Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Church Character Sketches


Let's face it: we all struggle with concentration sometimes. Especially at church.

   Now, maybe it's just me because I love observing people, but I'm pretty sure most of us have gotten sidetracked by some of the hilariously quirky, entertaining church-goers. At least, I really hope I'm not the only one.

   I can't help but giggle sometimes at the personalities we encounter at Mass, and I'm sure that these characters show up in just about every church. Here's just a few you might be able to spot in your own:

   There's the typical “Ann” character: 78 years old, average height, reddish dyed hair, and a no-nonsense, "gloom and doom" personality. She's also as blunt as they come. Just the other day, as we were praying in our pew after Mass, I saw her friend Vera walking down the side aisle to leave. Ann didn't notice this at first, but when she looked up and saw that Vera was almost out the door, she wanted to get her back to talk to her. But instead of quietly following her out the door, Ann simply stood in the middle of the aisle, waving her prayer book and coat in the air, and calling out “VERA, VERA!!!.... Oh she's so deaf... VERAAA WAIT.
After several minutes of hollering, Ann had the attention of every person in the church--except Vera herself, who was still calmly strolling toward the door. It went on for so long, I think everyone started questioning whether their name was Vera and she was actually trying to get their attention.

   Another time, she got talking to my dad about all the depressing and terrible things in the news lately, and she sighed and passionately declared, “I'm telling ya, it's Sodom and Gomorrah, that's what. We're headin' right back to there, mark my words!”

   Naturally, the discussion then led to all the depressing financial deficiencies in our own parish (as she dubbed them). Her solution was, "Well, I have an idea. Why don't we spend money on worthwhile and desperately needed projects and repairs instead of printing COLORED BULLETINS!!!" as she slapped the cover of the bulletin she was holding. For some reason, I feel like I will be an exact replica of her when I get to her age.
   Next is the put-together, stylish 70-year-old Judy, sporting the perfectly permed hair, hoop earrings, nice clothes, and ALWAYS high-heeled boots. A little prim and proper, she's not extremely warm, but cordial. She's something I call “consistent,” not only because she always dresses the same and sits in one particular pew, but also because she has the same routine each service. Right before the Sign of Peace, when we all shake hands with each other and say “Peace be with you”, she puts on an enormous glob of hand sanitizer. Often, she doesn't shake hands with people at all (because of all the germs, of course), but once in a while she gets really gutsy and gives a greeting to one or two. Either way, she squirts out an even larger puddle of hand sanitizer after the Sign of Peace is over, and rubs it for at least the next 5 minutes while saying the communal prayers as loudly as she can. Towards the end of Mass, she puts on one last dollop of sanitizer, for good measure. As my dad remarked laughingly, “How did the church ever survive this long without the invention of hand sanitizer? It's really remarkable.”

   Then there's the guy who says all the responses three times as fast as anyone else. He's usually about ten words ahead of the congregation at the Our Father prayer, so if you sit within two or three pews of his, be prepared to read the words from the book, because you cannot concentrate at all on where you are. We call him “the First Responder.”

    Mary is another blessed soul who is very devoted to the funeral ministry. But the thing is, she is a chipper older Irish lady, with an adorable high-pitched voice happier than a lark. She always sounds like she is on helium and is perpetually smiling, so I hate to say that being the reader for funerals probably isn't really her calling. When she starts out the greeting at funerals in a Minnie Mouse voice, with “Hello!! Welcome!! We're SO happy to have you here to celebrate the life of...”, it almost adds injury to insult.  Her misuse of words is the best though. My favorite of her malapropisms happened at the prayer intentions at one funeral, when she read, “In Baptism, Bill received the light of life. Scatter the darkness now and welcome him into the halls of the heavenly buffet. We pray to the Lord.” I almost burst out laughing. It was supposed to be “heavenly banquet,” but heck, buffet sounds way better to me anyway!

   Also, never sit behind the couple that are both seven feet tall, especially if you're somewhat short. Trust me, I speak from bitter experience. But it is quite entertaining, because the lady often wears very tight leather jackets, and so every time she moves, she creaks. If you weren't a bit distracted before, that does it. She is also a big fan of bowing at very random times (I guess when the Spirit moves her). I don't just mean a little head nod here and there. I mean slow-motion, full body bowslike a plank of wood, but with her hands still folded in prayerIf the pew ahead of her didn't catch her, she'd probably gently (but reverently) pitch right down to the ground. I have to control my urge to whisper “Timber!” every time she does it.

  So really, who needs to create fictional characters in a book when there's plenty of material right at church? Sometimes I think God smiles to Himself out of delight when He sees our little eccentric quirks, since He put them there in the first place.

   And even if some of them can be a little annoying at times, we can at least smile and remember that it takes all kinds of people to make a world!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why I Don't Like Daylight Savings Time

   FINALLY  I'm blog-life that is. I wish I had a good reason for not posting--like I got the chance to fly to Europe for free--but honestly, I just haven't had much inspiration to write. 
Lame reason, I know.

   But as we turned the clocks forward an hour this past weekend, I got thinking about some mishaps that have happened with this simple change, and thought I'd share them with you. Whether it's the "Fall-back" or "Spring-forward" switch, I think Daylight Savings Time causes more stress than it's worth.

   You'd think it wouldn't be that difficult to perform such a minor adjustment, but I've experienced (and heard) enough bloopers about it that I'm all for just doing away with the idea altogether.

   Last year, I wasn’t sure if my Stone-Age phone automatically switched the time or not, so to be on the safe side, I carefully turned my bedroom clock back and set the annoying alarm on that. But I got thrown off because it was 20 minutes fast, along with the recent time change, so instead of setting it for 6:45am (we had to sing at church) I set it for 5:25. When it went off in the morning, I didn’t feel very refreshed even though I thought I’d gotten an extra hour of sleep. I dragged myself downstairs to eat breakfast, and because my dad had forgotten to change the kitchen clock the night before, I figured it was the right time to be up. Everything seemed so dark and dead quiet though. Barely able to keep my eyes open, I hiked back upstairs to get dressed in my cold room and get the day started. As I glanced quickly at my phone, I was shocked to see it read 5:45. I checked my computer and it said the same thing. And then I realized my goof-up and practically yelled, "Oh for Pete's is WAY too early to be up!" I climbed right back into bed and slept for another hour. So I think I got that extra hour of sleep after all, but man, too much drama for early morning.
   My other episode wasn’t really a mistake of turning the clocks back or forward…more like a pathetic sleepover “gone wrong”. I was 10 years old and probably the most absurd child ever. I didn’t like going to bed late. And by late, I mean 9:00. I liked to get ten or eleven hours of sleep every night, no matter what the occasion, and would actually beg to leave a party so I could get to bed on time. Definitely abnormal. Anyway, sleepovers were no exception to my rule. Don’t get me wrong, I loved them, but only as long as we were in bed by 9:00 and could get plenty of rest. So when I invited my best friend, Ellen, to stay over on a Saturday night, I had our night all planned out…centered around how much sleep we could get. I figured if we started a movie at 6:30pm, it would be done by 8:30 at the latest, then we could talk in bed for 20 minutes, and that left 10 minutes of actually getting to sleep. Then we could sleep in till 8 and we’d be all set! Everything went according to schedule, and we finished the movie at 8:20. Perfect. 
   Then my dad had to go and spoil it. 

    I heard him say in the other room “Ok, I’m change these clocks forward an hour now. So, it’s actually 9:30, ok?”  What!! No! I had completely forgotten about Daylight Savings Time! I was distraught…everything was thrown off, 9:30 was way too late, now we couldn’t stay up for a bit and talk, and I was only gonna get nine hours of sleep! You can just imagine my frustration and disappointment
. But after a little bit, I did finally reconcile myself to getting a little less shut-eye (after all, we could sleep in a bit more) and we still got to talk and have fun. (Although I’m sure Ellen was a little shocked at my reaction and at the fact that I actually wanted to *cough* sleep at a sleepover).
   My dad’s episode of the time change tops all though. In his early twenties, he lived in Texas by himself for a short period doing some service work. When Daylight Savings Time rolled around, he did remember to change his clock (he only had one)…but just the wrong way.  So the entire day he went two hours behind everything. When you don’t have many friends, hardly any appointments, and only one clock, apparently it’s easy to do. Except for Mass. This is the best part…since it was Sunday, he planned to go to the 9am service at the local church. Or what he thought was the 9am. Turns out, it was actually the 11am!  But that didn't even set him straight. It was only until he went to see a movie that night and was told he was in time for the second showing when he asked for a ticket to the first. And that's when he found out that it was 10:30 instead of 8:30.  He hasn’t done anything like that since, but I always double (and triple) check the house clocks just in case.

   Well unfortunately, I don't think it would do anything to boycott this nation-wide custom of changing the clocks. But hey, if you're not sure which way to turn them, do what I do: use it as an excuse to be on the safe side and go to bed an hour early either way. :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hump Day Pick-Me-Ups

   I have no idea why that commercial cracks me up so much...but maybe it's because I've been told I chew like a camel...or that I don't like Wednesdays. 

    Anyway, just in case your week has started out pretty lousy, I thought I'd share some random little memes I found on Pinterest to cheer you up. Sometimes I think Wednesdays are just as depressing and drab as Mondays (sometimes even more). So a mid-week laugh is often essential to avoid killing yourself.

(P.S. And if you don't think any of these are giggle-worthy, well you have some serious issues and I'll just go chuckle to myself in a corner). 




   Well that's all I have for now. I really hope these made you crack a smile (they better have) and get excited that we're over the hump.:) The weekend is in sight, folks! Have a lovely rest of the week. I'm off to go enjoy "Pizza Wednesdays" with my family. (I strongly suggest that too for surviving the mid-week slump).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lessons Learned From A Dishwasher Disaster

   This past weekend was a blur of craziness... but within the blur, there was one experience that stands out, because I learned something from it that I'll (hopefully) never forget.

  As you might remember, I work at a small upscale restaurant, but before I joined the ranks of the bussers and waitresses, I started off as a dishwasher. Now last week, I got called into work on Saturday night for dishwashing because the regular dishwasher couldn't do it. Not to be egotistical or anything, but I'm probably one of their fastest dishwashers...I can usually get everything done in record time. Actually, I think I'm better at it than waitressing, and usually I don't mind taking over shifts, but this time I was hesitant to agree because I had to get up early Sunday morning to sing at church. But to be a good employee, I grudgingly agreed.  
   After a long Friday night of working, and a Saturday afternoon of rehearsals, errands, and preparing for singing the next day, I was less than thrilled about going into work for 6 hours. I think as a result of neglecting my prayer time that morning, I was starting to feel the effects: agitation, worry, distrust. But I just said a hurried prayer and moved on.

   Well, if I had known what a heck of a night it was gonna be, I would have 1) taken more time to pray, and 2) probably felt like Jesus before His passion...intense dread.

   When I got there, I was informed that one of my bosses (and also the co-owner) had thrown her back out and couldn't work. She's usually the head waitress, so they had to call in another, somewhat inexperienced girl to step in for her. That was the first indication of a stressful night.

   Everything went smoothly for the first seating though, and around 8:00, we started preparing for the 8:30 seating as usual. I happened to notice that the glasses had started coming out of the 90-second high power dishwasher a bit foggy, so I decided I should probably drain and refill it. The process is a little complicated, but I managed to remember. Except for one small detail--taking out the circular plug from the plastic strainer compartment. I remembered a little late, but when I went to press the start button, nothing happened.

   The sous chef, Anna (who is also the head chef's daughter), explained to me what I had done wrong and told me to do it over again. I did. And still, there was nothing. While Anna prepared the meal, her dad tried to fix it. They assured me it wasn't my fault since it had happened before. Fifteen minutes later, we were in a panic. Chef couldn't get it working, the waitresses were behind, the first course was running late because there was only one person making it, and I was trying to keep on top of hand-washing the dishes. Chef looked up at me and said, “Molly, I hope you said your prayers because you might be hand-washing the rest of the night.” Okay, you're talking a fancy five-course meal, with lots of silverware, glasses, plates, plus pots and pans.
   I had a mini-heart attack and launched into a rapid string of silent prayers. I said every prayer I know, called upon nearly all the saints' intercession, asked my friend Jo (who was working with me) to pray too, and tried my very hardest to put my trust in God. I thought for sure He would be merciful enough to zap the dishwasher and make it work so I wouldn't have to go through that. I thought I was in a bad dream. Chef couldn't take any more time trying to fix it. But still, I kept saying my prayers, hoping for a miracle.
   I got nothing.

   I was on the brink of tears after an exhausting day, with the endless night looming ahead of me, and I was so upset at the Lord. How could He let me down? How could He not come through even when I apologized for neglecting Him and had prayed so hard? I thought I might just collapse from fatigue and stress, but miraculously, I didn't. It was the weirdest thing, but I suddenly felt a surge of strength and was able to get in my zone, working doubly hard. Everything around me seemed to be falling apart, but all I could do was hold up my end of keeping on top of dishes, and gosh darn it, I did my best. It says in the Bible about almsgiving, “Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” Well, I took that literally. One hand was washing while another was drying.

   With a little help from my co-workers and some chocolate cake, I made it through. I stayed on top of everything under the pressure and didn't have a nervous breakdown. And here's something even crazier: I was done the same time I usually am even with the dishwasher! Everyone, myself included, was pretty shocked.

   I couldn't understand the whole night why the dishwasher never started up again after I had literally begged God to fix it. But as I finished up and headed home, something dawned on me.
I remembered hearing a few times that while God might not answer even our most desperate prayer, He will give us the strength to get us through the hardship we're praying to get out of.

   And I realized that's exactly what happened. I thought He had ignored me and decided I needed to work myself to death that night. But no, He gave me super-human strength and energy to complete the job and not give up. When I look back on it, I now realize there's no way it was me who did it. It had to be really, He didn't let me down after all.  
   It completely changed how I look at prayers being answered in the way we want. It also proved to me that “God's power is made perfect in weakness,” as St. Paul says. Sometimes God responds right away and miracles do happen. But often we're left wondering if He even cares. I'm here to tell you...He does. Maybe if He doesn't answer in a miracle, we can instead pray for help to get through our trouble rather than out of it. That's often when He surprises us with His strength. 

   So all in all, what I took away from the night was: chocolate cake is an amazing energy booster, always make sure you drain a dishwasher properly, and God knows what He's doing.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Say What?

   Ever seen those little memes floating around Pinterest and other social media sites called “Daily Odd Compliments”? You know, like this one:


 Yeah, those. So touching. Personally, I think most of them are pretty dumb, although a few have made me chuckle.

   Well, as I happened across some of them the other day, I recalled some of the weird (and often comical) compliments I’ve either gotten or heard about in my life, and thought I would make my own real-life “Odd Compliments” post. 

   I'm pretty sure the people giving them meant them to be sincere compliments...but most of them were the type that you don't know whether to reply with "Thanks" or "Sorry."

   Anyway, I thought I’d pass them on, just in case you need some fresh ideas for “flattering” someone. 

An older lady we know recently asked how old I was, and I told her 17. She said "Oh honey, ya don't look it, trust me. I thought you were in 6th grade!"

After dancing with a man at a ballroom dance social, he asked me, "So are you a gymnast?" 
I replied, "No, but I'm a ballerina." 
 His response: "Oh, I was just wondering because you have extremely strong hands for such a tiny girl." Um, thanks?

My best friend also received a comment on her dancing at a ballroom social. Usually the gentleman will politely thank the lady after each dance. But after she had stumbled through a samba (which she didn't know very well) with this particular gentleman, he walked her back to her seat and just said, "Well, thanks for trying!"

A lady came up to me after I sang at church and asked, "Honey, are you taking voice lessons?" I replied yes, and she nodded and simply said, "Oh. Well keep 'em up!" 

When I was 9, our family went out to brunch with another family one Sunday, and naturally I got a kid menu to choose from. After 5 minutes of trying to decide what to get, my mom asked me to give back my menu. She handed it back to the waitress, smiled, and said loud and clear, "We're going to get an adult menu for her instead, because she has a hefty appetite." Thanks a ton, mom. 

My sister told me the story of when she was going out to eat with our grandparents, and she was wearing a dress with brown leather rider boots and a brown leather side purse--goin' for the cute/casual combo that's been the fad lately. They came to pick her up, and when she got in the car, my grandpa said to her, "You look like a 16th-century shepherd, with your boots and saddlebag!"

One night at work, while dishwashing, I got so buried in dishes that I knew I'd be there till morning if I didn't throw my whole back into it and work my tail off.  So I gritted my teeth and resolved to clean everything up in 20 minutes flat. I don't think I've worked so hard in my entire life. And just as I was finishing up, with sweat pouring down my face, my boss looked over at me with her jaw open, stared for a second, and finally stammered "OMG Molly, you're an animal!" I didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. But I said thanks anyway. 

Probably one of the worst compliments you ever want to get (and I've heard before), is that something "looks homemade". Don't get me wrong, homemade stuff is great and all, but if someone says it LOOKS like you made it, chances are it needs some help.

I also play flute at church, but apparently not many people pay too much attention to it. Recently I saw a man from church at an event, and he went on for about 5 minutes to my sister about how talented a musician she is, and then he turned to me and said,"Oh, and what's that thing you blow into?" 

One of my favorites is a remark that was given to my grandpa. In his twenties, he sang in a small all-male choir, and after one of their performances, one of his friends came up to him and said, "Nice job, really stood out!" 


Hope you enjoyed these...but if not, you can just tell me, "Good wasn't the word for it." And I'll take that the way I want. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room..."

   We're just going to ignore the fact that I haven’t posted in 3 weeks. Sorry, I was too busy watching Christmas movies. 

   This whole month I’ve been extremely psyched and gung-ho about Christmas- and winter-related activities. Oh you know, the usual: ice skating (on our own backyard ice rink), caroling, holiday parties, shopping, cutting down a Christmas tree, baking and decorating Christmas cookies…
   I was so excited about all the possible fun stuff I could do, not to mention getting off work on a Friday night, that all my enthusiasm and great plans have carried me through almost the whole month of December... without actually doing any of them.
   Seriously, you can imagine my disappointment when I realized yesterday that it was December 22nd--and the only cute, festive activity I’d actually done is make homemade salted caramel hot chocolate. I love Christmas Day and all, but the weeks leading up to it are the height of festivities, and they’ve whooshed right by me.
   Even the exhilarating adventure of chopping down our Christmas tree was kind of a letdown. We arrived at the tree farm, armed with a measuring tape and a saw, but just as we were about to brave the blowing snow and roam the acres of tundra in search of the perfect tree, we happened to walk past a row of pre-cut evergreens. My dad held one up to look at, just for the heck of it, and ten minutes later, it was on top of our car as we drove home. I mean, I suppose it was convenient that the very first tree we looked at happened to be the perfect one, but so much for the 6 layers of socks and invigorating trek into the woods. I felt a little cheated.
   In a mood of self-pity because I hadn’t done all this fun social stuff, I happened to flip to the Christian radio station and Brandon Heath’s Christmas song “Just A Girl” was on. I hadn’t heard it before, and was about to switch the station when I got drawn in by the cool guitar part and melody.
   As I listened to the nativity story told through the eyes of the innkeeper, my mood slowly began to change.
   It’s impossible in my household not to know this story inside and out…and honestly, it can get a bit stale sometimes. As important as the Christmas story is, I sometimes get sick of hearing the same old historical events year after year.
   But when I listened to this fresh perspective and different twist on Christ’s birth, everything become alive again, and I got chills as I pictured what he was narrating.
   It was exactly what I needed to hear. I could hear the Lord telling me that I was completely missing the point of the Christmas season. The same point that has been drilled into me year after year by my parents and at church. 
   No wonder I felt so empty and shallow. I had so focused all my time and energy for three and a half weeks on secular holiday doings (or wishing for them anyway) that I had neglected bettering myself and preparing a place for Christ in my heart.
   I felt like a little kid as those hackneyed phrases ran through my mind: “Jesus is the reason for the season”--“It’s not about getting, it’s about giving”--“Don’t get caught up in the hustle and bustle. Remember what we’re celebrating.”
   And so better late than never, in these last few days before Christmas, I’ve been trying to do a speed cleansing of the soul. A quick version of Advent...4 days!
   I won’t say something utterly cliché about not losing the real reason for Christmas…but maybe we should just try to find a new point of view and listen when God calls us in a different way than we expected.
   I think the words of the well-known Advent hymn are a lovely prayer to help us do this:

“Come, Thou long expected Jesus, 
Born to set Thy people free!
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.”

Well, enjoy the rest of your Advent!

…or, wait, have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Starbucks Trip... Turned Cold

   As much as I love coffee, I surprisingly don’t get to Starbucks very often.
   Maybe it’s because I think $5 is absurd for a “tall” (small) cup o’ joe, or because every time I want to go, I don’t have a ride or don’t look adorable enough.
   Because it’s a well-known fact: you can’t go into Starbucks looking like a bear out of hibernation. That’s why today was the first time in three months that I actually got there.
   I woke up thinking, “The only way I’m gonna get out of bed today is if I make myself look decent for Mass and then treat myself to Starbucks...” So I got all ready, looked pretty cute for a Monday morning, and succeeded in convincing my mom to drive me over there (because I still need to work on that license...).
   I had been drooling all morning, imagining the feel of a hot Gingerbread or Caramel latte in my hand, and I got even more hyped up when I walked in the door and was overcome by the heavenly scent of coffee.
   Ok so I have no life. But hey, it’s the little things in life that matter.
   I stood at the counter for a minute squinting at the small sign (since I didn’t have my glasses on) and finally decided on the "Caramel BruléeFrappuccino. All you Starbucks connoisseurs out there can laugh at me all you want, but I forgot that "Frappuccino" in normal language means “cold”. I thought about asking for it to be hot, but didn’t want to sound like an idiot.
   I was already shivering, mind you, due to the abrupt weather change. So when my order was an undersized (smaller than I remember) cup of iced coffee, I practically cried. Not to mention it wasn’t even a cute cup like all the other hot drinks I’d just seen.           But alas, I’m too prideful to say to the young girl that I have no brains and actually wanted a hot one.
   Luckily, it was still delicious, and I didn’t even mind that my whole body was trembling and my lips were purple.
   I waited patiently by the door for my mom to pick me up, trying to look as least pathetic as possible. I failed.

   5 minutes later, I was still waiting there like a sad little dog by the window.

   5 more minutes, half my beverage was gone, and I’d seen the same man pass through the door a few times. I think he felt bad for me because he smiled…

   5 more minutes… Tried my mom’s cell a few times to no avail.

   15 minutes is usually a short amount of time… but not when you’re standing in Starbucks trying to look cool as people brush past you in and out the door. I wish I’d at least had a bell and a bucket so I could’ve pretended I was from the Salvation Army.
   By then I was freezing, annoyed, worried about not getting my school done, and had an empty (cold) cup in my hand. So much for being all warm and cozy and cute, with a warm drink in a Christmas cup.
   At last, she came, and I quietly slipped into out into our beautiful monstrous minivan.

   The good side was that the caffeine finally kicked in and I had a pretty good day… wrapped up in a snowsuit and blanket. Gotta love coffee after all.