Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Devotion of the Nine Tuesdays

Today my world is a little smaller, a little lonelier, a little bereft of solace.

I have many cousins of whom I am fond but M. rather stands alone.  When I was three years old, she showed me the Man in the Moon.  I remember this lesson very distinctly.  We were hanging around the swing set in her family's sloping backyard.  She is seven years older than I and she knew about the Man in the Moon.

We fell out of touch, more or less, over the years, but one of the amazing thing about being in my 50s and having said goodbye to all of my aunts and uncles, is that some of the cousins are croneying.  Their kids are older or have left home.  We are the ones who know the family stories and are, therefore, the family we have left from the Before.  We don't have the energy to insist on identical politics or old envies or intellectual parities.  I've even found myself becoming friendly(ish) with people from high school.

And I hated high school.

M. wrote me out of the blue one day when I'd whined on about one or another of my depressions in this blog.  She told me she understood, that it was real, that one of her kids suffers from it too.  We began to discuss the family we are both adopted into.  She has kept a benevolent eye on me through my blog and Facebook.  She continually wishes me well.  Every day I know she wishes me well and would listen to me or attend to what I throw out there on the Web.

Except today.  Today she is in surgery, recovery, sleeping deeply.  I'm glad that the sisters went in together.  For a long time, that family of siblings was all each other had.  Nobody is alone today.

I went to Mass this morning as I promised M. I would.  At nine o'clock, I could picture M. and her sister, P., as they were prepped for the surgery that would transfer P's kidney to M.  Two cousins are in mortal danger and both of them are of faiths that are antithetical to the Catholic Church, and yet M. said my attendance that morning would mean more to her than she could say.  I joked that it should -- it's an eight a.m. Mass -- but I  made a promise that needed keeping.

I had no idea that my parish is in the middle of a novena to St. Anthony.  I went to St. Anthony's school and that persistent image of him has stuck -- with the infant Jesus, with the lily.  Just like the Man in the Moon, I suppose.  St. Anthony was a Franciscan, a gentle order.  He was a gentle man.  So much of Catholicism involves blood and martyrs and conversion, but St. Anthony was a parochial friar who preached and healed and calmed.  It's fitting that he is the patron saint of horses: P. is a fine horsewoman.  It's fitting that he is also the patron saint of letters: this is a love letter to M., to let her know how much of I've been thinking and praying for her today.

The list of places and things he is a patron of is so long that we could all find ourselves in there.

The Franciscans recently sent me this prayer to St. Anthony and I like it so much that it sits in front of my keyboard:

"Holy St. Anthony, reach down from heaven and take hold of my hand.

"Assure me that I am not alone.  You are known to possess miraculous powers and to be ready to speak for those in trouble.

"Loving and Gentle St. Anthony, reach down from heaven I implore you and assist me in my hour of need.  Obtain for me [your request].

"Dearest St. Anthony, reach down from heaven and guide me with thy strength.  Plead for me in my needs.  And teach me to be humbly thankful as you were for all the bountiful blessings I am to receive.


I like that prayer a lot.  I like the idea that St. Anthony is reaching down to take my hand, M's hand, P's hand.  I like the idea that he walked across heaven this morning to talk to God or Jesus about my cousins' welfare.  I like that it ends on a note of promise.  M's religion is as vastly different from mine as two Christian faiths can be, but I think that there is enormous power in turning to one's roots for intercession.

And so I did, only to find myself lighting two candles at the shrine to St. Anthony, touching his feet, and crossing my lips.

Now it's up to him.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Trending in Francieland Now...

Jersey Moms scare me. So do their followers. Prepare to be horrified in a hundred ways from this Reuter's article:

I commented: 

"It's not fair to bring in suppositions about whether the public pays for her food or her medical bills.  I think Laura was right in asking why she craves this much attention.  Does she have a narcisstic disorder?

I can kind of understand weighing 600 pounds and deciding to accept oneself.  No one just balloons up to that weight and I'm sure she's tried diets and fasts and found them ineffective.  (FYI: 95% of the time they ARE ineffective).  But aiming to weight 400 more?  Glorying in her success on the fringe of fetishes?  Gorging on the food that's not only making her fat but is, in itself, dangerous?

"She lives 40 miles from NYC but she certainly couldn't get up the steps of the Metropolitan or stand in line at the Empire State Building.  She'll see Hawaii from a car. 

"And that's what makes me sad.

"What makes me mad is her and her fiancee's notion of curves.  I've weighed over half of what she weighs and I guarantee you I had NO CURVES.  I was one large mass, square shaped.  What she has are bulges and flaps.  And they're lying to themselves to think there is no difference between the two concepts."


Now let's make fun of thin people striving for Jersey Mom Perfection:

Who's the scariest of all?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

HEllo. My NAME is JERemy. How MAY I help you?

I've met a Max, a Peter and now a Jeremy, all in the same sing-song voice of the Subcontinent.  My Master Card is issued by a Nevada bank and yet each time I call, it is a "Frank" or a "Sam" or a "Jason" who answers.  I know these are not their real names because I know my call has been routed to India.  I know that because the agents' English is too crude to communicate anything tricky to.  My prescriptions, for instance.  I order them from Vancouver, B.C. but they ship either from the U.K. or Australia.  This means I have to call Master Card and warn them that a foreign charge is about to occur and that I made it.  Who knew that involving three countries could cause so much non-understanding?  Three times in a row they have refused the charge.  I call again and tell Leslie or Sarah that I called seventy-two hours ago and confirmed the charge.  Promises are made, then broken.  Finally, my Canadian pharmacy put the script through in India, where the charge is passed as though I were putting an envelope in the collection basket.

I've paid about half my credit card debt off in the last year and Master Card is the Mother of All Credit Card debts.  When I opened my statement this month, I noticed a $90 charge for credit card and identity coverage.  I'm sure it's a wonderful concept but hello -- that's almost a hundred dollars a month, which is twelve hundred dollars a year in additional charges.  I have credit cards whose spending limit is less than that.

All I want to do is pay that bastard off.  I told Jeremy to remove the charge which I hadn't approved in the first place and he began reading from a script.  I cut across him, "Just take it off and unenroll me."  He switched to another script in which it was all my fault: I'm carrying a high balance and that's why my identity is more expensive.

(Shouldn't I be less expensive, since a fraudulent me would reach my credit limit sooner?  A zero-balance only means Master Card would have to chase down or eat $10,000 in charges rather than $4,000, a significant savings to them.)

I cut across Jeremy again.  "Just.  Take.  It.  Off."  He tried again and I stopped him by telling him I know he has to read this script ("I'm not reading...") but the point is that I want to reduce my balance, not pay another hundred dollars just to stay in the same place.  He tried one more time but I started shaking in fury, something I communicated without swearing or yelling.  The way he pouted when he said he was unenrolling me and removing the charge was meant to shame me, as though his year-old-son would be going to bed hungry that night because of my evil.

Americans complain vociferously about our jobs being exported to Asia, where they are done sooner, cheaper and, in some cases, better.  But here is a job that needs to be brought back to our shores.  "Sam" and "Carrie" do not understand that I can order about two hundred dollars' goods from Canada but it might be shipped from England or maybe from some place else.  They can't even understand me when I call to say I'll be in Czech Republic next week.

Dear Direct Merchants:  My money is, like, really sensitive shit to me.  So is the Wellbutrin your agents are blocking.  Could you please move your 1-800 center to an American state in need of job opportunities?   The Rust Belt is yours or maybe Mississippi.  Montana is good -- very little accent, low per capita income, cheap rents, and the weather is, um, cool most of the year.

Except when it's not.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Trending in Francieland, right now...

What about the Japanese restaurant owner who has such a strict policy regarding uneaten food that she will ban you from her restaurant for not finishing your dinner?

Forced binging, or a new concept in Eating Green?