On the evening of Sunday the 23rd, Melanie and I attended an interfaith service at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Salt Lake City. It was an hour-long service where representatives from several religious denominations—Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, LDS, Muslim, and Baptist—shared their thoughts on gratitude, tolerance, and respect. There were also some musical numbers from an Evangelical choir. Given the limited time, the messages shared were incredibly brief, and yet I found myself uplifted. I left the service feeling very calm and peaceful. Spiritual, you might say. It was refreshing.
On Tuesday afternoon, I had my six-week post-surgery follow-up. Things are going great. The very tippy-tips of my fingers still feel a little bit numb, but it’s mild enough that I don’t really care that much. The doctor said it can take up to several months for absolutely everything to clear up, so he remains (as do I) optimistic that this can completely resolve itself. I expressed concern that the palms of both hands continue to feel quite tender if I put much weight or pressure on them. He said that can also take several months to go away after a surgery. Bottom line: the evidence suggests that everything is proceeding as it should and that I am well on my way to feeling nifty spiffy. Hallelujah. I’m no longer expected to see a doctor about this unless complications arise, which is unlikely. At this point, it’s pretty much behind me. It’s a rather beautiful thing.
Melanie and the boys had a very short week, with schools being in session only on Monday and Tuesday. We celebrated by going to see Big Hero 6 in the late afternoon on Tuesday. I think I’ve said it before, but I really love that several movie theaters in Utah have reserved seating. We really struggle to get places on time, so having specific reserved seats eliminates a lot of stress for me. I don’t handle being late very well. Sure enough, the previews had already started by the time we got inside the theater, but it didn’t matter. We had a row of five excellent seats waiting for us. I thought the movie was more enjoyable than not, but nothing truly wonderful. But that hardly mattered. It was great to be out with the fam.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, this was our first Thanksgiving since 2005 to have a large group of family with which to share in the festivities. We have so much family, in fact, that our Thanksgiving was split into two days. On Thanksgiving proper, we celebrated with Melanie’s side of the family. Melanie made our favorite stuffing recipe, which contains sausage, apples, and walnuts among other things. She also made a couple of pecan pies to accompany her mom’s cheesecakes. It was a delicious feast. As surprising as it may be to hear, my very favorite dish was a spinach salad provided by Kaya (Melanie’s brother Kaleb’s girlfriend). It featured crumbled gorgonzola, craisins, and candied pecans and was topped with some sort of oil/vinaigrette-type dressing. It was one of those dishes where you literally have to react with each and every bite. I mean it. Not just your first bite. Not every few bites. Every. Damn. Bite. I had to roll my eyes or shake my head in disbelief, if not moan aloud every time it hit my tongue. No joke. No exaggeration. It was divine.
On Friday, my side of the family got together at an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant called Chuck-A-Rama. My kids love these kinds of restaurants. They love being in charge of what they get, and being able to go back again and again to get something new after eating two bites of whatever they last filled their plates with. (They’re not quite that bad about it, but you get the idea.) We were at the restaurant early enough in the day that they weren’t yet serving things like ham, turkey, and roast, but I ate several pieces of chicken and lots of mashed potatoes and gravy, among other things. I enjoyed chatting with my family enough that I went to my parents’ place in the early evening to hang out some more. And what did we chat about? The answer is so unsurprising that it’s almost embarrassing to say it. Religion. (What else?) My mom always seems to enjoy our conversations, even though half of the time, she tells me she’s worried I’m going to apostatize. I get a kick out of that. I think the only thing I’m apostatizing from are fairy tales, the foolish traditions of men, and unchecked assumptions. Apostasy of that kind is not such a bad thing. The truths I am coming to embrace in my life now are much more refined and thought out, and I feel like I now embrace certain tenets of my faith because I know from experience that they are good and true. I’m not just taking somebody else’s word for it. That seems to me a very good thing.
My sister Karen (AKA Krush) snapped some photos on her cell phone of our Friday Thanksgiving celebrations. In true solipsistic fashion, I’m going to share only those that feature me, my wife, and/or my children. Here goes:
Back at my parents' pad. Eddie, Peter, and Creegan sit with Krush and their cousin Caius.
Saturday was enjoyable. We took it easy in the morning hours, then headed out in the late afternoon to Donner Park, just east of downtown Salt Lake City. It’s the park at which Melanie and I got engaged nearly a decade ago. We have always planned on taking our kids there, but this was the first time we actually did so. Edison was so sweet about it. He said a few times that it was neat to be at the park “where it all began.” The park has changed since I proposed to Melanie, but the same picnic table on which she sat amidst rose petals and listened to me strum my guitar and sing a proposal song I had written is still there. Our camera battery was dying, but we got a few pics before it went kaput. Here is my bride and our three children, who are more wonderful than I ever could have imagined, sitting on that very same picnic table where I proposed to Melanie in July 2005:
For good measure, here is a photo of me with the boys on the same table. The lighting isn’t terrific, but we make up for it in charm.
And one other photo we managed to get at the park, though not having anything to do with the picnic table:
While at the park, it was rather windy, which in turn made it rather chilly. I was thinking to myself that anyone who goes outside in the winter months in Utah deserves to go to a restaurant and enjoy a good, warm meal afterward. That should just be standard practice, I was thinking. I didn’t admit my salacious thoughts out loud, but it wasn’t long before Melanie sidled up to me and said she had something she wanted to discuss. I knew exactly where that conversation was going. Fortunately, Melanie has a good head on her shoulders and came up with an idea that is actually feasible for us in our rather frugal condition. She recommended Café Rio, where kids can eat free and where we had a punch card entitling us to a free meal. In other words, we could eat there pretty much for free. Brilliant woman, that Melanie. Her suggestion was all the convincing I needed. We drove downtown, had an enjoyable meal, and then moseyed back through town to Melanie’s parents’ (AKA “home,” for a limited time only). We searched for Christmas lights during our return drive. We headed into the Sugar House area, to “Christmas Street,” which had a few good lights but isn’t yet all decked out, what with it being so early in the holiday season. I then drove us past my paternal grandmother’s house, showing my kids where my dad grew up and telling them I myself had spent many days in that house before my grandmother died when I was 8 years old. I even told them about the mentally disabled man who lived with his parents next door, who as an adult carried around a baby doll and liked to pretend to mow the lawn, repeating the words “cut lawn, cut lawn” as he walked back and forth across the grass with whatever he used as his mower. I told them how he once confronted my dad (or was it to my uncle?) and demanded, “Cut lawn, dumb shit!” The kids laughed aplenty. It was good, clean, family fun.
Today, Melanie and I returned to Community of Christ. Originally, I had planned to attend LDS services while Melanie attended Community of Christ. But, as you can imagine, that didn’t appeal much to me when it came right down to it. And so, we all went with Melanie. I’m so glad we did. I really enjoyed it today. There were only six adults in the Sunday School class, including the teacher. We talked about God’s love, and I was inspired. The people that go to Community of Christ are so sincere and loving, it’s hard not to be won over. When it came time for the worship service, it focused on Advent, with this being the first day of the Advent season. Advent isn’t something traditionally celebrated in LDS circles, so it was cool to learn a bit more about it. Melanie and I even volunteered to participate in the program and each read something from the pulpit about Advent. During part of the worship service, they played worshipful Christmas songs and let those who wanted to help decorate the chapel do so. All three of my kids enthusiastically made their way to the Christmas tree in the corner and helped to don it now in gay apparel. It was really lovely. I feel blessed by the time I’ve spent with Community of Christ and look forward to visiting them again. I keep thinking it will be a while before I go back, but something always brings me back sooner than I expect.
That is all, but I will mention as a final note that in something like eight hours, a post I have written will go live on the Exploring Sainthood blog. You should check it out.