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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Humility: A Christmas Story

This story is how I remember it.  I may have some parts incorrect; and hopefully my parents will forgive me.

When I was 11, my father and his girlfriend married.  At the time, as an American Baptist minister, the church wasn’t too thrilled with having a divorced leader, single father, now married to his much younger second wife.  He resigned and began looking for work at another Baptist church.  Apparently, in 1980, the American Baptists, as liberal as they were, were not THAT liberal.  He couldn’t find a job as a minister, and to support our family, he took a job at Woolco Department Store.  In the Automotive Department.  Those of you who know my Dad are cracking up at that last statement.  Those of you who don’t, well, my Dad knows nothing about cars.  I grew up in a family that took their cars to the dealership to get them checked.  This horrifies my husband who can pretty much fix anything in a car, most recently taking the entire back seat out of our Jeep to fix the emergency brake.

We went from living in a 30+ room Baptist parsonage into a 2-bedroom apartment downtown.  This barely phased me.  Yes, I had to carry my bike upstairs every day and walk to school a different way, but my parents did their best to maintain my active 12-year-old life in children’s theatre and other activities.  I did have to temporarily give away my two cats and was given a guinea pig I named Theodore G. Pig to fulfill my pet needs.  I got one of the cats back when we moved away after Dad became a Methodist, but that’s another story.

Dad loses his job at Woolco.  Was it because he knew nothing about cars?  No.  It was because he talked to the customers too much.  He’s a minister.  That’s what he does.  Talks to people about their lives, their desires, and their prayers.  He couldn’t help who he was, right?  I think of this sacrifice that he made for our family, to keep us from poverty.  What a stretch that was for him.

And I think today of the people I know of who would never get a job at Wal-Mart after losing a professional position.  I think of young people I know who would never work as a server because it is beneath them.

The happy ending is that my Dad got a part-time gig as a preacher in a Methodist church about 40 miles north of where we lived.  They loved him and encouraged him to convert.  This was also a stretch. He was a born and bred Baptist.  He grew up in a Baptist church in Worcester, MA, went to a Baptist youth camp in Maine, and graduated from a Baptist seminary in Rochester, NY.  But he was ahead of the times and better than the Baptists.  He decided to go for it and took classes at a local seminary to learn about Methodism.

He worked as a Methodist minister, after that, for the rest of his career holding two churches at a time in two different locations in Maine.  His last gig was, thankfully, one church, for ten years, in Massachusetts.  People loved him.  After retirement he became a part-time organist to help add to his pensions.

I call this a Christmas story because it came up on Christmas Eve in conversation with my husband, after looking at an old picture of myself one of those Christmases in that apartment.  And I think of the lesson it has taught me about stretching ourselves when we need to and stretching ourselves when we have to.  It taught me that no job is ever “beneath” us, no matter how we have been raised.  It exemplifies the spirit of Christmas in the giving of self and selflessness.  My Dad taught me this and was selfless in so many ways.  I am lucky to have him as a father.

It has been 22 years since I shared Christmas day with my father and step-mother.  Merry Christmas Dad.

me and dad

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A Christmas Bitch

In 2010 I wrote a blog post called A Season of Light, A Season of Stress.  It was about all the work that women do to make Christmas the epic event that it is.  Three years later nothing has changed in my life regarding Christmas preparations, and on top of it, I have just planned a 14-day vacation to the west coast and Hawaii for 4 people.

The good news is that 1) I’m not teaching anymore so I don’t have to spend a weekend of my pre-holiday time grading papers and 2) I am still childfree, which I know is a significant stress reducer at this time of year.  All of my friends and relatives with children keep complaining that their kids are nutty this time of year.

The bad news is that on top of the holiday and pre-vacation stress, this peri-menopausal woman has been hormonal, raging, and downright crazy.  I am fortunate that I have a partner who just listens when I freak out on him about how I have done ALL the Christmas shopping, the baking, the wrapping; how I have done ALL the trip preparations for our vacation and how he has done NOTHING, absolutely fucking nothing.  I think I might have literally used those words last weekend.

I am partly to blame, this year, for his helplessness.  I bought him the corvette of his dreams in October and that is all he now thinks about.  He goes into the garage and sits in it, now that he can’t drive it because of the snow and salt. See the video I took for proof:  Blue Corvette.  But, come on!  It’s been two months now!

Multi-tasking is just the way of the world for us women.  While writing this blog I checked my work email, called and ordered oil, and am about to call to find out why I didn’t get some gifts I ordered, even though it says they were delivered . . . it doesn’t stop.

I fell at work on Tuesday, on black ice, on my way to the gym.  I cracked my head into the pavement and woke up yesterday with severe neck spasms and had to go to two different doctors for help.  All in the midst of trying to get ready for this one holiday where we shower people with gifts.  Jeff and I don’t buy presents for each other; it’s just not worth the time or the money.

So what is a gal to do?  How do we stop this endless cycle of shopping, wrapping, baking, prepping from solely falling on our shoulders?  I know there are good men out there who have a much more egalitarian approach to Christmas, but you are few and far between.  I just wish there was another way to celebrate this holiday, to find some meaning in it away from the hustle.

Don’t get me wrong; I love buying gifts for people.  I think I found some really cool stuff this year, but it’s just too much.  And above all, I just hate being the Christmas bitch.

Christmas crazy bitch

Al Forno: A Big Disappointment

I was blessed to have my sister and her husband in town for the entire Thanksgiving weekend.  (They live 6 hours west of me).  My husband and I rarely get to take them out for a nice dinner, so we were really looking forward to giving them the Al Forno experience.  This is one of the best restaurants in Providence.  The kind of place where the service is snotty, so you expect something good in return.  We walked in, the Friday after Thanksgiving, somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00.  I was worried we’d have a long wait because they do not take reservations–and do not even dare to ask if they do. 

We waited at the hostess desk on the first floor.  A woman comes in and says “How may I help you?” like we could be there to buy a new car, gift certificates, anything besides a table for four.  I look at her confused and say “Table for four?”  She immediately gets on a phone and calls to see if there are any tables.  I’m thinking, “shouldn’t the HOSTESS know if they are any tables?”  She says to the person on the phone, “10 minutes? 15?”  She hangs up and says it will be about 15 minutes and we say “great.”  She takes us upstairs to the bar where we  order drinks.  The drinks are fresh and homemade.  The bartender cuts fresh fruit for every drink; no fruit bar tray at this joint.  We’ve barely had a sip and they bring us to our table. 

I’m so excited about bringing my sister and her hubby to this place, I can’t contain myself.  I tell them we must order the homemade fruit tart.  At Al Forno’s you order dessert with your meal as they bake them fresh during your meal.  Brilliant!  We start with a bottle of red wine, once it’s decided that I am the only seafood dish at the table.  Jeff has a long conversation with the server about the wine choices, most of which are in Italian. 

For appetizers we order their famous beets and frites, sauteed beets with fresh thin fries on top and crispy cod cakes with smashed avocado. I hate beets with a passion, but know that the other members of my party love them.  We are pleased with our appetizers. 

For dinner, we ordered the following:

Wood-Grilled George’s Bank Scallops:  sauted mushrooms, creamed parsnips, roasted broccoli

Wood-Grilled Leg of  Lamb with Fresh Rosemary:  roasted harissa spiced butternut squash and broccoli rabe

Grilled and Braised Beef Short Ribs:  Al Forno mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, butternut squash, celery root, parsnips, and Brussels Sprouts

And Jeff ordered the dirty steak.  They throw a steak on the wood fire, literally. 

And because we needed to order dessert when we ordered the meal, I ordered the Pear Walnut tart, Hannah ordered the Warm Chocolate-Filled Crepes with Crème Anglaise (hot fudge sauce, fresh whipped cream), and Dana ordered the Lemon Granita.

And all this looks quite nice, except that it wasn’t quite the way it was advertised.  My scallops were cooked perfectly, but the parsnips were not creamed, they were chopped in tiny cubes and served with OYSTER mushrooms, long, stringy oysters mushrooms which I pulled to the side because the texture did not go with the dish at all.  Dana’s grilled and braised beef short rips appeared to be a top roast or some kind of pot roast.  Not one little rib to be seen.  Hannah’s lamb was a little gamey, according to her, and Jeff seemed happy with  his dirty steak. 

However, here is the kicker.  After our meals were delivered by the runners, we had to flag down the busser, who was primarily serving water and ask her to bring us some pepper.  There was no salt and pepper on the table. She came over with fresh ground pepper and proceeded to grind it in one spot.  The server NEVER came back to check on us or ask us how everything was.  By the time he did come back, we were done our dinner AND our wine.  He looked at me and said, “do you want another glass of wine?”  It took everything in my soul to prevent myself from saying “where the fuck have you been?”  If he had come back when he was supposed to, I can guarantee we would have ordered another bottle for the table.  Jeff was also upset that Hannah’s setting was not cleaned up between the appetizer and dessert. 

The dessert arrived.  Two of them.  The crepes and the lemon cake.  I told him we were missing the pear tart and he looked like a deer in the headlights.  He hadn’t ordered it.  I couldn’t fucking believe it.  Excuse my language, but that’s how I felt.  And to try to make up for it, they apologized profusely and asked us if we wanted some other dessert.  Did we want some freshly baked cookies or they could bake us a another tart, but it would take 20 minutes.  No!  I was excited about the freshly baked tart jerks! 

We had some coffees and went on our way, saddened by what should have been a spot-on experience.  I don’t know if it is my luck or a shift in the culinary city of Providence because we had a similar experience at Capriccio’s last spring.  Poor and shitty service.  And we went back and forth about going to Gracies instead of Al Forno’s that night.  Next time we will take them to Gracie’s. 

 

 

 

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