February 5, 2008

Lint, Lentils, Past Tense of Loan?

WELCOME TO ASH WEDNESDAY, the gateway into Lent.

Yesterday was FAT TUESDAY, huzzah, and in its honor, I ate so much Pecan Lover’s Poppycock that I feel like total crap. I think I have a genuine candy hangover! I didn’t know those were actual things. I thought that was a joke. But no, today my mouth feels sugar-burned and my eyes are grainy, and I can’t stand the THOUGHT of any sweets. I feel that if I put a teaspoon of that vile white stuff in my coffee I would vomit. Of course, that may just be Maisy’s flu, finally catching up to me.

Today is Ash Wednesday, and the Poppycock Bag, licked clean, has been ejected from the house, as have all opened wine bottles.

Why sweets and wine? Because not a day passes that I don’t want one or both. Not a day passes that I don’t HAVE one or both. I think these are, for me, the best small sacrifices, because they are my comfort foods. I will be looking for comfort elsewhere this season, as I should.

Back when we went to an Episcopal church, I was more serious about following the liturgical calendar. Now that geography and the need for kids programs have converted us into Methodism, that’s one of the things I miss. See Also: Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, weekly communion, singing the Gloria, saying the Nicene Creed, liberal application of The Book of Common Prayer, and kneelers.

Scott and I are still pretty Anglican in our hearts, but we started church hunting after Maisy was born. With 2 kids, it became more and more impossible to make it to events and feel truly involved at a church that was 40 minutes away. The only Episcopal Church that is a reasonable distance from our home has a congregation made up almost entirely of soft bosomed widow ladies with lavender rinses.

So we cast around for a new church. LORD! Church hunting is a misery! It’s a bit like that BAD DATE MONTAGE in Notting Hill, remember that? It culminates with the chick in pigtails who claims to be a “Fruit-arion,” someone who believes plants are living beings with feelings, and so she’ll only eat things that have already fallen naturally off the vine or bush. “SO those carrots...” says Hugh Grant in a leading manner. And she says, solemnly, “…were murdered. Yes.” Then Hugh Grant says, “Well…poor old carrots.” The whole thing makes me long FERVENTLY to be British, which means church hunting is actually NOT much like that, because none of the churches we dated made me long fervently to be whatever they were.

I remember sitting through a Sunday School class at one church we test drove, and the WHOLE HOUR was focused on what we could do, as a congregation, to get those cops on NYPD BLUE to stop showing their butt cheeks on network television. Yes. Really. CABLE Butt cheeks do not offend the Lord, but this particular church had it in their heads that there was an 11th commandment scribbled in at the bottom of Tablet 2: “Thou Shalt Not Show Cheek on ABC, NBC, Or CBS, though there is NO accounting for Fox.”

I had to practically DUCT TAPE my mouth shut because my mouth wanted SO BADLY to say, “Yes! Let’s get the butt cheeks off the show! Unless Jimmy Smits comes back on . Then we will need to swap our stance and become pro butt cheek, because….Yum.”

OKAY easy targets, those folks. Low of me. I mock, even though I see the point. I mean, I write books for grown-ups. They are, BETWEEN excepted, R rated, but I keep this blog PG because venue matters, standards matter, and I am all for public executions for parents who allow their teenage daughters to sport whale tails and I do not want DEEP THROAT to be the NBC Sunday Night Movie, etc etc, but cop butt is not really what I want to focus on in a Bible class. And while I do think the Church must address social ills, I cannot rouse the same sort of fervor for an anti-cop butt platform that I can rouse for, say, funding an AIDs hospice or a battered women’s shelter. It was not a good fit for us, though somewhere, right now, someone is MARRYING that Fruit-arion, so viva la religios freedom, thank you founding fathers.

At any rate, after MANY bad dates, we found a small Methodist congregation made up mostly of refugees. We have former Catholics and former Southern Baptists and former atheists and cradle-Methodists and the main VIBE at that church is tolerance for spectrum. We have a PhD in astronomy who believes the universe is set to turn 14 billion come next birthday, and she is perfectly comfortable breaking bread with our literal translationist choir director, who believes the earth was created in seven days a scant few thousand years ago. They both agree that when they die, they can just ASK GOD how old the dern thing is, and then whoever is right can say IN YER FACE! HA! BOOTY DANCE! I AM FULL OF WIN! Until then, the discussion is tabled, because in terms of how we choose to live and make the earth a better place or a worse one, how OLD the dirt we make these choices on matters not a whit.

I love the spirit of a church where the people can hold such disparate opinions and yet agree on the heart of things, so for now, we are Methodists, and we will remain Methodists until we leave this area. Then we’ll look for the church that fits us, whatever the denomination.

THAT SAID... I miss the way I followed the Liturgical Calender when I was Anglican, and I have been working toward being more in tune with that. SO. I am off desserts and wine. Last year, I just did desserts, but ever since I finished that 40 days, sweets have not been as important to me. I think I broke a pretty serious sugar addiction last year. I still like them, but I do not have them every day. SO I added wine, which I also love and do not have every day. But I have one of them most days. So. Best I can do.

Now let’s be clear. I did not say I am giving up ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES for Lent. I am giving up WINE. I am going to turn 40 – FORTY! – right smack bad in the middle of Lent. Held up against the universe----who looks pretty good for 14 billion, I have to have to say --- forty is not that big a deal. It isn’t. Unless YOU are the one tunring it. Then? LORDY! I cannot imagine facing that day (FORTY!!!!!!!) without a crisp Grey Goose martini, where the vermouth is imaginary and an obscene number of olives have been dropped in to marinate. Grey Goose Martinis are, on the day you turned 40, considered NECESSARY MEDICINE. I think that may well be commandment 12, right after the cop butt mandate.

Posted by joshilyn at February 5, 2008 3:15 PM

I remember turning 40. A friend reminded me the only alternative to 40 was death. Ok then, 40 it is.

Posted by: jean at February 5, 2008 4:04 PM

And today is Feb. 6th.

Posted by: jean at February 5, 2008 4:10 PM

I want to go to your church.

When we were living in Savannah, my husband gave up beer one year for lent. Do you know what ELSE falls right smack dab in the middle of lent? St. Patricks Day! In Savannah! Yeah, that was a pretty miserable day.

Haven't decided yet what I'm giving up.

Posted by: Leandra at February 5, 2008 4:20 PM

Yes, I hate church hunting, and we don't have one right now, for various reasons, and I'm out of options for the time being. You're absolutely right on the distance/kids factor. We also need a church accepting of the full spectrum, being a refugee Catholic myself. Since my husband was raised with no religion, all the explanations fall to me. My kids witnessed the communion ritual for the first time this past summer, and boy did I have some explaining to do.

Good luck with the sweets and wine. I had not even a drop of beer for about five years or so while nursing and pregnant (for a few months, simultaneously). Every now and then I'd sniff my husband's bottle of Sam Adams...

Posted by: amy at February 5, 2008 5:01 PM

BETWEEN isn't rated R? Does Henry Crabtree get a pass and a PG-13 for looking like Johnny Depp, or something?

Nevermind. I am tired. (Also, I have never had a Grey Goose martini. I feel deprived.)

Posted by: Mir at February 5, 2008 5:15 PM

Between is pg-13, because what's one little virulently graphic bathroom sink sex scene if the two people involved are MARRIED. HMMMM????

The fornications in the book (as I recall) are less...explicated. A purse gets dumped over, people bump noses, a veil is drawn over the naughtiest bits.

Nonny is a different pewrson, and she has not arlene's history and related need to ASSAULT people with casual, dismissive profanity, the THEMES are not as adult as the themes in gods in Alabama, as for THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING, well, and Between does not have the character of Thalia Gray, who is a walking R rating. So.

I would let my kids read Between first, of all my books. Then a year or later, TGWSS, and then gods. You may have to be 35 to be allowed to read Rose Unraveled---Rose? She does not knit. If you corner her, she might try to strangle you with yarn, but she does. not. knit. I can't make her stop alternately sexing people up and then shooting them. IN THAT ORDER, thanks much. I am not to THAT rating yet. I hope never to be to THAT rating.

Posted by: joshilyn at February 5, 2008 5:29 PM

Hi there. I survived 40 this year only with the help of large quantities of chocolate-covered carmels, cabernet, and showings of Firefly, which features Nathan Fillion's butt cheeks. It worked for me.

Posted by: liz at February 5, 2008 5:44 PM

NYPD Blue showed butt cheeks??? How did I miss that?

I hear you about church shopping. My husband and I are from widely disparate (though both Christian) backgrounds, and we shopped for the first two years of our marriage. Some Sundays, it was so obvious a church was wrong for us that we left in the middle of the service because we still had time to make another church. We finally stopped going for awhile. Our current church isn't perfect, but we remember those days, and stay where we are.

As far as 40 -- I threw myself a birthday party. Had a blast! I've repeated it most years since. :-) I'm loving 40-something.

But I have one question: what's a whale tail?

Posted by: Katrina Stonoff at February 5, 2008 6:02 PM

Katrina - I think a "whale tail" is what I know as a "tramp stamp." It's the tattoo on a female's lower back that you can see when she bends over or if her shirt pulls up.

If I'm assume wrong, please enlighten me!

Posted by: Beth at February 5, 2008 6:24 PM

whale tail= the appearance of thong or g-string underwear above the waistband of pants, shorts, or a skirt.

Posted by: Jill at February 5, 2008 6:42 PM

I wholeheartedly agree about martinis and 40! I will be 40 (!) in October. 40!!! Pass the Grey Goose.

Posted by: Aimee at February 5, 2008 6:51 PM

Oh darn I have come to realise I misplaced your birthdate. Joss' 40 is all in your head. Remember 30 wasn't that bad, and 50 was actually splendid. It's all perspective, unless you're a 14 billion year old universe.

Posted by: Cele at February 5, 2008 8:17 PM

My birthday also happens during Lent (Maundy Thursday this year - weird. When's the last time you got your feet washed for your birthday? Never, that's when), and I have always understood it to be absolute LAW that Lenten observances are repealed for that day. LAW. Whether that is by order of my parents or the church or lavendar rinsed old ladies matters not.
So. You may eat wine-soaked candy for your birthday if you like. I prefer them a tad more seperately, but it's not MY birthday. (Until Maundy Thursday, as previously established.)

Posted by: Kira at February 5, 2008 8:57 PM

40 isn't bad at all. tho I missed the grey goose. maybe I'll do that for 45!
your church sounds nice. hubby and I have never been that interested in attending, but with kids, seems like they should be exposed somehow. hmm. maybe we should look into those methodists. or someone.

Posted by: elizabeth at February 5, 2008 9:00 PM

I call that kind of martini a "Schuykill River Dirty" Martini. The bartenders in Philadelphia know exactly what I'm talking about, and the bar attendants in other geographic locations only have to hear my accent to know that I mean the City of Brotherly Love. Shake the vermouth near it for politeness, but really all you want is olive juice mixed with some Grey Goose, in a glass only for politeness' sake.

Posted by: Coleen at February 5, 2008 9:29 PM

Also, so glad I used "politeness" there twice in that post. And also also, I gave up shopping for Lent. If that is not a hardship, I don't want to know what is.

Posted by: Coleen at February 5, 2008 9:30 PM

Awesome post. I love that the women who disagree on the earth's age are so accepting of each other's views. (I also want to see that booty dance in heaven, no matter who's right.)

I would hate church shopping. I'm lucky that the church that fits us happens to be the one I've attended all my life (my dad also happens to be the pastor). One thing I know for sure: we have never had a Bible study on cop butt cheeks. If they ever do, I'm leaving!

Posted by: Alison at February 6, 2008 4:24 PM

Sweet, beloved, you did know that vermouth is wine, didn't you??? And that martinis are made with vermouth.

Posted by: Lorna Barrett at February 6, 2008 4:52 PM

Martinis MAY be made with vermouth, but MY good martinis are mmade with Grey Goose. The Vermouth bottle is placed NEARBY as the martini is composed, but opening it is not necesary. The vermouth in my martinis is always strictly imaginary. So I am go.

Posted by: Joshilyn at February 6, 2008 5:18 PM

I just ran across a super way of remembering Lent that causes people to focus on the whole world - and its poorest - instead of our lonely tastebuds (missing their chocolate friend).

A Carbon Fast. I need to look into it more, but this is something I can get behind.

I hope the link worked! I can't see it in the Preview. If it doesn't, you can Google "Carbon Fast" and it comes right up.

Posted by: Diane (TT) at February 6, 2008 6:52 PM

Just discovered your book Gods in Alabama, read the intro on the back and felt it should be a good read. Read the first of chapter one and knew it was going to be a good read. Looking forward to finishing it and starting on Between Georgia. I am an Alabamian, grew up in Hokes Bluff so I'm hoping for a good Alabama read.

Posted by: Daley at February 6, 2008 6:57 PM

One of my husband's million-and-one gadget catalogs advertises this "special" vermouth dispenser for the "perfect" martini. It's basically this teeny hairspray-like bottle which you "depress ever so slightly" to give the perfect hint of a smidge of a mist of vermouth. Let's just say a gal like me, who grew up spraying AquaNet for a quarter a gallon, doesn't appreciate such a thing.

And believe it or not, I was once dumped by a church I dated. I have the Dear Jezebel letter, and may well be the first person excommunicated from a BAPTIST church. But that's a whole other book...

Posted by: Elizabeth at February 6, 2008 7:58 PM

I married a Methodist. He describes the creed of his upbringing as "yea, we are the people who could turn Hendrix tunes into a painful dirge of longness. With covered dish suppers."

I was kinda raised Episcopalian--Thanksgiving and Easter, mostly, because Mom liked the hymns, though she complained that our church in California was inferior to her old church in Oyster Bay because the kneelers were not NEEDLEPOINTED, merely BARGELLO'D. Also, she routinely asked us if we wanted to get stoned on the way to Christmas Eve Midnight Mass.

And yet, she chose the Episcopalian church in our neck of the woods which was so conservative they refused to allow Shirley Temple to marry her SECOND husband there, Mr. Black. And then they seceded from the union over the whole female priests thing.

I admit to having once rubbed Marlboro-Light ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday. My excuse was that I was doing junior year in Dublin at the time, and I was afraid of being stoned to death on Grafton Street for having a pristine brow. Plus I was studying religion at Trinity College at the time, so I figured they might deduct credit or something. After the stoning. Different stoning than Mom's version, of course.

Sometimes it amazes me that I do not require more extreme medication, when I think back on all this.

Posted by: Cornelia Read at February 6, 2008 8:03 PM

Joss and Kira - my birthday is in Lent too! I suggest a sleepover party at my house (hey! I live BETWEEN you! It just makes sense!) and I will of course provide Grey Goose. C'mon...I'm not going to be 40 but I have been church shopping for FOUR YEARS without luck...I could use a little pick-me-up this Lent...whaddaya say? ;)

Posted by: Amy-Go at February 6, 2008 8:12 PM

My birthday is in Lent, too. Always.

When I was a religious (Episcopalian) little five-year-old kid my salvation and my sense of entitlement were seriously in conflict. It broke my tiny cake-loving heart that maybe I couldn't have any of my own birthday cake.

So my mother booked an appointment with our priest. We all had a serious discussion about Lent and the purpose of giving stuff up.

Then we talked about feast days. The priest absolutely assured me that a birthday is a feast day.

I was five years old. I'm way more than that now, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

Posted by: margaret at February 6, 2008 9:05 PM

All's I'm gonna say is enjoy your 40's, because the real fun starts at 50, and I am NOT kidding! I'm having a blast!

Posted by: Fran at February 7, 2008 12:01 AM

Your astronomist and literal translationist are inspiring. Heck yes we have better things to obsess about--and act on--like poverty and war and torture and even lack of everyday kindness. If there's a question about historical events let's ask the Expert. And I don't see how eventual booty dancing would hurt, especially the way you described it! A pet peeve of mine is the type of billboard proclaiming "God wants you to [fill in the blank]." Oh, really? Thanks for passing the message along, whoever-you-are. I'll take your word for it. (Too much sarcasm? It might correlate with the excess amount of coffee I just drank.)

Posted by: Kristy at February 7, 2008 9:19 AM

...Rose Unraveled---Rose? ...I can't make her stop alternately sexing people up and then shooting them.

Now I really can't wait to hear her backstory!

If this is the book that sent you to California for research, wouldn't the tarot cards and Cafe Gratitude calm her down?

Posted by: Elizabeth at February 7, 2008 2:59 PM

Can I just say... I go to a really nice church. And I also have a tramp stamp. But no whale tail.

Posted by: Heather Cook at February 7, 2008 10:18 PM

I thought perhaps I should mention that there seems to be something very odd with your January 2008 monthly page; trying to go to it redirects me to an unregistered page at blogpoll.com, unless javascript is disabled. I think this probably has to do with the poll about spam, which has gotten its tentacles into the whole month.

Posted by: Laura at February 8, 2008 1:20 AM

I read this entry late - so, I will comment late too! When I turned 40 I was inconsolable for months, maybe a whole year ahead of time. Then the day came and I woke up serene and alive, thinking - this is the youngest I will ever be again. And I survived. Now I am 22 years beyond that and still surviving - but not thrilled with this side of 60.

We too wandered from the Episcopal church a few years back, and after a lifetime in the protestant venue, found ourselves Catholic. Could have knocked me over with a feather!

Posted by: Dawn H at February 14, 2008 2:33 PM