Kiss My Ash

     Given that today is Ash Wednesday, I am reminded of a rather humiliating experience that I encountered when I was a teacher in what seems like a lifetime ago. Other than the Jewish Spanish teacher, I was the only non-Catholic teacher in a Pre-K through eighth grade Catholic school.  Luckily, I was never really shunned for being a < GASP! > Methodist until one particular season of Lent in which a rather peculiar priest gave a ridiculously biased homily in which I was indirectly made to look like the scum of the earth.

     As a teacher in a Catholic school, I was required to take my class to a whole school mass once a week.  This was really the only time that my students ever noticed that I wasn’t Catholic.  Since this particular church wasn’t crazy about the idea of non-Catholics participating in Communion, I had to just stand over in the aisle and let my eighth graders pass by me to receive the “body and blood of Christ.”  Sometimes the kids would ask me why I wasn’t participating, but they always seemed to be cool with my simple explanation of not being a member of their church.  It just wasn’t an issue with them, and I never ever felt they were looking at me like I was the devil reincarnated.

     That all changed one day though when Father Clueless decided to try to make a comparison between Ash Wednesday and a baseball game.  This guy was famous for trying to get the kids to participate in his homilies, asking a shit ton of questions that made all the teachers cringe as their students shouted out a whole string of ridiculous answers at volumes that nearly shattered the stained glass windows of the church. This time, he asked the kids how they could tell the difference between the “good guys” (the home team) and the “bad guys” (the away team) when they go to a baseball game.  After five excruciatingly long minutes of insane responses, he finally was able to get someone to yell out, “Their uniforms!”  He said that the way you could tell Catholics apart from others on Ash Wednesday is much like how you tell the good guys and the bad guys apart at a baseball game.  He went on to explain that Catholics wear a uniform of ashes on their foreheads in the shape of a cross, so they’d be able to tell who the “good guys” are all day long.  Slowly, I could see multiple sets of eyes turning towards me and my naked forehead.  Now, keep in mind that I wasn’t supposed to participate in the marking of the ashes since I wasn’t a member of the church, so in turn, to my students, that would mean that I, in fact, was one of the “bad guys.” Awesome.  As if I needed to give my punk-ass eighth graders any more ammunition to use against me!  I was so pissed that I wanted to go smear those damn ashes right off his head and onto his pretty white robe.

     I actually contemplated taking some eye shadow and smudging it above my eyebrows just to get through the day, but I later decided against it.  I knew that I was a damn good person even if I didn’t have a freaking cross drawn on my head.  And thankfully, kids have ridiculously short attention spans, so my students had forgotten about the whole ordeal within minutes of the mass’s ending.  However, it still infuriated me that someone with that kind of authority would choose such a slanted message to present to an audience of young, impressionable minds.  Way to preach that holier than thou attitude, dude. Call me crazy, but I personally think we should be teaching tolerance and acceptance and respect.  The world’s biased enough as it is — do we really need to be adding more fuel to the fire?

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Pumpkin Patch

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     My kids have been bugging the hell out of me to get a pumpkin since they first saw them on display at the grocery store back in early September (because apparently, we have to wheel out all the decorative crap at least one to three months BEFORE an actual holiday anymore).  So, this past weekend, I promised them that we’d make a trip over to the pumpkin patch to get their long-awaited pumpkins. And, like most things these days, it didn’t end up to be the fun-filled adventure that I’d envisioned.    

     The “pumpkin patch” is actually just the front lawn of a local church here in town.  All of the profits go towards different charities. In fact, the sign in front of it says, “Our pumpkins help people.”  This idea totally appealed to me because I wouldn’t actually feel like I was throwing money away  when I look out the front door in a few days and see a possy of squirrels going to town on our jack-o-lanterns. My pumpkins may be mutilated, but I helped people, dammit!  

     So, the search was on for the perfect pumpkins.  My daughter wanted a tall, skinny one, and my son wanted a big, round one.  They must have inspected every friggin’ pumpkin there trying to find exactly what they were looking for.  Pumpkins were rolling here, pumpkins were rolling there, and I thought for sure that I was gonna end up having to pay for a bunch of damaged goods.  Eventually, the kiddos found two that met their standards, as well as two other smaller ones that they somehow talked me into buying.  (Yes, I am a sucker.)  I tracked down a wagon, and we loaded it with our findings.

     It was at this time that I realized that our car was parked clear around the corner, and I was gonna have to juggle four pumpkins and two kids across oncoming traffic. Now, I may be one of the world’s greatest multi-taskers, but ain’t no way that scenario was gonna play out successfully.  So, I asked the man at the checkout table if I could leave my pumpkins there while I moved the car around.  He agreed, and I dragged the kids back to the car.  In the short amount of time it took to move the car, the kids must’ve asked me damn near seventy-five times if they could hold their little pumpkins on the way home.   

     I pulled up to the curb, and the very nice checkout man helped me load the car.  As I was thanking him, I decided to ask about the charities that benefit from their sales, and he gave me a handout with about ten different organizations that they serve.  He was right in the middle of telling me all about his favorite charity when my extremely impatient children decided to roll down the car windows and yell my name OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER and OVER again.  I didn’t want to interrupt the guy when he was so passionately describing this beneficiary, so I nonchalantly tried to wave my hand behind my back to shush them. This only seemed to add fuel to their fire, and the cries grew even louder.  I was so embarrassed that I actually had to stop him and tell my kids to pipe down.  I was absolutely furious on the inside, but I tried like hell not to let it show on the outside. I slapped a fake smile on my face and pretended to listen as he continued.  When the kids turned their volume up to full-blast, he finally took this as his cue to thank me and walk away.  I held my breath and counted to fifty before I got back in the car to let my kids have it.  

     They started in with their demands to hold their pumpkins, but I quickly squashed that idea altogether.  I explained how incredibly rude they were being and gave a whole glorious speech about the importance of giving to others in need.  Although I’m quite sure it all went in one ear and out the other, I at least said my peace, and we drove home with the pumpkins in the very back of the car all by their lonesomes. And just like that, my idea for a warm and fuzzy fall adventure was smashed like a pumpkin.

Too Much Together Time

1994-05-07[1]    It is becoming very clear to me with each passing day that we are getting more and more ready for school to start.  All this “together time” here at Grammy’s house is going to either drive my kids to claw each other’s eyes out or send this here mama straight to the loony bin.  Even fun activities that I am certain that they’ll like turn into shoving and/or shouting matches.  I’m wondering if we are going to be outlawed from Grammy’s neighborhood altogether by the end of our visit.

     Since the kids have learned to ride their bikes with no training wheels, we decided to bring them down here with us.  The only problem is that Grammy’s hood is much different than ours.  They actually have driveways, whereas we have unattached garages in the alleys behind our houses where we live.  My kids are not used to watching out for cars turning into and backing out of driveways.  They are used to just barreling down the sidewalk at full speed.  So, in order to prevent them from turning into pavement pancakes, Grammy came up with the idea to take their bikes down to the church around the corner and let them ride around the enormous parking lot.  It seemed like such a brilliant idea at the time.

     So, yesterday morning, I packed up the kids and the bikes and headed over to the church parking lot.  I thought the kids could get rid of some of their bottled up energy while I could sit and do a little bit of writing.  Really, though, I don’t know who I was kidding.  I mean, these were the same two wild banshees who were just caught using rackets as weapons in Grammy’s backyard.  And sure enough, we weren’t there for more than ten measley minutes before the claws came out once again.  All that massive amount of wide open space, and they decided that they both just absolutely had to be on the exact same strip of asphalt.  My daughter started screaming at my son, who then started screaming right back at my daughter.  This was then followed by an outburst of tears from my daughter and a series of smirking and snickering from my son, which led to further shrieking from my daughter.  It suddenly dawned on me that my children were about to throw down IN THE MIDDLE OF A CHURCH PARKING LOT!  I was seriously waiting for God to come bursting through the lobby doors right then and there, shaking his holy finger at my little heathens.  Either that or I was prepared to duck for the inevitable lightning that was sure to strike down at any given moment.  After this little moment of clarity about just where this whole sibling rivalry was all going down, I packed up the bikes and declared the ending of yet another “fun” little adventure. 

     When we got back to Grammy’s, the kids each enjoyed some “alone” time (AKA time out) while I took deep breaths and checked the calendar to see just how many days we have left of summer break.  I was so looking forward to having this week and next to really enjoy spending good quality time with the kids before they start back to school.  I’m having a hard time with the “quality” part of our time together because I’m too busy being pissed off at them!  I really didn’t want them to answer the question, “What did you do over summer vacation?” with a reply of, “beat the crap out of my brother/sister.”