Friday, January 17, 2014

The Danger of Shampoo

Just had to re-post this from the Internet for those who have not seen it. It seems to be making the rounds.

DO NOT wash your hair in the shower!!

It's so good to finally get a health warning that is useful!!!


Shampoo Warning! I don't know WHY I didn't figure this out sooner! I use shampoo in the shower! When I wash my hair, the shampoo runs down my whole body, and printed very clearly on the shampoo label is this warning, "FOR EXTRA BODY AND VOLUME."

No wonder I have been gaining weight! Well! I got rid of that shampoo and I am going to start showering with Dawn Dishwashing Soap. It's label reads, "DISSOLVES FAT THAT IS OTHERWISE DIFFICULT TO REMOVE."

Problem solved! If I don't answer the phone, I'll be in the shower!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

God's Second Christmas Gift to Me in 2013

I know that that 2013 is over, and we are now a few days into 2014. Epiphany, after all, marks the end of Christmas. However, Christmas this year is likely to stay with me for quite some time, yeah, maybe even forever. In addition to the Unsecret Santa gift that God gave to me this year, in a typically generous manner, He gave me a second Christmas gift--and he gave it to me at a special time--Christmas eve--and in a special place--our old mission church, which is my favorite church in all the world. Midnight Mass this year began at 10:30. (We cheat a little because there are lots of children and lots of elderly folks in this small comunity, so we end Midnight Mass at midnight, rather than beginning it at midnight, and we begin with a half hour of caroling, a tradition that seems to have fallen by the wayside.)
All of this is merely preliminary to share that while Christmas eve is always special in our community and church, Midnight Mass this Christmas eve was unexpectedly even more special. It was special because of the unexpected expected. Expected was a full house; we had it. Expected was a feeling of sharing Chistmas eve with centuries of parishioners gathered into our old mission on Christmas eve after Christmas eve; that sense was there, as always. Expected, too, was the presence and participation of Sula, our parish cat (a feral cat who adopted the church and whom the church adopted). Not unexpectedly, Sula, who never misses a Mass (clearly Catholic, as you can see here by her walking over to join the communion line), was sleeping in the creche while carols were sung. She woke up when the retinue of priest, deacon, and altar servers stopped at the creche at the beginning of Mass to lay baby Jesus in the manger. Knowing her place, she yielded to the Greater Authority, stepped out of the creche, followed the procession to the altar, and then promptly lay down in one of "her" places.

For a brief moment, I was sitting in an empty pew near the back of the church. It quickly filled from the right, though, and then the small space to the left was taken by a stranger, someone, I learned, who had recently moved to town. He noticed Sula and, in surprise, whispered to me that there was a cat at the altar. Yep, we are used to that. This is her church, and there is even a cat door that she uses, which is left over from the really old days when cats were needed to chase rats out of the church.Not to worry, I told him. She is Catholic and a member of our parish. She also sits in pews and expects parishioners to move over and give her space; they do.

After the opening prayers, we all sat down for the first reading. Sula stood up and walked in a straight line under the pews from front to back, appearing near my feet. I reached down and picked her up. She knows me, and after all, I am a cat lady; all cats know that. She did not want to sit beside me, however, as she sometimes does. Instead, she crawled over me and into the lap of the stranger beside me. He did not reject her but sat quietly while she slid her head under his arm and went to sleep, sprawled across his lap.

"I think this is a sign that God has forgiven me," he whispered to me, with emotion causing a catch in his voice. He went on to explain, "I was an abused child, and I used to torment cats. I know it is not a justification. It was just my way of dealing with things. I have been so repentant for so many years, and I give money to the SPCA to help them counteract people like I was. Still, I have never been able to forgive myself or feel that God has forgiven me for what I did to those cats."

He stopped for a minute, then whispered almost in wonderment, "I have never told anyone this before."

Why did he tell me? I will never know for sure, but I think it was God's second Christmas gift to me this year, letting me share in a moment of His grace. (He spoils me that way.)

As for the stranger, a great peace exuded from him--and from Sula. She slept on his lap all through Mass. He did not go up for Communion, not wanting to disturb her. The rest of us in the pew scrambled past him, but Sula did not move, just breathed slowly in the satisfaction that accompanies deep sleep. She was still sleeping on his lap when Mass ended and everyone scattered to their various homes. I said good-bye. My last image as I walked out of the church was the stranger, stilling sitting in the pew, alone, except for a little white angel on his lap.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Unsecret Santa

A couple of years ago, we heard about the Secret Santa movement--a movement that seems to be secret in itself. Secret Santas go to department stores around Christmas time and pay off the layaways that are still there. Dozens of people find themselves pleasantly surprised for Christmas when they receive a special call from the layaway department. No one ever knows who these Secret Santas are because, well, they are secret Santas. They work out a deal with the clerks at the layaway counters or with the store managers, pay off whatever number of packages, and then leave. I suppose the clerks may know their names unless they are paying for all those packages in cash. If the clerks know, though, they never say.

Donnie and I became intrigued with the Secret Santa movement a couple of years ago although we cannot be considered well off. In fact, we have to scrape dollars and sometimes even change together to get our last few meals of the month before our next paychecks arrive. (It is not that my job does not pay a decent salary; it does. The problem is that all of Shane's money and much of ours goes to keeping our $3M [so far] granddaughter, Nikolina [see sidebar], alive and smiling. One of only three OEIS Complex survivors in the world, she is now a plucky, happy four-year-old but requires close medical monitoring and special supplies. I will write an update soon.)

While we do not have the finances to be Secret Santas, lack of money has never stopped us. So, a couple of days before Christmas we go to our local Kmart, where we can use our Sears card, ask the layaway clerk to find a package with toys in it, and pay it off. (We figure that if there are toys, there are children, and, who knows, without those toys, Christmas might be rather barren. We also figure that if they have not been picked up by December 23, the parents are probably struggling financially and may not be able to come up with the remaining amount. After the store calls the recipient, we sneak out. It is crazy fun!

This year, though, a lady walked into the layaway department as we waiting for the one clerk to find a package for us. The second clerk waited on the newly arrived lady, who had paid about 2/3 of the cost of the layaway but was short of cash for Christmas food. She wanted to turn in the layaway and get what she had paid into it back so that she could feed her kids.

While the second clerk looked for her package, we talked to the lady. She told us she had five boys (well, there's a challenge), was a single mother, and had just been a little lavish in her desires for the kids for Christmas. Lavish? When the clerk brought out the package there were 1-2 gifts (a t-shirt and a toy or pajamas and a toy) for each boy, and there was a cookware set, obviously for everyone. All together it was more than what we had planned to spend, but it was Christmas, after all, and God is pretty good at refilling our coffers. So, we told the first clerk not to look anymore and explained to the lady what a Secret (un, Unsecret) Santa is.

The layaway clerks excitedly walked with us to the customer service desk, where all the items in the layaway package were turned back in, the lady reimbursed for what she had paid into the layaway, and then all the times were purchased on our Sears card. The customer service desks clerks got into the spirit of things, too, and it seemed like Christmas had arrived a couple of days early.

The lady, whose name we never learned (nor does she know ours), kept iterating her grateful surprise. It clearly seemed a bit unreal to her until it came time for her to leave the store with all her layaway items and more than enough cash in her pocket for holiday food. She gave both Donnie and me a big hug, then revealed that she had not planned to come by the store the evening of the 23d but was planning to come in on the morning of the 24th. She had been returning from work, really tired, really hoping to go home, when she felt so impelled to come to the store that she knew she had to make the extra stop but did not know why. I guess we can all figure out why!