Most people agreed with me when I said that we should all pay more compliments. There are opportunities every day to pay someone a sincere compliment. And we shouldn’t let those opportunities pass by. It’s so easy to make someone’s day.
So speaking of making someone’s day, how about you?
Shouldn’t you be paying yourself some sincere compliments? Why are you so hard on the person you love the most?
Yes, it seemed very silly when Stuart Smalley looked in a mirror and said, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
But you know, Stuart (aka Senator Al Franken) said that for the first time on my 40th birthday. And it struck home.
I like myself. I know that I’m smart enough and good enough.
I don’t especially think that people like me. My circle of friends is pretty small. But I don’t have a lot of enemies either. That counts.
I can be pretty critical of myself. I have a lot of faults. But as I have gotten older, I’ve been able to concentrate on my better nature. It’s not that I shouldn’t try to correct my faults. It’s that I shouldn’t dwell on them either.
And the good part of my shortcomings is that I have plenty of fodder for my blog. Why, right after this post full of self-adoration, I plan one on some of my worst traits. So see? Even my faults are useful.
But back to the best of me. (Which isn’t as much fun for you to read about, but I will feel much better.)
I am now going to praise myself.
1. I’m not just smart enough. I am really smart. And I always knew it. But it didn’t make me too obnoxious (some may argue with this) or even too special in my family. I have one sister who was valedictorian just about every year of her school life and a very successful financial executive for more than thirty years, and another sister who was and still is the most amazing, natural musician I ever met. And my little brother could beat me at chess (or cribbage or hearts or gin rummy or Go Fish, for that matter) by the time he was six. So for a very long time, even though I knew I was smart, I still worried that I wasn’t quite smart enough. But smart doesn’t have to mean “smarter than.” I am just smart.
2. I’m funny. I can make people laugh. I didn’t always know this, because I was a worrier and a whiner as a kid. But somewhere along the line, I stopped worrying. And suddenly I saw the funny side of everything. There is so much to laugh about every day. And I love to make someone laugh.
3. I’m good at my job. I can develop an achievable budget, prepare accurate financial statements, and forecast cash flow. And I’m pleased by the cash flow this career has provided for me. Sure, I’d rather write stories and draw little pictures. But I like my day job.
4. I’m pretty. You have no idea how hard this is for me to write. The way I look has been a disappointment to me my whole life. I have a round face, with my features all grouped very close together around a good-sized nose. I have thin lips (by which I mean ‘none’) and fine limp hair. And the most difficult of all for me to reveal: I have scoliosis. I have a crooked back that is more than just poor posture. I am painfully self-conscious. I choose my seat in a restaurant so my bad side can be against the wall. I always carry a big shoulder bag on my bad side as a disguise. I hate it. I never discuss it. But I decided to write about it for a reason. For a very long time, I thought I was so unattractive that no one would ever love me. But guess what? I look nice. Over the years, I’ve learned to take good care of myself, pick my wardrobe with care, and make the most of what I have. And for some amazing reason, at age sixty, it all came together. I’ve become pretty. Maybe this is only in my own mind. But what better place?
I don’t pay myself enough compliments. But I should.
And you should too. It’s time for you to do some self-complimenting.
You have such special qualities. Look how pretty your eyes are. Look how you can make your kid laugh. How great your spaghetti sauce is. How fast you type. How you pick nice birthday cards.
Look how your dog loves you…would he love a terrible person? Well, yeah, dogs often do, but this time your dog is right.
One of the rules I try to live by is to pay lots of compliments.
I don’t mean smarmy false flattery.
I mean the real thing.
I believe there is at least one occasion EVERY DAY to pay someone a sincere compliment.
Just look around you. You are surrounded by people looking nice, doing great work, trying their best. Tell them so.
It makes them – and you – feel really good.
To help you get started with daily compliments, here are a few suggestions:
1. When you are in a restaurant, and the kids at the next table are being well-behaved, go up to the table and tell the parents so. Lots of kids are great in restaurants. But parents only seem to hear about the times their kids aren’t so great.
2. At work, when someone says something really smart in a meeting, say, “What a good idea” for everyone to hear. And then after the meeting is over, send that person an email saying, “You were awesome today.”
3. If a salesperson gives you advice, don’t just respond with a cursory thank you. Be personal. Say, “You are really helpful and I appreciate it.”
4. Teenagers may often act like assholes, but underneath they are insecure. (Remember… you were there, and you were a mess.) Find something truly nice to comment on. Say, “What beautiful eyelashes you have” to the girl who packs your groceries. Even if she puts the bread on the bottom.
5. Do the same for older people. Older women often pride themselves on the good taste they have acquired over a lifetime. When you are standing next to an older lady, you can usually find something that expresses the care she takes to look nice. A good purse, a pretty scarf, earrings, perfume. Notice what it is, and tell her.
6. Do you have subordinates? Don’t just tell them what to do. Tell them, “I need your help.” Say, “I’m glad you’re here.” And when they do something right, don’t say “Good.” Say “Great.” Say “Perfect!” if it is.
7. And almost everybody has a boss. When she shows you something new or explains something, tell her she’s a good teacher, if she is. Say, “Thanks. I get it now. You really made it clear.”
8. It’s easy to take your spouse for granted. I certainly do. But every now and then, try to remember to appreciate some of the small things he does. Does he make the coffee in the morning? Say, “I love coming into the kitchen and having a cup of coffee waiting for me.” When you’re going out, before he can tell you that you look nice (which of course he SHOULD), tell him first – “You look great!”
9. For all men: (teenagers, young men, old men, and probably toddlers): “Nice car.”
Note: This is an audience-participation post. Please add the compliments that you like to give – or like to hear!
In the Native American culture, a name describes who a person is, and so should change as the person changes.
I love this concept. Especially since I do not love Nancy. And I am certainly not the Nancy I used to be.
So, in the mode of “Dances With Wolves,” I present to you my names through my evolution.
Age 3: Hankers For Hair
Yes, I was a bald baby. And I stayed that way until Kindergarten. You may think a toddler doesn’t care much about hair. Think again.
Age 5: Cries About Everything
This was a long stage. It may still be my middle name.
Age 10: Eats Only Hotdogs
All kids go through a fussy period. Mine drove my distraught mother to the doctor, who gave this sage advice: “So let her eat hotdogs.”
Age 16: Looks About Ten
My perfectly round face and perfectly flat chest did nothing to attract boys. Everybody told me I would be happy later in life that I looked so young. They were right. But it did not comfort me.
Age 20: Majors in Transferring
This is what my parents called me for about seven years. I liked college. I stayed as long as possible.
Age 30: Concentrates on Career
I had several aliases during this period. I was also called:
Works Every Weekend
Suffers Through Meetings
Agrees with Idiots
Doesn’t Have Boyfriend
Age 40: Walks Down Aisle
I got married. I let one of those weird aliens with the hangy-down things into my house. It’s been an adjustment. Just today I wondered whether he had been cooking orange paint in the formerly non-stick pan.
Age 54: Caves on Career
I gave up the every-weekend, no-life, high-stress, screamed-at job. I took a reasonable job. I’m poorer. But I’m alive.
Age 63: Obsesses With Youth
Why, when my whole youth was spent trying to look older, do I now desire to look younger? And if I want so badly to be younger, why do I also want to retire? I just can’t decide whether I want Accutane or Medicare.
I survived a whole month without shopping!
My niece introduced me to Pretend Shopping. She finds great stuff on the internet and sends photos to her friends, saying, “I pretend-bought this for you!”
Here’s what she once picked out for me:
Pretend-Shopping is a great idea, and so I did a lot of it this month. My Pinterest page now has lots of stuff I will never buy. Let’s just consider Pinterest my Pretend-Closet.
I Pretend-Bought tee shirts (mostly striped) and watches (mostly jeweled) and as long as it was only Pretend, I added gray suede over-the-knee boots and a bright yellow clingy dress.
But my favorite Pretend-Purchase was this:
Oh yeah. I want holey jeans for my Pretend-Wardrobe. For the extra-chic, they are called Distressed Jeans. But I can’t call them that. It distresses me to think that jeans would ever be unhappy on my body.
I asked my Facebook friends if 63 was too old for ripped jeans. Everyone said to go for it. But mostly they are not 63.
So I asked my husband. “Do you think ripped jeans are sexy?” He wasn’t sure. So that’s a NO. My husband is always sure of sexy. (He didn’t see them with these leopard heels though.)
Pretend-Shopping saved me shitloads of money.
But I can’t say I didn’t cheat at all.
My husband bought a dartboard on a whim. He built a backboard for it and hung it in the cellar. And it’s really fun. We’ve been playing almost every day. So I spent $6.00 on a whiteboard to hang near the dartboard on its backboard. So we can keep a scoreboard. It’s my contribution towards togetherness, so it doesn’t count.
I also bought a microdermabrasion cleanser. I never knew I needed one, but a few months ago the saleslady at Sephora gave me a sample, and I really liked it. And the little jar was almost empty, so I figured I’d buy the full size one. I looked it up. It was $75.00. So I bought a different one from Walgreens.com that was $13.00. I like the $75 one a lot better, but I consider my purchase as a savings, not an expenditure. So it also doesn’t count.
So neither the whiteboard nor the cleanser counts against my non-shopping month.
So how did I cheat?
We went to New York this week, and with time to spare before the train, we wandered into an art supply store. And there in one crowded aisle was one fabulous little memory.
My favorite teacher, Sister Regina Marie, introduced me to these Cray-Pas oil pastels when I was in sixth grade. It was her way of helping us graduate from crayons to something a little more sophisticated. I loved these oil sticks. And Sister taught us how to blend colors so that this little set was all we needed.
I showed them to my husband, and told him that I had this set in school fifty years ago.
“Buy them,” he said.
And I did.
And that’s how I cheated.
The price: $5.95.
That is the least I have ever spent in one month in all those fifty years since I drew with Cray-Pas. A Personal Best!
And it was a pleasure to use them again. I need a little practice, but I’ll get the hang of it. Here’s a self-portrait I did in my own inimitable style. My style is a truly unique technique – which you may have noticed – that results in every picture of me looking thirty years younger.
You can’t be a better artist than that.
Here’s a repeat – because it’s GOOD FOR YOU (and because I’m taking a break).
HOW TO KICK-START YOUR DIET
I did it!
The “Dreaded Colonoscopy”.
Only it wasn’t so dreaded. It was easy. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. (literally ‘lemon squeezy’)
The hardest part was the prep. Which really wasn’t as bad as I’d read. My blogger friend Paula http://paulatohlinecalhoun1951.wordpress.com/ linked me to Dave Barry’s hilarious account a while back http://www.miamiherald.com/2009/02/11/v-fullstory/427603/dave-barry-a-journey-into-my-colon.html. While Dave needed a seatbelt on his toilet, I only needed to stay within fifteen feet of mine – and some chafing cream.
So that wasn’t too bad. What was awful was watching my husband eat all kinds of goodies. He made ham-and-pickle salad with the leftover Easter Ham. I adore ham-and-pickle salad. In fact, it is right up there with lobster. But no. I ate green jello with a Dulcolax chaser. He had roasted almonds dusted with sea salt. I had a beef bullion cube. He had the chocolate covered strawberries I gave him for Easter. I had lemony Drain-O.
I got up before dawn. That wasn’t too hard because I was up every eighteen minutes anyway.
The doctor’s orders said no make-up. That was really hard. But I have a nice tinted moisturizer. Surely that would be okay. And my new blush is really sheer. But what if they couldn’t tell I was cyanotic because my blush looked so fresh and healthy? I took it off. (I left on my new concealer though – they don’t need my dark undereye circles to check my oxygen levels…)
And no contact lenses! No one has seen me in glasses since I had my gallbladder out. So here’s another medical establishment I can never frequent again.
We went to the Endoscopy Center as the sun was just coming up. Good thing Dunkin Donuts is open at that hour. Hubbie needed a glazed donut. I needed the ladies’ room.
The nurse at the Center was very nice. She explained all about the procedure. She gave me a hospital gown in size XXXXXL. It fit pretty good.
She told me that when I woke up, I would be in the recovery room with other patients who had the same procedure. “You all have to let all the air out,” she said, delicately describing the Farting Room. “It will be very musical. Just join the band.”
They gave me Propofol to knock me out. Let me tell you: I understand why Michael Jackson loved this stuff. I was out for twenty minutes, and woke up as refreshed as if I had slept eight hours. And euphoric.
And my colon is perfect. “Absolutely perfect,” said the doctor. She gave me pictures. And you know what? My colon IS perfect. Just like my Grandma used to tell me when I was an eight-year-old ugly duckling - “I am pretty on the inside”. I won’t share those photos with you, but let me say that my colon is like a chain of rosebuds, delicately unfurling.
I felt so good, I went out to breakfast without make-up or contacts. And I even laughed when I farted as the waitress brought me my scrambled eggs and bacon. That Propofol is pretty damn good.
And I lost two pounds.
I’m making a commitment! I’m going to finish that final third of the third (and final) draft of my novel. I’m giving myself one month to get it done. So I’ll probably be posting a little less often here, as I try to write something there.
I thought I would share with you the beginning of my novel – I’m hoping you’ll think it’s worth my time and yours.
Back in my twenties, I was married for a while.
I remember one day. We’re having a cook-out in our backyard. My husband is standing at the barbecue with a long fork, and he’s laughing. I see him in an apron, but that must be my imagination. Two other couples are over. The men are standing in the charcoal smoke, and the women are lounging in those long webbed chairs that you can buy everywhere, even the drugstore. We are all drinking pina coladas, which is the only thing I have learned to make in the blender that Aunt Lorraine gave us as a wedding gift.
I remember that one day. It was the only day I thought it was nice to be married.
When we finally decided to divorce, the discussion went something like this:
What’s-His-Name: “Marsha in Payroll has much better boobs than you. I think I am going to live with her instead.”
The actual conversation was a little longer than that. It lasted three years. But it was basically the same conversation for the whole three years, except that I didn’t say my line until the last day.
I found I didn’t miss him at all. And I was glad that I had been married, for two reasons. First, because I get to use the phrase “my ex” in a sentence once in a while, which makes me sound like I am full of life experiences.
More importantly, I kept the house. I paid him for his half, or rather, his equity, which was about three tenths of one percent. I like my house. It’s small but with lots of windows and even a sunroom in the back. It’s very cheerful, especially without him.
Once my ex was gone, I didn’t have much money, but over the course of the next several years, I replaced every stick of furniture we had bought. So everything is mine, and there are no sweaty marks anymore. I never saw a man sweat like he did. It’s funny that I never noticed that when we were dating. But after we married, it was uncomfortably clear that every place he sat was always damp. He’d get up from a chair and the upholstery or the wood or the leather or heaven help me, the vinyl, would be wet from his sweaty butt. I began to avoid the places he liked to sit. I replaced throw pillows on a monthly basis. When I went to my sisters’ houses, I would wait for either of their husbands to get up, and then I would jump into the empty seat like I was playing musical chairs. I wanted to see if all men were as sweaty, but no. It was just mine. I replaced our mattress the day he moved out. I paid extra for same-day delivery. The things he didn’t touch much were a lower priority, but eventually, even the lamps and the draperies went. I repainted too, as he often leaned against the walls.
I lost touch with my ex-husband very quickly, but I heard from Carol at the supermarket that he and Marsha didn’t last long. I think he was on a holy quest for stupendous knockers. If I ever needed to get in touch with him, say if I needed an alibi for back in the 80s, like for the Wells Fargo robbery or something, I think I would look in Las Vegas.
Considering how broke I was when we divorced, I now I have quite a bit of money, even though I wasn’t in cahoots on the armored car robbery.
I’m no miser. In fact, my sister Mary Ann says that I spend money like a drunken sailor. She means that I pay too much for a haircut. Mary Ann gives me one of her disapproving snorts when she sees me right after a salon visit.
“I look as good as you; in fact, I look just like you,” she says, “and I go to Cut’N’Go. Eight bucks and out the door—and no tipping.”
Mary Ann doesn’t look just like me. She looks like my mother, who went to Cut’N’Go for about forty years. I think that a really good hairdresser would not be working at Cut’N’Go, but would work in the classiest salon in a very rich town, where one makes good money plus big tips. So I drive to West Hartford and empty my wallet.
And good shoes too. I’m not talking designer shoes that cost more than your mortgage payment. But I won’t look like Payless. I have nice clothes, an account at the dry cleaner where they know me by name, a BMW, and real china and silver.
So it’s as surprising to me as it is to Mary Ann that I have found myself at fifty with a huge nest egg.
Not having children probably accounts for a good deal of my accumulated wealth. I had no sneakers or braces or video games or college tuitions. Then of course there’s my job.
Just like that guy—who someday I’ll look up—said, it’s amazing how successful you can be by just showing up. I wasn’t rushing off to PTA meetings or basketball games or school plays, or worrying about whether little Tiffany was letting the neighbor’s boy look up her dress. I didn’t have doctors’ appointments every week or someone down with a cold or giving me one.
So I was at work every day. I met every deadline, and I had time in the evening to straighten up my office and make sure I was prepared for the next day. That’s all it takes. Most people’s lives are such a mess, and their attention so scattered that just being reliable is enough to make you shine at the office.
I turned fifty the first Friday in April. The night before, right after work, I went to my hairdresser’s.
“Instead of just getting rid of the gray, let’s do something fun,” I told her.
“I can cut it so that it brings out your curl just a little more. A little wild.”
“Wild. Yes, yes, yes. And how about some highlighting? For drama, you know. Not subtle.”
“Really?” she asked.
Oh, really. I left that place looking ten years younger and full of drama, and not subtle.
I stopped at Monty’s, about three doors down from the salon. This is where I have always bought my clothes. They’re nice; well-made; classic. I walked in and looked around. The spring season was strong for pinstripes and sweater sets. Every season at Monty’s is strong for pinstripes and sweaters sets. I walked out.
Next door is a store called, simply, ‘Lovely’. I’ve stopped there once in a while. The clothes there are mostly imported from India and Mexico. They are gossamer, beaded, feminine. I had never tried anything on in that store. But I’ve let the delicate material run through my fingers.
“Hi,” said the salesgirl, “I’m Miranda”. She was about twenty. With her emerald green dress Miranda was wearing four necklaces, seven bracelets, earrings like chandeliers, and a little red jewel glued to the middle of her forehead. She wore sandals, and given the cool weather, socks decorated with purple cats.
“You look great,” I said. “I want to look like the fifty-year-old version of you. You know, not trying to look like a teenager, but looking sort of like an artist.”
“Right this way,” she said. “Have you come to the right place! I know exactly what you need.”
And she dressed me in a tiered skirt in gauzy Indian cotton, made from three shades of royal blue, the deepest at the bottom. There were little mirrors and wooden beads embroidered into the hem. She added an aqua tee shirt.
“That’s all you need in the summer,” she said, “with a turquoise necklace. For now, you need to add a sweater.” And she brought me a plum crocheted sweater, with silver buttons shaped like tiny animal crackers—a lion, a giraffe, an elephant.
“Adds a little whimsy,” she said, as if the ruffled skirt with mirrors was a bit too staid.
Miranda disappeared again, and a moment later returned with her triumph. “Here’s the necklace I had in mind.” And she fastened it around my neck. It was a triple strand of turquoise and silver, randomly-shaped beads born to dance together.
She sold me a couple of wooden bangles and a big silver watch. She threw in some tiny turquoise earrings “on the house”, but of course I had already spent more than a week’s take-home.
“Shoes,” she said. “Look, no offense, but you said you didn’t want to look like a teenager, so although you can wear sandals pretty soon, right now you just can’t add socks like me. Go next door to Griswold’s. They’ve got brown leather boots in the window… lace-up. Go right now, in this outfit, and come back and show me.
“Wow,” she said when I returned wearing the entire ensemble, boots included. “You’re pretty tall, and now you look leggy too. You can really carry this off. You look like an artist.”
“Or a dancer.”
“Or a poet,” Miranda laughed. “What are you, really?”
“An accountant,” I said.
“Not any more.”
And she was right.
Okay, I have admitted that I was not a beautiful child.
I have also admitted more than once that I was an extremely late bloomer – like at sixty.
So from those two facts, you might be able to deduce that my thirties were not quite stellar. I was better than homely but a far cry from pretty. Let’s say I was half-way there. More towards the unfortunate half, unfortunately.
Not that I didn’t try. I tried really hard. Hair and fashion and makeup were always important to me. I bought fake makeup and toy high heels at McClelland’s Five-And-Ten every year between five and ten. At eleven my mother let me wear pink lipstick. It was Cutex “Pink Cameo” which was rumored to be what Jackie Kennedy wore. Thirty-nine cents; my first real makeup purchase. The first hit of my drug of choice.
By the time I was seventeen I had black eyeliner and Twiggy lashes. And white lipstick. (Oh yeah.)
Not pertinent to this story, but a memory just popped up: In high school I was the very first girl to have pierced ears. Mia Farrow had pierced ears on Peyton Place and I thought that was really cool, so I pierced my ears with the torture they used to call “sleepers.” A gradual torture. Ouchy. But I got a rip-roaring infection and had to let my holes close up. And a few years later (at the time of the white lipstick), everyone had pierced ears. So I used my eyeliner to draw little flowers on my earlobes. Pretty creative, huh?
Anyhow… back to my thirties.
In my quest to be beautiful (or to at least stop looking like David Cassidy, which more than one person had pointed out to me) – I availed myself of every makeover and make-up instruction offer out there. Merle Norman, Avon, the multitude of counters at G Fox & Co (which became Filene’s which became Macy’s).
One day the lady who stocked pens and paper at the office told me she did MaryKay on this side, and offered to come over to my apartment that evening and do a makeover. And that night she sold me a ton of
shit useful products.
About three weeks later I got a phone call from the supplies/beauty consultant lady. I figured she knew that I had just about paid for the first batch of products. MaryKay was having a sort of party that week at the Marriott. All the area sales reps and their customers were going to get together for a mass makeover. Fabulous!
I wore my biggest shoulder-paddiest dress and my perm was the spiraliest. I had been told to bring all my MaryKay makeup with me. I couldn’t go out barefaced (this was the Marriott after all – the biggest pick-up bar in Central Connecticut – I couldn’t risk being seen) but I used a light touch so my new makeover could go right over.
When I arrived, my beauty/paper clip advisor was disappointed that I wasn’t all made up. “This isn’t exactly a makeover,” she explained. “We are showing how great our products are on all sorts of people. So go to the ladies’ room and do your makeup like I showed you.” And so I did.
And then the regional manager announced the big surprise for all of us MaryKay’d faces.
The secret purpose of the big get-together: We were all contestants in a MaryKay beauty contest!
They sectioned us off by age group and we paraded across the dais. Four of the reps’ husbands had
been bulldozed volunteered to be judges.
It was about the most embarrassing, humiliating evening of my life.
I will never forget it.
P.S. – There were four of us in my age group.
A friend of mine recently remarked: “God gave me boys because He knew I would never be able to make a french braid.”
That is the kind of philosophical insight that I just love.
And it got me to thinking. What are the reasons I got the attributes I fortunately or unfortunately live with every day?
For instance. I have severe hay fever. I figure God did not want me to mow the lawn. However, once I got a husband and he got a ride-on lawnmower, God discovered a miracle cure via the right medication- so that while my husband drove around the lawn, I could discover the joy of gardening.
When I was young, I had a friend whose brother was much older than she. He could never remember the names of any of his sister’s friends. So he called us by our most memorable traits. Linda had the “Pretty Friend” and the “Tall Friend” and the “Shy Friend.” I was the “Funny Friend.” Certainly better than being the “Obnoxious Friend,” but how I wanted to be the “Pretty Friend.” And although I like the way I look now, and sometimes even feel sort of beautiful, I have to admit I was a very homely little girl. But I see the reason why I was such an extremely late bloomer (extremely like sixty years). I had to develop my brain-power to get ahead. And my sense of humor. I’m lazy – and I know that had I been born beautiful, I just would have traded on it – like constantly. So now I am glad that I’m smart and funny – and finally good-looking.
I am extremely nearsighted, but on the other hand, I have an overly developed sense of smell. And unbelievably good hearing. The combination of dull and freakishly acute senses can be a pain in the ass. But guess what? How else would I be able to wake up my husband in the middle of the night with “What’s that???”
And finally, I am as flat-chested as a ten-year-old boy. And what is the blessing behind my teeny tatas? For the life of me I couldn’t figure it out. I never wanted to be swimmer or a gymnast. And although I did (at sixteen) want to be a fashion model, I didn’t get the face or quite the height – or the strut-ability – to get very far in that career. In the past couple of years, I’ve fallen in love with Zumba – but a nice set of knockers would be kind of an asset to my cumbia.
But I think I have it! I know why I am built like the Flatiron building.
I am destined to play the accordion!
I’m sure as heck not a very religious adult, but I rather admire the religious kid I used to be.
I took Lent pretty darn seriously. Well, for six days a week for those six weeks, anyway. I’m not exactly sure why I thought that Sundays didn’t count. Jiminy Crickets, perhaps it was true, and the nuns told me that I could skip my sacrifices on Sunday. I don’t remember. But I do remember having more than one bleeping Hershey bar at my Babci’s on Sunday.
Yes, like most kids (and perhaps half of all freakin’ adults) I usually gave up candy for Lent. I tried once getting away with giving up only hard candy (which I didn’t like much anyway), but my mother informed me that it wasn’t a sacrifice if I didn’t give up my favorite kind of candy. Which for crissakes was chocolate. I also tried once to tell her that my Lenten sacrifice was personal and private, and that I shouldn’t have to tell her. Holy mackerel. That did not go over.
But Geez, there wasn’t a lot of choice for a child-friendly sacrifice. I didn’t really love much of anything else. Popcorn, maybe. But my mother made popcorn only once a week at most – and never during Lent – so that wasn’t a viable option. I loved my dolls, but heck, it didn’t seem fair to the dolls to put them in a closet for six weeks.
I couldn’t give up TV. I wanted to make a gosh-darn sacrifice. Not kill myself. Besides, my parents wouldn’t have given up the TV. And not only because they loved it themselves; the flipping TV set was about the only thing that kept us kids from killing each other.
And speaking of fighting: One year the nun told the class that we should do something for Lent that would have a more lasting effect than saving up the dad-gum chocolate for Easter Sunday. She told us to pick the sin that we had to confess most often, and to give up that motherlover for Lent. That maybe it would change us for good.
Holy Crap, fighting with my sisters and my little brother was not only at the top of my confession list, it was about the only blasted thing on my list. (Oh, for the simpler life of a poopy nine-year-old). I didn’t steal, I didn’t covet (whatever the heck that was), I didn’t skip Mass on Sundays. I didn’t lie much – I certainly did not consider it a sin to make my stories more interesting – that’s a fricking virtue, right?
So that year, I decided to give up my sibling fights for those six weeks. Let me tell you, the next year I gladly gave up darn chocolate again.
Then there was the year that the nun said that instead of giving UP something, you should effing DO something. Her suggestion was to pray more. Well, shucks, I liked praying. Not so much because I thought it did a lot of good, but because I had always liked the repetition and rhythm of prayers. Sort of like meditating I guess. But golly gee, if I already LIKED it, what kind of sacrifice is it to do more of it? Like accepting a second dang Hershey bar.
She also suggested making a donation to the poor. I had a winter scarf I really hated. It was crap-brown plaid. My mother made me wear it – along with a hat and mittens and boots and snow-pants and an extra sweater or two. I put the crap-brown plaid scarf in the poor box (I considered adding the cussed snow-pants too). At the end of the day, the nun retrieved the scarf and called my mother, which was completely blankety-blank unfair. I’m sure some poor kid somewhere would have worn that fugly scarf. A cold, fugly boy, maybe.
And even now that I am a fecking grown-up, son-of-a-gun if I don’t still like the idea of making a sacrifice during Lent. But I have already given up shopping for one whole geedee month (for monetary purposes, not Lent). And that’s one heckuva of a sacrifice, so I just didn’t know what for Pete’s sake I could choose.
Then this sucky laptop got some doggone malware. Golly, I was p’d off.
Jeepers Creepers! Was this a crappin’ sign? I couldn’t give up the freaking internet. No fugging way.
But I found something else to give up!
And I’m doing really bleeping well, don’t you think?
(PS: For a good post on Lent and Ash Wednesday – head on over to Pegoleg. Holy Crap, did she ever bring back memories. I hated the doggone ashes.)
(While my computer undergoes a (hopefully) brief hospitalization, here’s a poem from my poetry site With Resistance.)
The List Of Us
In my father’s wallet
one small sheet
torn from a notebook
folded and re-folded
sliced through in the crease
and in my father’s careful hand
were all his children’s names
and our spouses’ names
and their birthdates
and the grandchildren
and their spouses
and in shakier letters
The conspiracy of years
schemes against us
but my father
refused to forget
and carried with him
the names and numbers of his immortality.