Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Q is for Quiche, Queens and Questions

Friday afternoon, I baked some chocolate orange shortbread and we took it to our church's discussion group. The topic was prayer in schools. I thought that was pretty much a no-brainer, but apparently not. It was a good time, though. Saturday, we went to the farmer's market and ran a few other errands in the morning. Then, I attended a memorial service for a sweet man from our church. It was a lovely memorial service, with a lot of nature references befitting his 30+ years of horticultural experience. Afterward, I slipped out before the lunch to prepare for our first Wild Mango Queens gathering, a getting-to-know-you potluck. We had a little housecleaning and a lot of cooking to do!

It turned out to be an absolutely smashing time! I made a couple of quiches, one asparagus and one ham & scallion. We set out some olives and roasted garlic, hummus, sun-dried tomato feta spread, pita triangles, Boursin cheese, sun-dried tomato focaccia, almonds (cocoa ones & regular roasted ones), a darling little angel food cake, sugared raspberries, mango chunks and a bunch of things to go with the chocolate fondue I made-shortbread cookies, pretzel rods, bananas, apple slices. I made my favorite punch and also had some orange-mango juice, mango nectar and a bottle of Riesling available. The wife of a seminary friend came (they recently moved to the area so he can work for the national body of my denomination), bringing a friend who also works for National and with whom I share friends, and our former Associate Pastor came. I'd issued invites with rather short notice, so we were a small but mighty group. Our AP brought guacamole salsa, spinach & artichoke dip, blue corn chips and chocolate-dipped strawberries. The others brought a nice wedge of brie, which they baked & then topped with berries, raisins & mangoes. Yum! We talked & talked, then had our show & tell, with a nice collection of items-J read some of her poetry, I showed my recipe binders & my monthly dinner plan, two women had their grandmothers' rings and one brought a little ornament that says "Hope." Once it got to be 10, we started winding down and sent everyone home with a goodie bag containing dried mangoes dipped in dark chocolate and dusted with chile powder, a pineapple-mango candle, champagne streamer poppers & colorful beads. It was so much fun and I'm so glad I started it!

Sunday morning, we shared a quiche & coffee breakfast before heading our separate ways. J had some work to finish up at the plant and I was invited to a teacher appreciation breakfast at church, where I had dessert of fruit & monkey bread, as well as some good catching up time with friends there. Then, I attended worship and coffee hour before heading home. When J got home, we went on our Q date, which was Questions. I took her to Buffalo Wild Wings to play trivia and have a bite to eat and a couple of drinks. Then, we came home & spent the evening just relaxing. It was a great weekend!

Monday, May 11, 2009

I Got A Harley!

While J picked up the boys Friday, I was busy making dry rub ribs & dulce de leche cheesecake. Pie arrived with big hugs, which was lovely. Boot was just his usual helpful self. We just hung out around home Friday night. Saturday morning, Boot joined us for our trip to the farmer's market (where I indulged in some morels and a whoopie pie while J got beautiful asparagus and Boot chose a mini loaf of pumpkin bread and some salsa) and grocery. We swung by the library to pick up the copy of "New Moon" J had requested. Then, we headed to the Animal Protective League, where we just planned to look. However, we left with a dog.

When we met Harley, I knew that if we were going to have to have a dog (I am decidedly a cat person. I like other peoples' dogs, you know, the ones I can leave responsibility for to their owners. J has been angling for a dog since we met and I decided to bend my "NO DOGS!" rule when I considered how I would feel if she instituted a similar ruling on cats), Harley would be a good choice. She's 6 years old, half Rottweiler and half Doberman. She is about the sweetest, most mellow dog ever, with a hilarious bark more akin to a duck sound than a dog sound. She is incredibly well-mannered. She lived with one family until a week ago, when they were forced to give her up because they lost their home. The only times we've heard her bark since we got her have been when she needs to go out & once, when Boot went out to the car for something, she stood at the door waiting for him & barked a couple times. She has playfully chased after the cats twice when they've gotten close (and instantly stopped when we told her "No") but mostly just ignores them. Fred has gotten within a foot of her & been ignored. When I took her for her walk yesterday, she thoroughly ignored another dog on the path. We expect that she'll get a little more active once she fully recovers from spaying (which was done Thursday), but we think she'll be mostly just relaxed. She does have a little arthritis, so that will probably cut back on her desire to be wild, as well. Pie said when he first saw her, he was scared she was going to rip his throat out since she looks fierce, but that he loves her now.

So, of course, we spent the bulk of Saturday afternoon & evening just sitting around gazing at Harley and petting her. J & I ventured out to get her some supplies & toys, but we mostly just hung out with Harley. Pie even brought his t.v. and game system up from his video cave to be with her. J made lasagna for dinner and Harley was very polite about staying in the living room (albeit just over the line) while we ate. She has clearly been well-trained. The boys opted to stay downstairs with Harley overnight. We are trying to have her sleep downstairs for a couple of reasons. One is that we are simply not strong enough to carry her upstairs every night should her arthritis get to the point where they become difficult for her to manage on her own. The second is that we want the cats to have a Harley-free zone. They're getting less freaked out and more venturesome, but have mostly sequestered themselves upstairs. Storm was sitting on a chair in the living room when Harley first arrived and arched her back mightily while puffing up to twice her normal size. Harley swung by the chair for a sniff and Storm gave her a swift paw to the snout. Harley's response was to amble on over to the middle of the room & lie down.

I visited a church where I have applied for a part-time Christian Ed director position Sunday morning. The adult ed class was populated with impressively knowledgeable and friendly people. The worship service was great, with inclusive language used for both humans and God and a sermon about the conversion of the eunuch being a reminder that the church is not supposed to be normal and fit in with society. The pastor was on my ordination committee and is the one who suggested I apply for the job. I don't know if he's gay, but he has an HRC bumper sticker on his car and is unmarried & childless. He talked a lot about how oddball it is in our society for someone to choose to be childless. It was a very interesting sermon, especially for Mother's Day. The church just voted in December to be Open & Affirming, the UCC designation for a church that has chosen to actively include a statement of welcome for LGBT people, and they had P-FLAG flyers in the narthex. They also share the building with an African-American congregation in an interesting way. Instead of being totally separate & just happening to share the building, as many building-sharing congregations do, they share a coffee hour between the two services. It's very cool! I had a few great conversations, some with folks I am pretty sure are on the personnel committee and were checking me out. One man has a gay son and the son and his partner are both members of the New York City Ballet. The man told me he & his wife don't want to be members of any church where their son and his partner aren't fully welcomed. I also got into an interesting conversation about the (too seldom mentioned) feminine divine with a couple of women, one of whom handles women's issues for the national body of the church. It was a great, rejuvenating morning. The personnel committee will be meeting this week and looking over my info together, then will call me for a formal interview. Fingers are crossed.

Once we were all home (J and Pie had gone to the Star Trek movie, then J & Boot went out to fetch lunch), we sat down & ate cheeseburgers & fries from Five Guys, which was what J wanted for her Mother's Day lunch. They are great! Harley was again very mannerly. Definitely interested, but maintaining a polite distance. J said her gift from the kids was Harley, but Boot had made us a card, too. I gave J a couple new figures from the Schleich toy collection of elves, wizards, dragons & such that she collects. If you haven't seen them, they are very cool and fully playable-with. They can go in the tub, to the beach, whatever...anywhere Barbies can go. J gave me a really funny card and Pie had chosen a darling sweet one with a mama cat bathing a kitten on it. J had asked him if he wanted to find a step-mom card, but he was happy with just a mom one for me. Boot inserted "2nd" in front of "mom" when he signed, but Pie saw no need even for that. Sweet. He also chose my gift. He was in the Sci Fi section of Borders and J kept trying to steer him to another section. He was insistent & chose a book I've never read by one of my very favorite authors, Terry Pratchett. Yippee! Sparkly jewelry is all well & good, but Terry Pratchett is marvelous! Jeff really likes him, too. My closet reader. J got him a philosophy of Star Trek book and he loves it! I looked and it's full of references to Kant, Derrida, Lyotard. It's not just a joke book at all, but serious, hard-hitting philosophy with Star Trek woven in. And he actually gets a lot of it! Wow! On the way home, Boot fell asleep within 10 minutes, only awakening every now & then to ask them to keep the station on a country song he likes. I guess Pie & J talked philosophy & Sci Fi the whole way back to their dad's (where their father, very uncharacteristically, came out in the driveway & waved at J-weird!). He said he's a "closet geek" and said how uncool it is to like reading, Sci Fi and, for that matter, thinking where they live but that's who he is.

While J returned them, I dropped off a bunch of minestrone for tonight's church dinner, took Harley to the nature park and watched chick flicks. Well, a chick flick and a half. I finished "Rumor Has It" and was watching "Music & Lyrics" when J got home. After a good phone chat with my mom (who seems to have a new cat...he wandered in & their cat really likes him), I made some chicken breasts with Moroccan spices with rice on the side and fried up my morels. I had actually found another, hand-sized morel right in our yard, too! They were scrumptious! I think the only way to eat morels is to soak them in salt water for 24 hours, drain them well, dip them in egg, dredge them in Saltine crumbs and fry them in butter. Heaven on a plate!

Monday, May 04, 2009

P is for Prime Rib (and Plenty of Prayer)

Friday night, we were both pretty wiped out from being out the door by 5 to get to Erie for a 7 a.m. school conference! J had had a busy day at work and I'd been to a very long interview for a management position I'm pretty sure I don't want. When I got to the interview, I was told that the position might be eliminated, after all. Fine by me. No one there seemed particularly happy to be there and there was maybe one item in the whole store that I'd want. It was funny because you could probably pick up the whole store and drop it into Rave in 1985 and it would fit right in. Funny how trends come back around. So, I was happy to have a simple dinner planned. I made spaghetti, which was perfect for the cool, rainy evening. We watched a little t.v. and went to bed fairly early.

Saturday morning, we both had to get out the door early, J headed for an Adoption 101 workshop and me to the UCC Association spring meeting. The host church made a hot breakfast for us and I got to visit with one of their members, the Association treasurer and the publisher for the United Church Press and Pilgrim Press. It was great conversation about holding on to faith in rough times and about working with other denominations and faiths for common goals. At the end of breakfast, I was approached by the head of the Search Committee for a church where I have a resume in for a Christian Ed Director position. She would like me to visit a worship service to get a feel for their program, then schedule an interview after that. Sounds exciting to me! So, I'll be going there next weekend.

After breakfast, we had a fabulously energizing and spirit-filled worship service. The host church is an Afro-centric congregation and we had some wonderful, get-on-your-feet gospel music and an energetic and fantastic sermon by their pastor, who is a black woman who is about my age. It was all about how our lives should be evidence of God and God's goodness and how our love and care for our neighbors provides that evidence. After worship, we had the business meeting and somee time to check out the displays. I did want to see them, but I got into a great conversation with a gay man who works for National and attends a church that will be looking for a pastor soon. Then, a pastor for another church approached me to introduce herself and see if I'd been interested in preaching at her church on Pentecost. She'd heard good things about me from my pastor. She was also a lot of fun to talk to. Interestingly enough, she's Japanese-American but speaks little Japanese, just like me with Spanish! Instead, she speaks fluent Spanish...maybe she can help me bone up on mine.

We all went to various workshops after that. I chose the one on the Emerging Church. I'd hoped for some practical ideas on how to create a postmodern church service when the congregation is still pretty modern, but it was strictly the basics, all of which were covered in my seminary. So, I was a little disappointed in that. Oh, well. I also got to meet, in that workshop, the pastor of the church where I caused such a stir in December by mentioning gay marriage. She was very warm and friendly and gave me an update. She decided, after reading the sermon I preached, to make copies and post them on the bulletin board so the people who'd missed the ruckus could actually see what was said. Apparently, things calmed down. Yay.

I spent lunch talking about my church search and about interfaith issues and universal salvation with a pastor who was on the ordination committee. He and I share a deep respect for other faiths and want to figure out the best way to go about interacting in a respectful and affirming manner with folks from other faiths, and to help our congregations do the same. J and I got home at about the same time and shared stories of our mornings. She was the oldest person at the adoption workshop and was the only one who was gay. She said the social workers were just great. She was able to get a much clearer picture of how this whole adoption thing works. It sounds as though fostering to adopt will be the very best approach. So, we're going to continue looking at that. She'd been to the West Side Market on the way home and picked up some gorgeous fruits & veggies, as well as a prime rib for our P date. Since we were so busy over the weekend, she thought it would be best to have a very simple P date, so she made a prime rib with baked potatoes and asparagus for our dinner. It was fabulous! But, before dinner, we got to have a nap, which was also great!

Sunday morning, we went to the church that's going to be looking for a pastor soon. It's an urban church that does a lot of work with recovery and even turned their parsonage into a 3/4-way house for women. It's very racially diverse, which is wonderfully refreshing, and uses inclusive language for God and for people. Moreover, we were greeted with enormous hugs. We had visited last summer and felt very welcome then, too. The service itself was amazing. It was a jazz service, featuring the band of the guy who's in charge of events for National. He's a really dynamic preacher, with a knack for storytelling and a really laid-back vibe. His "Free Play on the Word" (AKA sermon) featured a reenactment of the story of the itsy bitsy spider, with the message that even when we're getting knocked down the spout by the rain, God is with us. God is also with us when we decide to climb back up again to check out that amazing light at the top. The music was top-notch, too, just so spirit-filled and nourishing. We spent some time at coffee hour, then headed out to the grocery.

After picking up the week's groceries, we headed home. J watched "Alien" while I puttered around online and looked at magazines. I'm not much into those movies, but I am very happy to just sit with my baby while she watches! Dinner was a selection of cheeses (Belletoile, a sharp Canadian cheddar and locally-produced Lake Erie Chevre) with leftover prime rib (cold), baguette, crackers and grapes. Wonderful! We were in bed by 9:30, although I stayed awake reading well past then!