Wednesday, January 28, 2009

K is for Kid Inside

Friday, I had a most unsettling e-mail from a pastor where I guest preached last month. Members of her congregation had been very upset by my (fairly innocuous) sermon. Turns out I was simply bearing the brunt of a lot of angst at the church, but the whole thing just made me question whether I really want to be a pastor at all. As Brendan says, "You never see the landmines until you step on them" and I wasn't sure I was up for all that. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, as well as some wearing of sackcloth & ashes, I really felt drained. I was seriously considering a career in life coaching or motivational speaking by the time J arrived home. She had stopped to get me a bouquet of roses and a big bottle of Framboise, along with a sweet card. I am so very blessed to have her. She offered to make me anything for dinner or take me anywhere I wanted. I opted for Indian food, one of my comfort food defaults, and we headed over to India Garden in Lakewood for some chicken tikka masala and some awesomely good gulab jamun.

In the morning, the idea of rising early after the rough night and a week of early mornings just did not appeal. So, when the alarm went off to summon us to arise for a fun day of art with my Art Gang buddies, I simply shut it off and snugged in deeper. I was disappointed to miss the camaraderie & the instruction in felting, but I just hate getting up early & making an hour-long drive for it. If it ran from 2 to 6 instead of 10 to 2, I would probably make it much more often than I do. If it was nearby, even more likelihood of that. I am such a wuss about mornings. Once we'd gotten ourselves up & fed & ready to go, we commenced our K date. Our first stop was the library, where I instructed J that we would each pick out two kids' movies because our K date was having a day just for the kids inside us. Movies successfully checked out, we moved on to stop #2, Big Fun on Coventry in Cleveland Heights. It's like a big toy store for grown folks. I don't think I'm sarcastic and jaded enough to enjoy it as fully as some other folks might, but it was fun and I would go back. J got some good bumper stickers, but overall I think it was more fun to look than to buy. I had more fun looking at Mac's Backs-Books on Coventry (which carries both Parabola and Found Magazine), City Buddha (where I picked up a very cool gift for my mom) and Coventry Cats (where we got catnip & toys for our 4). We also nabbed a bite to eat at Tommy's, which has the largest selection of choices for vegetarians & vegans I've ever seen. It was cold inside and our waitress was, too, but the food was good. I had a falafel sandwich and J got a meat pie. Mmm. I want to go back when it's warmer & try one of their malts. They look yum.

I had intended for us to split a grilled peanut butter & banana sandwich for dessert at Melt ( on the way home & we were definitely hungry again after all that shopping. Alas, we had arrived too late in the evening and the crowd had already descended. Melt is a truly fabulous place, but just stopping by at anything like normal dining hours will net you an hour and a half wait, especially on the weekend. I don't know what I was thinking. So, we went on home with our tails between our legs for dinner and cupcakes I'd already made. I made cheeseburger sloppy joes (recipe at, tater tots and canned pears for an appropriately kiddish dinner. Then we watched "Nanny McPhee" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and loved them both. I was especially keen on Spiderwick & now want to read the books.

Sunday morning, I again had trouble motivating myself out of bed, especially since I was feeling a smidge disgruntled with the whole church thing and certainly didn't want to get into dress clothes and venture out into the cold & snow. Some pastor I'm going to make. But, I figure I have very few Sundays I can opt to sleep in and skip church left to me before I embark on my pastoring career. So, we did get up, but I made lemon poppyseed scones instead of getting dressed for church and we settled in on the couch with the rest of our kid movies for the day. We watched "The Aristocats" and "Bridge to Terebithia" (which made us both cry and which J was not happy with me for choosing, even though we both really liked it). Then, we went to the grocery. I let J go in, since I had chosen to spend the entire day in sweatpants and I do not go out in public in sweatpants, and read in the car while she shopped. When we got home, she made Paula Deen's chicken boudine for our dinner. We went to bed fairly early because she had to go in to work early and I had to drive down to Dayton to help get my grandparents' house emptied of their things in preparation for my cousin's move-in date of February first. I was so happy to unexpectedly get to see my mom!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter Weekend with the Boys

Friday evening, we picked up the boys at their dad's and drove down to Dayton for the weekend. We arrived at my aunt's house about midnight, after stopping for (not very good) dinner at Eat 'N' Park, listening to lots of country music and seeing a very bad wreck in Columbus. The trip down was so pleasant, with no bickering, no complaining, nothing. J sat in the back with Pie much of the ride so that he could show her his new video game. They watched a couple of movies, too. That made it so that Boot and I got to listen to as much country music as we wanted, as well as talking quite a bit. It was nice to have him so calm and laid back. Maybe one of us should ride in the back seat more often! After greeting by the mini Dachshunds and a brief visit with my aunt, we went to bed. In the morning, J and I took care of some business while Pie played his game and Boot helped my aunt with some things around the house. Then went to lunch at Young's Dairy before heading down to J's dad's nursing home for a visit. He was so happy to see us. It was our first visit since J's mom's funeral & it was weird for her not to be in the room. The boys are always so good with him. After our visit, we returned to my aunt's, where Boot promptly fell sound asleep for the night and Pie dived back into his game world. We couldn't wake Boot & figured he needed the sleep, so we left him & Pie while we went to dinner. We noticed a Dollar Tree right by the BW-3 and my aunt said, "Let's go in and each pick one thing, only one thing, and then we can have a contest to see whose is coolest!" We ended up each winning in a different category. I won for "Most Practical" for my pick of a bunch of matches. I can use the little boxes for art & the matches for candles. I also got J a Prince Charming frog towel, the funny little kind that is a tiny round thing and becomes a towel in water. We haven't tried it yet, but my aunt & I were both curious. My aunt won for "Cutest" for her Hello Kitty valentines. J won for "Most Mysterious" because she got me a "girl grab bag" which turned out to contain a watch with different decorations you can put on it, Silly Putty, a pencil and a bunch of Tinkerbell & Spiderman stickers. She also got snacks & drinks for the boys. After our shopping spree, we had dinner & won at trivia at BW-3. We took dinner home to the boys. Pie ate his with great gusto, but Boot continued sleeping and ended up having his for breakfast. Hot wings for breakfast! That kid has an iron stomach! Once we'd gotten the car all loaded, we opened Christmas gifts from my aunt & cousin (and heard an amusing story about her oldest dog opening Christmas presents). After Boot's hot wing breakfast, he wasn't hungry when we all went out for brunch. Pie was exhausted (from staying up too late playing video games) and ended up nodding off at the table. It was hilarious & adorable! He did wake up enough to eat a burger, but then the head bobbing started again. If we'd had a video camera, we could definitely have won $10,000! We hit the road, listening to "Duma Key" much of the way home. We had to turn it off when the roads got slick & I had to really focus on keeping us safe, but it was a great accompaniment to the drive. Pie slept the whole way back to Pennsylvania and Boot alternated between listening to his Ipod and talking to us. After we dropped them off with many thanks for being such good company over the weekend, we made our way slowly home. We were glad to get closer to home & have the roads clear up! I wasn't feeling like cooking, so we ordered Chinese food delivered and watched the tail end of the inauguration festivities, then moved on to "House." I don't know why J insists on watching such gross shows while we're eating! I am considering re-instituting a "dinner only at the table" policy!

Monday, January 12, 2009

J is for Jewelry (and Junk T.V.)

We've got scads of snow on the ground here in Northern Ohio and we took full advantage of the snow to be extraordinarily lazy over the weekend! Friday night, I had to attend a dessert & coffee meeting to plan for our church discussion group's next meeting. We're discussing the separation of church and state, which promises to be interesting & which I am disappointed to miss. However, J and I are already scheduled to take the boys down to see her dad and there's no way we'll be back in time. I was glad not to be driving Friday night, as the roads were pretty snowy. I was not glad to be out & about when I could be home with J, though. The meeting could easily have been handled by e-mail and definitely did not have to last until 10 p.m.! When I have a church of my own, there will be no Friday night meetings! We had a late dinner of pastelon (a traditional Camaguey chicken & corn casserole-like recipe-my version of which got terribly dried out due to being cooked before my meeting and left to wait on us being ready to eat), black beans & rice and tostones with garlic lime aioli. We were up really late, J working on her jigsaw puzzle and me working on a crossword. Not terribly exciting, but cozy and fun.

We were shockingly lazy Saturday. I got up & made scones and coffee, chatting with my mom & Graham all the while, but we ended up lazing about in bed watching trash television for hours. At 3, we finally turned off the Kardashians and went to Max and Erma's for lunch. We took a deck of cards and ordered appetizers to split over a game of rummy. On the way home, we stopped by the pottery place to pick up the things we painted last week and by a local bakery for morning doughnuts. J got so involved in her puzzle that she never got around to dinner, so it was a grab it & growl night. I made myself a bowl of popcorn and a mug of tea and pronounced it good.

Sunday morning, we didn't fight the elements to get to church. We probably should have, since we won't be there next weekend, but we slept in. Then, J made the fajitas she'd planned to make for Saturday dinner. They made a much more pleasing brunch. Yum! After brunch, we got out the beading supplies and each made an eyeglasses holder, the kind people who only have to wear reading glasses get to use. They will be gifts. It was a delight to make them! J had planned to have us make jam for our J date, but finding the supplies hard to obtain at this time of year, she switched to jewelry-making. We spent some time grocery shopping after that. J spent her evening engaged in soup-making for the folks at work while I watched the Golden Globes.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

I is for Inn

A couple of months ago, I was asked by the pastor of a church in Amish country to substitute preach for her while she had a vacation. Since the weekend of the preaching gig (my first paying one! How exciting!) fell between my graduation and our 7 year wedding anniversary, I took the liberty of booking an inn room nearby. The drive is about an hour from our house and I certainly didn't want to drive it that Sunday morning. The deacon who was my liaison with the church recommended the Red Maple Inn so I booked there.

Friday night, we arrived around 6 and took immediate advantage of their hors d'oeuvres hour, drinking hot tea and wine by the fire as we munched on cheese, crackers and grapes. J got comfy in their massage chair, too, while I curled up in a cozy wingback and read the sequel to Chocolat, which is called The Girl with No Shadow and is great. We finally made our way to our room with our luggage. It was a very nice size, with a little balcony looking out over fields and with a very generously-sized tub fitted with Jacuzzi jets. Ahh. We popped out for dinner at Cogan's Village (Idiot) Eatery. It was plastered with all kinds of interesting posters, signs, license plates and such, like a more authentic version of what TGIF is trying to do. They advertised lousy food & bad service (or was it vice versa?) but we found that not to be true. Okay, the French onion soup kind of sucked, but J's New England clam chowder was tasty and our main courses were good. J had liver and onions for the second time in December while I chose one of the daily specials, a big dish of kielbasa, potatoes and peppers all fried up together. We were both drooping from colds and the comfort food was perfect. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing in the room, J oohing and aahing as she sank into a deep hot tub of bubbles.

In the morning, we went down to the dining room for the "delicious" and "amazing" breakfast we'd read so many comments about in the room's guest book. I was, quite frankly, disappointed in the selection and quality. It was not even on a par with the Comfort Inn where we stay when we go to Cross Lanes, WV. Comfort Inn! I don't understand why the breakfast (or the bed) got rave reviews. When I am paying as much as I did for a room with breakfast, I expect the breakfast to be higher quality than a decidedly non-luxury motel chain's continental breakfast. Ah, well, the fireplace, hors d'oeuvres hour and tub made up for it. Besides, we were in for more good food than we realized that day.

After breakfast, we first drove over to the church, to make sure we could find it come Sunday. It was really fun because we kept seeing Amish folks in buggies & wagons or walking along the road with covered dishes in wagons they pulled behind them. Neither of us had ever been in Amish country before, for any period of time and it was exciting to see that kind of community. It was cool to see the clothes flapping on the lines & the enormous and stunning draft horses in fields, too. After we found the (quite old and very picturesque) church, we drove back to Burton and poked around the town square a bit. J got a cafe au lait and I fell in love with prayer bowls at a shop featuring hand-crafted items and art. I picked up a darling Christmas bear in a robe and nightcap for dirt-cheap and we got some locally produced maple syrup and maple sugar candy at the sugar house located in the log cabin in the middle of the square.

When we'd seen the whole square (and I'd fallen in love with a huge birthday cake of a house), we plugged in J's new GPS and let it guide us to Chardon, where we had reservations for afternoon tea at 2. There didn't seem to be much in the way of shops in the main square area, although we did find a cool antique shop where J picked up a 1950 lesbian-themed pulp and I got several black and white photos to add to our collection, as well as a delightful brown velvet hat from Marshall Fields, complete with gorgeous hat pins. Again, for a song. We also located a drug store & picked up some cold meds. We seem to have bad luck with December getaway weekends-the year we went to Oglebay for our anniversary, J had a raging head cold, too. This one was milder, luckily.

When we arrived for tea at Rosepointe Cottage, we had to wait for our table. The entire front room was dripping with bridal shower guests. It was fun to watch them having fun with one another. We waited in the cute little upstairs shop (the tea room is in an old house) and I got to leaf through some books about Emma Lea and her adventures with tea. Then, it was time for tea. There was only one other table in the back room, filled with a family of women. We guessed two sisters and the 40-something daughters of one of the sisters. One of the daughters was wearing a wonderful hat and reminded me of my dear friend Suzanne, who has delicious adventures and lives in a house worthy of feature in Martha Stewart Living. I wanted to go up to her and say, "Will you be my friend?" Another sister reminded me a good deal of Ina Garten. They were fun to observe.

We were too busy enjoying our tea and hatching plots to have a monthly girl gathering to observe too closely, though. J got some kind of tangerine tea while I chose Earl Grey, my perennial favorite. We each got a cup of the amazing corn & pumpkin chowder, perfect for two sick girls like us. Then, the tea commenced with plates of scrumptious tea sandwiches. There was cucumber and ham salad and cream cheese on date bread and chicken salad in a mini croissant. I think there was another-should have taken notes! Next came a scone for each of us, served with plenty of clotted cream and jam. Finally, a plate of "tea fancies" that was not terribly appealing due to the facts that A. we were already quite full and B. they were still a smidge frozen. Tsk, tsk, tsk. No matter because the rest of the food and the whole atmosphere were so refreshingly delicious. J decided that she likes taking tea so much that she wants us to do it once a month. I have no objection whatsoever! Lady food, pretty dishes and a room overflowing with estrogen? I'm there! I've already done some research about others in our area. I definitely want to take her to Miss Molly's in Medina, where our art group had such a fun Christmas tea. I wish J had been able to attend the tea, but we can at least go back.

After tea, we went driving out to Middlefield to check out the cheese factory. We picked up some dill butter cheese, some sharp cheddar spread and some colby-jack there (as well as some more maple candy for my sweet tooth). Then, we checked out this very odd gift shop with a ton of beads, Indian stuff and hokey gift items. Really cheesy stuff mixed in with really neat stuff. I found some glass earrings for my ma, a non-fakey dreamcatcher to replace my beloved one that got smashed in the closet door (don't ask) and one for my cousin, Leah, who I'd already gotten a tiara for, but who had expressed a desire for a dream catcher, too. We drove back to the inn as dusk came on, marveling at the buggies and spirited horses that we passed. We even saw a teenage girl in a cloak just turning up her long lane.

Back at the inn, we again enjoyed wine & cheese by the fire, chatting with the couple we'd met the night before and both using the massage chair. Then, we headed out for our anniversary dinner at the Welshfield Inn, which we chose due to their unpretentious menu and history. It used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. How cool is that? It was utterly lovely outside and in, with a gracious porch and big trees in front and low dark-wood ceilings inside. Somehow, we managed to score a table right by the fire, which was so cozy and perfect. Our waitress was so on the ball, but not at all overbearing. We started with their amazing rolls, one variety savory with seeds and salt sprinkled on top, the other a handmade cinnamon roll that was tops. J ordered pan-seared scallops with asparagus and peppers in a lovely cream sauce made with chardonnay, lemon and lobster. I had a salad of mesclun with Granny Smith matchsticks, grapes, blueberries, toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola tossed with a hint of raspberry vinaigrette. Both were immensely pleasurable to eat. We both chose specials for our main courses. J had a splendid halibut dish, again with a light cream sauce, with all kinds of sprightly veggies and a side of wild rice pilaf. Mine was a plate of gorgeously braised short ribs with a red wine reduction, plated with well-made mashed potatoes and perfectly-cooked, vividly green beans. It was a shame that we had no room for dessert because I have no doubt it would have been as stellar as the dinner.

After dinner, it was my turn in the tub. It was so lush and relaxing. I miss the one in the apartment we first shared, where we would take our Monday bubble bath with the YSO blues show after the kids went to bed. I miss the skylight, too. We would make love and hear the rain hitting the skylight. Sigh. I hope we can have those things, and a fireplace, again sometime. But in a bigger place. With room for a library & a studio. With a front porch and back deck like the ones we enjoy here. With a gourmet kitchen. Dreaming never hurts!

I awoke Sunday morning feeling entirely too wretched for words, all snotty and coughing like a tubercular ward full of patients, as well as with a churning stomach. I don't know if the stomach was nerves, but it did feel much better after the service, so I assume it was. Damned inconvenient! The service itself went great. I got incredibly nervous once I started sussing out the congregation, but I left the gay stuff in the sermon and they seemed to like it all just fine. I had a number of people come up to me with specific compliments, instead of just "Good sermon" and a handshake. Actually, there was no hand shaking because I didn't want to pass on whatever vile bug I'd picked up. I hope they didn't find that too weird for words. I also got a swarm of older women gathered around me telling me the most wonderful stories about the history of the church, the area, the women's suffrage advocates there in the was great fun for an extroverted history buff like me. I'd've gone to lunch with them in a heartbeat just to hear more stories. It's a very small congregation (I heard they worshipped 45 Christmas Eve) and many are descended from the founding families, so it was just fascinating.

I also heard from the man who served as liturgist (who, incidentally, joined the church in 1935!) that they'd been on the verge of a vote to leave the denomination over the marriage equality resolution. In that very meeting, a man who was descended from the founding families stood up & said that he hoped that he could someday marry his partner in that church. And that, my friends, ended talk of leaving. Like magic! He also told me about the funeral of one of the church saints, an African-American man who was very well-respected by everyone. At his funeral, his son's partner stood up and spoke with great beauty and great love about "the man who would have been his father-in-law." That, too, helped the congregation see more clearly how Jesus would have them act toward gay people. Finally, he told me about another church in the area that did leave over the issue. The pastor made anti-gay stuff "his holy grail" and ended up losing several valuable members to the church where I preached. I'd no idea of any of this backstory when I chose to preach with an inclusion of LGBT issues and honesty about my own life. I'm glad it worked out. I am more convinced than ever that it is crucial for anyone in the LGBT community who can afford to come out (meaning, won't lose job, home, kids or anything crucial like that) to do so. I think it's one of the key factors in increasing acceptance.

After church, we decided to meander our way home on backroads, through Little Italy and other enticing as-yet-unexplored parts of the city. Had we both felt better, I imagine we'd've stopped somewhere like Guarino's for lunch. As it was, we dragged ourselves into The Pub for goat cheese dip and a split roast beef sandwich. Then, we took our sick butts home to bed, with tea, by 4 p.m.