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

Tag: religious humor


Sticky post

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.

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.

Even Idiots Get Miracles Sometimes

I’m just so crazy busy right now (cue the violin). I went to work and slogged through the pile in my inbox that just keeps growing even as I get things done. I kept thinking, “I’ve got to leave here by 3:45 at the latest to get to the permit office on time.”

Phone calls and crises distracted me until it was 3:20 – on a Friday afternoon with horrendous rush hour traffic. I snatched up my Mac and rushed out the door, cursing myself for waiting so long.

I started praying that the traffic would part like the Red Sea and I could somehow get all the way across town in time.

The good Lord did his best to get people out of my way, but it was still slow going. I developed a headache, and the nasty tongue lashing I was giving myself escalated to what a stupid idiot I was for not leaving earlier and what the hell was I thinking – I know traffic is much worse on Friday afternoons, I don’t know why, maybe everyone’s headed out of town or going out to dinner, but I know good and well it’s always like that and what the eff was I thinking and why can’t I ever get anywhere on freaking time????

A journey that should have taken an hour took exactly 39 minutes – it was 4:59 when I pulled into the permit office parking lot, grabbed my purse, slammed the car door, breathlessly dashed to the counter and said, “I need to pick up a permit.”

The lady behind the counter said, “We close for permits at 4:30 – didn’t they tell you that when they called to say the permit was ready?”

I buried my head in my hands, partly because I had that splitting headache, and partly because I couldn’t believe I had waited so long to leave the office, and I had driven like a maniac, knowing my crew needed that permit on Monday and the permit office was closed Monday and what in the name of everything holy was I going to do? I stayed there with my head buried in my hands running all this through my mind like a drowning person who sees her life flash before her eyes until finally I let out a huge sigh and looked up at the lady. She looked at me like I was the most pitiful human being on the face of the planet. She said, “Let’s just look at this for a second and see.”

She proceeded to click on the computer and look at the paperwork and click some more and look some more and click and look, and then said, “Do you know if you owe any money on this?” I handed her the check, and she printed out the permit.

I’ve learned a lesson about faith, hope, and love. I saw all of them compressed in that little bit of time. I was praying like a condemned person every time I came up on the bumper of a slow moving car; every time I could see a bunch of red taillights on the freeway which meant that the cars in front of me were slowing down or stopping; every time I came to a stop light. Even my GPS said there wasn’t enough time, but I also knew that God has the ability to make things happen when it doesn’t really seem like it’s possible. So I had faith that he would somehow get me there. I also hoped it would happen, and I hoped that I wouldn’t get turned away by some technicality, which is common in permit offices.

But when I got there and learned I was too late, even though I walked in the door with a full 30 seconds to spare, it ended up being love that softened the clerk into giving me that permit when she wasn’t supposed to – to have mercy on my wretched, headachy soul and rationalize to herself, “this poor woman, do I really have the heart to send her home empty-handed and make her come back?”

When I walked out and got in my car I started crying. I don’t know if they were tears of joy or incredible tears of relief but it was just this magnificent release of overwhelming emotion and the feeling of God’s hand resting on my shoulder and realizing he’d done me a humongous favor.

It’s still hard to believe that God and that nice permit lady had compassion for an idiot like me.


Copyright © 2021 by Suzanne Olsen