Monday, September 25, 2006

Post Ad Litem

After class on Thursday, I just stayed in town. J & the boys drove down, arriving about midnight, in order to go to an appointment with the guardian ad litem early Friday morning. After about 5 hours of sleep, we went to the appointment, only to be told we'd been given the wrong time & would have to wait another hour. Ugh! I was sure glad I had brought a book! Boot & J got very bored & restless, but Pie was just fine because he had thought to bring his video game. After that appointment, we had lunch at BW-3, where we all ate wings & the boys won scads of toys from the claw machine. J won a Wonder Woman doll, too. The boys were so sweet...they gave a teddy bear they won to a darling little boy who was eating at a table near us. Boot even said it was okay to give him the Diego (from "Ice Age") he very much wanted for himself. After lunch, we conferred with our attorney for awhile. We picked up some groceries on the way back to my grands'. Once there, J started roasting a chicken while I fell into a deep nap over a Mary Engelbreit magazine. She & the boys watched James Bond with my granddad while I napped. J woke me just in time to make the mashed potatoes for dinner. We had some nice visiting time before bed.

Saturday morning, we visited some more, over a big omelet & sausage breakfast that J & Pie made for us. Then, we went down to visit J's folks. Her mom seems to be doing really well, although her blood sugar had a recent rise. She was really with-it, though. We took her some rose lotion & handsoap & a pink button-down shirt for J's dad. They were pleased with those, as with the Guideposts magazines my grandmom sent along. After the boys had gathered their swag bags, heavy with fruit & candy, we headed back to our "bed & breakfast" in the woods. We stopped at Target & Pie was able to buy himself the Lego Star Wars game he wanted. Once back at my grands', my aunt Jeanie called, so I got to talk to her. Then, we went to dinner at Los Mariachis, where I had their fabulous chile verde, pork chunks with a green chile sauce. After hours more visiting and Ohio State game watching, we all went to bed.

In the morning, we went to church, where Brendan preached on Esther. That was really interesting for me because I wrote a paper on Esther last fall. We visited for a long while at coffee hour and were presented with a going-away gift of a door knocker by the congregation. It's brass, with a blessing from the Psalms on all those coming & going from the house. Just lovely. I don't think we can put it on this door, but when we get our own house, it will go up right away. I spent some time talking pastor talk with Brendan in his office while J & Boot went over to check on the house. Then, Laura happened along, fresh from visiting the Buddhist temple with Kat. I talked to her about Sabbath practice & religious intolerance for awhile, then we hit the road. On the way home, Pie chose to ride with me so that he wouldn't have to tolerate his brother's incessant chatter. He played his video game & I listened to Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, each stopping when the other had something to say. We stopped at an outlet mall & poked around (I found a nice preaching outfit with grey skirt & red sweater set), then had dinner at Bob Evans before finishing the last leg of the trip. I spent the evening planning October dinners while Boot did homework, Pie played on his computer and J relaxed on the couch. After the boys went to bed, we watched Without a Trace before heading to bed & fairy tales ourselves.

Beignets & Golf Clubs

The weekend before last, my Beloved & I had a delightful time. After the boys went with their father, we walked around Crocker Park for awhile. We decided to have dinner at Brio & sat on a bench with our buzzer to await a table. The bench was a beautiful, richly-hued wood. When J stood up to go to the bathroom, I saw why. Her backside was striped, like a denim tiger skin! When she checked mine, it was the same. Apparently, the maintenance crew had oiled the bench for glamour and it had not dried, due to the damp in the air. Luckily, it all washed out. We giggled all the way to our table over our stripey butts. Dinner was fine, but the service was quite slow & indifferent & I always feel that Brio is a touch overpriced. The food is fine, but for those kinds of prices, I'd rather skip the chains. For dessert, we opted for beignets from the stand by the bookstore. We sat at a little outdoor table & enjoyed them with a vanilla latté (me) and warm milk (J). After poking around in the bookstore, we went home & to bed.

In the morning, after luxuriating in bed, we went for more beignets! Thus fortified, we headed into Tremont for the Festival of the Flea at Pilgrim church & the Tremont Arts Festival. We found a bunch of books for a little bit of nothing & a set of golf clubs in a butter yellow case for $5. J is so excited to once again have her own golf clubs. After depositing those in the car, we went on to the arts festival. We looked at some wonderful altered art jewelry, were accosted by a pushy children's book author peddling his wares, ate fabulous arepas filled with a creamy guacamole concoction, visited with a number of dogs and met Tricia Dykers Koenig of Covenant Network. I'd had no idea she's based in Cleveland. I really value their work. is their website address. We stopped on the way home for a drink on the Winking Lizard patio, then watched a movie at home. After climbing back into bed for awhile, we roused ourselves enough to throw a couple of Marie Callender's pot pies & a cherry pie into the oven. We had dinner in front of the t.v. before retiring to our books.

Sunday, we went back to the local church that was the first area church we visited. Saturday, God had nudged me, saying, "Hey, you should check out that first church again." I thought it wouldn't hurt to at least check the website to see what time the service is. When I opened the website, however, I saw that the church is just beginning the discernment process on whether to declare themselves "open & affirming"! They've had a task force checking things out & were holding an informational lunch after worship. So, we went. As soon as we walked in, we saw one of the friendly lesbians who had talked to us when we attended in early June. She remembered our names, welcomed us back & asked us to stay for the lunch. People were very friendly, there was ample evidence of social justice leanings and the sermon was a dialogue between the two pastors, on difference. It was really good & really encouraging. We stayed for lunch & by the end of it, an older couple had gotten us to sign up to host coffee hour with them! So, I am going to call the pastor & see what he thinks about me doing my internship there & how likely it is that the congregation would support me for in-care status when the time comes for that. He told me to call anytime, so I am taking him up on that.

After church, we came home, fell into bed for awhile, then cleaned house & hung fairy pictures. Our bedroom is all fairyed-out & I even found a Linda Ravenscroft calendar for next year. Once the boys got home, we took Pie to the pool. Boot had homework & although I urged him to bring it to the pool like I was doing, he knows himself well enough to realize he'd be distracted down there. So, he stayed home. What a responsible kid! He is very serious about his school work. The kids had already eaten, so we stayed at the pool until it was getting dark so that Pie could enjoy this last hurrah of summer swimming. Once they were tucked snug in bed, we had Swiss steak for dinner. We watched some t.v., I read a faiy tale to J & then she went to sleep while I spent time with Reformation studies.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Raising Productivity

My beloved decided on Friday morning that we needed to have a just laze around the house weekend. Not too long into Saturday, a few minutes after her pretty green eyes opened, that changed into "We need to get some things done around the house!!!" I think this was due, in part, to the fact that large amounts of dishes had accumulated over the days I'd been gone, large amounts of dishes I had left alone Friday. J had told me, "You didn't make the dishes, you don't need to clean them up. You just leave them for me" as she left Friday morning. Ordinarily, I would have ignored her and done them anyway. In the future, I will likely also follow that path. But, for this past week, I wanted to conduct the experiment of letting her handle everything. I couldn't stop myself from vacuuming & sweeping, but I left the dishes untouched.

Luckily, I didn't then have to plunge into the dishes Saturday morning. I am not a morning person and I don't enjoy doing backed-up dishes that someone else has made. J & Boot popped out to Starbucks. By the time they returned, I had arranged myself to pull off my delicious, if absolutely true, excuse for not busying myself with housecleaning right away. I had to study. In fact, I had spent most of Friday night sprawled on the living room floor doing just that. I was happily immersed in Luther, Zwingli and those fellows Saturday morning when J brought me a vanilla latté, kissed me and looked at my books and binders approvingly. She got the kitchen mostly clean before she flopped onto the bed with the boys. Boot was watching a football game on the t.v. and Pie was watching "Mystery Science Theater" (and laughing a deeply pleasured laugh every few minutes). I moved on to my reading of Michael Gemignani's Spiritual Formation for Pastors: Feeding the Fire Within for class in two weeks. Hey, I have to have the entire book read then, it's good to get ahead. It felt like cheating, though, because it's truly an enjoyable read.

I finally forced myself to stop reading, though, and made a pre-emptive strike on the closet so that I wouldn't have to finish the kitchen job. We have been meaning to re-organize our closet & I decided this weekend was a likely time. I managed to get the job done in one afternoon, aside from hanging some things there aren't yet hangers for. They have been residing on the closet shelves and would be much happier hanging. So, I left them out in order not to just get complacent about their folded status again. The closet looked so nice that I took a break in there, reading a book just for fun & enjoying the soft carpet & inquisitive cats. We ran some errands and had tacos for dinner.

Sunday morning, we went to church and really enjoyed the service. The kids of the church, young and old, were responsible for the whole service. I love to see a church that values its children so highly. Too many churches don't realize that they have much to learn from the kids, just as the kids do from the adults. The sanctuary was adorned with balloons, the kids' reflections made up the sermon and we all wrote prayers on varicolored paper airplanes & flew them all at the same time. We then picked up airplanes and took them home to include in our personal prayer time. I think that was the most meaningful part of the ritual for me. I know a good many people who would utterly disapprove of flying paper airplanes for the benediction, but what a delightful way to have our concerns carried to God! I can imagine a big grin spreading across God's face as they flew. It was our kids' first visit to that church. They thought it was very odd to have the children do the service, but liked it better than any of the others we've visited. I so hope that they will let me intern there even though they already have an intern.

On the way home from church, I exercised admirable restraint in not biting Boot's head off, literally or figuratively. He was asking what Hair is about. I told him & he said he'd hate it because it's anti-war & he hates people who are anti-war. He said that he hates "all those hippies who were against Vietnam"! AUGH! He spends all this time condemning people for not being Christians and for saying they don't believe in God, then he totally ignores the Christian message of love and non-judgment. Drives me crazy! This black and white phase of legalism has surely got to end soon. At least, I hope it's a phase. I remained very, very calm & said, "Then, that means you hate my mom." He said, "I guess I do." I wanted to pull the car over & wail on him because my mom is one of the kindest, best people I've ever met & deserves better than that. Since I am not the kind of parent who whacks the kids, I kept driving and calmly explained the reasons why I am against war, reasons that my Christian faith will not allow me to condone war. I told him that plenty of Vietnam vets also think that the Vietnam War, along with the present war in the Middle East, is immoral, unethical, just plain wrong. I told him that I don't condemn those who serve in war, I just hate that they have to. I hate that they come home and are treated like they don't matter by the government. I hate that so many young, young men didn't have any choice about whether to go to Vietnam. And I hate that some anti-war activists, who just didn't get it, spit on some of the soldiers returning from Vietnam. I told him that was plain wrong. I said that just because I think war is immoral and unChristian, especially when it is a thoroughly unjust war, doesn't mean I don't think the soldiers fighting it are bad. I told him that I am sure his uncle, who spent much of his life glorifying the Vietnam War & what the Marines did there, was really brave and was doing what he thought was the right thing to help his country. I also told him that I think the people working for peace are brave, too. I hope some of it sunk in. He didn't argue with me, at least. I see him headed right toward the military and I pray he veers before he gets killed fighting for government and big business to make a profit and "win" some kind of ridiculous pissing match.

Once home, we had some lunch & watched Hitch with Boot. It was cute movie. Even J, who hadn't wanted to see it, watched & liked it. We ran more errands and cleaned house more. I fried some catfish for dinner. So, while it wasn't a terribly exciting weekend, it was a perfectly lovely one.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Back to School

I started dreading this past week sometime this spring, when I realized I would have to commute to school during the week & be away from my beloved. Of course, getting extra time with my grandies appealed greatly, but the separation 2 nights a week was too much to even consider.

Tuesday morning, things were crazy, with getting the kids ready & out the door at the same time as J. I bid them farewell & thought that I would also not get to see J again until I returned because she had to go out of town for work. Luckily, though, she was able to stop by on her way, so we got to have a more relaxed goodbye after all. I did some things around the house, packed my bags and was out the door by noon. After a few errands, I was truly on the road. I finished listening to Frances Mayes' A Year in the World, which was a fun listen but not as good as her Tuscany books, perhaps. Then, I listened to a great audio seminar by Joan Borysenko called Your Spiritual Quest, which I highly recommend! She is grand, with wonderful teaching stories, deep wisdom and a delicious, silly, sweet laugh. I like a spiritual person with a good sense of humor. This was my first exposure to her work. I've been meaning to read her for years.

I spent time studying at the seminary library, then went to the church where my UCC history & polity class meets. I already knew most of my classmates. It's really going to be different to be in a class with all UCC folks. Different and nice! The instructor I didn't know was thrilled that I am a transitioning Presbyterian, saying he always likes having a Presbyterian in his classes. Laura joked, "I don't know, it always makes me a little nervous." Later, when she discovered that I took the Reformation portion of church history with my particular prof, who is a Luther expert, and am taking his Reformations course this semester, she said, "Oh, I'm in trouble." After class, it didn't take me long at all to get to my grands', where my grandmommy had meatloaf waiting for me. She cooked me an ear of sweet corn from the local stand and I made some mashed potatoes. When I went to bed to study, I found a little plate of Oreos on my pillow. She is so sweet!

In the morning, I popped up & went to class. I sat with one of my new UCC aquaintances at the plenary. I was sorry to discover that I have the same core group as last year, as I didn't feel that we ever really meshed. They are kind people, it just didn't seem like it worked the way it is supposed to. However, we have 3 new members, all women I respect and like. The dynamic will change, I imagine. When they heard about all the custody craziness that is going on, they decided to pray specifically for me & did a laying on of hands. I felt kind of weird having all the prayer be directed for me, knowing that the others in the group have stuff going on, too. My life coach says I need to work on accepting gifts. She used a really good analogy regarding this. She asked me how I would feel if I found a really special little figurine for J, brought it home and she dropped it on the floor & broke it. Same thing, says she. (by the way, if you'd like to avail yourself of her wisdom, she is quite wonderful & her website is

We went up to the Catholic church for the convocation & graduation ceremony for Fall grads. My church history prof gave a good keynote speech, about the importance of history for our ministry, in the lemon-furniture-polish-scented, light-filled sanctuary. I always like seeing everyone process in their robes & velvet caps, like so many Hogwarts wizards. We had lunch afterward & I ended up sitting next to a new student whose brother-in-law turns out to be Boot's principal! Small world happenings like that are so much fun. I attended the dedication of a model of the Wright glider & then went to my Reformations class. There are only 6 of us in the class & it promises to be great.

After class, I went back to my grands' & had some hot tea & a Russian sandwich with my grandmom while I made soup for our dinner. They had some amazingly good rye bread from Big Sky that we had with it. My grandmom made a spinach salad with feta and olives, too. When I was studying in my room, she brought me a little slice of apple cake. It's lovely to be so pampered. It's even lovelier to have grandparents who are also close friends. We talked some about the whole ridiculous custody case. Brendan had his interview with the ad litem Wednesday & turned up at Bible study in his black shirt & clerical collar. I have never, in all the time I have known him, seen him in it. He usually looks more like the attorney he also is, in crisp shirts and dress pants. I guess I had better give some thought to how I will present myself as a pastor. Jeans just aren't going to cut it all the time. J talked to Brendan on the phone for an hour Wednesday evening. He sounded upbeat, which is a comfort. he is such a good pastor & such a good friend.

Thursday morning, I hung out with my grands & wrote my reading summary for the other Laura's class. I went to school a bit early to get some materials for next week. Then, I had my class with Laura, which promises to be interesting. It's about spiritual formation & how to prepare ourselves to guide our congregations in formation. She made us go around the room & introduce ourselves with name, denomination and hobby that's not to do with the church. I named anything to do with food (cooking, going out to eat, food writing), reading & altered art. Next, we had to number our paper from 1-15 and then we had to list, in two minutes, as many life-giving activities that we like to do as we could think of. I got all of the spaces filled in. Then, she asked us to jot down the last time we did each of them & asked us to share insights. Mine was that I seem to have been playing too much lately. She said, "I knew you were gonna mess up the curve!" She said that most clergy can only fill in about half of the spaces & had rarely done any of them recently. There is a real crisis in self-care for the clergy, with them often being the most spiritually hungry. Laura then explained to us that we will be committing to one "life-giving practice" that we will be expected to do every week & report back on doing to our classmates. Wow, graduate school credit for playing! Yippee! I think that I am going to choose art, but I may end up being led otherwise during our discernment process.

Another thing she said, when going over the syllabus, is that she will often deliberately use the feminine pronoun when reading from scripture or praying. She likes to prepare students for that probability in advance. She said, "I always leave a little extra time for comments & questions at this point. So, any questions? Comments?" I said, "Hallelujah?" Several other women laughed & echoed me. She said, "Thank you." Honestly, that is one of my very favorite things about Laura as a prof. I was absolutely electrified when I first heard her do it, when reading a passage from Isaiah to the ministry formation groups last fall. I was electrified when she said, "She who was, She who is, She who always shall be" during Brendan's installation service, too. She gave me the courage to do it in the benediction at the UCC last winter. While Brendan is more directly a mentor-type for me, being a pastor full-time, I greatly admire Laura, as well.

From school, I drove right home & was ecstatic to see my dear wife. How good it is to fall asleep in the arms of the one you love.

Tasting Cleveland

Last weekend, after the kiddos left with their father, J & I prowled around the outdoor mall. We sat on teak furniture with luscious deep orange cushions to people-watch. We stopped at a little bakery stand for beignets & café au lait. Well, J had coffee, I had Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon & just a smidge of cayenne. I added a great deal more & liked the drink much better. Love that kick! Then, we did a little shopping at Trader Joe's before stopping for Indian food. The rest of the evening was spent in, watching Failure to Launch, which was a decent rental movie, largely due to Matthew McConaughey's personal charm & not much due to excellence in scripting or anything silly like that.

In the morning, we stayed in bed late, enjoying each other's company & our books on the last weekend before our weekly separation would begin. I just finished Jennifer Weiner's Little Earthquakes, which is wonderful, as are all of her books & J was reading C.J. Cherryh's Chanur trilogy. When we finally emerged, we went to A Taste of Cleveland, which was great fun even in the rain. I had some fabulous chicken tikka masala from Saffron Patch, my favorite taste of the day. J's favorite bite was the pizza margherita from Holiday Pizza. We also got to watch Hungarian dancers & a Japanese drum troupe, who were amazing.

We spent the evening shopping. It drives J nuts that I rarely buy myself clothes, so I did buy a couple of things at Marshall's. I found a neat long jacket with a Mandarin collar, red trim and lovely orange & red embroidery and also a long-sleeved t-shirt with a spangled mermaid on it. We stopped at Red Robin for dinner, then headed home to read more. I also did some advance studying.

Sunday morning, we went to church, where we ended up sitting with a really cool woman who turned out to be involved with the national offices. We had a great conversation about sexuality education with her as we ate delicious chocolate cake in honor of the darling children who had been baptized. After our dessert, we had lunch at Panera before doing some antique shopping. There wasn't much in the way of vintage photos, but I did find a darling hot pink velvet hat for 4 bucks! I also found a white 1920s sideboard I loved, but we just don't have the space here. Perhaps some day. I spent the late afternoon studying while my beloved napped. When the kids got home, we went to the pool, where I studied. Then, I made braised chicken, Cuban-style, for dinner before more studying.

We spent Labor Day morning shopping for more clothing for my darling oldest, who has become quite the clothes horse. He absolutely adores clothing! I love that the kinds of clothes he wants these days are button-down shirts and polo-style shirts. He even wants a pair of cuff links. I would love to find him some elegant gold ones for his birthday. I wonder what he would make of monograms on his cuffs, like my church history prof favors. I finally broke down & got the rolling backpack I had admired at Marshall's. Then, we took the kids to Taste of Cleveland, which they seemed to quite like. Boot had pizza & pulled pork, while Pie chose ribs & a huge burrito. My choice was pulled pork & a fabulous éclair. Pie got so full he said that he felt like aliens were getting ready to come out of his stomach. He said, When I get into the pool, I'm going to sink like a rock!" On the way home, he was having fun playing with the wind, his hand out the window. He was exclaiming, "I'm grasping the wind!" ecstatically. Boot was much disturbed, convinced Pie would lose his arm. He kept up a steady holler & moan routine of "Put it in!!! Roll the window up!!! You're going to give me a heart attack!!! I hate you, Pie!!!" I am certain the game went on longer than it would have had Boot not objected. He was incredibly cranky for the rest of the evening, hollering at Pie & throwing things because he thought Pie should be cleaning instead of watching Sci Fi.

We did go to the pool, after I did some editing work, and Pie did not, in fact, sink like a rock. We had a good time, although I spent much of the time there reading about the Reformations. J made patty melts for dinner. Before we went to bed, I finished editing the last chapter of the book, a fitting end to the summer.

A Couple of Good Movies

We finally saw a movie my beloved has been wanting to see since before it came out & one I have felt the same way about. This was a couple of weeks ago, but I have been so busy getting ready for the big return to seminary that I haven't been posting like I would like to. I think this is the preposition-endin'-sentence-est post I've done. Anyway, we watched "V for Vendetta" one Friday night & had to keep looking at each other with a "Do you get it?" look. The reason is that, while the movie is cleverly disguised as a futuristic piece set in England, it came across as some very good social commentary about what's been going on in this country the past 5 or so years.

I watched Andy Garcia's "The Lost City" one afternoon and when J called me from work, I was sobbing so hard that she thought someone was dead. I said, "I hate Castro" and she thought that perhaps my father or uncle, who came over from Cuba in the early years of Castro's reign of terror, had been vacationing in Cuba for some reason & had been captured or killed. However, it was just that the reality of what it was like for Cubans who didn't support Castro's regime really hit me for the first time. Oh, I had always known intellectually that it was awful, but it had never hit me at the soul level. While I hated the things Castro had done to my family, putting them in prison, driving them out, I somehow never really got it completely. Now, I do.