Suzanne Olsen's Humor Blog - I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Category: Religion

Gifts

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Gifts is misleading – a gift is something someone gives you, not because you deserve it (although I do, especially on my birthday because I, like many children born in December, got short-changed back in the day and would only get one box with the feeble, “Here’s your birthday and Christmas present,” mantra that, to a child, did nothing but break my heart. I didn’t know the pecuniary value of the gift, all I knew was that there was only one box to open, and that box didn’t even have balloons and streamers on it, but reeked of Santa’s and pine trees and red and green do-dads, so where’s the birthday present? – the cheapskates), but because of the person’s generosity.

This previous run-on sentence is an homage to William Faulkner, whose book, The Reivers, I’m reading now. I read it in one of my literature classes decades ago but probably only skimmed it enough to write a satisfactory analysis. Woo-wee, Faulkner is hard to follow. He writes like someone rambling along, one thought jumping in on another, going back and forth in time the way we say, “No, wait, that happened first, not after, he got out of the car. Now I remember. He was driving along and then that’s when he said…”

That’s how my brain works, a song drifts in and I sing a couple of lines in my head and then a thought bursts in (kind of like my husband does, banging open the bathroom door when I’m relaxing in the tub, just for a laugh), “Oh shoot, I forgot to put those green beans in the refrigerator. Crap! I’ll have to go back. They’ll go bad. They’re in vinegar, won’t they be okay? I don’t want to turn around. You’re an idiot. You’re almost to the mall. Just do your exchanges real quick and go back. I hate this. I wanted to go to Fred Meyers. I wonder if it would hurt to leave them another hour? With all that vinegar? They’ll be fine.” And then I sing out loud, really belt out the last stanza of the soulful song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, putting all my heart into it. “Oh shoot. You just missed your turn. What an idiot.”

The book is delightful, but I don’t know if modern readers could get past the couple of chapters to get hooked, even if they knew it won the Pulitzer Prize and got made into a movie starring Steve McQueen.

The gifts I’m talking about are the ones I get from God. Some people would call them miracles, but I know miracles. These are on a much smaller scale – like stocking stuffers or party favors, but no less appreciated.

The gifts I get most often have to do with me running late for everything. I can’t leave the house at the scheduled minute and hour because I think I have time to put the water glass in the dishwasher, and hang up the dish towel, put the magazine on the pile around the corner. I’ve got time – I know, to the nanosecond, how long it takes me to get somewhere – IF I don’t get stopped by too many red lights. When I make it through a few in a row I smile and say to myself, “It’s a gift.”

I get premonitions – not like someone who sees the future, but I get a feeling that I should do something. Like pick up around the house when I’m not expecting someone to come over. The place is usually technically clean, but I leave things lying around, drawers open, coats hung on the backs of chairs, an open umbrella drying in the great room, dirty clothes in the basket in the middle of the floor headed for the laundry room or folded on their way back to the bedroom, pine needles and leaves on the carpet, cups and plates in the kitchen, recipe book, colander, measuring spoons, pepper grinder and fresh dilly green beans in jars that should have been put in the refrigerator. Saturdays I do toilets, vacuum, sweep, dust. The place is nice for the weekend. Weekdays it’s a hoarders paradise.

Sometimes I take a notion to pick up around the house even when I’m not expecting anyone, who knows why, I just do it. And then there’s a knock at the door and it’s someone like my mother-in-law. “Come in, so glad you dropped by.” As I lead them into the tidy kitchen, “can I get you a cup of tea?” I smile and think, “It’s a gift.”

I’ll make plans to do something when I’m too busy or it’s not my favorite activity, and then it gets cancelled. “It’s fine,” I say, “it gives me a chance to get this mess picked up. You should see my house.” I hang up, smile, and think, “Another gift.”

No, it’s not coincidence, because these aren’t things I’m praying for, they’re little surprises that come from subconscious hope. I don’t want to pester God with trivial things like red lights (although I do sometimes when I’m desperate). I know where my gifts come from, and I know who to thank.

Even picking up that dog-eared, water-stained, frayed, crackling paperback from Survey of American Literature 403 was a gift. Thanks Mr. Faulkner, for giving me some smiles and forcing my brain to focus pretty darned hard to figure out what the heck you’re talking about. You really did understand the human heart. Maybe someday I will too. “It’s a gift.”

And yes, I’m smiling.

Random silliness and a prayer

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Before the pandemic, a group of us stayed for lunch and canasta after we played golfed on Wednesdays. A couple of years ago, when I took over sending the emails out to see who would be playing, I tried to entice everyone to come with a little gentle humor. I started with just a poem: Roses are red, Violets are blue, Cards won’t be much fun, Without you. 

Because of my cleverness and poetic genius, we got a decent turnout (canasta is more fun with a larger group), which emboldened me to do more. I started searching the internet for jokes relating to various holidays. Did you know there are several reasons to celebrate every single day of the year? For instance, today, August 23, is National Cuban Sandwich Day, National Cheap Flight Day, and National Sponge Cake Day. There’d be four or five National Days to celebrate, so I’d pick one, then search online for jokes. For instance, here are some jokes for National Sponge Cake Day:

I once knew an arrogant sponge cake. It was very self absorbed.

To make a Real sponge cake…borrow all the ingredients. (Get it. A play on words – you sponge off your neighbors. P.S. You know a joke stinks when you have to elbow your audience and say, “Get it?”)

Here’s a groaner: What did the sponge cake say to the sink? Water you doing? 

Sometimes I just sent random jokes – like I’m going to do for you right now. Hope these give you a nice Sunday chuckle:

A lot of people cry when they cut an onion. I don’t know why they get so emotionally attached. 

What do you call bears with no ears?  B’s

What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?  I don’t know, and I don’t care.

What did one DNA strand say to the other?  Do I look fat in these genes?

A police recruit was asked during the exam, “What would you do if you had to arrest your own mother?” He said, “Call for backup.”

What did the grape say when he was pinched? Nothing, but he gave a little wine.

What do you call a karate move done by a pig?  A pork chop.

Two years ago I asked the girl of my dreams out on a date, and today I asked her to marry me. She said no on both occasions.

What do you call a boomerang that won’t come back?  A stick.

Why did Adele cross the road?  To sing, “Hello from the other side!”

Why can’t you trust an atom?  Because they make up everything.

They just opened a new restaurant called Karma. There’s no menu, they just give you what you deserve.

If you have 13 apples in one hand and 10 oranges in the other, what do you have?   Big hands.

What did the man say when he walked into a bar?  Ouch!

It’s me again. Some of you are probably saying “Ouch” because of these jokes.

One other thing I want to add. I went to online Mass today and our priest asked us to write a couple of sentences about what Jesus means to us. He’s a nice guy, even though he gives us homework each week. Something like, think about ways to help someone else, that kind of thing. He’s never told us to write anything, so I will do that now. What does Jesus mean to me? He’s my friend. Jesus is the one I thank when big and little things go well (like getting across the railroad tracks on my way to golf just before the bar goes down behind me). Thank you, Jesus. I would have missed my Tee-time. He’s also the one I talk to when I’ve hit a rough patch – when things aren’t going well and pile on. Oh, Lord, why does everything bad have to happen at one time? Please help me be strong. To me, Jesus is my best friend. He listens, and he loves me no matter how many stupid things I do, which is a lot. All the time.

Ahh. Homework’s done. Now my prayer for you is that you stay well and happy and that you get a nice belly laugh at least once today. Amen.

My Advocate

My advocate, Laurie, helping me celebrate
My advocate, Laurie, helping me celebrate my first published humor article.

At the end of this morning’s Mass our priest gave us a homework assignment. He told us to think about a person who has been an advocate for us. In his sermon, Deacon Bill defined the Advocate, or the Holy Spirit, as a comforter, counselor, friend and companion. 

Lots of people have been one or more of those to me, but if I have to choose just one, it’s my friend Laurie. I’ve dumped my troubles on her in the most boring and repetitious ways and she’s given me support when she’d probably just as soon slap some duct tape over my mouth.

The best thing is she’ll listen and do it quick. You don’t get much phone time with Laurie, she’s always busy, so you’ve got to launch right into your whining – get right to the point about what a jerk someone has been so she can (a) agree with you and (b) pile more on, even if she’s never met the person, and (c) give her tidbit of either advice, “the person is a jerk, you gotta just walk away,” or sympathy, “the person has always been a jerk, I don’t know how you stand it.”

My Guardian Angels

Stading beside the garden trellis I built
My garden trellis. Thank you Guardian Angel!

I know it’s not cool to talk about religious beliefs, unless it’s about “the universe.” I’m not sure who “the universe” is – sounds like a committee of aliens – but for some reason “the universe” casts its random favor on people. I prefer to call them Guardian Angels. Not only do they help me with the big things like avoiding a car crash or speed trap, but little things that happen all day long.

Bad Wine and Spotted Dick

Funny day today. I went to church and the priest had some wine he was getting ready to bless for communion when he stopped cold and said, “There’s something wrong with the wine.” He turned to the choir director, “Can you give us some music while we get this taken care of?”

The pianist started playing a song and one of the altar guys took the wine and headed to the room behind the altar. The priest stood there looking over the congregation, and I wondered, “What could be wrong with the wine? Maybe it turned to vinegar and he took that little drink and nearly gagged. Or it had a fly doing the backstroke in there. Or green mold floating on top. Or maybe it had a tarantula in it. That last one was far fetched – there aren’t any tarantulas around here, but we had quite a bit of time to kill for me to get creative.

This is the same priest I wrote about last week – I won the raffle for him to come and bless my house.  I have not set that up yet because I still haven’t decided on the correct protocol – do I have him for lunch, or just have him do a slam, bam, thank you ma’am type of blessing and send him on his way. After today’s events I’m glad I’ve been indecisive, because now when he comes I can ask him what happened to the wine.

Another odd thing happened – I got behind the zebra car on the freeway. It’s a white car someone painted stripes on to look like a zebra. Then they glued a zebra tail to the trunk. My daughter and I have seen it parked in our area of the city, and we always say, “Look at that zebra car. Who would paint their car like a zebra?”

So today I went down the ramp and got on the freeway, and this zebra car was exactly in front of me. What are the chances of that? I watched that zebra tail – complete with a realistic black tuft at the end – for several miles, twitching in the wind. I got so excited I texted my daughter, “That zebra car is in front of me on the freeway!” She immediately texted back, “Are you texting while you’re driving?” I didn’t answer her.

This evening my cousin Nancy from Memphis called and started telling me a funny story about an older man she was visiting – the husband of a friend who passed away. Each time she visited him in the nursing home she’d ask him questions about his life. Eventually he’d ask, “Now why are you doing this?” He wondered why she was visiting. She always answered that he’d lived an interesting life and she wanted to record his story. On her recent visit he asked her again and she gave him the same answer. He looked at her for a couple of minutes and finally said, “You know, I’ve had an operation.”

Nancy and I both burst out laughing when she told me this. “He thought you were hitting on him,” I said, “and he wanted to make sure you knew he couldn’t make any little Nancy babies.”

“And then there was the time I was at the grocery store,” Nancy said. She was on a roll. “There was this attractive older woman walking down the aisle and I was behind her for a good ways. By coincidence I stopped at the same place she stopped. I was right beside her, and I reached for a can of Spotted Dick.”

“Spotted WHAT?” I said.

“Spotted Dick. I picked up the can and said to the woman, just to make conversation because she was right beside me, “Have you ever had any of this?

“The woman looked puzzled and said, ‘Why, I don’t believe I have.’ She turned away quickly and scurried down the aisle.”

“She thought you were hitting on her, too! My gosh, Nancy, do you just stalk old folks so you can hit on them – it doesn’t matter if they’re male or female? Can you imagine that poor old woman, you’d been following her down the aisles. She finally stops thinking the stalker will pass, and instead you try to make a pass at her with a can of Spotted Dick?”

We laughed until we couldn’t breathe.

“What the heck is Spotted Dick anyway?” I asked, wiping the tears from my eyes.

“It’s sponge cake in a can,” Nancy said, and we laughed all over again at the absurdity of that.

“Who puts sponge cake in a can? And then names it Spotted Dick? Oh my gosh!”

Anyway, as you can see, this has been a most interesting day. And I was fretting because I didn’t know what to write about….

The Paradox of Paradoxes, Part 2

The action continues from yesterday about paradoxes.

When we come back from commercial, you jump out of the car and say, “Suzanne, is that you?” and I say, “Debbie? Could it be my long lost hairdresser?” and we embrace and make up and set an appointment for next Thursday at 3:15. A paradox because just seconds before you were hell-bent on trying to kill me.

Speaking of hell, on Sunday, with my raffle tickets clutched in my hopeful hand, I was wishing for two things: that I would get my luck back and win a raffle for the first time in a coon’s age, and that I’d win a pie, preferably a tasty pie like peach or blackberry or strawberry rhubarb.

Lo and behold, the first raffle number called was mine! I broke my long dry spell of no raffle prizes! I could just taste that flaky piecrust. Then they announced my prize.

A visit from the priest to bless my house.

Lord have mercy!

(a) My husband is an atheist. Not an agnostic / on the fence kind of believer who’s just not sure. He is absolutely positive there is no God and people like me are simply deceiving ourselves, and basically not right in the head.

(2) I’m a Catholic who likes to go to church on Sunday because I feel good about it, but I arrive a little late and don’t hang around after Mass. I slip in and slip out like a, well, like a Catholic late for church who has doesn’t want to hang around when it’s over. I’ve never even met this new priest and I HIGHLY suspect he doesn’t appreciate it when, ten minutes into his service, he hears the side door creak open and sees me slink in and duck into the first empty pew.

When my raffle number was called, the priest came over and shook my hand. “Call the office and we’ll get this scheduled,” he said.

Get what scheduled? Should I have him over for dinner? Lunch? Dessert? Coffee? Cocktails?

When I told my husband about my prize he said, “I don’t need to be here for that.” No telling what he’d say to this priest. For me, it’s not that the man is a priest, it’s more that he’s a perfect stranger.

However, I believe things don’t happen by coincidence. I won that raffle for a reason. My quandary is more, “What kind of hospitality do I extend to this gentleman coming to bless my house?” But I’m also thinking, “Holy moly, what the heck are we going to talk about?”

The last time I talked to a priest was at a party. I’d just come back from Italy and started blabbering about the Vatican. “It was beautiful but kindof creepy the way they had all those old Popes in coffins all over the place and there was that embalmed Pope in a glass coffin that gave me the heebie jeebies. What’s up with that?”

The priest excused himself immediately and went to talk with an ancient woman who, apparently, offered better opportunity for sparkling conversation than the likes of me.

As you can see, talking to priests is not my forte, hence my shyness about how to handle this visit to my home, though Lord knows this place could use a blessing, and a good cleaning, for that matter. Which is another stumbling block – I’d have to clean. Maybe I could have him come just before Thanksgiving, when I’m going to have to buckle down and get the vacuum out anyway.

The paradox here is that this blessing is not really a blessing, or is it?

Oh well, there are many considerations for me to consider. I will leave with one final paradox, apropos to these most recent events: Be careful what you wish for because it may come true.

Who’s the Judge of Judgmental?

I have written before about how I don’t care for the current fashion trend of showing vast amounts of cleavage. There are some of you who probably think I’m just jealous. You’re right.

Perhaps this is why I get so TIRED of seeing cleavage all the time. And why today at church was a good day, because for some reason I didn’t see any at all. None. Caput. Zip. Nil. Nada.

I can’t tell you how happy this made me. It seems that the people with the most willingness to put their cleavage on display are overweight women, women who’ve had a boob job, and women wearing inhumane bras that squish breasts out the top like squeezed water balloons.

I personally find them more distractive than attractive. It’s rare to see just plain natural cleavage from a normal-sized person.

Thus, it was a dull morning in church since I didn’t have cleavage to scoff at. That was probably a good thing, because the priest lectured us about being judgmental.

The thing that bothers me about this churchy live-and-let-live, forgive-and-forget attitude is that it completely obliterates any kind of gossip. Where does a person draw the line when talking about people’s foibles?

For instance, if I want to poke fun at someone’s cleavage, that’s my opinion and I’m entitled to it, right? But if I talk about it to someone else, and describe it as sagging below the woman’s waist due to – at least – 80 pounds of bosom, is this being judgmental?

And if I happen to mention that this same priest, who has such a rich, full, commanding voice, if I say he couldn’t carry a tune in a wheelbarrow, is that also wrong? Because this guy opens his mouth and it’s like an actor who’s been paid to sing badly, except WAY worse. His voice is high, then low, then flat – all in about ten seconds. I’ve never actually heard a human sing that bad, paid or otherwise.

I wonder why he can’t hear his caterwauling through the microphone? Can’t he hear the poor organist switching up her music to try and harmonize with him? Doesn’t he see the grimaces on the congregation’s faces? Can’t he hear the dogs howling in the distance?

So it sounds like from the sermon today I have to be nice, and rolling my eyes toward my daughter and whispering, “He can’t sing,” isn’t the right thing to do. And yet, if I just report the facts, isn’t that okay? The facts being that it takes all my willpower not plug my ears with my fingers.

Now I’m feeling guilty about writing this, but I have waited too late and it’s bedtime so I can’t possibly start over from scratch. I’m hoping the Good Lord has a sense of humor…and is exceptionally forgiving.

Crying Naked Babies in Church

Today we went to church and there were six babies that needed to be baptized.
We are used to a lot of crying on baptismal Sundays, mostly from parishioners because the service lasts so much longer, but this morning there was one very distraught 7 or 8 month-old baby with a high, raspy cry that had all the kids cupping their hands over their ears.

This baby would not stop crying. Most mothers would have the good sense to get up and take the child out of there, but for some reason his mother just kept trying frantically to make him stop by bouncing him harder or shifting him from one arm to another.

Any mother of a crier can tell you this will not work. A crier wants you to GET UP… NOW!!! A crier wants a boob, and if that’s not handy, a Binkie…and MAKE IT SNAPPY! A crier wants to be entertained – he wants to be facing forward so he can see the world and he wants you to spend every second telling him how exciting it is. “Ooo, ooo, see the pretty statue!  Oooo, ooo, see the little girl in the pink dress, isn’t she pretty? Oooo, ooo, see the drool stain on mommy’s shirt? I wonder where that drool stain came from – did you make that drool stain? I think you did. Yes you did. I’m going to GET you. I’m going to tickle you right behind the knee for making that drool stain, yes I am,” and so forth. These are the tools mothers of criers turn to when their babies are annoying the public. It may require 100% of your attention, but at least everybody won’t be staring at you and wondering why you are pinching that baby or shouldn’t you be rushing him to the emergency room.

The whole congregation was staring at this mother who (1) did not have a Binkie, (2) kept turning the child toward her even when it was twisting around to see something besides the same old one foot square of her shirt, and (3) was not whispering and distracting the child from his crying fit. I wanted to go knock the woman down and yank the baby up and soothe him, but that seemed un-Christian.

Even the priest stopped talking and made a joke. He had just started his sermon and he must have realized no one was paying any attention to him even though he was practically shouting into the microphone trying to be heard. About two minutes into the sermon he tried to make a joke, “Well, I see somebody’s trying to tell me this sermon has gone on long enough.” We all laughed but the woman didn’t get the hint. Then he stopped again a couple of minutes later, and said, “I should have made this sermon short enough to post on Twitter.” Again we laughed, and the mom finally got up, which made the baby happy and the church got quiet enough so that I could notice the ringing in my ears. Between the bellowing baby and the shouting priest, it was worse than being at a rock concert.

I knew the quiet was temporary. My son had colic, and colicky, crying babies need continuous, entertaining distraction if you want to keep them quiet. This woman didn’t know anything about any of that.

Sure enough, the bellowing started again, and didn’t stop when they called the parents up for the baptisms midway through the service. A video guy positioned his camera on a ladder over to the side so that everyone in the packed church could see the babies on the big screen above the altar while they were getting dunked into the baptismal font.

The first parents handed their naked infant to the priest so he could lower the baby into the water in the baptismal font. I’ve never liked this naked baby thing, especially when they could be wearing those little swim diapers. A naked baby is just a loaded water pistol ready to be fired, not to mention that nudity seems incongruous in a church, even if it’s a baby. Call me a prude, this is how I feel.

The cameraman zoomed in on the babies, and from his angle, the babies’ privates were at the forefront of the picture, with their faces receding in the background. Every parent of a baby boy knows that for some reason their privates are way out of proportion to the child’s size. If the baby boy weighs 15 pounds, 10 of that is his privates. From the camera angle, and on the big screen, they looked even bigger.

One baby was a spreader, and if I’d been a doctor I could have done a visual colonoscopy. Baby cheeks might be cute, but a gaping baby poo-poo on the big screen is another story.

I started thinking of the family all gathered around years later, watching this video with the grandparents and little brothers and sisters and maybe even the guy’s girlfriend, who insists she wants to see what he looked like as a baby. Then he’s up there on a 60” HD 3D TV with those giant testicles filling the whole screen, and his girlfriend shouts out, “Oh my gosh, what HAPPENED to you? You were bigger as a baby than you are now!” Everyone will hear her because they’ve got the sound turned down due to the screamer. It will cause a scandal. Grammy and Grampy will know the teenagers are sleeping together, which could be all it takes to give one or both of them a stroke. The poor kid with melons for testicles will be marred for life because he’ll forever have his girlfriend’s voice in his head reminding him what a shrimp he’s become in his manhood department. It may be THE defining moment in his entire life. All because of some silly tradition at our church that says babies need to be baptized in the buff.

Back to the story. After they were baptized, the babies were dressed in their cute little white baptismal gowns and were presented to the church, which takes a lot of praying and blessings and welcoming from the congregation. Through it all, the crier never let up. The dad tried to stop him, the mother tried, the Godparents tried, but handing him around did nothing. Finally his grandmother ran up on the altar and snatched the child from his mother. He shut up immediately. She gave him a hair barrett, which he immediately put in his mouth to gnaw on, and that was all the entertainment he needed. The grandmother never turned him loose, even when they all went back to the pew. After communion I noticed he’d fallen asleep in her arms.

Well, this story has taken a lot of time, but it needed to be told in the hopes that if you’re a mother of a screamer, you’ll take that child outside and stop tormenting us. Better still, learn the tricks of dealing with criers. And always keep a grandmother close by in case of emergency.

Oh, and do your child a favor – destroy those naked baby baptismal videos. Oooo, ooo, I just got a great idea. Hold on to them and use them to blackmail your child. I bet you could get him to clean his room, mow the grass, AND get all A’s if you threaten to show it to his girlfriend. Doggone it – why didn’t I think of that?

An Amusing First Communion

It was First Communion at church, and all the girls were dressed in these darling white dresses (symbols of purity) with little veils. The veils are a carry over from when all Catholic women wore hats or veils. Cradle Catholics of a certain age (ancient) will remember this.

When I was a kid, we weren’t allowed to go into church without something on our heads – and there was no exception. At a minimum, we had to have this little doily-like thing on our head. A doily is a round piece of lacey stuff about 6 inches across that old-timey people used for coasters, or, heaven forbid, decoration You still see these things in nursing homes. I never much cared for them, but that’s just me. Older women wore those long lacy things called matilda’s. Except I just googled it and they are actually called mantillas. All my life I thought they were matilda’s!!

The little bit of doily-like headgear we students wore was called a “chapel veil.” We went to Mass before school every morning except Wednesday, and if you ever showed up without your chapel veil, then your nun, who was as tall as the Eiffel Tower and wore a long black dress and massive headgear so you didn’t know what might be hiding under there, would bobby pin a piece of tissue to your head as she gave you a scowl that told you you had better not let it happen again.

Nuns back then were strict. They weren’t trying to be our friends, they kept us on the straight and narrow – they wanted us to be quiet and sit still while we learned and that’s what we did. We seemed to have a lot of fun, though, especially during the one-hour recess. But I’ve strayed off topic, which was the First Communion service I just witnessed.

The boys had on sports coats, slacks, and ties and the girls wore their white tea-length dresses with white, chunky-heeled shoes and ribbons and curls in their hair. They were paraded in front of the congregation as much as possible, which was delightful because they were really cute. So they came up to do the readings. They stood on a little platform, and put their mouths way too close to the microphone.

Which reminds me. I have to say one thing about the priest. After opening prayers, the priest, who was a substitute, asked us to spend a couple of minutes of silence to reflect on the topic of the day. We obliged by bowing our heads and the church got very quiet. At this precise moment, loud scritch, scritch, scritching came over the loud speaker. I finally lifted my eyes just enough to see what was going on. The priest had a determined look on his face as he fiddled with the microphone clipped to his collar. His fingers moving over its speaker was causing the noise, and surely he heard it too, especially when it got louder. Other heads lifted. By the time the “moments of silence” were over, he’d gotten it just the way he wanted. The only thing I had spent time reflecting on was what an id…. well, never mind.

So the first child, a girl, started reading and did an impressive job. She read such words as “Theophilus” as if it were Smith or Jones. A boy was next up, and he sounded like he had a mouth full of Corn Flakes. You couldn’t understand a word he mumbled. The third was also a sharp looking boy and he started off great but after a few words he paused, flinched, and then proceeded. This happened again, then again, and I realized he had the hiccups. The rest of the congregation caught on too, and we all chuckled softly each time he hiccupped. He’d swallow after each hiccup, which became more amusing as it went along. We were waiting for it, waiting and wondering if they had gone away, or if we’d imagined it, and then – pause – flinch – swallow. Don’t know why that was so funny, but there’s not much else happening in church so we, the congregation, would have been rolling in the aisles if not for decorum and sympathy for the little trouper and his parents. We kept our mouths shut to mute our laughs, and I saw several people with their hands over their mouths trying to hide their mirth. I almost applauded when he got done it had been such an entertaining show.

A couple of other things happened that I would share except I’ve run too long and there’s nothing above I’m willing to cut. Suffice it to say, the congregation en masse enjoyed this Mass.

Smoke and Ash Wednesday

A lot of people know all about Mardi Gras – the big party that lasts about 300 days in New Orleans. But apparently some don’t know where the celebration came from, so I’ll try to explain.

Mardi Gras (pronounced gra – like bra) is the time before Lent. Lent is not what collects in the screen of your dryer, though there are some similarities which I don’t have time to get into right now.

No, this Lent is a religious observance in which Catholics and Episcopalians and probably some other Christians get together and have a church service and get black ashes smeared on their foreheads to remind them they need to wash their faces, especially behind the ears.

Actually, that’s only one reason, the other has to do with mortality and the fact that we all came from ashes and we will return to ashes. Plus ashes are a sign of repentance – we are visually saying we haven’t been the best we could be, and we’ll try to do better. In the meantime, giving up our candy, alcohol, and/or iPod for the next six weeks will help remind us to stay on track. Ask any Catholic what they gave up for Lent and they know exactly what you’re talking about.

I love almost everything about Lent. This sounds crazy, but I like having a heavenly hand slapping mine when I reach for the chocolates. That doesn’t really happen (usually), but the threat of it is enough to keep me on the straight and narrow, so I always lose weight during Lent. Saying no to something you crave and lust over for six weeks gives you a certain intestinal fortitude. Which makes me wonder, where does an intestine get fortitude? I’d certainly like to explore this, but I must press on, because there’s one thing about Ash Wednesday I’m not so sure about.

It’s the incense. Why do we have incense? I consulted Google who, unfortunately, wasn’t very clear on the subject. Basically we do it because it’s a pleasing aroma to God, it represents repentance, we’ve been doing it for at least the last 1200 years, probably longer, so why stop now, and/or it was the early worshippers’ form of deodorant. According to one site, the practice may have started among the Jews and early Christians because they lived in a very hot climate without showers and Right Guard. Perhaps the early priests saw them dropping like flies (also attracting them), and decided they’d better burn some incense if they wanted parishioners to stick around until the end of the service.

Yesterday at church someone put a big hefty dose of incense in a wooden pot and walked up the center aisle of the church very slowly. Brides go faster. It was quite solemn, except incense is made from aromatic wood which, when lit, puts off that thick, curly smoke that swirled around all the way up to the ceiling. There was so much incense burning that the poor guy holding the vessel was completely encased in smoke – a virtual abominable smokeman. As he walked, the smoke wafted even more into his face, and I expected him to start gagging any second. It’s probably why he walked so slow. By the time he got to the front, the entire church was filled with smoke. It looked like a seedy bar with statues. I leaned over and whispered to my daughter, “This is some crazy goin’s on.” She gave me the evil eye because it was so quiet everyone heard me, and she gets tired of me embarrassing her. As for me, I just knew the fire alarm was going to go off and the sprinklers would drench us all.

All in all it was a good service, and I came to fully appreciate the incense when a man squeezed in beside me. He might have just come in from the desert, if you catch my drift.

Copyright © 2020 by Suzanne Olsen