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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Hold On To Those Stones Out There


Once, I became suddenly fixated upon the idea that I was going to hell. For some reason, it began to occupy a lot of my Active Worry Time. I shared this concern with my breezy, largely unconcerned friend Roger who said this to me, and it changed my life in a massive, monumental way: I don't believe in Hell, and you shouldn't either. And, that way, you won't have to worry about going there. It doesn't exist.

(Actually, there was a ton of stuff in between the first sentence and the second, but it was extremely philosophical and Existential and spanned several hundred years of history and all that, and really, it's the remaining text that is germane.)

The effect of his speech on forty-something years of Roman Catholic guilt was liberating. It was almost like a hit of nitrous. I remember laughing and laughing. He was smiling indulgently, like a childless uncle at a baby's birthday party when the kid goes right for the cake. He stood up from the table, put his hands in his pockets and said, "Okay! See how much better you feel? Hell is nothing but a load of crap. You want hell? Come in and teach my third period class. See you later."

So, I don't believe in Hell anymore. I'm a recovering Catholic who's trying to get over years and years of nuns smacking me around with Guilt. Guilt over my parents not sending me to Catholic school. Guilt over not going to confession every single week. Guilt over not feeling like I was really a horrible person because I couldn't recite the definition of "grace" word for word on command. If there is a Hell, I truly think it was Mondays from 4 pm to 5 pm in St. John's School at what was then called CCD, now PSR (what do all those letters stand for anyway?) when Sister Marguerite used to drill us in Religion tempered by berating us as Public School Children. I left there every single week with a massive headache from first grade through sixth.

But, confession is still good for the soul, is it not? And in case there is a Hell--Roger's avowals to the contrary notwithstanding--here are some of my sins. I'll confess to seven, in keeping with the tradition.

1. I do not have a "baby book" for either of my children. I have not set down for posterity their first words, the date of their first steps, first haircuts, or first time on the potty. I am a terrible, terrible mother, I know.

2. I have not dusted my fireplace mantel in many, many years. I keep a tapestry runner on it to avoid it. I have eleventy billion family pictures on it that I dust twice a year: when I take them down to put up Christmas decorations, and when I take down the Christmas decorations to put the pictures back up. If you have a problem with that, come on over and dust for me.

3. I am not all that sentimental. I would rather clear out the toys, crib, baby furniture, and baby clothes from my kids than hang onto them like grim death. I have pictures of all of those things in use. The objects themselves do not retain any of the smells or any feel of the boys when they were babies, so what's the big deal? Get rid of it. Unless the item was handmade by someone, and even then, I might still pitch some of it.

4. I have a horrible swearing habit. I have a really hard time coming back to school in the fall and controlling my mouth after a summer of swearing freedom. I never swear in the classroom, but I am on constant guard. My husband hates that I am profane, but he knows I have been trying to clean it up in deference to him. I used to have a real thing against the F-word, but something happened and suddenly, it made an appearance, and it has been around ever since. I blame my friend Leanne who I don't see often, but whose R-rated emails do nothing to discourage me.

5. I don't take pictures. At all. Consequently, I have almost no pictures of my children at any milestones of their lives, and they have no pictures of me. This is a horrible thing for a ton of reasons, I know. Don't berate me and don't give me dire warnings in the comments, all full of predictions about how when I die the boys won't have any favorite photos for their memories and how they won't have any pictures of themselves to show their own babies and yadda yadda yadda da da da. I know all that and I'm already wearing an enormously prickly hair shirt provided by my sister for that.

6. I don't clean behind my appliances. If any single one of you does, then you should be canonized. Or hospitalized for OCD. Because, really, don't you have something else to do, like build low-income housing for the poor? Or come and take pictures of my family?

7. TravisCat threw up on my computer chair and all I did was (A) scrape off the big chunks, (B) put a towel over the rest of it, and (C) tell Rick that I need a new computer chair because I am sick of the cats vomiting on everything and I am not washing a freaking $30 chair when I can go to Office Maximum and get a new one on sale. Which will be VINYL OR LEATHER so that cat-yak will be more readily removable. (Honestly, the cat threw up on the futon, the rug, and my bed last week. WTF? But I digress.)

So, there they are, My Seven Sins. Are you suitably horrified? I'm glad there isn't a Hell now. Any or all of these would surely land me there.
Just remember what it says in John 8:7...

25 comments:

  1. How like sisters we are at times. I am so scarred by 8 years of CCD, that my children weren't even baptistized.

    I have no baby books either, but I do have pictures, lots of pictures.

    I'm learning all about cat puke. Dog puke is worse, but cat puke is more frequent.

    I make the kids dust, but I don't care how good a job they do. I won't move an appliance even if it personally asked.

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  2. After a couple months of lurking, I finally decided to comment because your seventh sin made me laugh so so hard!

    And cleaning behind appliances? Hardly necessary, who ever sees behind there?!

    Hope everything is well with you!

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  3. plain jane10:39 PM

    You aren't really going to make me pull out a (dusty) bible to look up that verse are you?

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  4. Anonymous10:06 AM

    I must be the odd man out here...I cant's stand the thought of what may be lurking under/behind my appliances and will easily spend and hour trying to design some funky contraption that will extend the length of my arm so I can reach the random pieces of dog food and God only knows what else...maybe that is where your sock is!?!?!?

    I used to be a non-swearer. Then I married a steel-mill worker. It went all downhill from there. We swear together. God help us!~Nina

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  5. All "J" commentors! What's the deal with the rest of you in the alphabet? Alrighty, then...

    J.--Forced child labor stopped around here the day both children grew big enough to toss me over their shoulders and carry me out of the room. I can appeal to their father only so many times in a day before he becomes completely deaf. And, I must say, if an appliance asked nicely, I might just accommodate it.

    jenomena--my goodness, if a little cat vomit story is what it took to delurk you, you should have come out months and months ago. traviscat has been ralphing since this blog began, and emily's digestive disturbances are legend. but, whatever the reason, i look forward to your $.02 more often, and i promise to visit your little corner of the web, too.

    plain jane--oh heck, no reason to move about any old cartons in the basement for that reference (which i had to google for myself!). your clue is in the post title! remember, we former catholics are no bible experts. never even saw one in church. that tome is for the protestants.

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  6. nina--you sneaked in as i was posting my commments to the J Group. you poor thing, allow me to introduce you to the lovely scented bubbly bath as a far more productive way to spend an hour of your time rather than scrabbling about, searching for an errant piece of kibble. screw that.

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  7. The obvious solution is to kill the cat. You can blame it on Curiosity. Curiosity of what life would be like without catyak all over your stuff.

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  8. ROFL. I identify with pretty much all of your points. Especially not dusting certain areas for years, and swearing. Every now and then I get caught out in the classroom. Like the day my students were all engrossed in taking a rather difficult test, and I was reading school email and came across a rather horrifying one about a deadline I had not met. Before I knew it, "shit" had hit the air. Under my breath, but loud enough for all 22 girls to hear it. The weird thing was, I didn't even realize I had said it until they all started giggling.

    The 'F' word: I sometimes use it, but I prefer "freaking." And I never use it in the literal sense, and am still shocked by women who do (e.g., instead of asking if a couple has had sex, they would just asked if they had... er, you know.)

    Anyway, that was effin' hilarious, and isn't it a shame they never taught us the truth about Hell in our CCD classes?

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  9. Southern Baptists can dish out the guilt, too. Here I am: the product of a lapsed Catholic father and a Southern Baptist mother. See my scars. My cats sleep outside and I don't keep appliances on my counter (so that I don't have to clean behind them). I take pictures of my kids, but they lie jumbled and unlabeled in plastic drawers on wheels I get from Target. I don't clean my closet, I just keep the doors closed.

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  10. I've wanted to comment many a time, but I pretty much can't think of anything more clever than "Haha, I think you're funny!"

    Our boy cat, Buster, likes to eat his food as fast as he can and then ralph it up just any old place. And then he eats some more. He also likes to do that at night and cover it up with the bathroom rug so that you step on it in the morning(we keep him in the bathroom to avoid the run-chase game with our girl cat all night).

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  11. ih--I may be continually dismayed by my cats and harbor ill thoughts toward them, but I am no murderer. However, if you know a guy....

    o'tizz--I do make that distinction as well: never do I use the F-word as that verb. Isn't that hideous to hear? I hate women who swear, truly, I do. And, do you teach only girls? How do you stand that? My head would be backwards by now.

    wordgirl--I live in a very old home, so the closets are teeny tiny. My shoes are now tumbling out into the bedroom. My husband's closet is not even in our room. He has to have his clothes in the spare room, where Traviscat stores his vomit.

    jenomena--clearly you need two more cats. come and get them any old time.

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  12. Nance: Yes, I teach in an all girls Catholic high school. Your head would be really backwards. Or not. Some of the stuff they say (to my face, mind you, not me eavesdropping on them!) would curl your hair. Stuff I would never have said in front of friends in high school, much less a teacher. :-)

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  13. Anonymous5:48 AM

    F***! I don't use that word that often. BTW...there is no F***ing hell.
    your VBF...Leanne (whose hell is her 6th period class)

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  14. Nance,

    You are a bad, bad woman, but are you bad enough to go to Hell. I think not. These are only VENIAL sins. There's still hope. Offer your exposure to cat barf up for the "poor souls" and earn some cheap grace

    I had a priest tell me he didn't believe in hell. He said "the wages of sin are death" and that bad souls die, good souls get to carry on.

    As for the rest, I take lots of pictures. My kids have baby books. I become less sentimental with each passing year. I dust. I cuss. And my husband who is Mr. Clean, regularly vacuums behind the appliances and under the furniture and hates when my language gets colorful.

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  15. If you go to CNN.com quickly (before the change the headlines), you'll see "1-ton, moppish-haired cow charges cop car." And it's not Ohio. Weird. I thought all cows were in Ohio. Apparently only the murderers.

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  16. Leanne--Mea culpa. WTF was I thinking? LOL.

    Venial-Grrrl---erm...I mean...anyway, you are far too saintly to be my true cyber-twin. Quick, tell me again how you don't wash out your crisper drawer. (you don't, do you?)

    ih--OMG! I love the Scottish Highlander cows. They are so wild and untamed looking. Did you watch the video? And again, a case of biased reporting. It did not charge the cop car. Watch carefully. MUST I ALWAYS BE THE SOLE ADVOCATE FOR BOVINE JUSTICE?!

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  17. So this blog got me thinking and church today has me wanting to write a blog. Did I ever mention I was raised Catholic? Yes. K-8 at St. Mary.

    We'll have to discuss this subject...

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  18. Hilarious post! I have to admit that I clean behind all appliances that I can move. I'm a Virgo! I can't help myself!

    I very rarely swear, unless I'm driving, then I swear all the time and it's usually the f-bomb!

    And until I was in my twenties, I didn't know about the meaning of Ash Wednesday. I saw all these people with smudges on their faces and was wondering what was up with them. Then I put 2 and 2 together. Very sad...

    And since I know you love fashion, I have to give you a link to this blog, a pastor who gives fashion tips to ministers. She's gone national and will soon be interviewed on Nightline.

    http://www.beautytipsforministers.blogspot.com/

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  19. danielle--raised Catholic, huh? Is there a support group for us someplace? "hi, my name is_____ and i was raised Catholic."

    anali--who is coming to your place and looking behind the appliances all the time? why do you clean back there? did you ever find anything good? i have yet to hear any reason to do this myself. now i'm going to that URL to see beautiful ministers.

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  20. 1. The baby book

    adult child: (waving book) LOOK what I found in the bookcase! This is a detailed baby book for that bulimic cat you had! Look at all the photos! Look at the lock of fur! All of the notes and stories!

    parent: If you closely, you'll see it is a "kitten book" i got it as a gift with a crate of cat food many years ago.

    adult child: Why is MY babybook empty?

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  21. d.ched.--welcome to the dept.! thankfully, we did NOT keep pets early in the boys' lives, so we were saved this indiscretion. that's also the beauty of #5! thanks for making me feel better!!!

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  22. Seriously, you are my new favorite person.

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  23. Anonymous9:27 AM

    Regarding hell no to Hell.

    Last night I saw a sign in front of a church in Clinton MD.

    “ENJOY THE COLD, ITS HOT IN HELL”

    Immediately thought of you.
    I know that you have a verbal advantage, but never ever challenge the beliefs a group of strong will old black women who can sit on wooden church pews for hours and have multiple hat pins.

    Playing it safe in So. MD

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  24. brookelina--awww, >blush<, thanks!

    So. MD--and what about good old Sartre, who said, "Hell is other people"? That happens to be the axiom my husband lives by. And don't tell me about pews: Catholics are the ones who kneel during church, remember?

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  25. Nance: But we did only kneel for 45 minutes to one hour. They sit, stand, dance, for 2-3 hours every week! You know how Catholics get when mass is over one hour. They panic.

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