28 December, 2006

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation Stealing From The Church And Hearing About My Brother's New Religion

I think Christmases get better as I get older. I've always liked Christmas in theory, but in practice there have been some years where the present-buying, travelling and interacting with people haven't put me in a particularly Christ-like mood. This season's Christmas seemed to strike just the right note on all accounts, with a little bit of drama thrown in to keep me from going into sugar-shock.

-->The drive up to Indiana was a bit rainy in patches, but free from the white-knuckle stress of some years' weather. We weren't constantly on the lookout for BlackIce and actually got to have 6 hours of uninterrupted Husband And Wife conversation. It does help that I had secured an anti-anxiety prescription for our two dogs, with which they were liberally treated. Dudes, I cannot stress the value of drugging your children before a long car trip.

-->On Friday Night we all went to my favourite Gringo-ized "Mexican" Restaurant. I have no idea why Nashville doesn't have at least one Carlos O'Kelly's. We've got plenty of excellent and nearly-authentic Mexican eateries, but every now and then the part of me that spent the first 21 years of my life in Indiana gets a hankering for GringoMex, where the salsa is closer to ketchup and the food is covered in ORANGE cheese. My parents actually went with us, setting aside their culinary principles for the sake of familial togetherness. As is the way in Indiana, no fewer than three people knew at least some of us at the table and stopped to talk. Indiana is a genuinely friendly place in a way like no other.

By far the wierdest part of the evening was when my brother revealed to us his latest crush. On Target Stores. I imagine the rest of us felt something akin to what Cat Stevens' people went through upon his conversion to Islam. Instead of hearing the praises of Allah, however, we were introduced to the magnificence of Archer Farms--the Target House Brand. That was different.

-->Saturday was leisurely spent eating cookies, candies, and reading books as we waited for our Fancy Evening Out. 19 years ago my parents instituted a new tradition where we all had an evening of Fine Dining at a Posh Restaurant. The first couple of years we did this at the Studebaker Mansion, but one drive home through a building blizzard was enough to convince us to alter our plans and stay closer to home. Since then we've had our Fancy Evening at The Summit Club in Fort Wayne. It's always really nice because it's a chance to dress up, eat a dinner that none of us has to cook and just enjoy conversation and laughter. We talked about movies, politics, tv shows and the Archer Farms' fine selection of frozen and refrigerated foods.

-->The first big drama of the week was just prior to the Summit Club dinner, when one of us discovered that an expensive present had been either stolen or misplaced. The rest of the visit was peppered with periodic searches for said present. I'm beginning to suspect that my parents have a sticky-fingered pest control service.

-->Christmas Eve was nice, with the exception of my husband being sick. Since he was unwell I went to Church without him by my side. I felt like a kid again--going to church with just my parents and sister. Although it's the same place I grew up in, they've extensively remodled both the facility and the style of worship. It was like one of those dreams where you are in your old high school but they've replaced all the classrooms with shops and cubicles from your old offices. Everything is familiar but different at the same time. The thing that made me feel both very old and very angry was when, on our way into the sanctuary some woman rudely brushed past us with both a coffee cup and glass of water. She was completely oblivious to the "no food or beverages" sign above the door and hustled to grab up her sheet music. I'd been on the platform in that church countless times, many long before this prima donna knew what "sheet music" even was. Never was I even remotely of the opinion that I was above the other congregants for merely have a small part of the worship service in my hands. The fact that to this chick it was more of a Show wherein she was A Star and less about worship really grated on me. That's one of the drawbacks to a non-Nashville church. Here soloists and worship leaders are a dime a dozen. Up in Northern Indiana they're more of a rarity and predisposed to being snots about it.

Anyway, back to Christmas eve service....It was good by and large but it did go a long way to reinforcing my opinon about Contemporary Worship Teams and their Team Leaders. And about how much I dislike repeating one refrain for more than 10 times.

The second drama of the trip was when I took home the poinsettia that my sister dedicated to my parents. The "rule" was that you could take the plant--used to decorate the sanctuary--after the Christmas Eve Evening Service. The hiccup was that there were two of these services, one at 4:30 and one at 6:30. We went to the 4:30 option and there was no way on God's green planet that I was going to drive back to the church at 7:30 to pick up the plant. So I grabbed it on the way out, only to incur the wrath of two choir members who watched me grab it. In a typical female fashion, said choir members had a loud conversation between themselves conveniently designed for me to overhear. This is how we often do things (unless you're a loudmouth like me, who most often says exactly what she thinks). The conversation went something like this:

"People are already taking the poinsettias. We have another service!"
"They took them after morning services, too."
"That is so rude, don't they [meaning me, obviously] know that we need these for the service?"

Well, as I said, my sister was a wee bit timid and the church said "take them after the Christmas eve service." Which is what I did, seeing as how the church neglected to say "second Christmas eve service". God may judge me, but I personally think He was in my corner on this one. I also personally think that at least one of the catty choristers wanted the exact poinsettia I had lain claim to.

-->Christmas day was wonderful and fun and a story in and of itself, but the biggest revelation is how accustomed I have become to being alone with my husband. It's strange to go from spending about 363 days with just yourself and another adult in their mid-thirties and then be thrust into a group of adults ranging from 30 to 90, and a smattering of toddlers and kindergartners thrown in for good measure.

There are more stories to tell, and I have a lot of good memories. I think this Christmas, with a focus on family and the comforts of my hometown is one that will stay with me for quite awhile. And I think those good memories will fuel me in the days ahead as we dive headfirst into that miasma known as January.

Oh, and if Blogging is light around these parts you'll know that it's because I received Civilization IV for Christmas.


At 5:01 PM, December 28, 2006, Blogger Slartibartfast said...

OK, I'll bite. What is unusual about the Target Brand Name thing? Is it an Indiana thing? Or is it your brother's zeal about the whole thing? Is it one of those, "You'd have to know my brother" things? Why am I saying 'thing' so much?

Anyway, i'm glad you drugged the dogs - I don't think a car DVD layer would work so much with them.

I know a few Gringo-ized Mexican restaurants in Nashville if you ever need another fix.

Worship leaders a dime a dozen, eh? (Just joshin' ya). If you dislike the songs that repeat the same words over and over, try having to play and sing them. That's why we started writing our own stuff.

You do know that some megaChurches here in Nashville allow and encourage coffee drinking in the sanctuary? Maybe I'm getting old, but that doesn't sit well with me.

Sounds like your Christmas was great. Having a focus on being with family is the best.

At 8:00 PM, December 28, 2006, Blogger Lynnster said...

What a colorful Christmas you had! Enjoyed the read and glad you had a good one. My brother-in-law's family is in Indiana (including Ft. Wayne) - all you wrote pretty much fits with most he's ever related about Indiana.

Welcome home!

At 10:11 PM, December 28, 2006, Anonymous shauna said...

Your description of that "Mexican" restaurant makes me feel a little ill. Do you get to choose between Dos Equis and Guiness?

At 10:42 PM, December 28, 2006, Anonymous tom said...

I admit, I was a bit excited about the Target and its vast collection of high-quality food at affordable prices.

I just really like that I can get a pound of frozen brussels sprouts for less than a dollar and they have the best deal in town on Lean Pockets.

It was good having you up here, even if you did mock my shopping habits.

At 11:14 AM, December 29, 2006, Blogger Kathy T. said...

You've got so much to comment about! First, I agree that Target is a good store... probably because I dislike Wally World so much. I laughed at your poinsettia story. I would've taken it too! Mexican restaurants make me feel queasy. :)

At 12:55 PM, December 29, 2006, Blogger K said...

Amen, amen, amen, and amen on the repetitive music. I'm loving the resurgence of the old, rich hymns. So much of the contemporary "worship" music seems to be so manufactured, with very little thought or depth at all.

At 3:17 PM, December 29, 2006, Anonymous Sis said...

It was so much fun having you here! I love the way you tell stories. It makes it even more fun remembering it through your eyes! Sorry about the poinsettia! I really was going to get it, I just didn't want to be the first one to take one. I think you're right about choir chick wanting it for herself. We miss you guys already! Thank goodness your blog lets us be part of your life from far away!

At 9:32 AM, January 02, 2007, Blogger Amy said...

what drugs do you give your dogs? we were thrilled to have our first puke-free trip with Hank. we're attributing it to the drug combination of prescription tranquilizer PLUS Dramamine (okayed by the vet). the tranquilizer by itself doesn't work...more drugs is better :)

sounds like you had a great Christmas. if only we could have had some snow up there...


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