Monday, July 25 2022

the busiest sunday ever

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Monday. After such a long, winding, action-packed weekend, it's good be back at the computer where I have a chance to process everything that happened. Writing is a form of therapy for me. So is coffee. How does your coffee taste these days?

Sip. A lot went down this weekend. Rodney, accustomed to getting his energy out at the pool every morning with swimming lessons, woke up on Friday feeling despondent. There would be no swimming lessons on Friday. So Marissa mercifully packed the boys in the car and took them to the pool anyway. On a quiet Friday morning at the Elk Grove Pavillion, Rodney rode the same water slide twenty times by himself.


Some big news - we finally figured out how to open the blinds in our living room. Sealed between panes of glass, we just assumed that they were forever stuck in the rolled down position. But Marissa got curious and began to pry at one of the mechanisms controlling the blinds. To her surprise, she discovered it was just a powerful magnet that controlled the gear. She squealed with excitement as fresh sunlight poured into the living room.


On Saturday, we worked outside. Marissa found an enthusiastic ant nest in one of the old pieces of wood edging she was taking apart. Since I'm the family's "bug guy", I automatically assume all the dirty jobs that involve swarms of insects. But I didn't mind at all - the wood was soft and warm from the thunderstorm the night before, and it was fascinating watching crickets, centipedes, and isopods dart out from the cracks. Meanwhile, the dogs went for a swim in the pit, which had filled with murky rainwater overnight. My neighbor John, working on some of his own landscaping, leaned over our fence and quipped "Eh, so you have a pool again." Good one, John.

That night, we went out to eat at Fat Rosies. The waiter brought out sombrero's for Miles and Rodney. Like a professional child actor, Miles readily posed with the big, silly hat.


Rodney was a different story. Ever since we made him dress up like a chicken on Halloween, he gets a little feisty if anyone imposes silly outfits on him. As soon as the waiter turned his back, he angrily shook the hat off his head, elbowing a full glass of water onto the table. Spilling water - Miles' and Rodney's signature move. Sometimes Marissa and I feel like it's impossible for us to get through a meal at a restaurant without one of these two idiots figuring out how to spill and entire glass of water onto the table. But even with my sleeves and pants soaked with cold water, it's hard not to have a good time at Fat Rosies.


Rodney finally got to see their legendary bathroom prank. Just outside the women's bathroom, they have a fake mannequin standing in front of a fake urinal. A tiny hidden speaker makes him grunt, fart, and even scold unsuspecting patrons for walking into the wrong restroom.


"Can we have a low-key day tomorrow," said Marissa.

"Yep," I nodded in agreement. "All we're doing is trying out a new church."

"Oh, and I have to drop off a painting downtown," she added.

Once I knew we were parking downtown, my mental wheels began to turn. Out of curiosity, I punched the address into Google maps. I found it was right across the street from an L train stop.

"You know..." I began. "We could take the boys out to lunch at Ed Debevic's. I mean, we'll already have the car parked."

Here's the perfect way to describe how our Sunday actually unfolded. You know how sometimes you have days that just get away from you, and the day ends before you can get anything done? Well our Sunday was the opposite. We set out to do the bare minimum, but we unintentionally turned it into one of the most action-packed Sundays in our family's history.

The action started with a last minute change of plans for church. We planned to visit a low-key Presbyterian church in the morning, but practically at the breakfast table I convinced our family to try a non-denominational church. The night before I scanned through some of the church's sermons on YouTube, and if I'm being completely honest I just liked the music and the pastor's thick West African accent.

We parked. We took a final glug of coffee. We led the boys inside. The first words we heard were WELCOME TO CHURCH followed by a jovial laugh. The pastor I watched on YouTube was from Nigeria, and so was the rest of the church. We found a seat in the back in the midst of an energetic, gyrating congregation belting out the words I'm gonna dance like a winner, man. A quick scan over the room confirmed we were the only white people in the building, and the rest of the congregation took notice too.

Sometimes this happens while church hopping. You do your best to make an informed choice using google and youtube, but even a whole Saturday night spent googling a church still won't keep you from accidentally taking your family to a Nigerian church. I smirked to Marissa, telling her without words, OK this was a little unexpected, but let's just get through it.

"Is there anyone here worshipping for the first time with us today?" asked the pastor over vamping synth music. "Anyone here for the first time? Just raise your hand now."

As ridiculous as it sounds, I thought about keeping my hand down. I felt like it was well-within my right to fly under the radar during our first visit. But then I remembered we were the only white family in the building. I proudly shot my hand straight up in the air. The congregation erupted in applause. Marissa and I were met with laughter and hugs from all directions. From that moment, our visit wasn't just a mistake and a funny story. We felt embraced. We connected with the message. The congregation was passionate. In that room, the Holy Spirit felt as close to me as the hot fog building up on the my glasses. After the service, and earnest, heart-felt discussion in the back of the sanctuary with some of the church staff made us really believe that they wanted us to return.

"Am I crazy that I really liked it?" laughed Marissa after the car door snapped shut. "I mean, Miles was a disaster, but we can leave him in the nursery next time."

Already feeling out of our element, a hectic day downtown felt like a natural pairing with our African church visit. Marissa held the boys' hands like vice grips while she anxiously waited for the train. I saw Rodney's jaw drop as it rushed into the station.

Rodney asked Marissa how she felt about the train. She taught him what the word claustrophobic meant.

"How does the train make you feel?" I asked.

"Proud," said Rodney. "Because I don't have to walk through Chicago. I can just ride the train."

The red line saved us from walking, but Miles and Rodney still excitedly squirmed in their seat. I blushed in embarrassment trying to contain the boys to their seats.


We finally made it to Ed Debevic's. Our kids were a little more oblivious than we had hoped, and they failed to pick up on all our waiter's play snark. It made things a little awkward, because each time he visited our table Marissa and I felt social pressure to show him how amused and appreciative we were with our tired faces. But when they got up and danced on the table, Rodney finally wised up to their gimmick.

"This place is crazy," he said.

Right on cue, before we left Miles spilled an entire glass of water onto the floor.

That's what I got today. The rest will have to wait for another time. Have a great Monday, everyone.