out why on Tuesday. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

When we got home, we had just a little time before the boys' father came to pick them up for a week-long visit. So, we opened Hanukkah gifts. I wanted to play dreidel, but there just wasn't time. We did have some jelly doughnuts & light the menorah. J had forgotten to get me a gift, but since she bought me some adorable Tinkerbell underwear that day, I told her it counted. I gave her a Thich Nhat Hanh book & a B&N gift certificate. Boot got the Clue 50 Mysteries game he'd been wanting & Pie got Life.

After the boys left, we went over to Brendan & Laura's for dinner. We have been trying to get together for months, but scheduling for 2 pastors (one of whom is also a professor), a salad plant operations manager, and a seminary student is HARD! They have a sweet new dog (named Tosh, after Peter Tosh), a rescued 1 year old part Basenji. After getting the grand tour of the new condo, we sat & had baked brie & drinks. Then, Papa Murphy's pizza. They were incredibly apologetic about not being foodies that night, but the pizza was great! There was a very spinachy, garlicky veggie pizza & a "Cowboy Pizza", with sausage, olives, & lots of onions. Laura made a delicious salad, too, with blue cheese, nuts, & dried cranberries in it. We had a great visit, then stopped at the bookstore on the way home. J picked up another Thich Nhat Hanh book & we got some calendars. I chose the porches one for the bedroom & a Lonely Planet one for the study. J got a frog-a-day calendar for her office. I had gotten her a Mucha one for the main family calendar. I'd better find her one for the office wall, too! And soon, before they're all sent back!

Tuesday, I spent time wrapping for the West Virginia folks & watching Food Network & working on my sermon. I met Rachel for lunch at The Winds, too. She had on the most gorgeous green sweater & was still sparkling. Turns out she's met this guy who is single & smart & sweet & fun. He likes to buy her jewelry & cashmere sweaters, he wants to go out & do fun things, he thinks she's beautiful, & he plans to take her to Montreal. He is kind & interesting to talk to. He sounds like what she's been looking for all these years. He sounds great to me, too. I got word from her today that they are now officially dating & I am so happy for her! Lunch was, as always, splendid. Rachel had the Tuscan bread salad (which I adore) & a cup of black bean chili. I had an incredible Boursin omelet & a cup of Alsatian potato soup, which was out of this world, with cabbage & caraway. Mmm. We both had the Rike's meringue for dessert, mine with strawberry sauce & hers with Scharffen Berger chocolate sauce. I was envious of hers. LOL! They would have been better with fruit instead of ice cream, but I always love a good meringue even bare naked, so I was happy. I just rolled the ice cream off & left it behind.

I was sorry I didn't have time to poke around the shops with Rachel. Our visits are always too short & this one felt even shorter. But, I had to go home & get packed. When J got home at 5:30 or 6, I was ready, with the car almost completely loaded. I just had to have her choose which nibby things she wanted for her snack basket, then we hit 35, headed east. Our trip down was great, with a stop for dinner at Red Lobster. J had the king crab & sighed happily all through it. I adored my tilapia & baked potato. There is just something about a good piece of grilled fish & a perfectly baked potato. Of course, those crazy-good biscuits were my favorite part of the meal.

We arrived at the hotel after midnight & tucked into bed right away. I'd had the foresight to pack our suitcases in the back seat & the gifts in the trunk, so there was no lugging back & forth of gifts. In the morning, we had breakfast in the lobby & then soaked in the hot tub for awhile. Very relaxing.

Then, we went to the Home Place for our Christmas celebration. Lenore was in the tub & my mom was stirring an aromatic pot of potato soup. We hugged & chattered as we brought in gifts & piled them under the tree. We had veggies & dill dip, cheese & crackers, & potato soup for lunch. Graham arrived just as we were starting to eat. For dessert, we had my mom's homemade stollen & Lenore's cookie factory treats: fudge, wreath cookies, brownies, & such. We opened stockings (I got a set of Maurice Sendak holiday cards!), then gifts. Most of the gifts were from us to them & I liked it that way. I had fun being the elf. J got a wonderful red sweater from the North Polars & I got a beautifully painted (by my fairy godmama) sign for our home, Fernwood, commissioned by the North Polars. Graham had found us some wonderful old black & white photos of lesbians (& some other ephemera). There were beads for J & hot pink glass balls for my silver & pink Christmas tree, in lovely antique tins. Lenore was pleased with her snow scene sheets, towels, & such. I think my mom's favorite gift was the lush Moroccan-influenced throw. And Graham just kept grinning & taking photos. In the evening, we had my ma's superb veggie lasagna, a big salad, and hot bread for our Christmas dinner. Lenore, my mom, & I tried tangerintinis (wow! Terrific mix from Jungle Jim's) while J & Graham stuck to beers.

We went back to the hotel & collapsed into bed, preparing for our trip the next day. In the morning, I went to breakfast while J dozed a bit more. I chit-chatted with a fellow guest about religion & was informed by the Provider of All Things Breakfast that J & I had "some admirers" the day before. I thought maybe she meant that some folks were yapping about the lesbians after we left breakfast. Turns out that when we went out to the hot tub, some guys were watching us with great appreciation! What the heck? I never expected to be drooled over in my swimsuit. I present okay when fully dressed, but half-nekked? Apparently, they liked the "junk" in our "trunks" and were highly complimentary about our thighs, of all things...hilarious!

After breakfast, I worked some more on my sermon & J hung out in the hot tub. I joined her for a bit, then we got dressed. My mom & Graham met us to go to the Huntington Museum of Art. We had a grand time exploring that...and I loved getting to see a little of Huntington, too. We'll have to go down for the Huntington Hilltop one of these years. Of course, with the way J has been talking, we're going to end up WV residents after she retires. Sounds good to me! In the museum, we first went to the conservatory & enjoyed the warm air & unusual plants. We got to see a chocolate tree & a coffee tree. We found out that a LOT of plants are related to the poinsettia. And we saw orchids that looked like little elves. Next, we hit a folk art exhibit & a photo show of old Opry pictures. We walked through a hall of winter scenes & into the glass gallery, which Pie would have loved. Then, we saw an exhibit of photographic works by Maggie Taylor ( and Jerry Uelsmann (, both of whom do incredible work. His is all black & white & is hand-manipulated. Hers is colorful & done with computer programs. It reminds me a little bit of some of the collage work Teesha Moore has done. We finished the day with a tour through the Middle Eastern gallery, the household items gallery (I call it...samovars & such...really nice stuff!), and the gift shop. Oh, and J & I played with the kids' texture exhibit, too. She wanted to turn the train on, but didn't want to get in trouble. J sneaked & bought a calendar for my mom as a memento.

After the museum, we went to an Indian restaurant & had a delicious anniversary dinner. The food isn't as great as Ajanta, but very, very good. I would definitely go back...except this time, I wouldn't let the waiter boss me into ordering plain tea & mild spicing. LOL! On the way home, we went with my mom & Graham to Lowe's to pick out a new dryer for Lenore, whose dryer finally conked out. We drooled over bath & kitchen ideas while they made the final decision. Then, we went back to the holler to help them get it from the truck to the porch before going back to the hotel.

We had breakfast in the morning at Cracker Barrel. They were having an off morning & if I hadn't found some cool things in the gift shop, I would have much preferred a bagel in the lobby of the hotel. Oh, well, no big deal. We headed for the Home Place, then, to help get the old dryer out & the new one in. It went more smoothly than I'd expected, which is not to say that it went at all smoothly. But, everyone remained patient & calm & I don't think there was even any cussing, although Lenore had to take her wine & cheese & vanish for awhile.

I finished my sermon while J & my mom played dice games & cooked, Graham did research for his book, & Lenore napped. Then, we had latkes, my mom's honey applesauce, my deviled eggs and salad for dinner. We sat around visiting until it was quite late, then went to the hotel. In the morning, we packed up & headed home after breakfast in the lobby. We stopped again at Red Lobster, looking for J's glasses. We didn't find them, but we did have a good lunch. Shrimp for me, this time, & snow crab & tilapia for my sweetie.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Christmas 2005...and the Surrounding Days (Part 1)

We managed to get most of the boys' gifts wrapped in the weeks preceding Christmas week, so things were slightly less frantic than usual. J was off work the 22nd & 23rd, as well as over Christmas weekend. We did last minute shopping and hung out with the kiddos. I wanted to do some baking, but ran out of time. I had made some chocolate rum balls for the Uppity Book Women cookie exchange & some cappuccino truffles for faculty thank you gifts, but that was it.

We had our traditional pre-Christmas fondue dinner on the 23rd. The boys got to have cheeseburgers, which Boot made on the George Foreman grill he got for his 13th birthday. After they went to bed, we settled in on the couch with cheese fondue, hunks of French bread & salads. I have finally found a recipe that won't clump. I think part of the key is using Gruyere & Emmenthaler rather than trying to substitute plain old Swiss cheese. I think the other part is adding the cheese very, very gradually. Whatever the reason for the success, it was delicious!

We spent much of Christmas Eve day wrapping for each other & finishing the boys'. I hung out in the study listening to This American Life, a holiday program featuring both Christmas & Hanukkah music (wrapping gifts to klezmer tunes is fun), and some bluegrass Christmas tunes on public radio. J ensconced herself in our bedroom watching action or zombie flicks.

Once the wrapping was finished, I started our Nochebuena feast. I ran out of time to make the yuca with mojo sauce, but we did have puerco asado, black beans & rice, and fried plantains. Which was plenty. The next time I make Cuban food, I'll do the yuca. One of these years, we'll have to spend Nochebuena in Miami with my family.

We all got changed into church clothes (I wore a black cashmere sweater with black taffeta ball skirt & sparkly jewelry, which was fun) & walked to the Presbyterian church for the 7:30 service. We met Rachel & her niece, Rebekkah, there. Since Rachel & I hadn't seen each other in ages, we chatted a little during the pre-service music. Boot, who thinks he needs to micromanage everyone within a 50-foot radius these days, was quite displeased with us. He wrote his mother a note saying that since I am in seminary, I should know better than to talk during church...and then proceeded to write notes to her throughout the actual service! At least he wasn't getting cell phone calls from his dad in the middle of the service. Pie, on the other hand, was just about perfect. The sermon was good, the music was good, the candlelight was beautiful. Afterward, we walked home & found a gift basket waiting for us, from Rosemary & Brent. It was full of all kinds of delightful gifts, fairy notecards & a Sierra Club calendar & a little Tomi Ungerer book about cats, among other things. They are so thoughtful!

We opened our Christmas Eve gifts. Pie was bitterly disappointed that he got pajamas, even though we always get sleep clothes as our Christmas Eve gift. I guess he had forgotten. He won't wear them, so we are giving them to the son of one of J's employees. They have very little money & I know they can use anything we can spare. We bought gifts for other children of J's workers this year, too. Things are bad for so many people, financially. Boot liked his boxers, especially the Snoopy ones. J thought her nightgown, a soft cotton one, was just right. And I was utterly bowled over by the glamour and beauty of mine. J got me a stunning smoky lilac set (long gown, robe, short gown & panties). It's soft & silky & dripping lace and sparkles.

After opening our gifts, we headed out for the 11 o'clock service at the UCC...and unexpected adventure! The boys were so sleepy that when we got to the church & 2 little girls offered to share their bedding with Pie, he snugged in happily. Boot remained sitting, but only half-alert. I was the liturgist and halfway through the sermon, the pastor went into a coughing fit & couldn't get it back together. He asked me to come finish & I did! It actually went quite smoothly & I got a lot of compliments afterward. People were astounded to discover that I had never seen the sermon before & that I had never been in the pulpit before. Luckily, he recovered enough to do communion. However, after that, it was all me. It was a lovely service & we went home tired & peaceful.

Before going to bed, we put gifts under the tree & filled stockings. Then, I got our breakfast casserole cooking in the crockpot before heading to bed in my luscious new gown.

Why Mary Should Remain a Presbyterian

Okay, I can't really tell Mary (or anyone else, for that matter) why she should remain a Presbyterian. I can only explain why I have. Of course, I am currently a member of two churches, the other one being a UCC. But, the reason I am still a Presbyterian is because walking away would be like giving up. Just as I don't think moving to a "blue" state is the answer to 2004's very ugly election results, I don't think moving to a more-progressive-by-nature church will do the trick. There is more work to be done, in terms of progressive teaching/enlightening, in the Presbyterian Church than in the particular UCC where I am interning. I'm not so interested in "preaching to the choir," although our particular choir has some lovely members. There are good people who need to be exposed to more open-minded views, views I am happy to provide. That & the simple fact that the Presbyterian Church, despite all its dysfunctional quirks, feels like church to me. I was raised there. It feels right, if in need of some tinkering (AKA bringing into the 21st century). Oh, and I can't forget that I adore the current pastor & his wife, as well. I think there are going to be some exciting motions forward in the next several years & I'd like to be around to see them.