This week my benevolent employer has me working the early shift, which sees me rolling out of bed at 4:30 a.m. I used to work early shifts when I worked in television, but I never got used to them. Waking up at that ungodly hour has the effect of aging you at twice the normal rate. As such, I find it very difficult to believe that it is only Tuesday. Today feels more like Hadesday -- my week already feels so long that I have to add new days.
How was your Christmas, by the way? Perhaps you didn't celebrate Christmas, in which case: How was your weekend?/How was the first day of Kwanzaa?
On Friday, my wife and I made the treacherous journey beyond the Mega Mall and south of the Kingdom of Southdale to pastoral Bloomington, Minn., to spend the holiday weekend at my parents' house.
We watched the Vikings lose a winnable game and their division to the Green Bay Packers. Fie on ye, Green Bay! Fie, fie, I say! I braved the 8-degree temperatures to stand out on my parents' deck and grill salmon for dinner, and then we attended the Christmas service at Hennepin United Methodist Church (my parents' church and where my brother was married earlier this year). It was good, except for the fact that Rachel, a Mormon, kept shouting at everyone and calling them blasphemers. No, she didn't do that.
My mother is in the choir at Hennepin United and they are quite good. For all my complaints about my mother, she can apparently sing.
Christmas is about the only time I go to church (occasionally I will also attend an Easter service). If you're going to visit The Lord with that sort of infrequency, a Christmas service is generally the best time to drop in -- especially at my parents' church. The whole service moved along quickly and we were out of there in time to hear the midnight bells of the Basilica down the street.
The service started out with the choir filling the aisles, each member carrying a candle. They moved up to their spot and sang another song with a four-piece string accompaniment, then the whole congregation sang and my wife was utterly confused.
If you, like me, grew up attending a C of E derivate like the Methodist church -- especially a congregation in the city -- the first thing that strikes you about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka, the Mormon church) is that they are all a bunch of amateurs. Their bishops are simply appointed from members of the congregation and are not paid. If there is a choir, it is very small and very rarely any good. Sermons are not delivered by paid and trained clergy but instead by members of the congregation, so it feels like a 10th-grade book report. And the whole thing drags on well past the hour. Arguably, this is a good way to be -- after all, you go to church in hopes of developing a personal relationship with God, and personal relationships are not necessarily tightly structured and effectively time-managed -- but great googly-moogly will it drive you nuts if you are used to more "high church" worship. Conversely, Methodist worship totally confounds my wife. She doesn't understand how we all know when to stand or sit or what song we're singing (in the Mormon church, the hymns are listed on a board up front and are usually mentioned by the bishop). Fortunately, she has a former acolyte as a husband, so I was able to guide her through the service.
There was a bit more singing, a bit of talking, some bread dipped in grape juice (Interesting fact: Welch's grape juice -- note the origin of that name -- was originally developed as a wine alternative for Methodists, who were spearheading the temperance movement), and then the choir filled the aisles again and all of us sang "Silent Night." As we sang, we lit candles that we had been given at the start of the service, each candle being lit off the person next to them, with the original flame coming from the Jesus candle (that's what I call it -- the center candle in the Advent ring) at the altar. The lights of the church were shut off and we were all just standing there singing in the warmth and glow of candlelight. It was very moving -- if you're not a grumpy old Mormon.
After the service, my family went back to my parents' house, my mom made hot chocolate and we each opened one present. My brother and his wife slept in his old room and Rachel and I slept on the floor in front of the fireplace.
Christmas morning went like most others, and after my brother and his wife left to celebrate Christmas with his wife's family my mom made fried chicken for lunch. And it all gets progressively more boring from there. Suffice to say, I had a good time.
Other highlights: I got an e-mail from Jenny wishing me a Merry Christmas, and I got to go out with a friend from high school, Jenny Heidt.
Remember just after 9-11 when the U.S. government sank billions of dollars into the airline industry? That turned out well, didn't it?
Speaking of which, the terrorists have won. Americans are so paranoid that we have been reduced to living out plots for cartoons.
Another victim of snowy roof dancing.