Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Christian o...

Image via Wikipedia

I love the voodoo side of Christianity – Catholic ritual especially. Like getting ashes smudged unto one’s forehead to mark the beginning of Lent. I was in high school before I realized that the priest was supposed to be marking us with a little cross. The priests at our parish were old, curmudgeonly and lazy as lizards in the sun, so for most of my childhood, Ash Wednesday meant wearing a big fat thumb print of one misogynist or the other.*

We made a game of not washing our faces and letting the ashes wear off. That whole day in school was marked with the constant flake off of burnt palm leaves from the Easter before as we endeavored wear our religion like a Brownie badge.

Of course, in my nearly all Catholic town, it was those without ashes who stood out. The rest of us were “in the club”.

It wasn’t until I was off in Des Moines and teaching that I gave up the start of Lent, as I eventually gave up Lent itself. Finding a mass to attend became inconvenient when I was anchored to the teaching day. And Des Moines was a Protestant dominated place with evangelicals and even more loony to the right of far-right’rs. I quickly tired of their prejudice and worse, their willful ignorance of any faith but their own.

“Do Catholics really drink blood.”

Seriously, someone asked me that. Someone grown up and with a college degree.

But mostly, I came to realize that it was the ritual, outward trappings and the psuedo-polytheism in the form of saints that really was what Catholicism was about for me. The silly trappings and not the beliefs or the foundation they were built on was my “religion”.

But even now, I miss the spiritualism. The mantra of prayer and response. The pageantry of Christmas and even Easter though I always found the latter to be a bit sick and perverse as it feeds an unhealthy self-loathing that often manifests out and at others. I have never found shame, guilt and fear a good basis for a relationship and yet that is the one we were instructed to build with the Almighty.

But the ashes were kind of awesome because regardless of the twisted nature of Lent, they were a rather good reminder to live in the now.

“Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.”


*Not an exaggeration. Neither man liked females in the slightest and took no pains to hide their contempt from us. Mothers, nuns or little girls. We were all barely tolerated.

Christmas Eve in Bulgaria

Image via Wikipedia

After the last family member packed up goodies and said goodnight, Rob and I snuggled up in a delicious hug and he complimented my fine turn at hostess, a role that hangs on me like a Snuggie made of sandpaper.

“We haven’t done too badly, ” I agreed, “for two people who are as anti-social as we are.”

He just laughed.

Inadvertently, we find ourselves in the midst of a blizzard of relations that is slowing but not completely stopped.

My mother-in-law and her fiance arrived on Wednesday and will not leave until tomorrow night. Shelley’s ex-brother-in-law’s sister hosted us for Christmas Eve after the nephew she shares in common with Shelley invited us.

It is an odd thing for some to wrap their mind around – family that is not family – but one I grew up. Many of my “cousins” were actually the children of my parents’ friends.

Dee wanted to know how everyone at the Christmas Eve gathering was related to her. Because her older sisters are related, she believes she must be as well. My attempt at explaining the metaphysics relationship just caused her brow to crinkle so I said,

“They are cousins.”

Cousins is a handy term with elastic possibilities.

Shelley’s older sister, who drinks a bit and has the convenient memory thing to boot, couldn’t attend, so the evening was stress-free and enjoyable.

Christmas Day couldn’t have gone any better. Really. There is nothing to top “perfect”.

The older kids arrived promptly for breakfast despite having outlasted us the night before and not getting to bed themselves until 3.

The Fiance fit in well. And food, presents, Wii, lunch, movie, more Wii and dinner later found us still companionable and pleasant.

Rob’s younger sister twisted the tension knob and amp’d it last evening with her arrival and we are having lunch with them today, so the fun will continue.

Oh, it wasn’t a trailer park death match in a cage. More like kitty claws.

Her older sister was much the same. They both revel almost in telling tales on their mother, who apparently could have used a book or two on the topic of parenting.

It’s not that I don’t understand having a mother who didn’t have natural instinct for it, but I don’t personally think that it does anyone any good to beat a horse that died long ago or keep its stinking juicy carcass in your main living space.

I tried to coerce Edie and Mick into coming for dinner last night in the hopes that they could steer conversation. Lord knows that the boyfriend my SIL brought along was doing his level best to deflect and distract, but Rob’s siblings are like dogs with new chewies when they see an opening. Give up a chance to rehash a miserable childhood? Not happening.

My own family managed a bit of shared time on the dysfunction front.

N2 and his father are moving back to the hometown and N2 is in full emo regalia. The likely outcome of this move is his finally dropping out of high school because the world needs another can’t-tell-him-anything skill deficient half-assed educated teen pounding the pavement for employment.

“Just don’t let him suck you into funding the beginning of his wasted life,” I cautioned my Mom – not that any advice I might have given or ever gave her she’s listened to and acted on.

“Oh, I won’t,” she assured me.

Of course that remains to be seen. The likeliest scenario – because N2 is an emotional carbon copy of his mother – is quit school, be a burden, knock up his white trash girlfriend and be more of a burden.  But some people need to be forty-four and burdened with children of their own before they catch the clues of the universe instead of head-butting them. I refuse to be drawn in and will send a baby gift when the time arrives and coo at appropriate times.

Family is like too much curry though. Spicy eventually numbs and dampens the appetite.

Despite the scary success of the holiday, I am ready for it to be over.

In the word’s of Bilbo Baggins, “Don’t adventures ever end?”

Last night in the quiet of what will be our awesome new living, I told Rob,

“Next year – no big family things at our house.”

I want the neutral corner.

Christmas in the post-War United States

Image via Wikipedia

The always awesomely amazing Julie Pippert, who took a huge chance on me and gave me my start as a blogger beyond my own little realm, asked me if I would share my yoga journey at Choose You today.

Though I meant to blog for you dear readers, the Christmas Express is hurtling at me with deadly accuracy and with in-laws arriving today and the house still at half-ass status (not to mention the demonic dishwasher taking a header – again), my to-do list is long enough to make me cry.

So, head over to Choose You and I’ll update you on the state of progress – or my nervous breakdown – tomorrow.

Oh, and the tree pic? That would not be a representation of ours, which is still a pine-cicle by the swing set in the backyard.