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~ The Most Wonderful Time of the Year ~

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For almost 6 weeks every year, a sacred veil falls upon our home. It’s a period of reflection and sacrifice, a welcome reprieve from angry crumbs and greasy butter knives left abandoned, indiscriminately, on the kitchen counter.

Lent.

M is Catholic. His mom was very religious, his dad, not so much. Though M doesn’t attend church or claim to be especially religious, it’s clear that aspects of the faith have made their way in. This, I learned, before we got married, when we were planning the ceremony. Suddenly, he was talking about a priest and a church and rites. These rites mean something to him, having gone through baptism, confirmation, confession. Marriage is another one of these rites, and to be recognized as a marriage in the eyes of the Catholic church, the ceremony must be performed by a priest in a church. Or something like that. Frankly, I’m a bit unclear on the official protocol, not to mention how rites and sacraments differ or if they’re the same thing. M isn’t much help clarifying. His most vivid memories around religion are of walking miles to church with his mom on sweaty summer days, wearing an itchy wool suit and covertly listening to his transistor radio during services.

But for 40 days every year, M observes Lent and gives up something. This something is supposed to represent, among other things, the sacrifices Jesus endured, so your something better be, you know, a sacrifice. M usually chooses bread.

Trust me, eliminating bread is a big deal for M and, by association, for me and, by further association, for our kitchen and our entire home! Those morning slices of toast slathered with butter or butter substitute (and sometimes STICKY JAM!) are my pet peeve, my Achilles heel. Appearing in the role of Hansel, M leaves a trail of crumbs all over the condo, each barefooted step collecting and redistributing the tiny irritating particles. If only he had the gene that enabled him to see (and FEEL) the mess. If only I didn’t.

During Lent, I am liberated and so is our vacuum. Except on pizza night. M doesn’t consider pizza to be a bread product. Well, he does, he just doesn’t include it in his sacrifice. He’ll forgo his beloved hamburgers and will even eat bun-less hotdogs, but pizza is off the list. According to my Lent research, it’s inappropriate to judge the piety of another’s practice, since it’s a very personal choice and not a competition. Even with the pizza, I’m impressed that M can abstain from eating bread for 40 days.

I’m not sure how spiritual Lent is for him, but I no longer question his wanting to do it. Religion is a curious thing. We may take it, we may leave it and, at different points in our lives, may find our way back to it. If we filter our spiritual practice to suit our needs and beliefs, and perhaps turn to it only periodically, so be it. It’s tempting to get all judgey when it comes to religion, especially when folks get too preachy, but that applies to anything doesn’t it? If observing Lent means that M loses a few pounds and gains some peace of mind, I say, “Huzzah!”

I’ve been both fascinated and suspicious of (and a little freaked out by), religion my entire life. I can’t think of many other things that can impact a person the way religion can. I think that’s the part that scares me, the degree of power and influence. Plus, the Damian-Excorsisty movies I watched as a kid haven’t helped (talk about being scarred for life).

At the same time, I’m captivated by the pomp and protocol and reverence. I love churches – from small village rooms to grand and ornate cathedrals. I’ve also been in several synagogues and am curious about other places of worship. There’s something so mesmerizing about watching people in prayer – the kneeling and whispering and crossing – and everyone knowing exactly what to do and when to do it. All these different aged and shaped bodies moving and speaking in “choreographed” synchronicity together. It’s a bit overwhelming, to be honest.

40 blissful days have passed for another year. I only wish there were more occasions to sacrifice other kinds of things, like dirty socks balled up by the man-chair or splatters of teeth-brushing residue on the bathroom mirror.

Clearly, Jesus has more influence on M than his nagging wife.

 

~ Bonus Points for Style ~

I’m sleeping. Flush… flush…

Wh…at… the hell…?

The unmistakable sound of a flushing toilet pulls me out of sleep. More accurately, the unmistakable sound of a CLOGGED toilet, ATTEMPTING to be flushed over and Over and OVER yanks me out of sleep!

Yup. M is in the washroom. And judging by the next sequence of sounds, including his “Hmm…” as though he’s thinking, How about that? I wonder how that happened? I know exactly what’s going on.

Is this a guy thing or M-specific? It’s like a bizarre challenge:

MAN VS TOILET!
HOW MUCH CAN YOU LOAD UP BEFORE FLUSHING?

Is it somehow pleasurable or satisfying to watch the toilet choke and spurt and struggle to swallow your manly, dinosaur-sized–

Me? I’m a flusher. I’m flushing freely and frequently. I’m like the character, John Cage, on the long defunct show Ally McBeal who once said, “I like a clean bowl.” He had a remote controlled flusher that ensured an empty bowl every time he approached a stall. Huzzah! Can you imagine? Throw in a feature that cleans and disinfects the seat and surrounding area, and boom! Done!

~

I think one of the best product inventions in the last 10 years is the “Select a Size” paper towel. No more awkward ripping of full sheets, when you only need half. I’m also a big fan of the household rag – old towels, for example, perfect for sopping up spills.

When it comes to the three big paper products – Kleenex, paper towel, toilet paper – I become the staunch conservative, and M the easy-going liberal. If something spills, M doesn’t use one of the numerous rags in the closet. No, his reflex is to grab the paper towel. And not just one or two appropriate-sized sheets for say, ¼ cup of water. I’m talking full-on, dramatic unravelling roll, of sheet after unnecessary sheet!

Got the sniffles? Take a tissue. Personally, I can gauge whether I’m going to need one, two, even occasionally three tissues (bear in mind, these are 3-ply sheets). But M? He ALWAYS TAKES 2! Every single time. We go through so much paper product, I have to buy in bulk and store it in my car because there’s not enough space in our cupboards or storage locker. I’m clipping coupons (yup, I still clip coupons!) and am constantly looking out for sales of our preferred brands. It’s a great day when Charmin Extra Strength is on sale, AND I have a coupon!

~

I don’t like crumbs. I’m not sure when I became obsessed with clean, crumb-free counters, but there you have it. Despite my requests to M to keep the counters crumb-free, along with several demonstrations and step-by-step instructions on how to keep the counters crumb-free, I encounter this,

crumbs

almost every day.

To the untrained eye, our camouflage-patterned counters look clean… when viewing from above. counter from above

But crouch down to the crumbs’ level, and you see the horrifying truth – a minefield of crusty bits strewn thoughtlessly about.

better crumbs 2


Then there was this scene that greeted me this morning, as I opened the microwave to nuke my coffee:

Open door.
Crumbs and bits from inside microwave tumble out onto ceramic stovetop (don’t get me started on ceramic stovetops!).
Inside, remnants of exploded chicken everywhere.
Literally.
On every surface, in every nook and cranny.
This is what happens when M warms up extra crispy Shake n’ Bake chicken in the microwave.
On High.
Uncovered.
For a minute and a half.

Even worse than crumbs is spilt sugar. SPILT SUGAR! I really need to be talked of the ledge when this happens. Those fine, sweet grains embedding into tiny crevices, just waiting to be devoured by any number of hiding critters. Lock me up and throw away the key!

It’s fair to say, I have issues.

~ The Toast ~

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M likes toast. He butters it on a plate, picks it up off the plate and stands in the middle of the kitchen to eat it. When I say “middle of the kitchen” I mean the actual middle. Not hunched over the sink, but right out there in the middle of the kitchen, far away from a pesky plate or paper towel, not so much as a cupped hand to catch the shrapnel of crumbs exploding all over the floor, the counters, the front of his shirt. Sometimes he takes his show on the road, and walks around the condo or reclines in his “man- chair,” where the crumbs collect on his chest and belly. I’ve asked him to be careful, but soon lost patience watching him negotiate getting out of the chair, trying not to let the crumbs fall and embed into the fibers of the carpet. I made both our lives easier by having a dust buster charged and standing by.

Now I just dust bust M.

A few passes across his front, and crises averted.

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