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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Off to a Flying Start

That was exciting! Food on Foot won by a landslide. Thank you all for helping out. I'm sure you had everything to do with the big win. You should feel proud. Suzy promises to capitalize proper names from now on. Very exciting. I heard from her in the midst of the climb to the top. I'll let you know what she tells me about winning the big enchilada.

My own fund raising efforts did not go as smoothly. In fact, I had one of the embarrassing things that has ever happened to me occur in the midst of it. Thank the Lord, just this once for people who insist on answering their cell phones no matter who they are with and no matter what is going on. About to say, "I do"? "Hold on, I have to take this."

Once a year, around the first, I get an invitation to a very wealthy lady's home for tea. While I'm there she gives me a check for the retired nuns home. It's always just a little awkward because although giving me the check is the reason she has invited me to tea and she does it every year, but she pretends it's all about having me to tea and I have to behave accordingly. At the end of the tea she makes a little speech about all the good nuns do and how she wants to give to the nuns who taught her so well, etc. Then she writes out a check as though she's never done that before. It's all lovely, but I have to get through High Tea.

I know everyone views nuns as people who are very proper and polite with impeccably clean fingernails (true about the fingernails). But the truth is, because we lead a humble life, High Tea makes me, at least, feel like Clumsetta McGooglefingers.

Today was the day. She lives in the neighborhood so I hoofed on over. She answered the door, cell phone in hand, and signaled me to have a seat. I have to admit I immediately felt less awkward, because after someone does that to you, what do you have left to feel awkward about? Famous last questions.

Her home is done in antique furniture. Just another reason to feel ill at ease, since you don't want to bump, break, ding, mar or smudge anything thereby lessening it's value. And of course everything is white, beige, ecru.

I sat on a small antique chair there in the foyer. White. Needlepoint seat cushion. Lucky for me, she had the wherewith all to pop into the next room to continue her conversation, unlike so many people who will let you just stand there while they prattle on as though you don't exist.

I did what I always do in such situations. I looked down at my feet.

There was something bulging out from under my shoe. I crossed by foot across my knee to have a look. There was the most enormous wad of gum I have ever seen in my whole life. (I have been teaching grade school my whole life and I have seen wads of gum an elephant herd could share.) The gum covered the whole toe of my shoe on the bottom and then lolled up the side of the shoe on one side like the Blob. I do not have small feet. This is a lot of acreage.

Horrified but unseen, I used by impeccably clean fingernails to pull the gum off my shoe. I dug my fingers into it, figuring I'd have time to wash my hands before the arrival of any cucumber sandwiches. I pulled.

I'm not sure I can describe what happened. The gum stayed. I pulled straight up into the air and now had a string of gum stretching from my shoe to my hand the entire length of my arm. (I have long arms, too.) Now I was really alarmed. Can you imagine if she'd come into the room just then, me sitting with a wad of gum in my impeccably clean hand stretching to my shoe, sitting with my foot crossed over my knee, still with an enormous wad of gum on my shoe on her antique chair over the Oriental carpet?

I looked to see where she was. She was pacing pack and forth in the other room. All she had to do was look in my direction to see this horrific scene.

Frantically, I grabbed the gum on my shoe again with my other hand, digging into it to really get under it. I pulled. Now I had a string of gum in my left hand as long as the length of my left arm, making a sort of gum triangle. If she had looked in on me just then she would have seen the nun with her foot crossed over her knee, both arms over her head, with two giant strings of blue bubble gum going in two different directions like some kind of filthy gum puppeteer of nun shoes.

I was utterly panic stricken. Both of my hands were tied with gum, the string was so long that if I put my arms down the goo would touch the carpet or the chair, the giant wad of gum was still on my shoe as though I hadn't touched it and surely, surely she would be off the phone any second. What could I possibly say to her if she walked in right now?

"I am so looking forward to tea. Please ignore that I am draped in the gum from my shoe."

I kept pulling at the gum, re-wadding it from hand to hand, pulling it off in more giant stretches. Still she blabbed on.

I'm sure time slowed down as it always does when something horrible is happening.

I managed to get the big wad off my shoe. Now what? I just walked over for tea. I didn't bring a thing with me, not even a hankie. I always have a hankie. I was in the foyer. I had a fleeting maniacal idea that I could try to pass it off as some sort of gum rosary and hang it from my belt in loops.

I am about to tell you what I did with that gum. As I try to lead by example, I am warning you ahead of time that if you follow me you'll burn in hell.

I stuck that gum on the bottom of that antique chair. Me!

Do you know how many children I have had stand in the corner, or scrape gum off of desk bottoms, or write a thousand times "I will not chew gum in school"? I'll guesstimate. About two million.

Oh, the irony!

In retrospect, I could have palmed the gum until I went to the washroom to wash my hands. I just panicked is all. I think if the gum, as enormous as it was, had just come off easily, I would have figured that out. But once it became the Killer Gum From Outer Space, I lost my marbles. Now I know why people in horror movies never do what the audience is yelling at them to do. They are being attacked by giant blue bubble gum and they have lost their marbles. Poor things.

The tea was lovely. I acted surprised when she presented me with the check. I'll mail it off to the Mother House and try not to get gum all over it.

Next year, when I'm invited to tea, I'll try to get that gum back.


ann nonymous said...

Well, Sister, at least you didn't stick it behind your ear. There are worse things you might have tracked in on the bottom of your shoes. Maybe all the time you've put in dusting pews will make up for the fact that you've stuck gum on the bottom of that lady's antique chair. I just hope your benefactress doesn't read your blog. You may have eaten your last cucumber sandwich at her home.

First post of the new year and it starts off with me showering the computer with iced tea. I really need to remember to refrain from drinking while I'm reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

A lady never apologises - for anything.....gum? what gum?

Anonymous said...

Maybe we can just pray for a miracle and have that gum disappear for you, Sister. Now who would be the patron saint of gigantic wads of gum that need disappearing? :-)

Anna B. said...

Or.. Who would be the patron saint for high tea?

Ellen said...

Thanks for remembering "The Blob" in your blog. The scene of the people fleeing from the movie theater was filmed in my hometown where they reenact that scene every year at the Blobfest!

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I'm so happy that Food on Foot won and not that dog charity!

:) You started talking about food on foot and ended talking about it, too! Well, I guess gum isn't really considered a "food", but it's still funny to me!

Tonda said...

You tell stories so well Sister. I had such a blah day and you brightened it up. Now I can go to sleep with a good chuckle at the end of the day.

PraiseDivineMercy said...

This reminds me of when I first moved on my own about a year ago. I ended up renting a room from a kind Filipino family. The one catch? No shoes in the house past the entry.
On the night of my third day there, I came home late after work carrying two armloads of groceries. I was tired from walking the half mile home from the bus stop. Temptation got to me and I went straight to the kitchen without removing my shoes.
About an hour later I was called from my room to explain the tracks through the living area. Somehow, I had landed in a giant dog turd just outside and tracked it across the white carpet.
I'm sure you can guess the moral to this story.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I used to have a reading aloud of James Thurber's short classic "Nine Needles" once a year because we thought it was the funniest story of its kind in the world. But Thurber has been far surpassed. I think we ought to make a family tradition of reading your gum-on-the-shoe story annually, and pass it down to the grandchildren, too. Thank you!

Alice G.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister Mary M.,
I need your help. I get the part about the bad thoughts, and your propositions for various disciplines are most helpful.
I understand how if someone else so irritates you that you begin to entertain, at least conceptually, homicide, that you ought to confess it and get it off your chest.
But how do we prioritize such sins if we aren't Roman Catholics such as yourself. For instance, when I have knowledge that someone else is a card-carrying Republican, is it wrong to assume that they go around hating everyone and wishing they were dead or is that an ok picture here?
Or, suppose someone told me that they believed that abortion was wrong. Should I condemn them for their lack of charity and tolerance? If so, how do I go about that, concretely, to underscore their big badness. Like, can I drop little insinuations here and there and everywhere, little love notes and helpful hints, various 'objet's', and whatnots, whathaveyou, and then, hide behind the hedges to spy as to when and where and how they reform their lives?
I'm just so confused right now, I wish that you could help me.
Thanks a million!

Sarah - Kala said...

Well, Anon., abortion is wrong. And, yes, we ought to say something when we see or encounter wrong, BUT with charity. For example, you can be charitable when you say that you cannot TOLERATE abortion, because abortion is MURDER. Would you tolerate a woman who loved her newborn the first few weeks, then savagely murdered it by any method, because motherhood was too much of a bother, the baby cried too much or whatever? Too many people believe the lie that "it" is just a blob of tissue until "it" is born. Too many people buy into the lie that it doesn't hurt anyone to choose to abort. Too many believe the lie that they couldn't give birth and either keep the baby (a struggle, but a blessed one) or give the baby up for adoption (another blessed option). To be charitable about saying abortion is wrong because it's murder is to LISTEN to the person's concerns, then lovingly explain why you do not support abortion and lovingly give options, lovingly pray for the said person, lovingly love them if they choose to abort. You love the sinner, not the sin; but when you see you can maybe make a difference by lovingly explaining why abortion is wrong, you are doing all you can do to help. Tolerate abortion? No. Not if you are a Christian.

You have to be firm in what you believe. Since you are not Catholic, if you are Christian, you should base your beliefs on the commandments . . . start there. If you really believe you need to correct people, you better be strong in your belief and know why you believe the way you do. For us Catholics, we have the Bible, Catechism and Tradition that help us form our conscience. WE are responsible for developing our conscience to be in line with our Faith and traditions. But, even very awful things can be said with love . . . awful things like the truth can be said with love. That is the charity involved. Love the sinner, not the sin.

Bless you in your search.

Anonymous said...

I personally feel very strongly that before we have any business discussing such things with a person who is in that situation (ie a pregnant woman considering abortion) that we had darn well be ready to be Christ to them. No fair telling her how bad abortion is unless we are ready to help her find a safe place to live, go to dr/midwife appointments with her, buy her good food to eat to support that baby we wish to protect, etc. No fair being anti-abortion without being pro-life at the same time, yk?

I don't think we have any place "spying from the hedges" to see how people reform their lives. We are the Body of Christ for a reason. We don't have His hands just so that we can twiddle the thumbs. We never know what burdens people carry, unless we walk close enough to share them.

Off my soapbox,

Anonymous said...

So it is ok to point out that abortion is wrong, sometimes, like on a private blog, perhaps, but, in other times, it is best kept as a private matter between those who are loving? I'm still confused, sorry. And what to do about those who aren't loving enough if it's not cool to harass them about it? Is it ever our business or can we not really know until or unless we walk in someone else's sandals, or are at least willing to help feed, clothe, educate, and bring up their children if everyone agrees the poor soul is not dealing with a great number of social and humanitarian resources except perhaps being strong willed, easily makes mistakes, have an issue with trusting others, and a big mouth?
I'm afraid that I will never get it.

Anonymous said...

I was just reading in archives and saw a comment that we are supposed to bury blessed items that have broken. I had no idea! My one year old daughter just broke some blessed chaplet beads that I had left out and I was more worried that she would choke on them, so I scooped them up and threw them in the trash. I didn't know! What type of penance should I do? I am horrified!

Anonymous said...

What I am saying is that it is not loving to point out a person's sin to them and walk away. Jesus wouldn't even break a bruised reed.

I've also unfortunately had the experience more than once, where a person confronted me about something they thought was sin, but they really had no idea what was going on and it was so very hurtful. It's one thing to say, "This is what I see; can I help?" and very much another to say, "It is my place to confront and discipline you. Straighten up." In fact, my conversion to the Church has a lot to do with an experience with Catholics who chose to embrace me in love and walk with me instead of trying to boss me around.

So you will have to find your own way with your own gifts, but this is something I hold as a particular concern because I have been on the other side, hurt by "well-meaning" people who were not willing to take the extra step.


Sarah - Kala said...

I heartily agree with you that we ought to be Christ to people. Many times, these hurting people do not experience Christ - how could they really know what is wrong? I firmly believe a loving way to be to everyone is to LISTEN, and show love/concern; never be hasty or judgemental. I ought to have said that in my first comments. And, that said, it does not only apply to the abortion issue.

I know I could do better to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison. Yes, let's be Christ to those in need.

Ave Maria!

Anonymous said...

Well that's very helpful, actually, the key is to listen, and to show that you have listened? Lovingly? And this should work, right, even with Republicans, even with people who are virulently against abortion? Hate the sins, love the sinners? Is it ever ok to tell such people, where to go, what to do, to ostracize and tell them that they aren't up to par? Or of I intend love is this the essential je ne sais quoi that makes it all alright? Once I have lovingly told them, and they persist in their hate-based views against humanity, what then, do I continually harp on their foibles which are manifestations of pride, such as, their fondness for chocolate, or carrot cake, their difficulty when upset to not be angry or fearful, their strange observations of human nature, their failures in marriage, family life, social life, career and sports, the arts, and engineer various friends and colleagues to launch expert zingers designed to point out to them their myriad errors?
The problem which strikes is that I am perfection personified, and that no one should have the opportunity to sort things out truthfully before their Maker without checking in with me first to make sure that I am on board with their various theological conclusions, their intentions, and belief systems. I don't think anyone has the right to honestly grapple with the issues of the day according to their own conscience and to ask after the truth in a community setting. I think that if they wish to be gifted with acceptance among a group of stakeholders, they must be prepared to be silent about all of that and accept everything as pre-digested for them.
I hope this makes sense. I am saying this whilst being as super loving as I possibly can.
I like Sister Martha Mary's point on her latest post. If the Christians attempt some sort of organized solidarity with the oppressed, then that means shouldering their burdens as one's own, and to determine what those burdens are, undoubtedly, we must listen and give our assent to strenuously object to injustice.
If we don't agree, ought we just say so or is it better to pretend that we will act lovingly in future toward this person. Do we get their expectations up that we will try or do we just relegate them to the dust bin of history?

Anonymous said...

Sr.Tarbaby, You know if she ever finds that wad of gum under her chair you'll be the last person she suspects!

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous,
Why are you maligning Republicans? I think Republican values align more closely with the Catholic Church's teachings than Democrats. I know of no Democratic politician who admits to being Anti Abortion, do you?

Anonymous said...

Actually, immediate past anonymous, that's not quite accurate. There's an entire organization of pro-life/anti-abortion Democrats, who oftentimes preach the consistent ethic of life better than many of their Republican counterparts.

The Democrats for Life of America:

List of current pro-life Democrats - 4 governors, 4 senators, and a slew of congressional reps:

Anonymous said...

The second link again - it doesn't fit on one line:

Anonymous said...


I'm really confused about where you're coming from and what you're trying to say. I'm sure there is sarcasm in there, but it is obfuscating your post. If someone is driving you bananas and you want to tell them what is what but are not willing to share the burden which you may not see, I think there is a time to commit the other to the care of God and walk aaway. God can take care of them, and He may well have another person in mind. We can only do what we can do, and at times our sphere of influence is necessarily small.


Anonymous said...

Oh sarcasm is not allowed here at all?

Anonymous said...

Has no one here figured out that Anonymous is a troll? Here to make fun of you? He or she must be doing a real roflmao over this, tickled to death with how clever he is. There is a rule for this type of thing. Don't feed the troll. Don't talk to it, don't argue with it. It's okay to pray for it, but DON'T feed it, or you'll never get rid ofit.

Anonymous said...

So asking questions equals troll. Talking to the questioner equals, troll feeding. There are rules about this sort of thing.
It's just that this light hearted blog raises some very serious questions even through sarcastic lenses. So, tickled, no.
Is it or is it not cool to ostracize those we don't agree with, to mock others' faith practices, commitments, vocations, Christian, or whatever.
Asking does not necessarily mean, 'troll', as happy as throwing labels might make us feel about the entire thing.

wanderlustandpixiedust said...

I was laughing so hard again after reading the gum story that I had tears coming out of my eyes. Until I read all that stuff above me that is...

Anonymous said...

when you say funny, what do you mean, 'funny', like, ha-ha, i amuse me, is that how you find it funny?

Anonymous said...

or is it more funny like the snl sketch of johnny carson, dom delouise & burt reynolds...like that kind of funny?

Anonymous said...

or is it just, let's laugh at those stupid r.c. nuns in a fun sort of way...

Joyful Catholics said...

It's a sticky subject but someone's gotta cover it. I'm a new reader, but I can tell you this, Sister, we're all 'stuck on you.' :-)

Anonymous said...

SMM, I am absolutely speechless. To hear that (a) you admitted tracking gum into your benefactress' house, and (b) that you stuck it under the chair!! OH THE IRONY!!! Now you see what we went through back in the 5th grade in Math class!!!