Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Girly Girl Weekend

I guess I started my weekend a little early, with a Yellow Springs jaunt with my cousin Leah. My aunt Jeanie was planning to go, too, but the bronchitis had not let go of her yet. So, it was just the two of us. We started with lunch at The Winds, always a good thing in my book. We split the Winter Is Upon Us salad, mixed greens with pear slices, cheddar, fennel pistachios and a pear vinaigrette as an appetizer. Then, she chose the steak frites with garlic aioli and I had the Blue Christmas, a dish I dream about all year. It's very simple, but very good. It combines Christmas limas with cabbage, blue cheese and hot rice. Dessert was their incomparable chocolate mousse for me & Jeni's fabulous cognac ice cream, with a shortbread cookie, for Leah. After lunch, the snow was coming down in giant gorgeous flakes, making it seem like we were living a fairy tale. We poked around the shops & I picked up a few little things for J's stocking. On the way home, we hit Target for a few things, including a sweet little purse for me to carry to the seminary's Christmas Ball.

There was just enough time for me to have a tub and primp for the ball. I dressed in a black taffeta ball skirt, dark red velvet bustier with beadwork and little black velvet jacket. Of course, I wore my tiara, with dangly rhinestone earrings & a matching necklace. My new little purse, with a sparkling rhinestone clip, and my princess shoes (black satin mules with rhinestone straps) finished off the outfit. I drove over to Dayton, chatting with my cousin Nola about scheduling a visit, giving my car to the valet and walking into the hotel with a small amount of social anxiety. Grace and her fiancé invited me to sit with them. She looked lovely, in a black and white gown and filmy wrap. The ball was interesting, with some nondescript hors d'oeuvres, a worship service in the middle and a lot of people in much dressier clothes than I usually get to see them wearing. When Shane and the other Grace walked in, I thought, "Wow, they look like they should be at the Oscars." Grace was all glammy in a stunning red satin gown she had made. It looked like the stuff of designers' dreams. I was happiest of all to see Laura & Brendan. Laura cracked me up when they were leaving, saying the ball was "kind of like the Taliban hosting a wine tasting." I talked Grace into taking my package, a pink boa in a Tinkerbell gift bag. I'd looked for a tiara, but hadn't found a suitable one. Grace was trying to talk Jared's fiancée into taking it & I finally told her just to take it. She loved it & posed for pictures. The gift I chose turned out to be homemade cherry jam. I was thrilled with it.

I was so thrilled, in fact, that I was showing it off at the after-party upstairs in the hotel's rooftop lounge. Martin asked what kind & I told him. He grinned & said, "I know who picked those cherries" and pointed to himself. His wife had pitted them & made the jam. Yum. We had a nice time visiting & listening to the band. I had a bowl of French onion soup and a couple of Starliner martinis, made with espresso, Stoli Vanilla, Bailey's and Frangelico. Finlly, just before midnight, the party began to break up. I drove out of the parking lot, feeling like Cinderella leaving the ball, at 11:59. Funny what constitutes a late night these days. That is, when I'm not staying up until 3 or 4 to finish a project I've procrastinated on doing.

Saturday morning, I packed my bags, loaded the car & headed for Medina. My women's art group was getting together for a Christmas lunch at Miss Molly's Tea Room (www.missmollys.net) and then having dessert at Lee's house. We had a wonderful time, with delicious lady food. I chose the tea sandwich sampler, with small heart-shaped tuna salad, chicken salad and pimiento cheese sandwiches. I had strawberry pretzel salad on the side and Christmas tea to drink. Everyone (but me-I have to finish mine & mail them out) had brought little gifts for one another. They were so festive, passed around the table in their charming wrapping. There was everything from scrumptious treats to art supplies to hand-crafted ornaments. Mine will probably pale in comparison. I felt bad, too, that I hadn't completed them in time to bring them, but everyone was very gracious. I hope they like them. Our visit to Lee's house was great fun, with a tour of her elegantly decorated house and her swoon-worthy art space. My favorite part, though, was her 5 cats.

I arrived home around 5:30 and had a little nap with J before it was time to head out to her company Christmas party. Pie came home for the weekend, skipping his wrestling tournament to do so. Boot chose to stay in PA for the tournament. J had given them the choice regarding what to do, but invited Boot out to dinner, at least, if he chose to stay. When she arrived at the house to pick them up, their father told Pie to tell J that Boot didn't want to see her. Pie actually told her the truth, which was that Boot was at the high school running with the varsity team. He ran in to get Boot and the three of them had a nice dinner together. What an evil man their father is. Just nasty! I expect Pie will catch bloody hell for choosing to spend the weekend with us and for telling the truth about his brother's whereabouts. I am really proud of him for acting with integrity.

I am also proud of how well-behaved he was at the party, how good-natured he was with everyone & how he went ahead & bowled even though he isn't very good at it. I am not such a fan of bowling alleys, but it was great to be with J and Pie. We went home fairly early. I was glad Pie wanted to go because I was ready, too. I'd taken a book, but it felt kinda wrong to whip it open & start reading. I felt rather like Graham. We saw some beautiful Christmas lights on the way home.

In the morning, J and I went to church, where the kids did a mixed media pageant that combined the stories of Jesus' birth, the little drummer boy and interviews of families in the congregation about their Christmas traditions. It was really sweet and it was fun to hear about the other people's traditions. What a cool idea to interview everyone. After church, we went home and summoned Pie from his lair. He was having a blast playing video games & was not very interested in being taken out for a special birthday lunch. We offered Dave & Buster's, we offered Red Lobster. He chose gas station food, much to J's chagrin. But, hey, he was the birthday boy & he got to choose. We ate at a BP & then took Pie to the video game store to spend his birthday money. J also showed me the games she would like if I get her a DS for Christmas.

Pie spent the afternoon blissed out on his new games while we watched a special about the best Christmas towns in the U.S. We made time before we had to return Pie for cake and singing. He was so sweet as he blew out his candles. I hope he made a good wish. He ate a bunch of cake, saying he wanted to have as much of it as he could while he was with us because his dad wouldn't let him have it at home. He said if we sent it home with him, his dad would just tell him wrestlers don't eat food like that & would take it away & eat it his own self. What a nasty man.

He drowsed all the way home as J and I made plans for my graduation party menu. He gave us sweet hugs & headed inside. We stopped at Bob Evans for dinner on the way home and went to bed fairly promptly once home. Last weekend of my commuting career! I am so glad I get to be with J all week soon, instead of just on weekends.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving & After-Party at Hickory Hill

We celebrated Thursday with the boys. J went to pick them up while I stayed home & cooked & decorated the table. We got fall leaf confetti & turkey paper plates & napkins. I put cream-colored candles in the crystal candle holders my almost-grandma gave me. I put out the (now-unusable but still cool) turkey salt & peppers that belonged to my great-grandmother & were on the table every Thanksgiving when I was growing up. My grandmom gave them to me two years ago, along with the cut-glass compote she always put the raspberry Jell-o in. I also put out leaf/acorn salt & peppers we bought this year that actually work. By the time J & the boys got home at 11, the house looked very festive indeed. The boys were on good behavior, which was nice. Boot hung out with us in the kitchen for a while, then watched football while we finished cooking. Pie was friendly, but went pretty much immediately to his room to play X Box. He doesn't get to play live at his dad's, so he was anxious to re-connect with his game buddies online. He did come up every once in awhile to say hello & drink some olive juice. He has loved that since he was little and it's a special treat we don't often let him have. Funny treat, eh? The sodium worries us, though, so he doesn't usually get it & it becomes a treat.

We sat down to the table at 2, so we all had time to relax before we had to take the boys home at 7. Boot opted for a nap, as did J. Pie played video games & I watched the Macy's parade, which I had recorded in the morning. Our feast consisted of a turkey cooked Nigella Lawson's way (we debated the best way to cook it & I won), mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes, rolls w/pumpkin butter, cranberry sauce, raspberry Jell-o with raspberries in it, pumpkin pie, derby pie and peanut butter pie.

After we took the boys home, we drove back to our place and flopped on the couch with leftovers for dinner. J didn't have to work in the morning, so we got to bed kind of late and then lazed in bed in the morning. Then, we got up & ran some errands before coming home to work on an invite list for my graduation party. I then packed my bags (seems like I spend an inordinate amount of time packing & unpacking bags these days!) and loaded the car. I headed for my mom's in West Virginia and J headed east to pick up the boys for the weekend. Yes, we had them Thanksgiving from 9-9 and then for the weekend, yet their father wouldn't allow us just to keep them for the time between 9 Thursday and 6 Friday. An extra 6 hours of travel time due to his desire to spite J. What a petty little man. it's not like he actually enjoys their company.

I arrived at my mom's around 7:30, after stopping in Sissonville for blue cheese and finding that the bakery had the most adorable chocolate-dipped pretzel rods & candy canes. I hadn't thought of dipping candy canes, but I plan to now. I had to pick some up, along with a packet of cheese straws. I love good cheese straws! My mom had just arrived on the ATV when I drove up, so we unloaded my bags onto the ATV and headed down the road. The big hill is not nearly so scary when the road is dry! The mud really makes it slick, so I was happy not to have rain. It's also lots more pleasant not to get wet! When we got close, I could see the cozy kerosene glow coming from their house. I love that. I could also smell the woodsmoke from the stoves in the house & the shack.

We sat around & visited Friday night, having Boca burgers for dinner & listening to "This American Life." I'd taken a bag of magazines and an Advent calendar for my mom & it was fun to watch her go through that. I was unhappy with myself, though, for leaving the recipes I'd meant for her at home. Oh, well, I can send a package. Maybe I'll include some fudge or something. I'm hoping to have time to make fudge this week for my classes. My friend Mandi offered to share Paula Deen's recipe for fudge made with Velveeta. I am scared of that! Graham was very happy with the peanut brittle I made for him, so I bet some fudge would be appreciated, too. Just not with processed cheese food in it! I do want to try it, out of curiosity, but not when I am feeding it to other people.

My mom came over & slept in the shack loft with me. She'd gotten the fire going nicely, so we were toasty warm for the night. Of course, we weren't so toasty when we awoke in the morning to discover that the fire had gone out, but with the nice thick blanket she's got, we were fine. We went over to the house for breakfast, egg and cheese muffins my mom put together. I also got to go through a bunch of old photos and pick ones for my collection. She had a big stack of children's books to show me (Patricia Polacco, Cynthia Rylant, one by Toni Morrison about the end of segregation) and Graham had some photography books for me to see, too. They also checked out a Martha Stewart book about Halloween from the library for me to see. My mom has discovered that she really likes Martha Stewart's ideas & recipes. Yay. We both really want to make these little crepe paper pumpkins that you put treats inside. They are like the magical crepe paper balls that my mom made us for Christmas a couple years ago, spilling out little trinkets and candies as you unwrap.

We went out & raked leaves, too, gathering piles on a blue tarp and hauling them to the big leaf pile. Graham was up on the rooftops doing the gutters while we did that. He got some cool pictures of the buildings from the roof of the house. Bobo was busy relaxing in the center of our ring of leaves. He is so cute! They continued to work on gutters and my mom was holding a ladder for Graham. I noticed Bobo sitting in grey and white splendor right on the top rung of the ladder as Graham cleared leaves. When I went inside for my camera, he ran down the ladder and moved on to his next activity. Pity. It would've made a great picture. While they finished up the gutters, I went in & finished my book pile. I'm glad my mom loves children's books as much as I do.

We headed down to Lenore's around 5 for dinner & a movie. I was sorry I'd forgotten to bring "The Lost City" but Graham had gotten "To Have and To Have Not" from Netflix and it was fun to see that. I'd never seen it before. My mom & Graham had just read the story & were blown away by how much Faulkner altered the story for the screenplay. I was impressed that the film had Hemingway as author of the original book and Faulkner doing the screenplay. I didn't even know Faulkner did screenplays.

Before the movie, my mom and I made dinner. I did a pumpkin potato pie from Rachael Ray's magazine (and boy, was it good) and a chocolate pecan pie (I forgot the Jack Daniels for derby pie at home, so I considered subbing rum but forgot to stir it in before dumping the filling into the crust-twas good anyway). My mom did a salad with iceberg lettuce (Lenore can't have spinach or more exotic lettuces because she's on Coumadin), chopped pears, blue cheese and walnut pieces. After the movie, my mom and I got out our flashlights & got back into our boots and hiking mindsets. It's hard to imagine doing that hike every Saturday night at midnight or later just to get home after going to dinner and watching a movie! I managed okay both directions, but I was glad to climb up in the loft & read when we got back! When I awoke to the sound of rain Sunday, I uttered a little prayer of thanks that the rain held off until our hike was past. Walking that sloppy road in the rain, with the orange clay mud adhering to your boots and making them slick and heavy, is no fun. It's those nights that I am especially grateful when Graham has gone ahead and lit the lanterns, because they are the most welcome sight in the world when you're wet and road-shocked!

We visited over a bagel breakfast, then got to work (play!) on making popcorn & cranberry garlands while Graham worked on organizing all their information on gas wells. The gas company wants to drill a well very close to their house and because my mom & Graham don't have mineral rights, they don't have a say. However, they want to know as much as possible about it so they can hold the gas company to the standards they are supposed to follow. It makes me sick to think of all those beautiful woods being desecrated for the sake of another gas well. There is one along the road to Hickory Hill and it seems odd that they have to have another so close by. I am praying that they somehow decide not to drill after all. Odds are way against that, but miracles do occur. Graham showed me pictures they took on a "field trip" to a gas well being drilled and it looks awful. My mom compared it to something the White Witch did to Narnia and Graham mentioned Sauron.

Viva joined us on the couch as we strung the garlands. Luckily, she was more interested in pets and sleep than in playing with the string. Had it been Bobo, we would not have had it so easy! When we'd finished, we went over to the garden and hung the tied-together garlands on a cedar tree for the birds to munch. It looked so festive & pretty! Then, we took a lunch of popcorn with nutritional yeast, cheese and cranberry sauce over to the shack while Graham napped. We sat by the woodstove, ate and talked. Too soon, it was time for me to pack up & leave. Graham got my things wrapped in plastic & loaded on the ATV for the ride out. They are so organized. I wouldn't begin to know how to live out there. The ride up the big hill was plenty nerve-wracking with the slippery mud, but we made it just fine (and with not too much mud on our pants). I was glad, though, to have a hood on that covered my eyes! We bid one another farewell. It was easier to leave knowing that we'll see each other again in just a couple of weeks. She's coming for my last week of school & my graduation. Yippee!

On my way back through Sissonville, I had to stop at Tudor's Biscuit World. They are usually not open when I am going through, so I took advantage of the hour and got a sausage biscuit for the road. My drive home was fine, just dull and rainy. I don't like going home to Cleveland from there. The route home to Dayton was always so much more interesting, lots more to see. Oh, well. 77 is not such a bad interstate at least.

I was happy to get home to my darling wife. It seems to be a smart idea to try & steer fairly clear of the kids for now, while Boot is being largely oppositional and grumpy, but I sure do miss J. We spent the evening working on my graduation party invites (which I need to mail today!) and getting her packed for the national sales conference in Chicago. I was happy to climb into my own red flannel sheets, under my own pretty comforter, next to my own wonderful wife! I used to go visit my mom and mourn having to go home. Now, I miss my mom, but I have great things to come home to.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Holidays 10/8-10/15

8-Drive in the Country Day, a perfect opportunity for some local leaf-peeping and maybe the perfect day to find a farm stand with pumpkins & Indian corn!

9-Hero Day, a time to dash off a quick note to one of your heroes to let them know what a difference they make in your life

10-Gay Pride Day, just before National Coming Out Day, a good day to read some gay history-Martin Duberman's Stonewall is a decent starting place.

11-Puddle-Splashing Day, so get out your wellies and go stomping, then come home to some nice, hot mulled cider and a cozy pair of slippers!

12-Childhood Candy Day, and for folks in the Cleveland area, that means a trip to B.A. Sweetie's for a cruise down memory lane and in Dayton, Foy's in Fairborn will serve as an effective time travel vehicle. What's the best place for your favorite childhood candies in your neck of the woods?

13-Writing Day-whether it's a novel or a letter, spend some time at the page today.

14-Flaming Foliage Day, a fun time to go out and gather brightly hued leaves to scatter on your dining table

15-Pumpkins & Gourds Day, upon which it is a delight to create an arrangement of your favorite squashes & maybe some mums on a bale of hay in the yard or as a centerpiece for a fall dinner party!

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Visit to Halloweentown & My Boys' Life in Hell

It was an interesting weekend. We picked the boys up Friday night (and got to see the 2009 Jeep Patriot that was bought for Boot, who turns 16 in December-at least we know some of the child support is actually going toward things for them, but it sucks that their father gets all the credit for it while it is probably J's money that is paying for it) & drove down to my aunt's in Dayton, which is about a 6-hour drive. They bickered much of the way there, as they seem to do much of the time we have them now. Boot is frequently furious with Pie and Pie doesn't seem too thrilled with Boot, either. I think kids that close in age often bicker anyway, but there is underlying stuff that we've been picking up on for awhile.

We arrived at my aunt's late but stayed up & visited some anyway. The boys really like her and are thrilled to get to use her t.v. and computer during visits. In the morning, we hung out around the house. Then, we made a trip to a nearby town where the downtown becomes Halloween central in October. My aunt had never been and the boys loved to go every year when we lived in the area. There is an old 5 & 10 that also has a ton of Halloween stuff, a haunted house, a haunted house supply store, a kids' costume store, an adult costume store and an old school greasy spoon with pool tables, a long counter with spinny stools and awesome malts. Outside, there are all kinds of wild Halloween decorations, all along Main Street. It's a trip. www.foyshalloweenstore.com is their website. Each boy got $25 to spend as he pleased that day. Pie chose a mask and some black lightbulbs while Boot got a couple black lightbulbs, some incense and a couple of old horror movies. We had lunch at the grill, too. Then, we dropped the boys off at my aunt's for a rest while the grown folks went to a potato festival that the boys thought would be boring. When we returned, my aunt took us to dinner at a local Mexican place.

Sunday, we had to get up early and drive down to Cincinnati to visit J's folks. The boys are both so good with them. J's mom was actually responsive, much more so than usual. She even spoke a few sentences and just seemed much more "there" than usual. J's dad was beyond thrilled to see the boys and they did a good job of keeping him entertained. The drive home was pretty stressful. For one thing, we knew that if we got the kids home late, we'd get hassled about it by their father, who is completely inflexible. We got into a huge traffic jam before we even got to Columbus and that was worrisome. But the worst part of it was when the boys started fighting. I think I mentioned that Pie cried all the way home the last time we picked them up. He has been telling us how very much he misses us & how much he wants to live with us again. Boot says he doesn't know where he wants to live. Anyway, in the middle of the traffic jam, Pie just broke wide open and started sobbing and yelling at his brother with such fury that it was startling. He said that he had "fucked Mom over. I take responsibility for that, but YOU did it, too!!!" They started yelling ferociously, Boot saying, "Yeah, I screwed Mom over, but at least I did the right thing in court. You lied to the judge."

Back and forth it went, with Pie trying to make Boot admit his part in the lies. He yelled at Boot, "YOU are the one who put alcohol bottles all over the place and took pictures when you KNOW Mom and Daria don't drink like that!!! YOU are the one!!! YOU are the one who said we got taken to a gay pride parade!!! All my life, I have just tried to do what YOU wanted!!! I just went along with you and dad's LIES to make YOU happy!!! When YOU wanted to live with Dad because you hated Daria, I didn't! I don't hate Daria! Yeah, I lied and it's partly my fault we have to live with that jackass but YOU are to blame, too!!! I'm scared of Dad and YOU are partly to blame that we have to live with that jackass. You fucked Mom over, too." Boot kept brushing off Pie's accusations by saying that he may have screwed Mom over before court but at least he did the right thing in court.

Pie kept it up, talking about how he can't even talk to his mom on the phone without someone listening in to make sure he only says what he is supposed to say-and never that he loves her, about how he is in hell. He was crying and crying as he talked about how he is taking responsibility for his actions and his brother needs to, as well. He kept saying, "Who's the strong one now, Brother, who's the strong one now? You act all tough, but you can't even be honest about the part YOU played in this. Who's the strong one now?" Boot gave him a really hard elbow right in the face and he kept it up anyway, telling him that he can hurt him but he can't keep him from telling the truth. Boot said, "It's not Daria I have the problem with now, it's Pie." (he has never been able to take responsibility for his own culpability in any situation, it's always someone else's fault if things are messed up) It was just awful. We kept telling them that neither of them should carry that guilt, that we know they were manipulated, that this all started before they were even born, that we know their dad has been angling for revenge all this time, that we know how much pressure they've been under their whole lives to show a preference for their father, that they made some bad choices because they were lied to & didn't have all the information and that they needed just to learn from the experience & move on, that we will see if there's anything we can do to help Pie get back to us. We feel like our hands are tied. Pie kept telling Boot, "Yeah, I'm the bad guy here, but YOU are the bad guy, too. You try to make yourself look so perfect, but YOU are the bad guy, too." J said, "Guys, neither of you is the bad guy. The only bad guy is your father."

Both of them are a mess. Pie can't even talk to his court-mandated counselor (who we don't know if he is even seeing anymore & whose name we never got) because (as Pie tells it) their father & grandmother picked a guy his dad knows, who was willing to write an opinion that there is now nothing at all psychologically wrong with Pie and that the whole problem must have been having to live with us in the first place, so Pie doesn't trust him & doesn't think it's safe to tell him anything negative about his father because his father will find out. Pie told Boot he trusted him to get them out of their dad's house & then when they did tell him they wanted to come back to live with us and their dad swung a baseball bat at Boot & hit Pie (with his hand, we think), Boot CRIED. Pie was just furious with Boot for crying. It sounded like Pie had assumed his brother could stand up to their father & be strong enough to talk him into letting them come back. "You CRIED, Brother, you CRIED! Try telling Dad we don't want to live with him sometime when he isn't DRUNK!!!"

The whole thing was terrible, an awful reflection of a truly tragic situation. That guy has throughly screwed his kids up and utterly screwed J over and he's going to get away with it, as far as I can tell. It seems like the kids should be able to contact the judge, tell him that they lied and set J and me up and then the ruling should be overturned. We can't afford to open a new case right now and I don't know if we're even allowed to this soon after the ruling, but I hate knowing Pie has to live there another 2 years before he can go to a Pennsylvania judge on his own. Boot could go in December, but I doubt he will. And we don't have proof of anything. We only have what the boys have told us and we weren't allowed to say anything at all that the boys told us in court, even though their father's case was based almost entirely on what the boys said, interspersed with a few lies of his own that we refuted with solid evidence like receipts proving J took the boys to Great Wolf Lodge the weekend we supposedly took them to a gay pride event. I can't believe the torture we are all going through because of an evil man out for revenge being willing to manipulate his children and lie in court (and have his 80-something year old mother lie in court, too!) and because of a biased judge who couldn't see past J's sexual orientation.

Pie fell asleep crying & soon Boot drifted off, too. We ended up having time to stop at Burger King to feed them before they went home. We got hugs from both of them with no seat in the way (usually they deliver goodbye hugs from the back seat several streets before we reach their driveway so their father won't see them being affectionate towards us. The whole thing is completely nuts. I feel terrible for J, but even worse for the boys because they have to live with him and to live with their own lies and betrayal. And I'm not too happy to be stuck in the middle of it all, either. I wish we could get at least Pie back, and Boot if he wants to come, and get them both in to see a good counselor to help them heal from all this.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Holidays 9/30-10/7

I finally found my holiday book. Since packing for our move, I haven't been celebrating my daily holidays and I am thrilled to have my book back!

Sept 30: Jewelry Day, a good opportunity to wear your favorite piece or buy a new one! You could also make a bracelet for a friend or organize your jewelry, as I plan to do.

Oct 1: Sweater Day, time to slip on a comfy old sweater or perhaps knit a new one in a fabulous fall color!

Oct 2: Bonfire Day, so slip down to the shore or into the yard this evening and create a cozy fire! Sit around with friends and reminisce about autumns in years past as you roast weinies and toast marshmallows.

Oct 3: Hooky-Playing Day-if at all possible, call off work and treat yourself to a movie or a day curled up with a book.

Oct 4: Flannel Day, perfect for snuggy sheets or an L.L. Bean shirt.

Oct 5: Coloring Day, because no one is ever too old to color! I like the Dover coloring books, but if you want a Barbie book from the kids' section, have at it! Coloring can be great meditation and once when J's secretary was bummed about a house she wanted to buy not passing inspection, I took her colored pencils and a butterfly coloring book, instructing her to visualize her perfect house as she colored.

Oct 6: Early To Bed Day, so climb in with a mug of tea and get some much-needed rest!

Oct 7: Wood Day, a nice time to create a carving, stain a wooden box or even just spend time in the woods!

Decoupage & Daiquiris

What a lovely weekend we had! Friday night, I had planned to go to a local high school football game, but it looked like rain so we stayed home and watched the debate. J was utterly bored and fetched her book just a short way into it. I didn't feel like I learned anything new, but was glad I watched. The one I'm really interested in is Thursday's Biden/Palin debate. If Palin does as well as she did for Katie Couric's interview, it's definitely going to be a Biden win. I am sure they will be working hard on prepping her, but really. The evening was livened up by dinner. I made Caribbean-style pumpkin soup (with tomatoes, black beans and cumin) and some oatmeal bread. There is nothing like fresh bread.

Saturday morning, we met a few members of the youth group and a few adults to go work at Transitional Housing Inc, a center in Cleveland that helps get women on their feet after homelessness. They have an impressive array of services. A group of us worked on cleaning a room to prepare it for its next occupant and another group worked outside with lawnmowing, edging and weeding. It's nice to be able to help and I think it's good for us to get out of our own little world and talk to the women who are going through the program, too. They fed us lunch and gave us a tour, which was really nice. The woman who gave us the tour is almost through with the program and did a great job telling us all about it. I feel like we learned a lot more from her than from the director. My favorite part of the tour was seeing the beautiful serenity garden the women created overlooking the river and downtown Cleveland. One of the women, who was moving out the day we were there, wrote a bunch of grant proposals & organized the women to put the garden in, as well as a community veggie garden. It was just really cool to see.

After we parted from the group, we prowled the West Side Market & then checked out Lelolai Bakery. I've been wanting to go there for a Cuban sandwich, so it's good to know where it is. Next time we hit the market, I want lunch there. We just had a snack. J had a really good café con leche and a guava quesito while I noshed on a beef empanada and a Tropi-Cola Champagne Soda. Then, we poked around some stores in Ohio City (a snobbish vintage clothing store and a friendly art gallery) before heading back to the 'burbs to walk the aisles at the craft stores. We had dinner at a cheery little bar called The Rusty Barrel, which has fabulous cheeseburgers and private t.v.s at the table. I love the t.v.s because it means we can go there for J to watch the game and I can watch Food Network or something like that. We watched a couple episodes of "Ace of Cakes." Good stuff.

Sunday, we went to church (where I thought I was going to have to sub for our pastor when he had to run home to help his wife, who is fighting a brain tumor) and stayed for coffee hour long enough to make dinner plans for Wednesday. Then, we did some errands related to our D date. Finally, we got home and prepared to begin our long-awaited decoupage & daiquiris date, a brilliant choice on J's part. We spent the afternoon happily crafting, listening to music and (at least me) drinking strawberry daiquiris. I made a Christmas gift for Graham and a prayer box while J worked on a marvelous gift for my ma. I also started on an advent calendar I am making for her. It's an old shutter and I am making little tags out of bottle caps, with numbers on the back and pictures inside. I was pretty nervous about using the drill for such tiny things, but I did just fine. Maybe my granddad's spirit was guiding me since I was using his drill.

After we were done crafting, J made us a splendid entree salad with all kinds of delicious things: beautiful lettuces, bell peppers, broccoli, red onion, radishes, chicken, blue cheese, bacon. She topped it off with her plant's orange cranberry dressing, which is great! We had it with some leftover oatmeal bread and the "Cuban" bread (more like challah) we got at Lelolai. Will I never find good Miami-style Cuban bread in Ohio? Had I not had any expectations that it would be Cuban bread, I would have loved it.

I even got control of the remote for the second evening of the weekend! I very rarely get the remote & we usually watch crime dramas like CSI or Law & Order. Sunday night, I subjected J to Stacy & Clinton & their opinions on all things fashion. What fun!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mastering the Art of the Humdrum

Okay, so we are not the most exciting pair of dykes to hit the blogosphere. I'm going to write about our tremendously pedestrian weekend anyway. Friday, we went to pick up the children. Pie immediately offered sympathy for the death of my grandmom and said, "I don't know why you're not just sad all the time." Sweet boy. I know he'll miss her, too. She would make sure to have cookies for him and spent time at the window with him telling him all the different kinds of birds and showed him the plants in the yard, bloodroot, nodding trillium, jack in the pulpit, tiny narcissus and the wonderful dogwoods.

We did nothing in particular Friday night. On the way home, we stopped at IHOP to get dinner, since we had BOGO coupons to use. Very handy! Not my preferred dining choice, but the food wasn't bad at all. Then, we went home and I got a head start on the coming semester's reading while J and Boot watched t.v. and Pie played video games.

Saturday, we were all very lazy, lying about in bed until all hours. J and I went grocery shopping at 4 different stores. I got to experience Regos, which J was just blown away by and which I thought was not nearly as nice as Heinen's. We did pick up some decent buffalo chicken salad and some fairly good hummus. We also did Trader Joe's, Marc's and Giant Eagle. J is interested in stocking up the freezer against coming higher food prices. I am so glad we now have the big freezer at our disposal.

Once we were done, we went home and J took Boot out jeans shopping. I was so glad not to have to go along and I know Pie was, too. Pie who devoured my doughnut, all innocent of my ownership of it. I am seriously going to have to start hiding any food I don't want to vanish under the preying of the locusts. I spent the afternoon cooking, making a roast chicken and an Oreo cake. Boot ended up mopping the kitchen because an energy drink leapt out of the fridge and fizzed its red stickiness all over the floor. He volunteered to mop, so we let him. I wish we hadn't. We had a nice sit-down dinner, then Pie hit his room while Boot began obsessively clearing the table while J & I were still finishing our food. He told us we're "dirty and lazy" (in an oh so friendly and casual way, but I was still pissed) because we don't get up from the table to start cleaning up the very second the last bite hits our gullet and we don't replace our broom every two months like his grandmother does. Yeah, well, we don't keep all our furniture coated in plastic the way she does, either. Who the hell replaces their broom every 2 months??? I don't even replace my toothbrush until 3 months have passed! And, by the way, this comes from the boy who never washes his hands after he goes to the bathroom & who can't figure out why I object to him spitting in the kitchen sink!

Sunday morning, we awoke 20 minutes before the service started and I hastily tossed on some clothes and rushed out the door. The service was fun, with an impromptu rendition of the "Lone Ranger" theme by our choir director during the children's message and one of the youth playing trombone for us. At coffee hour, I caught up with our fellow all-girl couple, who are frustrated at the lack of available teaching jobs for Angie. I hope she finds a fabulous long-term sub position soon! I also had a conversation with Robert, who loves to talk heretical fiction with me. He has discovered a book he wants me to read & is trying to remember to bring it.

After church, I went home to find my sweet petunia still in bed and the kids still asleep. She got up & we made a big Sunday dinner of country-fried steak, mashed potatoes, white gravy and corn. By the time we'd eaten and I'd gotten the kitchen cleaned up, it was about time for us to hit the road. We took the kids back home in near silence. Pie slept the whole time and Boot was on the verge of a doze much of the way. I was immersed in Rob Bell's "Velvet Jesus" while J drove. It was a nice switch to be the one reading. I do hope Rob Bell is not another homophobe. I so admire Brian McLaren, but am deeply disappointed with him for his inability to affirm same-sex relationships. I hope he grows out of it.

When we got home, we considered going to see "Evan Almighty" outside at church. But, since J had to be up very early and didn't feel altogether well, we decided to stay in. I made baked eggs in toast cups and we watched the depressing yet compelling "Little Children" before going to bed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A is for African Food

Friday night, we returned the boys to their father after a month-long summer visit. They were silly, silly, silly all the way home. On the drive back to our place, J was flipping through the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living and was ogling a pork tenderloin dinner, so I will be making that soon. Our dinner Friday night was leftover pasta, Italian hats with red sauce that J had made while I was down in the Dayton area. We had an uneventful night, going to bed early so that J could rise at 5 the next morning to go to work. The life of a plant manager is not the cushy thing that some employees might suppose.

I slept in much later than 5. My mom called around ten, saying, "Daria, she made it" referring to my grandmama. She has been faltering since my granddad died in December. J, the boys & I had spent our vacation in late July visiting her & my auntie (along with King's Island & the movie theater) and she was doing okay, but my mom had called me the 8th & said she was in the hospital. The whole family headed down there to see her. I feel so blessed to have such a close family. My former step-cousin (who is 100% still my cousin) even came to the hospital. I know it had to be hard for Cousin #2 and his wife because they just lost her wonderful mom to cancer in June. I drove down the 9th & visited for 5 days, then returned home to see the boys off & be with J. My grandmom was doing worse & worse. I knew when I left on Thursday that it would probably be the last time I ever saw her. Frankly, I prayer that it was. We had both said all that needed to be said & I hated the idea of her lingering in misery, not able to enjoy eating or family or anything, not being able to go to the bathroom by herself, being in such pain. So, my mama and I were both hoping that my granddaddy & great-aunt & great-grands would come get her soon. I am relieved that she made it to the other side.

After I got the sad but good news, I headed out to do my weekly marketing. I found some lovely fruits & veggies at the farmer's market- peaches, Paula Red apples (I am anxiously awaiting Winesap season), elderberries, yellow summer squash, cucumbers, green peppers, sweet corn, lush misshapen tomatoes. I just love August. By the time I had perused Trader Joe's & (last & certainly least, but ya gotta get your tin foil somewhere) Giant Eagle, J was almost done with work & clamoring for lunch. I popped over there with a snack of apples and salt & vinegar chips, but most importantly to J, a big ass Coke. J finished her work as best she could while also entertaining Madeleine, a darling tot who was visiting her papa while he worked. She put colorful fish cut-outs all over J's office, sneaked up from under her desk and rowred at her, and sampled both elderberries (which she liked very much) and an apple (not so much).

We had leftover smoked sausage in buns for lunch & vegged out watching t.v. until it was time to implement the alphabet plan. We'd seriously considered heading down to Dayton again, but my mom thought we should just rest & then come down for the memorial service. My uncle Vic had to go back home so he could fly out to Lily & DeForrest's wedding in Georgia the next day & Jazzbo & Anne were heading home, too. John & Nola did go down to spend the night Saturday, but we stayed put.

The alphabet plan was scheduled to begin that night & I had reservations, so we decided to keep them. I had decided it would be fun to go on alphabet-themed dates on the weekends we don't have the boys, alternating letters. J loved the idea and we've had a marvelous time playing with the possibilities. I took A & quickly decided we'd go to Empress Taytu, an Ethiopian restaurant in Cleveland, for African food. It was a secret from J until the moment we passed the restaurant & I pulled into a side street to park. The whole experience was wonderful. The atmosphere was very laid-back. We were offered our choice of a traditional basket table or an American-style table. Of course, we went for the basket table. I was a smidge disappointed not to be seated in one of the thatch-covered "huts" but our table was good, too. When we were seated, our waitress brought us damp washcloths to clean our hands. I had lovely spicy Ethiopian-style iced tea, while J had hers hot. We split an order of sambusa, a splendid savory meat pastry, for an appetizer, then settled on a meat combo for me and t'ibs for J. It came on a round tray lined with a piece of injera, all the food dolloped in little rounds on top of it, with a side plate of injera for scooping up the food. It was all delicious! My very favorites were the kik-alicha (yellow split peas) and the minchetabish. The menu can be seen at http://hometown.aol.com/EmpressTaytu/ if you wish to have fuller descriptions of either food or restaurant.

After we'd stuffed ourselves on good food, we decided to have the special coffee ceremony. Our waitress began by roasting green coffee beans in the kitchen, bringing them out and stirring them so we could see the rich, oily black of the roasted beans and smell the tangy aroma. When the coffee was ready, she brought it out in a clay pot & lit incense at the new table to which we'd been escorted. Then, she poured our coffee and left us to linger over it, enjoying the scent & flavor of the coffee as well as the Middle Eastern sounding music and wonderful artwork and photography that surrounded us. We went to bed that night excited about all the new experiences the alphabet game will bring. I know J is taking me to a Cleveland Indians game for her B.

Sunday morning, we went to church, then hung out at the Borders Café for quite awhile with coffee in hand & noses in books. Then, we walked around Crocker Park, stopping a moment to enjoy the colorful adirondack chairs set in green grass that have sprung up this year. Once home, we napped the afternoon away. Then, I made Russian sandwiches (toasted bread topped with tomato slices, bacon and cheddar & broiled), sweet corn and spinach with blue cheese, cranberries and walnuts drizzled with vinaigrette for dinner. A nice restful weekend.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chicago (Sort Of)

Well, we never actually made it into the city, but we did spend a few days in Oak Brook last week. The owner of J's company visited her plant in the morning last Tuesday, but she was able to leave shortly after noon to pack and then head to Illinois. Our trip was uneventful, smoothed out by a Kay Hooper mystery on CD and punctuated by toll paying and extraordinarily bad Cinnabons, all dried out and hard. Yuck! When we arrived at our hotel, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant (beautiful salad, overcooked filet and stunning veggies) before soaking in the hot(ish) tub for awhile before bed.

In the morning, J got up and went to work while I ordered an omelet from room service. I relaxed in the room all morning, reading, playing around online and writing. A friend from seminary, Lisa, who now has two churches of her own in a town of about 1,000 people outside Chicago picked me up for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. We ended up sitting there talking shop for 4 hours! She'd had a rough week and I am eager to absorb all the wisdom and experience I can before I am out there in the trenches, so it was just great. To the great credit of the staff, we were not hurried out of there or even given reproachful glances, even when the dinner crowd started coming in. The spinach dip was good, the Cobb salad was great and the cheesecake wasn't so shabby, either, although it needed more raspberry flavor for my taste. When Lisa dropped me off, I hung out reading for a bit, then took myself to the hot tub with a good book. J was at dinner with the folks from work, so I was on my own for the evening. When she got back, I ordered some delicious cream of chicken soup and a lovely salad starring a fruity vinaigrette and fresh mandarin orange slices from room service and ate as she dozed off.

In the morning, she was off to the conference bright and early. Knowing I'd be driving home, I slept late, then got our room all packed up and checked out. I spent the early afternoon wandering the Oak Brook Center mall, with lunch at Cafe Nordstrom and plenty of time to drool over the housewares at Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma and Crate and Barrel. I picked up some Frango mints for J's secretary and some for us, then spent the rest of the afternoon hoping they wouldn't melt in the heat. They didn't. I spent the later afternoon reading magazines and sipping iced tea at Borders. I'd purchased Cloth, Paper, Scissors for the spoon book project, which I definitely want to try, and Hallmark mag just because I usually like it, so I found a comfy chair in a sunny window and curled up with the magazines until J called to tell me she was finished.

I picked her up at the hotel and we went to Mon Ami Gabi for dinner. We'd had lunch there while we were in Las Vegas in December. I'd adored the croque monsieur and the artichoke with lemon Dijon sauce. It had been, in fact, our favorite restaurant we'd tried in Las Vegas. I assumed the dinner menu would have equally good things on it and J had heard from the folks at work about how amazing the food was there. We chose a patio table overlooking the parking lot. Not the best view, but there were sprightly flowers in window boxes all along the railing, at least. We love eating outdoors, anyway. J had a very tender crab cake with gribache sauce while I indulged in the artichoke. Is there anything more perfect for a summer evening than pulling velvety artichoke "meat" off the leaves with your teeth after dipping them in a wonderful sauce? Of course, I like my lime butter better, but this sauce is lovely, too. For the main course, J chose the chicken paillard with gorgeous lemony haricots verts. Honestly, I like my chicken paillard better, but this was very good, despite my egotistical preferences. My steak was perfectly cooked and tender, slathered with a very generous amount of roquefort and accompanied by crisp frites. It utterly made up for the not-so-hot steak at the hotel. For dessert, against my urge to order the crème brûlée, we split the bananas Foster crepes with vanilla ice cream. They could never measure up to the expectations created by the amazing bananas Foster we had one Fat Tuesday at the Winds, but they were pretty tasty anyway. J discovered, however, that she no longer likes crêpes, so I ate most of that part and she had lots of the ice cream. Thus fueled for the journey, we got out of Oak Brook and onto the thruway at about 9 o'clock Ohio time, meaning we finally arrived home and fell into bed a smidge after three Friday morning. The trip, aside from that long drive home, was very relaxing. My only regret is not having made it to Ethel's Chocolate Lounge for fondue.

Fine Arts and Father's Day

J still had company at work Friday when it was time to make the drive to PA for the boys, so I headed off on my own. We had a pretty quiet ride home, with Pie absorbed in his video game and Boot in his thoughts. So, I listened to Neil Gaiman reading the stories from his book, Fragile Things. Every once in a while, Boot would pipe up, most frequently with weird and worrisome questions about how heroin addicts get their needles and whether they can be re-used and how you "open an account with Western Union." Handling the teen years with any kind of grace is a dance that requires great skill. When he asks me things like that, I want to interrogate him about why he is asking. But, I've learned that the full picture develops over time and that interrogation not only doesn't work, but makes him feel as though I think he's not trustworthy. What came out is that he is very interested in obtaining steroids through an online venue, wiring money to some former Soviet place or other. He's become obsessed with steroids in recent months, which scares me. Pie's obsession with energy drinks scares me, too, but it pales in comparison to this. We have talked to him about how badly steroids can mess up his body, about the ramifications of their illegality and so forth, but he persists. His coaches tacitly encourage it, too, which pisses me off. He is bound and determined that he is going to do this. He is saving up money and intends to make his way to a Western Union service in PA. His father doesn't communicate with us, so we can't call and talk to him about it. All we can do is warn Boot that he is likely to either lose 50-some dollars or to get pills filled with dirt or dried horse manure. I hope he will start to think about that. And, frankly, I hope he does get ripped off. I do not want my kid on steroids. I am afraid, so very afraid, that he will do damage to himself with these drugs. Further, I worry about the 'roid rage you hear about. He already has anger control issues and his brother bears the brunt of that, telling us that he has spent the beginning of his summer vacation being beat up. Nothing we can do about it, as part-time parents. If he were living with us full-time, I would take him to be tested every so often, but almost all the parenting is out of our hands now. And in the hands of an incompetent.

When J got home Friday night, she made cheeseburgers, with tortilla chips and dip and baked beans on the side. We hung out and talked, but went to bed pretty early because J had to be back at work early. She'd promised Boot he could go with her and in the night, he put a series of notes outside of our bedroom door: 1. "Wake me up pleaze" 2. Take me to *work and let ME *work" 3. "Wake me up so I can get $ paid" 4. "If you take me to work you a promoting a good work ethic." Where does he come up with this stuff? So, they got up before 7 and headed out. Boot is a hard worker. J let him pack a little, intending to pay him out of our money. At the end of the shift, though, he told her, "No, Mom, I don't need money." He'd just wanted to share time and experience with her, I guess. He is planning to work full-time for her next summer, though. He definitely has a good work ethic already. Pie, on the other hand, stayed home with his step-mama and both of us slept in. Then, I went grocery shopping. I missed out on the farmer's market because I couldn't find one parking space, so I indulged in Heinen's fabulous produce selection. Boot immediately climbed back into bed when they got home and slept until 9 that night. Pie told us his brother always catches up on his sleep over the weekend. Neither boy wanted to go to Crocker Park with us. J worries that they will feel neglected or be bored. I told her it's normal, developmentally speaking, for teenage boys to want to sleep and play video games all weekend. What's unusual is for them to want to spend large amounts of time socializing with their parents. Nonetheless, she is planning structured activity for their next visit and won't take "No thanks" (Pie's likely response) for an answer. Maybe a water park, maybe the movies. I'm game for it, anyway. The boys most often say they would prefer to relax at home, although Boot is usually happy to hit the mall or go out to eat with us. He noticed Houlihan's over this last weekend, so I think I'll take him there sometime. He'd like Melt, too.

Since the boys were out for the count, we gave them pizza money and headed over to Crocker Park for the fine arts festival. It's a moderate-sized craft show, nothing like Summerfair in Cincinnati, but okay. I only saw a couple booths that tugged at my purse strings, but I refrained. One artist creates wonderful cat pictures, the other pictures of women on the beach with fun sayings added to the picture, stuff like "What happens at the lake stays at the lake" and other girlfriend getaways kinds of things. We had lunch at Aladdin's. It was delicious, as always, but I think it made us sick. It was either that or Coldstone Creamery, where we got ice cream. In the late evening, we were both attacked by classic food poisoning symptoms. No fun and I worried that I might still be ill in the morning for church. Yikes! I wasn't, though. Anyway, after we'd had our fill of the arts, we did some more grocery shopping. J wanted to make ribs. I'd planned to make chili, but allowed her to steal my cooking night. When we got home, both boys were asleep, so J snuggled in for a nap, too. I read some magazines and watched Alton Brown watching andouille being made. When it was time to make dinner, J wasn't ready to get up, so I offered to make chili after all. It was soooo good. Our oven has broken, so I wasn't able to make the honey cornbread I wanted to go with it, but the tortilla chips were a decent substitute. I hate not having an oven, though, and I don't know how long it will take our landlord to replace it. J said the chili was the best I've made her yet (and I've made lots of chili in the 7+ years we've been together) and Pie ate all of his and pronounced it good, even though he commented on its spiciness. 3 tablespoons of chili powder bought at a roadside stand in Chimayó, New Mexico will do that. Lucky for him I didn't add any cayenne.

In the morning, I got up before 7 this time. J stayed in bed, promising to make it to the later service. I was at the church by 20 'til 8, visiting with the early service folks and greeting the guest preacher. The first service went quite smoothly. We visited with the folks in the adult Sunday school afterward, had some good conversation about how we are all called to ministry, not just people who do it full-time for a living. Then came the main service, in the main sanctuary. I was decidedly nervous, especially about how the offering and children's sermon would go. The mikes made me nervous, too, but they turned out to be a breeze, thanks to our well-seasoned sound guy. Mostly, my first main Sunday service at this church went well. I did manage to bulldoze right through the prelude, totally forgetting to stop between announcements and call to worship so our organist could play it. She is a good sport, though, and told me afterward that the extra time not spent prepping the prelude while she's on vacation will be great. I also almost forgot the children's sermon, skipping right to the offering. Oy vey! Luckily, the guest preacher reminded me and the acolytes are very flexible & well-trained kids who jumped right in to help with the offering. The children's sermon, once I finally sat down for it, went very well and the kids were great participants, not to mention so adorable that I wanted to squish them all. I got a drawing from one of them later. I'd invited "the young at heart" forward, too, and our wonderful Christian Ed director, Lucinda, came up and sat with us. It was deliciously calming to have her up there. It was also good to have J sitting right up front nodding encouragement throughout the service. The scripture readings went beautifully. I do really well when I can just stand in the pulpit and read...when there's blocking and I have to memorize lines, not so much. LOL!

After church, I went home and changed. J took the kids to the grocery again. Pie spent all the money Grandpa gave him on energy drinks, which I wish J wouldn't let him get. She says it's his money. Boot, as always, is saving his, this time for steroids. Augh! When they got home, Pie settled in on the couch to watch Sci Fi, allowing me to tuck him under a quilt, and promptly fell asleep. Boot helped J grill and I hung out to talk to them. Pie didn't want to get up for lunch, so it was the two of us and our Boot eating ribs, chips, baked beans, corn on the cob and strawberries with cheesecake dip on the deck. He was delightful company and even helped clean up without being asked. He is one of the most helpful teenagers I've been around. I may not like his foul mouth or some of the things he talks about, but I have never seen a kid be so perceptive about what needs to be done and or so willing to do it. Take the trash out? Sure! Carry a heavy box upstairs? No problem! It's really nice. Once we'd gotten things cleaned up, it was getting close to time to take them back, so we roused Pie, with great difficulty, and got him out to the car. He slept the whole way home while Boot joked around with us (or, just J when I nodded off) the entire time. Pie was really crabby when Boot awoke him just before we turned onto their street, wanting to sleep more. I said, "I bet you're going inside and going right back to sleep." He nodded with drooping eyes.

When we got home, J put on the stereo and sat on the porch while I made dinner. She kept popping in to help and made the steak for me. I made pepper steak with cherry tomato salsa on garlic toasts, lemon asparagus and what I now consider to be the best drink in the world, the Latin Lover, all fruity, slushy goodness. Wow! Those go down easy and I could happily have consumed 20. J loved them, too. We each only had one, since we're not really big drinkers, but man o live were they fab! We sat on the porch watching the fireflies, listening to Taj Mahal and sharing memories of my granddaddy, who loved Taj and introduced me to his music when I was but a wee one. People talk about the traditional lullabies their folks sang to them, but for me "Fishin' Blues" (along with other blues, Taj and otherwise) is my childhood music. That and memories of my mama singing Grateful Dead songs and the "Swaying" song about the elephants to me. Oh, and my uncle Vic jiggling me on his knee and singing "Froggy Went a-Courtin.' " I was taken to the Mariposa folk festival up in Toronto at a tender age and went to a B.B. King concert with my grands when I was 10. Then, there was the Dead Kennedys concert at Antioch College when I was 16, where my mom hurt her ankle slam-dancing. Aaaaah. Such good memories. I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Aunties and Cousins and Pride! Oh my!

My grandmom decided to host a special coffee hour at church to honor and commemorate what would have been her and my granddaddy's 65th wedding anniversary. Thinking about how hard it would be for me to host such a thing for our would-have-been-anniversary, I suggested to J that we should plan to visit for the weekend. Of course, she agreed readily, especially since we didn't have the boys for the weekend and we needed to visit her folks, anyway.

So, Friday we headed down there after J got home from work. We drove through Burger King on the way down so that we'd arrive earlier and thus have more visiting time. My uncle Jazzbo was in town overnight before embarking on a boys' motorcycle road trip with my uncle Vic & cousin John to visit my mom, Graham and Lenore for the evening. Even though he and Anne live in the Cleveland area, too, our schedules prevent us from seeing them as often as we'd like, so I was happy to get a chance to visit with him. We had a nice visit, then J and I blew up our humongous air mattress and Jazzbo tucked himself in on the couch. I ended up staying up until almost one with my cousin Leah talking about school, our shared vomit-phobia and sundry other things. It was great fun to see her again.

In the morning, we visited over cereal, then Jazzbo took off for Columbus in his rain gear while Jeanie took my grandmom to her hair appointment. Leah had opted to attend Dayton Pride with us. She'd never been to anything like that & had a great time despite some obstacles. First of all, we arrived at 10:30 to line up, as requested by the church we were marching with. Nobody from the church was there, so we poked around the library for awhile and re-emerged. Nobody. J was getting hungry, having skipped breakfast, and Leah and I were wishing we' had something more substantial ourselves. I remembered that one of my favorite greasy spoons was around the corner, so we headed over there. Yummy Burger, a joint that serves both American dive fare and Thai food, caught our eyes on the walk over, but we persisted toward Wympee. We sat at the decidedly sticky counter, with its view of industrial gloom and grit, and settled in with the paper. Leah had a BLT, J chose French toast and I opted for a burger with home fries. It was all good and we emerged ready to march at 11:45. We roamed among the crowd until we spotted familiar faces from church. Don and Nan were actually marching with P-FLAG, but were able to point us toward the church and remind us that we couldn't wear political candidates' stickers when marching with the church. Glad we ran into them! I'd forgotten.

So, we got into the line-up and were hugged madly by several folks we'd not seen in ages. I introduced Leah all around. The rain kept coming down and Leah and I were wishing we'd opted for big umbrellas rather than attractive ones, as our whole left sides got progressively wetter. J never uses an umbrella, so she was just getting soaked. Luckily, it was warm! We marched the short route with the church, then ran into the guys who run the local youth support group. It was good to see them, but I was sorry to hear that the group has dwindled away to practically nothing. They seem confident about their plans to revitalize, though. Then, we saw Adrian, a seminary buddy who has gotten me through the last semester with sanity and sense of humor intact despite a very emotionally challenging group dynamic in the class we shared. We had fun visiting with folks we knew, but there was very little going on, just as with the last Dayton Pride we attended. There were a couple of tired-looking drag queens and a few boys running around in tidy-whities (or tidy-blackies) and not much else, who will probably dominate any media coverage, despite the predominance of ordinary folks marching with churches and what-have-you. I'd hoped that it had improved over the several years we'd missed, attributing the general suckiness of the last one we attended to the fact that it was still in its infancy at the time. Adrian assures me that it was the rain and that Pride wasn't sucky last year. However, the suck factor and rain combined to encourage me to respond in the affirmative when J suggested we leave just after the Pride band finished playing. I'd wanted to find Kevin, anoher seminary friend who marched with the MCC, but he was nowhere in sight, so we skulked off to the car and headed for the (equally sucky) gay gift shop. Somehow, Leah had a great time and is going to recommend to her best friend, Casey, that he head to Dayton from Vermont. Hmm. I'm thinking Columbus might be a better Ohio option for the queer.

After we'd browsed all the rainbow merchandise we could stand, we picked up Jeanie and headed to Buffalo Wild Wings to play trivia. We waited for an age to be seated, with staff members staring over at us all the while. All the booths were either occupied or not cleaned off, so we had to sit, little bitty legs dangling uncomfortably, at a tall table. Then, there were no trivia units available, either all taken or broken. We finally succeeded in obtaining 4 when we told the waiter we weren't ordering food unless we could also play trivia. We certainly hadn't come for the big-screen cage fighting. Only 2 of the four actually worked. J was finally able to get hers to work & traded with Leah, taking the one that insisted the player be involved with Texas Hold 'Em rather than NTN trivia. Oy! So, not the best BW-3 visit, but we had fun together anyway. We stopped on the way back to the house at the bookstore and grocery. Back at the house, we spent the evening visiting (and, in J's case, napping) and looking at old family slides Jeanie had put on the computer.

In the morning, we all went to church. Brendan was amazing, giving a really great sermon and call to action, very radical for that church and I don't think they even got a word of it. Sigh. If they don't come around, that church is going to die. If they would actually hear Brendan and heed his message, he could very skillfully lead them into a new life. But, I fear that they won't and that they have no idea what a treasure they have in Brendan. When I congratulated him on his great sermon, he said, "I'll probably get kicked out." I think not because I don't think anyone in that congregation has the energy to raise a boot if they actually catch on to the fact that he's made the transition from pastoral to prophetic. It's so sad to see them all asleep like that. I never really noticed the stagnation and apathy and general unhealth until I got into healthy churches.

The coffee hour went well, alhough it was pretty sparsely attended. When I commented to a friend that we miss doing the coffee hours, she said, "Well, we miss you doing them! It's gotten pretty scraggly lately." In truth, I had noticed that on my last visit. Coffee hour was only stale snack foods like generic cheese puffs and pretzels, tiredly sitting on the counter where they were laid out by frustrated committee members when no one bothered to sign up for coffee hour refreshments. The symptoms are all there, the doctor is willing and able, but the congregation chooses to ignore the illness instead. I don't know how Brendan stands it. Maybe if they combine with the other Presbyterians, there is hope. Can they overcome years of mutual prejudice and competition to survive? The best thing about coffee hour besides getting to chat with Brendan, was the wonderful surprise of Nola showing up with the babies for a visit! It was the very first time I got to see the new baby in person and he is adorable, fat and cheery.

I wished we could stay, but we had to move on to Cincinnati to visit J's folks. I was really dreading it because her mom is under Hospice care now and her dad is often curmudgeonly and hideously negative, guilt-tripping J about not visiting more often, no matter that she works hard and lives 5 hours away. I often joke that he is God's way of giving me practice at difficult pastoral care situations. Luckily, he was in fairly good spirits, although he complained repeatedly about our not bringing the boys this time. Oh, well, next time we'll make sure they are with us, too. The big relief was that J's mom recognized her and was even able to respond somewhat and smile when J talked to her. She even laughed once, which was a good thing to hear. So, we were able to drive home in fairly good spirits, although the long hours on the road and the tedium of the book we'd chosen to listen to took us to the brink of desperate hysteria. Kathy Reichs may be an expert in her field, forensic anthropology, but that doesn't mean she should necessarily write fiction about it. The dialogue came across as overly educational, more like a college lecture than a conversation between colleagues. What's more, most mystery readers in 2008 hardly need to be educated in depth on what Stockholm Syndrome is. It didn't help that the reader insisted on doing a horribly inadequate pseudo-French accent whenever a French-Canadian character spoke. Yikes...shades of The DaVinci Code, another poorly-written novel with fake French accents, which we listened to on the way to Pittsburgh a few years ago. At least the book we listened to on the way to Chicago yesterday is good, even though the producers insist on tinkering with weird sound effects whenever the dialogue is over the phone (one voice faded and tinny, so we can tell it's on the phone, presumably) or the action is a memory (more weird fades).

Friday, June 06, 2008


J was in Chicago on business when time came to get the boys last Friday, so I drove over and got them, greatly enjoying the flower scents wafting in the open car windows as I rode along 90 toward Erie. The boys were in good spirits, didn't fight a lick while we were on the road. Grabbed some groceries and heated up some homemade chicken soup for dinner, but no one was hungry except me. So, Boot and J sat by me and chatted while I had soup and an herbed turkey sandwich.

We went to bed fairly early and slept in too late to make it to the Farmer's Market. J had gotten my cold and was miserable, but managed to get out and about for grocery shopping and poking around Crocker Park with Shopping Boy. He picked up a Cleveland Indians ballcap that looks remarkably good on him. We had a nice time over there and there was great people-watching.

Saturday evening, we agreed to let the boys try the new Pizza Hut pasta. Personally, I think ordering pasta for take-out is silly, since it's so simple and cheap to make a terrific pasta dinner at home. But, Boot's been wanting to try it ever since the ads appeared. We tried both the marinara and the alfredo. J and the boys approved heartily of the marinara and thought the alfredo was okay. I thought it was all decidedly mediocre. Oh, well.

Sunday, I was the only one who went to church. J was feeling even worse, poor thing. She's had a rough spring, first spraining her back, having an oogey stomach for about a month now and then this cold. Oh, and this is the second cold of the spring for her. Put her allergies on top of all that and she's not been a happy girl. Church was nice, but nothing amazingly inspiring. It was our summer interim's first day and she did a nice job. I had some nice visiting at coffee hour with folks who joined the same Sunday we did, then headed home to find the fam eating Dunkin' Donuts. I declined, still peeved over their ridiculous cancellation of the Rachael Ray ads that some asinine right-wingers decided proves that she's a terrorist. Apparently, they have decided that her wearing a kaffiyeh means she supports violent fundamentalist Muslims. WTF? So, if someone wears a business suit, they support greedy corporate CEOs who are willing to rob people of their retirement funds to make an enormously inflated profit? And if someone has a crew cut, surely they are very much of the same mindset as Timothy McVeigh, right? Automatically associating a traditional Arabic garment with terrorism is idiotic, bitching about it to Dunkin Donuts more so. But what is the most stupid of all is Dunkin Donuts caving to this pressure. For the love of God, why can't people act like they've got good sense??? If it wasn't so bloody hot right now, I'd have to dig out my own kaffiyeh (which I like because it's pretty and keeps me warm in the winter) and don it. I'd probably get shot.

While I'm on a rant, I also am really tired of people slamming celebrities for this that and the other perceived fault. I don't personally know Rachael Ray. She seems okay to me, but really, who am I to even judge? When I was looking into the Dunkin Donuts story, I saw some virulently nasty comments about her by random internet wankers who also don't know her. People said things like "Everyone knows she's actually a gigantic asshole", "ugly, irritating, raspy-voiced, talentless, no-necked bitch," "ol' porker Rachael," "man hands," "sausage fingers" "I despise Rachael Ray" and on & on it goes. First of all, why so mean? Is this kind of savaging really necessary? And she's not even fat!!! At all!!! And does anyone talk about Mario Batali, who is decidedly fat? Why no. Not that his size bothers me, but he's a hell of a lot bigger than she is and you never hear people saying things like "Ol' porker Mario." Total sexism right there, if you ask me. Second, why her? Why not turn your savaging toward people who are actually making decisions that affect the lives of millions of people, if you must be mean? If Rachael Ray wears a scarf, shills for Dunkin Donuts or whatever, how, really, does that affect the life of your average internet commentator? 'Nuff said.

Back to my weekend. Sunday afternoon, we KFCed the boys, then drove them back to their father's. J was having a really hard time, crying because she didn't want to have to take them back. I am clueless as to how I can help her, other than just loving her. I did make her a really good dinner, pasta Florentine, that night. Maybe that helped a little. I know, how about the internet meanies rip on J's ex & the biased judge we pulled instead of Rachael Ray, Britney Spears or the despised celeb of the day?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Welcome Home Weekend

School is done, I've gotten my first grade/evaluation (Honors in Blue Collar Theology) and my beloved is thrilled to have me home for the summer. Up in the air is the question of whether I should get a summer job. The extra money would be nice in the face of alarming gas prices and ridiculously large child support payments. What is certain is that I will now have some time to unpack the house and read for frivolity's sake. We got the house-fixing-up underway with the deck...more on that later, though.

Friday night, J made me spaghetti with Italian sausage from the farmer's market. I puttered around unpacking some boxes in the kitchen while she cooked. We rounded out the night watching an Eddie Izzard special we just stumbled across on t.v. I am so glad Brendan & Laura introduced us to his work. He is screamingly funny and so smart. When J dozed off, I sneaked over to Larry King's interview with David Cook (and the other Idol contestants). When she awoke, she just rolled her eyes, unable to believe the monster my auntie has created. LOL!

Saturday morning, we lazed in bed, then hit the farmer's market and grocery store. We ran into an acquaintance from church and had a nice visit with her over the produce. It was time to start getting ready for the big night out when we returned, so we quick put away food and started showers. I got all gussied up in a grey skirt and grey velvet blazer while J wore a button-down with black velvet-trimmed jeans. She's gorgeous. We drove into Cleveland, through the crazy construction on Euclid, and pulled our little Hyundai up to the valet parking at Playhouse Square.

We were right on time for our reservation at Star at Playhouse Square, probably our last big restaurant splurge for awhile and well worth it. It was our first time dining there. Spurred on by Paula Deen-induced brie lust, we chose the baked brie with chutney and cinnamon toasts for our appetizer. I'm not a mixing-the-fruit-in-with-the-cheese guy and much prefer my brie melty & glorious in unadorned stinkiness. My wife, on the other hand, melts herself when the fruit mars the cheese perfection, so she was in heaven. I found it quite tolerable considering and the delicately crunchy little toasts were a delight. The Riesling was quite nice and I've forgotten what kind it was! Too long since I've done any real reviews, clearly. That would be a nice gig to follow my recent piece on Miami for Everywhere magazine. Anyway, we each chose the Maytag-crusted beef tenderloin for our entrée. It was a perfect medium-rare, hard to come by these days. The crust was thick and tangy, a perfect complement to the beef. The accompanying mashed potatoes weren't as good as mine, but with steak like that, who needs sides? The mint chip ice cream and the lovely sorbets were incredibly tempting, but I didn't feel like sitting through a show with an overly full belly, so I will be making us some espresso ice cream with chocolate-covered espresso beans this week instead. Thank you, Ina Garten.

From Star, we made our way into the theater for the Eddie Izzard show. It was wonderful to see so many people turning out to see him. Gives me some hope that there are still lots of intelligent people in the world, after all. Sometimes I worry. He was fabulous, as expected. Our son had pointedly warned us that "he's not a transvestite anymore, you know." On stage, at least. I guess he got tired of people thinking the women's clothing was part of the act, rather than just who he is. He looked splendid in the "bloke" get-up that he'd chosen, worn jeans and black tails with a scarlet lining. I want that outfit for myself! Just like I want David Cook's pointy-toed cowboy boots. Maybe in my next lifetime I want to be a bartender in Tulsa rather than a bull rider. Anyway, Eddie was brilliant and hilarious and I had to be very careful how I laughed to avoid going into a coughing fit. Lots of great theological points and insight on human nature, as well as a great riff on a giraffe seeing a tiger and not being able to warn the other giraffe properly.

After the show, we headed to The Nickel for a show of another stripe. There was a disappointingly small crowd out to see an "aggressive folk" band from Michigan called Nervous and Excited and a local grrl rock band called Early Girl. I really enjoyed the "aggressive folk" duo. Early Girl was not really to my taste, a little too hard-rocking for me. The Butchies was one of the bands they covered. However, it was excellent to see three women rocking out like that. One of these years, we'll get to Michigan Women's Music Fest. One of the women from the first band reminded me of a Charles de Lint character, someone who would play with Geordie and hang out with Jilly and her tribe of "small, fierce women." I could almost imagine folks from the spirit world settling in on bar stools to listen as she fiddled and played her mandolin with a restless twitchiness. Made me want to go back to Newford, my current favorite fictional place to hang out. Twas a good show, even the Wyclef Jean hip-hop song they covered. Seemed a strange choice, but turned out to be a really good commentary.

Sunday morning, we went to church for our pastor's last Sunday before he goes on sabbatical over the summer. Then, we had some cake and lots of conversation at a coffee hour to celebrate our friend Amber's graduation. Now, she just has to get a teaching job. She actually wants to teach middle school! Can you imagine? After church, we headed home and got the hammock stand put back together, the hammock hung, the table wiped down and cushions tied to the chairs. We made a quick trip to Marshall's for a hanging lantern after J made mac & cheese and baked beans. When we got back, J arranged a bunch of her special rocks along the deck railings and then got the grill going. We had hamburgers and hot dogs to break in the new deck, along with frozen cherry margaritas (remind me next time that Emeril likes his a lot stronger than I like mine!). I immersed myself in a mystery novel while J gently rocked in the hammock, dozing to the tune of the kennel dogs singing their loneliness for their humans over the holiday weekend. We ended the night by finally watching "Dan in Real Life" which I found appealing and J thought was somewhat trite. I'd no idea that Dane Cook was in it and it was fun to see him act. He was actually pretty good. I like his stand-up immensely, but had no idea he does straight roles as well.

Monday, we continued our holidays-without-the boys tradition of going to the zoo. The first 4th of July we lived in Cleveland, the boys went to hang with their father and we went to hang with the animals since neither boy wanted to go to the zoo with us. Who wouldn't want to go see animals? It was every bit as much fun this time, maybe even more so. I was thrilled by the chance to be mere feet from a cheetah. Had I been foolish, I could have stepped over the little guard rail, taken one or two steps and stuck my hand through the chain-link fence to feel its fur. I would probably also be minus a finger or three right now. We also saw a leopard very close-up. It kept doing this awful coughing thing that sounded like wood being cut with a two-person saw and made its stomach heave. I wondered if it was trying to get a hairball up. Do big cats get hairballs? It also kept doing this weird tic thing that I have now seen 3 animals do. We'd just spent quite a bit of time watching a bear walk over to a wall, put a paw up on the wall, fling its head back in an elaborate roll, walk away, then do it all over again and again and again. We said, "It's doing a llama!" after the llama we saw at Disney doing a similar thing with its neck and head. Now, the leopard did the same thing as the bear, albeit in its own feline way. Are they being driven crazy by captivity??? Or what??? Had a great time with the monkey-watching, as always, but have been spoiled by Monkey Jungle. I was astounded to see sloths on the move, though. I have never, ever seen one move and they looked so cool. There was even a mama sloth carrying a baby on her stomach. Wow, how cool! One of the tigers was sleeping with belly exposed and huge paws spread-eagle, just like our Fred-Fur. The polar bears were quite active, one utterly snowy and the other mud-dappled. The seals reminded us of good times in Monterey. Saw some amazing action over at the lion habitat. The female was reclining in the shade and a foolhardy bird kept landing near her. I thought, "My cats would definitely eat that bird." Sure enough, she got tired of watching it and lightning-speeded after it, just missing batting it out of the air with one enormous paw. We saw the hippo surface a couple times and enjoyed an Asian man's description, to his son, of the capybara: "It's a humongous rat!" We got to touch sharks, with their ancient-rock textured skin, and sting rays, with their velvet wings. I love the way they glide up over our hands as though they were soliciting touch. I can't imagine that they are, but perhaps. We both had soaked t-shirts after that experience.

After we tired ourselves out watching animals and people inside the zoo, we rode the tram to our parking lot (after a worrisome false start on another tram), dragged ourselves to the car, reparked closer to the picnic tables (making ourselves giggle enormously at our laziness) and carried our basket of goodies over for dinner. J had packed ham salad sandwiches, hummus, garlic pita chips, sundried tomato feta dip, veggie crackers (the sort that used to be shaped like peppers and onions and tomatoes when I was a kid, kin to chicken in a biskit crackers), all kinds of cut-up veggies, fuzzy water for her & cola for me and homemade brownies. We had fun watching people leaving the zoo and getting out for evening walks. We also saw deer leaping across the road. We assume they were wild deer and not from the zoo!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hangin' with the Pizza Boys and the Pastor Boys

Friday, I got back from Dayton about 2 and had a little bit of time to clean house before we went to get the boys. We stopped on the way back home for dinner at Yours Truly in Mentor. J and I had stopped there a couple of times before and enjoyed it. It was again good. Once home, everyone retired in front of various screens to relax for the evening. I watched a couple DVRed episodes of "Barefoot Contessa" while J watched t.v. with Boot and Pie played X-Box.

Saturday morning, Pie slept in while J, Boot and I went to the Farmer's Market, had pizza at an outdoor stand at Crocker Park and checked out the bookstores. It's remarkable to me that Boot wants anything to do with bookstores now. For awhile, he disdained going in even for the CD and DVD section. Now, he even looks at books sometimes! We got groceries after that. I love how helpful Boot always is in the grocery. I think he is even starting to like Trader Joe's a little.

We roused Pie from his video-induced stupor when we got home and made him get dressed. I made a cherry lemon cheesecake pie and stuck it in the fridge to chill and J made a pizza for hungry boys. After they noshed, we went to see "Iron Man." Iron Man is Pie's very favorite Marvel guy and he's been waiting anxiously for the movie for almost 2 years. It did not disappoint. I think Robert Downey Jr. was a perfect choice for the lead. During the movie, Pie leaned on my shoulder and said, "This is awesome!!!" He is so cute. Boot liked it, too. Next, I want to see "Prince Caspian" or the Indiana Jones movie. I am so excited about those.

We went home and I made chicken marsala for the grown folks. The boys were all full of pizza and not interested in eating again (at least not until Boot made himself a shake with chocolate peanut butter ice cream and vanilla soy milk). The marsala was very good and J and I had pie for dessert, too. Boot went to bed early and Pie had already gotten back into his video games. J fell asleep on the loveseat while I was cleaning up the kitchen, so I joined her and watched the David Cook bits of the last two weeks of "American Idol." I can't believe I am so hooked on that show and on him. I wonder if the show will hold any interest for me next season or if it's all about David Cook. He's a great performer and seems like a genuinely nice guy, too. My auntie is so happy to have someone to watch it with her and my wife is disgusted that I've become corrupted. LOL!

Sunday morning, I went to church and the Mission Trip fundraiser breakfast. Our pastor is going on sabbatical over the summer to care for his wife, who is fighting a brain tumor. I am so glad he's going to have some time off. He has just been utterly frazzled. They are getting an acting pastor for the summer and our interim AP has agreed to keep doing his 10 hours per week. I quite like him. He is a retired UCC pastor and always has an interesting story to tell. I sat with him and his wife, along with another retired pastor and his wife, at the breakfast. It was fun to hear their stories and they wanted to hear all about my seminary experience. Neither of them has read much Calvin & they don't seem to think much of him. Our interim said Calvin fell off the pedestal for him when he found out Calvin watched Servetus burned at the stake and thought it was the right thing to do. No kidding! That turned me off, too, when I first read about it. There is some good to his theology, though. I think I like Bucer better, but he also wanted Servetus killed. I need to get a "Heretic in Good Company" t-shirt. Anyway, I found out at the breakfast that my name has been mentioned as a possibility for helping out over the summer. It would be a wonderful opportunity and I'd love to do it, but I don't know if they're looking for someone who is already ordained. If it's right, it will happen.

After church, I hung around the house waiting for everyone else to get themselves roused and ready to go have some fun. We didn't get out of the house until about 2, though, so we only had time to run some errands and eat lunch at Cleats. I love their fries. I was a little irritated with the boys' loud and inappropriate joking, but after I talked to J and J talked to them about the possible implications of their public behavior for my career, they toned it down somewhat. They were nappish in the car, but woke up in time to give us big hugs before we reached their father's house. They'd given us a really sweet Mother's Day card they made and the hugs were really nice, too. I think they are seeing more and more that life with their father is not a bed of roses. Last time they visited, they both said they'd rather live with us and told us about their dad chasing Boot with a golf club. That man is nuts. This weekend, they again said they'd rather live with us and Pie told us that their dad spends all the money on beer. Man, how that judge could have thought he was even remotely fit to parent them full-time is beyond me. Boot says he is going to drive them over to our place himself once he gets a truck. That's if his dad allows him to use it for that purpose. I bet he won't. What a piece of work!

We got home and poked around the yard to see what's growing. We have all kinds of wildlife coming through our yard all the time. J has seen a fox and deer, I've seen groundhogs and possums and a baby skunk. We see squirrels and stray cats all the time. We have a madly-blooming pink azalea bush amongst the scraggly pine out the kitchen window. I'm looking forward to planting some hanging baskets for the front porch & herbs and tomatoes for the deck. This is the last week of school and I am thrilled to be able to stay home for the summer. This being away from home 3-4 days a week is too much!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Anne Sexton Rocked!


It is in the small things we see it.The child's first step,as awesome as an earthquake.The first time you rode a bike,wallowing up the sidewalk.The first spanking when your heartwent on a journey all alone.When they called you crybabyor poor or fatty or crazyand made you into an alien,you drank their acidand concealed it.

Later,if you faced the death of bombs and bulletsyou did not do it with a banner,you did it with only a hat tocover your heart.You did not fondle the weakness inside youthough it was there.Your courage was a small coalthat you kept swallowing.If your buddy saved youand died himself in so doing,then his courage was not courage,it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

Later,if you have endured a great despair,then you did it alone,getting a transfusion from the fire,picking the scabs off your heart,then wringing it out like a sock.Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,you gave it a back ruband then you covered it with a blanketand after it had slept a whileit woke to the wings of the rosesand was transformed.

Later,when you face old age and its natural conclusionyour courage will still be shown in the little ways,each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,those you love will live in a fever of love,and you'll bargain with the calendarand at the last momentwhen death opens the back dooryou'll put on your carpet slippersand stride out.

~ Anne Sexton ~

(The Awful Rowing Toward God)

Bras and Barbecue

I got up this morning with the clear intention to get myself a new white bra, with no holes in the fabric and no underwire snaking its way out. When I told Jeanie, she said she'd love to go along, if I didn't mind. Mind??? She's got to be kidding! I love having an auntie who likes to go shopping and do girly stuff with me. I adore my friends, but we mostly do things like play with art or have serious discussions. Jeanie is my partner in frivolity. She's got me hooked on "American Idol" even!!! I held my breath with trepidiation tonight until I found out my guy, David Cook, is going to be in the running next week. How ridiculous is that??? Only Jeanie could get me hooked on such inanity. I rarely even watch t.v. and certainly don't have "can't-miss" shows. And she's got me DVRing Idol.

So, we headed out to Kohl's to see about decent bras in our size. It turned out that they were having a special bra fitting event...who knew? So, we had an undiepalooza, then moved on to T.J. Maxx, where I found a Sam McBratney teacup for J ("I love you to the moon and back again"), a little fairy tale dress to hang jewelry on that I have been eyeing & not letting myself buy for a few years now and a journal to use for my renewed weight loss effort. We hit Avenue, too. Jeanie had never been in and was very excited by all the bright colors and with-it styles. I picked up some chocolate brown capris, a vintage-style periwinkle blouse with raised dots and a butter yellow T. Oh, and a slinky nightie for summer. Love sales!

After our shopping spree, it was well past lunch-time. I suggested either Logan's Roadhouse, Chili's or City Barbecue. I'd been in the mood for lady food, but there's not really anything like that in that area. I had also been wanting to try City Barbecue for a long time. It was very, very good and I even got free banana pudding when I decided Jeanie's looked good and went to get some for myself. How cool is that? The pulled pork was excellent. For a fuller review, see www.lunacooks.blogspot.com. Had it been earlier in the day, I would have dragged her to The Winds, but I'm glad I tried City Barbecue. I will definitely go back.

Tonight, it's back to the study grind now that I know my man, David Cook, is safe for another week. And more study tomorrow, along with a batch of Mommy Bars (AKA 7-layer cookies or magic bars, but my mom loves them so much that they've earned a new name in our family) for class. I was going to do bite-sized spice cookies with icing and sprinkles, but that's just too fiddly for this point in the semester. I will take the time before I go to sleep to read more of Diablo Cody's memoir, Candy Girl. Her screenplay for Juno was utterly brilliant, so I knew I had to read this. And it's like candy, can't put it down.

Mother's Day and Maybration

After nearly a year between visits, we finally made it to Hickory Hill this past weekend. Since J didn't have the kids for Mother's Day (it just didn't happen to be our weekend and, of course, her ex couldn't be gracious enough to make an exception), I thought it would be good to be out of town. So, we made plans to visit my mom and Graham for the weekend. My directed study prof was gracious enough to allow for a postponement of our meeting, so I was able to leave Dayton fairly early for Cleveland. When I got home, J was in the midst of wrapping madness. We never made it down there to celebrate Christmas, so we planned to do it over the weekend. J had gotten word from the North Pole that they were creating a special holiday just for our family. Since last year and this year we celebrated Christmas in May, it is called Maybration. They dropped off a letter, gifts, special North Polar tags and a collection of pastel bags and tissue paper. We got everything prepped to go and loaded the car. The back seat was a festive wash of spring colors as we drove south.

We arrived at my mom's about 9 or 9:30 in the evening, in the rain. My mom met us with the ATV and we loaded it. J walked back, dry under her poncho, while I rode on the back of the ATV. I haven't been able to convince J to ride it yet, so she had a lot of walking to do. My mom fed us Morningstar Farms garden burgers (which was delicious) and we chatted for awhile, then settled down in the addition to sleep. In the morning, my mom made omelets and Graham showed us scads of books...vintage cheesecake for her and medieval mysticism (and women) for me. We had such fun visiting. Lunch was spent in the garden with my mom & Bobo, the darling cat, eating hummus and watching caterpillars. Then, we played a game called Time with my mom on the screened porch. It has cards with different words and images on them. You lay down 2 and each player gets 7. Then, you all lay down cards next to one or the other card and explain how the cards are connected. It was really interesting to see how differently we all told stories.

We headed down to Lenore's around 5:30 for dinner and Maybration festivities. My mom and J made white lasagna, with Lenore supervising, while Graham showed me things on the computer. I think I may be trying to add some links and photos to my blog in the next few weeks, now that he's showed me how. Hilarity reigned in the kitchen and the lasagna tasted all the better for the laughter all around while it was being made. We watched some Irving Klaw shorts then got down to the gifts. We had so much fun watching them open their gifts! J had also gotten a bunch of plastic pails and filled them with all kinds of foods, from flax seed and whole wheat flour to Cap'n Crunch and Hostess cupcakes, as useful gifts. We also gave Lenore a box of Malley's Chocolates, made in Cleveland, and my mom a box of Godiva chocolate-covered pretzels for Mother's Day. I gave J a picnic basket with a bunch of monkey dishes inside, along with a windchime for our new front porch. She found a signed first edition of Charles de Lint's "Moonlight and Vines" for me-very exciting! We finished the visit with Lenore's brownies, then headed back up the hill, exhausted. We got back about 1:30 Sunday morning, ready to sleep in!

We did sleep in and spent the morning visiting, then I made asparagus sandwiches and mojitos for brunch. We spent the afternoon visiting, getting loaded up on fabulous books and playing Pictionary with great roars of laughter, especially when I was trying to convey "hot dog" and couldn't draw one to save my life. I drew a hot dog cart, hot dog links, ketchup and mustard bottles (very badly), a baseball player and a hot dog on a bun. Looking back, I should have drawn a dog, then panting or a fan blowing on it or something. A dachshund on a bun? I am certainly not the artist my cousins Leah and Aaron are. The time finally came to ride and hike out. I always hate leaving. We drove home, stopping by Shoney's for dinner and hot fudge cake, then got home late and fed the outdoor cat. J got home last night to find another cat outside. She brought it food, but it ignored the food and walked a few steps, meowing at her. She followed as it led her to the outdoor cat, JJ, whose paw was mangled as though it had been chewed. She left him food & water nearby & planned to take him to the vet this morning, but he was better and wouldn't let her catch him. I hope he'll be okay. There was a fox in the yard tonight, so J thinks JJ may have tangled with the fox last night. I am so glad our cats are strictly indoor cats!