Monday, January 29, 2007

Art & The Office

After the boys left Friday night, J & I headed back over to the plant so that she could polish up the presentation that she's giving at the national sales conference this week in Chicago. I sure wish I could have gone with her. Aside from the fact that we hate to be apart (as evidenced by how I spent my weekend), I am also exceedingly jealous because she is staying at a posh resort. Since we have the boys, I need to stay here with them, so no lounging about a swanky hotel room eating bon-bons for me. No spa treatments. No swims or hot tub soaks (although I could...and should...avail myself of the hot tub here) for me. Anyway, while she worked, I read the book I chose for our first book group meeting at church, Wayne Muller's Sabbath. It's a terrific book I highly recommend to anyone who doesn't get enough down time.

After she finished, we had dinner at El Rodeo. She had a combo plate with an enchilada, a burrito and a chile relleno. I had chimichangas, not the healthiest choice. I justified the choice by the hour-long 2 1/2 mile walk I took in the freezy brr Friday afternoon. We got some churros to go and I was pleased to find them perfectly crisp, nothing like the limp and unappealing ones many Mexican places pawn off on unsuspecting gringos. They weren't as good as the churros from the 24-hour Latin food stands in Miami, but they were damn close. The ones my dad used to get me in Miami were served piping hot and crisp, in grease-splotched paper sacks that inevitably sifted sugar out the bottom flaps. There was no cinnamon on those, either. We stopped at the bookstores on the way home for more vampire books for J. I saw several art books I was interested in, but I am not allowing myself to get any more until I have made more use of the ones I already have. I am also not buying fiction I can find at the library.

Saturday morning, we were up bright & early, lugging art supplies to the car. I found a group of women who get together once a month in New London to play with art. They invited us to come play with them, so we did. We had a blast! J was a bit complainy on the way there, thinking that I was dragging her to some weird thing. Once she saw some of the amazing art these women had produced, she was singing a different tune. She told me she'd be happy to go back. The group meets in Jan's studio. J & I need a studio. When spring comes, we will start looking for a house to rent once the apartment lease is up. Perhaps there will even be something with room for a studio. One of the women in the group, Lena, brought microscope slide mailers for us to alter. I had so much fun and was very pleased with the results of mine. It's got a Valentine-y theme and I am planning to give it to my ma. J's was really good, too. Lena also brought a very good cheesecake. I wished I had taken more than half a slice. We were given gifts, as well. Someone had some Valentine-themed clip art for us. Bert gave us all little bottles of paint, Bridget gave us markers and graphite pencils and some tickets to add to our collages, Dee Ann gave us each an artist trading card she had made. We're doing a charm swap for the group, which should be fun. We will each make 10 charms & then Deanna will teach us how to make copper-link bracelets for them to go on. I had no idea what to make, but then realized that paper beads would make cool charms. I made scads at my mom's one year and they are quick, easy and fun to make. I am also signed up to do a tip-in swap on the theme of seasons. 25 tip-in pages. I want to do 6 of each season & then maybe one that represents all 4 seasons. Or I could do a "Mud Season" in honor of Jeanie's life in Vermont! I'll be doing a recipe-themed round robin soon, too.

After our art adventure, we picked up a trio of lesbian movies at Blockbuster and headed home. J made dinner, rigatoni with meat sauce, while we watched the first one. She didn't like it, but I thought it was interesting. It was a movie called My Brother's War about a woman who disguised herself as her brother during the Civil War and ended up falling in love with a woman. She got so annoyed with the teenage girl in the next one that we switched to "Without a Trace" on t.v. It was refreshing to see a crime drama that doesn't rely on strip club scenes and scantily clad nubile co-eds. Watching CSI, you'd think that 75-90% of crimes involve someone who either works at a strip club or frequents one. I'm going to finish watching the other movie tonight. It's a French-language one called Same-Sex Parents about a teenage girl who is outed as the daughter of a lesbian. The other one we got is about grown women who discover that their mom's lover is a woman. I wanted to rent Amelie, which my mom recommended to me & which they have had until very recently. Now, they only have it to sell, but suggest that if I join their online program, I can get it. No, thanks. My favorite movie that I've seen of late is Bandidas, with Salma Hayek & Penelope Cruz. It's a fun one!

Sunday morning, I got up for the early service, leaving J tucked in bed. I stayed for Sunday school and a chat with Randolph Collie about New Mexico and Native spirituality. He is such a nice guy. I know he feels iffy about gay marriage, he proudly wears an American flag lapel pin and he is just as sweet to us as can be. He knows that we're gay. When he saw me at church, he broke off his conversation & exclaimed, "There she is!" and gave me a big hug & kiss like I was his granddaughter or something. He's the same way with DeAnn & Adrienne, the other lesbian couple at church. Just sweet.

Once home, I snugged in with J for a little bit. Then, we went to her office so that she could do some more polishing on her presentation. We were there for several hours, then came back home & hung out here. When the boys got home, Boot couldn't find his money. He ranted about how Pie or I probably stole it. If not that, then J or I probably threw it away over the weekend. Just nuts. This is par for the course. We had planned to do something special with both of them, but Boot was so cranky that we just took Pie to get a leash for Storm. He wants to start walking her in the spring. I am not sure she will walk on a leash & am, frankly, opposed to making her try. However, I am leaving this one up to Pie & J. She didn't seem to mind the harness last night. We also spent ages looking at housewares and we bought Pie a beautiful cake stand that was on sale. He just loves all things like that. He was drooling over a dish set and some quilts. He would have a ball in Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma. I can't wait until he is old enough to take Home Ec. He is going to LOVE it. After our shopping trip, J made chicken cordon bleu for dinner, then got all packed for her trip today. I hate it when she's gone.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Neo-Luddite Hell (or Ministry in Modern Culture)

Some of you have doubtless noticed the complete lack of images and links on my blog. This is not because I don't like pictures. Nor is it because I don't read any blogs worthy of recommendation. Actually, I would cheerfully direct you to scads of blogs I enjoy and would happily post all kinds of pictures if I knew how to do the damn things. There are people at my seminary who do know how to do these sorts of things. There are even people who get deep pleasure out of using electronics to create worship services. There is even the possibility for M.Divs with a specialization in digital culture. While I am not opposed to such things, I have no idea how to do any of them and no desire to learn. Thus, I am incredibly chagrined that this class is not only offered, but is absolutely required of every single M. Div student, no matter how much they'd rather go through CPE 4 times than take this one class. CPE, by the way, stands for Clinical Pastoral Experience. In other words, full-time internship as a hospital or hospice chaplain. It is notoriously difficult. I plan to do it once for sure, even though I must also take this dread media class.

I got the books early and read the two by the professor and a good bit of the one on the history and uses of the Internet. J loved it because I would read them out loud and put her right to sleep. They are much deadlier than any Augustine or Calvin I've come across. I don't understand at all why people would avoid Church History like the plague in favor of this. However, I am gritting my teeth, spending 3 weekends away from my Beloved this semester and getting this class the hell over with!

Friday morning, I took J to work because her battery is deader than a doornail. We had a nice stop at Starbucks, then I dropped her off and started down that long interstate toward my doom. Luckily, I had a fun book to listen to (The Killing Club by Marcie Walsh) and the snow never got terribly bad and was completely out of the picture by the time I was halfway to Columbus. I stopped at our old house on the way to check things out, pick up our Imaginiff game and bury a St. Joseph statue. Oh, please let him help!!! Class wasn't too abhorrent and I admitted my fear upfront. My only fellow neo-Luddite (and I use this term loosely, as we are not going about smashing computers and setting projectors on fire, but are simply very untech-oriented) also happens to be a fellow Presbyterian. Well, I am officially UCC now, but you get the idea. Mary, you may find this particularly amusing. My prof friend Laura (UCC Laura, not Presbyterian Laura) certainly did. I survived the first day of class, although I have to admit that my favorite part was dinner over at the convent. I am quite relieved that one of the members of our presentation group happens to teach Power Point and other multi-media, multi-sensory ministry techniques. Whew!

After class was over, I went to my grands' house. We sat around visiting and munching on Doritos for awhile, then I tucked myself into bed in preparation for the early morning. When that came, too soon, my grandmom got up and came to hug me while I was getting dressed and then went back to bed. Then, while I was pouring my coffee, my granddad came downstairs in flannel pajamas, with no glasses and sleep-fluffy hair. He had some coffee and hung out with me while I toasted an English muffin and loaded my car. It was really nice to be with him in the quiet early morning kitchen. They are really treasures. My grandmommy has to get a belly scan this week to see why she has so often had stomach & intestinal problems over the past few years. It scares me, but scarier is her not getting it checked out. If you pray, this would be a good occasion to do so. I sure am.

Class was again not abhorrent. I don't think I will ever be a multi-media whiz, but I do think I can pass the class with a minimum of terror. Our group is developing a multi-media, multi-sensory (I love that part with every scrap of my heart) worship service for Pentecost. I get to incorporate some altered art, even. The meal was, again, the best part of the day. I sat down with the T.A., Sarah, who is a very cool member of my hated formation group. I don't hate them, I just am frustrated with the whole process. Anyway, she is a member of the Disciples of Christ, which has very close ties with the UCC. She is also a writer. We had a good chat. Then, the prof of the class, who is visiting from Arizona, and UCC Laura joined us. We talked mostly about travel. Laura says I will love Ghost Ranch. She talked about honeymoon possibilities for her & her sweetie, who are getting married in April. They are considering both Alaska & Hawaii, for their hiking potential. She also talked about UCC summer camp. Boot wants to go back to the Presbyterian camp they've been attending, though, so we may just let him.

I drove home Saturday night without a book to listen to or any CDs besides 2 U2 CDs and one of Gregorian chant. Mostly, I listened to the radio. I sure was glad to be home, though! Pie and J had made a roast chicken that was one of the best I've ever had. We had mashed potatoes and corn with it. Pie had baked one of his cakes (did I tell y'all that he spent his birthday & Christmas money on 10 cake mixes, frosting for them, 6 boxes of grape Jell-o and 20 littleneck clams? Yep, he did) and we had that for dessert. We turned in fairly early because J's cold was making her draggy and the weekend's excitement (and travel) had exhausted me. J felt bad enough in the morning that I left her sleeping while I checked out the early worship service. It was just great, very intimate and friendly. The sermon was great, too, on the importance of all members of the body of Christ..

After the service, I went to Sunday school. The associate was leading it & formally introduced me as the new student pastor. The folks in there, many of whom already know me, were very pleased to hear that I would be doing that. We talked about the passage in Luke in which the 10 lepers were healed and only the "bad" Samaritan returned to give thanks and praise. The folks in the class were mostly interested in focusing on the need for gratitude, while I saw the most important part as being the fact that it was the Samaritan who returned to give thanks & praise.

I returned home to find J still in bed, feeling miserable. We had crepes for breakfast, made from the batter Pie mixed up Saturday afternoon. Then, Boot went with us to Crocker Park. J was looking for a particular newspaper, so we hit the bookstores & took Boot to Dick's to look for boxing apparel. He wants some Everlast t-shirts or shirts with pictures of Rocky Marciano, his latest tough guy hero. J & Boot got smoothies, then we took Boot home & continued the newspaper quest. Minutes after we got home, J got a call from the plant's security company, so we went to meet the police there. Turns out an employee went in to do some extra work, didn't have her glasses on and hit the wrong buttons. Glad it wasn't anything more exciting! Finally home, I made a pot of chicken soup with matzo balls and we flopped on the couch to watch part of Monster House.

Then, I went to the Visioning meeting at the church from 5-8. It was interesting how very differently people from the church see it. One of the big core values many felt that the church holds is acceptance. This is true as far as it goes. But, if the congregation was truly accepting, the process to decide whether to become an Open and Affirming church wouldn't be so threatening. J & I went to the Open & Affirming community dinner last night, where speakers gave the pro & con sides on homosexuality in the Bible. The con guy said some hateful stuff, stuff he obviously believed was in line with the message of the gospel. Several people challenged him, which I found hopeful. Also, the majority of the people in our small group discussion seemed to feel very cool about declaring for ONA. Two were unsure why we would have to specifically make that statement, since the church is accepting already. They fear it will open a can of worms the church isn't prepared to handle. Our facilitator, Rose, who is very cool commented that the can was already open. J was very upset by the whole thing, crying on the way home & planning even now never to go back to another ONA event. I, on the other hand, found it very reassuring. Interesting contrast.

After I got home from the Visioning meeting, we finished watching Monster House. I don't recommend it to anyone. I liked the first part, which I saw before going to the meeting. I was a little squirmy about the irresponsible & mean babysitter and her boyfriend being goths, but was willing to move past it. However, the fact that the monster that became the house was a fat lady was just beyond the pale. The movie wasn't that great even without the ugly prejudices. With those added in, forget it! I saw another crappy movie, The Perfect Stranger, yesterday. What looked like it might be a fairly interesting premise, a woman invited to dinner with Jesus & having her life changed because of what he said there, turned out to be a giant propagandistic ad for Christianity...and very exclusivist Christianity at that. Ugh! We rented Bandidas last night. I don't expect it to be high art, but I hope that since I like Salma Hayek & Penelope Cruz so well, it will at least be fun.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Rainy Weekend

What a generic title. Oh, well, couldn't think of anything else and it did rain all weekend the 12-14 of January. It was chilly, but not so chilly that we wanted to stay in. I got back to my Sabbath practice Friday while J was at work & the boys at school. I spent time at the library, took a long walk (saw one of those leg lamps in someone's window & pondered the creek that runs by our church), played with art, had lunch with J at the Tree House Tea Room (she loves their lobster bisque beyond any soup in the world), watched "The Tigger Movie" and had a nice lavender bath.

We got a call from our realtor in the late afternoon about the fellows who had looked at the house. No word back, but she had a very good feeling about it. I certainly hope it sells, and soon! After the boys were picked up, we went & poked around the bookstore. We started to have dinner at the Ironwood Grill, but when we walked in, it looked questionable & J objected to the smell of the place. So, we walked over to Arrabiata's instead. That was a good move. Pleasant atmosphere, big windows to look out at the rain, good service & yummy food. We had artichoke hearts in a sumptuous lemon butter sauce for our appetizer, then I had chicken parm & J had veal Romano. We did not have dessert, even though the tiramisu was undoubtedly fantastic, because we had cheesecake at home that my aunt Jeanie had sent. We tried to go to the hot tub when we got home, but they had drained all the water, much to our disappointment. There's nothing like a nice hot soak with a good book on a rainy night & while I am happy to have a bathtub, it is not a particularly comfy one. The lighting in the bathroom leaves a great deal to be desired, too. So, we just came home & had a good read in bed.

Saturday morning, after a surprise phone call from my mommy, we went for beignets & coffee then poked around the bookstore some more. J got a $50 Aveda haircut (I just don't get it...I didn't think it was any better than what she gets at any other place...I guess the hot tea, head and hand massage make it worth it? Honestly, we had no idea it was so much when we went in, so it was a nasty shock when we got rung up) and I got my brows waxed. We debated over where to eat. Since I had picked Arrabiata's, I let J pick. Predictably, she picked TGI Friday's. It's generally always TGIMaxandChilibee's when she picks. I was frustrated, but went with it. However, they were completely slammed, so we went to Applebee's and had steaks that seemed to have been steeped in Liquid Smoke for 3 years. Yuck! The maple walnut blondie was excellent, though, and made up for the deficiencies of the main event. When we got home, I somehow got control of the remote & we ended up watching "Shall We Dance?" I have liked Richard Gere much more since I learned more about his religious and political beliefs. I like Jennifer Lopez because she seems pretty down to earth. The movie was sweet and both of us were happy that infidelity was not a plot necessity.

We had church in the morning, then training for Interfaith Hospitality Network volunteers. We had signed up to be hosts for dinner & the evening on Tuesday for the homeless folks who were going to be staying the week at our church, so we had to do the training. J ended up not being able to host because she had to speak at a city council meeting that night, but I really enjoyed doing it. After the training, we tracked down a restaurant in Lakewood called Melt Bar & Grilled that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. After a yummy lunch there (chorizo & potato grilled cheese for me, portabella for J), we headed home to nap and read. In the evening, we went to an alternative worship service that featured a Christian rock band led by a singer-songwriter whose CD we already had. The service was great, with meaningful music instead of empty pop praise songs. I loved the way the altar was decorated. The theme of the service was "The Time of Your Life" and the altar was swathed in lush fabrics and adorned with all kinds of crosses, candles and clocks. The pastor's message included a reading from Donald Miller's book, "Blue Like Jazz," which we have. We stopped on the way home for hot cocoa (me) and a peanut butter smoothie (J) at Liquid Planet. Very cozy as the rain continued to come down.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

88 Years!

On January 4, 1919, my granddaddy was born in Omaha, Nebraska. This year, on January 5, we celebrated his 88th birthday! They were on their way back from visiting my auntie in Vermont and stopped in our area for a few days. They stayed with my second grandma, whose daughter decided it would be a great chance to get together again. We have spent the 4th of July and Thanksgiving with their family for years, the two families gathering at my second grandma's house. Since she is selling that house and has moved up here, there will be no more holidays at her place. Dear John & Nola are taking over the hosting, but the other family probably won't be joining us. So, we were delighted to drive over to Strongsville to meet them at Red Lobster for the birthday dinner. Pie was particularly thrilled since he adores both my granddaddy and seafood. Boot had plans to see a movie with friends, so he declined our invite to go along.

We had a wonderful evening! My second grandma, her daughter Shari and Shari's daughter Kat were all there, as well as my baby uncle & his wife and my grands. We had a ball visiting and got the news that Kat is engaged to her long-time boyfriend. Shari, the proud mama, showed off her hand, with a twinkle of diamond on the ring finger. I love weddings! I hope Kat will be as happy in her marriage as I am in mine.

The next day, we hung out with Boot while Pie was allowed to stay home and do his own thing (play video games and eat Cheez-Its) for the afternoon. We took Boot to the West Side Market, where J found a great deal on steaks and we picked up all kinds of great fruit. The pineapple was so delicious and I am still enjoying the dates. We went to the mall for a bit and then came home. I made steak au poivre for dinner and we had a nice, quiet evening in. It was good to have Boot in a good mood for a switch.

Sunday, my grands came by to see our apartment, then went to church with us. I was happy to have them visit my new church. I wish they'd been able to come to the one in Dayton to hear me preach. Maybe they'll get to, anyway. Dave has said he will be inviting me back to preach again this year. Also, Jim, my mentor this year, is going to have me and the other intern who is starting soon lead an alternate service (still traditional in style) on Monday nights at least during Lent. If it is well-attended, we will continue beyond that. He is also going to have us teach the adult Sunday school, which will be some much-needed experience for me. I am nervous that I am not knowledgeable enough. However, I think I am holding myself up to Brendan & Laura's standard, which would be hard for most pastors to replicate.

After church, my grands invited us to brunch. We couldn't think of any really special brunch places that had close-in parking. My granddad hurts when he walks or stands for long periods. He's fine to sit, but walking is very hard. So, we chose Bob Evans & had a fine time. We even beat most of the church crowd & didn't have to wait for seating. After brunch, we took them to J's plant for a quick tour before they headed back to my baby uncle's. We spent the afternoon napping & reading, then I made pasta with gorgonzola sauce for our dinner. It was fabulous! A quiet, family weekend, which was just what we needed after our anniversary excitement.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Anniversary at Oglebay

The last weekend of December, I was invited to preach at the church where I interned last year. I felt honored to be asked and sad to have to turn Dave down. However, I was excited to be celebrating our 5-year wedding anniversary! J and I had been idly discussing how to celebrate, given that we would only have a short weekend sans children. I was flipping through a Long Weekends magazine and came across an ad for Oglebay resort in Wheeling. I had read about their Christmas light display for years in Southern Living and had been wanting to go. J had spent time at Oglebay with her parents when she was a pre-teen and had good memories of it. So, she got on the horn and made us reservations. We spent the next month gleefully anticipating our trip.

That much excitement and anticipation could have been a very bad thing, but the trip ended up being even more wonderful than we had thought it might be. After the kids were picked up Friday evening, we hit the road for Wheeling. We had a good trip and found Oglebay without any problems. It was interesting driving in the way we did, past all the big plants along the Ohio River. The area we drove through was definitely not a well-off one, but Christmas lights shone merrily from even the most humble single-wides, indicating a strong spirit among the people in the region. The huge plants we drove past reminded me of the big Dupont factory on the Tennessee River where my ex's uncle worked. I commented to J, "Mordor" as we passed.

Arriving at Oglebay, I was a bit dismayed at the outside appearance, as it looked like any other state park lodge. However, I decided that the accomodations didn't matter nearly so much as the company. After all, our favorite place in the world to visit is my mom's place, which is definitely not luxury accomodations but feels wonderful! We always leave feeling recharged and creatively stimulated, if profoundly grateful for running water. Once we entered our room, though, I was floored by its beauty. It was elegantly decorated, in rich reds and warm yellows, down to the last detail. The covers were sumptuous, the fireplace a delight, furniture giving off a classy vintage feel. The bathroom was plush, with a deep comfortable tub and large shower. The lighting was soft and cozy. Even the woodwork was beautifully carved. I could have happily stayed a week and never left the room. J had arranged for a platter of cheese and fruit to be left in our room and we stowed a bottle of Chandon champagne in the fridge, along with a mini bottle of Martini & Rossi from our last B&B stay. Moreover, my darling had called a local florist and ordered a gorgeous bouquet of pink roses, tulips and gerberas delivered to the room. The height of romance!

Since we hadn't stopped for dinner, we hit the GlassWorks Grill for a bite to eat. I enjoyed my pork spring rolls, but J was very disappointed in her white chili. It was much more like some kind of weird middle AmericanVelveeta dip than like any white chili we've had. Hard to believe it's award-winning, as the menu claims. The bread bowl was, however, good. Sadly, the service was not. We had so much fun looking at the glass vases displayed in the dining room that it didn't really even matter, though. After dinner, we went back to the room, where J lounged in the fabulous tub with her Chrestomanci book (Diana Wynn Jones, YA section, very good book) and I dived into The Barn at the End of the World, one of my favorite reads of 2006. Mary Rose O'Reilley is a former Catholic, now Quaker & Buddhist, who spent time in apprenticeship for sheep farming. She also made a visit to Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village in France. Luckily for us, she wrote about it all. When my professor friend Laura recommended it, I asked for it for Christmas and am so glad I did! In addition to reading just for fun, I also indulged in some guilt-free Food Network viewing.

In the morning, we had the buffet breakfast in the Ihlenfeld Dining Room, with its spectacular views of the countryside. Then, we headed over to the Mansion Museum and walked through all the lavishly decorated rooms, imagining what life had been like in days it had been a private home. For a couple of history geeks, it was a perfect start to our anniversary celebration. From there, we moved on to the Glass Museum, where we saw magnificent works of art, learned about local glassmaking history and even got to watch a couple of items being made. What fun! The gift shop was very tempting, but we held out.

Lunch was at the GlassWorks again and we had a new appreciation for the vases, having been to the museum. We popped in and out pretty quickly, wanting to have some time at the zoo before our dinner reservation. The outdoor exhibits were closed by the time we arrived but there was plenty to see indoors. We did go out for the light show, but it was less than thrilling. The best part was watching the little kids in the audience dance to the music. That was a hoot! What dolls they were, a tiny girl in cowboy boots and a bitty boy just having a ball. Inside, we saw gingerbread houses, a huge model train display and animals. My favorites were the red kangaroos, who were all resting and reminded me of nothing so much as my youngest cat. We were able to get very close to them and I watched for a good long time.

We drove back to the resort in an astonishing line of traffic, all moving at the pace of molasses so that they could see the lights. We had the holiday buffet dinner in the Ihlenfeld Dining Room. Somehow, J had procured window seats for us, so we were able to look out over the lake at the lights. There was a chef flipping pancakes, a fisherman in his boat making a catch, a steamboat and all kinds of other delights for the eyes. The structure of the dining room (especially the big windows looking downhill) combined with the carving station to remind me of childhood trips to the Apple Tree Restaurant at Orchard Lane. I used to love going there with my grandparents. I always felt so elegant and grown-up. Ihlenfeld's prime rib was delicious, the atmosphere cozy, the lights beautiful and my wife more so. I had worn my tiara all day and it was definitely a good tiara day!

After dinner, we lounged in the room some more, then boarded the trolley for a guided drive around the light displays spread out over 6 miles. I was so glad we chose the trolley option. There is so much to see that we never would have seen it all had one of us been driving. It was fun, too, to be on the trolley. I have a deep affection for public transportation anyway. I even like riding the Greyhound. I am considering taking the train out to Santa Fe in June. Wouldn't that be something? It would mean extra time away from J, though, so isn't as appealing as it would be if she were able to come with me.

We would have loved to soak in the hot tub and go for a swim, but the pool was already closed when we returned. I think all hotel pools, and especially hot tubs, should be open 24 hours a day. No matter, though, since the tub in our room was so delicious. I made a mug of tea and steeped myself in hot bubbly water while J rested on the bed with her book. That night, she started to feel the effects of a cold that would lay her low for quite awhile, so we never got to the champagne, but it was a glorious 5 year anniversary anyway. Both of us want to go back. I'd love to just hang out in the room and play sometime. I'd also love the chance to check out the museums (both toy and house), market and artisans' gallery in Wheeling as well. One of my very favorite things about West Virginia is how supportive they are of their artists. If there was a food plant for J and a church for me in Charleston, we would definitely move there. The likelihood is low, however.

In the morning, we again had breakfast in the Ihlenfeld Dining Room (J was absolutely delighted with her pecan waffles) before loading up the car for the drive home. The cold had really taken hold of J and she felt awful, so I did all the driving while she dozed beside me. It was wonderful driving along the Ohio River with my dearest sleeping at my side. I was sorry she felt so bad, but the sense of peace as I drove was beautiful.

We got home in plenty of time to welcome the boys back. New Year's Eve was pretty quiet, as J and both boys were suffering from colds. Boot was supremely cranky with his brother, so Pie and J had an X-Files marathon while I puttered about the kitchen. Boot sequestered himself in his bedroom for the evening. I made arancini and J made a pizza for our New Year's Eve dinner. As midnight approached, I took myself out on the balcony with a Tibetan chime and some incense made by one of my fairy godmothers on a stand made by my mom. I cannot bear the idea of being inside to welcome the New Year, much less watching it arrive on television, so I avoided the whole Dick Clark scene inside. At midnight, J & Pie came out. I threw a glass of water off the balcony in a miniature of the Cuban tradition of tossing out a bucket of water. I did not eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, but I did kiss my beloved, watch my 12-year-old merrily shoot silly string and toast them both with ice water as I gave a silent prayer of thanks for my good, good life.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Christmas Weekend

Ah, it is so luscious to have J working a job where she actually gets weekends and holidays off! Friday night of Christmas weekend, she was home by 5 o'clock and was off until the following Friday. We had a quiet night at home, with meatloaf for dinner and Christmas shows on t.v.

I had a busy Saturday, baking up a storm. I made some candy, too. It was a wonderful way to spend the day. J got into the action with some gingerbread people and "worm balls," her family's traditional Christmas treat. They are more commonly (and appetizingly, perhaps) known as haystacks, a butterscotchy chow mein noodle concoction. Recipes at www.lunacooks.blogspot.com. I made cut-outs, chocolate rum balls, caramels, peanut brittle, fudge and cheese crackers. We pizzaed the boys for dinner. After they had gone to bed, we made a pot of cheese fondue and sat by the Christmas tree enjoying it.

In the morning, we went to church. This turned out to be a horrific event. There was no Sunday school and the boys were gearing up for a visit with their father. They were in no mood to be in church, much less be good in church. My insistence that they at least be quiet, if not pay attention or participate, infuriated Boot as I shushed them several times when they were talking. He wrote me a note telling me that if I looked at them one more time, he was going home. Since it is incumbent upon me as a parent and as an intern in the church for them not to disturb the rest of the congregation, I was about to look over at them with a finger to my lips when they started laughing loudly. Before I got the chance, Boot got up & stormed out. Pie showed us a note he had written to Pie saying he was leaving if I looked over there again. The whole saga is long and painful, so I won't bother with all the details. Suffice it to say that after church, we looked for Boot on the route home, at home, in a drugstore on the way. Not spotting him, we returned to church. He was furious & irrational, threatening to call the cops on us, calling us all kinds of ugly names, just being nasty. Once we got home, he was threatening to hit me, kicking my car, shoving over furniture & breaking things in his bedroom, telling his brother he was going to kill me. I am so sick of his abusive behavior. And, as Pie put it, "It's Christmas Eve! Christmas Eve!" He cannot gain his majority soon enough. He managed to make New Year's Eve unpleasant, as well, with his surliness and irritation with Pie. Ugh. I have never been treated as poorly by anyone & would not stand for it if he wasn't the child of my wife. But, something's got to give.

Luckily, they left about 1 to spend the day with their father. We spent the day wrapping gifts, J in the living room watching "Tipping the Velvet" and other Logo channel shows. I watched Christmas shows, starting with "Miracle on 34th Street." Another Christmas has passed without me ever seeing "It's a Wonderful Life." I have seen bits & pieces, but never the whole movie. Isn't that odd?

When the boys returned, they were very sleepy and Boot was in a fine mood, thank God! We opened our Christmas Eve gifts (an Ironman t-shirt for Pie, Santa boxers & hat for Boot since his Black Panthers t-shirt had not yet arrived, a silky nightshirt for J and a gorgeous sapphire & diamond ring for me...that took me by surprise!), then they went to bed. I spent the rest of the evening cooking and hanging out with J. We went to the 11 p.m. service at a Presbyterian Church. I really enjoy the candlelight portion, with the sanctuary darkened & hushed, everyone singing "Silent Night" in reverent tones. I think we humans are at our best in moments like that. It was a delight to be able to return home, have our Nochebuena feast and go to bed at a reasonable hour. I felt very Cuban munching on pork and black beans and yuca after midnight.

Christmas morning, the boys also let us sleep in until a reasonable hour. Boot managed to be pleasant all day, which was a relief after the angst of the previous day. We all got some great gifts (lots of clothes & cooking gear...my very own W├╝sthof knives even!) and had a nice morning. Both boys were very pleased with their gifts for me. Boot got me a hot pink folding chair with a mosaic back and seat I have been coveting at Marshall's and also some very pink & girly notecards. Pie chose jewelry with enormous pink stones. We spent the afternoon relaxing with our new gifts (I got a great book called The Barn at the End of the World by Mary Rose O'Reilley) and cooking. We had a very tasty reprise of Thanksgiving for our Christmas dinner.