When Things Get Hairy

The Sunday before my oldest son’s birthday we decide to meet him along with the rest of the kids after church at our favorite restaurant to celebrate. My husband asked me on the way to church, which I was attending for the first time in a very long while “You having the chicken fried steak?”

It’s what I always order when we go to this place for breakfast. It’s to die for: yummy goodness on a plate. I say “Hell no. That meal is ruined forever for me. Have you forgotten about that horrible day?” My stomach does a sickish little turn at the mere thought of chicken fried steak.

He looks at me with total amazement. “Are you kidding me? You’re letting one little incident ruin the best breakfast in Spokane?”

Now, if this were a flashback scene a survivor was having in a horror movie, you would hear the foreboding music that plays just before someone is about to be slashed with a machete by some creepy masked guy. The camera would first zoom in on a big, black hair that sat right on top of my gravy in perfect corkscrew form which made me feel CERTAIN it was a pubic hair. Then the camera would pan in on my face, horror in my glazed over eyes, lips thin and pale but stoically resolving to not scream. I wave my hand for the waitress who comes over quickly. “What can I get you love?”

“Could I have a double bloody Mary with extra olives?” I ask, trying to keep my eyes on her face and not look at the glaring abomination that has ruined my $14.95 breakfast.

“Sure thing honey!” and she trots off to get my drink.

My husband asks “Why didn’t you just tell her there is a hair on your food?”

“If I say something, then all they will do is take the plate back to the kitchen and take the hair off and maybe throw some more gravy on my plate, nuke it in the microwave and serve it right back to me. And that’s only if they feel BAD about the hair being there. If they think I’m a brat they will leave the hair and just cover it with gravy. And even if they did give me a new plate, I’d always wonder if they really had. No. The damage is done.”

“You have serious trust issues. Do you maybe need to see someone for this?”

“Look, I know that I probably eat plenty of other people’s hairs all the time without knowing it. But the emphasis for me is on the NOT KNOWING. Once I KNOW it’s just all over. See? So I understand that in reality this is not a big deal and if I were a mentally strong person I would pick the hair off and carry on with eating. But I am NOT strong in this category. No sense complaining about something that is my issue, unless of course the cook put that hair there on PURPOSE. But just thinking that would mean I am paranoid and just plain weird. So I am going to drink my breakfast and carry on. And YES I have guilt for wasting food. But that is a whole different issue.” The waitress brings me my new and improved breakfast and I raise it in a toast while my husband shrugs and digs into his food. He knows I am a lost cause.

Enter us, birthday breakfast day, into church. The prodigal daughter and her husband, the holy one who doesn’t let hairs get in the way of his enjoyment in life.

As I knelt down to try and pray, the hair incident stayed on my mind. Why did I so often let little things stop me from experiencing joy? I listened to the readings and then to the heartfelt homily from the priest who was new to our parish, or at least to me, the fallen one, and a swoosh of warm, delicious peace came over me. And as I returned to kneeling position in overwhelming, goose-bump awe after receiving communion, I realized I had I let my distaste for the previous priest, hold me back from witnessing a perfect place of Human/God connectivity.

Now keep in mind, I’m a convert to the Catholic faith and I have it in my mind that converts are looked upon by cradle Catholics in the same way people with new found riches are viewed by “old money” families: we simply don’t know how to use our riches properly and our ways of enjoying those riches are often frowned upon. But we newbies don’t really care. One example for me is that not going to Mass has never created a whole lot of guilt for me. I have always known, since I was a little girl that God wants us to WANT to hang out with Him, wherever we find ourselves. Going to church simply for fear of eternal damnation has always seemed counterproductive. Plus, no one wants to hang out with a friend who clearly would rather be somewhere else than with you. Right?

And this is the double edged loophole logic along with the excuse of disliking how another human spun HIS connectivity to God that I used to to stop attending mass for so long that I forgot how good it felt to go and got to a point that I no longer had the thirst to do so.

Funny the hell we can create for ourselves without any help from the devil. But grace is pretty bad ass and takes on all kinds of forms to open up our hearts. Sometimes in the shape of a yucky black hair on gravy.

Later at breakfast my husband raised one eyebrow when I ordered the chicken fried steak and a bloody mary with NO olives. On account of the fact that I was feeling pretty filled up.

Death and Laundry

The subject of death and dying (or should I say dying and death) has been on my mind a lot lately. It is very uncomfortable. I think this is because of the way I am currently defining death: a large and devastating LOSS.

And while I KNOW we all have to face death (our own and/or those we love) at some point, I generally prefer to distract myself with daily living to do’s. I mean why dwell when there is Tasmanian devil cleaning, half assed cooking (when I HAVE to do that dreadful task), money making and my favorite every present, mind numbing task: laundry!

On that note, I would like to say that ‘death and taxes’ should instead be ‘death and laundry’, laundry being the easier of the two certainties to understand: dirty laundry in, clean laundry out, dirty laundry in, gripe, repeat, every single f’ing day. It’s a perfect means in which to avoid trying to answer the scary question of us mere mortals: “what happens next?” I’ll TELL you what happens next my good people: I will fold another damn load of laundry.

Except!

Oh! The things I have discovered while doing laundry: items shaken from hiding during the spin cycle, bursting with proof that I live with (and love unconditionally) seven unique and interesting people. There is often money: nickels, dimes, pennies and when I am lucky quarters or greenery, all mine for the taking. It is written in the laundry doer’s handbook that it is acceptable protocol to keep laundered money as payment for services rendered.

But I have also discovered special rocks; shells; worms; pocket knives; combs; Nerf gun ammo; lip gloss; letters that were passed around in class, folded fourteen times over, exposing who likes who, or who no longer does.

Once I washed an unopened bottle of blue Gatorade.

Wallets have come through many times. It’s against protocol to take (all of) the money from laundered wallets, but okay to explore their content, which is necessary in the dry out process. It is difficult to collect all of the once contained by a pocket b-b’s; shotgun shells are not so difficult. Play-dough; crayons; ink pens; white out; a bottle of Elmer’s glue; half eaten candy bars: they can wreak havoc upon clothing, especially in the dryer phase. A grasshopper: was it alive before I washed it? Bobby-pins; earrings; spoons and forks (better left in one’s pocket than on the couch); rubber bands; toothbrushes; army guys; plastic snakes that still startle me as do the spiders, which are only sometimes plastic.

I had never seen an athletic cup before I had boys: now they come regularly through the laundry in several colors and sizes, their presence made known by gloriously loud dryer thumping. Nothing grosses me out anymore…not even barfed on sheets or poopy underwear, though both are becoming less and less of an occurrence. IPods; IPhones; cans of chew: they tell of the aging going on in my household. Less and less do I wash the littlest one’s blanket: his “me-me” doesn’t get as dirty these days.

The highly revered ($20  per pair) athletic socks purchased by oldest brother for two younger brothers who needed luck and good socks for basketball games and the ratty shirts my husband wears because he says there are more important priorities to invest in, speak of the great giving that happens in a big family.

The favorite t-shirts, sweatshirts and jeans that smell of dirt, and grass and hard core play or perfume depending upon the wearer bless me with the aura of my people.

And oh GOD to ever lose these people: unthinkable!

Because I have always thought of death as a loss, which is hard not to do because of all the rich love in the damn laundry.

I have a very dear friend who is dying. At a much more rapid pace than most of us are. Wrapped in the sorrowful question of “how will I live without her?” for several days, I became heavy and lethargic with thick, tangible pain, unable to lift my arms, and then guilty for focusing on my own feelings. And then kind of mad at her for causing me such despair, and then even more guilty, because it’s not like she WANTS to make anyone feel bad. In fact she will probably go out saying something wicked funny, for all of our sakes because that is how she is.

But here’s the thing. I can’t help but notice the children within this cloudy sorrow surrounding all of us adults who are trying to get our minds wrapped around the idea of losing our friend. The children: they still giggle, they still whine about homework or their brother poking and buzzing at them like a chainsaw, they still act obnoxiously when adults are trying to talk about serious things. They are sad yes, but it does not STAY with them as it can with us adults. My littlest, who adores our friend as much as any of us, when told that the medicine wasn’t working, that she was getting much, much sicker, cried hard and loud, spent 20 minutes drawing a picture for her, deep meditative, tongue out of mouth coloring, and then went to play, shedding the sorrow for better things like beating his brother at basketball.

We think: oh the children simply don’t get it. They can’t comprehend death. It’s too hard for them. They are too young.

But maybe they get it better than we do.

Now hear me out, because while I am NO theologian, nor am I someone who has lived a life with the absolute conviction that there is a clear cut path or WAY of living life that will assure eternal life or heaven any more or less than another path, and while I have no CLEAR understanding of “what happens next” I feel like there is something very powerful to express here that is as clear as day to me. I have used the word clear four times in this paragraph because I want to dwell on this brief moment of clarity.

You see, when I finally allowed myself a reprieve from the sorrow over what feels like great LOSS I was able to lift my arms again. In shedding the weighted veil of dark sadness, joy was uncovered: a bright, warm, deep KNOWING that is hard wired into all of us.

Sorrow, rarely contains the hearts of most of our children, at least for very long, because they have not grown as far away from their true and joyful form as we adults have. And even we, often broken, disconnected, devastated people, are unable to dwell in sad for very long because we are made for and connected to love. It is WHAT we are, and because it is infinite, it can not contain loss.

The sorrow, the sad, the despair, it comes because we can’t completely comprehend the infinite capacity of love that is our eternal existence. But we know, from the soft whispers in our hearts, that we will.

We will.

We can call it death I suppose, but if it is anything like laundry, well…I can live with that for ever.